Posted by Brian Lamb Marketing and Associates

Having regular checkups by a doctor is critical to ensuring good health. The same concept holds true for one of your most important financial investments: your mortgage.

Plenty can change in someone’s life during the standard five-year mortgage a lot of Canadians sign up for. You may need to change your mortgage because of a career change, having kids or entering retirement.

Canadians tend to become complacent about their mortgage payments when they could be saving a lot of money. For example, the more adverse you become to risk, the less likely a variable mortgage will be right for you. Using online tools, such as a mortgage calculator and a mortgage penalty calculator, you can determine how much you can expect to pay if you break your existing mortgage.

What is a Mortgage Check Up?
It is a process used to compare your current mortgage rate and product to today’s rates and available products. It will help you determine the product that is best suited to your needs. It will also assist you with making the choice between a Variable Rate Mortgage or a Fixed Rate Mortgage?

The process takes into account your current mortgage rate, outstanding mortgage amount, and remaining time left in your term, and compares it to today’s rates and products. It will give you the information you need to make a smarter decision with your mortgage and help you pay it off faster.

With the large variety of mortgage products available today, there is a good chance that there is one that suits your needs better than the one you have now.

How often you should make a mortgage checkup?
Many financial advisers recommend that you do a mortgage checkup once a year, and several Canadian mortgage companies offer this service free on their website.

It may be worthwhile to renegotiate your mortgage or increase your payments. An extra payment of $100 a month on a standard $200,000 mortgage could save almost $18,000 in interest and shorten the amortization period by about four years. Many banks allow people to pay a lump sum of the principal on the mortgage’s anniversary and increase their monthly payments. This is a golden opportunity that you should take if, for example,  you received a tax refund, applying that refund to your mortgage, rather than making a personal purchase, can save you significant money.

Posted by Brian Lamb Marketing and Associates

Spring cleaning is a tradition that allows us to freshen up our homes and get a head start on the hectic seasons of spring and summer.

As the signs of spring make their first appearances in nature, it is time to pay tribute to the joy and jubilance of nature. It’s also time to wake up your home with a new, modern and fresh look. 

Here are a few tips to help you cheer up your home this spring:

1- Organize, clean and de-clutter
Spring decorating begins with cleaning and de-cluttering. Extra clutter and crowding in your home décor can drain your energy. Remove any forgotten autumn, winter, Christmas and Valentine decorations and pack them away. Clean and polish surfaces including shelves, tabletops, end tables and countertops. The point is to lighten and brighten up the appearance of the areas you want to redecorate. Clean your windows and open them up to air out the staleness left by seasons of hibernation and closure. You want to bring the outside in. 

2- Rearrange furniture 
Start to change the feel of your home, or a specific room or two, by bringing in some very simple key elements to modify your surroundings. Your aim is to change from cold and closed in colder seasons, to warm, fresh air and brighter for the spring season. It is both a change of season and a change of mood.

Most of your furniture has probably been in the same position for years. Simply switching the placement of a couch, or repositioning the TV can make you feel like you have a whole new room. If you don't have much room for movement, change and update the smaller things, like pillows, throws, and lamps. Remember, even a small change will do you good and will brighten up your home. 

Informal table settings are on the menu for spring's more relaxed approach to entertaining. Lose heavy tablecloths for casual placemats, and experiment with colour by mixing-and-matching dishware in pretty patterns. Simple things like changing throw pillows on chairs and couches, to brighten the furniture and room, can put new spots of colour throughout the room.

3- Give your home a new feel
Nothing brings the feel of spring in like the colours and textures of the season. Keep a spring garden in mind and pick the colours and flowers you like the most from the spring garden colour palette. Choose the ones that look best with your overall colour schemes, already in place. 

And, nothing says spring more than fresh flowers. Make sure to be consistent with creating arrangements. Choose a colour scheme, like all white, instead of mixing bouquets. Use the same type of flower in one glass container with a beautiful white satin or grosgrain ribbon wrapped around it.

Make your home sing by introducing some pretty, spring colours and textures and get happy. The infusion of brighter colours and fresh flowers and plants reinforce your seasonal changes and gives your home a new relaxing look and feel.

4- Brighten up your rooms
New, updated window treatments can make one of the most profound changes to the look and feel of a room. With spring in the air, you want to maximize the natural light that flows into your rooms. Choose something light and airy, like a soft drapery or a sheer window shading. If you are worried about privacy, you can place room-darkening blinds that you can adjust for a look and feel that is tailored to your unique needs. In addition, sunscreen window shades are especially popular options that will prepare your home for the glare of the sun and the heat of the upcoming summer. 

5. Think outside the home 
After winter has left its cold and dingy mark, the outside of your home will also need some touching up. Be sure to wash the doors and windows, and touch up the paint if necessary. Hang a wreath of silk spring flowers, or place real potted plants on your porch! 

Hopefully these tips will help inspire you to refresh your home for spring without spending too much money.

Posted by Brian Lamb Marketing and Associates

Did you know that if a fire starts in your home you may have as little as two minutes to escape? During a fire, early warning from a working smoke alarm plus a fire escape plan that has been practiced regularly can save lives. Learn what else to do to keep your loved ones safe!

1. Make sure you have adequate insurance 
First you need to realize that nothing you can do will possibly reduce the risk of a fire to zero, so you will need to purchase adequate insurance to cover your home. This will help you, in the disastrous event of a fire at your house, cover the costs of the damage and help you get back on track. If you do not have fire protection you may find yourself in a tough situation. 

After you have insured your home and belongings, you should begin taking measures to reduce the risk of fire as much as you can.

2. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors 
The number one cause of total loss and death by fire is the lack of working smoke detectors in the home. Smoke detectors are not expensive. Install good quality smoke detectors in your home and check the batteries at least twice each year.

At a minimum, there should be one smoke detector on each floor including the basement. Ideally there should be one detector in each bedroom as well as common areas like hallways. Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors should be placed by the furnace. A properly installed and working smoke detector can save lives and might save your home.

3. Prevent careless fires 
While smoke detectors provide the safety and security of early warning in case of fire, preventing a careless fire from ever starting is another important safety measure you can take. You can easily take fire prevention measures by looking at your house room by room and practicing basic safety rules.

In the kitchen, always double check appliances like stoves, ovens, toasters and coffee pots. Make sure they are turned off when not in use, and unplug small appliances after each use.

Never leave cooking food — whether on the stove top, in the oven, microwave or on your barbecue — unattended. Always keep an eye on food that you are cooking, and keep items that can catch fire away from the stove top.

Keep flammables, such as drapes and furniture, away from portable heaters or open flame candles. Keep matches away from small children’s reach.

If you need to store combustible materials, carefully read the packaging instructions on how to do so, and follow it! Keep combustible materials away from areas exposed to high heat.

4. Use electrical outlets properly 
Do not overload electrical outlets which could cause a fire. If you need additional power from an outlet, either use a power strip with a surge protector or hire a licensed electrician to run additional power to the outlet.

Set up a routine of checking appliance cords every month or so. This should be done for lamps, TVs, toasters, etc. Check the cords for fraying or open areas. If you notice any problem either replace the item, have the cord replaced or cover it with electrical tape.

5. Have at least one fire extinguisher
Always keep a small fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen area in case of accidental grease or electrical fires. Don’t just keep the fire extinguisher handy; make sure you know how to use it.

You should have at least one fire extinguisher in your home. It should be in the kitchen or close by the kitchen. You might also want to keep additional fire extinguishers in the basement, garage and on the second floor if you have one.

6. Plan and practice a fire escape route
Planning an escape route is crucial in being prepared for an emergency and can save you valuable time in the event of a fire. Make sure everyone knows how to escape and keep all exits clear. Always keep keys for doors and windows where everyone can find them.

Be sure to practice your escape plan during the day and at night. Assign an adult to wake and assist each child in the house. Also consider lending extra help to family members who are physically challenged or elderly. Identify a meeting place outside the home. Practice, practice, practice—at least twice every year.

If there is a fire, get everyone out of the house as soon as possible and call 911.