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 A bevy of beachy options to choose from



Choosing a favourite beach is like choosing a favourite child – impossible! They’re all so special and wonderful in their own way.


And the things they have in common are all pretty fantastic, too. The smells, the sounds, the scenery . . . aaah, we really are so lucky to have the options we do in the Comox Valley. Here are a few of the beaches I love to spend time at when the opportunity arises.



Goose Spit

Why not start with a classic? The Spit is a great spot any time of year, but it really sparkles in summer. Part of what I love is the chance to relax by its firepits in the late afternoon and evening. I also like the option of climbing the staircase a few times to get good and hot before jumping in the water to cool off. Plus, there are wheelchair-accessible spots, so everyone can get the chance to enjoy its splendor.


Air Force Beach

Around the other side of the Comox Peninsula is the lovely Air Force Beach. Featuring a pavilion and picnic shelter adjacent to the sandy mile-long beach, it offers fantastic views of Georgia Strait and the Coastal Mountains.


Free for the military community, civilians are also welcome as guests or with the purchase of a $25 annual beach pass. There is also a playground, concession and washroom/change facilities with showers if you like to get the sand off before getting back in the car!


Gartley Point

A little off the beaten path, but a nice location down past Royston off the Old Island Highway. The cobble beach is popular for swimming in the summer and for launching canoes/kayaks throughout the year when the tide is high. Not very crowded, there’s a sandy strip along the shoreline that provides a path for walking, sitting or taking in the views towards Texada, the nearby Seal Islets and, farther south, Jáji7em and Kw’ulh Marine Park (also known as Sandy Island Marine Park and Tree Island). 


Tribune Bay – Hornby Island

Talk about your magical destinations! “Trib” is a little piece of paradise boasting sandy white beaches and warm, shallow waters. If it weren’t for the surrounding firs, you’d feel like you’re in the tropics. Enjoy the interesting rock formations along the shoreline or just sit back and let your worries melt away.



Hope you get a chance to spend some quality time at one of these wonderful beaches this summer!


As always, feel free to contact me to find out about real estate opportunities in the Valley, browse my Comox Valley real estate and MLS listings on my website or follow me through Facebook.

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Open, closed, fixed, variable – check your mortgage options


Buying a home comes with tonnes of questions. And, “What kind of mortgage is the best?” is one of the biggest and most common.


In Canada, the options are plentiful – in fact, almost too plentiful. To help make sense of them all, here’s a list of the most conventional types of mortgages and how they differ from one another.


 
Traditional or conventional mortgages: these require a 20 percent down payment, and the remaining 80 percent comes from the lender. They are also considered a low loan-to-value ratio, meaning the loan amount is low relative to the property’s value.
 
High-ratio mortgages: with this mortgage, the borrower has a down payment of less than 20 percent, and the law requires mortgage default insurance. The premiums for that insurance are often rolled into the mortgage loan payments. High-ratio mortgages used to be thought of as undesirable, but with today’s low interest rates and higher housing prices, this is almost becoming the norm.
 
Fixed-rate mortgages: this mortgage features a “locked-in” interest rate that doesn’t change through the chosen length of the term (typically running between 3 and 10 years). Your payments stay the same throughout the entire time, so it’s easy to budget. And to pay for that stability, the rates for fixed mortgages tend to be slightly higher than other types of mortgages. This can be very beneficial though when rates are low and expected to rise over the term.


Variable-rate mortgage: this type of mortgage sees the loan’s interest rate fluctuate based on the current prime rate. Your monthly payment stays the same, but the amount of payment applied to the mortgage principal changes. If interest rates fall, you benefit; if they rise, not so much. Typically, these mortgages have lower rates than the fixed-rate ones.
 
Adjustable-rate mortgage: this mortgage is intermittently reviewed and then adjusted depending on what’s happening with the prime rate. This adjustment affects monthly payments and the loan’s interest rate. If you can handle changing payments when these intermittent changes occur, they usually have lower rates of interest.


Convertible mortgage: this mortgage can change from variable to fixed or from short to long term, without penalty at any time. Good for when you expect things to rise but still want to take advantage of a lower rate for a while . . . just make sure not to forget about it if things start going up!


Hybrid (or 50/50) mortgage: a combo of fixed and variable rate mortgages, with both parts being financed at different rates. This offers good stability but can sometimes be hard to transfer or renew and is not offered by all lenders.


Closed mortgages: these mortgages have restrictions about being paid off or renegotiated before the term of the loan is complete. Penalties can occur if they are paid off too early or if they have a prepayment limit that is exceeded.
 
Open mortgages: flexibility is offered by these loans in that lump sum or accelerated payments can occur without penalty. This means the loan can be paid off before the end of the amortization period. This also means a slightly higher interest rate than those of closed mortgages.
  
Portable mortgage: moves if you do, essentially. Your current mortgage is applied to another property and without paying penalties. The interest rate stays the same, and you don’t need to do the whole approval process again. Handy if you are planning on moving but still need to renew in the meantime.
 
Assumable mortgage: someone else can take it over upon approval from the current lender; mortgage terms need to stay the same.
 
Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): not a mortgage per se, but used in conjunction with one for up to 65 percent of a property’s assessed value. The line of credit’s interest rate is linked to the prime rate and therefore is variable. But you can pay any amount at any time or just cover the interest of the loan.


Collateral mortgage: the lender can give you money as the property’s value increases without the need to refinance. But, it’s not transferrable at the end of term, and overdue payments can get dinged with a rise in the rate.



Of course, all these mortgages are available with different term lengths and mortgage payment schedules, which all come into play as well.


Whatever your situation, there is an option that will work for you – you just need to find it. So, keep doing your research and talk to banks and brokers to get their input before you make any decisions.




As always, please feel free to get in touch if you want to discuss real estate related topics and considerations. Don’t forget to visit my Facebook page or website to keep up to date on the latest Comox Valley listings.

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A little curb appeal goes a long way


Are you thinking about listing your home?


If so, you’re probably busy primping your living room, decluttering closets and putting a fresh coat of paint on some walls. And those are all good ideas. But, don’t forget about the yard!


Creating curb appeal through some basic landscaping can make the difference between “Meh” and “Me likey!” And if it’s done well, landscaping can increase the value of your home when it comes time to sell.


Whether you want to spend a lot or a little, investing in your yard is something that shouldn’t be overlooked or underdone. 


The basics – clean, weed and pop in some colour

Doing a major landscape makeover isn’t in the cards for most people, but that doesn’t mean things couldn’t be improved upon. Spend some time and money on getting your yard in shape and you’ll be glad you did.


Here are some basic things you can do to spruce up the place:

  • Keep a weed-free garden and lawn
  • Go buy some ready-to-go flowering annuals and potted plants to perk up the area around the front door
  • Mow and water regularly, and mulch the edge of the lawn for a clean, tidy look
  • Power wash decks, stairs and cement work
  • Add some new mulch or dark dirt to improve general contrast


Take it a step further and call in pros

It might be a good idea to get in a lawn maintenance company or even a landscaping business if you have the opportunity. I’m not saying you need to put in a new walkway with lights leading to a gazebo, but some consistent, knowledgeable lawn care, proper pruning of trees and few new shrubs might help your patchy backyard shine. Then again, who knows? A nice little water feature could become your property’s biggest selling point!


Whichever route you take, rest assured that a colourful, tidy yard is an excellent way to make a good – and lasting – first impression.



As always, please feel free to get in touch if you want to discuss real estate related topics and considerations. Don’t forget to visit my Facebook page or website to keep up to date on the latest Comox Valley listings.

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Kids’ summer activities in the Comox Valley



June is here and that means summer holidays are right around the corner . . . SQUEAL!!!


Looking to keep your kidlets active this summer? Lucky you – you live in the Comox Valley and that means never having to hear “I’m bo-o-o-ored.” Well, in theory, at any rate.


From day camps and rec programs to hanging at the ocean or lake, there are numerous options to occupy your children, no matter what their ages or interests.



Recreate and relax

The Valley is fortunate to have three different communities with fun-filled recreation centres, and summer time is when they really shine. So many programs and classes are offered, and all feature qualified, friendly staff.


Whether your kids want to cook and create or jump and dance, the variety of offerings is diverse. Visit their various websites to find out what’s on tap this summer by clicking the following links: Courtenay Recreation; Comox Rec; Cumberland Recreation.


Plus, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island run excellent summer day camp programs in the Valley. Weekly sessions are geared to encourage and inspire.



Go beyond and get outward bound

Of course, the surrounding areas also have outdoor adventure opportunities that should also get some attention.


Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre offers families and individuals the chance to experience adventure with various program offerings throughout the summer.


Likewise, Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre lets youth from 12 to 18 come see what outdoor pursuits in natural settings might appeal.


Not sure your kids will be into a whole week of outdoor activities? Maybe a day up at Horne Lake Caves will get that sense of adventure growing.



Go jump in the lake...or the ocean…or the river

Again, so many options for keeping cool await in this wonderful Valley, from hanging out at the community waterparks and taking lessons at the Courtenay & District Memorial Outdoor Pool to splashing down the Puntledge River.


At Comox Lake, meet up with the folks at West Coast Water Sports for various day camps, lessons and rentals of SUP boards, kayaks and canoes.


Comox’s Compass Adventures offers kids and families the chance to take in lessons and camps as well as renting various sea-faring vessels. Based down by the Comox Marina, these guys offer too much fun!



Take a hike, hit a park or walk for fun

Some days, though, a nice stroll in the park fits the bill perfectly. For those who prefer to hang with animals in a park, the Hands-on Farm over at the Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park has a variety of animals to get up close with after you’ve strolled the grounds.


Looking for something more strenuous? Head up to Mount Washington and start feeling the burn. Plus, the Comox Valley Guide gives a good selection of hike and walk suggestions to check out.


Don’t forget to check in with the Courtenay & District Museum and Paleontology Centre to find out about their Fossil Tours and other summer programs.


And wander up to Miracle Beach Provincial Park and take in their daily learning opportunities for kids through the Nature House environmental education program.


If you have kids and live in the Comox Valley, the world is your oyster this summer. Get out there and enjoy it!



For more info on the Comox Valley or its real estate, please feel free to get in touch with me, have a look at my website or visit my Facebook page.

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Upcoming summer events to mark on your 2019 calendar


I know, it’s only May – but there is no time like the present to start planning for summer, especially when you live in the Comox Valley.


After all, there are so many things to do in this spectacular part of Vancouver Island, you need to draft a strategy early! Here are a bunch of events that you’ll want to take into consideration.


June

What better way to kick things off than with the BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival, held for 10 days in the middle of June and starting on the 7th this year. You’ll want to catch some part of Western Canada’s largest seafood festival.


Celebrate National Aboriginal Day on Friday, June 21st with the K’omoks First Nation at 3320 Comox Road. Traditional food, dance, song, arts and more will be showcased at this free event.    


July

Canada Day is always tonnes of fun in the Valley with the parade down Fifth Street and day-long activities at Lewis Park. Free entertainment and concerts are around almost every corner.


And, of course, Vancouver Island MusicFest takes centre stage on the second weekend of July; this year’s dates are the 12th to 14th. This three-day music festival is still going strong two decades later and promises to deliver an electric, eclectic line-up yet again.


The Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival takes place July 19-21. Known for its intimate scale and warm hospitality, the festival brings together the best BC writers with their devoted readers in a beautiful, natural setting.


August

August long weekend in the Valley means the Filberg Festival and Comox Nautical Days. So much happening along Comox’s sea-side setting – fun, fun, fun for the whole family.


On-going activities

Not sure you can plan out your dates yet? There are plenty of on-going activities through the summer, too, such as the Valley’s galleries, museums and local charters and tours. Plus, the award-winning Comox Valley Farmers’ Market runs on Saturdays at the Exhibition Grounds, Wednesdays in Downtown Courtenay and on Sundays in Cumberland through the summer.


Looking for more info on the Comox Valley or its real estate? Please feel free to contact me, have a look at my website or visit my Facebook page.

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Get informed and make smart choices


Ongoing income and a secure future – that’s part of what makes an investment property such a great idea. But it’s also a huge commitment in terms of finances. And it’s anything but quick and easy.


However, for those who are willing to do their research and put in the time, investment properties are a good long-term approach to supplementing your income or working for retirement.


Before you jump into the investment property arena, the following is a list of some of the things you need to consider.



6 things to think about before you buy an investment property

What’s your overall goal?
Once you figure out what you want to achieve financially, you can decide whether buying a rental property is the way to do that. Make a list of what you have going in, what you’re hoping to get out of it and what it will take to make those two things mesh. Investing in property is a long-term commitment that requires money at the outset and money all the way along. The results can be very good, but it’s not a get-rich-quick scenario by any means.
 
 
How will you finance and what’s your down payment?
Typically, properties are financed through mortgage loans, so speaking with a mortgage broker is also a good early step. They’ll let you know what you are working with and how much of a down payment is necessary. And when it comes to down payments, greater is better. Not only will it be easier to finance, but often sellers are more likely to go with a buyer who has a good chunk of cash ready to go. Can’t save for a good down payment? Maybe an investment property isn’t for you right now.
 
 
What kind of property are you considering?
There are so many options: condos, townhouses, single-family homes, duplexes, vacation properties, etc. Depending on your budget and target tenants, you’ll have plenty to think about. Generally, a smaller, lower cost option, such as a condo, is best for those just getting into the market.
 
 
What area will you buy in?
Location, location, location, right? Where you buy is a big factor in return on investment. Just because a house is a great deal doesn’t mean it will pan out – maybe those sellers are listing for a reason! A market analysis is a good idea. Is there high or low vacancy in the region? That will tell you what you can expect to get for your place. Is there a college or university nearby? You might have to deal with occupancy issues and frequent changeover. What are the growth indicators like in a specific area – is the population growing and the economy stable? Are there job opportunities? All these variables will influence both your short-term tenant decisions and long-term re-sale options.
 
 
Have you done a property assessment?
If you’ve narrowed down your options, then you’ll want to analyze and assess the property before making any commitment. In addition to looking at purchase price, you’ll need to evaluate any property management fees; municipal property taxes; insurances; mortgage and financing payments; repairs and maintenance. At that point, you can compare the monthly expenses to the rental income and have a better idea if the property will generate positive cash flow.
 


Do you have an exit strategy?
Hopefully, things will go super smoothly from this point forward, but what if things go wrong or you’re in quick need of cash? What’s the plan then? Best-case scenario, you get out of the situation while still making a profit. Selling and refinancing are both options, but it’s good to have a plan going in. Talk with your real estate agent and mortgage broker to discuss what may work best for you down the line.
 


Obviously, numerous factors come into play and must be considered before investing in real estate, so it’s prudent to ask lots of questions and do plenty of research. Investment properties can be very rewarding, but they do require adequate planning.


Talk to your real estate professional to see what opportunities are available to you!



Please reach out if you want to discuss real estate considerations in the Comox Valley. And visit my Facebook page or website to keep up to date on the latest listings.

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What are you waiting for? Get growing!


It’s spring . . . YAY! Time to get outside and, for many of us, get in the garden.


Even if you haven’t the greenest of thumbs, there are plenty of things that you can do to get your garden ready for summer. Following are some tips to help you get started.


8 ways to help your garden grow

Make a plan. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the garden centre’s selection, but a plan helps from getting too few or too many seeds. Veggies or flowers, perennials or annuals, doesn’t matter – just come up with a course of action. Grab your pen and paper and start plotting things out.


Prep your soil. If you’re a seasoned veteran, your gardening area may be well prepped already, but if you’re just starting, it’s likely you’ll have to work it a bit. Organically rich soil is usually dark brown. Some good compost and/or aged mushroom manure added into your own soil will do wonders. Mixing it in will also help loosen the ground, creating space for roots.


Trim branches in the early spring. And shape shade trees then, too. This will allow them to heal over the coming season.


Weed your beds early and often. Get ahead of the game when the seedlings of weedy plants are just getting established. Hopefully, this prep work will make summer care easier as fewer of the weed seedlings will get established.


Establish a good cover of mulch on garden beds. This will work to conserve moisture, reduce weeds and keep the soil cooler during summer’s heat.


Attract helpful critters. Think about adding “bee hotels,” and hummingbird and butterfly feeders to attract these helpful pollinators to your garden.


Prune or deadhead those early flowering shrubs. Late spring is a good time to tidy up shrubs once they have finished flowering. When pruning, thin out older wood to improve the plant’s form and vigour. 


Set up a deep-watering schedule for summer. This can help promote good root development so plants can better withstand dry spells. Water early in the morning with a deep soaking of two to three centimetres of water once a week.


Now get out there and grow!


Please reach out if you want to discuss real estate considerations. And visit my Facebook page or website to keep up to date on the latest Comox Valley listings.

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Here’s a handy seller’s guideline!


Whether you are contemplating a bigger home for your growing family or considering downsizing to a nice new condo by the water, there are plenty of things to think about – before, during and after – when listing your home.

Of course, your realtor will help guide you through the entire process, but there are some steps that you can take to ensure you keep from being overwhelmed. No matter what your reason for moving, following is a general outline of things that you should take into account along the way.


Before listing . . .

Most importantly, find the right realtor for you. You want to work with someone you can trust who has experience, knows the area and will be able to provide the attention to detail that you expect and deserve. Don’t have someone in mind? Talk to friends, relatives and neighbours to ensure you get the right professional.


Figure out what your existing home is worth. A home evaluation is key. Know what you’re working with and whether there are things to do that will help it sell more quickly.


Clean, clean and clean again! There’s no getting around it – you need to tidy, de-clutter and de-personalize. Put yourself in the potential buyer’s place. Do you think they want to look at your overflowing junk drawers and crowded closets? If the thought of de-cluttering doesn’t spark joy, bring in some help. You’ll be glad you did.

 

When your home is listed . . .

Above all, be available. If you aren’t able to allow access to potential buyers, you’re losing opportunities to sell. Requiring people to book way in advance or having very restrictive timeframes for viewings makes it difficult to get people through the door, and that’s what it takes to get things sold. Yes, it sometimes means heading out on short notice, but hopefully that will lead to a shorter listing time.

 

Keep it clean. And because of your excellent availability, you’ll want to have your home in ship-shape form so that you can allow those showings on short notice. Stay on top of laundry and the lawn, and get the family used to picking up after themselves – it may take bribery, but it’s a small price to pay. In fact, this is a great time to start packing up family pictures and winter clothes – items that won’t be needed in the near future can be kept in storage or at least out of sight.

  

Once an offer arrives . . .

Rely on your realtor to let you know the process. As a professional licensee, your realtor is obliged to show you all written offers. Your realtor will tell you what you need to know during the process of receiving and reviewing offers. Together you will decide whether you want to accept the offer as it stands, make a counteroffer or reject the offer.

Obviously, this is crunch time. It’s important to review any and all offers carefully. Look at “subject” clauses surrounding the offer to see whether these specific conditions can be fulfilled. Because you’ve chosen a reliable, experienced professional, they’ll help you understand and navigate this part of the selling process.


Have a lawyer or notary in mind. Typically, the buyer’s legal representatives prepare the various necessary documents for transferring ownership, but you’ll also need legal counsel acting solely on your behalf to ensure your interests are being protected. They will do a number of things for you, such as checking the buyer’s documents, ensuring your mortgage has been properly discharged and that no further obligations remain, arranging for signing transfer documents and outlining where purchase money should be disbursed.


Get ready to move . . .

And the sooner, the better. Whether it’s packing up or notifying the post office and utilities, don’t leave things to the last minute. A quick Google search about packing and moving checklists and tips will help you get things rolling or, if you need it, connect you with professional movers.


Selling is an exciting time, but it can be daunting. Follow these guidelines and keep your cool while your realtor gets things heating up.


For more information on buying, selling and everything in between in Comox Valley real estate, get in touch. And please visit my website or my Facebook page to see all the latest local listings.

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Too much of a good thing? Almost!


Finding a great place to eat in Comox? Easy!


Having to actually decide where to go? Hard!


Truly, one of the toughest things about going out to dine in Comox is trying to figure out which awesome establishment to visit. And, at the risk of making things even more difficult, here are just a few of my favourites. But at least I’ll give you some info about the type of food they serve, then maybe your partner will tell you what he or she is in the mood for and we’ll let them do the hard part.


Black Fin Pub – looking for sumptuous food with a spectacular view? Black Fin has both. Featuring a fresh West Coast menu that offers classics like steak, pastas, seafood and more, you’ll find there is something for every taste here.


Toscano’s – in the mood for pasta or something else Mediterranean? Tuck in at Toscano’s. Italian cuisine with a taste of BC mixed in make this a splendid choice. Get the feel of Tuscany without having to leave the Valley. 


Sushi Wara and the Spice Hut – got a hankering for takeout? Both these eateries will fill the bill when you’re thinking International. Less formal but just as full of flavour!


Avenue Bistro – get an “upscale, casual” dining experience and enjoy bistro classics in this welcoming restaurant setting featuring locally sourced, house-made fresh and light fare. Warning: the gourmet pizzas are addictive.


The Social Room – a new kid on the block, you’ll enjoy tapas and premium drink selections at this hip and happening establishment. Weekends feature events and one-of-a-kind entrees. Check them out!


Martine’s Bistro – ready to go out for a special occasion? This is the place to be. Known as one of the Island’s top dining experiences, their “locally provisioned, internationally inspired” menu will delight. Works from local artists and Sunday night music will also entertain.


As you can see, when it comes to menus there’s plenty to choose from in the Town of Comox…good luck and bon appetit!


For more information on both real estate and living in the Comox Valley, get in touch! Please visit my website or my Facebook page to see all the latest local listings.

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Is one better than the other? Things to think about


Do you like the character and charm of an older house or the clean lines and openness of a new one?


There’s nothing like being the first owner of a brand-new home – everything is in pristine condition and you’re the one breaking things in. Then again, some homes get better with age or allow for the opportunity to do some renos and get things exactly how you want them – maybe at a lower price.


Making the decision to buy a new or older home can involve numerous factors. Of course, if you’re looking for a specific location or in a seller’s market you often don’t have much of a choice.


But for those who are getting ready to look at potential homes, here are some things you may want to consider as you try to decide what’s the best fit for you.



Buying a previously owned home


Older homes have a lot going for them, not least of which is their quality construction and character. They’ve proven through the years that they can stand up to time, and the craftsmen who made them not only paid attention to detail but also likely inserted some unique character and even interesting architectural features, such as archways or stained-glass windows.


While the houses themselves can be smaller, often the size of the lot is larger than newer ones and the vegetation is matured – no waiting for five years for that hedge to grow! As well, the neighbours and neighbourhood are established, so amenities are nearby, and zoning changes are less likely.


But it’s not all roses and sunshine. Older houses might have been constructed when one garage was plenty, and people tended to have less “stuff,” therefore storage could be an issue. Wear-and-tear happen to all of us, so typically there is more maintenance and upkeep. Because of their often-excellent location, a “vintage home” may actually be pricier than a new one farther afield.



New house on the block

Imagine not having to think about roofs for fifteen years and water heaters for seven – there’s something to be said for that! The latest energy-efficient heating systems and windows will undoubtedly save you money. And often there is a builder’s warranty that comes into play, which adds peace of mind.


But new houses settle, no matter what type of soil they are built upon, and that settling can cause cracks in foundations, walls and door frames. Hopefully, your builder is quick to respond to warranty repair requests. Plus, your house may look just like your neighbour’s, which looks just like their neighbour’s . . . Additionally, your new home may be located farther from “downtown.” New homes also mean more taxes charged on the sales price, which can really add up. But, hopefully, maintenance fees will be less for quite a few years, and that can help balance things out.



Other things to think about

Move in dates tend to be more flexible with older homes, after all, a delay in construction isn’t going to happen. Moving into a new neighbourhood may also mean a certain amount of other construction occurring around you.


Fortunately, in the Comox Valley, there is good opportunity to buy either new or old. Talk to your realtor to see the latest listings and start thinking about what matters to you.



Please get in touch if you want to discuss this or other real estate consideration. And visit my Facebook page or website to keep up to date on the latest Comox Valley listings.

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What’s going on and where’s it happening?!


I know, I know . . . you ‘re thinking “Comox Valley nightlife? Is that an oxymoron?”


And maybe if you were here in the 1990s, you might be forgiven for thinking that way. But these days, there are plenty of things to do after dinner.


After all, we can’t all stay in our cozy Comox Valley homes all the time, right? So here is a collection of suggestions for when you feel the need to get out and about.



Musical options

Whether you like to listen to music or perhaps prefer to make it, this Valley has got you covered. Numerous establishments offer entertainment on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, such as Cornerstone Taphouse; the Waverley; the Griffin Pub; The Whistle Stop; Roy’s Towne Pub; and The Flying Canoe. Most of those places offer karaoke evenings and many also host drop-in jam nights. And where there is music, there’s often dancing, so feel free to get up and boogie!



Theatrical productions

If theatrical entertainment is more your style, check out the offerings at the Sid Williams Theatre. “The Sid” has been keeping us all entertained for years. Dedicated to the stimulation and enhancement of artistic, cultural and recreational activities in the Comox Valley and surrounding regions, the theatre hosts everything from local dance groups and choirs to international films and entertainers. Have a look at their schedule of events and you’ll find something that suits.



Start recreating

Of course, some of us enjoy getting out and getting active in the evenings. For the physically inclined, the local recreation options are plentiful. The pools and skating rinks always have lots to do and details are on the CVRD website at www.comoxvalleyrd.ca. Plus, there is a wide assortment of great programs offered through the awesome recreational facilities in Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland.



If you want more info for events on specific dates, the What’s On Digest listings are a great resource.


As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in the evening if you go out looking for it. Have fun!


As always, feel free to contact me to find out more about living in the Comox Valley as well as local real estate opportunities. And please check out my website or visit my Facebook page

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Consider these 5 factors


We all know that location, location, location is a big part of real estate success, but you’ll find that timing comes into the mix fairly regularly, too.


Generally, it’s thought that late spring/early summer is the best time to put your home on the market. And certainly, for many parts of Canada, the thought of heading out into a blizzard or onto frozen roads is more than many can handle.


But there is something to be said about getting your place listed before the competition gets out of hibernation, such as it is on the balmy West Coast.


So, when you’re thinking of listing in the Comox Valley, you may want to consider a few more factors than just the weather outside and talk to your experienced realtor to get the inside scoop on when to list.


5 things to think about if deciding when to list

Mortgage rates and economic trends: This one isn’t a huge determinant unless there has been a significant stock market or economic disruption. Truthfully, month to month, housing prices don’t tend to vary significantly, that is more a trend that happens over the long term. Yes, an indication that changes in mortgage rates may spark a light under some, but most people don’t list it as a make-or-breaker.  


Market supply and demand: Again, generally, this is another longer-term trend, but it’s good to keep an eye on it. Your realtor can keep you apprised of whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market and suggest price and listing advice accordingly. That being said, it’s likely better to get your home listed before the competition gets too stiff, so listing in January and February may be a good strategy.


The dead grass factor: Obviously, it’s much easier to create some curb appeal when the lawn isn’t soggy and the trees have some leaves, but when your yard is looking great, so is everyone else’s. After all, we are still comparing apples to apples, no matter the time of year.


Buyers’ attitude: Even though interest in homes does increase in the spring and summer, those looking in the earlier part of the year are often ready to make a change and make it now! If you are looking for a focused and committed buyer, the ones you see in the early part of the year often fit the bill.


Location, location, location: Depending on where you live, selling times can fluctuate . . . or not. For example, cities known for their retirement populations don’t see as much end-of-school activity as other areas. And sunnier climates face less variation in selling times. For us in the Valley, our relatively temperate weather and year-round recreation opportunities mean we aren’t impacted as much by climate trends as other areas of the province and the country. 


Is now the time to list your home in the Comox Valley?

Even though the indications are that the Valley is heading into a more balanced real estate market than we have seen for several years, I have been in and heard of multiple offers already this year! I personally have quite a few buyers ready to go and not enough homes coming on the market to give them a good choice.


Although the spring market is the time of year when the highest number of sales occur in the Valley, it’s also the time that the majority of homes come on the market. I always feel it can be beneficial to list before the spring rush when the listings are not in abundance and the competition is less. Chances are, you can sell your home relatively quickly if priced at fair market value.



I’m always happy to discuss any of the mentioned factors and local trends, so please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about listing your home.


For more information on this and other house-related topics, please get in touch. And don’t forget to visit my Facebook page to see the latest Comox Valley listings.

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Resolve to get involved this new year


Are you one of the British Columbians who contributes more than 100 million hours toward volunteering for countless causes each year? If you are, way to go!


If you’re not a volunteer, then maybe this is the year to get out there and give it a try. Sometimes it can be tricky to find the right fit because of your work schedule or family obligations, but here in the Comox Valley there are plenty of chances to get involved and lend a hand.


Not only will your community benefit when you help out with worthwhile projects and organizations that need it, but you’ll get rewarded, too.


Here are a few good reasons to get involved with volunteering, as well as some ideas about where to start.



The upside of volunteering . . . not that there’s a downside!

If you’re new to the Valley, there’s no better way to meet people and make connections in the community than by volunteering. Not only that, volunteerism has been shown to improve overall health, especially outdoor activities that involve physical movement, and it can be helpful in battling depression and decreasing social anxiety. You can learn new skills, add to the local economy, keep physically and mentally fit, and enjoy a sense of empowerment and fulfillment.


What’s not to love about all that?



Volunteering in the Valley

No matter where in the Comox Valley you live, there are regional, provincial, national and international organizations that would love to make the most of your skills and knowledge.


Get involved and get active with Special Needs Recreation and Courtenay Recreation.  They happily welcome volunteers for their numerous programs. Like the snow? The Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports appreciate skiers who can help folks facing challenges hit the slopes. But if you’re more comfortable in the garden, get in touch with the people at the Gardens on Anderton


If you like animals, there are several options. Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding works well for people interested in helping others and working with horses. Some physical ability is required, but experience isn’t necessary. If you prefer smaller animals, maybe the Valley SPCA and KittyCat Pals would be a good fit. The nice people at MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre always like having help with special events and public education – and they provide the training!


For those who aren’t sure they can make a regular commitment, the summer festivals are a good place to begin. Nautical Days, the Filberg Festival and MusicFest all rely on volunteers to help keep things running smoothly.


And any of the numerous associations that hold runs and walks typically can always use marshals along the routes, so you may want to get in touch with an organization that you feel a connection to and give them your contact info.



Like all communities, those that make up the Comox Valley have many wonderful events and associations that count on volunteers to succeed – so get out there, get involved and get growing your community.


Questions about any aspects of housing and living in the Comox Valley? Get in touch through my website or my Facebook page. For specific real estate inquiries, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.

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Décor designs and styles coming your way this year


In an effort to keep up with the latest home décor styles, my wonderful assistant Jean and I scoured the European fairs this past fall so we could bring you all the latest buzz.


No, not really. But, wouldn’t that be fun?


Instead, we’ve scoured the worldwide web and done a little research on what the latest and greatest things are in interiors. And we’ve come up with some of the larger themes to be hitting the magazines and wholesalers this year.


Following are a few of the design highlights that you can expect to see in 2019.


Natural woods add finish

I’ve always loved the look of natural woods, whether raw and heavy or light and airy, and they seem to be making an impression again. In the kitchen, their light surfaces give a clean, relaxed feel as opposed to more sterile steel or white. In the rest of the home, they provide a sense of warmth, both in terms of colour and feel. The Scandinavian influence is noticeable, so time to show off that teak furniture again.


Colour me pretty – and naturally

Earthy colors, especially reds, yellows and tans have been hot for a while, but things get a little more autumnal with dusky pinks and burnt terra-cottas getting increased attention. And sage green also sees some time in the spotlight, particularly in the powder room, as do indoor plants and herbal motifs on pillows, walls, tiles and more. Fake or real, you’ll want to get more greenery going.


Keeping it real

That sense of authenticity behind real wood and greenery also shows up in other pieces of décor. Hand-woven textiles, hand-made ceramics, hand-blown bottles all emphasize a crafty feel.


And many of those finishing pieces will have an international touch. East Asian, South American and West African designs will offer inspiration in 2019.


Comfort mixed with some glamour

Large, padded couches are making a comeback on some fronts, because who doesn’t like to be comfortable? But to dress things up a bit, velvet is back on the scene. While you don’t want to go overboard, one or two pieces offer a vivid contrast to some of the other more natural elements.


Look up, way up

Apparently textured or tiled ceilings are a thing. Not exactly convenient to get at, but, hey, what the heck? And on the way there, you might as well put up a nice wall hanging featuring geometric colour blocking.


One last thought . . .

In my opinion, the most important thing to remember when looking at design trends is function. If you have a white cat, forget about the royal blue velvet couch. Have toddlers? Don’t invest in marble floors. Unstable on your feet? Less furniture and fewer area rugs might be a good idea.


Sure, it’s fun to buy new things, but make sure you really like it or need it – a couple years from now it may slip out of style, but functionality is always in.



For more information on other house-related topics and living in the Comox Valley, please get in touch. And don’t forget to visit my Facebook page to see all the latest listings.

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Vancouver Island real estate for 2019


It seems like I say this annually, but the past year has been another busy one on the Island and in the Comox Valley. Local realtors were kept very active, buyers were on their toes and a little stressed at times with multiple offers and sellers, for the most part, were happy.


With 2018 coming to a close, let’s take a closer examination of how things are looking heading into the new year.


Moving to a more balanced market

According to the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB), this past year behaved as expected with some moderation coming into play, as opposed to the record-setting paces of 2016 and 2017. Generally, there is a slight decrease in demand; that, plus modest inventory increases, are helping the Island’s housing market transition from one favouring sellers to a near-balanced market.


It seems that increasing interest rates and governmental cooling measures, such as the mortgage stress test, have started making an impact.


Prices steady and slightly up around the Island this past year

Even with the lower demand, compared to this time last year the benchmark prices of single-family homes continued to rise, up about 12 per cent Island-wide and 9 per cent in the Comox Valley. However, slight price reductions from October to November were posted in the Comox Valley.


Multiple offers are slowing down

Island Realtors® are starting to report a slow in the occurrence of multiple offers, which is good news for those looking to buy. According to VIREB, sellers may need to curb their expectations.


“Realistically pricing your home is important in any market, but when fewer buyers are competing for a property, sellers need to be far more strategic,” says Don McClintock, 2018 VIREB President. “Overpriced homes take longer to sell, so it’s a good idea to consult a local REALTOR® who can help determine the optimal price for your property.”


Whether you’re thinking of buying or selling, in or out of the Comox Valley, working with an experienced Realtor® will ensure you’re making the most of your real estate opportunities.


I hope you and your loved ones have a happy and relaxing holiday season and all the best for 2019!


To find out more about living in our wonderful Valley, contact me any time through my website or by visiting my Facebook page.

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Decadent, delightful and downright delicious


Just in time for December, my wonderful assistant Jean and I are sharing some of our favourite seasonal recipes – think of it as our gift to you!   


Nanaimo Truffles

These bite-sized Nanaimo bars made into truffles will disappear very quickly. Fortunately, this recipe makes about forty, so you can hide a few for yourself. A little fiddly but this three-step process is well worth it, and they make a great hostess gift.


Truffle centre:

6 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp milk

4 Tbsp vanilla custard powder

2 ¼ cups sifted icing sugar


Cream butter, then combine milk and custard powder and add to butter. Mix in icing sugar. Mixture should be fairly stiff. Refrigerate half an hour. Then roll into small balls about the size of a large grape.  Place on a foil-lined cookie tray and refrigerate.


Biscuit layer:

2/3 cup butter

5 Tbsp white sugar

½ tsp vanilla

1 egg                    

5 Tbsp cocoa

2 cups graham wafer crumbs

1 cup coconut                   

½ cup chopped nuts


Place softened butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and egg in a bowl. Set bowl in pan of boiling water. Stir mixture until butter has melted and is the consistency of custard. Mix wafer crumbs, coconut and nuts together. Add to the cocoa mixture.

Take a level teaspoon (5ml) of crumb mixture, press flat in the palm of your hand and wrap around the truffle centres. Put in the freezer for 1-2 hours (or overnight).


Chocolate layer:

1lb (500 g) good quality chocolate


Melt chocolate in a double boiler over hot water. Be careful to stir and watch that water doesn’t boil, as chocolate should not be really hot. If you do this chocolate will stay smooth and glossy.

Dip each truffle in chocolate. Using a slotted spoon or a seafood cocktail fork, lift truffle out of chocolate. Tap gently to remove excess chocolate and place on foil- or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate until set.


Cranberry Blackberry Sauce

Sweet and sour and so, so pretty!


3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup blackberry jam (or jelly)

½ cup apple juice

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cloves


Place all ingredients in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to incorporate the melting jam with the other ingredients. Gently simmer for 20 minutes or until the cranberries are tender and just beginning to fall apart. Cool to room temperature, cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.


Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta in Balsamic Vinegar

This is another family favourite that makes it to our Christmas table every year; the recipe serves about 4 to 6 people.


1 lb Brussels sprouts

2 slices pancetta, quarter-inch thick and diced into half-inch pieces

2 tsp butter

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ tsp sugar

salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste


Remove tough stems and any wilted outer leaves from sprouts. Cut in half lengthwise and steam until just tender. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced pancetta and sauté until just crisp. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar; stir until sugar is dissolved. Add sprouts and toss until well-coated with pancetta-vinegar mixture. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.


Bon appétit and the happiest of holidays to you and yours!

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‘Tis the season for markets and fairs


No matter where you go, November and early December mark the time of year when the Christmas craft markets start popping up. And while fairs and markets aren’t exactly exclusive to the Valley, our active, artsy community ensures they’re a step above in terms of quantity and quality.


It’s not hard to find plenty of options for the coming weekends, but here are a few unique ones to choose from.



Fiesta World Craft Bazaar

Make sure to check out this Valley favourite! Held annually at Courtenay’s Filberg Centre, this year’s market takes place November 17th & 18th. For just a $2 admission, you can support more than 50 local and global organizations and businesses that are selling fair-trade products. These vendors work directly with the artisans in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. There truly is something for everyone – from Christmas ornaments to Tibetan carpets, books and posters, games and toys, clothing and jewellery. Not to mention the chance to enjoy some delicious ethnic food cooked by local immigrants. It’s a lot of fun!



Stagnhare

And while you’re in town on November 18th, head over to the Native Sons Hall and take in this favourite. It runs from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and is $5 at the door, but kids 12 and under are free. Word has it that Santa will be making an appearance – I guess he likes to shop local, too!



Gnarly Little Christmas Craft Fair

Speaking of fun, this market gets more popular every year. Lewis Centre will be the place to be on December 1 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Featuring youth crafters aged 9-19, over 30 vendors will be showcasing wares that include baking, crafts, woodwork, jewellery, stocking stuffers and more. You can even time your market visit with Courtenay Rec’s Children’s Christmas Party (ages 9 years & under) that starts at 2:00 pm and features Captain Thunderpants and, of course, Santa! 



Elevate Winter Bazaar

The seventh annual fair is being held at the Courtenay Legion Hall on December 7th & 8th. Looking for something different, such as quirky broaches and buttons, Indigenous designed and screen-printed clothing, succulents art, wood carvings and Day of the Dead glass-beaded bracelets? This is the place. Forty carefully selected local makers, artists and artisans will be there from 4:30 to 9:00 pm on Friday and 10:00 am - 4:30 pm on Saturday.



Merville Hall Christmas Craft Fair

This year the annual Merville Craft Fair will be held on December 1 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Big Yellow Hall. Chocked full of delightful crafts for everyone’s shopping pleasure, just head up the old Island Highway and take in a nice selection of Christmas chattels.



Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair

This classic market happens December 1 and 2 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Hop on the ferry and make a day of it. Two halls, more than 80 vendors and a shuttle service make this one a worthwhile endeavor.


  

And, as always, the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market happens on Saturday mornings right up to Christmas.


Wherever you go, you’ll be sure to get in the spirit, so get out there and have fun!


For more information about all aspects of living in the Comox Valley, visit my website or my Facebook page. And for specific real estate questions, please feel free to get in touch!

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Save money and stay warm!


With those long, dark winter nights and colder days on the horizon, it’s a good time to start thinking about staying warm and conserving energy. Not only is it better for the planet, it’s better for your hydro bill, too.


Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, it pays to save energy. So here are some tips to keep in mind as we all start to prepare for another winter.



Take your home’s temperature

Aside from putting on a sweater and slippers and turning down the heat a notch, there are a few more things you can do with the thermostat and furnace. Before going to bed or leaving the house, turn your thermostat back to about 16°C. A smart or programmable one makes it simple to adjust temperatures through a 24-hour period. Also, keep air vents and baseboard heaters clear of furniture and appliances so things work more effectively. And keep your furnace tuned-up and filters clean to improve efficiency.


Avoid heating unused rooms by shutting doors and any warm-air supply registers. And don’t waste energy by heating uninsulated areas like garages, attics and crawlspaces.



Work the windows

Start by opening and closing the curtains. When the sun is out, take advantage of its rays. Then shut the blinds as the sun sets and things begin to cool to reduce the chill you may feel off them.

If your windows are drafty, use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on the outer frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window. A tight seal will reduce drafts.



Start a fire, then close things up

Fireplaces and stoves can be great sources of heat, but when not in use a chimney can act like an open window, so make sure the damper is closed. If you can, check to see if the flue damper seal is snug.


If you don’t use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue. If you do use it, install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.



Speaking of air . . .

Make sure you change your ceiling fan’s airflow direction. In winter, use the fan to push warm air down toward the floor.


And seal air leaks by applying caulk or weather-stripping around doors and windows. While you’re at it, take a good look around the house for other leaky areas, such as gaps around pipes, chimneys and recessed lights, as well as any unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.



A couple other things to think about

  • If you throw down an area rug, that will both help to insulate your floors and cut down on noise.
  • By turning down your water heater temperature to the warm setting (120°F), you’ll save energy and avoid scalds.
  • If your heating system allows, adding a humidifier may let you to turn your thermostat down and be comfortable at lower temperatures. (Aquariums and houseplants naturally add some humidity.)
  • And, finally, if your house is cold, don’t crank the heat up to high to get things going. The house will warm up at the same rate regardless of the temperature setting, so just set it to where it’s supposed to be and perhaps get close with a hot water bottle for a while.


Hope this helps you to stay cozy this winter!


For more information about all aspects of housing and living in the Comox Valley, visit my website or my Facebook page. For specific real estate questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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Have you visited these new(ish) Courtenay restaurants?


I don’t know about you, but I think enjoying good food is one of the best parts of life. And the great thing about living in the Valley is that it makes it so darn easy to do just that.


With scores of restaurants in the region, serving everything from the exotic to pub fare, you know you’ll find something to suit your taste.


Just in Downtown Courtenay alone, there are numerous eateries, a handful of which are relatively new kids on the block. Check out these fresh spots where you can tuck in and chow down.



Pizzeria Guerilla and Taqueria Guerilla are the offspring of the well-loved Guerilla Food Co. The taqueria is located next to Gladstone Brewing at Cliffe and Fourth and offers mouth-watering creations that you’d never imagine on your own. It took over that prime location from the Pizzeria, which is now located on 5th Street near England Ave. Whichever one you visit, you’ll be glad you did!


For something completely different, go up 5th and around the corner onto Fitzgerald to a new Vietnamese restaurant called Pho 54. Delicious spring rolls, noodle soups and sesame balls await you. You can even sit outside, when the weather allows, and enjoy the savoury flavours.


Bisque restaurant has actually been around for quite a while but just moved to the corner of Cliffe and 6th this past summer. Their fresh West Coast menu has many faithful followers. Though their locale is new, you’ll still get the same great food and service.


Il Falcone took over the old Tita’s location on 6th Street off of Fitzgerald about a year ago, and it has received much well-deserved attention and praise. Sumptuous Italian dishes rely on local ingredients to truly shine – and they do!



Wherever you go, you’ll be in good hands. Have fun and don’t forget to save room for dessert! 



For answers to all your questions about life in the Comox Valley, get in touch! And please visit my website or my Facebook page to see all the latest local listings.

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Fire prevention for homeowners and renters


Did you know that Fire Prevention Week occurs every October?


Each year in the second week of that month, fire departments across Canada and the US get the word out in an effort to bring awareness to fire prevention and safety. They know that knowledge and understanding are key to keeping families safe.


Of course, we all need to do our part, too. So here is a list of some basic things each of us can do to ensure we prevent fires from impacting our lives and our loved ones.



  1. Have a plan. Home fires can spread quickly and engulf a small home in minutes. Having an escape plan is vital. Ensure each room has an escape option, particularly bedrooms. Make sure you have a meeting place and that every member of the family knows how to get out and where to assemble. Then practice your plan every month or two. 
  2. Install and check smoke alarms. This is an easy and efficient way to keep your family safe. Put alarms on every floor, in hallways and every room. Test the alarms each month. If possible, use interconnected smoke alarms because if one sounds, they all sound.
  3. Get a fire extinguisher and know how to use it. There are many different types of extinguishers. It should be light enough that all family members can use it and good for different fire types, including electrical and grease fires. You should have extinguishers for the kitchen and the garage, at least. To use, remember the word “PASS”: Pull the pin; Aim low; Squeeze the lever slowly; Sweep from side to side.
  4. Know how to put out a grease fire. Kitchens are the site of many home fires. If a grease fire starts, never douse it with water or other liquid, as this can create steam explosions and cause the fire to spread. If the fire is contained to a pan, throw baking soda or salt on it from above, not the side. You can also cover the pan with a metal lid or a baking sheet. If neither work, get out of the home and call 9-1-1.
  5. Use caution with candles. Never leave a candle unattended. They should be kept at least 25 centimetres from anything that could catch on fire, such as curtains, blankets or furniture. Use sturdy holders that won’t tip easily.
  6. Practice electrical safety. Ensure any electrical work is done by a licensed electrician. Don’t plug major appliances, e.g., refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers, into an extension cord. Don’t put electrical cords under doorways or carpets. Any area where electricity could come in contact with water, such as the laundry room or garage, should have fire safety GFCI outlets. 
  7. Use fireplaces and woodstoves safely. Chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year to remove soot and debris that could become a fire hazard. Keep any flammable materials, such as blankets and rugs away from the fireplace. And never leave kids alone near a working fireplace or woodstove.
  8. Use space heaters safely. As with stoves and fireplaces, ensure there aren’t flammable items nearby and that kids and animals aren’t unattended near the heaters. Also, check the cord for cracks or frays.
  9. Close your door. Closed doors can slow the spread of fire, heat and smoke.
  10. And if there is a fire in your home? Leave your things and get out. Yell “Fire!” several times and call 9-1-1. If there is smoke, stay low. Check doors and door handles for heat, and if there is heat, look for an alternate exit. If you are stuck in the room keep the door closed and put a wet towel at the bottom edge. Open a window and try to signal for help. 


If you have questions about fire alarms, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors or fire extinguishers, I encourage you to visit your local fire department.


Stay safe!



As always, feel free to find out more about any aspect Comox Valley living by getting in touch. Visit my website or my Facebook page to keep track of all the latest listings.

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