Healthy Indoor Plants
All too often we either love our houseplants or neglect them. But with a little common sense, and a little love, your indoor plants can live and thrive throughout the year. Here are some things to keep in mind.

When placing plants in your home, make sure they have good ventilation and natural light. Keep them out of direct sunlight, which will reduce stress and water loss.

Be Water Wise
Knowing how much and how often to water is the key to not only keeping plants alive but helping them be healthy. A great indicator that a plant needs watering is when its leaves start to droop. Ironically, this is also an indication that a plant has been overwatered. Once a plant has root rot from overwatering, it can be very difficult for it to recover. For most plants, the soil should be kept moist but not saturated — use your finger as a guide; if it feels dry an inch or so down, give it a drink.

Think Small
While a large, striking feature pot looks outstanding, don’t forget smaller pots. Smaller containers can be easily changed, taken outside in good weather or moved around the house. A collection of plants is a low-maintenance but high-impact way to use plants inside.

Give Them Room to Grow
If you do have the room for a large feature plant, then you need to have a regular maintenance plan. Large plants are an investment and need good care. Make sure the pot you choose allows room for the plant to grow over the years.

Keep Them Clean
Plants rely on their leaves to make their food. Outside, the leaves get washed clean with rain; indoors, leaves can get clogged with dust, a gentle wiping with a clean, damp cloth once a month will keep the leaves looking shiny and healthy.

For plants with more intricate leaves, taking them outside and hosing them off will do wonders. Better yet, leave them out on a rainy day.

Feed Them
All plants benefit from a little extra fertilizer, but for potted plants it is even more important. Always choose the best potting mix you can find. If you are potting a specific species, like orchids, cactuses or citrus, or in a terra-cotta pot, get a mix specifically designed for these plants and conditions.

You should repot your plants every year or two. Most slow-release fertilizers only last a while, so remember to top it up once in a while. You could also add a liquid fertilizer to your watering can once or twice a month.

Give Them Some R&R
Indoor plants benefit from being outside once in a while. For small to medium-size pots, it is a good idea to have a rotation system. By leaving plants in black plastic pots, you can put them into your more decorative pots and change them as often as you like. Make sure the outdoor location is similar to the indoor one. Or the plant can be stressed and die.

Choose the Right Pot
Of course, a plant is nothing without the pot, so it is important to get it right. Some pots can be very heavy even before you fill them with soil and plants. By keeping plants in their plastic pots and adding them to feature pots, you will reduce the risk of overwatering and make repotting, much easier.

Having a pot within a pot also allows you to have a tray underneath to catch excess water. Self-watering pots are also great, as they give an even, consistent water supply to the plant.

Whatever your environment or lifestyle there is an indoor plant right for you.

Mortgage Myths
A home is the most expensive purchase most of us will ever make. Combine that with rising real estate prices, the need to save for a down payment, and trying to find the lowest mortgage rate; buying a home can also be one of the most stressful purchases we’ll ever make. Here is the truth about some of the most common mortgage myths.

Myth No. 1: You need to make a down payment of at least 20% to secure a mortgage.

A 20% down payment is required on homes valued at more than $1 million, but the lower the sale price the lower the down payment. The minimum down payment for a house priced from $500,000 to $999,999 requires a 5% down payment on the first $500,000 and then 10% based on the remaining amount. A house priced less than $500,000 requires a 5% down payment. However, a minimum down payment is subject to the lender’s approval and they may require more, especially, if you have a poor credit history or are self employed.

Myth No. 2: The maximum amortization time for a mortgage is 25 years.

25 years is the maximum amortization time for an insured mortgage in Canada, uninsured homebuyers—those who make a minimum down payment of at least 20%—can have an amortization on their mortgage for up to 30 years. A longer mortgage reduces your monthly payment, but it increases the amount of interest you pay over the life of the mortgage.

Myth No. 3: Pre-qualification and Pre-approval are the same thing.

Mortgage pre-qualification is the first step in buying a home and comes before pre-approval. Pre-qualification is a simple process that involves supplying a lender with your income, debt, and asset information, which can often be done over the phone. This information allows the lender to estimate the interest rate you could expect, so you can estimate your monthly mortgage payments. The pre-approval stage involves a more detailed look into your finances including your credit rating. During this time, your lender will decide the maximum size of a mortgage you qualify for and at what interest rate.

Myth No. 4: Being pre-approved guarantees you’ll get a mortgage.

A pre-approval is only one step in securing a mortgage. But being pre-approved doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive the maximum amount. The value of the home you intend to purchase and the amount of your down payment are other factors a lender will look at when deciding how much, if anything, to lend you.

Myth No. 5: It’s always best to wait until the spring to purchase a home.

It’s true that property sales and mortgage activity start to increase in March and continues through the summer, but that has nothing to do with interest rates. It is because of the warming weather. It is easier to look for a home or put it up for sale when the weather is nice. The busiest time for lenders is during spring and summer, but the best time to move is the time that’s best for you.

Buying a home is definitely stressful. So look for a mortgage broker or lender who can work with you to help reduce some of that stress.

Questions to Ask Your Mortgage Broker: That Could Save You Thousands
After signing their mortgage, many homeowners forget about it, until it comes due for renewal. With changes in the mortgage world happening all the time, your mortgage broker or banker should be able to help you find ways to improve your financial health, say mortgage professionals.

Here are five questions to ask those professional:
Do the Stress Test rules apply to me? 
The test was designed to ensure borrowers would be able to pay their loan if interest rates increased. But the rules do not apply to mortgage renewals, as long as they are with the borrower’s existing lender. You may even be able to move your existing mortgage to a new lender for better rates, without having to apply the stress test.
Does refinancing make financial sense to access my equity for other things? 
Even with mortgage payout penalties, your savings could be significant. This could help you increase cash flow by eliminating credit card balances or lines of credit. This in turn may allow you to increase your mortgage payment to pay it off faster and save interest. Maybe your properties need maintenance, or you’re wanting to renovate. Leveraging your equity can also play an important role in successful investing.

Is there room for improvement in my mortgage structure? 
If you own more than one property or want to pursue tax-deductible investments, changing your mortgage structure can save you money at tax time. For example, many multi-level mortgage products allow you to separate non-deductible mortgage payments from your deductible mortgage interest.

When should I lock in my variable-rate mortgage?
Current fixed rates are often lower, so if you plan to keep the property for a long time, it’s worth having your professional do a comparison between fixed rates and your current variable rate. A key consideration are the penalties charged for breaking the mortgage contract early.

How can I pay my mortgage off faster? 
Mortgage payments determine amortization length: the higher the payment, the lower the amortization; the lower the payment, the longer it takes to pay the mortgage off. One strategy worth looking at is extending amortization on revenue properties and reducing it on your residential mortgage.

If you have other mortgage questions, talk to your mortgage professional.
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