‘Tis the season to deck the halls!  The Christmas season is upon us! Homes, stores and offices are decking their halls with boughs of holly, ornaments, lights and poinsettias. During this joyous season, property maintenance often takes a back seat to property décor. Here are 10 quick and easy, holiday and winter tips from your property management expert!


Masterkey Management Ltd. wishes you and yours a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

A home is typically the most expensive purchase a person will ever make. Because of this, as much as you may like that property you recently found, it’s critical to get it inspected before finalizing the deal. An inspection gives you an idea of the home’s physical condition, including the plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, attic space, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, basement, tank and structural components.


A home inspection addresses what needs to be repaired now and what might need to be repaired in the future. If you have a property inspected before signing a contract, you might be able to negotiate a lower price that reflects the inspection’s findings. Simply because a house needs repairs does not mean you shouldn’t buy it. The buyer must decide how much to spend and how much work he or she is willing to do after the purchase.


Home inspections do not cover everything, though. Inspectors are not required to identify conditions that are hidden or could be considered latent defects. They don’t have to move personal property, plants, or debris to inspect an item, and they are not liable if they miss something. Inspectors also don’t have to evaluate systems that are not easily accessible, they do not have to note whether termites or mold are present and they do not assess for zoning or planning code compliance.


It’s not possible to know everything about a house before buying it, but an inspection should give you a good idea about its condition. The cost of a home inspection is typically based on the size and complexity of the property but that money spent could mean fewer negotiations and surprises, a lower sales price, better knowledge of the property, a decrease in the likelihood of litigation for improper disclosure and an increased chance of closing the deal.

December, January and February are the deadliest months for home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). And, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire deaths. That’s why it’s important for you and your loved ones to take extra precautions during the winter.


Thinking of buying a space heater? The NFPA recommends that you make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions or have it professionally installed. If you have an electric-powered space heater, plug it into an outlet with sufficient capacity. Never use an extension cord.


Turn off space heaters whenever the room is unoccupied or when manufacturer’s instructions say they should be turned off. Portable space heaters are easy to knock over in the dark. Turn them off when you go to bed, or at least make sure they’re placed in lighted areas or out of high-traffic areas.


If you use a fireplace, use only dry, seasoned wood to avoid the build-up of creosote, an oily deposit that easily catches fire and accounts for most chimney fires and the largest share of home-heating fires. Use only paper or kindling wood, not a flammable liquid, to start the fire. Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. After the ashes are cool, dispose of them in a metal container, which is kept a safe distance from your home.


Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, that the venting is kept clear and unobstructed, and that the exit point is properly sealed around the vent. This is to make sure deadly carbon monoxide does not build up in the home


Other reminders from the National Fire Protection Association include:

Whether your property is an investment vehicle or ‘home-sweet-home’, as a property owner your ultimate desire is for your property value to increase over time.  In order to maximize your property value, repairs and maintenance are key.


“Repairs and maintenance” is often used as a general term for any work that is required at a property, but it can actually be broken down into categories.


The first category is emergency repair work, which occurs as a reactive response when something goes wrong.  An example would be a blocked pipe or a leaking roof.  These repairs don’t improve the value of a property; they are just the bare minimum requirements to maintain the property in adequate condition.


Emergency repair work, on its own, is not sufficient.  If you want to see real increase in value, you must move beyond repair into maintenance.


The routine maintenance category is the regular, recurring upkeep that must be done, for example cutting the grass, cleaning the tank or repainting.


The third category is preventative maintenance.  These are items which ideally should be regularly addressed to ensure the number of emergency repairs are kept to a minimum.  Checking the roof for cracks, removing invasive plant growth, regular pest control, clearing gutters and drains and scheduled air-conditioning servicing all fall into this category.


The next category, investment maintenance, is the planned replacement of any item in the property that depreciates in value.  Examples would include upgrading flooring, light fixtures or cabinetry.  This pre-planned maintenance provides a level of control over the standard, and value, of the property.


The last category includes the addition of new elements to the property, or capital works.  You may choose to add a dishwasher or install an air-conditioning system.  These types of projects assist in increasing the value of the property and the rental return.


If a property owner only attends to emergency repairs, over time the property will be worth less, however, with careful consideration of the full maintenance spectrum, the property can experience less aggravating emergency repairs, be more efficient, achieve more rent, attract a better quality tenant and the value of the property is likely to increase.

Seven years ago, I was sitting at my desk at a full-time office job, daydreaming about finding a more balanced life. A life where I could be more present for school and family activities, participate in volunteer opportunities, explore hobbies and interests while continuing to work in a career that I loved. That daydream became reality when I opened Masterkey Management Ltd. and became a work-at-home-mom (WAHM).  Becoming a WAHM is a lifestyle change, and like Dean Martin’s song ‘Wham! Bam! Thank You Ma’am!’, it could leave you quite dissatisfied if your expectations are unrealistic and you do not plan ahead.  Here are some tips to ensure that your WAHM experience is satisfying:

  1. Carve out your corner – Create a home office space that is YOURS. Keep it organized and keep it beautiful.  I opted to convert an alcove near my front door into an office space.  It is bathed with natural light and I have a view of the garden.  You might be able to carve out space in your living room, kitchen or a spare bedroom.  No matter what you choose, a dedicated space will help you keep focused and organized and a beautiful space will keep you inspired and motivated.  Photos of loved ones and favorite travel destinations, handwritten notes from inspiring friends, thank you cards from grateful clients and, of course, my children’s artwork make this a place I WANT to be every day.
  2. Keep it classy – Dress appropriately for your line of business. Whilst wearing your pajamas all day is tempting, I find that dressing for work keeps me focused and makes me ready at a moment’s notice to meet with clients and vendors when needed.
  3. Create a schedule that’s flexible – Manage your time wisely by planning blocks of time to complete various tasks in a way that suits you. I am a night owl and prefer scheduling administrative tasks later in the evening when the kids are in bed and I avoid booking client appointments mid-afternoons so that I am available for school pickups, extra-curricular drop offs or stops for a smoothie to catch up with my teen.  Schedule in time for your own well-being; a fitness class, massage or a beauty treatment helps you feel good inside and out.  As a WAHM being able to stick with your schedule is important, but having a flexible schedule is paramount.  Two paragraphs into writing this article, my daughter called me from school to tell me she was feeling ill (no lie!).  I am grateful to be a WAHM with a flexible schedule to allow me to attend to her needs without sacrificing the needs of my clients.
  4. Set boundaries – Ease into committing yourself to a list of obligations that you cannot keep. In an effort to do it all, you may not be able to do anything!  Learn to say ‘no’ if you are unable to help with that fundraiser or run that errand for your friend.  Others expect that because you are a WAHM, you are ‘free’ to fulfil the needs of their pet projects. Know your boundaries so that your time is focused on the things that are important to you.
  5. Never stop learning – As a WAHM, you should ensure that your business budget includes educational opportunities, whether it is an online course, local seminar or overseas conference. You shouldn’t limit your education to your line of business; expand your knowledge to ancillary skills that will help your business; accounting, marketing and IT skills are valuable in all fields.
  6. Mix & Mingle – One of the greatest downsides of being a WAHM is the limited (adult) human interaction. The peace and quiet leads to wonderful productivity in the absence of office banter and water cooler gossip, but humans were created to commune with each other!  Make the time to catch up with friends for lunch or discuss new business trends with industry colleagues over tea or coffee.  Create a tribe of WAHMs in other industries; they are great sources of inspiration, encouragement and fresh ideas.
  7. Go digital – In such a technology driven time, it’s easy to make many of the resources you need accessible through your smartphone. Going digital reduces your use of paper and allows you to work from virtually anywhere so that you are not tied to your desk.


Working from home can be rewarding in many ways, but it’s important to see beyond the daydream. Do your research and take the time to plan before you commit to a new lifestyle so that you are satisfied with the life you have created.

Our community is fortunate to have a local farmers’ market. If you haven’t shopped there before, consider the many advantages of patronizing our local merchants. Visiting the local farmers’ market has certainly become an anticipated weekly event at our home.


Farmers’ markets have gained popularity in the last few years as more and more consumers have come to enjoy the very fresh, locally grown produce, baked goods, juices, eggs, dairy products, poultry and meats they offer. Farmers’ markets provide other benefits as well—to shoppers and local economies, as well as to the environment. Locally grown produce requires less fossil fuel to transport, which reduces pollution and noise, and less packaging—thus, less trash—than what is found in most supermarkets. And more often than not, farmers’ markets offer organically grown or pesticide-free produce, which is better for the environment as well as better for consumers’ health.


Farmers’ markets also stimulate local economies by providing a secure place for small-scale local producers to sell their products, and a regular cash flow to local farmers. And when local farmers and producers prosper, they are better able to support other types of local businesses.


Another advantage to having a farmers’ market in our community is the social interaction between local residents from different walks of life. A source of “information and inspiration on how to prepare fresh ingredients,” farmers’ markets can help consumers better understand nutrition and the value of fresh and seasonal food.


Bermuda’s Farmers’ Market is held weekly on Saturdays at the Botanical Gardens, JJ Outerbridge Building, from 8:00 a.m -12 p.m.

So you’re life is into full swing in 2018; you’ve committed to eat healthier, exercise, start a new course, change jobs, start writing that book, improve your child’s grades, remove those toxic people from your life and save more money. Phew, I’m exhausted already!


As women, we grasped 2018 as an opportunity to reset, regroup and recharge.  We planned for the next twelve months with the aim of achieving peace and order for our mind, body and spirit.


But what about our homes? Okay, I know what you’re thinking! You have enough on your plate. Our living environments are often overlooked as we focus on the other aspects of our lives, but perhaps including home improvement and maintenance into our plans is the key to unlocking the ‘Zen’ we seek!


A study by The Society for Personality and Social Psychology, found that women who categorised their home environment using ‘clutter’ or ‘unfinished’ words (such as sloppy, chaotic, disorganised, half-finished, repair or fix) displayed increases in a depressed mood throughout the day and increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, when compared to women who used ‘restful’ and ‘nature’ words (like relaxing, peaceful, serene, garden, trees) to describe their homes. The stress you are experiencing may be originating from the four walls of your home!


Here are some suggestions to take advantage of your new year enthusiasm around the home and create a better environment for you and your family:


Conquer Clutter:  We all have those areas of clutter that we have become blind to; precarious stacks of old bills and notes from school, bookshelves laden with dusty books you have no intention of reading again, boxes of old photographs you promise will be organized someday or the bottomless baskets of laundry that dot the landscape of your home. Whilst conquering clutter is overwhelming and tedious, it is an essential step to creating the serene and stress-free environment needed to help you cultivate your other goals.


Action Step: Tackle one room at a time understanding that purging is a process and even more mess is generated before it gets better. Assess each item and decide whether it needs to be retained, donated or discarded. If you find it hard to part ways with your things, grab that friend who will be decisive and firm to help you out (you know who she is!). Create attractive, easy to maintain storage solutions to ensure everything remains in its place throughout the year.


Create a Checklist: Each home has a list of routine maintenance items that are necessary for keeping things in tip top shape. These items may range from caulking windows, testing smoke detectors, servicing the air-conditioning units, maintaining appliances, checking window and door locks, power washing the patio or clearing drains. It’s tempting to ignore these little things until they become a big problem, reducing the enjoyment of your home and increasing your stress levels as your home develops into a state of disrepair.


Action Step: Walk through your home with a notepad and create a list of all the little things that need to be checked or maintained on a scheduled basis. Once you have compiled your list, sit down with your beverage of choice, your notepad and your 2018 calendar and start scheduling these tasks in your calendar. Some tasks may need to be scheduled weekly, some monthly, others semi-annually. Consider what you can reasonably accomplish and assign tasks to various family members to lighten the load.


Embrace Bold, Big-Picture Projects: Have you always wanted to try to recreate the gorgeous fireplace mantle you saw on HGTV or install a rock garden replete with a bubbling fountain in your back yard? Or perhaps your big-picture projects are more practical, and you want to upgrade your air-conditioning system or replace rotting, wood windows. We often shelve these bold, big-picture (and big budget!) items out of fear of the expense, time and planning required. The very dreams we have to make our home a restful, peaceful, organised or efficient sanctuary do not become realised because we believe them to be impossible. These big-picture projects are the cherry on top of your uncluttered, fully maintained home (see steps 1 and 2), so you only need one or two to sweeten the dish!


Action Step: Allow yourself to dream about the bold, big-picture projects you have for your home. Select one or two that you want to accomplish in 2018 that will fit within your budget. Schedule these projects in your calendar as well as the steps needed to achieve your goal (e.g. sourcing the materials, saving the needed funds, selecting a contractor). If you slip off schedule or off budget during the year, don’t despair; reassess what you need to do to get back on track and do it!


Taking charge of your home is a vital part of taking charge of your life this spring.

So you are ready to take charge of your home, roll up your sleeves and get to work.  Awesome! Before you start pulling out your tool box and conquering those projects, I have some advice for you; Shut up and pipe down!  Wait, what??

Many homeowners and tenants do not know how to shut off the water to their residence or an individual fixture to prevent major leaks and property damage in an emergency.  When you purchase or move into a new home, you should make yourself familiar with the shut off valves and practice opening and closing them so you’re prepared for an emergency.  And emergencies do happen!

I learned this lesson after purchasing a home; within days of owning it, a pipe burst.  Water was gushing EVERYWHERE!  I confidently head to the basement to shut off the water but the water kept flowing and flowing and flowing.  The floors were flooding minute by minute and panic began to set in.  I eventually recalled a minor detail mentioned during the sale of the home….the property also had well water.  After remembering where the well pump was located I had to navigate the dark, FROG INFESTED yard to shut off the mystery valve surrounded by a myriad of spiders, equally as unhappy as I about the whole encounter.  Lesson learned!  Had I known beforehand where each main shut off valve was, much time would have been saved and I would have been thinking much more clearly…next time someone else will dodge the frog and spider obstacle course in the dark!

There will be a main shut off valve located near your pump and, if you have well water, locate that valve too!  If you are unsure which valve is which, have a knowledgeable friend or a plumber come and identify and label these valves for you.  In addition to the main shut off valves, individual water fixtures like toilets and sinks will have their own shut off valve.  This is useful when you only need to prevent the flow of water to one fixture and not impact your entire home.

So where are these individual shut off valves?  Typically, they are hidden away from public view so you have to know where to look:

What do these shut off valves look like and how do I turn them off?  There are a variety of valve styles.  Some of the most popular styles are shown here.


To turn off the first two styles shown, turn the handle 90 degrees clockwise.  To turn them back on, turn the handle 90 degrees counterclockwise.  Remember, if the handle is in line with, or parallel to the pipes, water is flowing, if the handle is perpendicular to the pipe, the water supply is off.  To turn off the second two styles shown, turn the handle clockwise until it stops.  It often requires several rotations to shut off completely.  To turn the water back on, turn the handle counterclockwise until it is fully open.

Turning these shut off valves should be part of your routine maintenance schedule to ensure they do not get stuck when you actually need them.  Remember to teach everyone in your home how to turn the valves off themselves as well.  Time to shut up and pipe down!

One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements a homeowner can make to their home is to paint. Whether you choose to paint the exterior of your house or give your rooms an update, that will translate into value for your home.  It’s also one of the easiest things not-so-handy homeowners can do themselves without having to call in the pros.  Aside from the paint itself — and maybe a weekend of your time — the investment is minimal: A set of paint rollers and brushes for the walls and trim, drop cloths to keep your floors and furniture paint-free and painter’s tape to protect ceilings, baseboards and so on, and you’re ready to go.  If the thought of spending a solitary weekend painting is not your idea of fun, how about inviting some friends over for a paint party!


Preparing the surface prior to painting can make or break your paint job. It is rarely the paint itself that fails but rather the adhesion of the paint to the surface below. The reason paint fails to adhere is because the surface to which it was applied was dirty, wet or was loose itself, so make sure your paint surface is clean, dry, free from grease, oils and flaking or loose paint.  This will give your primer and paint a good surface on which to bond.  Use painter’s tape to tape the trim, window, and doorframes but remove the tape immediately after painting, before the wall dries, so you don’t peel off any paint with it.  You should have a steady hand and attention to detail while ‘cutting in’; using a brush to paint around trim and the corners of the walls where your roller cannot reach.  Do not underestimate the importance of cutting in well; a poor, jagged or wavy cutting-in job will jump out at you every time you walk by it!  Once the walls are cut in, roll out the paint using good quality rollers.


Color has the power to affect moods and productivity, so painting a room with the right color does have an impact.  When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable for sales.  If you are not seeking to sell your home, have fun selecting colors that compliment your style and personality.


Step into any paint store and you will know the sky is the limit when it comes to color selection!  Selecting the right paint color to complement your furniture and accessories can be daunting, however, a good rule of thumb is to remember the color wheel. We all learned about the primary colors in school – red, yellow and blue. Combining any two of these will give you a secondary color (i.e. purple, orange). Colors near each other on the color wheel such as blue and purple are analogous to each other and will allow one color to stand out more. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel such as yellow and purple are complementary to one another and will give you a vibrant look. Staying within the same shade of color (i.e. greens) is monochromatic and will give you a subtle and soothing look. Using a triadic color scheme (three colors equally spaced apart on the color wheel) can create a bold look. Painting with cool colors such as blues, greens and purples makes small rooms appear larger and airy while colors such as reds, yellows and oranges will give a room a more vibrant appearance. You can vary the warmth even with a red or yellow by choosing muted shades of those colors such as pink, peach or a buttery yellow.  Neutral schemes include colors that are not included in the color wheel, such as whites, browns, and blacks.  Neutral colors offer elegance and flexibility in a room.


While deciding on the colors for your home, it is also important to assess the intensity of colors. For example, different shades of blue include, sky blue, royal blue, cyan, baby blue etc. Out of these shades, baby blue and sky blue are of low intensity. In the same way, every color has a range of shades from high to low intensity.  High intensity colors are better suited as accent walls in your main living areas whereas low intensity colors would be better suited in the bedrooms.


Exterior paint selection also requires some thought and, as shown in the photo, color selection can enhance the architectural features of a home.  Bermuda vernacular style homes look stunning in white, brick red, terra cotta, a variety of pastels or even cement wash.  All pair well with dark green or white trim.  Small cottages can handle the intensity of bright pops of color; turquoise, bubble gum pink and sunny yellow are great color choices.  A large sprawling home benefits from a more muted palette.


Take full advantage of the hundreds of paint selections and brochures at our local paint stores.  Talk to the sales staff for advice on various color schemes to achieve the look you want.  There are also pre-selected color palettes available at paint stores to assist in choosing the perfectly pleasing palette for you.

Whether you are a homeowner or a tenant, at some point you will be faced with a plumbing problem.  Even if you call your plumber to handle repairs, it’s worthwhile (and empowering!) to learn a little about the plumbing in your house.  We spoke with plumber, Simone Smith (#girlpower!), of David Hayward Plumbing Service (DHPS) for tips on plumbing fixes anyone can do on their own and avoid a service call.


Improving Low Water Pressure

Low water pressure is usually most obvious at your sink faucet.  The first thing to check is if the low water pressure is affecting both your hot and cold water.  If it is, it is most likely due to dirt and deposits in the aerator.  Calcium deposits and sediments slowly build up in the faucet aerator and gradually reduce the water pressure.  The aerator is located at the front of the spout.  Simone says:

1.       Screw off the aerator

2.       Clean and dirt/grime out with water

3.       Screw the aerator back on.


You should immediately see an improvement in your water pressure.


Stopping a Running Toilet

Everyone should make themselves familiar with the sound of a running toilet.  Quickly addressing a running toilet can reduce significant water loss and prevent water pump burn out.  Stopping a running toilet is one of the easiest plumbing fixes:

1.       Take the cover off of the toilet’s tank

2.       Make sure the flapper at the bottom of the tank is flat and not leaking.

3.       If the flapper isn’t flush, reach down and adjust it (the water in the tank is clean)


You may not be sure whether your toilet is leaking.  To test whether it is, Simone says:

1.       Take the cover off of the toilet’s tank

2.       Mark the location of the water level with a pencil

3.       Turn off the angle valve (see last month’s article on shut-off valves)

4.       Leave the valve off overnight

5.       Check water level in the morning.  If it has dropped, there is a leak.


Changing a Toilet Flapper

Your water quality (well water versus fresh water) and chemical additives to your toilet tank can impact the condition and life span of your toilet flapper.  Flappers on toilets should be changed out on a scheduled basis for maximum efficiency.  To change your toilet flapper, Simone says:

1.       Turn off the toilet’s angle valve

2.       Unhook the flapper from the flush valve and from the trip lever

3.       Attach the new flapper to the flush valve

4.       While it is laying flat, life the chain to meet the trip lever

5.       Count down 2 or 3 chain lings to compensate for the length of the connector

6.       Reconnect the chain to the trip lever

7.       Turn the angle valve back on and check that all functions correctly


Clearing a Slow Draining Sink

A slow draining bathroom sink is pretty common.  Often, the pop-up drain that is used to stop up the sink collects hair and soap or toothpaste scum, and to help the drain flow smoothly again, the debris must be cleaned out.  One chemical free method is as follows:

1.       Remove the pop-up stopper.  If it doesn’t lift right out, it is being held in place with a nut attached to the drain just under the sink and can be unscrewed by hand or with pliers.

2.       Clean the debris and hair from the stopper and use a wire bent with a hook (like a clothes hanger) to clear the debris from the drain.

3.       Run hot water down the drain to help clear out any remaining scum and to check that the clog is gone.

4.       Reinstall the pop-up stopper.


These tips should be able to help you address basic plumbing concerns in your home.  If you have anything more serious, always contact a plumbing professional to assist.