THE BLOG

29
Feb

What is the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?

There is a lot you need to figure out when you move abroad. Sure, there are the big things like finding a home, getting a job, and locating a good school.

And then there are those little things that still make a huge difference in the long run – like how to send money back home, or from home to your new location.

A recent analysis by consumer research organization Which? found that expats transferring money overseas can lose out on massive sums of money depending on what service they use.

Make the wrong choice and you could lose hundreds of euros.

Which? examined 16 different providers including big banks and other international payment providers, testing how much bang customers get for sending their bucks abroad.

Transfer service CurrencyFair – founded by expats, for expats – came out on top.

In comparison to bank Santander, which came in last place,CurrencyFair offered users €400 more on a payment of £10,000, even beating out competitors like TransferWise and HiFx.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, the banks were bottom of our rankings,” the report states.

So what exactly is CurrencyFair, and how do they give expats such good deals?

“CurrencyFair is a way of transferring money internationally without involving international transfers,” cofounder Brett Meyers explains.

The Australian expat found he was losing hundreds on poor exchange rates when he moved to Ireland, and decided to solve the problem on his own, launching CurrencyFair in 2010 with several colleagues.

“It works on the principle that I might be sending euros back home to Australia for Christmas, at the same time there’s plenty of people with Aussie dollars that want euros,” Meyers says. “For example, a person who emigrated there needs to send money back to pay the mortgage.”

The service charges just a €3 fee per transaction, cutting out the middleman present in a bank transfer – and saving customers money.

With 18 currencies offered, the service has quickly become a natural choice for expats, and since its launch users have used CurrencyFair to transfer more than €3 billion.

“CurrencyFair’s online platform makes exchanging and sending currency around the world simple,” one reviewer writes of the service.

“Rates are transparent, each transaction status is regularly updated and the platform is very easy to use and user friendly. Most importantly, for regular users, the savings can be substantial.”

Source: The Local

26
Feb

Lithium-ion batteries banned as cargo on passenger flights

The UN aviation agency has prohibited cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger aircraft over concerns by pilots and plane makers that they are a fire risk.

The International Civil Aviation Organization’s 36-state governing council said the prohibition would be in effect as of 1 April and remain in force until a new fire-resistant packaging standard was designed to transport the batteries.

24
Feb

6 tips for impressing potential home buyers

When it comes to selling a house there are a lot of things you can do to impress potential home buyer. Cleaning, de-cluttering, and fixing minor problems are always at the top of the list. But there are some other ways to make your property stand out from the crowd that people do not often think about.

  1. Lighten it up

A bright home appears to be more welcoming than one that’s dark and sullen. Do everything you can to add some light to your space such as taking down drapes or changing their fabric, the little things you do will let more light stream into every room. Other tips include using light colored lampshades, cleaning windows, and ditching fluorescent bulbs.

  1. Take photos in all seasons

Curb appeal is a huge part of impressing potential buyers, but if you are selling your house in the winter and your yard is covered in snow it can be hard for people to imagine what it will look like in the summer. And vice versa. That is why we highly recommend you take photos of the property in all seasons. Show them what they can expect in terms of foliage, lawn care and anything else landscape related. Just make sure your yard looks its best before you take the photos.

  1. Declutter

Every prospective buyer will look at a home and picture their items in it, from art to larger pieces of furniture like couches and televisions. They won’t be able to do that if your space is full of knick-knacks and clutter, which is why it’s important to clear your shelves and walls of as many little objects as you can before you start showing your space (just don’t go overboard; you still want your space to look lived in).

  1. Satisfy their sense of smell

No one wants to buy a space that smells like a gym bag. To make your home smell nice and fresh for prospective buyers, add a few scented items to every room: potpourri, flowers or air fresheners. You can even go the extra mile to do your dirty laundry (yes, the smell of it can filter into any room), or bake a pie or a loaf of bread before buyers pop by.

  1. Reno records

One of the easiest ways to increase (or at least maintain) the value of your home is with consistent, general maintenance. When a potential buyer tours your home they will see the house is in good shape but they may not fully realize everything you have done. So why not show them? You can do this by keeping detailed records of all the work you have had done while living in your home. This may include work permits, inspection reports, energy audits, service records, warranties and renovation and repair contracts. This is a great way to show people the quality of the work done and to “show” them what is behind the walls (wiring, plumbing, etc.). These types of records can go a long way in increasing buyer confidence and that can ultimately lead to a higher selling price.

  1. Keep a binder of instruction manuals and warranties

How many times have you installed a new appliance or fixture, put away the instruction manual or warranty information, and then promptly forgotten what you have done with it? It is ok, we have all done it, but we highly advise you change that behaviour right now. When you install something new, be it an appliance, a new furnace, or even a new faucet, keep all the relevant information in a binder. It will only take a minute at the time, and when you go to sell your home we guarantee that buyers will be impressed and appreciate the fact that you have all the info at the ready.

 

Source : sheknows, scottmcgillivray

Photography: diamondvillas

23
Feb

Fresh thinking before buying a washing machine

 

There was a time when washing clothes was a difficult and laborious activity, as everything had to be done by hand. Thankfully the washing machine was introduced to the world and hands were untied and time freed up. Washing machines are now commonplace and an indispensable appliance in the daily life of most households.

The first washing machine was very simple, featuring a basin that could automatically spin the clothing. With technological advances came modern washers, that had evolved from their predecessors, which boast a variety of features and settings, such as predefined programs for different clothing types, spin rotation speeds, varying temperatures and drying.

We are lucky these days to have an abundance of choice with almost anything we wish to buy but that does throw up the problem of knowing where to start. It can feel like too much choice. Amongst other things, you need to consider your budget, research every detail of the product and take into account the available space in your home.

So, we decided to provide a handy checklist of things that should simplify the buying process.

First of all you need to know how much you can afford spending on a washing machine.

As with most things, the cheapest option is not always the best option, especially when it comes to appliances that get used regularly. Consider your needs carefully and find washer at a reasonable price that best meets your requirements.

One of the determining factors should be the energy efficiency of the machine as energy and water consumption will be a recurrent expense. Paying a little more upfront could save you money in the long run.

When you start researching buying a washing machine you will notice that there are automatic and semi-automatic options.

On one hand, automatic washers do all the processes by themselves, from programming cycles to spinning. There are even models that can choose the required amounts of detergent and fabric softener according to the type and amount of clothing.

On the other, semi-automatic washers are usually cheaper and more economical in terms of energy and water consumption. However, they do require a little more manual input that their automatic counterparts so balance the pros and cons of both and find the best fit for you.

Washing machines that offer a drying setting are great and especially useful for smaller homes that don’t have much space or gardens to dry clothing. It also obviously removes the need to invest in an additional large household appliance.

These washer/dryer combination machines can also be energy smart as they usually come with advanced technology that limits water and energy usage. Of course, if you find that a washer dryer is above your budget you can always opt for a drying rack, which is a simple and affordable solution.

A feature that you might want in a washing machine is a centrifuge.

In essence, a centrifuge allows your washer to spin wet laundry at high speeds in order to remove the water. And dry the clothing more quickly, which is handy if you need those jeans dry in a hurry! Again, as with the washer/dryer, this is useful for smaller homes that have limited space for drying clothing.

Air dryers can accelerate the process of drying wet laundry by using hot or cold air.

What will you need cold air for? Well, firstly there are clothes that are heat sensitive and therefore unsuited to being dried with hot air. Secondly, after your clothes have been dried with hot air, you have the option to supplement this with a 10-minute blast of chilly air, which leaves the fabrics soft and fresh.

Air dryers are suitable for large families who do more laundry and households that have enough space to facilitate them as you would still need a washing machine. So if space isn’t an issue in your laundry, kitchen or bathroom and your budget can accommodate, consider adding an air drier!

You will finally need to consider the size of the washing machine, which is measured by the holding capacity of the basin.

According to the amount of people living in the home you should have a pretty good idea of how often clothes will need to be washed and in what quantities. For example, for a family of 3, a washing machines that can handle 9-10kg loads should be ideal.

You almost mustn’t ignore the type of laundry you will wash most often as things like towels and blankets require greater capacity and, therefore, will increase the frequency you will use the machine.

Source: Homify

19
Feb

How to clean your dishwaher

Clean the dishwasher? Clean the thing that is responsible for cleaning other things? You might think your dishwasher is clean considering the number of times each week it runs hot water and soap through its system —but it is got a messy job, and sometimes parts of that job get left behind. 

What you need:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Cloths or soft rags
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpicks

Instructions:

1. Run your dishwasher, or wait until just after you have run a cycle. Empty the dishwasher completely by removing the racks and utensil trays and basket.

2. Check the spinning arms to make sure all the holes are open so water can run through them freely. Clear out any debris that has built up in the holes of the spinning arm using a toothpick or other small instrument (be sure not to scratch the finish).

3. Clean under the bottom of the door. In some dishwashers, this is a spot where water does not go, so it can easily accumulate debris. Inspect the floor of your dishwasher, around the drain where the wastewater exits. There will be a grate or grill around it, under the arm. Look for debris clogging up this area and remove any solid matter that has built up. If you have a filter, remove and disassemble the parts in your sink. Use a toothbrush to wash with a baking soda paste, or warm soapy water. Rinse well.

4. Next, use your toothbrush and baking soda paste to wash around the drain. Be sure to dislodge any food parts that can hang around and cause an unpleasant smell. This area can also become clogged with tags, or stickers that come off jars and dishes.

5. Wipe around the seal with a damp cloth soaked in white vinegar and a few squirts of lemon juice. For tighter areas, you can use a toothbrush. Scrub well, making sure to get the sides and edges of the machine.

6. Check utensil holders and racks for any stuck-on food pieces and then wipe down. If they are really dirty you might want to give them a bath of warm, soapy water and let them soak overnight in your sink. Rinse well.

7. You can remove hard water deposits/scale by running one cycle of your dishwasher (empty) with distilled white vinegar. Add 2 cups of vinegar to the bottom and turn the machine on to an energy saving or low wash. Stop the machine mid-wash, so the vinegar can set on the bottom and work. Let it stand for about 20 minutes, then turn on to finish cycle.

If you have rust stains, you can tackle them with a dishwasher-safe rust remover. If the finish is chipping or flaking off the wire baskets in your dishwasher, try a sealant made just for dishwasher racks.

If you have problems with mold and mildew, bleach will work effectively by adding ½ cup in the bottom of the dishwasher and run a full cycle.

Do not use bleach in your dishwasher if you have a stainless steel interior. Also, never mix bleach and vinegar. 

8. Clean the buttons and panel thoroughly. Spray the handle and front of your dishwasher with a vinegar/citrus/water solution or stainless steel cleaner, depending on the type of dishwasher you have. t seems that microfiber cloths work best for stainless steel and always wipe with the grain.

Notes:

  • It is good practice to do this (or a briefer version), about once a month.
  • Be wary of dishwashing gels. They typically contain bleach and over time will cause the rubber seal to break down and leak.
  • Never mix bleach and vinegar.

 

Source: Apartment Therapy

18
Feb

Les équipements indispensables pour rendre votre offre d’hébergement irrésistible

Une question critique souvent négligée : comment équiper sa location de vacances pour séduire un maximum de locataires ?

Voici peut-être l’une des questions que l’on se pose le moins souvent : « quels sont les équipements indispensables à mettre à disposition des locataires ? ». Et pourtant, c’est un véritable enjeu pour séduire et convaincre un maximum de visiteurs, un point critique trop souvent négligé. Cela peut même être la raison première d’un taux d’occupation très faible.

Il est vrai qu’il est très difficile de savoir à l’avance et avec certitude, ce qui va plaire à vos futurs locataires. Chacun ayant des envies propres, on peut légitimement penser que ce qui plaira aux uns ne plaira pas nécessairement aux autres. S’agit-il pour autant d’équiper votre offre d’hébergement au hasard ?

Feriez-vous un pari aussi risqué quitte à vous disqualifier de la course aux locataires ? N’y aurait-il pas moyen d’identifier un dénominateur commun aux attentes de tous les vacanciers ? Comment choisir les équipements prioritaires et laisser de côté les équipements superflus quand vous mettez en location votre meublé de tourisme ou votre chambre d’hôtes ? En somme, comment équiper sa location de vacances pour séduire un maximum de locataires ?

Une erreur très fréquente que vous devez éviter absolument : confondre équipement et luxe.

Avant toute chose, il est important de noter qu’il ne faut surtout pas confondre équipement et luxe. En effet, proposer un hébergement bien équipé ne veut pas dire proposer un hébergement luxueux.

Il existe des hébergements luxueux mal équipés (qui n’attirent par conséquent que peu de locataires) et des hébergement modestes extrêmement bien équipés (pour lesquels les propriétaires ont vraiment « pensé à tout », selon les témoignages de leurs locataires). Pour convaincre un maximum de locataires, il vaut donc mieux penser d’abord « équipement » que luxe. L’un n’empêche pas l’autre, bien entendu, à condition que les équipements indispensables soient réellement mis à disposition des vacanciers. Ainsi, si vous voulez offrir une prestation de haut standing, vous ne devez surtout pas considérer que le luxe fera oublier un équipement indispensable manquant.

Il est donc important de bien garder à l’esprit que proposer un hébergement bien équipé ne veut pas dire investir massivement, mais plutôt dépenser intelligemment pour ce qui fait le confort réel de vos locataires.

Les 4 dimensions de l’équipement : une approche systématique pour construire une offre irrésistible. 

La location de vacances ou location saisonnière se caractérise par le fait qu’elle est meublée. C’est son essence même. Nous verrions mal un locataire devoir venir avec son propre mobilier dans une remorque, en plus de ses valises, pour pouvoir profiter de ses vacances. Que l’on parle de meublé de tourisme, de maison d’hôtes, de gîte, de chambre d’hôtes… le mobilier et les équipements sont toujours fournis par le propriétaire. Mais de quel mobilier parle-t-on, à quels équipements faisons-nous référence ?

1. Ce qui caractérise la location meublée selon la loi

Une location est qualifiée de meublée quand le logement loué dispose de l’ameublement et des équipements suffisants pour permettre au locataire, n’ayant avec lui que ses seuls effets personnels, de vivre normalement dans les lieux (donc de cuisiner, se laver, dormir…). Il a été considéré qu’une « location meublée devait bénéficier d’éléments d’équipement essentiels, tels que le réfrigérateur, des plaques chauffantes ou une gazinière permettant aux locataires d’avoir une jouissance normale des locaux». En complément de ces éléments dits « essentiels », on considèrera des équipements de base : un lit, un canapé, une table, des chaises, des placards de rangement.

2. Ce qui est de l’ordre du « minimum syndical »

Bien entendu, s’arrêter à ce minimum mais il serait ridicule et votre offre d’hébergement, ainsi équipée, serait vouée à l’échec. Si aucune loi ou aucun contrat de location n’exige ou ne recommande davantage, il est de bon ton de proposer un certain nombre d’équipements :
– des luminaires (lustres et lampes d’appoint)
– des systèmes occultants dans les pièces de repos (volets, rideaux…)
– l’électroménager de base (four micro-ondes, aspirateur)
– des ustensiles de cuisine (casseroles, poêles)
– de la vaisselle (assiettes, couverts, verres)
– des éléments de literie (oreiller, couette ou couverture)

3. Ce qui est de l’ordre du « confort supplémentaire »

La 3ème dimension à ne pas négliger : ce qui touche aux équipements de confort supplémentaire. C’est particulièrement sur ces éléments que vous pouvez faire la différence. Votre annonce et vos supports de publicité doivent bien mettre en valeur ces équipements.

Notons en particulier les équipements suivants :
– Le petit électroménager (cafetière électrique, grille-pain, bouilloire, robot mixeur, chauffage d’appoint…)
– Le gros électroménager (lave-vaisselle, lave-linge, sèche-linge, four traditionnel ou chaleur tournante…)
– L’équipement de la salle de bains (sèche-cheveux, radiateur sèche serviette, rideau de douche…)
– Le linge de maison (nappes, draps, serviette de toilettes, torchons, serviettes de table…)
– Le petit mobilier (table de chevet, table basse de salon, tapis…)
– L’équipement TV-hifi (télévision, chaîne ou poste hifi, home cinéma, lecteur DVD – Blu-ray, DVDs…)
– L’entretien (fer et table à repasser, bassine, balai, balai brosse, serpillère…)
– L’équipement extérieur (salon de jardin, barbecue…)
– L’accès internet (wifi ou câble)
– Le nécessaire de puériculture pour les enfants (chaise haute, jeux…)

C’est dans cette catégorie que vous avez tout intérêt à être innovant, quitte à investir progressivement dans quelques équipements qui pourront déclencher la location à coup sûr.

4. Ce qui est de l’ordre des « consommables » utiles et indispensables

Enfin, les « consommables » ou produits de consommation courante, indispensable durant le séjour, que le locataire doit impérativement acheter sur place s’il ne les a pas apportés depuis son domicile. Là aussi, fournir tous ces éléments montre à quel point vous prenez soin de vos locataires.

Notons en particulier les éléments suivants :
– Café en poudre, filtre à café, sachets de thé, pâtes, riz
– Sel, poivre, huile, vinaigre, sucre
– Papier toilette, rouleau essuie-tout, papier aluminium
– Eponge, sac poubelles
– Produits entretien : liquide vaisselle, détergents, lessive, désodorisant WC
– Mouchoirs, cintres

Là encore, ne sous-estimez pas les attentes de vos locataires. Ces produits « consommables » font la différence, indiquer leur présence dans la description de votre location est un point à ne pas négliger.

Ce listing à 4 dimensions n’est peut-être pas exhaustif, mais il est probablement suffisamment complet pour vous aider à trouver quelques pistes d’amélioration dès aujourd’hui…

Source: Commentlouerplus

Photo: Ruby Slippers BCN

 

17
Feb

How to rent an apartment in Barcelona

Traveling is a great experience in life, which teaches us to cherish those precious moments we are lucky enough to spend traveling, meeting new people and getting to know different cultures from around the world.

Regardless if you only have time for a short city trip, or you are able to spend whole two weeks on your vacation, traveling is something that enriches your life and helps you grow as a person. You should always take advantage of the free time you have to spend it traveling and making memories that will be part of your life forever. One of the frequent dilemmas people have when traveling to Barcelona is how to rent an apartment in the city.

Apartment rentals are very popular type of accommodation in Barcelona, as they provide a lot of flexibility when it comes to comfortable staying, unlike hotels, which usually offer smaller rooms, without any kitchen appliances in the room. Additionally, apartments are great choice if you are traveling with your family members, or if you travel with a group of friends, in which case the expense of your stay is much reduced in comparison to staying individually in a hotel. Here are some practical tips that will help you find and rent an apartment in Barcelona, for your short stay or for long term relocation.

1. Planning your stay

Every successful action starts with planning, so you need to plan you stay in Barcelona, as this will have major impact on the type of apartment you are going to choose, as well as on location of the apartment. For example, if you are moving to Barcelona to continue your education, it is highly advisable to look for an apartment near the university you are going to attend. On the other hand, if your trip is in fact a short city break, an ideal apartment for you is the one which is well connected to the airport, allowing you to easily and comfortably get to the city. Therefore, it all comes to your plan and the time interval you are going to spend in the city, as these two have major impact on defining and eventually finding your ideal apartment. Once you have set up the planned date of arrival and departure, you are ready for the step number two.

2. Determine your budget

When you start planning your holiday, you will probably have a certain figure in mind you would feel comfortable spending on your holiday. Make sure you firstly subtract the amount of money you would need for your ticket, as well as the money you would need for food during you stay in Barcelona, and spending money in general, which might include buying gifts for your loved ones, buying souvenirs, etc. In the end, you are left with the amount of money at your disposal to invest into renting an apartment, so you will explore the apartments based on this criterion.

3. Examine the offer

There are a lot of companies out there offering different kinds of apartments. Some companies even specialize in only one type of apartment, such as luxury apartments, small studio apartments, apartments in the center of the city, etc. As one of the companies offering rentals in Barcelona, we can safely say that there is no way that all rental companies are the same. Before you decide which company to choose, you should always get as much information about the company in question, especially about its reputation and testimonials of the previous renters. This will help you to choose the company you will find easy to work with, and the one which offers the best apartments you can rent.

4. Determine the criteria for your ideal apartment

You cannot find something unless you know exactly what you are looking for. Besides determining your budget, you need to set up other criteria that will help you make a decision and find a perfect apartment in Barcelona for you stay. Here are some criteria you need to consider:

  • Location: You want your stay in Barcelona to be as enjoyable as possible, as this often means choosing location of the apartment carefully. If you have already visited Barcelona in the past, you will probably know which location would be most convenient to you and which one would not. On the other hand, you might be visiting Barcelona for the first time, in which case you will probably not know which part of the city to choose to stay in. The same happens with staying in any city or country you have chosen as your destination for your vacation or short city break. You do not know the place, so you need to get relevant information in order to determine which location is the most popular among other tourists and why. Not all tourists are the same, nor do they have the same goals when visiting a city, so studying the city’s map is also helpful. The location of the apartment you are going to rent, especially if your stay is a long term visit, is one of the most important things you should consider prior to making any decision. You do not want to end up living in a noisy neighborhood if the noise is going to keep you up all night long, and therefore spoil your day as you cannot get enough sleep. Also, you do not want to rent an apartment which is too far away from the college or office in Barcelona, as you will only end up spending too much time on the bus or metro, and ultimately waste a lot of your free time, you could have spend in a more productive way. Therefore, choose a location which is the most convenient for you, as this will help you enjoy your stay even more. Once you have chosen the location, you have pretty much narrowed down the selection and the offer of the apartments that are available in the neighborhood or district of your choice. This means that you can go and exploring the apartments and sorting them by various other criteria.
  • Size of the apartment: Obviously, the size of the apartment you need mostly depends on the fact whether you are traveling alone or with several family members or friends. Spacious apartments are usually needed for several people living together, while solo travelers usually go for smaller apartments, as the size affects the price of the apartment. You should also consider the number of rooms in the apartment, especially if you are traveling with someone, as you might want to have two or three separate bedrooms. As long as you are thinking about the space, you should also check whether the apartment has got a terrace, whether you will be provided with a parking space in case you own a car, etc.
  • Interior of the apartment: The interior of the apartment is very important, and when you explore the online offer of the apartments to rent, you will see the main features listed in the offer, such as the list of appliances, the number of beds, the type of heating or air-conditioning, etc. These are all important aspect when choosing an apartment to rent, and since you are in the process of defining your ideal apartment, you should make a list of all features you must have in the apartment. Although sometimes you might need to make a compromise, you know exactly what you need and want, so you should not settle for just about anything. Again, it all comes to down to the length of your stay. If you are in the city for a couple of days only, you will probably make it without having any fancy appliances, such as a microwave or a cooker, as you can always eat out or order food in. On the other hand, if your stay in going to be a bit lengthy, you should consider apartments that offer everything you will actually need to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable.
  • Take a look at the photos: Since most companies providing apartments for rent usually present them online, through their own website or portals specialized in apartment renting, you will find lots of information about the apartments as you explore the offer online. What is particularly useful when making a decision is looking at the photos of the apartment. This pretty much gives you an idea how the apartment actually looks like, and whether this somewhere you would like living.

5. Identify the potential apartments

This extensive process of browsing the offer of the apartments and closely examining all of their features allows you to make a list of apartments you want to check out. It is always advisable to choose only those apartments that most likely resemble the apartment you imaged for yourself, a place where you would feel comfortable. This way you make sure that you have chosen a perfect apartment for your stay. No matter how much time you have got to spend in Barcelona, when you have an apartment where you feel comfortable, your visit will be much more enjoyable and you will have only nice memories from your stay in Barcelona.

6. Book the apartment

Having gone through all the steps of finding a perfect apartment you are ready for booking the apartment. Booking is very important, and most people who are organizing a trip on short notice have a lot of problems to find the apartment they want because most of the apartments are already booked.

Barcelona is a very popular tourist destination, especially in the period between the months of May and October, as the weather is the nicest during this period. However, warm weather and nice temperatures throughout the year are the main reasons why Barcelona has a lot of tourists even during the colder period between October and May. It is always advisable to go through the booking process in advance, so that you know that you will have an apartment waiting for you when you get to the city.

On the other hand, if it is not possible to make reservation in advance, and the trip is inevitably going to be organized on short notice, you might just want to be more flexible with your criteria, regardless if that is the length of your stay, the location, etc. The process of finding an apartment can be in fact a bit stressful for some people, especially for those who are indecisive and may spend too much time on exploring the offer of apartment rentals, without having a clear idea what they actually need and what they really can afford.

If you are one of those people who do not enjoy in looking for and comparing apartments and their features, make sure you find some help with this task, as this will be very useful to you. Regardless if you choose to turn to a friend who has a lot of experience traveling or has visited Barcelona before, of if you choose to contact a professional to help you with finding the apartments that match your criteria, having help with this is always advisable. Not only does it help you save time, but having assistance eventually allows you to make a well informed decision and choose an apartment that truly suits your needs.

In the end, when you have managed to find an apartment you really want and the one that will completely satisfy your needs and make your stay in Barcelona, Spain, as enjoyable as possible, you are ready for the more pleasant part of planning your trip, and that is deciding what to visit in Barcelona and making sure your adventures are documented in wonderful photos of your holiday, which will be nice memories to look back on.

Source: HomeSearchBarcelona

15
Feb

Barcelona, the city where the housing is the most expensive in Spain

In 2014, the difference between the price per square meter of an apartment in Barcelona and Madrid was 450 euros, but last year the gap widened to 520 euros.

The price of housing in Barcelona is the most expensive compared to major Spanish cities, at least in euros per square meter. Especially in the Catalan capital where prices have increased the most. This report -prepared by Tecnocasa and Pompeu Fabra University economics professor- indicates that in Barcelona, the average price per square meter, at the end of the second semester of 2015, will be increased by 8.2% compared to a year earlier.

But it should be noted that in Madrid the price stood at 1,697 euros per square meter, and has increased to 6.3%. For this reason, the difference in price between Barcelona and Madrid has widened. At the end of 2014, the difference between the two cities was 450 euros per square meter (1,599 euros Madrid and 2,049 euros in Barcelona), this gap widened to 520 euros at the end of 2015.

Professor García Montalvo has an explanation for this phenomenon. Barcelona has always been more expensive than Madrid because the town is smaller. In Madrid there are growth zones in the periphery, which are still within the municipal boundaries and bring down the average price.

 But in addition, the Catalan capital receives more investors interests than Madrid, says this expert, which creates tensions rising prices. On average, in Spain a quarter of flats are purchased by investors and three-quarters are inhabited by families.

 Furthermore, José García Montalvo thinks it is logical that investors want to buy houses now, because they can get yields of around 6%, which can not be achieved with any other active. Therefore, he believes that families, last year, were encouraged to buy flats for economic improvement and opening the credit tap from banks. But this year, they could be dissuaded by the uncertainty that is hanging over the markets. For investors, said García Montalvo, they can be affected by politics, particularly by changes that may affect the regulation of the housing market, for example to have sanctions for empty apartments.

The study analyzes the prices in the main Spanish cities, and where housing is more expensive after Madrid and Barcelona is in Hospitalet de Llobregat, where the square meter is paid 1385 euros and where last year’s prices rose by 4.06%.

The analysis of the data of the State indicates that the price of housing has risen to 5.76% of average percentage, representing the highest increase since 2006. Despite this increase, the decrease accumulated since the maximum prices observed at the end of 2006 stood at 55.29%.

The study Tecnocasa and UPF also indicates a significant increase in the price of rent, for Barcelona it has climbed 6.19% in 2015 compared with 2014. For Madrid, the rent increased by 4.67%.

Source: Habitaclia

10
Feb

Almost one tumble dryer fire a day, data shows

In the United-States, fire brigades were called to 926 fires related to the household appliance between 2011 and 2013 – an average of 309 each year. Dryers are the second biggest cause of house fires, behind washing machines.

Firefighters attend almost one blaze a day sparked by a tumble dryer, figures show.

The highest number of dryer-related fires were linked to Hotpoint models – some 410 during the three-year period, according to Freedom of Information data obtained by the Daily Mirror.

Last year, research by consumer group Which? showed washing machines (14%) were the biggest cause of house fires, followed by tumble dryers (12%) in USA.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd told the paper: “More needs to be done to protect consumers from this risk and it is crucial that products known to be dangerous are recalled as quickly as possible.”

10 Safety Tips to Prevent a Dryer Fire

Washing and drying clothes is normally part of our daily or weekly routine. However, it is crucial to keep your clothes dryer in proper working condition to maintain the safety of your home and your family. Ensuring that you avoid these specific bad habits can help you avoid a potentially tragic house fire.

1. Professional installation

Professional technicians can ensure the proper and careful installation of your dryer. These professionals should be knowledgeable about all different kinds of units–from gas and electric dryers to washer/dryer combos. These technicians are familiar with most manufacturer recommendations, such as the proper installation of the vent pipe.

A technician would explain how reducing bends in the pipe is important because it creates few opportunities for lint to gather. If the distance from the vent to your dryer is substantial, they can install a dryer vent fan for you. This is an automatic electric device that speeds up airflow through the duct each time the dryer runs. Having a professions install and service your dryer unit for you can help ensure that any potential hazard is handled properly.

2. Regular servicing

Experts suggest that the primary cause of clothes dryer fires is failure to clean and maintain them. Check behind the dryer where lint has a tendency to build up. You should clean your dryer annually and perform inspections of the hose and vent for any blockages twice a year.

It is a good idea to consider scheduling a qualified service person to clean the interior of the dryer chassis annually. This will minimize the amount of lint that accumulates as well as give you a professional opinion of the safety status of your unit. A professional can also inspect the venting and exhaust system. To ensure that that this procedure is done correctly, employ only certified dryer exhaust technicians.

3. Keep the surrounding area free of flammables

Dryer lint is not the only flammable that should be considered and kept clear of the heat of the dryer unit. Anything flammable should be swept up and disposed of before it piles up and becomes a fire hazard. Cleaning up dust and lint may be a hassle, but vacuuming it up is easier than dealing with the aftermath of a fire.

On the same note, do not store cleaning products, boxes and baskets of clothing around the dryer because they may also cause a fire to start, which could spread quickly. While this is an extreme situation, keeping the area free of clutter is a vital step toward fire prevention.

4. Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry

The most common sources of ignition in dryer fires are household dust and lint. They collect within the dryer cavity, which sits closely to the heating elements. Here, temperatures can reach 68°C, which can easily start a fire. Neglecting to clean our your lint filter is something that you should never do.

A good habit to adopt during your laundry routine would be to clean the lint screen before and after every drying cycle. This is an obvious first line of defense of dryer fire prevention. In addition, wiping down the interior of the dryer will remove excess lint buildup that the screen fails to catch. This is a less obvious step that most people neglect to do, but is important all the same.

It is crucial that you never run a dryer without a lint filter either, as this is removing this built-in defense against hazardous lint buildup. This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often it happens.

5. Use only rigid or flexible metal venting material

Most clothes dryer makers specify the use of flexible or rigid metal venting material for sustaining proper drying time and airflow. Accordion-type ductwork can trap lint, create clogs and increase blockages. Any plastic or coiled wire foil dryer venting should be replaced immediately with rigid non-ribbed metal ducts. Buying from a reputable vendor is key to ensure that your unit is up to the required safety standards.

As always, it is a great idea to do your research on any major appliance before purchase. Looking at the website of the unit to ensure it is coming from a trustworthy source,as well as researching customer reviews can help you make an educated decision.

6. Ensure air exhaust vent pipe is unrestricted

Blocked dryer vents are one of the leading causes of dryer fires. It is challenging to discern when the vents are clogged. Some people are completely unaware that the vents require regular cleaning. However, it is vital to understand that lint accumulates on a grand scale within the hoses, and when it compounds it can create a serious problem. The buildup restricts airflow, which may cause overheating and fire.

In between professional inspections, clean the outside exhaust vent regularly. It is best to check this when your dryer is running by making sure that the exhaust air is escaping properly. If you cannot feel any air, it is likely that there is a lint accumulation clogging the vent outlet. This might require you to disconnect the exhaust vent from the dryer to remove the clog. Remember to reconnect the ducting to the outside vent and dryer before you use the dryer again. If you are unsure of how to do this, it is always recommended that you contact the manufacturer for help or hire a professional.

7. Do not overload

It is easy to procrastinate on laundry, especially when you have a busy schedule. However, this can lead to you saving all of your dirty laundry to be cleaned on the same day, and it is easy to use this as an excuse to overload your dryer, which can potentially be a safety hazard.

A heavy load is too hard on the dryer and is the most common cause of it breaking down. In addition to downtime and repair costs, an overloaded dryer can cause the drum belt, spindle bearings and pulleys to work overtime, producing higher than average temperatures. When this happens, the friction can ignite a spark and cause a fire.

This might be the easiest cause of dryer fires and malfunctions to avoid. Keep organized and space your laundry loads out to a few times a week. If your schedule makes this difficult or unreasonable, it might be a better idea to simply take the time to split your laundry load into two or three loads instead, and just take a slightly longer (albeit safer) time to take care of this necessary chore.

8. Inspect gas lines

Qualified professionals should inspect the gas line and connection to ensure that they are free of leaks and intact. Gas leaks are incredibly dangerous and can cause many problems apart from a dryer fire. If you observe a burning smell when you run your dryer, immediately discontinue use of your unit and call the manufacturer as soon as possible. Avoid the area of the suspected gas leak at all times.

9. Use the correct plug & outlet

Accurate grounding of dryers is essential to proper functioning. Verify that you are using the correct electrical plug and outlet according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A good way to ensure that you are doing this is by having a licensed professional install your dryer unit for you.

Be sure to double-check all connections regularly and observe any changes. Immediately discontinue use if anything looks wrong, loose or discolored. Overloaded electrical sockets often result in tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses, which may lead to a house fire.

10. Never run the dryer when you leave home or are sleeping

We all have probably caved to convenience and thrown a load of clothes into the dryer before heading to work or running errands. However, if a fire starts while you are gone, you cannot stop it early. In addition, if you are asleep, it may be too late before you realize that your house has caught fire. For you own safety, consider running the dryer only when you are home and awake. It is also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in your laundry room, just in case something does go wrong.

A clothes dryer that is not working correctly increases the risk of fire. Look for signs that your clothes dryer is not working correctly and any potential increases in the risk of fire. Indicators to keep an eye out for are things like a lack of visible lint on the lint trap, the top of the dryer being hot to the touch while running and clothes take longer than one cycle to dry. Other indications of potential trouble are clothes that come out hotter than usual and the dryer stopping repeatedly during a cycle.

Do not forget to clean the heat vents on the back of your clothes dryer. Once a year, pull your dryer out and clean the vents in the back with your vacuum. Lint likes to accumulate back there, and if it gets too hot, it can quickly start a house fire. Do not take the risk of losing your home or family members and keep your clothes dryer serviced, maintained and clean.

Source: SkyNews and CompactAppliance

Photo: Elliott Cohen

09
Feb

Barcelona metro fire causes rush-hour commuter ordeal

All trains running through the centre of Barcelona have been stopped because of smoke in the tunnels.

Commuters were facing a tough morning in Barcelona on Tuesday when all of the city’s most central stations were closed after a fire broke out.

The fire broke out in the Arc de Triomf railway station and after “several hours’ work” firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze according to Catalan newspaper, La Vanguardia.

But smoke from the fire has made its way through the tunnels – forcing the closure of several cercanías stations: Sagrera Meridiana, Arc de Triomf, Clot Aragó, Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona Estació de França and Plaça Catalunya.

“It was not an electrical fault. It was caused by an accumulation of waste and other material in the old Arc de Triomf station,” Barcelona’s fire brigade confirmed on Twitter.

Renfe, Spain’s national rail authority, has recommended that those travelling into the city take alternative means of transport this morning.

Renfe confirmed in a statement that technicians had noticed a build-up of smoke in Barcelona’s train tunnels “at around 1am on Tuesday morning” and immediately “called the Barcelona fire brigade”.

Passengers can log on to http://rodalies.gencat.cat/en, renfe.mobi and www.adif.es for more information. 

Source: The Local

Photo: Albert Parés