Smart Technology or Home Automation: What’s the Difference?

Smart Technology or Home Automation: What's the Difference?Is it worth it to add smart appliances or automated features if you’re selling a home? Just how much connectivity do buyers want? And what exactly do the terms refer to in terms of home updates.

Although smart homes and home automation are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually refer to two basically different concepts about how appliances and home systems can operate. Then there is the need for “connectivity,” adding another dimension to any discussion of futuristic home features.

Home Automation

According to a Texas-based Direct Energy blog, home automation has a long history, beginning with the first labor-saving devices that operated with electrical current. “Automatic” washing machines and hot water heaters certainly made life easier at the time, a time long before wireless technology and integrated home entertainment systems.That may be simplistic, but the truth is that any device that operates without human intervention can be termed automatic.

Today, however, automation commonly refers to home features that are controlled by computer, or that can be set to operate in specific ways: motion-detected lighting, robotic floor cleaners, dishwashers and ovens with delay settings, and the wide range of room monitors, security cameras and voice or motion-controlled devices.

Smart Technology

Computers introduced American homes to smart technology and the Internet of Things. Today, almost every home has several “smart” devices, even if they are simple ones.

Case in point: A programmable thermostat, common sensor-operated smoke detectors, and a backyard irrigation system with a timer control can be termed smart devices, albeit maybe only “elementary” smart.

Today, most smart technology is also controllable by wireless remote device. But the true definition of smart is any product that incorporates sensors or data storage, microprocessors or controls that allow autonomous operation. An internal operating system is employed to assure that the product operates as programmed, either through user interface or initial setup. Modern smart technology allows for broad integration of devices, in effect creating a “genius” network.

Connectivity

The third piece of the technology puzzle is connectivity. Both home automation and smart technology can be “connected,” for greater flexibility and integration, but it’s not necessary. And, just because homeowners can change a setting via smart phone or battery-operated remote doesn’t necessarily make an automatic appliance or home product smart.

Connected products interact with one another over a network; the network collects and shares data, and is designed to monitor and allow some degree of control over the functioning of network-connected products or systems.

For instance, a smart home with sophisticated lighting controls might automatically sense lower light levels at dusk, triggering an adjustment to window shades and turning on both interior and exterior lighting.

Confused? Actually, there’s no real need to be. No matter what you call them, the home features that make living better are all desirable!

Five Reasons Why Spring Is The Perfect Time To Sell

5 Reasons Spring Is The Perfect Time to SellSpring is many people’s favorite season of the year. Obviously, there are many valid reasons why this is so. One of the best things about spring is that it is an ideal time to sell your home.

If you have considered putting your home on the market any time in the next year or so, check out these five reasons which make spring the ideal time.

  • Buyers are searching – A huge majority of home buyers want to move during summer. Many families have school or work vacations that make the moving process a little easier during this time. If you put your home on the market during spring, you ready things for someone to purchase and move in during this prime time.
  • The weather is cooperative – Yes, there may be a few spring rain showers here and there, but during the spring season (in most parts of the country), you’ll find that the weather is neither too hot nor too cold to keep buyers from searching. In addition, the spring sunshine makes for beautiful listing photos.
  • It’s a great time for home improvement – Whether you want to make improvements to your house to make selling easier, or you plan to sell your home as a fixer-upper, the knowledge that spring and the coming summer months is the perfect time to attend to these tasks will benefit you during the listing and sales process.
  • Your yard will look great – They say that curb appeal is one of the most important things that is considered when someone purchases a home. When you sell in springtime, the grass is green, the flowers are in bloom and your yard will look it’s very best. You may find that it’s a little easier to sell during this time just because of the extra “wow factor” your yard brings to the table.
  • The market is prime – Listen to any news or finance program and you’ll hear that the real estate market is booming. Take advantage of this benefit and pair it with all the other reasons to sell your home this spring. You may find that selling your property quickly and at your asking price is much easier than you ever imagined it would be.

As you can see, spring really is an excellent time to sell a home. However, don’t wait until the peak of the season to think about putting it on the market and expect to reap all the benefits. Act now and be ready to make a splash when the weather warms up and the sun comes out to shine.

 

6 Money Making Tips For The First Time Home Seller

6 Money Making Tips For The First Time Home SellerToday’s homebuyers can have specific ideas and personal preferences that influence their decision on what attracts them to a particular property. While some prefer a fixer-upper, many desire a home that’s as close to turn-key as possible.

First time home sellers may help expedite the process with these six home selling tips.

Determine Right Listing Price

A home priced competitively in its market typically sells faster. Professional REALTORS® know the area and look at comparative listings to help determine the right listing price.

First time home sellers often think their home should list higher, and this can turn away buyers. Trust a real estate agent to know the right price that will attract potential buyers for a sale that makes all parties happy.

Curb Appeal Makes a Difference

Great curb appeal has the power to attract buyers and create a positive first impression. Simple enhancements add to curb appeal:

  • Mow the lawn or make sure the walk/driveway is clear of snow/ice
  • Prune overhanging branches and trim bushes
  • Remove any sickly or dead vegetation
  • Replenish missing mulch or rocks in landscape beds
  • Replace worn house numbers and/or mailbox
  • Add fresh potted plants to porch for pop of color
  • De-clutter yard by removing lawn ornaments/art and all kids’ toys
  • Have all exterior lighting in working condition

A fresh coat of paint on the front door, clean windows, and a sidewalk swept free from leaves and debris also add to the overall welcoming look.

De-clutter and Depersonalize

Once potential buyers enter the home, it’s time to make another important impression. Homebuyers should be able to visualize themselves living in the space.

De-cluttering and depersonalizing the home helps. The fewer items in a room, the larger the space feels. Key areas to de-clutter include the kitchen and bathroom, in particular the countertops. Remove all personal items, storing out-of-sight in a closet or cabinet.

In addition, remove personal photographs and large collections if possible. Children’s rooms don’t need to be completely depersonalized, but it’s essential to de-clutter the space to show it to its best advantage.

Repairs and Replacements

Every home has a few small items that need repair but have fallen to low priority. Before listing the home, take the time to make these repairs and replacements.

Tighten that loose cabinet in the kitchen, replace the torn bathroom window screen, and refresh the caulk in the showers. Sometimes it’s the little things that turn off homebuyers and these small repairs may be the tipping point for a sale.

Offer the Extras

In a competitive market, offer extras to entice buyers. Generally, these extras are appliances that stay with the home as part of the sale. Other extras a seller may include within the price of the home are items like window treatments and outdoor accessories like patio furniture.

Consider a Pre-inspection

A pre-inspection can help reduce concerns potential buyers have regarding the home’s current condition. It’s a way to reassure buyers that the house doesn’t have any hidden issues.

However, getting a pre-inspection doesn’t mean homebuyers won’t want their own home inspection, too. Consult with a real estate professional to help determine if a pre-inspection may be helpful.

First time home sellers don’t have to be overwhelmed with the process. With the right preparation and the help of a professional real estate agent, home selling can move swiftly.

 

7 Tips To Plan A Spring Yard ‘Tune-Up’ Before Listing A Home For Sale

7 Tips to Plan a Spring Backyard Tune UpThe oft-repeated maxim that there is never a second chance to make a great first impression is especially true when it comes to real estate. Street appeal may focus on a dramatic approach to the front door, but prospective buyers will be especially “wowed” by an appealing back yard.

Early spring is the perfect time to add some new plants, set out pots of blooming flowers and focus on one memorable feature. A little work now will pay big dividends later, in terms of buyer interest, increased showings, quick offers, and even a higher price.

Here are 7 ideas that are cost-effective weekend projects:

  1. Create a focal point: Find an antique garden trellis and plant some vines to create an arbor. Add a piece of sculpture or statuary either in the center of the yard or in a secluded garden spot. Install a “gate to nowhere” and add bright flowers on one side. Paint giant sunflowers on a privacy fence or on the side of a storage shed.
  2. Build a partial wall or shade trellis: There is little that’s more appealing that an an “outdoor living room.” Accent and define your patio space in an interesting way — use a sisal rug or paint a graphic design on the concrete — and fill the room with appropriate furniture. Add a small fountain or a charcoal fire pit to create a real gathering spot.
  3. Install a simple drip irrigation system: Minimize landscape upkeep by planning DIY drip irrigation that will keep planting areas looking their best. All that’s really needed is some tubing and a few fittings; the system itself can be attached to an outside hose bibb and operated by a simple timer. It’s not necessary to extend the system to the entire lawn; that would be a more costly and time-consuming project perhaps best left to a professional.
  4. Create a dry creek bed: If parts of the yard or garden are plagued by standing water following heavy rain, give drainage an assist by making a dry creek bed. It’s not too difficult and will add function and beauty to the back yard. Add some large boulders or a “Zen bench” to boost the appeal.
  5. Plant or hang solar lights: Define a pathway, highlight planting areas or just add night-time interest to the yard with solar lighting. Buy inexpensive versions at a home store, or order artistic lights from a catalog. They’re fun, functional and portable.
  6. Plant a specialty garden: Attract butterflies and hummingbirds with a patch of wildflowers. Build a small raised garden plot to grow kitchen herbs, or plant seasonal vegetables and edible flowers. Carrots. kale and rainbow chard are especially pretty and don’t take much space. Melons, squash and pumpkins have beautiful flowers and yield great fruit, but they do spread!
  7. Clean up, trim, weed and mow: Finally, don’t neglect the routine maintenance that is required in every yard, both front and back. Nothing else is as important to prospective buyers as an attractive, well-kept home exterior.

 

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning Offer

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning OfferIn a hot real estate market, agents often tell buyers they must expect to make multiple offers before one is accepted. Disappointment may be the new normal rather than an exception. The stress of repeated rejections isn’t easy, so be prepared.

Significant numbers of first-time buyers find the process difficult, and recent research indicates that about 60 percent of Millennials choose to rent rather than own, delaying other important life decisions, including marriage and family.

There are, however, at least 5 ways to strengthen your buyer profile and give yourself an advantage:

Check Your Credit

Take advantage of the free credit checks offered by the three credit reporting agencies, and clean up any questionable entries. At the very least, be prepared to offer clear and cogent reasons for any late payments that appear within the last couple of years. Pay down credit card balances and student loan debt as much as possible, and assure that your employment record is stable.

Sock Away Some Cash

Try to delay your home search until you have enough money for a reasonable down payment and required closing costs, plus a comfortable nest egg or contingency fund. Demonstrate a consistent savings habit. If you plan to borrow the down payment from parents or other family members, be certain it will be adequate and available when you need it.

Talk With Your Loan Officer

Get a definitive idea of how much you can comfortably afford. If you’re a veteran or qualify for other special loan programs, find out in advance. Gain a comfort level with a lender, and listen to the advice that is offered. Interest rates are currently still low, but any rate change will affect the amount you can borrow. Limit your home search homes priced lower than your loan limit.

The only thing better than a pre-qualification letter is approval confirmation for a specific loan amount. In a fast-paced real estate market, seek that pre-approval, so that you’ll be able to move quickly when you find the right property. A pre-approved loan, an offer with no contingencies, and a quick closing date are the marks of an “A-list” buyer.

Define Your Needs

Know your preferred neighborhoods, and prepare a list of “must have” items as well as a wish list to guide your search. But be realistic. Know that home-buying is a matter of priorities and a game of give and take.

Look at a home’s structure and condition; consider the location, and realize that there is no such thing as the perfect house. Know that tired style can be updated, and decor changes are relatively easy on the pocketbook.

Make the First Offer Your Best Offer

In a seller’s market, it’s wise to make the initial offer your best offer. A lowball bid will not impress the seller, and you may never get a chance to submit a higher bid. When there is serious competition for homes, it pays to be serious about every offer.

Finally, know that if you’re persistent and prepared, you will find a home to suit you. Practice patience!

7 Excellent Ideas For Building An Eco-Friendly Home

7 excellent ideas for building and eco friendly homeIn recent years, building an environmentally friendly home or updating an existing home to be more energy efficient has become much more mainstream. While building an entirely green residence isn’t always fiscally possible, simple eco-friendly building techniques and upgrades will ultimately lower your water and electricity bills.

These green home improvements will save you money in the long run, while also saving the planet. The following are some of the easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint when building or updating a home.

Build or Purchase a Smaller Home

Smaller homes naturally have a lower impact on the environment. There is less square footage to cool and heat, which keeps energy consumption down. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to give up your dream home. Instead, create an ideal floor plan with usable space, and downsize rooms you know you will not use on a daily — or even weekly — basis.

Use Energy-Efficient Windows

When building a home or updating an existing home, use Energy Star-labeled windows. This important label means that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed them as energy efficient. The money saved on future heating and cooling bills often more than make up for the initial cost differential.

Use Energy-Efficient Products

Like windows, certain appliances are also Energy Star-labeled. Energy Star appliances conserve energy, without sacrificing performance. Everything from a single light bulb to a geothermal heat pump can come with this important, government-approved label.

Use Proper Insulation

Heating and cooling typically accounts for approximately half of a home’s energy consumption, and this energy usage is often wasted due to poor insulation. Start by making sure there are no drafts by windows and doors. This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and the price of your monthly bills.

Install Solar Panels

Solar energy is both clean and renewable, and solar panels are the perfect way to harness this remarkable form of energy. While the initial cost of installation can seem high, the money saved in the long term is extraordinary. Plus, there are often tax breaks and other monetary incentives. When building a new home, consult with a knowledgeable architect about positioning the property and the solar panels for maximum sun exposure.

Use Sustainable Building Materials

Sustainable building materials can be utilized throughout the entire building process. When picking out wood for the frame of the home, use a supplier who practices an environmentally friendly planting and harvesting process. Once in the design phase, consider bamboo and/or cork flooring. They are both eco-friendly and trendy.

Save Water

There are numerous ways to cut back on water usage. To start, install low-flow aerators on toilets and shower heads, invest in a tankless water heater and only use an Energy Star-rated washing machine. Next, capture rainwater on your property in a cistern or barrel. This water can be used for landscaping and irrigation.

Creating a green home doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple updates and a bit of forethought can drastically reduce monthly bills, while simultaneously reducing fossil-fuel emissions.

Spring Heats Up Housing

According to a late February analysis in the Wall Street Journal, homebuilders are reporting that sales of newly built homes so far this year are going gangbusters.

But sales of existing homes are more lukewarm. Why the difference?333

A simple reason could be that new-home figures are tracked on a more current basis, reporting numbers from orders in more recent weeks, versus existing home sales which often have a full month of lag time since they are tracked by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Analysts also claim that there is simply less available inventory of existing homes, which has helped the new construction market.

Meanwhile, pending sales, an indicator of future closed sales, rose 1.7 percent from December to January, and are now 8.4 percent higher than the same time one year ago. January marked the fifth straight month of year-over-year gains, and the gains are increasing.

“Contract activity is convincingly up compared to a year ago despite comparable inventory levels,” said the National Association of REALTORS® chief economist Lawrence Yun. “The difference this year is the positive factors supporting stronger sales, such as slightly improving credit conditions, more jobs and slower price growth.”

A March CoreLogic report also showed that January home prices rose nearly 6 percent from a year ago. In 2013, investors were blamed for pushing prices upward, but it has been suggested that prices are rising again due simply to a lack of inventory in markets large and small across the nation. This news could result in a very competitive housing season for homebuyers.

Freddie Mac is also expecting 2015 to be the best year for home sales and new construction since 2007, according to its March 2015 U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook. Freddie Mac cited an improving job market, rising rents and expanded credit availability as some reasons for its positive outlook.

The Bottom Line

Low rates and new home inventory make for an exciting housing season. If you have any questions regarding housing or know of friends, family or colleagues who wish to discuss buying or refinancing a home, please contact me today.

Housing Optimism For Spring

With home loan rates falling for four straight weeks early this year, prospective homebuyers had an easier time purchasing new homes. Low rates also prompted a spike in refinance applications from many Americans pursuing lower monthly payments, which will help free up extra cash to spend or save.

sidebar_839According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), purchase applications are 3 percent higher than a year ago, with most of the gains coming from Federal Housing Administration (FHA) financing. Government-insured FHA loans provide low down payment and rate options and are typically sought after by first-time buyers.

A strong January Jobs Report also showed Non-farm Payrolls growing, and that many Americans have returned to the job search pool.

Builders Optimistic for Spring

Construction on new homes continues to grow; even though January’s numbers slipped slightly from December, they were up nineteen percent from a year ago. Builders began construction on 1.01 million new houses and apartments in 2014, the most in nine years and 8.8 percent more than in 2013, according to a January CoreLogic report.

At the end of December, builders had 218,000 homes listed for sale that were either under construction or completed, 17.2 percent up from a year earlier, according to Commerce Department data released in early January. The data indicated that builders are optimistic about the upcoming spring housing season, which can be seen from their commitment to building speculative, or “spec” homes. Spec homes are newly constructed homes built in the anticipation of buyers to sign purchase contracts.

According to a realtor.com report, last year’s total at 435,000 for new-home sales was an increase of only 1.4 percent from the 2013 total, and stands at roughly 58 percent of the annual average since 2000.

The spring selling season typically starts after the Super Bowl and hits its stride around March and April.

The Bottom Line

Low rates, new homes and demand for first-time home loans make this an exciting time for home loan activity. If you have any questions regarding housing or know of friends, family or colleagues who wish to discuss buying or refinancing a home, please get in touch.

5 Year-End Tips To Jumpstart Your Goals

5 Year-end Tips to Jumpstart Your GoalsIn the hullabaloo of the holiday season, be sure to carve out some time to reflect on this past year, and set goals for the year ahead. These tips will help you re-energize and refocus for a successful start to 2015.
Get started by following these 5 tips:
1. Celebrate success. Reflect back on all that you have accomplished and celebrate it. Take 10 to 15 minutes and make a list, or a mental inventory of your achievements, big and small. When you look back, you’ll be amazed at how much you got done.
2. Build off a baseline. Use your accomplishments as a springboard for goal setting. For example, if you finally organized your database this year, then schedule automated marketing to your network next year.
3. Ask for advice. In business, getting feedback is a valuable tool for identifying professional growth areas. Reach out to clients, peers and local leadership who know you and your work. Ask for advice on ways you could improve.
4. Find a peer benchmark. Know a colleague who performs a task exceptionally well? Learn more about what strategies and tools he or she uses, and see if you can apply the same to your work processes.
5. Broadcast your goals. When you establish goals, share them with your colleagues. Then, invite them to check in with you periodically and hold you accountable for taking steps to achieve those goals.

Here’s to a prosperous New Year!

Source: ASCD Inservice and Vantage Production, LLC

Looking For A Value-Adding Upgrade To Your Home?

Looking for a Value-adding Upgrade? Why Residential Solar Panels Are Becoming a Popular RenovationIf you’re looking for a home upgrade that can add resale value to your home while paying itself off over time, look no further than a solar panel setup. In the past few years, the cost of installing residential solar has declined while the efficiency of the panels has increased. This combination has made home solar one of the best investments that a homeowner can make – provided they live in an area that receives a good deal of sunshine.

Solar Adds Immense Value To Your Home

While solar panel installations are not inexpensive, in almost every case they add at least their total cost to the value of the home as soon as they are installed. If you decide to sell your home, it will be very attractive to those who are interested in leaving a lighter footprint or for anyone who was thinking of going solar after they bought their new home.

A Quality Install Will Pay For Itself Over Time

As they generate electricity which can be used in your home or sold back in to the public grid, residential solar panels are one of the only home upgrades that will pay for themselves over time. If you live in a very sunny area and watch your home energy consumption, you may even find that after a few years your solar setup actually begins generating a profit each month. Home solar setups typically come with a 25-year warranty so you can rest assured that your panels will be producing energy for at least the next couple of decades.

Tax Credits And Incentives Reduce The Up-front Financial Cost

Renewable energy sources like solar quality can be applied for significant tax credits and rebates which will vary depending on the city and state or province that you live in. A quick web search will show you which types of incentives that you will qualify for, or you can call a local residential solar installer as they’ll be fully aware of all of the various incentives that are available.

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