Category: Consumer Tips (9)

Whatever your reasons are for relocating to a new area, the process can feel overwhelming. Whether you’re moving across across town or across the country, you’ll be changing more than your address. Besides a new house, you may also be searching for new jobs, schools, doctors, restaurants, stores, service providers and more.

Of course you’ll need to pack, make moving arrangements, and possibly sell your old home. With so much to do, you may be wondering: Where do I start?

In this guide, we outline seven steps to help you get prepared, get organized, and get settled in your new community. Our hope is to alleviate the hassle of relocating—so you can focus on the exciting adventure ahead!

 

Gather Information

If you’re unfamiliar with your new area, start by doing some research.1 Look for data on average housing prices, demographics, school rankings and crime statistics. Search for maps that illustrate local geography, landmarks, public transportation routes and major interstates. If you’re moving across the country, research climate and seasonal weather patterns.

Check out local newspapers and blogs for information on political issues and developments that could impact your new community. You may also want to search for online forums and Facebook Groups relevant to your new area. These can be a great place to find information, ask questions and just observe local attitudes and outlooks.

If you’re relocating for a job, find out if your new employer offers any relocation assistance. Many large corporations have a designated human resources professional to assist employees with relocation efforts, while others may contract this service out to a third party. Some employers will also cover all or a portion of your relocation and moving costs.

By gathering this information up front, you’ll be better prepared to make informed decisions down the road.

Let us know if you’d like assistance with your information gathering process. We have a wealth of knowledge about this area, and we keep a number of reports and statistics on file in our office. We would be happy to share information and answer any questions you may have.

 

Identify Your Ideal Neighborhoods

Once you’ve sufficiently researched your new area, you can start to identify your ideal neighborhoods.

The first step is to prioritize your “needs” and “wants.” Consider factors such as budget; commute time; quality of schools; crime rate; walkability; access to public transportation; proximity to restaurants, shopping, and place of worship; and neighborhood vibe.

If possible, visit the area in person to get a feel for the community. If you’re comfortable, strike up conversations with local residents and ask about their experiences living in the area.

Still not sure which neighborhood is the best fit for you and your family? Contact a local real estate agent for expert assistance. It’s usually the most efficient and effective way to narrow down your options.

We provide neighborhood assessments and advice as a free service if you’re relocating to our area. Or, if you’re moving out of town, we can refer you to a local agent who can help.

 

Find Your New Home (and Sell Your Old One)

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of preferred neighborhoods, it’s time to start looking for a home. If you haven’t already contacted a real estate agent, now is the time. They can search for current property listings that meet your needs, typically at no cost to you.

Create another list of “needs” and “wants,” but this time for your new home. Include your basic requirements for square footage, bedrooms and bathrooms, but also think about what other factors are important to you and your family. An updated kitchen? A large backyard? Double sinks in the master bathroom?

Narrow your list down to your top 10 and prioritize them in order of importance.2 This will give you a good starting point to begin your home search. Unless you have an unlimited budget, don’t expect to find a home with everything on your list. But having a prioritized list can help you (and your agent) understand which home features are the most important, and which ones you may be willing to sacrifice.

If you already own a home, you’ll also need to start the process of selling it or renting it out. A real estate agent can help you evaluate your options based on current market conditions. He or she can also give you an idea of how much equity you have in your current home so you know how much you can afford to spend on your new one.

Your agent can also advise you on how to time your sale and purchase. While some buyers are able to qualify for and cover the costs of two concurrent mortgages, many are not. There are a number of options available, and a skilled agent can help you determine the best course given your circumstances.

We would love to assist you if you have plans to buy or sell a home in our area. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your unique needs and devise a custom plan to make your relocation as seamless as possible. If you’re relocating outside of our area, we can help you find a trusted agent in your new city.

 

Prepare for Your Departure

While everyone considers packing a fundamental part of moving, we often overlook the emotional preparation that needs to take place. If you have children, this can be especially important. Communicate the move in an age-appropriate way, and if possible take them on a tour of your new home and neighborhood. This can alleviate some of the mystery and apprehension around the move.4

Allow yourself plenty of time to pack up your belongings. Before you start, gather supplies, including boxes, tape, tissue paper and bubble wrap. Begin with non-essentials—such as off-season clothes or holiday decorations—and sort items into four categories: take, trash, sell and donate/give away.5

To make the unpacking process easier, be sure to label the top and sides of boxes with helpful information, including contents, room, and any special instructions. Keep a master inventory list so you can refer back to it if something goes missing.

If you will be using a moving company, start researching and pricing your options. To ensure an accurate estimate of your final cost, it’s best to have them conduct an in-person walkthrough. Make sure you’re working with a reputable company, and avoid paying a large deposit before your belongings are delivered.6

If you plan to drive to your new home, map out the route. And, if necessary, make arrangements for overnight accommodations along the way. If driving is not a good option, you may need to have your vehicles transported and make travel arrangements for you, your family and your pets.

Lastly, if you will be leaving friends or family behind, schedule final get-togethers before your departure. The last days before moving can be incredibly hectic, so make sure you block off some time in advance for proper goodbyes.

Looking for a reputable moving company? We are happy to provide referrals, as well as recommendations on where to procure packing supplies in our area.

 

 

Prepare for Your Arrival

To make your transition go smoothly, prepare for your arrival well before moving day. Depending on how long your belongings will take to arrive, you may need to arrange for temporary hotel accommodations. If you plan to move in directly, pack an “essentials box” with everything you’ll need for the first couple of nights in your new home, such as toiletries, toilet paper, towels, linens, pajamas, cell phone chargers, snacks, pet food and a change of clothes.7 This will keep you from searching through boxes after an exhausting day of moving.

Arrange in advance for your utilities to be turned on, especially essentials like water, electricity and gas. (And while you’re at it, schedule a shut-off date for your current utilities.) Update your address on all accounts and subscriptions and arrange to have your mail forwarded through the postal service. If you have children, register them for their new school or daycare and arrange for the transfer of any necessary records.

You may want to have the house professionally cleaned before moving in. And if you plan to remodel, paint or install new flooring, it’s easier to have it done before you bring in all of your belongings.8 However, it’s not always feasible without someone you trust locally who can supervise. Another option is to keep a portion of your things in storage while you complete some of these projects. 

If there are no window treatments, you may need to install some (or at least put up temporary privacy film), especially in bedrooms and bathrooms. And if appliances are missing, consider purchasing them ahead of time and arranging for delivery and installation shortly after you arrive. Just be sure to check measurements and installation instructions carefully so you aren’t stuck with an appliance that doesn’t fit or that requires costly modifications to your new home.

If you own a car, check the requirements for a driver’s license and vehicle registration in your new area and contact your insurance company to update your policy.8 If you will rely on public transportation, research options and schedules.

If you’re relocating to our area, we can help! We offer “VIP Relocation Assistance” to all of our buyer clients. Contact us for a list of preferred hotels, utility providers, housekeepers, contractors and more!

 

Get Settled In Your New Home

While staring at an endless pile of boxes can feel daunting, you should take advantage of this opportunity to make a fresh start. By creating a plan ahead of time, you can ensure your new house is thoughtfully laid out and well organized.

If you followed our suggestion to pack an “essentials box” (see Step 5), you should have easy access to everything you’ll need to get you through the first couple of nights in your new home. This will allow you some breathing room to unpack your remaining items in a deliberate manner, instead of rushing through the process.7

If you have young children, consider unpacking their rooms first. Seeing their familiar items can help them establish a sense of comfort and normalcy during a confusing time. Then move on to any items you use on a daily basis.10

Pets can also get overwhelmed by a new, unfamiliar space. Let them adjust to a single room first, which should include their favorite toys, treats, food and water bowl, and a litter box for cats. Once they seem comfortable, you can gradually introduce them to other rooms in the home.11

As you unpack, make a list of items that need to be purchased so you’re not making multiple trips to the store. Also, start a list of needed repairs and installations. If you have a home warranty, find out what’s covered and the process for filing a service order.

Although you may be eager to get everything unpacked, it’s important to take occasional breaks. Have some fun, relax and explore your new hometown!

Need help with unpacking, organizing or decorating your new home? Contact us for a list of recommended professionals in our area. And when you’re ready to start exploring local “hot spots,” we’d love to fill you in on our favorite restaurants, stores, parks and other attractions!

 

Get Involved In Your New Community

Studies show that moving can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. People who have recently moved tend to be isolated socially, more stressed, and less likely to participate in exercise and hobbies. However, there are ways to combat these negative effects.12

First, get out and explore. In a 2016 study, recent movers were shown to spend less time on physical activities and more time on their computers, which has been proven to lead to feelings of depression and loneliness. Instead, get out of your house and investigate your new area. And if you travel by foot, you’ll gain the advantages of fresh air and exercise.12

Combat feelings of isolation by making an effort to meet people in your new community. Find a local interest group, take a class, join a place of worship or volunteer for a cause. Don’t wait for friends to come knocking on your door. Instead, go out and find them.

Finally, be a good neighbor. Make an effort to introduce yourself to your new neighbors, invite them over for coffee or dinner, and offer assistance when they need it. Once you’ve developed friendships and a support system within your new neighborhood, it will truly start to feel like home.

Want more ideas on how to get involved in your community? Contact us for a free copy of our report, “Welcome Home: 10 Tips to Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Hometown Haven.”

 

LET’S GET MOVING

While moving is never easy, these seven steps offer an action plan to get you started on your new adventure. To avoid getting overwhelmed, focus on one step at a time. And don’t hesitate to ask for help!

In a 2015 study, 61 percent of participants ranked moving at the top of their stress list, above divorce and starting a new job.13 But with a little preparation—and the right team of professionals to assist you—it is possible to have a positive relocation experience.

We specialize in assisting home buyers and sellers with a seamless and “less-stress” relocation. Along with our referral network of movers, handymen, housekeepers, decorators, contractors and other service providers, we can help take the hassle and headache out of your upcoming move. Give us a call or message us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!

 

 

Sources:

  1. You Move Me –
    https://www.youmoveme.com/us/blog/105-tips-for-a-successful-relocation
  2. com –
    https://www.houselogic.com/buy/house-hunting/must-have-items/
  3. Livestrong –
    https://www.livestrong.com/article/436651-the-effects-of-sunlight-fresh-air-on-the-body/
  4. Parents Magazine –
    https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/buy-a-house/make-moving-easier-on-you-and-your-kids/
  5. The Spruce –
    https://www.thespruce.com/starting-to-pack-for-your-move-2436470
  6. com –
    https://www.moving.com/tips/hiring-quality-movers/
  7. The Spruce –
    https://www.thespruce.com/unpack-your-entire-home-2435815
  8. com –
    https://www.houselogic.com/buy/moving-in/before-you-move/
  9. HGTV –
    https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/moving-checklist
  10. com –
    https://www.moving.com/tips/how-to-unpack-and-organize-your-house/
  11. ASPCA –
    https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/moving-your-pet
  12. Psychology Today –
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/is-where-you-belong/201607/why-youre-miserable-after-move
  13. The Daily Express –
    https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/574171/Divorce-stressful-moving-home

From summer vacations to winter holidays, it seems each season offers the perfect excuse to put off our to-do list. But be careful, homeowners: neglecting your home’s maintenance could put your personal safety—and one of your largest financial investments—at serious risk.

In no time at all, small problems can lead to extensive and expensive repairs. And even if you avoid a catastrophe, those minor issues can still have a big impact. Properties that are not well maintained can lose 10 percent (or more) of their appraised value.1

The good news is, by dedicating a few hours each season to properly maintaining your home, you can ensure a safe living environment for you and your family … and actually increase the value of your home by one percent annually!1 You just need to know where and how to spend your time.

Use the following checklist as a guide to maintaining your home and lawn throughout the year. It’s applicable for all climates, so please share it with friends and family members who you think could benefit, no matter where their home is located.

 

Spring

After a long, cold winter, many of us look forward to a fresh start in the spring. Wash away the winter grime, open the windows, and prepare your home for warmer weather and backyard barbecues.

 

Inside
  • Conduct Annual Spring Cleaning
    Be sure to tackle those areas that may have gone neglected—such as your blinds, baseboards and fan blades—as well as appliances, including your refrigerator, dishwasher, oven and range hood. Clear out clutter and clothes you no longer wear, and toss old and expired food and medications.

 

  • Shut Down Heating System
    Depending on the type of heating system you have, you may need to shut your system down when not in use. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper procedures.

 

  • Tune Up A/C
    If your home has central air conditioning, schedule an annual tune-up with your HVAC technician. If you have a portable or window unit, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance.2

 

  • Check Plumbing
    It’s a good idea to periodically check your plumbing to spot any leaks or maintenance issues. Look for evidence of leaks—such as water stains on the ceiling—and check for dripping faucets or running toilets that need to be addressed. Inspect your hot water heater for sediment build up. Check your sump pump (if you have one) to ensure it’s working properly.3

 

  • Inspect Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so change them now and again in the fall. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.4

 

Outside
  • Inspect Perimeter of Home
    Walk around your house and look for any signs of damage or wear and tear that should be addressed. Are there cracks in the foundation? Peeling paint? Loose or missing roof shingles? Make a plan to make needed repairs yourself or hire a contractor.

 

  • Clean Home’s Exterior
    Wash windows and clean and replace screens if they were removed during the winter months. For the home’s facade, it’s generally advisable to use the gentlest method that is effective. A simple garden hose will work in most cases.5

 

  • Clean Gutters and Downspouts
    Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned at least twice a year. Neglected gutters can cause water damage to a home, so make sure yours are clean and free of debris. If your gutters have screens, you may be able to decrease the frequency of cleanings, but they should still be checked periodically.

 

  • Rake Leaves
    Gently rake your lawn to remove leaves and debris. Too many leaves can cause an excessive layer of thatch, which can damage the roots of your lawn. They can also harbor disease-causing organisms and insects.7 However, take care because overly vigorous raking can damage new grass shoots.
  • Seed or Sod Lawn
    If you have bare spots, spring is a good time to seed or lay new sod so you can enjoy a beautiful lawn throughout the remainder of the year. The peak summer heat can be too harsh for a new lawn. If you miss this window, early fall is another good time to plant.8

 

  • Apply a Pre-Emergent Herbicide
    While a healthy lawn is the best deterrent for weeds, some homeowners choose to use a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to minimize weeds. When applied at the right time, it can be effective in preventing weeds from germinating. However, a pre-emergent herbicide will also prevent grass seeds from germinating, so only use it if you don’t plan to seed or sod in the spring.

 

  • Plant Flowers
    After a long winter, planting annuals and spring perennials is a great way to brighten up your garden. It’s also a good time to prune existing flowers and shrubs and remove and compost any dead plants.
  • Mulch Beds
    A layer of fresh mulch helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. However, be sure to strip away old mulch at least every three years to prevent excessive buildup.9
  • Fertilize Lawn
    Depending on your grass type, an application of fertilizer in the spring may help promote new leaf and root growth, keep your lawn healthy, and reduce weeds.10

 

  • Tune Up Lawn Mower
    Send your lawn mower out for a professional tune-up and to have the blades sharpened before the mowing season starts.11
  • Inspect Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, check that it’s working properly and make repairs as needed.

 

  • Check the Deck
    If you have a deck or patio, inspect it for signs of damage or deterioration that may have occurred over the winter. Then clean it thoroughly and apply a fresh coat of stain if needed.

 

  • Prepare Pool
    If you own a pool, warmer weather signals the start of pool season. Be sure to follow best practices for your particular pool to ensure proper maintenance and safety.

 

Summer

Summer is generally the time to relax and enjoy your home, but a little time devoted to maintenance will help ensure it looks great and runs efficiently throughout the season.

 

Inside
  • Adjust Ceiling Fans
    Make sure they are set to run counter-clockwise in the summer to push air down and create a cooling breeze. Utilizing fans instead of your air conditioner, when possible, will help minimize your utility bills.

 

  • Clean A/C Filters
    Be sure to clean or replace your filters monthly, particularly if you’re running your air conditioner often.

 

  • Clear Dryer Vent
    Help cut down on summer utility bills by cleaning your laundry dryer vent at least once a year. Not only will it help cut down on drying times, a neglected dryer poses a serious fire hazard.

 

  • Check Weather Stripping
    If you’re running your air conditioner in the summer, you’ll want to keep the cold air inside and hot air outside. Check weather stripping around doors and windows to ensure a good seal.

 

 

Outside
  • Mow Lawn Regularly
    Your lawn will probably need regular mowing in the summer. Adjust your mower height to the highest setting, as taller grass helps shade the soil to prevent drought and weeds.

 

  • Water Early in the Morning
    Ensure your lawn and garden get plenty of water during the hot summer months. Experts generally recommend watering in the early morning to minimize evaporation, but be mindful of any watering restrictions in your area, which may limit the time and/or days you are allowed to water.

 

  • Weed Weekly
    To prevent weeds from taking over your garden and ruining your home’s valuable curb appeal, make a habit of pulling weeds at least once per week.

 

  • Exterminate Pests
    Remove any standing water and piles of leaves and debris. Inspect your lawn and perimeter of your home for signs of an invasion. If necessary, call a professional exterminator for assistance.

 

 

Fall

Fall ushers in another busy season of home maintenance as you prepare your home for the winter weather ahead.

 

Inside
  • Have Heater Serviced
    To ensure safety and efficiency, it’s a good idea to have your heating system serviced and inspected before you run it for the first time.

 

  • Shut Down A/C for the Winter
    If you have central air conditioning, you can have it serviced at the same time as your furnace. If you have a portable or window unit, ensure it’s properly sealed or remove it and store it for the winter.

 

  • Inspect Chimney
    Fire safety experts recommend that you have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned periodically. Complete this task before you start using your fireplace or furnace.

 

  • Seal Windows and Doors
    Check windows and doors for drafts and caulk or add weatherstripping where necessary.

 

  • Check Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    If you checked your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the spring, they are due for another inspection. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so it’s time to replace them again. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.3

 

 

Outside
  • Plant Fall Flowers, Grass and Shrubs
    Fall is a great time to plant perennials, trees, shrubs, cool-season vegetables and bulbs that will bloom in the spring.12 It’s also a good time to reseed or sod your lawn.

 

  • Rake or Mow Leaves
    Once the leaves start falling, it’s time to pull out your rake. A thick layer of leaves left on your grass can lead to an unhealthy lawn. Or, rather than raking, use a mulching mower to create a natural fertilizer for your lawn.

 

  • Apply Fall Fertilizer
    If you choose not to use a mulching mower, a fall fertilizer is usually recommended. For best results, aerate your lawn before applying the fertilizer.13

 

  • Inspect Gutters and Roof
    Inspect your gutters and downspouts and make needed repairs. Check the roof for any broken or loose tiles. Remove fallen leaves and debris.

 

  • Shut Down Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, drain any remaining water and shut it down to prevent damage from freezing temperatures over the winter.

 

  • Close Pool
    If you have a pool, it’s time to clean and close it up before the winter.

 

 

Winter

While it can be tempting to ignore home maintenance issues in the winter, snow and freezing temperatures can do major damage if left untreated. Follow these steps to ensure your house survives the winter months.

 

Inside
  • Maintain Heating System
    Check and change filters on your heating system, per the manufacturer’s instructions. If you have a boiler, monitor the water level.

 

  • Tune Up Generator
    If you own a portable generator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance. Make sure it’s working before you need it, and stock up on supplies like fuel, oil and filters.

 

  • Prevent Frozen Pipes
    Make sure pipes are well insulated, and keep your heat set to a minimum of 55 degrees when you’re away. If pipes are prone to freezing, leave faucets dripping slightly overnight or when away from home. You may also want to open cabinet doors beneath sinks to let in heat.

 

 

Outside
  • Drain and Shut Off Outdoor Faucets
    Before the first freeze, drain and shut off outdoor faucets. Place an insulated cover over exposed faucets, and store hoses for the winter.

 

  • Remove Window Screens
    Removing screens from your windows allows more light in to brighten and warm your home during the dark, cold winter months. Snow can also get trapped between screens and windows, causing damage to window frames and sills.

 

  • Service Snowblower
    Don’t wait until the first snowstorm of the season to make sure your snowblower is in good working order. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance or have it serviced by a professional.

 

  • Stock Up on Ice Melt
    Keep plenty of ice melt, or rock salt, on hand in preparation for winter weather. Look for brands that will keep kids and pets safe without doing damage to your walkway or yard.

 

  • Watch Out for Ice Dams
    Ice dams are thick ridges of solid ice that can build up along the eaves of your house. They can do major damage to gutters, shingles and siding. Heated cables installed prior to the first winter storm can help.14

 

  • Check for Snow Buildup on Trees
    Snow can cause tree limbs to break, which can be especially dangerous if they are near your home. Use a broom to periodically remove excess snow.15

 

While this checklist should not be considered a complete list of your home’s maintenance needs, it can serve as a general seasonal guide. Systems, structures and fixtures will need to be repaired and replaced from time-to-time, as well. The good news is, the investment you make in maintaining your home now will pay off dividends over time.

 

Keep a record of all your maintenance, repairs and upgrades for future reference, along with receipts. Not only will it help jog your memory, it can make a big impact on buyers when it comes time to sell your home … and potentially result in a higher selling price.

 

Are you looking for help with home maintenance or repairs? We have an extensive network of trusted contractors and service providers and are happy to provide referrals! Call or email us, and we can connect you with one of our preferred vendors.

 

Sources:
  1. com –
    https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/value-home-maintenance/
  2. Home Advisor –
    https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/servicing-your-air-conditioner/
  3. Keyes & Sons Plumbing and Heating –
    http://keyes-plumbing.com/things-to-check-in-spring/
  4. Allstate Insurance Blog –
    https://blog.allstate.com/test-smoke-detectors/
  5. Houzz –
    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/17268616/list/how-to-wash-your-house
  6. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/why-gutter-cleaning-so-important.htm
  7. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-thatch-and-how-does-it-impact-my-lawn.htm
  8. HGTV –
    http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/lawns/top-spring-lawn-care-tips-pictures
  9. This Old House –
    https://www.thisoldhouse.com/more/may-mulching
  10. Lowes –
    https://www.lowes.com/projects/lawn-and-garden/fertilize-your-lawn/project
  11. The New York Times –
    https://www.nytimes.com/guides/realestate/home-maintenance-checklist
  12. Better Homes and Gardens Magazine –
    https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/what-to-plant-in-the-fall/
  13. The Spruce –
    https://www.thespruce.com/late-fall-fertilizing-2152976
  14. This Old House –
    https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-get-rid-ice-dams
  15. Houzz –
    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/55572864/list/your-winter-home-maintenance-checklist

Don’t wait until you’re ready to move to start preparing financially to buy a home.

If you’re like the vast majority of home buyers, you will choose to finance your purchase with a mortgage loan. By preparing in advance, you can avoid the common delays and roadblocks many buyers face when applying for a mortgage.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) issued new mortgage guidelines, which went into effect at the beginning of the year and raised the standards for mortgage applicants. The requirements may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. But we’ve outlined three simple steps to get you started on your path to approval.

It’s never too early to start preparing to buy a home. Follow these three steps to begin laying the foundation for your future home purchase today!

 

STEP 1: CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE

Your credit score is one of the first things a lender will check to see if you qualify for a loan. It’s a good idea to review your credit report and score yourself before you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. If you have a low score, you will need time to raise it. And sometimes fraudulent activity or erroneous information will appear on your report, which can take months to correct.

There are five factors that impact your credit score: history of payments (35%), debts (30%), credit length (15%), new inquiries (10%), and diversity (10%).1

Credit scores range from 300 to 900. A higher credit score will help you qualify for a lower mortgage interest rate, which will save you money.2

The two major credit bureaus in Canada are Equifax Canada and Transunion Canada. For information on how you can request a free copy of your credit report from each bureau, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/credit-reports-score/order-credit-report.html. The bureaus may charge you a fee to access your actual credit score.

 

Minimum Score Requirements

The new OSFI rules require a minimum credit score of 600 for a mortgage under $1,000,000. However, many lenders prefer to see a score of at least 650.

Generally speaking, banks and other traditional financial institutions have the strictest requirements. If you have a credit score below 600, you may still be able to secure a loan through a credit union or private lender, however you should expect to pay a higher interest rate and additional fees.3

 

Increase Your Credit Score

There’s no quick fix for a low credit score, but the following steps will help you increase it over time.4

  1. Make Payments on Time

At 35 percent, your payment history accounts for the largest portion of your credit score. Therefore, it’s crucial to get caught up on any late payments and make all of your future payments on time.

If you have trouble remembering to pay your bills on time, set up payment reminders through your online banking platform, a free money management tool like Mint, or an app like BillMinder.

 

  1. Avoid Applying for New Credit You Don’t Need

New accounts will lower your average account age, which could negatively impact your length of credit history. Also, each time you apply for credit, it can result in a small decrease in your credit score.

The exception to this rule? If you don’t have any credit cards—or any credit accounts at all—you should open an account to establish a credit history. Just be sure to use it responsibly and pay it off in full each month.

If you need to shop for a new credit account, for example, a car loan, be sure to complete your loan applications within a short period of time. The credit bureaus attempt to distinguish between a search for a single loan and applications to open several new lines of credit by the window of time during which inquiries occur.

 

  1. Pay Down Credit Cards

When you pay off your credit cards and other revolving credit, you lower your amounts owed, or credit utilization ratio (ratio of account balances to credit limits). Some experts recommend starting with your highest-interest debt and paying it off first. Others suggest paying off your lowest balance first and then rolling that payment into your next-lowest balance to create momentum.

Whichever method you choose, the first step is to make a list of all of your credit card balances and then start tackling them one by one. Make the minimum payments on all of your cards except one. Pay as much as possible on that card until it’s paid in full, then cross it off your list and move on to the next card.

 

Debt Interest Rate Total Payoff Minimum Payment
Credit Card 1 12.5% $460 $18.40
Credit Card 2 18.9% $1,012 $40.48
Credit Card 3 3.11% $6,300 $252

 

 

  1. Avoid Closing Old Accounts

Closing an old account will not remove it from your credit report. In fact, it can hurt your score, as it can raise your credit utilization ratio—since you’ll have less available credit—and decrease your average length of credit history.

Similarly, paying off a collection account will not remove it from your report. It remains on your credit report for seven years, however, the negative impact on your score will decrease over time.

 

  1. Correct Errors on Your Report

Mistakes or fraudulent activity can negatively impact your credit score. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once per year. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada posts instructions for disputing errors on your report.

While it may seem like a lot of effort to raise your credit score, your hard work will pay off in the long run. Not only will it help you qualify for a mortgage, a high credit score can help you secure a lower interest rate on car loans and credit cards, as well. You may even qualify for lower rates on insurance premiums.

 

 

STEP 2: SAVE UP FOR A DOWN PAYMENT AND CLOSING COSTS

 The next step in preparing for your home purchase is to save up for a down payment and closing costs.

 

Down Payment

When you purchase a home, you typically pay for a portion of it in cash (down payment) and take out a loan to cover the remaining balance (mortgage).

The minimum amount you’ll need for your down payment depends on the purchase price of the home.

 

PURCHASE PRICE MINIMUM DOWN
$500,000 or less ●     5% of the purchase price
$500,000 to $999,999 ●     5% of the first $500,000 of the purchase price

AND

●     10% for the portion of the purchase price above $500,000

$1 million or more ●     20% of the purchase price

Source: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

 

It’s important to note that these are the minimum requirements for securing a mortgage. If you’re self-employed or have a low credit score, your down payment requirements may be higher.

Generally speaking, the higher your down payment, the more money you will save on interest and fees. For example, if your down payment falls below 20 percent, you will be required to purchase mortgage loan insurance, which will cost you between 0.6 to 4.5 percent of the overall mortgage amount.5

If you don’t have the minimum requirements for a down payment, the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) might be an option for you. It enables you to withdraw up to $25,000 (or $50,000 if you are buying as a couple) from your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to buy or build a qualifying home. You have up to 15 years to repay the amount you withdrew. Click here for more information and to find out if you are eligible to participate.6

 

Current Homeowners

If you’re a current homeowner, you may have equity in your home that you can use toward your down payment on a new home. We can help you estimate your expected return after you sell your current home and pay back your existing mortgage. Contact us for a free evaluation!

 

Closing Costs

Closing costs should also be factored into your savings plan. These typically include legal fees and other administrative fees associated with the purchase of your home. Closing costs typically range between 1.5 to four percent of the purchase price.7

If you don’t have the funds to pay these outright at closing, you can often add a portion to your mortgage balance and pay it over time. However, you’ll have a higher monthly payment and pay more over the long term because you’ll pay interest on the fees.

 

STEP 3: ESTIMATE YOUR HOME PURCHASING POWER

Once you have the required credit score, savings for a down payment and a list of all your outstanding debt obligations via your credit report, you can assess whether you are ready and able to purchase a home.

It’s important to have a sense of how much you can reasonably afford—and how much you’ll be able to borrow—to see if homeownership is within reach.

Your gross debt service ratio (GDS) and total debt service ratio (TDS) are the two primary measurements mortgage companies use to determine how much they are willing to lend you.

 

Gross Debt Service Ratio

Your GDS ratio is the percentage of your income that would go toward housing each month, including principal, interest, taxes, heat and 50 percent of condo fees (if applicable).

To calculate your GDS ratio, a lender will add up your expected housing expenses and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum GDS ratio most conventional lenders will accept is 32 percent.8

 

Total Debt Service Ratio

The TDS ratio takes into account all of your monthly debt obligations: your expected housing expenses PLUS credit card bills, car payments, child and spousal support, and any other debt that shows up on your credit report.

To calculate your TDS ratio, a lender will tabulate your expected housing expenses and other monthly debt payments and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum TDS ratio most conventional lenders will accept is 44 percent.8

 

New “Stress Test” Requirements

Under OSFI’s new rules, all mortgages issued by federally-regulated lenders are required to undergo a “stress test.” Under this test, applicants must fall below the GDS and TDS ratio maximums at either the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark interest rate, or at their qualified contract interest rate plus two percent, whichever is higher.8

The purpose of the stress test is to ensure that home buyers will still be able to afford their mortgages if interests rates rise.

 

Home Affordability Calculator

To get a sense of how much home you can afford, visit the Canadian Real Estate Association’s Affordability Calculator at https://www.realtor.ca/Residential/calculator.aspx?tab=3.

 

This handy tool will help you determine how much you can afford to borrow depending on your income, debt, property taxes, condo fees, heating costs and interest rate. It also offers a projection of your monthly mortgage payment. Add the “maximum mortgage” estimate to your down payment amount to find out your total home purchasing power.

When you enter the interest rate, be sure to use either the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate or two percentage points above your estimated rate (whichever is higher) to ensure you can meet the “stress test” requirements.

If the monthly cost estimate is significantly higher than what you’re currently paying for housing, you need to consider whether or not you can make up the difference each month in your budget.

If not, you may want to lower your target purchase price to reflect a more conservative TDS ratio.

(Note: This tool only provides an estimate of your purchasing power. You will need to secure pre-approval from a mortgage lender to know your true mortgage approval amount and monthly payment projections.)

 

Can I Afford to Buy My Dream Home?

Once you have a sense of your purchasing power, it’s time to find out which neighbourhoods and types of homes you can afford. The best way to determine this is to contact a licensed real estate agent. We help homeowners like you every day and can send you a comprehensive list of homes within your budget that meet your specific needs.

If there are homes within your price range and target neighbourhoods that meet your criteria—congratulations! It’s time to begin your home search.

If not, you may need to continue saving up for a larger down payment … or adjust your search parameters to find homes that do fit within your budget. We can help you determine the right course for you.

 

START LAYING YOUR FOUNDATION TODAY

 It’s never too early to start preparing financially for a home purchase. These three steps will set you on the path toward homeownership … and a secure financial future!

And if you are ready to buy now but still aren’t sure if you meet the minimum requirements, don’t get discouraged. You may be able to secure a loan through a credit union or a private lender. We can connect you with one of our trusted mortgage providers.

 

Want to find out if you’re ready to buy a house? Give us a call! We’ll help you review your options and determine the ideal time to begin your new home search.

 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

 

Sources:

  1. Loans Canada –
    https://loanscanada.ca/credit/what-your-credit-score-range-really-means/
  2. Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) –
    https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca02179.html
  3. Loans Canada –
    https://loanscanada.ca/mortgage/minimum-credit-score-required-mortgage-approval-2018/
  4. Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) –
    https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca02178.html
  5. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada –
    https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/mortgages/down-payment.html
  6. Government of Canada –
    https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/rrsps-related-plans/what-home-buyers-plan.html
  7. Which Mortgage –
    https://www.whichmortgage.ca/article/the-truth-about-closing-costs-118698.aspx
  8. Deposit Financing –
    http://depositfinancing.ca/mortgage-stress-test-calculator-canada-2018/

We frequently get questions from clients who are taking on decorating and remodeling projects and want to ensure their dollars are invested wisely.

Which looks will last for years to come, and which ones will feel dated quickly? What colors and styles are most popular among buyers in our area? How can I add the most value to my home?

So we’ve rounded up some of the hottest trends in home design to help guide you through the process. Whether you’ve planned a simple refresh or a full-scale renovation, making smart and informed design choices will help you maximize your return on investment … and minimize the chance of “remodeler’s remorse” down the road.

 

 WHAT’S HOT NOW

While 2017 was all about millennial pink, brass fixtures and bright white kitchens, this year we expect to see a move toward warmer, cozier elements throughout the home.

 

1. Warm Colors

A cool color scheme has dominated home design in recent years, but this year warm neutrals like brown and tan are back, along with rich jewel tones. While the pastel craze of last year is still hanging on, expect to see alternative color palettes featuring deep, saturated shades of red, yellow, green and navy. Grey will remain popular, but in warmer tones, often referred to as “greige.”

image

 

2. Cozy Elements

Along with warmer colors, we can expect to see a shift from stark, modern design to cozier looks. Velvet upholstery, woven textures and natural elements, like wood and stone, will heat things up this year.

 

3. Mixed Metals

It used to be considered gauche to mix finishes, however the look of mixed metals will be very big in 2018. Brass will continue to trend, along with matte black and classics like polished chrome and brushed nickel.

image

4. Bold Patterns

Expect to see a lot of bright, bold patterns in the form of geometric shapes and graphic floral prints. These will be featured on everything from furniture to throw pillows to tile.

 

5. Natural Elements

Look for the use of natural elements throughout the home, including wood, stone, plants, flowers and grass. Botanical patterns will also be seen in prints, wallpaper and upholstery. Concrete accents will complement these additions in an effort to bring the essence of the outdoors inside the home.

image

6. Feature Walls

Also called an accent wall, a feature wall is one that exhibits a different color or design than the other walls in the room. Expect to see an increased use of feature walls showcasing rich paint colors, bold patterned wallpaper, and textures brought in through millwork and shiplap.

 

7. Statement Lighting

Lighting will take center stage with distinctive fixtures, including local artisan and vintage pendants and chandeliers. And smart lighting technology will enable homeowners to customize their lighting experience based on time of day, activity and mood.

image

8. Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors will continue to dominate the market. The trend is toward either very dark stains paired with light-colored walls or light stains with darker walls. Greyish tones will remain popular, as will matte finishes, which are easier to maintain than high gloss. Expect to see frequent use of wider and longer wood planks, as well as distressed and wire-brushed finishes, which add texture and dimension.

 

9. Smart Homes

Everything is getting “smarter” in homes, from locks and lights to thermostats and appliances. And with devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, you can control many of these with voice activation from a central hub. We will see continued integration of and advancements in smart-home technology in 2018.

 

 

KITCHEN TRENDS

 While white kitchens will remain popular in 2018, expect to see more color this year in everything from cabinets to tile to appliances.

 

1. Two-toned Cabinets

Two-toned cabinets are quickly overtaking the white-on-white look that has dominated kitchen design for the past few years. While white remains a classic, grey and bleached-wood cabinet variations are surging in popularity, along with darker neutrals like navy and green.

 image

 2. Quartz Countertops

Granite reigned as the top countertop choice for many years, but quartz is now king. It’s highly durable, low-maintenance and comes in a wide variety of styles and colors. It’s also heat resistant, scratch resistant and non-porous (unlike granite and marble) so it doesn’t need to be sealed.

 

3. Bold Backsplashes

After years of dominating backsplash design, the white subway tile is officially on its way out. Expect to see it replaced with more elaborate shapes, patterns, colors and textures. Tile that mimics the appearance of wood, concrete and wallpaper is also gaining in popularity.

image

4. Statement Sinks

While stainless steel and white porcelain are always safe bets, the trend is moving toward sinks that make more of a statement. Look for unexpected pops of color and materials like natural stone and copper. Touch-free faucets are expected to gain favor with homeowners this year, too.

 

5. Brass is (Still) Back

Brass fixtures came back in a big way over the past couple of years and will continue to be a popular choice in 2018 along with matte black, black nickel, polished chrome and brushed nickel. Missing from the list? Rose gold, which is decidedly “out” this year.

image

 

6. Multi-purpose Islands

Kitchen islands have evolved from simple prep-stations into the “workhorse” of the kitchen. Many feature sinks, built-in appliances and under-counter storage while also serving as a casual dining area. They have become the focal point of the kitchen, and we expect to see more of them in 2018 and beyond.

 

7. Black Stainless Steel

Black stainless steel is the hot new finish option for appliances, and it’s hitting the market in a big way. It offers a cutting-edge look and is easier to keep clean than traditional stainless steel. However, it’s harder to match finishes amongst different brands, so it’s probably only feasible as part of a complete appliance package.

 

8. Appliance Garages

Appliance garages are counter-level compartments designed to house small appliances like blenders, toasters and stand mixers. They make it convenient to have these items readily accessible, without the look of a cluttered counter.

 image

BATH TRENDS

 Expect to see many of the same kitchen design preferences carry over into bathrooms this year, including two-tone cabinets, quartz countertops and brass fixtures.

 

1. Neutral Tones

Neutral shades will continue to dominate in the master bathroom as homeowners seek a soothing and relaxing retreat atmosphere. But expect to see more options than just white. Shades of brown, grey, blue, green and tan will help to warm things up.

image

2. Natural Elements

Natural materials are particularly hot right now in bathroom design. This includes the use of wood and stone on walls, cabinets, counters and backsplashes, as well as the incorporation of botanical design elements.

 

3. Large Tiles

We expect to see a lot more large and slab-sized tiles in bathrooms, which have less grout so they are easier to clean and maintain. Wood-look porcelain tiles are also a favorite in wet areas, as they offer the warmth and rustic appeal of wood with the durability of tile.

image

 

4. Stone Sinks

Sinks will continue to be an area where homeowners like to exhibit creativity, and hand-carved stone sinks are especially fashionable right now. These may be more suited to powder rooms, where functionality isn’t as crucial.

 

5. Freestanding Tubs

 There’s been a tub resurgence in bathroom design after years of preference for stand-alone showers. Modern tastes are gravitating toward freestanding tubs that serve as a showpiece for the bathroom.

image

6. Smart Features

 

Smart technology has entered the bathroom with the addition of features like wireless shower speakers and high-tech toilets, as well as digital shower controls that automatically adjust to your preferences in temperature and spray intensity.

 

 

OUR ADVICE

Style trends come and go, so don’t invest in the latest look unless you love it. That said, highly-personalized or outdated style choices can limit the appeal of your property for resale.

For major renovation projects, it’s always a good idea to stick to neutral colors and classic styles. It will give your remodel longevity and appeal to the greatest number of buyers when it comes time to sell. It will also give you flexibility to update your look in a few years without a total overhaul. Use non-permanent fixtures – like paint, furniture and accent pieces – to personalize the space and incorporate trendier choices.

If you’d like advice on a specific remodelling or design project, give us a call! We’re happy to offer our insights and suggestions on how to maximize your return on investment and recommend local shops and service providers who may be able to assist you.

 

Sources:
  1. Country Living –
    http://www.countryliving.com/home-design/decorating-ideas/g3988/kitchen-trends
  2. Elle Decor –
    http://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/trends/g14486069/kitchen-trends-2018/
  3. Gates Interior Design –
    https://gatesinteriordesign.com/hottest-interior-design-trends-for-2018/
    https://gatesinteriordesign.com/biggest-kitchen-bath-trends-for-2018/
  4. com –
    http://www.hgtv.com/design/rooms/kitchens/17-top-kitchen-design-trends-pictures
  5. House Beautiful –
    http://www.housebeautiful.com/room-decorating/kitchens/g2664/kitchen-trends/
    http://www.housebeautiful.com/design-inspiration/g13938283/2018-decor-trends/
    http://www.housebeautiful.com/design-inspiration/g13820501/best-and-worst-decor-trends-from-2017/
  6. Houzz –
    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/93399913/list/interior-design-trends-expected-to-take-hold-in-2018
  7. Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/09/25/the-kitchen-and-dining-trends-to-look-out-for-in-2018_a_23222693/
  8. Kitchen and Bath Design News –
    http://www.kitchenbathdesign.com/123995/year-end-look-and-new-trends-for-2018/
  9. com –
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/home-and-garden/12-flooring-trends-for-2018/ss-AAtp7QA
  10. com –
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/interior-design-trends-to-ditch-2018/
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/hottest-interior-design-decor-trends-2018/?is_wp_site=1
  11. Realty Times – http://realtytimes.com/advicefromagents/item/1007993-kitchen-design-trends-in-2018?rtmpage=MattLawler
  12. Sebring Design Build –
    https://sebringdesignbuild.com/top-trends-in-bathroom-design/
  13. The Flooring Girl –
    http://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/hardwood-flooring-trends-2018/
  14. Vogue –
    https://www.vogue.com/article/interior-design-trends-according-to-expert-designers-decorators

Looking for the perfect present for a loved one this holiday season? We’ve rounded up 20 of our favorite gift ideas. And since we work in real estate, we focused on items that add enjoyment, comfort and, in some cases, major value to your home.

From music lovers to home chefs, we’ve got something for everyone. And we’ve included a range of price points to suit any budget, from under $100 to major splurge … in case you’re feeling extra generous this year. We hope you find this list useful in identifying gifts your friends and family will love. And maybe some of these items will make your wish list this year, too!

Approximate Price Ranges

$ – under $100

$$ – $101 to $300

$$$ – $301 to $700

$$$$ – Splurge

 

LET IT SNOW

Heat things up this holiday season! Keep your loved ones cozy all winter with these gifts that add warmth and a touch of luxury.

Tabletop Fireplace – $

On cold nights, nothing beats the comfort and glow of a fire. Whether you’re looking to cozy up on the couch with a good book, or enjoy a relaxing night in the backyard with family and friends, a tabletop fireplace is an easy way to light up your evening. The HOMCOM Ventless Tabletop Bio Ethanol Fireplace runs on bio ethanol and can be used indoors or outdoors, no vent required.

 

Towel Warmer – $$

Who wouldn’t love to wrap themselves in a warm towel when they step out of the shower on a cold morning? While heated towel racks are available in a variety of styles and price points, the Amba RWP-CB Radiant Plug-In Curved Towel Warmer is an entry level version that gets good reviews. Modern and elegant, this model plugs into a nearby outlet for easy installation and is made of rust-resistant stainless steel. Turn your daily shower into a spa-like experience!

 

Smart Thermostat – $$$

Now you can wake up to a warm house, even if you like it cool while you sleep. After using the Nest Learning Thermostat for a week, it will start to recognize your patterns and adjust the temperature automatically to your preferences. In its third-generation, Nest claims to pay for itself over time in energy savings. It uses sensors and your phone’s location to check if you’ve left the house, then sets itself to an Eco Temperature. And this smart-thermostat knows when you typically get home from work and can heat things up before you return. If your schedule changes, you can even adjust the temperature remotely from your smartphone.

 

Radiant Floor Heating – $$$$

Radiant heating has been a popular alternative in new construction to traditional forced-air heating systems. And new technology has made it easier and less expensive to retrofit existing homes with radiant heating. According to BobVila.com, “radiant floors are heated either with electric resistance cables or hot water flowing inside tubing” beneath the floor. It’s energy-efficient, effective, and doesn’t blow dust and allergens around the way forced-air systems do. Not only will you love stepping onto a heated floor on a cool morning, you’ll be adding value to your home, as this is an appealing upgrade to buyers when it comes time to sell.

 

ROCK AROUND THE TREE

It’s holiday music time! Music lovers are sure to appreciate these gifts guaranteed to enhance their listening experience throughout the home.

Showerhead Speaker – $

Whether you enjoy singing in the shower, or listening to your favorite podcast, the Morpilot Rainfall Shower Head with Waterproof Music Jet syncs with any bluetooth-enabled device so you can stream your favorite audio directly into the shower. It even includes a dual microphone so you can answer phone calls. And the waterproof speaker easily detaches from the showerhead so you can bring it with you from room to room while you get dressed.

 

Voice Controlled Smart Speaker – $$

Google Home not only streams music on demand via voice control, it can also serve as a central hub for numerous other smart-home devices. Now you can change the channel on your TV, make a phone call, turn on your lights, set your thermostat and lock your front door, all without lifting a finger.

 

High-End Wireless Speaker – $$$

If you prefer a premium speaker, the Sonos Play:3 is the mid-range option in the brand’s line of wireless speakers. It delivers rich and robust sound with a sleek design that can placed horizontally or vertically to fit almost any space. Sonos speakers sync with Amazon Echo and Alexa, which enable you to control the speaker with voice commands. And you can easily add additional speakers from the Sonos line for an enhanced, surround-sound experience.

 

Whole Home Audio System – $$$$

The sky’s the limit when it comes to whole-home audio systems, and for a premium sound system you can expect to make a significant investment. Companies like Yamaha offer a wide variety of components, all designed to work in conjunction to give you a customized whole-home audio and home theater system to suit your needs.

 

 

ADD SOME SIZZLE TO THE SEASON

Home chefs will love these gifts, perfect for holiday entertaining and home cooking all year long. Not only will they bring excitement to the recipient, everyone in the family will benefit from the delicious dishes these gifts are sure to inspire!

 

Bread Maker – $

Warm, fresh bread can make any meal feel special. With a bread machine like this one from Hamilton Beach, you can enjoy fresh rolls, pizza dough, cakes, jams, flatbreads and croissants with minimal effort. Plus, there’s a gluten-free setting, which makes this a perfect gift for anyone avoiding gluten in their diet.

 

Air Fryer – $$

Air fryers are one of the hottest new cooking gadgets this year, and for good reason. With the Philips Airfryer, you can fry your favorites foods using only a tablespoon of oil (or less). It also grills, roasts, steams and even bakes, giving you more quick and easy options for feeding your family and entertaining guests.

 

Smart Sous-Vide Machine – $$$

Sous vide is a method of cooking in which food is vacuum-sealed in a plastic pouch and then placed in a water bath to cook at a precise temperature. The new Mellow Smart Sous Vide Appliance hits the market this holiday season and promises to make sous vide as easy and foolproof as a slow cooker. Its built-in cooling system keeps your food cold until it’s ready to be cooked … so you can stick a piece of salmon in before you leave for work, choose the time you want it to be ready, and dinner will be done when you get home.

 

High-End Oven Range – $$$$

To really heat things up in the kitchen, any home chef would love a new high-end range, like this 36” Dual Fuel Range with Six Burners from Sub-Zero Wolf. With ten custom cooking modes—including one for proofing dough and one for dehydrating—and a temperature probe alert, this oven makes cooking almost foolproof. And the timeless stainless steel design will enhance the beauty of any kitchen. Investing in a high-end range not only adds enjoyment to meal preparation, it’s highly-desired by home buyers … something to consider if you plan to list your home within the next few years.

 

 

SPARKLE AND SHINE

Holiday lights aren’t the only way to make a home sparkle. These cleaning gadgets and appliances will keep your home clean and shiny all year long … and hopefully bring some joy to the cleaning process!

Portable Deep Carpet Cleaner – $

Anyone who has pets or young children will love the convenience of a cordless and portable spot cleaner like the Bissell Little Green Cordless Portable Spot/Stain Cleaner. Spray, scrub, and suction to remove spills and stains from carpet, furniture, rugs, auto interiors, and other upholstered items.

 

Robotic Vacuum Cleaner – $$

Robotic vacuum cleaners have been around for years, but new technology has made them more effective and lowered the cost significantly. The ECOVACS DEEBOT N79 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner provides a good mix of features and value. It offers several cleaning modes and moves easily from rugs to tile to carpet. You can also control it with your smartphone using the ECOVACS App.

 

Dishwasher – $$$

While a high-end dishwasher with all the bells and whistles can certainly be a good investment, there are some great values on the market for those with a more modest budget. For example, the Maytag Built-In Undercounter Dishwasher in Stainless Steel gets consistently great reviews for its powerful motor that disintegrates bits of food to deliver sparkling clean dishes, even without rinsing. And its elegant exterior will upgrade the look of your kitchen … all without breaking the bank.

 

Washing Machine – $$$$

If anything can make laundry exciting, it’s a new washing machine like the Samsung Front Load Washer with AddWash. Its innovative door-within-door design allows you to add to the wash mid-cycle if you forget something, and its Smart Care error-monitoring technology enables easy trouble shooting using a smartphone app. And best of all, its SuperSpeed feature cuts down on the time it takes to wash a load.

 

 

KEEP THE GRINCH AWAY

Nothing is more important than the safety of you and your family. Protect your loved ones—and deter intruders—with gifts that keep you and your home safe and secure.

 

Smart Light Bulbs – $

The Philips Hue White A19 Starter Kit is a good entry-level investment in smart lighting technology. Now you can automate your lighting and control your lights from your smartphone using the Philips Hue App. Deter burglars by making it look like someone’s home when you turn your lights on remotely. And stay safer by never entering a dark house again. Plus, it has several options to enhance the look and ambiance of your home lighting.

 

Video Doorbell – $$

Watch over your home and greet visitors from your computer or smartphone with a video-enabled doorbell, like the Ring Video Doorbell Pro.  Adjustable motion sensors alert you when someone is approaching your door, and live video and audio allow you to see and talk to visitors without opening the door, even if you’re away from home. The best part is, they’ll never know you’re not home if you don’t tell them.

 

Smart Lock – $$$

Control and monitor your locks from anywhere with a smart lock like the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect. Now there’s no need to leave a key under the doormat or give a copy to the housekeeper. You can activate keyless access remotely, and even lock up when they leave, all from your computer or smartphone. And no more fumbling around for your keys in the dark. Similar to keyless entry for your car, Smart Lock Pro automatically unlocks your door when you approach.

 

Security System – $$$$

An in-home security system is still one of the best ways to protect your home and family from intruders and alert you to the presence of smoke or carbon monoxide. Some companies, like Vivint, can integrate your security system with video monitoring, a doorbell camera, smart locks, garage doors and even your thermostat. Prices vary depending on the options you select, and a monthly monitoring service is required, but a home security system can bring peace of mind knowing your family and home are protected.

 

 

WE’RE HERE TO HELP

As real estate professionals, we get to visit people’s homes every day and talk to buyers and sellers about their favorite features. So we have a unique insight into the elements that truly make a house special, bring joy to homeowners and add value to a home.  Did we miss your favorite home-related gift? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments below!

 

If you do decide to “splurge” on a home upgrade, contact us for recommendations on the best options for your particular home. Buyer expectations and preferences vary depending on price point, style of home and neighborhood. We can run a comparative market analysis to find out how the upgrade you’re considering will impact the value of your home, before you make the investment.

Wealth is within reach for many people; however, according to a recent study, 63 percent of Americans said it’s not likely they’ll become rich.1 While younger people are more likely to say they’ll achieve wealth one day, only 34 percent of people aged 30 to 49 and 21 percent of people aged 50 or older say the same. There is no secret to becoming rich: it takes time, sacrifice and good financial sense. Here are a few ways to build your household’s wealth.

 

Let Compound Interest Work for You

Compound interest is your interest earning interest. While the concept may work against you when you take out a loan to buy a car or use your credit card, it works in your favor when you’re saving money. For example, if your savings is growing at a rate of four percent, your investment will double in eight years and quadruple in 16 years. Your money will grow exponentially the longer you save: the more money you’ve saved, the more your money will grow.

 

Build Equity in Your Home

One of the most compelling reasons to own a home is it allows you to build wealth over time. According to one study, the average homeowner has a net worth of $200,000, which is 31 to 46 times the net worth of the average renter.4 Saving for a down payment, especially if you plan to put down more than 20 percent, helps you adopt good financial habits. The more you put down when you buy, the higher your share of equity when you close. Although for the first five to seven years, the majority of your payment will go toward interest, over time more money will be applied to the principal. There are many tools online that calculate your current and future equity in your home, including this one here.

Build equity sooner by choosing a shorter amortization term. While your payment may be higher, you’ll likely qualify for a lower interest rate and will pay less interest over the life of the loan.

 

Build Equity Faster in Your Home
Mortgage Term 30 Years 15 Years
Loan amount $118,000 $118,00
Months to pay 360 180
Annual percentage rate 4.0% 3.0%
Monthly payment $563 $815
Total interest $84,806 $28,680
Interest savings $56,126

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Building Wealth: A Beginner’s Guide to Securing Your Financial Future

 

Pay Down Your Mortgage…or Not

Many homeowners grapple with whether or not to pay down their mortgage. On one hand, if you pay it down, or pay it off early, you’ll save money on interest, which you can use to make other investments. On the other hand, if your goal is to be debt free, it’s better to pay off your higher-interest debt, such as credit card debt, first before paying down your mortgage debt. Additionally, if you’re saving for retirement, putting extra cash toward your retirement accounts will help you build a nice nest egg to enjoy later on.

 

If you decide to pay off your mortgage sooner, here are a few ways to do so:

  • Pay more money at the beginning of your amortization period and apply it to your principal.
  • If you receive a tax refund or other windfall, apply it toward your principal.
  • Make one extra payment each year. You’ll save money on interest and pay your loan off sooner.
  • Add an extra $50, or another amount you can afford, to the principal of your payment each month.
  • If you locked into a 30-year amortization, refinance to a shorter, 15-year amortization. Your payment may be higher, but you’ll pay it off sooner and pay a LOT less in interest.

Your financial advisor can help you decide if paying off or paying down your mortgage is right for your goals.

 

Purchase Investment Property

Investment properties provide passive income to your growing financial portfolio. More than 25 percent of Americans say real estate is the best way to invest money you may not need for the next 10 years.5 While many people flip houses to make money—that is, they buy a home at a low price, fix it up and sell it quickly—others purchase multifamily properties to create monthly cash flow to save or to reinvest in other properties.

The longer you own a property, the better investment it becomes as you’ll continue to build equity. While rental costs rise with inflation, your mortgage will remain the same. The best part? Once you pay off the mortgage, your cash flow will increase. Remember to create a budget for maintenance each month, between 10 to 20 percent of the rent you receive, or more if the home is older. This will help you save more money in the long run and allow you to prepare for unexpected repairs.

There are tax benefits to owning investment property as well. You may be able to claim deductions for depreciation, as long as it fits within the guidelines; repairs, travel expenses, interest and more. If you’re thinking of purchasing investment property, talk to your tax professional to get the details.

Achieve More Wealth by Creating Financial Goals

Setting a goal will help you achieve your desired level of wealth. Once you achieve one goal, reassess and set the bar higher.

  • What is your idea of wealth? Your idea of wealth will change as you earn more money. That’s why it’s vital to set goals along the way. What do you want your net worth to be in 5 years, in 10 years and in 20 years?
  • Write down your short-term and long-term goals. Once you have determined your goals, write them down. This is the first step towards getting your desires out of your mind and into motion and it will be easier to refer to them later on.
  • Develop a budget to help you reach these goals. A budget not only helps you understand where your money goes each month, it may also prevent you from overspending. That way you can have more money to save and invest. To increase the amount you can invest, make adjustments to your daily spending and monthly bills, if possible. Look for opportunities to save money and transfer that savings into your accounts.

 

It’s never too late to begin building your family’s wealth. Whether you’re interested in buying a first home, upgrading to a larger home or are thinking of renovating, we have you covered.

Give us a call and we’ll answer all of your real estate questions and offer suggestions to help you increase the value of your home.




 

 

 

Sources: 1. BankRate.com

  1. Pulsenomics, Home Price Expectation Survey Q4 2016
  2. Statistic Brain, August 1, 2016
  3. National Association of REALTORS, Economists’ Outlook, September 8, 2014
  4. The Motley Fool, July 30, 2016

 

The holidays are a happy time for celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers. Unfortunately, this time of year can also be turned sour by a wide variety of clever frauds, unauthorized debit and credit card transactions, and bogus person-to-person scams. By the end of 2015, individuals, retailers, charitable donors, and companies were victimized to the tune of $1.5 billion… and that number is expected to have gone up in 2016.

Just as you protect your home with an alarm system, you should set up defenses for your credit and identity. During the holiday season, fraudulent activity spikes, but here’s how to protect yourself from the eight most common scams.

 

Big Data Breeds Data Breaches

Big data during the holidays is great for marketers; it’s a bonanza of consumer information to use to lure shoppers to Black Friday deals and the like. However, while companies wrangle in the chaos of holiday orders, scammers search for weaknesses in a company’s cyber-security. According to a top executive at one of the leading credit bureaus, “Data breaches are inevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft… especially during the holidays.” In fact, 25% more consumers were affected by identity theft during the holidays in 2015 than in 2014!

The best way to reduce your risk of data breaches is use cash for all your purchases. According to a survey by TransUnion, however, only 20 percent of shoppers plan to pay with cash. If you’re part of the 80 percent using plastic, use a credit card instead of a debit card. You have more purchase protection using a credit card than a debit card if a data breach occurs or fraud happens.

Other protections from data breaches include:

  • Using a low-limit credit card for online purchases so you can detect fraudulent activity.
  • Utilizing services like PayPal to lower the risk of your card information being lost at the retailer.

 

Package Theft

E-commerce is great for holiday shoppers… but it’s also great for thieves. Last year, Insurance quotes reported that 23 million people had packages stolen at their front door!

To prevent this from happening to you, have your packages delivered to your office or delivered to a pick-up area such as a UPS store or Amazon Locker.  You can also set up tracking notifications so that you know when to expect delivery.

And while you’re waiting for your packages, be on the lookout for this scam: a note on the front door saying you have a package waiting for pickup. The note asks for a call, often to a pricey number that leaves you on hold for a long period while they collect premium phone rates, or it leads to a person asking for details on your personal information to “verify your identity.” If the note isn’t from a shipper you recognize, or if the Googled number isn’t found, don’t get involved.

 

Online Shopping Scams

The big brother of package thievery is the online shopping scam. Phony online stores lure shoppers in through searches and online ads, enticing you with low-priced, high-quality items. These “bargains” cost you not only money, but also hours of time trying to fight the fraudulent transaction. To put salt in the wound, once these websites nab your personal information, they often also infect your computer with malware that compromises your login to your online bank.

To avoid the pitfalls of the fake online merchant, only purchase from retail names you know and trust. You could also Google the site and look for reviews. Yelp is a legitimate site for reviews as is the Better Business Bureau. Before you make a purchase online, double-check that “https” appears in the URL, which signifies that the site has passed stringent security compliance standards.

 

Poisonous Holiday E-Cards

E-cards are popular during the holidays because they’re a free, fun, and easy way to catch up with friends and family members. But beware because it’s just as easy for scammers to use fake e-cards to steal your personal information. A lot of fake e-cards you may get are from your hacked address book or the hacked address book of someone you know. At first glance, the card may look legitimate, but once you open it, you’ve been phished.

The only way to avoid this from happening is paying attention to detail. The number one tell of a fake E-card is any kind of misspelling. The URL will have a subtle misspelled word or your friend’s name is misspelled. Usually the misspelled word will contain a number: [email protected] for instance.

 

Fake Apps

ConsumerAffairs is reporting a huge spike in fake apps. Scammers are using fake retail and product apps found in Apple’s App Store to steal unsuspecting consumers’ financial information. Many of these thieves rip off company or brand logos to make the fake app look real. So before you get that convenient retail or product app, make sure it’s legit.

Just as with fake e-cards, fake apps will seem normal until you start looking at the details. Before you download that convenient retail or product app, make sure you check for the following:

  • A nonsensical description
  • No reviews
  • No history of previous versions

 

Gift Card Scammers

Scam artists skim or copy the codes on the back of gift cards before they’re bought. After the card has been activated, the scammers drain the card’s funds.

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of compromised gift cards, buy gift cards displayed behind store counters, make sure preloaded cards are still loaded, and make sure the protective scratch-off strip is flawless.

 

Malicious Charities

During the holiday season we all feel an extra sense of giving. Grifters and thieves play on this sensibility by creating false charities and hitting you up on Twitter, Instagram, and in your e-mail inbox.

There are online resources to help you verify the legitimacy of charities. The website Charity Navigator is a non-profit organization that rates over 8,000 U.S-based charities operating throughout the world. Another way to get free reviews and evaluations on national charities is through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

 

Corrupted Wi-Fi

You’ll probably hit the mall this holiday for some in-person price checking, and you’ll probably have your smartphone, laptop, and/or your iPad with you. Please be careful because skimmers and scammers love to manipulate Wi-Fi signals in places like malls and coffee shops to gather your financial information. These people create Wi-Fi signals that mimic the signal you use, then hack your info when you connect to it.

To protect yourself from Wi-Fi manipulators, just don’t make online purchases with your credit or debit card when you’re in a public space.

 

Who Should You Turn To?

If you catch the trouble soon enough, credit or identity fraud can be an inconvenience. If you don’t, however, one instance can have long-term impacts. If, for example, someone bought an appliance using your name while you were trying to refinance your mortgage, then you might not get approved for the loan!

If you’re curious to know if you’ve been affected, or if you know your credit is in disrepair and need help fixing it, please let us know so we can refer you to our recommended professionals.

Our world is full of risk at every turn—from perilous jobs to dangerous driving conditions. That’s why we all love to get back to our homes and not worry about everyday safety hazards. It’s great to feel comfortable and safe at home, but is it as safe as it can be?

Your home should be your haven: the place where you will be protected from harm. It should be a top priority, and yet every year 1200 people or more visit the emergency room during the holiday months due to accidents and unintended injuries sustained from hidden dangers around the home.

With a sharp eye and preventive action, you can reduce the chances of lurking safety dangers for everyone who visits your home.

 

The Top 12 Home Safety Tips

GOOD LIGHTING

Adequate lighting reduces the risk of tripping and falling both inside and outside your home. This is especially important in winters when days are shorter. Critical areas that need to be illuminated are the stairs, outdoors, and foyers. Make sure your street number is well lit and visible from the street to aid first responders find your home.

The fix: Make sure adequate wattage is utilized and long-life bulbs and motion detectors are in place.

 

ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS?

Electrical issues, like a flickering light or a dead outlet, can be mild annoyances that actually signal serious dangers. If not addressed promptly, a faulty electrical system can result in house fires and shocks.

The fix: If you’re experiencing any problems with your electricity, contact a professional right away. In your daily life, make sure electrical cords are not frayed or pierced and extension cords are securely connected. Do not run too many cords to a single outlet. Unplug small appliances, space heaters, and power tools when not in use.

 

DO ROUTINE CLEANING

Not maintaining your appliances leads to a greater chance of accidental home fires.

The fix: Do simple tasks regularly like cleaning grease off your stovetop, emptying the lint trap on your dryer, and keeping your chimney clean and clear.

 

SMOKE AND GAS DETECTORS

Every home needs functional warning devices that detect smoke and gases.

The fix: When purchasing smoke alarms, make sure they also detect carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that is especially dangerous because it is colorless and odorless. Replace the batteries every six months—or whenever you change your clocks. Create an emergency evacuation plan, build a preparedness kit, and practice regular safety drills with your family to ensure awareness of procedures.

 

SECURE YOUR HOME

Many homes now have the latest technological advancements but still rely on locks and hardware from decades ago to keep you safe from intruders.

The fix: Do an audit of all entry points to your home—doors and windows and screens. If any do not have secure screens, locks, and deadbolts, have them installed. For those entry points that do already have door knobs, handles, and locks, make sure that they are in good working condition.

 

WHEN YOU ARE AWAY

We all enjoy long weekends and out-of-town vacations, but unfortunately that leaves your home vulnerable to intruders.

The fix: Create the illusion that someone may still be there. Leave a TV or stereo on in the room where a burglar would most likely break in. Have neighbor pick up mail and the daily paper. Turn down phone ringers, keep blinds drawn, and don’t leave unsecured valuables in the home even if you think they are well-hidden. Never hide keys around the home or garden, and don’t leave notes on the door that suggest you are out of town.

 

HOUSEHOLD REPAIRS

Even if you are an expert and know your way around electrical, plumbing, car or other household repairs, proceed with caution. A poor repair could be a recipe for disaster.

The fix: Call a professional or ask me for a referral from our trusted sources.

 

VEHICLE CAUTION

Remember that there is danger even before you drive on the street. If you are backing your car up, watch out for children and pets on the sidewalk and road.

The fix: Be cautious and proceed slowly when driving vehicles in or out of your driveway. If your driveway does not have good visibility in both directions, walk down and look in both directions before you get in your car.

 

MAKE IT SAFE FOR VISITORS

If you are hosting friends and family, consider what additional safety challenges they may face.

The fix: Put yourself in the shoes of a small child and look for low, hard edges, sharp objects, easy-to-open cabinets with chemicals and cleaning agents. Look for falling and tripping hazards that may fell seniors.

 

BRACE YOURSELF

Heavy objects are rarely braced in the home. Appliances, artwork, televisions, and aquariums present real hazards if they are knocked down by a person or a natural disaster.

The fix: Strap and brace heavy objects and use security hardware for large artwork.

 

UNCOVER HIDDEN DANGERS

If your home was built before the late seventies, there’s likely lead in the paint under the top coats on your walls and windows, and there might be traces in the varnish used on many hardwood floors. In addition, asbestos often can be found in insulation and “popcorn” ceiling textures.

The fix: Hire a licensed contractor to test for possible contaminants and remove them safely, especially prior to a remodel.

 

MOTHER NATURE

Your homeowners insurance will cover you in many instances, but did you know that you may not be insured against natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes? They typically require an additional policy.

The fix: Contact your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate replacement coverage as home values escalate and coverage amounts can stay static. Discuss costs for adding disaster policies for the natural disaster most likely to hit your area. Finally, having a disaster and communication plan can minimize the risks.

 

Safety Dangers to Kids You May Not Think About

Do you have small children who live with you? Even if you don’t, with the holiday season rapidly approaching, your home may welcome friends with young children and older family members. This makes now the ideal time to survey home your home for potential safety problems.

 

OPEN WATER

Did you know that as little as an inch of water can be a major hazard? A pail of water in the yard, large puddles from a storm, even a washing machine can induce a small child to trip or fall into and become at risk.

The fix: Watch for open ice chests and other standing water, and don’t leave toilet seats open.

 

SMALL BATTERIES

Button-sized lithium batteries power small electronic devices, including remote controls, watches, musical greeting cards, and ornaments. When accidentally swallowed, they can get stuck in the esophagus and generate an electrical current that can cause severe chemical burns and tissue damage.

The fix: Only let small children play with mechanical devices and toys under supervision, and make sure to put these items away when not in use.

 

WINDOWS AND STAIRS

Every year, more than 5,000 kids end up in the emergency room after tumbling out of a window. Combat that by installing window guards or window stops so kids can’t fall out. Stairs are another potential hazard for youngsters with less-than-perfect balance.

The fix: Baby gates can prevent young kids from venturing up or down. Steps should always have firm footing and be clear of objects as even older people can slip and fall or trip on items left on the stairs.

 

FAMILY PETS

Cats can scratch a child not used to playing with finicky felines. The family dog may be big and loving but can outweigh a child by five times. Children can be easily knocked down, nipped, or even bitten by a dog not used to the activity of small children.

The fix: Monitor play activity and make sure your pet is not getting anxious or annoyed.

 

CORDS

Babies can be strangled by cords on blinds and shades.

The fix: Excessive cords of all types should be removed or secured down. Always keep cribs away from windows with loose cords.

 

Now’s the Time

With the upcoming holidays at hand, now is the perfect time to survey your home and address potential safety hazards to yourselves, your family, and your friends. It doesn’t take long, most fixes are very inexpensive and simple to do, and your efforts will pay dividends in peace of mind for years to come.

If you would like our advice on how to make your home safer and need a list of trusted sources for home repairs, please contact us today. It’s our business to ensure that your home is safe and secure for your family.

The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects that can serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the wired future, all of our appliances and gadgets talk to each other seamlessly.

What could living in a smart home look like? Picture something like this:

The lights in your bedroom slowly illuminate to quietly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blaring alarm. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifts in and stirs your senses. Once the lights are all the way up, the heating system kicks on, just in time to warm up your room so you’re not shocked once you crawl out from underneath the duvet.

When you step into the shower, it turns on automatically and remembers your preferred temperature and water pressure. And it will shut off right when you’re finished as it knows how long you take to bathe.

Once you’ve driven out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. And it will only unlock automatically when it “sees” and recognizes someone else from your family approaching through programmed in biometrics.

Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes, we haven’t reached the point where every feature intuitively knows what you want and when you wanted. However, each year we’re getting closer and closer toward that shiny, idealized ‘Jetson’ future.

Here are some trends that we see for smart homes, many of which may also help you save money:

 

Smart Thermostats

Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.

With the newer models, smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when they sense you are present. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so that you’re saving energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone so that you can adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.

 

Smart Smoke Detectors

Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives. But unfortunately, many of us still have those battery-run smoke detectors that make that annoying, piercing beep when their batteries are running low on power. And instead of replacing batteries right away, it’s often easier to pull them out and disable the detector (while risking our lives).

Many of the new smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, as well as air quality. With this new sensor technology, they know the difference between a real fire and burnt toast.

 

Smart Sprinkler Control

Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often, especially during the summer months, we fall into a severe drought. But then we might have one season that brings extreme amounts of rain, like we did this past spring.

A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio Iro can not only help save you lots of money on your water bill but also help protect our precious resources.

Programmable by computer or smart phone, it can automatically adjust how often you water your lawn based on the season and the weather forecasts. You can also remotely adjust the settings through a mobile app.

 

Smart Solar Panels

You can put the sun to work for you by using solar technology to power your home. It’s green and renewable, and can save you money over the long term. A recent study conducted by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center determined that Austin customers who invested in a solar system saved an average of $66 per month during the first year that they owned the system.

With smart solar panels, you can program the technology to monitor their performance and even turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.

 

Smart Home Security Systems

Home monitoring has become much more sophisticated in recent years. With the old-style security systems, you had to call in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.

With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense whether doors and windows are closed or opened. Some systems include audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off intruders. You get real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted as soon as the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely that they will be caught.

Canary is one popular all-in-one audio-video security system, complete with sirens and night vision.

 

Smart Locks

Go beyond the standard key locks, which can often be compromised by burglars. The new smart lock systems give you more control over those who can gain access to your home.

Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or cleaning service in during a specific window of time.

Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you and unlock your door.

The new August smart lock integrates with Apple’s technology so you can ask Siri to open your door for you.

 

Smart lighting systems and light bulbs

A well-lit home feels warm and welcoming, and good lighting can instantly increase the value of your home.

However, annual lighting costs can account for up to 12% of your overall electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can easily reduce this expense simply by using smart lighting technology to add efficiency.

The Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add to your home without installing specialized equipment. Smart lighting dimmers and sensors can give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to turn them on and off through your smart phone.

New smart light bulbs can give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs, for example, you can program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you up with increasing illumination, or to change from daytime work lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.

 

Smart Appliances

Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint, old-fashioned versions of these home conveniences. Newer, smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it easier for you to complete pesky household chores.

  • Newer coffee makers, like the Smarter coffee machine, let you ‘order’ your coffee exactly to your liking, adjusting everything from bean grind to temperature to strength to time that it’s ready to drink.
  • Smart refrigeration technology can help you store your food at just the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat during peak usage times. For example, the LG THINQ fridge can alert you via smart phone app if a door is accidentally left open.
  • Smart ovens can ensure that your food is cooked to the right level of done-ness, and alert you when your meal is ready to eat. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you even more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what you like to eat and make menu suggestions.
  • Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. And soon, connected appliances from GE, Oster, Samsung, and other makers, will be able to re-order soap and fabric softener directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to think about running to the store at the last minute.

Have you tested any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss any of your favorite home technologies? Let us know in the comments!