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

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

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

Home Automation

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

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

Smart Technology

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

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

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

Connectivity

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

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

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

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

Green Technology To Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint

Green Technology To Reduce Your Home's Carbon FootprintWhen you are a homeowner looking to reduce your carbon footprint, there are a number of steps you can take to make your home earth-friendly. From passive solar heating to solar panels, you can make a difference in the impact your home has on the environment.

Even when you aren’t building a new home, changes can be made to an existing property to increase efficiency and reduce reliance on utility systems.

Invest In Solar Power

Solar panels are one of the most popular ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and with good reason. Solar panels often produce enough electricity so that you have energy to sell back to the energy grid every month. Over time, solar panels on your property can earn you money instead of costing money in utility bills.

Consider Passive Solar Designs

Passive solar is heating your home with the sun by using the right design. For example, certain materials such as slate holds heat. If you have a room that gets plenty of sunlight during the day, a slate floor can help keep the room warmer once the sun sets. If the floor is made from a material that dissipates heat, such as ceramic tile, your home won’t benefit from the sun once it sets.

Radiant Floor Heating Saves On Energy Costs

Heat rises, and those that invest in radiant floor heating find that it is easier to heat up a room. Radiant floor heating uses coils below the surface of your floor, creating heat. The heat rises into the room instead of getting blown in through a heating vent. This reduces the amount of energy you need to heat your home.

Invest In Energy Efficient Appliances

Every appliance that you use in your home has an impact. Consider investing in energy efficient appliances when you are trying to make your home more earth friendly. You will save money on utility costs and help the environment at the same time.

Consider a Clothesline

The energy used to heat your clothes and dry them can be eliminated if you simply hang everything outside to dry. While this adds to your workload, it is a free way to reduce your carbon footprint.

When you have a home, there are a number of ways you can help reduce your impact on the environment. Set up a recycling area in your home, have a vegetable garden if possible, and use electricity only when necessary.

Enjoy your space and don’t be afraid to try new ideas to reduce waste within your home.

Thinking About Buying A Fixer-Upper? Know These Top Resources To Make The Most Profit

Thinking About Buying A Fixer-Upper? Know These Top Resources To Make The Most ProfitIf your financial situation is limited, yet you’re handy with a hammer and nails, then purchasing a fixer-upper home can be an attractive option. Fixer-uppers typically require a bevy of updates and repairs to bring the home up to current market conditions.

Because of this, the listing price is often considerably less than a move-in ready home.  Your trusted real estate professional can help you find the best projects to buy and sell.

Getting Started

Fixer-uppers aren’t for everyone, but there are plenty of resources available if you plan to do most of the repair and upgrades yourself. Let’s take a look at a few top resources to tap into if you’re in the market for a fixer-upper or if you’ve already purchased one and you are ready to get started.

  • At Home: A Blog by Joanna Gaines: Chip and Joanna Gaines are well known HGTV personalities who’ve made it their mission to fix up homes. A visit to Joanna Gaines’ blog is a gateway to renovation and decorating tips, products and real-time photos of projects in action. It’s a great place to go for inspiration.
  • Hands-On Workshops: If there’s a Home Depot near your home, chances are you frequent it for many of your hardware needs. There’s another reason you should stop in: Hands-On Workshops. If you want guidance on things like installing bath vanities, tile backsplashes, hanging ceiling fans, or measuring and installing flooring, there’s likely an upcoming workshop at the store that can give you the know-how and confidence necessary to do it yourself.
  • Jeff Patterson’s Home Repair Tutor: This YouTube channel boasts almost 120,000 subscribers and its how-to videos have racked up more than 30.5 million views. Videos include everything from how to tile a shower floor to installing a motion sensor light switch. If you need detailed step-by-step instructions on how to perform a particular job, chances are good this channel has it.
  • The Craftsman Blog: Written by DIY fixer-upper and author Scott Sidler, this blog is packed with how-to advice for home improvement and restoration projects as well as general tips and information about repairs like painting, plastering and restoring windows. This is a blog for a DIY fixer-upper written by a DIY fixer-upper. 
  • Your local hardware store: The big box hardware stores are great for finding just about any sort of tool you’ll need and for hosting how-to workshops. Generally, however, it’s your local, smaller hardware store that can really give you some great one-on-one advice as it pertains to your projects. These stores are typically family owned, and part of the reason they’re able to stay in business is because of their high level of customer service. This often includes guiding you on certain projects.

A fixer-upper can seem like a daunting project when you are getting started. Knowing where to look for the right resources can make a big difference.  Your trusted real estate finance professional is available to assist you and offer additional advice on your new endeavor.

Pet-Friendly Homes: Some Selling Do’s and Dont’s

Pet-Friendly Homes: Some Selling Do's and Dont'sNearly 70 million American households include at least one pet, but most prospective buyers won’t want to see evidence of pets in a home on the market.

Here are some tips about how to sell a pet-friendly home.

Prior To Listing

Point out special pet features to your real estate agent — a cat door, feeding station or a pet shower, even a fenced back yard or a dog run can be a bonus to many buyers. It’s important to remember that buyers want to imagine their pets in the home, not yours! Minimize your pet’s presence by decluttering pet supplies as well as your personal items.

While it is best to downplay non-human residents in a home for sale, some pets are more difficult to camoflage or move out of the way. If you have a bird, an aquarium, or large exotic pets, use your best judgment while keeping the “less is more” philosophy in mind.

If there is any pet damage, it should be repaired before you show the home. If necessary, repaint walls, refinish floors, or replace carpeting. Ask a friend or relative (one without a pet) to give your house a sniff test. If there are any odors, do whatever is necessary to eliminate them. It is not likely enough to try to mask the odors with air freshners in order to make the best impression on potential buyers.

Dealing With Showings

Always arrange for animals to be out of the house when a showing is scheduled. If you can’t be there to pick up a pet, trust a neighbor to take the dog for a walk or herd the cat into a carrier and keep it for a few hours. A barking dog in the back yard is annoying, and even the cutest puppy can intimidate a buyer. Cats, too, are notoriously independent, and not all humans are cat-lovers.

Buyers expect even a house with pets to be kept scrupulously clean. Sweep and vacuum up pet hair as often as necessary. Pick up feeding bowls and toys, and remove cat litter boxes prior to a showing. Polish nose prints off glass and put away the scratching pole. Think of pets and pet items the same as you would personal photographs and other memorbillia that clutters your home. Removing those items helps the buyer see themselves in your home and can increase the likelihood of a sale.

It’s also wise to double check with your insurance company to determine your liability in the event that your pet bites or otherwise injures anyone at your property. 

Before And During Moving

Remember that moving is stressful, not only for you, but for your best friend as well. Speak to your veterinarian in advance about possible symptoms of anxiety such as increased accidents, changes in appetite, aggressive behavior or other personality changes that may occur. If you notice any significant signs of anxiety, seek treatment.

If at all possible, take your pet to see your new home prior to your move. If not, continue to look for signs that your pet is feeling disoriented or anxious. Finding a reliable and trustworthy veternarian near your new home beforehand is a good idea in case your pet is struggling. Take extra care that your pet doesn’t try to “escape” back to the familiar and get lost. 

Selling your home and moving into a new home can be exciting, complicated and stressful events. The same can be true for your pets. With a little bit of extra planning, things can go a lot smoother for your entire family. Contact your real estate professional for even more tips for a successful home selling, home buying and relocating experience.

 

Tips For Home Buying In The Digital Age

Tips For Home Buying In The Digital Age

The digital age has changed the way buyers browse for and purchase goods and services, including real estate. While home buyers still can check out property listings via a print newspaper or by driving through desired neighborhoods in hopes of finding a “for sale” sign, digital sources offer more options and can make the home buying process easier. 

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) states in their 2017 Report: Real Estate in a Digital Age, that 44-percent of home buyers look online when beginning their search.

Social Media As Sources For Home Buyers

According to the Pew Research Center, 68-percent or two-thirds of U.S. adults use Facebook. In addition to that popular social media site, American adults regularly use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube on a daily basis for entertainment, social engagement, shopping, and news. These sites also can be excellent sources for home buyers.

Home buyers now have instant, easy access to a wide variety of property listings beyond those featured on an individual real estate agency’s website. Many real estate agents post listings on social media with interior/exterior photos and some with virtual tours. Sites like YouTube offer valuable resources particular for first-time home buyers, from tips to how-to’s. 

Real Estate Apps

More than 90-percent of all real estate firms have a website. Visiting these sites are a great starting point and ideal way to connect with an agent that knows the local market. However, home buyers may also consider real estate apps to enhance the process. Even if not tech savvy, these apps are easy to use. 

The most used real estate apps are available for both Android and iOS. Digital Trends offers a breakdown of several of the most popular. Ask a real estate agent if they have one that’s specific to their firm.

These apps can help:

  • Customize a search by location, property type, features, and price
  • Reveal the worth or rental value of a property
  • Show floor plans and exterior/interior photos
  • Provide details about neighborhoods
  • Offer lending institution information
  • Directly connect buyers with a real estate agent

Stay Connected With A Real Estate Professional

Cell phones appear to be everywhere today and research shows that 77-percent of Americans own a smartphone. With that smartphone it’s easier than ever to stay connected with a real estate agent and mortgage professional when buying a home.

An agent can text or email potential listings to the phone, schedule open house meetings, and send updates regarding the offer just made on the perfect home.  A mortgage lender can take a loan application and deliver status updates directly through a secure smartphone app.

Home buyers that can embrace the digital age have the opportunity to take advantage of the multiple platforms and tools available for making a real estate purchase. 

 

How To Turn A Profit Flipping Land Into Residential Property

How To Turn A Profit Flipping Land Into Residential PropertyReality TV shows have inspired people to flip houses for profit. They make it look fun, easy and the type of business anyone with some capital can get into.

Every once in a while, house-flipping episodes show an underperforming sale and a financial loss. That is why people in the flipping business need a cushion in case things don’t pan out.

This brings us to a slightly different approach. Some speculators start out flipping land. Yes, that’s right. Land.

Flipping Land Can Be Less Risky Than Homes

Rough land can be far less expensive to invest in than blighted homes. There are also fewer unknowns in terms of flipping. Investors won’t need to worry about replacing an electric box, mold behind walls or failing a building inspection. Land flippers can also start with a modest out-of-pocket investment and work their way up to short-term lending to finance endeavors.

The Basic Considerations

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a parcel. Property that abuts a street with sewer and water are preferable to scrub land in areas without services. It is not uncommon to run into difficulty drilling an artesian well or getting a permit for a septic system. Developers know this and will jump at street-ready parcels first.

Make certain the parcel qualifies as a buildable lot with the town or city. Then, hire an excavation team or clear the brush and trees yourself. The goal will be to create an open area where a home can be built while leaving suitable greenery.

The next step is to call a real estate agent and list the property. Quick land turnovers can earn several thousand dollars in profit with minimal effort. Remember to factor in hidden costs such as taxes, interest, and recording fees, among others.   

Upping The Ante To Spec Homes

After gaining experience in the land flipping business, take that knowledge and apply it to homes. Rather than scoop up a dilapidated structure, employ that land development acumen and take the next step.

Select a parcel that is in a prime residential location. What a surprise it would be to find a wooded lot at the end of a desirable neighborhood that can be developed.

Create A Budget and Obtain Financing

Work closely with a real estate agent to understand the types of homes that are trending and the average sale prices. With that information in hand, come to an agreement with a general contractor who can oversee the spec house project.

Decide on a design and calculate the total costs. Don’t forget to add 15 percent for overruns. Contact your loan originator to help you secure a building loan and put the team to work.

Get The Listing On The Market

Spec home projects can be listed with real estate agents even before the first nail is driven into a 2X4. A savvy real estate agent can get a property up online with design information, an artful rendition of the finished home and key selling points. In a perfect world, a new home buyer may be found before construction begins.

It’s important to realize that it doesn’t require significant wealth to get into the home buying and selling industry. By starting with modest, low-risk land deals and working up to spec homes, a solid living can be earned in the real estate industry. If this idea intrigues you, contact your trusted mortgage professional to discuss financing options and start planning your new real estate endeavor today.

Five Reasons Why Spring Is The Perfect Time To Sell

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

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

  • Buyers are searching – A huge majority of home buyers want to move during summer. Many families have school or work vacations that make the moving process a little easier during this time. If you put your home on the market during spring, you ready things for someone to purchase and move in during this prime time.

  • The weather is cooperative – Yes, there may be a few spring rain showers here and there, but during the spring season (in most parts of the country), you’ll find that the weather is neither too hot nor too cold to keep buyers from searching. In addition, the spring sunshine makes for beautiful listing photos.

  • It’s a great time for home improvement – Whether you want to make improvements to your house to make selling easier, or you plan to sell your home as a fixer-upper, the knowledge that spring and the coming summer months is the perfect time to attend to these tasks will benefit you during the listing and sales process.

  • Your yard will look great – They say that curb appeal is one of the most important things that is considered when someone purchases a home. When you sell in springtime, the grass is green, the flowers are in bloom and your yard will look it’s very best. You may find that it’s a little easier to sell during this time just because of the extra “wow factor” your yard brings to the table.

  • The market is prime – Listen to any news or finance program and you’ll hear that the real estate market is booming. Take advantage of this benefit and pair it with all the other reasons to sell your home this spring. You may find that selling your property quickly and at your asking price is much easier than you ever imagined it would be.

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

 

Your Guide To Aging In Place Home Modifications

Your Guide To Aging in Place Home ModificationsIf you’ve had to watch your parents transition into assisted living, you may have no desire to call such a place home. You are not alone. According to the Aging in Place Housing Survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), more than 90 percent of seniors want to remain in their home.

Many survey respondents said that they would rather use nursing home funds towards purchasing a home that is suited for aging in place or making accessible home modifications.  

You’ve probably heard the buzzwords — aging in place, non-assisted living, universal design — these phrases mean the same thing: growing older in your home. Today, home modifications can help you continue to live in your home as you age. Plus, aging-in-place home modifications are much less expensive than moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility.

The problem is that most existing homes are not conducive to aging in place. There are more than 100 million homes in the United States. However, only one percent of them are currently set up for accessibility. Fortunately, there are a variety of home modifications that you can do to make any home more accessible. Here is a handy guide to accessible home modifications.

Think About Your Future Needs

The first step in making sure your home is suited to aging in place is to consider how your needs might change in the future. Everyone’s situation is different.

If you have a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, it is best to talk with your doctor to determine how these health issues might make it hard for you to live on your own in the future. Consider what modifications you’ll need to make to ensure that your home will suit your future needs.

For example, if you are thinking of buying a new home with an upstairs, you might use the upper part of the house for your home office now and convert the area into caregiver’s quarters in the future.

Consider a First-Floor Master Suite

An essential home modification for aging in place is first-floor living. Although you might not have mobility issues now, hip replacements and other problems that affect mobility are frequent with increasing age.

Plus, a first-floor suite can increase the value of your home should you sell in the future. According to data from Builder Online, out of the best-selling new home floor plans, more than 83 percent feature accessible master suites.

Choose Slip-Resistant Flooring

Falls are a serious threat to the independence and health of older adults. They are the leading cause of injuries among Americans ages 65 and older. That is why it is so important to take steps to reduce the likelihood of a fall.

One of the easiest modifications that you can make in this area is to choose slip-resistant flooring. Cork and bamboo flooring are both popular for aging in place as they are softer and thus more forgiving during a fall.

These are just a few of the aging in place modifications that you can make to your home. There are many others. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to sacrifice lifestyle or luxury to have a home that is also accessible.

Many of the above modifications can be made anytime and can help enhance the beauty and comfort of your home. As you plan for your future in your home, please contact your mortgage professional to explore finance options for these and other necessary home modifications.

 

Best Tax Deductible Home Improvements for Homeowners

Best Tax Deductible Home Improvements For HomeownersBefore delving into tax-deductible home improvements, it’s important to understand that these tax deductions won’t be applied immediately. In most cases, homeowners can only benefit, tax-wise, from their home renovations later, when they sell their home.

It’s important for homeowners to keep receipts for their improvements, though so they have proof of the improvements they made, even if it’s years later when they sell their residence.

Typical Renovations/ Home Improvements That Can Yield Eventual Tax Benefits

A home improvement is any project that substantially adds value to a home. It can include adapting it to be more useful or be improvements that allow it to be used differently. The following are some general home improvements that can yield tax savings when a home is sold for a profit.

  • Room additions.
  • Upgrades to plumbing.
  • Kitchen improvements.
  • A new roof.
  • New bathrooms.
  • Upgraded landscaping.
  • Improvements to fencing.
  • New decks.
  • Improved wiring.
  • New walkways.
  • Driveway improvements.
  • Plumbing upgrades.

How Delayed Tax Benefits Work

While a homeowner can’t take the amount of money they spent on one of the above home improvements and deduct it that same tax year, they can sometimes benefit from the investment in their home. This is true because a homeowner can effectively reduce the amount of taxes they have to pay if they sell their home for a profit down the road.

When an improvement is made, the cost of those improvements are added to the tax basis of a home. The basis is the investment in a home for tax purposes. The greater this number becomes, the less the profit is from selling a home.

The following explains it a little better:

Example Of Tax Basis And Home Improvement Tax Savings

A fictional homeowner purchases their home for $600,000 and sells their home 20 years later for $1,000,000. Their original “profit” from the sale would have been $400,000, which would have been taxable income at the time of the sale. However, throughout the 15 years when they resided in the home, this homeowner made around $60,000 worth of home improvements, including a roof improvement and a kitchen update. The $60,000 is then added to the original investment this homeowner made in their home, bringing their tax basis to $660,000.

The homeowner’s profit when they sell their home is then reduced from $400,000 to $340,000. Many homeowners use home improvements as a way to reduce the amount of taxes they will one day have to pay when they sell their home for a substantial profit.

Other Ways For Homeowners To Benefit From Their Home This Tax Season

Homeowners can make their home work for them each and every tax year by qualifying for the home office deduction. This only works if they own and operate a legitimate business out of their home, though. A part of the home must be used either regularly or exclusively for the business to qualify.

The above is some pertinent information on how homeowners can use home improvements to reduce their tax burden.  As always, check with your trusted tax professional for accurate advice on your personal situation.

6 Money Making Tips For The First Time Home Seller

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

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

Determine Right Listing Price

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

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

Curb Appeal Makes a Difference

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

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

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

De-clutter and Depersonalize

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

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

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

Repairs and Replacements

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

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

Offer the Extras

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

Consider a Pre-inspection

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

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

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