Setting Up a Home Office That Works for You
Whether you’re paying a few bills or running a small business, a stylish, comfortable work space will help you stay focused and inspired.
In recent years, the line between working and living in our homes has become blurred. More people want a home office, whether it’s a simple space for taking care of household matters, a spot for the inevitable papers and projects that make their way home from work, or a dedicated area for a full-time business.
For a few minutes a day or 40 hours a week, working at home is always more fun in an area with loads of function — and some personalization, too. Here’s how to create a snazzy home office space that will make you look forward to clocking in.
Some experts have said there are only two essentials for a functional home office: a comfortable chair and a door that closes. Most people, however, probably have a few more requirements.
Basic elements of designing a room include smart space planning, adequate lighting and sufficient storage. When setting up your home office, also consider functionality and comfort.
Start with your work surface. Stock desk units come in a variety of materials, but may be difficult to fit in with your room. Modular office furniture is more flexible and comes in many styles.
Or look to repurposed furniture. With some judicious changes, you can turn flea market finds and antiques into acceptable home office elements. Don’t hesitate to make a piece your own with a simple coat of paint in your favorite color.
Take a Seat
Chairs need to be functional, but an office chair isn’t your only choice.
If you’ll be spending a lot of time working in the office, consider including a lounge chair or chaise. It will make a comfortable spot for reading or coffee breaks.
For your desk, choose a chair with an adjustable seat and armrests to protect your spine and help reduce aches and injuries. To personalize it, add a throw pillow to coordinate with window coverings or other decorative elements in the room.
Make a list of everything you need, from pencils and paper clips to research materials and file folders. Pick a color scheme and purchase the necessities in your favorite palette.
Measure all the electronic equipment you’ll require to determine where it will fit best. And make sure you add some favorite framed photos or artwork to inspire you.
To create softness and texture underfoot, layer on an area rug to anchor your space.
Natural light is great, but you’ll need ambient and task lighting as well. Here is another opportunity to add a bit of personal style to your space via lamp shades, crystals and fixture finishes. Watch out for the possibility of glare, especially when finding a place for your computer screen.
If your office space doesn’t have a door, you can establish a sense of privacy by the way you orient your work surface or by using a screen or file cabinets to mark off the area.
Share your favorite ways to spruce your office space — we can’t wait to see what you come up with! Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
5 Things Real Estate Agents Wish You Knew About Buying a House
Buying a house isn’t like buying a Grande Americano at your regular Starbucks. Infinitely more money, thought, and prep work go into acquiring real estate – and given that it’s not a purchase you make often, it’s understandable if you might not be adept at wheeling and dealing.
But guess what? There is someone who can show you the ropes well within reach: your Real Estate Agent! Odds are (we hope), you’ve hired an Agent to help guide you through the home-buying process.
RELATED: How To Hire A Buyer’s Agent
But even then, there might be things you end up doing that make your Agent sigh deeply—and get a strong urge to sit you down and say, “Look, here’s the deal!”
Curious about what those things are? Read on for some of the things that Real Estate Agents really wish you knew, since it would save them – and ultimately you – a ton of aggravation seeing your deal through.
1. Know What You Can Afford Before You Start Looking
Finding the perfect home would be a snap if money weren’t an issue, but let’s get real. For most people, money doesn’t grow on azaleas, which means their finances must be taken into account. So don’t waste your time shopping for real estate before you know what price range you can afford.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Your Guide To Home Buying
One easy way to get your bearings is to type your income, savings, and other details into a home affordability calculator. Better yet, get a mortgage pre-approval letter; the process involves a lender checking out your finances and determining how much it’s willing to loan you for a home.
Plus, a pre-approval letter helps you move fast when making an offer. Since you now have it in writing that your loan is guaranteed, it removes any possibility that you won’t secure financing.
2. Don’t Call The Listing Agent
In case you didn’t know, buyers generally have their own Agent, and sellers have theirs. And ideally, it’s the Buyer’s Agent and Listing Agent who interact with each other, conveying their clients’ questions and concerns to see if a deal can be done.
As such, when you do an end run and contact a Listing Agent directly, this seemingly innocent move can cause a whole ton of trouble.
RELATED: About the Negotiation Process
While you main not mean this, it’s almost an implication that you do not trust your Buyer’s Agent and/or that you do not have a strong working relationship. These things will impede negotiation. You’re actually giving power away to the seller’s Agent.
3. Please Do Not Talk Around Other Agents
Another time buyers may put their foot in their mouth is during showings and open houses. Since the Listing Agent may be present, this is a time when loose lips can sink real estate deals.
You might say things you are not supposed to say, such as how many houses you’ve checked out, how much you like or dislike the house, and, worst of all, how much you can afford or are willing to spend.
Sharing such info is akin to tipping your cards while playing poker: It gives the home sellers a whole lot of info they can use as leverage during negotiations.
So when in doubt, say nothing. Let your Agent be your voice at an open house or in any conversation with the sellers.
4. You Do Not Need To See Every Home Within A 50-mile Radius
You don’t have to look at hundreds of properties to find the right one.
The truth is, if you have an Agent truly working for you, you won’t be looking at tons of homes. Your Agent will screen properties for you and make sure you’re only looking at the ones that fit your needs. So if the first home you see is the one, that’s OK, your Agent did her job.
If you feel the homes you are seeing are not a fit for you, talk to your Real Estate Agent again about your wishlist and revisit your must-haves vs. like-to-haves, etc. They are there to serve and satisfy you. There is no harm in revisiting this conversation.
5. Don’t Let Fear Of Commitment Give You Cold Feet
This tidbit you can file more under helpful advice because Agent’s have seen this before. Yes, buying a house is a big commitment. Yes, it’s scary, and your mind might race with all sorts of worse-case scenarios. What if you make an offer on a house, and that very day another house – even more perfect for you – crosses your path? Or, what if you move into a house you’re happy with, then a layoff leaves you unable to pay your mortgage?
Sure, these are all possibilities, but uncertainty is a part of life. It is normal to ask these commitment-phobic-type questions. Just don’t let them get in the way of this important and exciting life change.
And if the worse happens, you can always sell a house later on; this need not be a death-do-you-part endeavor.
Did you recently buy a home and would perhaps do things differently if you had to do it again? We’d love to hear from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
5 Reasons You Should Never Buy or Sell a Home Without a Real Estate Agent
You’re DIY’ing this real estate thing, and you think you’re doing pretty well—after all, any info you might need is at your fingertips online, right? That and your own judgment.
Oh, dear home buyer (or seller!)—we know you can do it on your own. But you really, really shouldn’t. This is likely the biggest financial decision of your entire life, and you need Real Estate Agent if you want to do it right.
1. They have loads of expertise
Want to check the MLS for a 4B/2B with an EIK and a W/D? Real estate has its own language, full of acronyms and semi-arcane jargon, and your Real Estate Agent is trained to speak that language fluently.
Plus, buying or selling a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. Real Estate Agents have the expertise to help you prepare a killer deal—while avoiding delays or costly mistakes that can seriously mess you up.
FREE DOWNLOAD: The Complete Home Buyer Guide
2. They have turbocharged searching power
The Internet is awesome. You can find almost anything—anything! And with online real estate listing sites such as yours truly, you can find up-to-date home listings on your own, any time you want. But guess what? Real Estate Agents have access to even more listings. Sometimes properties are available but not actively advertised. A Real Estate Agent can help you find those hidden gems.
Plus, a good local Real Estate Agent is going to know the search area way better than you ever could. Have your eye on a particular neighborhood, but it’s just out of your price range? Your Real Estate Agent is equipped to know the ins and outs of every neighborhood, so she can direct you toward a home in your price range that you may have overlooked.
3. They have bullish negotiating chops
Any time you buy or sell a home, you’re going to encounter negotiations—and as today’s housing market heats up, those negotiations are more likely than ever to get a little heated.
You can expect lots of competition, cutthroat tactics, all-cash offers, and bidding wars. Don’t you want a savvy and professional negotiator on your side to seal the best deal for you?
And it’s not just about how much money you end up spending or netting. A Real Estate Agent will help draw up a purchase agreement that allows enough time for inspections, contingencies, and anything else that’s crucial to your particular needs.
4. They’re connected to everyone
Real Estate Agents might not know everything, but they make it their mission to know just about everyone who can possibly help in the process of buying or selling a home. Mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, home stagers, interior designers—the list goes on—and they’re all in your Real Estate Agent’s network. Use them.
FREE DOWNLOAD: The Complete Home Sellers Guide
5. They’re your sage parent/data analyst/therapist—all rolled into one
The thing about Real Estate Agents: They wear a lot of different hats. Sure, they’re salespeople, but they actually do a whole heck of a lot to earn their commission. They’re constantly driving around, checking out listings for you. They spend their own money on marketing your home (if you’re selling). They’re researching comps to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
And, of course, they’re working for you at nearly all hours of the day and night—whether you need more info on a home or just someone to talk to in order to feel at ease with the offer you just put in. This is the biggest financial (and possibly emotional) decision of your life, and guiding you through it isn’t a responsibility Real Estate Agents take lightly.
Did you try the DIY route and the go Agent? Tell us about your experience. Sound of on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, our Twitter or LinkedIn Feeds or on our Instagram account. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
7 Important Things Home Sellers Often Forget to Do
When you’re selling your home there’s so much to do: find a Real Estate Agent, do touch-ups, get that balky air conditioner fixed, look into staging… It’s no wonder that sometimes things fall between the cracks. Big things. (We’re not pointing fingers, promise!)
Our arsenal of experts—aka real estate agents who have worked with many home sellers—identify the to-do’s that sellers typically overlook. We promise you, these tasks are well worth the time it will take to complete them (which isn’t very long at all).
FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Home
Heed this sound advice, and there’s a good chance selling your house won’t be nearly as stressful as everyone tells you it is.
To-do No. 1: Google your address
Not all sellers scour the Internet to find out what’s being said about their property, but they should. Nearly all buyers – 90% – search online during their hunt for a home, according to the National Association of Realtors. You should be aware of what your online listing looks like, since it will influence the kinds of impression, questions and concerns buyers will have.
For example, Google Maps’ street view of your property may not show improvements that you’ve made, so you’ll want to be sure to include those updates in your listing.
To-do No. 2: Account for improvements and issues
If you’ve owned your home for a while, make a list of all the problems you’ve solved while you’ve lived there. This could include chimney fires, water damage, or a flood in the basement. Whether you solved the problem or not, you should disclose this information to the buyer so you don’t wind up in a lawsuit after the sale. Disclosing “invisible improvements” that you’ve made, like re-grading or adding a French drain system, can also be a great source of comfort for buyers.
To-do No. 3: Check your real estate agent’s references
An agent’s bad behavior or incompetence could cost you time, money, and peace of mind, so it’s well worth taking extra steps to find the best real estate agent for you. Ask friends for recommendations and check online reviews.
RELATED: Read Patrick Parker’s Online Reviews
Check that the Agent’s you’re considering have a current real estate license – with no complaints filed against them. Meet with the Agent and reach out to a few of their references directly.
Real Estate Agents should be happy to provide a number of references for a new client to call. As far as talking to your friends about a Real Estate Agent recommendation or reading online reviews, here are some things to look for:
• Did you have confidence in your Real Estate Agent?
• Do you think he/she had good knowledge of the local market?
• Did your Agent communicate well and keep you informed during the entire transaction?
• Do you think that he/she negotiated well on your behalf?
• Did your Agent have good vendors who could assist you?
• Did your Agent return calls/emails in a timely fashion?
• Would you recommend this person? Why? (Or why not?)
To-do No. 4: Insist on social media marketing
You staged your home beautifully, picked a competitive price, and listed the property, but there’s something else you’ll need to prepare before you’re fully ready to sell – a social media marketing plan. Video tours, floor plans, and photo galleries promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are must-dos.
You want to make sure that your Agent is using all avenues to attract the right buyer for your home. Make sure your home has a presence on your Agent’s website, their agency’s website, and is promoted on various sites that will market the home and give information about open houses.
To-do No. 5: Make sure the doorbell rings
Ah, attention to detail. It’s those little cosmetic repairs that could cost you your home sale. If buyers see that you can’t even be bothered to repair a busted doorbell, they’re automatically going to think about what else may need fixing and view the home negatively.
First impressions make all the difference. A well-kept home, starting with the view from the curb, gives the perception that the seller has great pride in the home and has taken good care of it – which translates into less energy and costs for the buyer as they prepare to move in.
To-do No. 6: Clean inside everything
Storage is a huge selling point for homes. So be warned: Buyers are going to poke around inside closets, drawers, cabinets, ovens, refrigerators, and even the dishwasher, whether they’re cleaned or not—so you’d better make sure they are clean.
Spending the money on a service to deep-clean your home will come back to you at least 10 times in your sales price. Even if you’ve swept up and scrubbed all surfaces to a shine, you’re not done until dust, crumbs, and creepy crawlies are cleaned out from within the small spaces too.
To-do No. 7: Clarify which items are not included
You don’t want a buyer to fall in love with your house because of the custom window treatments and then rescind their offer when they find out the curtains aren’t for sale.
The law says that anything bolted to the wall or ceiling goes to the buyer unless specifically excluded in the contract. If you want to take your flat-screen TV, chandelier, or custom pot rack, be sure to label it as soon as the house goes on the market, so that buyers don’t bank on owning that item and wind up disappointed.
Are you a recent seller who with items to add to our to-do list? Are you a buyer with feedback for sellers on how their property could have further won you over? We want to hear from you! Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
5 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make When Buying in the Winter
Winter is supposed to be a buyer’s market, right? Fewer buyers = way less competition. After all, you have no problem trekking through the snow to find the perfect home. Let the others wait until spring. Right?
But winter home-buying assumptions can cost you. Just because the market moves slower doesn’t mean there aren’t pitfalls lying beneath the powder. Keep in mind these five common mistakes—otherwise you might just lose out on your dream space. And that would lead to a very long winter indeed.
1. Failing to use your imagination
Yes, the property looks a bit … drab. But don’t all homes seem sad in winter, especially if they’re not charmingly covered in snow? Don’t dismiss a property because of bare tree limbs and dead grass. Imagine what the home could be in all its springtime glory.
Pretend the trees are blooming and the rose bushes are covered in color. That’s the mental picture you should use to make your decision.
2. Ignoring possible closing date delays
Don’t assume everything will go as planned. Things will go wrong and this is normal. Does the plumbing need updating? Is the wiring a little funky? These delay-causing problems are always a headache, but in winter they can create a full-on migraine. This goes double for custom or new-build homes.
While many trades will work through the winter, there are certain processes that cannot be completed during heavy snowfall or dramatically low temperatures. This can be frustrating and particularly problematic if the home buyers’ closing date on their current home is coming up quickly.
So, build in some buffer time for your new home’s closing – or just a little snow might crash your move-in day hopes.
3. Lacking flexibility
House hunting always requires a certain level of spontaneity – you have to be ready to pounce as soon as you hear a place fitting all your criteria is on the market. But when the weather’s against you, make sure to loosen your schedule even more.
4. Assuming you’ll automatically score a sweet deal
In the winter (generally speaking), home prices are lower. Sellers are motivated. The competition’s bundled up inside, warming their hands by the fire. Bidding wars are a vestige of the summer months. Now’s a great time to buy, right?
Unfortunately, the math doesn’t necessarily work in your favor.
A lot of buyers assume they can get a better deal in winter because [fewer] people are competing but that’s not always the case. Inventory is lower, so the number of people who are competing is similar.
No, prices may not rocket to the sky-high levels seen when the weather is warm. But if you expect to score a bargain-basement home deal, you might be disappointed.
5. Lowballing your offer
If you don’t get a discount on a home during the winter months, maybe you think you can create your own discount with a lowball offer. Sellers listing their homes in the winter must be desperate to sell, the theory goes.
Not only can a lowball offer be off-putting to the seller, but sometimes they can be so offended, they will be closed to a counteroffer. This is where working with your Agent to craft a competitive is critical. Nothing is worse than losing the home you love to another buyer because you prioritized the deal over finding a place that perfectly fits your family.
Related: About The Negotiation Process
Does house hunting in the winter leave you cold? Or can you skate past these mistakes and land the cozy home of your dreams? Sound of on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter feed. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.
4 Credit Secrets for Buying a Home
In a report that was done by the Federal Trade Commission in 2015 they found that 1 out of every 4 consumers had errors on their credit report.
That being stated, means that it’s possible that you could possibly fall under that scenario. There are many things you can do to improve your credit on your own and should consider before buying a home. Let’s dive into four ideal credit secrets that will help rebuild your credit and improve your score.
Pay off collections first, inquiries second.
While it’s unattested of people living in South Florida, living on credit at one point or another is the norm. We’re talking about using credit cards for everyday living expenses, like rent or groceries. If you’ve fallen behind these are the first debts to focus on.
According to the folks at Experian, charge card debt is about 50% of most people’s issues when it comes to scarring or less-than-perfect credit.
By paying any of the items that went to collections first, then focusing on your hard inquiries second you’ll see an improvement in your score almost right away.
By the way, if you check your score once in the morning and then once at night it will most likely be different. The debt fairies are constantly changing and reporting, making it very hard to stay consistent.
The good news is, most of the time they are off by a few digits. Hard inquiries are generally coming from lenders for items like mortgages, car loans and more credit cards.
They can stay on your report for a while, and there are some cases you may have to ask to have them removed.
Be consistent with all 3 of the bureaus
Each score is synonymous to the other two bureaus. Don’t forget to be consistent with all three of the credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax).
Just because you ask for an item to be changed or removed, doesn’t mean that all three get the message.
By pursuing your due diligence, and following up with all three you are ensuring that they are undeviating from one another. Peace of mind will be beneficial by having consistency in place.
RELATED: What Affects Your Credit Score?
Check for errors and discrepancies
You’d be surprised to learn how many people fail to do this. A man who’s a Senior, Junior, the third, etc., needs to make sure his credit is being reported and not a relative. This is a common mistake that does happen.
Of course, everyone wants to believe bureaus are safe from ‘human error’, but this is just not the case. It’s your credit and your responsibility to know what’s on it.
It’s also necessary to stay engaged in being accurate. The last thing you want is to run into an incubus during an important purchase, such as buying a home, so be sure to check this often.
RELATED: 9 Fast Fixes For Your Credit Score
By law, you are entitled to one free credit report a year. Contact a loan officer for more details on how this works.
Working hard to manage your credit is important. Healthy credit makes you have the security necessary knowing you’re covered with issues like emergencies or better yet, a vacation. It’s also vital when getting a mortgage.
The other credit secret that we want you to know is that following up is HUGE when it comes to buying a home. Once you start to pay off your debts, you’ll want to follow up with the creditors.
Your report, needs to be consistent with all three bureaus and if you find errors, keep following up with the appropriate party until they’re gone.
FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Home Buying Checklist
Are you a “credit master warrior”? Share your stories on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter Feed or on LinkedIn. Plus don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.
11 Best Tech Gadgets For Your Home
These awesome upgrades will transform your house into a futuristic smart home.
In this Jetsons world we’re living in, everything is getting smarter—our phones, our cars and now, thanks to a bunch of new technology, even our homes. With a few simple upgrades, you can have on-demand music in any room of the house, control your lights and thermostat remotely, and even let someone in while you’re out running errands. In some cases, your house can even learn your habits and preferences.
It’s like having your own virtual butler, only without the snootiness. From Wi-Fi enabled slow cookers to intuitive lighting, here are the 10 best tech gadgets to upgrade your home.
1. WeMo Switch Electronics Control
Nothing’s worse than getting to work and wondering whether you remembered to turn off the coffeemaker. Do you rush back home and check on it or do you just wait until you hear the sirens? With WeMo, a Wi-Fi-enabled plug-in device that works with any electronic device, you don’t have to do either. You can turn everything off or on simply by using the WeMo app on your phone. You can even pair it with Amazon Echo’s Alexa to make it hands-free, which means you can turn off that coffeemaker while driving.
WeMo switch, $40, Amazon.com
2. Ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat
Easily the most efficient way to heat and cool your house, the Ecobee3 Smarter thermostat not only allows you to adjust your home’s temperature remotely, it also senses whether anyone is home or in a specific room in order to save energy. The thermostat intuitively makes temperature changes based on the outside weather, your home’s energy profile and thousands of other data points that can help to improve efficiency. And the remote sensors ensure that every room is exactly the temperature you want it to be.
Ecobee thermostat, $249, Ecobee.com
3. Smarter iKettle
Imagine being able to brew your morning cup of coffee without even getting out of bed. That’s exactly what Smarter’s iKettle does. It allows you to heat water or coffee to any temperature you want, check your water level, brew coffee or tea, keep your coffee warm and shut it off, all from the Smarter app on your phone. With Formula mode, you can also set it to boil as soon it hears a baby crying, which means that the water will be the perfect temperature by the time you get to the kitchen. And, since you can save your settings, everything can all be done with one tap of a button.
Smarter iKettle, $144, Smarter.am
4. Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Few things in life are more irritating than the beep of a smoke alarm. Fortunately Nest Protect allows you to silence that alarm through an app on your phone. It can also send alerts to your phone if you’re away from home, tell you what and where the trouble is and, using two wavelengths of light as sensors, can look for both fast- and slow-moving fires. It also sends you a voice alert if your toast starts to burn so that it doesn’t turn into an actual fire.
Nest Protect, $99, Nest.com
5. August Smart Lock Keyless Home Entry
For most people, losing keys happens far more frequently than losing a phone. Which makes the ability to unlock your front door with your phone a major perk. August Smart Lock allows you to lock or unlock your home remotely, so you never have to worry about whether you remembered your keys. And you can control who has access to your home as well, so you won’t have to rush home to let in the cleaner.
August Smart Lock, $199, August.com
6. Logitech Harmony Home Control
It’s an eternal struggle nowadays to keep track of all your remotes. Fortunately with Logitech Harmony Home Control, you can combine all of them into one. Or, even better, you can simply control everything with your phone. Whether it’s your entertainment system, Xbox, Apple TV, or smart lights and thermostat, Harmony allows you to link up to eight devices, so you never have to worry about finding the right remote for the right one. And the Harmony Hub even allows you to control devices hidden behind cabinet doors.
Logitech Harmony Companion, $149, Logitech.com
7. Stack Smart Lighting
Forget the hassle of hunting for a light switch in the dark, or worse, wasting electricity because you forgot to turn the lights off. Stack’s responsive lighting turns on automatically when you enter a room, and off when you leave. Not only that, it dims or brightens the room depending on the amount of natural light, and determines the light color temperature by the time of day. Plus, it can even learn your routine based on your input and habits.
Stack starter kit, $89, Stacklighting.com
8. Crock-Pot Wi-Fi Enabled WeMo Slow Cooker
Normally with a slow cooker you throw all your ingredients in, set the temperature and then hope for the best. With Crock-Pot’s WeMo-controlled slow cooker, you can adjust your cook time and temperature remotely, and you can turn it to warm or off should you find yourself running late and unable to get home. All of which is controlled through the WeMo app on your phone.
Crock-Pot Smart Wifi Enabled WeMo Slow Cooker, $130, Amazon.com
9. Nubryte All-in-One Smart Home System
With home technology getting more and more sophisticated, managing it all can get a little chaotic. Fortunately there’s the Nubryte smart home management system that links your lighting, security and intercom all into one. You can keep tabs on your energy consumption, check the weather and, thanks to built-in motion detectors and live video alerts, keep tabs on everything from your smartphone. And with touchpoint monitors that have built-in security cameras, you can check in on your home anytime you want via a live video feed.
Nubryte home system, from $199, Nubryte.com
10. Nest Security Camera
Wondering whether it’s the dog or the cat who keeps getting into the trash while you’re away? The Nest Security Cam can answer that question for you thanks to its live 1080p HD video streaming. Linked to an app on your phone, you can get motion and sound alerts that let you know if anything is amiss, and you can even check up on everything at night thanks to a night vision setting. And don’t worry, if it’s the dog who’s getting into the garbage, you can yell at him via the talk and listen feature.
Nest cam, $199, Nest.com
11. Amazon Echo
Play all of your music, listen to audiobooks, check the weather report and even ask about where to get the best Thai food with Echo, Amazon’s intuitive hands-free voice control system. Sort of like Siri for your home, Alexa is a disembodied voice that will see to all of your household needs. You can pair it with most other Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets in your home as well, and because it’s cloud based, it gets smarter every time you use it. With new skills being added to the Alexa app every day, its capabilities are always expanding.
Amazon Echo, $180, Amazon.com
What’s your favorite smart home gadget and why? Share your stories on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter Feed or on LinkedIn. Plus don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly New Jersey Home Advice Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.
This article originally appeared on The Nest
Five Renovations that Increase the Value of Your Home
According to HGTV, “Home improvement projects cost about 20 to 25 cents on the dollar. The other 75 to 80 cents spent go directly back into the home through increased value.”
There are some projects, however, that deliver the greatest return on investment.
Here are five renovations that add the greatest value to your home:
Because the kitchen is still considered the heart of the home, it’s the primary area where people seek value in a remodel. When a buyer is walking through a prospective home, the kitchen is generally the first destination on their agenda because families still spend a lot of their time there. A variety of renovation opportunities can increase the home’s value, with projects that work for any budget.
The easiest and most apparent upgrades in kitchens are for countertops and appliances; buyers almost always expect granite countertops in today’s housing market, and there are a number of alternatives to granite slab, such as granite tiles or soapstone, if slab simply isn’t an option. Likewise, stainless-steel appliances add instant value because they won’t ever go out of style due to the neutral nature of their finished look.
A larger project to consider is custom-built, solid-wood cabinetry. If the current cabinets in your kitchen are outdated and made from materials such as melamine, buyers will likely see a project they will need to take on in the future. Determine your budget and decide if extra features, such as glass cut-outs and soft-close hinges, are necessary for your renovation.
In addition, if you have a half or whole wall that breaks up the continuity of the floor plan, consider removing it to open up the space to the living area. Open floor plans are always in style, and they can make the space appear bigger.
The second most important area for buyers is the bathrooms. Bathrooms are often an obvious target for renovations because they provide value easily without requiring extensive costs. Simply cleaning the space or updating it with a fresh coat of semi-gloss paint and some new grout can make a difference, so there you really have no reason not to consider customizing it.
For more involved renovations, buyers want to see updated vanities, tile or stone features and flooring, and floating glass or walk-in showers if the space can accommodate them. Be sure to keep at least one bathtub in the house; families with children require them for bath time. If a shower–bath combo fixture is the only thing that fits, accent it with unique shower curtains that fit the style of the home.
The floors of a house are another area that catch the buyers’ eye because they take up most of the space. Outdated tiles or dingy carpeting, wood that needs refinishing, or noticeable vinyl flooring are likely to be noticed – and red-flagged in a buyer’s mind – as something they’ll have to update after purchasing the home. Simple updates to important rooms can make a big difference in creating a sense of value.
Depending on your budget and style, you can choose from multiple ways to renovate floors. If wood flooring is the best fit for an area, options range from new or refurbished solid wood to engineered hardwood, which looks similar to solid wood but holds up better with time. The same goes for carpet, the pricing for which varies depending on the materials and thickness of padding you choose.
TIP: If you already have solid wood floors but they’re scratched or look lackluster, try refinishing them before you consider a total replacement.
If the structural components of your home aren’t in good condition, your value will plummet. An appraiser will mark off major value points if anything is out of order, and buyers are likely to be scared off by a house that isn’t in certified working order. It’s a potential hazard to their health and safety, and the renovation project will be their responsibility after they purchase the home. In addition, if the inspector marks these areas on their checklist, you may have to fix the issues before the buyer agrees to close or risk legally disclosing the issues publicly in the future.
Because it’s still a buyer’s market, anything that’s not in the best isn’t likely to garner the same attention. For resale purposes, it’s critical that you have everything in working order. Realistically, everything already should be; you shouldn’t be living somewhere with faulty structuring, and neither should a future owner.
RELATED: To Sell Your Home Think Like A Buyer
TIP: If you find issues with the home and have to replace structural pieces, consider going with an eco-friendly option; buyers are becoming conscious of the trend, and it saves money and reduces waste in the long run. Check out New Home Source’s review of green building features to determine which ones will add the most value to your home.
A real estate book is always judged by its cover; before a buyer can see any of the high-value upgrades you’ve made to the interior of your home, they have to like its exterior. If the outside space isn’t updated and clean, potential buyers may not ever step inside. Simply put, if it looks like you don’t care about the outside of the home, it’s going to seem like you don’t care about the inside, either.
Updating your home’s curb appeal can as simple as cleaning things up a bit and keeping vegetation from getting overgrown and unkempt, or it can be as large and dramatic as replacing the lawn and xeriscaping with native, drought-ready plants.
Your home’s exterior is equally as important as your yard; fresh paint and clean windows can go a long way, and installing a new statement door is a guaranteed booster. If the outside looks organized and taken care of, buyers will have a sense of care and value – even if you invested minimal amounts of time and money.
If you have the space for a deck or porch, adding one is almost a guarantee that you will get your money back in the form of increased value. It’s important to have some sort of shaded structure that protects the front door – especially in areas with heavy weather and sun – so adding anything to a bare front will help. Manicured backyards are always a plus for buyers, even if they won’t use them. Regardless of your climate or the style of your home, decks and porches are features worth adding.
Realtors are often split on lighting renovation projects in terms of their added value; some say buyers love seeing built-in recess lighting and updated fixtures, but others claim that doing anything more than adding a dimmer to current lights is a wasted effort because buyers will probably customize the features anyway.
In the current real estate market, open floor plans are hot; if you want to sell soon, look for areas in your home where you can remove walls that aren’t load-bearing or take out clunky kitchen islands that don’t add to the room’s appeal. Buyers want a wide-open floor plan, and doing some of the work yourself isn’t likely to set you back too much.
Additional Tip for Today’s Sellers
Do your best to keep the value of the home in the same range as the other homes in the neighborhood; at first glance, it might seem like a good thing to out-value surrounding homes, but buyers are often wary of a house that’s too valuable to match its surroundings because it seems out of place.
FREE DOWNLOAD: How to Put Your Home on The Market and Attract Buyers Today
If the resell value is the only reason you’re renovating, it’s a good idea to conform to certain guidelines for each area of your home. If the changes are just for you and you’re only thinking about your selling ability in the future, have some fun and do it your way. Styles will always change, and if you love the updates now, they won’t represent wasted effort.
Did you recently sell? What improvements to your home did you find yield the best return on investment?
Photos source: HGTV
Economists’ Top Tips for Selling a Home in 2016
If you’re planning to sell your house this year, well, you’re in luck.
“The 2016 housing market is forecasted to be mainly a seller’s market, filled with increasing home prices, relatively low inventory, and fierce competition between buyers,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®.
But you could still make missteps on the way to the bank. Yes, your house will likely sell, but when?
It’s truly about understanding the ins and outs of the local market so you can optimize the price of your home and close quickly.
Here is an analysis of market trends of top tips for homeowners looking to sell in 2016:
1. Price your home to the market
The most important factor in selling your home quickly is getting the price right. And getting the price right the first time. Consulting with an Agent and getting a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is the absolute first step to take.
Sellers who work with a local Realtor to optimize the price of their home based on its unique features and surrounding neighborhood are often able to receive the highest price for their market and sell more quickly.
In 2016, prices are expected to increase nationally 3% year over year. Local price changes are anticipated to be more dramatic but it is important to understand what is true of your own neighborhood. This is why a CMA is so important.
Making the error of going for a price that’s well above the market price is a recipe for being let down and potentially not selling the home. A home that sits on the market eventually will turn off buyers, who will suspect that something is wrong with it.
2. List during peak season
Unlike buyers, who want to minimize competition, sellers benefit from demand. Prime home-buying season begins in April and reaches its peak in June. Sellers who list their home during the prime spring and summer months benefit from a larger population of buyers and potential bidding wars, which often result in higher prices and faster closings.
FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Home Sellers Guide for 2016
3. Offer incentives
This one seems counter-intuitive, given what we’ve said about a seller’s market, but… last year – the best for U.S. home sales in nearly a decade – 37% of all sellers offered incentives to attract buyers.
The nature of this market is that you’re going to have more first-time buyers, who are more dependent on financing. Getting a loan is one thing; coming up with a chunk of cash for closing costs, on top of the down payment, is another.
If you’re a seller and you’re able to offer some money toward closing costs, you’re actually making it easier on that buyer, and they might be more willing to give you the full asking price or more! You could end up with a faster sale and bigger profit.
Are you preparing to sell? Which of the above tips excite you most?
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The Advantages of a Smart House
Smart homes take advantage of today’s most popular automation technology and modern conveniences to give homeowners a new level of control. There is no doubt with the popularity of smart devices today and smart home technologies that easily sync to such hand-held mobile devices that smart home technology is on the rise.
Not only is a Smart House a benefit to a Home Owner as small investments will lead to big savings down the road – think electric bill, heating bill, security systems – but such features are particularly popular among home buyers. Now that Millennials make up the largest share of the home buying market, you may want to consider the importance the technology they’ve grown up on will have on them when it comes time for decision-making.
Here are 5 key Advantages to Smart Homes:
Smart Home technology allows users remote access to systems including heating and cooling systems, intercoms, music and multimedia devices throughout the home. Integrated hard drives allow homeowners to watch video or listen to audio in any room; video intercoms make it easy to communicate with others in the home or visitors at the door. All of these smart home technologies streamline common tasks.
Smart home technology can include advanced security systems with cameras, motion sensors and a link to the local police station or a private security company. Smart homes may also use key cards or fingerprint identification in place of conventional locks, making it harder for someone to break in.
For elderly or disabled residents, a smart home may feature accessibility technologies. Voice-command systems can do things like control lights, lock doors, operate a telephone or use a computer. Home automation allows an individual to set a schedule for automatic tasks like watering the lawn, removing the need to perform these labor-intensive tasks on a regular basis.
Smart homes offer enhanced energy-efficiency. Lights can shut off automatically when no one is in a room, and the thermostat can be set to let the indoor temperature drop during the day before returning it to a more comfortable level just before residents arrive in the evening. All of these automated tasks, along with modern, energy-efficient appliances, combine to save on electricity, water and natural gas, thereby reducing the strain on natural resources.
When it comes time to sell a smart home, sellers will have an abundance of effective selling points. Whichever advantage of a smart home appeals to a given buyer, your Agent can explain the system and discuss how it makes life easier.
TIP: Homes with automated systems have the potential to sell for much more than comparable homes with conventional technologies. Automating a home can be a worthwhile investment in increasing its market value and attracting possible buyers in the future.
Whether you’re thinking about selling your home, or are interested in sprucing up your home, we’re hoping you’ll find all the content being shared this month useful. Join the conversation throughout Staging Month by engaging with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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