Patrick Russo, Realtor®'s Blog
Science fiction has long reveled in the concept of autonomous homes and transportation. But it wasn’t until very recently that these dreams started to edge their way into reality. With semi-autonomous vehicles on the manufacturing line and “home assistants” like Google Home flying off the shelves, today’s average homeowner now has options.
The growing number of home automation technologies is encouraging even more innovation in a burgeoning market. But, the newness of these devices and the confusion around what they actually do can make it difficult to decide which one to bring into your home.
In today’s post, I’m going to introduce you to some of today’s most handy smart home devices to burden the workload of homeownership and give you some tips on which of the best technologies are yet to come.
One of the first smart home devices to hit the shelves was arguably the home assistant. They look like small Bluetooth speakers but have the ability to respond to your voice commands. So far, the front runners are the Google Home and Amazon Echo, but there are a number of other brands in the running as well.
Many of the tasks you use a smartphone for can also be easily accomplished with a home assistant. Tell it to set or turn off your alarms, look up things on Google, ask about the weather, play music, and so on. The Amazon Echo functions similarly but also integrates with other smart home systems so you can control things like your lights and coffee maker just by asking.
Many home automation manufacturers have taken to selling kits that enable you to automate your home one outlet or device at a time. You can then control these devices with your smartphone, whether you’re at home or at the office. (Ever get worried you left the iron on? No more!)
The best part of these devices is how customizable they are and the fact that many integrate with assistants like Amazon Echo. However, some systems, like Samsung’s SmartThings, has its own central “hub” that connects your devices.
Smart home security
Security companies were one of the earliest adopters of automation. Today, many of the biggest home security companies (think ADT and Vivint) aren’t just making your home safer, they’re also making your life easier.
Common among these smart home security systems are things like cameras you can control with your smartphone from work, alerts from smoke and CO detectors, and door and window sensors to alert you if someone enters, or attempts to enter, your home.
These technologies are still evolving. That means each year newer, better devices will hit the market. However, this process of innovation will also drive down prices, which is good news for you as a homeowner and consumer. So, think about what your specific needs are and choose the products that fit them. And, if you’re not sure about any of the products on the market, don’t be afraid to hold off--the next best thing is right around the corner.
If your budget allows for it, hiring a good housekeeper is well worth the money. If you're like most professional couples, you probably already feel "maxed out" after you've put in 40 to 60 hours at your jobs . When you add parenting responsibilities into the mix, there's not too much time and energy left for cleaning the house! While certain basic house cleaning tasks are unavoidable on a daily basis, it's a relief to know that a paid house cleaner will be coming in to do a thorough job soon.
Finding a reliable housekeeper with whom you feel comfortable can be a bit of a challenge, but if you can get referrals from family, friends, and others you know, then your search should put you on the right track.
The Selection Process
Since the main reason you're hiring a cleaning person is to make your life easier, the last thing you want to deal with is dependability problems or substandard work. That's why it's important to get referrals from people you know and trust. It often pays to interview more than one prospective cleaning person because you want to find someone who is the best match for your budget and needs. When you have two or three prospects to choose from, you'll be in a better position to choose the one with the best attitude, top references, and the most agreeable personality.
Unless a cleaning person was referred to you by someone you know well, it's a good idea to request references and contact a couple of them before making any final decisions. Calling at least two of their current customers (or past bosses) should give you some helpful insights into their work habits, punctuality, and willingness to follow directions.
Although most customers will probably try to be complimentary, if you ask the right questions and look for "red flags" in their answers, you'll be surprised at what you can learn. While it may be too blunt to ask if their cleaning person is honest, a lot can be inferred from their responses to other questions. For example, if a housekeeper has been working for the same customer for several years and cleans their house while the costumer is at their office or other place of employment, then there's a good chance the cleaner does excellent (or at least satisfactory) work and can be trusted. One direct question that generally needs to be asked when talking with references is "Would you personally recommend this person?" Asking how their housekeeper responds to special requests, suggestions, or constructive criticism may also provide revealing answers.
When getting a quote from a cleaning person or house cleaning service, it's useful to get an itemized list of what chores or services would be covered in the price. There are two advantages to this. First of all, you'll be able to compare "apples to apples". Secondly, you'll be able to gauge your expectations to what was initially promised and agreed to. While there may be other issues to consider, like possible background checks and insurance coverages they carry, once you've found a house cleaner you like and trust, you've cleared the biggest hurdle in your search!
There are few things for a home seller that are more stressful than the home inspection. You hope and pray that everything will come out a-OK in your house so that your buyers will want to continue with the sale without asking for too many contingencies. There’s a few simple things that you can do to make sure your home inspection goes smoothly. The good news is that these tasks won’t cost you a lot of time or money. A few simple actions can save you a lot of grief in unnecessary service calls. Check out these tips to help you get through the home inspection with flying colors:
Check Your Light Bulbs
If you have a light bulb that’s simply burnt out, that could prompt the need for a check of the entire electrical system in your home. Avoid a costly visit from an electrician just by checking your light bulbs and replacing them where necessary.
Check Your Air Filters
The air filters in your home can be easily neglected and be a big problem in the home inspection process. Even if a filter looks a little gray, take the time to replace it. You should check your air filters and furnace filters for any potential problems like tears or excess dirt. For bonus points, you may want to just replace the filters before the inspection no matter how little dirt they have on them. Otherwise, a clogged filter can be a sign that your furnace or heating and cooling system isn’t working properly.
Check Your Sinks
A few dollars spent on some drain unclogging chemicals is a few hundred dollars potentially saved on a plumber. Fill up your sinks with water and see how they drain. If they’re a bit slow, get the chemicals that you need to work on unclogging the drains (such as Drain-o). If there’s a funny smell coming from the drain, be sure to address it. Lemons also work wonders on everything from drains to garbage disposals. Even some baking soda and vinegar can help to clean a drain wonderfully.
Fix Major Repairs Before Your Home Goes On The Market
If you know something pressing needs to be fixed or replaced in your home, be sure to fix it before the home even goes on the market. It’s much easier to take care of things before a buyer’s contingency and a time limit is involved. Although you may be hesitant to spend the money, you should replace certain appliances, fix the roof, or address that creaky floor before the “For Sale” sign even goes out front.
It can feel like real estate has its own language. After all, there is a reason agents take courses and need to become licensed!
And for a first-time buyer, I understand that it can be overwhelming and very confusing to keep track of all of this new information on top choosing the home of your dreams and planning a move.
Which is why I’ve created this quick and dirty list of real estate terms every first time home buyer needs to know.
Let’s get started:
A kick-out clause gives the seller the option to continue showing a house after a buyer has made their offer but is slowing down the process with the sale of their own home. The seller can then “kick out” that offer if someone else puts in a more desirable, and readily available, one.
A title-search is simply a search to pull up relevant information to the title of a house. It helps to determine the history of the home and if there are existing regulations in place that affect the property.
Escrow is a neutral third party used to handle transactions throughout the buying/selling process. They hold all related documents and funds until the day of the sale.
Earnest money is usually held in an escrow account and represents your commitment to the sale of a house you have made an offer on. Typically, the amount out down is between 1-3% of the asking price. It is also called “good faith money”.
An appraisal determines a property’s market value. Only a licensed appraiser can pull a report of this information for you. This is the report a lender will use to determine whether or not to lend money to a borrower.
Closing costs are paid at the actual sale of the house. The “closing” is when the title is transferred from the seller over to the buyer. The cost covers all of the fees that were incurred throughout the buying and selling process. A few examples of these fees are the home inspection, appraisal, and escrow.
A comparative market analysis or CMA is a report pulled from a database your real estate agent has access to. This is then used to determine the offering and asking price of homes.
A contingency is when in order to move forward with a sale there are specific requirements the buyer must complete first. Common contingencies are: waiting on an inspection, pre-approval or signing.
Disclosures are required by law. But what are they? A disclosure means a seller has to inform potential buyers of and problems that would affect the value of the property.
Due diligence is doing the work of fully understanding the property you are interested in before buying it. This includes obtaining insurance, reviewing all documents carefully and walking the property.
During a home inspection appliances, plumbing and electrical work are tested. The heating and cooling system are also inspected. This doesn’t affect the monetary value of your home. This is a way for you to determine what state a home is in and if it is worth the financial investment to you.
Selling a house is no small feat, particularly in a competitive real estate market. As such, home sellers may be prone to make mistakes if they don't plan ahead for potential pitfalls.
Common home selling mistakes include:
1. Listing a Home Without Performing Housing Market Research
Let's face it – selling a house can be stressful. In many instances, home sellers will want to speed through the home selling journey – something that may lead these sellers to list residences without evaluating the real estate market in advance.
Spending even a few minutes looking at the prices of homes in your city or town may make a world of difference. Ultimately, the more housing market research that you perform, the more likely it becomes that you'll be able to optimize the value of your house.
Take a look at the prices of available homes in your city or town that are similar to your own. Also, evaluate the prices of recently sold houses in your area. With this housing market data at your disposal, you'll be better equipped than ever before to price your residence competitively and boost your chances of a profitable home sale.
2. Accepting an Initial Offer on a Residence
The first offer that you receive on a residence may prove to be the best offer. However, in some cases, the initial offer may fall short of your expectations.
Immediately accepting the initial offer on a residence may prove to be costly. Fortunately, a home seller who understands the housing market can take a data-driven approach to determine how to proceed with any offer, at any time.
Performing a home appraisal before you list your residence can provide valuable insights into a property's value. Then, you can list your house for a competitive price, one that helps generate substantial interest in your house and may lead to offers at, near or above your initial asking price.
In addition, don't forget to consult with a real estate agent. If you receive a home offer and are unsure about whether to accept, reject or counter it, a real estate agent can provide expert advice to help you make an informed decision.
3. Ignoring a Real Estate Agent's Recommendations
A seller's agent is committed to helping you optimize the value of your residence, and this housing market professional will offer recommendations as you sell your house to ensure you that can get the best results possible.
If you ignore a real estate agent's recommendations, you may miss out on a golden opportunity to sell your house. A real estate agent provides housing market analysis and insights, along with honest, unbiased recommendations about how to overcome a wide range of home selling hurdles.
Furthermore, a real estate agent always has a home seller's best interests in mind. This housing market professional also is available to respond to a home seller's questions, guaranteeing that a home seller is fully supported at each stage of the home selling journey.
Ready to sell your house? Collaborate with a real estate agent, and you should have no trouble achieving your desired results.