How Glass Design Can Help Reflect the Best of Your Home

Glass has been a key component of home design for style and function for thousands of years. The versatility of glass is such that nearly every single modern home constructed utilizes glass in some way, shape, or form. But there’s no need to settle for simply including glass window panes and calling it good. Whether it’s in the interior or exterior, accentuating your home with glass is a great way to invite light, show creativity, and convey a truly modern sense of style in your home. We picked a few of our favorite ways to utilize glass below:

 

Glass Furniture

Photo Credit: Trendir.com

  • Glass tables, chairs, bookcases, and more are unique choices that deliver a clear message in your home: you mean business.
  • If you work from home often, a glass table is an excellent accent to add a hint of professionalism to the home office.
  • Glass shelving can be used to keep a space feeling open and light, while still maximizing function.

 

Creative Window Glass

Photo Credit: Freshome.com

  • Whether your climate is arid or humid, snowy or rainy, there’s a glass style that fits your home.
  • Multi-paned glass not only is tougher but provides enough protection from the elements to make it worthy of full-wall usage in some homes.
  • Embracing open glass windows and walls is a great step, but adding glass features throughout a room can help enhance the sense of openness and promote a sense of natural lighting.
  • Stained glass needn’t be the purview of Gothic architecture alone. A well-placed stained glass insert can completely transform the lighting and aesthetic of an otherwise unremarkable interior.

 

 

Glass Accents

Photo Credit: HomeDIT.com

  • A glass table or window is all well and good, but sometimes your space needs more, or has limitations on what can be done.
  • Stepping stones, candle-holders, and light fixtures are just a few ways to use glass in the periphery of your home to shed light and attention onto the parts of your home you’d like focus on.
  • Feeling particularly bold? Glass items with multi-chromatic finishes can shed lights of various colors, delivering just the right vibe for the moment.

 

Sea Glass/Beach Glass

Photo Credit: LovelyGreens.com

  • Whether lakeside in Idaho or on the beach in Santa Monica, the experience of living surrounded by water is unique in all its forms. But a dash of seaside flair can be added to any home.
  • In some cases the best ways to evoke the spirit of waterfront living is with sea glass accents.
  • From a DIY sea glass-filled candle jar to a letterpress tray display of color, or even a faux-stained glass window styling to play with lighting effects, sea glass is a fun accent that can bring a theme all the way home.
Posted on October 27, 2018 at 7:39 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , , ,

Keeping Up with the Joneses: The Great Paint Debate

A few weeks back, Jenn and I decided to finally pull the trigger on painting our home. The vinyl siding of the 1942 Seattle Cape Cod fixer we purchased nine months ago had been sun bleached to the point of resembling a kind of soft lemon chiffon yellow you’d see on a cake your grandmother baked. Great for dessert, bad for today’s exterior home color.  We wanted a charming, warm and inviting new exterior home color but were fearful about what it would cost to have a professional do it. We had saved between 10-15k by renovating our bathroom ourselves.  Couldn’t we just pick up some paint and make a Saturday of it?

 

Pro tip: In Seattle, painting outside competes with the weather. Make sure you have a runway of at least a week of good weather to ensure you can paint the house in its entirety while leaving time for it to dry.

Seeing as the summer season was pretty much over (say it ain’t so!) and the wet Seattle fall was nearly upon us, we figured we had only a week or two left to get the job done. I’m the kind of person who jumps on a new project… and maybe sometimes I put the horse before the cart. *Cue Jenn’s pursed-lips smirk* So once Jenn and I agreed we were going through with the project, I had three different painters bid out the job and booked the least expensive (but experienced) professional within two days. I scheduled him to arrive the following day.

 

Good Husband Tip: Don’t give your wife 12 hours to decide what color to paint your house.

 

Pro TipDon’t feel bad about shopping for the best price with home professionals. They bid homes out every day and won’t be offended. Most of the time, they present a bid with room for negotiation. It never hurts to get a second bid or ask for a cheaper price.

With the pressure of our painter showing up the next day, we scarfed down dinner and took a trip to the paint store.  (I tried to convince my wife this was an opportunity for us to bond as a family unit.  “We could make it educational! Teach Addie about hues and shades!  C’mon, honey… it’ll be fun!” *Cue Jenn’s pursed-lips smirk*) We knew we had to get special paint for our vinyl siding so that narrowed it down to about 20 options.  And we wanted a sort of dark blue so we picked out two colors that looked promising and headed home to test them out.

Pro TipWhen testing paint, make sure you let it dry before you decide which color to go with.  Paint a few different swatches on various sides of the house and watch how it looks during different times of the day.

One test swatch (on the right, called “Prime Time”) was a little purplely/blue grey and the other was a slightly lighter blue (on the left, called “Stone Cold).  Those are two seriously stellar wrestler names, amiright?

 

With our painter arriving that evening, the pressure was on for us to choose. We’re Millennials so we did the only logical thing you can do when making a big decision. We asked our friends on Facebook. 76 comments later, there was still no clear answer.

Mid-debate, our dear friend Kim Gorsline of Kimberlee Marie Interior Design called us up with some highly insightful information.  First of all, a paint store has pre-mixed vinyl siding paint but they can actually make ANY color into vinyl siding paint.  Which means we had a lot more choices (which left me feeling excited and gave Jenn heartburn).  More importantly, Kim pointed out that the two options we had might not be exactly what we hoped for.  She suggested a few colors that had more grey tones and in much deeper shades.  She promised us that we’d still get the blue house of our dreams even if the colors looked dark grey on the swatches.

Pro tip: You can get small paper swatches for free or pay a few bucks for a large paper square but nothing will compare to a sample of real paint on your surface.  We spent $59.34 on paint samples and it was worth every penny.

Back to the paint store we went, grabbing three more options to test.  Our painter began taping off the trim as we took a few steps back to assess the swatches… BOOM! We had our answer… Britannia Blue by Benjamin Moore. Not the best wrestler name but a nice blue nonetheless.

We trust Kim’s vision and design talent wholeheartedly and as the days went on and the paint went up, we couldn’t have been more pleased.  I installed some new lights fixtures and house numbers that Jenn picked out.  Only this time, I gave her three days of lead time *Cue Jenn’s pursed-lips smirk*

 

Posted on October 16, 2018 at 7:02 am
Philip Cooper | Category: For Buyers & Sellers | Tagged , ,

Finding an Affordable Vacation Through a Home Exchange

Summer is here, which means vacations are on the mind, but as always the cost can feel prohibitive. As folks take less and less time off work, people shortening their vacations, staying closer to home, or going nowhere at all for “staycations”. Another way to save money, while still getting away, is to leverage your own home for a home exchange.

A home exchange—often called “house-swapping”—is a money-smart vacation idea that’s been around for a long time. The concept is more popular than ever, with home-sharing plans like AirBnB becoming ubiquitous, but a unique one-to-one swap can be an even more affordable option.

Why a home exchange? Since accommodations are usually the priciest part of a vacation, a home exchange saves money, allowing travelers to take longer vacations and perhaps splurge a bit on dining, tours, or shopping. Larger families appreciate how homes meet their needs for space, meals, and a good night’s sleep. And, home-swappers often say they enjoy “living like the locals,” especially when traveling internationally.

How it works. The basic idea of a home exchange is that two families agree to live in each other’s home (usually at the same time) at no cost—it’s considered an even trade. Exchangers find one another via home exchange website that provides detailed listings of available homes. Exchanges take place within the United States or internationally, and the length of stay is whatever the parties agree upon. Exchangers typically do not meet in person but get acquainted via phone calls and emails before the exchange happens. Details, including pets, the use of a car, and cleaning are all agreed upon ahead of time, usually in a written contract provided by the website.

What makes a house desirable? You might be surprised! As a general rule, home exchangers are looking for location, location, location. They want to explore attractions in your area, attend an event, or visit family. A beachfront house in California is highly desirable, as is a condo in an exciting city—and even a home in the suburbs will appeal to the right travelers. Because swappers are primarily looking for a convenient jumping-off point for their adventures, your home’s age, floor plan, and furnishings don’t matter too much, as long as it’s clean, comfortable, and accommodating.

Vacation homes are ideal. Whether it’s a rustic cottage on a secluded fishing lake or a condo at a popular ski area, a second home is ideal for exchanges. Logistically, you don’t have to vacate your primary residence, and you have more flexibility as to when the swap can happen.  For this reason, many retirees—who often own second homes and enjoy freer schedules—find home exchanges especially appealing.

First steps. If you’re intrigued, start by exploring a few websites; you can view a lot of information for free. Home exchange websites typically charge an annual membership fee of $50 to $100 to list your home. If you decide to join a service, you’ll provide several photos and a detailed description of your home. You’ll also post your desired destination(s) and travel dates, and you’ll be able to peruse the homes that meet your criteria. It’s common to trade information with several homeowners before finding just the right match, and the process may take several months.

Focus on the basics. Once you’ve agreed to an exchange and are preparing your home for guests, think about what makes a hotel room enjoyable. A clean, clutter-free home is universally appealing, and comfortable mattresses and attractive bedding are a must. Your kitchen should be well organized, and internet access is a big plus. Your guests know they’re staying in someone’s home, so don’t worry about scuffed baseboards and well-worn furniture. Likewise, don’t expect five-star accommodations when you step into your host’s home.

Is a home exchange right for you? If the very thought of others living in your home and sleeping in your bed—or you in theirs—makes your palms go clammy, an exchange is probably not for you. But many travelers are hooked!

Posted on October 13, 2018 at 7:52 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

4 Ways to Make Smart Tech Upgrades to Your Garage

When it comes to upgrading your home with the latest technology, your garage is likely to be the last thing on your radar. But as electric vehicles and even self-driving cars are hitting the road across the country, real estate listings are touting smart garages in high-tech cities like Palo Alto, California and Austin, Texas. Not to mention the simple fact that garage tech can boost security and convenience for your home, no matter what kind of car you drive. Here, we outline four of the simplest things you can do to make your garage smarter.

1. Learn about internet-connected devices you can install in your garage.

There are all kinds of benefits to installing internet-connected systems in and around your garage — from opening and closing your garage door remotely, to using cameras to monitor your garage, to checking up on your car from anywhere in the world. How’s that for convenience?

These internet-connected devices don’t have to be complicated, either. In fact, they’re designed for your ease of use. You can find smart add-ons for your existing garage door opener, or if you want to go all out (and potentially obtain additional security and other features), you can purchase a brand new, high-tech garage door system with all the bells and whistles.

2. Install motion-sensor lights and security cameras near your garage and other entryways.

Since most thieves like to do their dirty work in the dark, motion-sensor lights can be an effective deterrent to a garage break-in. And if you have security cameras installed too, the police may be able to better identify the perps — if anything ever does happen.

Plus, these easy upgrades can add major market value to your home if you’re looking to put it on the market in the future.

3. Think about the future.

You may still be driving a gas-powered car, but plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming increasingly attractive and affordable to modern car-buyers — especially as states like Texas are offering rebate programs for vehicle replacements to EVs. If you think there’s a chance that you could make the switch in the near future, it’s a good idea to get your garage ready by installing an appropriate outlet or 240-volt battery charger. Many cities and states (including Texas) also offer assistance to help drivers purchase and install a charging station at home. You could also enjoy reduced utility charges, depending on where you live.

Keep in mind that driverless cars will be a common sight in American garages too, as lawmakers are clearing the way for the new technology in Austin and Arlington. Experts have suggested that this shift will transform the real estate market, including the size and functionality of garages.

4. Make sure your homeowners’ insurance is up to snuff.

It’s pretty obvious that your garage door is one of the more exposed areas of your home —when it comes to potential intruders, but also when it comes to bad weather. If a covered incident like a windstorm, fire, break-in, or vandalism occurs, standard homeowners insurance has your back.

Just be sure to purchase enough insurance coverage to completely rebuild your home from the ground up in case catastrophe happens, since your policy will only pay out the maximum limits you choose. The last thing you want after a disaster strikes is extra bills to pay just to get your home back in working order.

Return on Investment

Going all out with brand new, high-tech garage devices is admittedly an investment up front. But when it comes to peace of mind knowing your home and your family are safe, a smart garage could be worth every dime — not to mention the fact that it could boost your resale value in an increasingly connected world.

Haden Kirkpatrick is the director of marketing strategy and innovation at Esurance, where he is responsible for initiatives related to product and service innovation. He is constantly thinking about technology changes impacting the insurance industry, and following innovation taking place in high-tech hot spots such as Palo Alto, California and Austin, Texas.

Posted on October 12, 2018 at 7:50 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , , ,

Building Character – Balancing a Home’s Personality and Amenities

It’s sometimes said that the limitations of a house are what help make it a home. For many, however, it is a point of pride to accept only the finest in their new residence. How can you find the balance between cultivating a lived-in home with personality and quirks versus a house with cutting-edge amenities that improve quality of life? To get to the bottom of that, we gathered a list six keys to consider when selecting and developing the home of your dreams:

The neighborhood

Surprisingly, one of the biggest factors in choosing a new home isn’t the property itself, but rather the surrounding neighborhood. While new homes occasionally spring up in established communities, most are built in new developments. The settings are quite different, each with their own unique benefits.

Older neighborhoods often feature tree-lined streets; larger property lots; a wide array of architectural styles; easy walking access to mass transportation, restaurants and local shops; and more established relationships among neighbors.

New developments are better known for wider streets and quiet cul-de-sacs; controlled development; fewer aboveground utilities; more parks; and often newer public facilities (schools, libraries, pools, etc.). There are typically more children in newer communities, as well.

Consider your daily work commute, too. While not always true, older neighborhoods tend to be closer to major employment centers, mass transportation and multiple car routes (neighborhood arterials, highways and freeways).

Design and layout

If you like VictorianCraftsman or Cape Cod style homes, it used to be that you would have to buy an older home from the appropriate era. But with new-home builders now offering modern takes on those classic designs, that’s no longer the case. There are even modern log homes available.

Have you given much thought to your floor plans? If you have your heart set on a family room, an entertainment kitchen, a home office and walk-in closets, you’ll likely want to buy a newer home—or plan to do some heavy remodeling of an older home. Unless they’ve already been remodeled, most older homes feature more basic layouts.

If you have a specific home-décor style in mind, you’ll want to take that into consideration, as well. Professional designers say it’s best if the style and era of your furnishings match the style and era of your house. But if you are willing to adapt, then the options are wide open.

Materials and craftsmanship

Homes built before material and labor costs spiked in the late 1950s have a reputation for higher-grade lumber and old-world craftsmanship (hardwood floors, old-growth timber supports, ornate siding, artistic molding, etc.).

However, newer homes have the benefit of modern materials and more advanced building codes (copper or polyurethane plumbing, better insulation, double-pane windows, modern electrical wiring, earthquake/ windstorm supports, etc.).

Current condition

The condition of a home for sale is always a top consideration for any buyer. However, age is a factor here, as well. For example, if the exterior of a newer home needs repainting, it’s a relatively easy task to determine the cost.  But if it’s a home built before the 1970s, you have to also consider the fact that the underlying paint is most likely lead0based, and that the wood siding may have rot or other structural issues that need to be addressed before it can be recoated.

On the flip side, the mechanicals in older homes (lights, heating systems, sump pump, etc.) tend to be better built and last longer.

Outdoor space

One of the great things about older homes is that they usually come with mature trees and bushes already in place. Buyers of new homes may have to wait years for ornamental trees, fruit trees, roses, ferns, cacti and other long-term vegetation to fill in a yard, create shade, provide privacy, and develop into an inviting outdoor space. However, maybe you’re one of the many homeowners who prefer the wide-open, low-maintenance benefits of a lightly planted yard.

Car considerations

Like it or not, most of us are extremely dependent on our cars for daily transportation. And here again, you’ll find a big difference between newer and older homes. Newer homes almost always feature ample off-street parking: usually a two-car garage and a wide driveway. An older home, depending on just how old it is, may not offer a garage—and if it does, there’s often only enough space for one car. For people who don’t feel comfortable leaving their car on the street, this alone can be a determining factor.

Finalizing your decision

While the differences between older and newer homes are striking, there’s certainly no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of personal taste, and what is available in your desired area. To quickly determine which direction your taste trends, use the information above to make a list of your most desired features, then categorize those according to the type of house in which they’re most likely to be found. The results can often be telling.

Posted on October 9, 2018 at 7:34 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , ,

Building Character – Balancing a Home’s Personality and Amenities

It’s sometimes said that the limitations of a house are what help make it a home. For many, however, it is a point of pride to accept only the finest in their new residence. How can you find the balance between cultivating a lived-in home with personality and quirks versus a house with cutting-edge amenities that improve quality of life? To get to the bottom of that, we gathered a list six keys to consider when selecting and developing the home of your dreams:

The neighborhood

Surprisingly, one of the biggest factors in choosing a new home isn’t the property itself, but rather the surrounding neighborhood. While new homes occasionally spring up in established communities, most are built in new developments. The settings are quite different, each with their own unique benefits.

Older neighborhoods often feature tree-lined streets; larger property lots; a wide array of architectural styles; easy walking access to mass transportation, restaurants and local shops; and more established relationships among neighbors.

New developments are better known for wider streets and quiet cul-de-sacs; controlled development; fewer aboveground utilities; more parks; and often newer public facilities (schools, libraries, pools, etc.). There are typically more children in newer communities, as well.

Consider your daily work commute, too. While not always true, older neighborhoods tend to be closer to major employment centers, mass transportation and multiple car routes (neighborhood arterials, highways and freeways).

Design and layout

If you like VictorianCraftsman or Cape Cod style homes, it used to be that you would have to buy an older home from the appropriate era. But with new-home builders now offering modern takes on those classic designs, that’s no longer the case. There are even modern log homes available.

Have you given much thought to your floor plans? If you have your heart set on a family room, an entertainment kitchen, a home office and walk-in closets, you’ll likely want to buy a newer home—or plan to do some heavy remodeling of an older home. Unless they’ve already been remodeled, most older homes feature more basic layouts.

If you have a specific home-décor style in mind, you’ll want to take that into consideration, as well. Professional designers say it’s best if the style and era of your furnishings match the style and era of your house. But if you are willing to adapt, then the options are wide open.

Materials and craftsmanship

Homes built before material and labor costs spiked in the late 1950s have a reputation for higher-grade lumber and old-world craftsmanship (hardwood floors, old-growth timber supports, ornate siding, artistic molding, etc.).

However, newer homes have the benefit of modern materials and more advanced building codes (copper or polyurethane plumbing, better insulation, double-pane windows, modern electrical wiring, earthquake/ windstorm supports, etc.).

Current condition

The condition of a home for sale is always a top consideration for any buyer. However, age is a factor here, as well. For example, if the exterior of a newer home needs repainting, it’s a relatively easy task to determine the cost.  But if it’s a home built before the 1970s, you have to also consider the fact that the underlying paint is most likely lead0based, and that the wood siding may have rot or other structural issues that need to be addressed before it can be recoated.

On the flip side, the mechanicals in older homes (lights, heating systems, sump pump, etc.) tend to be better built and last longer.

Outdoor space

One of the great things about older homes is that they usually come with mature trees and bushes already in place. Buyers of new homes may have to wait years for ornamental trees, fruit trees, roses, ferns, cacti and other long-term vegetation to fill in a yard, create shade, provide privacy, and develop into an inviting outdoor space. However, maybe you’re one of the many homeowners who prefer the wide-open, low-maintenance benefits of a lightly planted yard.

Car considerations

Like it or not, most of us are extremely dependent on our cars for daily transportation. And here again, you’ll find a big difference between newer and older homes. Newer homes almost always feature ample off-street parking: usually a two-car garage and a wide driveway. An older home, depending on just how old it is, may not offer a garage—and if it does, there’s often only enough space for one car. For people who don’t feel comfortable leaving their car on the street, this alone can be a determining factor.

Finalizing your decision

While the differences between older and newer homes are striking, there’s certainly no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of personal taste, and what is available in your desired area. To quickly determine which direction your taste trends, use the information above to make a list of your most desired features, then categorize those according to the type of house in which they’re most likely to be found. The results can often be telling.

Posted on September 8, 2018 at 6:36 pm
Philip Cooper | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , ,

Building Character – Balancing a Home’s Personality and Amenities

It’s sometimes said that the limitations of a house are what help make it a home. For many, however, it is a point of pride to accept only the finest in their new residence. How can you find the balance between cultivating a lived-in home with personality and quirks versus a house with cutting-edge amenities that improve quality of life? To get to the bottom of that, we gathered a list six keys to consider when selecting and developing the home of your dreams:

The neighborhood

Surprisingly, one of the biggest factors in choosing a new home isn’t the property itself, but rather the surrounding neighborhood. While new homes occasionally spring up in established communities, most are built in new developments. The settings are quite different, each with their own unique benefits.

Older neighborhoods often feature tree-lined streets; larger property lots; a wide array of architectural styles; easy walking access to mass transportation, restaurants and local shops; and more established relationships among neighbors.

New developments are better known for wider streets and quiet cul-de-sacs; controlled development; fewer aboveground utilities; more parks; and often newer public facilities (schools, libraries, pools, etc.). There are typically more children in newer communities, as well.

Consider your daily work commute, too. While not always true, older neighborhoods tend to be closer to major employment centers, mass transportation and multiple car routes (neighborhood arterials, highways and freeways).

Design and layout

If you like VictorianCraftsman or Cape Cod style homes, it used to be that you would have to buy an older home from the appropriate era. But with new-home builders now offering modern takes on those classic designs, that’s no longer the case. There are even modern log homes available.

Have you given much thought to your floor plans? If you have your heart set on a family room, an entertainment kitchen, a home office and walk-in closets, you’ll likely want to buy a newer home—or plan to do some heavy remodeling of an older home. Unless they’ve already been remodeled, most older homes feature more basic layouts.

If you have a specific home-décor style in mind, you’ll want to take that into consideration, as well. Professional designers say it’s best if the style and era of your furnishings match the style and era of your house. But if you are willing to adapt, then the options are wide open.

Materials and craftsmanship

Homes built before material and labor costs spiked in the late 1950s have a reputation for higher-grade lumber and old-world craftsmanship (hardwood floors, old-growth timber supports, ornate siding, artistic molding, etc.).

However, newer homes have the benefit of modern materials and more advanced building codes (copper or polyurethane plumbing, better insulation, double-pane windows, modern electrical wiring, earthquake/ windstorm supports, etc.).

Current condition

The condition of a home for sale is always a top consideration for any buyer. However, age is a factor here, as well. For example, if the exterior of a newer home needs repainting, it’s a relatively easy task to determine the cost.  But if it’s a home built before the 1970s, you have to also consider the fact that the underlying paint is most likely lead0based, and that the wood siding may have rot or other structural issues that need to be addressed before it can be recoated.

On the flip side, the mechanicals in older homes (lights, heating systems, sump pump, etc.) tend to be better built and last longer.

Outdoor space

One of the great things about older homes is that they usually come with mature trees and bushes already in place. Buyers of new homes may have to wait years for ornamental trees, fruit trees, roses, ferns, cacti and other long-term vegetation to fill in a yard, create shade, provide privacy, and develop into an inviting outdoor space. However, maybe you’re one of the many homeowners who prefer the wide-open, low-maintenance benefits of a lightly planted yard.

Car considerations

Like it or not, most of us are extremely dependent on our cars for daily transportation. And here again, you’ll find a big difference between newer and older homes. Newer homes almost always feature ample off-street parking: usually a two-car garage and a wide driveway. An older home, depending on just how old it is, may not offer a garage—and if it does, there’s often only enough space for one car. For people who don’t feel comfortable leaving their car on the street, this alone can be a determining factor.

Finalizing your decision

While the differences between older and newer homes are striking, there’s certainly no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of personal taste, and what is available in your desired area. To quickly determine which direction your taste trends, use the information above to make a list of your most desired features, then categorize those according to the type of house in which they’re most likely to be found. The results can often be telling.

Posted on September 6, 2018 at 5:12 pm
Philip Cooper | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , ,

Beyond Alexa – Other Smart Appliances You Can Use In Your Home

Smart Doorbells

  • While the iconic heavy door-knocker of 19thcentury Victorian may hold its appeal, high-tech doorbells are an increasingly popular option.
  • The Amazon-owned Ring Doorbell is the pace-setter for this rapidly growing industry, allowing for remote monitoring of your home via video, two-way talking functionality, and WiFi-connectivity to allow homeowners to keep tabs on their property no matter how far they roam.
  • If you’d like to go elsewhere, the market is flush with alternate options. SkyBell’s ringer allows for free cloud storage of video, while the Zmodo Greet Smart model allows for easy installation using your previous doorbell’s hardware, and comes at a price over $100 under most of the notable options.

Smart Refrigerators

  • Much has been said of the lamentations regarding the loss in popularity of the family dinner around the table. If your family is drawn to their phones when it’s time to get meals going, a smart refrigerator may be the trick to centering things around the kitchen and dining room again.
  • The brands may be familiar but the appliances are all-new. GE, Kenmore, Samsung, and Whirlpool are just a few household names involved in the exciting world of smart appliances.
  • The options are wide-ranging in functionality – from Alexa-connected Kenmore smart fridges to Samsung’s full home command center, you can control temperatures in the fridge and in your home, play music and videos, and even pull up recipes on-screen to help your tech-savvy family follow along step-by-step.

Smart Energy Monitors

  • Most people like doing things that are energy-efficient, but when it’s financially challenging it’s tough to make that choice. The best products, then, are those that check both boxes.
  • Energy monitors like those from Sense, CURB, and Neurio offer the ability to connect into your appliances and circuit board, monitoring energy usage from your smartphone.
  • How often are you likely to check your appliances unless they suddenly break down? With these monitors, not only can you maintain appropriate energy usage, you can identify issues before they become disasters.
Posted on September 3, 2018 at 7:45 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

Finding an Affordable Vacation Through a Home Exchange

Summer is here, which means vacations are on the mind, but as always the cost can feel prohibitive. As folks take less and less time off work, people shortening their vacations, staying closer to home, or going nowhere at all for “staycations”. Another way to save money, while still getting away, is to leverage your own home for a home exchange.

A home exchange—often called “house-swapping”—is a money-smart vacation idea that’s been around for a long time. The concept is more popular than ever, with home-sharing plans like AirBnB becoming ubiquitous, but a unique one-to-one swap can be an even more affordable option.

Why a home exchange? Since accommodations are usually the priciest part of a vacation, a home exchange saves money, allowing travelers to take longer vacations and perhaps splurge a bit on dining, tours, or shopping. Larger families appreciate how homes meet their needs for space, meals, and a good night’s sleep. And, home-swappers often say they enjoy “living like the locals,” especially when traveling internationally.

How it works. The basic idea of a home exchange is that two families agree to live in each other’s home (usually at the same time) at no cost—it’s considered an even trade. Exchangers find one another via home exchange website that provides detailed listings of available homes. Exchanges take place within the United States or internationally, and the length of stay is whatever the parties agree upon. Exchangers typically do not meet in person but get acquainted via phone calls and emails before the exchange happens. Details, including pets, the use of a car, and cleaning are all agreed upon ahead of time, usually in a written contract provided by the website.

What makes a house desirable? You might be surprised! As a general rule, home exchangers are looking for location, location, location. They want to explore attractions in your area, attend an event, or visit family. A beachfront house in California is highly desirable, as is a condo in an exciting city—and even a home in the suburbs will appeal to the right travelers. Because swappers are primarily looking for a convenient jumping-off point for their adventures, your home’s age, floor plan, and furnishings don’t matter too much, as long as it’s clean, comfortable, and accommodating.

Vacation homes are ideal. Whether it’s a rustic cottage on a secluded fishing lake or a condo at a popular ski area, a second home is ideal for exchanges. Logistically, you don’t have to vacate your primary residence, and you have more flexibility as to when the swap can happen.  For this reason, many retirees—who often own second homes and enjoy freer schedules—find home exchanges especially appealing.

First steps. If you’re intrigued, start by exploring a few websites; you can view a lot of information for free. Home exchange websites typically charge an annual membership fee of $50 to $100 to list your home. If you decide to join a service, you’ll provide several photos and a detailed description of your home. You’ll also post your desired destination(s) and travel dates, and you’ll be able to peruse the homes that meet your criteria. It’s common to trade information with several homeowners before finding just the right match, and the process may take several months.

Focus on the basics. Once you’ve agreed to an exchange and are preparing your home for guests, think about what makes a hotel room enjoyable. A clean, clutter-free home is universally appealing, and comfortable mattresses and attractive bedding are a must. Your kitchen should be well organized, and internet access is a big plus. Your guests know they’re staying in someone’s home, so don’t worry about scuffed baseboards and well-worn furniture. Likewise, don’t expect five-star accommodations when you step into your host’s home.

Is a home exchange right for you? If the very thought of others living in your home and sleeping in your bed—or you in theirs—makes your palms go clammy, an exchange is probably not for you. But many travelers are hooked!

Posted on September 2, 2018 at 7:44 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , ,

Preparing Your Garage for an Electric Car

Electric cars help lower emissions and fuel costs, improve fuel economy, and bolster energy security. And considering the volatility of gas prices—and their general skyward trajectory—electric fuel shows promise as an economic alternative.

But switching to an electric vehicle entails more than new driving habits and a conversation piece with strangers. It’s also a lifestyle update.

From setting up a charging station in the garage to maintaining optimal temperatures therein, check out these useful garage preparation tips to assure your electric vehicle battery is in tip-top shape.

Selecting a Charger: Level 1 vs. Level 2

Unfortunately, charging an electric vehicle might be a tad more involved than charging your smartphone. And unless you own a Tesla Model X, which can travel upwards of 300 miles on one charge, your electric plug-in vehicle could benefit greatly from a home station charger. That said, make sure you familiarize yourself with the two main levels of electric vehicle chargers supplied by home-based charging equipment and most public charging stations.

Level 1 Chargers

A Level 1 cord set charger delivers a standard household current of 110 or 120 volts and comes with most plug-in vehicles upon purchase. It’s outfitted with a three-pronged, household plug at one end that’s connected to a control box by a short cord. A longer 15-to-20-foot cord running from the other side of the box connects directly to the vehicle itself.

  • If time is not of the essence, a Level 1 could be the way to go. But be forewarned: What you get is, more or less, a trickle charge that affords roughly three to five miles per charging hour. For instance, the Nissan Leaf takes around 24 hours to fully charge on a standard 120-volt household outlet.
  • The upside is, Level 1 equipment doesn’t entail an elaborate setup of high-power circuit breakers or dedicated electrical lines, which are required by major appliances like stoves and refrigerators.
  • Because cord sets are portable, plug-in vehicles can be charged virtually anywhere there’s a standard outlet, provided it isn’t a household outlet that’s patched into the same circuit as other demanding appliances—in which case the excess amperage could trip a circuit breaker.

Level 2 Chargers 

If time is of the essence, consider installing a Level 2 charger, which delivers 240 volts and replenishes pure electric vehicles in about three hours—which is about seven to eight times faster than Level 1 equipment. Unlike the simplicity of Level 1 setups, though, Level 2 chargers may warrant the services of a professional due to the rigmarole of electrical codes, equipment setup, and necessary inspections.

  • Level 2 chargers cost anywhere between under $300 to over $1500, the price ultimately depending on cord length and amperage.
  • Level 2 outputs typically range between 16 to 30 amps, but professionals often recommend around 30- to 40-amp systems—an adequate overnight charge for most plug-in electric cars.

Installing a Charging Station

It’s worth mentioning that the “charger” you’re installing is technically referred to as Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE). This is the wall-mounted box with cord and plug that delivers electricity and functions as a communication and safety unit for the actual charger situated inside the vehicle itself.  The EVSE ensures the battery doesn’t overheat and shuts the charging session down if there’s a short circuit, power surge, or any other type of faulty hardware.

If you’ve opted for a Level 2 ESVE, you’ll likely need to reach out to a professional electrician to wire up equipment and determine where the ESVE should be situated in regards to where your vehicle is parked. Notwithstanding factors like outdated wiring, meters, and breaker panels, updating the garage for your electric ride should actually be pretty straightforward.

For instance, I gave my electrician the specs for a Tesla—a 14-50 NEMA charger that delivers 40 amps at 240 volts. And even though I have an older house, by setting up a dedicated circuit, my electrical panel handled the load without a hitch.

In rare instances, old wiring may need to be replaced. But by and large, the process is fairly easy and uncomplicated. What’s more, the plug itself isn’t any more difficult to install than a standard dryer outlet. For electric vehicle owners, installing a Level 2 ESVE is definitely the way to go.

Cost of Installation

The installation cost generally hinges on the work involved—such as the amount of wire that needs to be run, whether additional or replacement breaker panels are necessary, and the cost of labor in your area. This could vary between just a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. However, you may be able to snag special rates from your utility company for installing an EVSE, so make sure you inquire.

Thank you to guest author Eric Madia. 

Posted on August 30, 2018 at 7:38 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , , ,