Ready or not, we are fast approaching the season for holiday entertaining – but no matter how much you enjoy the season, it can come with a level of stress. To ease the burden, home economists advise you to do as much as you can in advance. Prep for cold weather:
- Ready the plumbing – Drain the water from outdoor faucets and garden hoses and minimize the prospect of frozen water pipes in the house by using heat tape on potentially problem pipes.
- Prep for warmth – Have the chimney inspected and cleaned, and have a professional check your home’s heating system. Replace the furnace filter and consider installing an energy-efficient thermostat.
- Seal off drafts –Install storm windows and doors now. Add or replace worn weather stripping around doors and windows and caulk any gaps.
- Do the heavy cleaning – Yes, you’ll need to keep up with basic chores, but deep cleaning now, like shampooing the carpets and vacuuming baseboards and crown molding, will pave the way for easier management later.
- Check the linen supply – Be ready for overnight guests. Check your supply of bedding and towels and add new ones if needed.
- Create a stockpile of candles – Whether for the dining room table, or any place in the house, nothing adds warmth and coziness like candles. Lay in a supply now of pillar candles, tapers and candles in pretty containers.
- Stock the pantry – You won’t get caught without a side dish or a last-minute dessert if you stock up now on canned and frozen staples and baking supplies.
- Check bed and bath essentials – Put together an assortment of toilet paper, tissues and hand towels along with basic toiletries like soaps and cotton balls so you don’t get caught short when company comes. Tucking a few nice things in a basket in the guest room will make any guest feel welcome.
- Print out your Wi-Fi info– Help holiday guests connect to your wireless network by printing out a few cards to make the info readily available. Put a few of the cards in a small basket in the front hallway or in the guest room.
Contact me with any questions that you have about any of your real estate needs. My number is (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
Today, Americans can shop for anything and everything online. Need groceries delivered? Order them online. Want dog food, a new wardrobe, new car, or even a mattress for your bed? If you have a computer, you can have anything you want with just a few clicks. If you’re looking for a new home, resources like Zillow, Trulia, and others offer resources for anyone wanting to move or list their homes, searching zip codes, neighborhoods, and price ranges. Since there are so many resources online you may ask yourself, “are real estate agents still important”?
Because of today’s technology, home-seekers are able to be better informed during their new home search because of the internet, but that doesn’t mean a qualified Realtor® isn’t important. Agents do more than simply unlock the door to potential, future homes and serve donuts at an open house. It’s true that the role of the traditional Realtor® of yesteryear has been transformed, but the initial home search is really only a small portion of the overall home buying process.
Before internet home-searching became available, consumers needed information on the homes exclusively from the Realtors®. Today, that information still needs to be analyzed by the real estate agents and the process of negotiation is more multifaceted than it has ever been. In today’s market, there’s usually low inventory and a high-demand, making the agent a home-seeker’s “best friend”. When a property is under contract, there’s a lot happening at the same time and a Realtor® can help keep it all straight. Realtors® help with heated negotiations, the inspection process, and dual-offer maneuvers when they happen.
As a local Realtor®, I am a fan of today’s technology because I find that my clients are better informed, knowing what they want in their new home and what they can afford. My job description is plentiful, but one of my main objectives is to keep my clients organized during the entire process, getting the best deal for their dream home. Technology is a wonderful asset to all of us, but it’s my ultimate goal to share my knowledge as a Realtor® so clients can rely on me during complex negotiations and more. Mobile apps, for example, can help keep clients organized and see homes more quickly. However; onerecent Forbes articles does state, “While the internet is replete with information, it’s the agent’s knowledge that makes the difference between mediocrity and extraordinary.”
For example, Zillow and Zestimate is more of a range for what the home may be worth. Working in the many Metro-east communities, I understand that a home’s online list price may seem a bit high, but I’ll be able to tell you why. Website’s like Zillow offer home-seekers a starting point, but they don’t know if the homeowner recently updated a master-bedroom closet or kitchen and that’s why the online listings aren’t always an accurate representation. With my network of builders, appraisers, inspectors and lenders, I know more about the homes on sale than any website search engine does.
Because of my real estate knowledge, I can help sellers price their homes right and help buyers know the best home investment for their particular needs. I do research on behalf of my clients, communicate, and listen to them…and relationship-building is something I take seriously. Want to make the most of your home search? Contact me and I’d be happy to answer questions or assist you in any of your real estate needs. My number is (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
If you know the near future involves putting your house on the market, it’s never too early to begin the planning process. Even if you’d rather wait until the spring months to sell, there is more involved in the sale of your home than simply putting a “For Sale” sign in the yard. Here are some practical tips to consider during this exciting time to get your home ready.
First and foremost, finding a reputable real estate agent should be top of the list! Selling your home solely on your own can be a daunting task and a real estate agent can help navigate the sale of your home, no matter how hot or cool the market may be in your neighborhood. There is a reason knowledgeable homeowners often rely on the talents of a real estate agent, saving you time and money in the long run.
It’s important to find a real estate agent that has experience in the area where you are selling, one that you connect with and feel comfortable sharing your expectations with, too. Do some research when looking for a real estate agent and also seek recommendations from others that have recently sold their home. It’s also important to interview the agent to make sure he/she is a good fit for your needs and your personality.
Curb appeal is one important aspect of selling your home. Buyers do often judge a book by its cover! If interested buyers are driving around looking at neighborhoods and come across your home with unkept landscaping and broken shingles, it’s likely they will mark your “Open House” off of their list. Make sure your front yard is tidy and cracked paint is repaired, adding finishing touches like flowers and a new welcome mat can also make a difference. Old, ugly mailbox? Fix that too.
Declutter and depersonalize. Always on the list of things to do when you’re getting your home ready to sell, cutting down on the clutter, the trinkets and the family heirloom items makes a big difference in your home’s appeal. Staging your home with the motto in mind that “less is more” is something that can begin during the months leading up to the sale of your home. Donate unused items and keep in mind during the process that nothing is off-limits when trying to sell your home. Buyers will peek into your closets and look under your sinks to find out what space is available. If they notice too much stuff, it takes away from the beauty of your home.
Some personal photos are fine to keep up on the walls, but too many family photos and oversized artwork may be distracting and overwhelming to the general public. When you are trying to sell your home and start to think of it as a blank canvas for the new homeowner to enjoy and add their personal touches to, it will help you determine what should go and what could stay as part of your overall décor.
Want to sell your home? Invest in some paint. The cold, winter months are a good time to paint the home’s interior. Accent walls are nice, but you may want to consider painting your walls and halls in a more neutral color since most buyers will appreciate a color scheme that they can spend less time updating. A fresh coat of paint, fixing any scuffs and scratches on the walls, will be very beneficial when trying to sell. How many times have you watched HGTV “House Hunters” and heard potential buyers complain about a room’s color? Although painting walls is one of the easier things to fix for home-buyers when they otherwise love a house when browsing, a paint job is just another way to freshen up a home and give it a neutral “look and feel” that will hopefully entice more shoppers.
Other ways to prepare your home for sale include thoroughly cleaning the house and garage, fixing anything that may have been broken for a while (like a cabinet pull or toilet paper holder), and taking care of any funky smells that you’ve noticed coming from the basement. We tend to overlook certain things in our homes that need fixing because we get busy and tell ourselves, “we’ll fix that next weekend”. Before putting your house on the market, make sure you create a thorough check list of items that need to be fixed and tackle that list. Give yourself enough time to fix what’s broken and freshen up what’s stale.
Now is the perfect time to begin the process of organizing the home for prospective buyers. A little planning will ensure that your home will be ready for the market, whether you want to sell it next month or six months from now! Unsure about what your next steps should be to get your home ready to sell? Contact me and I’d be happy to answer questions or assist you in any of your real estate needs. My number is (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com. Happy New Year!
If you are considering putting your home on the market, your friends and family may want to offer tips and guidance about staging your home, what to list it for, and the best time to sell. Keep in mind there are a lot of factors to consider if you wan to sell your home this Fall season, and they can vary from zip code to zip code, street to cul-de-sac. There can be benefits and drawbacks with listing your home, no matter the season. Hopefully these tips will help during the home selling process if you are considering an autumn sale.
You may have once thought you’d live in your existing home forever! Things change, and a relocation may be necessary due to a new job or unexpected life event. I typically like recommending to my clients that first and foremost, consider what’s best for your family. Sometimes timing a move with a new school year makes sense so your kids are getting started with new classes and new teachers at the same time as the other children in the school district. Fall is typically the second-best time to sell your home, coming in second after spring.
As the cooler, fall weather approaches, there are still people looking for that new home. Fall can be an ideal time to shop, buy, and get moved in before all of the upcoming holidays that the season brings. It’s important to clean up that yard and enhance your home’s curb appeal during the fall months. Trim bushes and cut back vines, move the summer toys and gadgets out of the yard, and begin to give your home that cozy, autumn aesthetic.
What homebuyers see first is important. Mums are lovely additions to the front porch. Or, choose marigolds in your landscape planters. Place the flowered pots by the entrance and along the walkway, accenting your home’s backdrop with pumpkins and squash. Hang a fall wreath on the front door and tidy up your home’s exterior with window washing and a new welcome mat!
There are other benefits to selling your home in the fall months. During the spring, the market is saturated with homes for sale in a variety of neighborhoods. If your home doesn’t have any distinguishing features that sets you ahead of the pack, competition can be fierce. On the other hand, what if your house does have unique features and you decide to sell during a time of year that’s slightly less busy? There’s a very good chance your house will be noticed, possibly even commanding a higher price in the fall.
Other tips include cleaning that wood-burning fireplace from any debris. Why not even place a fall arrangement within it? Autumn is a perfect time to stage your home with scents of homemade cookies baking, pumpkin, and hot apple cider. Many recommend simmering cinnamon sticks on the stove-top so the smell sifts through the air. There are many ways, from candles to essential oils, to create a memorable experience for the potential homebuyer.
Lack of competition is a benefit that should be seriously considered if you are in the market to sell your home. With fewer homes for sale, there’s opportunity to sell your home more quickly, especially if a buyer needs to move immediately. Also, families without school-aged children have more flexibility when considering a move date. In our school district, we have the advantage of being a desirable place to live for homebuyers, no matter what time of year it may be.
As a Realtor®, I can assist you when selling your home because I know the local market inside and out. I can help decide which home features will lead you to a higher sale price, negotiating with the right buyer so you can sell your home in the least amount of time. Fall is a great time to sell! Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
In the second part of the series, It’s Time to Start Thinking About Beautifying Your Yard, Tony Range, horticulture supervisor for the award-winning and beautiful St. Louis Zoo, shared some best practices with me. Tony and I visited recently to discuss tips for homeowners wanting to add beauty and interest to their outdoor spaces at home. Our meeting was fun and informative as we chatted about proper planting techniques, native plants, and how to create stunning landscapes based on any given surroundings.
The St. Louis Zoo is a well-known and beloved attraction in our area, but did you know that it also houses its very own greenhouse? Thousands of plants are grown at the greenhouse and are displayed throughout the park May through October. Next time you visit the zoo, make sure to pay attention to the brightly colored plants and flowers scattered along the zoo’s pathways and inside the buildings, creating a lovely atmosphere for visitors and for the animals calling the zoo “home”. Enjoy the Q & A below from our recent visit!
Now that it’s spring, it’s the perfect time to beautify your home’s outdoor landscaping. What tips would you give homeowners about the use of plants to enhance their home’s appeal?
Many of us are running out to purchase annuals, hanging baskets and more for our homes now that the weather is warming. I think what most people don’t realize is that once the plant leaves the greenhouse and goes to a nursery, they can quickly become nutrition deficient. In the greenhouse, plants are treated with nutrients to keep them healthy. Once they transition to a store and then to a home, within a couple weeks of constant watering and no nutrients, their soil is leached. Plants are hungry and need more than just tap water to flourish and survive.
Nutrient-rich plant food like Miracle-Gro™, added at least once each week to your plants, will help them grow. Today, there are even slow release fertilizers on the market with Terra-Sorb (a water absorbing gel) which offers a slow-release fertilizer for your plants and flowers. Terra-Sorb doesn’t dry out as quickly and is another way to ensure that your beautiful hanging baskets and potted plants continue to impress neighbors and friends throughout the season.
Also keep in mind, dirt is what you sweep up off of your floors whereas soil is a living, breathing entity full of microbial activity, teaming with life. Without a good, healthy soil we would have nothing to sustain our daily lives.
Are there any plants you would recommend based on our planting zone in the Midwest and which ones prefer sun or shade?
There are many plants that I love and recommend! Dragon Wing Begonias tolerate heat and the sun quite well, Silver Falls Dichondra like sun or shade and are easy to maintain, and the Dazzler Merlot Mix Impatients are shade tolerant, lovely and landscape friendly. Just keep in mind that annuals, like petunias, are tropical by nature and are typically heavy feeders, requiring fertilizers to flourish.
A tip I also like to offer is that around July 4th, it’s best to cut back those petunias you may have purchased on Mother’s Day about a quarter or half of the way. This will flush the new growth out, and you’ll love the results. Simply “pinch” to the leaf nodes. Also, when purchasing 6 packs of the plants from your local nursery, steer clear of the ones that are “tangled up”, long and misshapen. Pulling and unwinding their delicate foliage and roots is very damaging, so it’s best to find the packs that are short and tidy.
As a Realtor®, I see a lot of homes with neglected landscaping. Any suggestions that you can make to convince them that curb appeal is important?
I recommend choosing plants and plant materials scaled to the home. Not all landscaping needs to be elaborate. When planting, if the homeowner follows some basic rules, the landscaping undertaking can be fun and can really enhance their home’s curb appeal.
For instance, planting perennials in groups of 5’s and 7’s offer a bigger visual impact. When planting in groups, you’ll be happier with the overall look. Shrubs, Knockout® roses and more work best in groups of three. Even planting a Juniper, for example, should be spaced out and if you plant one in your landscaping, think about planting another one in a different section. The rule of thumb is to never plant just “one” of anything.
I like to think of plants for landscaping as notes on a musical scale, stagger the plants and always place them in groups for an impactful and beautiful display!
What are some other tips you’d like to share with our readers?
Play off the landscape with the use of limestone boulders and other types of hardscape. If you’re lucky enough to find a boulder with moss naturally draped on it, it will be a beautiful and unique addition to your curb appeal. I recommend the use of hardscapes in the winter months, trees with interesting branching habits, evergreens, birdfeeders and ornamental grasses. The Taylor Juniper is a tree that I love, with a striking appearance, growing to about three feet wide and up to twenty feet tall. Also, Blue Spruce “Fat Albert” lends a colorful blue tone to the winter landscape.
The importance of feeding and grooming your landscape plants and flowers can’t be stressed enough. Adding fertilizer is a key component to a lovely yard with curb appeal. Treating your plant’s root system with care also plays a key role in their health. At the zoo, when construction and maintenance is happening amongst the landscaping, I always let the crews know how important it is to go around the plants and trees. Disrupting the roots is much like cutting off an arm or a leg for us – they need their roots intact because it provides important nutrient and water uptake along with structural stability.
Tony Range is a horticulture supervisor at the St. Louis Zoo and also a contributing author for STLZOO Magazine. I appreciated the time he took out of his busy schedule to offer planting and landscaping tips for homeowners.
If you or a loved one is in need of a licensed Realtor®, contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
The real estate industry is bustling in the spring months, beginning as early as February! With even the thought of temperatures rising, people in the market for a new home or looking to sell begin to become motivated. Homes are hitting the market and in our area, if the home is priced right, they can have an offer that same day. If you are looking to make a change or looking for your next “home sweet home”, Spring can be a perfect time to find the perfect match.
We’ve focused on tips to sell your home in the past, but if here are some Spring time tips for buyers in real estate.
Hire a real estate professional to help in your next real estate adventure. In today’s market, a professional Realtor® is experienced in many, many transactions. If you want to find a home in your ideal location, using a Realtor® can make your entire buying process easier. A Realtor® does a lot, going beyond just the home search. We help with contracts, negotiations, inspections and any other unforeseen obstacles that may pop up. An agent understands trends in the market today and can help you navigate this fast-paced buying/selling season. Keep in mind that it costs nothing to hire an agent because the seller of your new home will pay the commission.
Pre-approval for a home mortgage helps.
So, your budget is prepped and ready to go. If you know exactly what you can spend and what you may consider a “comfortable” budget for that next home, you’re heading in the right direction. You can also meet with a mortgage specialist to determine an accurate budget for that new home, and then take steps to obtain loan pre-approval. Of course, it’s okay to go to open houses and scan the web for homes for sale, but there are benefits to getting a pre-approved loan. When buyers are already pre-approved, sellers are more likely to take notice of an offer because they know you are serious at making a purchase.
Know what you want in a new home.
If you are ready to buy, it makes sense to sit down with family members and discuss your needs as well as your wishes. Whether it’s finding a new home in a certain school district or having an unfinished basement so you can add your personalized touch, what you want in your new home should be listed and prioritized. We’ve all watched House Hunters on HGTV when a couple can’t seem to agree on their perfect home! One wants a big back yard in the outskirts of town, while the other wants no yard in an urban environment. When buying a home, you should have a strong understanding of your requirements, and if there’s any conflict among other family members make sure you rank them in order of importance.
Keep in mind, it’s helpful to be flexible because your wants may shift based on availability in the market, market trends and budget, but the better you understand the most important features you desire of your new home, the smoother this process will be.
Be prepared to compete when buying a home.
In today’s market, it’s not unheard of that buyers compete for their dream home. You may need to prepare yourself to either back down during negotiations or pay more than you had originally anticipated paying. Bidding wars have been on the rise for a while. By working with your agent, you can think of unique ways to stand out from the other buyers, going beyond just price. Maybe you offer the sellers an extra week to move out? Or honor other stipulations when looking to close the deal? I can help you find ways to create incentives when making an offer on your next home.
If it’s time to buy or sell that new home, I can help! As a licensed Realtor® it’s my goal to help make your real estate dreams come true, sharing my knowledge of our local market as well as offering recommendations during the real estate process. Now is a great time to buy a house that your entire family will love! Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com
The rest of 2017 and early 2018 is expected to be interesting for real estate. The economy is solid, trade looks fine, and we’ve seen an active new construction environment. It’s possible with labor shortages and higher lumber costs there could be higher home prices with fewer houses for resale. In the ever interesting and ever-changing real estate market, here are some other influences that may affect housing in the coming year (and possibly beyond) as well as tried and true tips for homeowners.
Is 2018 the time to buy or sell your home?
Prices are still sizzling for buying a new home…there’s simply not enough homes for sale to go around. Lack of homes available isn’t just a local problem either – it’s a national one. In some markets, homebuyers will need to get creative (and pay more) when seeking homes with multiple offers, especially in the bigger cities.
Some experts think that with the lack of homes available, it means home prices will continue to be high. There’s really no guarantee that will be the case. Many home builders are feeling optimistic, and that’s always good to hear. Typically, an economy that looks good with lower unemployment rates, you may see more people investing in rental income property or real estate investing opportunities. Millennials are seeking housing as well, and this will all influence the housing market.
What’s economists are saying.
According to many top economists, mortgage rates may rise in the next few years, past 4% and even past 5%. If house prices experience stabilization, increased rates will be manageable. One online article cites the importance of wage growth happening. Chief economist for Mortgage Bankers Association, Michael Fratantoni, stated that “it is getting more difficult for companies to fill their positions.” Fratantoni hopes that companies begin to raise wages to seek more qualified candidates. If this happens, the increase of interest rates won’t be as problematic for borrowers.
Buying and Selling Tips that work in any economy.
We live in a global economy, and even though economists and experts can see trends happening in the real estate market, there’s no real way to know exactly what may happen. Natural disasters, political uncertainty, and more can affect our local market. Here are some tips, no matter the economy, that you can rely on if you want to buy or sell a home in 2018.
- Fix issues in your home before its sale. Want to get top dollar for your home? Fix the issues that may lower your homes’ asking price. Realtor.com recommends updating appliances, refinishing floors, and cleaning or replacing windows. Because I know the local market and neighborhoods, I can help you decide what improvement will be the best in your particular situation.
- Make sure your home isn’t priced too high. About 70% of all local homes go into escrow within 30 days of being listed. Homes still on the market for 60 days or more typically means the home is overpriced, especially in today’s market. With my help, I can make sure your home is priced right and ready for sale.
- Set a realistic timeline. The real estate market can and will change, so have a firm understanding of your priorities and what your motivation is for selling and/or buying that next home. Are you wanting to sell your home because of a job relocation or simply because you’re wanting a change? Know what is motivating you to move and be ready to be flexible if that dream house on the corner you’ve had your eye on sells or if your existing home doesn’t sell as quickly as you thought it would. Be realistic with expectations and listen to your Realtor® for advice and ideas if adversity strikes.
Buying and selling a home is always an exciting undertaking! As a licensed Realtor® it’s my goal to help individuals and families during the entire real estate process, sharing my understanding of the market conditions as well as recommended strategies to use in any economy. 2018 will be here before we know it, and that means a fresh start and maybe even a new home! Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
Navigating the housing market can be difficult, but most people have a tool in their pocket that they don’t realize can help get them through this stressful time: their smartphone! These powerful tools have come a long way from just making phone calls or sending text messages. Check out these seven apps that can make preparing to sell your home a breeze!
Imagine you’re walking down the sidewalk of your hometown main street and a bluebird catches your eye. That bluebird is the most perfect shade of light blue – a shade that would look exquisite on the walls of your guest room. Luckily you have the ColorSnap app by Sherwin-Williams. With a simple snapshot, this app can match your photo to find paint colors. You can then see how that particular color looks in sample scenes, in day or night lighting. ColorSnap makes painting your home even easier with its paint calculator. Simply enter your room dimensions, and it will estimate how much paint you need.
This free app allows you to take high-quality, 360-degree panorama pictures and videos for free. Do not underestimate the power of panoramas, especially in the housing market. Capture the essence and personality of your home with a panorama picture or video, and let the home speak for itself.
Good for both home buyers and sellers, Homesnap allows users to see home value estimates, taxes, lot boundaries, school zones, interior photos and more just by taking a picture. This can be used to the seller’s advantage by scoping out the competition. Based on your findings, you can adjust your selling price, increase your promotion efforts, or even up your interior design game.
Houzz is an app favorite for designers, home owners, and renovators. Its genius lies in the technology that allows you to see what furniture and products look like in your actual home. Browse through over 5 million trending products and materials, then simply use the “View in My Room” feature to see what they look like in your space. Read hundreds of articles written by design experts, and get professional advice on your home project in the “Advice” section. Houzz also has a vast database of active home improvement professionals for you to find, hire, and collaborate with.
Measuring room spaces and dimensions are probably one of the biggest hassles of home selling. MagicPlan makes this process a breeze: no need for measuring tapes, no need to move furniture, no need for expertise. It measures the space and draws floor plans by simply taking pictures. The app itself is free, but if you want to download your floorplan in PDF, JPG, SVG, DXF, CSV, or PNG formats, there is a one property plan purchase for $2.99.
Okay, of course everyone who isn’t living under a rock has heard of Pinterest. But did you know you can use their app to browse for design inspiration? If you are selling your home, your interior design should be stylish, trendy, and organized. Pinterest can help create the space of your dreams! Not only does it give inspiration, but you can search for furniture and products based on your needs. If you are more of a Do-It-Yourself person, there are many projects with step-by-step instructions on how to upgrade your home.
After spending hours on Pinterest (or is that just me?) you may be ready to start furnishing and staging your house. Ikea not only has affordable prices, but their sleek, modern style looks great in almost every space. Get inspired with their catalog, browse through furniture, optimize your space with every organizational device made on earth, and do it all while sitting in bed. Does it get any easier than that?
The time has come and gone where a home seller has to sit and worry about whether their houses will sell. Take matters into your own hands (literally) and try out one of these cool apps! If you need an extra set of eyes, a professional opinion, or help with staging your house I can help with that, too. As a licensed Realtor, it’s my goal to help you feel comfortable and confident in the selling process, so give me a call at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com
Probably less than a decade ago, we would have never referred to our homes as being “smart”. Today, it’s a common term connected with the latest technology, creating a home that would be suitable in a Jetson’s cartoon, entertaining us with futuristic toys and conveniences like we’ve never seen before in a standard home. In today’s world, you don’t have to be part of the rich and famous to have a smart home with amenities at the touch of a button. I wanted to share highlights of a recent PCMag.com article sharing the “best of the best” smart home features trending this year.
What exactly is a “Smart Home”? The term smart home simply means homeowners can connect many of their standard amenities and devices to the internet. This goes beyond just computers and phones, also encompassing clocks, door bells, lights, window blinds, and home entertainment systems. Did you forget to lock your door before leaving? Certain smart homes will let you know and even lock it for you. When devices are communicating together and working together, sending information as well as receiving it, it’s often referred to as the “Internet of Things”, or IOT. Essentially, a smart home is one that is automated, giving homeowners the ability to control items around the house with a touch of a button or voice command. Different levels of automation have different cost levels, so it all depends on what you want and what you can afford.
Hubs and Controllers. Alexa is a voice assistant available at Amazon, compatible with a Bluetooth speaker called Echo. Alexa works with smartphone devices and with some thought, you can use Alexa to control most of the gadgets in your house just with the sound of your voice. Tie in the Echo Dot, it will add to the Alexa functionality. Echo Show even offers a touch screen.
Wink Hub 2. The PCMag editor’s choice goes to Wink Hub 2, a home automation system that works with Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron Clear Connect, Kidde, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Looking towards the future of home automation, it is also compatible with Philips Hue Lighting and the Netgear Arlo camera and Google Home. The editors believe this system to be one of the most reliable, widely supported hubs tested.
Logitech Harmony Elite. This home automation device controls things the “old-fashioned way”- with buttons. The Logitech Harmony Elite is like a universal remote, but offering oh so much more! You can connect more than just a stereo system and TV – it will also work with infrared devices in your home, ZigBee, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Surveillance Cameras. Today, there are wireless, weatherproof and easy to install surveillance cameras that can keep your home and belongings secure. One camera, the Netgear Arlo Pro, offers two-way audio and sound-triggering recording. With wireless features, there’s flexibility in where to place the camera. If you’re interested in indoor security cameras that keep an eye on your home while you’re away, the LG Smart Security Wireless Camera may be ideal. You get 24/7 monitoring via ADT’s Canopy service with no contract. A smaller option is the Tend Secure Lynx Indoor, a small home surveillance camera delivering video in color, clear night vision and two-way audio. It even offers facial recognition technology. At the $60 price tag, this is one of the more affordable home surveillance cameras.
Locks and Home Security Systems. Apple HomeKit enabled Smart Lock, available at Amazon, mounts over your existing deadbolt to provide connectivity to your door. It also uses Bluetooth to your smartphone, making it easy to access for you or your guests. ADT also offers the ADT Pulse, with 24/7 monitoring and customer service support. It’s the most robust, full-service home security system tested and can be tied in with other automation platforms. The Abode Home Security Starter Kit is ideal for the do-it-yourself crowd, easy to install and can be paired with dozens of Z-Wave and ZigBee smart home products. It also supports the Alexa products. With the Abode, you can monitor lights, locks, and more.
Heating and Cooling. As a homeowner, one of the biggest expenses we have is our heating and cooling (HVAC). Protect your investment with a Nest Learning Thermostat. With Nest, you get built-in Wi-Fi with geo-fencing support and a furnace monitor. It’s never been easier to control your home’s temperature from afar. The Ecobee3 Smart WiFi Thermostat is another thermostat you can control remotely. It also monitors multiple sensors in various rooms of the home to make sure your system is working efficiently.
Sci-Fi Cooking. Want to cook some ribs this fall in the backyard, but can’t get off work in time? Check out the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker, a grill that you can control remotely using apps for iOS or Android. The app will tell you when the food is ready. Another smart oven, the June Intelligent Oven, has high-tech features that are mind-blowing. Wi-Fi, a camera, and artificial intelligence that lets you weigh, monitor and cook just about anything with little input, turning your kitchen into a home of the future!
No matter what type of home you are in the market to buy or sell, as a licensed Realtor® it’s my goal to help individuals and families during the entire real estate process. I know about the hottest trends, from popular paint colors to high-tech amenities. Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
Selling your home can be an exciting yet (sometimes) emotional time. If you’ve been in your home for a while, every part of the house tells a story. Strolling from room to room, you can vividly remember rocking your baby to sleep in the rocker in the bedroom’s corner, your first puppy’s favorite sleeping spot in front of the fireplace, and your daughter’s Sweet 16 party in the backyard pool. So many wonderful memories have happened over so many years! With those years and memories made, you’ve also accumulated a lot of “stuff” and perhaps some spots in your home that need to be freshened up. Because it’s impossible to sell those memories with your home, it’s important to rely on staging strategies to entice the new homeowner with images that can be completely their own.
I recommend to clients that it’s best to de-clutter and thoroughly clean the home prior to placing any home on the market. It’s okay to leave a few family photos up, but best to remove most of them because when selling your home, you want to make sure the potential buyer visualizes where his or her photographs will be displayed. Straighten closets; pack up unused items and scattered toys or accessories. Today’s buyers prefer neutral colors, walls and floors, so if you have time and money in the budget to paint, it’s not a bad idea to spruce up the main living spaces.
Why is staging important? A properly staged home creates something called “lifestyle vignettes” (RealtorMag.com) for interested homebuyers. When buyers walk through a home and see a chessboard on a comfortable ottoman, placed directly in front of the stone fireplace with drinks on the end table, they begin to see themselves in the scene. As a Realtor® in the Metro-East, I know which trends are working depending on local demographics. I can help you work with current trends, letting you know which ones are working locally, so you can create a buyer’s dream house. Depending on the home, it may only require organization and some fresh paint.
When you set the stage for potential buyers to see a home filled with fun and friends, it usually also involves food. Many stagers recommend setting the tables and the bar areas with nice plates, cloth napkins and drinking glasses, using a lovely centerpiece to tie it all together. The set up doesn’t have to be overly fancy, either. Simply use matching tableware to create a home that appears perfect for entertaining, whether it’s a family breakfast or a larger gathering with friends and family in the dining room.
Simple staging techniques don’t have to cost a lot of money, either. If you want to entice buyers to walk through that front door, it’s best to stage your entryway with a nice, new welcome mat, colorful flowers or greenery and a clean, welcoming entrance. Potential homeowners often drive by homes even before they schedule a walk-through, so it makes sense that you spend some time and energy on sprucing up the front of your home, helping to make a positive first impression.
Have a dark hallway or a wall that needs a new look? Maybe you’ve taken down some family photos and need something to replace the wall decor? Mounting mirrors in strategic places of the home can do a number of wonderful things. Mirrors enlarge spaces, add modern touches to the home, and light up hallways that lack natural lighting. Mirrors hung directly across from a window or placed next to one add even more lighting to the home, pulling in more sunshine. Many stores even sell mirrors in multi-packs and sizes, creating an impressive collage display that anyone can create.
Other staging tricks that work include outfitting a bathroom with white linens, fresh new shower curtains and some spa-like accessories. After you de-clutter the bathroom, it’s easy to update any bathroom with items that turn your outdated bath into a luxury spa. To set the stage, you can roll and stack new bath towels, place special soaps in a dish on the counter, and even add an orchid or other flower next to the sink.
Staging your home may require a little bit of forethought and some financial investment, but sellers will be happy to know that most staged homes sell faster than homes without staging methods. Look at photos online or in magazines, pay attention to displays at furniture stores, and think about items in your home that you can use (and items that may need to be placed in storage) to create a cozy, lived-in ambiance in your home that’s picture-perfect. Colorful vases, lanterns, books and plants can all be used to produce those “lifestyle vignettes” buyers are looking for in a new home.
As a licensed Realtor®, it is my goal to help individuals and families sell their home with confidence. I want the process to be pleasurable and profitable. If you aren’t sure why your home hasn’t sold yet or want tips on staging your home, I can help. Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.