Homeowner Tips

Today’s Smart Homes

Many people grew up with the idea that one day we would all be living in homes like the Jetsons’, the 1960s cartoon family living in the future, with a closet that showers and dresses you and a robot that makes your breakfast. While homes aren’t yet quite there, smart home technology has advanced leaps and bounds in recent years and has become more popular than ever.

Technology has changed the way we live in and interact with our homes. Smart homes can be programmed to react to their owner and tailored to fit with a person’s lifestyle – homeowners can even design the home to meet their specific needs.

Here are a few ways smart home technology can be utilized:

Security. New products allow homeowners to monitor their homes from a distance—even internationally. Owners can lock doors and windows from their portable computers, or access security camera recordings from a mobile device. It’s not just about keeping the property safe, it’s about keeping you and your family safe too. Fire, carbon monoxide and gas leak alarms that connect to your smartphone can give you peace of mind that everything is all right in your home even when you aren’t physically there.

Energy Savings. Smart thermostats allow homeowners to program their home’s temperature and adjust it even after they’ve left, avoiding any needless heating or cooling of an empty house. Automated lighting programs let people turn the lights on and off in their home from their smartphone or laptop from anywhere in the world. Smart green features have been in high demand for years now. These products not only help the environment but also bring your electricity and water bills down, saving you money.

Convenience. One of the main appeals of smart homes is that they can make the home owner’s life easier. A garage door opener connected to your smartphone and a sprinkler system that syncs with the weather forecast so the lawn is never watered when it’s raining are all features that simplify day-to-day life. Soon, instead of having to check the refrigerator to see if anything is running low, a homeowner will receive a text message from their smart kitchen reminding him or her to buy eggs.

Although the benefits that these technologies provide are numerous, it is important not lose sight of the risks smart homes can pose to the owner’s privacy. As smart technology becomes more established in homes, it becomes even more important that the necessary precautions are taken to protect data and privacy. That’s why the National Association of Realtors® worked with the Online Trust Alliance, a non-profit with the mission to enhance online trust, to create the Smart Home Checklist. The checklist offers guidance to home buyers and sellers about how to stay in control of the privacy and security of their smart home technology.


Realtors Rate Remodeling Projects, Provide Improvement Guidance to Homeowners

When it comes to remodeling, homeowners often wonder if a project is worth the investment. According to the 2014 Cost vs. Value Report, several remodeling projects are not only valuable, but also return more than 78 percent of their costs upon resale. Many of those projects are exterior replacement projects, which Realtors® rated having the biggest bang for the buck.

Exterior projects such as entry door, siding and window replacements can recoup homeowners a substantial amount upon resale. These types of projects are essential to home maintenance, so the good news is many homeowners are already doing them. Another plus is that these projects are generally inexpensive, and besides keeping your home functioning properly, they also add instant curb appeal. This is especially important if you are considering selling.

The 2014 Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale value for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects in 100 markets across the country. Realtors® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall Realtors® estimated that homeowners would recoup an average of 66.1 percent of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, an increase of 5.5 points over last year and the largest increase since 2005. For the second consecutive year, the value of remodeling is up for all of the projects included in the survey.

Eight of the top-10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior projects. Realtors® judged a steel entry door replacement as the project expected to return the most money, with an estimated 96.6 percent of costs recouped upon resale. It’s consistently the least expensive project, costing little more than $1,100 on average. Other worthwhile exterior projects included two different siding replacement projects, including fiber-cement siding, expected to return 87 percent of costs, and vinyl siding, expected to return 78.2 percent of costs. Two garage door replacement projects were also in the top 10, both expected to recoup more than 82 percent of costs. Rounding out the top exterior projects were two window replacement projects; wood window replacement and vinyl window replacement both recoup more than 78 percent of their costs.

Each neighborhood is different and the desirability and resale value of a particular remodeling project varies. That is why it’s important to work with a Realtor®. A Realtor® is the best resource for helping homeowners decide what improvement projects will provide the most return upon resale in your market. Realtors® have a unique understanding of local markets, desirable home features and buyer preferences.

In addition to the exterior projects, two particular interior remodeling projects can recoup substantial value at resale. An attic bedroom is expected to return 84.3 percent of costs, and a minor kitchen remodel is estimated to recoup 82.7 percent of costs. The improvement project estimated to return the least at resale is a home office remodel, estimated to recoup only 48.9 percent.

The 2014 Cost vs. Value Report is published by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood, LLC and is done in collaboration with the National Association of Realtors®. Additional data for the report can be found at NAR’s consumer website, HouseLogic.com. The website includes a wide variety of ideas and projects to help homeowners maintain, enhance and improve the value of their home.

More at http://louisvillerealtors.com/starthere/

Green Up When Selling Your Home

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Adding a little social responsibility to your home is good for your family and the environment. It also shows prospective buyers that your home has a conscience.

 Stay clutter free

When you want to sell your house, go through it room by room and remove excess items. Leave space between items on the walls and on the floor to show off the architectural features of the house. Uncluttered rooms feel larger and more spacious, which helps potential buyers get a true sense of the space that is available to them. Once you have made your house clutter-free, stay committed to keeping it that way throughout the house-selling process.


A sparkling house is attractive to buyers. Buyers do not like looking at other people’s dirt. Cleaning can be done without using harsh chemicals. You can save money too by making your own natural cleaning formulas. The main ingredients can be found in your own cupboards:

-Scrub sinks with a mixture of baking soda and salt.

-Clean toilet bowls with denture tablets.

-Clean windows and hard-water stained fixtures with water and vinegar.

-Common houseplants are pleasing to the eye and they clean the air by absorbing harmful gases like formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide.

Use colors to create a good atmosphere

Painting is the least expensive way to change the color and atmosphere of a room. A neutral backdrop on the walls makes your house feel bigger. White, off-white, light beige or light taupe is good to use. Select a color that has the broadest market appeal, and then use the same color on all the walls so that the space in your house flows from one room to the next. Here are some ideas about using environmentally friendly paints when painting rooms:

-Look for paints with less toxic side effects.

-Look for natural paints or paints with zero VOC or low VOC. They have very little odor when applying and have no “off gassing” after curing.

-You can also use Eco Pro brushes and environmentally friendly roller covers and paint trays.

8 Tips to Make Your Remodel More Energy-Efficient and Your Home Healthier

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As long as you’re remodeling, why not cut your utility bills and make your home a bit healthier too?
Here are eight tips that can help save energy and create a healthier environment inside your home.

Check for water intrusion, condensation and excess moisture before you begin the project.
Excess moisture encourages mold growth. Fixing those issues during remodeling can improve your home’s indoor air quality.

Use the least amount of framing allowed by your building code when adding walls
Not only will you have to pay for less lumber, the contractor will have more room to put insulation in your walls, making your home more energy-efficient.

Resist the urge to splurge on multiple showerheads
Opt for a single low-flow showerhead rather than installing a car wash-style plethora of showerheads.

Add new HVAC ducts to parts of your home that are heated and cooled
Try not to place ducts in a space with unconditioned air (like the attic). If that’s not possible, insulate the ducts. Have an HVAC diagnostician analyze your system to make sure it’s sized correctly and balanced to properly exchange old and new air.

Insulate around recessed lights that protrude into uninsulated attic spaces
These are major sources of air leaks.

If you’re wasting water, you’re wasting energy
Look at high-efficiency or solar water heaters, and insulate your water pipes. If you want hot water faster, move the water heater closer to the faucet or install demand pumps to drive hot water to the fixture.

Install wall-mounted efficiency toggle switch plates
Install wall-mounted efficiency toggle switch plates to make it easy to cut off the power to electronics you’re not using such as your television and computer.

Install a humidistat that automatically turns on the bathroom fan
Reducing bathroom moisture reduces the chances that you’ll have mold.

For the best homeowners insurance do your homework!

Shopping for homeowner’s insurance is one of those home-buying details that sometimes manage to slip through the cracks. It’s not unusual for insurance agents to receive last-minute frantic phone calls from title and/or escrow companies requesting a home insurance binder. To save you trouble, it’s a good idea to start shopping for a homeowner’s policy as soon as your purchase offer is accepted. Here are a few tips about buying homeowner’s insurance that are designed to save you time and money:

 Determine insurability. Your insurance agent needs extensive information from you to quote you the best rate for your policy. To determine insurability, an agent will ask:

        When was the home built?

        How old is the plumbing and electrical?

        What type of roof?

        What’s the square footage?

        How many claims have been filed over the past five years?

        Where is the home located?

If the home is located in a rural area without a nearby fire department or if there is no fire hydrant on the street, some companies may refuse to insure it. In that case, you may have to inquire at a specialty or surplus-lines company, and this quote will take longer to obtain.  

You can save money by having a higher deductible on your policy. Typically, insurance companies will start giving discounts at a $500 deductible and increase the discount as your deductible increases. Most companies offer deductibles up to $10,000. Be careful, however, because many mortgage companies will not allow you to exceed a $1,000 deductible, so check with your lender before opting for a higher deductible.

 How much insurance do you need?

Most agents use a cost estimator to figure cost replacement estimates. This will guarantee that your home is insured for the correct amount. Insurance companies do not insure dirt. If you buy a home that includes a large lot, do not be astonished when you receive an insurance policy for a lot less than what you paid for the home. This is because you are buying coverage for the home and not the land. In the past, replacement coverage was called Guaranteed Replacement Cost. There is no such coverage anymore. Today, it is Replacement Cost Coverage, which means each insurance company designates a percentage of additional coverage on top of the insured amount. This is designed to protect the homeowner who has suffered a loss from having to pay additional construction costs to rebuild. It can cost more to build because of inflation or simply because material prices have increased. 

Policy options.
You have other choices on your home insurance policy that you can tailor. Liability coverage is a part of your homeowners’ insurance policy that is often overlooked. This protects the insured against claims arising from bodily injury and property damage to others. For example, if your five-year-old was playing with matches and set your neighbor’s house on fire, your liability coverage would pay for this damage. You might have to move out of the neighborhood, but your insurance policy would pay your neighbor.

 Available discounts.
Make sure that you are getting all of the credits for which you are eligible. If you have an alarm system that reports to a central station (a company such as Brinks or ADT), in some cases, you can get up to a 10% discount. If you are over 50 and care to admit it, you may be eligible for a discount. The most common discount is the multi-policy discount. This will save you money on your home and auto insurance. By combining the two policies with the same company, you are given a certain percentage discount on both. The percentage discounts vary among companies, so it’s best to shop around.

 Review your policies.
Call your agent and review your homeowners’ policy at least every three years. Needs change, markets change and coverages change. You should stay up-to-date on your insurance, because you never know when you will need to rely on it.

For more useful information about homeownership, talk to a Realtor® today.

Should you stay or should you go?

Whether the initial love has faded or your home just isn’t working for you and your family anymore, deciding between selling your home and remodeling can sometimes be difficult. 

So what you should consider, before making the decision, is — will you be more satisfied with the end result than you are with your home now?

What is the current condition of your home?

If part of the reason your home isn’t working for you or your family anymore is that several areas of the home need updating or improving, then you may want to reconsider selling your home. Often an outdated kitchen and bathroom can have a considerable effect on the resale value of your home, and a renovation of these areas may be necessary anyway to get the maximum profit from your home.

What is it you need from your home?

If you are thinking of selling your home because its current size or the size of your property is no longer working for you, or if the area in which the house is located no longer serves the needs of your family, then selling your home is likely the best choice versus a remodel. Renovations that add additional rooms can be a huge cost and inconvenience, and in most cases will not give you a good return for your investment.

What is your financial situation?

Another thing you need to consider before deciding whether to sell or remodel is your financial situation as well as the financial standing of your home. If the recent downfall in the housing market has made the value of your home less than the outstanding balance of your mortgage, you will definitely not want to sell. Also, if you are thinking of a remodel, you’ll want to be sure it will not put a financial burden on you or your family.

Overall, deciding on whether to sell or remodel depends on a number of factors, and contacting your local Realtor® is always a great way to get the best advice for your particular situation.

Should you move or remodel?

Deciding whether you should move or remodel is a big decision. The most important things you need to consider, before you make this decision, are the four things you can’t change: 

*Your home’s value compared to the rest of the neighborhood
* How much you love your neighborhoodThe size of your lot
* The cost to move your stuff to a new house 

Just about everything else — remodeling costs, the hassle of living in a construction zone, or the ability to live happily without one more bathroom — is a personal preference.

 1. Will remodeling make your home better than everyone else’s?

To make the right move-or-remodel decision, you have to know:                      

*Your home’s value. Easy. Just ask a Realtor® to estimate it and tell you how it compares with the value of the other homes in your immediate neighborhood. Ask your Realtor® what your house will be worth after the improvements too.

*Your neighbors’ home value. Hit some open houses. Seeing the inside of area homes will inspire you; help you make good choices about finishes, room sizes, and how much to spend; and, admit it, entertain you.

*Your remodeling costs. Once you’ve got your renovation vision, get a quote from a home improvement contractor or, if you’re remodeling it yourself, tally the costs of the items on your supplies shopping list.

 *Then add the remodeling costs to the value of your home. If the number you get is more than 10% above the average value of homes in your neighborhood, you’re over-improving and probably won’t be able to sell for what you put into the remodel.

 2. Do you love where you live?

Want to keep your kids in the same school district, but can’t find or afford a bigger, better house? Love the neighbors? Have an easy commute to work? Stay put. If you’ve soured on the traffic, the neighborhood’s crime rate, or the nosy neighbors, move on. 

3. Do you have room to expand?

If your remodeling plans include increasing the overall size of your home, the size of your lot may be the deciding factor in whether to move or remodel. If you live in a 1,500 sq. ft. ranch on a 3,000 sq. ft. lot, you might be able to add a second story to turn it into a 3,000 sq. ft. two-story, but you’re not likely to add 1,500 sq. ft. at ground level. And if you have a septic tank and well, the location of those will limit how and where you add onto your home (or cost you a bundle to move).

 4. Can you afford to move?

Consider these moving costs: closing costs for your existing home, shipping your household goods, buying window treatments and possibly furniture for the new house, costs to fix up your existing home before the sale, higher utility costs (if your next house is larger), insurance cost differences, and property taxes.

 For help with making the final decision on whether to move or remodel, contact your local Realtor®.