Simple Water-Saving Bathroom Upgrades

Read about the three simple bathroom upgrades that have a positive impact on your wallet and the world.

Guest post by Katy Caballeros 

Between the toilet, shower, and sink, your bathroom accounts for nearly 60% of your home’s water usage. With water scarcity estimated to affect 2/3 for the global population by 2025, water costs are bound increase. Make a water-saving change and an investment in the future, without sacrificing performance. Read about the three simple bathroom upgrades that have a positive impact on your wallet and the world.

1. Install a Low-Flow Faucet Aerator

Although a sink doesn’t seem to use as much water as the shower or toilet, it can pour out around 3 gallons of water per minute (gpm). Those extra gallons add up, especially if occasionally forget to turn off the sink while you shave or brush your teeth. By installing a low-flow faucet aerator on your bathroom sink, you can cut your water waste in half, reducing it by as much as 1,400 gallons per year. Purchasing an aerator for your sink is one of the cheapest conservation renos, with aerators available for as little as $1.

2. Switch Out Your Showerhead

It’s easy to waste water in the shower—many of us use the shower to relax or perhaps leave the water running as we wait for it to warm. While taking shorter showers can definitely help with water conservation, new energy-efficient showerheads can help reduce water waste without sacrificing enjoyment.

WaterSense labeled products are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help save water and are worth consideration as you search for the right products for your home. Showerheads labeled “low flow” are another option for your bathroom reno, as they deliver 2.5 gpm instead of the wasteful 5 gpm of older showerheads.

Newer models, like Evolve’s showerheads, have features like smart home technology, which conserve water and reduce energy use. Here’s how it works: instead of wasting water as you wait for the shower to warm, this technology automatically reduces the water flow to a trickle when it reaches 95 degrees. When you’re ready to shower, you pull on the showerhead’s built in lever and the flow returns to normal. No more letting energy-burning hot water flow down the drain. They estimated this showerhead technology can save homeowners 2-6 gallons of water per shower!

3. Replace Your Old Toilet

The toilet is the most water-wasteful piece of plumbing in most homes. Nearly 1/3 of a household’s total water consumption is flushed down the toilet. They can use as much as 7 gallons per flush! Luckily, toilet technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Newer energy-saving models can reduce water waste up to 67%. There are three main types of water efficient toilets:

  1. Low Flow Toilets
  2. Duel Flush Toilets
  3. Pressure Assist Toilets

Some toilets use a combination of low flow, duel flush, and pressure assist to create a conservation-friendly commode. Low flow toilets are designed to use significantly less water than older models, whereas duel flush toilets customize each flush for either solid or liquid waste. Pressure-assist toilets use an air cartridge to push water from the tank, which means using as little as one gallon per flush. With thousands of gallons a year in water savings at stake, a toilet reno is a must for water-conscious homeowners.

HomeAdvisor surveyed homeowners and found that replacing a toilet cost an average of $377. Compare that to savings up to $2,200 over its lifespan, and that’s more than a 580% return on investment.

Luckily, with innovations in water-saving technology, it’s easy to drastically cut back on water consumption without sacrificing performance. And, compared to other home updates, purchasing and installing water-saving products is relatively cheap and promise big savings on your water and energy bills. Whether you’re conserving water for your wallet, the environment, or state regulations upgrading bathroom fixtures can make a positive impact.

 

Katy Caballeros is a freelance writer who enjoys scheming eclectic home design ideas for her apartment. She can usually be found with a book and bottle of ginger beer on the weekends.

Small Upgrades That Go a Long Way

When it comes to making home upgrades, it’s important that sellers remember to go for simple, clean improvements that make homes look more modern and elegant.

No one wants to spend a fortune when it comes to selling a home, but most want to spruce up a few areas to make their property more appealing to potential buyers. There are several types of small improvements individuals can make that can transform the look of a home without forcing them to break the bank.

When it comes to making home upgrades, it’s important that sellers remember to go for simple, clean improvements that make homes look more modern and elegant.

New Countertops

One of the first areas sellers often focus on when making improvements is their kitchen, and rightly so. Buyers may examine a kitchen space more closely than bedrooms and bathrooms because this is the area where a family will spend the majority of its time. However, unless there is significant damage to the room, sellers may not need to renovate the entire kitchen. Instead, small changes, such as replacing the countertops may be enough to give the area a newer and fresher look. Owners should consider using materials that are common in neighboring homes. A buyer may be less likely to purchase a home with tile countertops when the surrounding homes on the market all feature granite or marble.

New Doors

Many homeowners overlook the appeal of new front, back and side doors, but these features are some of the first that buyers see when they pull up to a home. Adding a new door or painting the current ones to make them stand out can make the home feel more welcoming. In addition, adding new handles and locks can make buyers feel more secure. Doors are relatively inexpensive, and can be installed by the owners themselves with little effort.

Replace Hardware and Fixtures

Old, ruddy cabinet handles, kitchen spouts and light fixtures can be a turn off to buyers and make the home seem outdated. Replacing these fixtures with modern, top-of-the-line hardware is a simple and affordable solution that can be done quickly. Most home improvement stores carry a variety of fixtures and hardware, and owners can compare costs easily by doing some research online.

While homeowners are seeking out new fixtures, they may also examine paint samples to freshen up the colors in their home and make it more inviting.

Privacy-Minded Home Security Options for the Camera Averse

As a homeowner, security and privacy can be an important priority. Learn about how to secure your home without always keeping a watchful eye.

Guest post by Eric Murrell 

It’s never been easier to secure your home, thanks to an abundance of new gadgets on the market. Setups that once required professional installation and thousands of dollars in highly technical equipment are now easy to put together with off-the-shelf products and a few inexpensive apps. It’s a great time to be a consumer, and frankly, a bad time to be a criminal.

All of these new gadgets and services are great, but what if you’re worried about your privacy? Hacks and security breaches in the news—or simply the fear of loss of privacy between family members—have made some people uncomfortable with a camera-based security system inside their home. Thankfully, you can still make high-tech upgrades to your home to keep you safe without always keeping a watchful eye.

The first option to consider is a modern twist on a classic home security setup: motion sensors. Whether it’s a motion-sensitive light on your front porch or a few sensors placed around the home, motion-activated lights and alarms can be a surprisingly effective deterrent to the average thief.

Using today’s smart home technology, it’s easier than ever to add battery-operated sensors to strategic spots around your home. Both inexpensive and easy-to-install, these new sensors can trip lights and alarms like the old ones, but can also pair with a smart home hub to send instant alerts to your smartphone the moment an intruder is detected. Take a close look at your new thermostat or other smart devices; many include motion sensors that are already built-in.

To add an additional layer of security, purchase smart door and window sensors that serve as a first line of defense from the outside world. Like the motion sensors, inexpensive models are available that integrate with most smart home platforms. It’s simple to configure open and closed alerts, but you might find it even more helpful as a passive form of home security. Worried that you forgot to close the garage door after letting the dog out? By taking a quick glance at an app while you work, you can know for sure.

Even if you rule out in-home smart cameras, do consider having smart cameras outside your home so you can see if packages are delivered and if there are any trespassers in your yard. The most well-regarded systems now include location-based privacy features that use your smartphone to automatically adjust their settings, offering an unprecedented combination of privacy and security. Using the GPS signal from your phone, it’s easy to activate your full security network when you leave the house, and have the cameras automatically turn a blind eye the second you pull in the garage.

Security is personal for every family. Explore your device options, and even ask your internet service provider if they offer a home security solution, as bundling services often results in additional savings. Likewise, your ISP may offer the ability to control all of your existing home security gadgets from a centralized app. Whether you install array of sneaky sensors or smart locks, there are a wealth of connected home devices that can help keep your family safe without betraying their privacy. A good night’s sleep is only an app away.

 

Software developer Eric Murrell is a technology contributor working with Xfinity HomeAs the blogger for At Home in the Future, he shares tips on how people can benefit from incorporating smart home and home automation into their houses.

What You Need to Know About Solar Panels

Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget.

Guest post by Lauren White 

The solar panel industry has developed exponentially, in the past decade. Much of that is owed to increased demand. According to the Department of Energy, Americans use 23 times more solar energy now than we did around ten years ago.

Homeowners have more solar energy options than ever before. In order to meet demand and outshine the competition, companies are putting their resources toward research and development. They are constantly working toward creating more efficient and innovative solar energy technology.

Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget. There are generally three solar panel choices for residential homes: Thin-Film, Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. These three panels are part of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which means they convert the sun’s photons into electricity.

Thin-Film

Perfect for: The homeowner with a small budget, a low-to-average rate of energy consumption, and lots of area for installation.

The cells of thin-film panels are constructed by layering photovoltaic material on glass, metal or plastic. These layers can be measured in nanometers, significantly thinner than in traditional panels. Their thin construction makes them lightweight and flexible, and they have a low cost of production. As such, they come at a lower cost to consumers.

One drawback of this technology is its rate of degradation. These solar panels have an average life expectancy of 10-15 years, depending on the photovoltaic material used. Comparatively, monocrystalline solar panels have a life expectancy of 25-35 years.

Another drawback is their low efficiency rating of 7-15%. This rate doesn’t work well for homes consuming more than the national average of 11,000 kWh per year. Also, these panels must be installed over a significant amount of space, which can be a deterrent for homeowners with limited area for installation.

In recent years, technology has improved and certain thin-film technologies are pushing past 20% efficiency. With a higher efficiency rating, this technology can meet higher energy demands and become a greater competitor in the market.

Polycrystalline

Perfect for: The eco-conscious homeowner with wiggle room in their budget, an average rate of energy consumption, and perhaps a penchant for the color blue.

Polycrystalline panels are constructed by melting silicon into molds to create perfect square “wafers.’ These wafers of silicon are then installed on a grid to form the panel. The cost of making these panels is relatively low and the process produces minimal waste. This makes polycrystalline a more affordable option than the original solar panel, monocrystalline.

The efficiency rating for polycrystalline panels is typically 13-16%. They would perform best in homes with typical rates of consumption. You will still need a significant amount of installation space, for these panels, in order to achieve optimal benefits. You must also take into consideration whether or not your taste will agree with their blue tint.

Monocrystalline

Perfect for: The homeowner with less roof space for installation and/or a higher rate of energy consumption, who wants a longer-lasting product and can make a sizeable investment.

Monocrystalline panels were the first solar panels to be made available. Currently, they are some of the most expensive. Each panel is created using high-purity silicon cut into “wafers.” These silicon wafers are extremely efficient at converting photons into energy, with monocrystalline panels hovering around a 22% efficiency rating.

Since these panels can convert more energy per square foot, you won’t need as much space for installation. Greater energy conversion also means you’ll be able to power more appliances, like hot tubs, heated pools and electric cars.

Get What You Pay for—and Then Some

In most cases, homeowners surveyed by HomeAdvisor say the cost of installing solar panels is much less than their projected energy savings over a twenty year period. In fact, it’s been estimated that, in 2017, homeowners in Massachusetts and California will save double their investment in solar energy.

Calculate Your Estimated Savings

If you’re not sure of your ROI, Google has a convenient tool called Project Sunroof, which will calculate your estimated savings based on your specific home address. As for your installation cost, you can request local estimates through HomeAdvisor to get a realistic figure for budgeting.

While you’re doing your research, or when you are speaking with a professional, see what’s new and on the horizon in the industry. These technologies are developing so rapidly, there are breakthroughs on a yearly basis. In July of 2017, for example, scientists developed a solar cell with 44.5% efficiency. There is hope that this technology, and others like it, can be streamlined and integrated into the residential and commercial solar market.

 

Lauren White is a freelance writer who enjoys reading, hiking and traveling. She can usually be found on an outdoor adventure with her boyfriend and little sister on the weekends.

How (and Why) to Combine Open Shelves and Cabinets in Your Kitchen

A designer and her builder husband opt for 2 styles of storage. She offers advice, how-tos and cost info.

Houzz Contributor,  Lyndsye Felsman

I’ve encouraged clients and friends to step out of the box of traditional kitchen cabinets and try something different. I’ve offered suggestions such as bold cabinet colors, contrasting shades and a minimalist option: open shelving. It was time to put my money where my mouth was and mix it up in my own kitchen.

 Note: These photos are examples of different styles of cabinets. See the writer’s actual kitchen at the end.

Why I Was Drawn to 2 Styles

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be hard, but I had decided that during this remodel, I’d be open to a new look for me and my family.

During the planning stage, I realized that installing two styles of cabinetry would work in my kitchen, so I kept an open mind to the idea, and especially to open shelves.

I liked the fact that open shelves could add depth to my kitchen and provide a display space for my pretty dishes that I love so much. It brings me joy to stage items around the home, so while I realize that open shelves aren’t for everyone, I knew that I would enjoy them. I’m a designer and home stager, so I enjoy rearranging things, including those pretty dishes. Plus, I could also store other everyday items in a handy place for my busy family.

Budget Matters

To keep costs low, my husband (a builder) and I did the cabinet work ourselves, from installing the open shelves to painting the existing cabinets. It’s definitely something you can learn to do if you have the time and patience.

Open shelves: We built and installed our own open shelves, as I mentioned. This was cost-effective because the bill included only the cost of the wood, stain and urethane finish. If the DIY approach isn’t for you, find a cabinet professional in your area who can help you with shelves or any other type of kitchen cabinetry project.

Brackets versus floating: We built shelves that slid over brackets on the wall to make the shelves look as if they were floating. Since we were going to tile the whole wall behind the brackets, we could bury the brackets under the tiles to give the shelves a floating look. Whether you have brackets that are visible or floating, make sure you affix the shelves directly to the studs in the walls to handle the heavy load of dishes.

Material: Make sure you choose substantial, sturdy brackets, not tiny or plastic ones, because you want them to be able to hold the weight of the shelf and anything you put on it.

Total cost: $200

Paint, not replace: For us, it made sense to paint, and not completely replace, the rest of our cabinets. It was much cheaper than all-new cabinets and took less time.

Total cost: $125. Replacing the cabinets would’ve cost at least $5,000.

How we refinished the cabinets: 

Remove doors and hardware. Be sure to number and label both the doors and the hardware as you remove them or you’ll regret it later. We also found it helpful to put the hardware for each door in a plastic bag and then store that bag inside the cabinet. This made it easy to reinstall the hardware.

Clean the existing cabinets. You want to use something like a trisodium phosphate (TSP) degreaser. You may have to go over the doors a few times to remove all the grime. Don’t skip this step! It’s necessary to get a good finish in the end.

Fill any scrapes or dings with wood putty. This will give you a smooth finish and make old cabinets look new again.

Sand the cabinets. You want to sand just enough to rough up the surface so that the new finish will adhere better. You don’t need to sand the cabinets completely down unless there are areas that are flaking or chipping. We used 100-grit sandpaper — that should do the trick.

Vacuum the cabinet surfaces. Vacuuming will remove any dirt or dust from sanding.

Prime the cabinets. You’ll want to use a good stain-blocking primer, such as Zinsser’s B-I-N or a Kilz product, to ensure a smooth painting process.

Do a quick sanding, if needed. This step will remove any brushstrokes left behind after the priming. Use a 220-grit sandpaper and wipe off any resulting dust.

Paint your first coat. The key is to use a light coat so that you don’t layer on too much paint. You can roll or brush paint on the cabinets, but if you can, spray-paint for a better finish.

Sand with 220-grit paper. Don’t forget to wipe off and vacuum dust after each sanding.

Paint your second coat.

Sand again. Remember to wipe or vacuum away dust.

Apply a clear coat or acrylic finish, if desired. This provides extra protection to the surfaces.

Reinstall doors and hardware. Because you labeled the doors and organized the hardware, this process should be straightforward.

Pro tips: Put a couple of coats of protective urethane on your shelves. This won’t affect the style, but it will make them easier to clean and keep your dishes from scratching the surface. If you are going to put on new cabinet hardware, buy it in bulk if you can. Many times, the more you buy, the more you save.

Style Selection

Open shelving has always been a favorite style of mine because I love displaying the vintage and custom dishes I’ve collected over the years. Although I didn’t install it exclusively in my kitchen, I took this remodel as an opportunity to add the open shelves I’d always wanted.

Two styles: Choosing two styles can seem daunting to some, but mixing styles, like mixing patterns, can bring so much personality to a space. I landed on keeping the lower cabinets and the upper cabinets above the stove, and then installing three open shelves above my largest expanse of countertop. This seemed like the best place for them because having them around my stovetop would cause more mess than I wanted to deal with.

Storage concerns: Surprisingly enough, it’s amazing how much you can fit on the shelves. You just have to be disciplined about keeping them tidy and clean, and set them up to suit your family. In the end, open shelves gave me a little more storage space because I didn’t have any vertical dividers. Of course, I didn’t want everything in my kitchen on display, so I kept some of my upper cabinets and all the lower ones.

Family Needs

We have three boys and all the friends and visitors we can welcome, so I wanted my kitchen cabinets to first off be functional.

Pros of two styles: Open shelves make everyday items accessible. People don’t need to ask where to find a coffee mug — they can just snag one from the shelf. Plus, unloading the dishwasher is a breeze. The most common things go right back up on the shelves. At the same time, the closed cabinets hide our less attractive kitchen items.

Cons: The items I don’t use all the time can accumulate dust, but I’ve just added them to my dusting routine. The additional 30 seconds of cleaning is worth the display space for me.

Before Photo

See My Kitchen Cabinet Transformation

Before: My upper and lower cabinets were maple with peeling hardware. They made me feel a little claustrophobic in the space and were suffocating when I was at my sink.

After: The floating shelves and fresh paint on the lower cabinets make my kitchen feel brighter and bigger. We were able to transform our cabinets for $325 and a little elbow grease. That price tag included the open-shelving materials, cabinet paint and new cabinet hardware.

My open shelves are everything I thought they would be and more. Our everyday items are easy to reach, and I love styling the shelves and changing out seasonal decor.

For the floating shelves, we used sanded plywood with a pine edge and installed them on floating brackets. They opened up the space, making it feel much larger than it is.

Across from the shelves, we have our original cabinets, just painted in new shades. For the top, we used Alabaster from Sherwin-Williams. On the bottom, I went with Still Water by Sherwin-Williams. I chose the color because I loved the bright feel, and now that it’s in the space, I love it! It’s so daring and feels so right.

This mix of styles and colors pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad I followed my designer-self’s advice and did it. There’s no need to be scared of mixing two colors or styles, especially if one is a neutral. I absolutely love how these cabinet choices really made our kitchen feel like our own.

Do you have a mix of cabinets in your kitchen? How did you decide on your cabinets? Tell us in the comments section.

How Home Tech Can Improve Your Neighborhood

See how new technology could help you interact with the people who live next door.

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Houzz Contributor, Kayla Matthews

The web has connected people around the globe, yet it’s also played a role in disconnecting people from those living right next door. There is a growing trend of separation, with one-third of Americans saying they’ve never interacted with their neighbors. Technology could shift these trends, though, by bringing back the tradition of befriending and trusting your neighbor.

What is the Echo Show?

The Echo Show is a variation of Amazon’s Echo device. Echo is a smart, voice-enabled wireless speaker that features a personal assistant named Alexa. Users can ask Alexa questions about the weather, events or any other topic. Alexa also works by setting alarms and reminders, as well as providing a slew of other services.

Echo Show adds to Echo’s initial offerings by including an LCD screen and front-facing camera. Its design mimics the countertop TV sets that are still found in some kitchens, which hints at Amazon’s intended goal for the product.

One of Show’s unique features is Drop In. This feature lets people chat and visit with one another instantly whenever they want to. Only those approved, however, can drop in. If you’re unavailable, friends can leave a voice message for you to listen to later. You can also chat without using the front camera.

 

How the Echo Show Could Change Communication

Amazon’s promotion of the Echo Show and even the naming of Drop In indicates the company’s intention to re-create the openness among neighbors and families that marked the childhoods of baby boomers.

Staying connected through technology isn’t a new concept. Just consider phones. Now friends and families across the country, and even the world, use social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to keep in touch. Information on social media, however, can be inaccuate.

A study in the United Kingdom found 75 percent of polled users lied on their social media profiles, with only 18 percent considering their profiles to be an accurate representation of themselves. In a separate study commissioned by smartphone maker HTC, two-thirds of users admitted to posting pictures that made them appear more adventurous or outgoing to their social media family.

Because Echo Show doesn’t go through the filter of social media but instead provides a real-time view of your kitchen (or wherever you place your device), it lets your family or friends see you in your everyday life, without hashtags or filters. It’s you — cleaning the counter, putting away groceries or preparing dinner while having a conversation.

 

How the Echo Show Could Bring Neighbors Together

The Echo Show could bring neighbors together because it makes hands-free video communication so easy.

Children play a significant role in Echo Show’s potential. They go to school and ride the bus with other kids from the neighborhood, forming friendships that continue even after school.

The idea is that elementary or middle school-age kids will want to talk to their friends after school. Echo Show provides that option, but in a family gathering space that inevitably leads to communication between neighborhood parents.

Conversations then extend outside of Echo Show and to school events, play dates and get-togethers.

It’s a gradual progress, but one that could bring significant change to neighborhoods across the U.S. as people build friendships with those who live right next door.

While online relationships can be meaningful, relationships with your neighbors have been proven to offer health benefits.

Research has shown that when you’re connected with your neighbors, you reduce your chance of a heart attack. You also have an improved sense of well-being when you trust your neighbors — similar to the trust you have for someone who “drops in.”

Whether the Echo Show will impact neighborhood relationships is yet to be seen, but it does have the potential to change neighborhoods and foster a certain closeness that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s. That seems to be one of Amazon’s goals.

Other Tech to Keep You Friendly With Your Neighbors:

  • Nextdoor is a website that works like a private social network just for your neighborhood. Neighbors use it to do everything from alerting others about a break-in to finding lost pets.
  • With less focus on messaging and video chatting, Meetup is a great service for finding people near you who share your hobbies and interests. It’s a good way to find out about book clubs, hiking groups and pretty much anything else you can imagine. What better way to make new neighbor friends than by enjoying your hobbies together?

Your turn: Would you let your neighbors and family “drop in” on you with the Echo Show?

How to Use Smart Home to Build Your Advantage

Learn how staying sharp on smart home can help you build your brand

When 79% of agents say that buyers are interested in smart home tech and 54% of sellers say they would install it to make their home sell faster – you know that smart home is a trend worth understanding.

Being able to recognize smart home tech in a listing and guiding a buyer on how it can change the way they live in their home sets you apart. Smart home tech is no longer just a high-end upgrade. It’s now a must-have in markets as diverse as Boston and Des Moines.

“If a buyer under 35 walks into a home without a smart thermostat they’re walking out,” says Jim Hibbs, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group in Des Moises, Iowa.  “If a home doesn’t have smart upgrades you’re really limiting the prospective buyer pool. Smart Home tech also makes the whole home feel updated.”

The data supports this. Last year 71% of Americans said they wanted a move-in ready home and nearly half of that group said a property needed smart home tech to be considered move-in ready.

As consumer demand for smart home tech has soared so has the number of companies claiming to offer the best products and services. Wading through all of the info can be daunting. So we’ve compiled some resources to help you stay up-to-date.

Stay in the Smart Home Know

The Coldwell Banker Blue Matter blog tracks all things related to smart home and real estate. It has a full library of videos and short articles with tips, data and advice from our network on how to use smart home to market yourself and your listings. CNET is another excellent source for smart home information. They’re famous for their in-depth and honest product reviews, their best of lists are a great quick resource for product recommendations.

Help Your Clients “Smart Stage” Their Homes

Another way to use smart home to your advantage is the smart home staging kit. The kit provides home sellers with an easy way to “smart stage” (upgrading a home with smart home tech) before putting it on the market. The kit provides you with a marketing edge. Preliminary data shows that homes designated and marked as a “smart home” on coldwellbanker.com are receiving two times more conversions than the site average.

“Putting in smart home tech helps a property stand-out against the competition,” says Ricardo Rodriguez, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boston, Massachusetts.  “Smart Home gives a listing an edge and can allow you to position it at a more advantageous price point.”

The smart home staging kit includes smart home tech from the most popular product categories: temperature, lighting, security, safety and voice control. The products all work together wirelessly and can be controlled by voice through the Echo Dot. As an added plus installing these products means that the home meets the Coldwell Banker / CNET Smart Home Definition.

Not only does installing these products give a home a marketing edge it also has lasting lifestyle benefits for the new buyer. The Nest Learning Thermostats helps self-regulate a home’s temperature and has long-term energy saving and money benefits for the owner. The August Smart Lock allows you to lock or unlock your home via your smart phone from anywhere in the world all while monitoring who is coming and going through your Nest Security Camera. And installing Lutron Caséta means never coming home to a dark home!

Coldwell Banker agents and their clients have a further edge when it comes to smart staging. The Smart Home Staging kit can be purchased at a discount by going here. Please note a CB Exchange Log-In is required to view this page and receive your discount.

Get Smart Home Certified

Coldwell Banker is the only real estate brand with an official smart home curriculum and certification. The self-paced course is available to all Coldwell Banker agents; upon completion your agent profile is automatically updated with a smart home icon showcasing your expertise to potential buyers and sellers.

Dressing Up My Door: Adding Privacy to Doorways

Want to let sunlight into your home while keeping prying eyes out? Here are a few of our favorite options!

The benefits of allowing natural sunlight to flood into a home are manifold. An air of expansiveness, livability and distinction characterizes an exceptionally well-lit home. It’s no wonder, then, that the installation of French doors, sliding patio doors and door sidelights are among the most popular home improvement projects.

While many homeowners may desire the enhanced interior aesthetic that comes from these glass-paned solutions, they prefer to have them without compromising on privacy. There are many options for blinds and shades that let sunlight in and keep prying eyes out without compromising the look of newly installed windows and doors. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Vertical Blinds and Sliding Panels – Vertical blinds pair beautifully with sliding glass doors in both form and function, with their long, elegant drape and a myriad of available styles. Because they slide on a horizontal axis, they allow for easy opening and closing. The slats can be tilted at any angle you choose, so you have total control over how much light can filter in or change the direction of light while deflecting the wayward gaze of passersby. Vertical blinds also have sheer options, which filter some amount of light even when closed, and they provide a modern aesthetic.

Sliding panels are similar to vertical blinds, but they’re made of wider pieces of material and offer a more updated look. They also provide more options for opening – from either side or from the center. Available in a variety of materials and colors, they can complement any room’s décor.

2. Shades – Shades are a good option for doors that open in and out, like French doors. Unlike the many-slatted design of most blinds, shades are composed of solid pieces of fabric which offer full coverage for privacy. With options ranging from cellular to Roman, shades can be made from a wider variety of materials that match the look of your door, and may even feature some degree of translucence to allow a warm glow to permeate your interior even when they’re closed. Motorized options can be programmed to retract or extend per the time of day, giving you a turnkey window treatment solution that enhances the style of your doors.

3. Shutters – These window treatments are an excellent option for windows around doorways. Plantation shutters work particularly well as adornments for door sidelights.
Mounted into the window frame, shutters stay tightly attached from top to bottom so they won’t sway when the door opens and closes. Simply adjust the slats to control the light entering the home. Available in wood and faux-wood, the aesthetic of your shutters can be tailored to complement the look of your home. When closed, shutters form a barricading façade that guarantees your privacy from nosy neighbors and would-be intruders alike. With the proper angling of your shutters, however, you can still maintain that same privacy while letting natural light in.

4. Smart Glazing – For a thoroughly modern solution, consider smart glazing window treatments as an alternative to traditional frosted glass. Crystals inside of these high-tech panes respond to electrical currents to change your glazing from clear to opaque and anything in between, completely on demand. The best part? Your smart system can be programmed to change dynamically with the time of day, allowing you to adopt a “set it and forget it” philosophy to the privacy and aesthetics of your doors and windows.

The beautiful doors and doorways in your home can welcome visitors as well as natural light, while still allowing for privacy and security. Maintain their character with a customized window treatment that matches the style and function of your home.


Katie Laird is the Director of Social Marketing for Blinds.com and a passionate home decorator for her family with a love of all things Mid-Century Modern and blue. If you are looking for more information about window blinds or other options to help add privacy to your home, visit the Blinds.com website.

4 Easy Ways to Stage Your Home to Make It More Attractive to Home Buyers

So you’re ready to sell your home – but is your home ready? Learn how you can stage your home in 4 easy steps from the pros at Coldwell Banker.

So you’re ready to sell your home – but is your home ready? These quick and easy steps to stage your home are inexpensive, but will really stand out to buyers and increase the appeal of your home.

1. Clean Up

The first step to staging your home is storing away the clutter. This will depersonalize your home and allow potential buyers to picture themselves living in the house. This is also a great opportunity to get rid of or donate items you don’t want to transport to your new place.

2. A Fresh Coat of Paint Goes a Long Way

Freshen up and stage your home by painting your walls. This hide any marks, fingerprints, or discoloration and make your home feel refreshed and new again. Choose light, neutral shades when painting to allow potential buyers to easily personalize the home with the color of their choice.

3. Consider Your Lighting

Stage your home with great lighting. Do a walk-through of your home to make sure plenty of natural light is coming in throughout the day. Purchasing LED lights are a great energy-efficient option that will brighten up any room.

4. Step Up Your Curb Appeal

Your home should make a great first impression from the moment potential buyers drive up. Hiring professional landscapers will ensure your lawn and shrubbery are manicured to be most appealing to buyers. Make sure bushes and trees are trimmed and pruned, and that any flower beds are well-maintained.

7 Tips for Home Improvement from Coldwell Banker

 

If you choose wisely, home improvements can raise the value of a property investment. See these 7 tips to do your home improvement right.

While improving one’s lifestyle is a fundamental reason for a home renovation, homeowners should also be aware that with proper research, planning and thoughtfulness, home improvements can ultimately raise the value of a property investment.

The professionals at Coldwell Banker have identified several things homeowners should consider before home renovations begin.

Think Long-Term Home Improvement: Remodeling Magazine reported that money spent on a kitchen remodel produces the highest return on investment. Bathroom renovations and adding additional rooms such as guest bedrooms or studies also traditionally score well. Homeowners should consult with a local real estate sales associate to determine if their plans will positively influence the resale value. A sales associate may be able to offer suggestions on renovations that will provide a significant return on investment.

Healthy Balance: While homeowners should consider a home’s future value when making renovations, changes that enhance their lifestyle should also come into play. More size, better layout and contemporary looks can help a family find more pride in their home and increase the home’s overall value. Life-altering milestones – like having children, having extended family move in and work-at-home-jobs – provide good cause to renovate.

Seek Out Referrals: Once committed to the process, hiring the right home improvement contractor is critical. A great way to choose a contractor is to contact salespeople at stores where contractors buy their supplies, such as lumberyards, window stores, cabinet shops and hardware stores. It is also a good idea to speak with friends, family and neighbors that have been through the process before, as well as check the Web sites of local community associations.

Obtain Multiple Bids: Always get at least three estimates on a project. Contractors can bid on the same project using different prices and timeframes. Check that all the bids are based on the same scope and quality of work, which is the only way to do a fair and effective comparison.

Interview Your Home Improvement Contractors: It is important for the homeowner to talk about a contractor’s style and process. A strong rapport and close communication with the contractor will increase the likelihood of the project going smoothly. If, for example, the homeowner will want to know every detail during the project, they probably will not be content with a contractor that provides little information during the interview. It is also important to verify that the contractor has a license and insurance certificate. Most states require a contractor to carry worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance.

Follow up on References and Verify the Contractor’s License: Be sure to check the contractor’s credentials. Ask how many similar jobs the contractor has completed, how much experience they have, whether they guarantee their work and who will be in charge of the project. Reputable contractors typically supply names and phone numbers of recent references. It is worth calling a minimum of three people to verify the contractor’s credentials. There are several good questions to ask: Did the reference pay a fair price, was the work done properly and would the reference hire the contractor again? Did the contractor show up every day and finish the project when expected?

Contact Local Consumer Protection Agencies: Call the local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau to check if there have been any unresolved complaints registered against the contractor. Also contact the contractor licensing agency and local building inspectors to confirm that the contractor has a clean record.