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.

Pare Down and Declutter By Knowing How Much Stuff Is Enough

Play the numbers game to streamline your belongings, for a neater home and a less-stressed you.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

So you want to pare down your belongings. But how much, exactly, do you get rid of? And how can you prevent stuff from simply piling up all over again? Part of the solution to a lasting clutter-free existence may lie in numbers. As in, the number of pairs of shoes, towels, place settings and so on that you decide to keep in the house. By deciding how many items in each category of stuff you really need, those numbers become a sort of fail-safe, preventing your home from free-falling into its formerly cluttered state. Check out these ideas on how to get started, then share your own numbers in the Comments.

The “sometimes” dilemma: What to do if you use something but only occasionally? Fancy china and highly specialized cookware come immediately to mind. If you really do love to have these things when the occasion calls for it, and you have storage space for them, by all means keep them. Just be intentional about what and how much you are keeping, and know why. Try to avoid keeping large sets of anything purely out of guilt — if you’ve inherited something you don’t want, see if someone else in the family wants it, sell it or donate it to charity.

More tips on what to do with sentimental pieces

How much to keep? Set a space limit. One way to keep rarely used items in check is to limit the amount of storage space you afford them. Instead of allowing your entertaining arsenal to multiply indefinitely over time, taking over not only cupboards but basement shelves and the attic too, decide on one space to store these items in and stick with it. For instance, keep all china in one nice china hutch — if you acquire more down the road, give away or sell something to free up space.

The Rule of Three: One in the wash, one in the cupboard, one in use. You may have heard this one before, but it bears repeating because it really works. It can be difficult to come up with what seems to be a rather arbitrary number of items to keep, but sticking with one for the shelf, one to use and one to wash keeps things simple. I follow this rule for sheets (per bed) and towels (per person).

What about guests? Unless you are running a boarding house, two sets of sheets for each guest bed and two sets of towels per guest are plenty.

The seasonal exception: Even minimalists may want to keep extra stuff on hand to rotate in depending on the season — and that’s whether or not there are chilly winters.

It can be a nice change of pace to bring out thicker blankets in warmer hues for the winter and light, airy linens in summer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should double the number of sets you have, if some sets work well year-round. For instance, you could decide to keep one set of sateen sheets for year-round use, two sets of flannels for winter and two cool, crisp sets for summer.

Special case: Clothes. Clothes and shoes may be the most personal (and difficult) category of stuff to put limits on. That said, even those with intense attachments to their wardrobes can find it worthwhile to do a proper inventory.

After figuring out that you actually have 100 pairs of shoes or 20 nearly identical black tops, you may decide to bring that number down … or you may not, but at least you will be informed.

Special case: Kids’ stuff. When a child’s room is overflowing with stuff, it’s hard to focus on any one thing, and pretty soon all of those lovingly chosen toys become just part of the mess. Setting space constraints is a smart way to handle this situation. Dedicate certain shelves, plus perhaps a toy closet (for toys not currently being used in the rotation) for your child’s belongings, and keep it at that. When a bin or shelf begins to overflow, or you notice that stuff is piling up on the floor (because it has nowhere else to go), take that as a cue to give something away.

The everyday stuff: Count it out. Do you know how many basic plates, bowls, cups and wineglasses you own? If you’re not sure, go count them — you may be surprised at just how many pieces of “everyday” tableware you have. Of course it’s nice to have enough of everything that the whole household can eat a meal or two and not worry about getting everything washed and dried, and you’ll want extras on hand for bigger casual dinners with family and friends if you host that sort of thing, but you won’t likely need more than that.

Not everyone wants to stick with one set of white dishes (although for simplicity’s sake, that’s surely an easy way to go). But you can still set a limit at a certain number of sets. If you go over your number, it’s time to start culling.

Special case: Tupperware. What is it about plastic containers that makes them seem to multiply when you’re not looking (but hardly ever with a matching lid)? Start by removing any lids that don’t have mates, then count what you have left. Most of us probably have too many food storage containers — really, how many leftovers are you likely to wrap up at any given time? Three? Four?

Special case: Your passions. Book lovers, athletes, outdoorsy types, musicians, crafters … you know who you are. And more important, you know how easy it is to collect more and more stuff to support your passion.

Being aware of exactly what you already own is a good first step toward reining in your collections — perhaps your yarn stash is in such disarray, you end up buying yarn you already have.

But it’s also a good idea to start paying attention to what you actually use. If you treasure your books, notice which ones you actually pick up from time to time — I realized a while ago that I rarely pick up novels after I’ve read them, so I decided to let go of most books in that category.

Pain-free ways to declutter your library

Just because you have the room to store it doesn’t mean you should. Extra space is deceptive. If you are blessed with large closets and ample storage space, you may be thinking you’re off the hook — but the truth is, everyone can benefit from paring down a little. Having fewer belongings means less time spent cleaning, moving and mending them; less time looking for things; and generally less to worry about. And if you ever need to downsize in the future, the process will be far less gut wrenching if you have already chosen to live with less stuff.

Set your own rules. The point of this ideabook is to help you gain awareness of what kind of and how much stuff you need, so you can tailor your stuff to fit your life. And no one else can really do that for you. It may take a while to figure out exactly the right amount of stuff for you, but once you do, it’s bound to make your life a little easier.

Tell us: What are your numbers? How many sets of sheets, dishes or pairs of shoes are enough for you?

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.

Does Your Living Room Feel Unfinished? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions

Your answers can offer clues to get from not-yet-done to perfectly designed.

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Houzz Contributor, Karen Mills

Have you ever felt like your living room looks incomplete but you haven’t been sure what to do about it? Being your own decorator can be difficult — you get used to your own furniture, and it can be challenging to think of new approaches to a space you’ve been living in for some time. If that’s the situation for you, ask yourself these six questions to jump start a new perspective and take your living room from not-quite-right to beautifully decorated.

1. Do you have a focal point? Many features in a room can be its focal point, including a fireplace, built-in shelves or even a grouping like a chest with a lamp and art overhead. If a focal point doesn’t seem to exist in your living room, think about where your eye goes naturally when entering the room and create a point of interest there with furnishings, such as a sofa table and lamp or maybe a curio cabinet with decorative items. To emphasize your focal point, add finishes or decor that will make it stand out: an accent wall can draw the eye, as can bold artwork, contrasting decor or a stunning piece of furniture.

In this photo, a wide doorway frames the focal point beyond: the sofa and art. The white sofa, light walls and rug create a bold contrast against the eye-catching red pillows and dark tables. The large artwork pulls together the different colors in the room.

In this room, the built-in shelving is the obvious focal point, thanks in large part to its fetching blue paint. The large framed art and contrasting shelf decor further draw the eye to this part of the room. It’s just as important that the sofa, end table, coffee table, gray chair and pillows provide a neutral foreground that doesn’t compete with the shelving.

Keep in mind that not every element of your room has to be special or colorful or unique — keeping some pieces simple allows the items you want to showcase to really stand out.

2. Do you have a cozy seating arrangement that enhances your focal point? Of course a wide range of options exist on furniture placement, but by placing your sofa or love seat facing your focal point with chairs laced in to create an intimate grouping, you naturally draw attention toward that focal point, whether a fireplace, artwork or view beyond. If pointing your sofa toward the focal point isn’t an option or doesn’t look quite right, try flanking your focal point with the furniture grouping instead to enhance it like in this photo.

Here, the bold green chair and colorful decor on the mantel give emphasis to the fireplace, while the yellow pillow and flowers add a cheerful pop of color.

This photo provides a great example of a U-shaped seating arrangement that enhances the fireplace focal point, providing an enticing place to sit. The striated horizontal tile and lit shelving flanking the fireplace call further attention to that wall.

3. Do you have stylish side and coffee tables? Not only are tables practical for holding lamps, drinks and decor like trays, books or flowers, but also they can make a design statement.

These quirky stacked tables are a great example of how to have an impact when mixed with simple furnishings. If you have upholstery that looks heavy — skirted, thick legs or no legs showing — try offsetting them with tables that show more leg for a lighter, balanced feel (and vice versa). In this photo, a gallery-style wall of art adds a personal touch and vibrant color to the room, as do the pillows and plants.

4. Do you have an ample-size rug that augments your design? Rugs not only help delineate spaces in open floor plans but also ground a furniture grouping, or help define it as a contained space. When selecting a rug, ensure that it supports your room’s style and that it is large enough to tuck fully under your seating area. If not, then place front furniture legs on top of the rug, as in this photo, to create a connection between the rug and the furnishings.

5. Have you added window treatments? Window coverings can range from draperies, as shown in this photo, to window toppers and hard treatments like shades, blinds or shutters. Window treatments need to be beautiful as well as functional, providing privacy, darkening, sun protection and insulation from outside elements when needed.

In this photo, the draperies add height to the room and reinforce the color palette, making the room feel more finished.

6. Does your room showcase your style and color preferences? As much as neutral schemes can be calming and beautiful, accent colors and stylish furnishings can bring a room to life. In this photo, bright orange and golden yellow pillows warm up the gray sectional along with the orange and yellow accents on the shelving beyond.

Wall shelves and a coffee table reveal an affinity for clean-lined furniture in light woods, while the rug and gold pillow fabric at the far end of the sofa demonstrate a fondness for graphic patterns.

Five Overlooked Ways to Prepare Your Home for Sale

How to get your home ready for sale in 5 easy steps.

Congratulations! You’ve decided to list your home on the market. You know it’s a well-cared-for house and you feel confident you’ll be able to sell it for asking price.

Well, maybe “confident” isn’t the right word. You hope you’ll be able to get your asking price, but you wouldn’t mind having an extra push to help put the odds in your favor. You know, just a tiny boost to help you sleep more peacefully at night.

Your home deserves to be shown in the best possible light. Fortunately, there are small steps you can take to facilitate this – tiny improvements which don’t require much time or money.

Here are five often-overlooked ways you can prepare your home for sale.

1. Repaint the Trim

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars meticulously painting every room of your house.

Instead, for a tiny investment, brighten the trim. We’re referring to baseboards, crown molding, and trim around doorways and windows. Focus on the interior of your house first. If you have the time and resources, paint the exterior trim as well.

Adding a new layer of paint to the trim can bring instant life back into your home, making the space feel fresher and cleaner.

Speaking of which …

2. Hire a Professional House Cleaner

Unless you’re excellent at deep cleaning, you should seriously consider investing a few hundred dollars in hiring a professional house cleaner.

They can undertake a thorough top-to-bottom scrub down, which includes cleaning the grout, polishing the faucets, wiping down the ceiling fan blades, and dislodging every crumb out of that irritating gap between your stove and countertop.

An ultra-clean house makes a huge difference in the eyes of a buyer. It can lead to the “wow” factor that may help put your home sale over the top.

3. Steam Clean the Carpets

Vacuuming the carpets is a good start, but when was the last time you had the carpets in your home professionally steamed-cleaned?

This type of cleaning can lift the smallest stains and imperfections out of your carpets. Your carpets will look as new as possible, at a substantially cheaper price than the cost of a replacement.

You can rent a carpet cleaner from a hardware store if you want to take the DIY route. However, you may get better results by hiring a professional company to take care of this on your behalf. Read online reviews about companies in your area or ask your real estate agent for recommendations.

4. Clear the Clutter

You may have a memory associated with every item in your living room – that old Coca-Cola glass bottle, a baseball cap from your hometown team – but a prospective buyer will view this as clutter.

Clutter overwhelms a space, distracting from your home’s more beautiful elements. Many people won’t notice the high ceilings or large windows if their attention is refocused on a pile of old magazines, heaps of unopened mail, and random wires, cables, tools, board games and DVDs scattered about everywhere.

Clutter also makes a space feel smaller. Your walk-in closet might be amply sized, but if it’s overstuffed with old clothes, jackets, boxes, suitcases and bags, your prospective buyers will think the closet space is insufficient. It doesn’t matter that the closet is actually bigger than the buyer’s first apartment; all they’ll see is the mess. You don’t want to showcase an empty closet – this looks uninviting – but you don’t want one that’s bursting at the seams, either.

Before you open your home for any showings, dedicate a weekend to clearing clutter from your home. Donate unused or unwanted items to a thrift store, or sell your old wares on eBay or Craigslist. If there’s inadequate space in your home for items you truly want or need, rent a storage unit.

5. Stage the Home

Professional investors often hire ‘staging companies’ to fill a home with furniture in order to showcase its potential.

If you’re still living in your current home, you’re already one step ahead of the game: your space is already furnished. Now you just need to up the ante by a notch, so that your home looks magazine-worthy.

Place a bouquet of fresh flowers on the coffee table. Position matching rolled towels next to the bathtub with a tiny decorative bar of soap placed on top. Arrange the bedspread so that the pillows create a ‘wow’ factor when buyers first enter the room.

Pay attention to fragrances within your home, as well. Light a scented candle (with a neutral aroma, like vanilla) in the bathroom or bedroom. Bake cookies just before a showing, so the smell lingers in the kitchen. Conversely, avoid cooking bacon just before a showing.

Open every window blind and curtain, to maximize the natural light that pours through. Keep the lights on in every room during open houses, so that every space appears bright and inviting.

Taking just a little bit of time to spruce up your home may result in better, faster and higher offers. You want potential buyers to fall in love at first sight. A cleaner, brighter look goes a long way toward helping you close the deal and walk away satisfied.

7 Reasons Buying Beats Renting

In most parts of the country, home buying is better than renting. Discover the advantages home buyers have in today’s market that renters are missing out on.

Why Buying a Home is Better than Renting
Conventional wisdom used to state that buying a home is always a great investment.  Home buying is still a better decision than renting for people who plan to remain in the space for at least 4-5 years or more, both for financial and emotional reasons. Let’s explore some of these factors in-depth.

Price Security in Home Buying
Historically, prices tend to rise over time. For example, a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and a semester of college tuition cost more today than they did in 1990.

Your mortgage payment, however, is one constant you can rely upon. If you hold a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly principle and interest (P&I) payment remains the same, regardless of how prices are moving in other industries. (Your property taxes and homeowners insurance may rise.)

Price consistency offers the advantage of planning for the long-term future. As a homeowner, you can anticipate your monthly housing costs in 5, 10 or 15 years.

As a renter, you can’t lock in this type of security. As prices climb, landlords raise the rent to meet the current market. In fact, some landlords write rent escalation clauses into their leases, systematically raising the rent annually.

If you’re renting with a month-to-month lease, your landlord may announce a price jump with only 30 to 60 days of advanced warning, depending on the laws in your area. This puts renters in the difficult position of needing to either find the additional funds or scramble to secure new housing with little advance warning.

Investment – Cash-on-Cash Return
As a homebuyer, the outlay of a small down payment can give you the opportunity to make outsized gains.

Hypothetically, for example, imagine that you put a 20 percent down payment on a $100,000 house. The price rises 5 percent, to $105,000. You would earn $5,000 on your initial outlay of $20,000 – a return of 25 percent. This is known as cash-on-cash return, and homeownership can make this type of gain accessible to the average person.

Forced Savings
A home can be a type of “forced savings.” Each month, a portion of your mortgage payment is returned to you in the form of equity. The longer you own your home, the more equity you build – both via mortgage payments as well as in potential value increases.

Renters don’t have this luxury. Many of the pro-rental arguments hinge on the assumption that money “saved” (either via lower monthly payments or through alternate uses of the down payment) would be invested in the stock market.

Realistically, though, what’s the likelihood that a renter would invest that money, rather than spend it on a trip to the Bahamas? And if that money were invested, what’s the likelihood that a renter wouldn’t panic during the next crash and sell at the bottom of the market, turning paper losses into actual losses?

A home functions as ‘forced savings,’ helping you build equity. Like a personal trainer, it keeps you accountable.

Flexibility with Home Improvements
As a homeowner, you can have the freedom to upgrade your home to your heart’s content – without carrying risk or ongoing financial commitment.

If you get a bonus at work, you can celebrate by installing hardwood floors or renovating the bathroom. If you suffer a financial setback, you can defer your plans to remodel the kitchen.

Renters don’t hold this flexibility. The only way they can upgrade their living space is by moving, and this entails both hassle and commitment.

Homeowners, by contrast, can upgrade their home piecemeal as they accumulate cash over the years. Home improvements are a one-time expense that doesn’t require continuous commitment.

Pride of Home Ownership
You wouldn’t invest hundreds of hours cultivating an exquisite garden in a rental property. You wouldn’t hang wallpaper or replace the light fixtures on a rental property.

As a homeowner, you can take pride in crafting, personalizing and perfecting your home. The space can truly morph into a reflection of you, in a way that a rental property never could.

Neighborhood Connection
As a homeowner, you’re more likely to become involved in your local community. There’s a stronger chance that you’ll join the neighborhood association, organize potlucks or block parties with your neighbors, coach a local sports league or volunteer at the local school.

While it’s possible that you’ll get involved with the community as a renter, you’ll also likely feel an emotional barrier that stems from knowing you might move in a year or two. Committing to an area for the long-term can inspire you to invest more time and energy into improving the neighborhood and connecting with the surrounding community.

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.

How to Choose the Most Important Features in a Home

Determining exactly what to look for is often the most difficult part of the home search. Learn how to focus on the most important features and ignore the rest.

Buying a home can be a long process. Approaching it correctly from the beginning can save a great deal of time and effort later and help improve your chances of finding the right home for you.

Make a List of the Most Important Aspects You Want in a Home

Determining exactly what to look for is often the most difficult part of the home search. Homes come in varying shapes and sizes, with different colors and characteristics. Paying attention to all of these details can become problematic, causing you to lose focus.

The best way to avoid this is to sit down ahead of time and make a list of the most important aspects of the home you want to buy. For example, you likely have a certain number of bedrooms in mind. Maybe you want to be in a certain school district, or perhaps you want a larger kitchen.

Some experts recommend making a secondary list of desirable characteristics that you can do without, but would prefer to have, if possible. This list can be longer and used to narrow down choices or decide between homes if more than one is appealing.

Know How to Identify Cost-Efficient Fixer-Upper Homes

When evaluating potential homes to buy, experts note that you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on easily altered cosmetic details like the color of the walls. Repainting may not be convenient, but it is one of the cheapest and easiest changes to make to a home.

Attention might be better focused on aspects that cannot be altered without extensive and expensive work, such as the floor plan. It may also be difficult to ignore the furniture and belongings of the home’s current occupants, but you should remember those items will not be there if and when you move in and make it your own.