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.

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 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.

How to Make Your Move Less Stressful

Make your move less stressful by taking these steps to protect yourself and your belongings

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

From horror stories of lost, stolen and broken items to surprise charges tacked on to an already high bill, moving is not for the faint of heart. And after recently pitching in to help my mom through a downsizing and a big move, I’ve learned a few things about working with professional movers. If you have a move coming up, read on for eight tips to help your move go smoothly.

1. Take the time to research movers thoroughly. We’ve all heard horror stories about movers stealing, losing or recklessly damaging belongings, but with a bit of diligence on your part you can make sure you’re choosing a reputable, licensed company with ample experience. Check reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings and references before committing to hire. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

2. Don’t wait till the last minute to book your movers. Moving companies do book up, especially during the busy summer months, so don’t leave this decision until the last moment. Start looking for a company early and get on its schedule.

3. Honestly assess your belongings before getting a quote. If you end up bringing more items than discussed with your movers, the best-case scenario is that you get a higher bill — but the worst-case scenario is that there isn’t room on the truck for everything you plan to bring. The reverse can also be problematic: If you pare down your belongings a great deal between the time of your quote and moving day, you may find yourself paying more than you needed to.

If you do require flexibility in truck space for your move, be upfront about it. Some companies allow you to pay by the foot, which means you pay only for the space you end up using. Usually this involves sharing space with another customer, in which case your belongings will be divided with a locked partition inside the truck.

4. Don’t assume that professional packers are also pros at labeling. If you’re planning to hire professional packers, it’s smart to ask about their policy for labeling boxes. If they don’t label (surprisingly common), plan to be present while the packers work (a good idea anyway) and make it your job to label each box as it’s completed.

Packing tip: Label your boxes with your last name as well as the name of the room in your new home where you want the box to end up. When labeling rooms, use language that will make sense to the movers: Instead of “Katie’s room,” you could label a box “Upstairs small bedroom.”

5. Block out close parking in advance to avoid long-carry fees. If your movers can’t park the truck close to your home, you’ll probably get stuck with what’s known as a long-carry fee — and the farther the movers have to walk to bring each item, the longer it will take. To avoid this, do whatever you can to ensure there’s a close place to park the truck at both your old home and new. You may want to notify neighbors in advance, park your cars in the closest spaces to hold them, or put cones and signs in the space in front of your house on the day of the move.

6. Remember to measure openings at your new home. After one harrowing experience attempting to get a giant sofa through a narrow stairway (our movers eventually gave up), I now know the value of measuring doorways and stairwells in advance. If bulky furniture doesn’t fit, you may be forced to leave treasured pieces behind, or — if you simply can’t do without an item — you may need to ask for hoisting services, which aren’t cheap and may not be available right away.

7. Take the time to read the fine print. Before the movers leave at the end of the day, you’ll be asked to sign off on the inventory sheet and bill — and you’ll be exhausted when this happens. It’s easy to breeze through these last steps and just sign whatever papers they thrust in front of you, but it’s important that you take the time to actually read what you’re signing.

Double check that everything that went into the truck has actually arrived. Look over the bill carefully and be sure there are no extra charges. Especially if you were sharing space, belongings can get missed quite easily, so it’s a good idea to take a look inside the truck before it pulls away. And look close: Tiny (but necessary) items like drawer knobs and shelf brackets can easily get overlooked on the floor of a big truck.

8. Just get the big stuff into position; the rest can wait. Think rugs and major (read: heavy) furniture pieces — anything you can’t easily move on your own — are the things that should be put into position by the movers. Ideally, you’ll already be armed with a floor plan of the new space with furniture positions marked out. But if you didn’t get anything that elaborate organized, no worries. Just station yourself in the new place as early as possible before the movers arrive and make some decisions about where things will go.

Then locate the box with your bedding, because you’re going to be ready for a good night’s sleep!

Tell us: Have you moved recently? Share your tips in the Comments.

Add a Pop of Seasonal Color to Catch a Buyer’s Eye

A touch of color can go a long way in making your home standout.

The following is guest post from Patti Stern of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating. All photos are example of design and staging work by PJ & Company Staging. 

If you’re getting your home ready to sell this spring, it’s the perfect season to add pops of trending colors to attract buyers and help your showing stand out from the competition. The following are some of our favorite tips for introducing colorful accents that will grab buyers’ attention and make them feel welcome from the moment they step foot on the front porch. And once they become engaged with the property, they’ll be more inclined to make an offer!

Front Porch
After cleaning up winter debris from the yard, a great way to attract buyers past the front door is to create an inviting porch with plenty of curb appeal. The easiest way to give a quick facelift for the season is with bright accents such as a beautiful welcome mat, floral wreath, colorful pillows placed on a bench or chair and potted seasonal flowers and greenery.

Entry

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Once the buyer steps into the home, create a welcoming entry with an eye-catching hallway runner in a bold patterns and colors. Pair the rug with an adjacent console table vignette using floral or grassy arrangements, a beautiful lamp and hanging mirror to set the inviting tone for the rest of the property.

Family Room/Living Room

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After freshening walls with neutral colors for a soft back drop, add dimension with colorful wall art that not only complements the rest of the room’s décor but enhances the room’s unique features.
Bring new life to sofas and chairs by adding accent pillows in trending spring colors and bold prints such as coral, turquoise, and green. Don’t forget to layer with a soft throw draped over an armrest that complements the color palette and adds a feeling of warmth and luxury.

Fresh Bedding

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An easy way to embrace the spring season in your bedrooms is by putting away heavy bedding and adding a white duvet or coverlet. Layer with accent pillows, shams, and a cozy throw in fresh hues such as floral prints in soft blues, greens, corals and yellows for a spring-like, peaceful feel. To complete the fresh look of the room, pair bedding accents with nature-inspired botanical wall art in complementary colors.

Inviting Touches in the Bathroom
To create a welcoming, spa-like ambience in the bathroom, our go-to accents include layering fresh, fluffy towels on countertops and racks, hanging a fresh shower curtain with bright patterns and hues and finishing with a plush bath mat to match. Other favorite touches are silky florals in creams, green succulents, colored glass vases or bottles, liquid hand soaps, candles and of course wall art.

 

patti-sternPatti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. She also developed an award winning staging program for luxury homebuilder, Toll Brothers. Her company has received Houzz 2015 and 2016 Awards for Customer Service. Patti has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV. She is a regular contributor to the National Association of Realtor’s Blog, “Style, Staged and Sold.”

Home Renovations & Features for the 2017 Smart Home

smart home technology trends

Discover the hottest new trends in smart home technology, from voice control to security, to temperature control to lighting and even safety measures like door locks!

Is your home a smart home? If you’re like most U.S. homeowners, the answer is probably yes, or it will be soon. What were once seen only as gimmicks reserved for the tech-savvy homeowners have quickly become the norm. We conducted a survey and  found that almost half (45%) of Americans own some sort of smart home technology. More surprisingly, 36% of that group don’t consider themselves to be early adopters of technology.

Whether you’re shopping for a first home, looking to sell your home, or planning home renovations to add value to your house, smart home technology should be at the top of your must-haves list. 54% of homeowners said they would install smart home products if they were selling their home and knew that doing so would make it sell faster. In fact, about 33% of agents said homes with smart features sell faster.

What Makes a Smart Home Smart?

So, which smart features and home renovations should homeowners and home buyers be most interested in next year? Our survey found the top “smart” features were:

  • Voice Control
  • Security
  • Temperature
  • Lighting
  • Safety

Most Americans (60%) agree that a home needs to have at least three of these features to be considered “smart.”

Voice Control

One of the fastest-growing smart home features in the last year is voice control. The list of products that operate with voice control features is growing by the day, from music players to TVs to even security products, lighting, and shopping.

smart home technology trends - watch

Security

Most Americans think a home can be considered “smart” when it has smart security locks and alarm systems. Security features lead the way for smart features in terms of adoption and appeal. Even though 58% of home buyers say smart security is the most appealing type of pre-installed smart home technology, only 31% have smart security installed.

Temperature control

Smart temperature control is more widely adopted with homeowners over the age of 65 – about 40% have smart temperature products, while only 25% of 18-34 year olds have the technology installed. The favorite features of smart temperature controls are:

  • Improving the comfort of the household (71%)
  • Reducing energy consumption (68%)
  • Monitoring or controlling their device while away from home (41%)

Safety

The safety of the household should be a top priority for any homeowner. Smart technology offers new features for fire and carbon monoxide detectors, nightlights, and other renovations to make your house safer. Homeowners look for safety features that allow them to monitor and control the safety of their home either when they are away (52%), or from anywhere inside the home (30%).

The leader in smart thermostats, Nest, has also released a smart Smoke and CO Alarm, Nest Protect. One feature of this device that is quickly becoming the norm for smart technology is interconnectivity. If your Nest Protect detects smoke or carbon monoxide, it will tell your Nest Thermostat to turn off the furnace automatically.

Lighting

For homeowners looking to improve comfort with the ability to make easy changes in the mood of their home – while reducing energy consumption – smart lighting is just the thing. Many new smart technologies emerged this year for a smarter lighting experience:

  • C by GE uses Bluetooth connectivity so you can personalize your light temperature settings throughout the day. This allows your lighting to sync with your body’s circadian rhythm and improve your sleep cycle.
  • FlipFlic is a device installed on window blinds that automatically adjusts the blinds based on light, temperature and time of day. Natural lighting can play a major part in your home’s mood and vibe and this device gives you more control over it.

Our study also found that 70% of homeowners say they plan to invest more money in smart home renovations and features in the future. This new home trend is rapidly increasing and offering homeowners new ways to improve their own standard of living while raising the value of their homes.

Which smart renovations and features do you plan on adding to your home in 2017

Before You Fall Head Over Heels for a 100+ Year Old Home

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If you want to buy an older home, there are a few important issues you should be aware of before you close the deal. Here are some ways to help avoid future heartache.

There can be something quite romantic about buying an older home. Prospective homebuyers are often smitten when they first encounter the unique character and charm of a 100+ year-old home. Decades of history and stories are reflected in its small imperfections and quirks. The unexpected nooks and crannies, ornate woodwork and beautiful built-ins can be hard to resist. Or perhaps it’s simply the lure of an affordable fixer-upper situated in a desirable location.

Love at first sight is a good thing when you’re shopping for a new home. But when that home is 100+ years old, you need to make sure you’re not sweeping potentially costly issues under the rug as you get swept off your feet.

If you want to buy an older home, there are a few important issues you should be aware of before you close the deal. Here are some ways to help avoid future heartache (and pocketbook pain):

1. The Dreaded Lead. Approximately 87% of homes built before 1940 contain lead-based paint. The toxic substance, known to cause a variety of health problems, especially in young children, was frequently used in household paint prior to 1978, when its use was banned by the federal government. Even if the home you’re considering has newer paint, it’s highly possible lead could still be hidden beneath the fresh paint layers.

The good news is that if the paint is in good repair, the lead usually doesn’t pose a risk. The hazard comes when lead-based paint starts breaking down, peeling or chipping. If that’s the case, or you have particular concerns about lead exposure, the best course of action is to hire a certified inspector to test for lead. According to the EPA, the average lead removal project costs about $10,000, so if the home tests positive, you need to consider that in your overall budget.

2. Energy (In)efficiency. Charm may not be the only thing oozing from those lovely double-hung 19th century windows, old steam radiators or original faucets. While charming windows, mechanicals and fixtures might match the style of an older home, they also tend to be inefficient in their energy use. That means you could be facing some surprisingly steep energy bills after you move into the home.

If possible, ask about the previous owners’ average monthly gas or electricity costs to get a sense of what to expect. You’ll also likely want to plan and budget for energy-efficient replacements (or refinishing, in the case of windows). Consider smart home products like smart thermostats that can help save you time and money.

Find out the age of major mechanicals, price out the cost of new units, and make a schedule for replacing them based on when they’ll reach the end of their useful life. Also, make sure you leave some wiggle room for unexpected discoveries, like replacing a leaky toilet or faucet.

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3. Structural struggles. Even the most well-built homes fall prey to the ails of time, meaning foundations sink, structures shift and moisture can find its way into pilings and foundation supports. You should keep a close eye out for signs of trouble, in the form of wall cracks, sloping floors, stuck windows and doors that refuse to close. If you see any signs of trouble, have your inspector take a look to provide a second opinion (ask them to pay particular attention as well). If you identify issues, you’ll want to bring in an expert, such as a structural engineer, to better assess the problem and provide an estimate for fixing the damage. A few hundred dollars may remedy small exterior cracks, while extensive repairs to the foundation could run tens of thousands of dollars.

4. Careless renovations. Sometimes an older home has remained relatively untouched over years, or has been tastefully and professionally updated. In other instances, previous owners may have attempted renovations that didn’t go so well. If there are clearly apparent additions (like a basement bedroom) or major renovations, it’s a good idea to confirm the work was permitted by the city. If it wasn’t, you may want to dig a little deeper to ensure the work was completed with a high level of quality and meets legal requirements for the space, especially when it relates to electrical systems and structural changes or additions. Also beware of partially-completed renovations. It could mean the work was a DIY project and not performed by a professional, or that the person doing the work discovered a larger issue and abandoned the problem rather than fixing it.

 

Buying an older home can be a very rewarding experience, but it’s especially important to be aware of potential issues to avoid unexpected problems in the future. Talk to your agent about finding the right home for you.

What Buying a House Can Do for You: Investment Opportunity and Financial Security

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Buying a home can be a great way to build wealth and protect your assets. Learn how home ownership can be a great investment decision for your financial security.

Some people may think of buying a home as a stressful experience that comes with an enormous commitment that can burden you for years. However, buying a home can be a great way to build wealth and protect your assets. Learn how homeownership can be a great investment decision that bolsters your financial security.

A Net Worth Boost

Research shows that on average, homeowners’ net worth is far higher than that of a renters’ net worth by up to 36%. And this wealth gap keeps widening every year. One explanation for this gap is the concept of forced savings. This is a situation where a person is essentially forced to save a certain amount of money every month for a significant expense, such as a house or a car.

Paying for a mortgage is a great example of forced savings. Paying for your mortgage month after month forces you to save a portion of your income to help pay off your property, which works towards increasing your home equity and net worth. Renters, on the other hand, increase the net worth of their landlords without building equity or assets.

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Tax Benefits of Homeownership

Buying a house shouldn’t be considered fully as an expense. Homeowners enjoy a variety of tax breaks that you might not know about. Here are some of the tax breaks homeowners may qualify for:

Mortgage Interest Deductions

The monthly mortgageyou must pay when you buy a house is split into two parts: one portion goes towards the actual principal amount, and the other portion pays off your interest on the mortgage. In some cases, the mortgage interest on your main and second residence is tax deductible.

To claim the mortgage interest, you must itemize your deductions on a Form 1040 Schedule A, unless you just want to just claim the standard deductions. You should get a 1098 Form from your mortgage lender at the beginning of every year showing the total amount you paid as interest for the previous year that you can claim for tax returns.

Property Taxes

City or state real estate taxes that you pay on your house may be filed as a deductible while itemizing the deductions on a Form 1040 Schedule A.

Mortgage Points

There are two types of mortgage points, and each point represents 1% of your total mortgage. Origination points, which is a fee that you pay to the borrower to compensate for their work that goes into processing a loan, are non-deductible. Discount points, which allow you to get discounted interest rates on your mortgage, are tax deductible.

Some of the interest that you pay on home equity loans are also deductible, along with interest on home improvement loan, and qualified moving expenses.

Using the Power of Leverage for Investing

One advantage of buying property for the purpose of investing is that you can borrow funds to make the purchase, as opposed to other investment opportunities such as stocks and bonds. Another advantage is that when inflation hits and prices increase, sometimes your house value will increase as well. If you borrow with a fixed rate mortgage, you will still be paying the future monthly payments with a currency that’s depreciated in value. As years go by, the equity on your property will increase, and once the principal amount is all paid off, you will have a debt-free asset that will continue to appreciate, depending on market conditions.

Compared to stacking up cash savings in your bank account and watching it lose value to inflation, investing in a property can secure your money in the long-term and act as a hedge against dollar debasement. Whether for diversification of your investment portfolio, or to secure a property where you and your family can grow and build memories, buying a home can be a timeless investment vehicle.

 

Now that you know the benefits of buying a house, visit sleggrealty.com  and find your dream home.

 

Selfie 101: Six Ways to Prep Your Home for Sale in the Digital Age

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Post, share, like, comment, repeat. Are you ready? Your property is about to go viral.

Post, share, like, comment, repeat. Virtual showings via Facebook live, an engaging tweet promoting the new listing and THE money shot on Instagram. Aerial photos and videos captured via drone. Property videos on You Tube and taking a tour in virtual reality. Are you ready? Your property is about to go viral.

It’s 2017, and the way properties are being marketed has changed. As the world becomes increasingly connected through the use of technology, buyers can learn everything about a home and never physically see it–if they choose–before making a purchasing decision. With the use of social media channels, video, drones and virtual reality, the home search process has become highly accelerated which means as a seller, you only have seconds to make a first impression.

The way you live in your home and the way you capture it for marketing purposes are two different things. Here are six tips to properly preparing your home for sale in the digital age.

White Kitchen Interior with Island, Sink, Cabinets, and Hardwood Floors in New Luxury Home with Lights On

1. Make sure that your home is completely prepared on both the inside and outside for all photo, video and virtual reality shoots BEFORE they are scheduled. You don’t want the property listed with images of a home that is in process of getting ready for sale and assuming you can easily update it with better images later once all the yard work has been done. Sellers need to understand that real estate listings are typically syndicated to NUMEROUS websites the minute they hit the local multiple listing service. This means that any photos, videos and virtual reality walkthroughs are replicated hundreds of times. While it is possible to change photos on a listing at any time, those new images may not update to all websites instantaneously. Each website has its own schedule for refreshing feeds, and images showing different property conditions can cause buyer confusion.

2. Image is REALLY everything. Pictures captured using sophisticated camera equipment can be unforgiving. Therefore, you need to truly clear the clutter from any space that is going to be photographed. This means no placemats on the table, an excessive amount of appliances cluttering the countertops and keeping decorative items –pictures, statutes, collections, plants (artificial or real) to a minimum. Home offices are often a culprit and even though you may have things in neat piles, the piles need to be removed for purposes of the shoot. Don’t forget the laundry room or garage. Stray power cords, power strips or cables may also be distracting. While you may not think these things would affect photo and video images, it may devalue the space and detract from some of the home’s best features.

3. Straighten, primp, fluff, repeat. Comforters and bedspreads need to be wrinkle free and pulled tight. Pillows on beds, couches and chairs need to be fluffed and arranged accordingly. Scan the beds for any stray sheets hanging down on the sides and tuck them under the mattress. All seat cushions should be flipped over and straightened out as if they were appearing in a catalog photoshoot. Make sure all furniture is positioned properly and any hanging artwork is straight. And before I forget.. do a light bulb check as all lights are typically turned on for a shoot. Those wall sconces that are rarely turned on may have gone dark.

4. Bathrooms – hide EVERYTHING for pictures. That means removing the toothbrushes, mouthwash, bathroom cups, hairdryers, make-up and whatever else from the counters. Don’t forget the shower and bathtub stalls – no one wants to see what brand soap you are using. Clear everything out of here, including from the shampoo shelf.

Beautiful landscaped upscale home

5. Landscaping, Trees, Roof and Driveway –this has become especially important with the use of drones to capture aerial images and video. An aerial image is often being chosen as the main photo in a MLS listing and therefore it is the FIRST image that a buyer may see whether on the multiple listing service or on other consumer websites. It is critically important that you invest time in making sure the exterior looks the best it can be. Landscaping should be trimmed so it enhances the home’s appearance and doesn’t hide it. Anything dead or drooping should be removed and replaced with something that will give curb appeal. Look up at the trees surrounding your home. When was the last time you had them trimmed? Aerial shots may make the home look consumed by trees vs. being complimented by them. Unless you live in a forest, this is not a good thing.

And the roof? Any debris needs to be blown off prior to any photography or video activities. In fact, it is a good idea to arrange to have the roof and all walkways blown off right before the photography fun begins. A roof with shingles showing signs of age and/or fading may not be a good candidate for a drone.

Lastly, a driveway with lots of cracks or uneven payment cannot hide from drone photography. The images it renders from the air may appear much worse vs. how things appear from ground level.

House and pool.

6. Outdoor Furniture, Exterior Light Fixtures, Summer Kitchens, etc. When was the last time these were really cleaned? I’m not talking about beating the cushions so the dirt and dust comes off. Dirty furniture, worn fixtures and a summer kitchen that hasn’t been cleaned since your last barbecue six months ago can dampen a spectacular outdoor setting. Pollen, dirt, dead bugs, rust and sun beaten cushions can make your outdoor space appear worn and not well maintained. If none of these items can be prepped to shine, you may be better off replacing them with inexpensive substitutes.

While all of this may seem like a lot of work, a little extra effort to elevate your property’s digital presence and create the idyllic setting of where your next buyer’s life will play out will go a long way with engaging them to make your home “the one”.