Homeowners Making Improvements Despite Political Uncertainties

By Susanne Dwyer

HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Report Infographic (PRNewsfoto/HomeAdvisor)

Homeowners are springing more for upgrades to their homes, despite unknowns that have the potential to impact their spending—a full 60 percent more than what they spent in 2016, according to a new report by HomeAdvisor.

“Home improvement activity is showing resilience in the face of political shifts,” says Brad Hunter, chief economist at HomeAdvisor. “While there is a sharp divide in how homeowners feel about the economy and the current presidential administration, that divide is not affecting their willingness to take on home projects.”

Thirty-five percent of the homeowners surveyed for the report, the 2017 True Cost Report, are confident the Trump Administration will put policies in place that will improve their finances—but 80 percent will carry out upgrades, anyway.

The report also found:

HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Report Infographic (PRNewsfoto/HomeAdvisor)

Source: HomeAdvisor

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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How to Have a More Modern Office: Alternative Work Arrangements

By Susanne Dwyer

modern_office_infographic

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

In modern office settings, the 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday work experience is becoming extinct. For companies focused on building a collaborative office culture with happy, invested employees, alternative work arrangements are the new norm. Think working from home once a week or spending only part of your work week in-house, telecommuting and flextime.

According to a new study from staffing firm The Creative Group, 76 percent of advertising and marketing executives surveyed said their company offers alternative work arrangements in some form or another. The most common? Part-time in-house hours, great for students or parents, are offered by 61 percent of employees. Another 33 percent of professionals are bagging flextime, with 30 percent telecommuting from elsewhere. Of those 30 percent working remotely, they are doing so an average of three days a week.

Why should you offer alternative work arrangements? According to the study, you will attract a younger crowd. Younger professionals between the ages 18 and 34 are more likely to work for companies that offer alternative work arrangements than those of other generations. You will also provide more comfortable working situations for those with kids, those pursuing higher education, or those who have to travel further to get to the office.

Plus, your office will snag major cool points, and who doesn’t want those?

The following infographic from The Creative Group offers further insight.

Source: The Creative Group

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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Square Footage: It’s Not the Size That Counts, but How You Use It

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

One of the first focuses for most people looking for a home is square feet. How many square feet are there? How does it compare to the rest of the neighborhood and area? Does size really matter?

Size, of course, does have an impact. More square footage provides the opportunity to have more flexibility with design, room arrangements and features, but experience tells me it is not the most important factor for homebuyers. Square footage is a fallback and easy measure for real estate because it is one of the few easily defined, measurable and comparable characteristics in describing a home. Features like views, finishes, layout and general feeling are harder to assign an absolute value, so we tend to look to square footage first.

If people really pay attention they will see that within a neighborhood or area there are always some homes that sell faster than average and often at a higher price. Many factors can impact this, such as view and location, but in this case we are talking about the floor plan itself. Many large builders experience an overwhelming demand for just one or two models even when they have six or more available because the feel and use of the space is so important. Many people cannot even explain why they like one floor plan more; they just like the “feel.”

Ergonomics at Home Please
Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so that they fit the people who use them. People look to find comfort and enjoyment in their lives and their environment, work or home, and that can have both a positive and negative impact on their wellbeing. For most of us, our home is the place we will spend the majority of our time, so having spaces that fit us and make us more comfortable is extremely important. Applying ergonomic practices to home design can and does have a positive impact on our lives.

Give the People What They Want
Across the country you will find many new construction homes built in the “modern” style, which is an update from the mid-century modern designs of the 20th century. In many of the western U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Denver, this style of home is in great demand. It is not only found in luxury real estate. Denver real estate has seen a large increase in the demand and construction of modern luxury homes, but also modern row homes and smaller homes that fit onto older, more limited lot sizes. Many older Denver neighborhoods have experienced high demand for beautiful homes with modern spaces that are not large, but offer a luxurious feel in design.

What Is “Modern” Anyway?
Many architects are students and fans of the mid-century designs that emphasize simplicity, open spaces, clean sharp lines and integration with the world around you. You will find a large emphasis on building homes that take advantage of the lot for views, integration with outdoor spaces, and multiple use rooms. Large glass windows for natural light and flat roof lines are also common features of the style, and when incorporated with a good design, can make the home feel great inside and look stunning on the outside. For many modern architects, each design is a challenge to incorporate clean lines, usable spaces and natural flow of the home to make the experience of living there enjoyable.

“Modern design is meant to be functional first—to integrate function as a part of our lives and space, to simplify and declutter our physical environment—and to accomplish this in an aesthetically pleasing form. Great modern design makes our living spaces easier to use and occupy while simultaneously stimulating our senses positively,” says Jesse Walden, architect and builder with Lucid Studio in Denver.

After many years helping people find homes that fit their personalities and lifestyles, I have noticed that it is almost always the use of the space that has a greater impact than the sheer volume of square footage. This comes in two forms: use of square footage in layout and flow, and, of course, interior design. Having a great floor plan, visually pleasing design and good flow to a home will make it a desirable and more valuable home now and in the future.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Remax Real Estate Advice

    

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6 Things Professional Burglars Don’t Want You to Know

By Susanne Dwyer

breakins-768x581

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Even though a burglary occurs every 20 seconds in the U.S., you can still protect yourself without installing top-dollar security features.

Home burglary generally has a pattern: Criminals are looking for an easy target they can rob fast. Learn from the pros. Here are six tips from career burglars you can use to defend your home and prevent break-ins.

  1. Nighttime Burglaries Aren’t the Best Time
    Burglars like to break in to homes during daytime hours—the last thing criminals want is to encounter someone at home. Weekdays are ideal for thieves, since weekend schedules are too unpredictable. Between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. are the most popular times because there’s a high chance people will be away at work or school.
  1. They Know When You’re Not Home—Thanks to Social Media
    While it’s tempting to post about your vacation to your social media feed, wait to share those trip photos and exotic location check-ins until you’ree back home. Criminals scout public social media accounts like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Foursquare to find victims.

Locating someone’s home address using basic information from their social media profile is surprisingly easy. In one survey of convicted burglars, more than 10 percent say they used social media to determine who was out of town. The same survey found one burglar stole over $250,000 in electronics and jewelry from 33 women he saw in public—he used GPS data embedded in photos they posted online to find their homes.

Even if all your accounts are private, that old friend from high school or new neighbor down the street could be a potential criminal. Never post what times you’re not home or how long you’ll be out.

  1. They Don’t Like Your Security Practices
    Burglars want nothing to do with alarm systems (whether they’re from the best home security companies or not). Homes without a security system are almost 300 percent more likely to be targeted for a break-in. If you do install an alarm system, make sure you guard it with a strong code. Don’t use your house number or birthday, and clean any dirt or grease off your keypad so a burglar won’t guess your code based off the numbers you’ve hit the most. Unlocked windows, unused deadbolts, poorly lit homes, and residences without security systems are prime targets for burglars, so make sure you are using the security features you already have.

Also, tricks that make it look like you’re home really work, professional burglars reveal. Burglars run from properties that look like people are inside. Motion sensor lights, bright flood lights, and timed lights are inexpensive security features for a home’s exterior that scare criminals away. TVs or radios left on, as well as cars parked in the driveway, make burglars nervous that someone is home.

  1. Great Targets Advertise Their Weapon Supply
    If you’re a proud gun owner, that won’re scare away burglars—it entices them. A gun is stolen roughly every two minutes in the U.S., so homeowners should be sure to always lock up their guns. NRA bumper stickers on a car or Smith & Wesson signs on a house advertises that there are lots of guns to steal.
  1. Shrubs and Architecture Make Great Hiding Spots
    Tall bushes are favorites of burglars since they offer an obstructed view from the street and an easy way to hide from neighbors. Keep shrubs and large landscaping features trimmed. If you want big plants by your windows, choose something thorny that will detract a burglar, like roses or cacti.

Think twice about large architecture features, too, like fences, half walls, and big fountains. Thieves are searching for crimes of opportunity, and such decor elements give a burglar more time to hide and plot their method of entry. The best defense is a clear view of your front porch.

  1. Valuables in the Open Help Them Decide on a Target
    Keep your expensive items out of sight. You’re making it too easy for a burglar by advertising the type of valuables they can steal. Don’t leave a new MacBook in front of your first floor kitchen window, iPads on your living room ottoman, or even a nice car in a garage window with a clear sight line to the street. Key hooks—especially with labels for each key—need to be concealed out of view from windows, too.

“A burglar appreciates such kindness, but you will find it expensive when you have to replace all the locks after a break-in,” says Mike Fraser, former professional burglar and host of the BBC show “Beat the Burglar.”

Fraser also advises to leave large family calendars out of view. You’re inviting a break-in by detailing when you’ll be away, he says. This advice goes for any ID documents, too. Mail or other personal information left in plain view is a gold mine for a criminal looking to easily steal your details for identity theft.

Using these tips can help you protect your home from break-ins. Also, be sure to research crime rates and trends in your neighborhood and state. Just like some houses are safer than others, some states are safer than others. Where does your state rank?


Using data collected by the FBI, ASecureLife compiled a list of the 10 states with the lowest numbers of recorded break-ins per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015.

Krystal Rogers-Nelson is a Safety & Security Expert for ASecureLife.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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Nancy Wey
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How to Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

By Susanne Dwyer

energy-efficient-home_infographic

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

When it comes to saving energy, homeowners have many options to choose from—at price points that fit just about any budget.

If you’re looking to make your space more energy-efficient, do some research before throwing your entire budget toward one project. In fact, paying attention to a few small areas both inside and outside the home can have a significant impact, without emptying your wallet in the process.

From eliminating drafts around windows and doors to only running the dishwasher when the load is full, making your home more energy-efficient doesn’t have to be a chore that continues to get neglected.

The following infographic, provided by Ply Gem, offers simple energy-saving tips for homeowners to easily incorporate into their daily life.

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at paige@rismedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Earth Day: Top 10 ‘Greenest’ States

By Beth McGuire

Earth Day calls to mind the importance of protecting the environment—but some states, according to a new analysis by WalletHub, are doing a better job at it than others.

The analysis took into account three factors: environmental quality, which encompasses aspects such as energy efficiency; eco-friendly behaviors, such as water consumption and solar panels; and climate change contributions, such as carbon dioxide emissions.

Based on those parameters, WalletHub ranked the following states greenest:

  1. Vermont

No. 1 for Environmental Quality
No. 2 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 9 for Climate Change Contributions

Vermont has the second-lowest municipal solid waste per capita and the third-highest air quality of the 50 states.

  1. Massachusetts

No. 4 for Environmental Quality
No. 12 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 6 for Climate Change Contributions

  1. Oregon

No. 9 for Environmental Quality
No. 1 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 24 for Climate Change Contributions

Oregon is tied with four other states for the highest percentage of energy consumption from renewable sources and has the fifth-highest amount of LEED-certified buildings per capita of the 50 states.

  1. Washington

No. 3 for Environmental Quality
No. 7 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 20 for Climate Change Contributions

Washington is tied with four other states for the highest percentage of energy consumption from renewable resources and has the second-highest water quality and the third-highest soil quality of the 50 states.

  1. Connecticut

No. 7 for Environmental Quality
No. 22 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 3 for Climate Change Contributions

Connecticut has the highest water quality of the 50 states.

  1. Maine

No. 11 for Environmental Quality
No. 6 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 10 for Climate Change Contributions

Maine is tied with four other states for the highest percentage of energy consumption from renewable resources and has the highest percentage of recycled solid municipal waste of the 50 states.

  1. Minnesota

No. 2 for Environmental Quality
No. 5 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 31 for Climate Change Contributions

Minnesota has the second-highest percentage of recycled solid municipal waste, the second-highest soil quality and the third-highest water quality of the 50 states.

  1. New York

No. 12 for Environmental Quality
No. 11 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 5 for Climate Change Contributions

New York has the lowest energy consumption per capita and the lowest gasoline consumption per capita of the 50 states.

  1. New Hampshire

No. 29 for Environmental Quality
No. 10 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 2 for Climate Change Contributions

New Hampshire has the fourth-highest amount of LEED-certified buildings per capita, the fourth-lowest municipal solid waste per capita and the fifth-highest percentage of recycled municipal solid waste of the 50 states.

  1. Rhode Island

No. 15 for Environmental Quality
No. 16 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors
No. 4 for Climate Change Contributions

Rhode Island has the second-lowest energy consumption per capita, the third-lowest gasoline consumption per capita and the fifth-lowest municipal solid waste per capita of the 50 states.

How does your state rank on the green scale? View the full list here.

Source: WalletHub

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Take Pet Pampering to the Next Level With These Fabulous Dog Houses

By Beth McGuire

DogHouse1

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Dog owners are infamous for providing their furry ones with a better lifestyle than their own. For instance, you might recall the time Paris Hilton had a replica of her mansion done for her pet Chihuahua.

We don’t need to go there, but there are definitely plenty of crazy options in the market. Who knows? One of them might catch your fancy.

Mediterranean Villa

Photo Credit: LaPetiteMaison.com

Is your dog named Quixote? Donatello? If not, you might as well rename them, especially if that means they get to live in this woof-tastic villa. Look at that wooden double door! Seriously, if you can’t win your dog’s affection with this one, then just stop trying.

The Full-Fledged Mansion

DogHouse2

Photo Credit: LaPetiteMaison.com

If you’re going to go all out, you might as well just get your dog a straight-up mansion. If you already own a mansion (like Paris), I’d say it’s only fair you share the wealth. (Although your dog probably has its own room in the house. But why not both? #Excess.)

The Victorian Home

DogHouse3

Photo Credit: LaPetiteMaison.com

I’m a big fan of Victorian homes, so I’d probably go for this one…for myself? How is that a dog house? I only wish my downtown New Haven apartment looked as picturesque as this puppy’s home. I hope his name is Darcy and that he wants to be my friend.

The Dog Equivalent of the ‘Home Alone’ Mansion

DogHouse4

Photo Credit: LaPetiteMaison.com

I’d say this is pretty close to the McCallister home, right? (As far as dog houses go, at least.) I can totally imagine dogs holding town meetings inside this bad boy. If I were a dog myself, I’d probably prefer sleeping in here than inside my owner’s run-down home, because let’s face it: the dog who owns this home is definitely much better off than his owner.

And this was just a quick search! There are legitimate houses for dogs out there—as in, a concrete building with rooms where only your dog(s) reside(s). I know there’s always stuff to fix around the house, but surely your four-legged friend takes priority?

Have some cool dog houses you want to share with us? Tweet them @HousecallBlog!

Gabrielle van Welie is RISMedia’s editorial intern. Email her your real estate news ideas at gvanwelie@rismedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

5 Key Steps to Protecting Your Smart Home

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Smart homes open the doors to new technological potential, but they can also open the virtual door to intruders and hackers. As smart home technology grows, so do the risks of being hacked, which can stop some customers from adopting these amazing technologies for their homes. However, protection can make a home incredibly safe from hackers. Here are five ways to keep your smart home safe.

Use Strong Passwords
We’ve all heard it countless times, but having a strong password really is the first step against hackers and is enough to keep the majority of hackers out of your devices. However, many people prioritize creating passwords that are easy to remember (or that don’t change) over their home’s security. The best passwords are a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. As a rule of thumb, change your passwords every time you add a new device to the network, or at least every few months. There are also reliable password management systems that can keep passwords rotating and safe for all your devices.

Be Selective With Smart Home Devices
The growth of smart home technology means that not every product is created equally. Before bringing something into your home that could put your privacy and safety at risk, be sure to do your research. In general, use products from brands you are familiar with—bigger brands typically have more updates and better customer service just in case hacking does occur. You’ll also want to get feedback from other people who have used the devices by reading reviews from experts and customers online. If you are unsure about a device’s safety, talk to a cybersecurity or smart home professional.

Update Apps and Firmware
Most people generally remember to update their smartphone apps, but updating the apps and firmware in smart devices around the house can be a different story. Just like mobile apps, smart devices are constantly being updated and often come out with updates to increase performance, remove bugs, or improve safety. Using an old version of a device’s firmware makes it easier for hackers to attack because the firmware is vulnerable and not running at its full potential. Firmware and app updates are a great way to stay one step ahead of hackers and can be incredibly powerful—a 2016 update by Apple helped prevent computers and iPhones from being accessed by hackers to use as spy devices. In many cases, you’ll have to seek out updates by going into the app for each smart device. Making this a part of your regular home maintenance schedule and checking for updates once a month helps keep devices up to date and continually improves their safety measures.

Watch the WiFi Network
Putting smart home devices on a public wireless internet network makes them much easier to hack and makes them more visible to hackers. Instead, opt for a private home network that has a strong password and network protection. To be even safer, security experts recommend putting your smart home devices on a separate wireless network from your home computer, which greatly reduces the risk of hacking across devices. Essentially, if hackers somehow get into devices on one network, they will still have to work hard to get into the other devices.

Turn Off Unused Devices
It can be tempting to always leave every device plugged in and turned on, but doing that just gives hackers more opportunities to find a way in. Even though it can seem like a hassle, powering down your home router and computer server when they aren’t in use at night can keep your home network much more secure. Some smart home devices like thermostats and refrigerators will most likely always be plugged in, but devices used less often like TVs or wireless printers can serve as more access points for hackers if they are plugged in but not in use. You’ll save energy and keep your home safer by turning them off or unplugging them—a win-win situation.

Smart home devices are powerful tools, but they must be used carefully and safely to keep digital intruders out of your home.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Nancy Wey
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Home Security Systems: What to Know Before Buying

By Susanne Dwyer

Everyone wants to protect their home, their property, and, most of all, their families. In fact, market research suggests the home security business is growing at a rate of about 9 percent a year.

Home security systems are not all alike, however. Some systems can not only warn you of intruders, but can also notify authorities, monitor smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and/or include video surveillance. Mot security alarm installers can provide services that include equipment plus installation and monitoring service.

If you are thinking about buying a home security system, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that you:

Get references from friends, neighbors or relatives;

Check out companies online and check the Better Business Bureau for complaints;

Verify that the contractor’s license is in good standing via the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies;

Get written estimates from several companies;

Read the fine print regarding costs, installation timeline, warranty, and an explanation of your right to cancel within three days of signing a contract; and

Ask lots of questions:

  • Who will perform the installation and monitor the system? Some companies subcontract this work to a third party.
  • What is the contract period for monitoring? One year? More? Are there penalties for early termination? What happens if you move before the contract term is up?
  • How much does the monitoring cost? How often will you be billed?
  • Does the company call you before notifying the police?
  • How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?
  • What happens if the alarm company can’t reach you when the alarm is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate numbers called?
  • What happens if the power goes out? Is there a back-up battery system?
  • What does the warranty cover, and for how long? Is it from the manufacturer or their installer?
  • Who is responsible for repairs or upgrades to the system?
  • Does the company offer interactive services like smoke and fire detection, remote control, video surveillance, email notifications and special apps for smart phones?

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893