Temperatures Are Dropping – Here’s How to Save on Energy Costs This Winter

Winter is here with shorter days, afternoon sunsets and frosty temps.

With an increase in work-from-home flexibility and remote learning for children, chances are that in 2020, your electricity costs are higher than usual. And, depending on the climate where you live, it’s time to assess how prepared your home is to accommodate more time indoors due to frigid weather and dwindling daylight hours.

Snow is on the way and Wi-Fi use at an all-time high, so you may be looking for ways to operate a more sustainable residence. Consider these tips for reducing your household’s energy bill.

Schedule an energy audit

You can hire experts to inspect energy outputs throughout your home while looking for ways in which you can conserve energy. The goal is to ensure your home is running as efficiently as possible. To make that determination, the expert will take a close look at appliances – like your water heater – as well as structural components – like the insulation between walls – and determine if these features are working to the best of their abilities.

An energy audit serves as a roadmap, helping you navigate where to invest time and money in order to make your house as energy-efficient as possible.

Swap out lightbulbs

Nowadays, it’s easy and affordable to swap out traditional incandescent lightbulbs, the kind that produce electricity from heat, for more efficient options. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are two of the most common energy-efficient bulbs on the market.

Additionally, “smart” lightbulbs are becoming increasingly more popular as well, with options to set timers and schedule lighting to avoid wasting energy. Sometimes, these smart light fixtures can even be paired with voice assistants or controlled through smart phone apps for the utmost control over your home’s lighting.

Invest in an advanced thermostat

The modern advancements in heating and cooling technology mean your HVAC system can actually work with you to maintain a comfortable temperature and avoid wasting heat when no one is home. “Smart” thermostats are designed to internalize the homeowner’s living patterns and adjust the temperature accordingly and automatically.

Many of these smart thermostat devices are controllable via a smart phone app, which means that if you left the heat on high, you can turn down the temperature while away from your house.

Seal off windows and doors

You’d hate to be cranking the heat in your home only to find out the hot air is seeping out the front door. If your home feels drafty or has trouble retaining warmth, assess whether you need to better seal doors and windows. This can especially be an issue in older homes.

Found at most hardware stores, draft guards and DIY window and door insulation methods can seal any gaps to trap in heat in the colder months.

Switch the direction of your ceiling fans

Did you know that the direction your ceiling fan spins determines whether it’s helping cool or heat a room? As winter approaches, reverse the direction of your ceiling fan’s spinning to clockwise to encourage cold air to rise, as opposed to the summertime setting of counterclockwise where cold air gets pushed down.

To change the direction, turn off the fan (wait for a complete stop!) and then flip the switch that is often found on either the motor housing or the base.

Regularly replace air filters

When furnace and air filters become clogged, the build-up causes your HVAC system to work harder and use more energy to simply heat the house.

Regularly replacing the air filters not only takes a burden off of your heating system, but it also ensures you and your family are breathing cleaner air.

4 Features Fall Buyers Want in Prospective Homes

Over the past six months, the course of daily life has greatly changed and, with COVID-19 still present as autumn approaches, homebuyers’ desires have shifted accordingly.

Looking to sell your home? Here are a few features homebuyers are on the lookout for when they tour houses this fall. Consider giving these spaces extra love and attention when preparing to list a house for sale.

  1. Flexible spaces

Homes now function as office spaces and classrooms while still being the place to rest at the end of the day. Homebuyers are seeking interior layouts that can adapt to the changing times. Having multiple spaces to conduct business, take calls or complete classes – while a family member cooks in the kitchen – feels essential when multiple people are home during the day.

Desirable multipurpose spaces may include extra bedrooms – like having a guest room that can operate as a workspace – and finished basements.

  1. Energy-efficient features

With winter right around the corner, interested homebuyers are seeking energy-efficient features for a sustainable household. With so much more time being spent at home these days, people are likely to use resources like water and electricity more than ever.

Some in-demand features that help cut back utility bills include insulated windows, updated appliances and smart thermostats.

  1. Room to workout

Boutique fitness classes and destination gyms dominated the workout space. Since the onset of COVID-19, however, there is a resurgence in the demand for home gyms. And, even as some fitness studios have taken their classes to online platforms, people are rolling out yoga mats on their living room floors with no other place to find Zen.

When searching for homes this fall, interested buyers want a space to workout inside the house, especially with colder weather soon impeding on outdoor recreation.

  1. Extra storage

Pick up a new hobby in recent months? Most people are maxed out on storage space and are seeking even more room to store their new equipment. Increased closet space, attics and garages continue to be desired elements for those searching for a new home this fall.

Home Furnishings Trend: Brass is Back

After years of chrome, stainless steel, and nickel being the shining stars of interior metals, brass is back and starting to steal the show.

As with many home furnishings trends, the comeback was inspired by what’s occurring in fashion. In this case, gold and rose gold watches became influencers a few years ago, says Chicago designer Tom Segal of Kaufman Segal Design, who thinks that home furnishings styles tend to be cyclical. Now he’s adding small brass details to rooms in the same way a gold watch might peek out of a shirt cuff.

Using brass now is an easy, affordable way for homeowners to customize and stay on trend.  “Many people want a warmer look, which is also visible in fabrics as warmer colors return,” Segal says.

Erin Imhof, showroom supervisor at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery in Lansdale, Pa., has noted an increase in brass finishes. She attributes it to how they complement a wide range of colors and other finishes. “Many of today’s top color trends for kitchens and bathrooms, including all-white, blue, and black, pair beautifully with brass fixtures,” she says.

Others concur that brass is a universal mixer. “Our designers like to integrate brass into their designs, whether it’s an accent like a decorative bowl, object of art, light fixture, or metal base on an end table,” says Julie Sprouse, design sales manager at Ethan Allen, the home furnishings chain based in Danbury, Conn.

Caitie Smithe, a design coordinator and stylist at the Walter E. Smithe Furniture + Design retailer based in Itasca, Ill., also considers brass a material that can be used throughout a home, including light fixtures, hardware, and even light switches and vent controls. Other good places to use brass include bathroom hardware, plumbing fixtures such as sinks, and accessory details like candleholders or picture frames.

Here are five tips for using brass that you can pass on to your clients.

1. Use sparingly. Brass works best when used in small doses. Too much can create a “too matchy-matchy” look, according to Smithe. Overuse can make it start to look cheap, says Segal. “Moderation is key,” he says.

2. Mix finishes. Brass appears more timeless rather than trendy when it’s matte, brushed, or aged, which helps soften its sheen, Segal says. But be careful, Smithe says, when mixing brasses in a single space from different manufacturers. “There is a huge range in color and brightness. Some take on a bright yellow color while others can be more of an aged gold,” she says.

3. Combine warm metal colors. Brass, gold, and bronze can work well together since they share similar warm values versus shiny nickel, which leans toward the colder side, says Sprouse.

4. Mix metals. Some designers also think brass, satin, brushed nickel, stainless steel, and oil-rubbed bronze can be used together. But Imhoff still offers some caution. “Go with similar warm, muted undertones for some consistency,” she says. Chicago designer Summer Thornton likes mixing metals, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms where she might use brass, nickel, and steel combinations.

5. Consider longevity. How long brass will stay fashionable is unknown. When it becomes too ubiquitous in retail stores, shelter magazines, and on design websites, it may be time to move on. The good news is that brass touches are easy to add in and switch out.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

A Dozen Home and Design Ideas for 2020

Almost everyone enjoys making predictions for a new year—and certainly for a new decade. How about cooking appliances that tell you how to roast and broil to perfection? Or, better yet, new homes that come with a personal chef?

REALTOR® Magazine asked their favorite real estate trend watchers and influencers what to expect in 2020 and beyond. For starters, most agree that gray is on its way out, while deep hues are becoming the stars in interior paint. And more homeowners are following the craze of decluttering and tidying up popularized by Marie Kondo so they can focus on experiencing joy in their home.

While some fads are natural evolutions and others are more far-fetched, they’ve whittled it down to a dozen that are sure to inspire buyers and sellers alike. Plus, don’t miss five up-and-coming kitchen trends that are bound to spark interest and maybe a remodel.

Read the article…

The Best Paint Colors for 2020, According to Interior Designers

One of the easiest ways to update your home is by swiping on a fresh coat of paint. No matter which room you’re in — the bedroom, kitchen, or bath — adding a new color to your walls or furniture is a cheap and commitment-free way to make an eye-catching change. And because paint is totally reversible, it’s also one of the best ways to incorporate some of the latest interior design trends into your home every few years.

If you’re ready to make a major change this year, look no further than the top paint colors of 2020, which run the gamut from bubbly blush to earthy clay. To find these paint ideas, we asked interior designers which colors they expected to see in abundance in the new year. Whether your style is modern or traditional, minimalist or extravagant, there’s a 2020 paint color for you. And if you need even more low-cost ways to revamp your space, try one of these DIY home decor projects.

Read Good Housekeeping’s article

Kitchen Hoods That Steal the Spotlight

In the kitchen, the spot for the range hood is considered prime real estate. Homeowners used to put the microwave there. But that’s getting swapped out for a decorative hood, which can come in a range of metals.

Read the article on REALTOR® Magazine

From ‘Smart House’ to Smart Homes: How Today’s Tech Compares to the Iconic Disney Movie

Voice-activated music. Touch-screen powered appliances. An omnipotent, but friendly, virtual assistant providing homework help.

When “Smart House” debuted on the Disney Channel in 1999, its portrayal of a family living in a home powered by artificial intelligence seemed far-fetched. Watching it 20 years later, it’s a surprisingly prophetic portrayal of the way technology has become fully integrated into our daily lives.

In case you missed this made-for-TV masterpiece, the plot is simple: A family wins a home featuring an artificial intelligence (AI) system named P.A.T. (Personal Applied Technology). P.A.T. is programmed to take care of everything from house cleaning to meal prep, and can help coordinate outfits, give basketball advice and throw an epic party complete with mood lighting and cleanup. Chaos ensues, though, when P.A.T. is frighteningly overprotective after being reprogrammed to serve as the family’s maternal figure.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of “Smart House,” here’s a look at the technology covered in the film and how it compares to today.

Yep, homes can be controlled by AI

Similar to P.A.T., smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home can control everything from music to lights with a few voice commands (and strategically placed smart plugs, if needed). But whereas P.A.T. was portrayed as the home’s central operating system, today’s smart homes are usually more of a combination of apps, gadgets and high-tech appliances.

The advantage is that homeowners can customize the technology to fit their lifestyle. It also means the tech can typically move with homeowners if they relocate.

Safety technology gives smart-home owners peace of mind

When a misguided P.A.T. attempts to lock the Coopers inside indefinitely, she blocks the windows with steel and adds an electrical force field to the home’s doors.

True, smart-home technology can greatly enhance home security, but it’s much more subtle.

For example, the If This Then That app is able to trigger an empty home’s interior lights as soon as the owner approaches. The Ring video doorbell helps residents monitor (and chat with visitors to) the front door. And many new home security systems, smoke alarms (check out Home Advisor’s breakdown of options), garage doors and surveillance cameras feature a virtual assistant integration, which means they can be controlled and monitored by a phone app or smart speaker.

Even our pets are avid technology enthusiasts

Considering the fact that keeping pooches happy is one of the primary reasons millennials buy homes, the movie’s inclusion of pet technology (the family dog is entertained by P.A.T. while the family’s away) is spot on.

One piece of especially buzzworthy pet technology is Furbo, an interactive pet camera that tosses treats to pets stuck at home. Then there are the pet doors that open only when triggered by an ultrasonic signal emitted from a special collar, blocking access to intruders. The doors can also be programmed to remain locked at certain times of day, keeping Fido and Fluffy inside for the night.

Technology can create the perfect mood

One of P.A.T.’s coolest features in the movie is her use of virtual reality to transport the Coopers to Cape Cod or a serene farm complete with a rooster’s wake-up call. While VR technology gets more sophisticated every year, full-screen virtual experiences don’t come standard in homes just yet. However, several pieces of smart appliances can help change the mood in your home.

Philips Hue is a line of smart lamps and light bulbs that can be timed to adjust from bright to softer lighting as the day goes on, mimicking natural daylight patterns. The Nest thermostat automatically sets the temperature in your home to your desired preferences, turns the temperature down when it senses you leave the home, and can be controlled from an app for on-the-go changes.

One downside of smart home technology? Energy drainage. But there’s even a “smart” solution for that. The Emporia Vue system helps homeowners monitor their energy usage through an app on their phone to reduce monthly costs and identify potential issues before they require major repairs.

Even as our lives become increasingly inseparable from technology, a home is much more than its futuristic appliances. If you’re looking for a home, working with an experienced professional such as myself is a smart move!

How a Home Office Can Increase Appeal for Homebuyers

With housing inventory remaining tight in recent years, RE/MAX agents are diligent about keeping up with the trends to help clients buy and sell properties in this competitive market.

“Remote-friendly” workplaces are one of those rising trends. In fact, according to 2018 data from the U.S. Census, nearly 8 million people worked at home in 2017.

“In my experience, the home office is an integral part of the millennial homebuying criteria,” says Chris Krzemien with RE/MAX Experience in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

If you think it might be time to get to work (pun intended) on sprucing up – or creating – that home-office space, here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Designate a Dedicated Office Space

One of the pitfalls to working from home is distraction. It’s crucial to create an atmosphere that’s conducive to professionalism and creativity. If your home is big enough to accommodate an entire room dedicated solely to work, an office might be a draw for millennials envisioning their productive and comfortable work-from-home days. If not, it’s a great idea to establish a semi-private area in your home where a buyer could picture themselves using a computer, talking on the phone and keeping important documents stored.

  1. Seek the Sunshine

Employees working from home are saying “sayonara” to the cubicle! Rather than putting a home office desk in a corner, try moving it close to a window – a buyer might appreciate the chance to take in the scene during the workday (pro tip: Make sure your view and garden are in tip-top shape for prospective buyers!). And don’t forget lamps in case the shades need to be closed for glare.

  1. Get Comfortable – Stay Awhile!

Many office environments provide a creative space away from desks for employees to think and brainstorm. A home office should provide the same comfy area. Add a chair, coffee table and colorful throw, and the buyer might just choose to brainstorm the next big app there. Voila!

  1. Plant Your Next Move

Houseplants convey a happy and healthy home. When you’re in seller’s mode, you know that a good first impression is key for success. If your office has empty space, add a floor plant. If the space lacks color, pair the plant with a colorful container. You get the idea.

  1. Don’t Make It Personal

This one’s easy. You already know that buyers want to envision themselves in your home, so removing anything overly personal, like photos and kids’ artwork, goes a long way. The same advice applies to the home office. Keeping this carved-out space for work only, when possible, boosts productivity and limits distractions. If you’re preparing a home office before you sell, box up those photos now so you can take them with you to your next home.

“You have to remember, there’s a reason why employees choose to work from home. It’s a feel-good space for them. Make it as bright and pleasant as possible,” added Krzemien.

4 Easy Gardening Tips

Keeping up with landscaping can take a lot of time and energy. Between weekly mowing, picking weeds, and tending to all of the plants it can be a lot of work for those who are busy. Check out these easy gardening tips for those who simply don’t have a lot of extra time for a jungle inspired garden.

  1. Plant a Xeriscape

If you live near a metro area surrounded by a natural flush of trees, or if you simply like the look of plants but don’t want the hassle of watering them, consider planting a xeriscape. This kind of landscaping is composed of plants that require little to no irrigation and are easy to take care of. Plants that do well in a xeriscape include lavender, ornamental grasses, and coneflowers. If you don’t live in a drought prone region, consider planting those native plants that already do well in your area. Native plants will need less attention as they are used to the conditions of your area and grow abundantly everywhere.

  1. Add a Timer

Take advantage of technology by setting up the watering on an automatic timer. Simply plug in the timer at the hose connection to the spigot and allow the timer to water your plants on a regular schedule. This will work well for those extra thirsty plants that need more water throughout the summer and you won’t forget to water since it will already be taken care of. Setting up a drip system for your plants is another easy way to make sure that they get watered without having to have added hoses or sprinklers constantly in the flower beds as well.

  1. Use Evergreens

There are many different evergreens that can be planted to add depth, height, and appeal to a yard. Evergreens are easy to maintain as they require little to no pruning and will stay green all year long. Plant a row of evergreen shrubs to add privacy to a yard as well as a constant wall of beautiful green color throughout every season. Evergreens may need a little extra watering during the hotter months as well as some pinecones that need to be picked up once a year. However, they are a great option for those homeowners who don’t want to have to mess with a lot of leaf raking or careful pruning like other trees.

  1. Renew Mulch Coloring

Mulch looks great when you just put it down but a few years later it can easily fade and become an eyesore. Although a little unconventional, you can paint the mulch to renew the coloring and overall look of landscaping. Simply use a paint sprayer along with a nice brown paint to paint the top of the mulch in order to get an updated look. Make sure that the mulch is where you want it before you paint as only the top will get painted when you spray it.

Yard maintenance can take a lot of time so help yourself by planting a xeriscape garden or using evergreens in your yard for yearlong beauty. Set up your watering on a timer or even consider painting the mulch in order to give a quick makeover for a dull looking yard. Doing all of these things will help those of us who are lazy landscapers have a beautiful yard as well as time to enjoy it!

4 Landscaping Ideas for Your Front Yard

Even if you can’t tell a tulip from a turnip at the garden center, you can still create eye-catching curb appeal by paying attention to the basics of good landscaping, especially in the front yard.

Ignoring your front yard — or doing something that’s out of character with the neighborhood — can jeopardize the assessed value of your home.

Landscape economist John Harris says good landscaping can add up to 28% to the overall value of a house and cut its time on the market 10%-15%.

Here are the top suggestions from real estate agents, appraisers, and landscape designers for boosting the curb appeal of your yard:

#1 Plant a Tree

The value of mature trees is particularly difficult to determine. Lucco says that in his market, mature trees contribute as much as 10% of a $100,000 property’s overall value. In addition, a properly placed shade tree can shave as much as $32 a year on your energy bills. Expect to pay $50-$100 for a young, 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree.

You can make your own initial assessment of the value of your property’s trees by visiting the National Tree Benefit Calculator. For example, a mature Southern red oak tree with a diameter of 36 inches in the front yard of a house in Augusta, Ga., might add $70 to the property value.

#2 Green Up the Grass

If your house has a front yard, make sure it‘s neat and green by following a lawn maintenance calendar. You don’t want bare spots, sprawling weeds, or an untrimmed appearance.

“It’s so simple to go to Home Depot, buy fertilizer, apply it every six weeks, and water it,” says Mitch Kalamian, a landscape designer in Huntington Beach, Calif. “It will green up.”

If the yard looks really scruffy, you may decide to invest in some sod. Sod will average about 15-35 cents/sq. ft., according to the National Gardening Association. If you hire a landscaper to sod your yard for you, labor will add 30% to 50% to the total cost of the project.

Another alternative is to plant low-maintenance turf grasses. Turf grasses are durable and drought-resistant. Expect to pay $18-$30 for enough turf grass seed to plant 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area.

#3 Landscape Lighting

For homeowners who have made a sizeable investment in landscaping, it makes sense to think about adding another 10%-15% to the bill for professional outdoor lighting. After all, buyers aren’t always looking at houses on a Saturday afternoon.”

The cost of a system runs from $200 for a DIY installation to more than $4,000 for a professional job. If you‘re doing it on your own, the key is to light what you want people to see, such as mature trees and flowering shrubs.

#4 Colorful Planting Beds

Flower beds add color and help enliven otherwise plain areas, such as along driveways and the edges of walkways. In general, annual flowers are a bit cheaper but must be replaced every year. Perennials cost a bit more but come back annually and usually get larger or spread with each growing season.

If you’re not sure what to plant, inquire at your local garden center. Often, they’ll have a display of bedding plants chosen for their adaptability to your area. Also, they‘ll be inexpensive because they’re in season, says Peter Mezitt, president of Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Mass. Try pansies in the summer, and asters and mums in the fall to add vibrant color. “That’s what we do around the entrance to our garden center,” Mezitt says.