8 Smart Home Technology Trends that Can Save You Money
The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects that can serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the wired future, all of our appliances and gadgets talk to each other seamlessly.
What could living in a smart home look like? Picture something like this:
The lights in your bedroom slowly illuminate to quietly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blaring alarm. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifts in and stirs your senses. Once the lights are all the way up, the heating system kicks on, just in time to warm up your room so you’re not shocked once you crawl out from underneath the duvet.
When you step into the shower, it turns on automatically and remembers your preferred temperature and water pressure. And it will shut off right when you’re finished as it knows how long you take to bathe.
Once you’ve driven out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. And it will only unlock automatically when it “sees” and recognizes someone else from your family approaching through programmed in biometrics.
Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes, we haven’t reached the point where every feature intuitively knows what you want and when you wanted. However, each year we’re getting closer and closer toward that shiny, idealized ‘Jetson’ future.
Here are some trends that we see for smart homes, many of which may also help you save money:
Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.
With the newer models, smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when they sense you are present. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so that you’re saving energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone so that you can adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.
Smart Smoke Detectors
Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives. But unfortunately, many of us still have those battery-run smoke detectors that make that annoying, piercing beep when their batteries are running low on power. And instead of replacing batteries right away, it’s often easier to pull them out and disable the detector (while risking our lives).
Many of the new smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, as well as air quality. With this new sensor technology, they know the difference between a real fire and burnt toast.
Smart Sprinkler Control
Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often, especially during the summer months, we fall into a severe drought. But then we might have one season that brings extreme amounts of rain, like we did this past spring.
A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio Iro can not only help save you lots of money on your water bill but also help protect our precious resources.
Programmable by computer or smart phone, it can automatically adjust how often you water your lawn based on the season and the weather forecasts. You can also remotely adjust the settings through a mobile app.
Smart Solar Panels
You can put the sun to work for you by using solar technology to power your home. It’s green and renewable, and can save you money over the long term. A recent study conducted by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center determined that Austin customers who invested in a solar system saved an average of $66 per month during the first year that they owned the system.
With smart solar panels, you can program the technology to monitor their performance and even turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.
Smart Home Security Systems
Home monitoring has become much more sophisticated in recent years. With the old-style security systems, you had to call in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.
With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense whether doors and windows are closed or opened. Some systems include audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off intruders. You get real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted as soon as the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely that they will be caught.
Canary is one popular all-in-one audio-video security system, complete with sirens and night vision.
Go beyond the standard key locks, which can often be compromised by burglars. The new smart lock systems give you more control over those who can gain access to your home.
Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or cleaning service in during a specific window of time.
Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you and unlock your door.
The new August smart lock integrates with Apple’s technology so you can ask Siri to open your door for you.
Smart lighting systems and light bulbs
A well-lit home feels warm and welcoming, and good lighting can instantly increase the value of your home.
However, annual lighting costs can account for up to 12% of your overall electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can easily reduce this expense simply by using smart lighting technology to add efficiency.
The Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add to your home without installing specialized equipment. Smart lighting dimmers and sensors can give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to turn them on and off through your smart phone.
New smart light bulbs can give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs, for example, you can program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you up with increasing illumination, or to change from daytime work lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.
Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint, old-fashioned versions of these home conveniences. Newer, smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it easier for you to complete pesky household chores.
Newer coffee makers, like the Smarter coffee machine, let you ‘order’ your coffee exactly to your liking, adjusting everything from bean grind to temperature to strength to time that it’s ready to drink.
- Smart refrigeration technology can help you store your food at just the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat during peak usage times. For example, the LG THINQ fridge can alert you via smart phone app if a door is accidentally left open.
Smart ovens can ensure that your food is cooked to the right level of done-ness, and alert you when your meal is ready to eat. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you even more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what you like to eat and make menu suggestions.
Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. And soon, connected appliances from GE, Oster, Samsung, and other makers, will be able to re-order soap and fabric softener directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to think about running to the store at the last minute.
Have you tested any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss any of your favorite home technologies? Let us know in the comments!
Don’t Get Burned – Get a Home Inspection to Save Money on Your Next Purchase
Okay, you made one of the most important decisions in your life: you’re buying a
home! You found your ideal home. It’s in your desired neighborhood, close to everything
you love, you dig its design and feel, and you’re ready to finalize the
But, whoa … wait a minute! Buying a home isn’t like buying a toaster. If you discover
something’s wrong with your new home, you can’t return it for a refund or
an even exchange. You’re stuck with your buying decision. Purchasing a home is
an important investment and should be treated as such. Therefore, before finalizing
anything, your “ideal” home needs an inspection to protect you from throwing
your hard-earned money into a money pit.
A home inspection is a professional visual examination of the home’s roof, plumbing,
heating and cooling system, electrical systems, and foundation.
There are really two types of home of inspections. There is a general home inspection
and a specialized inspection. Most general inspections cost around $400. The cost of the specialized inspection varies from type to type. If the inspector recommends a specialized inspection, take that advice because buying
a home is the single most important investment you’ll make and you want extra
assurance that you’re making a wise investment.
By having your prospective new home inspected, you can:
1.Negotiate with the home seller and get the home sale-ready at no cost to
2. Prevent your insurance rates from rising
3. Opt-out of the purchase before you make a costly mistake
4.Save money in the short and long run
How Much Money Can a Home Inspection Save You?
A home inspection helps to find potential expenses beyond the sales price, which
puts homebuyers in a powerful position for negotiation. If there are any issues discovered
during the home inspection, buyers can stipulate that the sellers either
repair them before closing or help cover the costs in some other way. If the sellers
do not want to front the money to complete the repairs, buyers could negotiate a
drop in the overall sales price of the home!
Perhaps even more importantly, a home inspection buys you peace of mind. Your
first days and months in a new home will set the tone for your life there, and you
don’t want to taint that time with worries about hidden problems and potential
To help you understand how much money a home inspection can save you, here
are some numbers from HomeAdvisor to drive the point home … so to speak.
Roof – Roofing problems are one of the most common issues found by home inspections.
Roof repair can range between $316 and $1046, but to replace a roof
entirely can cost between $4,660 and $8,950.
Plumbing – Don’t underestimate the plumbing. Small leaks can cause damage
that costs between $1,041 and $3,488 to repair. Your home inspector will look for
visible problems with the plumbing such as leaky faucets, water stains around
sinks and the shower, and noisy pipes. Stains on walls, ceilings, and warped floors
show plumbing problems.
Heating and Cooling – Ensuring the home’s heating and cooling system is working
properly is very important. Your home inspector will make you aware of any problems
with the existing system and let know you whether the system is past its
prime and needs replacing. You don’t want to throw down $3,919 to replace an
aged furnace. Nor do you want to spend $5,238 replacing an ill-working air conditioner.
Replacing and repairing a water heater gets pricey too. Wouldn’t you
rather use your savings for a vacation?
Electrical Systems – When thinking of the electrical system, no problem is better
than even a small problem. Electrical problems might seem small, but they can
blossom into thousand-dollar catastrophes. Make sure your home inspector examines
the electric meter, wires, circuit breaker, switches, and the GCFI outlets and
Foundation – If your home inspector sees that the house is sinking, that means
water is seeping into the foundation; cracks in walls, sticking windows, and sagging
floor also indicate foundational problems. The foundation is so important that
if the general inspection report shows foundation problems, lenders will not lend
money on the home until those issues are solved. Foundation repairs can reach as
high as $5,880 to repair.
As you can see, a small investment of a few hundred dollars for a general home
inspection can save you tons of money and future headaches. To save even more
money, you might consider investing in a specialized home inspection as well. A
specialized inspection gets down to the nitty-gritty of all the trouble spots the
general home inspection might have located.
How Much Money Can a Specialized Inspection Save You?
A general home inspection can trigger a need for a specialized inspection because
the general home inspector spotted something off about the roof, sewer system,
the heating and cooling system, and the foundation. If humidity is high where
you’re buying your home, a pest inspection is recommended. Usually, a pest inspection
will check for mold as well as pests. Most homebuyers have a Radon test
done to ensure air quality.
Roof – Roof specialists examine the chimney and the flashing surrounding it. They
also look at the level of wear and tear of the roof. They can tell you how long the
roof will last before a new one is needed. They’ll inspect the downspouts and gutters.
The average cost of a roof inspection is about $223. Most roof inspections
will cost between $121 and $324.
Sewer System – Making sure your sewer system has no problems should happen
before the closing because what might look like a small problem can turn into a
large problem in the future. If any issues pop up, you can negotiate with the seller
about needed repairs or replacements before closing. Cost of inspection will vary;
on the low side, it might cost you around $95, and on the high side, it might cost
you $790. Compare these numbers to repairing a septic tank, which can cost, on
average, $1,435 (though it could reach as high as $4,459), and you can see that
the cost of an inspection is worth it when you catch the problem before you buy.
Heating and Cooling System – A HVAC specialist will check the ducts for blockage
and for consistent maintenance of the unit. The repairs needed might be small or
they might be big, but this small investment will save you headaches and lots of
money down the road.
Foundation – A foundation specialist will pinpoint the exact problem with the foundation.
The specialist will look at the grade or slope of the home. The ground
should slope away from the home in all directions a half inch per foot. Most homeowners
have spent between $1,763 and $5,880 to repair their foundation. And the
average cost to re-slope a lawn is at $1,705. Most homeowners paid between
$933 and $2,558 to re-slope their lawn.
Pest Inspection – Termites eat a home’s wood structure from inside out and can
cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home. Other pests can turn
your dream home into a nightmare. Depending on the humidity of where you live,
you should a pest/termite inspection every two years or so. You can start with
your potential new home. Most inspections are extensive and cost between $109
and $281. The good news is that most pest management company will guarantee
the past inspection if bugs show up.
Radon Test – Radon is a naturally occurring invisible odorless gas that is the second
leading cause of cancer. A radon test is a good test to have done as a good
habit. The cost of radon test is low and its cost varies from state to state.
Here’s more information about Radon.
Steps You Can Take to Save Money Using a Home Inspection
To help yourself save with a home inspection, you will need to:
Attend the inspection – Attending the inspection is important because it’s an opportunity
for you to ask questions.
Check utilities – Checking utilities let’s know the energy efficiency of your potential
Hire a Qualified Home Inspector – We can recommend bona-fide home inspectors
to you. You can compare our recommendation with all inspectors who belong to
the Home Inspectors Association of BC. While the decision of who you work
with is always yours, we can educate you so that you make a wise homebuying
Despite the grim economic outlook for some industries, one sector is gaining viability -- real estate. According to the 2016 Emerging Trends in Real Estate
Assemble your real estate team before you buy
Building relationships with your team will empower you to make serious offers that will more likely get accepted by sellers. Among your team members, you will want to include:
A mortgage broker or banker, who can help you get the financing for your deal
A real estate attorney to protect you by reviewing and revising contracts
An appraiser who can help you get a correct appraisal for your potential property
An accountant who is well versed in real estate investments
A good contractor, for repairs whether you’re rehabbing or buying rental property
How to find rehab or wholesale deals
You can buy properties to fix up and resell (flip) or you can buy and hold properties that you rent out for monthly cash flow.
The advantage of flipping properties is that you can end up with a good return on investment (ROI) in the short term. For example, you buy a property for $100,000, and invest $50,000 into repairs. Once it’s rehabbed, your property is valued at $200,000, and you sell it for a $50,000 profit.
This is an extremely simplified version of ROI. There are many other factors that you need to determine to see if the numbers work in your favor — that is, you’re not overpaying initially when you buy the properties or for the renovations or holding costs.
Flipping properties means that you will need to spend more time looking for fixer uppers that may be under market value. These may be more difficult to find in a hot market with rising property prices. Beyond the actual purchase price, you will also need to factor in fixed purchase costs for inspections, closing, and lender fees.
You’ll also need to factor in holding costs. Your budget should include funds for making repairs, whether you are doing them yourself or hiring contractors. While you’re upgrading the property, you’ll need to carry mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, and insurance.
Because of rising property values, fix-and-flip deals in good neighborhoods can be hard to find. But once you know where to find rehab opportunities, you can easily repeat the process by reinvesting proceeds from a previous flip into the next property, which can be bigger, in a more desirable neighborhood, or finished out more luxuriously, and therefore sold for more cash!
Working with the right real estate professionals will help you learn which neighborhoods to consider and determine where you should focus your search. We can help you find the right fixer-uppers that may be under market value. Also, a Realtor will have access to many properties that may not be publicly available.
Finding buy-and-hold rental properties
A buy-and-hold rental property is one that your purchase with the intent of renting it out to tenants. If you find the right long-term buy-and-hold rental property, you can earn consistent cash flow each month, which can be a great source of supplemental income.
You’ll need to carefully review the operating expenses on the property and what tenants are willing to pay for the space to know if you’ll make or lose money each month. For example, say your total costs to buy a duplex was $20,000, including down payment and closing costs. You can rent each of the units for $600. Assuming your building is 100% occupied, you’ll make $1200 per month in income. Your expenses include mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, utilities, and management fees, and you want to set aside some cash each month for capital expenditures and routine repairs. You calculate that your expenses add up to $1100 per month. Once you subtract your expenses from your income, you’ll have a positive cash flow of $100 per month.
Of course, this is a very simplified example, and it doesn’t take into account that problems will inevitably arise. Emergency roof repairs, heating system breakdowns, broken windows that need replacing, and other unexpected expenses can eat away at your profits. One of your units may be vacant for a month or more -- for example, vacancies are high in the summer months in buildings around universities -- or you could have a tenant who fails to pay their monthly rent.
The more you can anticipate problems before they happen, however, the easier it will be for you to recover from setbacks! Moreover, rent isn’t the only way to make money on a buy-and-hold property. You can also add amenities, such as coin laundry and vending machines, to increase your potential monthly income. If your property has space to add a billboard, you can earn advertising revenue from renting that space, too. And when you decide to sell, your property’s value will likely have increased both from the overall rising property values and by the improvements you made to increase the cash flow.
Once you find and invest in your rental property, you’ll need to decide how you want it managed from month to month.
Getting the right property manager
Do you want to manage your own property or hire a manager? Property management can become a full-time job. As a property manager, you’ll have to deal not only with maintenance, repairs and tenant issues, but also with insurance, fair rental regulations, and building code compliance. So if you’re not an expert in these areas, managing your own properties may not be worth your time and effort.
Hiring a professional manager can save you headaches over the long term. While you’ll have to factor in management as a fixed expense, your property manager will likely know how to better take care of routine repairs, tenant issues, and keeping your property near 100% occupancy.
Your real estate professional can refer you to reputable property management companies to help you take care of your investment.
Where should I start investing in local real estate?
Work with a knowledgeable real estate professional who knows about the different neighborhoods. We can help you find properties that will fit into your budget and your overall goals. Whether you’re seeking a duplex or multifamily property so you can maximize your rental income or whether you want a condo or single-family home to improve for resale, we can guide you to the best property to suit your needs.
Contact your us to learn more about investment properties in our area.
Is It Better to Buy a New or Existing Home?
The complete guide to choosing between new or lived-in homes
Maybe your dream home is older, with intricate details like wainscoting, crown molding, and a front porch with a swing. Or maybe it’s modern, with an open floor living room plan, connected, “smart” appliances, and minimalist design. Whether you decide to buy new construction or an existing home will depend on which factors are most important for your lifestyle.
Build your dream home with new construction
Many builders let you add design elements: marble countertops and custom cabinets in the kitchen; or a steam shower and spa tub in the master bath. If the walls aren’t complete, you could add extra outlets or custom wiring for surround sound in the media room. You will want to check with the builder to understand which features are included, and which ones are extra.
While new builds might be a large investment up front, they will likely save you money of the course of ownership. For example, new homes often contain high-efficiency stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, heaters, or air conditioning units. Along with good insulation and energy-efficient windows, these features will help you save more on monthly utility bills than in an older construction.
Furthermore, new homes have fewer maintenance costs. Since they are made with new materials, you won’t need to replace anything right off the bat as you might in an existing home. In fact, the materials builders tend to use nowadays need less regular maintenance in general. For example, composite siding doesn’t need annual repainting like wood does. Any repairs you do end up needing on a new home in the first year or so will be often covered by a builder’s warranty.
What you need to do to make a smart new home purchase
Before you put in your offer, do some research on the builder. Do they have a good reputation? Have their other construction projects finished on time? Because there are so many construction tasks that are dependent on the completion of prior tasks, schedules tend to slip, so you may need to be flexible with your move-in date.
Another consideration is that brand new communities usually attract similar types of buyers—urban professionals, couples, or young families, for example. These will be your neighbors, so you’ll want to make sure that you want to be part of this type of homogeneous community.
Get more variety with an existing home
There are many more resale homes available than there are new homes — according to theNational Association of Homebuilders, about 10 times as many. Since the market for resales can be more competitive, there may be room for price negotiation. Another benefit is that, since there are so many existing homes, you will find more variety in home styles. Within one neighborhood, there could be a mix of different styles like Victorian, modern Tudor cottages, tract style, ranch or split-ranch, or contemporary homes. More variety means you will have more flexibility to choose a home that fits your unique aesthetic.
Existing homes are in established neighborhoods, which may have more amenities like restaurants, cafes, and boutiques within walking distance. They also may have more greenery and features such as parks, running paths, or playgrounds for the kids to enjoy.
Finally, because existing homes have already been inspected at least once, you’ll know about any potential structural problems or repairs that have been made on the home. You’re less likely to end up with a property that has hidden issues like a rotting roof or crumbling foundation.
What you need to do to make a good resale purchase
Protect your purchase by first having the home inspected. If the inspector finds problems like foundation cracks or leaky roofs, you may be able to counter offer and get the seller to either fix it or reduce the selling price.
Even if there are no major issues, you should still try to expect the unexpected. Older homes will eventually need replacement appliances, a new air conditioning unit, or plumbing repairs, for example.
With an older home, you may want to eventually remodel parts of it. Will you be happy living in your house while you’re doing major work on the living room or the kitchen? If you know that it would disrupt your lifestyle too much, you may want to reconsider whether you really want to buy an older property.
Contact us if you are considering buying a new or resale home. I have access to dozens of properties in neighborhoods that will fit your needs.
# of Sales 86 87
Avg List of Sale $ 272,698 278,341
Avg Sale $ 264,520 269,852
Median $ 245,000 259,000
Avg Days on Market 57 43
List to Sale % 96.54% 96.68%
YTD # of Sales 778 804
YTD Avg Sales 260,650 271,736
YTD Days on Market 60 47
# of Sales 113 122
Avg List of Sale $ 279,862 280,677
Avg Sale $ 271,347 271,077
Median $ 248,000 257,000
Days on Market 49 47
List to Sale % 96.71% 96.08%
YTD # of Sales 692 716
YTD Avg Sale $ 260,169 271,685
YTD Days on Market 60 48
# of Sale 115 108
Avg List of Sale $ $264,172 $280,111
Avg Sale $ $255,430 $271,551
Median $ $238,000 $253,000
Days on Market 47 48
List to Sale % 96.51% 96.58%
YTD # of Sales 579 577
YTD Avg Sale $ $257,987 $270,884
YTD Days on Market 62 48
# of Sales 108 131
Avg List of Sale $275,684 $294,885
Avg Sale $ $268,647 $286,429
Median $ $250,000 $270,000
Days on Market 74 49
List to Sale % 97.27% 96.83%
YTD # of Sales 464 469
YTD Avg Sale $ $258,621 $270,730
YTD Days on Market 66 48
# of Sales 129 103
Avg list of Sale $ 272,981 296,558
Avg Sale $ 264,802 289,807
Median $ 247,000 267,000
Days on Market 60 44
List to Sale % 96.68 97.38
YTD # of Sales 356 330
YTD Avg Sale Price 255,579 264,694
YTD DOM 64 48
# of Sales 96 70
Avg list of Sale $ 261,029 259,215
Avg Sale $ 252,517 267,379
Median $ 228,500 234,500
Days on Market 67 41
List to Sale % 96.27% 97.02%
YTD # of Sales 227 215
YTD Avg Sale Price 250,338 254,477
YTD DOM 66 50
# of Sales 79 66
Avg. List of Sale $ $260,579 $240,682
Avg. Sale $ $252,625 $233,546
Median $ $233,000 $212,000
Days on Market 66 45
List to Sale % 96.56% 96.93%
YTD # of Sales 127 133
YTD Avg Sale Price $248,659 $252,608
YTD DOM 67 59
Here it is by the numbers:
Number of Sales: 48 53
Average List Price of homes that Sold: $249,821 $288,097
Avg. Sale Price: $242,131 $275,672
Days on Market: 67 67
List to Sale Ratio 96% 95%