Smart Technology or Home Automation: What’s the Difference?

Smart Technology or Home Automation: What's the Difference?Is it worth it to add smart appliances or automated features if you’re selling a home? Just how much connectivity do buyers want? And what exactly do the terms refer to in terms of home updates.

Although smart homes and home automation are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually refer to two basically different concepts about how appliances and home systems can operate. Then there is the need for “connectivity,” adding another dimension to any discussion of futuristic home features.

Home Automation

According to a Texas-based Direct Energy blog, home automation has a long history, beginning with the first labor-saving devices that operated with electrical current. “Automatic” washing machines and hot water heaters certainly made life easier at the time, a time long before wireless technology and integrated home entertainment systems.That may be simplistic, but the truth is that any device that operates without human intervention can be termed automatic. 

Today, however, automation commonly refers to home features that are controlled by computer, or that can be set to operate in specific ways: motion-detected lighting, robotic floor cleaners, dishwashers and ovens with delay settings, and the wide range of room monitors, security cameras and voice or motion-controlled devices.

Smart Technology

Computers introduced American homes to smart technology and the Internet of Things. Today, almost every home has several “smart” devices, even if they are simple ones.  

Case in point: A programmable thermostat, common sensor-operated smoke detectors, and a backyard irrigation system with a timer control can be termed smart devices, albeit maybe only “elementary” smart.

Today, most smart technology is also controllable by wireless remote device. But the true definition of smart is any product that incorporates sensors or data storage, microprocessors or controls that allow autonomous operation. An internal operating system is employed to assure that the product operates as programmed, either through user interface or initial setup. Modern smart technology allows for broad integration of devices, in effect creating a “genius” network.

Connectivity

The third piece of the technology puzzle is connectivity. Both home automation and smart technology can be “connected,” for greater flexibility and integration, but it’s not necessary. And, just because homeowners can change a setting via smart phone or battery-operated remote doesn’t necessarily make an automatic appliance or home product smart. 

Connected products interact with one another over a network; the network collects and shares data, and is designed to monitor and allow some degree of control over the functioning of network-connected products or systems. 

For instance, a smart home with sophisticated lighting controls might automatically sense lower light levels at dusk, triggering an adjustment to window shades and turning on both interior and exterior lighting.

Confused? Actually, there’s no real need to be. No matter what you call them, the home features that make living better are all desirable!

What You Need To Know About Your Home Appraisal And Your Mortgage

What You Need To Know About Your Home Appraisal And Your MortgageWhen buying a home, there are certain steps a buyer should go through before the home sale is official. First the buyer makes the offer, then the offer is accepted.

Next the buyer schedules the inspection and home appraisal. Finally, everyone is ready for closing.

It’s easy to overlook the impact of some of these steps, but when it comes to a mortgage, the home appraisal is actually quite important. Banks want to see that they are lending money for an investment that is worthwhile, so that appraisal is a crucial step to getting financing. Here is what buyers need to know about how the appraisal could affect their mortgages.

Understanding The Home Appraisal Process

The home appraisal gives a home valuation expert the chance to evaluate the home a buyer’s considering to determine its market value. Home appraisers are highly trained, state-licensed professionals that know how to evaluate homes and assign value to them.

The appraiser will use various approaches to determine the final appraised value. The appraisal typically happens after an offer on the home was approved but before the lender loans the money.

The Appraisal And Mortgage Approval

The appraisal is one factor that a mortgage lender considers when deciding whether or not to approve a final loan request. Even if a borrower had preapproval, a low appraisal could cause the mortgage to fall through.

Why is this? A lender only wants to lend enough to cover what the home’s actual value, and if the appraisal comes in lower than what the borrower is asking for, the lender can deny the loan.

If the lender does not deny the loan completely, they may refuse to lend more than the home’s value. In order to buy the home at the agreed price, the buyer may need to come up with the difference in cash at closing.

What Can Buyers Do If The Appraisal Is Low?

If an appraisal comes in low on the home someone wishes to buy, the buyer shouldn’t panic. It is possible to get a new appraisal at a higher value.

First, consider the condition of the home. Did the seller let some things fall into disrepair? If the seller fixes those items, a new appraisal may be higher.

Does the home look rundown or cluttered? This shouldn’t affect the appraisal, but it can sometimes cause the appraiser to trend lower. Sometimes, simply asking for a second opinion might get a slightly different appraised value.  That said, if the appraisal is low, make sure to evaluate the purchase price. Is it in line with current market conditions and the overall condition of the home?

If the answer to that question is no, then the offer may be too much for the home. The appraisal, in this case, gives the buyer the opportunity to reevaluate the purchase decision.

When it comes to mortgage approval, the appraisal is one of the critical steps in the process. If a buyer has shopped wisely, the home should pass with flying colors, and soon the home sale process will be over.  As always, your trusted mortgage professional is the best resource for appraisal information in your local market.

Green Technology To Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint

Green Technology To Reduce Your Home's Carbon FootprintWhen you are a homeowner looking to reduce your carbon footprint, there are a number of steps you can take to make your home earth-friendly. From passive solar heating to solar panels, you can make a difference in the impact your home has on the environment.

Even when you aren’t building a new home, changes can be made to an existing property to increase efficiency and reduce reliance on utility systems.

Invest In Solar Power

Solar panels are one of the most popular ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and with good reason. Solar panels often produce enough electricity so that you have energy to sell back to the energy grid every month. Over time, solar panels on your property can earn you money instead of costing money in utility bills.

Consider Passive Solar Designs

Passive solar is heating your home with the sun by using the right design. For example, certain materials such as slate holds heat. If you have a room that gets plenty of sunlight during the day, a slate floor can help keep the room warmer once the sun sets. If the floor is made from a material that dissipates heat, such as ceramic tile, your home won’t benefit from the sun once it sets.

Radiant Floor Heating Saves On Energy Costs

Heat rises, and those that invest in radiant floor heating find that it is easier to heat up a room. Radiant floor heating uses coils below the surface of your floor, creating heat. The heat rises into the room instead of getting blown in through a heating vent. This reduces the amount of energy you need to heat your home.

Invest In Energy Efficient Appliances

Every appliance that you use in your home has an impact. Consider investing in energy efficient appliances when you are trying to make your home more earth friendly. You will save money on utility costs and help the environment at the same time.

Consider a Clothesline

The energy used to heat your clothes and dry them can be eliminated if you simply hang everything outside to dry. While this adds to your workload, it is a free way to reduce your carbon footprint.

When you have a home, there are a number of ways you can help reduce your impact on the environment. Set up a recycling area in your home, have a vegetable garden if possible, and use electricity only when necessary.

Enjoy your space and don’t be afraid to try new ideas to reduce waste within your home.

Thinking About Buying A Fixer-Upper? Know These Top Resources To Make The Most Profit

Thinking About Buying A Fixer-Upper? Know These Top Resources To Make The Most ProfitIf your financial situation is limited, yet you’re handy with a hammer and nails, then purchasing a fixer-upper home can be an attractive option. Fixer-uppers typically require a bevy of updates and repairs to bring the home up to current market conditions.

Because of this, the listing price is often considerably less than a move-in ready home.  Your trusted real estate professional can help you find the best projects to buy and sell.

Getting Started

Fixer-uppers aren’t for everyone, but there are plenty of resources available if you plan to do most of the repair and upgrades yourself. Let’s take a look at a few top resources to tap into if you’re in the market for a fixer-upper or if you’ve already purchased one and you are ready to get started.

  • At Home: A Blog by Joanna Gaines: Chip and Joanna Gaines are well known HGTV personalities who’ve made it their mission to fix up homes. A visit to Joanna Gaines’ blog is a gateway to renovation and decorating tips, products and real-time photos of projects in action. It’s a great place to go for inspiration.
  • Hands-On Workshops: If there’s a Home Depot near your home, chances are you frequent it for many of your hardware needs. There’s another reason you should stop in: Hands-On Workshops. If you want guidance on things like installing bath vanities, tile backsplashes, hanging ceiling fans, or measuring and installing flooring, there’s likely an upcoming workshop at the store that can give you the know-how and confidence necessary to do it yourself.
  • Jeff Patterson’s Home Repair Tutor: This YouTube channel boasts almost 120,000 subscribers and its how-to videos have racked up more than 30.5 million views. Videos include everything from how to tile a shower floor to installing a motion sensor light switch. If you need detailed step-by-step instructions on how to perform a particular job, chances are good this channel has it.
  • The Craftsman Blog: Written by DIY fixer-upper and author Scott Sidler, this blog is packed with how-to advice for home improvement and restoration projects as well as general tips and information about repairs like painting, plastering and restoring windows. This is a blog for a DIY fixer-upper written by a DIY fixer-upper. 
  • Your local hardware store: The big box hardware stores are great for finding just about any sort of tool you’ll need and for hosting how-to workshops. Generally, however, it’s your local, smaller hardware store that can really give you some great one-on-one advice as it pertains to your projects. These stores are typically family owned, and part of the reason they’re able to stay in business is because of their high level of customer service. This often includes guiding you on certain projects.

A fixer-upper can seem like a daunting project when you are getting started. Knowing where to look for the right resources can make a big difference.  Your trusted real estate finance professional is available to assist you and offer additional advice on your new endeavor.

Pet-Friendly Homes: Some Selling Do’s and Dont’s

Pet-Friendly Homes: Some Selling Do's and Dont'sNearly 70 million American households include at least one pet, but most prospective buyers won’t want to see evidence of pets in a home on the market.

Here are some tips about how to sell a pet-friendly home.

Prior To Listing

Point out special pet features to your real estate agent — a cat door, feeding station or a pet shower, even a fenced back yard or a dog run can be a bonus to many buyers. It’s important to remember that buyers want to imagine their pets in the home, not yours! Minimize your pet’s presence by decluttering pet supplies as well as your personal items.

While it is best to downplay non-human residents in a home for sale, some pets are more difficult to camoflage or move out of the way. If you have a bird, an aquarium, or large exotic pets, use your best judgment while keeping the “less is more” philosophy in mind.

If there is any pet damage, it should be repaired before you show the home. If necessary, repaint walls, refinish floors, or replace carpeting. Ask a friend or relative (one without a pet) to give your house a sniff test. If there are any odors, do whatever is necessary to eliminate them. It is not likely enough to try to mask the odors with air freshners in order to make the best impression on potential buyers.

Dealing With Showings

Always arrange for animals to be out of the house when a showing is scheduled. If you can’t be there to pick up a pet, trust a neighbor to take the dog for a walk or herd the cat into a carrier and keep it for a few hours. A barking dog in the back yard is annoying, and even the cutest puppy can intimidate a buyer. Cats, too, are notoriously independent, and not all humans are cat-lovers.

Buyers expect even a house with pets to be kept scrupulously clean. Sweep and vacuum up pet hair as often as necessary. Pick up feeding bowls and toys, and remove cat litter boxes prior to a showing. Polish nose prints off glass and put away the scratching pole. Think of pets and pet items the same as you would personal photographs and other memorbillia that clutters your home. Removing those items helps the buyer see themselves in your home and can increase the likelihood of a sale.

It’s also wise to double check with your insurance company to determine your liability in the event that your pet bites or otherwise injures anyone at your property. 

Before And During Moving

Remember that moving is stressful, not only for you, but for your best friend as well. Speak to your veterinarian in advance about possible symptoms of anxiety such as increased accidents, changes in appetite, aggressive behavior or other personality changes that may occur. If you notice any significant signs of anxiety, seek treatment.

If at all possible, take your pet to see your new home prior to your move. If not, continue to look for signs that your pet is feeling disoriented or anxious. Finding a reliable and trustworthy veternarian near your new home beforehand is a good idea in case your pet is struggling. Take extra care that your pet doesn’t try to “escape” back to the familiar and get lost. 

Selling your home and moving into a new home can be exciting, complicated and stressful events. The same can be true for your pets. With a little bit of extra planning, things can go a lot smoother for your entire family. Contact your real estate professional for even more tips for a successful home selling, home buying and relocating experience.

 

Important Reasons A Renter Should Not Pay Your Mortgage Payment

Don't Let a Renter Assume Your Mortgage Payment as a LandlordWhen it comes to a property that’s been financed with a mortgage, homeowners can experience the need or desire to live elsewhere from time to time. Renting may be considered as a way to recover some of their costs when they are not using their home.

In some cases, homeowners – when acting as landlords – may also consider that it’s more efficient to have the tenant pay their monthly mortgage payment directly to a lender. After all, the money is just being received and turned over in another check to the lender anyway. It may seem like a logical idea to skip the two-step hassle but, in reality, it’s not a great idea.

Equity Matters

First off, one has to understand and remember what a mortgage payment actually does; it pays down financing debt which in turn creates equity in the home. Typically, that means that the owner’s payment shifts more of the clear title to his name and lessens the lender’s collateral lien.

However, if a third party gets involved, the legal title to the home can get complicated. From some legal arguments, it could be interpreted that the owner is letting a third party buy into the equity in the home. That may not necessarily be the case, but when money gets exchanged, it can be a very powerful element in the legal world.

Lenders Are Not Fond of Assumptions

To prevent potential title problems, most mortgage lenders refuse to let a borrower allow a third party to assume their mortgage loan. Instead, the original mortgage needs to be paid off to release the collateral lien on the given home to the homeowner responsible for the purchase.

However, not every home loan provider includes the right language in their loan contracts. Some even make it possible for a third party assumption to occur. If that happens, regardless of what the original homeowner wants, the third party could then make an argument that they now have equity title of the home and the basis for lien if taken to court. While this could be thought of as an extreme situation, weirder things have happened in a court room. 

Keep It Separate

To avoid any kind of title confusion from occurring, it’s best to simply not let the tenants have anything to do with the mortgage on the home or the lender. Period. Collect their rent and then issue an entirely separate check payment to the mortgage lender. This keeps the equity title clean and the tenants remain just that, temporary occupants of the property and nothing more.

As you can see, precautions are often taken to protect the homeowner and the lender but that is not always the case. The best thing you can do is talk to your trusted real estate professional about this issue and others to ensure the long term protection of your valuable asset. 

Selling Your Home FHA? Learn These Tips To Ensure A Smooth Closing

What Are The Requirements To Sell A Home Using FHABefore an owner can market a property to buyers that want to use a FHA loan, he will want to familiarize himself with the FHA’s standards. FHA won’t insure loans on just any property.

While their standards aren’t as stringent as they used to be, a home needs to be in relatively good condition to qualify for FHA financing.

Location and Lot

To qualify for FHA financing, the property has to be located on a road or easement that lets the owner freely enter and exit. The access also has to be paved with a surface that will work all year — a long dirt driveway that washes out in spring won’t qualify.

The FHA also wants the lot to be safe and free of pollution, radiation and other hazards. For that matter, it also needs to provide adequate drainage to keep water away from the house.

Property Exterior

The FHA’s requirements for making a loan start with the home’s roof. To pass muster, the house must have a watertight roof with some future life left. In addition, if the roof has three or more layers of old shingles, they must all be torn off as part of the replacement process.

The property’s exterior has to be free of chipped or damaged paint if the home has any risk of having lead paint. Its foundation should also be free of signs of exterior (and interior) damage. It also needs full exterior walls.

Property Interior

The property’s interior also needs to be inspected. FHA standards require that the home’s major systems be in good working order. Bedrooms should have egress routes for fire safety and the attic and basement should be free of signs of water or mold damage.

The bottom line is that the FHA wants to make loans on homes that borrowers can occupy. This doesn’t mean that a home has to be in perfect condition to be sold to an FHA mortgage-using borrower. 

Contact your trusted mortgage professional to discuss these issues as well as any other questions regarding the sale of your home.

 

Tips For Home Buying In The Digital Age

Tips For Home Buying In The Digital Age

The digital age has changed the way buyers browse for and purchase goods and services, including real estate. While home buyers still can check out property listings via a print newspaper or by driving through desired neighborhoods in hopes of finding a “for sale” sign, digital sources offer more options and can make the home buying process easier. 

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) states in their 2017 Report: Real Estate in a Digital Age, that 44-percent of home buyers look online when beginning their search.

Social Media As Sources For Home Buyers

According to the Pew Research Center, 68-percent or two-thirds of U.S. adults use Facebook. In addition to that popular social media site, American adults regularly use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube on a daily basis for entertainment, social engagement, shopping, and news. These sites also can be excellent sources for home buyers.

Home buyers now have instant, easy access to a wide variety of property listings beyond those featured on an individual real estate agency’s website. Many real estate agents post listings on social media with interior/exterior photos and some with virtual tours. Sites like YouTube offer valuable resources particular for first-time home buyers, from tips to how-to’s. 

Real Estate Apps

More than 90-percent of all real estate firms have a website. Visiting these sites are a great starting point and ideal way to connect with an agent that knows the local market. However, home buyers may also consider real estate apps to enhance the process. Even if not tech savvy, these apps are easy to use. 

The most used real estate apps are available for both Android and iOS. Digital Trends offers a breakdown of several of the most popular. Ask a real estate agent if they have one that’s specific to their firm.

These apps can help:

  • Customize a search by location, property type, features, and price
  • Reveal the worth or rental value of a property
  • Show floor plans and exterior/interior photos
  • Provide details about neighborhoods
  • Offer lending institution information
  • Directly connect buyers with a real estate agent

Stay Connected With A Real Estate Professional

Cell phones appear to be everywhere today and research shows that 77-percent of Americans own a smartphone. With that smartphone it’s easier than ever to stay connected with a real estate agent and mortgage professional when buying a home.

An agent can text or email potential listings to the phone, schedule open house meetings, and send updates regarding the offer just made on the perfect home.  A mortgage lender can take a loan application and deliver status updates directly through a secure smartphone app.

Home buyers that can embrace the digital age have the opportunity to take advantage of the multiple platforms and tools available for making a real estate purchase. 

 

5 Important Questions to Ask When Buying New Construction

Questions to Ask When Buying New ConstructionBuying a new home is exciting. Buying a brand new home can be even more so with the realization of being the first owner and possibly being able to choose your own layout and finishes. The prospect of owning new construction is definitely exciting, but it doesn’t come without its own set of questions.

If you’re in the market for a new home, and considering new construction, make note of the questions below when you begin your property search.

What Are The Long Term Plans For The Community?

Unless you’re looking at custom homes on acreage, it’s likely new construction in your area will be located in a new development or in a master planned community. With this in mind, feel free to ask about the plans for the community.

If it’s a large area, find out if any subdivisions are planned. If there are only a few houses built so far, it’s likely to mean lots of construction in the months to come – which means a lot of noise and construction traffic.

Also ask about the builder – if they’re well known and respected, it’s unlikely they’ll lose funding and the community will likely continue on as planned.

What Are The Homeowners Association’s Rules And Regulations?

Many new developments and master planned communities come with a set of rules and regulations set by a homeowners association. If you’ve never lived in a community with an HOA, it’s important to find out the rules before investing in it.

The bylaws and the CC&Rs will let you know what is and isn’t allowed in the community (especially when it comes to the exterior of your home). You’ll also want to find out when the HOA fee begins – in some communities, it can start before the home is even finished.

Are There Any Buyer Or Financial Incentives?

If the community or development is still in the early stages, there might be incentives (like a buyer discount, builder upgrades or other financial incentives or freebies) for buyers.

Sometimes these offers come with a catch – where something is expected from the buyer in return for the incentive – but it’s important to ask about any offers that may be available, especially if the community is still up and coming.

Are Warranties Provided?

New homes often come with different warranties. Ask if a workmanship and structural warranty come with the home.

A workmanship warranty (or builder’s warranty) is a warranty for newly constructed homes that offer limited coverage on workmanship and components of the home like windows, siding, roofs, doors, plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Traditionally, a workmanship warranty will cover a one or two year period; another likely warranty is a structural warranty, which covers the structure of a home.

If a warranty is provided, make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered and how much you’re responsible for in case of any issues.

Can you connect me with some current homeowners?

Just as you would check reviews before buying an item online or booking a service, the same can be said for a home builder. Just because the product is a shiny new home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence and check references before making a large investment.

While it’s likely that the builder will provide glowing reviews, checking reference and review websites and even knocking on the doors of current homeowners will provide additional information and give you a wider understanding of the builder and its practices. Talking to current homeowners will provide information about the actual community.

New construction is exciting, but you want to make sure you have all pertinent information before you go through with a home purchase. Your real estate professional will be able to help navigate the waters of new construction. 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 14th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 14th, 2018Last week’s economic reports included readings on consumer prices, consumer sentiment and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Consumer Price Index Increases in April

Consumer prices rose by 0.20 percent in April according to the Commerce Department. Analysts expected prices to rise by 0.30 percent based on a negative reading of -0.10 percent in March. Core consumer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy sectors, eased to 0.10 percent growth in April after growing by 0.20 percent in March. Analysts said that Fed policymakers’ concerns over inflation growth could wane with the easing of core consumer prices.

Mortgage Rates, Mixed New Jobless Claims Unchanged

Freddie Mac reported mixed readings for average mortgage rates; rates for fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.55 percent and were unchanged from the prior week. Average rates for a fifteen-year fixed rate mortgage dipped by two basis points. Rates for a5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.77 percent and were higher by eight basis points.

New jobless claims were unchanged 211,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected 215,000 new claims. In other news, the University of Michigan reported that consumer sentiment was also unchanged with an index reading of 98.80 in May.

Whats Next

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings From the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.