Smart Devices For Your Home Worth Purchasing

smart home device photoWho is your home assistant? I know many of you have one like I do. I have Google, and between setting timers and asking her to play bluetooth from my phone, I also can use voice activation to control one of my other smart home devices: the temperature on my Nest thermostat. In hot Phoenix summers, Nest helps me save money with intuitive temperature control when I am in and out of the house. 

Smart thermostats, home assistant speakers and door locks are popular and well-known products. But what about these other connected devices you may not have known existed? 

Smart Plugs

If the sinking realization that you forgot to turn off the coffee pot crosses your mind while you’re at work, never fear – you can switch it off from your phone! Smart plugs are simple: They plug into the wall, your device plugs into the smart plug, and now you’ve got full access to control it from your phone. TVs, lamps, crockpots—it can all be controlled remotely. 

Smart Lightswitch

You may have heard of the lightbulbs you can control color and intensity of with your voice, but what about the lightswitch you can talk to? Smart lightswitches are wired into your existing switch configuration and allow you to set nightlight settings, responsive times to turn on and off, and integration with Alexa voice activation, all from your phone. 

Smart Vacuums

Robot vacuums just got a lot more intelligent. Top-tier models not connect with your home assistant and will run a scan of your house so you can edit a map of the areas you want it to go. Now vacuuming can be as simple as lifting a finger (literally): If you have an Apple Watch, you can set it up so all you need to do is tap to start the device in your home. 

Smart Scales 

Smart scales do way more than just read back a number – to help users more effectively monitor and track their weight and health, they report proportions of fat, muscle mass and other metrics straight to your phone. If you wear Fitbit, there’s even a special scale that connects with your tracker. 

Smart homes are increasing in popularity as people are more willing to invest in homes and devices that save time and money.  Let me know what type of home YOU are looking for.

 

 

How Having A Pool Affects Your Homeowner’s Insurance

In Arizona, having a pool in your backyard can be a huge benefit and provide fun for you and your family. But many homeowners question whether it’s a good idea to add a pool to their backyard, or buy a home with a pool, due to the safety concerns and maintenance. It’s no surprise that a home with a pool increases your homeowner’s insurance. But is it worth it?

Your insurance premiums will likely increase if you own a home with a pool. This is because they’re considered an “attractive nuisance,” meaning that an unsupervised child might be attracted to a pool and could cause harm to them.

Homeowners are responsible for taking safety measures like including a fence around the perimeter of the pool, putting a safety cover on the pool or posting a sign warning of the dangers. There also can be increased insurance costs if your pool is less than 50 feet from your home. Some insurance companies worry that your home could be damaged by a pool that is installed incorrectly, which increases costs if your pool is installed close by.

If you are considering installing a pool, you should likely take preemptive measures to protect yourself from any incidents that happen while you own the home. This means increasing your homeowner’s insurance coverage and limits. You can likely expect your premiums to also rise since having a pool is a greater risk. Research indicates it might be a good idea to increase your liability insurance from the standard $100,000 to $500,000 if you install a swimming pool.

When installing a pool, it’s also important to take into consideration the difference between in-ground and above-ground pools. Most in-ground pools are considered part of your home insurance policy, while above-ground pools would be covered under personal property insurance.

It’s important to consult with your insurance agent and discuss how adding a pool could potentially affect your premiums. Another great resource is your pool builder. They can discuss incorporating safety features during the building process to help you save money in the long run.

Despite the increased costs, adding a pool can also greatly increase your home’s value and offer a fun summer activity for you and your family. With proper knowledge of the pros and cons of a pool, you can be prepared for any unexpected costs associated with it.

Spring Cleaning Tips for Home Maintenance

clean kitchen photoSpring is almost here and with warmer weather comes the perfect opportunity to get your home in tip-top shape with some seasonal maintenance. While spring maintenance can be able cleaning and organizing, it’s also the perfect time to check on major systems and features of your home to ensure everything is running properly. Whether you’re getting your home ready to sell, or looking to keep your home up to date on its annual maintenance, here are some recommended spring cleaning around the home:

Clean your gutter

  • Throw on some gloves and pitch a ladder to clean out your gutter. Over the fall and winter, different materials can get caught in the gutter, causing wear and tear on your gutters and blocking the drainage of water.

Replace air filters

  • HVAC technicians suggest changing your air filter up to every month, but most home owners fail to abide by these recommendations. Changing your air filter regularly not only help with air circulation in your home, but it can help lower your air conditioning bill, decrease allergy symptoms and increase the lifespan of your air conditioning system. Spring is the perfect time to switch air filters for fresh air all season long.

Test smoke alarms

  • As you do your spring cleaning, take a minute to test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors. This is a quick and easy task that can save your life.  Experts recommend changing batteries at least twice a year to be safe.

Wash exterior windows

  • Before you crack your windows open on that first seasonal spring day, take some time to wash your exterior windows. There are services around Scottsdale that can do the job for you, or purchase a squeegee and get them done yourself over the weekend.

Schedule pest control treatment 

  • With rising temperature comes an increase in termites and unwanted pests that can damage your home. Take preventative maintenance to ensure the “spring swarm” doesn’t affect your home.

Prepare to open your pool

  • After being covered all winter, spring is the perfect time to roll back your pool cover and begin cleaning debris that have gotten stuck over the off-season. Contact a local pool maintenance company to beat the busy season and get the pool usable for warmer temperatures.

Spring is a great time to sell your home.  Do you know the value of your home?  Click here to get a free home value estimate.

Top Ten Must-Do Spring Cleaning Tasks

patio photoWhen springtime rolls around, you probably feel the need to start cleaning up your home just like most other homeowners do. Spring cleaning is a great habit to get into, and it can really help you improve the lifespan of your home and everything in it, too. But did you know that there are a few spring cleaning tasks that often get overlooked? Check out our list of the top ten tasks you need to pay attention to the next time you’re ready to clean house.

  1. Clean those rugs! Rugs are a good place to get started, but even if they’re not the first thing you take care, don’t forget to beat or wash them thoroughly before putting them back on the floor for the coming year.
  2. Check the grout. You don’t have to re-grout your showers every year, but this is a good time to check on the state of your grout. If it’s very dirty or getting mildewed, take the time to redo it now to save some trouble in the long run.
  3. Don’t forget to look up. The ceilings probably haven’t been washed in a while, and spring cleaning is a good opportunity to scrub them down. Use warm soapy water and take your time with this task, since it can be tough on the back and neck.
  4. Get dusty. Dust the whole house, and not just the areas you see most often. Take items off shelves and get the dust out of all those nooks and crannies.
  5. Wax your wood floors and furniture. Waxing your wood furniture can help extend its life significantly, and the same is true of wood floors. You can also wax tile and linoleum, and you may also want to scrub down any stone floors you may have at this time too.
  6. Clean curtain, drapes, and blinds. Take the curtains and drapes down and see if they can be put through the wash. If not, hand wash them before rehanging. Blinds can be wiped down with warm, soapy water.
  7. Clean and update smoke detectors. Dust around the smoke detector and check inside it for any dust or dead insects. Change the batteries even if you think it isn’t time to do so just yet. This is also a good chance to have a yearly talk with your family about fire safety for your home.
  8. Polish metal surfaces. Door and window handles, sink surfaces, and other metal hardware need to be polished regularly to keep them looking spotless. If you have any metal furniture, polish it at this time too.
  9. Don’t forget your window screens! This is something many homeowners forget to clean regularly, but you can wash your window screens with warm soapy water too. Once a year should be plenty for this task.
  10. Pay attention to upholstery. You may not need to clean your upholstery every year, but if you use upholstered furniture often, chances are you will want to. You may need to have it cleaned by a cleaner, but depending on the furniture, you may be able to take care of this task yourself too.

Click here to get a free home value estimate

Creating a Garden for Privacy

green backyard photoAre you looking for a great way to create some privacy for your home without necessarily having to completely fence off your yard? Do you want to build up some privacy in the front yard instead of just in the back? There are a lot of different reasons you might be looking for a little more privacy in your home, but no matter what your motivation may be, a garden is a great way to accomplish this. Check out our tips for creating a privacy garden in your yard easily.

Buy Big Plants—But Not Too Big:  Don’t waste money buying little plants that are going to take years to get big enough to make any difference in terms of privacy. On the other hand, don’t buy something that’s already so large that any growth at all is going to cause it to get too out of hand for you to manage. Take some time measuring the space you want to seclude, and be sure you choose plants of the right size and width to take up this area without going overboard.

Layer Heights:  Remember that you aren’t necessarily only thinking about coverage at eye level. If you want a truly private garden, you’ll need to consider layers of plant height to get complete seclusion. This doesn’t mean you need to rush out and purchase 12-foot shrubs to surround your yard, but you should think about adding a couple of small trees or tall bushes to help “fence off” the area you’re wanting to keep private.

Prune Perfectly:  Keeping your garden pruned perfectly is the best way to ensure that your privacy doesn’t suffer. If you let your plants get out of hand, you’ll be less likely to want to put in the work it takes to get them back into shape again. And if they get too long and spindly, you may not have enough privacy anymore. A little regular pruning goes a very long way!

Create Focal Points:  If you can’t afford to put in tons of plants or don’t feel like you can keep up with a lot of them at once, you can always create focal points to draw attention away from areas that may be a little less private than others. Put in a bright and colorful plant or flowering bush to accomplish this with little effort.

Think About Maintenance Needs:  Last but not least, think hard about how much work you’ll want to put into your privacy garden before you plant anything. If you love gardening and enjoy spending your weekends outdoors tending to plants, then you should have no trouble working with lots of them in your yard. However, if you prefer minimal plant maintenance, be sure you don’t choose too many plants, and pick those that are hardy enough to handle it if you forget to water them once or twice.

Click here to read more useful real estate tips & tricks. 

What to Prioritize In a Bathroom Remodel

It’s often said that two rooms sell a home: the kitchen and the bathroom(s). It’s also widely-accepted that most home buyers are looking for homes that are updated because they don’t want to do the work of updating. Therefore, if the two most important rooms aren’t updated, many potential buyers will start adding up the cost to update the kitchen and the bathrooms, at minimum, and may not offer as much for those homes.

Bathroom remodel photoTherefore, if you are considering updating your home to maximize the sales price, as well as compete with similar homes in your neighborhood, there are ways to prioritize these updates, based on your budget. Let’s focus on the bathroom here:

1) Paint. Painting your bathroom, especially if it hasn’t been painted in the past five years, is a simple, inexpensive and quick way to update this area of your home. Be sure to pick a neutral color that will appeal to the widest range of buyers, and that will coordinate with your existing cabinets, counters and flooring. Always pick a paint finish that’s appropriate for bathrooms such as semi-gloss.

2) Hardware and Lighting. If you do one thing to update your bathroom, consider updating your hardware and lighting. Shiny brass fixtures instantly date your home, so switching out any door hardware, faucets and lighting that have this finish, to brushed nickel or shiny chrome is an instant update that’s often cost-effective.

3) Flooring. After paint, hardware and lighting, take a look at the flooring in your bathroom. Buyers prefer tile in a bathroom, so any carpet needs to be removed PRONTO. Eighteen-inch porcelain or ceramic tiles in neutral colors are relatively inexpensive, yet provide a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to updating the look of your bathroom.

4) Countertops. Cultured marble (ie, plastic) countertops instantly date a bathroom in most homes. (There are a few quite modern exceptions in new builds). Granite or quartz countertops in the bathroom are upgrades that will quickly update the look and style of your kitchen. There are various levels (or pricing) of granite, and I would be happy to suggest which level of granite would be appropriate for the price range of your home. With countertop updates comes under mount sinks, which are easily installed and are inexpensive updates when you are already swapping out your countertops.

5) Shower and tub surrounds. Assuming you’ve already implemented the above updates, when it comes to prioritizing updates in the bathroom, the last piece of the puzzle is updating your shower and tub surround if they are dated. Again, cultured marble surrounds are often dated and unattractive options for bathrooms. Replacing these with stone tile surrounds is a desired update by most potential buyers. Along with this update, a frameless glass shower door is an easy update to implement as the old door will have to be removed once the shower surround is taken out.

Updating your bathroom with any of the above suggestions will be sure to help you maximize the final sale price of your home. I look forward to working with you to prioritize the costs of any remodel or update you plan to undertake with an eye toward maximizing the sale price of your home.

Get started with a free home value estimate

How to Downsize

Is it time to downsize? There are many reasons for downsizing: financial, environmental, transitioning to an empty nester lifestyle, or simply a desire to simplify one’s life. Whether it’s a home post-retirement or a vacation home or even a home to create a simpler lifestyle, making the move from a larger home to a home with a smaller footprint will take some planning.

condoThe first step to downsizing is to take inventory of your things, as your possessions that currently fit into your larger home simply will not fit in your smaller home. There are dozens of resources which address this process, but deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is the most critical part of this process. Try the Kondo Marie method of focusing on what items you love and what items bring you joy. By process of elimination, the remaining items that do not, should be thrown away, sold or donated. An exciting part of downsizing is letting go of things that you don’t absolutely need, which helps you to focus on what is important.

Grouping like items together is another way to visualize what items you need to get rid of. For example, putting all of your baking and cooking items into groups can help you identify whether you have duplicates of items as well as items that you’ve never used at all. You may not have space in your new downsized home to house small kitchen appliances such as pasta makers or bread makers, especially considering these items may not be used sufficiently to justify taking up precious storage space.

Finally, map out your new space to determine where you are putting the items you are keeping in your new space. Larger furniture items may not be appropriate for the scale of your new home, so winnowing down the larger pieces to one or two favorite pieces will make the transition much easier. Recognize that storage will not be as plentiful for your smaller items, and this will drive your decision-making processes.

While your current large scale house may not be in your future, a home which provides more freedom (financial and otherwise) will be, and that’s something to look forward to! I’m happy to assist you with this major life decision.

Northeast Valley Map of Neighborhoods

Treating for Termites

Whether you are buying, selling or living in a home, termites are likely something you will encounter.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that homeowners spend more than $2 billion annually on termite pest control and on repairs caused by termite damage.  Termites also damage more than 600,000 homes annually here in the United States.  Therefore, termite prevention and control are a critical part of home maintenance.

2 story home photoThe first thing to remember is that termites do work slowly.  Most termite colonies take 2-3 years to form.  Therefore, if you do see evidence of termites, you have time to determine how you’re going to deal with them most effectively, and it’s not going to be an emergency situation.  Generally speaking, termites become more active in times of moisture as they can’t move around without moisture.  So here in Arizona, that time is typically after monsoon season has ended, and the temperatures have dropped—mid-September through December.

It’s critical that you have a termite inspection of your home at least once a year.  In between the inspection times, be sure you personally walk around the exterior and interior of your home every few months to look for mud tubes (dry brown tubes the width of a pencil on the walls).   If you do discover evidence of termites in the form of these tubes, it’s time to call a termite exterminator.  This is a matter of opinion, but there’s an argument to be made that you should sign up for a termite service that will be around in the next several years so they can repeat the service if there are problems later on.  Finding a warranty service that will warrant the service is very important.

Finally, take steps to prevent future termites.  Preventing moisture from getting inside the walls of your home is critical.  Therefore, keep your home’s foundation dry by preventing irrigation systems from dripping or leaking near your home’s structure.  Keep attics well-ventilated and seal all openings into your home such as cracks and knotholes.  Taking these simple steps will go a long way to prevent these omnipresent wood-loving bugs.

 

Fire Safety Tips For Your Home

While not as glamorous or as fun as decorating your home, keeping your home safe from fires is of paramount importance when it comes to safety in your residence.  One of the more obvious tips is to make sure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are in full working order.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that you change batteries in these devices at least once a year. If you have children or older individuals in your own, you may want to change these batteries twice a year.  Following a replacement schedule is the easiest way to remember to do this (ie, on New Year’s Day and on Fourth of July, every calendar year).

two story home photoHowever, changing the batteries alone isn’t sufficient.  Setting a monthly schedule to test each detector is also critical.  (You can write it on your family calendar to remind yourself).  Oftentimes, fire departments discover that fires occur in homes with smoke detectors that weren’t operational, either because the battery wasn’t working, or was disconnected temporarily (ie, after a smoky cooking incident).

Moreover, do you have a home fire safety plan?  Does every member of your family know what to do when there’s a fire?  Make sure there are two ways out of every room, and that each member of the family knows what they are.  For windows, are they stuck closed?  Can the screens be removed quickly?  Does everyone know how to check doors to see if they are hot, and if so, how to find another way out?  Remember that towels can be used for handling, touching or grabbing items to avoid burns, and also can be used as a cover to protect faces and cover mouths.

If you have a second floor, do you have an escape (rope) ladder in a central location, near windows?  And does every family member know where it is, and how to use it if there is a fire?  Also, have you designated a meeting spot outside of the home where everyone can meet if there’s a fire?  Everyone needs to understand that once they exit the home, they can’t go back inside for any reason (even if there are pets inside).  As a corollary, do the adults have a plan to find and transport any pets in the home if there is a fire?

I hope you find these tips to be useful, and worth discussing with your family.