Category Archives: Home Owners

Study: Smart Home Tech Adoption Motivated by Comfort, Safety

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Comfort and safety are the primary reasons more homeowners are adopting smart home technology, according to a recent study by Scripps Networks Interactive in conjunction with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). “Keeping up” with the latest technology, the study shows, is less of a factor, with three-quarters of those surveyed saying they implement smart home technology “to keep their family safe and comfortable.” Energy-efficiency, as well, is another motivator, with the intention to boost resale value and reduce energy costs.

Millennials are the most likely to adopt smart home technology, according to the study, “to make their home convenient for daily tasks;” those in Generation X, conversely, prefer smart home technology as a means “to make their home a healthy environment.” Baby boomers, in addition, favor smart home technology “to add value to their home.” Eighty-five percent of millennials are likely to add smart home technology to their home, compared to 73 percent of those in Generation X and 67 percent of baby boomers.

The kitchen is the top spot for smart home technology, with those studied purchasing app-enabled, connected appliances, such as a smart refrigerator, motion-activated lighting and voice-activated speakers. Generation X respondents reported the kitchen as the top spot for smart home technology more than any other generation.

Fifteen percent of study respondents cite the front door as the most desired place for adding technology, while 13 percent cite the living room. Forty-four percent cite “energy monitoring” and “light automation” as their most desired tools; computer-controlled or mobile device-operated systems, a doorbell camera and surveillance equipment are also popular.

Smart home technology, according to a recent report by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), is becoming more concerning to homebuyers and sellers, who are most interested in privacy and security measures.

Source: Scripps Networks Interactive
Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

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Dodge Winter Lawn Damage

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Winter conditions can present a wide range of challenges to your lawn and landscape, but there are precautions you can take to protect your lawn, as well as your trees and shrubs, from seasonal harm.

Preventive steps from the lawncare experts at TruGreen can help your lawn survive the winter season’s harsh elements.

Snow Plow Damage

Install brightly-colored boundary markers along the edges of paved areas to help protect lawn and shrubs from snow plow and snow thrower blades. Lightweight wooden stakes, at least four feet tall with bright reflective tape and brightly covered fiberglass rods, serve as good markers. Avoid heavy metal, fence posts and other large objects, as they can pose a hazard to snow plow operators.

Cold Temperature Stress

More so than any other season, trees and shrubs are vulnerable to changing weather conditions during the winter. Wide temperature fluctuation and extremely low temperatures are the biggest factors of tree stress, meaning your trees are more susceptible to things like frost cracks, sunscald and winter burn.

Keep twigs and limbs from breaking under the weight of ice by carefully brushing away, whenever possible, any snow load from plants, which will reduce the weight on the limbs and decrease the damage. Placing a burlap cover around shrubs such as boxwood and yews will help reduce winter desiccation.

Proper fertilization can help keep your trees and shrubs healthy well into spring, and allow them to better tolerate winter. A service can help with tree and shrub services customized to meet your landscape’s every need, including applications to control overwintering insects, pests and mites.

Freezing Temperatures

Damage to plants, shrubs and trees as a result of sustained low temperatures can typically go undetected until spring or early summer, when plants fail to produce new growth. To help prevent damage, maintain a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to help protect the crown and roots from weather extremes.

Winter Dehydration

During the colder months of winter, plants cannot replace moisture lost from leaves and needles. This leads to “dehydration” – technically known as desiccation. To help avoid this problem, maintain proper watering late into the fall, or water during periods of winter thaw.

Ice Melt

Ice-melting agents, such as rock salt and products containing calcium and magnesium chloride, may accumulate in the soil and cause damage to plants. Use extreme care when applying ice-melting agents to prevent damage to your plants or concrete surfaces.

Source: TruGreen.com
Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Five Best Kitchen Remodeling Tips

When you shop for a home, what do you look for in the kitchen? Granite counters? Storage? Breakfast bar? Sparkling stainless appliances? If you’re buying an older home like most buyers, you may have to update to get the look and features you want. Here are five tips to get started:

  1. Work with a kitchen design professional. They’re trained to help you solve the most challenging kitchen problems and to work within your budget. A kitchen designer can recommend contractors and oversee all installations to make sure they are done correctly. Some can serve as contractors for a turnkey job.
  2. Hire qualified contractors. Cheaper isn’t necessarily better. Check references, licenses, and make sure their subcontractors are also bonded and insured.
  3. Consider the age of the home for a more organic look. For example, mid-century linoleum floors are more in fashion now than ever before. New patterns and colors in tile can mimic wood or stone for easy upkeep. Try porcelain instead of wood on cabinets for a sleek minimalist look.
  4. Be willing to compromise on costs or space. Cut the expense of new cabinetry by replacing some uppers with trendy open shelving. Splurge on granite for the island, but finish the other countertops with a workhorse stone-like laminate or tile.
  5. Don’t try to save money by doing work you aren’t qualified to do. You may be able to install flooring or a backsplash with a friend and a tutorial, but if a job requires a license like an electrician or plumber, it’s best to hire a professional.

Of course, always remember to call your favorite Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty agent at 703-836-1464 for tips, suggestions, and referrals to our list of vetted contractors.

Ask the Expert: What Should Homeowners Know about Energy Efficiency?

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Today’s “Ask the Expert” column features Mark Walker, Director with NRG Mass Sales.

Q: What are the top five things new homeowners need to know about energy efficiency?

A: First-time homebuyers have many questions, ranging in scope from a home’s square footage, what the neighborhood is like, whether the asking price is negotiable, and more. Typically, it’s not until they receive the first electricity bill that they begin to think about energy efficiency.

As many REALTORS® know, new homeowners are one of a kind. They’re excited about their purchase, but perhaps nervous about the costs ahead. At Reliant in Texas and NRG Home in the Northeast, we want the electricity bill to be one less thing that causes concern. That’s why it’s helpful to understand what drives energy use, and how to be more efficient. Naturally, new homeowners consider their REALTOR® the go-to source for all things home-related, so here are five energy efficiency tips you can share with first-time homebuyers.

1. Insulation is tops. For re-sale homes, it’s important to make sure the home is well insulated. The most cost-effective improvement any new homeowner can make is adding insulation. Without proper insulation, a home can lose up to 40 percent of cooled or heated air.

2. Heating and cooling account for most energy use. Did you know that heating and cooling your home can account for up to half of its energy use? Save energy by following these simple tips:

  • Follow the 4×4 principle. Setting your thermostat four degrees higher when away from home for more than four hours can help reduce electricity costs.
  • Rotate ceiling fans. Turning your fan counter-clockwise during the summer helps create a wind chill effect for a more comfortable living environment. In the winter, set your fan clockwise to move hot air downward
  • Always use the automatic A/C fan setting. Keep your A/C fan on the “auto” position. Turning it to the “on” position can increase energy costs and make it harder for your A/C to maintain the desired temperature.

3. Air filters and vents should not go unnoticed. Homeowners often overlook replacing air filters, but it’s important to change filters regularly to keep your system working efficiently. Also, ensure return air vents are free from obstructions. If air flow is hindered, the system can’t operate properly, and your energy bill will suffer.

4. Energy-efficient appliances matter. If appliances are more than 10 years old, it may be time to invest in new, energy-efficient models, from refrigerators and dishwashers to washers and dryers. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when upgrading.

5. Small actions add up. Turning lights off when leaving a room and shutting blinds to block summer heat are just a couple simple ways to decrease energy costs and make your home more comfortable and efficient.
Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

Homeselling Tips: Attract Real Buyers, Sell Quickly

You want your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices professional wants to sell your home quickly and at the highest price possible and in the Alexandria and greater Northern Virginia area, many think it is easy as pie. If your REALTOR makes the home selling process look that easy, then you know you have hired the right professional for the job! They are getting the job done for you with the least amount of hassle. One of the key things any good agent needs to do is make sure your home must is exposed to qualified buyers who are serious about finding a home. This is a basic step, no matter if your house is in Alexandria, Virginia or on Maui!

What do serious buyers look like? They are ready to buy and show it by getting prequalified by a lender and knowing their price range. They have criteria to meet, including likes and dislikes. They have a moving date in mind. They’re represented by a real estate agent. They’ve already eliminated homes using the Internet and your home is on the short list. They can make a solid offer on the right home today.House for sale

Serious buyers aren’t nosy neighbors, open house explorers, or people who can’t or won’t make a realistic offer. Serious buyers won’t waste your time because they don’t want to lose the opportunity to buy your home to another buyer.

Your listing agent’s job is to network, advertise, and market to make serious buyers aware of your home. How attractive your home is to buyers is up to you. Here are five ways to help your agent attract buyers to your home.

  1. Verify market prices with your agent. Price your home for today’s market reality.
  2. Stage your home to best advantage. Declutter, depersonalize, clean it, paint it, and enhance curb appeal with fresh landscaping.
  3. Fix everything that’s a problem. No leaks, chips, smells. Move-in ready condition is what most buyers want. Don’t give buyers room to argue price due to condition.
  4. Do something extra for your home. Some updating, fresh paint, new appliances, or new countertops can work wonders.
  5. Be a serious seller. Just as a serious buyer is ready to buy, show you’re ready to sell by offering your home at an attractive price, being flexible about moving dates and other terms, and making your home available for viewing with their agents.

If you are considering putting your house on the market, give us a call and we will be glad to assist. No worries if you are outside the Washington, DC metro area, we will be happy to help you find the right agent in your market.

Homeselling Tips: Four Ways to Price Your Home to Sell

Four Ways to Price Your Home To Sell

Is your home really worth your asking price? The best way to answer that question is to consider the same criteria that homebuyers do: market conditions, location, condition and price.

  1. Market conditions: Smart buyers hire a real estate professional to help them navigate market conditions—whether their city, neighborhood and price range is in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market and what strategies to employ to get the best home possible for their money. The greater the inventory, the more room buyers have to negotiate.
  2. Location: Buyers narrow their searches to neighborhoods within their price ranges. They look at your home and its competitors and choose the one they perceive to be the best value.
  3. Condition: Your competition is not only other similar homes in your area, but what buyers could get if they purchased brand-new. Your buyer is comparing size, number of bedrooms and baths, amenities, updates, views, landscaping and décor. The closer you can put your home to move-in readiness, the higher the price buyers will pay.
  4. Price: Price your home to get immediate and serious offers. You can’t put a price on everything, but many features such as fine workmanship, room flow and convenient storage are simply worth more to buyers. A buyer may compromise on a neighborhood, or they may pick a home in less than perfect condition, but only if the price is right.

Most importantly, trust your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices professional to show you how to make your home the best choice in any market.

FINANCIAL TIPS: Four Ways to Build Equity

Four Ways to Build Home Equity

Equity is the percentage amount of your home that you actually own. You have three ways to build your ownership stake: through the purchase, through the reducing principal and through the passage of time.

  1. Down payment: You gain instant equity when you put down a down payment. If you put 20 percent down, your equity ownership is 20 percent.
  2. Purchase price: You can also gain instant equity by buying your home below the market. That’s difficult to do because homes don’t typically sell below market unless there is some sort of problem, such as poor condition, lack of updates or foreclosure. To build equity, invest in updates and repairs to bring your home up to neighborhood standards.
  3. Paying down principal: As you pay your mortgage, little goes toward reducing the principal while a lot goes to paying interest. The longer the term of your loan, the less quickly you’ll build equity. Work with your lender to choose an adjustable rate or fixed rate for the length of time you think you’ll be in your home.
  4. Time: Historically, home values tend to beat inflation by one or two percentage points, which means you can estimate a rise in your home’s value to average about three to five percent annually in a normal market.

It takes time to build equity this way, but when you combine principal reduction with buying wisely and caring for your home so that it retains its desirability, you’ll find that you build equity quickly and steadily.