New Home Source Gadget of the Month: WeMo Insight Switch

Belkin WeMo Switch

Belkin’s WeMo Insight Switch makes your home smarter — or maybe just easier to manage. Using this switch, you can turn something on or off, put appliances on a timer and measure energy usage. Photos courtesy of Belkin.

By Ashley Steel

You’ve got your keys, your phone and your wallet; now you’re headed out the door. As you sip your coffee on the way to work, you start to get an uneasy feeling: Did I forget something?

It’s an experience common to many. In our rush-rush society, the anxieties come creeping in: Did I lock the house? Did I turn off the curling iron? Did I turn down the AC?

Enter the WeMo Insight Switch from Belkin, our NewHomeSource App of the Month. While it can’t solve for all of your problems on the way to work, it can certainly address many of them and make life more convenient, to boot.

What Is It?

The WeMo Insight Switch is a device that allows you to connect all of your plug-in devices to your Wi-Fi network. This functionality allows you to control said devices from anywhere.

Let’s say you left your AC unit running. The WeMo App will alert you. From the app’s dashboard, you can adjust the AC — even if you’re at work or on-the-go.

Added Savings

The WeMo Insight Switch can help you regulate your energy usage and reduce your bills. You can set schedules for different devices such as the AC unit, as well as monitor and control energy usage in real time via the WeMo app. Turn off lights, fans and devices when not in use — not to mention, without getting off the couch — and save on energy bills.

Added Safety

Many house fires are started from careless handling of appliances such as curling irons, straighteners and space heaters. With the WeMo Insight Switch, you can verify that these appliances are turned off, or, turn them off from a distance, to ensure that your home remains fire free.

Added Convenience

The WeMo isn’t just about safety and savings, though — it’s also designed to introduce a new level of comfort and luxury to owners.

In this capacity, the WeMo is very versatile, allowing you to turn on the heat a half hour before you get home or receive an alert when your laundry is done so that you can put away your clothes before they get wrinkled. You can even connect your WeMo to the coffee maker and schedule it to automatically start brewing when you wake up.

With the addition of other WeMo products, like the WeMo Motion, your Insight Switch can even perform such functions as automatically turning on the lights when you walk into a room.

See the entire WeMo collection from Belkin and start getting connected. WeMo you want to!

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in App of the Month, Home Entertainment & Automation | Leave a comment

How to Get a Head Start on Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning tools

Make sure you have all the supplies you need for spring cleaning by planning ahead. Photo Courtesy of BenchmarkQA.

By Ashley Steel

Springtime means something different to everybody. Commonly thought of as a time of renewal and rebirth, many people apply this frame of mind to their house. Hence, spring cleaning: a time to be rid of the cobwebs of yesteryear; a time to start fresh.

But cleaning house is no small task, and for many people, spring cleaning is an overwhelming and dreaded process. This year, keep it under control by starting before the first blooms begin to show.

Here’s how you can approach spring cleaning in advance:

Where Should I Start?

You can’t clean your whole house at once and attempting to do so is likely to dampen your spirits and curb your enthusiasm for a clean house. “Start small,” says Barbara Reich, a New York City professional organizer and author of Secrets of an Organized Mom. “Organize a drawer or a closet.” Baby steps offer a compelling sense of achievement in small, manageable doses.

But more than just starting small, you should be selective about the area of the house you choose to tackle first. Start with the area that bothers you most — the dirtiest or most cluttered area, says Bonnie Joy Dewkett, professional organizer and founder of The Joyful Organizer, a company that creates organizational systems for homes and offices. “Start there and you’ll feel great and be motivated to continue the process.”

How Can I Make It Manageable?

It all starts with a schedule. “Set up a spring cleaning schedule like you would a meeting at work or practice at school,” says Reich. Physically block off time on your calendar and set an agenda. Not only will this will give you time to prepare by ensuring you have the proper supplies and cleaning equipment, but it will also help mentally prepare you and keep you on task.

When it comes to doing the work itself, first divide your house into zones, says Dewkett. Then divide each zone into individually manageable sections requiring no more than an hour’s worth of work. For example, your kitchen might be a zone with individual sections including the fridge, pantry and oven.  By cleaning these sections one at a time on a pre-determined schedule, you’ll never get overwhelmed.

What Should Spring Cleaning Include?

This is the one question without a clear consensus, as spring cleaning has a different meaning for everybody. Vacuuming, dusting, mopping — there is no right answer — so do what feels right for your house.

However, for most people, springtime ushers in a change of clothes. “Swap out your wardrobe,” says Reich. Get all your spring and summer clothes ready to wear and hanging in the closet and stow away all of your heavy winter clothes. While you’re at it, “go through all of your clothing, throwing out anything that is ripped or doesn’t fit anymore.” And don’t forget donation as a viable option for getting rid of your old goods!

Take extra pains to clean areas with goods bearing expiration dates, says Reich. Refrigerators, medicine cabinets and the like should get a good once-over.

How Can I Stay Organized?

Think storage units and labeling.

“If you know you want to organize an area, buy storage bins and containers,” says Reich. “Buy more than you need; it’s easier to return than to go back to the store in the middle of the organizing process.”

But it’s not enough to just stash your stuff in neat little bins. This is where a label maker comes in; Reich calls it the “magic wand of organizing.” By labeling everything properly, not only will it make specific items easier to find, but it will make everyone in the household more accountable for putting things in their correct place.

Another great way to stay organized is to devote 10 minutes a day to cleaning. All that work can really add up without ever being overwhelming. Include all members of the house in your daily efforts to keep clean. “If you have five family members all pitching in just 10 minutes, that’s almost an hour of cleaning time,” says Dewkett.

This year, get a head start on spring by pulling out the dustpan now and watch your home bloom.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Did You Know? | Leave a comment

Celebrating the 1,000th New Home Source Home of the Day!

New Home Source Home of the Day

Who wouldn’t be inspired by a beautiful kitchen like this? The New Home Source Home of the Day features daily a stunning newly built home to help home shoppers get ideas for their own home.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Each day on the New Home Source Facebook page, you’ll find a state-of-the-art new home that is inspiring to our readers.

Dubbed the New Home Source Home of the Day, the feature is an opportunity for New Home Source to showcase inspiring and beautifully designed newly built homes that are not only gorgeous, but that perfectly encompass what innovative home design means.

Think, for example, of how you and your family live today — do you often find your family multitasking in the kitchen, with kiddos doing homework on the kitchen island while you or another family member prepare meals? Today’s newly built homes offer open floor plans where family can be connected, without being stuffed into small spaces.  If you’re in a resale home that has rooms that are closed off to each other, we hope that the Home of the Day will inspire the design and layout for your next home. We hope that you’ll think about how your home should serve you and your family’s needs, rather than having to deal with a less-than-ideal home that needs lots of renovations to make it just right.

The Home of the Day debuted on New Home Source’s Facebook page on April 24, 2012, and has garnered nearly 70,000 Likes and more than 5,900 shares. On Sunday, Feb. 22, we’ll post our 1,000th Home of the Day.

The Home of the Day includes information about the homebuilder and a link to more photos. From there, you can explore the home in greater detail and find out more about the home’s floor plan and community where the home is located. You can also contact the builder to learn more.

Because New Home Source features homes from all over the country, there’s a high possibility that a home in your area will be featured. There’s a lot that goes into finding the home that will be featured each day — making sure we showcase a variety of home types (single-family, townhome, condo), as well as homes that are located all over the country and that hit a variety of price ranges is important to us. To keep the feature exciting, we also choose a different room of the home — including outdoor spaces.

From this list of homes, we choose a Home of the Week, which is featured in a slideshow and weekly New Home Source e-newsletter. Check out our Home of the Week slideshows on the New Home Source Resource Center: http://www.newhomesource.com/resourcecenter/home-of-the-week.

Don’t forget to check out our 1,000th Home of the Day on Sunday, Feb. 22! Tell us what you appreciate most about this home in the comments section or simply show your appreciation with a Like! If you’re not already following us on Facebook, check us out for photos of our Homes of the Day, as well as posts on home maintenance tips, the latest trends on home design and outdoor living and more.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Buying a New Home, Home Decor/Furniture, New Home Design | Leave a comment

What are the Tax Benefits of Owning a Newly Built Home Versus a Resale?

Tax benefits of new construction homes.

Newly built homes come with additional types of tax benefits that homebuyers can tap into. Photo courtesy of Forbes.

By Ashley Steel

One of the great benefits of homeownership is the tax deductions that come with it. But what, if anything, distinguishes a newly built home from a resale home when it comes time to file your taxes?

While both forms of homeownership offer great benefits, there are some additional types of tax benefits of owning a newly built home that shoppers can attain. Let’s take a closer look:

Construction Loan

Some newly built homebuyers take out what is known as a construction loan, or, a loan that originates to cover the costs associated with the construction of a home, that later converts into a buyer’s permanent home mortgage when construction is complete.

With these types of loans, “you can deduct the interest you pay during the first 24 months of the loan,” says Jayson Mullins, CEO at Top Tax Defenders, a tax resolution firm in Houston, Texas.

It’s important to note however, that this type of deduction doesn’t apply in all circumstances. For instance, the home in question must be your primary or secondary residence to qualify. “Furthermore, the deduction applies only to the first $1 million in total loan proceeds, including interest,” says Mullins. “This limit is reduced to $500,000 if you are married and filing separately.”

Mortgage Deductions

While not unique to newly built homes, mortgage deductions are a significant part of helping you get a return on your taxes. Mortgage deductions occur across the following categories:

Mortgage Interest

The IRS allows taxpayers to deduct both their mortgage interest up to $1 million ($500,000, if married and filing separately).

Mortgage Points

A mortgage point is prepaid interest equal to 1 percent of the value of a mortgage. Mortgage points can only be purchased at the time of loan origination.

These points are tax deductible in the year they are paid, but only if they meet the following home mortgage points criteria from the IRS.

Mortgage Insurance Premiums

For tax purposes, qualified mortgage insurance premiums are considered mortgage interest and, therefore, deducted within the $1 million limit.

Energy Efficiency

“An energy credit is available called the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit,” says Mullins. Certain energy saving features — or improvements in the case of a resale home — allow homeowners to save as much as 30 percent of the cost of installation.

“Taxpayers should know that not all high-efficiency products qualify as a tax credit,” says Mullins. Products only qualify if they come with a manufacturer’s tax credit certification statement, usually found in the product packaging or on the manufacturer’s website.

The advantage when it comes to newly built homes is that they already come outfitted with the latest in green technology, which gives you a greater chance of earning the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit without having to do much.

Property Taxes

The IRS allows taxpayer to deduct their property taxes as well. Depending on the state, resale homes typically have lower property taxes, says Mullins.

However, newly built homeowners can deduct property taxes they incur while their new home is being built. “The taxes are based on the property assessed value,” say Mullins. “In order for taxpayers to qualify for this deduction, it has to be paid within the same tax year.”

While most types of tax benefits apply to both new and resale homes, there is a higher likelihood of securing these benefits in a newly built home. Construction loans and property taxes allow homebuyers to reap the benefits of tax returns before even moving in, while the increased energy efficiency of new homes is likely to yield credit as well.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Buying a New Home, Did You Know?, Green Home Building | Comments Off

50 Shades of Gray: How to Use Grays at Home

using gray at home

The new “it” neutral, gray is a versatile color that can create any mood. Photo courtesy of The Unique Nest.

By Ashley Steel

It’s February and love is in the air. But this year we’re not throwing our affections at someone, but rather, something.

We’re in love with the color gray and not for just one shade. Along with the Valentine’s Day release of the sure-to-be blockbuster hit, 50 Shades of Grey, we’re celebrating gray — in all its shades — throughout the home.

The New “It” Neutral

Move over creams, tans and whites. Gray is the new neutral in town and it’s packed with potential for every style.

“Gray is a color that soothes and transcends style and time periods,” says Laura LePage Tarlo, owner of Laura Leigh Designs, a design firm in Cohoes, N.Y. It’s also an incredibly versatile color, adding style to everything from rustic farm homes to the modern loft.

A great alternative to creams and whites, “[gray] provides a neutral and calming backdrop to set off bold colors,” says Lindsay Chambers of Hazel.Wood Designs, an interior design firm in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.

Layering Grays

“If you choose gray as the dominant color in your room, layering grays subtly adds great depth,” says Chambers.

For an organic look, LePage Tarlo recommends layering grays with different undertones. For example, a pale gray might go well with grays with navy undertones for contrast or perhaps tan undertones if you’re going for a beachy look.

Shades of Gray

Utilizing different shades of gray requires that you pay special attention to the color’s undertones, as these have a significant impact on the mood of the room. “Grays with brown undertones warm up a room, whereas light grays with blue undertones make a room feel clean, cool and airy,” says Chambers, who personally prefers warm undertones for their relaxing and sultry feel.

You should be careful when it comes to light gray walls however, as it can be more difficult to detect their undertones from a paint swatch. “It’s smart to [paint] a wide test area before committing, so that you can check for purple or blue undertones,” says Chambers.

Gray Walls Are Coming

More than its transformative and mood-setting abilities, gray’s best quality lies in its forgiving nature. “Don’t be afraid to trade in the beige walls for a more modern and crisp-looking gray. It can transform the look of your entire space and will most likely work with your existing decor and furnishings,” says LePage Tarlo.

And while grays are most commonly reflected in wall colors, don’t count out the likes of rugs and curtains as a means of layering this neutral. When it comes to grays, the opportunities are endless and grays are everywhere. In fact, many reclaimed woods are antiquated with the use of gray wash paint, says LePage Tarlo.

From mixing and matching to layering, there is no shortage of ways to pull off gray in your new home.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Home Decor/Furniture, Interior Design | Comments Off

Valentine’s Day: How to Create Romantic Spaces at Home

romantic spaces at home

Layering rich warm colors and soft, rippling fabrics can help inspire a sense of romance at home. Photo courtesy of Susan Shehata.

By Ashley Steel

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. For many couples, this means leaving home to seek a romantic experience. This could mean dining at a fancy restaurant, enjoying a night at the ballet or going for a garden stroll.

But this year, why not get back to the essence of Valentine’s Day and enjoy a night in at home where you can focus on loving your partner without the noise of the city lights?

Design professional Susan Shehata, certified in classical feng shui, shares her insights on creating romantic spaces at home.

“Our homes are deeply symbolic of our lives,” says Shehata. “Therefore, if we are seeking to create a more intimate connection with our partner, it is very important to address our space, as a symbol of that goal.”

While the bedroom is an obvious place to start, creating a sense of romance can be achieved anywhere in the home to help foster a sense of love, passion or comfort.

Color

There is much to be said for color psychology. While certain colors are known to create a particular mood, Shehata feels that color at home should be an individual choice. “If red feels romantic to you, but creates anxiety for your partner, it is not an ideal choice,” she says.

Many of the colors typically associated with romance are bold. Think rich, warm hues of reds, violets and browns such as terracotta, burgundy and plum. However, bold colors are not always the best design choice. “If bold scares you, you may consider using it sparingly on an accent wall,” says Shehata.

However, to really achieve a cozy, enveloped feeling, it’s best to use these deeper colors throughout the room.

Fabrics

Romance is about engaging all of the senses, including the oft-forgotten sense of touch. Fabrics go a long way toward creating a cozy and intimate space. “Think velvet, silk, satin, high quality cotton, bamboo or anything with a soft, fluffy texture,” says Shehata.

It’s also important to integrate fabrics throughout the entire room, as they can help soften a space dramatically, Shehata says. Whether you use fabrics in the form of window coverings, throw blankets, rugs, bedding or pillows, think about ways in which touch may be important to you or others.

Décor Pieces

When it comes to décor, the most important thing is to pay attention to is how a piece makes you feel, says Shehata. Choose pieces that move you, “whether that is a garden filled with roses, a couple in a flirty embrace or a photograph of the Eiffel Tower.”

“It is also very important to be mindful of the association you have with the objects,” Shehata says. Items reminiscent of a painful period in your life or those from an old flame would be better served in a secluded location reserved for thoughtful reflection or perhaps removed entirely.

Miscellaneous

Romance in areas of the home other than the bedroom can be demonstrated a number of ways. “Start by addressing any stagnant or problem areas, such as places that attract clutter,” says Shehata. Simply demonstrating an increased sense of care for your home can foster a sense of tenderness and love.

And of course, no matter the room, don’t forget to add romantic touches, focusing on things that indulge the senses such as flowers, squishy pillows, soft fabrics and visually stimulating art, says Shehata.

This Valentine’s Day, enjoy a truly engaging experience at home. Delight your senses with colors, fabrics and a renewed sense of cleanliness and let your space be inspiration for love.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Did You Know?, Home Decor/Furniture | Comments Off

How to Create the Perfect Hobby Room

hobby room

A dedicated work space, storage and inspiring décor are all part of what make the perfect hobby room. Photo courtesy of Globus Builder.

By Ashley Steel

Planes, trains and automobiles; crafting, crocheting and creating. Hobbies: we all have one (or two or a few).

Once a luxury people saw to outside of the home, now hobbies are finding a foothold in the home. Who needs a gym membership when they’ve got a home gym? Why rent out an art studio when you can have one in your house?

As new homes become more efficient and better architected to meet the needs of buyers, many builders are including rooms known as flex or bonus spaces. These spaces, as their name suggests, don’t have a dedicated purpose but are flexible spaces that homebuyers can adapt to meet their needs. Buyers utilize these spaces in many different ways, from guest bedrooms to media rooms and — you guessed it — hobby rooms.

The rising popularity of the hobby room begs some inevitable design questions, including perhaps the most basic: How can I create the perfect hobby room? Well, we’re glad you asked. Let’s take a look.

Work Space

No matter the hobby, chances are, you’ll need some sort of work space.  A substantial desk is a necessity for most hobbies and will be the crux around which the rest of the room is designed.

Choose a desk you like and use its color, style and size to inform all additional furniture and décor. For instance, a sleek table with a glass top might be matched by additional minimalist pieces for design cohesion and accented by coordinating pops of color to compensate for the table’s subtle palette.

Storage

Much like a the universal need for a work desk, most hobbies require lots of odds and ends that need to be organized and stored when not in use. If your flex room doesn’t come with installed cabinetry, there are all kinds of shelving, bin organizers and storage units that can be purchased at stores like IKEA and the Container Store that can provide optimal style and storage at great prices.

Paint

Since your hobby room is designed as a space for productivity, stimulation and inspiration, it’s important to choose a paint colors that are energizing. Basic color psychology suggests that colors such as red are energizing, while yellow can inspire happiness and green can instill a sense of focus. However, since this space is designed exclusively for you to do what you love, it’s most important to pick a color that makes you happy and comfortable.

Flooring

Depending on your hobby, there may be a need for flooring that is protective and/or easily cleaned. Artists and mechanics might consider vinyl flooring, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to clean or a rug or mat that can catch spills and protect the floor.

Sound Proofing

Not all hobbies are loud, but there are plenty that are, much to the chagrin of other residents and house guests. Musicians and audio-visual technicians may need to consider heavy interior insulation to absorb the sound of their much beloved hobbies.

Tip: Choose insulation that not only serves a functional purpose, but also adds visual interest to your hobby room.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Home Decor/Furniture, Interior Design, Opinion | Comments Off