New Year’s Resolutions for the Home

new year's resolutions for the home

Happy New Year! Now it’s time to ensure that your home is at its top form and stays that way all year long.

By Patricia L. Garcia

It’s a new year and a new you, right? What about your home? It deserves to be at its best and organized this year too!

Whether you are moving into a newly built home or it’ll be a little while longer in your older home, here are some New Year’s resolutions for the home that you’ll want to stick to:

Resolution #1: Keep It Safe

This is an easy one to follow: check your smoke alarms monthly! If you don’t have a smoke alarm, get one or two. The U.S. Fire Administration suggests testing smoke detectors at least once a month and replacing batteries at least twice a year. Easy stuff, minimal cost, valuable results. So, what are you waiting for?

In addition to making sure you have a fire alarm, other fire safety tips include having a charged fire extinguisher and an evacuation plan, says Peter Duncanson, director of Systems Development for ServiceMaster Restore, a disaster restoration company.

“Develop and practice an evacuation plan; locate at least two ways out of each room,” he says. “For insurance purposes, take pictures of your home and personal belongings from time to time. If you ever face a fire, you’ll have a clear record of the damage.”

Resolution #2: Put It on a Diet

Lots of folks resolve to diet in the new year, but you can also reduce your home’s intake by de-cluttering your home. Getting rid of clutter is one of the easiest ways to keep your home looking fresh.

“Every home has clutter … but it’s important to get a handle on your mess to not only gain more square footage, but to show off the home’s positive features,” says Tori Toth, a professional home stager who owns Stylish Stagers in Howard Beach, N.Y.

Toth, who wrote Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell, says these are the most likely culprits to cause clutter in the home – and here are her tips for handling them:

  • Mail and Paperwork: Create a system to contain each item. For instance, deal with mail as soon as you bring it in. Throw out junk mail and have a bin for current bills and a filing system for other important information.
  • Toys: Have a designated area for the toys and only keep the ones out that your kids play with – the others, pack up or get rid of. Be creative with storage solutions by using decorative baskets, boxes or even a trunk.
  • Clothes and Shoes: Get in the habit of taking coats off and hanging them in the closet, rather than throw on a chair back or floor. Corral shoes and have a system in place for dirty clothes. Put clean clothes away immediately.

Resolution #3: Pay It Down

This home-related resolution is also related to your wallet, so, you’re welcome. New or resale, it’s a good idea for you to pay your mortgage down. Ray Rodriguez, regional sales manager at TD Bank in the Greater New York City area, suggests making an extra mortgage payment.

Making an extra payment doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you can do so with as little as an extra $10 each month.

“There are subtle ways to shave time off of your mortgage. If you divide your monthly mortgage payment by 12 and add that amount to each monthly payment, you’re effectively paying off your home sooner. Another option is to pay half of your payment every two weeks, also known as bi-weekly payments,” Rodriguez says. “These methods effectively force you to make one extra payment each year.”

As you think about what you want to improve about yourself in the new year, don’t forget to factor in some home-related resolutions too. Doing so will mean a less-stressful house – bringing you step closer to making your home the retreat that you’ve always wanted.

This list is not all-inclusive – so what’d we miss? Tell us what you resolve to do for your home in 2017 in the comments section.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource.com.

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Gadget of the Month: FoldiMate Laundry-Folding Machine

FoldiMate

Imagine a gadget that can fold your laundry for you. It’s called FoldiMate and it might be here sooner than you think. (Photo courtesy of FoldiMate)

By Drew Knight

If you could get rid of one household chore in your new home, what would it be?

I know what I would choose — folding clothes. And that’s exactly why we picked FoldiMate, an automatic laundry-folding robot, as our first Gadget of the Month of 2017.

According to the FoldiMate team, the typical person spends 750 days of their life doing laundry, of which 375 days are spent folding. (Any tool that can help give me back an extra year of life certainly has my attention.)

To operate this laundry-folding machine, users can simply feed it their dry items (shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, pillowcases and towels) using its patented Easy Clipping feeder and let FoldiMate do the rest.

FoldiMate can work with a wide variety of fabrics and garments, virtually anything that can fit inside the machine, with the exception of linens, underwear, socks and baby clothes — kids and adult sizes up to XXL are fair game. And depending on garment thickness, FoldiMate can fold between 10 to 30 articles in one load.

The machine is designed to be used in your laundry room and can be placed on top of a washer, dryer or any standard table. It can even fit in a spacious closet or anywhere you’d normally fold you laundry, which is why FoldiMate will also offer a wheeled table if needed.

An added benefit, FoldiMate can also treat your garments to de-wrinkling and even perfume and softening agents via separately sold treatment capsules, all while helping you limit the valuable time you spend on laundry each load.

Curious how much time FoldiMate can really save you? Here are a few estimates from FoldiMate:

  • It takes under five seconds to clip each item into the machine.
  • The automatic folding process takes around 10 seconds per item, depending on if capsule treatment and de-wrinkling are also required.
  • The de-wrinkling will take between 20 and 30 seconds per item.

“I created FoldiMate as my wife claims I am one of the worst laundry folders in the world. She’s right. I hate it,” says CEO Gal Rozov in a news release. “We knew that others suffer from this chore, but we didn’t expect such an incredible response when we released the FoldiMate concept video earlier this year.”

Since viral video fame in 2016, nearly 200,000 customers have registered on the FoldiMate website to become notified when pre-orders are available and thousands have already paid a deposit to reserve their machine once it surpasses the prototype phase. Currently, the first FoldiMate units are planned to be shipped in 2018.

Catch it in action today on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (Jan. 5-8, 2017), or visit FoldiMate.com for in-depth information and videos.

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.

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New Construction Solves Holiday Home Shopping Struggles

holiday home shopping

Shopping for a new home during the holidays? Here are a few reasons why a new home is the way to go.

By Drew Knight

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA), homebuyers face a list of unique challenges when shopping for homes during the holiday season.

From reported mishaps like an ancient one-armed Santa figure in the front yard, photos of the current homeowners wearing nothing but their birthday suits and a few Christmas accessories and even passed-out partygoers on the wake of New Year’s Eve, these struggles could definitely turn a buyer away from a prospective home.

The common thread? These mishaps could only really happen when shopping for a used home, as new-construction homes have never been lived in before — and all party people would be locked out.

Below you’ll find a short list of the more common struggles survey respondents reported while shopping for a home during the holidays — and how new-construction homes provide a solution.

Scheduling a Time to Visit a Listing

Many of the participants reported that the biggest challenge of shopping during the holidays was scheduling a time to actually visit the home.

Whether it be working with the homeowner to find a time when they aren’t hosting guests or the house isn’t a mess from the holiday rush, shopping for used homes can certainly pose a problem. On the other hand, new-home builders are already waiting to show you their model properties.

“Our sales managers know that December is a busy month and they are always available if they are not in the model homes,” says Blake Fletcher, a marketing manager with Dallas-based Southgate Homes. “We have sales assistants that cover their days off and vacation days and are trained to be able to help guide shoppers through the process.”

Working with a Realtor? Some homebuilders even provide their trusted agents with a lockbox and key so that they can access their homes with their clients even when no builder rep is on site.

Less Inventory

Other respondents mentioned low inventory as a major struggle for home shopping during the holiday season. Which is understandable, as many homeowners decide to take their homes off the market during this time.

Yet with new homes, a homebuilder always wants to make a sale, so there’s no reason to take a new home off the market.

“Southgate is a big proponent on having inventory at different stages throughout the year,” adds Fletcher. “We typically have six to 10 inventory homes in every community at different stages 12 months out of the year. People get relocated and move at different times, so we definitely understand the need for inventory homes.”

Meeting Deadlines Before Vacation

Another major struggle of shopping for a home during the holidays is meeting deadlines before employees begin vacation, as most financial institutions are closed during the holidays and many industry personnel like loan officers, inspectors and financial advisors take vacation.

When buying a used home through its homeowner, you’re generally on your own. But when working with a homebuilder, they usually have well-seasoned staff to help keep you on track of all of your financial and signing matters.

“Our sales managers are really good at guiding our homebuyers throughout the process,” says Fletcher. “They help our buyers understand that they need to submit their paperwork early before the holidays, how to get preapproved and how to finalize a loan 60 days before closing.”

Other Benefits of Shopping New During the Holidays

Not only does shopping for a new home around the holidays eliminate the struggles caused by used homes, they also pose their own added benefits:

  • Home shoppers who buy during the holiday season are usually ready to move in by end of summer — conveniently right before the beginning of a new school year.
  • Many builders post great end-of-year incentives for their inventory homes.
  • Less inventory for used homes means that if the home shopper is selling old to buy new, they have a high chance of getting their home off the market due to lack of competition.

Not to mention, there will be no tacky holiday décor, no awkward family photos and, of course, no passed out partygoers on the front lawn. It’s 100 percent clean, 100 percent yours.

Still not sold on new homes? Check out our Top 10 Reasons Home Buyers Prefer New Homes vs. Used.

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.

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6 Gift Ideas for New Homeowners

gift ideas for new homeowners

Need a last-minute present for your favorite homeowner? Our six favorite gift ideas for new homeowners has you covered.

By Drew Knight

The weather has gotten cooler. Your neighborhood is aglow with holiday lights. Black Friday has come and gone and you still haven’t finished your holiday shopping.

Are you caught racking your brain thinking of the perfect gift ideas for the new homeowners in your life? We can help with that.

While you could just run to The Container Store or The Home Depot for a gift card, there’s still plenty of time to find something a little more personal. From trendy smart tech to convenient cleaning supplies, there are a number of great gift ideas that a new homeowner — or just any run-of-the-mill homebody — would love.

So, here are New Home Source’s favorite gift ideas for new homeowners this season:

gift ideas for new homeowners

(Photo courtesy of Google.)

1. Google Home

Arguably the most on-trend gadget this holiday season, Google Home is one of the search engine giant’s latest endeavors outside of the Google screen you see every day.

This voice-activated speaker is powered by the Google Assistant, which allows users to ask it questions and tell it to do things. From playing music throughout a home to checking a user’s schedule to sending text messages, Google Home has it handled.

If you know your loved one’s home is outfitted with the latest smart tech, Google Home can even turn on room lights and display search results on their TV screen. And all it takes is a simple, “Ok, Google.”

Running at about $130, it may be a pricy holiday gift, but it certainly seems like it does it all. Ok, Google, can you find us a coupon?

gift ideas for new homeowners

(Photo courtesy of Amazon.)

2. Amazon Dot

If $130 seems like it may be outside of your price range, the Amazon Echo Dot might be a better solution.

Priced around $40, this device is also a hands-free, voice-activated speaker with many of the same capabilities. Playing music, setting alarms, providing information, controlling smart home devices and other tasks are on command with the Dot.

Rest assured that Amazon Echo has been in the game longer than Google Home, which has only been available a couple months, but do note that the Dot lacks the colorful customizable base feature of Google Home.

gift ideas for new homeowners

(Photo courtesy of Hoover.)

3. Hoover Linx Cordless Vacuum

Every new homeowner wants to keep their new home looking one way: new. So why not get them the latest in cleaning supplies?

While you may have seen some advertisements for convenient and cordless vacuum cleaners, you’ve probably also seen the hefty price tags that come along with them. The Hoover Linx cordless vacuum is different.

Priced in the $60-110 range, this voracious vacuum includes an 18-volt lithium-ion battery, exclusive wind tunnel technology, a multi-floor brush roll and a fuel gauge for detecting battery life. One thing it doesn’t have? An irksome cord.

gift ideas for new homeowners

(Photo courtesy of Swiffer.)

4. Swiffer Steamboost

Maybe your loved ones already own a vacuum, but do they have a steam mop?

The Swiffer Steamboost Steam Mop Starter Kit powered by Bissell uses a dirt-dissolving cleaning solution and the power of steam to create a deep clean that can cut through messes that regular mops leave behind.

With specially designed steam pads (replaceable and sold separately), a water tank that can hold 10 oz. of water and a steam-releasing trigger that’s easy to use, the Steamboost mop is safe for cleaning many floor types, including linoleum, vinyl, laminate, sealed wood, marble, stone and ceramic tile.

Priced around $50, it steams the costs of other leading cleaners.

gift ideas for new homeowners

(Photo courtesy of Roku.)

5. Roku TV System

Heading back to the smart gadgets, smart TVs are all the rage. As are compatible streaming systems.

Roku streaming players and TVs are an easy and convenient solution to stream the programs we all love. With a Roku system, TV watchers will have access to more than 350,000 movies and TV episodes across more than 3,500 free or paid channels. And yes, that means Netflix and Hulu are available at the click of a button.

Setup is also a breeze. As long as users have a compatible TV, all they need to do is connect the Roku player or Roku TV to a wireless network, create a Roku account and start streaming.

And with prices that range from $30 to $500, there’s an option for just about every budget.

gift ideas for new homeowners

(Photo courtesy of Apple.)

6. Apple TV

Similar to Roku, Apple TV is another streaming device. However, the Apple TV relies on the power of apps.

While connected to a television, Apple TV displays users’ favorite streaming apps — think HBO Now, Netflix, Vevo, Hulu and about 1,600 others. And with Apple’s own TV app (which is now automatically downloaded on your iPhone), users can even access programming from mobile iOS devices. Apple TV also cuts the need for a cable box or satellite dish; as long as users have apps such as DIRECTV NOW downloaded, they can surf live TV and enjoy movies on demand.

Additionally, Apple TV can connect with Siri to help users find the show or movie they’re looking for — or didn’t know they were looking for. In the mood for something nostalgic? Just ask Siri to find an 80s movie and she can display a list of suggestions.

It can all be yours — or your loved one’s — at a reasonable price of $70.

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source

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How to Stage Your Home for the Holidays

When staging your home for the holidays, create a warm holiday ambiance and keep décor neutral and tasteful.

When staging your home for the holidays, create a warm holiday ambiance and keep décor neutral and tasteful.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Now that you’ve purchased a newly built home, it’s time to sell your old one. Sounds easy, right?

In this buyer’s market, it may not be as simple as placing a “For Sale” sign in your front yard. You have to woo home shoppers into loving your old home as much as you do. Staging is one way to find a buyer – and a way to possibly get more than you anticipated selling your home for, says John Lazenby, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

“According to the National Association of Realtors 2015 Profile of Home Staging, the majority of Realtors who responded to the survey believe that buyers most often offer a 1 percent to 5 percent increase on the value of a staged home,” he says. “A smaller group of Realtors believe the increase is closer to 6 percent to 10 percent.”

If you plan to stage your home, consider the time of the year. You don’t have to be a Grinch and get rid of all of your holiday décor, but you do need to be cognizant of just how jolly your home will be. Lazenby offered a few tips on how to stage your home for the holidays:

NHS: How do you stage a home with holiday décor with going over the top?

Lazenby: The keys to staging a home with holiday décor are restraint and elegance. Like holiday party jewelry, it’s important to limit the number of pieces to avoid over doing it. In addition, staging with simple decorations that complement the home’s architectural style (think shiny for modern or natural for Tudor) enhance the home rather than overwhelm it.

NHS: What are some “neutral” décor and colors to use in your holiday staging?

Lazenby: Neutral, tasteful decorations do not fall into “childlike,” “cartoonish,” “highly religious” or “highly personal” categories. Something unobtrusive, such as an evergreen garland or a string of white lights in an unexpected location, acknowledges the season without distracting buyers.

NHS: Seasons come and go – why should you stage your home for the holidays?

Lazenby: It is important to acknowledge the season with decorations to add warmth and interest to the house and to excite potential buyers with examples of how they could garnish the home if it were their own.

NHS: Do you need to spend lots of money to do so?

Lazenby: Sometimes the best decorations are free! Head to a tree lot and ask for an armful of the extra lower branches that have been shaved off, then place them in glass vases or hang them over the edges of cabinetry. If you’re lucky enough to live in a wintery location, incorporate winter berries or seed pods from ornamental grasses.

NHS: When should sellers not stage for the holidays?

Lazenby: Sellers should not stage their homes for the holidays if they are not going to be available to take the decorations down in a timely manner. A home still decked out in its holiday finery weeks after the new year passes is not appealing to buyers.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource.com.

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Millennials and the Mobile World

Millennials and mobile world

What do Millennials want? Whether it’s shopping or reading the news, they want the ability to do so on a mobile device.

By Jay Wilson

What do Millennials want? Whether it’s shopping or reading the news, they want the ability to do so on a mobile device.

In a recent webcast, Millennials: That Elusive Cohort by Metrostudy, a housing intelligence research company, found that in order to reach and convert Millennials, today’s brands must be mobile.

Because Millennials are now the largest and most diverse generation, consisting of 75.4 million people, technology has grown exponentially in the past 20 years. This growth has motivated businesses to appeal more to their growing consumer base.

A majority of Millennials own smartphones and spend about 67 hours a week consuming media through digital and traditional means. Also, because Millennials have taken a more mobile approach to life, they prefer text messages over phone calls. Text messages can be sent and received on one’s own schedule, while phone calls are often disruptive and are used in more immediate circumstances.

Nowadays, it’s not enough for businesses just to be a recognizable brand anymore. Businesses have to create noteworthy content as well as have a reliable and consistent network. Crafting an online profile makes it easier to reach out to the Millennial consumer base.

Millennials are generating a “shared economy,” which allows a widespread service of goods to a greater number of simultaneous consumers. For example, the industry of sharing or renting cars has become more popular now. Other on-demand services are also growing in popularity.

This attitude has also affected Millennials’ home life. The number of renters has increased to 60 percent as of 2013, which is an increase of 8 percent since 2005. A primary reason for this comparatively ephemeral lifestyle is because of the amenities that many communities offer.

Though the number of renters has grown, almost 95 percent have an aspiration to own their own home someday if they don’t immediately go out to purchase one as soon as they are able. These new homeowners aren’t interested in owning a lot of land, because they don’t want to deal with maintenance. They desire a home with character and with farm-to-table everything, such as food, home décor and furniture.

One reason Millennials delay homebuying boils down to a Millennial’s current lifestyle. What these potential homeowners want, outside of something affordable, is a home that fits their needs.

Millennials want a reasonable commute between their home, work, peers and health care. They’re moving to new neighborhoods with lower rent, direct access to downtown and a trendy, unique atmosphere. They want the luxurious amenities of an apartment community, while also living in a diverse and accessible neighborhood.

Millennials are in a place where they can make their opinions and needs known to not only to the home industry who can better assist them and learn from them, but they can also challenge businesses in other industries to connect on a more efficient level.

The Metrostudy webinar found that despite the inability or lack of desire to make large, life-impacting purchases, Millennials are helping move the economy in a more symbiotic, communicative manner.

Jay Wilson is a contributor to New Home Source, where you can search for newly built homes across the country.

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Smart Home Technology: A Major Insurance Benefit

 

smart home insurance

Through services like those provided by ROC-Connect, home insurers are learning how to integrate smart home technology into their coverage.

By Drew Knight

From automatic temperature control to fully decked-out entertainment systems, you probably already knew that smart home technologies could help you out around the house. But what would you say if we told you that smart home tech can also help you out with your home insurance?

Our guess is, “How?” or “Sign me up!”

Today, with the growth and usage of smart home technologies at an all-time high, many insurers in the market now believe smart homes can help prevent loss. And with the latest in home security, fire protection and leak detection now being included in new homes, it would be hard not to agree.

ROC-Connect, a national company that works with insurers to incorporate smart home devices and platforms on their plans, sat down with us to discuss this new and growing frontier. Below, Kevin Meagher, senior vice president at ROC-Connect, answers the common questions.

NHS: How can smart home products help homeowners with their insurance?

Meagher: Insurers are planning to leverage the The Internet of Things (IoT) to deploy products that help make homes safer by delivering some of the more traditional services, such as security, but they plan to use smart home technology to offer much more: monitoring for fire, frost or flooding. Equally important, they will offer support services to help if there is a problem. In the case of flooding, for example, they can provide instant links to tradesmen that can respond to help contain any problem and carry out repairs. These products and services help attract discounts for consumers and enable insurers to deliver more value with their policies while reducing the likelihood of claims.

NHS: What kind of products are being used and how do they work?

Meagher: Typically, we work with partners to pull together simple, affordable and scalable smart home solutions starting with entry-level kits that may include fire sensors, flood and security. Consumers can add a wide range of devices, including door locks, cameras, thermostats and other home automation devices.

NHS: How can these products help prevent loss?

Meagher: Studies have shown that smart home devices can reduce loss by as much as 60 percent. In the case of fire and flood, alerts reduce response times and limit potential damage.

NHS: How is this all changing homeowner-insurer relationships?

Meagher: This is game changing for the insurance industry. In addition to reducing claims, bundling these services with policies can reduce customer churn and increase customer satisfaction. For the first time, insurance companies now have the ability to offer their customers simple and affordable self-install solutions that make homes safer, more energy efficient and easier to manage. By offering the various monitoring services through a single, branded app, insurers become much more relevant in the consumer’s daily life.

NHS: How do insurance providers interact with their customers through these apps?

Meagher: Many of the services are automated with alarms and alerts sent directly to the consumer. Homeowners can monitor and manage their systems directly through the app. However, smart home systems allow issuers to move from being reactive to events to becoming proactive.

Flood and fire monitoring are good examples. Instead of waiting for the customer to call in to report a loss or claim, the insurer will be instantly aware that there is an issue and provide the customer with emergency services to help deal with the problem.

Drew Knight is a digital content associate for New Home Source.

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