Making Your Home Smarter With Smart Appliances

Products that let you control every aspect of your home remotely are growing at a rapid rate. Smartphone-connected devices and appliances are increasingly common and deliver a stylish, effective design. You can pick and choose your favorite gadgets to assemble an affordable, intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.

While home automation is becoming more prevalent, naturally there are more and more products becoming available as “smart devices”. Here are a few types of devices we found that found the mark for function and style:

GE WiFi CONNECT WASHER AND DRYER

Photo Credit: GE Appliances

Check washer progress with an app that lets you monitor cycles and settings, extend drying times, monitor levels of Smart Dispense tanks, download custom specialty cycles and receive alerts when clothes haven’t been removed.

 

LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE, UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL

Photo Credit: Logitech 

More than just a TV remote – the Logitech Harmony Elite offers all-in-one control of up to 15 home devices including your TV, satellite or cable box, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Blu-ray player, game consoles, plus connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors and more. There’s even a free app that turns your smartphone into an additional remote.

 

FRIGIDAIRE SMART WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER

Photo Credit: Frigidaire

A wifi connected air conditioner that you control through an app on your smartphone allows you to turn the unit on or off, change temperature, control modes and adapt fan speeds – especially handy if you want your home cooled off before you get home!

 

SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR

Photo Credit: Samsung

A few years ago, having a French door refrigerator with cameras, wifi, and a gigantic touchscreen would have been the stuff of dreams. Today it is a reality. This high-end fridge will let you peek inside it while grocery shopping, search for recipes on the 21.5-inch display, mirror your smart TV so you can keep watching your movie while you grab a drink, share calendars, photos and best of all – it even keeps your food cold.

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Home Maintenance, Housing Trends, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Housing Supply is an Issue that Will Not Improve Any Time Soon and Here’s Why

There are two common concerns about the housing market that one hears from both consumers and real estate professionals alike. First, they question whether or not we are on the brink of another housing bubble, and second, they want to know why there aren’t more homes for sale.

I don’t plan on addressing the concern regarding a housing bubble in this article except to say that we are not currently in “bubble” territory, although affordability does concern me immensely. Today I would like to concentrate on the second question about the lack of homes for sale.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, there were 1.96 million homes for sale in the United States in May 2017. When adjusted for seasonality, this falls to just below 1.9 million which is essentially the same level we saw back in 2000.

Now consider that the country has added over 21 million new households during that same time period, and you can see why this is so troubling. It is worth noting that many of these new households did move into rental properties, but this still leaves the U.S. with a substantial housing shortfall, which explains why demand for homes is so high.

With the shortage of homes for sale, you would normally expect builders to meet this pent-up demand with new construction housing but, unfortunately, this has not been the case. In fact, new single-family housing starts are running at about 800,000 (annualized), and I believe we need starts to come in at over 1 million to satisfy demand – especially as older Millennials start to create households of their own and begin thinking about buying instead of renting.

We therefore have a quandary. Trust in the housing market has clearly returned, but there are not enough homes to meet the demand of buyers, and when a buyer does find a home, they are met with very stiff competition, which is driving prices increasingly higher.

So why are we in this position and how do we get out of it?

In reality, there is no single reason for the situation we are in today. Rather it is a number of factors that, when combined, suggest to me that the market will not return to equilibrium any time soon.

The first reason for the shortfall is purely demographic. As “Boomers” age, they are not following the trends of previous generations. Many are staying in the workforce far longer than their predecessors, and, as they are postponing retirement, they do not feel compelled to downsize. In fact, almost two-thirds of Boomers plan to age in place and not move even after retirement. Without this anticipated supply of homes from downsizing Boomers, there aren’t enough homes for move-up buyers, which in turn limits the supply of homes for first-time buyers.

Secondly, as a nation we just aren’t moving as often as we used to. When I analyze mobility, it is clear that people no longer have to relocate as frequently to find a job that matches their skill set. There has been a tangible drop in geographic specificity of occupations. Where we used to move to find work, this is no longer as prevalent, which means we are moving with less frequency.

Thirdly, as mentioned earlier, builders aren’t building as many homes as they could. This is essentially due to three factors: land supply/regulation, labor, and materials. The costs related to building a home have risen rapidly since the Great Recession, and this is holding many builders back from building to their potential. Furthermore, in order to justify the additional costs, many of the homes that are being built are larger and more expensive, and this is no help for the first-time buyer who simply can’t afford a new construction price tag.

Fourthly, while the general consensus is that home prices have recovered from the major correction that was seen following the recession, this is actually not the case in some markets. In fact, there are 32 U.S. metro areas where home prices are still more than 15 percent below the pre-recession peak. As equity levels remain low, or non-existent, in these markets, many would-be sellers are waiting until they have sufficient equity in their homes before putting them on the market.

And there is still one more issue that is certain to become a major factor over the next few years: interest rates.

Imagine, if you will, the country a few years from now when interest rates have normalized to levels somewhere around 6 percent. Now consider potential home sellers who are happily locked in at a mortgage rate of about 4 percent who are considering their options. Will they sell and lose the historically low rate that they currently have? Remember that for every 1 percent increase in rates, buyers can afford 10 percent less house. If they don’t HAVE to sell, their thoughts may lead to remodeling rather than moving. I think that this is a very reasonable hypothesis which could lead us to see low inventory levels for a lot longer than many think.

With little assistance from the new home market, I believe we will suffer from low inventory levels until well into 2018.

Our best hope for a more balanced market lies with builders, so hopefully they’ll be allowed to do what they do best – build more homes.

Posted on February 12, 2019 at 7:55 pm
Jon Holsten | Category: Fort Collins Real Estate, Homes for Sale, Housing Trends, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How To Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing

As winter temperatures begin to creep up around your home you may start feeling nervous about your water pipes and plumbing. If so, you’re not alone. Frozen pipes (or rather, burst pipes) can cause expensive water damage to your home and property. Even a small tear in a water pipe can send hundreds of gallons of water each minute into your home. According to the Insurance Information Institute, one in 55 homes will submit a property damage claim due to water or freezing this year.  Given the fact that many homeowners take the winter holidays to travel and leave home, it’s important to know what preventative measures you can take to winterize your home. Here are some tips for protecting exposed pipes from freezing temperatures.

Wrap and insulate pipes and plumbing

You can purchase inexpensive foam pipe covers at the hardware store and wrap pipes or plumbing to prevent heat loss inside the pipes.  You can also invest a bit more money and create a more permanent insulation environment for your plumbing by thoroughly wrapping pipes with layers of thick fiberglass insulation. This can be a DIY project or you can hire a plumber to do this for you. Keep in mind that the cost to fix a burst pipe runs an average of $5,000, so spending money to properly insulate your home is a smart way to approach this project.

Identify exposed pipes

Exposed pipes are pipes that are not insulated and may be subject to greater shifts in temperatures. This could include pipes located on the exterior of your home, pipes that lead from the exterior to the interior, or plumbing located in colder rooms like the garage, the attic or the basement (37% of frozen pipes occur in the basement). For faucets or plumbing located outside, like an exterior faucet, you’ll want to follow these steps to get them ready for winter. If you plan on being away from home for a long period of time, it might be a good idea to shut off the water supply and open all of the taps until they run dry.

Why frozen pipes burst

The rips and tears that occur in a frozen pipe aren’t primarily from the expansion of ice: ice blockages create a build up of pressure between the ice and the faucet, and it’s this increase of pressure that actually breaks the pipe. (It should be noted that the expansion of ice can directly cause damage to connection points or weak plumbing.) Additionally, several ice blockages might occur within the same pipe, as can several tears or breaks. The water leaks out when the ice melts and releases the water trapped behind it. Homeowners might not actually see the damage until just after winter, when temperatures rise, ice melts, and water starts leaking into the house. Water can freeze in the plumbing when temperatures reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit, however it has been determined that wind chill factor can increase the likelihood of frozen water so even temperatures higher than 20′ F can result in risk.

Don’t turn off your heat

If you plan on being away from your home for an extended period of time, like for a long holiday break, think twice about turning off the thermostat. First, with the temperature off or set too low, even your pipes located within insulated walls have the potential to freeze. Second, when you enter a freezing home and crank up the thermostat your heating unit will have to expend a tremendous amount of energy to warm up the home, costing potentially more money and stressing the system. Set the thermostat to a temperature you deem safe for being away and consider opening up interior doors and cabinet doors to keep the warm air flowing to all of your plumbing. If you fear a burst pipe, install a water sensor that can remotely alert you to the presence of water inside your home.

Leave the water running

If you are expecting freezing temperatures you can turn on a faucet and let the water run in a steady but small flow. An open tap releases air pressure from inside the pipe, and can prevent tearing. So even with a blockage of ice inside the plumbing, an open tap can keep the pressure from building between the blockage and the faucet. If you have both hot and cold taps then leave both open.

Homes most at risk

Homes located in regions that experience reoccurring freezing winter temperatures are usually constructed with well insulated pipes and plumbing. Unfortunately, homes built in Southern climates where only occasional freezing occurs are potentially more at risk for burst pipes. Homes in these warmer regions aren’t usually constructed with frost in mind and homeowners may be caught by surprise by a singular, but damaging, winter ice storm. Regardless of which area you live in, if you suspect air leaks or are wondering if your home needs additional insulation, consider hiring an energy efficiency expert. This expert utilizes specific measuring tools and devices (like infrared technology) to understand exactly where heat loss is occurring in your home and can make recommendations as to how to make your home warmer.

How you can tell if your pipes are frozen

The test to tell if your pipes are frozen is simple: just turn on your faucet or flush the toilet. If no water comes out, suspect a blockage of ice. Turn off your water supply immediately. You may be able to use a heat source like a hair dryer to warm up the pipe and melt the ice however, be aware that any dripping water can cause the potential for electrocution. Never use an open flame as this could cause a fire. Always call a plumber right away if you suspect damage to the pipe or if you aren’t sure where the blockage has occurred. Find an expert on Porch.

This article originally appeared on Porch.com

Written by Anne Reagan

 Porch.com is the free home network that connects homeowners and renters with the right home service professionals.

Posted on January 9, 2018 at 7:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Home Maintenance | Tagged , , , ,