Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes work. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to rise and grind and get into work mode.
Having a designated workspace is quite possibly the most important piece to the work-from-home pie. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall wellbeing. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? Here are the top five:
- Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.
- To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
- Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
- Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance.
- Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.
Here are two recently-announced pieces of really good news for home buyers.
• The Colorado Housing and Finance Authority recently raised the income limit for their down payment assistance program to $115,600.
Now more people can get help with a down payment.
• Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac raised their conforming loan limits so that more people can use a conforming loan and not be forced to use a ‘jumbo’ loan.
Contact us if you would like to hear how these pieces of news could help you.
According to Real Estate Expert Charlie Young, certain real estate factors are in place that may compel more people to consider relocating to a different area of the country. Here are a few:
- Increase in mortgage rates
- Pay not keeping pace with home prices
- Long-term toll of the recession
- Increased home prices have helped homeowners move from underwater to positive equity
- US census data is showing an increase in migration
On average, Americans move every five to seven years, so it is likely at some point in your future you will experience another moving day. While moving can be challenging, there are resources to make it easier. If you are remaining in the area, your real estate agent can continue to be a valuable resource on communities, schools, utilities, transportation, recreational opportunities, and more.
If you are moving out of the area, your agent can help you with a referral to another reputable agent in your new community. Our agents are a part of a broader network that connects them with agents all over the world. Many agents also have relationships with real estate-related service companies in their area whom they can call upon for information regarding title, escrow, mortgages, temporary housing, and moving services. They can also help guide you in your Internet search as you learn more about new communities and relocation services.
You’ve decided to move. Now what?
Once you have reached your decision, it’s time to gather information, start making decisions and get organized. Begin by creating a “move” file to keep track of your estimates, receipts, and other information. If you’re moving for a job, some expenses may be deductible, so you’ll want the paperwork when tax time comes.
If you are moving out of the area, start researching your new community and ask your agent for help in finding a referral agent in your new area. You’ll also want to determine whether you want to rent first or buy immediately. Your new agent should be able to help you with your decision. Once you know where you’re going, you’re also ready to get estimates from moving companies.
Reason’s people move:
Closing one door, opening another
After you have chosen a moving date and either hired a moving company or reserved a rental truck, it’s time to wrap things up in your old neighborhood and start establishing relationships where your new home is located. This is particularly important if you are moving to a new town/city. You may want to ask your current doctors, dentists, etc. if they have any referrals on care providers in your new location. Be sure to check their recommendations on your insurance company’s online provider search list. Once you arrive, you may also want to ask new coworkers, friends or the school nurse for their recommendations.
Contact your children’s school and/or day care and arrange for their records to be sent to their new school district or day care. Call your insurance agent about coverage en route to your new home and also arrange for insurance in your new home. Remember to contact utility companies to disconnect, transfer or end service in your current home and turn on service in your new home.
You’ll want to file a change of address form with the U.S. Postal Service, either online or at your local office. If you don’t know your new address, have them hold your mail at the post office in your new locale. Don’t forget to cancel or transfer magazine and newspaper subscriptions as well.
If you belong to a health club or other association, contact them about ending or transferring your membership. Some clubs require written notice before cancellation. Finally, contact your bank or credit union to transfer or close accounts; if you have a safe-deposit box, don’t forget to clean it out before you leave.
Starting the countdown
With moving day in sight, it’s time to get organized. Here are a few items to check off your list before you start packing:
Tie up loose ends. Be sure to send out an email or change of address cards with your new contact information to family, friends, and associates. Return library books and any other borrowed items you may still have.
Triage your possessions. Determine what you are taking with you; what you are giving away to friends, family, or a favorite charity; and what is going to the dump or recycling center. If you have time, you can hold a garage sale or post items on craigslist.org or ebay.com.
Clean up. Drain all gas and oil from your mower, other machinery, gas grills, kerosene stoves and lamps, etc., before loading them onto a moving truck. Empty, defrost, and clean your refrigerator at least 24 hours before your move, and prepare other appliances for moving as well.
Have your car serviced. This is especially important if you are driving to your new home.
If you are doing your own packing, start collecting boxes and/or buy them from your movers. It may take a few days to do your packing, so be sure to pack non-essential items first and label them carefully. If you have any valuables, it’s recommended that you take them with you as opposed to packing them. You risk the chance of losing those items if they’re packed away in boxes. It’s also smart to take along a box of essentials, including items such as toilet paper, paper towels, tape, soap, scissors, pens, paper, and your toiletries. That way you won’t have to track these items down once you’ve arrived in your new home.
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.
We asked a few of our Windermere agents what top five pieces of advice they would give to a buyer in today’s market.
Top five by Bruce McKinnon Windermere Mukilteo
- Get pre-approved with a “known” lender.
- Learn the market. Pay attention to price per square foot, be realistic on pricing and observe short sales and foreclosures.
- Understand “showing” protocol such as scheduling viewing appointments and a respect for privacy.
- Identify your location preference. Initially focus your search there for efficient time utilization. Think about your ideal community, neighborhood and school district.
- Mini buying process overview. For example, to minimize surprises, get a five minute explanation of offer, inspection, appraisal, closing, etc. by a professional or two.
Top five by Erin Mitchell Windermere Bellevue Commons
- Work with a great agent that specializes in the area that you want to live. Meet with them prior to looking at homes to make sure you ‘fit’ each other’s personalities, they really listen to your wants and needs and that they ask you questions about what is important to you.
- Ask your agent for a good referral to a great loan officer. Call them now and get pre-approved.
- Make a top 10 list of the most important things you want in a home. If you find one that has at least eight of them, strongly consider the home.
- When you find a home that fits, your agent will run a market analysis to determine appropriate value. Value is not always price related.
- Write a good offer that includes a fair price, good terms and is realistic. If you want the house, buy it. If there is more than one offer, use an escalation clause in the offer.
Get pre-approved with a “known” Lender
Learn the market (e.g., price / sq ft, be realistic on pricing; short sale and foreclosure observations)
Understand “showing” protocol (e.g., appointments, respect for privacy)
Identify location preference (e.g., to initially focus search for efficient time utilization — community, neighborhood and school district – where possible)
Mini Buying process overview (e.g., 5 minutes – to minimize surprises — offer, inspection, appraisal, closing)
There comes a time in life where gifts take different forms during the holidays. Toys are replaced by tools and appliances. Games are supplanted by gift cards and gear for grander hobbies. Clothing ranges from stylish to functional, but typically reflects real-life necessities over fantastical dresses or costumes. But for many, books remain a timeless gift, offering windows into worlds we know well or have yet to discover. Approaching the new year is a wonderful time for any lucky recipient to reorganize their collection and make a statement.
Start with a blank canvas. Take everything off your shelves before you decide to start putting your books back on.
Mix it up. Don’t have all of the books vertical or horizontal (but never stack anything on top of vertical stacks). Layer them on top of each other in different ways on all of the various shelves. Bigger books on the bottom of stacks, smaller ones on top. Place your most attractive books at eye level.
Accessorize. Add items in between, in front, and on top of books. This can mean collectibles, candles, small plants, pictures, you name it. You can use a variety of shapes and sizes, but try to keep all non-book items to the same theme/color.
Leave Space. Adding just a little bit of space between items gives space for the eye to breathe and helps your book and collectibles to stand out.
Little details. Don’t follow the same pattern on each shelf otherwise, it could end up looking too stiff. Try to zig-zag your way down (or up).
Add color. If you’re ready for a full-fledged redo, paint the back of the bookshelves to add dimension and character before styling. If you don’t want to permanently color your bookcases, try fabric or wallpaper. For example, if you have glossy accessories, choose a metallic wallpaper to turn your bookshelf into a shimmering showpiece.
Have too many books or don’t feel like accessorizing? No problem. Color code your books ROYGBIV style to make a bold and fun statement in your room.
As we step forward into 2019, eco-friendly “green homes” are more popular than ever. Upgrading your home’s sustainability improves quality of life for those residing in it, but it is also a savvy long-term investment. As green homes become more popular, properties boasting sustainable features have become increasingly desirable targets for homebuyers. Whether designing a new home from scratch or preparing your current home for sale, accentuating a house with environmentally-friendly features can pay big dividends for everyone.
While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star, or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.
There are dozens of eco-friendly features that can provide extra value for you as a seller. To name a few:
Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.
Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.
For many years, fuel cells have been far too expensive or unreliable. But as technology has improved, so too has reliability. Companies like Home Power Solutions and Redbox Power Systems have increased the reliability of these fuel sources while reducing their size. Much like we’ve seen computers and cell phones shrink in size while improving reliability and power, fuel cells continue to be refined.
A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.
But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.
Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious homeowners are very attracted to the concept.
Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.
Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.
Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. Similarly to wind turbines, your geographical location may determine the feasibility of these installments. Even on cloudy days, however, solar panels typically produce 10-25% of their maximum energy output. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.
In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But as of December 2018, the average cost after tax credits for solar panel installation was just $13,188! Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).
Solar water heaters
Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.
Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.Gov.
Regardless of which option you choose, these technologies will help to conserve valuable resources and reduce your monthly utility expenses. Just as importantly, they will also add resale value that you can leverage whenever you decide it’s time to sell and move on to a new home.
Change is afoot. We suppose it always is, but doesn’t it all seem to come at us so much faster in today’s world? We see change all around us. Just consider, for a moment, how much technology has changed our lives thanks to innovators like Uber, Google, and Apple, to name a few. Technology has also changed the way we do real estate.
The real estate world is a complex environment that most of us only travel once every 10 years. This infrequency, coupled with the ever-changing laws and emotional toll, makes it very hard for most of us to navigate. That’s why we rely on a professional. Even those of us who live and breathe real estate every day use a Windermere agent to conduct our personal transactions.
Thanks to technology, certain aspects of the real estate process that were once difficult are now very easy, like searching for a home. Within minutes of a property being listed, it’s fed to websites all over the world for potential buyers to see. Information about neighborhoods, schools, and home values are also readily available online to help buyers make smart decisions.
There’s no doubt that real estate will continue to benefit from technology, but we’re concerned about the companies that are beginning to look at consumers less as people and more as data that can be generated and shared for monetary gain.
At Windermere, our agents don’t treat their clients like data points being fed into an algorithm; they know them on a personal level. They help buyers make one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions of their lives. They help sellers understand the nuances of the market so they can get top dollar for their home. They are experts in neighborhoods, market trends, contracts, and negotiations. They treat their clients with respect and compassion. And they care deeply about their local community.
As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Real estate is the perfect example of that. Technology will continue to change and improve how people buy and sell homes, but our pledge to you is that it will never replace what has always mattered most to us: relationships.
– OB JACOBI, JILL JACOBI WOOD, AND GEOFF WOOD
Staying organized while uprooting your life and moving from one home to another can feel impossible. Not only are you trying to get the best financial return on your investment, but you might also be working on a tight deadline. There’s also the pressure to keep your home clean and organized at all times for prospective buyers. One thing you can be sure of when selling your home is that there will be strangers entering your space, so it’s important for you and your agent to take certain safety precautions. Like so many things in life, they can feel more manageable once written down, so we made this handy checklist.
- Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
- Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family heirlooms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting misplaced or stolen.
- Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.
- Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. If someone is looking to get back into your home following a showing or an open house, they will look for weak locks or they might unlock a window or door.
- Consider extra security measures such as an alarm system or other monitoring tools like cameras.
- Don’t show your own home! If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. You want to have an agent present to show your home at all times. Agents should have screening precautions to keep you and them safe from potential danger.
Talk to your agent about the following safety precautions:
- Do a walk-through with your agent to make sure you have identified everything that needs to be removed or secured, such as medications, belongings, and photos.
- Go over your agent’s screening process:
- Phone screening prior to showing the home
- Process for identifying and qualifying buyers for showings
- Their personal safety during showings and open houses
- Lock boxes to secure your keys for showings should be up to date. Electronic lockboxes actually track who has had access to your home.
- Work with your agent on an open house checklist:
- Do they collect contact information of everyone entering the home?
- Do they work with a partner to ensure their personal safety?
- Go through your home’s entrances and exits and share important household information so your agent can advise how to secure your property while it’s on the market.
Photo Credit: Trendir.com
- Glass tables, chairs, bookcases, and more are unique choices that deliver a clear message in your home: you mean business.
- If you work from home often, a glass table is an excellent accent to add a hint of professionalism to the home office.
- Glass shelving can be used to keep a space feeling open and light, while still maximizing function.
Creative Window Glass
Photo Credit: Freshome.com
- Whether your climate is arid or humid, snowy or rainy, there’s a glass style that fits your home.
- Multi-paned glass not only is tougher but provides enough protection from the elements to make it worthy of full-wall usage in some homes.
- Embracing open glass windows and walls is a great step, but adding glass features throughout a room can help enhance the sense of openness and promote a sense of natural lighting.
- Stained glass needn’t be the purview of Gothic architecture alone. A well-placed stained glass insert can completely transform the lighting and aesthetic of an otherwise unremarkable interior.
Photo Credit: HomeDIT.com
- A glass table or window is all well and good, but sometimes your space needs more, or has limitations on what can be done.
- Stepping stones, candle-holders, and light fixtures are just a few ways to use glass in the periphery of your home to shed light and attention onto the parts of your home you’d like focus on.
- Feeling particularly bold? Glass items with multi-chromatic finishes can shed lights of various colors, delivering just the right vibe for the moment.
Sea Glass/Beach Glass
Photo Credit: LovelyGreens.com
- Whether lakeside in Idaho or on the beach in Santa Monica, the experience of living surrounded by water is unique in all its forms. But a dash of seaside flair can be added to any home.
- In some cases the best ways to evoke the spirit of waterfront living is with sea glass accents.
- From a DIY sea glass-filled candle jar to a letterpress tray display of color, or even a faux-stained glass window styling to play with lighting effects, sea glass is a fun accent that can bring a theme all the way home.