Smart Technology for Your Home

Smart home technology has really taken off over the last few years. Every gadget and device you could need is on the market right now. From voice-activated assistants to robo-vacuums, companies are creating products to make our lives a little bit easier. So what smart home options will be beneficial to you? Well, it depends.

If you want something simple or need a quick way to make grocery lists or check the weather without having to pick up your phone, a voice-activated home assistant may be right for you. Devices like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are top choice for home owners. Smart assistants are great gadgets to have for quick voice commands.

Smart lighting is a great feature to have if you aren’t home a lot, but don’t want outsiders to think your house is empty. Smart lighting allows you to control the lights in your house from your smart phone. Whether you are miles away from your home, or simply forgot to turn the light off in the bathroom but don’t feel like getting back up (don’t worry, we’re not judging you!), this feature is super convenient and easy to use.

Video monitoring systems are also great features to have in your home. The benefits are pretty obvious, cameras will allow you to feel safe and secure while you are in your home or out for the day. Alerts will typically pop up on your smart phone letting you know activity is present at your door. Some systems also allow you to video chat if someone comes to your door, adding a bit more security.

If you want a more hands-off approach or if you don’t feel comfortable buying and working these gadgets yourself, specifically video monitoring systems, there is some good news! There are many options to have a professional automation system installed for you. Added benefits of this include not dealing with the hassle of installing and keeping tabs on your devices and gadgets. The company that installed the devices will handle everything for you, monitor your security cameras and let you know if any issues arise.

Having smart technology in your house is very beneficial as a home owner and will be an added feature if you plan on selling your house. With so many options at different price points, it is easy to add a few key gadgets to your home and build from there. Whether you are looking for a simple device, complete smart home system or a fully automated household, the options are endless.

Sprucing Up the House for Spring

Open those windows and turn off the heaters, warmer weather is on the way! Winter has faded, and the trees are starting to bloom, spring is finally upon us. Warm weather fans rejoice!

As spring season is setting in, it’s a good idea to make a home maintenance checklist of items to prep your home for the new season. Spring cleaning isn’t just for the inside of your home. Check out the tips below that will help prepare the inside and outside of your home.

Inspect the Roof

Winter weather can cause havoc on your home’s roof, whether it’s damaged from ice or snow. With “April Showers” on the way, it is important to inspect your roof for missing or damaged shingles which can lead to leaks. A leaky roof can cause havoc on your wallet if you ignore it.

Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

While we hope you will never have to rely on these items, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working condition and have fresh batteries.

Check Water Drainage and Gutters

Clogged gutters can lead to leaks, which in turn will lead to water damage. Save your future self some money by clearing out your gutters and getting rid of any dirt and debris that piled up over the year.

Clean Up the Lawn

Properly maintaining and servicing your lawn mower and other lawn accessories will ensure they last longer. Also, remove any sticks and debris from the yard before mowing. Add new mulch to the garden for a fresh new look.

Service the HVAC Unit

Although you should do this more than once a year, servicing your HVAC unit is a spring must-do. Cleaning any dirty filters and making sure the unit works properly can save money on your AC bill each month, especially when the summer heat sets in.

Window and Door Treatment

Clean and inspect windows, doors and screens. Fix any cracks in windows or doors and patch up any holes in your screens. On cooler nights, you can open the windows in your home and turn off the AC to help reduce your electric bill.

Fix the Cracks

Inspect your driveway and sidewalks for any cracks that occurred during the winter months. Repairing these issues early on will be easier and more budget friendly for you rather than waiting until it becomes a major problem.

Preparing Your Home for Hosting

This time of year is always a special time of year. The holidays are right around the corner, and it’s time to celebrate! One of the biggest joys of the holiday season is getting to spend time with family and friends. If you are hosting company for the holidays, the key is to prep in advance so you can cut back on any last minute mishaps. Whether you have guests staying overnight or just visiting for the day, here are a few tips to help prep your home:

Clean Your Home

This one is a no-brainer, but you want your house to look clean and inviting. Starting early will allow you to get a good, deep clean of your home and really get things shining. A few days leading up to the holiday, you can do a spot clean of the kitchen and bathrooms and any area that will get a lot of traffic. Be sure the entryway in your house is free of clutter and there is space for guests to hang coats.

Decorate With Seasonal Items

A few easy ways to make your home look cozy and inviting are to decorate with seasonal items. Thanksgiving and Christmas wreaths are easy pieces to find and hang around the house. Seasonal flowers such as poinsettia, holly, Christmas roses and mistletoe can be spread through the house as well. If you will have small children around the house, simple items like warm, cozy blankets will add a homey feel and will be safe around the little ones.

Stock the Pantry

This tip is especially helpful if you have guests staying overnight, or for a few nights. If you know what your guests like to eat and drink, be sure to add it to your pantry and fridge. If you don’t, ask them in advance if they have any requests for their stay. This is an easy way to make your guests feel welcome and at home.

Prepare a Welcome Basket

This tip is also for your overnight guests. Having a welcome basket in the guest bedroom will be a pleasant gesture for your holiday company. Provide everything from extra bath towels to toiletries, and even some warm fuzzy slippers (because you know the last thing you remember to pack when traveling are slippers!). Little gestures like this certainly go a long way to help make your guests feel more comfortable.

While it is great to have family over for the holidays, it can get a little hectic. Don’t fret too much if every little thing on your to-do list doesn’t get done. Everyone will be so wrapped up in enjoying each other’s company, the small things won’t seem like such a big deal. Be thankful for the friends and family you have, and enjoy your time together.

A Touch of Hocus-Pocus

Time to dress up your lawn! Halloween is right around the corner, so break out your most spook-tacular decorations! Getting into the holiday spirit and decorating can be a fun activity for the entire family. Whether you want to keep it simple with a few pumpkins, or totally transform your entire yard, let your imagination run wild. Here are a few festive themes to get you started.

Spooky Spiders 

Think cobwebs, giant spiders and more cobwebs! Drape some cobwebs through the branches of trees and over bushes. Hang them from your front porch and near your front door to spook some trick-or-treaters! Add spiders of all sizes throughout the cobwebs. Scatter them across the lawn for an extra hairy look.

Creepy Cemetery

Turn your yard into a hauntingly scary graveyard. Include tombstones, skeletons and bones. Add a fog machine for an eerie setting. Feeling extra creative? Add an entryway with a chilling cemetery name at the front of your lawn. If you have leaves falling from the trees in your yard, don’t bother raking them. An unkempt look makes a cemetery even more unnerving.

Magical Movies

Have a favorite Halloween-themed or scary movie? Now is the time to re-create the movie set! If you are a Harry Potter fan, decorate your yard like Hagrid’s pumpkin patch or turn your house into a Hogwarts replica. More into The Haunted Mansion? This one is pretty self-explanatory. Turn your house into a neglected-looking manor; add in a sound machine producing scary ghost noises and creaking doors.

Simple Spirit

Minimum effort can sometimes have maximum effect! Keep it simple and line your porch with pumpkins and lanterns. If you don’t like the mess of carving pumpkins, paint on some fun designs or bling them out with some glitter. Sparkle always adds a magical touch!

Big & Bulky

Inflatable decorations are an easy way to jazz up your lawn, and it won’t take too much effort to set up. You can find just about any type of inflatable, from pumpkins to witches and ghosts to spiders. Don’t limit yourself to one inflatable, go over-the-top and get 4 or 5, if they fit on your lawn.

There is no such thing as too much, or too little decoration; Halloween is a time to be creative. So put on your thinking cap (or witch hat, whichever you prefer) and get to decorating! Soon you will have the best dressed lawn in the neighborhood.

Trending Home Features: Love It or Leave It

Home decorating trends are constantly changing and it’s hard to keep up with every new fad that emerges. Floral prints may be popping up everywhere at the moment, but those millennial pink kitchen appliances you bought at the beginning of the year are “so out” now! So, which trends should you follow and which should you leave in 2018? The lists below showcase a few timeless home trends that will never go out of style and a few short-lived trends that may only be popular for a short period of time. So, which trends will stand the test of time?

Timeless Classics

Neutral paint colors. It’s always a safe bet to choose a neutral color palette for your home. Neutral wall colors and floors will allow you to decorate more boldly and add personality to each room. You can incorporate trendy pieces into the room without going overboard, and you can easily switch it out for something new once you no longer love it. A neutral setting with bold accents is always a good choice.

Clawfoot tub. Relaxation, elegance and luxury are what come to mind when you hear this term, and those are some reasons the clawfoot tub hasn’t gone out of style. This type of bathtub has a classic design and will fit with any type of décor, making it a lasting piece in your home.

Open concept. An open concept living space has become increasingly popular over the last decade or so, and it seems to have staying power; more homebuyers are searching for homes that give an open floor plan. This type of floor plan can make a small space feel larger, and it is also a convenient layout for entertaining.

Short Lived

Statement floors. Gone are the days with “Plain-Jane” beige carpet and simple hardwood floors. A new trend has recently emerged and it is daring! Statement floors have become popular in the last few years, and for good reason; it can add adventure and a fun twist to any room. Unfortunately, a bold floor doesn’t work for everyone, so try not to get swept up in this trend.

Velvet furnishings. Another trend that screams luxury and comfort, but like so many other home design fads, this one likely won’t last. Household items such as couches and curtains have followed the velvet craze, but have started to vanish recently. Fashion and style are big components of this trend, but opting for a more traditional look may save you from a design faux-pas.

Bold Wallpaper. It’s everywhere these days! Flip through a home design magazine or scroll through Pinterest and you will see bright, bold wallpaper. It can add so much drama and excitement to a space, but if it is overdone, it can be overwhelming. While this trend can be a thrilling addition to your home, it’s best to stick with the neutral colors since some prints and colors will go out of style soon.

Decorating your home can be a lot of fun, and a lot of work. There is no need to rush redecorating when the next big trend surfaces, so be sure to take your time and only include items in your home that work for you. Just because something is on trend doesn’t mean it’s your style! You can only make your house a home if it is filled with the things you love.

Tiny House, Large Living: The Tiny House Movement

Living large doesn’t necessarily mean owning a mansion and filling it with an abundance of possessions. Just ask those who have joined the tiny house movement. You may be asking, what exactly is the tiny house movement? The latest trend involves homeowners downsizing to a home, generally measuring 400 square feet or less. Small, right? How can one live in such a small space? It’s definitely a lifestyle change and it’s not for everyone, but those who have joined this movement have benefited big time!

So why would someone choose this lifestyle? There are many benefits to going tiny. Affordability is a major factor; the cost of a tiny home is substantially cheaper than a normal-sized home. Typically, tiny homes can range from $10,000-$50,000 depending on the type of home, amenities and if you build it yourself or purchase a pre-built home. That is a fraction of the cost of an average house in the suburbs. The cost of upkeep of a tiny home tends to be less as well since there is less square footage to maintain.

Going tiny can also simplify your life. Since your home is smaller, there is less room for material items and possessions. Freedom from objects will allow you to focus on experiences and connecting with people and nature rather than focusing on “things”. The less time you spend focusing on things, the more time you can focus on yourself and finding activities that make you happy.

Another benefit of going tiny is being more mobile and not tied down to one location. Some tiny homes can be placed on a trailer bed and towed and some are fixed on wheels. Either option lets you travel often and experience adventures you may not have been able to if you were tied down with a non-mobile home or a large mortgage payment.

Sounds great so far, doesn’t it? While there are many advantages of a tiny home, they do have a few drawbacks as well. Some states and/or counties have their own set of strict rules regulating where owners can place/park their tiny homes, making it difficult to stay in one place for a long period of time. Their small size creates limited storage areas, so renting a storage unit may be an additional cost homeowners need to budget for. If you decide to grow your family and need to move out of your tiny home, there is a very small market for tiny home buyers, so selling could be an issue.

As mentioned before, tiny house living isn’t for everyone, but those who choose to live this lifestyle have the financial and personal freedom to live how they want and where they want.

Will Your Home Value Sink or Swim?

It’s been a long, hot summer so far; thank goodness for that backyard swimming pool to cool you off! There’s really no better feeling than walking out your back door and jumping in your own swimming pool. But what happens to that tropical paradise when those cold, winter months roll in? And when it comes time to sell your home, is your pool adding value to your home or hurting the resell value? Many factors can come in to play when deciding if a pool will increase or decrease your home’s value.

How much use do you get from the pool?
If you live in an area where it is warm for most of the year, then a pool may be a good investment. Keeping up with the maintenance costs won’t seem like as much of a burden when you are actually using the pool. However, if you live in an area where only 3-5 months of the year are suitable for swimming, it may be a turn off to keep up with monthly costs.

How does your house compare to your neighbor?
If you live in a neighborhood where most of the homes have pools, then having your own pool could increase your home’s value. Since this is a desirable feature in the area, when ready to sell your home, it will probably be a little bit easier. If you live in a neighborhood where pools are uncommon, or there is a great community pool down the street, it may not make sense to have one in your backyard.

Is an in-ground pool better than an above-ground pool?
In-ground pools have the potential to add more value to your home than above-ground pools. An in-ground pool will typically last longer and require less refurbishing every few years. Since above-ground pools can be easily dismantled and removed, they most likely will not add any extra value to your home. If selling your home, potential buyers might see an above-ground pool as an eye sore, especially if there is no landscaping surrounding the pool to help it blend more easily into the backyard.

Has the pool been property maintained?
Pool maintenance costs can add up, but it may be more costly to you if you don’t keep up with proper care. A well maintained pool will look attractive to potential buyers, making your entire home more sellable. Neglecting to take proper care of your pool may make it harder to sell your home because it would be an added expense and hassle for the new owners. If a pool is in poor condition, it could decrease the value of your home.

If you are looking to purchase a home that already has a swimming pool, or are thinking of adding a pool to your own backyard, take the above factors in to consideration. Try not to think of a swimming pool as an asset to your property, but rather an added value to your lifestyle and personal enjoyment.

Interior Design at the Touch of a Button

You have finally found your dream home, but there is one small problem; you have no idea how to decorate it! Lucky for you, design apps and websites have quickly become “must-have” tools for anyone looking to update the interiors of their homes. In the past few years, companies such as Modsy, Havenly, and Homepolish , to name a few, have upped the ante by pairing users with professional interior designers, right in the palm of their hands. These game-changing interior design apps and websites offer virtual design assistance for you and your home, working with any budget, style and preference. The concept differs slightly from company to company, but the general idea is to choose from different design packages, ranging in prices, to fit your budget.

How It Works

  • Take a survey or complete an online style profile that matches you with a designer that understands your vision.
  • Provide room sizes/measurements and photographs. Be sure to let the designers know if you have any existing furniture or decorative pieces you want to keep in the room.
  • Designers will then provide ideas, design concepts, layouts and/or floorplans based on your preferences.
  • From there, you can collaborate with the designer and discuss any changes or updates you may have.
  • Once you and your designer have pieced together the perfect room, you are then able to purchase any and all pieces shown on the design and have them shipped to your home.

As a busy homeowner, having online design tools ready at the touch of a button is extremely convenient . Between work and social gatherings, family events and vacations, your time may be limited to research an interior designer that fits your budget and understands your style and preferences. These easy to use apps and websites not only allow you to finally make your house a home, but also guarantee plenty of compliments from your guests.

7 Reasons to Own a Home

For most, it is the American Dream to own a home.  It has always been an important milestone of adulthood.  But as a first-time home buyer, how do you know it is the right thing to do?  Besides the obvious benefits of owning a home, here are additional advantages of owning rather than renting.

Tax Benefits

The bulk of your house payment each month goes toward interest.  Mortgage interest is tax deductible unless your mortgage loan is greater than $1 million.   You can also deduct the property tax your lender pays on your behalf.

Appreciation

Over time, houses generally go up in value.  A $200,000 house after 30 years becomes a $545,313 house.  According to the Price-Shiller Index, existing homes increased 3.4% annually on average from 1987 to 2009.  Over a 30-year period, this increase is a big deal.

Equity

Equity is the difference between the home’s value and how much is owed to the mortgage lender.  The reduction of your mortgage every month increases your equity and builds interest in your home.

Savings

Having a mortgage is having a forced savings plan.  When you pay your mortgage every month, you are ultimately being forced to save because you are building more valuable equity in your home.  Making an extra payment on your mortgage each quarter could potentially save you money on interest resulting in your loan retiring earlier.

Predictability

As a borrower, you are able to accurately predict your future payments with a fixed-rate mortgage.  Your interest rate doesn’t fluctuate during the loan period, keeping your payments relatively the same.  Rent payments are unpredictable and may rise every year.

Freedom

Owning a home gives you the freedom to do what you want with it, especially aesthetically.  Decorate it how you please, paint whatever color you’d like and upgrade amenities that suit your sense of style.

Stability

You are officially planting your roots in an area you choose that benefits you and your family the most.  From here, you will build long-lasting relationships with your neighbors and will offer the benefit of life-long friendships and education continuity to your children.

 

Want to learn more about the home buying process? Contact a First Home Loan Officer today!

Equifax Breach and How You’re Affected

Equifax is one of the oldest and largest credit-monitoring companies, aggregating information on over 800 million consumers.  The company provides detailed information about personal credit and payment history of individuals, indicating whether they are eligible to receive a loan.  In order to provide a full credit report, Equifax houses an enormous amount of sensitive data, such as full names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and sometimes driver’s license numbers.

Last week, Equifax revealed their data had been compromised during a cyber-security breach which occurred mid-May through July 2017.   Hackers gained access to personal information on 143 million American consumers.  Equifax also confirmed at least 209,000 consumers’ credit card credentials were taken during this attack.   This means that the opportunity for identity theft has tremendously increased for the majority of American residents.

We at First Home Mortgage understand the seriousness of this attack and need you to realize how important it is to take action immediately and be pro-active so identity theft does not happen to you.

How can I be proactive? Help!

First, monitor your credit report for any suspicious activity.  Check to see if new accounts have been opened that you did not open, late payments on debt you do not recognize or fraudulent charges made on a card.  You can check your credit report free, once a year here.  If you suspect identity theft, contact the credit card company’s fraud department immediately.

For extra protection, freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus.  This is the best way to prevent identity theft.  Once accounts are frozen, you will not be able to open new lines of credit or have your credit checked without lifting the freeze.  Contact each bureau immediately to freeze your account.  Or, request a freeze online.  Note: You will not be able to freeze your credit if you are currently pending a large purchase or financing activity.

  •                Equifax:  1-800-349-9960 or  Click Here
  •                TransUnion:  1-888-909-8872 or  Click Here
  •                Experian:  1-888-397-3742 or  Click Here

Equifax is offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to all who may have been impacted, for one year.  You may also enroll in Equifax’s program to see if you are one of the millions affected by the hack.  To get started, enroll here to begin.  The enrollment process must be completed by November 21, 2017.

For additional information on what to do if you are a victim of identity theft, click here.  This site will guide you on how to report identity theft if, for example, someone else filed a tax return using your information, if your information was exposed in a data breach or anything else.

Still not sure how to get started or need additional information? Contact your local First Home Mortgage Loan Officer today and they will help point you in the right direction. 

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