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Smart Homes: The New Frontier For Cyber Crimes

For years, research has highlighted various security flaws in millions of internet-enabled “smart” gadgets. But it wasn’t until recently, when “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices like DVRs and webcams sustained a massive breach, that these security flaws became a pernicious reality.

The hackers were able to corrupt and co-opt these ordinary smart devices into a colossal botnet army, where they levelled a deluge of junk messages at Dyn, an internet management company that routes web traffic for popular websites, including Twitter, Netflix, Reddit and Amazon. The sheer volume of bogus messages caused Dyn to crash, and as a result, users were cut off from many of those sites. The hacker remains unknown, but their weapon of choice, at least in part, has been identified.

Mirai, an easy-to-use software, infiltrates household devices, harnessing them for their own exploits unbeknownst to the owner. The cameras that were hacked and manipulated had low-end security features – and users had largely neglected to update factory-default usernames and passwords.

While this attack may conjure up large-scale cyberwarfare scenarios, it also underlines a very real and growing need to beef up security around the smart home, which has been severely lacking since the beginning. And if the problem isn’t dealt with, it’ll only continue to grow: Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group projects smart devices will reach 50 billion by 2020, a significant jump from 15 billion today. Intel estimates the number to be around a whopping 200 billion devices.

Why are smart home devices so easy to hack into?

In the face of economic demand, smart devices’ security has largely fallen by the wayside, as they’re perceived as a time-consuming expense. Many of the DVRs and webcams involved in the Dyn attack were shipped with factory-default settings and didn’t require consumers to create a new username or password. Consequently, these users unwittingly became a target for Mirai, which enlisted their devices in a campaign against specific websites.

But even for users savvy enough to update their defaults, hackers still have more obscure means of infiltrating their smart devices. Not-so-user-friendly services like SSH and telnet offer an advanced access point for hackers, since the password hardcoded in the device isn’t the same as the password on its web app. And unfortunately, the task of changing the password hardcoded into the firmware is likely too ambitious for the average consumer.

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What are the security risks involved?

Smart home devices “learn” by gathering and exchanging data to tailor their operations around the unique habits of the household. For instance, a smart thermostat’s data-gathering sensors can detect when people are home and learn the temperature settings of the home’s occupants. The more integrated smart technology becomes, the more sensitive data they can accrue and use for optimal customization.

However, increased connectivity also means a single access point could easily provide cybercriminals a terminal to the home’s central hub, where they can pirate other smart devices using the same Wi-Fi network. From there, hackers have access to all sensitive data, including when people are home, banking information, credit information, sensitive documents and more.

As opposed to a home break-in, which typically involve obvious signs of forced entry, these types of attacks are far more insidious and create a new form of anxiety for homeowners. A smart door lock could be furtively manipulated remotely, and connected home monitoring systems could be corrupted and used to spy on the home’s inhabitants without their knowledge. The risks abound, and smart home security currently relies too heavily on the end user.

So what can users do to better protect their smart devices and themselves?

While it’s clearly not the be-all and end-all remedy, changing default settings should be your first order of business. Make sure passwords are updated at least once a year and never use names, addresses or birthdays; and while it should go without saying, passwords like “admin,” “1234,” and “password” should never, under any circumstances, be used.

On top of effective password management, though, consumers should implement an extra authentication protocol, such as a one-time pin you’d receive by text to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access. Biometric authentications are another method gaining popularity, which rely on a unique thumbprint, eye-scan or the user’s unique keystrokes, making it difficult for hackers to bypass.

Unlike your smartphone, most IoT devices don’t automatically prompt you to run a software update. So about once a month, open your smart gadget’s corresponding web app and check for firmware updates. It’s even a good measure to check for updates that might’ve been released between the time the device was manufactured and the time it arrives on your doorstep.

In the event of a security breach to your home, immediately update passwords, notify credit card companies and file a police report. Always avoid public Wi-Fi networks, and don’t keep gadgets on the same network as your PC. By segmenting Wi-Fi connection, you can at least minimize hacking across different devices.

Although the onus is on smart-home-device manufacturers to escalate built-in security, users should nonetheless be as vigilant about their usage as they are with credit cards, computers, sensitive documents and locking the front door.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Less Is Always More When Staging Your Home

Embrace your inner minimalist when prepping your home for sale. Here’s a room-by-room guide:

Declutter. Edit your space. Get organized. You’ve probably heard all sorts of classic advice like this for getting your home sale-ready. But it’s helpful to know the goal behind these tips.

By paring down and minimizing distracting elements in your home, you give potential buyers the ability to imagine themselves living inside it. A clutter-free environment allows the space, beauty and intrinsic value of your home to shine. Beautiful wood floor details might be concealed with too much furniture, or pleasant natural light might be obscured by heavy drapery. So edit your home by replacing and eliminating unnecessary, distracting and cumbersome items. Below, we break down this less-is-more approach for each room.

When It Comes to Living Rooms

Keep only essential furniture. The living room is often the most used room of the house, and it may collect extra furniture that isn’t typically categorized as living room furniture. The key to staging this space is to stick to just the essential pieces: typically a sofa, coffee table, rug, accent chair and media console.

That corner desk with a computer on it may be essential for the way you live – but it’s not great for the room. While your home is on the market, perhaps find an alternate workspace or use a laptop. Similarly, if you need that end table to hold a much-needed table lamp, then leave it. But if you have two end tables, perhaps you don’t need both. Having fewer pieces will help the space feel larger.

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Use only proportional pieces. Once you’ve edited, ask yourself if the living room feels spacious or cramped. If the living room still feels crowded, consider the size of your furniture. Are any pieces overwhelming for the size of the room? If so, try replacing that oversized piece with something smaller and compact. You might find substitute pieces in other rooms. Or, if the problem is a large sectional sofa, perhaps remove a section. Don’t worry about reducing seating. The goal is for the room to read larger so that it appears as a desirable living space.

Place furniture strategically. Next, bring your editing eye to the furniture placement. Are pieces placed in a way that makes the room spacious and bright? For example, if an item is sitting in front of a window, you’re likely blocking light. Rearrange to showcase the room’s best natural light. Play with the placement, angling pieces, using corners of the room to open up the space.

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Pare down accessories. Next move on to your decorative accessories, including wall art. Do these items detract from the positive features of the room? Try removing all accessories and wall art, then adding back one piece at a time. Stop when the room looks simple, with just a touch of personality. Throw pillows are a good example: While four coordinating ones may make a lovely design statement, using just one or two allows visitors to pull back the focus to the entire room.

You also may want to edit your bookcases, displaying select books with a mixture of neutral accessories. You’ll want to remove most framed photos, though it’s OK to keep one or two images that are more vintage, such as snapshots of grandparents or an old baby photo. This gives a little life and personality to the room without showcasing your entire family album – a definite “no” in home staging.

Time to Tidy the Kitchen

Keep surfaces clear. Think about those fabulous kitchen showrooms: gleaming counters and stove-tops, organized refrigerators. That’s how you want to present your kitchen. Make sure the surfaces are as clear as possible and that every nook and cranny is clean. Keep smaller accessories such as coffee makers to a minimum, and make sure they, too, are spotless.

Organize your cabinets and pantry. People considering purchasing your home will likely look behind closed doors, so give your kitchen cabinets and pantry a good edit. Organize, discard or give away anything messy or that hasn’t been used in a while. Make everything in your pantry look more appealing by storing items in inexpensive Mason jars or canisters.

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Next, pare down and organize the contents of your refrigerator. Buyers will be paying a lot for your appliances, so make them look appealing. As with the pantry, you might try placing smaller foods such as vegetables in plastic bins. This will not only organize your fridge, but be visually appealing.

Spiff Up the Bedrooms

Remove excess furniture. Furniture in the bedroom adheres to the same principles as the living room. Do you have extra furniture in the room that suits your storage needs but makes the room feel smaller? Keep in mind that what’s practical to you might scream “No space!” to someone else. See if you can eliminate any extraneous furniture and storage pieces, finding alternative storage solutions for the items they contain. One option is to use large plastic storage bags under the bed for off-season items. If under the bed isn’t possible, perhaps a concealed space such as a closet or the garage will do the trick.

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Replace oversized beds. Another important guideline is to look at the size of the bed in the room. Specifically, is the bed too large for the space? A common staging faux pas is leaving a king-size bed in a small bedroom. This makes the room feel small, when it might in fact look spacious with a queen-size bed. Another mistake is to leave a queen or full-size bed in a minuscule guest room that’s better suited for a pullout sofa.

Edit your accessories. Similar to elsewhere in the house, keep the accessories and knickknacks in bedrooms to a minimum. Try storing everyday sundries in decorative boxes placed on a dresser. To open up the space with wall art, use only minimal coordinating pieces or a mirror.

Show your closet some love. As a final step in the bedrooms, spend some time making closets look, at the very least, neat. Jumbled messes won’t make potential buyers want to move in. Quite the opposite. They may feel the mess shows that there isn’t enough room in your home to live well. Take the time to edit your closet and be realistic about keeping each and every item. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll get rid of.

Closet Organizing

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Don’t forget the kids’ rooms. While kids may have many more smaller items like toys, books and school gear, editing their toy chest, closets and shelves ahead of time will prove helpful for your move. Similarly, organizing the items in their rooms in visually appealing containers will present a happy environment to a prospective buyer.

The Final Step: Styling the Bathrooms

Less is definitely more when it comes to staging a bathroom. Buyers don’t want to see anything personal. Surfaces should be clear of toiletries. Showers should only show the bare minimum. Opt for a pretty liquid soap dispenser in the shower while you sell your home. Remove any extraneous artwork or knickknacks on shelves. In fact, pare down the bathroom to its bare minimum fixtures and hardware, and, most importantly, clean it until it’s gleaming.

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Tell us: What have you done to present a home successfully to potential buyers? Share your experiences and advice in the Comments.

HOW LANDSCAPING INCREASES YOUR HOME’S VALUE

After spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on landscaping, how do you know if you’ll recoup your investment? Homeowners may wonder if their efforts are worthwhile compared to interior projects. In actuality, landscaping comes back in resale value more than you may think.

According to a publication from Virginia Tech, a home landscape has been valued at around 15 percent of a home’s total value. Furthermore, certain landscape aspects add more to the home than others, including:

Design: 42%
Plant size: 36%
Diversity of plants: 22%

The study cited that a $150,000 home could go from $8,300 in worth to almost $19,000 more with the addition of a landscape. That’s a lot for just adding a front yard to your home. Here is more information about these elements and how to increase the value of your home.

Landscape Design

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Photo courtesy of Jardin Passion Landscape Con
How you design the landscape is the first step in creating a beautiful and valuable front yard. If you plant shrubs, flowers and trees without a design in mind, you could run into maintenance issues down the road. This is why you might call in a landscape designer to help. Landscape designers have the knowledge when it comes to creating landscapes to match homes and climate conditions. They know which trees, shrubs and flowers mix versus which ones might be troublesome. The end result will be a manageable, uncluttered and beautiful landscape that you can enjoy for little to no hassle.

Plant Size

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Photo courtesy of Applegate Landscape Co.
On a visual level, adding different plant sizes will make your front yard look more appealing. Adding different shapes and colors complements your home and the lawn. On a maintenance level, mixing small and big plants will cut down on clutter in your yard. If you have too many bushy plants, their roots and branches could get mixed together and cause maintenance issues. So plant different trees, shrubs and flowers to make your landscape colorful and varied to add onto your home’s appeal and save on trouble.

Diverse Plants

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Photo courtesy of M&M Garden Designs
Intertwined with the plant sizes you choose are how diverse they should be. You don’t want to plant only shrubs and trees with leaves. Vary it up with fruit trees or shrubs that have flowers to add color to the front yard. You also might choose annual and perennial flowers to sprinkle across your yard. You will need to replace annuals every year, but that gives you the chance to try out different flowers. Perennials, on the other hand, will last for many years and can endure harsh winter conditions.

Conclusion

Whether you hire a landscape designer or decide to tackle the front yard landscape yourself, be sure to include these three elements. Adding them to your front yard will pay back dividends in your home resale value, and it will make your home more attractive to buyers.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

6 SMART UPDATES TO MAKE TO YOUR BATHROOM

The idea of renovating your bathroom can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to knock down walls or gut the whole thing to make it feel new again. Making smart updates can get you closer to the look you want without the big budget, or the big hassle.

“You dream about a bathroom that’s high on comfort and personal style, but you also want materials, fixtures, and amenities with lasting value,” said houselogic. “Wake up! You can have both.”

Here are a few places to start.

1. A new showerhead

This is one of our favorite ways to freshen up a bathroom because a new showerhead is: A) inexpensive, even for one that provides multiple heads and functions; B) an easy way to make your shower more enjoyable if you’ve been dealing with an old showerhead that doesn’t provide massage or handheld options; and C) also a money saver since new showerheads are more energy-efficient.

2. Soaker tub

Soaker tubs are the hottest trend in bathrooms right now, and it’s getting to the point where anything else makes your bathroom look outdated. Have one of those giant Jacuzzi tubs in your bathroom? It’s probably time to yank it out, especially if your jets stopped working long ago. The bonus of a freestanding tub is it can also make your bathroom feel airier and more spacious.

Bathroom Update

3. Walk-in shower

Your dinky shower with the tired tile and the metal trim isn’t fooling anyone. You don’t have to tear the whole thing down (but, if you can, by all means!) Removing the tile and replacing it with something more current can do wonders, especially if you’re going from something dark and cave-like to a choice that’s light, bright, and reflective. A seamless glass enclosure can give the shower a more expansive and current look with minimal work.

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4. A smaller mirror

Sounds funny to be think about replacing your large mirror with something smaller, right? After all, it’s a bathroom. But if you’ve toured a model home lately or watched a bathroom be remodeled on HGTV, you’ve probably seen this swap. Taking down your full-width mirror and replacing it with something more tailored to the size of your vanity will instantly give the bathroom a lift. Have two sinks? Get two smaller mirrors. And make sure they’re framed out. A plain slab of mirror is just…plain.

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5. New lighting

Those cheap builder lights are making your bathroom look DATED! Some of them are so bad they can make an otherwise stylish bathroom look not so great. Replacing the lights is easy (and inexpensive!). Just make sure to get your mirror situation figured out first so you know what width your lighting should be. A light fixture that’s wider that the mirror is going to make everything look off.

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6. Vanity overhaul

There are several ways to make an old vanity/sink combo look more customized and more updated. Changing out the faucets, painting the cabinets, and adding hardware can work wonders. But if the cabinet door or drawers aren’t in good shape, if the sink shape is just too dated, or if you just want to rip the whole thing out and dump it on the lawn, it might be time for something new.

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If you are going to replace your vanity, take a look at floating versions—a hot look today that that’s also great for a smaller space because it keeps the eye moving.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Home Staging Ideas for the Kitchen to Make Buyers Bite

If you’re selling your house, staging—the mysterious practice by which you prep and prettify your home before its debut—can make a huge difference in catching the attention of buyers and ultimately reeling in an offer. And the room you’ll really want to focus on here is the kitchen: After all, it’s the crown jewel that buyers ooh and ahh over—except when the counters are packed with stacks of mail, near-empty boxes of Froot Loops, and a hulking Cuisinart you rarely use.

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To make sure this critical area is perfectly poised to woo buyers, try these home staging ideas for your kitchen and get some offers cooking.

Clear Off Counters

Put it away—put it all away. We’re looking at you, coffee maker, blender, knife block, standing mixer, and toaster oven. “And don’t forget the top of the refrigerator,” says Amy Bell, a home staging expert at Red Chair Home Interiors in Cary, NC. Home staging in this room is all about making your kitchen look bigger, cleaner, and more streamlined. “Homeowners are so accustomed to their own clutter that it almost becomes invisible to them,” she warns.

And while you’re in purge mode, remove every bit of paper and those souvenir magnets from the refrigerator and cabinets. The only thing you should keep on the counter is a pop of color, such as a pretty bowl of bright green apples or lemons, says Katie McCann, an organizing coach at Maeve’s Method.

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Scour for hours

Well, no one’s actually logging the time spent, but cleanliness is critical here. “Not only must you clean the counter tops, but the grout, faucet, and grimy drain rim, too,”.

Try CLR (calcium, lime, and rust remover) on the faucet to make sure water flows through it smoothly. Clean cabinet fronts to remove dust and grime, and scrub greasy spatters on the stove and backsplash with a vinegar-water solution.

“And if you have a stovetop with burns or food rings, remove them with a soft soap product and a razor blade—it’ll look almost like new,”.

Light it right

Let as much natural light into the space as you can, by either opening heavy drapes or replacing them with sheer panels. Have a kitchen that looks out to a patio or deck through glass doors? These must sparkle in order to illuminate the space. “And if you don’t have under-cabinet lights—get them,” recommends Halpin. You can purchase battery-powered puck-shaped lights for very little money and stick them under the cabinets (it adds that extra glow that every cook covets).

Jack Menashe, a designer and home stager at Menashe Design in New York City, likes minimal window treatments (like just a valance along the top) when showcasing a kitchen as natural light makes the space feel bigger. “A patterned valance invites the buyer to see the window and allows me a chance to add color,” he says.

Organize the insides

Potential buyers are going to open the fridge and pantry, so don’t neglect these spots when you’re staging the kitchen. “People who are looking for a new home will imagine how their pots, pans, and food items might fit into your cabinets,” explains McCann.

“Sometimes I stack cookbooks and display clear storage containers because these elements speak to the kitchen’s function, and clear containers take up less space visually,” says Menashe.

Set the scene

Some experts recommend setting the table with colorful plates and napkins to give the kitchen a homey feel.

“I may present a picture of daily life by having a unique planter on the countertop with blooming flowers alongside a carafe of orange juice for color and a rolled-up newspaper,” says Menashe. Or, place a simple runner down the middle of the table for a bit of coverage and texture.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

New Tech All Homes Will Have By 2020

New technologies are constantly emerging, rendering others obsolete every day. Many of these technologies eventually enter into our homes after being used in businesses or other capacities throughout the world first. Once they show themselves to be useful, people incorporate them into their everyday lives. Here are some technologies that every home will have by 2020.

Light-Transmissive Flooring

LED light emitting flooring can provide safety, informational, and decorational benefits. It can help guide people around the house, leading to exits and safety routes in case of an emergency. It can also enhance the atmosphere of the house, due to the fact that various colors can be used in the floors.

Light transmissive carpet is designed to directly engage with people’s vision and natural tendency to seek light. LED carpeting is conducive with the natural habit of being guided by the floor while moving. This new convenience can keep people from having to find a source of light during the night in order to navigate through their house.

Smart Home Theater

As smartphones are now the norm, smart devices throughout the homes are now expected. In a smart home, all electronic devices and gadgets are able to connect with each other and to the home network to work in unison.

Home theaters will play a large role in a smart home’s function, as they will be able to replace sound systems in TVs and gaming consoles, offering a more surround-sound experience. Lessening the number of electronics people need to invest in and having everything done with only a few gadgets is a very attractive concept to people.

Gesture Control

This is the closest that technology seems to be headed in the arena of superpowers. PointSwitch technology, which is already used in businesses, allows the user to control their surroundings with just the point of a finger. You can turn on and off electronics, lamps, alarms, and anything else without having to actually get up and press a button. This works by creating a transparent and touch-friendly space around the user, but at a distance. This will make anything as easy as a point of the finger.

New Tech

Smart Windows

We will soon be able to bid farewell to the high costs of heating and cooling our homes. With smart windows, it’s possible to turn the glass from translucent to opague by simply turning a switch or touching a button. Aside from aesthetic purposes, this will also eliminate the need for curtains or window shades. The convenience of smart windows will likely spread throughout homes, saving people money and time as the sunlight changes throughout the day.

Fingerprint Unlocking

If you are like many people, you often lose your keys. Keys will likely become a thing of the past as the fingerprint will now be the new way to unlock homes and cars. While keys can be copied or stolen, fingerprints cannot, so it adds an extra level of security. The registered fingerprints will be easily manageable, letting people adjust who has access to their house at any time.

Communication with Appliances

Perhaps you have been out of town for a while and want to check on the house. You will soon be able to send messages to your house to check on the temperature, activity, and anything going on around it. You may also be able to converse with your appliances, such as your refrigerator, while in the grocery store if you have forgotten your list. Pre-heating ovens can also be done when communicating with appliances, making time less of an issue in the evenings.

By the time 2020 rolls around, many new technologies that are emerging today will be old news. The final goal for new technologies is always convenience for the consumer and aiding in making life a bit more easy.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Five Cheap and Effective Staging Ideas

Appearance is crucial when selling your home. Making your home look sensational will go a long way in being able to get what you want out of the property. It’s here that staging comes into play. But many homeowners aren’t able to afford the cost of a professional stager. Thankfully, you don’t have to turn to a professional. There are a number of things that you can do on your own to transform the look of your home.

#1 Pack up your personal items.

Packing up all of your personal effects is one of the cheapest and simplest ways to prep your condo or home for sale. Removing your personal touches will help a potential buyer to see the home as their own. Sometimes your personal items can make that difficult. Pictures, artwork and other decor are more distracting than you realize. Hide them in the basement or a storage space while conducting tours.

#2 Get rid of the clutter.

Getting rid of any excess clutter is a great way to get potential buyers to look at your home. Sometimes emotional attachments can make throwing out clutter difficult. It’s easy to gather clutter if you have lived in the same home for years. Excess items can have a negative impact on how your potential buyers view your property. De-clutter your home as much as you can to attract more buyers.

#3 Rearrange and neutralize your rooms.

Even though you might enjoy the blue walls in your bedroom, that doesn’t mean a potential buyer will. Loud or eclectic design elements might make a potential buyer think about all of the work that they have to put into the home. The best thing you can do is to repaint your rooms a neutral color, like white, tan or cream. This will appeal to more buyers and allow them to visualize their own decor in the home.

Consider rearranging the furniture in your rooms to increase their functionality. Think about how to show potential buyers how much they could do with a room. Maximizing space is crucial when selling a home.

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#4 Eliminate smells and stains by deodorizing and scrubbing your home.

No buyer wants to walk into a home that is dirty and smelly. The best thing you can do is scrub everything from floor to ceiling before having an open house. You don’t want any dirt, dust or odors lurking around the home. You want to make sure your property shines as much as you can. Greet buyers with a clean, fresh smell in every room. If you’re short on time, hire a cleaning service. A pro will save you time and ensure a spotless home.

#5 Replace the hardware around your home.

Most homeowners can afford to replace the hardware around their home. Focus on your doors and kitchen first. Next, make your way through the rest of the home. Swapping out your old hardware with new hardware can make a big difference in how your cabinets and doors look.

Conclusion

In going through the tips above, you can quickly transform the appearance of your home. Even making these small changes can make a major difference in how potential buyers view your home. You don’t need to spend a fortune staging your home. Instead, invest some time and effort in making a difference in the way your home looks.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

How To Have The Coolest Home In The Neighborhood

It’s the American way to always be looking for the next big thing. Whether you’re just looking for some cool new additions to your home décor, want the latest tech, or need to figure out a few new ways to make life easier, these products will get you there.

1. Self-cleaning sheets

Do you wash your bedding as much as you should? These sheets will actually help you out with that.

“Founded by the creators of The SleepClean Pillowcase, Silvon just introduced a line of bacteria-resistant sheets,” said Elle Décor. “Uniquely, the company doesn’t produce its linens with chemicals or nanotechnology—but rather with silver, a naturally bacteria-resistant substance. When the silver-infused linens come in contact with bacteria cells, the positively charged silver ions attack the DNA of the bacteria, hindering the cell’s ability to reproduce.”

Silvon sheets are available as a preorder on Kickstarter, where their original $20,000 campaign has now reached $537,824.

2. A machine that helps with your laundry

You may have already seen the Foldimate. It went viral last month because it actually FOLD S CLOTHES FOR YOU.

“Completing the robot takeover of our laundry chores, the appliance is designed as a third addition to the washing machine and clothes dryer you have lined up in the basement,” said Cool Things. “That way, you don’t just have to leave the laundry room with your clothes properly washed and dried, you can come out with every item neatly folded, too.

Personally, we’ll like to see a next-generation unit that can hang stuff up. Maybe that’ll happen before the Foldimate, which is still in development, goes to market—currently slated for 2018.

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3. A refrigerator that’s helps you write your grocery list

We’ve written about the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator before, when it debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). But back then it just seemed like a cool novelty. Now that it’s out there in stores and being advertised on TV, we’re kind of obsessed.

“The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator has a 21.5-inch 1080p screen, which can be used to display recipes, a calendar, notes and more. The screen can also be used to stream TV and music — and screw sticking your shopping list on the door, you can out and out order your groceries on it,” said techradar. “And the Family Hub has another trick up its sleeve, in the shape of built-in cameras that show you what’s in the fridge. You can view the contents from your smartphone wherever you are — so if you get to the shop and aren’t sure if you need to buy milk you can just take a look on your phone.”

Refrigerator

4. Transparent speakers

Not loving the way traditional speakers look in your house? No problem. Just go transparent.

“Transparent speakers usually just show off internal components or an LED-illuminated chamber full of bubbles. Not the Turtle Beach HyperSound Glass, though,” said Geek. “These are transparent speakers that you can actually see right through. There’s no cone. There’s no voice coil. No magnet, no dust cap, no terminals. The HyperSound Glass is just a black stand and a rectangular frame that surrounds a completely translucent panel.”

Even better, the sound is directional. “The ‘stream’ of ultrasound they send out is highly focused, and it gradually becomes audible sound as it reaches its intended target. Listeners just a few feet away won’t hear a thing.”

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5. The coolest chair you’ll ever make yourself

Think Lego meets IKEA meets haute home. This multifunctional chair called SPYNDI from Lithuanian designer Mindaugas Žilionis uses 60 handmade wooden elements that click together and can be fashioned into as many shapes as you can come up with.

“In just 15 minutes you can turn this pile of sticks into many different chairs, lounges and tables,” said Bored Panda. “The human spine-inspired project has already reached full funding on Kickstarter!”

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6. Next-level weather display

Weather apps are so yesterday. This ambient weather display doesn’t just tell you the weather, it shows you. “The tempescope is an ambient physical display that visualizes various weather conditions like rain, clouds, and lightning. Based on weather forecasts from the internet, it can reproduce tomorrow’s sky in your living room,” said Tempescope.

This product is not yet available.

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7. Keep track of what’s going on at home

There are tons of drop cams you can use to provide home security and also watch over your kids and pets at home. We love Circle, which lets you “See, save and share what’s happening at home from your mobile device,” they said. Our favorite feature: the fact that you can listen in and even talk through the device. The ability to say “Hi” to your dog while on your lunch break? Yes, please!

8. Remote pet play

Not enough to just watch your pets and have a few words with them while you’re gone for the day? With PlayDate, you can also play with them right through the camera. “Play with your dog or cat from anywhere using a smart ball that you control from your mobile device,” said Indiegogo. “You can control PlayDate’s smart ball remotely from your iOS or Android device after downloading our free app from the App Store or Google Play.

Imagine being able to play with your dog when you’re not at home.”

This product is currently being crowdfunded, with $483,407 raised as of the end of May 2016. Check out the video here.

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Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

10 DIY Home Improvements Even a Beginner Can Handle

So you just bought a house that needs some work, but you are a short on cash and ever shorter on the skills needed to fix up your place. Not to worry! There are plenty of home improvement projects even the most beginner of DIYers can handle.

In fact, here are 10 such projects that can work for practically every budget and skill level. We’ll start with the very easiest of projects and then add some more interesting ones once you feel you’ve gotten the hang of some of them.

1. Painting

One of the easiest ways to spruce up the look and feel of your house is by painting. Whether painting just an accent wall, a whole room or the entire exterior of your house, painting is easy enough for anyone to tackle.

Just make sure to clean the walls before you paint, always tape the edges, and never roll horizontally!

2. Garage organization

Not every home has a garage, but if you do, it’s most likely messy and disorganized. Adding a permanent organization system to your garage is a great way not only to free up usable space but also to add some perceived value to your property.

Phoenix garage-organization-10

Having a designated place for all of your tools, your yard equipment, athletic and outdoor gear and anything else you might be carrying around is much better than just stuffing them into a corner of the garage.

3. Landscaping

Curb appeal. It’s often the top reason cited why potential buyers won’t buy a house. If the house looks ugly on the outside, it will probably be ugly on the inside. Having a great first impression is key when buying a home.

The best way to make that great first impression is to have a well-manicured front yard. Sod, trees, shrubbery, annuals and more are just some of the basics any beginner DIYer can install and maintain to keep his or her curb appeal dazzling.

Phoenix Landscaping

Curb appeal is often the top reason cited why potential buyers won’t buy a house.

4. Door hardware

Every home has doors, yet not everyone knows there are thousands of ways you can decorate your doors. The easiest way to do that is to replace the hardware on your doors.

Whether it’s your front door, your bedroom door or some cabinet doors, changing up the hardware can have as much impact on a room as painting it.

Changing up the hardware can have as much impact on a room as painting it.

Change the color of the hinges from gold to black. Replace an old knob with a fancy lever. Add an electronic keypad to your front door so you never have to worry about forgetting your keys!

5. Deck staining

Like painting, staining is a fantastic way to change the look and feel of an area from drab to luxurious. Pressure washing and staining a deck to a darker color can make your deck feel like new, and it gives discerning buyers what they want.

Staining is a fantastic way to change the look and feel of an area from drab to luxurious.

6. Light fixtures

Do you want to make a room look more contemporary? How about that modern look? Or farm-house chic?

One of the best ways to enhance the look of your home is by changing the light fixtures. And yes, even a beginner DIYer can handle changing a light fixture.

If you can tie shoe laces, you can wire a light fixture. Just be sure always to turn the electrical break off before starting any electrical project.

7. Mirror framing

Have you ever looked into your bathroom mirror after you’ve taken a shower and realized you weren’t the only naked thing in the room?

Most mirrors are simply just a plate of glass with nothing else around them.

To upgrade the look, find a large picture frame at an antique store or farmer’s market. (Or buy a new mirror to fit inside of an existing picture frame.) Then, hang that picture frame around your mirror for that luxurious look.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can always custom make your own frame using baseboard molding. Just be sure to cut your corners at a 45-degree angle.

8. Ceiling fans

In warmer climates, ceiling fans are an absolute must. Or, if you live in a place where you don’t have to run the air conditioner often but still want air circulation, you need a ceiling fan.

Like light fixtures, ceiling fans are similarly installed and can change the look and feel of a room in an instant.

Ceiling Fan Installation

9. Insulation

Although most beginner DIYers like to look at their new improvements with pride and joy when they finish installing them, insulation is one improvement that your brain will enjoy more than your heart.

You won’t be able to see the fruits of your labor when you’re done installing new blown or rolled insulation into your attic and walls. But, your wallet will be reaping the rewards of your efforts once your heating and cooling bills are reduced.

10. Carpeting

If you can wrap a present in wrapping paper, you are one step away from installing new carpets in your home.

Like wrapping a present, carpeting simply involves measuring, cutting, rolling and adhering.

Carpets can be worn out in less than five years. Replacing your carpet (and carpet padding underneath) will certainly add value to your home. Plus, nothing feels better on your toes than fresh, new carpets!

As with any renovation or improvement project to your home, make sure you consult with your community homeowner’s association (if you have one) to make sure the changes are in line with the community restrictions.

And acquire any permits necessary to be in compliance with your local ordinances.

And finally, when in doubt, there’s nothing wrong with throwing in the towel and hiring a professional. The easiest home improvement project you can do is sit on your couch and watch other people do the work for you!

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Buying A New Home? These 4 Upgrades Are A Must!

For new-home buyers, they have some tough decisions to make: Which extra features are worth the extra money and which ones aren’t? Some upgrades buyers can easily put off without breaking the bank. But for others, buyers may be wise to get them done right away.

Read more: Cementing Partnerships in New Construction
Realtor.com® recently featured an article on some of the easiest upgrades to add to a new home now that could save time, money, and headaches later on. Among the upgrades to do now:

1. Cable conduits: This can be one way to future-proof a home. “Yes, smart home features are increasingly going wireless, but that doesn’t mean you should skip running cable conduits throughout the house—especially if you see a big home theater or full-home sound system in your future, both of which work best plugged in directly,” the realtor.com® article notes. “Adding an extensive system of cable conduits can make hooking up entertainment much simpler.”

Cable Conduets

2. Radiant heating: This is integrated into the floor, which makes doing it during the construction phase a lot easier than after. Buyers likely will pay at least $6 per foot for their system in new construction. Those adding it later will likely pay double that – or more. Also, consider confining radiant heating into one room because it “actually can be a limiting factor in future design changes, since the contractor will need to work around it or replace it by zones,” says Ken Streiff, a Minnesota contractor and builder with 20 years of industry experience.

Radiant floor heating

3. Outdoor outlets: Adding outlets later on can cost upward of $250 each. Adding them during construction when the walls are still open can be much cheaper.

Outdoor Outlets

4. Accessibility: You never know what the future holds. Consider making hallways and doors wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Reinforce bathroom walls to make adding grab bars later on easier — and with no need to open up the walls. Also, consider the location of switches and outlets and don’t make them too high or too low.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

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