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Best New Security Tips To Keep Your Home Safe While You’re On Vacation

Nothing kills your vacation buzz like getting a call from the police back home letting you know your home has been burglarized. Basic home security tips are great, but safety measures are continually evolving, with new and more refined ways to keep you and your home safe.

Vary your inside lights

“There are differing opinions on whether or not you should leave your lights on the entire time you’re on vacation,” said A Secure Life. “If you leave your lights on the whole time you’re gone, it wastes a lot of electricity and raises your electric bill. Also, having lights on 24/7 can look just as suspicious as having them off. Electronic timers may be helpful. The danger here is that if someone was really intent on robbing you, they will likely be watching the house for a period of time. If they notice that the lights go on at exactly 7:05pm and off at exactly 10:35pm each night, it would not take a genius to figure out they are on a timer.”

The answer: A project like Caséta. “Scheduling lights to turn on at varying times is a great way to deter burglars, and the Caséta Wireless kit lets you control the lights in your home from anywhere through the Lutron Electronics app,” said USA Today 10 Best. “Its new Smart Away feature randomly turns lights on and off between 6pm and 11pm to make your home look lived in – even when you’re on vacation. Caséta Wireless also ensures you never have to walk into a dark house again – or get out of bed to turn off the lights.”

Hold your mail – even if you’re only going away for a weekend

Mail theft is up, and consequently, so is identity theft. “According to a US Postal Service official, mail theft is on the rise, with the objective of getting access to financial information to exploit for personal gain,” said ABC 10. Asking your neighbors to get your mail is great, but what if they don’t get to it right away? You don’t want thieves putting a plan of credit card fraud into action while you’re getting a massage.

Hire a dog sitter

You may think you have thought of everything when it comes to protecting your home on vacation. But if your dogs are also taking a little vacation at your fave boarding spot while you’re away, you might be removing one of the top obstacles to home break-ins: a barking dog. Nextdoor and Rover are great places to find a qualified dog sitter who can stay with your pooches and watch your house at the same time, and, often, it will cost you less than boarding, especially if you have more than one dog.

Watch the doggy door

If you do board your dogs, be sure to lock up your doggy door while you’re gone. Depending on the size of your dogs, humans might be able to enter your home while slithering through. If the doggy door is in plain sight and can be viewed from the street, even with the cover on (which may keep your dog from going in and out but may not keep a thief out), you may want to consider placing a chair or large plant in front of it.

Get rid of spare keys

Have a key hidden under the mat or in the planter next to the front door? Security experts will advise you this is dangerous on any given day with thieves looking for an easy way in. But, especially, when you’re out of town, a poorly hidden key is an invitation for unlawful entry. Instead, leave a house key with a trusted neighbor for emergencies.

Lock your gates

If someone can get into your backyard, they have an easier entry into your home since they’re more likely to be out of sight. If you regularly keep the gate unlocked to give access to gardeners or other family members, consider locking it while you’re away. Forgoing landscaping in your back yard for a week won’t hurt, and the extra security measure will help you feel at ease.

Cancel automatic deliveries

You may think about your mail, and even halting your newspaper delivery, while you’re enjoying your relaxing beach getaway, but have you forgotten anything? If you get regular deliveries – coffee, office supplies, diapers – be sure to call and cancel for the the time you’re gone. Packages piling up at your front door can invite theft – of your home, and the stuff you ordered.

Wipe away your fingerprints

Have a front door lock that uses a code instead of a key? They’re great for minimizing the likelihood that someone will be locked out. But, there have been recent cases in which crooks used fingerprint patterns on the touchpad to determine the code and break in. Get into a habit of wiping the keypad down every day to minimize the risk.

Get a security system

Nothing new about this, but a security system continues to be the No. 1 deterrent to break-ins, so it bears mentioning. PC Mag’s featured smart security system is Vivint Smart Home, which costs just $49. “Bottom Line: The Vivint Smart Home system offers 24/7 security monitoring and remote control of your door locks, cameras, heating system, and features the best video doorbell solution we’ve tested,” they said.

Get a security camera

In lieu of, or in addition to, a security system. Security cameras can give you piece of mind. PC Mag recommends two starter models: The iControl Networks Piper nv or the Nest Cam Outdoor. “These cameras have built-in sensors that track motion, and will send push notifications when movement is detected (the Piper nv will also send notifications when humidity and temperature thresholds are exceeded),” they said. “Both are solid, cost-saving alternatives to full-on security systems.”

Increase your protection against disasters

Protection from thieves isn’t all you have to worry about when you’re away. Nest Protect helps ward off potentially catastrophic fires and toxins. “This smoke and carbon monoxide alarm looks for fast-burning fires, smoldering fires and invisible-but-deadly carbon monoxide,” said USA Today 10 Best. “It speaks to you, letting you know what and where the danger is, and will message your phone if you’re not home. It can also be silenced from your smartphone so if you simply overcooked your dinner, you don’t have to go climbing to turn it off. Nest Protect tests its sensors and batteries 400 times a day and will notify you when the battery is running low rather than beep all night until you can get a ladder to replace it.”

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Easy Ways to Make Your Patio Look Great This Summer

Summer is the perfect time of year to be outside with family and friends. The cold weather, snow and rain are gone, and you see bright, sunny days ahead of you. If you’re getting ready for a season full of pool parties and barbecues, here’s everything you need to make your patio look great:

Update Your Furniture

It’s a new season with new trends, so you might be in the market for new patio furniture, or your old furniture just needs some updating. Chances are your cushions and pillows are looking faded, worn out and tattered from last year, so replace them with new cushions or fabric covers to match the rest of your decor. Don’t be afraid to go with bold and bright colors or big designs because they won’t dominate the area since it’s an open space.

You also need enough furniture and seating to fit your family and friends. Get a large round table or a long rectangular table for your guests to eat, snack and set down their drinks. Add extra chairs or a love seat around your table so you can add more people than your immediate family when you host a party. Go for items that are easy to clean so dust, dirt and spills don’t permanently ruin your furniture.

Make Some Shade

The summer sun can be intense, so you need shady areas to give yourself and your guests a break. Get a table with an umbrella in the middle to provide some shade while you’re eating dinner on the patio. Or add an umbrella on the top step of your pool or behind lounge chairs to stay cool.

If you want a larger shady area, set up a pavilion with a canopy roof in a section of your yard. Add chairs, side tables and a reading area underneath. You also can build a pergola and cover the top and sides with growing vines or climbing plants. This will add some color and nature to your patio as well as provide you with shade.

Light It Up

Transform your patio into a summer wonderland by lighting it up at night. Once the sun goes down and the temperature drops, you’ll want to relax on your patio with a nice cocktail or dessert with a lovely glow around you. For a touch of glamour, install an outdoor chandelier or light fixture over your patio table and chairs. String up hanging lights from the roof and side of your pergola to light up your ivy or plants. Put a few candles in translucent vases on side tables surrounding your other furniture or in the middle of your table. This is a great place for you to include some of your accent colors and add a delicate touch to sometimes bulky furniture.

Make It Party Ready

Now that you have the necessities, it’s time to get to the fun part. You want people to see your beautiful summer patio, so give them an excuse to come over for a party. Set up a grill, cooler for drinks and counter space to prepare and display your summertime treats. If it tends to get cool at night, get a table with a fire pit in the middle or build your own fire pit where you can roast s’mores and tell ghost stories. You also should invest in some lawn games and board games that you can play well into the night.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

5 Ways To Increase The Value Of Your Rental Property

When you hold property as a rental investment, it’s only natural to want the value of your investment to increase. While the real estate market plays a role in the value of your properties, you can take matters into your own hands with home improvements that add value.

Five great ways to boost the valuation of your rental property and how to make these improvements.

Replace old bathroom fixtures. Bathroom upgrades deliver immediate impact and value. Replace outdated sinks and toilets with low-flow models that feature new hardware. You’ll save on water bills and instantly improve your apartment’s valuation. When replacing bathroom fixtures, hire a professional plumber to do the work.

Renew kitchen countertops. Even a minor kitchen upgrade will retain roughly 80 percent of its value five to 10 years down the road, which is great news for property owners who want to make money now and sell for a profit in a few years. Replacing cheap laminate countertops with wood, granite, cement or engineered stone is a great place to start when renovating an old kitchen. Hire a countertop installer for this task.

Dump old carpet and linoleum for high-end flooring. If your rentals have linoleum and wall-to-wall carpeting, this screams cheap and ugly to renters looking for a new home. Increase your apartment’s appeal and valuation by upgrading your flooring. Natural materials like wood or stone are favorites. These materials are durable, easy to clean and hold their value once installed.

Update lighting and appliances. Adding new fixtures and appliances can brighten the apartment, increase energy efficiency and give an old unit new life. If you have pre-1990 lighting, replace it to slash energy expenses and make the apartment look more modern. Always have lighting installed by a licensed electrician.

If you have old appliances — anything from a dishwasher to a hot water heater — swapping them for sleek, stainless steel, energy-efficient models will boost your return on investment and slash your overhead. Order new appliances during seasonal sales to get the lowest price. Many stores take away your old appliance for free when they install the new ones for you, reducing your overhead.

Increase storage. Storage is a top priority for renters. Whether you add a basement storage cubby, place a shed in the backyard, add open shelving in the bathroom, or put hooks by the front door, you’ll help renters make the most of the space. You can keep things cheap and easy by using hooks and shelves you can hang yourself, or hire someone for more sophisticated storage upgrades.

Tips for Property Owners Who Want to Improve Rental Investment Value

Plan smartly by making home improvements in between tenants. Time your repairs so the unit’s ready when demand peaks in your area. This way, you can rent out the renovated unit quickly and command a competitive price. In turn, immediately starting to recoup the money spent on repairs through the higher rental property valuation and new market-rate rent.

Making Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Your home is your place to rest, play, and spend time with your family. It should be a place of comfort, and this comfort need not come at a high cost. Many homes, however, waste a lot of energy in ways that can be prevented. Here are five ways to make your home more energy-efficient.

Replace or Weatherize All Windows

Windows are one of the biggest sources of heat gain and heat loss in a home. Both heat gain and heat loss rob you of comfort and keep your energy bills higher than they have to be, whether during the summer or winter months.

Windows rank high on the list because of air leakage around the frame and the heat that transfers through windowpanes. Old single-pane windows provide little protection against heat transference. If you replace these windows with energy-efficient windows you should see immediate savings and improved climate control in your home.

When choosing windows, consider the frame and not just glass. Frame material and frame design matters. Hinged windows allow less air leakage than sliding, single-hung or double-hung do. Avoid metal because these conduct heat. Choose insulated vinyl frames or insulated fiberglass frames for the most efficiency and durability.

Pay attention to glass efficiency ratings such as the U-factor and the solar heat gain coefficient. The right windows to choose depend largely upon regional climate. If you live in an area with hot summers and mild winters, you want glass that blocks out as much solar heat gain as possible.

Low-emissivity coatings on windowpanes reduce heat conduction through the glass, which benefits you by keeping hot air inside in winter and hot air outside in summer. There are other coatings and tints available, but you should still look for the Energy Star label. Only products that have met strict requirements by the EPA qualify for this special certification.

Seal the Home’s Thermal Envelope

Air leakage through your home’s exterior is another source of energy waste. Air infiltration makes your heating and cooling system work harder to maintain climate control. In order to find all of the hidden leaks, schedule an energy audit with an HVAC company. Until you do, seal the noticeable leaks. These can usually be found in the following areas:

  • Around window frames and doors
  • Beneath baseboards
  • Around flues and chimneys

When sealing leaks in most areas, you can use caulk, weather-stripping or expandable spray foam insulation. Another method to control air leaks is to replace poorly fitting doors or other features and to use hardware with a type that creates a better seal. One example is barn door hardware. This kind of hardware can create a better air seal in some cases because the door slides into place instead of swinging open. This creates fewer opportunities for gaps between the door and the frame.

Upgrade Your Home HVAC System

If your home’s HVAC system is older than ten years, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient system that is Energy Star certified. Improvements in design make these systems far more energy-efficient than any in the past. If they are sized correctly and installed correctly, you should see lower bills and improved comfort and improved air quality.

Upgrade Insulation

Most homes have only the minimum required insulation. Older homes might even fall far short of the minimum simply because the insulation has become too wet, or it has become compressed or it has shifted.

Adding insulation to the attic will have the largest effects. It doesn’t matter which kind of insulation you use as much as it matters that it is properly installed, with no gaps, and that you use the recommended quantity for your region.

Adding insulation to exterior walls doesn’t have to be a big remodeling project. Much of the time, it can be blown into walls by a contractor.

Use a Programmable Thermostat

These thermostats make a home more energy efficient in the following ways:

  • You won’t have to remember to set the temperature lower or higher before you run out of the house each the morning, because you can program the thermostat to do it for you each day.
  • You can program different energy-saving temperature settings for special occasions, such as vacations, and you can still come home to a comfortable house.
  • Some new thermostats even allow you to check them remotely, sparing you from worrying about whether the home is getting too hot or cold while you are away.

By implementing these ideas, you have little to lose and a lot to gain in terms of comfort and savings. If it feels overwhelming or it is hard on your budget to make all of these changes at once, try to do them in steps. Each time you take even one step towards more energy efficiency, you will start saving money on energy bills.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

10 Totally Free Tips For Getting Your Home Sold Quickly

Staging your home is a critical step in getting it sold, but all the recommended updates and upgrades can get pricey. Thankfully, there are tricks you can use to make your home look bigger, better, and brighter, without spending a dime.

1. Fix up your floors

Don’t want to pay to replace or refinish your floors? No prob. Grab a brown crayon to fill in divots. A one-to-one mix of olive oil and vinegar rubbed directly on scratched areas will also help make it look new. You can also use canola if you don’t have olive, but then use a one-part vinegar, three-part oil mixture. Or, try this hack that uses walnuts to fix scratches. No, seriously.

Floors look great but don’t sound so hot? “Fix creaky wood floors with a generous dusting of baby powder,” said One Crazy House. “Work it into the cracks until the floor is no longer noisy.”

2. Make it sparkle

Presumably, you already have cleaning supplies, sponges, and paper towels in the house. Now all you need is some elbow grease to make your home look shiny and new.

When selling your home, you need to take the cleaning beyond your typical weekly run-through. Think “Spring cleaning” turned up a notch or two. Remember that potential buyers will be looking everywhere, including inside drawers and cabinets. Make sure they’re crumb-free and well organized. They may also open your refrigerator. While this can seem intrusive, you don’t want to give them a reason to walk away, so make sure to tidy up the inside, wipe up any spills, throw away rotten food, and put a nice big box of Baking Soda in there to absorb any leftover smells.

3. Let the light in

Everyone is looking for “natural light,” so show off what you’ve got by opening up those blinds and drapes. Did you just reveal a bunch of dirty windows and sills? Ewww. Grab that cleaning spray and make them shine. An old toothbrush is a great way to get gunk out of corners and in window tracks.

If your place isn’t light and bright, even with all the blinds and drapes drawn, you’ll need to depend on artificial lighting. This is no time to have lightbulbs out. Go hit that stash in your laundry room cabinet and switch out for fresh bulbs.

4. Declutter

Home stagers will tell you there is no more important step when preparing your home for sale. “If you are serious about staging your home, all clutter must go, end of story,” said Houzz. “It’s not easy, and it may even require utilizing offsite storage (or a nice relative’s garage) temporarily, but it is well worth the trouble.”

Do a walk-through with an outsider’s eye, or ask a friend or family member to help since they’ll be more objective. Anything that isn’t used regularly or is taking away from the open feel of the house can be packed away. Small appliances and anything else hanging out on countertops can be put in a cabinet if you’re not ready to stick it in a box. You want people to see the bones of the house, not your blender.

5. Depersonalize

While, you’re decluttering, keep personalization in mind. Buyers want to be able to picture themselves living in the home, and they might not be able to do so if they can’t take their eyes off your wall of taxidermy.

6. Create closet space

Even if you have the world’s largest walk-in closet in the master bedroom, you can give buyers the impression that there isn’t enough space by overfilling it. Stagers recommend taking half of your clothes and shoes out and packing them away to create some airiness. Does the idea of packing up your stuff freak you out? You’re going to have to do it when you move, anyway. This is just giving you a head start.

7. Remove the stink

Does your home greet guests with a big whiff of cat box? Potential home buyers might just turn right back around and get in the car. You also want to make sure your animals aren’t irritating those who are touring or impeding them from entering certain rooms. Don’t want to board them? Surely you have a friend or family member who’d love to watch your pets during showings, right?

8. Pull those weeds

You really can’t overestimate the importance of curb appeal today. Even if you don’t want to spring for a few bags of mulch and some colorful flowers to frame your door, there are easy and free steps you can take to give buyers a great first impression. Dispose of any visible weeds, leaves, and other unwanted stuff hanging out in the yard. Give your bushes a trim and mow the yard. If you can’t power wash your home, at least wash the outside of the exterior windows that are within eye level.

And don’t forget about the area closest to your front door. Sweep that stoop and make sure your welcome mat is actually welcoming, instead of dusty and dirty.

9. Address your furniture

Some of the most common problems in homes when it comes to furniture: 1) It’s ugly; 2) It’s old; There’s too much of it; The arrangement is uninviting. Ugly and old might be hard to overcome when you’re trying not to spend money, but the rest you can do something about.

“Sometimes when sellers are trying to make a small room seem like it’s more spacious, they have a tendency to push all of their furniture against the walls to leave a big open space in the middle. This type of arrangement may leave a lot of open space, but ultimately leaves the interior design looking unfinished — a big turn off for buyers. In this situation, it’s better to create furniture groupings. First, envision the way the space should be used,” said Freshome. “Do you have a huge flatscreen TV that requires a lot of seating? Is there a corner in your living room that would serve perfectly as a reading nook? Group the furniture in ways that would make sense for the intended use. Then, make sure that there are clean and direct pathways through the room. You want potential buyers to be able to envision themselves living in your home and one of the quickest ways to do that is by creating a cozy seating area that’s fit for conversation.”

If the problem is that you’ve created a crowded space by using too much furniture, ditch a few pieces in a friend’s garage for the time being (or, even better, donate them!) to create an intimate seating area. You can always bring those pieces back into your new home.

10. Borrow stuff

If, at the end of the day, your home still isn’t looking show-ready, maybe it’s time to raid a friend’s house. Have a loved one who has an extra couch that’s more neutral than yours or a couple of great accessories? It’s time to test their love for you.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Top 5 New Bathroom Tech to Consider

Installing bathroom tech is a great way to take your remodel or addition to the next level. Aside from adding extra comfort, bathroom tech will also improve the efficiency of your home. Here’s a look at five high-tech gadgets that will turn your bathroom into the ultra-modern — and ultra-convenient — space of your dreams.

1. High-Tech Toilet Fixtures

High-tech toilet fixtures may not sound too exciting, but they’re an important part of creating a clean and modern bathroom. Here’s a look at several high-tech fixtures and their benefits:

LED-lighted toilet seats. Seat illumination will allow you to find your toilet at night without turning on lights or walking in the dark.

Temperature-controlled seats. Temperature-controlled seats ensure your toilet is comfortable no matter the temperature inside your home.

Self-cleaning toilets. Self-cleaning toilets eliminate bacteria buildup in and on your toilet. These models also prevent unsightly mineral staining with automated cleaning.

2. Chromotherapy Showers

These showers use color-changing LCD panels to create a restorative bathing experience. This can help you wake up in the morning or relax at night. Many chromotherapy showers come with lighting presets that will help you achieve your desired effect.

3. Soaking Tubs

Smaller, more efficient soaking tubs are replacing larger Jacuzzi tubs. Soaking tubs come in unique shapes and offer air-based massage jets. You can purchase soaking tubs in stone, copper and even some man-made materials. Some also employ energy-efficient technology that will help you reduce your utility costs. This is particularly helpful if you have a large family.

4. Waterproof Televisions

Having a TV nearby can make bath time a lot more fun. Waterproof televisions are common in many renovation projects and come in a variety of price points. Some waterproof TVs also have internet connectability. This will allow you to check emails, stream your favorite shows or stay up to date with the news while taking a bath.

Waterproof Tolite

5. Refrigerated Cabinets

Refrigerated bathroom cabinets are popular in many renovations. Cooled cabinets will allow you to keep medicine and temperature-sensitive cosmetics close by without having to worry about spoiling. You can also use refrigerated cabinets to keep beverages and snacks cool. Temperature-controlled cabinets are relatively cost-friendly and much more efficient than mini-fridges.

Conclusion

Heated toilet seats, soaking tubs, chromotherapy showers and refrigerated cabinets can add value and comfort to your home. For many homeowners, that’s worth more than the additional cost.

5 Home Improvements That Pay Off

There are several improvements that offer a high return on investment (ROI) for homeowners looking to sell. Per the 2017 Cost vs. Value Report, some investments are still worthwhile, while there are others you might reconsider. Keep reading to learn about five cheap home improvements that are worth the investment.

Update Your Entry Door

A new entry door is a cost-effective improvement that will offer substantial returns during a sale. To get the most from your investment, look for a steel entry door. Steel doors have the most safety features and highest ROI of all entry door options.

Install Insulation

Adding Insulation isn’t a flashy renovation, but it will improve the value of your home. In fact, due to low installation costs, many homeowners get a 100 percent return on their investment. You’ll also be saving money while you’re in your home since you won’t have to use the heat or air conditioning quite as much.

Replace Your Garage Door

Old garage doors, even if they’re hidden from street view, don’t do much for a home’s visual appeal. They also create an ideal entry point for intruders. Updating your garage door isn’t particularly costly. In fact, most installations recoup 75 percent of the cost.

garage

Install New Siding

Replacing your siding will improve the look of your home and prevent any water- or weather-related damage. Siding updates also boast a high ROI. Many homeowners get a return of more than 80 percent on their investments.

Improve Your Kitchen

Upgrading the dated features in your kitchen is a great way to bring extra value to your home. Flooring, countertop and fixture updates provide a reasonable ROI. Adding treatments to your kitchen windows is another way to modernize the look of your home without breaking the bank.

kitchen_remodel

Always avoid over investing in your kitchen. Embarking on a $40,000 remodel could price you out of your neighborhood and hurt your chances of selling.

Conclusion

Improving your home can be a little scary. But with the right planning, you can improve the looks and functionality of your home without overspending. Smart investments also mean you’ll see a greater return when you decide to sell.

SELLING YOUR HOME THIS YEAR? 6 REASONS TO RENOVATE NOW!

Face it. Your home’s not perfect. You may keep up with general maintenance, and perhaps you’re meticulously clean. But how old is your kitchen? Do your paint colors reflect current trends? Could your living room use some updating?

When it comes to selling your home today, it’s got to be perfect, or buyers will simply move on to the next option. Doing some renovations, whether that means overhauling areas that are long overdue for a facelift or making some simple changes that freshen up the place, is typical. But if you’re thinking they can wait until you’re ready to list your home, these 6 reasons may make you rethink that plan.

1. You get to enjoy the new stuff

“A worthy update can either serve to reduce your cost of living while you remain in the home or add significant value to the home’s sale price when you decide to put it on the market,” said Scott McGillivray, a real estate investor and host of the HGTV show Income Property to US News.

But if you’re going to spend some cash on updating and renovating your place, you should at least be able to get some enjoyment out of the updates before turning the house over to someone else, right? If you’ve been waiting for 10 years for new appliances, it would be a shame to not have the opportunity to at least cook a few meals and throw a dinner party or two.

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2. They always take longer than expected

It’s a fact of renovation. If your timeline is six weeks, it’ll take 12. At least. Giving yourself plenty of time before you’re ready to list your home will help you avoid a stressful scramble at the end when you’re trying to get it on the market.

3. There may be issues you’re unaware of

Your Realtor will point out areas that need to be addressed and recommend changes to make your home more saleable. But, getting your home ready to sell might be harder than you expect if problems like mold or termites are uncovered. Getting a jump on any big issues or anything that goes beyond the cosmetic will give you the time you need to fix the problems and hold onto your sanity.

4. They don’t have to be huge

No one said you have to take your home down to the studs. Sometimes, a light touch is all that is needed. “Start by thinking small,” said Realtor.com. “Minor cosmetic upgrades go a long way in getting more buyers through the door for a quicker sale – and time on market is key to determining what you’ll net at closing.”

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5. You’re going to need them

You may not love the idea of having to do anything to – or spend any money on – your home, especially if you already have your eyes on a new one. But, most every home needs a little upgrading, updating, or, at least staging. You don’t want to have the one place in the neighborhood that won’t sell because potential homebuyers see a project house, without the project price.

6. You’ll get a return on your investment…if you renovate smart

Speaking of price…updated homes typically sell faster and for more money, if the updates have been done well and they’re the ones buyers are looking for. If you’re not sure which renovations to consider, take your cues from the Cost vs. Value Report, which tracks the “average cost for 29 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 99 U.S. markets.” It’s a great way to look at national trends but also break down what’s trending in individual areas. “How much work you’ll need depends on your home’s value, your market, and the comps in your neighborhood,” said Realtor.com.

US News also has a great list of “popular updates that are worth the money,” including adding a backsplash in the kitchen and updating bathroom vanities.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

THE NEW TECH PRODUCTS TO ADD TO YOUR HOME NOW

Every year at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES), we marvel at all the new tech, gaze at the new cars, and generally dream about an unlimited bank account to deck our houses out with all the newest gadgets. But, the reality is that some of the things we see never come to market, some look thrilling but way over promise on a functionality scale, and some are just plain head-scratching.

So, this year we took a look at CES from the viewpoint of what’s most wanted and perhaps even most practical, for today’s consumers. Here’s the stuff we saw at CES this year that can add a little something (or a whole lot) to your house.

Appliances

When it comes to appliances showcased at CES, there are typically some big wins, and then some curious other stuff. Eater called this year’s show “a Jetsons-esque carnival of futuristic electronics, homewares, and appliances,” which would be a hilarious description if it didn’t also ring true. “For every item that shows innovation or promise, there’s at least one more that appears to be the product of a failed brainstorming session where somebody suggests, “why not make this appliance connect to the internet?”

While some experts were generally unimpressed with appliances that did little to best last year’s reveals, there were a few that shined, including the Panasonic Countertop Induction Oven. “It quickly grills, bakes, re-heats and requires little or no preheating, resulting in perfectly cooked meals,” said Panasonic. The appliance was selected as one of CES’ 2017 Innovation Award Honorees and is available now for $599.95.

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Whirlpool emerged as one of the biggest winners are CES, with several exciting advancements and enhancements that people should love. They “unveiled a new Alexa skill that’ll let you control its web-connected appliances using voice commands. That includes the new smart all-in-one washer-dryer hybrid that Whirlpool also announced this week,” said cnet (more on Alexa later). “We also got a preview of Whirlpool’s new Scan-to-Cook feature, which lets you use your phone to scan the barcode on the packaging of whatever you’re cooking. From there, you can send ingredient-specific cooking instructions straight to your connected Whirlpool appliances. All of it added up to a busy show for Whirlpool, and signaled that the venerable brand is determined not to get outsmarted.”

TVs

CES is the favorite place to roll out the biggest, fanciest, thinnest, most drool-worthy TVs of the year, and the 2017 show was no different.

The Sharp 85″ 8K TV has a picture – and a size – that people went nuts for. COOL MATERIAL called it “mind-blowing,” saying that, “No picture will do it justice, unfortunately. You could get an inch from the screen and still not believe you were looking at a picture. Due to the insane crowd around it at all times, a heist would have been extremely difficult.”

Not big enough? How about the Hisense 100 Inch Laser TV, which “uses a short throw projector underneath it to achieve that maximum size” and project a clear 4K HDR picture. “The $13,000(!) package even comes with a nice pair of speakers (and subwoofer),” said Paste Magazine.

tv

LG’s objective this year was to continue to showcase their ultra-thin TVs, and this year’s version, The LG Wallpaper OLED TV, was a huge hit. “This new television from LG was by far the most impressive new piece of technology at CES this year,” said Paste. Essentially, the display is as thin as a credit card and sticks to your wall without any cords or anything. It’s like shooting a projection on your wall, except that it’s bright and beautiful like any modern OLED TV. The brains and port access to the TV are all stuffed in the large Soundbar, which sits at the bottom of your setup.”

Random cool stuff

Sometimes, the smallest stuff makes the biggest difference. Stick-N-Find is a bunch of Bluetooth-enabled buttons that you can stick to anything you fear losing – your car keys, your remote control, even your dog. You then use your app to find your missing stuff. A former Indiegogo project that raised more than 1000% of its goal, Stick-N-Find is available now.

It wasn’t the slickest thing we saw at CVS this year. In fact, cnet said it looks “like Roku mated with Fisher Price.” But AirTV Play might just be the most life-changing. From Sling’s parent company Dish, AirTV Play allows enhanced live TV streaming that just may make you cut the cord this year.

Alexa everything

Alexa was absolutely everywhere at CES, and the domination has only begun. “There was hardly a smart-home product, let alone any product, at CES this year that wasn’t advertising its compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem,” said The Wire Cutter. “Now that Amazon (as well as Apple and Google, to a lesser extent) has convinced millions of people of the usefulness of voice control in their homes, manufacturers are in a mad rush to add the feature to their own products.”

If you’re looking for a place to start integrating the smart home stuff into your world, look to the Lenovo’s Smart Assistant, “which launched its own Echo-like speaker using the Alexa natural-language processing system,” they said. “To differentiate the Smart Assistant from the original Echo, Lenovo is making its model available in three colors (gray, green, or orange); the unit comes in a budget $130 version and an upgrade $180 version that replaces the standard speaker with a Harman Kardon system for better sound.”

In addition, “First Alert is working on an Alexa version of its Onelink smart smoke alarm, though that won’t be out until late 2017 or even 2018. Even lamps are coming out with Alexa support. Dish announced that its Hopper super DVR will soon work with Alexa; so too will the ADT Pulse security platform, plus a few Whirlpool appliances that let you preheat your oven or check how much time is left on your dryer’s cycle, and a Samsung robo vacuum.”

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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.

smarthome

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

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