Todd Cogar - Baltimore, MD Real Estate, White Marsh, MD Real Estate, Dundalk, MD Real Estate


Science fiction has long reveled in the concept of autonomous homes and transportation. But it wasn’t until very recently that these dreams started to edge their way into reality. With semi-autonomous vehicles on the manufacturing line and “home assistants” like Google Home flying off the shelves, today’s average homeowner now has options.

The growing number of home automation technologies is encouraging even more innovation in a burgeoning market. But, the newness of these devices and the confusion around what they actually do can make it difficult to decide which one to bring into your home.

In today’s post, I’m going to introduce you to some of today’s most handy smart home devices to burden the workload of homeownership and give you some tips on which of the best technologies are yet to come.

Home assistants

One of the first smart home devices to hit the shelves was arguably the home assistant. They look like small Bluetooth speakers but have the ability to respond to your voice commands. So far, the front runners are the Google Home and Amazon Echo, but there are a number of other brands in the running as well.

Many of the tasks you use a smartphone for can also be easily accomplished with a home assistant. Tell it to set or turn off your alarms, look up things on Google, ask about the weather, play music, and so on. The Amazon Echo functions similarly but also integrates with other smart home systems so you can control things like your lights and coffee maker just by asking.

Integrated gadgets

Many home automation manufacturers have taken to selling kits that enable you to automate your home one outlet or device at a time. You can then control these devices with your smartphone, whether you’re at home or at the office. (Ever get worried you left the iron on? No more!)

The best part of these devices is how customizable they are and the fact that many integrate with assistants like Amazon Echo. However, some systems, like Samsung’s SmartThings, has its own central “hub” that connects your devices.

Smart home security

Security companies were one of the earliest adopters of automation. Today, many of the biggest home security companies (think ADT and Vivint) aren’t just making your home safer, they’re also making your life easier.

Common among these smart home security systems are things like cameras you can control with your smartphone from work, alerts from smoke and CO detectors, and door and window sensors to alert you if someone enters, or attempts to enter, your home.


These technologies are still evolving. That means each year newer, better devices will hit the market. However, this process of innovation will also drive down prices, which is good news for you as a homeowner and consumer. So, think about what your specific needs are and choose the products that fit them. And, if you’re not sure about any of the products on the market, don’t be afraid to hold off--the next best thing is right around the corner.


There’s a certain recipe for successful home lighting. Lighting can make a room feel smaller or larger. There should be a mix and match of about 4 layers of lighting throughout the house. These layers should be:

  • Ambient light
  • Task lighting
  • Accent lights
  • Decorative lights


These 4 layers of lighting are perfect to mix and match for a well lit room. Ambient lighting includes natural light sources like windows, pendant lighting and overhead light fixtures. Task lighting includes under-counter lighting, desk lamps and reading lamps. Accent lights include recessed lighting and adjustable lighting. These lights will highlight certain areas of a room. Decorative lighting includes chandeliers and other types of ornamental lighting. After you have your layers set up, you’ll want to use your lighting to the advantage of your home’s decor.   


Bring The Drama To A Room


You can highlight anything you wish in a room using the right kind of lighting. It can be a fireplace or a painting or a ceiling. Use a soft spotlight to highlight a painting. Uplighting adds a softer effect to the scheme of a room. You can create this effect with wall mounted sconces or rope lights. You’ll see quite a warm glow.  


Dimmers Are Your Friend


Installing dimmer switches on your light fixtures can help to save energy and will allow you to bring down rather bright ambient lighting or help you to create a different kind of lighting scheme with the flip of a switch. As a plus, a dimmer will extend the life of your light bulbs and will maximize the time you need to change lightbulbs that require a ladder to reach. 


Don’t Put All Of Your Lights In One Place


Don’t just stick one or two bright lighting fixtures in a room and say that it’s all set. You’ll get more shadows and glare than would be desirable. This is where our blend of lighting recipe comes into play. Using that 4 step-formula will help you to spread your lighting out accordingly. This way no type of lighting will be overwhelming. 


Look Outside


Remember to use the daylight. Natural daylight is the best type of lighting. It brings in fresh color and complements any landscape. You can add natural light to your home through installing skylights, widening windows or thinking about how to redress the windows that you already have.


Choose Quality Fixtures


High quality light fixtures are better all around. They’re clearer and the fixture will be more attuned to your home’s style. When choosing lighting make sure that you see if the shade covers any part of the light, is made of good materials and that the connections are sound. 


When it comes to creating a well-lit home, you need to look everywhere from the windows to the ceilings. You want to be sure that your lighting is set up to be energy efficient and practical. Consider the many different kinds of lighting that are available and plan each room to ensure that you’ll have all the light that you need.  

      

   





Searching for a new house that will meet your needs without breaking your budget can sometimes feel overwhelming! There are dozens of factors to consider and countless details to handle at any point in time.

Fortunately, there are strategies for getting it all done, maintaining your sanity, and being satisfied with the final outcome.

If you feel like you're getting off track (or can't even find the train station), here are a few tips for getting organized:

Create a priority list. If you haven't clarified and discussed with your spouse what you want and what's important to both of you, then there's a good chance you won't get it. You do not have to go it alone, though! A top-notch real estate agent can help you create a working list of priorities and preferences that you can use as a measuring stick when evaluating homes for sale. Better still, once you develop this list with your agent, he or she will have the information they need to efficiently locate properties that conform to your wish list and requirements. Your priority list will be based on a lot of criteria, including your desired lifestyle, the size of your family, and proximity to good schools, recreation, and shopping centers. If may also be important to you to live within a short drive to work, childcare facilities, or houses of worship. One of the best ways to organize your wants and needs is to get a copy of a homebuyers' "wish list" from your Realtor or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Key factors to consider when developing your list may include items like architectural style, the amount of remodeling you're prepared to do, and the size of the yard. Privacy, space between neighboring houses, and distance from busy highways are also important factors to weigh.

Choose the right real estate agent: The ideal way to find a real estate agent you'll be pleased with is to get recommendations from family, friends, and trusted business associates. If someone you know well has had a favorable experience with a specific real estate agent, chances are good that your experience would be similar. Since most real estate agents value referrals, a smart agent will strive to make a positive impression on both you and the person who referred you. It's often advisable to talk with more than one real estate agent before making your final decision, though. That way you'll be in a position to compare qualities like experience, knowledge, personality, rapport, and energy level. It's vitally important that you feel comfortable with the agent you decide to work with, and that they're responsive to your questions, concerns, and requirements.

While a "wish list" and a "must have" list are essential components of a successful real estate search, the process unfolds much more smoothly when you remain open minded, flexible, and realistic.


Home showings are valuable parts of the property buying cycle. If a homebuyer knows what to expect during a showing, this individual can get the information that he or she needs to determine whether a particular house is the right option.

Now, let's take a look at three things that buyers need to know about home showings.

1. A home showing is a commitment-free experience.

There is no obligation to submit an offer to purchase a house following a showing. Instead, a buyer can review his or her options and proceed accordingly.

In some cases, a buyer may want to set up a follow-up home showing as well. A follow-up showing enables a buyer to get a second look at a residence to determine whether it matches or exceeds his or her expectations.

It also may be beneficial to prepare lots of questions before a showing. That way, a buyer can gain deep insights into a home to help him or her decide the best course of action.

2. A home showing enables a buyer to get an up-close look at a house.

During a home showing, a buyer will walk through a house with a real estate agent. A buyer can ask a real estate agent questions about a residence, and he or she may even choose to take notes as the showing progresses.

It generally is a good idea to check out all areas of a house during a showing. Remember, a home purchase probably is one of the biggest decisions that an individual will make in his or her lifetime. With a comprehensive home showing, an individual can gain extensive insights into a residence's age, condition and more.

In addition, a buyer should not place a time limit on a showing. Depending on the size of a home, a showing may last a few minutes or a few hours. But a buyer who allocates the necessary time and resources to analyze a residence during a showing may be better equipped than others to make an informed decision about a house.

3. A home showing is one of many steps during the homebuying journey.

If a home showing is successful, a buyer may be inclined to submit an offer to purchase. Or, if a showing reveals a house fails to hit the mark with a buyer, this individual can continue his or her pursuit of the perfect residence.

Lastly, when it comes to setting up home showings, it often helps to hire a real estate agent. This housing market professional will make it simple for a buyer to navigate the property buying journey.

A real estate agent will schedule home showings for buyers and keep buyers up to date about open house events. Plus, a real estate agent will help a buyer submit an offer to purchase a home and ensure that a buyer can seamlessly acquire his or her ideal residence.

Reach out to a real estate agent today, and you can kick off the homebuying journey.


Is it better to rent or buy? There is no simple answer to the question, yet it’s something we all ask ourselves at some point in our adult lives.

When you ask yourself this question, you’re not just determining whether it’s more affordable to buy or rent. Rather, you’re answering questions about what your life will look like in the coming years--in terms of both lifestyle and location.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the issue of buying vs renting. We’ll talk about ways you can educate yourself to make the most informed decision possible. After all, whether you’re buying a home or signing a lease, this is a decision that will affect a large amount of your time and dictate at least the next year of your life.

Outside influences

Before you start thinking about mortgages and leases, it’s a good idea to get an idea of the market. Specifically, you’ll want to look at the cost of living for the area you plan on moving to. It may seem like common sense that the cost of apartments and houses will rise and fall at the same rate, but evidence points to the contrary.

Elements that are out of your control could be things like:

  • Property tax amounts

  • Inflation and cost of living changes (gas, utilities, etc.)

  • Stock market variations, which affect your investments

  • Real estate market changes

  • Income changes (job change or loss)

As you can see already, these outside influences have the potential to make a huge impact on whether it makes more sense to rent or buy.

Let’s say you decided to rent a home and put the money you would have used for a down payment into an investment fund. You have a good year and earn 5% on your investments. At the same time, the price of homes as gone down significantly in the area you hope to move.

As you can see, in this scenario it would probably make sense to pay rent for a year before buying a home.

Out-of-pocket expenses and equity

One of the biggest advantages of owning a home is that by definition, if you are making sufficient and timely mortgage payments, you are earning equity. Equity can be used later to make a down payment on a larger home, or for selling to use toward retirement funds later in life.

On the other hand, renting is an out-of-pocket cost that comes at a loss. Once you pay rent, there is no getting it back to use later on.

It may seem like buying is the obvious solution, then. However, there are also many out-of-pocket costs for owning a home. Property taxes, insurance, and interest paid to your lender are all things that you can’t recuperate.

Finding out whether it’s cheaper to buy or rent will come down to balancing those factors, and weighing them against the odds of the real estate market.




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