Are you ready to move up?

Funny thing about houses – we often outgrow them. Especially in the throes of family-building, pretty soon a house is like our kids’ shoes – it gets tighter and tighter until it’s time for a new one.

The new year promises to bring a different real estate market than we’ve grown accustomed to. Hopefully, multiple offers on homes are a thing of the past and homebuyers can slow down and take their pick from among several homes, priced attractively.

If you’re considering moving up, we think 2019, especially the early part, before the Feds hike interest rates again, will be the ideal time to sell that cramped home and set your family free in a larger space.

Naturally there is more to moving up than merely needing to. So, let’s take a look at some of the factors you’ll want to consider.

Consider the financial aspects

“Bigger,” when it comes to homes at least, generally means “more expensive.” That in and of itself shouldn’t scare you away from your hunt for more room.

The equity you’ve built up in your current home may surprise you. Consider using it to make a larger-than-20 percent down payment on the new home. This may just bring your monthly mortgage payments close to what you’re paying now.

But, as we both know, there’s more to homeownership than a house payment.

  • Larger homes cost more to heat and cool.
  • Your property taxes and homeowner insurance may be higher
  • More space comes with the cost of more money spent on home maintenance.

If it looks like a larger home may negatively impact your budget, take a look at where you can cut expenses. Put your budget on paper (or created digitally) to make it easier to scrutinize every penny you spend.

Good credit will help you afford the larger home

Depending on when you bought your current home you may find that the lending landscape has changed. Rates are still relatively low, although they aren’t expected to remain this way for long.

While lending standards tightened significantly in the wake of the housing implosion, over the past few years they’ve become more relaxed.

Credit scores, however, are still relied on when it comes to the rates offered to homebuyers.

Order your credit reports from all three major credit reporting agencies. By law, every American is entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Because mistakes are common, financial experts agree that even those of us who aren’t planning on buying on credit should check their reports annually.

Check yours for discrepancies in your name, address, date of birth and other personal information. Then, go over each account, looking for errors. ConsumerFinance.gov has a walkthrough of what to look for when checking your report.

If you find mistakes, file a dispute with the credit reporting company. Learn how to do so at USA.gov.

There’s more to financing than a credit score

Lenders use what is known as a DTI, short for debt-to-income ratio when calculating how much you can safely pay each month for a house payment.

You can determine your DTI by adding up how much you pay in debt payments every month. This includes items such as your car payment, the minimum amount due on your credit cards each month and all other recurring monthly debt payments.

Take the sum of these payments and divide it by your monthly gross income and then multiply that result by 100.

The last step expresses your DTI as a percent, which is what lenders look at, and, as a rule of thumb, it should never exceed 43 percent, although some experts say that the ideal DTI is no higher than 36 percent.

If yours does, consider ways to lower it. These include raising your income (taking on a part-time job) or paying down debt.

Learn more about the importance of your debt-to-income ratio at the U.S. government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.

Your current home

Lucky you if the home is paid off because you’ll have lots of equity to spend on the new home. It is estimated that 63 percent of U.S. homeowners have a mortgage payment, however, according to Lending Tree.

We’ve come a long way since the housing bubble burst. In fact, “homeowners gained more than $15,000 in home equity between the fourth quarter of 2016 and the fourth quarter of 2017,” according to CoreLogic, a property analytics provider.

Most economists expect 2018’s numbers to be even more stunning, but we’ll have to wait until spring for study conclusions to be published. The bottom line is that you may be pleasantly surprised by just how big of a nest egg you’re sitting on.

As we move into 2019, we’re facing a changing real estate market. Home prices have slowed their previously skyward trajectory, the tight inventory of homes for sale is easing and the year looks like it will be far kinder to buyers as we move forward.

Upsize your home before the Feds raise rates again and you’ll have made one of the wisest financial moves of your lifetime.

Speaking of which, we aren’t tax or financial experts, so consult with yours about upsizing.

Tiny kitchen? Let’s fix that cramped feeling

Our clients often tell us that it was their dinky kitchen that prompted their decision to sell their condos to buy a house. While the kitchen may not be the “hub” of a home any longer, it is the room that most Americans spend the most time in, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And, those with tiny kitchens end up spending even more time in them. From meal preparation to clean-up, everything is more challenging when there is minimal storage and work space.

We’ve scoured advice from home décor and design experts to come up with ways for you to ease that cramped feeling in your kitchen.

Declutter 

“If you’re the only one in your apartment and you wash everything by hand, you might not need to stock a few dozen glasses in your cabinets,” suggests Ayn-Monique Klahre, lifestyle editor at TheKitchn.com.

How often do you use a vase? Often enough to own a collection of them? Pare down these collections to two or three favorites and donate the rest to charity or have a garage sale.

When you rid yourself of the excess in your cupboards and on your counters, your small kitchen instantly feels less cramped.

Get tips on downsizing the clutter at apartmenttherapy.com.

 Go up

Take a tip from your gardening friends – when life throws you a small yard, go vertical. Consider installing the following to the kitchen walls:

  • Magnetic knife strips (out of the reach of little ones, of course)
  • Hooks for everything from towels to small kitchen implements
  • Hanging pot racks (think of the cupboard space you’ll free up)
  • Shelves to hold anything from your dinnerware to vase collection

“You could free up whole cupboards by hooking everything and anything that has a handle,” suggests Laura Wheat at Houzz.com.

You can even go vertical within the kitchen’s cupboards, creating even more space, according to Regina Yunghans at TheKitchn.com.

She suggests storing common kitchen items, such as cupcake and other mold-type tins, baking sheets and racks “standing up instead of lying down.”

Check out the photos on the website for ideas.

A final thought on going vertical: If you can afford new cabinetry, ditch yours if they don’t go completely to the ceiling. That’s wasted space up there that could be put to better use.

Install “drawers” in deep cabinets

Even the tiniest of kitchens has an under-the-sink cabinet and it’s typically quite deep. Which means, the back of it holds rarely-used items. Consider installing slide-out drawers, like these from Home Depot.

You’ll find this same concept for use in your pots and pan cupboard at Amazon.com.

Of course you could go even thriftier by using bins or baskets instead. These can be slid out of the cupboard to find what you need. Amazon.com offers solutions in both wire and plastic. Get ideas on how to use these containers at GoodHousekeeping.com.

If you fancy yourself an ace DIYer, check out The Family Handyman’s walkthrough of how to build your own “kitchen sink storage trays.”

Invest in new lighting

Even if you have lots of natural light in your dinky kitchen, consider adding under-cabinet lighting.

“The light will fill in the shadows under the cabinet and reduce the contrast, giving the impression of a larger kitchen,” Dave Lincon, Director of product management and business development for Sears Home Services tells BobVilla.com’s Glenda Taylor.

Under-cabinet lighting solutions range from hard-wired to battery-operated to those you plug into an outlet. For the latter, check out these at Amazon.com. You’ll also find a large selection of all varieties at Lowes.com and HomeDepot.com.

Wall colors

It may be boring, but white is the best paint color for a small kitchen, according to Ann Wilson at bhg.com. “White walls, ceilings, and backsplashes reflect light and make the perimeter of a small kitchen recede, which causes the room to appear larger,” she suggests.

She goes on to suggest that you add a splash of robin’s egg blue and cheery yellow in accessories (or even one accent wall or pantry door) to bring a bit more interest to the room.

Regardless of how tiny your kitchen is, it doesn’t have to feel cramped. Find solutions to help you feel less claustrophobic so you can enjoy the time you spend in the kitchen.

 

 

Selling your home? What to look for in a listing agent

When you want to sell your home, don’t bother asking Alexa because when we asked Google how to find a listing agent it gave us more than 6.5 million results.

Read some of the results and you’ll walk away only more confused. It seems like every real estate agent on the planet, even those who deal primarily with buyers, is an “expert” when it comes to helping homeowners sell their homes.

What they fail to let you know is that a listing agent’s primary duty is to market his or her client’s home.

So, while it’s important to feel comfortable with the agent you choose, you aren’t looking for a friendship. You are looking for an ace marketer who gets results.

We’ve learned that good listing agents share three qualities.

1. Good listing agents are exceptional communicators

The biggest complaint about real estate agents is that most are unresponsive. Calls, texts and emails go un-returned, or agents take forever to get back to their clients.

Here’s how we look at this: that period of time that your home is on the market is stressful, especially if this is the first time you’ve sold a home.

The last thing you need is to be cast adrift, with no support from the expert you hired to guide you through the process. That’s just downright wrong.

It’s too bad so many real estate agents are unable to put themselves in their clients’ shoes. So, look for an agent who does. Seek out a listing agent who responds quickly to your calls and is able to effectively communicate the sometimes-complicated aspects of the home-selling process.

2. The best real estate listing agents have abundant experience in pricing homes like yours

The homeowner has the final say in how much a home is listed for and, naturally, buyers have the final say in how much the home eventually sells for.

The listing agent, however, analyzes the market to determine a home’s current market value and makes a pricing suggestion to the homeowner.

This is a critical decision for the homeowner. Price the home too high and there will be little interest in it. Price it too low and you’ll leave money on the table.

Beware of the listing agent whose price suggestion is significantly higher than expected or higher than other agents have recommended.

It’s an old trick, performed by dishonest real estate agents, and it’s known as “buying the listing.”

What happens is that the homeowner falls for the ruse, lists the home too high and when buyers are uninterested in viewing the overpriced home, the listing agent then pesters the homeowner for price reductions.

Thankfully, this isn’t a common practice, but it does happen.

3. The best listing agent is a marketing master

Marketing masters laugh at the lazy real estate agents who employ the “list and pray” strategy. They’ll do the basics, like installing a sign at their listings, affixing a lock box to the door and, of course, taking five minutes to add a cursory listing in the Multiple Listing Service database.

Then, they’ll sit back and pray that another local agent brings in a buyer and sells the home.

Pretty pathetic, isn’t it? And, in some real estate markets, it may even work. But, why take a chance?

Marketing requires knowledge of the ideal potential buyer for your home and then laser-targeting that group. It often requires a multi-pronged approach, including a robust online plan.

It’s the most important facet of a listing agent’s job, which is why we take our marketing plan so seriously.

As you interview listing agents for the job of marketing your home, pay close attention to how they market themselves, both online and off. Ask for information on how each agent plans to market your home.

Call the agents to find out how responsive they are.

Avoid those who don’t return your calls, can’t clearly answer all your questions and those who offer amateur marketing examples.

This is an important job you’re interviewing for – take your time and hire smart.

3 Home maintenance resolutions for 2019

As most homeowners understand, owning a home isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of possession. It requires what sometimes seems like almost constant maintenance. While some of these tasks can be deferred, and often are, there are others that shouldn’t wait.

Not performing these maintenance tasks can cost you dearly. We have a fresh, new year upon us, so why not resolve, right now, to undertake these three common but often deferred ways to keep your home maintained and save money in the long run?

1. There’s a reason your HVAC system has filters

Perhaps the easiest and quickest piece of home maintenance you could ever perform is changing out the filter to your heating and air conditioning unit. However, I still hear about homeowners who don’t know about this.

The filter may not look like much, but it performs a very important function – keeping debris out of your HVAC unit.

“The primary purpose of a filter is to protect HVAC equipment, not to improve indoor air quality,” according to Joe Provey at BobVila.com.

“If your air filter is dirty and you’re experiencing AC problems, the majority of the time it always comes back to that clogged filter,” claims the experts at Cool Today in Sarasota, Florida.

They go on to explain that when the filter is dirty, the HVAC unit needs to work harder. The strain does a number on the system’s motors and, eventually, the unit may break down.

At a nationwide average cost of $5,413 to replace the system, not routinely changing its filters seems borderline nuts.

How frequently you’ll need to change the filters depends on several variables:

  • Number of pets in the home
  • Number of people in the home
  • The type of filter
  • Current indoor air quality

“For basic 1″-3″ air filters, manufacturers usually direct you to change them every 30-60 days,” according to the pros at Service Experts Heating, Air-Conditioning & Plumbing.

They go on to recommend that if anyone in the home experiences allergies or if you have a dog or cat, change the filters every 20 to 45 days.

If you’ve grown tired of the frequent trips to Home Depot to pick up new filters, consider installing a washable filter. Also known as a “permanent electrostatic filter,” it can last up to 10 years, but should be washed monthly.

You’ll find a brilliant explanation of these filters and why you should considering switching to them at Gardenologist.org.

2. Get at those ‘fridge coils

Did you know that refrigerator condenser coil problems account for more than 70 service calls per year? It’s true, according to familyhandyman.com.

Cleaning the coils is a 5-minute job so there’s really no excuse for a homeowner to have to place a condenser coil-related service call.

The experts suggest that we perform the task twice a year, especially if we have pets.

You’ll need to pull the refrigerator away from the wall because the coils are attached to the back of the appliance (sometimes along the bottom). Unplug it before doing any work on it.

Use the vacuum to remove the loose fuzz and a coil cleaning brush (familyhandyman.com recommends this one at Amazon.com) to get at the caked-on material.

They also suggest that you check the gasket around the edges of the door to ensure that stray food particles aren’t impeding the door, allowing the cold air to escape or hot air to get in.

Use warm water and a sponge to avoid damage to the gasket.

3. A quick and easy inspection of this part of your windows pays off

Those small holes on the bottom of your exterior windows have a very important purpose. Known as “weep holes,” their job is to drain water that catches in the sill, so it doesn’t build up and end up inside the home.

Like most things on your home’s exterior, they get clogged with dust, leaves and bugs. Let this “junk” accumulate for too long, and you’ll end up with the water entering the home and dripping down the walls.

Make it a point to inspect weep holes each year, preferably just before the rainy season. Spray the outside of the window with a hose and watch for it to drain from the weep hole. If it doesn’t, the water is getting stuck somewhere along the line.

Experts at TheFamilyHandyman.com recommend that you use a wire hanger to poke into the hole, then use the hose on the window again.

“If the little flapper (designed to keep out driving wind) is stuck shut, it can be removed with a putty knife and replaced.”

Newer windows may have a weep hole on the inside of the window as well. Find a handy walkthrough video of how to clean these at YouTube.com.

2 Ways to Avoid Overpaying for a Mortgage

The process of buying your first home involves a steep learning curve. From how to get started to understanding the roles of the various players in the process, it can be confusing.

Probably the most misunderstood aspect of the home buying process is the mortgage. Sadly, it’s also the most important. We see far too many real estate consumers who, in their haste to get it over with and get on with house hunting, don’t pay attention to exactly how much the loan will cost.

We don’t want this to happen to you, so let’s take a look at how to avoid overpaying for your home loan.

1: Dig deeper than the loan’s interest rate

When comparing home loans, most inexperienced homebuyers use the interest rate as a benchmark. Why not? It’s what the media focuses on and what lenders advertise.

But which interest rate are they talking about? There are two that you need to consider when shopping for a loan.

The advertised rate is typically what you’ll see first, with the APR, or annual percentage rate, located in the fine print. Because it represents the total cost of the loan, including points, fees and other loan costs, it’s the APR that you want to compare across loan offers.

Learn more about this by visiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.

What are points?

As you learn more about the mortgage process you’ll hear a lot about “points.” There are two types that you need to pay attention to: origination and discount points.

Origination points are often referred to as “origination fees” and it’s what the lender charges for its services. These are negotiable and represent yet another way to save money on your home loan.

Discount points, on the other hand, offer a way to “buy down” your interest rate. Each point is worth 1 percent of the loan amount. For example, for a $200,000 mortgage, one discount point equals $2,000.

And, each point that you purchase will lower your rate “from one-eighth to one-quarter of a percentage point,” according to Dona DeZube at interest.com.

When comparing loans, ensure that you are comparing “offers that include points to those that don’t and determine how much you’re really saving by paying thousands of extra dollars up front,” cautions DeZube.

To simplify the process, request that each lender put the loan’s points in dollars instead of percentages, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Not only does this help you compare loans, but it helps you understand the total cost.

2: Lock your Rate

Just as a loan pre-approval isn’t binding on the lender, neither is the interest rate offered. If you like the rate, lock it in. Rate locks typically last for 30 days but the costs depend on the number of days.

When comparing loans, ensure that you compare quotes with the same rate lock period.

Should you decide to lock your rate, ensure that it clearly states not only the length of the lock period, but the interest rate and number of points as well.

Your mortgage payment will likely become the largest check you write each month, so take all the time you need to ensure that you’re saving the most money possible.

Do these 7 things before moving into your new home

If there’s one thing we can guarantee during the home sale process it’s that you’ll walk away from the closing table with a sore wrist and a bad case of brain fog.

The sheer volume of papers you’ll sign is mind-boggling. The time you’ll spend sitting in the chair will numb more than your rear end.

But there is still work to be done. This is the fun part of the process though. As soon as you have the keys to your new home, get busy getting it in move-in condition.

In fact, there are some things that should be done before closing.

1. Transfer the utilities to the new address

Naturally, this is something you’ll want to do in advance of closing. We typically remind our clients to transfer utilities at least two weeks prior to closing on the new home.

And, by utilities, we mean electricity, water, gas and/or propane, sewer, trash collection, telephone land lines, security service (if the home has one), cable and internet.

Find out what day of the week the trash collectors come to the new neighborhood.

If you’ll be transferring other services to the new address, such as landscaping and pool cleaning, do those at the same time.

 

2. File a change of address with the post office

The post office needs to know where to deliver your mail and you have two ways of letting them know. You can either go to the post office and fill out a change-of-address card or use the U.S.P.S. online service.

Go online and navigate to moversguide.usps.com. Click on the blue “Get Started” button. Answer all the questions on the new page and use the “Next” buttons to navigate the rest of the process.

There is a $1 charge to change your address online, so you’ll need a credit or debit card.

 

3. Determine the quickest route to school and the best commute route to work

In all the excitement of moving into the new home, Monday will roll around before you know it.

Do you know what time to leave the home to get to school and work on time? Use the weeks before closing to familiarize yourself with the various routes you can take to each.

Make the trips during the morning commute time (not on a weekend), so that you can time your trips to the minute. This way, you can relax and know that nobody in the family will be late for school or work.

4. Change the locks on all doors leading to the exterior of the home

This task will need to wait until the home is actually yours, and you have the keys in your hand. Call a locksmith or, if you’re the DIY type, change the locks yourself.

Consider one of the new smart locks. They’re especially handy for large families and for those who have a tendency for losing keys.

Check out PC Magazine’s list of the best smart locks of 2019 at pcmag.com.

5. Need paint?

It’s a rare home that couldn’t use fresh paint on the walls and now is the best time to slap some on. If you wait, you’ll need to cover or move furniture out of each room and remove art work from the walls.

If you’ll also be replacing the flooring, you can be as messy as you want without a care as to where the paint is landing.

Speaking of new flooring, get that laid after painting and before moving in.

6. Give the home a deep clean

The previous owners of your new home were most likely told by their real estate agent that they were expected to leave the home in “broom swept” condition.

There is really no one definition of this term, but at the least, the floors should be swept and vacuumed and all personal belongings removed from the home.

No, it doesn’t always happen. But one thing you can most likely depend on is that the home won’t be deeply clean.

You’ll be so happy you took the time to do this, or hired someone to do it for you, when you move in and don’t have to lift a finger to be able to enjoy your new digs.

7. If you have pets

Parole the perimeter of the home to ensure the fencing doesn’t include gaps wide enough to allow your pet to get out. If your dog or cat will spend time in the garage, store chemicals (especially automobile anti-freeze) up high, out of their reach.

Finally, notify the microchip company of your new contact information so that if Fluffy does get loose and someone finds her, you can be notified quickly.

Your veterinarian can help you find the company contact information for the particular chip implanted in your pet.

Welcome home!

Real Estate Lingo Deciphered: What’s a “Comp?”

From Ikea product hacks to painting kitchen cabinets and refinishing countertops, Americans are absolutely hooked on the DIY craze.

There are some things, however, that only a pro should tackle and that includes determining a home’s current market value.

In fact, a National Association of Realtors’ survey of for-sale-by-owners found that determining an accurate price for their home was the homeowner’s most challenging task.

Pricing your home too high or too low are both disastrous to your pocketbook.

Real estate agents and professional appraisers pretty much use the same process to determine a home’s market value. The purpose behind the two, however, is what differs, albeit slightly.

Agents are determining market value whereas the appraiser’s sole purpose is to ensure that the lender isn’t loaning more than the home is worth.

Both will compare your home to others. These other homes are known as “comps,” short for “comparable.” Let’s take a deeper dive into how a particular home qualifies as a comp for your home.

What is “market value?”

Businessdictionary.com defines market value as “The highest estimated price that a buyer would pay and a seller would accept for an item in an open and competitive market.”

Well, that’s just swell. But how do we know what a buyer will pay?

By investigating what recent buyers have paid for similar homes

Sold homes, then, are the comps agents use when preparing a comparative market analysis. Appraisers, too, use sold homes when working on figuring out how much a home is worth.

Typically, we’ll look back no more than six months for sold homes, similar in age, style and size, within a one-mile radius of yours. Yes, there are times we need to look further back in history or extend the radius, but not often.

Now you get to find out why we say it three times

Proximity is an important factor when searching for comps. So important, in fact, that some lenders require that their appraisers search no further than one-mile in all directions if the subject home is in the suburbs and five miles in rural locations.

We, as real estate agents, have a bit more flexibility. We typically start our search for comps close to the subject property and work our way out until we have at least three comps that have sold in the past six months or so.

Then, there are additional “location, location, location” aspects to compare.

A home’s location can positively or negatively impact it’s value. Positive nearby amenities include:

  • Parks
  • Schools
  • Shopping
  • Cemeteries (A national real estate company found that homes within 100 to 200 yards of a cemetery sell for an average of $17 more per square foot than those located more than 500 yards away).
  • Access to freeways and highways

There are additional proximity amenities, some of which are specific to certain regions, such as proximity to the beach or golf course.

Negative influences include:

  • Neighborhood condition (if the neighborhood is rundown)
  • Neighbors (hoarders, sexual predators and homeowners in foreclosure)
  • Traffic, train, airport or other noise
  • Schools (homes in poor-performing school districts are worth less than those in high-performing districts)
  • Oversupply of homes for sale
  • Crime

These are just a few of the ways the location of your home impacts its value.

Comparing the condition of the home

With both the real estate agent and the appraiser, the condition of your home will carry a lot of weight when viewing the comps.

First, we’ll determine if there are any deferred maintenance issues, such as leaky plumbing, overgrown or neglected landscaping, damaged flooring, cracked tiles or window glass, among others.

Then, we’ll deduct value if comparable homes are in better condition or add value if they aren’t.

Determining how much a home will sell for in the current real estate market depends on how much buyers are willing to pay for similar homes. Those homes, as you now know, are called “comps.”

Tips for a Brilliant Bookshelf Makeover

Sure, books aren’t exactly selling like the Instapot (2018’s hottest selling product on Amazon’s Prime Day in the U.S.), but if you’re of the opinion that something isn’t worth reading unless you can hold it in your hand, read on.

Even if you consume your literature on Kindle, shelves holding books are an asset to your décor – especially if the shelves are aesthetically pleasing.

Fortunately, if they have seen better days, bookshelf makeovers are easy and inexpensive DIY projects that don’t require a lot of carpentry experience.

The first step

Any decorating project is best undertaken with a clean slate, so remove everything from the shelves. Then, dust and clean the entire unit.

If your shelves are of the particle board/plastic variety, such as those sold at Ikea, a damp cloth and some mild cleaner is all you need to clean them.

Wood units, on the other hand, require the use of a wood-safe cleaning product, such as Murphy’s Oil Soap or Bona Cabinet Cleaner (both available from Amazon.com).

Now, stand back and imagine the possibilities.

Does it need paint?

Older bookshelves that seem to have seen as many years as some of the books they hold will look youthful again with refinishing or a fresh coat of paint to the frame and shelves. Especially if the bookshelf is a castoff or bargain purchase, paint or varnish can make it look high-end.

We found a YouTube video walk-through of how to paint wood veneer and laminate surfaces, here.

Painting wood surfaces also has its challenges, but, step-by-step, this how-to video makes the process a lot easier.

What’s behind the books?

Bookshelves with closed backs offer far more creative opportunities than those that are open to the wall in the back.

Aside from painting the backboard, DIYers use everything from wallpaper to wrapping paper, fabric and even shower curtains to decorate it.

Consider lighting it up

Lighted bookshelves offer a warm glow to the entire room and there are several ways to provide the light.

Consider LED strip lighting, attached to the bottom of each shelf to illuminate the shelf below. Here’s a video walk-through to help you get this very easy project underway.

For a more casual look, try twinkle lights. Even if you decide against this idea, we recommend watching this charming YouTube walk-through purely for its entertaining nature. We’ve fallen in love with TheFilmingFangirlBOOKS.

If you’re really handy, consider adding hardwired feature lights to your bookshelf.

Time to put the books back

If you’re using the unit to store books and only books, your décor options are limited. Suggestions for arranging them include:

  • Arrange alphabetically
  • Arrange books by theme
  • Separate them by color.
  • Stack some and use the stack as a bookend.
  • Arrange hardbacks separately from soft-bound books.
  • Arrange books by size

Bookshelves can hold more than books and offer a subtle way of decorating the room. The sky is the limit when it comes to which accessories to add to your bookshelves. You’ll find ideas online at HGTV, Elle Décor and House Beautiful.

5 Tips for moving when the weather outside is frightful

Moving is bad enough, but moving in wet, muddy, sloppy weather should be illegal.

Alas, it’s not, and if you have no choice but to move during winter, do yourself a favor and hire professional movers.

If that’s not possible, pay heed to 5 of the most important tips from the pros.

1. What will you do with pets and kids?

You’ll need to work quickly during a winter-weather move and, since children and pets tend to get in the way during periods of excitement, find a place to “stash” them during the process.

Consider asking a family member to watch the kids or hire a sitter. Pets can be placed in boarding where they’ll be safe.

2. What does the weather service say?

The best way to remain updated on weather conditions is with an app on your phone.

AccuWeather offers a free weather app and also a brilliant Road Trip Planner (you’ll need your laptop for this).

Many local TV station news departments offer apps that provide local weather alerts. In Minnesota, for instance, movers can download the CBS Minnesota app, or get road condition information from the Department of Transportation.

Check their websites or search iTunes or Google Play for a region-specific app.

3. Pack the necessities first

The last thing you’ll want to do after slogging through messy weather is to have to go through all those boxes to find the essential items you’ll need right away.

Before packing anything else, fill a box with the following:

  • Old towels and rags to wipe wet floors.
  • Snow/ice removal items, such as a shovel, ice scraper and a walkway de-icer
  • A change of clothing for all family members (including dry shoes or boots)
  • Snacks
  • Food for the pets (don’t forget the bowls)
  • Several large bottles of drinking water
  • Any medications you take daily
  • Bathroom items such as a shower curtain, shampoo, soap, toilet paper
  • Valuables
  • Coffee maker and everything to go with it
  • Things to keep the kids occupied

Place the box in the trunk of your car.

4. Protect your electronics

“Electronic components can develop condensation as the temperature decreases,” according to the experts at Bekins. “This condensation can cause water damage or even short circuiting,” they caution.

Think “insulation” when considering how to protect your electronics. First, wrap each item in bubble wrap, then in a blanket. Place each item in a bubble-wrapped box and seal it tightly. Then, wrap the box in either bubble wrap or a moving blanket.

5. Use extra care when moving appliances

As soon as you move in, you’ll be tempted to get the washing machine and dryer set up, but don’t give in to the temptation.

Appliance manufacturers say that washers need to sit for at least 12 hours. This is to ensure that any traces of water that remained in them while moving hasn’t turned to ice, which could damage the appliance.

And, yes, the dryer needs to come to room temperature as well. Otherwise, the igniter and heating element may become brittle.

Sudden changes in temperature can also be lethal to your electronics, so unwrap them and allow them to sit for a while.

Is your home smarter than you? It could be

Have you ever stocked up on groceries for a week’s worth of recipes and then forgot which of them you’d intended to follow?

If you owned an LG InstaView ThinQ Refrigerator, it would’ve reminded you. This smart ‘fridge was but one of the many home tech creations on view at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Some of the others we found intriguing include: 

Tetra Dishwasher

Described as “a compact, connected dishwasher with 10-minute, half-gallon cycles,” Tetra is also downright gorgeous.

While we predict it will be popular with those with tiny kitchens, the fact that it requires no plumbing (water is poured in manually) “and can be placed and used anywhere with a standard electrical outlet,” may put it in-demand for even the owner of a full-size kitchen with a small family.

See Tetra at work at myheatworks.com.

 

Smart plumbing fixtures

We’ve used smart plumbing fixtures for years in public restrooms – toilets that flush automatically and faucets that stream water as soon as a hand is placed beneath it.

Now that same tech idea is available in our homes, only better. How many times has the cooking goo you want to get off your hands ended up on the faucet’s handle? With voice-sensing fixtures, it’s now hands-free and oh, so clean.

Check out Delta’s Wi-Fi-connected and Alexa-powered Touch2O smart faucet.

 

Brilliant home security

Deep Sentinel is revolutionizing home security by pairing “Artificial Intelligence with human intervention.” It starts by establishing a security perimeter around your home and then the smart cameras, motion sensors, extra loud siren, two-way speakers and “AI processing hub” all work together to defend it.

Rolling out this winter, Deep Sentinel’s equipment package is selling now for $299 (the early bird special, otherwise plan on spending $399) and the Monthly Surveillance Subscription is priced at $49.99. Learn more about how to purchase the system here.

 

Check the weather while you shave

The stuff of sci-fi movies just a few years ago, Alexa and Google Assistant are added to mirrors, smoke alarms, and more.

Bathroom and kitchen product giant Kohler Co., introduced the Verdera Voice-Lighted Mirror, with Alexa built in. Use your voice to control the lighting, check the traffic while you shave or apply your makeup in the morning without putting up with the clutter of a TV or radio on the bathroom counter.

The next Consumer Electronics Show happens in January so we’ll keep you posted on what’s new and exciting in smart home technology.