Archives for October 2013

Home Automation Products are Worth Looking Into to Help Around the House

For the past several years home automation has been catching on.  Up to this point though, it has been too expensive and complex.  But we are reaching the time where it is becoming easier to implement and more affordable.

If you haven’t heard of many of the home automation products, it is worth looking into.  They make life easier in a lot of aspects.

ht_Nest_iPhone_jp_121001_wg

Nest

For instance, one of the most popular products recently is the thermostat called Nest.  Nest connects to the internet, allowing users to adjust temperature settings from their phone and computer, while also receiving monthly reports and updates.  But what is really interesting about Nest is that it reads your patterns, and adjusts the temperature accordingly.  It will learn when you go to sleep, and conserve energy at night, while bringing the temperature to a comfortable level before you wake up.  You just have to set your temperature normally for several weeks, and it will start taking the rest from there.

They also recently came out with a product called Nest Protect.  This is a smoke detector/carbon monoxide detector.  It will alert you when the battery is going low, so you don’t have to get the dreaded beeping alarm in the middle of the night.  It will send you alerts if it senses problems, and you can silence it with a wave if it goes off falsely.

 Smart Locks

yves-behar-august-smart-lock-designboom-a

Another interesting set of products is smart locks.  There are several of them out there, with August Smart Lock, and Goji Smart Lock being two of the big ones.  They basically allow you to unlock/lock your doors from your phone.  But the interesting thing is that they can sense your presence when you come near, and automatically unlock your door, saving you from having to find your keys or put items down if your hands are full.

One cool feature that Goji implements is the ability to take pictures of people that come to the door and send it to your phone.  This helps for security, but it also allows you to unlock the door for friends and family when you aren’t nearby.

While most of the options are pretty expensive at the time being, they should become more affordable as more competition enters the market, and people become aware of them.

Other Cool Options

belkin-wemo-xlThere are a lot of other good options for home automation.  The Belkin WeMo line of products has automation for lights and outlets.  You can set up sensors for lights to turn on when you walk into the room.  And, you can control items that are plugged in on the outlets to be controlled by a timer, phone, or schedule.

Other things you can do around the house are…..

– Set your coffee or tea maker to have a fresh brew ready when you wake up in the morning.
– Open your blinds during the day when it is hot, and close them at night.
– Feed your pets on a schedule for a predetermined amount.
– Control your garage door from your phone.
– Water your yard or garden automatically on a schedule.

If you look around at the products that are available, you will see that you can get as complex as you would like.  I think we are entering an interesting time with some great products coming out.

Step 1 of Home-Buying Process: Prepare, Budget, and Get Pre-approved by a Lender

1.1 Make sure buying a house is the right strategy

The first step to buying the home of your dreams is to first ask the right questions about why you are buying a house.  Do you plan on sticking around for several years?  Are you just buying a house because you think that is what you are supposed to do when you can afford one?  I have some great articles on buying vs renting that you can scroll through.

1.2 Find out what you can afford

Once you are sure that buying a house is the right strategy, you must look for a house that you can afford.  We don’t want you to stretch the wallet in order to make your payments.  You must look for an amount that you can maintain every month, while still being able to pay for unexpected maintenance and life fluctuations that come up.  Just google “afford monthly mortgage” and all sorts of sites with mortgage affordability calculators come up.

Just remember, it is your responsibility to budget correctly, not your bank’s.  Sometimes your bank will tell you how much you can “afford,” but only you can be sure about that.

1.3 Find out your credit score

Everyone is entitled to a free credit report at least once per year.  Just google “free credit report” and find a reputable company to get yours.  Mortgages usually require a good credit score nowadays.  A score of 720+ is deemed excellent, while a score of 620- is deemed as subprime by many lenders.  If you need to bump up your score before getting a loan, it could help you secure a better rate.

1.4 Get Pre-approved

This is one of the most important steps in the home buying process.  We almost made it a full step of its own.  Check out our article, why getting pre-approved is important to starting a house search.

In order to start this process, you must find a lender.  There are usually two types of lenders: local banks and mortgage brokers.  Our recommended first step is to try the bank that you deal with.  If you have established a good reputation with them, they will probably be more willing to work with you on getting a good pre-approved rate.  The advantage of a local bank is that they usually know the local market and can process everything in-house, which makes it a smooth process.

If you feel like your local bank is not a good choice for you, there are plenty of mortgage brokers out there who can help you out.  Basically, they assess your finances and then shop around financial institutions in order to find a loan that fits your needs.  The disadvantage to them is that they get a commission off of your mortgage, so they will sometimes shop around the institutions that give them a better commission to begin with.  If you are worried about this, just ask the broker about the various commission structures.

Also, make sure you are getting pre-approved, and not just pre-qualified.  The difference is that pre-qualification is just an estimate of what you can afford, but a pre-approval is a statement of fact.  Usually a bank puts a time period on their pre-approval, so make sure you are aware of when the pre-approval expires.

Photo Credit: “Number One” by John Ayo on Flickr.  CC Licensed.