| Jan 25, 2017
Build a smarter home with the best Internet of Things tech and devices
Are you looking to design and build a smart home, complete with connected devices in every room? Do you know whether to go HomeKit, Brillo or SmartThings? Do you even know what that means?
Getting started when setting up a smart home can be a daunting experience. There are just so many variables – and we’re not just talking about the plethora of choices when it comes to selecting the connected smart scales for your bathroom.
But don’t worry – we’ve got your back. We’ve got a wealth of smart home guides, features and reviews on hand…
The smart home of the future may be a way off, but the systems powering the internet of things revolution are getting ever more sophisticated. All of the major players – Apple, Google, Samsung and so on – are competing for space in the ever evolving new marketplace.
There’s already a load of HomeKit connected devices (Apple’s platform) and Google’s Brillo’s platform – essentially Android for your house – was unveiled at I/O back in June 2015.
As with every other tech genre, the devices on sale are upgraded rapidly and there’s always a new, killer, bit of kit around the corner. Make sure you read our guide to the most exciting new smart home kit coming in 2016 to find out what’s coming next.
Smart home kit can also save you plenty of cash. The most compelling connected kit is that which justifies its existence by paying for itself and then cutting your costs in half.
What use is your connected smart home if you still have to get up off the sofa to get it working?
Instead, grab yourself a smartwatch and get full control of your life with a quick tap of your wrist. Whether it’s your heating, your media or your home security that you’re looking to fine tune – there will be an app for that.
IFTTT connected devices are also brilliant and there are a tonne of great IFTTT recipes already set up for syncing up your wearables with your smart kit. Alternatively, we’re also seeing the rise of the really universal remote.
Wi-Fi enabled bulbs are the easiest place to start if you’re looking to overhaul your home.
They’re easy to use, fun to show off and they double as a superb security measure while you’re away from home. What’s more, some can now even be controlled by wearables such as the Apple Watch and Pebble, and with low power LED tech, they’ll save you money over a bad old incandescent bulb.
Smart thermostats are designed to give you more control over your home heating. They will learn your habits for when you’ll really need that burst of warmth and heating your home intelligently means big cash savings.
Nest may the the darling of the smart home, but Hive – a British Gas funded upstart straight out of the UK – has big ambitions. Check out our Nest v Hive head-to-head and also see how Nest compares against Honeywell.
If your fridge isn’t connected to the web, then you’re living in the dark ages. If your cutlery isn’t Bluetooth enabled you may as well be eating your dinner with twigs.
From connected coffee pots to washing machines that know when to start a load based on you location, the kitchen has never been so cool.
The big question with smart security systems is Nest Cam v Piper NV v Canary. They are the big players in a genre that is exploding in popularity.
As well as a smart camera security system, you should also consider connecting your door locks.
Smart locks aren’t perfect: there is that rather large question mark about what happens when they crash and they are expensive. But they are ever-evolving and offer a wealth of features that your regular deadbolt simply cannot.
You don’t necessarily need to a back yard to enjoy a smart garden. The connected world has caught up with horticulture.
There are handfuls of sensors at the ready which are adept at picking up those key variables like light, temperature, moisture and soil pH conditions, and there’s some great kit for indoor and outdoors.
Smart home diary
Our editor-in-chief Paul moved into a new house recently; a real blank canvas with the opportunity for making it smart from the off. He’s done all of the boring research so you don’t have to.
For 19 weeks, Paul updated his smart home diary with helpful tips, tricks and guides about the best (and easiest) smart home setups. Take a look…
Week 1: Planning the ultimate smart home
Week 2: Getting started with home networking
Week 3: Deciphering the matrix
Week 4: Burying Ethernet cables
Week 5: Not much happened
Week 6: Things are heating up
Week 7: What smart home platform to use
Week 8: Do I really need a smart washing machine?
Week 9: Smart nursery made simple
Week 10: Lock all the doors, maybe they’ll never find us
Week 11: There’s more to connected speakers than music
Week 12: Plugging the gaps in a connected home
Week 13: Building a Nest
Week 14: Finally moving in
Week 15: Getting my house in order
Week 16: Home security made simple
Week 17: IFTTT recipes gone wrong
Week 18: Sorting out my security holes
Week 19: Final thoughs – over and out
Paying property taxes is inevitable for homeowners. The amount each homeowner pays per year varies depending on local tax rates and a property’s assessed value (or a yearly estimate of a property’s market value). If you’re unsure of how and when you must pay real estate taxes, know that you might be paying them along with your monthly mortgage payments.
Paying Taxes With a Mortgage
Lenders often roll property taxes into borrowers’ monthly mortgage bills. While private lenders who offer conventional loans are usually not required to do that, the FHA requires all of its borrowers to pay taxes along with their monthly mortgage payments.
To determine how much property tax you pay each month, lenders calculate your annual property tax burden and divide that amount by 12. Since their numbers are estimates, some lenders require their borrowers to pay extra money each month in case the property tax payments come up short. If you end up paying more property taxes than you need to, you’ll receive a refund. If you underpay your property taxes, you’ll have to make an additional payment.
When you pay property taxes along with your mortgage payment, your lender deposits your property tax payment into an escrow (or impound) account. When your property taxes are due to the county, your lender uses the funds in that escrow account to pay the taxes on your behalf.
Both you and your lender should receive a notice from your local tax authority. If you don’t, it’s best to contact your lender and your tax authority to make sure your property taxes are being paid on time.
Why Can’t I Just Pay Property Taxes Myself?
Including your property tax payments in your mortgage payments allows your lender to protect himself. If a homeowner is forced into foreclosure, his lender will likely have to pay the remaining property tax amount. That’s why failing to pay property taxes is considered an event of default, allowing your lender to foreclose on your property.
While some homeowners would rather pay property taxes themselves, rolling your tax payment into your mortgage payment allows you to avoid shelling out large amounts of money to tax collectors once or twice a year. Some lenders might even offer to lower your interest rate when you choose to pay your property taxes through an escrow account. Besides, you’ll probably only be able to pay your own property taxes if your loan-to-value ratio is low (i.e. somewhere below 80%).
What Happens When You Pay Off Your Mortgage?
Once your mortgage is paid off, your lender won’t be collecting payments from you anymore. At that point, paying property taxes becomes your responsibility.
Sometimes lenders let their borrowers start paying their taxes directly before their mortgages are paid off. This might happen if you’ve paid down a significant portion of your principal loan balance.
If you’re looking to buy a home in the near future, you may need to speak with your potential lender about paying property taxes. Most likely, your taxes will be included in your monthly mortgage payments. While this may make your payments larger, it’ll allow you to avoid paying a thousand dollars (or more) in one sitting. And with your lender’s help, you can make sure that your property tax payments are made in full and on time.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/carebott, ©iStock.com/DragonImages,
Here’s what our research team found out about how much people are spending on kitchen renovations — and on what
The kitchen is the most popular room of the home to renovate, according to Houzz research, and those who choose to remodel the heart of their home have some definite preferences. After all, the No. 1 reason they choose to renovate this area is no longer being able to stand the old kitchen — can anyone out there relate?
The 2017 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, from a research team led by Nino Sitchinava, Houzz’s principal economist, reveals that homeowners updating their kitchens prioritize changing out countertops, backsplashes and sinks. A majority of kitchen renovators are also choosing a more open feel for this room.
The study surveyed more than 2,700 Houzz users in the U.S. who own homes and are in the midst of a kitchen renovation, have recently completed one or are planning one in the next three months. Read on to learn what people are doing with these important rooms.
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)
For many people, bigger is still better—especially when it comes to their homes. Sure, that motorized monstrosity known as the Hummer is no longer in production, and McMansions have fallen out of favor in recent years as tiny homestickle our imaginations. But according to a new survey, in much of America, size still matters—and big isn’t big enough.
Point2 Homes, an online real estate marketplace, surveyed 29,000 homeowners in nine countries and found the average home size in the United States to be 1,901 square feet. That’s second largest in the world behind Australia, but 38% of the Americans surveyed said they still want a bigger house.
Maybe they’ve caught a glimpse at what homebuilders are up to down the street. The average size of a newly constructed single family home in the U.S. rose to a bigger-than-ever 2,687 square feet in 2015. That’s 54% bigger than the average new home built 37 years ago, which is the average age of an owner-occupied home in the U.S. (and more closely resembles the actual size of most people’s living quarters).
(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)
Not surprisingly, the countries with the largest homes have high incomes and lots of room to build. Australians reported the largest average home size at 2,032 square feet, and were even hungrier for space than us Americans: More than half, 55%, dream of an even bigger house.
Canadians, who live in the third-largest homes at an average of 1,792 square feet, were the only respondents who weren’t collectively longing for a bigger house, but perhaps an even smaller one. In what can only be described as a refreshingly Canadian perspective, more of our northern neighbors chose 1,000-1,500 square feet as their ideal home size than any other size range.
British respondents report living in slightly tighter quarters, in an average home of 1,590 square feet. But they aren’t afraid to dream big: A full 38% of Brits surveyed want a home twice as large as their current one.
Elsewhere in Europe — in Germany, France, and Spain — the most desired home size was between 1,000 and 1,500 square feet. And while 62% of Brazilians surveyed would like a bigger home, it’s all relative: About half said they live in homes of less than 1,000 square feet, and most would like a slightly bigger home of between 1,000 and 1,500 square feet.
Meanwhile, with the average household size slowly shrinking in the U.S. as more young adults delay marriage and kids, Americans now have more space per person—656 square feet—than anyone else. (Of course, some of us make do with much less personal living space.) That’s a lot more elbow room than British respondents reported (454 square feet) and almost twice the personal space of those in Brazil (348 square feet).
And yet, all that room is apparently still not enough. A similar 2015 survey by Trulia found that 43% of Americans wanted a bigger home than the one they currently lived in. And even among those already boasting enormous digs — homes that were 3,200 square feet or bigger — 25% said they still wanted an even bigger house.
Something about the size of a city block in Brazil, presumably.
You can see Point2 Homes’ full findings on their blog.
Quick fixes to sell your house faster.
When you’re putting your house on the market, preparation and presentation can be the keys to selling faster and for a better price. While curb appeal improvements can definitely help, interiors are always the most important selling point. “Most buyers today shop for homes online, making a home’s web appeal just as important as its curb appeal,” says Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow’s chief marketing officer. “To sell a home fast you want to attract as many potential buyers to your listing as possible. Featuring high-quality, staged listing photos and videos are a great way to boost your home’s virtual appeal and help it stand out in today’s competitive marketplace.” Home staging doesn’t have to be a costly, time-consuming process—especially if your house is already in good shape. “You want buyers to be able to easily envision themselves in your home, so it’s important to de-clutter and remove personal items that might cloud that vision,” says Kerrie Kelly of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, a Zillow Digs expert. “Neutral colors, small details, and reorganizing furniture to make your space feel roomy and inviting are all easy and affordable ways to make your home more appealing to future buyers.” The team at Zillow Digs recently surveyed interior design experts and real estate agents for their tried-and-true DIY home staging tips. Take a look at the top ideas they shared exclusively with RealSimple.com below:
Photo by William Abranowicz
A mirror not only adds some style to a space, its reflective quality can open up a room, making it brighter and seem less cramped (even if it’s tiny). “If you lack artwork, consider picking up a sizable mirror at your local home store,” Christina Salaway of Eleven Two Eleven Design says. “It will make your space feel more curated and designed.”
Replace Window Treatments
Photo by William Abranowicz
If you have old and heavy drapes, toss them for something more modern and breezy. “Simple, functional window coverings on opened windows allow a space to breathe and appear visually larger and more open,” says Kelly. Choose floor-length curtains and hang them from the ceiling instead of at the top of the window frame.
Buy Crisp, White Towels
Photo by Mark Viker/Getty Images
To stage your bathroom, go with monochromatic hues. “Put all-white towels in your bathrooms,” says Marc Thee of Marc-Michaels Interiors. “Colored towels don’t feel spa-like and they can seem dingy and add heaviness to a space. White towels feel fresh and clean.”
Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images
“Buy rugs that actually fit your rooms and your furniture,” says Salaway. For a living room rug, avoid one that’s too small; make sure at least the front legs of your couch or chairs are touching the rug. The right-sized rug in a complementary style to the room will make the space look larger and feel more “pulled together.”
Photo by Carolyn Barber/Getty Images
We know you went to great lengths to make your home your home, but now that you’re trying to sell it, keep in mind that not everyone has the same tastes. “Take out personal photographs and everyone’s clutter,” says Thee. “You want the potential buyer to be able to envision their lives inside the house.”
Photo by William Abranowicz
And while you’re tidying everything up, give your shelves some style. “Remove 25 percent of your books entirely, and then rearrange what’s left so that some books are vertical and some are stacked horizontally,” says Salaway. “Place a couple of trinkets within the bookcase to function as accents and bookends. This will add character and personality to the room while also lightening up your bookcases.”
Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images
No prospective buyer wants to walk into a house with a dirty bathroom or scuffed-up walls. Take some time to clean every room in your house, but beware of cleaning smells. “Don’t overpower homes with scented items,” says Christina Esala of Tierra Antigua Realty. “They will think you are hiding something. Instead, make a batch of chocolate chip cookies and leave on the counter for future buyers.”
(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)
As a design editor, it’s my job to stay on top of (and decode) potential trends in the industry. There are some that are low hanging fruit (for 2017, it’s clear the color green is a front-runner, plants are now “it” items, and there will be a prevalence of natural/boho materials like terra-cotta), but others kind of fly under the radar until all of a sudden, you start noticing them everywhere. You know when you learn a new word, and from that moment on, you begin to hear it in every other sentence? It’s like that, and, I predict, these seven trends will also be like that. Remember we told you first!
We’re talking tiger and cheetah prints here, not whimsical block-printed elephants and blowfish (though we certainly love that interpretation of “animal” prints). The experts at design resale website Chairish reported that sales in the glam, wild prints are up and strong, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more leopard racing onto home accessories like pillows and throws.
Part of me thinks tole (and no, it’s not a misspelling of toile as I once thought), is an extension of the “granny” movement that started brewing in past years. It’s folky, reminiscent of (better?) times, and incredibly charming. For those not interested in the minimal movement, you might want to start digging up these painted, floral lighting pieces and candelabras made of sheet metal from your local thrift store before they become too coveted.
The abstract, ethereal prints that have flooded the art market in recent years are still going strong, but stronger, crisper op art made popular in the 1960s and ’70s is set to make a comeback in 2017 and beyond, particularly in vibrant violets and neon colors.
I’ve always been a huge supporter of rugs that double as art pieces. Heck, find a rug you love, that really speaks to you, and build a room around it (it’s a great place to start a design scheme, by the way). Southwestern motifs started popping up in the second half of 2016, and I’m personally happy to report that bold floor coverings like these, as well as other punchy designs, will be even more prominent this year.
Avant-garde & Innovative Lighting
I had an inkling after last summer’s ICFF that lighting was about to go off script. There were a handful of innovative makers introducing lighting that could be customizable by its owner (and we’re not talking light intensity), and since the show, I’ve seen more and more of the same thing. Look out for LED bar lighting that you can play around with to create something entirely new (shapes, words, and beyond).
Even though reports showed that the antiques market was struggling to sell (particularly to the younger set) in recent years, I have an inkling that traditional silhouettes from centuries past will be more broadly accepted (and desired). But because antiques don’t typically come cheap, there will be a crop of manufacturers reintroducing new takes on old classics.