There was a time when opening your garage door from inside your car was the latest in personal technology. Now, an increased number of smart home appliances are making everyday life a little bit easier.
Used alone or together, smart appliances and home automation systems can reduce your energy costs. You can control smart thermostats form your phone, provide home and property surveillance, and even water your plants.
Smart sensors around the houseSmart water sensors monitor your home from the inside. They watch for slow moisture buildup that leads to mold and can also pinpoint the location of leaks. Should a leak be detected, you can get an alert so you can begin repairs before damage gets too expensive.
Cutting-edge smart locks allow you to give family access codes you set yourself. If your child is locked out of the house, you can unlock the door remotely from anywhere.
Home safety gets smarter with Wi-Fi home automationSecurity cameras are now small and Wi-Fi-enabled. You can set the system to send alerts to your phone when motion is detected near your cameras. With a few clicks, you can view a live feed of the area.
If you plan to be away, smart light bulbs allow you to set them to turn on and off at certain times. If you’re not sure if you left the lights on after you left for work, check them on your phone. Learn about these 9 Wi-Fi home automation apps that turn your phone into a remote control for your home.
Keep in mind that Wi-Fi home automation can increase the risk of tech-savvy thieves accessing your network. Using unsecured settings increases the risk with each smart device you add to your home. Always make sure you update your password for every Wi-Fi-enabled device in your home, no matter how small and benign.
Ultimately, there’s no place like a smart home. You might even be eligible for a discount on your homeowners insurance policy, depending on the type of home automation system you decide to install. Contact a Sterling Peaks Insurance today to find out if the devices you’re considering may qualify for lower rates.
You’ve been saving to buy your first home. But timing is important if you want to find the best value for your budget. Certain times of the year are often better for buyers than sellers. Prices tend to drop during these periods, and that can mean sizable savings.
It’s best to research price trends thoroughly before starting to look for a home. Find out when’s the best time to buy a house with the information below.
The best time to buy a house is usually autumn and winter
Autumn and winter are generally the best seasons to buy a house across all regions in the US. As the holiday season picks up, buyers and sellers are making plans and celebrating with family. In areas affected by the cold weather, this trend maybe more pronounced. As a result, people who are in the market to purchase homes are focused on other things, so there’s often less competition at this time of year.
Prices may also be lower in winter. In January and February, houses typically cost 8.45% less than they do in June and August, according to a study from NerdWallet. Sellers are often encouraged to wait until spring to list their homes, and those who keep their properties on the market through fall and winter may be more willing to negotiate a deal,
Conduct your own local research
It’s important to remember that real estate markets vary, so the best time to buy a home in your area may differ from overall national trends. It’s best to ask local realtors to determine if your target market fits general patterns or if there’s something unusual about it.
For example, if you live in Southern California, where temperatures remain mild for much of the year, home prices may not vary much seasonably. Or if you’re in a place where people vacation during the winter, housing prices might rise right before the busy season.
Prices may also vary by circumstance. If demand is weak because an area has been hard-hit by an economic downturn or developers have been overbuilding new houses, home prices may fall. These drops may not dovetail with the normal seasonal trends for that region.
The reverse may be true, too. A neighborhood that’s becoming more desirable can fetch higher prices.
Research pricing trends
Home buying requires work and that includes developing a sound understanding of pricing trends. Such information can increase the likelihood that you find the right house at an affordable price. Visit real estate websites to look at a variety of trend statistics to get a feel for the market in the area where you’re thinking of purchasing.
The sale-to-list-price ratio, for example, is a percentage that indicates if homes are selling at, below or above their listing prices. If the number is above 100%, homes are selling above their listing prices, and vice versa. Median list and sale prices indicate the average value of home prices in a particular area, which can help you discern if homes tend to sell within your budget range. Many sites generate these numbers monthly or even weekly, so it’s easy to keep an eye on the trends.
Once you’ve closed on your new home, you’ll need to protect yourself and your house. Learn how Sterling Peaks Insurance can help by requesting a homeowners insurance quote today.
What do baby powder, olive oil, and dryer sheets have in common? They’re common household items—that when repurposed—can help solve many everyday problems.
When it comes to cleaning and fixing things around the house, there are plenty of different uses for household items. Here are 15 home hacks you’ll wish you never lived without.
Do you re-purpose household products for dual uses? Share with us in the comments!
Household items you can re-purpose
Clean build-up in your toilet by dropping a couple tablets in for 20 minutes.
Clean silver jewelry by soaking it in a bowl of ketchup for a few minutes
Pour a half cup of salt for every quart of water down the drain to clean it.
Eliminate perspiration stains by placing 2 crushed aspirins in 100mL of warm water and soaking your clothes in the mixture for 2 hours.
Eradicate lingering smells by placing newspaper in the bins of your fridge.
6. Cooking Spray
Spray a little cooking spray on a squeaky door hinge to quiet the creaking.
Cut softer foods like cheese or cake with unflavored, non-waxed floss.
8. Coffee Filters
Clean windows and glass with coffee filters if you’re out of paper towels.
9. Baby Powder
Remove oil stains on leather by applying a coat of baby powder and allowing it to sit overnight. (Tip: test on a small area first.)
10. Olive Oil
Use olive oil to bring the shine back to stainless steel items.
Clean painted or wallpapered walls with a slice of un-crusted white bread.
12. Dryer Sheets
Loosen caked on food by placing a dryer sheet inside a dirty pan and letting it soak in warm water overnight.
13. Baking Soda
Use baking soda to remove sticker residue.
14. Tea Bags
Use tea bags as an organic fertilizer for potted house plants.
De-fog bathroom mirrors with a coat of non-gel toothpaste. Wipe it off before you get in the shower and come out with a clear view.
If you’re looking for ways to save money, learning how to reuse household items is a good place to start. These eight common items can work double-duty, stretching their usefulness and your dollar.
1. Cereal bags
When you finish your favorite breakfast cereal, keep the plastic bag and reuse it like wax paper to separate hamburger patties before freezing them or to wrap sandwiches for your lunch. These bags also are effective for keeping lettuce and other leafy vegetables crisp, and you can use them as reusable snack bags.
2. Berry boxes
Plant spring bulbs in empty berry boxes and bury them in the ground. The boxes keep unwanted animals from eating your soon-to-be-flowers, which means you won’t have to pay to have your landscaping redone frequently.
3. Plastic food containers
When it comes to reusing things, food containers are a no-brainer. Items like butter tubs and yogurt containers come in a variety of sizes and are perfect for a range of foods, from sandwiches and fruit. Some have tight enough seals to accommodate soups and liquids. You can also reuse some take-out containers.
4. Dryer sheets
Reuse dryer sheets to dust off electronics. Because dryer sheets reduce static cling, they can keep electronics free of dust longer. Plus, you can eliminate the need for dusting products. Keep your old dryer sheets in a gallon-size bag and grab them as needed.
5. Cassette cases
If you’re really looking for a “how to reuse things” challenge, dig out the old cassette tapes. Cassette cases are largely a vestige of old music formats. But if you have some around, you can turn the cases into gift card holders. Add a little construction paper and a personalized “Happy Birthday” note to dress up the case, and you’ve got a unique gift.
6. Wine corks
Repurpose your wine corks to silence cupboards. Cut a cork into small, thin pieces, and glue the pieces on the inside corners of cupboard doors to keep them from slamming shut.
7. Egg cartons
Egg cartons have a specialized purpose, but their oval-shaped compartments are also well-suited for storing even the most fragile holiday ornaments safely. For extra security, tie strings or run rubber bands around the width of the container
8. Plastic bottles
Rather than buying expensive pots and planters for a garden, use plastic beverage bottles. Set the bottle on its side, cut an opening in the middle, fill it with dirt and add a plant. Vary the size and shape of the bottles to accommodate different types of plants. You can even attach cords or chains to create hanging planters with different levels of bottles arranged horizontally.
These creative uses of household items can help you get more bang for your buck. But did you know that the things around your house can also help you clean creatively? Check out these 15 home cleaning hacks.
Airfares are rising and airport security lines are getting longer, so why not plan a hassle-free “staycation” this year? You’ll save time and money and, if you plan it right, you’ll feel more relaxed when it’s time to go back to work.
The key to the perfect staycation, experts say, is to treat it like an out-of-town vacation: Do your research ahead of time, plan your activities and count down to the big day when you start the festivities.
“A staycation requires as much research as if you were planning to go somewhere else,” says Cherie Lowe, blogger and author of Slaying the Debt Dragon. Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in just under four years. During the time, she says, they planned many staycations.
Media professional, Karen Gadawski, agrees that the best staycations should be planned ahead and scheduled as if they were out-of-town vacations. “Have things done beforehand so that during vacation you aren’t thinking about everyday chores like doing laundry,” she says.
For the budget-minded, she says, it’s much easier to find discounts and to save passes for nearby entertainment venues you‘re familiar with than to shell out for high-priced places out of town.
Here Lowe and Gadawski offer seven tips on how to plan the perfect staycation:
1. Do your research
Visit your city’s convention and visitor’s bureau website.. There you will find a blog, calendar of events and coupons for some local attractions you might not have even thought about visiting, Lowe says.
Also, check the websites of your local community center, library and government. Look for festivals, free events and concerts. This will give you some idea of when you want to take your staycation and give you some dates to put on your calendar, Lowe says.
2. Create excitement
Counting down to your vacation is important, Gadawski says. Put the dates in the family calendar and talk about how it’s two weeks and then a week before vacation time. Then start counting down the days.
Get everyone involved in planning the itinerary. If you’re looking for places to go, consider whether there are parks you haven’t visited because they are a 30 minute or an hour’s drive away. Research national parks that are within a two-hour drive from your house.
When you wake up each morning of your staycation, you should know what you plan to do that day. Whether you are travelling or staycationing, you should plan activities with your children’s ages in mind. Check out our family travel guide for tips on organizing the best vacation for every age group.
3. Look for local package deals
Many museums and minor league sports teams offer package deals that include tickets and a one-night hotel stay, Lowe says. If you find one of these packages, take advantage of spending a night in a hotel with a swimming pool and plan to visit the zoo or children’s museum in the morning.
4. Check in for one night
If you want to spend one night in a hotel with a swimming pool, look online for discount rates. If you are local, you’ll have an easier time determining which hotels are being offered on travel sites, Lowe says. You can also call the front desk and ask for their best deal. If you are willing to stay midweek, she says, you can probably get a good deal, especially if you call close to the day you want to book.
5. Escape to the movies
Look for activities that you wouldn’t normally do or be able to take advantage of if you weren’t on vacation. For instance, many movie theaters offer Tuesday or Wednesday morning free or cheap matinee showings. Lowe suggests getting to the theater early because it will fill up fast. Drive-in movies are also a fun alternative. Or allow each family member to pick a movie to rent for each night of vacation.
6. Make it special
Shaking up your normal routine is essential to a staycation. For instance, Gadawski says, play dates aren’t allowed during staycations because it’s all about family time. In the evenings she plans movie nights, game nights and even a giant indoor sleep over in the family room.
Themed food and music can also make things festive, Lowe says. Grill burgers and hotdogs and play some 1950s songs during dinner, or create a make-it-yourself taco bar in your kitchen and play Mexican music.
7. Don’t plan every minute
Everyone needs some downtime during vacation so be careful not to plan every minute of your time off, Lowe says. If you do feel like you need to have a packed agenda, consider doing a shorter staycation of two or three a days.
But if want to have a vacation where everyone can relax and sleep in each morning, Lowe adds, pace yourself. Get out of the house each day, and plan family activities each night.
Planning a staycation can save time and money, but traveling doesn’t have to break the bank. If getting out of town is a must, learn how you can find great deals and travel on a budget.
SPI Reflections Blog
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