Terrence Mullins North East Realty Group, Selling, Buying, Renting, New Construction

Your smart thermostat is designed to save you money without your having to think about it. Of course, that doesn't mean that you don't have any say over how it works and how much money you save. We'll look at tips you can use to keep your energy bills as low as possible.

How It Works

The good news is that even if you never adjusted your smart thermostat, the defaults are designed to reduce your electricity consumption at every turn. However, the more quality information you provide to the thermostat, the better off you (and the planet) will be. In addition, make sure you're allowing for some degree of trial and error in the beginning. It would be difficult for anyone to program it perfectly the first time around.

Electronic Eyes Vs. Calendar

If you have a smart thermostat with electronic eyes, it will 'know' when you're in the home and when you've left. Other systems might have you fill out a calendar so you can input everything from your work to sports practice schedules.

No matter which one you choose, the thermostat will get used to when you're gone so it can adjust the temperature and then stabilize it to your desired level ;upon arrival. This back-and-forth is not so excessive that will overtax the system, but not so subtle that you won't notice a difference in energy savings.

When you pick your ideal temperatures, remember that you're dealing with contrasts and acclimatization. Even 80° indoors will feel quite cool if it's 100° outside. A setting of 68° can also be comfortable in the winter, especially when you first enter the home from the comfort of a warm car.

Movement in the Home

Electronic eyes can tell if you're at home, but they're not so advanced to program the thermostat based on what you're doing at home. On the days when you're working out at home or cleaning up a storm, the idea is to set your thermostat so that you're comfortable during all this activity. This might work to your disadvantage during the summer but can balance out during the winter. And if you happen to have a few lazy days during the warmer months, you can safely turn up the thermostat too.

How Much Can You Really Save?

In the winter, you might not notice your savings as much (usually up to about 5% savings). This is not a knock against the smart thermostat so much as it is a nod to furnace standards of the day. They're more efficient than ever, which means that you'll see less waste either way.

The real savings tend to come in the summer months. Even if you wanted to keep your home ice-cold, you can save up to 10% on bills by raising your thermostat between 7 and 10° for eight hours a day. So if you were at 78°, the thermostat will be able to go up to 88° when you're not there and still have room to subside by the time you're back home.

Smart thermometers can pay for themselves sooner than you might think. You'll also feel more comfortable and more at ease without having to remember to change important settings manually.

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In an age where collaboration is on the rise, it’s not surprising that some are looking to find an alternative source of funding for their home or business purchase. Crowdfunding has been a successful way to fund various projects and business propositions, but it seems that some have found a way to make it work when purchasing property. The only question is, where’s the catch?

Banking Institutions & Lenders

It’s no secret that crowdfunding may cut into the banking industry’s bottom line. And yet, some people are highly successful when it comes to utilizing it to secure their properties. How do they do it? Diligence and strategy.  

Each donation by patron, if the funds are to be used immediately, is considered a gift. These gifts require letters stating that the funds don’t have to be paid back and are, indeed, a gift.

If you only have a few people donating to your crowdfunding campaign, that should be apiece of cake. However, if you have multiple donors, you might want to start checking them off one-by-one as they give until you’ve secured letters from all of those willing to send them to you.

If you run into anyone who isn’t willing to write the letter, is unresponsive, or you simply have time to wait on your purchase, you can put the funds from your crowdfunding adventure into a different account, and leave them alone. After a few months, the funds will have aged and may no longer need a letter.

The success rate is still iffy on securing funding through crowdfunding sources, however. The biggest hurdle is whether your lender will approve this unconventional method of down-payment.

The Patrons

Most crowdfunding requests usually has a story or mission attached to them. Some ask for the money to help their parents out of the rent cycle because they’re retiring, while others might be looking to open a new type of coffee shop and need a little extra to get things up and running. No matter the reason, you’re selling your story, but will folks buy it?

If you choose to go the crowdfunding route, you have to remember that the people funding you need a reason to fund you. You’ll have to give them the perfect story and reasoning or you’re going to end up flat and without funding. Some find this task incredibly daunting, while others are silver-tongued pros. Either way you slice it, crowdfunding is about marketing and storytelling.

If you decide to go the crowdfunding route, be sure to do ample research, line your ducks up and ensure that you’re ready for the journey. If it seems like it’s a little too much but you still want to find an alternative method of funding, chat with your real estate agent. There’s a plethora of options available, and we’d love to help you find the right one.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels

Sometimes getting ready to buy a home feels stressful. But it doesn't have to be when you take clear steps to get financially ready for the exciting world of homeownership. Here are a few quick items to consider before stepping into your new home.

Do You Have a Down Payment?

Depending on the type of home loan you get, having a down payment of at least 20% can save you thousands to 10's of thousands. It's more than it might appear on paper. You save on:

  • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) - This varies but is usually between .55% and 2.25% of the total loan amount.
  • Interest - That mortgage rate may seem low, and it is, but it really adds up over 30 years, so every $1000 you can knock off the loan amount can save much more than $1000 because of interest.
  • Origination and other fees - These are often a percentage of the loan amount.

You also build equity faster, so you're in a better financial situation overall.

Figure Out How Much You Can Afford

Ideally, your mortgage payment should not be more than 25-30% of your gross monthly income. If you need assistance figuring out what that may look like or how to get a loan that works for you, contact a financial specialist. You want to make sure all of your financial affairs are in order before starting the home buying process.

Check Your Credit 

You can pull all of your credit reports for free through annualcreditreport.com. Even though this isn't a dot gov site, the US federal government set this site up to provide this free access. You can verify this on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sits, which is a dot gov site.

Pulling these will allow you to resolve any discrepancies and understand how good your credit report appears to lenders. The better your credit, the better terms you may qualify for.

Look Into Financing Options

Depending on your current financial and personal situation, you may qualify for a:

  • FHA Loan - Backed by the federal government may work well for people who don't have a full 20% down payment 
  • Conventional Loan - Provides the best terms for those with exceptional credit who can put 20% down
  • VA loan - For veterans only
  • New construction home loan - Designed for people buying a new construction home
  • Builder financing - Getting your financing through the company that is building your new home.

Whether you currently own a home and want to move or are buying your first home, it's critical to take steps to secure your financial future. When you do, you can love the new home you move into, no regrets, just great times with family, friends and loved ones. 

Photo by Andrew Wilus from Pexels

When you're looking for a home builder, you might be tempted to base your decision largely on bids. While price is important, there are a few more factors to take into consideration.

Number of Homes Built

A new home builder should have plenty of projects in their credit, though they don't necessarily have to be official contracts. From Habitat for Humanity to home renovations, the idea is to look for someone who has shown a passion for solving new construction problems. Ideally, you'll be able to hire a crew that has been in the industry for decades, but this isn't always an option depending on your budget and location. Luckily, there are ways to ensure quality without having to put your dreams on delay.

Areas of Expertise

General contractors are able to handle most builds without incident. If you've chosen a standard floorplan without a lot of flourishes, you might only need to verify that the contractor is comfortable with the blueprints and doesn't foresee any major problems. However, certain builds, such as craftsman or customized homes, may require specific experience. Finally, find out the builder's policies on special requests. For instance, if you find the perfect sink in an old auction, is the crew willing to install it even though it goes against the original plans?

Energy Savings

Energy savings translate to utility bill savings. The construction industry has been somewhat notorious in the past for sticking with traditional building methods, but it's slowly come around to incorporate more environmentally friendly technology. If your builder is all about reducing energy costs, it's only going to benefit you in the end. This may mean using local materials to save on transportation energy, installing efficient appliances or getting you a great deal on some solar panels.

Inspection Policies

All homebuilders have to subject their work to official inspections at the end of the build. When you're looking for the right company, you should be taking into account their overall transparency. For example, are you able to visit the site whenever you would like? Would the builders mind if you happened to take a friend who knew a lot about construction?

Builders who don't allow this aren't necessarily trying to hide anything - they may just have liability concerns for your safety on an active construction site. This is more about how they plan to keep you in the loop. Whether it's drones, photos, or on-site inspections, you should ideally be able to follow the process from beginning to end.

Final Price

An estimate is nothing more than an educated guess. You want to find out how the final prices are determined and if certain items are subject to change. For instance, if the price of lumber takes a steep hike in a month, how will this affect you? Some builders will absolve you of those costs, but others will factor in the increases.

Good Reviews

Checking on a builder's reputation should go beyond looking at their internet presence. If you can talk to any of their past clients this can give you a better idea of the quality of their work and their customer service. If possible, ask the builder for references.

Were there any issues that came up at final inspection? Can you get your questions answered in a timely manner? How does the builder communicate roadblocks to the project? If there's bad weather, what's the protocol for protecting the workers and the build from harm? You're not likely to get this level of detail from a blurb on an independent review site.

It's always good to trust your gut instincts when it comes to home builders. First and foremost, you want to make sure you do the work now so you can avoid headaches later. New home builds can run very smoothly when you're in the right hands.

Digital assistants have become very intuitive, so much that they’re being integrated into a variety of people’s daily lives. From directions in the car to timers in the kitchen to dictation in the living room, technology, such as voice assistants, has become more reliable by the day, which leads to interesting trends in home entertainment. Let’s look at how it’s being used and why you might consider the benefits for yourself. 

Collaborations and Connections 

Podcasts, video streaming and satellite radio are just the beginning of people’s home entertainment these days, and the manufacturers of digital assistants have caught on. To streamline user experience, there are more collaborations than ever before. 

This is a dream come true for consumers who don’t want to switch their favorite services simply because a digital assistant doesn’t support them. For instance, an audio system set up in multiple rooms could be easily set up in connection with these tools, allowing people to control what is playing in which part of the house and how loud it will be. Assistants can also be paired with different displays to quickly flip on anything from streaming services to the big game. 

Put More on One System

If you want to make your digital assistant more personal, you may have to share more information with it. From your financial information to your lighting system, digital assistants allow you to put everything together.

Let’s say that your big home entertainment for the night is your favorite beverage and an audio book. You can program your assistant to dim the lights, find your place in the story and leave you to relax. If you’re having people over for a surprise party, on the other hand, you might program the lights to go wild when everyone steps out from their hiding place. 

Invite People to Share 

When everyone can be on the same network, it makes it possible for everyone to share their favorite things. Digital assistants can help you connect party guests, so they all have the chance to play a song or music video of their own. You can also have them ask questions or shout out commands to the assistant while you’re in the middle of your favorite party games. Personalization doesn’t have to end with the owner of the technology. It can easily extend to anyone in proximity and make being at home that much more entertaining. 

Changing It Up

Home entertainment can be customized for your lifestyle. You can change the commands so there’s less confusion or adapt the digital assistant’s phrasing. For instance, not everyone wants a long response if they call out for their assistant, so you can program it to respond with a quick “hmm?” The artificial intelligence keeps personalizing the interactions, so you get the most from the device. 

Trends in digital assistants are only likely to get more advanced. As new variations of the software are released, keep up with changing capabilities and consider how you can integrate them into your home entertainment.