What to do with all of today’s home security, TV — and many other — technology choices

March 25, 2013 — With the supply of existing homes at or near a 10-year low in Northern Virginia, a growing number of my clients are opting to build their next or ‘dream’ home. Just one of the many decisions they need to make is how much of a home security system they want.

If you haven’t looked into them, home security systems present a mind-boggling array of options. Hint: It’s not just about “home security” any more.

Home security control panelDip your ‘toes’ into the home security arena and you’ll soon learn the companies such as ADT, Guardian and  Vintage package their services with data, home automation, “whole house” music, video monitoring, streaming video and yes, even central vacuum systems.

The very best time to wire your home for some or all of the above options is BEFORE the drywall goes up. After that, you’ll no longer have easy and clean access behind the walls to the wiring you may need wiring.

Even if you think about this before settlement, your builder may not allow changes after the final walk-through. That’s just another reason why it pays to think about these options well ahead of time and make your choices ahead of time.

What follows is a short check list to consider beyond the logical things we think of when considering home security systems, e.g. sensors on doors and windows and password-protectyed keypads. I can help connect you with a company I’ve seen walk a recent client through all of these options. Just give me a call at 703-593-9432 or email me at andyadvantage@yahoo.com.

Which Smart Mobile Phone(s) Do You Use?

Most of these systems use technologies compatible with iPhones and Android platforms, maybe less so with Windows phones. If you want the flexibility of remote controls, be sure to know which ones work up front.

Structured Wiring (Phone, Cable, Satellite, Data)

Will there be multiple computers in the new house and if so do you want to network them?

Which will you be using for your television signal: cable, satellite, Fios or a combination of them?

Do you need DVR service now, or in the future?

Will there be flat screen LCD or LED screens in the home?

Security System

Have you considered glassbreak coverage around your sliding glass doors or French doors?

Have you considered backing up your security system with motion detection?

How about monitored smoke detectors on your security system?

Will you need flood detection in the basement or 2nd floor laundry rooms? (Believe it or not, I’ve heard some horror stories about faucets left running or washing means backing up.)

Do you need additional keypads, in master bedroom for example?

Do you wish to protect the telephone line to the alarm system?

Thought about personal protection devices such as portable panic buttons, especially if you have aging parents living with you or children coming home alone after school?

Are you considering using voice over IP?

Whole House Audio and Home Theater

Do you want to distribute quality music throughout the house?

In which rooms would you like to enjoy music ?

Want access to free music services such as Pandora?

Want access to streaming movie services such as Crackle and subscription services such as Netflix?

Do you want the flexibility to listen to different music in different music at the same time?

Will you have a home theater / media room in the house?

Want to listen to local radio stations . . . in different rooms?

Think you would ever want to draw music off of a friend’s iPhone using the songs on their iTunes account? Yep, they do that.

Another Consideration

Have you considered having a central vacuum system installed?  Believe it or not, these systems can be configured along with all these other options.

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How to stage a home for sale — your 10-point checklist

September 19, 2012 — Almost daily I’m asked by clients, friends and/or neighbors about staging a home for sale. First, remember how we live in our homes is very different than living in a home staged to appeal to a wide range of buyers. So many times I see a home that sellers consider ready for the market. They watched HGTV and decided to fix up their home. I’ve seen some interesting attempts. Ha!

According to data from StagedHomes.com, staged houses sell for 7% more and in one-half the time. That is $56,000 more on an $800,000 home.

Below I share my lessons-learned from staging homes during 25+ years as a Realtor

The 10 most important things you should know about staging a home

1. Create inviting curb appeal. Walk outside your home and think: would I guy this home? Hmmmm. How’s the curb appeal? Are my yard and bushes and/or trees trimmed? Is the trim around the windows and doors fresh-looking? Now walk up to the front door / entryway; does it ‘say’ come inside? Does it have enough light during Fall and Winter early evenings?

2. Get rid of any clutter. It’s time toss what you don’t need or at least pack it away while you’re home is on the market. This might include some furnishings. Why? Because a more open home feels like a bigger home. You might consider renting a storage bay if you absolutely must keep items that may complicate the marketing of your home.

3. There’s $$$ in a fresh — neutral — coat of paint. Painting a living room a fresh neutral color helps tone down any dated finishes in the space.  These days, the definition of neutral extends way beyond beige, from warm tans and honeys to buttery yellows. As for bold wall colors, they have a way of reducing offers, so go with neutrals in large spaces. Giving adjacent rooms the same neutral color makes them appear like one big space. That said, don’t be afraid to use dark paint in a powder room, dining room or bedroom. A deep tone on the walls can make the space more intimate, dramatic and cozy.

Take a close look at this typical living room makeover (CREDIT: HGTV’s “The Stagers”) and compare it to . . . .

. . . how this same living room looked AFTER staging. (CREDIT: HGTV’s “The Stagers”)

4. Position furniture for eye-pleasing traffic flow, especially in big rooms. Reposition sofas and chairs into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in a room is obvious. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, but it will open up the room and make it seem larger

5. Transform dormant space into something useful. Think about re-purposing a room, or even one area of  large space (e.g. in the basement) into something that will add to the value of your home. Adding a comfortable armchair, a small table and/or a lamp in a stairwell nook could transform it into a cozy reading spot. How about a yoga studio somewhere?

6. More — and useful — lighting is more inviting. This is especially true from October through March when sunlight is at a premium. Some homes I’ve visited as a buyer’s agent lack enough lighting. Aim for 100 watts for each 50 square feet.  Don’t depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. Make sure you have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table and wall).

7. New ‘faces’ in the kitchen.  If you can’t afford new cabinets, consider new doors and drawer fronts. Then paint everything to match. It will help if your appliances match. Instead of replacing the entire dishwasher, you may be able to get a new front panel. Check with the manufacturer to see if replacements are available for your model. (See my previous blog post in this category on “New trends in kitchen appliances.”)

8. Finish those UNfinished repairs! Not only will something wrong or that’s not working in your home scare off potential buyers, it most certainly will cost you to make a deal work, either after a home inspection and/or at the settlement table.

9. Is it time to update your master bathroom?  Just how old is that vanity? If practical, envision a pedastal sink because it shows off square footage in small bathrooms beautifully. Plus, buyers will see how much floor space your bathroom has.

You can provide a feeling of spa along with water- cost-saving items such as modern toilets which use markedly less water than even a few years ago. (Get this: they don’t ever get ‘plugged’ either!) Consider painting you tile to help it look brand new. Doesn’t hurt to accessorize with rolled-up towels, decorative baskets and candles.

10. Show your walls’ dexterity by varying wall hangings. Placing your pictures, paintings and prints in such stereotypical spots can render them almost invisible. Art displayed creatively makes it stand out and shows off your space. So break up that line and vary the patterning and grouping.

BONUS! 11.Create serene bedrooms. Using soft colors luxurious-looking linens can make a potential homebuyer want to sit back and relax. Tip: If you don’t have the money to buy a new bed, just get the frame then buy an inexpensive air mattress and dress it up with neutral-patterned bedding.

Next trend in kitchen appliances after stainless steel? How about ice, glass or slate?

September 5, 2012 — “Stainless fatigue” is what The Wall Street Journal this week called what may be a new design phase for kitchen appliances.

If you’re planning on a kitchen makeover, which ad the privilege of working on for some of my clients moving into their next homes, you may want to heed the proclaimed end of stainless steel’s 25-year reign. That said, there does not appear to be clear successor in place.

Here is how The Wall Street Journal sums up the looming challenge to stainless steel.

How does ice, slate or glass strike you?

What began when Viking Range Corp. launched its iconic stainless-steel open-burner range in 1987, now is motivating GE Appliances, Wolf Appliance and Whirlpool to manufacture and market the next ‘big thing’ for the maturing foodie culture in the U.S.

Whirlpool, from a recent press release, wants shoppers to believe that “white is the new stainless.”

Huh?

Wolf disagrees: “Black is the new stainless steel.”

Haven’t we ‘been there and done that’?

GE is playing its cards close to the vest. While “slate” is the new moniker for its appliances, a spokesperson would only tell the Journal its refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers would have muted gray design and a “metallic matte” finish.

A common strategy may be to make appliances blend in in a tasteful way rather than stand out as trophies. Also, for more people, entertaining begins in the kitchen and increasingly never leaves it.

Victoria Matranga, an industrial design historian quoted by the Journal, asserted “there’s a movement to get people together again, in the kitchen.”

In my home, the focus of entertainment rarely leaves the kitchen except on family holiday gatherings and Super Bowl parties.

Maybe our beloved magnets will stick to the front of these new appliances, not just the single side that typically faces the counter. Early on that was communications-central in my kitchen.

FYI: LG, for one, is sticking with stainless steel.

Need a Handyman? Give Rodney Hampton a Call

August 1, 2012 — For my homes and those of my clients, Rodney Hampton is a handyman extraordinaire.

Rodney (pictured) and his team of painters, installers and all-around fixer-uppers have helped me stage homes for sale to maximize their appeal. And he’s helped clients just moving into homes to reduce their stress and get back to a normal lifestyle.

YOU can have the Andy Advantage by hiring my Handyman, Rodney Hampton; pictured here after finishing one of my many recent projects. CREDIT: The Andy Advantage

I cannot count on two hands anymore the projects he’s tackled for me and my husband over the past 15+ years. Like some folks, we procrastinate replacing or fixing things. They never seem to get done. Rodney can get it done–  fast.

  • Thought about sprucing up the laundry area with drywall, shelves and the outlets needed for the washer and dryer?
  • Need to replace the floor planks on your back deck?
  • How about getting that toilet installed that’s been giving you problems?
  • Ready to install new wood flooring?

The Answer: Call Rodney at 571-437-4113. Or email him at YourHandyMan01@yahoo.com.

Rodney is most accessible throughout Northern Virginia but can be in Montgomery County with some advance notice very easily.

Tell him Andy sent ya and you’re sure to get his 5-star treatment.

You can find him on Angie’s List (membership required for consumers). He’s been on Andy’s List (that’s mine :)) even longer!

Let it rain . . and rain, and rain some more!

April 18, 2012 — If you’re a spring planter as many of my clients are, the rain we’re finally getting this week is so long overdue it likely won’t be enough to pull us out of the severe drought conditions we’re experiencing throughout the DC metro area.

The red dots in Northern Virginia, above, and throughout most of Maryland, below, illustrate the “severe hydrolic conditions” our region is experiencing, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. CREDIT: USGS

If you’re planting, be sure to shower your flowers and bushes with plenty of water. The same for lawns you’ve fertilized. The regional outlook stretching towards the end of April calls for little or no rainfall in the short term but then near normal rainfall afterwards (let’s hope), according to the National Weather Service.

Take special care if you’re getting ready to put your home on the market. You want maximize your ‘curb appeal’ to prospects.

Temperatures for our region are expected to be near or above normal. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center’s 30-day precipitation outlook for April as well as the 90-day outlook for April through June calls for near average rainfall and above average temperatures. Keep your fingers crossed. 🙂