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Smart Home Tech Ideas for 2020

So…You’ve Got Alexa (or Google Assistant or Siri). Now What?

If you’re like millions of other people out there, you recently got a new Smart Speaker like the Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod (or Google Nest Hub with the built-in display) and are getting the hang of the voice commands you can use to play your favorite tunes or videos, send messages, check the weather or news, or remind you what’s on your calendar for the day. Maybe you’ve even set up Alexa to allow you to quickly purchase some of your favorite products on Amazon. Boy…these virtual assistants can really be handy!

But, did you realize that all of these devices – combined with some other really amazing tech gadgets – can enable an assortment of automation, connectivity, and controls in your house? With the right products and know-how (or assistance from experts) you can really turn your house into a Smart Home.

Heating & Cooling Controls

More than just a “nice-to-have” option, using your Smart Speaker’s virtual assistant and connected systems to control your home’s thermostat can be a money-saver as well. On the heating/cooling side, if you’re up for an afternoon project, and depending on the age of your existing system, Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat is one that can be installed yourself and then controlled via your Google Assistant.

“Hey Google, what’s the temperature inside?”…or…”Hey Google, set the temperature to 72.” Done.

This smart thermostat can also be set up to turn your home temperatures up/down depending on your schedule – or to even sense when you are nearing home and adjust temperatures accordingly (via your mobile phone’s location settings). One caveat: the Nest Learning Thermostat works with only one “zone” systems, so it will adjust the temperature of your entire home with no individual controls to adjust different rooms to different temperatures. Check out options from Honeywell and Tado if you want to control a multi-zone system in your home.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best Smart Thermostats.

Check out this video showing how to do the Nest Learning Thermostat install:

In the Kitchen

The kitchen is often the hub for family activity where Alexa, Google and Siri get a lot of use. More and more, kitchen appliances are being enabled with Wi-Fi, allowing them, too, to be controlled by virtual assistants and other apps you can control via your smart phone. Great examples out there currently are smart kettles, coffee makers and the popular Instant Pot which all can be controlled via voice commands (which can be really handy when you want to start your coffee brewing, or your dinner cooking when you’re not actually in the kitchen.)

“Alexa, cook soup for 22 minutes on low on My Instant Pot”…or…”Alexa, COFFEE!!” It really can be as simple as that.

Learn more: Smart Kettles | Smart Coffee Makers | Instant Pot with WiFi

Lighting Control

If you’re constantly forgetting to turn lights off when you leave for work in the morning, if you’re tired of manually setting timers for your lights when you go on vacation, or if you want to really dial up some killer ambience in your home you might want to add a Smart Lighting System to your birthday wish list.

Smart Light Bulb systems from Philips, IKEA and others are easy to set up and can be controlled wirelessly from your smart phone or via virtual assistants from Amazon, Apple or Google. Most do-it-yourself Smart Lighting systems have just two main components: smart lightbulbs that can be controlled wirelessly and a “hub” device that acts as the brains to connect these bulbs to your smart speakers and other devices through your home Wi-Fi.

Want to enable a complete schedule to turn lights on/off across your home – or have different schedules and light levels for when you’re home or away? No problem. Want to use a voice command to turn off lights across your home as you’re headed to bed? Yep, you can do that too. Even setting the mood for gatherings or movie nights is possible with systems that offer variable color LED’s.

Try “Alexa, dim the lights.”…or…”Alexa, turn my kitchen lights green.”

Here’s a selection of some of the best Smart Lighting Systems.

Security Systems

Recent statistics indicate that roughly 25-30% of all homes in the U.S. have security systems. More and more, virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google can be connected into these systems to unlock all kinds of features through voice commands. Professional systems like those by ADT, when provisioned with Alexa Skills, allow voice commands that can inquire into current security status and enable certain devices.

Some examples: “Alexa, disarm ADT”…”Alexa, is the back door locked?” or “Alexa, turn on the patio light.”

More do-it-yourself systems like Ring (owned by Amazon) or Google Nest use wireless sensors, cameras and mobile apps to monitor activity at your doors or inside your house. These systems can use Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands to arm or disarm your systems as you leave or enter your house. With the Google Nest Hub Max equipped with a touch screen display, you can use voice commands like “hey Google, show front door camera” to view who or what is at your front door from wherever you might be in your home. If you’ve got a SmartTV or tablet tied into your Smart Home system, you can even have Google “show front door camera on my bedroom TV.” Pretty slick.

EXPLORE MORE:  Best Alexa Home Security Systems | Nest Secure Alarm System

Are Virtual Assistants Safe?

Listening & Watching – While the control a virtual assistant can add to your living spaces might seem convenient, is it a good idea to allow these devices to listen to every single word of conversation in your household? Maybe not. There are ways to limit your interaction with your devices. Amazon Echo and Google devices have a mute button. Press the button when you don’t want your virtual assistant to be listening. Or, keep Alexa muted at all times, and use the voice remote: press and hold the remote’s talk button, wait for the sound, then give your command. You can also make sure that Alexa makes a sound every time she is triggered to execute a command. If you’re using an Echo with a camera, you can manually turn the camera and microphone on and off if you’re concerned that the device is watching you when you don’t want it to be. These devices have an LED light that will glow red to indicate the camera and mic are disabled. Apple HomePod users can also control when Siri listens by saying “Hey Siri, stop listening.” To un-mute the device you need to go into the “Home” app and re-enable Siri.

Your Data – Be aware: all of these virtual assistants save audio recordings of your voice commands to some extent. Amazon, Google and Apple claim that this process is necessary to make sure your device is learning your voice style and understands you better. Not convinced? Use the tip above and mute your device when not in use and visit your Google, Amazon or Apple settings regularly to review and control your device privacy settings.

Common Sense – Other good practices to follow:

  • Keep your device away from windows in your home to prevent an outsider from activating your device.
  • Limit the number of skills or connected devices to only what you use.
  • Keep your device software up-to-date and use strong passwords.
  • Make sure to have conversations with your family members about smart usage of your devices.

GOOD READS:  Amazon Echo Safety | Google Home & Google Nest Security Checklist | Hear & Delete Your Alexa Conversations

Need Help?

For those who enjoy exploring smartphone apps and adding new “skills” to their virtual assistants, many of the products mentioned above can be purchased online or at Best Buy and set up yourself. But, if you would like a REAL assistant to help get things connected let us know and we can connect you with a company we trust.


JUST GETTING STARTED? TRY THESE:

If you’re really just getting started with your new “virtual assistant” here are some great starting points that lead to all kinds of great things you can do with Alexa, Google or Siri.

If you don’t yet have a Smart Speaker in your home, here’s a great article from CNET comparing some of the best Smart Speaker options out there.

Here’s a New York Times that will help you Make Your House a Smart Home.

 


 

The Kim Pease Team can help ask the right questions that will assist you in navigating your next move.

Contact us if you or someone you know might need some guidance.

Twin Cities Real Estate Market Changes for 2020

What’s Your Energy Score?

Buyers will be asking this question as they look at homes in Minneapolis this year. Starting Jan. 15th the required Minneapolis Truth-in-Sale of Housing Inspection has now added an Energy Efficiency report that will score wall and attic insulation, heating system and window efficiency. The city will not require a seller to upgrade, but the jury is still out on how this will affect buyers and negotiations.

CLICK HERE for more information about this change.

This video also does a great job of explaining some of the components of the scoring system.

No More Sneak Previews

Over the last few years, “coming soon” or “Non-MLS” listings have been making up more and more of the market. In some hyper-competitive regions the number of houses off-market were exceeding the number on the MLS. The National Association of Realtors recently voted to crack down on this. Changes in the Twin Cities area will eliminate the ability to broadly market homes that are not on the MLS. “Coming soon” will truly mean that the home will be posted on the MLS as a coming soon listing—not sold before you found out about it! Like every rule, however, there are viewpoints on both sides of the discussion. Contact us to talk through the timing and specifics of these upcoming changes.

My House Just Got Bigger

Conventional loan limits will rise to $510,400 from $484,350. Why does that matter? It will allow a buyer to come up with less money to stay within conforming loan prices. This also allows a buyer with only 5% down to buy a little bigger house.

One Thing You Can Count On: the Sun will Rise

And…so will your 2020 property taxes. Expect, on average, to see a 4.7% rise in property taxes. The good news: many of your homes have also appreciated that much if not more over the past few years.

 

 


 

The Kim Pease Team can help ask the right questions that will assist you in navigating your next move.

Contact us if you or someone you know might need some guidance.

Stay or Go?

Home Improvement Ideas Worth Your Time Whether You’re Packing Up or Staying Put.

For those out there that love ALL of the seasons of Minnesota the colder months are the perfect time for do-it-yourself or affordable interior improvement projects that can give an older home new life. BUT – for those of you that are considering a move, the following list works for you, too–particularly if you’re looking for projects that can freshen up a space as you’re prepping to put it on the market.

Lighting
Replacing an ancient light fixture with a new design is an afternoon project that can have dramatic results. A new multi-bulb chandelier can turn a dark, forgotten space into one that is bright and renewed. Make sure to add a dimmer switch for maximum ambience control.

Paint
While changing wall colors might be an obvious cold weather project, keep in mind those old bookshelves, the fireplace, and even your kitchen cabinets which might be deserving of a new coat of paint. Hiding tired wood stains and adding dramatic color can completely transform the feel of a space. Make sure you sand previously-stained woods to make sure the paint sticks!

Plumbing
Those who love to work on puzzles in the colder months might also enjoy updating your fixtures in your kitchen or bath. Switching your kitchen sink faucet to a new, retractable model (or even a no-touch model) can make your kitchen work and look better. In a bath, a new faucet fixture combined with a new mirror or paint can breath new life into an old space.

Looking for more ideas? Try THIS ARTICLE from Netflix’ Bobby Berk. It’s got some great inspiration for updates that can help convert a house into a dream home. Need help with the work? LET US KNOW – we can recommend trusted contractors who can lend a hand.

 


As the leaves fall and colder weather moves in, many experienced homeowners ask themselves that annual question “Is this Minnesota winter really for me?” We’ve had many recent conversations with people going through this decision-making process. If we move, do we sell first or buy? Should we downsize to a condo or smaller home? Should we get the heck out of here and head to warmer climate? When’s the best time to put our home on the market?

The Kim Pease Team can help ask the right questions that will assist you in navigating your next move, whether that be, to a smaller home, a condo, or a move to another state.

Contact us if you or someone you know might need some guidance.

They’re All Associated

If your kids now have kids of their own, and your home and all that comes with it (yard, maintenance – and SHOVELING) is becoming too much, it might be time to consider a move to a condo, townhome or villa, where the costs and chores of home ownership can be shared – or even ignored, altogether! While these downsized “homes” and the idea of “shared ownership” might all seem similar, there are some differences worth noting.

Condo
Typically, in a condominium, what you own is really only the “air” inside the unit and your belongings. Your home is one of many in a building that is maintained through your association fees. You share walls with your neighbors and don’t actually “own” common areas and amenities, but have access to them. Significant updates to your unit, beyond paint, might require association approval. Overall property upkeep is handled by management – so you can sell that lawnmower!

Townhome
Unlike a condo, owners of a townhome typically own both the inside and the outside of their unit. While you may share a wall with a neighbor, a townhome may allow more autonomy in how you update the structure – and you might also be responsible for some upkeep of your yard – or costs will be included in your association fees. Every owners’ association is different. Make sure you’re clear on your responsibilities.

Villa
While it might just be a more romantic name for a townhome, the term “villa” usually describes a unit in a retirement or warmer-climate vacation setting. One-level floorplans, patios – and even space for that golf cart – are common. Some villa communities specifically cater to retirees with community leisure programming and care assistance available.

Looking for more information? THIS ARTICLE does a great job of explaining the differences in these property types.

 


As the leaves fall and colder weather moves in, many experienced homeowners ask themselves that annual question “Is this Minnesota winter really for me?” We’ve had many recent conversations with people going through this decision-making process. If we move, do we sell first or buy? Should we downsize to a condo or smaller home? Should we get the heck out of here and head to warmer climate? When’s the best time to put our home on the market?

The Kim Pease Team can help ask the right questions that will assist you in navigating your next move, whether that be, to a smaller home, a condo, or a move to another state.

Contact us if you or someone you know might need some guidance.

Where Do Minnesotans Retire?

Most Stay Right Here in Minnesota

(It’s kind of a trick question.)

According to census data reviewed by Minnesota Public Radio earlier in 2019, more than 25,000 Minnesotans over the age of 50 have moved to Arizona in the past decade. 15,000 have moved to Florida. But, considering Minnesota’s fast-growing population of seniors, the vast majority of Minnesota retirees seem to stay right here in Minnesota – with Duluth being a favorite spot.

Considering a move to warmer climes, but not quite sure where to start? We’d be happy to sit down to talk through your potential move, how and when you should put your house on the market, and provide some guidance about the housing markets in other areas. We know many other realtors we trust in other parts of the country that we’d be happy to refer you to. SEND US AN EMAIL and we’ll be in touch.

Read more:

Why Arizona is a Top Choice for Ex-Minnesotans

Arizona is Tops for Snowbirds

Here’s another interesting article you might enjoy:

The Best Cities to Retire to in each State


As the leaves fall and colder weather moves in, many experienced homeowners ask themselves that annual question “Is this Minnesota winter really for me?” We’ve had many recent conversations with people going through this decision-making process. If we move, do we sell first or buy? Should we downsize to a condo or smaller home? Should we get the heck out of here and head to warmer climate? When’s the best time to put our home on the market?

The Kim Pease Team can help ask the right questions that will assist you in navigating your next move, whether that be, to a smaller home, a condo, or a move to another state.

Contact us if you or someone you know might need some guidance.

Twin Cities Real Estate Insights for 2019

Kim touches on some of the key insights in the Twin Cities real estate market as we get rolling into 2019.

If you or someone you know is considering a move and needs some guidance, email us!

What’s Your Forecast for 2019?

The 2019 housing forecast according to realtor.com is pretty interesting. Here are some key insights that stuck out to us:

OVERALL

HOME PRICES will still rise, but at a much slower rate than we’ve been accustomed to… 2.2% nationally.

HOME INVENTORY will also increase… but less than an expected 7%, it is higher bracket homes that will see the largest inventory growth (these are $1M+)

HOUSING FOR FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS will still be tight around the Twin Cities, however homebuyers will have more negotiating power, and sellers will need to make more compromise.

LISTING STRATEGICALLY for the Twin Cities marketplace will be necessary even when the coming year will sway toward a ‘sellers-market’. This is because believing that one can get their home put on for TOP price, and sell VERY quickly, will be surprising when a prompt sale doesn’t occur if it is not priced to sell.

LENDING

RATES for mortgages are expected hit 5.5% by the end of 2019

MORTGAGE MARKET – Millennials will account for 45% of mortgages, with 37% going to Gen Xers, and 17% to Baby Boomers in 2019.

BE PREPARED

Using a licensed Realtor who knows the market inside and out, will be more important than ever, if you want to move your home quickly – your home must be priced to sell.

 

Contact us if you or someone you know might need some guidance regarding the best time of year to go to market.

The Truth About Selling in the Winter

If you’re thinking homes don’t sell in the winter, think again.

 

  

Winter Buyers are Motivated.

In 2017, more homes sold in November and December than in July & August. People that are looking to buy a home during this time are motivated. They might have a pressing matter that is pushing them to want to close on a house quickly such as relocation or a major life change forcing them to move.

Less Competition & Faster Sales.

Overall, winter inventory is lower. That can mean quicker sales. In 2017, homes sold faster in November and December than in July & August.

 


Contact us if you or someone you know might need some guidance regarding the best time of year to go to market.


*Source: InfoSparks

4th Quarter Outlook

Here’s a quick snapshot look what we’re seeing in the local Twin Cities market as we get deeper into Fall.

Contact us if you or someone you know might need some guidance regarding the best time of year to go to market.