Geri Farrelly

2018 Real Estate Year in Review

Happy New Year! Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019.

Many thanks to each of the community organizations and businesses that contribute to the town on various levels. These organizations contribute to making the Town of North Reading a very welcoming community.  As a life-long resident of North Reading, I have seen our small town grow substantially over the years.  I was fearful at times that it may lose its small town feel and most importantly, its sense of community.  I am happy to report that this has not occurred at all.  The most important aspects of community and caring for all residents, has continued to grow as the town has grown.

Where does North Reading stand regarding the Real Estate market? Well, this past year was a very complex year for Realtors, buyers and sellers. When you compare the Inventory from 2017 to 2018, it has shown a significant decrease in properties that were for sale across town and across all categories.

Here is a look at the North Reading 2018 housing market:

Single Family Homes:

In 2018 there were only 103 total sales in North Reading as compared to 177 in 2017.  The average number of days on the market was 39.62 and the average sale price was $621,800.  This represented a year over year increase of $26,682.  The decrease in available inventory increased the demand among willing and able buyers.  This resulted in an increase of final sale prices.  During the months of March through August we experienced multiple bidding wars on available properties. There was a dip in buyer activity during the weeks of September and early October, but we saw a significant up-tick by mid-October.  This continued right up until the week before Christmas.  We had 15 home closings during the month of December and saw 14 properties receive accepted offers and go under agreement during the final month of the year. There is a definite change occurring in our housing market.  The months during the spring and summer have traditionally been perceived as the prime “Selling Season”.  However, at one point this fall, we had more homes on the market than we did during the spring and summer months. What is the reason for this change? There are multiple reasons for this occurrence.  The primary reason this past year was that the federal government had announced rate hikes.  Several sellers saw what was happening in the earlier market and wanted to sell quickly in order to capitalize on the increased sale prices.

Condominiums:

In 2018 there were 37 total sales in North reading as compared to 53 in 2017.  The average number of days on the market in 2018 was 34.03 as compared to 44.31 in 2017. The average sale price in 2018 was $333,683, which represent an increase of $2,312. The price increase was not that significant given the decrease in inventory. I believe this is partially due to the new “55 Plus” development being built by Pulte Homebuilders on Lowell Street.  These garden style condominiums are being priced at levels which will allow North Reading residents, both past and present, to remain in town or to return to town in order to be closer to family.  I applaud Pulte for having this vision.  This has helped many seniors who otherwise may not be able to afford to stay in town.  

What Type of Market are we in?

 This is also a difficult question to answer due to many contributing factors.  Some properties received multiple offers in short order, which in turn created a bidding war.  However, other properties languished on the market and needed price adjustments before receiving offers.  Pricing your home correctly from the outset is a key factor in a successful and timely transaction.

Buyers today are extremely savvy and take full advantage of the many online resources available to them.  The old saying of “location, location, location” still holds true to this day.  However, a clear education and understanding of the Real Estate market is truly what is needed.  Real Estate is local, and it is not just local to a town, but to its specific neighborhoods.  I forecast that the housing market will continue to be strong and robust in 2019.  I do not foresee the frenzied market and crazy price increases we saw this past year.  I see more of a steady increase as supply continues to be lean and demand continues to be strong. The federal government stated that it will be some time before we see another hike in mortgage rates, which is great news for both buyers and sellers.

As you can see from the numbers, Real Estate continues to be a very wise investment and North Reading continues to be a very desirable community. I attribute this to our award-winning school system and the zoning bylaws that are in place, there continues to be a distinct line between residential and commercial bylaws.   The town’s close proximity to Boston and overall sense of community will always continue to appeal to buyers.

If you are considering a Real Estate transaction or if you have any Real Estate questions, please feel free to give us a call 978-664-3700. I have been a full time Realtor for the past 15 years and have been the most successful Realtor in North Reading for the past 7 years. The Realtors in my office are all North Reading residents and are involved in our community on a number of different levels.   We study the North Reading and surrounding markets daily and keep ourselves up to date with the changes occurring in the market on an ongoing basis. This has allowed us to sell our listings at 98% of original list price and receive multiple offers on 90% of our listings.

Once again, best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019.

8 Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

8 Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

The holidays are a happy time for celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers. Unfortunately, this time of year can also be turned sour by a wide variety of clever frauds, unauthorized debit and credit card transactions, and bogus person-to-person scams. By the end of 2015, individuals, retailers, charitable donors, and companies were victimized to the tune of $1.5 billion… and that number is expected to continue to increase.

 

Just as you protect your home with an alarm system, you should set up defenses for your credit and identity. During the holiday season, fraudulent activity spikes, but here’s how to protect yourself from the eight most common scams.

 

Big Data Breeds Data Breaches

 

Big data during the holidays is great for marketers; it's a bonanza of consumer information to use to lure shoppers to Black Friday deals and the like. However, while companies wrangle in the chaos of holiday orders, scammers search for weaknesses in a company's cyber-security. According to a top executive at one of the leading credit bureaus, “Data breaches are inevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft… especially during the holidays.”

 

The best way to reduce your risk of data breaches is use cash for all your purchases. According to a survey by TransUnion, however, only 20 percent of shoppers plan to pay with cash. If you're part of the 80 percent using plastic, use a credit card instead of a debit card. You have more purchase protection using a credit card than a debit card if a data breach occurs or fraud happens.

 

Other protections from data breaches include:

 

  • Using a low-limit credit card for online purchases so you can detect fraudulent activity.
  • Utilizing services like PayPal to lower the risk of your card information being lost at the retailer.

 

Package Theft

 

E-commerce is great for holiday shoppers… but it's also great for thieves. Last year, Insurancequotes reported that 23 million people had packages stolen at their front door!

 

To prevent this from happening to you, have your packages delivered to your office or delivered to a pick-up area such as a UPS store or Amazon Locker.  You can also set up tracking notifications so that you know when to expect delivery.

 

And while you’re waiting for your packages, be on the lookout for this scam: a note on the front door saying you have a package waiting for pickup. The note asks for a call, often to a pricey number that leaves you on hold for a long period while they collect premium phone rates, or it leads to a person asking for details on your personal information to “verify your identity.” If the note isn’t from a shipper you recognize, or if the Googled number isn’t found, don’t get involved.

 

 

Online Shopping Scams

 

The big brother of package thievery is the online shopping scam. Phony online stores lure shoppers in through searches and online ads, enticing you with low-priced, high-quality items. These “bargains” cost you not only money, but also hours of time trying to fight the fraudulent transaction. To put salt in the wound, once these websites nab your personal information, they often also infect your computer with malware that compromises your login to your online bank.

 

To avoid the pitfalls of the fake online merchant, only purchase from retail names you know and trust. You could also Google the site and look for reviews. Yelp is a legitimate site for reviews as is the Better Business Bureau. Before you make a purchase online, double-check that “https” appears in the URL, which signifies that the site has passed stringent security compliance standards.

 

Poisonous Holiday E-Cards

 

E-cards are popular during the holidays because they’re a free, fun, and easy way to catch up with friends and family members. But beware because it's just as easy for scammers to use fake e-cards to steal your personal information. A lot of fake e-cards you may get are from your hacked address book or the hacked address book of someone you know. At first glance, the card may look legitimate, but once you open it, you've been phished.

 

The only way to avoid this from happening is paying attention to detail. The number one tell of a fake E-card is any kind of misspelling. The URL will have a subtle misspelled word or your friend's name is misspelled. Usually the misspelled word will contain a number: T1msmith@comcast.net for instance.

 

Fake Apps

 

ConsumerAffairs is reporting a huge spike in fake apps. Scammers are using fake retail and product apps found in Apple's App Store to steal unsuspecting consumers' financial information. Many of these thieves rip off company or brand logos to make the fake app look real. So before you get that convenient retail or product app, make sure it's legit.

 

Just as with fake e-cards, fake apps will seem normal until you start looking at the details. Before you download that convenient retail or product app, make sure you check for the following:

 

  • A nonsensical description
  • No reviews
  • No history of previous versions

 

 

Gift Card Scammers

 

Scam artists skim or copy the codes on the back of gift cards before they're bought. After the card has been activated, the scammers drain the card's funds.

 

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of compromised gift cards, buy gift cards displayed behind store counters, make sure preloaded cards are still loaded, and make sure the protective scratch-off strip is flawless.

 

Malicious Charities

 

During the holiday season we all feel an extra sense of giving. Grifters and thieves play on this sensibility by creating false charities and hitting you up on Twitter, Instagram, and in your e-mail inbox.

 

There are online resources to help you verify the legitimacy of charities. The website Charity Navigator is a non-profit organization that rates over 8,000 U.S-based charities operating throughout the world. Another way to get free reviews and evaluations on national charities is through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

 

Corrupted Wi-Fi

 

You'll probably hit the mall this holiday for some in-person price checking, and you'll probably have your smartphone, laptop, and/or your iPad with you. Please be careful because skimmers and scammers love to manipulate Wi-Fi signals in places like malls and coffee shops to gather your financial information. These people create Wi-Fi signals that mimic the signal you use, then hack your info when you connect to it.

 

To protect yourself from Wi-Fi manipulators, just don't make online purchases with your credit or debit card when you're in a public space.

 

Who Should You Turn To?

 

If you catch the trouble soon enough, credit or identity fraud can be an inconvenience. If you don’t, however, one instance can have long-term impacts. If, for example, someone bought an appliance using your name while you were trying to refinance your mortgage, then you might not get approved for the loan!

 

If you’re curious to know if you’ve been affected, or if you know your credit is in disrepair and need help fixing it, please let us know so we can refer you to our recommended professionals.

 

 

 

“How's the Market North of Boston?”

While no one can predict the future with certainty, most experts expect to see modest growth in the U.S. housing market for the remainder of this year and next. And Middlesex county North of Boston expects to mirror that national growth.   Inventory will remain tight, mortgage rates will continue to creep up, and affordability will remain a major issue as is the same in many parts of the country.

So what does that mean for home buyers and sellers? To answer that question, we take a closer look at some of the top indicators.

 

 

CONTINUED GROWTH IN HOUSING MARKET

 

There’s good news for homebuyers! Prices have begun to stabilize after the period of rapid appreciation we saw this summer. Nationwide, home sales experienced a slight decline of 1.6 percent in the second quarter, primarily due to higher mortgage rates and housing prices combined with limited inventory. And here in the North of Boston market, there were 3% percent fewer homes on the market and slightly fewer homes sold in June than a year earlier, according to our MLS information. This continues a trend in which home sales were flat or down in 11 of the last 12 months.

 

However, buyers who have been waiting on the sidelines in anticipation of a big price drop may be disappointed. Demand remains strong across the sector and prices continue to rise. The Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index reported a 6.2 percent annual gain in June, a healthy but sustainable rate of appreciation.1

 

In its latest Outlook Report, Freddie Mac forecasts continued growth in the housing market due to a strong economy and low unemployment rate, which dropped to 3.9 percent in July.

 

“The housing market hit some speed bumps this summer, with many prospective homebuyers slowed by not enough moderately-priced homes for sale and higher home prices and mortgage rates,” according to Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac. “The good news is, the economy and labor market are very healthy right now, and mortgage rates, after surging earlier this year, have stabilized in recent months. These factors should continue to create solid buyer demand, and ultimately an uptick in sales, in most parts of the country in the months ahead.”3

 

 

INVENTORY TO REMAIN TIGHT, NEW CONSTRUCTION MAY HELP

 

Experts predict that demand for housing will continue to outpace available supply, especially in the entry-level price range.

 

“Today, even as mortgage rates begin to increase and home sales decline in some markets, the most significant challenges facing the housing market stem from insufficient inventory accompanying unsustainable home-price increase,” said National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a recent release.

 

"The answer is to encourage builders to increase supply, and there is a good probability for solid home sales growth once the supply issue is addressed,” said Yun. Additional inventory will also help contain rapid home price growth and open up the market to prospective homebuyers who are consequently—and increasingly—being priced out. In the end, slower price growth is healthier price growth."4

 

With so much demand, why aren’t more builders bringing inventory to the market? According to the National Association of Home Builders, a crackdown on immigration and tariffs on imported lumber have made home construction more difficult and expensive. Those factors—combined with the rising cost of land and increased zoning requirements—have put a damper on the industry overall.5

 

Still, there’s evidence that a modest rise in the rate of new building projects may be on the way. Freddie Mac predicts new housing construction will increase slightly after a stall last quarter.2 And a recent report by Freedonia Focus Reports forecasts an annual increase in housing starts of 2.4 percent through 2022, led by an uptick in single-family homes.6 The boost in inventory should help drive sales growth and relieve some of the pent-up demand in tight markets.

 

While the current lack of inventory is generally preferred by sellers because it means less competition, a combination of high prices and rising interest rates has narrowed the pool of potential buyers who can afford to enter the market. Sellers should seek out real estate agents who utilize technologically-advanced marketing tactics to reach qualified buyers in their area. 

 

 

AFFORDABILITY REACHES LOWEST LEVEL IN A DECADE

 

According to a recent report by Morgan Stanley, Americans are paying the most in monthly mortgage payments relative to their incomes since 2008.7 And prices aren’t expected to come down any time soon.

 

"We believe that the current supply and demand environment will continue to push home prices higher, just at a decelerating pace," said John Egan, Morgan Stanley’s Co-Head of U.S. Housing Strategy.

 

Fortunately, economists aren’t concerned about affordability levels triggering another housing crisis, as lending standards are much higher today than they were during the run-up before the recession. According to credit reporting agency TransUnion, the share of homeowners who made mortgage payments more than 60-days past due fell in the second quarter to 1.7 percent, the lowest level since the market crash.7

 

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun agreed with this assessment in a recent statement. “Over the past 10 years, prudent policy reforms and consumer protections have strengthened lending standards and eliminated loose credit, as evidenced by the higher than normal credit scores of those who are able to obtain a mortgage and near record-low defaults and foreclosures, which contributed to the last recession.”4

 

 

MORTGAGE RATES EXPECTED TO CONTINUE RISING

 

The Federal Reserve has taken measures to help keep the housing market—and the overall economy—from overheating. It has raised interest rates twice this year so far, causing mortgage rates to surge in the first half of the year.

 

Economists predict that the rise in mortgage rates will continue at a more gradual rate through this year and next. The U.S. weekly average mortgage rate rose from 3.99 percent in the first week of January to as high as 4.66 percent in May. Freddy Mac forecasts an average rate of 4.6 percent for 2018 and 5.1 percent in 2019.2

 

The good news is, mortgage rates still remain near historic lows and a whopping 14 points below the recorded high of 18.63 percent in the early 1980s.8 Buyers who have been on the fence may want to act soon to lock in an affordable interest rate ... before rates climb higher.

 

"Some consumers may be thinking that because mortgage rates are higher than they were a year ago, maybe I should just wait until rates fall down again," said NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a recent speech. "Well, they will be waiting forever."9

 

 

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN FOR ME?

 

If you’ve been waiting to buy a home, you may want to act now. A shortage of available homes on the market means prices are likely to keep going up. And a lack of affordable rental inventory means rents are expected to rise, as well.

 

If you buy now, you will benefit from appreciating property values while locking in an historically-low interest rate on your mortgage. Waiting to buy could mean paying more for your home as prices increase and paying higher interest on your mortgage as rates continue to rise.

 

And if you’re in the market to sell your home, there’s no need to wait any longer. Prices have begun to stabilize, and rising interest rates could decrease the number of available buyers for your home. Act now to take advantage of this strong seller’s market.

 

 

LET’S GET MOVING

 

While national real estate numbers and predictions can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As your North of Boston local market experts, Farrelly Realty Group can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighborhood.

 

 

If you have specific questions or would like more information about where we see real estate headed in our area, let us know! We’re here to help you navigate this changing real estate landscape. Call us at (978)664-3700. We would love to hear from you!
 

 

 

Sources:

  1. S&P Dow Jones Indices Press Release -
    https://www.spice-indices.com/idpfiles/spice-assets/resources/public/documents/766551_cshomeprice-release-0828.pdf?force_download=true
  2. Freddie Mac Outlook Report -
    http://www.freddiemac.com/research/forecast/20180827_strong_economic_growth.html
  3. DSNews -
    https://dsnews.com/daily-dose/08-28-2018/freddie-weighs-in-on-housing-market
  4. PR Newswire -
    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/realtors-chief-economist-reflects-on-past-recession-whats-ahead-for-housing-300702632.html
  5. CNN Money -
    https://www.keyt.com/lifestyle/where-is-the-us-housing-market-headed-4-things-you-need-to-know/787471572
  6. PR Newswire -
    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-housing-starts-to-rise-2-4-yearly-to-2022--300711989.html
  7. Business Insider -
    https://www.businessinsider.com/housing-affordability-slowing-market-sales-2018-8
  8. Value Penguin -
    https://www.valuepenguin.com/mortgages/historical-mortgage-rates
  9. Times Free Press -
    https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2018/aug/14/despite-prospects-higher-mortgage-rateshousin/476979/

Are You Covered? A Homeowner's Insurance Guide

 

No one likes to think about disasters. Severe weather, fire, theft—or even a seemingly small issue like a broken pipe—can wreak havoc on your home and result in thousands of dollars in damages. Fortunately, a good homeowners insurance policy can offer you peace of mind that you and your family will be financially protected if disaster strikes.

 

A homeowners insurance policy covers your home—as well as the belongings in it—in case of theft, accidental damage, or certain natural disasters. In fact, most financial institutions require that you purchase homeowners insurance before they issue a mortgage. While coverage varies, most policies also help to protect you from liability should someone outside your household become injured on your property. And that liability coverage is often extended to include damage you (or anyone living in your household) may do to someone else’s property.1

 

With all the protection offered, it’s equally important to understand what a home insurance policy does NOT cover. For example, homeowners insurance won’t pay to repair malfunctioning systems and appliances within your home. And terms vary, but standard policies typically exclude coverage related to floods, earthquakes, slow leaks, power failure, neglect, aging, faulty repairs or construction materials, and acts of war.2

 

Homeowners Insurance Covers Things Like:

  • Structure
  • Roof
  • Windows
  • Furniture/Personal Belongings
  • Liability for Non-Residents Injured on Property
  • Liability for Damage or Injury Caused by You or Your Pets

Most Standard Policies DON’T Cover:

  • Malfunctioning Systems & Appliances
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Slow Leaks
  • Power Failures
  • Neglect or Aging
  • Faulty Repairs
  • Acts of War

 

 

NARROWING THE COVERAGE GAP

 

So how do you minimize your risk when so many potential issues are excluded from a standard homeowners policy? Many insurers offer supplemental coverage options that can be tacked on to a basic policy. We explore this further in the section below on “7 Tips for Purchasing Homeowners Insurance.”

 

Some homeowners also choose to purchase a home warranty, which covers many of the systems and appliances in your home that are NOT covered by homeowners insurance. Home warranties are separate from homeowners insurance, so if interested you’ll need to seek out a policy through a dedicated provider.

 

While terms vary, a home warranty will often pay to repair or replace components of your HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and some appliances that fail due to age or typical wear and tear. Unlike homeowners insurance, home warranties aren’t required by mortgage companies. But many homeowners like the added financial protection and peace of mind that home warranties provide.3

 

Keep in mind, if you do purchase a home warranty, you will still be responsible for paying a service fee, or deductible, every time you use it. And you will be limited to using service providers who are contracted through your home warranty company.

 

 

7 TIPS FOR PURCHASING HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

 

Whether you’re shopping for a new policy on your first home or you’re considering switching providers on an existing policy, it’s important to do your research beforehand. Not all insurance policies—or providers—are created equal. A little due diligence can save you time, money, and hassle in the long run.

 

  1. Prioritize Service and Value

 

When choosing an insurance provider, ask around for recommendations. Check with neighbors, friends, and family members, particularly those who have filed an insurance claim in the past. Find out if they had a positive or negative experience. Read online reviews. Ask a real estate agent for a referral to a reputable insurance broker who can help you compare your options.

 

Don’t just choose the cheapest policy. Instead, search for one that offers excellent client service and provides the best coverage for the cost.

 

  1. Choose the Right Level of Coverage

 

Your policy limits should be high enough to cover the cost of rebuilding your home. Don’t make the common mistake of insuring your home for the price you paid for it. The cost to rebuild could be higher or lower, depending on the value of your land, your home’s unique features, market factors, new building codes, and local construction costs.4

 

Also, consider whether you need a higher level of liability insurance to protect your assets. If your investments and savings exceed the liability limits in your policy, you may need to purchase an excess liability or umbrella policy.

 

Ultimately, you should make sure your coverage is adequate to mitigate your losses—but don’t pay for excess insurance you don’t need.

 

  1. Inquire About Additional Coverage

 

Ask your insurance agent about additional coverage options that can help close any gaps you have in your policy.

 

For example, if you’re in a flood or earthquake-prone area, experts strongly recommend that you add those coverages to your policy. In fact, flooding is the most frequently occurring natural hazard, and a significant percentage of insurance payouts are for homes outside “flood zones,” or areas known to be at risk of flooding. So even if your home is not technically located in a flood zone, you may want to add flood coverage to your policy, just in case.5

 

Expensive jewelry, furs, collectibles, or artwork may not be fully insured by a standard policy. Ask about raising your limits for any items of particular value, or check with a specialty insurer about a separate policy for such items.

 

  1. Decide on “Replacement Cost” or “Actual Cash Value”

 

Insurers can use a variety of methods to determine how much they will pay to reimburse you for a loss, but the two most common are “replacement cost” or “actual cash value.”

 

If your seven-year-old sofa is damaged in a fire, replacement cost coverage will pay you the cost to purchase a new, comparable sofa at today’s prices. Actual cash value coverage will pay you for the depreciated value of the sofa you lost—so what you would pay to buy a seven-year-old sofa rather than a new one.6

 

While a replacement cost coverage policy will result in a bigger payoff if you suffer a loss, it will probably require a larger annual premium. Compare both options to find out which is the better fit for you.

 

  1. Consider a Higher Deductible

 

A deductible is the amount of money you are responsible for paying on a loss before your insurance company will pay a claim. Opting for a higher deductible can reduce your premiums.

 

Note that in some cases, your insurance policy may have a separate or higher deductible for certain kinds of claims, such as those caused by floods, windstorms, hail, or earthquakes.

 

While a higher deductible can save you money on your premiums, opt for one that is still affordable given your current financial situation.

 

  1. Try Bundling Your Coverage

 

Combining your home, automobile, and other policies under one insurer can often result in a significant discount. And some insurers offer additional benefits, such as a single deductible if property insured by multiple policies is damaged. For instance, if a fire destroys your home and your car, you may only have to pay the higher of the two deductibles. Bundling can also make payment and renewal of your policies more convenient.7


However, bundling isn't always the best or least expensive option. In some cases, you may find better coverage options, service, and/or pricing if you split your policies between multiple insurers. So be sure to consider all of your options before making a final decision.

 

  1. Reassess Your Policy Each Year

 

Even if you’ve done all your due diligence before purchasing a homeowners insurance policy, don’t set your annual renewal on autopilot. Instead, when it comes time to renew, take some time to consider factors that have changed over the past year.

 

For example, have you made any home improvements that would require you to raise your coverage limits? Have you made any security or safety improvements that qualify you for a discount on your premiums?8

 

Has there been a shift in market conditions that would make it more or less expensive to rebuild your home now? If so, you may need to adjust your coverage levels accordingly.

 

If you’ve made any changes to how you use your home, you may need to adjust your policy, as well. For example, if you’ve started a home-based business or occasionally rent out your home on a home-sharing site, you may not be fully covered by your existing policy.9

 

Finally, consider any changes to your financial situation that may require increased liability coverage limits. If you’ve grown your investments or inherited property, it may be time to purchase additional coverage to protect your expanding asset base.

 

 

MINIMIZE RISK, MAXIMIZE VALUE

 

Now that you understand the basics of homeowners insurance, you should be ready to start shopping for a policy that best fits your needs and budget. Your goal should be to minimize your risk while maximizing the value your policy provides.

 

While you never want to leave yourself without a safety net should disaster strike, you also don’t want to overpay for insurance you don’t need (and will hopefully rarely use). Aim to strike a balance that will provide you with adequate protection at an affordable price.

 

 

NEED MORE GUIDANCE? WE CAN HELP

 

If you’re in the market to purchase homeowners insurance or a home warranty, give us a call! We get a lot of feedback from clients on the best (and worst) providers and are happy to share what we know.

We can also put you in touch with a trusted insurance professional who can answer your questions and help you find the best policy to meet your needs.

Please note the above references an opinion based on our years the real estate business and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial or insurance advice. Always consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

 

Sources:

  1. Insurance Information Institute -
    https://www.iii.org/article/what-covered-standard-homeowners-policy
  2. Insure.com -
    https://www.insure.com/home-insurance/exclusions.html
  3. American Home Shield -
    https://www.ahs.com/home-matters/cost-savers/whats-the-difference-homeowners-insurance-vs-home-warranty
  4. Insurance Information Institute -
    https://www.iii.org/article/how-much-homeowners-insurance-do-you-need
  5. Realtor.com -
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/buying-home-insurance
  6. Texas Department of Insurance -
    http://www.helpinsure.com/home/documents/acvvsreplace.pdf
  7. Insure.com -
    https://www.insure.com/home-insurance-faq/bundle-insurance-policies.html
  8. National Association of Insurance Commissioners -
    https://www.insureuonline.org/consumer_homeowners_ten_tips.htm
  9. HomeAway -
    https://help.homeaway.com/articles/Do-I-need-a-special-vacation-rental-insurance-policy-for-my-property

 

 

Is it possible to cut your utility bills by $2,000 per year by using Smart Technology?

8 Smart Home Technology Trends that CAN Save You Money

 

The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects that can serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the wired future, all of our appliances and gadgets talk to each other seamlessly.

 

What could living in a smart home look like? Picture something like this:

 

The lights in your bedroom slowly illuminate to quietly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blaring alarm. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifts in and stirs your senses. Once the lights are all the way up, the heating system kicks on, just in time to warm up your room so you’re not shocked once you crawl out from underneath the duvet.


When you step into the shower, it turns on automatically and remembers your preferred temperature and water pressure. And it will shut off right when you’re finished as it knows how long you take to bathe.

 

Once you’ve driven out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. And it will only unlock automatically when it “sees” and recognizes someone else from your family approaching through programmed in biometrics.

 

Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes, we haven’t reached the point where every feature intuitively knows what you want and when you wanted. However, each year we’re getting closer and closer toward that shiny, idealized ‘Jetson’ future.

 

Here are some trends that we see for smart homes, many of which may also help you save money:

 

Smart Thermostats

 

Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.

 

With the newer models, smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when they sense you are present. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so that you’re saving energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone so that you can adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.

 

Smart Smoke Detectors

 

Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives. But unfortunately, many of us still have those battery-run smoke detectors that make that annoying, piercing beep when their batteries are running low on power. And instead of replacing batteries right away, it’s often easier to pull them out and disable the detector (while risking our lives).

 

Many of the new smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, as well as air quality. With this new sensor technology, they know the difference between a real fire and burnt toast.

 

Smart Sprinkler Control

 

Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often, especially during the summer months, we fall into a drought. But then we might have one season that brings extreme amounts of rain.

 

A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio Iro can not only help save you lots of money on your water bill but also help protect our precious resources.

 

Programmable by computer or smart phone, it can automatically adjust how often you water your lawn based on the season and the weather forecasts. You can also remotely adjust the settings through a mobile app.

 

Smart Solar Panels

 

You can put the sun to work for you by using solar technology to power your home. It’s green and renewable, and can save you money over the long term.  Massachusetts has always been one of the best states for solar. Not only does the Bay State have the high electricity rates that lead to a short payback period for your solar investment – it also has a history of having strong solar incentives for property owners looking to own a solar panel system.

With smart solar panels, you can program the technology to monitor their performance and even turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.

 

Smart Home Security Systems

 

Home monitoring has become much more sophisticated in recent years. With the old-style security systems, you had to call in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.

 

With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense whether doors and windows are closed or opened. Some systems include audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off intruders. You get real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted as soon as the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely that they will be caught.

 

Check out the best home security systems of 2018 as reviewed  by PCMag.com.

 

 

Smart Locks

 

Go beyond the standard key locks, which can often be compromised by burglars. The new smart lock systems give you more control over those who can gain access to your home.

 

Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or cleaning service in during a specific window of time.

 

Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you and unlock your door.

 

The new August smart lock integrates with Apple’s technology so you can ask Siri to open your door for you.

 

Smart lighting systems and light bulbs

A well-lit home feels warm and welcoming, and good lighting can instantly increase the value of your home.

 

However, annual lighting costs can account for up to 12% of your overall electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can easily reduce this expense simply by using smart lighting technology to add efficiency.

 

The Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add to your home without installing specialized equipment. Smart lighting dimmers and sensors can give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to turn them on and off through your smart phone.

 

New smart light bulbs can give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs, for example, you can program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you up with increasing illumination, or to change from daytime work lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.

 

Smart Appliances

 

Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint, old-fashioned versions of these home conveniences. Newer, smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it easier for you to complete pesky household chores.

 

  • Newer coffee makers, like the Smarter coffee machine, let you ‘order’ your coffee exactly to your liking, adjusting everything from bean grind to temperature to strength to time that it’s ready to drink.
  • Smart refrigeration technology can help you store your food at just the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat during peak usage times. For example, the LG THINQ fridge can alert you via smart phone app if a door is accidentally left open.
  • Smart ovens can ensure that your food is cooked to the right level of done-ness, and alert you when your meal is ready to eat. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you even more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what you like to eat and make menu suggestions.
  • Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. And soon, connected appliances from GE, Oster, Samsung, and other makers, will be able to re-order soap and fabric softener directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to think about running to the store at the last minute.

 

Have you tested any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss any of your favorite home technologies? Let us know in the comments!