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4 Ways to Give Your Kitchen Personality

Kitchens are showing more personality these days. As they’ve become a hub, they’re not just for cooking and eating. We’ve been using them for all kinds of activities. We want our kitchens to reveal our interests and taste but still blend with the rest of our home. Here are four ways — little and big — to do that by designing a creative kitchen. 

#1 Aim for a Creative Kitchen

Image: MarioGuti/Getty

You love looking at posts on Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration and saving them for mood boards or focused aesthetic. But because of your urge for individuality, you want to incorporate choices in ways nobody else does. As long as you don’t make drastic changes that would take big bucks to reverse if you sold in the next few years, you can get creative. Feel free to fix up your kitchen just the way you love. 

“Do what feels good for you and nobody else,” urges designer Sharon McCormick of Sharon McCormick Design in Hartford, Conn. This may involve a quick, affordable fix. So, you could move a rug from another room to add a spark of color or pattern. Or hang favorite artwork, or display collectibles on floating shelves or in glass-fronted cabinets. 

If you need to focus on investment-grade changes with lasting value, you still have options. Think about hand-scraped floors, wire-brushed and high-gloss lacquered cabinets, or hardware in new elegant shapes and finishes, says Chicago kitchen expert Mick de Giulio of de Giulio Kitchen Design.  

#2 Express Yourself With Kitchen Color

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Image: FollowTheFlow/Getty

Kitchen color is the great game changer for a creative kitchen. It’s a quick and easy way to update your kitchen’s look and feel. White, gray, and beige are still popular palettes for kitchens, but livelier hues are showing up, according to a 2021 Houzz survey. If you’re timid about the new shades — lots of blues and greens — consider small doses in a few perimeter cabinets. Or for an island, you could add some backsplash tiles on one wall; one color appliance, like a turquoise range (yep, it’s available!); or a smaller standing mixer or countertop oven. They’re now available in almost any color of the rainbow. 

Paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams says green kitchens are gaining ground. People want to bring the feeling of plants and trees inside, whether in dark, jewel tones or more muted, soothing hues. Green also pairs well with wood in floors, furniture, or butcher block countertops. 

If you’re not ready to commit to color, consider sophisticated black accents. They’ve become popular for architectural features like window frames, doors, cabinets, faucets, and appliance fronts. “Black is the Sharpie that outlines the kitchen,” says JT Norman, design specialist at Kitchen Magic in Nazareth, Pa.

#3 Blend Your Spaces for Seamlessness

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Image: Andrea Rugg/Getty

The kitchen has become more of a room to live in. Even if you already have an open floor plan with adjoining spaces, you may want your furnishings, color palette, and accessories to blend more seamlessly. That way, there’s no jarring change from one room to another. McCormick says this is a shift from years past, when each room was a different color and sometimes a slightly different style. “With this new way, you can bring chairs from one room to another if you need more seating,” she says. “They look right, and it’s also easier on the eye.”

If your kitchen has separate dining and comfy hangout areas, you can still get a cohesive look by coordinating colors and styles. One way to blend spaces is to use the same style of cabinetry. Simple shaker cabinets are still a classic choice. Some homeowners also want panel fronts similar to their cabinets to camouflage kitchen appliances. And even if the color scheme isn’t exactly the same throughout, you might introduce one common denominator of a few similarly colored accessories in each room. 

#4 Go for Convenience With Smart Appliances

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Image: visualspace/Getty

Your tech-savvy side wants to find ways to use the latest developments in kitchen equipment to save time and effort. Why not get a jump on preheating the oven for the chicken you plan to roast after a hard day at work — or reheating the one you bought at the supermarket? Most major manufacturers offer models with Wi-Fi capability. You download an app onto your phone or tablet and program the unit. Voila! The range is warm when you arrive home, so you get to eat sooner. 

Faucets like Delta’s Touch2O Technology let you touch anywhere on the spout or faucet handle with your wrist or forearm to activate water flow if your hands are covered. So, no worries if you’re kneading pizzas for your gang.

You may or may not be ready for a fridge that knows if you’re low on butter or eggs and need to order. “Some buy this technology if they can afford it, even though they may not use it often,” says Chicago designer Susan Brunstrum of Studio Brunstrum.

But here’s something you can easily add and will want — more outlets and USB ports. You’ll be ready to charge everyone’s phone and other tech devices at one convenient charging station.

A creative kitchen can be a more livable space that displays your family’s interests and blends with your other rooms. And best of all, changes don’t have to be big, pricey, or time consuming. They can still make a major difference in ramping up your happiness quotient.

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Are Quartz Countertops Right for Your Kitchen?

The kitchen tends to be the home’s gathering place, so it’s only natural you want it to look and feel welcoming. But as the hub of your home, your kitchen needs durable countertops, especially if you have little ones helping with the cooking. Quartz countertops are a trendy choice for kitchens, but before you get in touch with your contractor, it’s important to assess the pros and cons and review some alternatives. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops?

Pros of Quartz Kitchen Countertops

  • Durable: Quartz countertops are highly durable, made from a mix of stones and stone-like materials bound together with resins. Makers of quartz countertops press the materials and resin into slabs that are solid and nonporous. That means the counters won’t chip or crack with everyday use (like when your little ones are helping you cook). 
  • Stain-resistant: Quartz is highly stain-resistant, thanks to its nonporous surface. But it can be stained by certain substances — like red wine, coffee, tea, tomato sauce, and juice — if the spill isn’t cleaned up immediately. The staining happens when the liquid interacts with the resin. You’ll also want to use gentle cleaners instead of harsh chemicals. Another positive: Quartz is relatively low maintenance and doesn’t require sealing. 
  • Highly customizable: Thanks to advances in engineered quartz, you can choose from a variety of patterns that can be custom-made or mirror the look of granite or marble. 

Cons of Quartz Countertops

  • Pricey: The price of quartz is high compared to the price of materials like marble and limestone. On average, quartz kitchen countertops cost $40 to $100 per square foot installed. 
  • Prone to heat damage: While quartz is heat-resistant, the binders used in about 10% of a quartz countertop slab are not. So, leaving hot cookware directly on a quartz counter could cause unsightly stains.  
  • Requires professional installation: Installing quartz countertops is probably not a DIY task. The material is incredibly heavy and needs professional attention to ensure the kitchen can support the counters.   

What Should You Look for in a Quartz Countertop?

Look for these quality markers when buying a quartz countertop:  

  • Cohesive coloring: Compare separate slabs from the quartz you plan to buy. Are they the same color? 
  • Coloring through the surface: Make sure the veins and colorations you see on the surface of the quartz continue throughout the slab. 
  • Consistent aggregates: Aggregates are the pebbles  you find along the edges of your countertops. No matter the size of these pebbles, they should be consistent throughout the countertop. 

Alternatives to Quartz Countertops

Your kitchen countertops should fit your lifestyle and the look of your space. So, before you choose them, explore several options to see what works best. Some alternatives to quartz kitchen countertops include:  

Marble

Marble is often comparable in price to quartz, but it has a unique and elegant look that may make the price worth it for some. While neither quartz nor marble requires resealing, marble has a porous surface, so it may be susceptible to stains, especially from acidic liquids, like tomato sauce or lemon juice. Quartz isn’t porous like marble but can still stain too. 

Slate

Slate is just as durable as quartz, but its designs and aggregates are more uniform. Slate costs more than quartz on average and requires a decent amount of maintenance, including regular sealing.  

Granite

Granite countertops are naturally made versus the man-made designs of quartz. While prices may be similar, granite requires more maintenance because of the need for regular resealing.  

How Much Do Quartz Counters Cost?

Several factors affect the cost of quartz countertops, including the brand, design, thickness, size of the project, and installation cost. On average, quartz countertops cost $40 to $100 per square foot installed. So, in an average kitchen with 30 square feet of countertop space, you’ll need to budget between $1,750 and $3,000 for quartz counters, with $2,300 being an average price. 

Compare that to other popular countertop options like granite, which costs between $2,500 and $5,000 for 30 square feet installed, or marble which may run you between $2,000 and $7,000. 

What Should You Ask Your Contractor About Installing Quartz Countertops?

Before you hire a pro to install new counters, be sure to ask a few questions, including:  

  • Is your team experienced with installing quartz countertops?  
  • Will replacing my kitchen countertops require a permit?  
  • How much do you charge for countertop installation, including removing my old countertops?  
  • Will you move my appliances and fixtures during installation, or am I responsible for that?  
  • Do you have insurance that covers any damage to my home or countertops during installation?  
  • Do you offer a warranty if something happens to the counters after installation? 

The answers to these questions and the information above can guide you as you decide whether quartz countertops are the best option for your kitchen. 

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Natural Kitchens: Always in Style

Spending so much time in your kitchen during the pandemic may have sparked daydreams about a redo. What if the space could draw family and friends with a warm, inviting, and natural look? And what if that natural kitchen was easier to maintain? Many homeowners who acted on that daydream are super happy they did, according to the National Association of REALTORS® “Remodeling Impact Report.” Kitchen remodelers who were surveyed reported a joy score of 9.8 out of 10. 

They’ll likely snag a financial bonus too. The report found the average cost of a kitchen upgrade is $45,000, and the average return is 67%.

Here are six ideas to inspire a natural look for your kitchen. 

#1 Wood Cabinets Mix Warmth, Low Maintenance, and Durability

White is still the tried-and-true, top choice for cabinets in remodeled kitchens. But its popularity has slipped a bit, according to the 2021 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study. Wood tones were the second-favorite choice of homeowners surveyed, with a 2% increase from 2020.

Homeowners may be gravitating toward wood, including bare wood, cabinets, because they’re  easy to clean and durable, and add warmth. Wood can also be sustainable.

“Many are turning to wood veneer choices — anigre or exotic woods or lighter [wood] colors,” says Joe Fava, CEO of Fava Design Group in Miami. “The younger generation is more interested in sustainability and cares about the type of wood used. Clients in their upper 50s and older are more interested in the look they want and richness of the material.”

Wood is also versatile, mixing well with other materials and colors — white or black, for instance — for a two-toned look. And if you like to change things up regularly, lighter color woods are easier to restain.

Beyond beauty and low maintenance, homeowners want durability. Durable cabinets have a longer lifespan, so they’re usually a better investment. Look for drawers constructed with solid wood dovetailed joinery that improves durability. 

Some homeowners found upper cabinets were making the kitchen look heavier and more enclosed. So, they’ve replaced them with open shelves that display collectibles. If you follow suit, make sure you have enough concealed storage to keep your counters clear. That will make cooking and entertaining easier.  

#2 Light Woods Keep Flooring Looking Clean

Wood used to get a bad rap for kitchen flooring, but no more. Improved finishes (water-based or natural oils with low volatile organic compounds) help boards resist water and scratches.

Lighter colors like white oak are popular not only because they have a cleaner look than dark floors, but also because they hide dust and dirt. When you think about the beating and dirt buildup kitchen floors take – yikes! The investment is so worth it. Overall, a new wood floor provides a whopping 118% ROI and a perfect joy score 10 out of 10, according to the NAR remodeling survey.

Things that will never go out of style are natural light, beautiful natural woods and stones, and a desire to have nature seep into homes.

Carly Jones, partner with real estate firm Engels & Volkers

Light wood flooring also offers a fresh look, says Carly Jones, partner with real estate firm Engels & Volkers. “We want our kitchens and other rooms to feel light, fresh, and part of the outdoors even when we’re inside. Things that will never go out of style are natural light, beautiful natural woods and stones, and a desire to have nature seep into homes.”

Whether you go with solid hardwood or engineered wood, each has pros and cons. Hardwood is easy to refinish and repair, but prone to contraction and expansion. That can cause instability, cracks, and bowing over time. Engineered wood consists of a wood veneer atop plywood layers that makes boards more stable, says Brett Miller, vice president of technical standards at the National Wood Flooring Association. The drawback is the top layer may make sanding or refinishing tougher, he adds. 

#3 Natural Stone Countertops Combine Easy Care and Strength

For countertops, natural stones are gaining fans. They offer a more tranquil look, especially when a big slab is used. (Tranquility is a huge plus after some tough times.) Plus, they, too, are versatile. Most stones come in an array of colors and patterns that juxtapose nicely with a kitchen’s wood elements.

Which stone to choose? Quartz makes for a strong, durable countertop that’s easier to maintain than granite because it’s made of stone or quartz material with resin added. Granite countertops, on the other hand, need more care and should be sealed every year. (Who knew?) If that sealing isn’t done correctly — or at all — the surface can absorb liquids and stains. And granite surfaces can have small cracks that turn into breaks if someone places a  hot pan directly on them.

After years of not being widely used, butcher block has roared back. Of course, it can be used as a cutting surface. Because it’s softer than stone, dropped dishes are also less likely to shatter on it. But the drawback is maintenance: Butcher block requires bi-annual sanding and oiling to protect the wood, and sealed counters shouldn’t be used for cutting.

These days butcher block surfaces are often being installed in small areas. They may be part of an island or near a sink but not directly adjacent, to avoid water damage, says Jimmy Crisp, principal architect at Crisp Architects in Millbrook, N.Y. Besides adding some aesthetic warmth, this approach can visually break up long stretches of your primary countertop surface, he says.

#4 Natural Lighting Is Good for Your Mood — and You

Being indoors for long stretches may have caused you to crave more natural light in your kitchen. This craving is one to indulge — it’s good for you. Natural light, especially sunlight, reduces stress and anxiety, boosts your immune system, and is a source of vitamin D.

Door and window manufacturers are meeting higher demand with bigger frames that provide access and better views, says Christine Marvin, vice president of design strategy at door and window manufacturer Marvin. This is especially desirable when you can’t go outdoors. Good natural light also permits those with a green thumb to garden indoors year-round (see #6).

#5 Handmade Touches, Repurposed Heirlooms Add Coziness

The return of natural materials and interest in personalizing kitchens has attracted homeowners to texture and handmade-looking touches. Jennifer Burt, who blogs at MississippiMaximalism.com, suggests adding pieces with a handmade aesthetic, such as fireclay crafted sinks from Native Trails, a company that combines artisan tradition with sustainable materials. 

Another option is tiles that appear more handcrafted than tried-and-true subway rectangles. Many are also larger and may have both a glossy and matte finish and contoured edges. 

Your kitchen can also be a great place to add some of your family heirlooms and secondhand store finds. “An older china cabinet can become storage [space]; a marble slab installed on top of a chest creates a cold baking surface to roll dough; or you can shop for some reclaimed cabinets at your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for a sustainable option,” Burt says. 

Homeowners can also add a handmade or heirloom look to lighting — for instance, by gluing seashells found on a favorite beach to a lampshade. Flea markets are also great places to search for lanterns from an old ship or a historic building and recycle or repurpose them.

#6 Greenery Brings the Outdoors In

One way to go natural is by bringing nature inside with plants and herbs. Choices for smart interior plants include pandemic-pup-friendly suggestions, as well as plants that thrive in different light levels and temperature conditions. Online guides are available from companies like Wild Interiors, part of Green Circle Growers.

Research shows that greenery can help our emotional and physical health — one more reason to bring in plants, herbs for cooking, and fresh flowers year-round. They’re more likely to thrive now that kitchens are being outfitted with bigger windows, walls of glass, and doors with more panes. An added  benefit: The greenery will pop against wood cabinets.

If you’re prone to forget to water, go with low-care choices — some say they thrive on neglect — like ZZ and snake plants. Also, you might want to add greenery in stages, so your kitchen doesn’t turn into a dense jungle or attract bugs, Burt says. “Keep it to functional plants like herbs — maybe a potager, which is a small French country garden of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs — in rustic pots. If there’s floor space, anchor the room with one large potted plant.”  

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10 Ways to Make Your Bathroom Feel Like a Spa

Ahhh, the spa. It’s been too long since most of us could go to a real spa (thanks, COVID). We miss the luxury of a hot tub soak and the power of sauna and steam rooms to align our body and spirit. So, we’re doing the next best thing. We’re remodeling our bathrooms with spa-inspired features to get that relaxing vibe at home. Enter the spa bathroom. The trend has even inspired a new word blend: spathroom. 

COVID and more time at home caused homeowners to search out creative ways to enjoy their homes more. “We’re looking for ways to relax at home versus going out. So, bringing that luxury home in the form of a spa bathroom is a logical next,” says Dr. Anna Ruth Gatlin, an assistant professor of interior design at Auburn University.

But a spa bathroom can carry a hefty price tag. A bathroom remodel costs an average $35,000, according to the National Association of REALTORS® “Remodeling Impact Survey.” A budget-friendly remodel can be done for as little as $2,500, depending on the scope of the project and where you live, according to “Forbes Advisor.”

Spa Bathroom Ideas

Improvements that can add value to your home include upgrading your shower, adding storage through shelving, and refreshing your color scheme, according to Property Price Advice. A bathroom that still needs upgrades will make the whole home much less appealing to buyers, says realtor.com®. The website recommends enhancing marketability through simple upgrades like installing new bathroom hardware and adding shelving.

If you make smart choices, you can also get soul-soothing relaxation from spa features like a new steam shower. And that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

#1 Install a Spa Showerhead.

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Image: Matthias Nitsch/EyeEm/Getty

Replace your plain showerhead with a more luxurious model to turn your daily shower into a restorative experience. We’re not talking about changing out the whole fixture just the head, so you can do it yourself. You can get a rain showerhead that sprays water directly from above, or heads with adjustable massaging spray patterns.

Japanese meets Scandinavian in ‘Japandi,’ a trend that makes a bathroom look like it stepped out of Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santa Fe.

#2 Upgrade Vanities.

Updating your vanity can make a big change in a bathroom without costing a lot of money. You can transform a dated vanity with new paint, new hardware, and a new countertop. So you don’t have to rip out and replacing the entire unit. To get a spa look, consider painting a wooden vanity matte black, adding shiny brass pulls, and replacing the vanity’s countertop with a slab of white marble.

#3 Add Some Japandi.

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Image: Anatoliy_gleb/Getty

Japanese meets Scandinavian in “Japandi,” a bathroom trend that combines Zen with hygge for a bathroom that looks like it stepped out of Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santa Fe. Japandi uses a neutral color palette accented with brass or black fixtures and a lot of wood to push a connection to nature. You don’t have to remodel your entire bathroom in Japandi style. Instead, paint the walls a cool white tone and replace your vanity mirrors with simple round ones. Swap out faucets, cabinet pulls, and towel racks with new black metal ones, and add open wooden shelves. Bathroom paint is an affordable alternative to tile, a fast way to change the look of the room. 

#4 Go for Gold.

Gold and brass have made a comeback, replacing silver and nickel trim as the finish of choice in bathrooms. Now is a good time to upgrade your faucets, towel racks, showerhead, shower trim, and mirror frames with a yellow-tinged metal. “After nearly two decades of loving the cold industrial feel of steel, we’re craving warmer-toned metals in bathrooms,” Gatlin says. It’s a cold world out there. We could all use the warm glow of a gold showerhead or towel rack to warm our souls and lift our spirits.

#5 Install a Towel Warmer.

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Image: Julia Pavaliuk/Getty

Nothing says “Ahhh, I feel like I’m at a spa” like stepping out of the shower and wrapping yourself in a warm towel. You can get that feeling at home by installing a towel warming rack in your bathroom. They range in style from plug-in models that need no electrical work, to upscale models that an electrician will need to wire into the bathroom. Those higher-end models will add lasting value to your home and do a better job of warming those towels and making you feel pampered.

#6 Opt for Natural Wood.

Pull up the tile, linoleum, or (shudder) carpet on your bathroom flooring. Then put down wood floors in a water-resistant material like teak, cedar, or hinoki cypress. This brings nature and warmth into your bathroom. Don’t want wood in a wet place like a bathroom? Think about porcelain tile that’s made to look like wood. You’ll get the warmth of wood grain with the durability of tile. 

#7 Put in Open Shelving.

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Image: Carlos Ciudad Photography/Getty

A few rows of open shelving made of wood can make your bathroom more spa-like by adding a wood finish. They also provide a place to stash your shampoo bottles, towels, and other grooming supplies that can clutter a bathroom. Open wood shelves will make your bathroom more functional, fast. And more storage almost always adds to a home’s value.

#8 Add a Bidet Attachment to Your Toilet.

Once exclusively a European or Asian thing, Americans discovered bidets during the COVID pandemic when fears of a toilet paper shortage spurred bidet sales. Bidets fit in with the spa bathroom aesthetic because spas are about cleanliness and purity. You can go for a full, standalone bidet. Or you can get the same effect by buying a bidet attachment that fits onto your existing toilet. The best choice for adding value to your house is a bidet toilet seat that fits permanently onto your existing toilet and features a dryer function. 

#9 Go Big With a Spa Shower.

This is a big-ticket item. Spa bathroom showers are usually double the size of a normal shower and tiled from head to toe — no shower curtain, just glass doors or walls. The idea is to create a rainforest waterfall feel. They usually have a wellness showerhead the size of a dinner plate that offers a range of spray patterns along with chromotherapy. 

#10 Build a Wet Room.

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Image: Mint Images/Getty

We’re in total room remodel territory now. Wet rooms turn the entire bathroom into a waterproof space. This dispenses with a walk-in shower and creates a bathroom with a shower that’s open to the bathroom and separated only by a half-wall of glass or tile. There’s a freestanding soaking tub in a wet room, too. A wet room looks like the bathroom at an actual spa, with bathroom tile on walls, floors, and sometimes even ceilings. It’s a super high-end bathroom that will add luxury with a capital L to your home.

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Modern Garage Paint Ideas

Whether you’ve just moved into a new house or want to freshen your old one, don’t forget the garage. A new paint job can turn your garage into a comfortable place to work on crafts or projects, work out, or store your overflow from the house or yard.

Beyond getting a more functional space, you can improve the mood and feel of your home. Here are some ideas to help you turn your garage into a space that will make you want to spend time there.

Select Garage Paint Colors That Complement Your Home

Choosing the right color for your garage may be simpler than you think. Look at the color and design scheme in the main rooms of your house; then find a complementary color for the garage. 

Another option is to choose a color based on how much natural light the garage gets. If the light is limited, a brighter color like white could be your best bet to make the space feel larger and more welcoming. 

Once you’ve picked your color, you’ll want to choose a paint finish. Look for a finish that withstands temperature changes, hides dust and dirt, and cleans up easily. Gloss finishes tend to be the best choice for garages. The high reflectivity works well with rooms with little to no natural light, and the finish is easy to clean. 

Tips to Prepare Your Garage for Painting

After you’ve chosen the paint for your garage, you’ll need to do a few things before you can start throwing a fresh coat on the walls. First, you’ll need to plan for supplies and ventilation, then prep your surfaces, and get started painting.  

Supplies Needed to Paint a Garage

Besides the paint, you’ll need supplies including: 

  • Brushes and rollers 
  • Gloves and goggles 
  • Tarp 
  • Primer 
  • Paint scraper 
  • Ladder 
  • Painter’s tape 
  • Sandpaper 

While other items, like a power washer, might come in handy, these basics should get you off to a smooth start. 

Ventilate the Garage

You shouldn’t be working with any toxic materials, but paint fumes may make you dizzy or nauseated if your garage doesn’t have proper airflow.  

So, make sure you leave your garage door open when you’re painting and the paint is drying. You may also consider wearing a mask if you’re especially sensitive to paint fumes. 

Prep and Clean Surfaces

Always clean your walls before painting them. That way, you’ll avoid grease, dust, or dirt buildups that would make your paint job look uneven or sloppy.  

A mild detergent and a sponge should do the trick for most stains, but for larger garages or thicker buildup, consider renting a power washer. 

Apply a Primer Coat

The last step to take before painting is applying a primer coat. A primer coat will not only help your finishing paint stick better, but also make the finishing coat look coherent and smooth.  

Be sure to let the primer dry completely before applying your finishing coats. 

Paint Multiple Coats

Always paint two or three final coats of paint. You may need more coats if you’re making a dramatic color change or painting a textured surface. Applying multiple coats will also help you avoid bare spots and improve your paint’s sheen and thickness. 

Paint Your Garage Walls to Fit the Use

If you’re using only a portion of your garage, you may not need to paint every wall. That’s especially true if your garage is on the larger side.  

Section off your garage based on how you use those areas. For example, you may not want to paint the walls where you park your car, but you’ll want a modern, painted look for your garage workshop

Garage Door Paint Ideas That Make a Statement

For remodelers looking to freshen up garage doors, it’s smart to find colors that complement your home’s exterior paint and texture. That will help your garage door pop.  

Then, you’ll need to consider if you should match your finish with your house’s exterior. For example, wood works well with semi-transparent oil paint.  

You’ll also want to think about the material the garage door is made of. If it’s metal, you’ll be better off with oil-based paint. If it’s vinyl or fiberglass, you’ll want to stick with latex paint. 

Protect Garage Floors With Paint

Because the floor will be exposed to the most dirt and traffic, you may want to use a different kind of paint that’s more durable. Specifically, consider epoxy paint or latex acrylic paint that’s designed to adhere to a garage floor.

These types of paint can handle temperature changes and humidity without cracking or drying too much, making them a great choice. 

Garage Ceiling Paint Ideas That Pop

Whether you’re coordinating the ceiling color with the garage walls or going for something more distinctive, you’ll want a color that works with the rest of your garage.  

Even if you might not look at it as much, the ceiling color can affect your garage’s lighting and feel. So, choose a color that doesn’t clash with your floor or walls.  

Paint Your Garage Cabinets to Revive Your Space

Painting your garage cabinets can reinvigorate and refresh your garage, but choose the paint carefully. Oil-based paints will work well for wood and metal, and latex paints are better for vinyl and fiberglass. 

You may also want to consider spray-on paint for a cabinet job, because it’s easier for smaller objects. If not, rolling paint will work fine. 

Regardless of what you have in mind for your garage, a good paint job with a color that complements your house will set the stage.  

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12 Smart Ideas for Dealing With the Paint Shortage

This just in: The latest supply chain problem is a paint shortage. More specifically, house paint. Interior, exterior, latex, and oil. All colors. All brands. Primer is in short supply, too. 

Like other supply chain disruptions, the paint shortage has stemmed from an array of factors around the globe. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused labor shortfalls at paint plants and trucking companies, slowing production and delivery. Power outages caused by the epic February 2021 freeze in Texas slowed petroleum production and destroyed the existing supply of resins, key ingredients in paint. Then Hurricane Ida shut down petroleum production in Louisiana in summer 2021. Throw in a fire at a paint polymer plant in Germany in March 2021, and you’ve got a paint shortage.

At the same time, demand for paint has soared. Most of us decided we needed to improve or repair our homes once we started working from them because of COVID. Sales at paint and wallpaper stores hit all-time highs in 2021. With demand up and supply down, you’re going to have trouble finding paint for your remodeling project, and when you find it, you’ll pay more. 

“We’ve seen a 25% increase in paint prices in the last year,” says Travis Nolan, owner of Old Crow Painting in Tampa, Fla. He’s had a hard time finding paint, too, he adds. It took seven months to track down the 80 gallons of primer he needed to cover the exterior of a house he was hired to paint. “It’s been tough to manage the paint shortages and price increases.” 

The paint shortage isn’t likely to improve any time soon. Sherwin Williams, the largest paint manufacturer in the U.S., says it’s uncertain when paint production will be back to normal.

You’re wondering, “So, how am I going to get rid of these outdated red walls in my kitchen?!”  We asked some painting pros for tips on handling the shortage. Here’s what they said.

#1 Buy paint in bulk and buy early.

If you are DIY-ing it, order your paint four to six weeks before you start your project, Nolan says. And buy enough to do the entire job. “You don’t want to run out of paint mid-project,” he says. If you’re hiring a professional painting company, call them now. That gives them time to get you on their schedule and order your paint, he adds. The painting pros we talked to report they’re running two to six months out on painting jobs, so plan ahead. There’s no room for spontaneous painting during a paint shortage.

#2 Paint only the problem areas.

Sometimes you don’t need to repaint an entire room to make it look better. You just need to touch up the problem areas, and it’s easier to find a small supply of paint. “If your paint has dodgy patches, address those,” says Katie Mills, an interior designer and editor at Poshh, an online seller of luxury home items. Interior walls get the most wear around doors. If you have pets and children, the lower third of the walls take a beating. If you kept your leftover paint, good for you! Use it to cover the scuffs and worn areas. If you didn’t, scrape a chip of paint off an inconspicuous area and take it to a paint store so they can color match with their spectrophotometer. 

#3 Clean your walls, baseboards, and trim.

You can sometimes freshen a room’s appearance just by giving the painted surfaces a good scrub, no repainting needed. “You can make your room look better until you can source paint,” says Mills of Poshh. 

#4 Paint an accent wall.

Does the paint shortage have you worried about how to cover all four walls of your room? Paint one wall a bright color that complements the other three walls. You’ll freshen the room’s appearance with less than a gallon of paint.

#5 Be flexible when choosing a paint brand.

“You may love a brand of paint, but it just may not be available,” says Geoff Sharp, president of Columbus, Ohio-based Sharper Impressions Painting. “Try a new store, brand, or a different line of paint.” If you absolutely must have Sherwin Williams 2022 paint color of the year, Evergreen Fog, but you can’t get it, most paint stores can match other companies’ paint colors. Take them a swatch and let them work their computer-driven magic.

#6 Stick with same brand for the whole job if possible.

Use the same brand of paint for your entire job or the colors might not match, says Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, a Waco, Texas, company with 231 locations in North America. To get a precise match, it’s best to buy paint that came from the same run and at the same store, Nolan says. But if you need the paint pronto and can tolerate possible color variation, you can be more flexible.

#7 Hire a professional painter to leverage their buying power.

If you have a big job, a painting contractor has the buying power to track down the paint you need. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to drive all over town looking for paint or Google “latex paint near me” till the wee hours. A pro has a supplier network and a national buying account. “We place orders well in advance of our need, so we haven’t been as affected by the shortage as the average DIYer,” says Five Star Painting’s Kunz.

#8 Use recycled paint.

“Recycled paint is a little-known alternative to new paint,” says “says Ezra Laniado, owner of Landmark Construction & Development in Los Angeles. It’s made by reprocessing and remixing leftover latex paint. There aren’t as many color choices in recycled paint, and it can’t be custom tinted, he explains. But it’s just as durable as virgin paint, good for the environment, and available. Recolor is one of the best-known brands of recycled paint, and you can buy it in interior and exterior formulas. 

#9 Consider wallpaper instead of paint.

Wallpaper has come a long way from Great-Aunt Mabel’s cabbage rose-covered bedroom walls. It’s easier to hang and remove quickly without harming the walls, and it’s better for the environment. It’s also hot right now, available in all kinds of patterns and colors, according to interior design pros. That’s good news for paint-shortage plagued homeowners. You can transform a room by decking out a wall with a punchy print. Wallpaper the whole room or do an accent wall. Don’t want to commit to permanent wallpaper? Go with the peel-and-stick stuff that’s easy to remove when you’re ready for a change.

#10 Power wash your home’s exterior before you paint.

As with the interior, a good cleaning of your home’s exterior may be enough to freshen the appearance until you can repaint. “You can make your home look better, fast,” says Kunz of Five Star Painting.

#11  Paint just the front of your house.

Nolan suggests painting just the front of your house because that’s what shows. “You’ll make your house look nice, and you can follow up and do the rest of the house later,” he says. This is a good solution if you’re about to sell your house and need to boost your curb appeal

#12 Put a clear topcoat over your exterior paint.

Freshen up your home’s exterior by putting a clear topcoat over the paint. “It will make the paint color more vibrant and protect it from the elements until you can repaint,” Nolan says. The paint shortage hasn’t affected clear topcoats, he adds. And when you’re ready to repaint, you can put the fresh coats of paint on top of the topcoat.

The upshot: You can still paint your house during this supply chain mayhem. You’ll just have to plan ahead, pay higher paint prices, and be flexible in your choices. 

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Smart Home Security Gets Even Smarter — and Easier

Once upon a time, installing a smart home security system was complicated and expensive. To get one, you had to call a professional company. They’d send an installer out to drill holes in your walls and run wires throughout your home. You’d spend big bucks for the installation and a multiyear maintenance and monitoring contract. 

But now, technology has changed that completely. You can DIY a smart home security system with moderately priced equipment. Your options include smart door locks, security cameras, video doorbells, and motion sensors you can install yourself. Smart home security systems run on Wi-Fi, Zigbee, or Bluetooth, with no wiring needed. And you can monitor these systems with an app on your phone. 

Because of this simpler, more affordable technology, home security devices are more popular. Market researchers NPD Group report that half of U.S. consumers now own at least one smart home device, up from 35% in 2020. And smart security devices are one of the most popular smart home devices. They had higher sales gains, at 44%, than any other category in 2020, says NPD Group. 

If you’re thinking of joining the fan club by adding smart home security to your house, here’s an overview of the most popular device categories.

Smart Door Lock

A smart door lock is a Wi-Fi- or Bluetooth-enabled device that lets you lock and unlock a door via an app on your phone.  Smart locks work by opening and closing a deadbolt electronically. This form of keyless entry lets you open a door with an icon tap or a voice command. That way, you won’t be fumbling for keys while your arms are full of groceries.

Pros

  • You have a lot of control over comings and goings at your house. You can see who opened the smart door lock and when, so you can check if your kids got home from school on time. You’ll know if the dogwalker showed up at noon. And you can do it while sitting at your desk at the office. “I love knowing every time my door opens or closes,” says Christy Roth, a smart home tech expert in charge of Home & Distribution Software and Devices at Schneider Electric in Spring Hill, Tenn.
  • You can give out virtual keys. These codes will let a guest or family member unlock the door with their phone. You can set the keys to expire or work only during specific times. You won’t have to leave a key under the doormat or give away house keys you won’t get back.
  • Burglars can’t pick them. Smart locks don’t have a key slot, so they’ll foil analog burglars.

Cons

  • If you lose power or your phone, you may not be able to get into your house. If you don’t have power you won’t have Wi-Fi. And that means you can’t open your smart lock. The same chain of events happens when you lose your phone. You need a backup plan, like being able to log into your smart lock from another device. It’s the digital equivalent of a spare key.
  • They use batteries. If the batteries die, you won’t be able to unlock the door. You must change the batteries periodically.
  • Digital thieves can hack them. They can try to override your entry code and unlock your door. The good news: Your lock will alert you that there’s been an unauthorized entry.
  • They’re more expensive. Smart locks cost $150 to $300, significantly more than a dumb lock.

Video doorbell

A video doorbell lets you see who’s at your door when you’re not home. The device, also called a doorbell camera, uses Wi-Fi to stream live video to your phone. Here’s how it works: When someone rings the doorbell or when the camera detects motion, an app will notify you. The video doorbell will then livestream video to your phone so you can speak to the person at the door. You can record the video and save it to your phone or the cloud, which comes in handy if you want a record of who did what on your porch. “A video doorbell is a must-have in my book,” Roth says. A lot of people agree. As of 2020, about 20 million U.S. homes,16%, had video doorbells. Industry analysts predict that number will grow significantly as more people adopt smart home technology.

Pros

  • You can answer the door wherever you are. Whether you’re on the other side of the door or the other side of the world, you can see who is at your door and ask them what they want.
  • They help stop porch pirates. Roughly 36 million Americans say they’ve had packages stolen from their porch in the last year. When a delivery person leaves a package, a video doorbell will alert you so you can bring it inside or tell the person where to stash it. If porch pirates beat you to your package, a video doorbell can help police catch the thieves because you’ll have them on camera stealing your Amazon Prime delivery. “If someone knows you’ve got a video doorbell, they’ll probably think twice about stealing your package,” says Steven Hummel, manager of the Consumer Technology Association’s market research team. “They add a lot of security to your home for not a lot of money.”
  • You don’t have to rush to the door every time the bell rings. Instead, check the app on your phone. If it’s a friend, get off the sofa and let them in. If it’s a stranger, you don’t have to interrupt your “Ted Lasso” binge.

Cons

  • Some video doorbells need to be hardwired to your existing doorbell wiring. That may not not be a DIY job, since you’d have to handle electrical wires.
  • Some run only on batteries. They’re easier to install, but you’ll need to replace the batteries every few weeks.
  • They’re more expensive than a dumb doorbell. Video doorbells cost $100 to $350, depending on the features. That’s as much as eight times the cost of an analog doorbell.
  • Some companies try to upsell you on a confusing array of services and features. You can hook your device up to a 24/7 monitoring center or get more storage space in the cloud by paying extra fees. “I can’t tell you how many $1.99 and $4.99 services many of these devices come with,” Roth says. “It can get overwhelming managing and understanding the services you need versus the ones you don’t.” If you know your needs, that will help you sort through which, if any, additional services to get, Roth adds. If you’re a regular online shopper, consider a package detection upgrade that some video doorbells offer. It will alert you when a delivery person picks up or drops off a package. Or you can opt for a basic paid subscription that lets you store, download, or share video for up to 60 days.

Motion Sensor

A smart motion sensor is a battery-powered device that detects when anything or anyone crosses its path and triggers an action. It communicates over Z-Wave, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. A motion sensor can do everything from turning on lights when you enter a room to telling you when your toddler is climbing out of her crib.  A lack of motion can also trigger motion sensors, so lights will turn off when no one is in a room. You can run motion sensors through an app on your phone to control devices including smart lights and speakers just by tapping an icon.

Pros

  • You can install motion sensors easily and almost anywhere. You can mount them on the wall or set them on a flat surface in minutes.
  • Motion sensors can lower your energy bills. A motion sensor can tell smart bulbs, smart speakers, and TV sets to turn off when a room has been empty too long or at a set hour each night.
  • You can use them to turn a houseful of smart home gadgets into a smart home. Place motion sensors around your home, link them to your smart devices via your smart speaker, and the sensors can help everything work together.
  • They’re super affordable. You can get a motion sensor for as little as $20.

Cons

  • Motion sensors use batteries. You’ll need to check and change them regularly to keep them working. Most will let you know when the batteries are getting weak.
  • If they run on Wi-Fi, they may hit dead zones in your home and stop working. You’ll need to boost their range with a mesh router ­– also called a mesh network – that pairs two or more routers together to deliver a seamless Wi-Fi network. If your home is larger than 3,000 square feet or multistory, a mesh router is a good idea. A bridge – a device that joins two or more Wi-Fi networks so they can work as a single network – will also boost your home’s Wi-Fi coverage.

Security Kit or Home Monitoring System

If you want your DIY smart home security to go bigger than one or two devices, get a security kit. Also known as a home monitoring system, these kits replace the home alarm systems you used to have a pro install. They generally come with contact and motion sensors, a base station that’s the wireless brain of the system, and touch-screen control panels.

Pros

  • You can customize the system. Adding security cameras, glass break sensors, panic buttons, and environmental sensors will alert you to gas leaks, water leaks, or fire.
  • You can integrate your other smart tech devices. Many home security systems double as smart home hubs so you connect and automate your other smart devices into a single network. You can connect your alarm, your smart locks, your smart thermostat, and your video doorbell and run them all with an app on your phone.
  • You can save money on homeowners insurance. Some insurance companies give policy discounts for homes with security systems that include window and door sensors, smart locks, or video doorbells. They don’t give discounts for individual devices like video doorbells.
  • The kits are more affordable than professionally installed alarm systems. Home monitoring systems start at $200 to $400 for a basic setup.

Cons

  • You will have to pay extra for professional monitoring. Unlike professionally installed alarm systems, you don’t get a team of trained dispatchers who will monitor your alarm 24/7. That’s part of the reason DIY systems are so much more affordable. Many home monitoring systems offer professional monitoring for an extra monthly fee that ranges from $10 to $40.
  • You’re the tech support. Unlike professionally installed systems, there’s not a tech on call to fix glitches. It’s just you and You Tube tutorials.

Smart tech security devices make it easy and affordable to protect your home. You can install many of these devices yourself and only pay for a monitoring plan when you want it. You can keep an eye on your family and your home from any location via sensors and cameras directly from your phone. Video doorbells, smart door locks, motion sensors, and home monitoring systems put high tech security at your fingertips.

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How Smart Home Technology Can Be a Selling Point

You often judge a house by it’s good looks. But guess what? Now you can also judge it by its IQ. Long-buzzed about smart home technology — think smart thermostats, smart lighting, and app-controlled security systems — are moving into more homes. Smart home tech can up your coolness factor and make homes easier to operate. Plus, it may also offer perks when you sell your home one day.

Home shoppers are increasingly looking beyond that killer kitchen upgrade to a seller’s Wi-Fi signal and connectivity. This isn’t just a priority for the techie set. As smart home technology gets more affordable and easier to use, more people are adding devices. Half of U.S. consumers owned at least one smart home device in 2021, up from 35% in 2020, according to NPD Connected Intelligence. The number is expected to grow as homeowners look to save money, feel safer at home, and add convenience.

A Home’s Technology Smarts Matter

Here comes a potential home buyer. Motion-activated lighting automatically turns on as they enter. A smart thermostat adjusts the temperature for ultimate comfort. The smart robot vacuum is keeping the home tidy. The window blinds are adjusting based on the sun’s direction. And the smart speaker is telling them about the home’s features.

Seriously, wouldn’t you be a little impressed?

Four in 10 Americans have bought a smart home device since the COVID-19 outbreak and are more interested in smart home technology, according to a 2020 REALTOR.com study. “The pandemic has driven smart home technology forward,” says Angel Piontek, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Elite in Fredericksburg, Va. “How we interact with our homes is becoming different. At some point, buyers will expect it.” 

The majority of real estate professionals surveyed by Z-Wave Alliance believe smart home technology can help in marketing a home, according to the organization’s 2020 report on smart technology. In fact, some real estate professionals are already using smart home features as selling points. You may spot more icons on online 3D tours of real estate listings that flag smart technology inside a home. Or, during in-person real estate showings, laminated placards may point to devices and highlight what they do. 

Smart Home Technology Costs and Buyer Preferences

Consumers between 18 and 34 said they would pay more for homes with home theaters, smart speakers in every room, and connected kitchens, according to the REALTOR.com study. In the 25 to 54 age group, consumers said they’d pay more for solar roof tiles and home battery packs. And for those 55 and older, solar roof tiles, smart doorbells, and security systems would be worth extra money.

It’s tougher to validate that smart technology can generate more money in a home sale. Anecdotally, real estate professionals believe it can: “If a home is marketed correctly and has smart home technology, it can sell for top dollar,” says Kristin Triolo, a broker associate with RE/MAX Platinum Realty in Sarasota, Fla.

Fully automating an entire home with higher-end systems could cost upward of $15,000. But an appraiser would factor in such a system at resale, according to Christopher Matos Rogers, an associate broker with the Matos Rogers Group’s Palmerhouse Properties in Atlanta.  

Boosting Marketability with Smart Technology

If you don’t already have smart home technology, some real estate professionals may recommend adding it before you list your home. Tech-savvy generations may expect it. And older adults may be drawn to such systems — particularly voice-controlled ones that support aging in place.

You can easily add smart home technology to modernize an older home and help it compete with newer ones. After all, many homebuilders offer smart home packages to outfit new homes with smart thermostats, app-controlled garage doors, smart lighting, door locks, and video security systems.

Smart home technology investments can range from $20 for adding smart lightbulbs to $20,000 or more for automated solutions that connect systems in one hub for an entire house. For $1,500, you can outfit your home with multiple systems like a smart speaker, smart lighting, and a smart thermostat to increase the home’s smart tech appeal. For about $5,500, homeowners could automate the lights, door locks, and thermostat, and install a smart speaker, hub, and smart plugs in three rooms, according to FixR.com.

Regardless of how extensive your devices are, real estate professionals will typically want to spotlight them. “Buyers may not have a lot of knowledge of smart home technology, but they do know and understand energy savings and cost savings,” Triolo says. For example, a Nest consumer survey estimates that the company’s smart thermostat could reduce a home’s heating costs by 10% and cooling costs by 15%. 

What Else Adds Smart Tech Appeal

Bigger brand names in smart home technology — like Nest, Ring, and Lutron — have instant name recognition when selling, says Piotnek.

Ease of use also counts. For example, having to open several apps on a phone to control various aspects of a home can feel cumbersome, says Ellis Gardner, a broker with Keller Williams Realty in Chattanooga, Tenn. But being able to say, “Hey, Google, turn on my lights!” shows convenience.

With smart devices, you’ll need to be clear about what stays and what goes with the home sale. “It’s a gray area with some of these devices on what’s considered personal property,” Piontek says. For example, digital assistants like Alexa or Google Home may be used as your smart home hub. But sellers may consider these personal property to take when they move. “So, it’s really important to get this all in writing so there’s no question at the end of a transaction.”

3 Ways to Avoid Misunderstandings About Smart Home Tech

Avoid misunderstandings about smart home technology with these three tips:

  1. Find an agent with smart technology expertise. They can help avoid hiccups in selling a smart home and also tend to be savvy marketers of smart tech. Some real estate professionals — like Triolo and Gardner – have smart home certification and extra training through the Residential Real Estate Council, a provider of real estate education and networking. 
  2. Identify which of your smart home technology devices or apps are real property versus personal property. In general, items affixed or hardwired to a house stay — likely your smart thermostat or any switches and mounts. If you plan to take your Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell, replace it before listing. The buyer could figure that anything in the house at a showing will remain with the house. 
  3. Turn over the virtual keys. On closing day, “turning over the passwords in a smart home is like turning over the key to the front door,” says Gardner. For all transferable technology, reset it to factory settings to erase any personal data. Leave instruction manuals or website links for the new owners to open up new accounts. 

Smart home technology is improving safety, security, and convenience in homes. Homeowners should also consider the benefits they’ll have when they sell one day, Piontek says. Just like curb appeal, high home appeal may make your home a standout to buyers.

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4 Smart Home Devices: Which Are Right for Your Home?

When you’re not home, little doubts can plague you. Did I lock the door? Did I leave a key for the housekeeper? Is the AC still on full blast? Smart home devices can resolve those questions and ease your mind. They can also make your home more comfortable and convenient, and save you money. 

Once the exclusive domain of the super-rich and alpha geeks, smart home devices have become more common, user friendly, and affordable. You can equip your home with some basic smart devices like a smart thermostat, smart lighting, and smart door locks for $1,000 or less. You can run these devices with your smartphone or tablet. And in many cases, you can install them yourself; no electrical engineering degree required. 

Here’s what you need to know to get started in choosing the right smart home devices for your home and your budget.

What Are My Smart Home Goals?

Start by deciding what you want to accomplish, and that will lead you to a relevant device. If you want more security, consider a smart door lock. Are you looking for more comfort and convenience? Check out smart lights that come on right before you get home from work. Want to save money? A smart thermostat that uses artificial intelligence to control the temperature in your house may be the way to go. Do you crave a cool, high-tech gadget that’s downright Jetsons-esque? Go for a smart appliance like a fridge that can stream cooking videos.

Do I Need a Hub?

You don’t necessarily need a hub. In the early days of smart home tech you needed a dedicated device that tied all your smart home devices together. Back then, hubs were problematic, because not all devices were compatible with them, and their software needed to be updated regularly. Those old hubs are near relics now. These days, you can run your smart home devices through an app on your phone or tablet. Wi-Fi and the cloud have been game changers in smart home technology because they enable many devices to network together regardless of the make and the brand. 

Many homeowners use a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa as a de facto home hub by tying all their smart home devices to it. Once you do that, you can control your devices with a single unit. If you tie your smart home door lock and smart home appliances to your voice assistant, you can say, “Siri, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and unlock the door,” and consider it done. 

“Voice assistants have made so much more possible in the area of smart home devices,” says John Carey, vice president of Designer Appliances, a New Jersey retailer that specializes in smart appliances. “They can work with so many different products.”

Do I Need a Wi-Fi Connection?

You can run your devices by connecting them to a hot spot device, like a MIPS (Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipelined Stages), which lets you tap into a cell phone signal. A MIPS is basically a little computer that hooks your smart devices to the cloud via a cell phone network. You can also run smart devices through a hot spot on your phone or tablet. But you’ll get the best experience with Wi-Fi hooked up to the internet, Carey says. 

Can Smart Homes Get Hacked?

Although smart homes can be hacked, the damage a hacker can do is limited, says Christy Roth, director of offer management, home and distribution software for Schneider Electric in Nashville, Tenn. “Hackers can’t get to your bank account through your smart refrigerator,” she says. “But they could see what’s in your refrigerator or turn it off.” 

Although appliances can be at risk, homeowners are typically more concerned about risk tied to devices like smart locks and cameras. Carey says you’re better safe than sorry when it comes to security with smart home devices and appliances. “We recommend people set up a guest network that’s separate from their main network and connect all their smart devices to that. That way hackers can’t get on your network and onto your computer, where you store sensitive information.”

4 Smart Home Device Categories

Here’s a quick primer on four of the most popular smart home devices and some pros and cons for each.

1. Smart thermostats — They’re the top-selling smart home device. Around 33 million households in the United States had one as of 2020. “They’re the most natural place to start if you want to get into smart home tech,” Roth says. Smart thermostats let you create programmable temperature settings based on your schedule, the weather, and your own needs. Many smart thermostats incorporate artificial intelligence technology to learn your schedule and adjust heating and cooling according to when you’re home. They’ll turn off the AC while you’re at work and turn it on 30 minutes before you get home from work each day. “They definitely pay for themselves with energy savings,” Carey says.

Pros

  • Smart home thermostats reduce the use of heating and cooling systems when nobody is home. If your HVAC runs less, your utility bill will be lower.
  • They alert you when it’s time to change the filter and can tell you when your last maintenance check was, saving you costly repairs.

Cons

  • They can be complex to operate. “Setting up the profiles for vacation and sleep isn’t easy, so people can end up ignoring them or overriding them,” Roth says. “And the AI can annoy some people so that they override it. That defeats the purpose of having them.” 
  • Some require professional installation. 

2. Smart lighting This includes smart lightbulbs or smart switches. Both can be controlled remotely, via your smartphone when you’re miles away or with a voice assistant when you’re at home. You can program them to turn on or off at certain times and control their brightness.

Pros

  • Smart bulbs are simple to set up; you can screw them into a light fixture yourself.
  • They are easy to scale up; buy more to enlarge your smart lighting system.
  • They let you use whatever bulb you want because the switch is hooked to the cloud, not the bulb.

Cons

  • You can’t get smart bulbs to fit every fixture.
  • They don’t work well in fixtures tied to dimmer switches.
  • They require rewiring to install. You’ll need to call a pro.

3. Smart appliances — Anything that runs on electricity is game for joining the Internet of Things, the ever-growing network of connected devices that talk to one another via the cloud. So, you can get smart microwaves that let you download cooking instructions for frozen food, smart ovens you can preheat before you get home, and smart refrigerators that alert you when food hits its expiration date. “Our biggest seller is smart washing machines,” Carey says. “They’ll alert you when your laundry is done, so you can get it into the drier before it sours.” 

Pros

  • They look cool. What’s not to love about a refrigerator with a touchscreen that lets you see inside the fridge without opening it?
  • They can cut your electric bill. Some smart appliances can calculate energy rates and schedule themselves to run during off-peak hours when electricity rates are lower.  

Cons

  • They’re expensive to buy and repair. 
  • If your internet goes down, your smart appliances become dumb ones.

4. Smart door locks — They let you lock and unlock your house with the tap of a finger or a voice command. No keys required. Smart locks enable remote access, so you can unlock a door to let in a guest while you’re at work. Some locks allow you to monitor entry and exit logs in real time, so you can see if the kids got home from school or if the dog walker arrived on time. Some allow you to set up entry codes that work for only a certain period of time, so you can control who has access to your house.

Pros

  • You don’t have to dig in your purse or pockets for keys. 
  • You can see who comes and goes at your house.
  • Instead of giving out house keys to everyone who needs to get into your home, you can set a code for the cleaning person or the dog walker that only they use. 

Cons

  • They run on batteries. If the battery goes dead, you’re locked out.
  • If the power goes out or your Wi-Fi goes down, you won’t be able to operate the lock remotely.
  • Like all smart tech, smart locks can be hacked. But they have a system that will notify you or the police of an unauthorized entry.

Smart devices are a smart investment as long as they add comfort, convenience, or savings that you value. You’ll be more likely to get what works for you after exploring the most popular options and their pros and cons.

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What You Need to Know About Buyer Love Letters to Home Sellers

Did you hear the one about the dog who wrote a love letter? Not to his owner, but to a home seller. Well, actually the dog’s owner wrote the letter in Buddy’s voice. Buddy described how wag-worthy the house was and how much he craved a game of fetch in the backyard. 

Doggie ghostwriting, which happened IRL, is just one way home buyers are getting creative to motivate a seller to accept their offer. It sounds harmless enough, right? But buyer letters to home sellers can unintentionally create Fair Housing Act discrimination and risks for buyers, sellers, and their agents. And there are more-effective ways to offer what sellers value.

How Love Letters to Home Sellers Work

“A love letter is any communication from the buyer to the seller where the buyer is trying to set themselves apart,” says Deanne Rymarowicz, associate counsel at the National Association of REALTORS®. “It could be an email, a Facebook post, a photo. For example, some buyers send elaborate packages with videos and letters. The communication has the intent of ‘pick me, and here’s why.’” 

Buyers who write the letters typically send them to the listing agents, along with their offers, says Paul Knighton, CEO and cofounder of MORE Realty in Tigard, Ore. “They ask, ‘Would you please pass this along to the sellers?’ They’re doing what they can to get their offer accepted, especially in a competitive market.”

Letters Can Risk Violating Fair Housing Act

While these love letters may seem harmless, they can create a problem if buyers accidentally reveal information in one or more of the seven areas protected by the Fair Housing Act, Rymarowicz explains. Those areas are race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. “Buyers could say something like, ‘this is down the street from our temple,’ or ‘the hallways are wide enough to accommodate my wheelchair.’ Anything that provides personal information related to one of the prohibited bases for discrimination could result in a violation if a seller makes a decision based on that information.” 

Do Love Letters to Home Sellers Work?

On top of creating potential risk, love letters to sellers aren’t all that effective, Knighton says. Here’s a case in point. Several years ago, one of his clients got 14 offers overnight, ranging from $219,000 to $250,000. “A person who offered $225,000 wanted to send a love letter. I told him, ‘You’re writing an offer that’s $25,000 under the highest offer. A letter’s not going to help.’ He wrote it anyway, but the seller didn’t even read it and took the higher offer. The offer needs to stand on its own.” 

And seller apathy isn’t the only issue. Some sellers may be completely turned off, Rymarowicz says. “They may think, ‘This is a financial transaction.’” 

Beyond communication, the circumstances can suggest Fair House Act discrimination, she explains. Say an offer with a love letter got the house but was less attractive than an offer without a letter. “If the losing buyer doesn’t share characteristics of the seller and the winning buyer does, you could have a situation. If sellers accept love letters, it’s more important that they document the basis of their decision when selecting a winning offer.”

Tips to Avoid Violating the Fair Housing Act

So, what exactly should you do to avoid risk of violating the Fair Housing Act? Here are five tips:

  1. Keep the contract in mind: Knighton says real estate pros at his firm talk to buyers and sellers about contract boundaries. “We say, ‘Please don’t communicate with the other party, because we are in contract negotiations and need to manage time frames.’”  
  2. Focus on objective information: Find ways to differentiate yourself on objective terms. And talk to the agent about how to improve the substance of your offer, Rymarowicz advises. “Can you make a larger earnest money deposit? Can you give them a longer closing date?” 
  3. Proceed with caution: The NAR discourages buyer letters to home sellers and advises caution, according to Rymarowicz. 
  4. Talk to your agent: Don’t be surprised if your real estate agent brings up the subject. “If you’re the seller, the listing agent may talk to you about the potential for Fair Housing violations. They may ask if you want to accept the risks,” Rymarowicz says. If the agent doesn’t raise the subject of buyer letters, the buyer or seller can do so. 
  5. Know your state law: Oregon passed a law governing how letters to home sellers are used. “Effective January 2022, a seller’s agent must reject any communication from a buyer other than customary documents,” Knighton says. A real estate firm filed a challenge to the law, though. And until the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon issues a final decision, the state won’t enforce the law.

Even if a buyer letter to a seller focuses on the property and not the buyer, there’s little to be gained, Knighton says. “There’s risk, but the reward isn’t there. Instead, focus on writing a really strong offer. That’s what has to stand out.”