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The 5 Best Self-Learning Smart Home Devices

Self-learning home devices learn your habits and adjust themselves accordingly for an unprecedented level of convenience.

MAY 22, 2018

Picture this: You’ve had an exhausting week — all you want to do is go home and relax. It’s hot outside, but you arrive to a perfectly cooled home. As dusk rolls in, your blinds follow suit, as if they’re chasing the sunset. You make your way to your bedroom and practically crumble into bed. The lights dim as the temperature dips and you drift off into a peaceful sleep.

This might sound like a futuristic dream, but actually, it’s a reality. In today’s world, millions of smart gadgets are available to make your home more intelligent. But these “smart” devices are limited to homeowner’s programming capabilities, which is usually turning on and off at certain times. Genius? Not so much. Self-learning home devices are different. They learn your habits and adjust themselves accordingly for an unprecedented level of convenience.  Here, we’ll take a look at some of the best connected devices and the ways they can observe patterns, interpret data, or use artificial intelligence to help make your life easier.

  1. Self-Learning Thermostats

Keeping your house at an ideal temperate can be pricey. About 50 percent of your energy bill can be attributed to running the heat or air conditioning. A manual thermostat can be programmed to adjust temps at certain times but if you leave for vacation and forget to turn it off, you’re out of luck.

Smart thermostats are a game-changer. They can learn your favorite temp and make sure you’re never too hot or too cold. If you’ve cranked the AC a few days in a row, your thermostat will pick up on this pattern and adjust the temperature settings accordingly. And when you leave for work or a week-long vacation, sensors and GPS will alert your thermostat to automatically save energy (and money).

2.    Self-Learning Blinds

There’s nothing worse than being woken up at the crack of dawn on a weekend to sun beams hitting you square in the face. Or the opposite — you can’t seem to roll out of bed because the room is so dark that it must still be nighttime, right?

Smart blinds can help address both of these issues. The latest intelligent shades connect to your compatible smart-home systems and adjust themselves automatically. Simply program your shades to move your window treatments to your preference. And to take it one step further, some smart blinds can follow the sun to maintain the same level of light as the season’s change, which saves energy and money (without any effort on your part).

3.    Self-Learning Beds

Even your bed can have brainpower. Tech-savvy mattresses covers sync up with your thermostat and bedroom lighting for a full sensory experience. As you begin to snooze, the temperature and lights of your room and bed adjust to your preference. When you doze off completely, they adjust again or turn off completely. These self-learning mattress protectors can also track your sleep patterns and help you achieve your best night’s rest.

4.    Self-Learning Surveillance

Being able to keep an eye on your home while you are away is the ultimate peace of mind, as one in 36 homes are burglarized each year. Smart surveillance systems employ innovative learning technology like facial recognition to keep your home safe from unfamiliar faces. Some cameras also have self-learning video analytics, which automatically adjust their settings based on the scene conditions to give you the clearest view possible. Plus, they connect to Wi-Fi for 24/7 footage, pinged right to your smartphone from anywhere with internet.

5.    Self-Learning Spectrometer  

This might not seem like an everyday item, but smart food spectrometers are making waves in the kitchen. This tool interprets algorithms to understand food freshness, sweetness and quality. In real-time, it can determine if your meat has gone bad, if your whiskey is the real deal or if that farmer’s market fruit is fresh.

Bonus: Self-Learning Home Controller

As seen at the 2018 Consumer Electronic Show, a self-learning home controller takes your smart home gadgets and make them smarter. It uses artificial intelligence to understand your home patterns, picking up data from your smart appliances, lighting and electricity. It automates mundane tasks without scheduling or hassle to better manage your home and save money. Although it’s not available for purchase yet, this home controller could help smart gadgets reach their full potential.

 

As smart home gadgets continue to get smarter and learn on their own, it’ll be fascinating to see how they will predict our behavior to save energy, slash bills, and most importantly, make our lives better.

Perhaps one day, there will be no snoozing through alarms (your phone will know to wake you up), no burnt banana bread (your oven will know it’s fully baked), and no parties after midnight (your lights know bedtime is at 10PM). But hopefully these self-learning devices will learn that sometimes humans like to break the rules.

 

Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance, where he oversees countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon has over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry and he writes about a variety of topics, including smart home technology, homeowners insurance and the intersection of the two. You can learn more about Esurance’s homeowners insurance options by visiting their website

Sharon is the Digital Content Specialist for Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC. She lives in New Jersey and holds a BA from Syracuse University. She is passionate about giving back to the community and enjoys teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at the local Boys & Girls Club. She loves pun-ny jokes and she can watch adorable videos of puppies and babies all day.

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8 Real Estate Documents to Keep—and What Happens If You Don’t

By Daniel Bortz | May 24, 2018

real-estate-docs-to-keep

Which real estate documents should you keep after buying a home? After all, you don’t want to have to file all of it if you don’t have to; but you also don’t want to chuck something crucial.

Your closing company is required by law to keep a record of your closing documents, so that’s a good fallback in case you misplace yours. Still, it’s smart for you to keep important documents on hand—particularly if, later on, you need to file a claim against the seller or your professional representation team (i.e., your real estate agent, home inspector, or mortgage lender). Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, but it’s wise to be prepared.

Full disclosure: I’m a real estate agent, but I’m not a naturally organized person. In fact, until a few months ago, I kept the documents from my home purchase in a folder in my closet labeled “Keep Docs.” (I’m not joking!) But the important thing is, I know what forms I have to hold onto.

So, of the hundreds of documents you’ll encounter during the home-buying process, here are the ones you should keep—and why.

1. Buyer’s agent agreement

When you choose a real estate agent, you sign a buyer’s agent agreement—a contract between you and the brokerage, stating that the agent represents you in the purchase of your home.

This agreement outlines the terms of the relationship with your agent—including who pays the agent’s commission (in most cases, the seller), the length of the agreement (90 to 120 days is standard in most markets), and the terms for terminating the agreement.

Why you should keep it: This contract spells out what services your agent agreed to provide you with—and it can come into play if you have an issue with your agent after the transaction closes.

2. Purchase agreement

Every home sale starts with a real estate purchase agreement—a legally binding contract signed by home buyers and sellers that confirms that they agree upon a certain purchase price, closing date, and other terms.

Why you should keep it: The provisions stated in this contract must be followed to the letter. If you or the seller fails to fulfill these duties, there could be legal ramifications.

3. Addenda, amendments, or riders

These types of documents alter or amend the terms of your purchase contract. For example, if a survey reveals that there’s an encroaching fence built by a neighbor, and you’d like the fence removed, the sales contract has to be formally amended.

Why you should keep them: Addenda, amendments, and riders are often related to home inspections or appraisals, and because they change the original terms of the signed contract, they’re worth holding onto.

For instance, if both parties signed a repair addendum, where the seller agreed to make certain repairs based on the home inspection, you’ll need this addendum if you find issues with the repairs down the road.

4. Seller disclosures

Sellers are required by law to disclose certain problems with the home, both present and past, that they’re aware of that could affect its value. While laws vary by state, these disclosures might include lead-based paint, pest infestations, and renovations done without a permit.

Why you should keep them: If major problems crop up with your home after you move in, these disclosures can be the basis for a future lawsuit against the seller. If you lose them, you might have trouble holding the seller accountable in a court of law.

5. Home inspection report

After your home inspection, your inspector should produce a report with detailed notes on the condition of the home and any potential problems.

Why you should keep it: This document is an extremely detailed list of everything that the home inspector finds, and it typically includes photos of problem areas. By keeping this report, you’ll have a record of any repairs that you may need to make to the property in the future.

6. Closing disclosure

Mortgage lenders must provide borrowers with a closing disclosure (also called a CD) at least three business days before settlement. This document spells out things such as your loan term (typically 15 or 30 years), loan type (a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage), the interest rate, and closing costs, among other financials.

Why you should keep it: Your CD is an itemized list of all the costs associated with closing and your mortgage, and it’s important to have for future reference. It’s also the document you’ll need when you go to file your taxes, since you can take deductions for things such as mortgage points.

7. Title insurance policy

Title insurance offers protection against any competing claims to a home. As part of the process, the insurer will run a title search of public records, seeking loose ends such as liens against the property or fraudulent signatures on ownership documents.

Why you should keep it: You’ll need this document in the event another party, such as a previous owner, tries to claim the property. Note that there is separate title insurance to cover lenders versus buyers, and you would do well to get a policy for yourself.

8. Property deed

When you take title and become the sole owner of the property, you’ll receive a deed—a legal document that confirms or conveys the ownership rights to the home, says Anne Rizzo, associate vice president of Detroit-based title insurance company Amrock.

“It must be a physical document signed by both the buyer and the seller,” Rizzo says.

Typically, the property deed is mailed to you after the title transfer documents are recorded in your county’s public records office.

Why you should keep it: Presenting a property deed is the only way to show someone you legally own the home you’re residing in. Because the deed is sent to you directly, neither your mortgage lender nor title company is required to keep a copy of it.

 

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What to Expect During a Home Inspection

From finding an inspector to dealing with surprises — this is your guide to getting a house checked out.

Image result for pictures of home inspections

The first thing you need to know about home inspection: You’ll feel all the feels.

There’s the excitement — the inspection could be the longest time you’re in the house, after the showing.

Right behind that comes … anxiety. What if the inspector finds something wrong? So wrong you can’t buy the house?

Then there’s impatience. Seriously, is this whole home-buying process over yet?

Not yet. But you’re close. So take a deep breath. Because the most important thing to know about home inspection: It’s just too good for you, as a buyer, to skip. Here’s why.

A Home Inspector Is Your Protector

An inspector helps you make sure a house isn’t hiding anything before you commit for the long haul. (Think about it this way: You wouldn’t even get coffee with a stranger without checking out their history.)

A home inspector identifies any reasonably discoverable problems with the house (a leaky roof, faulty plumbing, etc.). Hiring an inspector is you doing your due diligence. To find a good one (more on how to do that soon), it helps to have an understanding of what the typical home inspection entails.

An inspection is all about lists.  

Before an inspection, the home inspector will review the seller’s property disclosure statement. (Each state has its own requirements for what sellers must disclose on these forms; some have stronger requirements than others.) The statement lists any flaws the seller is aware of that could negatively affect the home’s value.

The disclosure comes in the form of an outline, covering such things as:

  • Mold
  • Pest infestation
  • Roof leaks
  • Foundation damage
  • Other problems, depending on what your state mandates.

During the inspection, an inspector has three tasks: To:

  1. Identify problems with the house
  2. Suggest fixes
  3. Estimate how much repairs might cost

He or she produces a written report, usually including photos, that details any issues with the property. This report is critical to you and your agent — it’s what you’ll use to request repairs from the seller. (We’ll get into how you’ll do that in a minute, too.)

The Inspector Won’t Check Everything

Generally, inspectors only examine houses for problems that can be seen with the naked eye. They won’t be tearing down walls or using magical X-ray vision, to find hidden faults.

Inspectors also won’t put themselves in danger. If a roof is too high or steep, for example, they won’t climb up to check for missing or damaged shingles. They’ll use binoculars to examine it instead.

They can’t predict the future, either. While an inspector can give you a rough idea of how many more years that roof will hold up, he or she can’t tell you exactly when it will need to be replaced.

Finally, home inspectors are often generalists. A basic inspection doesn’t routinely include a thorough evaluation of:

  • Swimming pools
  • Wells
  • Septic systems
  • Structural engineering work
  • The ground beneath a home
  • Fireplaces and chimneys

When it comes to wood-burning fireplaces, for instance, most inspectors will open and close dampers to make sure they’re working, check chimneys for obstructions like birds’ nests, and note if they believe there’s reason to pursue a more thorough safety inspection.

If you’re concerned about the safety of a fireplace, you can hire a certified chimney inspector for about $125 to $325 per chimney; find one through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Explore More Topics:

Make an Offer & Negotiate

Buy a Home: Step-by-Step

It’s Your Job to Check the Inspector

Now you’re ready to connect with someone who’s a pro at doing all of the above. Here’s where — once again — your real estate agent has your back. He or she can recommend reputable home inspectors to you.

In addition to getting recommendations (friends and relatives are handy for those, too), you can rely on online resources such as the American Society of Home Inspectors’ (ASHI) Find a Home Inspector tool, which lets you search by address, metro area, or neighborhood.

You’ll want to interview at least three inspectors before deciding whom to hire. During each chat, ask questions such as:

  • Are you licensed or certified? Inspector certifications vary, based on where you live. Not every state requires home inspectors to be licensed, and licenses can indicate different degrees of expertise. ASHI lists each state’s requirements here.
  • How long have you been in the business? Look for someone with at least five years of experience — it indicates more homes inspected.
  • How much do you charge? The average home inspection costs about $315. For condos and homes under 1,000 square feet, the average cost is $200. Homes over 2,000 square feet can run $400 or more. (Figures are according to HomeAdvisor.com.)
  • What do you check, exactly? Know what you’re getting for your money.
  • What don’t you check, specifically? Some home inspectors are more thorough than others.
  • How soon after the inspection will I receive my report? Home inspection contingencies require you to complete the inspection within a certain period of time after the offer is accepted — normally five to seven days — so you’re on a set timetable. A good home inspector will provide you with the report within 24 hours after the inspection.
  • May I see a sample report? This will help you gauge how detailed the inspector is and how he or she explains problems.

Sometimes you can find {{ start_tip 84 }}online reviews{{ end_tip}} of inspectors on sites like Angie’s List and Yelp, too, if past clients’ feedback is helpful in making your decision.

Show Up for Inspection (and Bring Your Agent)

It’s inspection day, and the honor of your — and your agent’s — presence is not required, but highly recommended. Even though you’ll receive a report summarizing the findings later on, being there gives you a chance to ask questions, and to learn the inner workings of the home.

Block out two to three hours for the inspection. The inspector will survey the property from top to bottom. This includes checking water pressure; leaks in the attic, plumbing, etc.; if door and window frames are straight (if not, it could be a sign of a structural issue); if electrical wiring is up to code; if smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working; if appliances work properly. Outside, he or she will look at things like siding, fencing, and Water: A Home’s #1 EnemyBesides drainage, ask the inspector about any signs of water damage. Water can destroy the integrity of the home’s structure. So a leaky gutter isn’t just annoying; it’s compromising your foundation.drainage.

The inspector might also be able to check for termites, asbestos, lead paint, or radon. Because these tests involve more legwork and can require special certification, they come at an additional charge.

Get Ready to Negotiate

Once you receive the inspector’s report, review it with your agent.

Legally, sellers are required to make certain repairs. These can vary depending on location. Most sales contracts require the seller to fix:

  • Structural defects
  • Building code violations
  • Safety issues

Most home repairs, however, are negotiable. Be prepared to pick your battles: Minor issues, like a cracked switchplate or loose kitchen faucet, are easy and cheap to fix on your own. You don’t want to start nickel-and-diming the seller.

If there are major issues with the house, your agent can submit a formal request for repairs that includes a copy of the inspection report. Repair requests should be as specific as possible. For instance: Instead of saying “repair broken windows,” a request should say “replace broken window glass in master bathroom.”

  • If the seller agrees to make all of your repair requests: He or she must provide you with invoices from a licensed contractor stating that the repairs were made. Then it’s full steam ahead toward the sale.
  • If the seller responds to your repair requests with a counteroffer: He or she will state which repairs (or credits at closing) he or she is willing to make. The ball is in your court to either agree, counter the seller’s counteroffer, or void the transaction.

At the end of the day, remember to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling about all of this. You need to be realistic about how much repair work you’d be taking on. At this point in the sale, there’s a lot of pressure from all parties to move into the close. But if you don’t feel comfortable, speak up.

The most important things to remember during the home inspection? Trust your inspector, trust your gut, and lean on your agent — they likely have a lot of experience to support your decision-making.

That’s something to feel good about.

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