The Trend of Stress-Free Homes

Life can be crazy. With spouses and kids to look after, busy work weeks and errands on top, it’s easy to feel like you are constantly running around or having something to do. Amidst all the chaos of our hectic lives, it’s nice to walk through the front door of your home and breathe a sigh of relief, instantly feeling more calm and ready to relax.

That being said, check out this article from The National Association of Realtors Magazine about how more and more, stress-free homes are becoming a trend for today’s builders and home buyers:

Stress-Free Homes Are a Trending Niche

From family and jobs to finances and health, life can get complicated. “Zen is in demand,” as one real estate pro says. Learn how you can provide that.

Whether it’s a luxurious $45 million estate in California or a modest $250,000 two-bedroom house in Ohio, marketing a home’s stress-relieving qualities is a growing trend. Today, developers, builders, and interior designers are trying to make homes that offer that soft landing at the end of a day. And homeowners need it—about eight in 10 Americans say they frequently (44 percent) or sometimes (35 percent) encounter stress in their daily lives, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Helping clients find a soothing place to come home to can become a niche in the real estate world. And, understanding what stress-relieving designs are available can help you and your agents guide clients to a happy purchase.

Reaching Female Homebuyers

Since 2003, Design Basics Inc., in Omaha, has been gearing many of its residential blueprints toward easing stress because that is one of the four important elements women look for in a home’s design. Why women, you ask? Well, 91 percent of home purchases are influenced by women, according to the Harvard Business Review. Additionally, the National Association of REALTORS® 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that the number of single female buyers continues to rise, and are currently the second largest buyer group at 18 percent behind married couples at 63 percent.

Paul Foresman, director of business development for Design Basics, says the company took data and research on female buyers of all ages and backgrounds and created the Woman-Centric Matters home design program. They discovered the four primary elements women are looking for in home design: entertainment, stress relief, storage, and flexible living. Foresman travels across the country talking to builders about the program.

“Everyone lives differently. But women tell us that they want to come into their home and feel like it is a place of respite. They look for homes that make their life easier, more convenient, more fun, and more inviting to others,” he adds.

The High End of Less Stress

Home designs by Greg Malin, CEO and founder of Troon Pacific in San Francisco, are adding amenities such as lap pools with underwater speakers that play music and art galleries with chaise lounges so you can take it all in.

“What’s the best luxury in life? My late wife would say it’s your health,” Malin says. So, he builds homes with his passion for sustainability and wellness in mind. Less stress in a person’s world can help with their health. For instance, cables in all bedrooms of his homes are shielded to mitigate electromagnetic field waves, which can cause the body to emit stress signals that can lead to high levels of adrenaline.

His company also uses biophilic design, which bridges a homeowner’s lifestyle with natural environment around them. “We’re trying to connect people to nature. One of our homes offers a yoga deck. Plus, each [development] project offers a wellness center with a sauna, steam room, a place to have a massage, meditation area, and outdoor shower,” he adds.

Joel Goodrich, agent at Colwell Banker Preview International in San Francisco, has shown Malin’s stress-free homes several times to clients. He also is a friend of Malin. “Perhaps, we are living in more stressful times than ever before. People are looking for their homes to be an oasis or retreat from life, the world, and business,” he says. “These homes are designed to feel like a retreat. Zen is in demand.”

Tips for Alleviating Stress at All Price Points

Most home buyers are looking for respite in a haven from everyday stress. The good news is not all stress-free homes have to be multimillion-dollar properties. Here are some of the stress-reducing designs and products being showcased in homes across the country.

Natural light, plus dimmers. “People always gravitate to the bright, sunny spaces in a home. So, anything we can to do enhance natural light is popular,” Foresman says. Malin adds that lights with dimmers can also help reduce harshness, especially in bedrooms, for a more relaxing ambiance.

Automated shades. Shades programed to open at sunrise can be a calming way to wake up without an alarm. They can also be used to reduce sunlight for those not ready to rise, Goodrich says. In addition to setting times, homeowners can pair smart shades with a digital thermostat, so they automatically open and close based on temperature.

A water feature. “Water can be very calming,” Goodrich says. In one extreme example, an international architect put a waterfall in the middle of a living room design and branded it. But a simple fountain in a sun porch or patio can do wonders, too, he adds.

Pet centers. Many buyers nowadays are seeking pet-friendly abodes, so features such as cabinets with pullout drawers for dog food goes a long way. Some want a dog washing station or a room for the pet itself. Electronic doggie doors have also become popular, where the dog has a collar that automatically opens the door to go inside or out.

Nature’s beauty. The ability to see flowers or greenery outside your windows—even in a big city—helps create peacefulness. In Malin’s homes, he plants green rows of bamboo or cypress outside the main windows, even in the heart of the Bay Area.

Covered outdoor living space. Foresman says you don’t have to cancel your plans if it rains when you have a covered outdoor area, which eliminates worry. Plus, coffee on the patio can still happen on rainy mornings. A pergola cover or easy-to-assemble patio gazebo are cost-effective ways to accomplish this.

Work-in pantry. Taking the walk-in pantry to the next level, some buyers want a prep area, sink, dishwasher, and sometimes an oven in what’s dubbed the “work-in” pantry, Foresman says. This eliminates guests seeing any mess while keeping the heart of the gathering in the kitchen.

Relaxing sounds and white noise. Malin installs speakers in master bedrooms and bathrooms, allowing for the sounds of waterfalls, forests, or whatever keeps the homeowners tranquil. For existing homes without built-in speakers, try a Google Home or Amazon Echo—relaxing sounds at open houses may even entice buyers.

Shipping vestibule. This involves a door or cupboard that opens for delivery people. They can leave the package behind the door without entering the house, Foresman says. You don’t have to be home when the delivery is dropped off, and locks can used from your smartphone to avoid theft.

Dual owner suites. This newer building plan has quickly become Foresman’s top seller. It includes two suites on the main floor that can be used for older couples who don’t sleep in the same bed, multigenerational households, boomerang kids, friends who have purchased together, or live-in caregivers. “In many ways for all involved it’s a great stress reliever, with a private bathroom and enough storage,” he adds.

 

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, which of course means that the following day, Wednesday, is Christmas!

With all the tradition and nostalgia that Christmas tends to bring, it’s no wonder it is many people’s favorite holiday. Not only does it bring amazing food and drink, but it also is a time for family to come together, enjoy one another’s company and the festive holiday, and of course we can’t forget about the presents!

There’s gifts, hot cocoa, apple cider, cinnamon scented everything, Christmas trees to decorate, Christmas lights galore that leave us in awe, the magic of snow (well, sometimes), those early Christmas mornings spent with your loved ones eating a hearty breakfast and opening presents in your pj’s, and oh SO MUCH more! Every family has their own traditions that make the holiday special.

Amidst the chaos of the season and all the opening of gifts, we pray you’re able to take it all in. Take in the moments that are far too fleeting and the cherished time spent with loved ones during this season that only comes once a year.

We hope you have a good Christmas Eve tomorrow and we wish you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS this year!

Tips For Winterizing Your Home This Season

Though we posted this article last winter, we felt it was worth posting again because it is such helpful and vital information to have in the winter season.

Living in Prescott where winter temperatures drop below freezing and we get some pretty crazy snowstorms depending on how “wet” the season is that year (snowmagedon February 2019 am I right?), we all should know how to properly winterize our homes.

Even though we don’t get as much snow as other places such as Flagstaff just north of us, or Colorado’s white winters, we still get enough accompanied by some temperatures that could wreak havoc on unprepared homes. Burst pipes, inadequate insulation to keep in heat and save energy, a furnace that cannot keep up with the freeze, and many other things.

Below is some advice from our very own Sheila Mengarelli on how to winterize your home this season. Take a look at her tips and tricks, and make sure your home is properly equipped for the cold months – and hopefully snows – still to come!

Tips to Winterize your Prescott Home

  • Service your Furnace– Have your furnace serviced fall and spring by a local HVAC company to keep you high and dry.

 

  • Change the filters— Don’t forget to change the filter in your furnace. When you put the first furnace filter of the season in, don’t forget to set your digital calendar to remind you to replace it at monthly intervals throughout the cold season.
  • Inspect your Gutters– Clogged gutters can cause water that is blocked to freeze and seep into your home. Take the time to clean them out and make sure that your downspouts are carrying the water away and not toward your house.
  • Repair drafts– Electrical outlets, door frames, windows, and recessed lighting areas typically tend to be drafty. Sealing up these areas can save on your energy bill. Simply use a wet hand, or incense, to move over the areas to spot potential leaks.
  • Check your insulation– Attics require 12 inches of insulation. Moisture problems can occur if your insulation has backing paper, so take the time to do an inspection.
  • Check for any exposed pipes outside– Pipes must be insulated from the cold too. Not only does it keep the pipes from freezing, it will prevent condensation from freezing on them, helping to save on energy bills. Make sure any drip systems are drained and water spickets are off.
  • Vacation — Will you be away for an extended period of time? Never turn your furnace off. Set it at 50 degrees. This will keep your home at a steady temperature no matter what the weather brings. It’s also a good idea to set your water heater to vacation or away mode
  • Check your smokealarm – While you are inspecting so many other aspects of your home, don’t forget to make sure that your smoke alarms are all functioning, and replace the batteries as needed. Also, make sure that you have a functioning fire extinguisher as well.

 

Ready or not, Thanksgiving is on Thursday and we’re here to help!

Below is a list of all the things you may need to purchase at the grocery store so you don’t forget anything! Cooked and basted turkey, stuffing, cranberries, green beans, honeyed ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and the list could literally go on and on! Is anyone else’s mouth watering? Courtesy of our friends at Lawyer’s Title, they have thought of everything you could ever possibly need to buy at the store so you won’t have one single staple Thanksgiving dish or food missing from your feast.

So, print off this list, do your grocery shopping, and get ready for Thanksgiving because it’s only three days away! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, we are thankful for you!

Ways to Make Your Home Cozier for the Holidays

We all love the Holidays, right? The smells of pumpkin and cinnamon, the decorations, the gatherings with loved ones, the amazing food and holiday drinks… there is too much to name!

When these holiday seasons come, there is nothing better than walking into a house (especially your own) and being welcomed with that Holiday cheer. However, maybe as much as you want your home to be cheerful for the holidays you just aren’t very good at decorating, or you simply can’t find the time or money to spruce your home up for the holidays. Well, we’re here to help. Here are some easy ways to add that holiday cheer to your home without too much work or effort at all:

Candles: A candle goes a long way in bringing that holiday cheer to your home! Pumpkin spice, hazelnut, cinnamon stick, forest… there are so many different scents that will bring people into the holiday mood as soon as they step through your door. Another way to use candles for the holiday is to set up a group of them (like the white pillar type) on a decorative tray or display. These touches help create ambiance in your home and give it a touch of the holiday season.

Throw Pillows and Blankets: While these can get a little pricier, you can still find some good deals on them and they help tie in the holiday feel of your home so much! An easy way to accomplish this with pillows is to simply get pillow covers. Then you can just swap out the covers for every season. Ones for year-round, ones with pumpkins on them for Halloween and Fall, ones that are plaid or have trees on them for Christmas, or whatever your heart desires. This solution also makes storing the decorations a lot easier since you are only storing a folded pillowcase rather than an entire pillow.

Wall Art: Swapping out a picture or painting for a festive holiday sign is an easy way to spruce your home up for the Holidays. A sign that says “Home Sweet Home” becomes a sign that says “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Merry Christmas” and just like that, your home has some extra Holiday cheer. If you’re feeling especially crafty, these signs can easily be made from home with an old piece of wood, some sandpaper, and some paint!

Indoor Christmas Lights: While most people hang Christmas lights up outside, which is also cheerful and inviting, a way to decorate the inside of your home for the holidays is to hang some Christmas lights up inside. There’s something magical and awing about twinkling lights, and they are sure to bring that Christmas charm and spirit to your home! Plus, you can get them for relatively cheap at places like Walmart ($5 a box!).

Make Paper Snowflakes: Have any kids? Well this would be a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy this Christmas. Relatively mess free and easy, make some paper snowflakes with your children as you sip hot cocoa and apple cider. Then string them up for all to see – and to your children’s delight – to add some extra holiday decorations to your home.

Hang Garlands: These can either be bought fairly cheap at the store for any holiday (coming in oranges and purples for Halloween and Thanksgiving) or can even be made from fresh cut tree limbs off your Christmas tree! Either way, they are an easy way to dress your home up for the Holidays! Imagine a garland made of orange and yellow leaves, or tinsel and ornaments!

These are just a few easy ways to help decorate your home for the holiday season this year! We hope we’ve given you some good ideas to try out and that you have an amazing Holiday season with your loved ones this year!

iSquatters: When iBuyer self-tours go wrong

Today’s Real Estate game is changing and that includes new companies buying homes and turning around to re-sell them, commonly known as iBuyers. However, in places like Arizona where this type of Real Estate model is growing, there are some scary risks for agents and their clients whom go to see these iBuyer homes. Check out this article below from inman.com detailing just how serious and real some of these risks are.

Invasion of the iSquatters: What happens when iBuyer self-tours go wrong? Some iBuyers have drawn tech-savvy squatters who gain access to homes through company apps in a bid to find shelter or abuse drugs.

by Veronika Bondarenko

October 23, 2019

Mrgudich had been planning on touring a home listed on Opendoor with a buyer when he noticed something strange through a window. A child was running around the dining room while a woman looked on. Instead of buzzing the door open through an app on his phone, Mrgudich knocked — and promptly heard the sound of the lock clicking shut from the inside.

“I put one and two and three together and I go, ‘Alright we have a squatter here,’” Mrgudich, who works at West USA Realty in Peoria, Arizona, told Inman. “So I turn to my buyer and explain the safety issue briefly and suggest that we move on.”

The iBuyer model, which has grown in popularity for its convenience, has also posed new risks regarding squatters and people who enter the home to use drugs, party or engage in activities other than touring the home. Ever since Arizona police arrested a couple found squatting inside an Opendoor home with two children and a cache of drug paraphernalia in September, agents have been discussing safety issue they see with iBuyer homes.

Over the past four years, iBuyers have exploded in markets nationwide. Startups like Opendoor and Offerpad allow homeowners to unload their properties for an all-cash offer in exchange for a seller’s fee of approximately 7 percent.

Opendoor, which recently acquired a Georgia-based title and escrow company, currently operates in 20 cities and recently began providing home loans. Offerpad, meanwhile, has raised nearly $1 billion in equity and debt capital and hopes to operate in 30 cities by the end of 2020. Traditional real estate companies including Keller Williams and eXp Realty have also all launched their own instant-offer platforms.

Zillow Offers, another iBuyer platform, also operates nationwide and allows buyers to tour homes on their own through an app.

The iBuyer model has been particularly popular in states like Georgia and Arizona, where all of the major iBuyers have a presence.

With Opendoor, Offerpad and Zillow Offers, in particular, interested buyers can find for-sale homes near them through the companies’ apps and enter the property with or without an agent — either by entering a code on a front-door keypad or unlocking the home directly through a phone.

All Offerpad homes currently have traditional lockboxes but some also have instant access through a phone code.

Heather Gearhart, an agent in Chandler, Arizona, recalled in a recent Facebook post seeing a key left inside the front door of an Offerpad home. Bob Hertzog, another agent in Arizona, said numerous agents across the state have been discussing the problems they encountered when trying to tour iBuyer properties.

In August, Hertzog entered an Opendoor-listed home with a buyer when a man with disheveled hair ran past them while incoherently mumbling something about wanting to buy the property. They toured the home anyway but, upon coming in, noticed that the protection preventing the air conditioner from being tampered with had been torn off.

“In Phoenix, it gets so hot that people living on the streets or people who don’t have a home definitely look at this like an opportunity to shack up for a while,” Hertzog told Inman, adding that he tried to call Opendoor to report the problem but gave up after sitting on hold for nearly 30 minutes. “We’re starting to see it more and more.”

iBuyers acknowledge that their homes pose a risk of attracting squatters. An Opendoor spokesperson told Inman that, upon receiving reports of someone in a home, the company will “immediately engage with any impacted customers, investigate and regularly refer matters to local law enforcement.” It also said it has home monitoring systems, security patrols and customer-vetting systems in place to minimize risk.

Offerpad, meanwhile, told Inman that “home sellers have always encountered the unfortunate risk of becoming a victim to vandalization or breaking and entering” but that the company is working on a new security system that, once in effect, will improve safety at its homes.

Nonetheless, agents who have encountered problems at these homes believe the companies’ screening systems aren’t comprehensive enough considering that anybody with a smartphone can claim to be an interested buyer in a bid to gain access. Hertzog said that without the traditional high-security lockbox agents use to enter an open house, no security system can deter people with bad intentions from seeking out the homes.

“It takes seconds to kill somebody or hurt somebody really badly,” Hertzog said. “They can sit there and say all day long that they have monitoring systems and things like that but it didn’t work in my case.”

Robert Siciliano, a cybersecurity analyst and chief security architect at ProtectNow, told Inman there is no such thing as a 100 percent secure empty home — but the text-to-open-home model has attracted a new type of squatter that is specifically looking for homes with full amenities that are easy to open.

“When you can get a code online and walk into a house, you’re going to see a whole new stream of squatters take advantage of the situation,” Siciliano told Inman. “What you’re going to see is serial squatters with full knowledge of how to game the system.”

At the same time, Siciliano advises agents who are entering any open house alone not to “trust that the company is managing that risk” but rather take their own precautions every time they enter a home, iBuyer or not. This includes doing a full scan of the property before going inside, having alarms and easy access to law enforcement ready on one’s phone and getting trained in basic self-defense skills.

Given iBuyers’ young age (Opendoor launched in 2013 and Offerpad launched in 2015), the high risk of squatters may be part of the growing pains they need to get through as the companies work out more sophisticated systems and learn how to weigh easy access against security. But, at least in areas where iBuyers are most prominent, some agents are only now figuring out how to keep themselves safe while touring the homes.

“We’re just holding our breath, quite frankly, and hoping that there’s no worst case scenario,” Mrgudich said.

What To Do With All Those Fallen Leaves

As much as we love this Autumn season, if you rent or own a home, odds are you’re either buried in fallen leaves, or about to be.

Who doesn’t love the trees as they change from bright greens to yellows, oranges and reds? However, what you might not love is when all those leaves vacate the trees and relocate themselves all around your yard. Clogging gutters, covering walkways, and decomposing to look not so nice anymore, the leaves can quickly become a nuisance.

So, what can one do? Well, here are some tips and tricks on ways to deal with all those fallen leaves this year.

Use a Lawn Mower: If the majority of the fallen leaves are on your lawn (or you could even rake them onto your lawn), one option is to mow them. Just like grass, the leaves will get chopped up and sucked into the collection bag, making it easy for you to toss them in the trash. Not to mention, any tiny ground up pieces left over make for an amazing mulch on your lawn.

Use a Vacuum: This is probably the easiest option for collecting all those pesky leaves, or least laborious aside from hiring someone else to do the job. Using a leaf vacuum, you can suck up all the fallen leaves and along with other tree debris such as pine cones, and then just empty them into the trash. Done!

Use a Leaf Blower: If you have a smaller yard, simply raking the leaves is probably your best bet, but if you have a large yard with a lot of large trees, then a leaf blower is a good option for you.

Turn the Leaves into Mulch: As mentioned above, chopped leaves make for a great mulch. Spread them over your shrubs and garden to help preserve moisture and insulate your plants during the cooler weather. They also make for a good weed suppressant and help with the spreading of weeds.

Use a Tarp: If you aren’t concerned about any grass or lawn underneath, laying a tarp down under your larger trees is a good option as well. Once the leaves fall, all you have to do is pick up the tarp and empty it into the trash. Super easy!

Have Fun!: One last option (and definitely our favorite) is to make this a fun family time! Maybe instead of the above options, with your family you rake the leaves into a huge pile for jumping and playing in. Break out some hot cocoa or cider while you’re at it and enjoy the fall weather with those you love most!

Aging in Place and What Every Senior Should Know

In Prescott, Arizona, we have a large senior population as our town has become a hotspot destination for retirees. With a great hospital system and plenty of doctors to choose from, events going on downtown every weekend, four mild seasons of weather, and a beautiful landscape, who wouldn’t want to retire here?!

With this larger population of seniors and retirees, what is being found a lot more often in these groups is “aging in place.” Aging in place is what it’s called when older Americans choose to stay in their homes throughout the aging process rather than go into assisted living facilities.

To get a better idea of what this looks like and what you as a senior citizen should consider when doing this, you should read this great article from Porch.com.

In the article, which you can read by clicking here, they go over everything you need to know from what aging in place is, what it looks like, how to prepare your home for it, types of in-home services you can use, the type of insurances you are going to want, and so much more.

They’ve got some great insight on how to spend the max amount of years in the comfort of your very own home after you retire. We hope you enjoy their article as much as we did!