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Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 1527

Smart Home 101: A Guide for Beginners

by The Hat Team


I remember watching The Jetsons when I was a kid and being fascinated by the idea of being able to actually see somebody when talking to them on the phone. And a robot maid? Who wouldn’t want one of those?!  I had no idea that in my lifetime, the things I saw on that cartoon fantasy would become a reality.  FaceTime and Skype allow us to see our loved ones no matter how far away they are. And while we may not have live-in robot maids (yet), things like Roomba have made house cleaning a breeze.  Technology moves fast and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the options available to make life easier and safer.  If you’ve been thinking about turning your house into a “smart home”, but you don’t know where to begin, here are the basics to get you started:

    - Create your command center with a voice-controlled smart speaker.  Smart speakers come equipped with smart assistants and they usually come with an app that will be a hub for all your smart-home devices.  The speaker allows you to control them all with voice commands without having to log in to different apps.  You want to be sure that you use the right type of speaker based on the other technology services you use. For example, if you use an Apple HomePod, it will only work with Siri and iTunes and is only compatible with other iOS smart products. The Best Smart Speakers for 2019

    - If you feel like setting up your smart home is going to be too expensive to do all at once, then smart lighting is a good place to start.  It’s relatively inexpensive and is one of the best applications for voice control.  By using Smart Bulbs not only will help save energy, they can create a more secure home because you will be able to control your lighting remotely.  You can also turn basic light switch into a dimmer…think romantic ambiance!  Once you make the one-time purchase of a small hub that is plugged in and connected to your router via Ethernet, all you have to do is replace your current bulbs with smart bulbs.  The whole process just takes a few minutes, and since the hub can accommodate up to 50 bulbs, you will only need one.  When purchasing the smart bulbs, make sure they are compatible with the smart assistant you are using in addition to making sure you are buying them in the correct size to replace the ones you have.  Some brands, like Philips Hue offers starter kits that are compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

    - Invest in smart plugs. They will make almost everything easier! Smart plugs are adapters that turn simple appliances into smart appliances.  With a smart plug you can control many of your devices from anywhere by simply using an app. 

    - Smart home-security devices are a little more challenging to install, but are worth it for the security they provide. A smart doorbell is a good place to start. It lets you monitor who is coming to your door whether you are home or somewhere else.  It uses a camera and an in-app calling feature that utilizes two-way audio and one-way video.  The Best Smart Home Security Systems 2019

    - A larger expense comes into play when you desire large smart appliances such as washers, dryers and refrigerators.  Smart plugs cannot be used to control them.  So, that means replacing current large appliances with new smart ones. And as you can imagine, that can be very costly.

    - Set up an IFTTT app.  IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That”, and it adds an extra layer to your smart home.  Available on the App Store, Google Play and in a desk top version at IFTTT.com, this app will help you connect your smart home features in creative ways based on your personal needs.  35 Amazingly Useful IFTTT Recipes to Simplify Your Life

Keep in mind that this is a simple guide to begin the process of turning your house into a smart home. There are a lot of products available, so do your research and find the one that is the best fit for you and your family!

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: pcmag.com

Building Wealth by Investing in Real Estate

by The Hat Team

 

Investing in real estate is a time-tested way to successfully build wealth.  While there are many ways to invest your savings, investing in real estate is unique in that it offers cash-flow, liquidity, profitability, and tax and diversification benefits that other investments do not.  If you’ve been thinking about how to build wealth for your retirement, you would be smart to consider investing in real estate. Diversification and Real Estate Investing

There are four primary ways to make money in real estate:

  1. Appreciation. When a property increases in value, you have real estate appreciation. Sometimes is happens due to changes in the market and other times it may be due to upgrades made on the property.
  2. Cash flow income (rent). Cash flow income is a nice perk of real estate investment that you don’t have in other types of investments.  It is generated when you purchase a home or apartment building or an office building and rent them out.
  3. Real Estate Income.  This is income earned by people who earn commissions through real estate transactions or buy property managers who oversee the operations of rental properties.
  4. Ancillary Real Estate Income - This can be a huge source of profit.  Things like application fees, vending machines and laundry facilities are money makers that go beyond the monthly rent.  Increase Your Bottom Line - Supplementing Rent with Ancillary Income

While there are certainly Risks of Real Estate Investing, there are a lot of benefits that outweigh the risks:

  1. Real estate is something that people who grew up lower to middle class are familiar with.  They may not have been exposed to things like stocks and bonds, but they likely know the importance of owning a home.  Buying a home is an investment that is reachable for them.
  2. Having an investment that you can see; something that is tangible, is psychologically important.
  3. You have the control in a real estate investment.  You don’t have to worry as much about being defrauded the way you might when entrust your money to someone else to invest for you.
  4. You will reap the benefits of tax advantages.
  5. You can Leverage Your Debt to buy more real estate and increase your net worth.

Whether you are thinking of purchasing a home for yourself and investing in your own future by building equity or you are considering buying property to rent out, investing in real estate is great way to build wealth!

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Wallpaper - It’s Back!

by The Hat Team

Wallpaper has been out for a long time, but as most trends do, it is making its way back into homes everywhere.  Wallpaper designs have changed a lot and unlike the dark floral prints of the 80s and 90s, new wallpaper looks more like murals or custom wall art.  So, if you’re thinking about a new look for a room (or several rooms) in your house, you may want to consider using wallpaper instead of paint.  Here are some current popular wallpaper trends to choose from:

  • Eastern Influence - Think Japanese and Indian designs with hand finished patterns; the perfect backdrop for classic decorative designs and geometric prints.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

  • New Retro - Everything old is new again! Geometric patterns such as chevron, honeycomb, and zigzags are back in vogue in retro colors like orange, teal, and mustard.  Use as the backdrop for your funky mid-century modern furnishings.


Photo Credit: wordpress.com

  • Traditional Florals - Florals inspired by watercolors and oil paintings have been given a more modern look with oversized prints. Plain linens and lush velvets create a beautiful contrast to floral prints.


Photo Credit: archiexpo.com

  • Modern Rustic - Influenced by mother nature, modern rustic wall décor is a beautiful collection of faux textures. Cover your walls with paper that represents the natural beauty of the untamed wilderness and features raised patterns that mimic elements like brick, bamboo, limestone, cork, rock, and wood.


Photo Credit: blackforestdecor.com

  • Quiet Patterns - Create a peaceful, calming landscape with nature-inspired prints in the modern-country style featuring layered designs in a color palette that includes pale tints of gray, taupe, pink, and blue.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

by The Hat Team


The holidays are winding down and the new year is upon us. Chances are you are thinking about some personal goals you would like to achieve in 2019, but if you are a homeowner, you might want to add some resolutions to your list regarding your home.  Here are some homeowner resolutions for you to consider in 2019:

  1. Do a HOME INVENTORY and put together a DISASTER KIT for your home.  You never know when disaster may strike, and while it’s no fun to think about, it’s important to be prepared.  Include your home inventory and financial documents in your disaster kit so that you will be ready should the unthinkable happen.  Make sure that your kit is stored in a fireproof, safe place that will be easily accessible if you need it.
     
  2. Think about getting a HOME WARRANTY.  If your appliances are nearing the end of their life cycles, a home warranty could possibly help prevent high costs for replacements.  Just be sure you do your research and read customer reviews regarding different home warranty options.  And always read the fine print so that you don’t get blindsided by exclusions.
     
  3. Thoroughly examine your HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE You likely got a standard homeowner’s insurance policy to satisfy the lender when you purchased the home, but that does not assure that you are adequately covered. Each policy has unique coverage options and exclusions that you may not be aware of.  Look it over and find out what it does and does not cover and then decide if it is adequate for you or if you need to purchase a different one.
     
  4. Make saving for an emergency a priority.  Sometimes homeowners are blindsided by unforeseen expenses.  An EMERGENCY SAVINGS FUND can be a life saver when that happens!  Think of it as a safety net for your home.  An idea emergency fund will be able to cover several months of expenses.  Don’t let that overwhelm you.   You have to start somewhere.  Just start setting aside a small portion of your income each month and before you know it, you will have a sizeable savings for emergencies.
     
  5. Start building your equity. If you financed your home mortgage, it will be years before you own your home outright.  But there are ways to BUILD EQUITY  faster, which will enable you to enjoy the benefits of homeownership sooner.  Home equity is a valuable asset that can be used to pay for things like home improvements or student loans. 6 Ways to Build Home Equity (and Savings) Faster

If you are not a homeowner yet, but would like to become one in 2019, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals help you find the perfect home!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: success.com

Design Trends that Will Make Your House Shine in 2019!

by The Hat Team


With new trends endlessly popping up, it can be challenging to decide what home design projects are worth your time and money.  It will serve you well to research what trends are timeless and what trends have gone by the wayside before investing in updating your home, especially if you are getting ready to put it on the market.  To simplify that process for you, here is a list of five of the hottest home design projects for 2019!

  1. Vintage Lighting - Think less exposed lighting and more pendants and sconces. Brass and copper finishes will also be popular.  Changing light fixtures is a great way to change the whole look and feel of a room.
     
  2. Millennial Pink - Already a hit in the fashion world, this trendy hue is making its way into home décor in unique and creative ways in 2019.  This serene color softens any room and mixes well with other colors and metals.  15 Millennial Pink Accessories for Your Home
     
  3. Copper Accents - Say goodbye to rose gold - popular in 2018, and hello to copper for 2019.  The red and orange tones of copper add an earthy hue to any space. Copper Accents
     
  4. Bucket Sinks - Sometimes called a “trough sink”, the bucket sink is another vintage design trend that designers believe will make a huge comeback in 2019.  Farm-house inspired, these sinks will add a touch of nostalgia and personality to your kitchen and/or bathrooms.
     
  5. 70s Chic - You may have heard the saying “everything old is new again”, and that is so true for 2019!  Along with many other old design trends coming back in style, such as velvet and geometric patterns, the 70s era is going to be well represented in the new year.  Warm palettes, funky textures and abstract silhouettes will make your home feel groovy!

These are just a few of many Home Design Trends that can give your home a whole new aesthetic, and if you’re selling, make it more desirable to buyers in 2019!

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: trenddesignbook.com

412 Arrowleaf Court-Spacious Home in Sought after Lake Forest!

by The Hat Team

412 Arrowleaf Court, Montgomery, Al 36117

MLS# 444529

4 Bedrooms | 2.5 Bathrooms | 2,181 sqft | Lake Forest

Desirable, sought after Lake Forest on quiet dead end street!! Spacious 4 bedroom, 2 and one half bath plan. Huge great room with wet bar, trey ceiling and fireplace for those cozy winter evenings. Kitchen features new granite counters, new paint and flooring and informal dining with bay window. Separate laundry room. Separate den open to kitchen with 2 storage closets. Formal dining room. New carpet and lots of new paint. Eaves, soffit are vinyl wrapped. 2 car carport with inside storage, ceiling fans throughout the house. Partial privacy fence and nice size yard features mature trees and landscaping. Priced for quick sell. Please call your favorite agent or give us a call to see this great property today!

It’s a Wrap! Storage Hacks for Your Holiday Treasures

by The Hat Team


I know you probably just finished pulling out all your holiday decorations, but it’s not too early to start thinking about how you’re going to put it all away.  If you’re like me, every year you tell yourself “this year I will be super organized when I put my holiday decorations away!” Also, if you’re like me, by the time the holidays are over you are exhausted and just want to get the stuff put away as quickly as possible.  Then you go to pull it out the following year and you say,” this year…I will organize it all this year.”  Sigh.  Part of the problem is figuring out how to organize everything. There are lots of Holiday Storage Containers and bags and bins and boxes for sale out there, but that can get expensive!  And let’s face it, just after the gift giving season, the last thing you want to do is spend more money.  But it is possible to organize your holiday decorations without breaking the bank.  Here are some holiday storage hacks to help you get organized this year:

Do you eat eggs?  That may seem like more of an Easter question, but stay with me here. It’s not the eggs you need, it’s the cartons they come in.  They are perfect for storing small, round ornaments.

Keep strings of lights from tangling with this easy hack - wrap them around cardboard before storing them. You can use shoe boxes or any of the many boxes that were likely delivered to your house before December 25 to cut pieces to size for your light strings. Then place them all together in a bin where they will remain safely untangled until next year!

Hang your wreaths year around.  Keep your holiday wreaths in pristine condition by hanging them rather than putting them in a storage bin, where they are likely to get crushed. If you don’t have room in a closet, you can use an inexpensive portable coat rack.  Cover the wreaths with plastic trash bags (garment back style) and hang them on the rack. 

Turn bins you already have into ornament storage bins with this easy and inexpensive hack.  Three words. Red. Solo. Cups.  They aren’t just for parties!  With cardboard, a glue gun and cups you can create a DIY ornament storage bin.  Just glue the cups to cardboard pieces cut to fit and place them in the bin and, voila!  You have the perfect place to safely keep your holiday treasures! Safe Ornament Storage

Shiny beads make a beautiful garland for your tree, but when they are all tangled up in a box you may decide it’s not even worth it to try to untangle them.  This year, save up your plastic water bottles and use them to store your garland.  They will stay untangled and be easy to pull our when you’re ready to put them on the tree again.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

519 Thorn Place: Low Maintenance Living in Midtown!

by The Hat Team

519 Thorn Place, Montgomery, Al 36106

MLS# 444814

2 Bedrooms | 1 Bathrooms | 1,589 sqft | Thorn Manor


The best of lock-it and leave-it living! This 2nd-floor condo at sought after Thorn Manor in Old Cloverdale in Midtown Montgomery.  This home boasts charm and character with a spacious layout. Large living room is light filled and plenty big to entertain in. Cozy front sunroom has wonderful views and is great for morning coffee, relaxing, or reading a good book. Dining room has antique built-in china cabinet for displaying your collectibles. Open galley style kitchen has lots of counter space and great storage. Two well-proportioned bedrooms share a hall bath. This unit even comes with a covered parking space out back, and has access to common courtyards and gardens. And, sellers just put in a brand-new heating and cooling unit! Move in ready, so call your favorite agent for a tour and start packing your bags.

3233 Audubon Road: Cozy Home in a Perfect Location!

by The Hat Team

3233 Audubon Road, Montgomery, AL 36106

MLS# 444515

3 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms | 1,469 sqft | Cloverdale South


Walk to concerts in the Park!!! Stroll to the movies, plays and restaurants - Better yet - walk home! New flooring, new paint inside and out!! Private lush landscaped lot with fenced yard for family and pets. Did I mention the location was great? It is!!!!!! Newer home built in the 1970's. 3 full bedrooms and 2 full baths. Eat-in kitchen, large living dining with built in bookcases. New roof in 2016!! Seller has painted entire exterior of home, addressed all rotted wood and made too many improvements to list! Entry has handsome brick flooring. Must see to appreciate this cozy home. Call us or your favorite agent to see this wonderful home today. 

Refinance Now and Save!

by The Hat Team



Sadly, one of the best mortgage programs in our country will cease to exist at the end of December, 2018.  An extremely generous government refinance program called HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) is in its final days. It was launched by the US Government during the Obama administration in an effort to assist middle class home owners by offering lucrative access to lower interest rates and reduced payments amidst the Great Recession. Through HARP, you can not only get a lower interest rate, but you can also get a shorter loan term, or change from an adjustable to a fixed-rate mortgage. And guess what?  There is NO minimum credit score required!  

Take advantage of this fantastic program now, before it’s too late…and here is why: the savings you will gain from participating in this program could rival your best investment. Talk about a great deal! Here are some numbers for you: if you are younger than 50, you are restricted to $18,500 in annual 401K contributions.  A contribution in that amount would yield around $2775 in tax relief for the average American.  But HARP could save you $2400 per year - which would leave you with more cash to invest in your 401K.

This program is geared toward America’s middle class.  Only mortgages under $625,000 qualify.  But if you want to take advantage of it you must apply immediately before time runs out.  Reach out to lenders and find out if you qualify by just answering a few questions. The LendingTree platform will allow you to receive quotes from multiple lenders.

Give yourself the gift of extra cash in your pocket this holiday season!  Check out HARP today! 

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: Zillow.com

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