Technology

Meet The Smarter, More Connected Homes Of The Future

Sixty-one percent of consumers say they're interested in learning more about home automation, according to recent market research from the Consumer Electronic Association. Home owners have an increasing number of options, too.

Smart-home technologies are growing, with everything from the ability to remotely control a home's lights and temperature to sending text messages to appliances or monitoring a home's security and energy consumption from a smartphone.

Several technology companies are showing off gadgets for the connected home during this week's 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Smart Home Technology Debuts at CES

A range of smart home technologies were featured at this year's CES, including:

  • Texting appliances: LG's new Home Chat smart platform connects your home's appliances to your smartphone, allowing you to text back and forth. For example, you can text your fridge: "What groceries do I need?" And it'll respond with a text containing a grocery list.
  • App-controlled home: Samsung debuted its Smart Home App, which allows home owners to control several appliances in their home, from the TV to connected appliances, wearable tech, and more. Home owners can personalize settings on their electronics and then control them remotely. For example, they can view cameras in their TV or other devices while they're away from home; receive alerts from the Smart Customer Service feature when something in their home is going wrong, such as an appliance malfunctioning; and use a voice-control setting to speak commands to the home, such as turning off the lights by saying "leaving."
  • Voice-controlled thermostat: Honeywell recently introduced a Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat that responds to voice commands. For example, say "make it cooler," and the thermostat will cool the house by one degree. Or, tell the thermostat to "make it five degrees warmer," and the thermostat will follow your voice prompts.
  • Touchscreen locks: Schlage touted a new lock that can be opened or locked with a four-digit code and controlled with a smartphone app. The lock will also send home owners alerts if the lock is being tampered with or the wrong code has been entered a certain amount of times.
  • Smart lights: Lumen introduced an app-enabled LED Smart Bulb that can be controlled wirelessly via a smartphone. You can dim the lights, set the lights to come on at a certain time, and even choose from 1 million colors to set the right mood. The lights also can be set to blink to alert you when you have an incoming phone call.

The 10 Best Apps for Home Buyers

 

Long gone are the days when house hunting meant sifting through stacks of newspapers with your trusty highlighter. Today over 90% of  home buyers utilize the internet in their search. From cozy apartments to grandiose mansions, your smart phone can help lead you to the home of your dreams.

 

Finding the perfect home

1. Signature Properties of Vermont - Have you searched through the Signature Properties of Vermont mobile site yet? It's a great way to peruse local listings! Best of all, contacting an Agent is just a "click-to-call" away! Now you can take Signature Properties with you on your home search, we are thrilled to be along for the ride!  

2. Realtor.com - Throw those newspapers in the recycle bin and join the 21st century! This is technology's greatest guide to listings. The app includes up-to-date real estate listings in the U.S., including homes for sale, for rent or recently sold. Each listing includes photos, property details, open house information, and pricing. It allows you to share favorite listings with friends and family, and highlight a customized area that you would like to search. Best of all, it's free!

3. House Hunter - Having trouble making a decision? Don't waste time asking your in-laws for opinions! Look no further than "House Hunter," a unique app that offers a scoring method to help you identify your favorite houses. It has a comprehensive list of over 80 different home features. If you're looking for something specific, you can personalize and prioritize the features list to fit your own needs. While doing a walk-through of the home, you can score each feature and check it off on the list. The app will automatically calculate an overall score for the home, taking into account things like size, location, age of the house, and price per square foot. You can even take and store pictures of the home. For only $3.99, it's a super effective way to organize your thoughts about possible homes in one place.

4. Mortgage Calculator by Quicken Loans - Get the lowdown on mortgage products right from the source. The "do-it-all" app for the future home buyer, the Quicken Loans Mortgage Calculator offers five different calculators, which allow you to compare options and effortlessly evaluate your choices. No more waiting for the information you need, so you can get some peace of mind and feel confident about your options.

Checking out the neighborhood

1. Wikihood - For any iOS users, Wikihood uses the world of Wikipedia to bring you the latest and greatest information on your neighborhood of choice. Using Wikihood will give you a feel for the culture of a neighborhood, including important people, landmark buildings, local companies, and geographical information. It also offers a virtual tour of the city with an enhanced map.

2.  Safe Neighborhood - If you're not familiar with an area, it's important to check ahead and make sure it's safe. If you're looking for safety stats, download Safe Neighborhood. It gives you access to the National Sex Offender Registry so you can scout out the offenders in your area. You can actually pull up names and pictures of the offenders. This is free for Android users, but there are many apps just like it for iPhone; for the iOS user, download Sex Offender Search, another freebie.

3. Around Me - Location, location, location! Looking for easy access to banks, gas stations, and coffee shops? Input an address, and Around Me will tell you the distances to those spots and more. And for the low, low, price of FREE, why not?

4. SiteWise - At $9.99, it's on the pricier side of apps, but SiteWise will give you the lowdown on area demographics. Maybe you're looking for an area with lots of young families, or you'd like to fit in at a cool college town. Using information from the 2010 Census, the app will give you a demographic report which includes population by age, education level, number of children, household income, and more. This concise report is one of the best ways to pinpoint your ideal city, even if you've never visited the area before.

Designing your new space

1. Houzz Interior Design Ideas - One of my favorite TV shows is HGTV's Millionaire Dollar Rooms, a Tuesday night series which profiles the most expensive rooms in people's houses. I like to daydream about what types of features I would have if I had a million dollars to spend on a room. If you need fabulous inspiration for your own home, this free app has it all. It's an intuitive photo bank of over 150,000 images from buildings all over the world. Take a peek, get inspired, and unleash your inner designer!

2.  iHandy Level Free - A free app so cool I can't contain myself, iHandy transforms your phone into a Level for precise alignment. If you're in the mood for some home improvement, download iHandy to make sure your picture frames are straight so you don't have to nail more holes in the wall than you should!

3.  I.D. Wood - A friend of mine is crazy about her hardwood floors. She's completely right to be, since they cost a pretty penny, but God forbid you drop something or scratch the wood! That's why it's important to research wood types if you're looking to do anything with wood in your home. I.D. Wood is a visual wood dictionary, providing information on over 160 different kinds of woods, including data on their durability and sustainability. If you're investing in hardwood floors, it's essential to pick the right type of wood, and this app can be a big help.

Whether you're looking for a family-friendly neighborhood, a stunning sunroom, or just a crime-free block, one of these apps will help you find it. Of course, as always, The Signature Team is happy to follow up with you on your new wish list!

Would you leave your front door unlocked?

 

 

 

Vermont is overall a very safe place to live where it may be more dangerous to leave your Wi-Fi unlocked than your front door.

Today, most people have installed a wireless internet router to provide their home with easy, convenient web access. Most routers have security features allowing only designated users access to the network. Unfortunately many people are unaware of these features or fail to properly utilize them. Without security measures in place your personal data is highly susceptible. Leaving your Wi-Fi open is the digital equivalent of leaving your wallet and iPhone on a Central Park bench. Hackers are able to access your computer from a world away and infiltrate your data as well as your network. Some of the actions taken by hackers include:

  • Capturing passwords and PINs
  • Capturing emails
  • Capturing private/sensitive data
  • Broadcasting emails from personal accounts
  • Broadcasting viruses

The good news is implementing security measures is fast and simple. Most router manufacturers provide step-by-step instructions on their websites.

 

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Technology and Real Estate

It's a brave new world out there.  Have you embraced the plethora of new technological advances yet?  Although the fate of the new iPhone 5 seems to be up in the air, don not let that stop you from taking full advantage of the modern convinces.

Are you shopping for a 1st home or an investment property?  Don't worry, there's an app for that.   Smart phones are so much more than wireless communicators.  Keep apprised of new listings as they hit market, or learn more about the local neighborhood anywhere you go.  The following list includes some great, free real estate applications.

Dictionary of Real Estate Terms: new to real estate? Not sure what those technical terms mean? This app has got you covered.

RECalc - Real Estate Mortgage Loan Calculator: a great tool for real estate pros or ordinary folks to calculate monthly payments and all other financial information.

Home Tracker: a cool little app that lets you note down the information on every property you visit for future references. If you are looking for a home and visiting lots of them every day, this app comes handy.

Zillow: one of the most comprehensive real estate apps for iPhone. It uses your iPhone's GPS to find out more information about the houses around you. Great way to find homes to buy or rent.

New apps are continually hitting the market while old stand-bys are being updated and improved.   If you have need, someone has created an application for you.

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