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Designing a Kid-Friendly Home

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: October 25, 2016 | Comments Off on Designing a Kid-Friendly Home

It’s a challenge that parents have faced for generations – how to create a livable, attractive and comfortable home that doesn’t look like a day care center. Have you thrown up your hands in despair, thinking that you’ll have to forgo decorating until the kids are in college? Are you resigned to using garage sale furnishings and plastic dinnerware? Hold on…help is on the way! You can create a home where your children are welcome – and your sense of style can run free. Here’s some great tips for creating an environment where everyone gets what they want.

Simple Pleasures

When you’re building a room that works for all members of the family, regardless of age, the less fuss, the better. Simple styles, clean and casual looks and furniture with a vintage flair tend to fare better than other choices. Avoid skirted furniture in favor of exposed legs. The extra fabric attracts dirt, shoe prints and dust bunnies. Sturdy, rough-hewn country pieces, furniture with a weathered look and cushiony, bohemian choices can create a comfortable, cohesive appearance and will stand up to some extra wear and tear. They’re also low-maintenance looks that leave you more time to spend with your family instead of obsessing over plumping, primping and draping.

Avoid long curtains or draperies that can snag, tear or encourage hiding or climbing behaviors. Tablecloths should be kept to a minimum – they’re sure to be tugged, pulled or caught more often than not.

Go Bold!

The secret for camouflaging stains, fingerprints and spills is to opt for deep, vibrant colors, rich patterns and touchable textures.  Stay away from light-colored, fragile fabrics that show every smudge and smear. If you’re more into neutrals and want less drama in your décor, think about soft heather finishes or neutral deep marled hues in gray and navy.

Be Tough

Choosing the most durable, washable and liquid-proof materials is the way to go. Walls always take a beating when you have children, so invest in a glossy, wipe-down paint that is easy to clean. If you like the look of a matte finish, there are washable varieties available – just make sure to read the care instructions before choosing your brand and color.

Choose sturdy fabrics with a flat weave rather than lightweight or looped fabrics. Try this test – run your fingers over the fabric. The noisier it is, the more durable and lower maintenance it will be. Easy-care, close to stain-proof options include vinyl, “pleather,” ultrasuede, twill, denim, velvet, wool, felt and natural fabrics with synthetic fiber added for toughness. It may surprise you to learn that leather is a smart choice; it wipes clean with a paper towel and looks and feels even better when it’s well loved. When you’re choosing upholstery, request stain-resistant finishes, and don’t forget to have your pieces protected with Scotchgard. When possible, choose furniture that comes with zip-off cushion covers, or add your own furniture covers.

Flooring presents its own challenges. Tile, wood, laminate and linoleum are easy to clean choices. Rustic, distressed hardwood floors hide a lot of sins – they’re very forgiving. Wall-to-wall carpet provides padding for babies learning to crawl and new walkers but can be difficult to keep looking clean. If you do choose carpeting, keep it in a medium or dark shade, and add a stain-protective finish. Nylon and wool-nylon blends are soft, stain resistant and tough.

Get the Best Bang for Your Buck

Although you may be tempted to spend less for inexpensive, disposable furniture that your children can destroy, it’s shockingly short life span should make you think twice. It will be taking up space in a landfill before you know it. Instead, opt for the best-made furniture you can afford. Heavy, solid pieces with sturdy construction and upgraded cushions will stand up any kind of abuse your kids can dish out. They can also be reupholstered once your children outgrow their most destructive years. Oh…and rounded corners are a better choice when it comes to preventing boo-boos and black eyes.

Go High

You can decorate with fragile, delicate or heirloom items – if you do it carefully. The reachable “kid-zone” is 45 inches from the floor. Anything highly valuable or not easily replaceable should be stowed on a display area high up on a wall or in a curio cabinet.

Give Your Kids Places to Be Themselves

Nothing encourages your children to treat your home with respect more than giving them their own areas to do with as they please. If they know there are places they can go to play, you’ll be thrilled with the results. Try painting a wall with chalkboard paint and letting them create art to their heart’s content. You can also mix magnetic additive into paint to turn a wall into a gallery. Consider adding a reading nook, art center or an open area for dance or gymnastics.

Top 10 Financing Mistakes Home Buyers Make

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: October 11, 2016 | Comments Off on Top 10 Financing Mistakes Home Buyers Make

Congratulations…you’re ready to buy a new home! It’s an exciting time, and we know that you want to start the process as soon as possible. However, it’s important to take a deep breath and review this list of the ten most common money mistakes home buyers make, so that you don’t find yourself in a tight spot later.

  1. Not checking your own credit.

It’s surprising how many prospective home buyers neglect to check their credit rating with the three major credit reporting agencies – Transunion, Experian and Equifax. If you don’t have a good idea of where you stand when you’re ready to begin, there’s a chance your dream will come to an abrupt end sooner rather than later. The lower your credit score, the harder it will be to secure a mortgage.

  1. Adding to your credit burden.

While you’re in the process of buying a home, it’s important that you avoid making large purchases or opening new credit accounts. Excessive debt can be just as bad as a spotty payment record or a lack of credit history.

  1. Failing to get pre-approved.

When a potential seller sees that you’ve been pre-approved, it’s money in the bank. They know you’re serious about purchasing a home and are ready to buy when you find the right place. If a seller has two prospective buyers lined up – one pre-approved and one not – they’ll go with the pre-approved buyer every time.

  1. Neglecting some of the related costs of owning a home.

Make sure you factor in property taxes, insurance, planned and unexpected maintenance and other related costs into the monthly payment for your new home.

  1. Falling into the adjustable mortgage trap.

When most buyers budget, they aren’t expecting a lot of variation in their interest rate. However, if you opt for an adjustable mortgage, the amount of interest you pay will vary, based on current market conditions. For buyers on a tight budget, the possibility of these wild adjustments could cause serious financial problems.

  1. Not locking in your rate.

This is a mistake similar to accepting an adjustable rate mortgage. When you sign your mortgage papers, most lenders will offer to “guarantee” your rate for a period of time – usually a few weeks to a few months. If you don’t lock in your rate when you buy, be prepared to be surprised further down the road.

  1. Overestimating what you can afford.

There’s more to life than where you live. Make sure you leave enough money in your monthly budget for healthy groceries, utilities, other monthly bills, entertainment and saving for emergencies. If your mortgage will bleed you dry, you’ll be nothing but miserable.

  1. Having a short “paper trail”.

Lenders are looking for consistent payment behaviors over a reasonable length of time. If you only have a few months of credit history under your belt, you’ll pay much higher rates if you’re able to get a mortgage at all. Most lenders like to see at least 12 months of credit history before making a decision – and 24 is better.

  1. Job hopping.

When it comes to dependability, reliability and steadfastness, your ability to hold a job is considered to be a prime indicator of your ability to make consistent payments on your loans.

  1. Not taking the time to comparison shop.

Like most other big-ticket items such as cars, furniture or electronics, it pays to look around and see what’s out there when you’re shopping for your new home. It’s rarely wise to look at only one house, and you should always research the various types of mortgages available and decide which is best for you. There is no “one size fits all” approach to buying a home.

Hidden Wonder Workout – Your Household Chores

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: October 7, 2016 | Comments Off on Hidden Wonder Workout – Your Household Chores

If you’re tired of going to the gym and have some housework to catch up on, with a little advance planning you can kill two birds with one stone. Imagine the extra hours you’ll have for other activities when you combine your workouts with essential chores! This handy guide (assembled with some help from our friends at Squeezeitin.com) will show you some of the best ways to burn calories and build strength while you turn your home into a showplace.

Time It!

When you’re ready to take on some serious housework, be sure to set a timer or alarm for thirty minutes. This is the most commonly suggested duration for a meaningful workout, so you want to make sure you remain active for at least this long.

Dive In Head First…

Put on your headphones. Listening to energizing music with a fast tempo will help you keep moving at a consistent pace. Studies have shown that rapid music with at least 120 beats per minute will not only keep you entertained and lift your spirits, it will also increase your speed while you work and improve your heart and lung function. You can also have your music do double duty as your timer if you build playlists in thirty minute blocks.

Dress for the Occasion

Make sure you wear light, loose comfortable clothing and athletic shoes to do your housework.

Star in the Floor Show

Hands down, taking care of your floors is one of the best ways to burn calories. Sweeping, mopping, vacuuming and scrubbing are top calorie burners, torching 190-250 per hour for a 150 pound person. While vacuuming, flex your muscles one at a time, starting with your pelvis and tracking down to your upper abs. Try to keep them flexed for the entire vacuuming session. The forward and back motion of vacuuming is a great workout for your abdominal muscles, and if you use vigorous arm movements, you’ll notice a difference in your arms and shoulders as you go along. You can also do lunges with your legs as you vacuum. Check out this quick “how-to”, complete with video!

When sweeping, scrubbing or mopping, make sure you switch arms frequently, using your right and left sides evenly. Favoring one side over the other will create a painful muscle imbalance. Get on your hands and knees and scrub intensely. This intense exercise works your shoulders and upper arms – and trust us, you’ll definitely break a sweat.

Try NOT to Save Time

Instead of heaving a whole load of laundry into the machine at once, use the single piece squat method to tone your legs and tush. Put the laundry basket on the floor next to the machine, and use a squat method like this one to put each piece of clothing into the wash separately.

Another great trick is to NOT consolidate trips up and down the stairs. Instead of loading your arms with as many items you can carry, take only one or two pieces up at a time, so that you’re getting great cardio by climbing the stairs as many times as possible. Do you realize you can burn up to 500 calories in an hour by climbing stairs?

Be Crystal Clear

Reach high and use sweeping motions to wash windows and burn up to 180 calories an hour!

Outdoor Chores, Outdoor Workout

Weeding and hoeing your garden can burn up to 300 calories per hour, as will pushing a manual mower over riding one. Don’t give in to the temptation to use a blower on your leaves…rake them instead for a burn of almost 400 calories per hour! Try cleaning gutters, which will help you shed about 320 calories per hour. Washing a car can burn about 230, while spreading paint will burn between 250 and 300 calories per hour when you’re swiping big surfaces such as exterior walls.

These are some of our favorite ideas to get you started, but we know you’ll be able to come up with more great ideas for making your home your own personal gym!

Fall Lawn Care – Time to Plan!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: September 10, 2016 | Comments Off on Fall Lawn Care – Time to Plan!

In the spring, we talked a bit about lawn care and preparing your yard for the summer ahead. Now we’re going to go over some of the steps you’ll need to take to get your lawn ready for the upcoming cooler weather. Here in southeast Georgia we don’t get extremely cold weather, but temperature and moisture changes will still have an influence on your lawn care routine.

While the grass will grow more slowly in the autumn, this is the time when it best absorbs the moisture and nutrients needed to sustain it through the winter. If you give your lawn some TLC now, in the spring you’ll be rewarded with a lush, green carpet of amazing grass.

First things first…know what type of grass you have. In the South, most lawns consist of grasses that grow rapidly in warm weather, such as Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, buffalo grass and St. Augustine grass. These grasses tend to go dormant during the winter, causing brown, scrubby-looking lawns.

If you want a pretty green lawn during the winter, you have the option of overseeding the lawn with annual winter rye grass. Add this seed to your lawn as the cooler weather approaches, and the grass will come up green and lovely during the cooler weather. When the warm weather returns, this variety of grass will naturally die off, allowing your existing warm weather grasses full access to both the sunlight and the water and nutrients in the soil. Make sure you don’t overseed with perennial rye grass, as this variety does not retreat with the coming of spring, and causes a “turf war” between the types of grasses on your lawn.

No matter what type of grass you have, there are tasks you’ll need to focus on when you’re prepping your lawn for fall.

Aerate the lawn – If your lawn is a manageable size, rent a gas-powered lawn aerator. It will cost about $70 per day. This machine punches holes into the soil that allow moisture, nutrients and oxygen to reach the roots of the grass. If you’ve got a very large yard, turn this task over to a professional landscaper.

Rake, rake, rake – As leaves fall from nearby trees, they form a carpet over your lawn. When dew or rain moistens the leaves, they stick together and suffocate the grass, allowing mold and fungus to take hold. Don’t let leaves sit on your lawn – rake, blow or vacuum as often as possible to keep your lawn healthy.

Fertilize – Most lawn care experts agree that if you only fertilize your lawn once a year, fall is the ideal time. Since grasses grow more slowly at this time of the year, there is more opportunity for the roots to absorb the nutrients you’re delivering.

Fill in the blanks – Autumn is the ideal time to use an all-in-one lawn repair mixture to fill in the bald spots in your lawn. Rake loose the soil of the bald spot, then spread a thick layer of the repair mixture over the area. Lightly compact the mixture and the soil, and water generously every other day for two weeks.

Fight the weeds – Like every other plant, weeds are now busy absorbing nutrients and preparing for the long winter ahead. Cut them off at the pass by applying herbicide and you won’t see their return in the spring.

Remember to keep on mowing – Even though it’s tempting to let the grass grow wild over the cooler months, keep it neatly trimmed.

It’s easier than you think to keep your lawn gorgeous all year long – as long as you don’t “fall” into bad habits when the heat breaks!

Changing Floor Plans – How Much Is Too Much?

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: September 2, 2016 | Comments Off on Changing Floor Plans – How Much Is Too Much?

You’ve decided to have your new home built by a reputable, trusted homebuilder. You’ve found a floor plan that, for the most part, meets your needs and satisfies your aesthetic. But…there are a few elements you don’t particularly care for, and some things you were hoping to find are missing. Now the question arises – can you change your floor plan, and if so, by how much?

Most homebuilders can, and will, make certain changes to an existing floorplan to please their customers.

Minor changes to a plan are referred to as “redlining”. These changes include moving or resizing doors or windows, changing non-load-bearing walls and changing exterior finishes. Many of these changes can be made with relative ease, and don’t usually carry a prohibitive price tag. However, remember that national guidelines and local building codes require hallways, door entrances and staircases to have a constant width, so these types of changes may not be possible. Always check with your homebuilder to see if your proposed changes will comply with current building codes.

Moderate changes to floor plans are a little more extreme. These types of changes include reversing the layout, adding a fireplace, enlarging a kitchen or bathroom, adding a room, garage or porch, foundation changes, exterior wall framing changes or changing the roof pitch. Modifications at this level may be offered as existing options for your floor plan, so be sure to ask if they’re available. For instance, fireplaces, porches, sunrooms and extended rooms are common upgrades available from many homebuilders at a nominal fee.

You’ll need to think long and hard about whether or not a floor plan is really for you if you’re considering major changes. Major changes can include changing the dimensions of the house by more than 20%, adding multiple new rooms or changing or removing load-bearing walls. Many requests related to significantly “shrinking” the size of a house cannot be made while keeping the integrity of the plan. Sometimes it is just not possible to reduce the size of a house to the extent desired. Even if these changes are available, they are often costly and require an extension of the typical build time.

This caution also leads us to an important point – before you commit to any floor plan changes, be sure you know how they will affect both the final cost of your new home and the building schedule. Some changes will have a minimal impact, while others can push your budget of money and time to the limit – or even surpass it.

You may even want to approach a builder about a completely customized floor plan if you find that you love their products, but they don’t have a floor plan that covers all of your bases. Some builders will take on this challenge, while others will not – it often depends on their policies and availability. However, as with many things in life, it never hurts to ask! Just keep in mind that most standardized floor plans look the way they do because they’re tried and true designs that have withstood the test of constructing multiple units. While some modifications are expected, and in some cases, encouraged, others may have a negative outcome on the success of your new construction. If your homebuilder advises against a change, there’s always a good reason for it. Trust in their experience, and you’re sure to be thrilled with your new home!

Simple DIY Home Updates

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: August 31, 2016 | Comments Off on Simple DIY Home Updates

If you’re looking for great ways to put a little excitement into your home and show off your personal style, it’s a lot easier (and less expensive!) than you think! Once you’ve established the style of your home with the overall color schemes and major décor pieces, you can add a little extra verve by incorporating a some DIY bits and pieces that make your home truly your own. Large home supply stores such as Home Depot and Lowes offer a wealth of amazing options, but don’t forget to check hardware stores, flea markets, eclectic shops and online stores for fantastic pieces as well.

Stuck for ideas? Here’s some suggestions to jump start your creativity!

Lighting

Dial up the drama with a fantastic chandelier! Looking for old-fashioned elegance? Try a Victorian throwback style…or maybe something metallic and modern is more your speed. Nothing says “look at me” like a great lamp or amazing fixture. LED string lights installed under your kitchen cabinets not only add style, they make meal preparation easier. Add pendant lights or floor models where you want additional lighting – and give your home a decorative flair! Installing dimmer switches not only allows you to adjust the amount of light in each room to set the appropriate mood, they can also save you money.

Knobs and Handles

Give doors some “pop” with vintage glass, china or metal knobs, or exchange the serviceable but dull fixtures on your cabinets with super-sleek futuristic handles – it’s entirely up to you! This is one of the easiest ways to update your kitchen or add some excitement to your bath. You can even transform the dressers in the bedrooms – the possibilities are endless.

The Wonder of Paint

Painting a room or a hallway is always a quick and easy way to give your house a facelift. But you can also use paint to add visual interest to other areas of your home. If your tile backsplash doesn’t float your boat anymore, consider giving it a makeover with a couple coats of oil-based semi-gloss paint. If you have an older mirror that is cloudy or spotted, but you love the frame, turn it into a piece of art by painting the surface of the mirror with abstract geometric shapes, elegant swirls or your own version of an Impressionist garden scene. You can also use paint to transform your worn tile floor into faux parquet. Use two similar, earth-toned colors for the artificial “stones” and a white or cream paint to add your own “grout”. Seal with polyurethane to finish. You can even paint a permanent welcome mat on your front stoop or pull up the carpeting on your stairs and re-decorate with an eye-catching pattern such as this one.

stairs

Increase Your Curb Appeal

Brighten up the front of your house with a door of an eye-catching color. Red is always popular, or you can go with blue, green or…whatever! Few things make your home stand out more than a highly visible entryway. Add window boxes of blooming flowers or fragrant herbs to create interest, and consider installing a unique mailbox to set your home apart. If you really want your lawn to get some attention, think about seeding it with flowers! Scilla siberica bulbs are inexpensive to purchase and create a grass-like foliage that blooms in the spring.

You might even want to replace your standard issue street numbers with artsy ceramic tile versions or bright LED markers. You can also add an old-fashioned weathervane to the roof just for fun!

It’s All in the Details!

Quick little touches can make all the difference when it comes to freshening the look of your home. Switch out your switchplates to add some excitement, or give smaller windows a longer, larger look by hanging curtains above the upper window line, at ceiling height. Free up counter space in your bathroom by hanging a ceramic soap dish/toothbrush holder by the sink and add visual interest with new faucets and fixtures. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could replace one of your bathroom windows with one of stained glass. If you can’t find one that fits the size and shape of the existing window, try using decorative chains to hang the stained glass version in front of the existing glass.  A stylish fireplace screen is not only a decorative asset, it also keeps children and pets away from the fire. Replace your nondescript, practical ceiling fans with ones that complement your décor or use larger pieces of scrap wallpaper to cover an interior door.

And remember, these changes take so little time to do and so little money to implement that you can swap them out as many times as you like. You may even consider selling accessories that no longer interest you on Ebay or Craigslist if they still have some life in them. Use the proceeds to help fund your next decorating project!

Home Warranties – A Primer for Home Buyers

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: August 23, 2016 | Comments Off on Home Warranties – A Primer for Home Buyers

When you’re considering a purchase as large and as important as a new home, you need to make sure you protect your investment. Warranties are a key component of caring properly for your new home. Repairs and replacements can be costly, and many families don’t have thousands of dollars socked away in an emergency fund to cover the expense.

Although some home builders may lead you to believe that one warranty is just as good as another, the “one size fits all” mentality just doesn’t work in this situation. Warranties can and do vary widely in terms of coverage, duration and how quickly your problems are addressed once they are reported.

So what exactly is a new home warranty? Simply put, it is a form of insurance offered by the homebuilder that will protect you from defects or malfunctions that may occur after your home is built. Most reputable home builders will offer an automatic warranty on the homes they build, but you can also purchase a home warranty from an outside company. Commonly covered issues include structural problems, repairs of built-in appliances, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems and roof leaks.

Warranties may specifically exclude certain after-market items such as pools, spas, decks and appliances that are not provided by the builder. Make sure you read the fine print to get the full picture of what is covered by your warranty and what is not. Also, the terms of your warranty may state that covered repairs can be made by any qualified technician, or you may need to use a specific provider or company specified by the builder. You should also know if you will be expected to cover the cost of the repair and then be reimbursed, or if the repair will be done without money actually changing hands.

Your warranty should also give you detailed instructions on how to file a claim, state if there are deductibles that must be met or if a premium will be charged during the term of the policy. Some home builders include the warranty in the price of the home, while some offer the warranty for a nominal fee. You should also ask if the warranty on a home is transferrable; in other words, if you decide to sell the home, could any unused portion of the warranty term be made available to the new owners.

You also need to keep in mind that as a homebuyer, you do have some responsibilities when it comes to preserving your home warranty. You must keep your home well-maintained. If you ignore issues when they first appear, there is a good chance that you may be violating your warranty by allowing the problem to persist. You may be responsible for repairs that are the result of unusual wear and tear or if you make changes to your home that violate existing building codes or install after-market items incorrectly.

At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we offer the best new home warranty of any homebuilder in the Savannah, GA area. We provide a comprehensive homeowners manual – “Caring for Your Home”, which provides a full description of your responsibilities as a homeowner in Section 8. When you complete the purchase of your new home, you will receive our exclusive 2-10 Homebuyers Warranty. It covers workmanship issues for the term of one year, systems coverage for two years, and a ten year structural warranty. Specific coverage details are available in our exclusive warranty booklet. For a sneak peek at our warranty program, visit our Warranty Information page.

If you have questions that aren’t answered on this page, please call our Sales Team at 912-756-4135 or send us an email, if it is more convenient. We’ll be happy to give you the answers you need!

Get Smart About School Districts

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: August 15, 2016 | Comments Off on Get Smart About School Districts

When you’re buying a new home, one of the hot topics of discussion always seems to be “What school district will service this house?” Of course, if you have school age children, or are planning to start a family, the reason this question is so critical is easy to understand. Every parent wants the best possible education for his or her child, and nothing is more disappointing than finding the perfect house, only to find that the school system that covers it is an absolute disaster.

But believe it or not, other factors come into play when you’re looking at the school district that will serve your new neighborhood. Here are some other considerations related to the ever-important school district question:

  1. The school district will affect the resale price of the home.

While you may or may not have children, keep in mind that parents are willing to pay more to have access to a superior local school system. This will drive up the cost of a home in that particular neighborhood. When a good number of people out there are willing to pay a premium rate to purchase a house in a certain school district, the overall cost of housing in the region will rise. Even if you don’t have children, you may want to invest in a home in a good school district, as it will most likely result in a higher resale value for your home when you decide it is time to move on.

  1. A good school district can protect your home from market fluctuations.

Even when the housing market is in a slump, homes in good school districts continue to move briskly. A quality local school district is one of the few things that will help a home preserve its value in a poor housing market. Prices of homes in excellent school districts tend to drop less during a stressed market, and these smaller price decreases tend to rebound more quickly once the market begins to correct.

  1. Better schools usually mean better neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods with a good number of children usually focus quite a bit other their efforts on safety. You tend to see less violence and crime in neighborhoods with good schools, and often there is a more connected neighborhood social system, often including a “watch” program of some kind. In particular, older individuals, single women and those who have a good many valuable possessions may want to look closely at the quality of the school system where they are hoping to buy, even if they don’t have children.

  1. If appearances matter to you…

Homes in neighborhoods served by excellent school systems are often very well maintained. We aren’t going to lie…high-quality home maintenance can set your budget back a bit. However, if you prefer living in a community that is visually appealing, with neat, tidy-looking houses and lawns, you’re not likely to find many eyesores in locations served by excellent schools. In most cases, those who can afford to buy homes in these higher-priced areas can also afford to keep them ship-shape.

At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we realize the value of a home located in a great school system. Our communities are placed in some of the top rated local school districts in the Savannah, GA area, including South Effingham/Effingham and Bryan County/Richmond Hill. These exceptional schools serve our customers well, providing their children with excellent public school educations. If you have questions about the school systems serving any of our communities, don’t hesitate to call our Sales Team at 912-756-4135 or drop us an email. We can give you the information you need to make an “educated” decision!

Under Control – Run Your Home Remotely

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: August 9, 2016 | Comments Off on Under Control – Run Your Home Remotely

Have you ever run back home to make sure that you’ve closed the garage door or adjusted the thermostat? If so, you can immediately appreciate the value of dozens of new technologies and apps that allow you to supervise the functions of your home remotely…with just a cell phone!

If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, or a mobile Android device, it will become your new best friend when you’re away from home. With your portable device, you can control which lights are on and how bright they are, automatically turn them on and off on a pre-programmed schedule, use sensors to activate lights with motion and operate more than one light at a time, all with the touch of a button! You can also adjust your thermostats, turn your appliances on and off and monitor the amount of energy they use and control lawn sprinklers and fountains from your device as well.

Keep your home safe with sensors that detect motion in your yard and at doors and windows, monitor smoke and carbon monoxide levels and warn you when water leaks are spotted. You can even run Wi-Fi capable security cameras from your device!

While many home automation companies resemble each other greatly in the services they offer, some have a “calling card” they use to set them apart from the competition. For example, Loxone Home Products’ flagship product, the Loxone Smart Home system, also functions as a universal remote and weatherstation. Founded in Europe in 2009, the company opened its first US office in 2013, and has become one of our country’s leaders in “green” home automation.

Control4, another major player in the home automation industry, understands the importance of providing full information on each of the highly specialized services it provides. They’ve put together a wide variety of videos, which they’ve housed on their website, that go into deep detail about the home automation products they offer. You can view them all here.

These well-known and well-respected companies are just a few of the players in this fast-growing and highly competitive industry. In fact, it can be difficult to choose between them! If you need a little guidance, we’ve collected a few review articles that can give you some insight as to which companies have achieved high rankings in the industry. This top ten roundup from Top Consumer Reviews can be helpful, as well as contributions from Search Engine Journal and Top Ten Reviews. Some home automation companies appear on more than one review, but keep in mind that any one of these companies may have a specific feature or function that makes it the best choice for you.

If you’re not looking for a full service home automation system, there are still some interesting gadgets and “toys” that fulfill one or two more specialized needs. Which of them does the job the best? Again, it’s a tough call, and a little subjective, but the experts at Android Central have weighed in with their knowledge of the latest technologies to provide a roundup of some of the best specialized automation options. Check out the reviews from the editors here.

One thing that almost everyone can agree on is that the benefits of home automation make it well worth the relatively short period of time you’ll spend researching the best fit for you!

Hints from Hotels – Add Luxury to Your Home

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: July 30, 2016 | Comments Off on Hints from Hotels – Add Luxury to Your Home

When you go on vacation and splurge on a high-end hotel, it can be quite a shock to return to everyday life. The elegance, comfort and relaxation you experience when you’re living the high life can seem so far away when you open the door to your own home. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could live in five-star hotels all of the time?

Well, most of us can’t afford to do that, but there are lots of hints, tips and tricks we can pick up from luxury hotels that can make us more comfortable in our own homes. Pamper yourself with some of these fantastic ideas and upgrades!

The Bedroom

If you’re like most homeowners, you tend to scrimp and save a bit when it comes to furnishing and decorating your bedroom. After all, most people don’t see it. It isn’t a public area of the house, so bedrooms are usually given the short end of the stick when it comes to spending. However, a great night’s sleep is one of the best ways there is to feel good, look good and have the energy you need to get through every day. Some tips for copying a luxe hotel bedroom:

Buy a good mattress and good sheets – the best you can afford. Add soft, washable comforters and pillows. Invest in thick coordinating curtains that block out the sun. One of the nicest things about staying in hotels is that you’re never awakened before you’re ready by the bright glare from the windows. Try sewing them yourself or hire a seamstress to create them for you, so that you can have the exact fabric that you want.

Make sure each sleeper has a night table within easy reach for quick access to alarms, glasses, water or any other item needed at night or first thing in the morning. A classy hotel will have plush armchairs for relaxing as well, because not everyone chooses to lounge on the bed. Choose a comfy recliner for a cozy corner, and outfit it with reading lamp.  An HD TV with a clear picture and good audio can be tucked into a stylish armoire to keep the look of the room tidy and upscale. As a finishing touch, make sure to leave a small dish of wrapped quality chocolates on your handy nightstand. It’s your own version of chocolates on your pillow!

The Bathroom

A few small tweaks will turn your everyday bath into a spa – and many of them are readily available with today’s new construction. For example, at Ernest Signature Custom Homes we offer bathrooms with dual sinks, deep garden tubs and stand-up showers with top quality shower heads and elegant fixtures. Add thick, fluffy towels, scented candles, a glass of wine and a mound of bubbles, and all of a sudden, you could be back at the Ritz! If you’re feeling flush, add another small TV for the “WOW” factor.

Entryway Chic

When you first walk into a posh hotel, you’ll see glitzy mirrors, flowering plants, elegant vases on stylish tables. Choose one or two of these elements to decorate your entryway or foyer. Imagine a small table in highly polished wood, lacquer or perhaps even marble, topped with an artistic key dish, decadent bowl of fruit, fresh flowers or a pretty lamp. Add a gold-trimmed mirror for last minute touch-ups on your way out the door. Viola! You’re done!

Throughout Your Home

Climate control is a trademark of high-end hotels. Programmable thermostats and wireless climate control systems you can operate from your cell phone make keeping your home at a consistent, comfortable temperature easy.

Lighting is also important. Luxury hotels usually have dimmers on the lights in guest rooms so that everyone can have the level of light they need and want. Make sure you have enough lamps in high-use areas to increase visibility. Quirky or elegant lamps also provide unique decorative touches to your rooms that express your personal style. Wall sconces placed strategically over artwork gives your home a sophisticated look.

The addition of greenery or natural décor helps to strike an elegant note throughout your home. Never use artificial flowers or plants if you’re going for a high-end look. If you don’t have a green thumb, a vase filled with dried flowers or twigs, a bowl filled with acorns or river stones or a fish tank are all wonderful ways to bring a touch of life to your home.

On-Site Recreation

A swanky hotel has workout rooms, a pool and a hot tub that completely spoil you – you don’t need to go anywhere else to get fit and get happy. You can mimic these amenities in your own home more easily than you might think.

Convert an extra room or part of a guest room into a home gym by adding a treadmill, stationary bike or weight set, a TV for entertainment, a home water cooler and a stack of hand towels in the closet. If you don’t have to trek to the gym each day, it’s amazing how much more exercise you can squeeze into your busy schedule! You can also create a yoga studio in your own home. Choose a quiet, dimly lit area. Add candles, a cozy floor pillow and comfortable mat or rug for stretching or meditating. An eye mask and incense for a lavish relaxation period afterward is the perfect finish to your workout.

You may or may not want to invest the money and effort required to have use of a full-size pool (Even though here in Georgia it’s nice and hot…we can usually swim from April to October…) but you can install a small swimming pool like one of these from Endless Pools for less than you might expect.

You can also indulge in one of the many portable, inflatable hot tubs on the market today that provide the joy of a spa at a fraction of the price. Check out models by Coleman, Intex or Mspa!

So, how many of these ideas are making their way on to your ‘to-do’ list? Probably quite a few – it’s tempting to make just a few small changes here and there that can make every day a vacation…right in your very own home!

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