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5 must-have smart home features

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Smart home devices are becoming increasingly popular, and homebuyers are starting to expect them as standard features. Here are the key ones to consider adopting.

1. Locks. Openers for garages and locks for doors that can be operated from your smartphone are a convenient feature. They allow you to lock and unlock your home from virtually anywhere.

2. Thermostats. Delivering both comfort and savings on energy costs, smart thermostats are a smart investment.

3. Lighting. Controlling your lights is a must for anyone serious about home automation. Fortunately, there are a variety of options available, from hue-changing smart bulbs to smart switches and dimmers.

4. Detectors. Smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors simultaneously sound an alarm and send an alert to your smartphone (and anyone else you authorize) if danger is detected. Some models also incorporate emergency lighting.

5. Home security. Keep an eye on your home from anywhere. Smart security systems are highly customizable and available as do-it-yourself configurations or comprehensive setups that include professional installation and monitoring.

Expect these and other smart home devices to become must-have features in homes. You can purchase them from the electronics, appliance, and garage door retailers in your area.

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Touchless design features for a germ-free home

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Touchless technologies have long been featured in public spaces to limit the spread of germs. Now, these motion-activated innovations are making their way into homes. Here are a few you may want to adopt.

• Light switches. Illuminate your home by walking past conveniently placed sensors.

• Faucets and toilets. Touchless versions will help keep your bathrooms sanitary.

• Soap dispensers. Wash your hands without getting the dispenser dirty.

• Appliances. Dishwashers, refrigerators, and ovens are increasingly featuring technologies that allow you to open and close them without using a handle.

• Garbage bins. Open and close your trash can with motion-activated technology.

You can find touchless technologies at hardware and appliance stores in your area.

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Virginia’s 2020 home sales top 2019 sales by nearly 11%

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According to the December 2020 Home Sales Report released by Virginia REALTORS®, Virginia’s housing market surged in the second half of 2020. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, there were 13,603 more home sales in 2020 than there were in 2019. This is an increase of 10.8%—the Commonwealth’s fastest growth in annual sales transactions in more than five years.

Sales activity in the final quarter of 2020 was significant compared to recent years. Home sales activity gained steam throughout the fall and into the winter months when transactions typically tend to slow. In December, there was a total of 12,525 home sales in Virginia, which is 32.4% higher than a year ago.

Demand for homeownership has been strong throughout the pandemic, fueled by historically low mortgage rates. Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant, PhD, says, “The foremost challenge for Virginia’s housing market has been a lack of supply. Declining inventory has limited options for would-be homebuyers and has driven up home prices across the Commonwealth.”

In Virginia, the median sales price in 2020 was $319,902, which was up from $295,000 last year, an 8.4% increase. For the past few years, home prices have risen by between 2 and 4 percent, so the gain in 2020 is notable. The biggest price gains were in the last few months of the year. In December, the median sales price statewide was $325,000, up 10.2%.

Demand for homeownership will continue to be strong in Virginia in 2021, while a lack of inventory will constrain market activity. Virginia REALTORS® forecasts that home sales will increase in 2021, though the pace of home sales transactions will slow due to insufficient supply.

The Virginia Home Sales Report is published by Virginia REALTORS®. Click here to view the full December 2020 Home Sales Report. Current and past reports are available to members, media, and real estate-related industries through the organization’s website.

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4 tips for homeowners upgrading their garage door

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Replacing your garage door is a home renovation project with a high return on investment. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re making this upgrade.

1. Use manufacturer websites. Choose a door design you like by perusing your options online. Many manufacturers have software on their website that lets you upload a photo of your home and try on different garage door styles.

2. Invest in good insulation. The effectiveness of a garage door’s insulation is referred to by its R-value. The higher the number, the better the door prevents heat transfer. Garage doors insulated with polyurethane are the most efficient.

3. Opt for the best springs. Springs are what hold the weight of your garage door and allow it to effortlessly move up and down. Standard torsion springs are rated for about 10,000 cycles, but those rated for 20,000 cycles are only a bit more expensive and well worth the extra cost.

4. Buy an opener at the same time. If your opener is showing its age, or you want one with the latest features, this is the perfect time to replace it. You can save on installation costs by having your contractor put in the door and opener at the same time.

Finally, make sure you hire a professional to install your garage door as this job can be complex, time-consuming, and dangerous.

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How to become a homeowner in 2021

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Is your new year’s resolution to buy a new home? If so, here’s how to make good on this promise.

Establish a budget and start saving
Determine how much money you require to buy a home. Research house prices in the area where you want to live and educate yourself about mortgages and what’s required to apply for one. Your bank or a reputable mortgage lender can assist you.

Once you’ve calculated how much money you need, establish a budget that allows you to reach this goal. To make ends meet, you may need to trim unnecessary spending. However, you can grow your finances further by keeping your money in a high-yield savings account or investing it wisely.

Boost your credit score and get pre-approved
A good credit score is a key to buying a home. It gives you more mortgage options and will lower your monthly interest rate. Here are a few ways to improve your score:

• Pay all your bills on time and don’t surpass your credit limit.

• Don’t transfer the balance of an older credit account to a new one; the longer an account is open and in use, the better your score.

• Use different types of credit (such as a credit card, car loan, and line of credit), since using only one type can result in a lower score.

Once your credit score is in good shape, you can get pre-approved for a mortgage through your bank. This will equip you with a letter indicating how much you can borrow. Mortgage pre-approval is a great asset when house shopping, as it shows sellers that you’re a qualified buyer.

Once your financial affairs are in order, you’re ready to become a homeowner. To find a house that meets your needs, make sure to hire a realtor.

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Travertine flooring: is it right for your home?

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Travertine is a type of limestone that naturally forms in deposits near mineral springs. It comes in earthy neutral colors like beige, tan, off-white, and gray and has a fibrous, marble-like appearance.

As a flooring material, it’s sold in tiles by the square foot. While very durable, it does require ongoing maintenance and care. This is because travertine is a porous material, which makes it prone to staining and etching. It should be coated with a protective sealant upon installation and then again every three to five years. Travertine floors should also be regularly swept and mopped to prevent scratches and discoloration.

In terms of cost, travertine is a mid-range stone that tends to be more affordable than marble but more expensive than granite. It’s not the cheapest type of flooring for your home, but it isn’t the most lavish either.

Travertine has a timeless quality that complements both traditional and contemporary design styles. It typically comes in one of four finishes — polished, honed, tumbled, or brushed — and the type you choose will impact whether your floors look glossy and refined or rustic and weathered.

So, is travertine flooring right for your home?

If you have an ample budget and want a floor that gives your home a sense of reserved dignity and prestige, travertine may be the right pick.

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Home theater essentials

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Enjoy a big-screen experience at home with your very own home theater. This renovation project is easier to pull off than you might think. Here are the five things you’ll need.

1. TV or projector
Before you choose your viewing system, compare the pros and cons of a big-screen TV with those of an overhead projector. Opt for the biggest screen you can afford with the highest resolution.

2. Sound system

The best home theater systems don’t skimp when it comes to sound. Consider adding built-in speakers to the walls or ceiling. Also, make sure your system includes a subwoofer, as rich bass notes will make the cinematic experience more exciting.

3. Seating
Opt for luxurious single seating in plush leather or soft fabric. Black recliners are a classic choice, but upholstered chaise lounges may offer greater comfort.

4. Snack station
Save space for the movie snacks you love most. Your snack station can include a popcorn maker, a mini-fridge, a bar, jars of candy, a soda-making station, or a water cooler.

5. Lighting
Blackout curtains are a must, and overhead lighting on a dimmer will allow you to quickly get the show started. Consider adding LED light strips to create a theater-like atmosphere. They can be placed behind movie posters, underneath seats, or along pathways to the restroom, snack station, and exit.

Once you’ve picked out the essentials, you can choose one or more add-ons. Consider including an electric fireplace, a video game console, or simply some soft blankets to curl up under.

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