The spring housing market is off to the races! The inventory of homes for sale is increasing, buyers are out in force, and interest rates have remained low, piquing the interest of buyers and sellers previously on the fence about making a move.
New research from realtor.com shows that the first week of April is actually the best time to list your house for sale! The report used “trends in median listing prices, views per property on realtor.com, home price drops, median days on market, and number of listings on the market over the last three years,” to determine a ranking for every week of the year.
Listing your home in the first week of April contributes 14x more property views, 5% less competition from other home sellers, and results in the home being sold 6 days faster!
Below is a graph indicating the average score for each month of the year.
It should come as no surprise that April and May dominate as the top months to sell. The second quarter of the year (April, May, June) is referred to as the Spring Buyers Season, when competition is fierce to find a dream home, often leading to bidding wars.
However, there is one caveat worth mentioning. When broken down by metro, realtor.com noticed that while warmer climates share an overall trend, they have different top sales months. The best month to get the most exposure in Miami, FL, for instance, is August, while in Phoenix, AZ, June leads the charge.
If you’re thinking of selling your home this year, the time to list is NOW! According to the National Association of Realtors, 41% of homes sold last month were on the market for less than 30 days! If you list now, you’ll have a really good chance to sell in April or May, setting yourself up for the most exposure!
Let’s get together to discuss the market conditions in our area to get you the most exposure to the buyers ready and willing to make a move!
In today’s society, technology has become a crucial part of our everyday life. So big, that we tend to involve it in everything we do; home buying is no exception. Just like in any other industry, customer experience has become a key aspect and companies all over the world have finally started to step up in this area. And what better way to do so than digitizing everything in order to entertain better communication with clients and give them quick access to information?
Whether you’re a first-time home buyer, or you’re a real estate agent who’s looking to better advise clients, in this article we’ll help you by listing some of the best tools and resources to use for home buying.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that you are financially ready to take this step. After all, buying a home will probably be one of the biggest expenses that you’ll have in your entire lifetime. If the time is right indeed, you’ll need to figure out what you can actually afford to buy. This is where a budget worksheet could become extremely handy, especially when it comes to keeping things organized. Try to see a little bit into the future, and imagine your life in the next few years while having to pay the mortgage. Use the worksheet to figure out your budget, and then you’ll be ready to make a decision.
Like most people nowadays, you probably don’t have a huge amount of money available for buying an entire house, so you’re gonna end up going for a home loan. But there’s nothing wrong about this, as there are so many great calculators and financial tools out there, that can make the process ten times easier for you.
From working out how much you can actually borrow based on what you earn and what you owe to figuring out how much money will go to a mortgage payment for a certain property. All of these are readily available to you with only a few keystrokes. These tools help you take the first steps towards buying a house, without even having to leave your current one.
We live in an era where we practically have our smartphones glued to our hands. So why not take advantage of that and download some apps that can help you in the process of buying a new house?
If everything works out well with your home loan, now it’s time for house hunting! House hunting can be a very tiring process and also a very stressful one. What the modern home buyer can do about this, is to use real estate mobile apps that include map features, information about schools and other points of interest around properties, and maybe some other high-tech features, like virtual tours of the properties. At the end of the day, not only will you be able to save time, but you’ll also be less stressed when you’re able to go through multiple houses in a matter of minutes.
After you’ve narrowed your options down to a few houses, it’s time for you to go and visit them. This part of the process might be the key to a successful purchase, as you’ll need to talk to the real estate agent (in this case, call Norma!). And if you don’t know how to entertain one such conversation, you might want to do a little research beforehand. Be aware of the fact that a real estate agent can’t actually lie to you, but if you won’t ask the right questions, you probably won’t get the information that you need. You don’t want to end up buying a home that is not what you’ve thought it was in the first place.
And lastly, make sure that the house that you buy has the potential to become your actual home. You’ll never find your dream house while hunting for it, but you’re definitely able to find one that has the potential of becoming one.
The real estate business is adapting to our digitized world, a change that could bring nothing but profit and satisfied customers. Websites are still the standard for online house hunting, but mobile apps are so much more efficient! People take countless trips to the bank for home loans, while there are online tools that you can use from the comfort of your own bed. Buying a home is definitely a very time and energy consuming process, but fortunately, with the help of technology, it is gradually becoming easier to be a homeowner.
Congratulations! You’ve found a home to buy and have applied for a mortgage! You are undoubtedly excited about the opportunity to decorate your new home! But before you make any big purchases, move any money around, or make any big-time life changes, consult your loan officer. They will be able to tell you how your decision will impact your home loan.
Below is a list of 7 Things You Shouldn’t Do After Applying for a Mortgage! Some may seem obvious, but some may not!
1. Don’t change jobs or the way you are paid at your job! Your loan officer must be able to track the source and amount of your annual income. If possible, you’ll want to avoid changing from salary to commission or becoming self-employed during this time as well.
2. Don’t deposit cash into your bank accounts. Lenders need to source your money and cash is not really traceable. Before you deposit any amount of cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer.
3. Don’t make any large purchases like a new car or new furniture for your new home. New debt comes with it, including new monthly obligations. New obligations create new qualifications. People with new debt have higher debt to income ratios… higher ratios make for riskier loans… and sometimes qualified borrowers no longer qualify.
4. Don’t co-sign other loans for anyone. When you co-sign, you are obligated. As we mentioned, with that obligation comes higher ratios as well. Even if you swear you will not be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count the payment against you.
5. Don’t change bank accounts. Remember, lenders need to source and track assets. That task is significantly easier when there is consistency among your accounts. Before you even transfer money between accounts, talk to your loan officer.
6. Don’t apply for new credit. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car. When you have your credit report run by organizations in multiple financial channels (mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), your FICO score will be affected. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and maybe even your eligibility for approval.
7. Don’t close any credit accounts. Many clients have erroneously believed that having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. Wrong. A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both those determinants of your score.
Any blip in income, assets, or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. The best advice is to fully disclose and discuss your plans with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature. They are there to guide you through the process.
Just like our clocks this weekend, in the majority of the country, the housing market will soon “spring forward!” Similar to tension in a spring, the lack of inventory available for sale has been holding back the market.
Many potential sellers believe that waiting until Spring is in their best interest. Traditionally, they would have been right.
Buyer demand has seasonality to it. Usually, this falls off in the winter months, especially in areas of the country impacted by arctic conditions.
That hasn’t happened this year.
Demand for housing has remained strong as mortgage rates have remained near historic lows. Even with an increase in rates forecasted for 2019, buyers are still able to lock in an affordable monthly payment. Buyers are increasingly jumping off the fence and into the market to secure a lower rate.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently reported that in 2018 the top 10 dates sellers listed their homes all fell in April, May, or June.
Those who act quickly and list now, before a flood of increased competition, will benefit from additional exposure to buyers.
If you are planning on selling your home in 2019, contact the Norma Langston Group to evaluate the opportunities in your market.
It’s the billion-dollar real estate question: What are the must-have home features that home buyers simply have to have in 2019?
The surprising—and extremely practical—answer: laundry rooms! An overwhelming 91% of home buyers said laundry rooms are an essential, or at least desirable, feature they want in their abodes, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ newly released 2019 home trends and buyer preferences report.
The report was based on a survey of about 4,000 home buyers. It was presented this week at the group’s annual convention, along with new research from design and remodeling site Houzz.
Having a room devoted to washing soiled clothes, as it turned out, outweighed some of the far sexier and trendier home features out there, including hardwood floors or a tricked-out, outdoor living space, according to the NAHB report.
“Laundry rooms have become so popular because most people no longer want to see or step over messy lumps of dirty clothes in the hall or in the kitchen,” says Rose Quint, who oversees survey research at NAHB. “Buyers want all that behind a door they can close and get to when they have time.”
Next up in popularity were Energy Star windows (officially certified to be energy-efficient); outdoor patios; Energy Star appliances; and ceiling fans.
Meanwhile, the least popular home feature was an elevator. Hey, stairs are cheaper and better for your figure!
Buyers also said they could live without wine cellars; day care centers; plant-covered green roofs; and trendy pet-washing stations. (Sorry, Fido.)
Buyers also have some strong preferences for the type of homes they want to live in and where they want those residences to be. The vast majority of shoppers, 77%, prefer detached, single-family homes, compared with 13% for townhouses, 4% for multifamily units such as condos, and 4% for manufactured (typically mobile) homes, according to the report.
When it comes to location, nearly two-thirds of buyers, 64%, want to be in the suburbs, while 11% pine for the big city and 24% prefer rural areas. But no matter where they live, they want to be near retail space where they can grab a bite or go shopping and walking or jogging trails.
“Suburbs are preferred locations since they offer a better possibility of getting a larger home—necessary for growing families,” says Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist.
The hottest kitchen design trends right now
Buyers aren’t the only tastemakers out there. Homeowners undergoing remodels are also weighing in on the features and design trends they crave. And they’re focusing on the kitchen more than anything else, according to Houzz research presented at this week’s NAHB convention.
“Kitchens will continue to be the hub of the home, the place where homeowners invest the [bulk] of their savings,” says Nino Sitchinava, the chief economist at Houzz. “It’s becoming a showpiece.”
The transitional-style kitchen is the biggest trend, according to the research. The marriage of traditional and modern styles is signified by features such as Shaker cabinets, contemporary light fixtures, and more traditional marble countertops.
The second most popular style is contemporary, which features “a pop of slightly more industrial features,” says Sitchinava. The farmhouse style, popularized by HGTV shows like “Fixer Upper,” is also gaining in favor.
Homeowners are still clamoring for white-toned kitchen cabinets, but Houzz is seeing more creamy, off-white or oyster shades with a hint of yellow. Wood cabinets are the second most desired.
Remodelers also prefer stronger, engineered quartz over granite for countertops.
“It’s more expensive than granite,” says Sitchinava, “but it’s extremely durable. You don’t have to worry about chipping, heat, or cold.”
The most popular kitchen floors are ceramic or porcelain tiles, followed by engineered wood or laminate and hardwood. Resilient vinyl flooring is also growing in popularity, particularly with aging baby boomers who prefer a textured floor that’s more slip-resistant.
And homeowners are doing more to open their kitchens to the outdoors. That could be by turning a single door outside into double doors or installing a wall of windows.
The hottest master bathroom trends right now
Master bathrooms are another hot remodel, often paired with a master bedroom renovation, according to Houzz research.
“It’s becoming one larger, private retreat,” says Sitchinava, noting that folks are creating complementary spaces with similar color schemes, fixtures, and cabinetry. Some homeowners are even removing the doors to their bathrooms to create one continuous room. Yikes! But fear not: They usually create toilet rooms—with doors or walls—to create somemeasure of privacy.
The contemporary style reigns supreme in this space, followed by the traditional look, according to Houzz. The farmhouse style, which incorporates lots of wood and more rustic elements, came in third.
But Victorian-style bathrooms are also on the rise.
“It’s all about the details” with this style, says Sitchinava. “They are a reflection of a past century.”
This is the perfect time to start planning your garden for 2019. It’s too early in a year to actually do any yard work, but if you make a plan and prepare for it right now, there will be much fewer stressful and time pressing tasks in the spring.
When it comes to gardening trends, it’s perfectly fine to make your garden fashionable and to try to be innovative this year. However, have in mind that trends are often short-term and therefore fleeting. A neat and nicely managed garden looks good no matter what.
Asymmetrical patterns have been popular for a while now and they will really take the over suburban gardens in 2019. This is partly due to the fact that ordinary and well-kept symmetrical gardens have been around for decades. Suburban homes are now using this change to appear more interesting.
It’s best to use this fact to make your garden stand out. When patterns and plants aren’t designed symmetrically, you can also experiment with different materials, colors, and the overall aesthetic of the garden.
Low maintenance gardens
Usually gardens are seen as more of a hobby than just an aesthetic choice for your home design. It’s something to do when you have time to spare and something to plan for and organize around. However, this too is changing. There’s a growing trend of making low maintenance gardens that you can enjoy throughout the year.
The key to having a low maintenance garden is to choose the plants that don’t need that much work. For the most part, it’s about selecting plants that don’t need watering on regular bases. Equally important is choosing a suitable soil for such plants.
One of the biggest projects you could undertake with your garden is to try to merge the outside and the inside with a patio that’s an extension or even a part of your garden. Adding cantilever umbrellas and some lighting to create the atmosphere and make the patio useful is the biggest part of the job. What remains after that is just to design it as a part of the garden.
Patios can be a great place to entertain guests and they can really increase the value of your property. However, if they are set up with proper materials, they can also be easily pulled apart and you can use most of your yard.
Good fences make good neighbors! And the way you decide to distinguish your garden from your next-door neighbor could mean quite a lot. Installing green fences will make the transition from one yard to the other feel more natural. However, keep in mind that these type of fences mean a lot more work, especially when it comes to trimming and maintenance.
Planting edible plants in the back yard isn’t something that many suburban homeowners consider doing. However, there are a few reasons to try to get into it this year and to decide whether the operations could expand in the years to come.
It’s a way to make sure you have much less-expensive green and healthy food. In the end, many eco-aware homeowners should consider how their real estate could be used in a more productive way.
It’s fashionable to make your own garden decorations and you should dedicate a portion of your time to such creative projects in 2019. This is also less expensive and gives your garden a homey look. They don’t require that much artistic talent and can be made from all sorts of stuff, usually lying around the yard.
Old barrels just need to be painted over and used as a canvas, as long as they are wide enough and you know how to draw. Decorative bird feeders are also a good idea. They look nice and can be quite useful, especially during the winter.
In the end, 2019 should be the year to finally install and organize the supporting structures that will keep your garden maintained and clean. For the most part, you’ll need just one or two solar-powered small buildings. Taking the time to make these structures both well-organized and nice looking will make your future garden work much easier.
It might be possible to leave this part of the work to a professional contractor, but there’s no real need for it. A DYI project can be lots of fun!
The New Year is going to be great for gardening because there are a lot of new eclectic trends to try. Some of them are here to stay, like focusing on more eco-friendly gardening, while others are aesthetic choices and have an expiration date.
The largest obstacle renters face when planning to buy a home is saving for a down payment. This challenge is amplified by rising rents, which has eaten into the amount of money renters have leftover for savings each month after paying expenses.
In combination with higher rents, survey after survey has shown that non-homeowners (renters and those living rent-free with family or friends) believe they need to save upwards of 20% for their down payment!
According to the “Barriers to Accessing Homeownership” study commissioned in partnership between the Urban Institute, Down Payment Resource, and Freddie Mac,39% of non-homeowners and 30% of those who already own a home believe they need more than a 20% down payment.
The percentage of those who are aware of low down payment programs (those under 5%) is surprisingly low at 12% for non-homeowners and 13% for homeowners.
In a recent Convergys Analytics report, they found that 49% of renters believe they need at least a 20% down payment.
The median down payment on loans approved in 2018 was only 5%! Those waiting until they have over 20% may already have enough saved to buy now!
There are over 45 million millennials (33%) who are mortgage ready right now, meaning their income, debt, and credit scores would all allow them to qualify for a mortgage today!
If your five-year plan includes buying a home, let’s get together to determine what it will take to make that plan a reality. You may be closer to your dream than you realize!
Headlines spotlight the fact that buying a home is less affordable today than it was at any other time in more than a decade. Those headlines are accurate.
Understandably, buying a home is more expensive now than immediately following one of the worst housing crashes in American history. Over the past decade, the market was flooded with distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) selling at 10-50% discounts. There were so many that this lowered the prices of non-distressed homes in the same neighborhoods. As a result, mortgage rates were kept low to help the economy.
Prices have since recovered. Mortgage rates have increased as the economy has gained strength. This has impacted housing affordability. However, it’s necessary to give historical context to the subject of affordability.
Two weeks ago, CoreLogicreported on what they call the “typical mortgage payment”. As they explain:
“One way to measure the impact of inflation, mortgage rates and home prices on affordability over time is to use what we call the ‘typical mortgage payment.’ It’s a mortgage-rate-adjusted monthly payment based on each month’s U.S. median home sale price. It is calculated using Freddie Mac’s average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 20 percent down payment…
The typical mortgage payment is a good proxy for affordability because it shows the monthly amount that a borrower would have to qualify for to get a mortgage to buy the median-priced U.S. home…
When adjusted for inflation, the typical mortgage payment puts homebuyers’ current costs in the proper historical context.”
Here is a graph showing the results of CoreLogic’s research:
As the graph indicates, the most recent calculation remained 28% below the all-time peak of $1,275 in June 2006. That’s because the average mortgage rate at that time was 6.68%. As seen in the graph, both today’s typical payment and CoreLogic’s projection for the end of the year are less than it was in January 2000.
Even though home prices are appreciating at a slower rate, home affordability will likely continue to slide. However, this does not mean that buying a house is an unattainable goal in most markets. It is still less expensive today than it was prior to the housing bubble and crash.
Since 2011 home values have increased significantly throughout the country, with prices rising by 5.1% in 2018 alone. When surveyed, homeowners revealed the top four reasons why they felt their homes had increased in value.
Improved National Economy
Improved Local Economy
Low Home Inventory in My Area
As we can see, not only does the data show that the homes have appreciated, but homeowners also believe they know why. Many have taken advantage of the opportunity to use their newly found equity to sell their current house and move up to their dream home!
2019 will be a good year for the homeowners that still want to take advantage of their home equity! CoreLogicforecasts that home prices will increase by 4.8% by the end of the year.
If you are a homeowner who would like to find out your current home value, let’s get together to discuss the hidden opportunities in your home!
If you find yourself sitting in a strange hallway, waiting for a stranger in a suit to size you up and decide if you’re worthy as your palms sweat and your breath gets just a little bit harder to push out, you might be waiting for your appointment for your mortgage pre-approval. You’re one step closer to owning your own home, but this one is a doozy.
Let’s talk mortgage pre-approval step-by-step.
Step One: Mortgage Pre-Qualification Versus Pre-Approval
You probably already have a pre-qualification letter saying that you can probably buy a house in a particular price range, so why isn’t this enough? A lot of homebuyers find this part of the process confusing, and frankly, it can be. Your pre-qualification was probably done over the phone or on your first meeting with your lender. They asked you a bunch of questions about your income, your job and maybe even pulled a “soft” credit report to get some idea about your debts.
Based on this information, they gave you the details on the kinds of programs you’re eligible for and how much you can expect in buying power. You probably got a letter that you could show your Realtor to help guide the buying process. The difference between the pre-qualification and the pre-approval is simple: a pre-qualification is based largely on your word. If you give the lender incorrect information, they’ll give you a pre-qualification letter that’s not right.
A pre-approval, on the other hand, takes a harder look at your background, work history and requires a full credit report and FICO score to ensure that you can, in fact, pay back a note.
Step Two: Documentation
Your next meetup with the nice banker is going to be to deliver documents, provide consent to pull a full credit report and, if you’ve already found one, give them the information on the home you’ve put under contract (in some areas your Realtor can do this last bit for you).
Documentation you’ll be asked to bring will include pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns, along with other information that may be needed to verify your income source or sources. Self-employed people, for example, are sometimes required to prepare profit and loss statements (or just pony up more tax returns). If you have assets like a 401(k) or even a CD, you’ll want to bring the details on these, too.
Step Three: The Loan Estimate Form
You’re going to get a copy of something called the Loan Estimate Form, probably at the same meeting where your lender pulls that full credit report and takes all your papers away. This form explains exactly how much they expect you’ll need to bring to closing, along with itemized estimated fees to plan for at closing. If you’re shopping your loan, collect these and compare them side by side before you make your final choice.
But don’t spend too much time crunching the numbers. Just like your contract (and the National Association of Realtors) says, “Time is of the Essence.”
Step Four: Acceptance
Once you’ve had a few minutes to review the paperwork and you’ve made your final pass through the numbers, all that’s left is to call the lender you’ve chosen and let them know you need that pre-approval letter sent over to your Realtor.
Understand that a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you’re going to get the money you need to close. Several things can go wrong along the way through underwriting, including, but not limited to:
– Unverifiable income (this is often due to issues with overtime) – A change to your credit score. – An increase in your debt to income ratio – An undocumented change in employment – Assets that are unverifiable
The best plan is be totally honest with your lender when you get your pre-approval so that you don’t get a last minute call telling you that your loan has been denied (this actually happens, so pay everything on time and don’t take out new credit lines or add to old ones until you’ve got the keys in your hand).
When is the Best Time to Make an Offer?
Ideally, you should have a pre-approval letter in hand before you so much as set foot into the first house you’re considering for purchase. After all, the seller isn’t going to think you’re all that serious without one, nor will they be keen to want to negotiate under these circumstances.
Help your banker help you get the best deal on the house of your dreams, save everybody a lot of headaches and get that pre-approval first. Knowing how much your closing costs are going to be will also help your Realtor write your contract accordingly if they should need to be wrapped into your mortgage.
Basically, that document is the key to everything. So, no pressure.
When You Need a Loan for Your Home…
Finding the right loan officer doesn’t have to be difficult. I can put you in touch with one of my trusted banking pros that will get the job done and make sure you don’t get a big surprise a few days before closing. Call me so we can discuss personally – Norma – 469-450-2559.
If you’ve ever watched “The Price is Right,” you know that the only way to win is to be the one to correctly guess the price of the item you want without going over! That means your guess must be just slightly under the retail price.
In today’s shifting real estate market, where more inventory is coming to market and home values are projected to appreciate at lower rates, homeowners will not be able to price their homes as aggressively as they were able to just last year.
They will have to employ the same strategy: be the closest without going over!
As I explained last week, pricing your home at or slightly below market value actually increases the number of buyers who will see your home in their search!
Over the last six months, more inventory has come to market while the months’ supply of inventory available has dropped. This means that the demand for homes to buy is still very strong throughout the country!
Homeowners who make the mistake of overpricing their homes will eventually have to drop the price. This leaves buyers wondering if the price drop was caused by something wrong with the homes when in reality nothing was wrong, the price was just too high!
If you are thinking about listing your home for sale this year, let’s get together to properly price your home from the start!
Every homeowner wants to make sure they maximize their financial reward when selling their home. But how do you guarantee that you receive the maximum value for your house?
Here are two keys to ensure that you get the highest price possible.
1. Price it a LITTLE LOW
This may seem counterintuitive, but let’s look at this concept for a moment. Many homeowners think that pricing their homes a little OVER market value will leave them with room for negotiation. In actuality, this just dramatically lessens the demand for your house (see chart below).
Instead of the seller trying to ‘win’ the negotiation with one buyer, they should price it so that demand for the home is maximized. By doing this, the seller will not be fighting with a buyer over the price but will instead have multiple buyers fighting with each other over the house.
“First impressions are everything when selling your home. Studies have shown that the first two weeks on the market are the most crucial to your success. During these initial days, your home will be exposed to all active buyers.
If your price is perceived as too high, you will quickly lose this initial audience and find yourself relying only on the trickle of new buyers entering the market each day. Markets are dynamic, and your price has an expiration date. You have one chance to grab attention. Make sure your pricing helps you stand out on the shelf — in a positive way.”
2. Use a Real Estate Professional
This, too, may seem counterintuitive. The seller may believe that he or she will make more money without having to pay a real estate commission, but studies have shown that homes typically sell for more money when handled by a real estate professional.
“the median selling price for all FSBO homes was $200,000 last year. However, homes that were sold with the assistance of an agent had a median selling price of $264,900 – nearly $65,000 more for the typical home sale.”
Price your house at or slightly below the current market value and call a professional. This will guarantee that you maximize the money you get for your house.
Following last year’s real estate market was like riding a rollercoaster. The market started off strong in 2018 and then softened before finishing with a mild flurry. However, one thing that did not waiver was America’s belief that owning a home makes sense from a financial standpoint.
An end-of-the-year survey by the Federal Reserve Bank’s Center for Microeconomic Data revealed that:
“The majority of households continue to view housing as a good financial investment.”
And that percentage has increased over the last three years.
Though there is some uncertainty as to how the real estate market will perform over the next twelve months, one thing remains very certain: America’s belief in homeownership.
We’ve gazed into our crystal ball and have come to the conclusion that home lives will get even less laborious with the latest in smart gadgets and services. At the forefront of smart gadgets is new technology that also allows us to talk directly. From smart speakers, to on-demand command hubs, to video, eye to eye chats with family and friends will be easier than ever. Here is a look at what’s ahead in 2019…
Video Kills the Telephone Call?
The proliferation of smart speakers has continued unabated nearly since their inception, but recently we’ve seen a new feature taking center stage on these do-it-all devices—video.
Amazon kicked off the trend, as it often does, with its Echo Show, a variant of the popular Amazon Echo series that featured a forward-facing camera and a tablet-like touchscreen attached to a smart speaker base. It followed up that effort with its reimagining of the alarm clock, the Echo Spot, a smaller orb-shaped smart speaker that includes a circular touchscreen face and similarly positioned camera.
Google soon followed suit, adding the Google Home Hub, an upgrade of its Google Home smart speaker that, like the Show, featured a touchscreen tablet. Now Facebook has gotten in on the action with the release of Portal, a smart speaker/touchscreen, powered by Amazon’s A.I. assistant Alexa, with a strong focus on video-calling.
While the merits of video functionality are readily apparent for smart speakers—users can follow recipes with hands-free commands, check the weather or map routes, or simply catch up on shows while multi-tasking around the house—there seems to be a real push for these video-equipped hubs to replace the phone as the communication device of choice in homes.
For Facebook Portal, this is expressly the case, with all other smart speaker features coming almost as afterthoughts to its prime purpose of visual-based communications. So committed to the cause of video chatting is the Portal, that the Portal+ device can recognize users as they move and automatically rotate to follow them, allowing chat participants to remain on screen as they move from kitchen to couch.
Setting aside concerns about entrenching Facebook even deeper into your life, how likely is it that video chatting will become the preferred means of communication? Video calls have grown in prominence in professional lives as camera-based calls have allowed for more immersive meetings to take place across great distances, and the growing popularity of live streaming services like Instagram, Twitch and Facebook Live have certainly helped to further inculcate video communication into individuals’ lives. But will younger generations—the ones who need to embrace the medium to make it viable and the ones who have shown a stronger predilection to text-based communication over audio—immerse themselves in video calls?
That’s the bet tech is making—even for the devices not tied to our homes. While Apple has not announced plans for a video element for its HomePod, the company has recently upgraded the capabilities of its iOS-based video chatting app, FaceTime, allowing users to communicate with up to 32 people on a call at one time.
It remains to be seen if a rise in video communication-capable devices leads to a growth in video-chatting—consumers often don’t use products in the ways manufacturers intended. But even if an explosion of video-equipped smart speakers doesn’t lead to a golden age of people looking each other in the eye while communicating, at least everyone will be able to watch “The Great British Bake-Off” while making breakfast.
Smart Services Are the New Smart Devices
Throughout their history, smart homes have been defined by the intelligent devices they house. Voice-controlled lighting, thermostats that automatically adjust with the weather, coffee pots that begin brewing when they recognize you’re awake—products that save labor, money or time via automation and connectivity.
But what about those tasks for which no single device will suffice? The chores—laundry, grocery shopping, home maintenance—that, short of a robotic butler, will require some manual labor on the part of the homeowner?
Brace for the rise of smart services—automated fulfillment of the daily tasks that make an uninterrupted life possible.
“Replenishment” is one area where these smart services are already established and we should expect to see further growth. Beyond services built for the express purpose, like Peapod, you may have noticed that nearly every grocery chain of substantial size is offering some manner of automated ordering—and reordering—and delivery, either via an app or website. This process allows customers with a good grasp of their consumption habits to ensure that their homes are never out of their favorite foods, with specific items in specific quantities being automatically delivered at regular intervals.
But expect producers to take thinking even further out of the process. Leveraging technologies like Amazon Dash, developers will start programming the household devices to recognize when they are running low on supply and automatically reorder the goods. Like WePlenish, a smart coffee pod container that keeps track of inventory levels and automatically orders more java when needed, so you never have to experience a caffeine-less existence. Will we see the refrigerator that automatically orders tomatoes? Or the soap dispenser that refills itself? The possibilities are endless—and likely, as automated reordering is an activity manufacturers can firmly get behind.
But what about the tasks that keep your house running that require some measure of manual labor, like cleaning and maintenance? Here, too, we should expect to see app- and device-based solutions that call in reinforcements with some measure of regular automation when the chores need to get done. Like Cleanly, an app that allows users to schedule pickup and drop-off of their laundry, fresh and folded, within a 24-hour period. The latest version of certain home standards, like washers and dryers, are able to run their own diagnostic programs, identifying errors when they arise—how long before these machines are able to request their own maintenance when need? How long before a pool probe can send out a call when it needs a cleaning? Or gutters can identify when they need to cleared?
In addition to the rise of these automated services, we should expect to see growth of the technologies that help facilitate them. Technologies like Ring video doorbells or August smart locks, which can allow homeowners to identify who is at their door—like the Cleanly delivery person—and grant them temporary access to your abode.
That is, if a human even delivers your goods anymore.
Walmart recently announced a pilot program with Ford and Postmates to examine the automated delivery of groceries via autonomous self-driving vehicles. Likewise, grocery chain Kroger announced a partnership with Nuro to tackle the most difficult task of ordering online, “last-mile delivery”—that is, getting the requested goods from the store to the customer’s home, a feat they also hope to accomplish with robotic drivers.
The end result of the endless automation of anything approaching “difficult” should enable individuals to lead lives unhampered in pursuit of their goals—be it extra productivity in matters personal or professional, or the much more noble pursuit of binge-watching Netflix while moving as little as possible.
Kitchen trends 2019 – the stunning and surprising new looks you need to see
If 2018 was all about inky blue cabinetry with copper and brass accents, what does 2019 have in store?
Here’s a look from leading retailers on the biggest kitchen trends for 2019.
1. Green is the new blue
Last year was all about navy, but expect to see more green in kitchens going forward. It could be in the form of accents, like this wallpaper – palm fronds and botanicals are to 2019 what florals were to the mid-Noughties.
However, it’s increasingly likely to take the form of tiles and cabinetry, in tones of emerald and forest green.
The trend for bold dark hues was prominent throughout 2018, and as we move in to 2019, green kitchen cabinetry is set to be a new, key style. Deep forest greens can be balanced out with latte shades, smoky glass and soft metallics to bring opulence to the kitchen. The addition of white marble and brass through design aspects like lighting and worktops, or even accessories, help to bounce the light around the space and offset the heavier hues.
2. Dining islands
We all know that islands and breakfast bars can provide a spot for casual dining, as well as workspace and storage.
3. 1970s revival
This is a look you’ll see in tiles as much as anything, and reflects a wider return to 70s trends within the home. Color wise we will see a strong focus on rich, earthy tones like Mustard yellow, ochre, olive green, chocolate and camels.
If this floats your retro boat, a mix of The Winchester Tile Company’s Olive Green, Honey and Amber field tiles could work for you. Pair with retro-patterned wallpaper and fabrics with bold motifs for a real throwback!
4. Hide-and-seek storage
For smaller spaces and a real European look hidden storage is a real trend for the open-living plans. Pocket doors that slide seamlessly out of sight when the kitchen is in use, but cover up its contents when guests come calling. The kitchen can be transformed from an efficient work space to a clutter-free living environment in moments.
5. Broken-plan kitchens
Open-plan kitchens have revolutionized the way we cook and entertain, but where do you hide all the dirty pots and pans from dinner guests? So if you’re after a little more privacy, broken plan might be for you. The concept is simple – take an open-plan design but add in a freestanding shelf unit or raised breakfast bar to create separation without the need for a full-on wall.
6. Taking the rough with the smooth
The raw beauty of flawed finishes and natural materials was one of THE interiors themes of 2018. But for 2019 it’s being smartened up with luxe additions for a more grown-up look. Nail the trend by pairing immaculate matt units with chunky wooden worktops, or by introducing shabby chic accent furniture to a glossy kitchen. If you don’t want to go for a full-on makeover, even artisan pottery or fabrics influenced by nature will do the trick.