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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

home safety

Pros and Cons of Self-Insuring For Wind Coverage

Hurricane Wind Damage
On average, the cost of homeowners insurance in Florida has gone up by 32.5% since 2016. This is more than three times higher than the average rate change than the rest of the country experienced during this time (10.9%).
More and more of my clients are analyzing the pros and cons of self-insuring instead of carrying a wind insurance policy. Self-insurance entails setting aside money for a potential loss in lieu of purchasing a third-party insurance policy. Depending on the losses your home faces, this could either save or cost more money than conventional insurance coverage.
The logic behind self-insurance is that providers calculate premiums based on forecasted risk. These figures are designed to profit the insurance company by bringing in more money than they are likely to pay out. Under this reasoning, a homeowner should theoretically be able to set aside funds in case an incident occurs, thereby protecting themselves without an insurance company taking a cut. Even with wind coverage a homeowner has a minimum deductible of 2% that they will have to pay out-of-pocket before insurance covers any damages.
All forms of insurance are essentially risk transfer strategies. When you purchase an insurance policy, you are paying a third-party to shoulder some of the risk. If you self-insure, however, you are choosing to retain the risk yourself.
Pros:
Interest: The funds you earmark for self-insurance can accumulate interest until you need them, growing substantially if you don’t have infrequent losses.
More Control: With self-insurance, you’re not bound to insurance policy fine print that contains specific exclusions and stipulations. You can spend the designated funds to cover virtually any wind incident.
Cons:
Potential for Significant Loss: Some types of claims can be extraordinarily expensive. That’s a very risky proposition for most people.
Self-insuring is normally only an option if there is no bank mortgage on your home. When you have a mortgage held by a financial institution, they want to make sure their investment is protected. The mortgage holder will insist on seeing proof of insurance coverage, so dropping your coverage is not typically an option.
How high could repair costs go?
Even for the people with no mortgage, self-insuring is a risky strategy and requires you to have liquid assets set aside for repairs.  It’s hard to plan for the financial impact of hurricane damage. In South Florida, we can go several seasons without getting a wind event; but when a major storm hits, like Andrew (1992), Wilma (2005) or Irma (2017), it’s impossible to predict in advance how much damage will be left in the storm’s wake.
You may have heard how construction costs are already sky-high due to material shortages. Just imagine how high those costs will climb if a major storm hits our area. Replacing a tile roof in South Florida is one of the most expensive repairs a homeowner can face. That cost could easily double after a storm. Without insurance, will you have enough cash or liquid resources on hand to pay for that, let alone cover months of temporary housing in this ultra-competitive rental market while you make repairs?
Other Options:
Talk to your homeowner’s insurance agent to explore other options like raising your hurricane deductible (typically 2% in Florida to 5%). Also, consider wind mitigation measures like impact glass windows and doors and installing a whole home generator, which can help protect your home and reduce premiums. If your home is located east on or near the water, hefty insurance costs may simply be a fact of life. The only way to reduce costs may be to relocate to a less hurricane-prone area ( which is not South Florida).
And one final thought – don’t forget the importance of flood insurance.  Without flood insurance, you are not protected from rising water. In past years, 25% of actual flood claims have been on properties classified as low flood risk. A small investment in insurance can protect you from major expenses.
Pocketing extra money instead of paying a premium to an insurer sounds like a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t always work out in the long run. The cost of your monthly premiums over the years could end up being less than what you’ll pay for rebuilding your home on your own.
Consulting a qualified insurance professional can help you decide whether self-insurance is a viable option in your situation.

Helping Your Pet Cope With Fireworks

 

The 4th of July is here, and if your pet is afraid of fireworks and loud noises, you may need just a little more preparation to make sure your pet stays happy and relaxed during the celebration.

  • Set up a safe space in advance.Create a “happy place” where your pet can retreat to and feel secure. Choose a spot in your house where your pet usually likes to relax that will also buffer the sights and sounds of the fireworks, such as a walk-in closet or a room with blackout curtains. Fill it with comfortable beds and some favorite toys and make it extra awesome with playtime or treats.
  • Drown out the sound. Leave music playing in the safe space throughout the firework display to help block the booms. Closing all windows and doors in the house will help as well.
  • Provide plenty of distraction. Pull out your pet’s favorite toys or stuff toys with treats to give your pet something fun to focus on during the celebration.
  • Don’t make a fuss. When your pet is distressed, it’s hard to ignore the urge to comfort them, but excessive comforting may reward your pet’s behavior or (even worse!) validate their fears. Besides a few calm pats, carry on as if nothing special is happening.
  • Consider calming supplements or pheromones.  Starting some before the fireworks begin may help relax your pet and reduce their reactivity.

 

 

Summer Energy Saving Tips!

Summer
Summer
With higher temperatures often comes…higher energy bills, as we attempt to combat the heat outside with cool, air-conditioned interiors. To help you shave a few dollars off your energy bills all summer long, here are some tips and tricks for reducing your energy consumption and saving some money. From little fixes to some more major projects, these changes will help you stay calm, cool, and collected this summer.
Install a Smart Thermostat. Smart thermostats can automatically adjust your home’s temperature when you’re asleep or away to whatever your preferences are. While these high-tech gadgets require an initial investment, they have the potential to reduce your cooling bill by about 10 percent!
Use Your Ceiling Fan(s). Have ceiling fans in your home? Use them! Ceiling fans utilize about 10 percent of the energy that an A/C unit does. Make sure your fans are set to a counterclockwise direction to push the cooler air down.
Shade Your Windows. Sunlight entering through windows can significantly heat up your house, causing your A/C unit to work overtime. Keep your blinds shut or install heavier shutters or curtains to keep the heat out this summer!
Set the Temperature Higher — and Leave It. Set your thermostat to the highest temperature you can comfortably live in. And keep it there! The less you change the temperature, the less your unit must work to adjust. Remember that each degree you raise your thermostat equals more savings… up to 5% on your monthly cooling costs.
Add Insulation.Adding insulation to your home can reduce heating and cooling costs. Homes built prior to 1982 were not required to have insulation. If your home was constructed before 1982, you may benefit from adding the proper insulation.
Regularly Replace Your Filter. Dusty and dirty filters can block airflow and make your system work harder. Replacing your filter once a month can reduce your energy consumption by 5–15 percent!
Turn Off the A/C When You Leave. When you leave for summer vacation, make sure you turn off your A/C — or set it to 80 degrees. While you may return to a warm house, you’ll be thankful you saved all that money on your monthly bill.
Properly Maintain Your A/C System. The better you take care of your system, the better it will run — and the more money you will save. Schedule a routine maintenance checkup at the start of both the hotter and colder months to make sure everything is running smoothly!
Seal it up. Make sure your refrigerator has a tight seal. If you don’t have one all the way around the door, it’s almost the same as leaving the door open.
Get Outside and Grill: Cooking on the grill helps you save energy. It doesn’t heat up your home and make your air conditioning system work harder than necessary.
Upgrade to LED light bulbs. Lighting used to be a common source of unwanted summertime heat, but in this age of affordable LED lighting, there’s no need to sit in the dark. LED light bulbs stay cool to the touch, all while drawing a fraction of the power used by incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. Make a plan to upgrade all the bulbs in your home, even if you just buy a few bulbs per month.
Enjoy your Summer!

2021 Hurricane Preparedness Guide

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual.
A total of 18 named storms, eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes are expected this season.This is above the 30-year average of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
In order to ensure you are properly prepared this hurricane season, you should consider how you are going to supply your homes given that hurricane season begins June 1st. Don’t be caught unaware, protect yourself.
Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, high winds, tornadoes, and flooding. History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.
May 9, 2021 is the first day of National Hurricane Preparedness Week; hope you find this information informative and useful as we approach the beginning of the Hurricane Season.
2021 Hurricane Preparedness Guide
Look carefully at the safety actions associated with each type of hurricane hazard and prepare your family disaster plan accordingly. But remember this is only a guide. The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a hurricane threat is to use common sense.
Know Hurricane Terms:
Hurricane Watch – A hurricane is possible within thirty-six hours. Stay tuned for additional information.
Hurricane Warning – A hurricane is expected within twenty-four hours. You may be advised to evacuate. If so, evacuate immediately.
Storm Surge – Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level 15 feet or more.
Ask your local emergency preparedness office about evacuation plans. Learn evacuation routes.
  • Plan a place to meet your family in case you are separated from one another in the hurricane.
  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit ( See information below)
  • Board up windows. Permanent storm shutters and impact glass offer the best protection. Also, you can use 5/8″ marine plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Know how to shut off utilities.
  • Make a record of your personal property (take digital photos or video tape the contents of your home and/or business and keep in a waterproof container with you along with your homeowners insurance policy or better yet, upload everything to the Cloud)
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Reduce the water level in your pool by about 1 foot. DO NOT drain your pool.
  • Charge cell phones and back up batteries
  • Get extra cash since ATMs will be inoperative if power is lost.
  • Consider flood insurance and purchase it well in advance.
Have a Place To Go:
Develop a family hurricane preparedness plan before an actual storm threatens your area. If your family hurricane preparedness plan includes evacuation to a safer location for any of the reasons specified with in this web site, then it is important to consider the following points:
If ordered to evacuate, do not wait or delay your departure.
If possible, leave before local officials issue an evacuation order for your area. Even a slight delay in starting your evacuation will result in significantly longer travel times as traffic congestion and weather deteriorates worsens.
Select an evacuation destination that is nearest to your home, preferably in the same county, or at least minimize the distance over which you must travel in order to reach your intended shelter location. In choosing your destination, keep in mind that the hotels and other sheltering options in most inland metropolitan areas are likely to be filled very quickly in a large, multi-county hurricane evacuation event.
If you decide to evacuate to another county or region, be prepared to wait in traffic.
The large number of people in this state who must evacuate during a hurricane will probably cause massive delays and major congestion along most designated evacuation routes; the larger the storm, the greater the probability of traffic jams and extended travel times.
If possible, make arrangements to stay with the friend or relative who resides closest to your home and who will not have to evacuate. Discuss with your intended host the details of your family evacuation plan well before the beginning of the hurricane season.
If a hotel or motel is your final intended destination during an evacuation, make reservations before you leave. Most hotel and motels will fill quickly once evacuations begin. The longer you wait to make reservations, even if an official evacuation order has not been issued for your area or county, the less likely you are to find hotel/motel room vacancies, especially along interstate highways and in major metropolitan areas.
If you are unable to stay with friends or family and no hotels/motels rooms are available, then as a last resort go to a shelter. Remember, shelters are not designed for comfort and do not usually accept pets. Bring your disaster supply kit with you to the shelter. Find Pet-Friendly hotels and motels.
Make sure that you fill up your car with gas, before you leave.
Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies Makes Sense.
Get Ready Now.
If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire or flood, tornado or hurricane depends largely on emergency planning done today. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals.
If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.
Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.
Disaster Supply Kit
I personally prepare a hurricane closet in May with all the needed supplies and materials so that there is never a last minute rush to the store when the shelves have been cleaned out.
Water :
  • Plan on one gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days, for drinking, washing, cooking, and sanitation. Extra water for pets
  • Store as much as possible in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles.
  • Avoid using breakable containers, such as glass bottles or mason jars.
  • Fill bathtubs with water for bathing and washing dishes
Food :
  • Store at least a three day supply of non perishable food.
  • Choose foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking.
  • Choose foods that are healthy and high nutrition type.  (Canned meats, fruits and vegetables, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal or granola, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, canned juices, non-perishable pasteurized milk, high enery foods, vitamins, food for infants and pets, comfort/stress foods)
Supplies and Equipment:
  • A battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries
  • A flashlight with extra batteries
  • Blankets or sleeping bags ( store in trash bags to keep dry)
  • Paper plates and utensils, including a non electric can opener
  • Candles and matches in a waterproof container
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, moist towelettes, and other personal grooming items
  • Paper towels and toilet paper
  • First aid kit and medicines ( ask your pharmacist or drug supply company for a one month hurricane supply and store in water proof container)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Cell phone and plug in battery operated charger
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Books, games and toys to keep kids occupied ( remember those batteries)
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records, COVID Vaccine Passport, in a waterproof, portable container
  • Complete change of clothing including long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes
  • Insect repellent and sun-screen
  • Paper and pencil
  • Local Maps
  • Make sure to keep all of your medications filled.
Business Preparedness
* Have an emergency communication plan in place before the storm hits. How will co-workers stay in contact if the physical location of a business is damaged?
* Turn off all non-critical work devices before the storm hits.
* Alert a third party about business evacuation plans in case a storm makes it impossible to get to your place of business.
* Protect important business documents that you may need quickly, such as property insurance policies.
* Have cash on hand to pay employees or contractors after the storm.
* Know which employees are certified in CPR, EMT, etc.
* If possible, disconnect a building’s main electrical feeds.
* Have a plan to notify all employees, post-storm, about damage and how you’ll move forward.
* Review contracts that are date sensitive and have a backup plan in place to handle potential problems.
* Assess all functions that could be impacted by a lapse in business – cash flow, bills, budgets and any upcoming events.

Housing and Interior Design Trends for 2021

Accessory dwelling Unit

Accessory dwelling Unit

Design trends for 2021 include multi-zone kitchens, upgraded lighting, and oversized rectangle tiles according to home design website Houzz. The online resource recently released the following trends it expects to get hotter in 2021 as well as other home design sources.

Sconce lighting. Interest is growing in swing-arm and other sconce fixtures. Besides adding to decor, sconces have the benefit of adding task lighting around a sink or range

The multi-zone kitchen. Kitchens traditionally use a three-zone “work triangle” setup with a connection between the fridge, sink, and range, Houzz notes. More homeowners are adding touch points and creating additional work zones. Houzz refers to the trend as a “work trapezoid,” which might include dedicated areas for baking, prepping and chopping, or separate stations for snacks, drinks, and homework.

Rejuvenating bathroom design. Bathrooms are being designed to help reduce stress. Forty-one percent of homeowners who have undergone a bathroom renovation say they wanted their new space to evoke more of a relaxing vibe and adding steam showers, aromatherapy shower heads, and bathtub fillers that can hold a cup of tea or glass of wine.

Oversized rectangle tile. Large rectangular tiles can help visually expand a small space, and fewer grout lines means less cleaning. Houzz says the larger tiles are being used in several classic patterns, such as herringbone, stacked, and brick. Houzz designers recommend using a matte finish on bathroom floor tiles to reduce slipperiness.

Browns and beiges return. “Warm taupes, beiges, sands—basically any earth tone is surging in popularity,” Houzz notes. “Some designers say the trend is an evolution from popular whites and grays of recent years and that brown as an accent color works well to bring warmth to a palette heavy with those colors.”

Home offices and nooks. Homeowners are creating efficient spaces for offices, work nooks, and even backyard cottages as remote work grows and likely remains elevated in 2021.

Video conference-worthy backgrounds. Homeowners are feeling the need to have an aesthetically pleasing background for their video meetings and are even converting living rooms into video conferencing rooms with large screens and improved lighting and audio equipment.

Open floor plan scrutiny. “Perhaps no other design element was put under the microscope this year more than the open plan,” Houzz reports. “Anyone who had multiple family members attempting concurring video meetings in an open layout quickly saw the disadvantages to a lack of walls.” While this trendy floor plan isn’t likely to go away, many homeowners are considering sliding doors or partitions that can close off rooms for privacy.

Pergolas. To extend usable living space, homeowners are turning their attention to the outdoors.  These structures can add shade for dining, lounging, and other outdoor activities.

Backyard cottages and ADUs. For more privacy, some homeowners are adding a dedicated area to their backyard that’s separate from their main home. Accessory Dwelling Units ( ADU) are standalone structures are used as home offices, gyms, meditation areas, or extended living spaces to house relatives or kids who had to stay home from college due to the pandemic. No need for an architect, there are numerous sources that offer pre-fabircated sheds for multiple purposes from gardening to “sanity sheds”.

New multifamily amenities. With gyms, pools, and communal kitchens in multifamily buildings now periodically closing to keep residents safe, new spaces—indoors and outdoors—are emerging that are designed for fewer occupants such as

  • Quarantine stations. These designed rooms permit people who test positive for COVID-19 (but don’t need a hospital) to recuperate and avoid infecting family or neighbors.
  • Recording studios. There’s rising demand for studios that supports residents’ musical pursuits, podcasts, and videoconferencing.
  • Bicyclists’ havens. Whether it’s bike lockers or a bike-share program, multifamily experts expect this trend to accelerate due to the pandemic and communities reducing on-site parking.

Resilient landscapes.  Due to greater weather volatility, landscaping needs to better handle heavy rains and flooding, snowstorms, and drought. Multifamily waterfront communities are being designed or retrofitted with strategic landscaping and elevated public use area to address shifting shorelines and storm surges.

Health-minded building certifications.  The latest generation of certifications, rating systems, and design standards is based on scientific and medical research that affects human and occupant health such as programs like the WELL Building Standard, from the International WELL Building Institute, and Fitwel, according to the BuildingGreen site. Both suggest ways to gain a variety of benefits, from extensive natural daylight to good indoor air quality, filtration, and low energy use. Unlike LEED, these programs consider emotional wellness, too, which translates into greenery, gardens, and other biophilic design elements.

There are plenty of reasons to look forward to 2021, especially when it comes to the home design. After a year that guided many of us to spend more time at home,  the new year is an opportunity to bring comfort and creativity to our living spaces.

Stocking the Freezer During to Prepare for a Lock Down

Stock Freezer

 

Stock Freezer

As the coronavirus spreads, people across the world are preparing for the possibility of forced quarantines, and shutdowns of businesses and services. Keeping fruits, vegies and meats stocked in your refrigerator is not a practical idea if you are going to be in a mandatory lockdown or just want to limit your trips to the store for your own personal safety.

Freezing can extend the shelf-life of a huge variety of foods. You can stock up on frozen items right from the store, but if supplies are running low, it’s just as good to pop your own perishables in the freezer.

Berries, mango, peaches, cherries freeze well, as do bananas. They can all make for a convenient smoothie or, slightly thawed, a sweet treat. For veggies: corn, peas, and green beans, spinach, peppers, and onions are all good options. Avocados can also be frozen in chunks when they’re ready to eat. The key is to freeze things before they start to get overly ripe.

A lot of prepared foods are perfect for freezing, such as sliced bread, soups, lasagna, grilled chicken breast, sandwich meat and cooked rice — so consider cooking big dishes that can be portioned into single servings to freeze, then eat on the go. Not just cooked meat, but any raw meat, including chicken pieces, ground beef, steak, bacon and pork can all be thrown into the freezer and thawed to cook at a later date. Many people don’t think to freeze items like milk, cream, or yogurt, because the consistency of these items can change dramatically when frozen. However, they’ll keep longer, and can be used in sauces, soups and other recipes where the texture won’t matter.

Avoid freezer burn

Always freeze food once it has cooled down, not while it’s still hot. Make sure you get as much air out of your storage container as possible and seal tightly to prevent air from getting in and causing freezer burn.

If you are freezing leftovers, wrap them in foil first for extra protection before putting them into a zip-top plastic bag. A vacuum sealer to suck all the air out helps food last just a little bit longer.

Organize your freezer space

You should have a variety of foods in your freezer.  Label foods and date them so that you can use the first in, first out system of consumption.

Freeze in appropriate portions. Consider what one serving would be like and freeze in portions that make sense for your use. If you are cooking for a family or a friend’s family, adjust sizes accordingly.

Make an extra batch of whatever you cook for a freezer meal. If you are making meatballs or lasagna, it’s much easier to double the recipe than to have to make it again just to freeze. Eat one now and freeze one for later.

Soups and chilis freeze very well and heat up quickly. Freeze a portion or two each time you make soup and you’ll have a great variety later on.

Don’t discount breakfast. Muffins, breakfast burritos, even banana bread (just slice before freezing) make great additions to the freezer.

A little treat. Cookie dough can often be frozen, and you’ll be able to throw a fresh batch of cookies into the oven quickly.

 

 

What We Need From A Home During COVID-19 Pandemic

Home Buying and COVID-19
Home Buying and COVID-19
It is safe to assume that COVID-19 or other lethal viruses are going to be a part of our lives for years to come. Homes, businesses, schools, travel entertainment and more will all have to adapt for keep people safe and productive. The one area that we all can control is where we live. Our homes are increasingly becoming our refuge, work place, school, and sources of entertainment. Our needs have changed as well as the stresses in our lives and our homes should be an area that provides us with restorative releases from the stresses that living with a pandemic produces.
Our needs are tied to our emotions, which are themselves influenced by our surroundings. The pandemic we’re living through has intensified certain emotions and shaken up our priorities. Emotional needs are translating into new demands on our interiors and how good design can help address the new challenges.
Multipurpose Rooms:
Home isn’t just home anymore. With the pandemic and lock down, it has become an office, a school, a gym, a play area, a restaurant, a dormitory and a place to retreat and relax. Hybrid designs, detachable units and convertible pieces are the keys to creating a home suited to the “new normal.”
Rooms that can be closed off for offices, playrooms, and individual spaces are helping homeowners better manage playtime for the kids, conference calls for work, and peaceful alone time
Sanitation and Disinfection:
Before COVID-19 there was already a growing awareness of the importance of healthy air, but today it has really become a priority as we spend more and more time at home. Homeowners are looking for all possible means to improve indoor air quality: furniture that doesn’t emit VOCs or other pollutants, sensors that monitor air quality and air-purifying treatments.
 In order to keep homes safe and clean, entryways will become clearly defined transitional spaces where one can remove their shoes, hang their jackets and sanitize their hands before entering.
There is a new emphasis on contact-less ways of stopping germs from multiplying on certain surfaces or limiting their proliferation in the home. This includes solutions for disinfecting clothing, such as with disinfecting wardrobes; antimicrobial products and fabrics for children and bedding; soaps that change color when you’ve washed your hands long enough; and self-disinfecting features such as door handles.
There are few materials that we can use that are more sterile than others, and will be used even more in the future of design.
  • Metals such as copper, brasses, and bronzes are natural antimicrobial materials that have intrinsic properties to destroy a wide range of microorganisms. Not only are these metals hygienic, but they are great accents to warm up your home.
  • Quartz is one of the hardest non-precious stones on earth, therefore countertops made from quartz are hard, stain and scratch-resistant, and the most sanitary. Quartz is already popular, and that will only increase post COVID-19.
  • Woods like bamboo, oak and cork stop bacteria and microorganisms from growing. We love the look of warm lighter oak woods for flooring, and think this will continue to be a big trend in home design.
Restful Environments and Wellness:
Our homes have also become our refuges, a place to rest and recharge our batteries.Responding to this need are products that ensure high-quality sleep, helping us process our daily emotions and protecting our immune systems, such as sleep and breathing monitors and sound insulation. It also means keeping bedrooms areas for rest and finding other areas in the home for work and school.
Going to gyms and fitness class outside the home are no longer safe options. This search for well-being also includes physical activity at home, with a focus on equipment and furniture resilient enough to withstand daily use, including stain-resistant, waterproof, warming and anti-odor products that can be used for exercise.
Closed off Spaces:
Now that people are having to live, work and play all in the same confined space the need for sound proofing and privacy has grown. There are a large percentage of people who may never return to a full time office environment and home offices are a mandate now instead of an afterthought. There will be a rising need for functional private offices to be an integral part of the home.
the benefits of making your office space aesthetically appealing —something that often comes second to function. “Whatever your home office space is, make it beautiful. Face something beautiful,” she said. “I like to face into the room, or you could look out of a window. Have a comfortable desk chair — spend money on that; it’s where you sit every day.”
Outdoor Space:
Since the onset of the pandemic, our appreciation of the outdoors and nature seems to have greatly increased. The act of simply going for a walk or sitting in a park has been a monumental source of reprieve. However, in the midst of a lock-down scenario, these activities don’t guarantee safety and aren’t universally accessible.
As a result, the demand for home designers to provide private outdoor spaces for every type of home looks set to increase. It will be up to architects to work out how to integrate the outdoors into even the most compact of homes, experimenting with roof gardens, micro backyards, porches and balconies. People may also seek a closer connection between their living spaces and the natural world, with folding glass doors merging these two zones together.
Tech Infrastructure:
Designers anticipate not only an increased need for smart home technology, but also a need for that technology to be touch-less, in order to reduce the spread of microbes.
“Automation will no longer be an indulgence but will help keep people safe,” MacEwen says. “As the memory of the pandemic fades, I do think the ‘best practice’ for hygiene will remain and change the way we interact in the world and what we expect from our home.”
In the end, whatever becomes of the changes to home design as a result of COVID remains to be seen. The question for housing is how might we create spaces that adapt flexibly for how people want to live, and where they can see and touch hygiene in new ways and feel safe as a result.

Ways Smart Home Technology Can Save You Money!

Smart Home Technology
With most of us spending more time in our homes today, you have undoubtedly seen increases in your utility bills, food costs, and more. We are paying more to be entertained at home as well. Smart home technology is now a highly desirable feature to be added to homes and will not only save you money, but will increase your home’s value when you go to sell. Green homes are becoming more and more in demand, especially by Millennials and younger home buyers.
Save on Water & Electricity:
You can save money on your home’s utility bills all year round while also adding comfort, convenience and control.
LED Lighting: 
Replacing your incandescent or florescent bulbs with LEDs can greatly reduce the amount of power your home consumes. “Smart” LED lights cost more but can join your Wi-Fi network for automation and app or voice control.
Wi-Fi Thermostats: 
Smart thermostats let you easily adjust heating and cooling settings from your smartphone, smartwatch or tablet, and many can automatically optimize settings based on when you’re home and when you’re not.
By learning your schedule and detecting the weather, products like Google Nest ($249) or the Ecobee family of smart thermostats (from $169) can save you more than 20 percent on your annual heating and cooling bills.
Smart Switches, Power Strips:
Special switches and power strips also can cut off electricity on demand or via a timer. Belkin has a line of Conserve-branded switches, starting at $10, that shut off power to what’s plugged into it either with the flip of a switch or after a predetermined amount of time.
Conserve brand power strips ($39) can cut off any residual power to a device after a specific time or with a wireless remote switch. Supporting up to eight devices, these power strips include outlets you want on all the time while shutting off other plugs.
Smart Shower Heads: 
Smart shower heads eliminate costly heat-up time and also adjust water flow based on where you are in the shower. Evadrop, for example, says it cuts water use in half .
Smart Sprinkler Systems:
Smart sprinklers are designed to optimize your watering schedule based on local weather conditions. They also detect leaks and monitor water flow to reduce overall costs. Most come with a mobile app that allows you to control your watering efforts on the go.
Energy Monitoring
By installing an energy monitoring system such as Sense, homeowners can identify appliances that are quietly adding to the monthly utility bills. The Sense monitor is installed in electrical panel, connected to Wi-Fi, and viewable in real time via a smartphone app. The device automatically detects items in the home in order to identify vampire loads and see how much they’re costing.
Advanced smart home technology users can take advantage of integrations with Alexa, Google, IFTTT, TP-Link, and Phillips Hue to setup additional energy-saving automation. Sense will help homeowners form better habits, identify problem appliances, and reduce always-on device consumption that may account for up to 20% of energy use.

Keeping Home Buyers Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic

Home Buying and COVID-19
Home Buying and COVID-19

 

How I Keep Buyers Safe During The COVID-19 Pandemic:

 

Buying a home is never a simple undertaking. Even at the best of times, house hunting comes with lots of built-in stressors, from mortgage approvals to bidding wars and beyond. But house-hunting during the corona-virus pandemic? That changes the game entirely.

Although it’s a scary time to be out and about checking out real estate, it is still possible to do so and stay relatively safe. The industry has rapidly adapted, introducing approaches that minimize exposure to the virus.

A trusted Exclusive Buyers Agent is always a key ingredient in a successful home-buying experience. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this asset is absolutely non-negotiable.

Virtual Showings:
Many agents are now working remotely and conducting most of their business virtually. Instead of Open Houses, just ask me to provide you with a Virtual Tour of the property using Facebook, Skype or WeChat. Also remember that listing pictures may not tell the whole story. Special camera lenses and creative angles often make rooms appear larger than they actually are. Look out for potentially distorted pictures (which often have angles that curve somewhat) and learn to take such shots with a grain of salt. Listing agents only take photos of the positive aspects of the home. I will review the entire home with you and provide you with a constructive and truthful assessment of the condition , location and if it meets your needs.

Home Tours:
If you want to tour a property, I can provide you with masks, hand sanitizers and shoe covers. During the tour, it’s also now customary me to open all doors, so that home buyers can explore closets and other enclosed spaces without touching anything as they look.

If you do make an offer that’s accepted and you head to the closing table, real estate agents and attorneys are also adapting to remote closings.

Remote Mortgage Approval
One smart way to stay safe right now is to work with a loan officer who is set up to work remotely. Most lenders have already made the entire mortgage process digital. There is no need for you to meet a lender or show up at a closing table any longer.

Remote Home Inspections
I am offering clients the option of doing a remote inspection, where I am with the inspector in the property alone and review the findings with Buyers virtually. The Inspector and I walk you through the home’s deficiencies and operations in advance of sending you a formal report.

Virtual Home Appraisals
Home appraisals required by a lender generally include a site visit, which is not possible in some parts of the country where this is not considered an essential service. Luckily, appraisals pertain only to those getting loans, so cash buyers can skip this process entirely. But if you are getting a mortgage, fear not, virtual appraisals are generally accepted by most lenders today.

Remote Home Closings
In-person home closings—where all parties come together to sign contracts, swap keys, and shake hands—are, for the most part, not happening right now. Mobile closers are going to the Buyers for the final execution of documents. They are practicing safe social distance practices and there is no “closing table” any longer. Keys will be brought to you personally or couriered.

There is no limit the the services and adaptability that Optima Properties offers its clients…..we are currently assisting in the lot selection, model selection, and construction of a home virtutally for several clients who will not see their new home until the day they move in.

 

Life After COVID-19? How Interior Design will Change

Covid Interior Design Trends for Homes
Covid Interior Design Trends for Homes
Spending months in quarantine has already dramatically impacted design, with new trends that will undoubtedly continue to resonate well into 2021 and beyond. The future of interior design will reflect the reality of a world that has been forever changed by incorporating cleanliness and materials to help to mitigate the spread of disease, floor plans that provide separate spaces for home-bound activities, and a focus on personal well-being.
Nature-starved homeowners have been craving what they’ve been denied of late, so expect to see an increased number of plants and lush indoor gardens, earth-toned color schemes, outdoor-style interior flooring, and even the occasional attached greenhouse.
Residences will no longer have a home office, but an office at home. Significant reconsideration of how we can create a beautiful, functional office at home will be designed and set up to accommodate full time satellite workplaces.
If you’re doing your part and social distancing from inside your home, you may start to notice small details of your house or apartment you hadn’t thought about before – like how to help keep your home as clean as possible during the corona virus outbreak. There are few materials that we can use that are more sterile than others and will be used even more in the future of design.
        • Metals such as copper, brasses, and bronzes are natural antimicrobial materials that have intrinsic properties to destroy a wide range of microorganisms. Not only are these metals hygienic, but they are great accents to warm up your home.
        • A separate “casita” or guest house suite can be useful for isolating someone that may be ill, or to provide more distance and privacy for guests.
        •  Office spaces and study areas are more necessary than ever. As more of us work (and learn) from home, a dedicated office and space for studying is essential. Many of us quickly had to convert areas and rooms to our own home offices – showing us the importance of a separate space. Homes with multiple areas for getting work done – offices, libraries, and study areas – will be even more popular in design.
        • Multiple areas for activities and entertainment, such as home gyms, media rooms, and game rooms will be necessary to keep everyone entertained. During this pandemic, we have found ourselves with a lot of time on our hands, so whether it’s a family game night or a workout, the need for a space for everyone at home has only increased.
        • There’s no doubt that the future of kitchen design will look different in a post COVID 19 world. First, we have been forced to alter the way we shop, store, and prepare food. Second, we have more time at home to get organized, tackle lingering projects, and sanitize our homes. Finally, we have had to change the way we interact and socialize with family, friends, and colleagues. More long term storage and larger freezer capacity are in demand. New kitchens will be designed with cleanability in mind. Low maintenance cabinet finishes, faucets, tile, and fixtures will be a top priority. Quartz is one of the hardest non-precious stones on earth, therefore countertops made from quartz are hard, stain and scratch-resistant, and the most sanitary.

Our living spaces greatly influence our physical health – as well as our emotional state of mind (especially during his time). So it will continue to be important to create environments that stimulate our senses in a good way, improve relaxation, and have health and wellness benefits to the people using them. Here are a few ways of living that will be popular.

  • Bringing in nature will be emphasized in many different ways. From larger windows with views outside and using colors that reflect the natural world. Having lots of greenery in a home is also an obvious and easy stimulant to our overall wellbeing (along with lots of health benefits).
  • An increase in organization. Being quarantined at home makes us realize what is really necessary. Clutter can cause anxiety and discomfort – feelings that are more unwanted than ever. Organization will be emphasized, through de-cluttering, smart storage, and built-in shelving and spaces for keeping items organized in smaller spaces.
  • A sense of security and calm will definitely be present in interiors. When the world is full of uncertainty, having a space that feels like an escape from the outside world, with soft and cozy materials, light colors and relaxing vibes, will be a prerequisite of design.

When it comes to colors this year, we’re seeing the return of earth tones in a wide spectrum, from cream to terra cotta.  Expect to see decor that conveys softness, with plenty of light colors, especially pinks, beiges and other neutral tones, for a Zen look promoting rest, tranquility and well-being.

Nature continues its influential role in the world of decor. Vegetal hues have been in the spotlight for several seasons now, and this year we saw a lot of them, ranging from tender green to intense mint to peacock blue. Sky blue has brightened up the pastel palette.

Earth tones aren’t the only trend with staying power of late. While black is becoming less popular, blue has been replacing it. It’s a more versatile and emotionally indulgent hue well suited to sheltering at home.