Marianne Avila - Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty

Posted by Marianne Avila on 9/12/2021

Photo by ready made from Pexels

By now, you’ve probably heard of home automation. You might wonder what the big deal is or what it can do for you. Other than making aspects of home life more convenient, it can also bring your insurance premiums down because of the efficiency and safety of smart technology. Here are a few pieces of smart technology to consider adding to your home.

Smart Locks

Homeowners can add smart locks to just about any home. They’re typically easy to retrofit, set up and familiarize yourself with. If not, most come with some form of customer service to help walk you through your installation and use of your new lock system.

These locks add extra security and convenience in how they’re monitored and work. Should you need to grant someone access, you can either do so via app or give them the code. Many homeowners also use them with other video services, such as security cameras, video doorbells and monitoring services to give a full grasp of what’s going on just outside of the home.

Smart Shades

Stymied by window treatments? Opt for a smart version. They add more than convenience and sleek style to your new home’s design. They also improve the energy efficiency of the windows, which is hands-down one of the biggest areas of thermal transfer in the house. Choose from a variety of styles that effectively insulate against heat transfer. The wire-free shades open and close ultra-quietly, and all you need to control them is a smartphone/tablet and an internet connection. 

Learning Thermostats 

These thermostats “learn” your home’s tendencies and rhythms, adjusting your thermostat accordingly. They can save users an average of 15% on cooling bills and 12% on heating bills. Most have user-friendly designs available in a variety of finishes to suit different aesthetic sensibilities. 

Smart Light Bulbs

Even light bulbs are getting smarter these days. They can feature a variety of styles and sizes you can automate or wirelessly control from your smartphone or tablet. Choose from tunable lights that allow you to adjust the warmth or coolness of your light temperature or full-spectrum lights that set the mood in just about any color. You can even choose dimmable, soft, white lights. LED lights usually last longer than your run-of-the-mill light bulb, too, which can save you even more in the long run. 

Outdoor Switch 

Outdoor switches are pretty straightforward devices that can help automate and transform your outdoor lighting system. These usually come equipped with a waterproof outdoor outlet you control via smartphone, which also allows you to set schedules for your outdoor lighting. 

For many homeowners, the ability to automate and streamline everyday processes frees up valuable time and mental space for bigger-picture priorities. Which smart features will you incorporate in your new home’s design? 

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Posted by Marianne Avila on 9/5/2021

Personal financial in your twenties comes with a steep learning curve. One minute youíre studying for your finals and the next youíre expected to suddenly know about APR financing, 401(K)s, and fixed-rate mortgages.

If youíre in your twenties and are facing these new challenges, youíre probably equal parts terrified and excited for the future. And, although it can be anxiety-inducing to step into the world of personal finance, you have one tool to your advantage that your parents and grandparents didnít have: the internet.

So, in this article, weíre going to give you some tips about buying a home and managing your finances in your twenties.

Have an emergency fund

You probably have a lot of things you want to save for. Down payments on mortgages and auto loans, saving money for traveling, beginning your retirement funds, and maybe even starting a family; theyíre all important investments that will take time and financial planning to achieve.

However, one thing that many young people neglect when they first start saving is an emergency fund. There are any number of things that can throw a wrench in your plans in your twenties. You might lose a job and have to live off of savings while hunting for a new one. Maybe something goes wrong with your car and it costs hundreds to repair. Or, you could have unforeseen medical expenses that arenít covered by your insurance. Regardless of the reason, having an emergency fund will help you stay out of unnecessary debt.

Itís recommended to have at least 6 months of living expenses saved in your emergency fund. Once you have this amount saved, itís a good idea to keep it in a separate account to avoid spending it on things that arenít exactly an emergency.

Donít live above your means

We all know that buying a house, going to college, and even buying groceries are all exponentially more expensive than they used to be. However, itís still important to try to adjust your lifestyle to the things you can afford.

This includes the vehicle you drive, the first home you buy, and even smaller purchases you make.

Avoiding lifestyle creep

Related to our last point about living above your means, lifestyle creep is the phenomenon that occurs when you get a raise or a higher paying job: the more we make, the more we spend. However, itís possible to avoid this trend by keeping your finances in check.

The next time you get a raise, make sure that money is put to use in either your retirement fund or savings account. This method is based on the goal of ďgiving every dollar a job.Ē When every dollar you earn has a purpose, youíre less likely to spend it on new video game consoles every six months.

Posted by Marianne Avila on 8/29/2021

Moving to a new home can be both exciting and stressful -- especially if pets and young children are involved!

Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies for avoiding frayed nerves and keeping problems to a minimum.

Cultivate a Positive Mindset: Making a conscious decision to remain cool, calm, and collected throughout your move will set the stage for a more relaxed experience for everyone. Since stress and irritability can quickly spread from one family member to another, it's up to the parents to set a positive example for the kids. When you resolve to be patient and optimistic about how things are progressing, you'll tend to be more resourceful, encouraging, and solution oriented.

Be organized: Creating a priority list of tasks that need to be completed by a target date is an excellent strategy for staying focused and on schedule. There are a lot of details to attend to when you're moving, so it's usually necessary to have a written plan and a checklist of things to remember.

Here are three ideas to consider for avoiding confusion at your new home: Clearly label all boxes; make sure that screws and other fasteners for dissembled furniture are stored in an easy-to-find clear bag or container, and take a photo (for easy reference) of cable and Internet connections before disconnecting your TV, sound system, and computer equipment. That way, when everything needs to be reassembled and reconnected at your new home, the process will go much more smootly!

Some people tend to just throw odds and ends into boxes, hoping that all the "pieces of the puzzle" will somehow magically fall into place at their new home. Unfortunately, when you pack your belongings in a haphazard manner, frustration is always the end result.

If you really want to be super-organized, consider drawing a "furniture map" of each major room. That way, you can give copies of the plan to the movers and hopefully streamline the furniture setup phase at your new home. Another efficiency tip is to color-code your boxes to help make sure the right moving boxes end up in the correct rooms.

First-Day Survival kit: Since it's highly unlikely that you'll unpack all your belongings and supplies on the first day, it's always a good idea to pack toiletries, medications, a first aid kit, and cleaning supplies in an easy-to-reach place. Other things you might want to have handy in the car for the first day at your new home would be a vacuum cleaner, pet food, dog leashes, toys for the kids, stuffed animals, games, healthy snacks, and cold beverages.

Miscellaneous Priorities: Digital photographs and computer files can be securely stored on a portable hard drive or a free cloud storage service available through Google or Dropbox. As far as small valuables, such as laptops, jewelry, mobile devices, and important documents, it's generally recommended that you transport those items with you in your car -- preferably in a clearly marked box.

Posted by Marianne Avila on 8/22/2021

 Photo by Vit Ducken via Pixabay

There has been a lot of concern about the state of rural America and how it's being affected by large businesses. Big box stores like are said to destroy local businesses, causing an economic drought in small towns. But despite the statistics, there's a bigger picture to consider. We'll look at how big businesses cause big and small changes alike for the rural homelands of America. 

The Dominos 

Many people living in a small town will tell you that big business destroys it from the outside in. In Winchester, IL, one local lawyer met serious challenges in trying to get a local market off the ground, largely because his main produce supplier backed out of their original deal. 

His concern is that if neighbors can't even buy a banana in their town, what exactly is their incentive to stay? There are about 5 million people living in rural areas that need to travel at least 10 miles or more to purchase fresh (not prepackaged or frozen) groceries. 

Real Estate in Rural America 

The story of grocery stores is an important one when trying to understand the larger effects of what big businesses do to small towns. These anecdotal tales support the larger real estate trends in America, in that there are few people moving to small towns. This lack of interest has caused very few property owners to improve or modernize properties in rural areas.

The scarcity of well-maintained homes has caused their value to increase. So while the average cost of a home in rural America may seem very affordable, it's likely because the home is in a state of disrepair. In addition, financing may be difficult to obtain, due to the lack of available lenders in the area. 

The Good News 

The people who still live in rural America are not prepared to let their communities fall by the wayside. Across the country, residents are creating (and supporting) local markets that offer everything from fresh food to homemade crafts. Other communities are offering everything from utility credits to free swim passes for families. 

There are also government programs available that incentivize people to move to rural areas and invest their efforts into the forgotten properties. USDA loans offer extremely reasonable interest rates and lending terms to buyers who want the chance to own their own home and participate in their community. 

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Posted by Marianne Avila on 8/8/2021

Image by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay


The need for accessible new construction homes may never be higher than it is right now. U.S. soldiers have returned home with disabilities, and the number of aging Americans with growing physical limitations is expected to increase dramatically. The first wave of Baby Boomers reached retirement age in 2011, and more than 54 million Americans are 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census. These demographic facts point to a prevalent need for more accessible residential homes.

Although everyday people might expect the government to mandate accessible living regulations through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal law does not necessarily apply to private residential homes. That means contractors are free to capitalize on popular design elements. But accessible homes may already be highly sought after, even though modern homes and architectural magazines are not in tune with the data. By overcoming the minor challenges of building state-of-the-art accessible homes, contractors may discover that those properties could be listed at a premium.

What Makes Accessible Homes Different?

The ADA became law in 1990, and it establishes the legal rights of people with disabilities to enjoy unimpeded physical access to public buildings and spaces. It does not necessarily create building codes for private-sector residential homes. This is not to say that architects and contractors cannot build ADA-complaint houses. These are general concepts worth considering that underscore accessibility.

  • Mobility: Doors, entryways and pathways should be wide enough for wheelchair accessibility and eliminate ground-level obstructions.
  • Countertops: These spaces must be set at heights conducive to people who use wheelchairs, walkers or have physical limitations. They are typically positioned lower than traditional countertops and have free space underneath.
  • Ingress & Egress: Getting from a vehicle and into a new construction home is essential. People with limitations often struggle or cannot use standard stairways.

The ADA establishes detailed building criteria for public buildings and adapting existing living spaces. Builders may discover that the sometimes subtle differences are worth negotiating even if they are building spec homes.

Rethinking the Challenges of Building Accessible Homes

From the builder’s perspective, accessibility may have largely been considered retrofitting. Until the last decade or so, maximum return on investment for new construction homes were driven by factors that included comfy starter homes with room to grow, gated communities for retirees and upscale houses with expansive floor plans. Those types of houses are being retrofitted today. Getting ahead of the real estate curve by adapting new construction to the ADA calls for only minor changes such as the following.

  • Embracing Accessible Layouts: Open floor plans increase mobility by nature. By going one step further to widen existing doorways, use more archways and create spacious closets, accessibility can be achieved.
  • Going Big with Bathrooms: The traditional bathroom with high tubs, step-up showers, vanities and toilets positioned in tight spaces, are not accessible. Spacious and luxurious bathroom designs with walk-in showers, wall-mounted countertops and wheelchair-accessible toilets add value for every demographic. They also open the new construction build to buyers with physical limitations.
  • Integrating Technology: Smart technology has developed into an expectation among Millennial homebuyers. Technologies such a remote climate control, voice-command lights and entertainment help raise listing prices. These same elements also help overcome accessibility challenges.

Any hesitancy that architects and new construction home builders have about making homes fully accessible can be offset by recognizing these properties may be more valuable on the market. Real estate professionals can promote them toward families who have a loved one with limitations, aging Americans or point out that ADA-compliance also tends to be ergonomically beneficial.

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