The High-Tech Homeowner Wish List

robo2Tech-savvy millennials aren’t the only ones seeking an upgrade at home. More homeowners are seeking to outfit their homes with devices designed for maximum convenience and security. Which features do high-tech homeowners covet most? Consumer Reports highlights the top choices on smart homeowner wish lists:

Wireless meat thermometer – Perfect for entertaining, a wireless meat thermometer provides hosts with wireless alerts when food reaches a safe temperature.

Smart slow cookers – Smart slow cookers can be controlled and monitored directly from a smartphone – ideal for homeowners who are gone for most of the day. And despite this technological addition, most versions can still be cleaned in the dishwasher.

Robotic vacuum cleaners – Who doesn’t want to come home to a clean house? Robotic vacuum cleaners are a good option for homeowners with little time on their hands, and can be set to run whenever people or pets aren’t present.

Color-changing LED light bulbs – For those who want to consume less electricity and save on bills each month, a color-changing LED light bulb can be brightened or dimmed depending on desired usage. There are even models with color-changing and pulsating options to create a fun atmosphere for guests. Simply set the bulbs up on your Wi-Fi network at home.

Touchscreen locks – The ultimate in home security, a touchscreen deadbolt connects to your home using compatible automation or security devices. Combined with standard key and remote smartphone capabilities, a touchscreen door lock can be your most powerful safety measure against intruders.


Luxurious Laundry Room Transformations

When decorating a home, there are endless possibilities to make each room a chic oasis. The laundry room can be upgraded to exude personality and design flair so it becomes a more enjoyable place to spend time in.

laundry1From the color palette or patterns on the walls to the floors under foot and everything in between, decorating your laundry room with things that inspire productivity and tranquility can transform your tired, dull space into a room that feels luxurious, welcoming and relaxing.

Begin your design overhaul with beautiful, stylish appliances—like the sleek, high performance Front Load washer and dryer sets. These eye-catching machines marry a sleek form with high-performance function, including the fastest combined wash and dry time out there, with a 15 minute wash time and 14 minute dry time.

Designate specific areas of the space for different tasks like folding laundry, ironing and polishing shoes. Keep all the necessary supplies for each task nearby so everything is easily accessible when needed.

laundry2Transform laundry room supplies into decorative objects by storing them in refillable clear containers. Use labels to identify what is in each.

Space that is uncluttered is always more inviting, leading to enhanced productivity and a sense of calm. Make use of cabinets, woven baskets and lidded containers to keep items like serving pieces, craft supplies, gift wrap and vases well out of sight.

If space permits, installing a refrigerator in the laundry room is incredibly useful. When entertaining, a well-stocked second refrigerator will allow you to turn your laundry room into a party prep and staging area. It’s a great place to store larger items and to keep beverages and desserts at the perfect temperature, ready to serve at any moment.

Blending simple design tips with functional storage ideas and high performance appliances will find you well on your way to creating an inviting space you are happy to spend time in.


Becoming a Homeowner in 2015? What You Need to Know

housekeyWith uncertainty over mortgage rates growing and new Fannie- and Freddie-backed programs rolling out, those seeking to buy a home will continue to contend with changing standards. If you’re planning to become a homeowner, take these steps before borrowing.

1. Get preapproved.
Stay ahead of the game by actually getting preapproved for a loan – not by getting an estimate from a lender. Not sure if you’ve been officially preapproved? Take note of what your mortgage professional does – if your credit report was submitted to an underwriter, you’re in good shape.

2. Don’t alter your credit habits. Don’t risk hurting your credit score while securing a mortgage. Keep all balances within normal range and avoid opening or closing credit cards – your debt-to-income ratio may suffer.

3. Avoid moving funds.
To mitigate your financial liability, put off moving funds until after you’ve closed on the home. That means no cashing out on investments, retirement accounts or CDs. Additionally, don’t use your savings to pay off debt or fund a CD – this can be a red flag to lenders.

houseGift4. Get your down payment gift early. If family is helping you with a down payment, have them deposit the money in your account more than two months prior to applying for a loan. You’ll avoid hassle with the banks trying to track down the source of the funds.

5. Create a PDF of all documents. Round up all documents related to your finances: bank statements for checking, savings and investment accounts, pay stubs, W-2s, tax returns and canceled rent checks. Compile these into one PDF for your lender’s convenience.

6. Be prepared to write letters. Lenders will want to know details about every potentially harmful financial scenario before approving your loan. If there are any discrepancies in your financial history, such as frequent moves in a short amount of time or a substantial monetary gift, be prepared to explain these situations thoroughly in a letter.

7. Cut costs on mortgage insurance. The new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage programs require as little as three percent for a down payment – but insurance premiums through the FHA will come at a higher cost. Opt for private mortgage insurers, which generally have cheaper premiums.


Use One Word to Transform Your Year

word cloud for year 2015We all have good intentions when we make New Year’s resolutions, but nearly 90 percent of us fail to achieve them. That’s because in our enthusiasm to make positive changes, we take on too much. We simply don’t have enough time, energy, and mental bandwidth to keep up with multiple resolutions in the midst of our hectic, stressful lives. And by February or March, our unsustainable resolutions are ancient history.

That’s why, as another January 1st slips by, Dan Britton, Jimmy Page, and Jon Gordon suggest radically reducing your resolutions—not just to one goal, but to one word.

“This year, choose a single word that will give meaning, focus, and purpose to your life,” says Britton, coauthor along with Page and Gordon of One Word That Will Change Your Life, Expanded Edition (

“No matter how busy or stressed you are, or how many distractions and obligations are fighting for your attention, it’s easy to remember ‘One Word’—and believe it or not, One Word has the power to impact your life so much more than a laundry list of resolutions.”

Britton and Page have been choosing and living by One Word for almost 20 years. Along with Gordon, they have shared the process with numerous audiences, schools, companies, and even professional sports teams, with great success.

“Your One Word represents the essence of what you want to accomplish during the year, but instead of burdening you with a list of tasks to do, it keeps you focused on an overarching concept of how to be,” Gordon explains. “No matter what slings and arrows life throws your way, your One Word can endure and adapt.”

To give you a sense of what the One Word process looks like in action, Page shares that his One Word for the past year has been “Connect.”

connect1“I was increasingly concerned about the pace of life and its potential to rob me of significant relationships,” he explains. “This Word has resulted in better connections with those who are most important to me, more strategic professional connections, a more intimate connection with God, and opportunities to intentionally bring people together.”

“Jon’s One Word for 2014 was ‘Serve,’ which inspired him to approach his work and family with a servant’s heart and to put others’ needs before his own,” Britton adds. “And mine was ‘One.’ Unfortunately, leaders often focus on how many they are impacting instead of on how they are impacting each individual. My Word reminded me that great leaders care about each person and invest in ONE relationship at a time.”

Here, Britton, Page, and Gordon explain how to go about picking your One Word for 2015—and why this trimmed-down New Year’s resolution works so well:

Put some thought into it. It’s not unusual to choose spur-of-the-moment New Year’s resolutions as the ball drops in Times Square. Or maybe you just recycle the same resolutions every year: Lose weight! Save more money! Spend more time with the kids! Whatever your usual strategy is, you need to put a little more thought into your One Word if you want it to “work.”

“Make time for reflection, introspection, meditation, and prayer when considering what you want your One Word to be,” advises Britton. “Think about all the positive changes you’d like to see in your life, bad habits you’d like to break, and goals you have for yourself. Look inward and ask important questions like, What do I need? What do I want? What is in the way? What do I need to focus on? Then see if any common values or themes—or specific Words—bubble up.”

Listen to your intuition. While it’s important to think seriously about your One Word, don’t overthink it, either. The point isn’t to make your One Word impressive or extraordinary; instead, it should be influential and impactful for you. Sometimes, your inner wisdom, not your brain, knows best what that Word should be.

“A few years ago, I absolutely couldn’t decide whether I wanted my One Word to be ‘Surrender’ or ‘Enjoy,'” Gordon shares. “While jumping into the ocean on New Year’s Day, which I do every year, I felt a sharp pain in my knee and had trouble walking out of the surf. I thought to myself, Not a great way to start the year—maybe I’m pushing myself too hard. As I reached the shore, I heard the Word ‘Surrender’ loud and clear. My intuition had spoken, and I listened. I knew it was my Word for that year.”

Figure out what your One Word looks like in real life.
Once you’ve discovered your One Word, consider what it might look like in practice and visualize it impacting your life. Be open-minded and push yourself to think beyond the Word’s obvious definition.

“While you may have intended your One Word to apply to a specific area of your life, chances are, its sphere of positive influence is much wider,” explains Page. “For example, if your Word is ‘Invest,’ it might prompt you not only to be a good steward of your money, but to invest more emotional capital in your family and to invest some time in your professional growth.”

breathe1Create a visual reminder. If you keep your One Word in front of you, it will stay at the forefront of your mind where it can guide your attitude and actions. Your reminder could be as simple as a sticky note on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator, or you could put more time and effort into it.

“Over the years, my coauthors and I have seen people get really creative with depicting their One Words,” says Britton. “Some people have depicted their Word in jewelry. We know of corporate teams who each write their Word on wooden spoons that they take back to their desks. And every New Year’s Eve, my family and I paint our Words on small canvases and hang them on a wall of our home.”

Consider enlisting support. Doing the One Word process with people who care about you can be fun, meaningful, and mutually beneficial. Consider brainstorming and sharing your Word with your family, friends, maybe even your team at work.

“Imagine the impact if everyone in your family or team helped each other live their Words,” Gordon suggests. “My wife, son, daughter, and I share our Words with each other every year. It’s inspiring to see the Word everyone chooses and how it shapes their lives throughout the year.”

Record your Word in action. It’s not a requirement, of course, but Britton, Page, and Gordon suggest keeping a record of how your One Word influences your life throughout the year, perhaps in the form of a journal or blog. Write about how your Word guides your decisions, shifts your priorities, and influences your perspective.

keep-calm1“And at the end of the year, it’s helpful to perform a One Word review,” notes Page. “Consider the past 365 days and ask yourself, How has my life changed because of my One Word? What lessons did it teach me this year? What blessings did it bring into my life? What challenges did it enable me to overcome? Even though I’ve been living by the One Word process for almost two decades, I’m always surprised by how much my Word has impacted my life when I look back on the previous year. And it’s nice to have a record of how my Words have helped me grow, achieve, and learn.”

“So, why not simplify things this year by choosing One Word instead of a laundry list of resolutions?” asks Britton. “One Word sticks. It’s straightforward. It doesn’t leave room for confusion or excuses.”

“And most importantly, One Word gives you meaning and a mission throughout the year,” concludes Page. “It’s easy to make One Word a part of your life—and that Word can change your life.”

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