How Smart Homes are Getting Smarter and Safer

As smart technology continues to leap forward, so does its integration into our living spaces. Per Google Dictionary, the definition of “smart” has been expanded to also mean “a device programmed so as to be capable of some independent action.” “Smart” in our homes now means an automated home with artificial intelligence, or AI, connecting to smart home automation and beyond.

In recent years, we have become intimate with the ability to use control devices and appliances with the help of the Internet, but now AI takes us to new heights. Imagine “smart wellness” that can help identify early signs of some illnesses or automation that sets the stage for a perfect night’s sleep, regulating bedroom lighting, temperature, and even the firmness of your mattress. How smart is it that AI can track your grocery-buying habits and automatically keep your shelves stocked by ordering what it knows are your dining preferences?

When it comes to protecting some of the physical aspects of your home, artificial smart intelligence can be set up for things such as leak detection in attics, walls, and basements. Couple that with the ability to detect water loss in your plumbing system, and you can rest easy knowing that water will not cause damage to or create mold conditions in your home.

While monitored home security systems have been around for years, new technology now allows you to be your home’s best security monitor with systems that include facial and voice recognition, smart locks, fingerprint entry capabilities, and customized motion zones, creating fewer false alarms and saving dollars typically paid to security companies.

We look forward to helping you navigate today’s new smart home innovations. If a smart home is on your wish list, we can help you find the available homes that have already taken advantage of smart technology and organize safe showings for you.

Here’s How to Get the Most out of Your Virtual House Hunt

What better way to kick off your house hunt than to log on to your computer to “virtually” check out the availability of homes that will complement your lifestyle? We have tuned into the online needs of buyers, putting comprehensive property information at their fingertips. Search filters, property data, and media production quality are better and easier to access than ever before.

Your virtual house hunt enables you to insert yourself into a prospective home without physically being there, all through virtual tours, 3D images, a multitude of still photos, floor plans, and written descriptions that accurately depict the property you are viewing. Not only can a comprehensive online presentation leave you feeling like you just physically toured the home, it will also give you a great picture of the exterior spaces and the neighborhood and how the house is located by incorporating satellite imaging links.

Be aware of possible “red flags” that result from omissions in the virtual viewing. Missing views of exteriors or some living spaces may be a sign that a property has some deficiencies. This will be an opportunity to have us investigate what is not in view so you can decide if the property is worth pursuing.

Your online tour will often provide uploaded seller disclosures, giving you further insight into a home’s physical being. After you have completed your virtual house hunt, we can help you coordinate safe viewing appointments of the properties that you feel will fulfill your needs. We’re here to help you through every step of the process.

What Every Buyer Needs to Know Before House Hunting

Before you begin your hunt for a new home, even if it’s online, we suggest that you do some important information gathering ahead of time so that the fruits of your labor will be more immediate and more satisfying.

The place that you will call “home” will be the result of understanding what your needs are now and into the future. Condo or loft living may be your chosen lifestyle if you don’t want to deal with much maintenance and have no outdoor living requirements.

If so, be sure and note that there will be added monthly housing costs via homeowners association fees. To give yourself or your family room to grow, a detached single-family home with ample outdoor spaces may head your list of criteria.

“What location is best?” Probably the most important part of your information gathering will be how you answer this question. The value of your new home will be influenced by its location, so you will need to analyze your needs regarding how and where you work and play.

The type and locale of a home will determine your overall cost of ownership. Will it be city life, country living, or nesting in the suburbs? Additionally, you will want to include the cost of home maintenance and commuting costs as part of your cost of living fact-finding.

Once you decide whether you are a candidate for a remodeling project or if a newer home better suits your way of life and patience, you will want to get prequalified for a loan that is tailored for the type and location of the home that works for you.

Please remember that we are here to make your information gathering easier so that the end result is a home that is a perfect fit for you and your family.

How a Coat of Paint Increases the Value of Your Home

Any improvement you make to your home should be done with the forethought of improving its value and increasing its appeal to prospective buyers. One of the least expensive ways to accomplish this is to grab a can of paint and a brush and get to work to create a positive first impression of your home.

HomeGain, a leading provider of marketing ideas to real estate agents, has found that the return on investment (ROI) for interior painting is 107% and 55% for new exterior paint. This makes the ROI for interior painting the top home improvement.

Selecting warm neutral colors can make buyers more easily visualize themselves living in your home. Color choice will determine if an interior space appears larger and more spacious or smaller and cozier. Light tones can help increase the openness of a small space, while darker tones tend to create more intimacy.

Since buyers seem to home in on kitchens and bathrooms during the hunt for a new home, you will want to prioritize your painting to transform these two areas. The right colors and application will help define important spaces. Consider creating colored accent wall areas to draw attention to any unique architectural features, such as alcoves, recesses, and soffits.

For exterior painting, focus on the true “first impression” of your home by selecting colors that will appeal to a wide array of buyers. If in doubt, give me a call or send me an email so I can share more helpful hints for increasing your home’s value and marketing success.

When Is the Best Time to Buy or Sell a Home?

The opportune time to buy or sell a home is not carved in stone. There are three primary factors that will influence you as to when you should move forward with buying or selling a home.

Buyers and sellers can benefit from knowing what their local market activity is at any given time. I can help you with that. Since supply and demand of available properties dictate price and availability, our role is to provide you with the statistics to properly time listing or selecting your home.

As a buyer, you will want to house shop when there are a lot of homes on the market, but that may not always be possible. You will have not only many choices but also more opportunity to negotiate with anxious sellers.

Conversely, sellers will want to list their homes during times of shrinking inventory so they can attract more buyers and be tighter with their pricing.

The direction of trending interest rates will also be key in determining if you can buy more or less of a home than you like and when you should move forward with your search. During times of low rates, sellers can be rewarded with stronger pricing, knowing that more buyers will qualify to buy their homes.

The seasons and where you live play a part in any real estate market. While buying and selling during the late spring through early fall may seem to be the most logical time to enter the market, it doesn’t hold true across the board.

Wintertime markets can even cause attraction in zones with better buying options. However, sellers should always give consideration to listing during these perceived slow market times because their competition will be far less and there will always be a number of buyers on the prowl.

With my experience, I can put the market numbers and the seasons together for your recipe for buying or selling success.

6 Things EVERY First-Time Home Buyer Should Do

It’s time to prepare for the closing on the purchase of your first home. Before you are handed the keys, there will be several tasks to do so you can set the stage for being a homeowner.

Speaking of keys, you should change the locks, which can be a DIY project for you, or contact a locksmith.

Notifying all of your contacts of your new address should also be on your task list. An email blast will accomplish this very efficiently.

Having all of the utilities on and in your name the moment you flick on the switch will assure power, hot water, heat, and AC to make your first night comfortable.

Be sure to allow a few days of cushion when switching the utilities in case the title company and lender expedite an early closing.

Prior to closing, familiarize yourself with the amenities that are near your neighborhood so you know where the nearest hardware store and grocery stores are located to get you through the moving-in process.

Create a repair fund as soon as you are under contract to take care of the maintenance your home will eventually require.

Our resources are here to guide you through your task list, and we are just a phone call away.

Increase Your Home’s Value with These Landscaping Ideas

A picture is worth a thousand words if it can create a memorable first impression. What better way is there to achieve a positive reaction to the presentation of your home than to start at the curb with your detailing and exterior design features? You want to capture the attention of a casual visitor or prospective buyer from the moment they step foot on your property.

A well-thought-out plan for the curb appeal of your home can increase its value by 10% to 15% and give a buyer a good reason to select your home to purchase.

You will want to create a landscape design that complements the style of your home. A Victorian cottage demands colorful flowering gardens along with a curvy stone walkway, while a craftsman bungalow is more suited for hedges and perennial borders with a paver entry. Whatever the style, the addition of evergreens will provide year-round color, and deciduous trees will provide great shade and intimacy to a residence when properly placed. Making the right choices for great curb appeal doesn’t need to come at a high price or with extensive upkeep. Flower beds are easily planted and are inexpensive. Selecting plants that do not grow quickly or shed will create a low-maintenance yard.

A major asset to a property’s value is the installation of landscape lighting. The illumination of landscape elements and interesting features of the architecture lets your home command attention 24 hours a day. Another great way to bolster your home’s desirability is to install an irrigation system that will keep your landscaping fresh and inviting, even during the warmest months.

We can help you locate the best sources for creating the wonderful first impression that will be the lasting impression for those who appreciate the attention to detail that you give to your home.

What to Expect if You Stay at Home During a Kitchen Remodel

According to Remodeling magazine, a kitchen remodel will generate a substantial return on dollars spent for this kind of home improvement, with an 83% average return. This, coupled with the eventual increase in the marketability of your home, should be a great motivator to step up to the next level in design and function for the area where your family always seems to gather.

You will want to prepare for what lies ahead for being a “stay-at-home” family during your kitchen makeover. Planning ahead will help alleviate the stress that comes with decision-making and the construction process.

Once immersed in the project, you will experience the pros and cons of living on-site while your kitchen is demoed and given new life. You will find that grilling and using an inexpensive microwave will be your food prep salvation, while your laundry sink temporarily doubles as a dishwashing basin and a small rental refrigerator comes to the rescue for food storage. Once you establish a dining area that is removed from the action in the kitchen, you should have conquered the primary “cons” of the dusty disarray.

The major advantage of staying in your home is your direct oversight of the design elements as they come together. It will enable you to tweak things as they evolve from the original concept on paper to better protect your invested dollars. Our experience with clients who have gone through home renovation can guide you to a happy outcome for your kitchen remodel.

It’s Tempting, but Don’t Do It: The Perils of Moving in Prior to Closing

It is not a given that every sale will close on the contracted closing date. With this in mind, it is important to have contingency plans to cover any delays that will hinder moving plans for both buyer and seller. The buyer who wants to move in prior to a delayed closing and the seller who accommodates such a request may find themselves in a predicament if things don’t go according to plan. Keep in mind that even if there is a written agreement to allow an early move-in, a legal dispute can still evolve from the unforeseen.

Early occupancy by a buyer means that the seller will have to maintain insurance on the property until closing, but there will be a potentially costly change to that policy. The new coverage would be landlord insurance to cover the now “tenant-occupied” home. Part of the closing process is the funding of the buyer’s loan and a final check of clear title. If a final verification of employment is not in order for the underwriter, funding will not occur and may cause the lender to withdraw the loan commitment. If the final title check reveals a last-minute recorded encumbrance against the property, the sale closing could be indefinitely delayed. These are all good reasons for early occupancy to be avoided.

While the buyer benefits the most from an early move-in, the seller potentially suffers great loss in the event of any buyer default. The seller will have vacated their home, thinking it was sold. This, coupled with the house possibly having been altered or damaged by the buyer during early occupancy, could create unanticipated financial hardship. The seller still owns the house and remains liable for activities on the property.

In any of these scenarios, it wouldn’t be long before buyer and seller would find themselves entangled in a legal battle over monetary damages. The message is loud and clear. Both the buyer and seller need to plan their moves with a flexible timeline and avoid early buyer possession in the event unexpected delays cause a late closing.

If you’re considering upsizing or downsizing, let me know what I can do to help make that transition as smooth as possible for you.

Getting a Pest Inspection Before You List

Before your real estate agent places the “For Sale” sign in your front yard, you want to be sure that no stone has been left unturned when preparing your home for marketing. The “To Do” checklist that your agent gives you is created to help protect you from the unknown once you are under contract to sell. It is also a great checklist for taking care of everyday preventative maintenance of your home.

One of the key items on your list will be the recommendation to obtain a professional structural pest inspection prior to listing instead of waiting for an acceptable offer to see if your home is the subject of hidden pest or water damage.

For a fee of $100-$200, a state-licensed pest inspector will scrutinize everything from the rafters down to the foundation, looking for signs of active wood-boring invaders and/or dry rot.

Termites and certain beetles can be causing behind-the-scenes damage to the structure, while water could be causing wood to rot where it is not properly protected. Once the inspection is complete, you will receive a report with suggested remedies and estimated costs for any areas of active infestation or dry rot. If and when you want to correct any problems is up to you.

Having this information before you move ahead with an offer gives you great advantages when selling your home. You will know the cost to get a clear pest report prior to agreeing on a selling price. Your buyer’s loan approval may depend on having a clear report so closing delays will be avoided.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about the home selling or buying process. I’m here to be your resource.

How to Get the Most from a Home Inspection

Buying a home is probably the single most significant investment you’ll make in your lifetime. When you’re making such a significant purchase, you want to know exactly what you’re getting.

This is the goal of a home inspection. A professional inspector will review the home and point out any potential concerns. Here’s how it works.

1. Arrange for the inspection: Typically, you will include an inspection contingency as part of your offer to purchase the home. This contingency will allow you to order an inspection (at your expense), then determine if you would like to proceed with the purchase, based on the results.

2. Complete the inspection: You should be present during the inspection so the inspector can review any items of concern with you in person.

He or she will inspect all the home’s systems, structural components, and general condition and provide a report that notes any areas of concern.

3. Request repairs: You’ll review the inspection report with your real estate agent and decide if there are any items you would like the seller to address. You can request that the seller make the repairs or provide a credit to cover their cost.

Typical things to address are safety concerns and anything that is not up to code. If the sellers refuse to negotiate, you can decide whether you want to move forward with the purchase or move on to another home.

I’d be happy to connect you with a qualified inspector and help you smoothly navigate this process.

5 Financial Benefits of Owning a Home

You want to make smart financial choices for your future. Do those include buying a home? Here are five financial benefits that point to yes.

1. Tax breaks: As a homeowner, you may qualify for tax benefits. These deductions can help offset other costs of homeownership. Potential deductions include the interest on your mortgage, property taxes, and home equity lines of credit.

2. Stability: If you take out a fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll know what payments to expect for the life of the loan. Rent, on the other hand, often increases annually. When you own a home, you also typically have more control over expenses such as utilities, so you can make choices that encourage efficiency and save money each month.

3. Forced savings: Each month, as you pay down your mortgage, you are adding equity. This can be an excellent way to build wealth. In the future, you can sell the home for a profit or borrow against the equity to obtain needed funds. Medical emergencies, college tuition, and home repairs or renovations are common uses for these funds.

4. Good health: A mortgage looks good on a credit report and can help you establish a healthy score. As you faithfully pay off the loan, your score can increase. This can prove helpful in obtaining lower insurance rates and qualifying for lower rates on future purchases.

5. Final payment: When you buy a home, there will come a day when you no longer have to make your mortgage payment. It will eventually be your property, free and clear. (Time to celebrate!) This scenario is much different than paying rent, which will continue for a lifetime.

Are you wondering if a home purchase makes sense for your financial future? I’d be happy to discuss these and other benefits and help you determine if now is a good time for you to pursue homeownership.

3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a House

Whether you’re thinking about buying or are already in the market for a new home, make sure you ask yourself these questions before making a move:

1. What are my “musts”? As you start your home search or are considering a particular home, make a list of your “must-haves.” These are your top priorities. They might include a certain number of bedrooms, a garage, or a specific school district. Note which items are not up for negotiation so you can refer back to this list as you look at homes.

To maximize your options, limit your “must” list to items you can’t easily change after purchasing the home. For example, you can’t change the home’s location, but you could easily switch out the flooring.

2. How long do I plan to stay? Consider various life factors that might influence how long you’ll live in your next home. Will you likely relocate due to a job transfer? Are you getting ready to settle down in the next couple of years? Is your family growing?

The answers to these questions will help you determine if it’s a good time to buy and, if so, what size and style of home to include in your search.

3. How’s my credit? If you’re planning to take out a mortgage to buy a home, your credit score will be a crucial factor. Lenders look at this number to determine the amount of money they are willing to loan you and at what interest rate.

Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Scores between 750 and 850 are considered excellent, while scores lower than 650 are considered weak. You can get a free copy of your credit report annually from the three consumer credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Examine these reports carefully to determine if everything is correct and if you’ll need to raise your credit score before you can qualify for a home.

If you need assistance with your credit, feel free to give me a call. I can provide additional resources to help put you in a buy-ready position.

Student Debt Could Buy Every Home on the Market

If you wanted to buy all the homes on the US real estate market, you’d need around $780 billion, according to Realtor.com. To pay off all the outstanding student loan debt in the US, you’d need $1.5 trillion.

Why is student loan debt nearly double today’s real estate market? It’s because almost 43 million Americans are shouldered with student loan debt, and this burden is blocking many of them from homeownership.

This statistic isn’t surprising when we compare the typical down payment for a home to average student loan amounts: $26,000 versus $34,500. Twenty-six percent of Millennials say student loans are the main obstacle they face when trying to save up for a down payment on a home.

Fortunately, there are many options for buyers in this situation. If you’re among them, here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the right track.

Improve your debt-to-income ratio: This ratio is key to qualifying for a mortgage. Lenders want to make sure you can handle the additional house debt with your current income. To improve your ratio, pay down (or pay off) any debts where you can, and increase your income if possible. Consolidating your student loans may also help.

Improve your credit score: Your credit score is another critical number that lenders consider. To increase your score, pay all your bills on time, avoid opening new lines of credit, and lower your use of credit. It’s also a good rule of thumb to check your credit report at least once each year to ensure it is accurate. If there are any errors, report them to the credit bureau immediately.

If you or someone you know is facing student loan debt and are interested in learning more about your options, I can connect you to a mortgage professional who can help you make owning a home a reality.

Is a Fixer-Upper the Right Investment for Me?

You’ve read the headlines: Build sweat equity. DIY special. Needs some TLC. These homes are far from turnkey, but they can offer good opportunities. With the right renovations, fixer-uppers can be a profitable investment.

But is this type of purchase right for you? To answer this question, consider three important factors.

Your plans. If you’re hoping to get a good deal on real estate and flip it for a profit, this can be a good option. Another great option is buying a fixer-upper and doing the repairs yourself in order to transform the house into your dream home. On the other hand, if you have watched a lot of real estate shows and expect to spend a couple of weekends working on the home and then make big bucks, you’re probably on the wrong path. Keep in mind that renovations are often costly, time-consuming, and far more complicated than they look on television.

Your budget. Consider whether you can realistically afford the renovations. How much would it take to make the home liveable? Would basic cosmetic changes be enough, or do you need a budget for more extensive repairs? If major construction is required, you may qualify for a home improvement loan program. If you’d like more information about current loan programs, I can review what is available and connect you with a lender to check your eligibility.

Your time. Examine your calendar. First, consider if you will have a place to live while renovations are completed. If you’re selling your current home and need to move out by a certain date, you’ll need to make plans for temporary housing. You must also consider the time required to manage this type of project. You’ll need to hire and coordinate contractors, or, if you’re doing the work yourself, you’ll need to budget significant time for your labor.

Think a fixer-upper might be right for you? I can help you find deals in your area. Just give me a call.

Hottest Housing Markets of 2019 Across America

You might be surprised to discover the hottest zip codes of 2019. The real estate market saw some new trends this year that caused a shift in hot spots. Metropolitan giants like New York and San Francisco are no longer leading the pack. To find the fastest-selling homes in America, we have to set our sights on smaller locales.

Realtor.com reports that Grand Rapids, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; and Boise, Idaho took the top three slots in 2019 for hottest zip codes. The rankings are based on how quickly homes sell and how frequently they are viewed on Realtor.com. The top ten list, which also includes zip codes in New Hampshire and Kansas, demonstrate growing trends in the real estate market.

One of the most significant shifts is the influx to areas outside the big cities. With prices in the Big Apple and other metropolises beyond many buyers’ budgets, home seekers are looking to markets where housing is less dense and is smaller and more affordable.

Millennials are a big part of the new trends. Making up the largest percentage of Americans taking on mortgages, millennials are seeking strong local job markets and affordable homes.

According to Realtor.com, millennial salaries in the top ten zip codes are, on average, 13 percent higher than the national median millennial income. Additionally, job growth projections for these areas are exceeding national growth projections. Lastly, the average home price in these areas is significantly lower, at $272,000, than the national median price of $316,000. If you’d like to learn more about current housing trends, I’m just an email or phone call away.

Should It Stay or Should It Go with You?

Moving is an immense undertaking. Among the myriad tasks on your plate are decisions about what to take with you when you move. Should you bring those living room curtains, or let the new owner enjoy them? Should you try to bring Spidey, your favorite houseplant, to your new home?

These can be tough calls. Following are a few things that most homeowners are better off leaving behind when they move.

Household documents: Do you still have the manual for your refrigerator? Did the furnace you installed last year come with a ten-year warranty? If you have any documents that relate to structural components, utilities, or appliances that are staying with the home, leave these for the new owner. You won’t need them anymore, but the new owners might find them very handy.

Curtains: Sure, you may have chosen the perfect bedroom curtains to match your comforter, but taking curtains with you when you move is usually not worth the hassle. The window coverings aren’t likely to fit on your new set of windows anyway, and buyers typically appreciate when they are included in the price of the home. Even if they want to switch them out eventually, the current curtains will provide privacy in the meantime. And it will give you the opportunity for a decorating fresh start at your new place!

Paint: Do you have a stash of old paint cans from previous renovations? Do not put these in the “go” pile. Often, buyers like to have these on hand to complete touch-ups in the home. Place the cans in a location where the new owners can easily access them. If you discover the buyers do not want the paint, check your local regulations about proper disposal and follow these procedures to get rid of the cans before you move.

Houseplants: If you’re moving a long distance, try to find new homes for your houseplants rather than transport them to your new location. The conditions in a moving truck aren’t conducive to plant life, and the plants are likely to get damaged or die during the move. Consider gifting your plants to your green-thumbed friends and neighbors instead.

Financial Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

A home purchase is likely one of the largest financial investments you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s important to get this one right. For the best financial outcomes, avoid the following mistakes.

Taking on too much: You think you’ve found your dream home, but it’s outside your housing budget. So, you try to stretch that budget and simply take out a bigger mortgage. This decision can be disastrous. Taking on more debt than you can afford will leave you struggling to pay utilities and zap any other financial goals. A good rule of thumb is to limit the cost of your house payment (including taxes, insurance and any HOA fees) to 25 percent of your take-home pay.

Skipping the preapproval: Getting preapproved will help you with not taking on too much, as it will provide guidelines for what you can realistically afford. It will also give you a financial advantage when negotiating for a home. Sellers prefer to work with buyers that they know can afford their home, so get preapproved before you shop, so you can submit your pre-approval with any offers.

Skimping on the down payment: The more money you pay up front, the less interest you’ll pay over time. If you save at least 20 percent for a down payment, you can also avoid PMI, which is a fee to cover insurance that protects lenders when a buyer has little equity in the home. And don’t forget to include closing costs and moving expenses as you save up for your purchase.

Going it alone: An experienced agent helps you determine a reasonable price for any home you are considering. We can also negotiate the best price for the home. Plus, the seller pays the agent’s commission, so you get all the expertise at no cost to you. When you’re ready to start your home search, just give me a call!

Home Decorating: What to Finish Before You Start

When it comes to home decorating, deciding where to start can sometimes feel overwhelming. Should you start with furniture shopping or painting? Should you hire a pro or do it yourself?

You may be looking at the decisions you make today for many years to come, so you want to make sure they are ones you can live with. To get the best results, start with a few pre-project tasks. These will give you perspective and guide your efforts in a good direction.

1. Reflect: Consider your current surroundings. What do you like? What would you like to change? Think about what appeals to you most regarding colors, fabrics, and styles. Avoid choosing things just because they are familiar or match your current décor. Determine what you truly like and let that guide your redecorating plans.

2. Write: Make a wish list. If cost were not a factor, what would you do with your space? Write everything down. This will give you a starting point. From this list, you can prioritize and decide what projects you can and will do based on room size and budget size.

3. Review: Look at pictures. See what others have done with similar spaces. Get ideas on how you can accomplish the look and feel that you want for your home. Find inspiration online and in magazines that can help you nail down the details for your redecorated surroundings. This research will get your creative juices flowing.

With a little reflecting, writing, and reviewing, you’ll be ready to tackle your redecorating projects with confidence. Now go ahead and get started!

Protect Your Privacy (and Your Curb Appeal Too)

A 50-foot fence would provide plenty of privacy. A moat will keep people out of your yard. But I’m guessing you probably want something a little more attractive for your property.

Fortunately, there are tasteful, appealing options that will allow you to keep nosy neighbors at bay. The two main areas to focus on are windows and landscaping.

Windows provide sunlight, outdoor viewing, and fresh air, but they can also provide your neighbors with a play-by-play of what’s going on inside your home. If your property is feeling more like a fishbowl than a house, try adding a privacy feature to the windows.

Window tinting can be a great option. These tints can block visibility from the outside while allowing you to enjoy your views. As a bonus, some window tinting can also reduce sun exposure, which can help keep your home cool and protect décor from fading.

Of course, window treatments such as curtains and blinds can also provide privacy, but these can make your home feel like a cave. To maintain privacy and natural light, choose cellular shades or lightweight and light-colored curtains that keep rooms bright.

The right selections in your yard can also provide privacy. Plan your landscaping to include features that block neighbors’ views into your yard and home.

Attractive trellises are a good choice. These create wonderful privacy screens while adding greenery to your surroundings. Choose your favorite vine or other decorative plant and arrange it so that it adds beauty to your backyard and privacy to your home.

Potted plants are an alternative to trellises and can be just as effective in making your home less visible to prying eyes. Place tall plants strategically in your space to create a private backyard oasis or shield your living room window from the world.

What else is nice about all of these options? They are versatile. While fencing is a fairly permanent fixture and can be expensive to install, these privacy options are easy to switch out at any time, and they can fit budgets of any size.