Look Before You Buy: Virtual Reality Comes to Home Improvement

Family Standing Outside Suburban Home


You’re about to shell out a significant amount of money to upgrade your house, and the choices make your head spin. Traditional asphalt or slate shingles? Summer blue or teardrop blue paint for the walls?

Until recently, unless your imagination rivaled a sci-fi novelist’s, you wouldn’t know if you’d made the right choice till the project was finished. And then, if you’d gotten it wrong — if you had one of those “what was I thinking” moments — you’d either have to live with your mistake or spend even more bucks to fix it.

But now, thanks to the explosion of online virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D rendering tools, all that has changed to the point where consumers can get a pretty clear vision of what those shingles, say, would look like on their roof before committing.

“It’s definitely the wave of the future, because it allows the general population to make design decisions without feeling hesitant or insecure,” Khoi Vo, a professor and the chair of the department of interior design at Savannah College of Art and design, told the New York Times.

Feel like playing architect and interior designer all at once? One of the more advanced programs, RoomSketcher, lets you do just that by creating your own floor plan, furnishing and decorating the space, and then visualizing your work in 3D “as if you are actually there.”

Heck, Better Homes & Gardens even has a tool that lets you create an elaborate garden design plan — complete with a pond — by dragging and dropping “more than 150 trees, shrubs and flowers.”

What about the house trim and exterior walls? White or something more daring?

It’s worth noting that one of the nicer features of most of the virtual reality tools, is that they let you solicit feedback from others by sharing your finished creation via email or social media. That way — like having a friend along while trying on clothes at a brick-and-mortar store — you can get a second opinion on whether your choice is becoming or not.

Millennials Go House Hunting, and Here’s What They Crave

Happy couple standing in front of new home
Guess who’s been driving home sales for the past few years?

Millennials. The older ones at least. That’s right, contrary to popular perception, not all of the 18 to 35 year old generation is so wracked with college debt that they’re living in their parents’ basements while working for peanuts as baristas. In fact, the National Association of Realtors just officially crowned them the largest segment of the home buyer market at 35 percent, up from 32 percent in 2014 in its most recent 2016 “Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Study.”

And that trend only looks to accelerate.

“The coming years of housing demand will be Millennial driven and will support the single family sector,” Dennis Lockhart, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, has said.

Given that new reality, here are four things experts say Millennials crave most in a house, which Boomers and even Gen-Xers need to know before trying to sell to them. (Warning: Be prepared to have some of your most cherished beliefs upended.)

  • Open floor plans. Okay, so you’re probably not going to tear down your interior walls to create more of a loft feeling, or are you? but at least know that Millennials entertain differently than their elders and that something like a formal dining room just doesn’t impress them.

“In essence, the kitchen is the new living room,” one realtor told Bankrate.com. “They want people to flow through the home during gatherings, rather than be sectioned off in rooms.”

What does impress them? A home office, given that 9 to 5 jobs are so passe. Immediately point out that your FDR can easily be converted into one.

  • Technological efficiency and healthy living. Those built-in bookcases you’re so proud of?

Don’t you know Millennials read everything off a screen? And that they’re just as likely to go around counting outlets to plug all their tech toys into as they are to ask if you’ve installed programmable LED lighting and motion sensors?

“Low-VOC paints and appliances like steam ovens also rank high,” Realtor magazine declared.

  • The right “look.” They’ve seen all these great houses on Pinterest and HGTV, which means Millennials might not even stick around long enough to gush over your steam oven if the first thing they spot from the street is a shabby roof.

Yes, this is one of the few things they definitely have in common with older generations.

“Unsightly roofs are huge turn offs and make buyers predisposed to find even more things they don’t like,” warned Patsy O’Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby’s in Montclair, New Jersey.

  • Low maintenance. Your definition of what qualifies as “high” and “low” may differ from theirs. Your shag carpeting, for instance? High. Hardwood floors, which they favor? Low.

Maybe that also explains why they often like smaller houses, although that could also have to do with Millennial buyers’ medium income of $77,400.

What To Look For When Purchasing a Home

Buying a new home is one of the most costly purchases you will make in your lifetime. And with the amount of money you’ll be spending on a home, it’s vitally important that you pick the house that is perfect for you. Learn what factors you should consider before purchasing a house in the following infographic created by Citizens Bank. Discover which home styles are most common within United States, the fluctuations of interest rates, how to buy a home, and more.


Thanksgiving Cooking Fire Safety

For most, the kitchen is the heart of the home, especially during the holidays. From testing family recipes to decorating cakes and cookies, everyone enjoys being part of the preparations. So keeping fire safety top of mind in the kitchen during this joyous but hectic time is important, especially when there’s a lot of activity and people at home. As you start preparing your holiday schedule and organizing that large family feast, remember, by following a few simple safety tips you can enjoy time with your loved ones and keep yourself and your family safer from fire.


Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter

Homeowners in cold climates beware – winter brings the danger of frozen and burst plumbing. Not many people realize how much expensive damage is caused to homes every year as a result of frozen pipes. The good news is that by following the tips in this infographic by DS Plumbing,  you’ll be able to prevent frozen pipes in your home. If they still freeze, there’s still a lot you can do to prevent bursting.


8 Tips for Saving Energy this Winter



For many, it’s our favorite time of year: the fall. For others, it’s the time of year where you plan for your energy bill to go through the roof. No matter what you do, it seems like you can’t control your bills quite as much as you did in the summer. Here are some energy saving tips that can help make those cold winter months a bit more bearable.

    1. Open your curtains during the day.

The windows that allow the most sunshine into your home should be left open during daytime. Leaving these windows open for just a few hours every day can help reduce how much you need to heat your home in the winter.

    2. Lower the thermostat inside your home.

By layering up, your home can stand to have the temperature 5 degrees lower. A small decrease in your home’s overall temperature can mean big savings on your next bill. You can try this during the day when everyone is gone and see if your family can stand the difference at night while everyone is sleeping.

    3. Avoid blocking heat vents.

Furniture has a tendency to get moved around during the year without us even realizing that it could be blocking a vent. Do a quick sweep of your home and make sure no vents are being blocked by large pieces of furniture.

    4. Get an energy audit for your home.

This is the easiest way to find ways to save money around your home. A home professional can come to your home and examine how efficient your home is. They can then provide you with a list of ways to become more efficient (even better than this list).

    5. Maintain your HVAC system.

Like your car, your HVAC system needs yearly maintenance. We recommend getting your system professionally looked at every fall before the cold winter temperatures set in. A dirty system can cost you a breakdown or a total system failure if not diagnosed and treated properly.

    6. Examine your fireplace closely.

Like your HVAC system, your fireplace needs maintenance as well. Make sure it’s properly fitted with additions to ensure efficiency. If you are looking for the fireplace to warm your entire home, speak to a contractor about an exchange system installation.

    7. Switch to LED lights for an efficiency win.

Your old holiday lights take up so much energy they can do some real damage your bill. Replacing them with LEDs, which take up much less energy and are ultimately more energy efficient. Keeping your lights on a timer will also help keep your costs under control.

    8. Install a programmable thermostat for ultimate efficiency.

If you are stuck manually adjusting your thermostat, there is a good chance you are losing more money than you even realize. A programmable thermostat remedies that problem by letting you set the temperature in your home at all hours of the day. The initial investment is small and can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

A Word About Home Inspection Organizations



The home inspection industry is not as “tight knit” as you would think.

As a relatively small industry of approximately 100,000 home inspectors nationwide, one would think that everyone in this industry would help to support one another for the common goal of helping people to make wise decisions when purchasing a home. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the reality that actually exists.

As home inspectors, most if not all are certified by the school they attended as well as one of the many home inspection organizations who “claim” to help the profession by offering continuing education as well as offering a community of home inspectors in which to bounce ideas off of and get help answering questions. While the school certification is by far the most important, typically you only hear about the home inspection organization in the form of bright generic logos flashed all over a website, business cards and or brochures of the particular member.

The question that should be asked is, what exactly does any one of the larger home inspection organizations really do other than taking their yearly fee in order to continue membership? The short answer is not much.

I personally have been in this industry since 2007. I started in a licensed state that “required” the home inspector to be a member of a home inspection organization. This, I assume, is to give the general public the perception of worth and or value. Following my licensure law, I paid my yearly dues and became a member of what is touted as being the “best and largest home inspection organization in the world”. As the years went on, I did try and take advantage of all they had to offer. After all, I wanted to feel as though I was getting “my” money’s worth from quite frankly very expensive yearly dues. While the continuing education was somewhat worth my effort and time, the rest of the inflated “bonuses” of being a member left me feeling a bit salty.

One of the many inflated “bonuses” offered by this particular organization is an “inspector forum” which is supposed to be designed to where an inspector can log in and ask questions to get other inspectors opinions on any given subject. While in theory this appears to be a good idea, again the reality is much different. I quickly learned from the snarky responses to ANY question that is asked that this is the stark reality of being a home inspector. No home inspector really seems to want to help another inspector. Why? I suppose it has to do with competition, however, if you are a home inspector in a completely different state than the one asking the question, what harm can come from helping a fellow inspector? I still ask this question to this day.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t end here. 8 years in owning my own business and having 4 employees, we decided it was time to make a change and move to another state to expand our already thriving business. While many home inspectors are complacent and happy staying where they are, we are trying to make a real name for ourselves and our company and become much much more. The state where we moved to (while still operating in our home state) just happens to be the headquarters of the home inspection organization I belonged to. I thought, this is great, I can come in with all of my experience (coming from a licensed state and having 8 years under my belt) and I have my organization to help me get settled in and answer any of the “local” questions I may have. Again, the reality I experienced was much different than I had expected.

After finally being able to move our entire family, pets as well as the business to a different state and getting a house in the perfect logistical area for our business, I decided it was time to email my organization as I had a couple of questions concerning where certain things are located (labs for mold, water and radon testing). The response I received just did me in. I received a response basically stating “they did not know”. I thought to myself, how do you, the “best and largest home inspection organization in the world” not know where these places are located? YOU OPERATE IN THE VERY SAME STATE AS I DO! I then proceeded to send another email back asking them how they could not know and told them how disappointed I was that no one seemed to be willing to help me. I received another response back basically stating that other home inspectors in my area (as well as them) would not be willing to help me as I am their competition. How is that for “helping to maintain professionalism in the industry?”

After having that particular salty experience (one of many), I decided to look into other home inspection organizations and much to my disappointment I found that there really did not appear to be much of a difference among many of the other “larger” inspector organizations. You simply pay your outrageous yearly dues so you can tell everyone that you are a member. Well big Whoopdie Dooo! Like most things in the world today, the larger the enterprise, the less you receive.

Struggling with the fact that I have wasted so much money over the years on my yearly dues, just to say that I am a member, I have since found that the smaller home inspection organizations are much more willing to actually “help” out their members, not just in continuing education but also personally and professionally. I have also found that it is much more difficult to become a member of some of the smaller organizations as they have much tougher entrance requirements. It isn’t just “write the check” and you are a member. It is more like, you prove that you know what you are doing, and you will be considered. In my opinion that is the way it should be.

After 8 years of being a member of the “best and largest home inspection organization in the world” I jumped ship and joined a smaller, lesser known yet better organization. An organization that is truly dedicated to promoting professionalism, knowledge and ethics within the home inspection industry. We have always been a company that has bucked the “system” in order to do what is ethical and right for our clients as well as the industry as a whole and this particular decision was no different.

We are now fully established and thriving in our new location, no thanks to anyone else. To all of our competitors who troll us regularly as well as other members of the “best and largest home inspection organization in the world” who will no doubt be reading this, I say, the best of luck to you. You will be seeing much more of us in the future, this much you can be assured.