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Articles for ‘Bizarre’

Quirky New Smart Gadgets for Your Home

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 by Jennifer Williams

Smart Home gadgets for under $100

With all of our “smart” technology, Quirky, an online community where amateur inventors can bring their ideas to life, and GE, have unveiled seven new smart gadgets guaranteed to increase the IQ of your home.  Under $100, they’re packed with ways to help you control your home appliances right from your smartphone, anywhere, anytime.

Let’s start with explaining Wink, an app available in both iOS and Android that acts as a main control center for connected devices. It works with devices from various manufacturers including: Philips, Nest, and General Electric (GE), which is one of Quirky’s partners. Through Wink, you’re able to monitor and control any sensor separately or let them communicate with each other and you can set some very cool actions. For example, if you open a window, your heat/AC will turn off; or when your garage door opens, your lights, furnace, and even television can all turn on.

The first new gadget is a window and door sensor named Tripper, created by Robert Sweeney, independent inventor for Quirky. For only $40, this tiny white rectangle will alert you when your windows or doors open. This is great for families with small children or even pets, which have a way of sneaking out unnoticed. Not only can you get an alert for openings, Tripper can be connected to Wink and set to turn off your heat or AC when a window is opened.



The next product is Overflow, created by Michael Taylor, Quirky contributor. For only $35, it monitors the moisture levels where ever there may be a problem: under your water heater, basements, garages, or attics. Just set the maximum moisture level and if it goes over, you’ll receive an alert. Though it won’t solve any leaks, you’ll be aware of it before the problem becomes a huge disaster! Overflow connects with the Wink app as well.




By the same inventor of Overflow, comes Outlink, a $50 wall outlet that monitors energy usage and allows you to turn appliances on and off remotely. Even when items are off, they continue to suck up energy if they’re still plugged in. Just replace your current outlets for things like your television, fans, hair dryer or anything that stays plugged in when not in use, with Outlink. With a few quick clicks on your smart phone, everything can be regulated and it’s much easier than trying to run around every morning and unplug all your appliances.



Taylor’s third contribution is a switch that essentially acts as a main light switch for your home. For $60, Tapt will let you control any of the lights in your house with a mere touch of a button or through your smartphone. This is perfect for those times when you’re settled into bed for the night and see the bathroom light on, or trying to get your kids up in the morning, just turn on their lights! With Wink, you can program lights and appliances to on and off while your away or asleep, adding a layer of security as well.



Created by Nathan Firth, Quirky contributor, Ascend connects to your garage door and now you control it from your phone. For $90, you actually just swipe your finger up on the garage door image on your phone, then watch your door go up. You’ll get real time alerts when the door is opened. Better still, it works from anywhere around the world, allowing you to always have access to an “extra” key. Let friends or family in the house even if you’re not there.



We all have those rooms that are either too hot or cold compared to the rest of the house. This problem led Denny Fong, Quirky contributor, to his idea. Traditional thermostats can’t control individual rooms, but Norm can. Norm is designed to connect with a series of sensors (not included in the $80 device price) that tell it which rooms are in use and Norm will heat or cool accordingly. The Wink hubs sell for $50 each and you would need as many as spaces you want to control. No more cold nights needing extra blankets!



Quirky is currently selling bundle packs as well with many of the main items included to get you well on your way to the smartest house on the block!


Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 by Sari Levy

Around a year ago, I wrote about a 30,000 plus square foot home fit for only a king, Villa Taj in Burr Ridge.  In February, with a potential client trying to buy the place for $6mm, I learned that the seller wasn’t entertaining any potential buyers who can’t back up their interest with a $10mm documented net worth.

As of August 13 2010, the auctioneer has listed the property on the MLS for $13mm.  My guess of the place selling for $12mm may not be so far off.  As suspected, the co-op commission is listed as 1%.  That means buying the place using a traditional agent, the buyers agent gets paid $130k.  We think that is a bit much and under our model we’d rebate at least 50% of that amount to our client who closes on the purchase of this home.

Villa Taj Update

Monday, February 8th, 2010 by Sari Levy

Last October, I wrote about an outrageous mansion, Villa Taj in Burr Ridge.  Since then I have obtained some interesting tidbits of updated information.

  • The auction reserve price was $12 million dollars – the auction failed
  • The current broker thinks the place could be sold for scrap for a mere $6mm
  • The seller isn’t entertaining any potential buyers who can’t back up their interest with a $10mm documented net worth

While the cooperating commission is  not published my guess is about 1.0-1.5% on a sales price  around $10mm, which of course, we’d split with you if we represented you in the transaction. When I first wrote about this home, I thought it would sell for north of $12mm.  My optimism has diminished.

Villa Taj Auction Cancelled At Last Minute

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 by Gary Lucido

I know that many of you must have had your hearts broken yesterday when you showed up with your $250,000 checks to bid on Villa Taj in Burr Ridge, the house that once was listed at $25 million. Apparently, the auctioneer pulled the property from the auction at the last minute after several of you indicated that you didn’t want to bid on it but were interested in buying it the old fashioned way. So, this modest and unpretentious home will be relisted soon – for about $12 MM. I would appreciate an invitation to the housewarming from whoever buys it.

Villa Taj, Burr Ridge, Illinois

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 by Sari Levy

Looking for a bargain? 



Take a look at Villa Taj located on the luxurious corner of  County Line and Plainfield Roads in Chicago’s western suburb of Burr Ridge.  In Burr Ridge the average home price is just under $1 million and while it is known for being an upscale suburb, even Villa Taj is too much.  According to the MLS, in the last five years, there have only been two homes that sold over $5 million in Burr Ridge and this one was listed at $25 million!  In fact, there has been no homes sold over $18 million in all of Illinois in the last three years.

The approximately 45,000 square foot home (including the 15,000 sf terrace) was listed for sale for $25 million on May 28th and the listing was canceled on August  27th. At a list price of $25 million with the seller offering 2% of the first $12 million to the buyers’ agent, the commission to the buyers’ agent would be $240k.  If you were a buyer who happened to be smart enough to be working with Lucid Realty we’d give you a rebate for about $200k!!  Yep, we’d give you 5 times the amount we’d make.

A few weeks ago my dentist (who is a long time resident of Burr Ridge) shared with me how loathed the home was within the community.  The house that originally listed for $25 million is now on the auction block with a starting bid of just over $6.2 million.  The place looks more like a  monastery or banquet hall than a private residence.  Why else do you need 9 bathrooms?  Seriously, who in their right mind needs to live with 9 bathrooms? Okay MAYBE Octamom or the Brady Bunch.

The developer named the home Villa Taj because it is a crown jewel and Taj is synonomous with royalty as in the “Taj Mahal”.  Additional photos of the place are found on the Villa Taj website which happens to be rather amateur looking – and if you listen long enough, the music will either totally relax you or drive you nuts.  Luckily enough, the photos  fall victim to one of our favorite pasttimes of identifying  “bad real estate photos” and a prime example is photo number 64 from the website shown below.


For that matter it is almost as if the photo tour digressed into a sales pitch for chandeliers.

Of  the nine photos of this home on the MLS , only one was of the interior.  Check out the entryway,somewhat reminiscent of the entry to a grand courthouse:


Here is one of the exterior photos which shows the home comes with several beautiful and mature trees.


But my favorite is the photo that I like to call “Stairway to Heaven” ….


On a positive note, it looks like the auctioneers have put together a better site than the original.  I will certainly be curious to see what this place sells for, anyone have an idea?  Personally, I think it will be north of $12 million.  There has to be someone out there with bad taste and deep pockets. According to an article in the Sun Times, Villa Taj cost over $18 million to build. Oh, in case you want to see for yourself, there is an open house this weekend on Saturday and Sunday 10/24 and 10/25 from noon to 3 pm but you will need to buy a $30 information booklet before you can enter.

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