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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.

Tripper

Tripper

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.

Overflow

Overflow

 

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.

Outlink

Outlink

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.

Tapt

Tapt

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.

Ascend

Ascend

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!

Norm

Norm

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!

2013 DuPage County Property Tax Rates

Monday, February 2nd, 2015 by Jennifer Williams

Last year we published an article on the property taxes in DuPage County, Illinois. In the table below which is listed in order from towns with the highest tax assessment rate to the lowest, see how your property tax rate compares to other communities in DuPage County. We’ve included tax years 2012 and 2013 and calculated the difference for your convenience.

Interestingly, Villa Park is the only city in DuPage County to decrease their property tax rate, from 7.77% in 2012 to 7.69% in 2013, a resulting decrease of .08. Oak Brook continues to have the lowest property taxes in DuPage at only 3.84%, due in part to the many corporations and the Oak Brook mall.

City 2012 2013 Difference
1 Glendale Heights 11.4035 12.6354 1.2319
2 Hanover Park 10.9595 12.6972 1.7377
3 Bartlett 10.1029 11.8336 1.7307
4 West Chicago 10.0131 11.2942 1.2811
5 Bensenville 9.334 10.094 0.76
6 Carol Stream 9.3051 10.2032 0.8981
7 Aurora 9.2872 10.0029 0.7157
8 Woodridge 9.1027 9.9155 0.8127
9 Bolingbrook 9.012 9.8869 0.8749
10 Wayne 8.6775 10.1954 1.5179
11 Winfield 8.3995 9.3648 0.9653
12 Elk Grove Village 8.2982 8.9105 0.6123
13 Lombard 8.2547 8.9748 0.7201
14 Addison 8.1764 9.0604 0.884
15 Glen Ellyn 7.8773 8.4647 0.5874
16 Villa Park 7.7659 7.6855 -0.0804
17 Lisle 7.6868 8.3032 0.6164
18 Bloomingdale 7.6694 8.5344 0.865
19 Itasca 7.553 8.2639 0.7109
20 Wood Dale 7.4751 8.0992 0.624
21 Roselle 7.4261 8.158 0.7319
22 Warrenville 7.3779 7.9863 0.6084
23 Wheaton 7.358 7.8747 0.5167
24 Elmhurst 6.9301 7.588 0.6579
25 Naperville 6.7945 7.2779 0.4834
26 Darien 6.7155 7.2001 0.4846
27 Westmont 6.6881 7.2014 0.5132
28 Clarendon Hills 6.1747 6.4722 0.2975
29 Downers Grove 5.873 6.3562 0.4832
30 Oak Brook Terrace 5.8489 6.4539 0.605
31 Hinsdale 5.4654 5.7334 0.268
32 Burr Ridge 5.0382 5.3477 0.3095
33 Willowbrook 4.8933 5.1734 0.2801
34 Oak Brook 3.5871 3.8389 0.2518

For more information on how real estate property taxes are determined, visit DuPage County Tax Calculation where you can also learn how to calculate taxes as a percent of purchase price.

What’s Going on in the Addison Illinois Real Estate Market?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 by Sari Levy

The answer to that question isn’t exactly pretty. Like many other communities the Addison Real Estate Market has been brutal for sellers in 2010 and the picture isn’t getting brighter any time soon.  Of course, the picture is pretty bright for those folks who are looking for a bargain.  But for sellers or responsible mortgage payers who would like to refinance and take advantage of the incredibly low interest rates, the future remains pretty bleak.  That’s because the volume of distressed sales doesn’t appear to be dwindling.

According to the recent stats published by the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors, Addison has seen a 7% decline in average price in the year over year between October 2009 and October 2010 and another 11% decline in average price in the year prior. Of course, we know those figures don’t mean a whole lot since it’s simply an average which is meaningless because the components that make up the average aren’t defined narrowly enough- e.g. older homes, large homes, small homes, ugly homes and new construction homes all get lumped into the same bucket.  On another post, I’ll look at which segment of the market in Addison is hardest hit.

Since I’m a resident of Addison, the reality of the recession and abysmal market hits home. As someone who has been a responsible homeowner for thirteen years, never once being late on my mortgage, and never extending my LTV above 80%, I’m having trouble refinancing because of the value of my home, which has depreciated by AT LEAST 24% since I last refinanced in February 2009.  That’s factual.  There is a small part of me wishing I hadn’t been so responsible.  Anyways, back to the market stuff.

There have been 162 single family home sales ranging in price from $50k to $595k.  68 of those sales or 42% of those sales were short sales or foreclosures.  Talk about being hard hit.  The short sales and foreclosures sales are typically for homes under $200k in Addison although the highest price home sale was no exception.  The seller sold the home for $595k.  The home would have easily fetched upwards of $800k had it been located in Elmhurst.  Interestingly enough the new owners paid $595k for the home but have taken two separate mortgages in total amount of $646k.  Does that mean the buyer bought himself an extra 10% equity on the place to start with? Not bad.

If you are lucky enough to be a buyer who desires to live in Addison  the news is good.  There are plenty of deals on homes here.  In fact, with all the distressed sales, there are pre-2000 prices on re sale homes.  There are also some pretty cool opportunities in Addison new construction with prices under $500k.

Lucid Realty Launches CHUMP Pricing Plan In Chicago Area – Same Great Real Estate Service At A Higher Price

Monday, June 21st, 2010 by Gary Lucido

Optional pricing plan allows Chicago home buyers and sellers to forgo savings on personalized real estate services.

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) June 21, 2010 — Lucid Realty, Inc. today introduced CHUMP, a full price real estate service targeted to Chicago area home buyers and sellers who erroneously believe that you get what you pay for. CHUMP (Catering to Highly Unsophisticated and Misguided People) allows real estate clients to receive the same legendary service provided to Lucid Realty’s regular home buyers and sellers but forgo the savings that are normally offered in the form of rebates to buyers and discounted commissions to sellers. Clients who choose this more traditional pricing plan will still be entitled to Lucid Realty’s in-depth real estate market knowledge, personal attention, relentless follow up, strong negotiation skills, and high degree of responsiveness but can now feel better that it is costing them more money.

Read more about the CHUMP pricing plan

Will Rising Interest Rates Kill The Real Estate Market?

Monday, February 22nd, 2010 by Gary Lucido

Understanding the relationship between interest rates and home prices is particularly important now because most people believe that interest rates are heading up in the not-to-distant future. One might quite logically expect that when mortgage rates rise it depresses home prices. After all, most people determine the affordability of a home by looking at the monthly payment. In fact, buyers and their lenders usually target their price limit based upon how much they can afford to pay in principal, interest, taxes, and assessments, given their income. And the interest component of that equation is a big driver of the size of the payment. So when interest rates rise you would expect that all buyers would have to shift their expectations down scale and that this would depress home prices.

However, about a month ago one of my clients sent me a link to a BusinessWeek article on the impact of interest rates on home prices. In this article the author, who is the founder and president of Home Warranty of America, claims that the data just doesn’t support the notion that rising interest rates depress home prices. Although he doesn’t provide the direct analysis in his article he does provide links to several data sources so that you can do your own analysis. However, I would like to point out that this is not the first time I’ve heard this claim and I myself have glanced at the data before and found this to be true – especially in the late 70s and early 80s, which is the time period referenced by this author. During that time period home prices rose, despite interest rates that approached 18% ?!?!?! Or at least home prices didn’t decline like you would have expected.

Well, last week a spirited debate transpired on Cribchatter about this very topic. This has to be one of the longest threads in Cribchatter history with 234 comments. The people who argued that higher interest rates would push home prices down were initially arguing based upon the same logic I articulated above. However, eventually both sides of the debate started to link to various studies and articles that proved their point of view. Like most academic endeavors, when someone makes a career out of spending grant money they can prove anything they want so it’s not surprising that there are plenty of studies to support either side. Personally, I got a headache from following the debate, not to mention that it was full of insults.

However, I would like to point out a few things:

  • Many of the articles referenced as proof that higher interest rates depress housing prices were nothing more than opinion pieces, based upon financial logic, or were based upon anecdotal data. Hardly real studies. Nevertheless, several legitimate studies were referenced to support this thesis.
  • There could be several logical explanations as to why higher interest rates would not depress home prices as expected:
    • Buyers assume they can refinance at a lower rate in the future
    • Buyers have other financing alternatives, including adjustable rate mortgages and higher down payments. (I remember buying our first home in the summer of 1984 and an ARM was a no-brainer.)
    • Higher interest rates are usually associated with inflation and inflation pushes up housing prices
    • Buyers assume that if interest rates are higher now they will go down in the future and that will elevate home prices
    • When rates go up buyers shift their focus to the lower end of the spectrum but demand at every price level is replaced by demand shifting down from a higher price level – except of course as you get to the higher levels there isn’t as much replacement demand as exiting demand
    • When rates go up buyers simply allocate more of their income to interest payments.

For further reading you may want to check out some of the referenced studies and one that I have been meaning to read for a while:

  • What Moves Housing Markets – demonstrates that interest rates do not affect home prices. “…our results provide evidence that changes in risk-free interest rates may not have done much to change housing valuations over the 1975 to 2007 period.”
  • The Effect of Real Rates of Interest on Housing Prices – demonstrates that real interest rates do affect home prices. “This ebb and flow of real interest rates appears to explain market price levels.”
  • Assessing the Role of Income and Interest Rates in Determining House Prices – demonstrates that interest rates do affect home prices. “Our results support the existence of a long-run relationship between actual house prices and the amount individuals can borrow.”
  • Why do House Prices Fall? – demonstrates that interest rates do not affect home prices. “Interest rates appear to play a relatively minor direct role, though they may play an important indirect role.”


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