What to Know About Replacing Kitchen Appliances Before Selling Your House

should you replace appliances before selling your home

While selling a house can pad out your pocketbook, depending on how much equity you have invested in the home, it’s an unfortunate truth that it can also cost you money in the short term to make the sale. Items like home renovations and staging may need to be paid for upfront before you’ve even received an offer from a buyer. 

Savvy home sellers will consult their real estate agent before making any big changes to their home. Why? Because not all home renovation investments are worth it! In fact, in some cases, you may lose money! 

Replacing appliances may not be a full-on renovation, but it’s still a major expense and should be considered carefully before proceeding. After all, if you purchase appliances and they don’t add to your home’s ultimate sale price, then what’s the point?

How to Decide Whether the Appliances Stay or Go

The first decision you’ll need to make is whether or not to leave the appliances when you move. If you know you’ll need appliances in your new home, you may be tempted to take them – which can be a viable option, but you’ll want to make sure your real estate agent knows so they can update your listing accordingly. 

The second factor to consider when determining if you’ll take the appliances is who your potential buyers are. Large homes in great school districts may attract lots of families. If you think that’s the case, you may consider leaving the appliances. Families will likely attach value to having a home that’s fully move-in ready and won’t require a major expenditure upfront. 

However, if you think your home is more appealing to young couples and professionals, appliances may not be at the top of their wish list – in which case, you might consider taking them and not replacing them at all. 

Finally, you should think about the overall look of your kitchen. If the current appliances are dated, but so is the rest of the kitchen, a potential buyer may opt to remodel the entire space – in which case, removing the appliances may actually represent an expense for the buyer. 

You should always check with your real estate agent before making a major decision such as whether to take your current home’s appliances. They’ll be able to guide you toward a choice that makes the most sense for you, while also helping you get the most money for your home.

Tips for Replacing Appliances

If you do decide to replace appliances, you’ll want to follow a few guidelines to make a smart purchase that adds value to your home. 

Match the Appliances to Your Home

If the rest of your kitchen is finished luxuriously, make sure the appliances are just as high-end! Likewise, overly luxurious appliances in an otherwise dated kitchen may simply call attention to the fact that the kitchen hasn’t been renovated since the early 1960s. Matching the quality level of the appliances to the quality level of the kitchen is critical.

Purchase a Set

In general, you’ll want to ensure that any appliances that are staying (stove, refrigerator, built-in microwave, dishwasher, etc) form a matching set. If you can’t or don’t want to purchase a matching set, consider the quality level and styling of the appliances. A white refrigerator in a kitchen otherwise outfitted with stainless steel will stand out. 

Value-Add Appliances

You want to choose appliances that add to your home’s overall value. In some cases (for example, if the existing appliances are very old or non-functional), simply replacing your appliances with clean, working, energy-efficient versions will be enough. However, if your home is in a higher-end market, chef’s quality appliances may be required to add value. 

Selling Your Home – With or Without New Appliances

While the appliances in your home’s kitchen can definitely have an impact on whether or not your house sells (and for how much), the real determining factor in selling a home is working with a great real estate agent! An agent who’s a neighborhood expert will be able to tell you more about the types of buyers you might attract, the quality and condition of other kitchens in comparable homes, and so much more. 

Before you start thinking about updating your home for sale, we recommend talking to a Howard Hanna real estate agent. We’re local experts who value deep neighborhood knowledge. Get started – find a real estate agent near you today.

How A Home Inspection Helps Buyers Evaluate A House

You’ve found the home of your dreams and you’re ready to make an offer on it – congratulations! After celebrating the moment, it’s important to prepare for the work needed to complete the purchase. This includes completing any inspections on your possible future home.

A basic home inspection provides a general overview of the condition of a house, especially its key components such as household appliances and systems. This basic inspection of a house might reveal red flags. In these cases, you’ll want to schedule additional tests and get a deeper look into a house before making a final offer on it.

To ensure that an inspection is thorough and helpful, you will want to work with your real estate agent as you determine what needs to be evaluated. Then, as needed, you can follow up on these potential results:

Furnace Inspections and Repairs

During a standard home inspection, an inspector will review the overall condition of the boiler or furnace. They will also review any previous service tags, which reflect the history of maintenance conducted over time. In many cases, a furnace will just need a good cleaning and a simple tune-up as part of a sale. However, if an inspector discovers defects such as cracks or heating issues due to system deficiencies, they will typically recommend a specialist come to conduct a more in-depth analysis. If this recommendation is made, follow up on it to protect yourself from a potential system failure later on.

HVAC System Inspections and Repairs

One thing you always want in great condition is a home’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system (HVAC). During a standard home inspection, the inspector will review this system to ensure it is in working order. They will then report any signs that the equipment is not performing at its peak efficiency. As with all other parts of a home inspection, any recommendations for repairs should be considered as you and your agent negotiate your final offer on a house.

Water Heater Inspections and Repairs

When a water heater malfunctions, the results can become dangerous. Home inspectors aim to avoid this by checking a water heater for problems such as valve installation issues, clogged discharge lines, and corrosion and rust. Depending on the condition of a water heater, as well as its age, the inspector will make recommendations for any necessary next steps, which could range from simple repairs to a full replacement. Be sure to bring these recommendations to your real estate agent! That way, they can be discussed as you continue to negotiate on your offer to buy the house.

Home Appliance Inspections and Repairs

A malfunctioning appliance, like a water heater, can contribute to damage or dangerous situations in a house. That said, only some appliances are covered during a home inspection! Specifically, “built-in” appliances that are permanently attached to the home will be examined.

While things such as microwaves and refrigerators are not typically covered, you can expect an inspector to review a house’s wall ovens, ranges, surface cooktop appliances, built-in microwave ovens, dishwashers, and food waste disposals. An inspector will also provide specific recommendations as needed for each individual appliance.

Electrical Safety Inspections and Repairs

While electrical safety is a bigger concern in older homes, electrical issues can develop in any house at any time. Ensuring that all electrical systems are properly grounded to prevent fire, shock, and damage to appliances is an essential part of every home inspection. Inspectors will also take a look at circuit breakers, wiring, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and outlets to make sure they’re working and aren’t potential fire hazards. Any next steps recommended to address electrical issues will be specific to each inspection. Whatever recommendations you receive, take them seriously and review them with your agent.

Structural Inspections and Repairs

The structural health of a house is what will help that house continue to stand – quite literally! That’s why inspectors will take the time to review structural components for obvious signs of damage. From cracking in the foundation to rot damage in the walls and deterioration in the floors, there are many ways an inspector can determine if any structural damage exists. If it does, you’ll want to review that information with your agent, as well as review it at the negotiating table.

Roof Inspections and Repairs

The roof of a house is exposed to the elements every single day, so it’s not uncommon for a roof inspection to reveal some degree of wear and tear. However, minor issues can become big issues that lead to damage inside a house. Finding out exactly what damage exists is important so that it can be repaired in a timely manner. Home inspectors will also often check to ensure that the roof structure is able to handle the stress associated with snow and other natural occurrences.

As a home buyer, your priority is to find out from your inspection whether or not a full roof repair will be necessary in the near future. If the answer is yes, you and your agent will need to discuss the issue and how it could affect the amount of your offer as you negotiate the final details surrounding the purchase of the house.

What To Do With All Those Recommendations

A home inspection is a big deal. That said, it’s OK if a house that you love doesn’t score 100% on a home inspection checklist! Instead, aim to have an experienced home inspector provide detailed and accurate information about the property you are planning to purchase. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re purchasing, and can plan for your future more confidently.

Don’t forget that you can also bring all of your home inspection questions to your real estate agent! Agents are trained to help you with every part of the buying process, and will not only help you evaluate the house you want to buy, but will help you use the information from its inspection to negotiate your way to the best deal possible. Agents can also help you purchase additional protection plans for your house, including insurance and home warranties – allowing you to fully prepare for the big move into your new home.

No matter where you are in your buyer’s journey, it’s never too late to begin working with an agent. Contact us today if you’re looking for assistance finding the perfect home!

Kitchen Hacks to Love

Kitchen design, organization and ease of use are at the top of our minds. Your kitchen might even be the most used room in your house and a lot of activity happens there. It’s not just about meals. It can be a gathering space or a place to work or study. Which of the following tips can make working in your kitchen even easier?

Otherwise Unusable Spaces

If you want to maximize your kitchen’s storage potential, tap into your unused spaces. Is there a gap between the refrigerator and the wall? Put in a rolling storage cart for spices. Do you hate those false drawers under the sink? Create a pull-out for your sponge. Use toe-kick drawers near the floor for thin or flat items.

Helpful Magnets

Magnets can help in a lot of little ways. A magnetic spice rack can keep your spices organized and out of the way. A magnetic knife hanger is a great way to store your knives while still having them at your fingertips without taking up precious counter space.

Labels for Everything

Good storage is about organization and identification. Label things you use all the time. Do you have a container for tea and coffee? Create decorative labels or buy clear containers that can help you identify contents at a glance.

Over-the-Sink Cutting Board

Is your counter space at a minimum? Create or buy an over-the-sink cutting board. This surface not only will provide valuable space to work but also will make cleanup a breeze when you can just toss the food waste into the sink and garbage disposal.

Hanging Pots and Pans

Pots and pans often are large and in the way. Think about storing them vertically. Create a wall-hanging structure, if you have the wall space. If you have an island or other overhead area, you can install a hanging pot rack that is suspended from the ceiling.

Raised Storage

On your counters, consider raised storage to keep the space clear from clutter. For example, use a cake stand to store your salt, pepper and olive oil. This can provide a decorative solution and a useful way to access these items when you’re cooking.

More Shelves in Cabinets

Has it ever frustrated you that there is a lot of unused space in your cabinets? You can store your dishes using half the space by installing a free-standing platform shelf over your existing shelf. This is something you can easily make or buy and will prevent you from having to stack different-size plates on top of each other.

If you are dreaming of a more organized kitchen, call us today.

Decorating with Fall Color Schemes

What does autumn represent to you? For a lot of people, fall is their favorite season. The world is open to new colors and textures that represent comfort and coziness. The colors most associated with this season are brown, red, orange, and gold. The season is also all about textures, like cable knit, dry grasses, and crunchy leaves. You may not want to bring the forest floor into your home, but you can easily incorporate a fall color scheme.

Rustic Reds

Red is often considered a bold color, but that usually depends on how it’s used or what it’s paired with. For example, if you keep red limited to accessories, it actually can add a bright accent to a neutral room. If you paint your walls red, you’re creating a dramatic landscape for your entire design aesthetic. Red is a great choice if you’re not afraid of color.

Warm Oranges

Similarly, many people avoid orange in their homes. It really can add warmth to your design. Stay away from bright neon colors and instead try softer tones with a more autumn aesthetic, such as burnt orange. Orange is ideal for kitchens and living spaces and can even create a warm and comfy bedroom oasis.

Brilliant Golds

When we talk about gold in terms of autumn colors, we don’t mean bright metallic colors. A golden-hued paint that you would find in nature like fallen leaves or goldenrod can add richness to your room and design. Think along the lines of a camel color when you’re selecting furniture and accessories. Gold can function as part of a neutral color palette as well.

Decadent Browns

Although you may not choose to paint your walls brown, brown color tones make great accents in furniture and other accessories around your house. Brown pairs well with all of the fall colors to create a warm autumn look. Brown can be light, such as beige, or really rich and decadent, such as chestnut.

If you love working with fall colors year-round, let us know how you plan to incorporate these colors into your design. For other ideas about a color scheme for your home, contact us today.

Things Everyone Needs To Know Before Buying A First Home

Millenials are getting ready to buy their dream homes. Image Via: Wettling Architects

Right now, millennial’s might have a reputation of crazy twenty-somethings not quite ready to settle down. But, a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found that “the number of households in their 30s should increase by 2.7 million over the next decade.” Ready or not, the millennial boom is coming.

Whether you count yourself in that demographic or are just a first time homebuyer. There are some topics in the buying process that are essential to know before taking the plunge.

We’ve compiled a list of the ten most important things that everyone new to the housing market needs to know. Look them over and keep them in mind as you start your housing search. You only buy your first home once, so let us help you make it count.

1. Hire a Professional Realtor

Let’s all admit it. Real estate agents often get a bad rap as swindlers. It’s because of that stigma – and the thought of saving a few dollars – that keeps many people from using them. However, listening to the hype may cost you more in the long run.

Your first time in the real estate market can get confusing. There’s lots of legal negotiation and large sums of money are often involved. There is no reason to add on the stress of having to navigate through the transaction alone, especially since if you decide to go it alone. Hire a professional to assist you.

A qualified professional can help you sort through the industry terms that make up the majority of contracts and inspection reports. They do the leg work of setting up showings and act as your advocate during the transaction so that you’re free to focus on preparing for your move. In the middle of all that craziness, you’ll appreciate the extra assistance.

2. Look Realistically At Your Budget

Your budget is the first thing that you need to look at when getting ready to buy a home. After all, it determines which properties you see and you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you miss out on the perfect house because you’re not sure how much you can spend. Or, worse yet, find yourself falling in love with a dream home you can’t afford.

Budgeting is the way to make sure that you only look at houses that you can feasibly and comfortably. Doing so will help you save time and help you get into your new property much faster.

Sit down and budget your income versus expenses. Try to settle on two amounts: One figure that shows the amount you’d be comfortable spending monthly and another that shows your absolute maximum. You can use a budget calculator to help, if necessary.

Try to figure out exactly how much space you can afford. Image Via: Allen+Killcoyne Architects

3. Prioritize Your Wish List

We all have a wish list for our for our future dream homes. Whether it’s a gourmet kitchen or fabulous outdoor pool setup, odds are you know what you want and exactly how it should look. We’re happy to tell you that can take some your wish list with you when looking at properties, just not all of it.

When it comes to looking at real estate and especially when you are looking at starter homes, prioritization is key. You may not get every item on your list, but if you narrow it down to the features you absolutely need, you’ll likely end up happy with the result.

So make two lists. One with items that are absolutely necessary like the number of – bedrooms and bathrooms in a home – and another for nonessential items that would make you happy to have in a home. Focus on finding properties that check off all of the items on your first list and think of items on the second list as added benefits.

Decide which features - like layout - are necessary in a home. Image Via: Flow Home Staging & Design

4. Focus on Location

As for what should top your wish list, location is absolutely key. If you think about it, it is the one feature of your new home that absolutely will not change. Since you’re unable to alter it in any way, take the time to make sure that it will suit your needs for many years to come.

Before putting an offer in on a property, do your homework. Map out how long it will take you to get to work or school. Check the proximity to all essential spots like grocery stores and pharmacies. Make sure you’re happy with the amount of nightlife in the area.

It may be a good idea to have a few target areas in mind before meeting with your real estate agent. That way, he or she will be able to target your home search to properties that fit your needs.

Make sure you're home's location is one of your favorite features. I'mage Via: Chioco Design

5. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Once you’re finally get to start the showing process, it’s exciting and overwhelming. You’ll be seeing a lot of houses rather quickly. Sometimes it can be hard to separate one property from the other and to pick out the features you like the most.

In an effort to keep everything straight, many first time buyers have a tendency to identify properties by focusing on the small details – a wallpapered dining room or some vinyl flooring in the kitchen. But, continually focusing on the small details can hurt in the long run, if you decide not to move forward on a house because of them.

Instead, every once in a while, try to force yourself to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is the house structurally sound? Does it require any monumental repairs? As long as those things are okay, small details like wallpaper can be fixed later down the road.

Don't let small details like a lack of upgrades turn you off a house with the perfect footprint. Image Via: A+B KASHA Designs

6. Go In With Your Best Offer

Real estate is one of the few areas where sale price is still up for negotiation. Unfortunately, this means that many people, especially those like first-time homebuyers who may be working on a lower budget, go in to the buying process with the mindset that they can try and score a deal on their new property.

However, by doing so you may actually be setting yourself up for disappointment. If their is another offer on the table, submitting an offer that is far below the sale price will almost certainly put you out of the running. Even if there is no other competition for the property, a super low offer may insult the sellers and they could decide to reject it as a result.

When you’re thinking of what price you’d like to put forward, ask yourself how you would feel if you received the same. If you would turn your nose up at an identical offering, consider going in a little higher. This particular piece of advice comes with one caveat. If you absolutely love the property, go in with your best foot forward. However, if you feel lukewarm about the house, feel free to try and score a deal.

7. Gather All Your Inspection Information

It’s true. Home inspections are optional. Some people choose to skip them to avoid paying the upfront costs. However, especially when it’s your first time buying a home, we do not recommend skipping them. In fact, we suggest you gather as much inspection information as possible.

This is because inspections can often reveal hidden issues like expensive repairs. Plus, since buyers are still able to walk away from the transaction during their inspection timeframe, if you find that the repairs are too much to handle, you will be able to move on to another home that better suits your needs.

However, if you opt out of your inspections, you are essentially agreeing to take the home in its current condition, whatever that may be. If you happen to find a major issue later down the road, it will be your responsibility. Whenever possible, get the information upfront.

8. Keep A Level Head When Negotiating

Once you’re under contract and headed to the settlement table, every decision becomes a negotiation – who will shoulder the cost of repairs, what items will get left behind, even when settlement will be. The best thing that you can do in these situations is to work at keeping a level head.

It can be easy to get over invested in getting your way, particularly when making a decision that you are truly passionate about. But, remember that successful negotiations work on a system of give-and-take.

Stand your ground when you believe that you have a cause and try to do so in a polite and respectful manner. However, don’t underestimate the power of striking a compromise or ever conceding on issues that aren’t so important to you. You never know when that act of good will may be returned by the sellers.

9. Don’t Tackle Every Improvement At Once

This is the biggest mistake that many new homeowners make. While it’s sounds like a great idea to get all of the annoying construction out of the way at one time, taking on too many improvements at one time is a sure way to become overwhelmed with your new home before you’ve even truly had a chance to unpack.

Instead, only focus on the repairs that are absolutely necessary to make your home livable. Then, live in the space for a few months before taking on any cosmetic fixes. Living in your home may open your eyes to better repair scenarios than you had originally envisioned.

Then, when it’s time to tackle those upgrades, take on one project at a time. Remember, presumably you’ll be living for at least the next few years, so you have time to make your mark.

Update the rooms in your home one at a time instead of all at once. Image Via: Jason Arnold Interiors

10. Aim For Resale Value

Let’s be honest for a second: It’s very unlikely that your first home will end up being the home you live in until you become old and gray. In a few years, you may need to relocate for a job or your family may grow.

That’s why when buying your first home you should focus on resale value. While it’s obviously important to find a home that you love, you should also focus on finding one that will appeal to others, if you need to sell it in the future.

As for what counts as resale value, think about things that appeal to the younger generation – first-time homebuyers. Things like proximity to shops and restaurants, curb appeal, and neutral upgrades tend to have mass appeal.

Focus on making improvements that will add resale value to the property. Image Via: Axis Mundi

Buying your first home is exciting, nerve-racking, and downright terrifying all in one. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we are here for you every step of the way. We’ve compiled a list of all the thing’s that millennals – and those who love them need to know before entering the housing market. Keep them in mind as you search for your first home and beyond. After all, you never outgrow good advice.

Millennial’s, what questions do you have about the housing market? What are you looking for in a home? Let us know in the comments below.

Which Smart Home Technology Is Worth It?

It can be tough to know when to buy, when to hold off, and when to save your money altogether. Let’s go room by room and talk about what’s worth the investment right now—and what’s worth waiting on. Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Best Smart Home Devices - illustration of cross-sectioned house


The Jetsons-style homecoming starts before you even hit the welcome mat. Whether you’re coming in the front door or through the garage, a few smart gadgets can make your life easier—as long as your Wi-Fi signal is strong enough.

Smart Home Devices: Doorbell

1 Doorbell

Pros: With a smart doorbell, your phone’s screen shows you who’s at the door—be it the UPS driver or a neighbor. Not only that, but you can talk to visitors when you aren’t home and, thanks to a fish-eye lens, check on your garden while you’re out of town.

Cons: Many smart doorbells require existing doorbell wiring. (If you don’t have wiring set up, you can use a battery-powered doorbell, like Eufy or Amazon’s Ring.) There’s also an ongoing debate about whether we really want cameras plastered everywhere.

Bottom line: Go for it if you’re looking for added security, but otherwise it’s not a necessity. Call it a “maybe someday” purchase.
Our pick: Eufy’s video doorbell offers a good balance of price, image quality, and features. TO BUY: Eufy Security Battery-Powered Wireless Video Doorbell, $170; amazon.com.

Smart Home Devices: Deadbolt

2 Deadbolt

Pros: The right smart lock can be a game changer, letting you open the door without fumbling for your keys. Some unlock automatically as you arrive home; others unlock via a code or the touch of your finger. You can also create temporary codes to allow your dog walker or mother-in-law in when you aren’t there.

Cons: To enable certain features, like Alexa, you need to integrate most smart locks with a home hub. While some smart locks connect to the internet via their own Wi-Fi hub, others, like Z-Wave locks, require a separate purchase, like Samsung’s SmartThings hub. Most also require replacing your existing deadbolt, which might not be ideal for renters.

Bottom line: Once you start unlocking your door by touch, taking out your keys feels archaic and time-consuming. If you access your front door often, this is well worth the money. Of course, the lock can also go on the back door, or the door from the garage—whatever you use most.

Our pick: The Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro, a newcomer to the scene, lets you unlock your door in six ways, including via a fingerprint scanner. TO BUY: Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro + WiFi Bridge, $180; homedepot.com.

Alternative suggestion: If your landlord won’t OK replacing the deadbolt, August’s smart lock is a retrofit option that will work on your existing hardware. TO BUY: August Wi-Fi Smart Lock, $250; amazon.com.

Smart Home Devices: Garage Door Opener

3 Garage door opener

Pros: Back in the 1970s and ’80s, the remote control garage door opener was the gateway to smart home tech. Now you can open the garage from your phone, whether you’re in the kitchen or miles away. LiftMaster even has an agreement with Amazon allowing delivery drivers to put packages in your garage. Most importantly, these openers alert you when the door has been opened by someone else.

Cons: If you’ve never done work on your garage door opener before, it might be intimidating to pick a product and set it up. You may need to hire a pro if you’re replacing the opener entirely.

Bottom line: If you are the forgetful type—or just get peace of mind knowing the garage door is closed—this is a great piece of tech to have.
Our pick: LiftMaster’s MyQ series includes door openers as well as add-on kits for existing garage doors. Pro installation is required. TO BUY: LiftMaster WLED Garage Door Opener with MyQ Smart Technology, from $449 with installation; liftmaster.com for dealers.

Living Room

People tend to huddle around the television, so there’s a lot of opportunity for smart gadgets here. Smart TVs are now widely available, and you can augment their features with a few other gizmos to create the perfect movie night.

Smart Home Devices: Apple TV

1 Streaming set-top box

Pros: Standalone streaming boxes are usually better than the smart software built into your TV. They’re often faster and easier to navigate, and they continually get software updates for increased efficiency.

Cons: It may be hard to justify the added cost of a box when your TV can already stream your favorite shows. Plus, you have to figure out an attractive setup (plugging a box into a wall-mounted TV can be especially tricky). You also still have to pay the monthly subscription fee for HBO, Netflix, or other streaming services.

Bottom line: It’s not an imperative, but a streaming box can enhance your TV-watching experience, especially if your TV’s smart system is slow and clunky—which is often the case with older or lower-cost sets.

Our pick: If you’re an Apple household, consider the Apple TV for a familiar interface and easy integration with your other devices. Everyone else can try the Roku. TO BUY: Apple TV 4K, from $179; apple.com. Roku Premiere, $39; amazon.com.

Smart Home Devices: Soundbar

2 Soundbar

Pros: As TVs have gotten thinner and lighter, their speakers have gotten smaller (hence those 70-inch monsters you have to strain to hear). A soundbar is a compact speaker that raises volume, sharpens sound, and creates more immersive action scenes.

Cons: Soundbars introduce more complexity to your setup. While they’re much simpler to install than a receiver with individual speakers, you may still have to fiddle with cable configurations and settings to get everything working. Plus, unless you have a universal remote, you’re stuck with one more clicker.

Bottom line: After you try a soundbar, you’ll never go back to relying solely on TV speakers. The clearer dialogue alone makes this a must-have.

Our pick: Vizio has a huge selection of quality soundbars, ranging from 20-inch models to large, multispeaker surround-sound setups with big subwoofers. TO BUY: SB2020n-G6 20″ 2.0 Channel Sound Bar, $70; amazon.com.

Smart Home Devices: Shades

3 Smart shades

Pros: If you’re constantly adjusting the blinds to keep the sun from shining in your eyes, motorized shades might be worthwhile. You can set them to open and close on a schedule, or control them with your voice using Alexa or Google Assistant. You can even create a single voice command to turn on the TV and lower the blinds at the same time.

Cons: Smart blinds can get very costly, especially if you need custom sizes and professional installation.

Bottom line: If your blinds are a pain point in your day, smart shades could be worth the price—and they might even lower your energy bill.

Our pick: Lutron’s Serena system offers a number of styles and colors, along with custom options. TO BUY: Serena Shades by Lutron, from $349; serenashades.com.

Alternative suggestion: Ikea’s Fyrtur shades are more affordable, though they don’t come in as many styles and colors. TO BUY: Fyrtyr Blackout Roller Blind, from $129; ikea-usa.com.

No Time for Wimpy Wi-Fi

Gadgets are only as good as your Wi-Fi signal: The more smart devices you have, the more robust your Wi-Fi needs to be. “Keep your router out in the open, away from any obstructions,” says Joel Crane, a certified wireless network expert. “If you still experience connection issues, then a home mesh Wi-Fi solution, like Eero, Google Wifi ($99; amazon.com), or Orbi, can fill in the dead spots fairly effortlessly.” In a power outage, some battery-operated devices may still function, though smart features won’t work if your Wi-Fi is down. When the power comes back on, most devices will reconnect automatically (if not, a quick reset should do it).


With the exception of water-saving options, the cost of smart kitchen appliances makes them harder to recommend than gadgets in other areas of the home.

Smart Home Devices: Faucet

1 Faucet

Pros: You can turn on a smart faucet with a wave of your hand (helping you wash up without spreading germs to the hardware). You can also use your voice to dispense a certain amount of water, so you can fill a pot without waiting at the sink.

Cons: Some of the highest-end smart faucets can cost about seven times as much as the basic pull-down faucets, and about three times as much as the least expensive hands-free models.

Bottom line: In this age of germ and water-waste sensitivity, it might be one of the best smart home upgrades you can make.

Our pick: Kohler’s Setra is the model to beat right now. TO BUY: Setra Touchless Kitchen Faucet with Kohler Konnect, $419; homedepot.com.

Smart Home Devices: Fridge

2 Refrigerator

Pros: High-end models let you check the refrigerator contents, even while you’re at the grocery store; glance at your calendar on the door’s touch screen; and control the temperature from your phone (not that you’d ever necessarily need to).

Cons: Smart fridges can be costly—starting at roughly 20 to 30 percent more than regular models. Considering most people don’t upgrade their refrigerators on a whim, that’s a hard sell.

Bottom line: This should live in the “low priority” category. But if you’re renovating your kitchen and in the market for a fancy fridge, the one you choose may come with a few smart features anyway.

Our pick: Samsung has a wide variety, from top-of-the-line models with a touch screen to midrange options with basic temperature controls. TO BUY: 28 Cu. Ft. 4-Door French Door Refrigerator with Touch Screen Family Hub in Tuscan Stainless Steel, $2,799; samsung.com.

Smart Home Devices: Range

3 Range and oven

Pros: Some models connect to Wi-Fi so you can control them with your phone or voice (imagine preheating the oven from your lounge chair on the back deck). You’ll even get a phone notification when your meal is ready.

Cons: Safety features can limit the convenience of these products. Having to press a button on the oven before you turn it on with your phone sort of defeats the purpose.

Bottom line: If you do a lot of baking, the Wi-Fi connectivity is pretty useful for preheating—though certainly not necessary if you’re on a tighter budget.

Our pick: Samsung offers a number of gas and electric ranges with Wi-Fi connectivity. TO BUY: 5.9 Cu. Ft. Freestanding Electric Range with Flex Duo & Dual Door in Stainless Steel, $1,199; samsung.com.

Please Say a Command

When your hands are full or your phone is out of reach, voice control really brings smart homes to life. Voice assistants, like Amazon Echo and Google Home, are must-haves for any smart home—and with smaller units available for $50 or less, you can position a few throughout your space.

Laundry Room

This hardworking space may be small, but it’s ripe for smarter tech and WI-Fi-enabled shortcuts.

Smart Home Devices: Washer and Dryer

1 Washer and dryer

Pros: You can start and stop cycles remotely, get notified when the laundry is done, and receive reminders when your appliance needs maintenance (such as filter changes or tub cleaning).

Cons: Upgrading from your current washer and dryer is a $1,000-plus investment, which is rather costly.

Bottom line: The notifications are convenient, and if you need a new washer and dryer anyhow, many of the newest options have standard smart features. But if your current laundry machines work fine, there’s no need to upgrade—just use Alexa or Google to set a timer instead.

Our pick: LG is one of the best brands in the laundry sphere, and they have plenty of ThinQ models with Wi-Fi features. TO BUY: 5.2 Cu. Ft. Large Smart Wi-Fi Enabled Front Load Washer TurboWash, $1,800; homedepot.com. 9.0 Cu. Ft. Large Smart Wi-Fi Enabled Electric Dryer w/ TurboSteam, $1,800; homedepot.com.

Smart Home Devices: Vacuum

2 Robot vacuum

Pros: While plenty of robot vacuums clean floors, some advanced models come with Wi-Fi, so you can start a cleaning cycle with Alexa and get alerted when the vacuum is stuck or needs its bin emptied. Some can even map your house for more reliable cleaning.

Cons: Wi-Fi-connected models aren’t always as cheap as serviceable competitors, and only some models can do things like clean a specific room on demand.

Bottom line: Robot vacuums are a godsend, especially if you have kids or pets—and the extra utility you get from the app and voice commands is quite useful when you’re running out the door.

Our pick: iRobot has a number of Wi-Fi-connected Roomba models, the most high-end of which have automatic dirt disposal. TO BUY: Roomba 675, $270; amazon.com.


Good sleep is practically a status symbol—and a few little splurges can help you rest and restore.

Smart Home Devices: Light Bulbs

1 Smart light bulbs

Pros: Controlling the lights with an app or voice command is great if your switch is on the other side of the room. Color-changing bulbs let you adjust the color temperature too. That means you can have sun-mimicking light for waking up and warmer, sleep-friendly light for reading before bed.

Cons: If you have a lot of light fixtures, these bulbs can get expensive. Smart switches might be more cost-effective—though they require more involved setup.

Bottom line: If you’re new to a smart home, start here. When coupled with a smart assistant, smart bulbs are incredibly convenient.

Our pick: Philips’ White Ambiance bulbs have lots of features—including color-temperature adjustment—and great support from Philips. TO BUY: Philips Hue White 2-Bulb Starter Kit, $70; homedepot.com.

Smart Home Devices: Thermostat

2 Thermostat

Pros: Many thermostats are clunky to program, requiring confounding button-pressing sequences. With a smart thermostat, you can set a daily schedule with just a few taps. Some models even learn your habits over time and adjust themselves when you’re out of the house. Nest says it has saved its customers 10 to 15 percent on their heating and cooling bills.

Cons: Wiring a smart thermostat can be complicated, and depending on your home’s climate control system, some thermostats may not be compatible. You can usually check compatibility with different models online; contact a pro for best results.

Bottom line: If you’re picky about your thermostat schedule, a smart model is absolutely worth it.

Our pick: The Nest Thermostat E offers the best balance of cost and convenience, though you may need to step up to the higher-priced Nest Learning Thermostat if your wiring isn’t compatible. Visit store.google.com to find out if the unit will work in your space. TO BUY: Nest Thermostat E, $169; amazon.com.

Your Phone, Command Central

If a TV that requires two remotes can bring you to your knees, you don’t want that frustration multiplied in every room of the house. Apple’s HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa will unify control of third-party products so you can manage dozens of smart devices with your phone, tablet, or voice. Look for your hub’s icon on the packaging (to date, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are compatible with thousands of products, while HomeKit connects with over 100 vetted items).


Your bathroom may not be the first place you’d think to bring Alexa, but the right tech can make your morning routine more streamlined—and luxurious.

Smart Home Devices: Shower Controller

1 Shower controller

Pros: Smart controllers connect to your plumbing to let you manage water temperature or even start the shower with your voice.

Cons: The controllers can be expensive and usually require professional installation.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a truly deluxe shower setup, a controller like this can be amazing—but the cost is high.

Our pick: Moen’s 2-outlet controller is easy to use and offers multiple options for different setups. TO BUY: U by Moen Smart Shower Controller and Valve, $662; amazon.com.

Alternative suggestion: Kohler’s Alexa-based showerhead may not have temperature controls, but the built-in speaker will at least give you some tunes while you rinse off in your everyday, low-tech shower. TO BUY: Moxie Showerhead + Bluetooth Wireless Speaker, $219; kohler.com.

Smart Home Devices: Toilet

2 Toilet

Pros: Wi-Fi-connected toilets aren’t exactly ubiquitous yet, but Kohler has one on the way. Right now, “smart” toilets consist of seats with warming functions, automatic lids, and bidets.

Cons: High-tech toilet seats aren’t cheap. They can also be a bit complex to install, and you need an electrical outlet nearby.

Bottom line: Once you’ve used a high-end bidet, you’ll likely never want to go without one (or worry about hoarding toilet paper).

Our pick: Toto’s C100 Electronic Bidet Seat is feature-rich without completely breaking the bank. TO BUY: Toto Washlet C100, $366; homedepot.com.

Alternative suggestion: If your wallet can’t handle the full-suite seat, try a retrofit model for your current toilet. It won’t heat the seat, warm the water, or do your taxes for you, but it’s under $100. TO BUY: Bio Bidet SlimEdge Bidet Attachment, $35; amazon.com.