Tag Archives: home

My House Tour Video (2011)

A few years ago, I uploaded my first Home Office Tour after on a New Year’s Day “Subservient Chris” request. This exploration has since become an annual tradition, with me having skipped only one year (and being kindly lambasted for doing so).

For years, individuals from this community have been asking for a complete house tour – and I’ve been reluctant to give it, if only because I didn’t think it’d be all that interesting. Well, today might mark another annual tradition – a complete home video tour on my birthday.

While the home office tour was simply put online for immediate digestion, I decided to go a step further with the house tour and make it available for rental only. I did this for a few reasons: (1) to make it truly special, (2) because there’s a real value to it, (3) because it’s my birthday and I can.

For a fee, you can watch the house tour video on YouTube – though we’re still trying to figure out how to support the international community, so another viewing option should be made available soon. I’d like to (honestly) create a universal iOS app for the video and make it available at a lower price point, too – but I have no skill as a programmer / developer, so that idea will likely have to wait. We’re also going to make this available on DVD – and that link will be added to the viewing options in this post when it’s ready to go. I’m not sure anybody would really buy it, but… stranger things have happened.

Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HpEBmWrQzc

If you’re watching from outside the United States, you can find it here: http://movielocker.com/8108

If this effort isn’t seen as “successful” over the next year, it probably won’t happen again. I’d like to say I made enough from the idea to cover my mortgage for a month, though. That would be one helluva birthday present!

Do You Zleep on Your Zillow?

This is a guest post written by Matt Gamboa.

Are zou looking for zee house? Or perhapz zee zestimate on what zee home would zell for? Zillow looks to help the real estate savvy consumer with all things related to the market.

Co-created by Microsoft all-star and Expedia brain-child Rich Barton, Zillow looks to empower all parties in the real estate system with the knowledge needed to make their real estate search or sale easy as can be. The site is largely community-driven, there is an “Advice” area where users seeking some answers can post questions and get answers from other users who’ve been through the same situation, or from mortgage and real estate agents who have professional knowledge. This bringing together of all parties into one online community helps bridge the gap between seller and buyer.

Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink were looking for a new house around the same time and found it extremely difficult to find the information they were looking for. They felt it should not be so hard to buy a house, and decided to make a service specifically for that. The name Zillow came from the concept of zillions of data points for homes. Your home is also where you sleep every night on a pillow… Zillow. This is also where the term “Zestimate,” a term coined by Zillow to give an analytical prediction of what a home is worth, comes from.

Along with home information placed interactively on a map, Zillow also offers some unique, useful resources such as Dueling Digs; which shows the same area in two different houses and lets you vote for which is better. There’s also a Make Me Move option, where you can set a price that would make you sell your house. Users can see that price an act upon it if you’re lucky! If you’re looking for or a cool, fun way to search for real estate, Zillow offers that environment.

If you’re a developer, you should check out Deploy 2010 on Monday, November 08, 2010 from 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM (PT). Deploy 2010 is an all-inclusive conference for technology builders to give you new tools to create the applications of tomorrow. The conference will be held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle.

My Mac OS X Dock

My Mac OS X Dock

You might have seen me visiting the Throwboy.com factory the other day (it was streamed live, then I uploaded my pillow interview to YouTube). I can think of a few reasons you’d want these pillows somewhere in your home:

  1. You’re a geek.
  2. You’re not a geek, but you’re trying to appeal to your partner (who is a geek).
  3. You love Apple.
  4. You don’t love Apple, but you need conversation starters for your next party.
  5. You want to make people think that you love Apple.
  6. You use Mac OS X.
  7. You don’t use Mac OS X, but you want to make people think that you use Mac OS X.

Kitchen and Home Holiday Markdowns

As your family and friends gather for the holidays, you’ll want to have on hand all the essentials for entertaining and preparing memorable meals. Save big on thousands of products for your kitchen and home in Holiday Markdowns. Also, you can start browsing the Kitchen & Home Gift Guide for everyone on your list, from the master chef to the entertainer.

I know that my kitchen could stand to be a bit geekier. Why don’t they make products like:

  • WiFi-enabled Toaster (b/g/n)
  • Microwave / MP3 Player Combo Unit
  • USB Salt Shaker
  • 8GB Dinner Plates (Solid State)
  • Battery-powered Cheesecloth
  • Inner-oven Video Surveillance Camera
  • Potholders with Kung-Fu Grip
  • Caffeine-infused Dishwashing Liquid
  • Bluetooth Teapot
  • Rechargeable Orange Peeler

Maybe next year? Until then, check out the Kitchen & Home Gift Guide for great gift ideas.

Is Real Estate Possible without an Agent?

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Many people in the country have been hurt by the mortgage crisis. People are getting foreclosed upon; they can’t make their payments. Because of this, we are all feeling the pinch and we are tumbling into recession. Many people are trying to sell their homes themselves. Here are some tips to work without a Realtor, sent in by JcGeekGirl.

  • YOU DON’T HAVE TO USE AN AGENT! I cannot stress this enough. Agents have made the process of buying/selling property such a mystery, many people are afraid to embark on this journey without one. However there are instances where an agent is a good idea – such as:
    • You live in another state from the property and need someone to show it
    • You don’t have the time to hit the pavement and do the work of a real estate agent to sell on your own.

    There are many reasons to try and get the “by owner” thing to work for you. If you are willing to act as your own agent, and do the work of one, you can save thousands in commission fees – which in some cases, means the difference in selling the property and getting stuck with it.

  • You still need to advertise! There isn’t an agent doing the work for you. Place ads in the local paper, “for sale” magazines, put signs up where you are allowed to post handbills… and hold an open house as often as possible. The more people you advertise to, the more people will see the property, increasing your chances of selling (and possibly the length of time in which you sell).
  • The MLS is your friend – use it. MLS is the Multiple Listing Service – the database realtors use to search out homes for buyers. For years, “by owner” sellers have not been able to use it, but things are different now. Many agents across the country will offer you an MLS and/or Realtor listing for a flat rate. It may be the only service they provide at that low, flat rate. That potentially puts your property in front of millions of people that wouldn’t otherwise see it. You do need to offer a commission rate for a buyer’s agent though (it’s only fair, if you’re using the realtor database to advertise). With some slight negotiating room, the standard rate is 3%.
  • Not all “By Owner” websites are the same. Each one is owned by a different company. When a friend refers you, find out exactly what the address is, so you know where you are really getting referred to. When you place an ad, write down the company name, address, phone number, email addresses and your specific ad information. This is very helpful to have so you can come back to it later. Many companies take advantage of the play on words – different angles of “For Sale By Owner”. Some charge more than others, too. Before using one of these sites, research all of your options carefully. Check the traffic history of the site. Unless the Terms and Conditions of Use on the site (or any contracts state it), you can put your property out there for as many people to see it as you can afford to advertise. There are many who list their property on more than one of these websites. Craigslist is also a popular place to list property for sale. Some auction their homes on eBay. You have many options available to you when you’re not bound by an “exclusive listing rights” contract.
  • Now that you’ve listed your property somewhere, it’s time for the contacts and inquiries to roll in, right? Are you prepared to sell to the first person that calls, or visits the property? One way to be prepared is to ask all interested parties to bring a “mortgage pre-qualification letter” from their lender, stating that yes they can afford this house. I mean, what is the point in showing the home to someone who can’t buy it? It wastes everyone’s time. You can even offer the services of a lender you’ve lined up, and put that information in your ad or your open house invitation.
  • Times are tough. Scammers are getting more aggressive as the days progress. You need to be careful and research your contacts, and the people sending you emails regarding the property. If they are out of the country on assignment and their wife is really interested in the property, what is your bottom price? Think twice about it – it might be the difference between parting with $8,000 (give or take) with nothing to show for it, and a legitimate inquiry about the property. The biggest tip about anything on the internet – if it SOUNDS too good to be true, it probably is. Contact your local Consumer Protection office if you get a fishy email, and report it to the service where you’ve listed your property as well.
  • There is no shame in admitting you can’t handle the closing of the sale. Some people can do this process entirely on their own – but many use the services of a real estate attorney and a title company to handle all the legal aspects of the sale, disclosures that need to be made about the property, the list goes on. If the closing process sounds overwhelming, don’t be afraid to call someone.
  • Google is your friend… as always. Use Google to find out those real estate terms you don’t understand. Research what “staging” and “short sale” and “lien” mean. There are thousands of articles online to help you through this process from beginning to end. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel by braving it on your own. The information is there – utilize it.
  • Nobody wants to buy property they haven’t seen. Properties listed on the Internet get viewed more if they have a photo or two. Better yet, have a lot of photos and use as many as you can. This doesn’t mean have 6 shots of the tub all online – this means let your house tell it’s story…. “I have 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a pool, Jacuzzi, and a handmade brick barbeque area.” The goal of the photos is to take the personality out – take the photo of the room, the area, not the stuff that’s in it. An empty room in a photo can be good and bad. It may show “immediate move in condition” but it may also show that the property has been on the market for so long, the owner has already moved out and moved on. Even if you have to borrow or rent furniture to take pictures – it’s better than no pictures or an empty-room photo.
  • Lastly, have patience. It takes realtors a while to sell houses these days – you can be just as lucky trying to sell it yourself. Make sure you’ve had a physical appraisal done on your property to find out the value, find out what comparable homes have sold for in the area (you can search online for services that offer that information in a quick and easy digestible format, or you can take a day trip to the county office). Current national trends put the average time to sell a home (agent or not) at 4-6 months – some areas longer due to the market being saturated with soooo many properties for sale.

This advice is just that… advice. It in no way replaces the professional advice of a lawyer or Realtor. Please be sure to seek proper legal advice in your area, to cover all of your bases.


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Tinting Windows on Houses

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One of our community members works in the field of window tinting. He writes: “The window tinting industry is growing rapidly. When people talk about tinting, the first thing comes to their mind is cars. However, this list is full of tips for tinting your house.”

  • Saves energy You will be surprised that you can save up to 20% on your total heating and cooling bill, simply by having your windows tinted. Saving money is always nice.
  • Protects your stuff from fading Here is the great chance to protect valuable furniture and rugs. Most types of window film out there block 99% of UV Rays.
  • Reduces glare Annoying glare can be cut dramatically by window films, so blinds and drapes can stay open and occupants can continue to enjoy the view.
  • Do your homework Research different companies and what they offer. 3M is very well known name… but it doesnt mean it would be the best choice. Huper Optik has the ceramic technology which beats any metal films out there. It provides crystal clear view, and a High Defenition effect. It will not darken the room, but it will cut 85% of the heat and that annoying glare. Metal films are very reflective, where ceramic films are not. You’ll need to compare them, and decide which is right for you and your home.
  • It will pay for itself Prices range around $5-8 a square foot. Window film installation has a payback period of 3 years in most cases, making it an extremely cost effective improvement for homes or businesses.
  • Bonus tip You can get a tax credit on the Enery star logo film. Huper Optik was also voted one of the ten inventions for going “green”.


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Tips for Dealing with Home Contractors

Apparently, my LinkedIn network is linked in better than I thought. We’ve been dealing with contractors since moving into our new home in December. This question would have been better asked a few months ago, but better late than never: “Any tips for how to select contractors for your home office project(s)?”

Jason Alba:

My tip is to make sure you have a contract in place with as much detail as you can stand. There should be change orders, etc. I had my kitchen redone and the lights were replaced with crap lights… and a number of other issues. These should have been defined in the contract. Good luck!

Courtney Benson:

Very carefully! Be detailed oriented and put your requirements in writing with a sign off from the contractor. Get 4 to 6 bids and don’t be afraid to ask questions on why x costs this or why you need that. Compare notes and check references – ask to see the work that was done for someone else. Don’t tell them how much your willing to spend on the project, let them tell you what a project like yours will cost including all the high-end hardware that your going to want and then start subtracting. My 2 cents!

Gregory MacPherson:

This question suggests a certain type of work, ie office clerical, technology, etc. If I’ve mistaken the question, I apologize.

In general you are talking about hiring someone without paying a referral fee to a broker. Therefore your best avenue IMHO is to seek out recommendations from other local business people. Try doctors and dentists and lawyers and realtors and architects in your area as well, since contrary to popular belief they tend to be frugal regarding administration and IT expenses.

Also consider your local Chamber of Commerce as they likely have several contractors as members and they will provide referrals for their members.

Scott Robarts:

Be very skeptical. Ask for references and then contact them, get everything in writing, talk to the person and trust your gut. Try to find someone who has done work for someone whose opinion you trust, and who did a good job for them.

Joseph Abbate:

Speak to the local building department and ask them who the better local contractors are. Start there, however it requires people skills because they must remain objective. Wink Wink. Bring them donuts if you have to, (a small price to pay for good craftsmanship).

That addresses the inspection process as well. If they trust the builder, they will schedule inspections earlier in the day, because they know it will go fast and keep them on schedule. That will also keep your builder on schedule if they can get work done on an inspection day… Once you have a name or two, check with the builders association, the better business people and the department of consumer affairs to see if any complaints exist.

Your architect is critical in the process. Make sure your plans contain specific information about every aspect of the project. This includes, materials, (Make, Model, Size, Finish), methods of construction, renderings, etc. Keep in mind it is easier and less costly to make changes on paper (or AutoCAD) then when in full blown construction and the materials are ordered. Make your changes before you start!!!!

Send your RFP to 5 contractors. Do not accept a bid from a contractor who cannot provide: Certificate of insurance that covers the value of your entire house (then check with the carrier for claims) 20 references (check them all) and a list of current projects.

Once you have assembled the 5 bids, you want a contract that states start and completion dates, include a clause that addresses delays and make sure your payment schedule is based on inspection schedules. IE, pay for rough work when rough work is inspected and passed. Pay for finish work when finish work inspected and passed. Final payment when mutually agreed punch list items are completed or when hell freezes over. Just kidding.

That is the process, Good luck and may you enjoy your new space.

Sheilah Etheridge:

Ask for a list of prior customers and talk to them all. Hiring a contractor is like hiring a new employee, do your homework. Call the BBB and see if any reports have been file, do reference checks, talk to people you know and see who they recommend. etc

Pictures of our New House

We moved into our new house a few weeks ago, and I think we’ve emptied just about every single box! As you can see from the photo thumbnails, Ponzi still has to empty the boxes for her new home office. Seems like she’s been doing laundry non-stop, and we finally got all the clothes picked up off the bedroom floor and sorted semi-appropriately (seeing as we don’t have any drawers in our new master closet). It’s been slow going, and I’m very anxious to feel that “settled in” feeling before too long.

Gingerbread House 2006 (9)Gingerbread House 2006 (8)Gingerbread House 2006 (12)Gingerbread House 2006 (11)Gingerbread House 2006 (10)Gingerbread House 2006 (7)Gingerbread House 2006 (6)Gingerbread House 2006

We have a small bit of roof work that needs to be done, as you can tell. That, and I think I’ve got a long list of “curiosities” for an electrician to review at some point in the near future. Today, I hope to put a few more things away and prep our exercise room for when we return from vacation. Home ownership is awesome, but it’s also a lot of hard work. I must thank every single one of our friends who have helped or offered to help us through this season – I would be going insane without every single one of you.

Oh no! Wicket just ate our chimney!