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Automated Toilets – Starting with practical

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.27.00 AMThe subject of Toilets seems like the furthest thought for being an item for automation. Toilets have been around since the Egyptians and Romans and became widespread in late 19th Century with the first flushing toilets made by Thomas Crapper.

Are there any benefits that can arise from toilets being improved or are there ways to make them better. An automated toilet? Kind of a weird subject of thought.

The major problem with toilets is they get clogged. The reason they get clogged is human error. Toilets do not have movable parts in the places they get clogged. Someone threw something down they were not supposed to. Could you change the design to stop a human error?

The good news is that toilet manufacturers have decided that "clog free" toilets offer a salable feature that will attract buyers. Since "potty training" still is a major part of childhood, the fascination of throwing stuff down the toilet remains as high on the list of fun things to do as playing a game on your phone.

Toilet engineers have been busy making flush valves and trap ways larger. Pressure assisted toilets have hit the market however redesigned gravity fed models seem to be the quieter and equally as efficient choice. Once the Toilet engineers have gotten off their seats, we'll see what other helpful ideas they have incorporated into our toilet experience.

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32 Jones Street – Apt 1D – Live Your Dream!

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When location tops your list, 32 Jones Street might be just the apartment that will help your dreams come into reality. 

Jones street has been described as one of the most iconic blocks in Greenwich Village.  It is a quiet street ,only a single block long,  in the hub of notoriety and action - West 4th Street on one end, Bleecker Street on the other.  Cornelia Street and 6th Avenue are a stones throw away.  Charming in every way, you can feel the history of the greats as you seek out your own private haven.  Several movies and TV shows have found this short block as inspiration to capture scenes on. Picturing Dylan walking these streets, working on his music fuels any inspiration you may have to fulfill the mission of your passion.  Life is short and even if you live your ordinary life and work in your normal job, you will be living in a place that has more character and attitude than you can imagine. 

New Yorkers create their happiness and fill their world with wonder and memorable happenings.  Life isn’t dull because they do not stand still and they drink in all the energy from the wondrous activity around them.

The apartment itself is  small. 

Living area

Living area

Fitting life’s necessities in will be a worthwhile challenge, allowing you to remove the superfluous stuff in favor of the items you love, cherish and that give purpose and meaning to your life.  A large closet for your clothes, nice full , sun filled bathroom with full sized bathtub, shower insure you are comfortable in your daily needs.

There is currently a loft bed which will provide the adventurous a private place for sleep, rest or meaningful respite. 32 Jones loft bed closet copy

All the other luxuries that make your day to day living complete will find a place.  A full size stove, sink, and refrigerator along with cabinets above will serve to hold your essentials for eating and cooking.  Certainly a talented chef, blogger or inspiring foodie with be able to rate this kitchen as adequate and comfortable and could be made even better with some finer touches. 

Kitchen

Kitchen

Whatever you dream your life to be can be scaled to fit this apartment and the joy of making it work is part of the thrill and future memories. 

When reality meets fantasy this apartment holds some practical values.  It is affordable by NYC standards coming in at a price under $450,000.  The monthlies are only $794  which includes heat, hot water and all the maintenance and upkeep of the building.  With the considerable income from Cafe Vivaldi in the commercial space below, increases in maintenance are kept at a minimum. 

After 2 years you can sublet the apartment indefinitely.  As a  New York City co-op this is an excellent sublet policy.  The choices for the future use of the apartment is open.  You can live your dream and then assure yourself an equitable income from renting later on while holding to an appreciable asset.

32 Jones Street meets the criteria for cool when you pass the cute, nostalgic, hip restaurants and shops and hear music of all types coming from the famous cafe that resides below and on the surrounding streets.

It is a heartfelt place that easily can make your dream come true.  Be it a part time pied-a-terre, start of a new chapter of your life , or the place where you want to settle and call home, this apartment at 32 Jones Street offers more than just 4 walls and a fire escape view.  It certainly will be the start of something special.

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Beginners Guide to Buying a Home with Automation

The future is here today with Automated Home devices being easy to use and affordable. The old days of vacuum systems  and intercom systems being built in the wall in high end homes have long been past.

If new construction is in your plans, the electrical, gas, heating and security systems in the home should all at least be completely compatible with z-wave technology.  The difference in pricing will be minimal compared to the luxuries and life style enhancement that you will enjoy for many years to come. 

The first question is :  Should new homes with Automation devices be priced higher?  From a realtor point of view, the homes can be priced minimally different however the choice of buying a home with automation devices vs a home without is a no brainer.  It might not be worth a significant bump in price however it will make a difference in choice.

4 key areas that should be automated:

Security systems should be visible on smart phones

Heating / Cooling Systems should be operational from a smart phone

Locks and garage door openers should be operational from a smart phone

Key room lights/dimmers/fans should be operational from a smart phone.

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Automation – Future of Z-Wave Today

Automation has been around since the beginning of imagination. Having things open and close, go on and off has been romanticized on the big screen and put into remotes to act as magic wands.

In the past several years Automation has turned the corner and we are on the edge of a revolution.

Today's “smart phone” has taken over most of the applications that we require in our every day lives.  It also is now able to control most of the devices in our homes.  Without a learning curve, and preferential additional expenses our lives are simplified with a touch on an app.

Automation has been creeping into our lives for several years. Lights go on when you approach the front door.  Water goes on when you put your hands under a faucet in a public bathroom and toilets flush after you get up from the seat.

Motion detected lights are affordable and can easily be built into a fixture which makes sense for a safety device. Up to now, they can in fact be a little annoying inside a private home.  The benefits of automatic faucets and toilets are worthy in a public setting however have somewhat little practical use in a private home.

The cost and priority technology involved with automation systems limited their growth and use to high end costly applications.

 Several things have happened behind the scenes that have changed the whole automation revolution.

  • Common use of Wi-fi
  • Standardization and acceptance of Z-wave technology
  • Major manufacturers getting aboard automating their products
  • Advances in smart phone capabilities

Automation is now standardizable , uniform and most important - Affordable.  Since major manufacturers are investing in automated devices using this non prioritized technology, competition has lowered costs and stimulated advances and growth.

The hub of a z-wave system, A controller is only $99.  This can control the locks on your doors, turn heat on/off and control the temperature, lights go on/off and dim, fans to go on/off at certain times as well as any other mechanical device in your home or office. There are several on the market and the consumer is not limited to any one manufacturer.  

With all the bells and whistles, and concepts from Science Fiction, there is little need for a learning curve for this automation. Anyone from 5 to 105 can almost instantly be able to operate all the devices that are automated in the home.  Everything is handled on an app on your phone. 

Simple changes is also a key factor of automating your home now. An outlet or switch is easily replaced with a z wave relay or switch.  The cost difference is small and the benefits are significant.  A thermostat is easily retrofitted with one that is z-wave capable.  Electric appliances, fixtures, fans, heaters or surveillance cameras all can be integrated in your total automated system.  Whole events can be orchestrated where several items come on, go off , in conjunction with other devices or at different times.

What also is great about this new technology is that it operates "side by side".  You can handle every device conventionally or on the phone; turning on and off switches, changing temperature, locking doors and every action will be registered on the phone application.

Where the beauty of the system comes to full appreciation is when you are not at home.  You will get an alert and see who is delivering a package, be able to open the door for a health care provider when you are in another state or country, turn up the heat or off the lights when you are sitting in the airport waiting for your plane to take off.

Peace of mind, security and convenience. Automation opens the door to improving our complicated busy lives.

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Clutter – It’s toll on Real Estate Investing

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If only this one subject could be stressed more people would succeed brilliantly in Real Estate Investing.

Clutter in simple terms is “more than necessary”.  I actually had to read books and search blogs to find out how to manage my home.  It has taken a lifetime to put in motion.  What I can say is that the results are life saving.

An easy way to attack clutter can be explained as setting up a “kindergarden classroom”.  Things are placed in areas where they will be most easily used. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place.  Only the exact number of things that are needed are kept. Extra's are kept in an organized storage, or better yet, in the store.

That is a lot to do in a short paragraph.  DeCluttering is lifetime job and this will only be one of many blog articles about it.  Right now the focus is only a tip of the ice berg on how clutter will hurt your career in Real Estate Investing.  

With clutter we are distracted.  We are confused.  We are also technically upset.  When our homes are cluttered, we can not find things.  We think our lives are a mess.  We feel insecure.

Some people feel they are above all this and can live in a mess.  My suggestion is just see how you feel when it is cleaned up.  Immediately you will feel the difference.  It’s like the saying, “I did not know how sick I was until I got better”  Most people can live in utter chaos and live a perfectly happy productive life.  The question still remains, how much better could they be without it?

The trick to starting to declutter is “15 minutes”  It could be 5 minutes, or 10 , or 8  or 20.  It is just a number, much less than 30 minutes.  You can be forced to do anything for 5 minutes , or 10 or even 15 or 20.  Longer than that will be thought of as a chore, and difficult to find time in busy schedules to do.  This is all discussed on www.flylady.net   The hardest part is starting.  Once you start, you actually will want to spend a few extra minutes.  Just forbid your self to do too much since that will make it harder to learn the habit of working small amounts of time on big projects.

Start small -  One shelf of a bookshelf.  One corner of a room.  A chair piled with clothes.  Today 15 minutes, tomorrow another. Leave what should be in that location .  Put only what you need there. Place all the items and extras not belonging in boxes that will be transported to their right place at a later time, or simply put them where they belong.   Make sure you only spend a minimum amount of time on the project.  Keep track of your time with a timer.  Start with the timer and stop with the timer.  Even if you repeat the timer, and extra 5 minutes or so.  To get the habit started you have to commit to do this every day until your goal is completed.   You can go down to 5 minutes on certain days and go longer on others, depending on how your feel. 

Your brain has to be cleared and on an organized plan before you will be able to achieve the Real Estate Investing goals you desire.  Starting small to keep your life organized, is a major step to making it a success.

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Ebola & 147th Street – Hamilton Heights

725 good outsideEbola certainly has brought attention to 147th Street in NYC where a dedicated humanitarian, Dr. Craig Spencer, lives.  Looking beyond the political and media headline grabbing attention, there is Real Estate story here. 

Dr. Spencer has to have risen to the top of everyone’s list of great and most wonderful people. That is now that you know about him.  A brilliant, down to earth, regular guy with an everyday job being an emergency room doctor at one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. In his spare time he volunteered for Doctors Without Boarders in an area that has been stricken with one of the worst health tragedies possible -Ebola.

With his affiliation with Doctors without Boarders and the strict protocol of his medical training, he has done everything right, and his care and subsequent procedures will be models for future dealings with the deadly disease in this country.

Dr. Spencer also brings attention to thousands of other people who take their dedication and humanitarian beliefs to the extreme and do something about it.  They care and give back. They do not need notoriety to be important, they actually are the ones that get the hard stuff done, while others just talk or complain about it.

On the Real Estate level, Dr. Spencer has brought the lime light onto 147th Street where the decontaminated  “Ebola” laced apartment is located.  Let’s be more precise, West 147th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam.  This is one of the latest areas that I am keenly excited about.  I say it simply, I do love this area. 

Most news writers have called this Harlem.  Only a few locals have made mention of it being in Hamilton Heights and some have been more specific in terms of being between Broadway and Amsterdam.  Saying that this place is in Harlem is like saying that West 22nd Street is  downtown Manhattan.  You immediately get a vision of the area. 

I only found out about Hamilton Heights in the past couple of years.  It is a quieter version of the city, with many of the better conveniences - great subway lines, stores, restaurants , close to City College and Columbia as well as being extremely convenient to the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital Complex.  The architecture is beautiful and apartments are filled with large rooms.

Dr. Spencer’s building is steps away from the Riverbank State Park and Hudson River Greenway where it is a joy to behold breathtaking views of the river and New Jersey.  Jogging and Bike paths are a part of residents everyday lives.  And of course Yankee Stadium is close by.

A major part of the thrill of New York City Living is who lives here.  One of my favorite topics is that people live here to be who they want to be.  That can be anyone.  An area of the city can no longer define you.  Since the city has become a safer place to live, wonderful people are now defining the areas. 

West 22nd Street is not downtown.  It is Chelsea and it is one of the hottest areas to live.  Great people moved there and now stores, restaurants and services all revolve around the needs and desires of those people. 

West 147th Street is Hamilton Heights.  Dr. Spencer chose to live there.  He certainly could have found other places to live however that is the address he wanted to call home. We know he jogged by the river as well as had the convenience of transportation to all the other great activities he loved. It is easy to speculate that thousands of other individuals, unknown to us yet, equally unbelievably great, live there as well. All doing their best to be who they want to be, defining what Hamilton Heights is soon going to become.

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Real Estate Investing – Renovating with your stomach –

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The whole idea of renovating for the purpose of maximizing your Real Estate Investment is to make the property keenly attractive to potential buyers so it will sell quickly.

As a Real Estate professional my advise to clients is to do it right or do nothing.  Most buyers have a good eye and will decide on the property because of several key features and mentally put other’s in the category of “plan to redo” after purchase.  What that means is that they will plan to rip it out and do it the way they want later.

Doing nothing takes all the fun out of thinking that you are a Real Estate Investor, so the next question is what do you do to do it right?  The first step is thinking with your stomach and not necessarily with your head, especially if you are living in the property while you are fixing it up.

After layout design and flow of a room and a house the most important resale attraction is finishes.  In a bathroom this is al about tile and color.  In a recent visit to a major tile showroom I asked the advise of one of their designers about which color and tile would work best in the bathroom that I was redoing. This is for a top upscale location and image was critical for resale.

Price was not an object since the bathroom was small and the return on investment would be very high.

After getting relatively sick as I walked through the giant showroom with so many choices I was happy to be given a tour by an “expert designer”.  After describing the size and concept of the bathroom, including the fact it had an open shower.  I also explained to him my dislike for subway tiles. The first thing he showed me was all white glossy tile.  I told him I had originally thought of that however I ruled it out because I thought it to be too stark and institutional looking.

He showed me several other options some of which I liked and others I was not too excited about. Since I have been self declared “interior design impaired” I was getting more apprehensive that an attack of “I can not do this” would come on , I switched the subject to the brain wave and filled in the blanks that this was for resale and where the property was located.  As a Real Estate broker I wanted to know what was being done in the top most expensive homes in the area and of course what was best for resale.

Porcelain Carrara marble look alike was his first choice, along with gloss white subway tiles for the walls.  I pushed the conversation, again on the mental level to the “best choice for tile in the bathroom for resale”  He brought me to the Carrara marble section.  He said one look and it would sell the house.  The price difference was only a couple hundred dollars and thinking with my head, this seemed like an excellent idea.  Clean, simple and elegant.  White Carrara marble on the floor and gloss white subway tiles on the floor.  He showed me an area of the showroom that had carrara marble on the floor and had me take a picture of it.

I was mentally happy that what I thought was going to be a most difficult and yet the most important decision was being made.  i went back to the office and began looking at Houzz and other online sites to see images of bathrooms.  Indeed, Carrara marble floors and gloss white subway tiles were a rage.  Clean and timeless.  Then I started getting sick to my stomach.

I have always hated Carrara marble.  I have seen it in too many bathrooms where people have put it in trying to make it look like they invested a lot of money in the bathroom and it looked like a HomeDepot trick rather than upscale money.  Eventually the two looked the same to me.

I did not like the grains, just made my stomach turn.  Then the subway tiles.  After working in NYC for so many years and actually seeing subway tiles in original use, being ripped out for good reason, I felt those pangs of nausea rising.  I realized that every time I would walk in the bathroom I would be sick rather than be in love.  I believe it is better  to renovate for investment with something that you yourself love rather than for all the money in the world, chose something just because it is thought to be a safe and reliable designer choice.

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The Start of Organic Real Estate Investing

The best way to start in Real Estate Investing is to look at what will work for you today, in an area that you know and with financials you can understand.  Call it “Pure & Simple” - or call it “Organic.

The minute you start reading books, buying courses, listening to other people’s “sure bets” you are adding impurities to the process. 

Most people who have problems with their Real Estate investments focussed only on the end result and didn’t examine the “ingredients” necessary to achieve their goals.  A pretty picture, a vision of supreme happiness and no sense of reality for all that would be involved to get there.

Real Estate Investments are somewhat like children in that they are supposed to make you happy and proud, however they take a lot of time and effort and in many cases, cost a lot of money. 

How then can you maintain an “organic” portfolio?  Buy local and buy what you know.  If you want to go out of your area then visit the area yourself, spend time learning everything about what goes on there, and work with someone who is certified and trusted in where the best neighborhoods are and which are changing.

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