Going Head-To-Head: Robot Vacuums Versus Traditional Vacuums

There are several companies that make robotic vacuums, with various designs aimed at particular problems in typical homes. Cleaning up pet hair, chasing after children who drop things like cookies (that seems like a job for that pet whose hair needs to be tamed) or just making deeper cleanings easier by performing daily floor maintenance are just a few of the purposes for the major models you’ll see in stores and online.

But do you even need one? And how do they compare to a traditional canister vacuum?

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Going Head-To-Head: Robot Vacuums Versus Traditional Vacuums

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One of the best parts about living in the future is that we’ve got some of the coolest technology available to help with almost any household task. Forget if you needed milk at the market? Your smart fridge can tell you. Need to make sure that the house is nice and cool when you pull in the driveway? Just ask Alexa to kick on the air conditioner via your telephone app. Tired of chasing your pets with a Dustbuster in order to keep hair from scattering everywhere? There’s a Roomba for that!

There are several companies that make robotic vacuums, with various designs aimed at particular problems in typical homes. Cleaning up pet hair, chasing after children who drop things like cookies (that seems like a job for that pet whose hair needs to be tamed) or just making deeper cleanings easier by performing daily floor maintenance are just a few of the purposes for the major models you’ll see in stores and online.

But do you even need one? And how do they compare to a traditional canister vacuum?

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Hoover, Roomba and You

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Considering a robot vacuum for your home but want to make sure that you’re not trading in your canister vac for a robot that fails to do your floor cleaning bidding? A lot of people are finding themselves looking at robotic vacuum cleaners (that still top out around a thousand dollars or so) and wondering if they’re better than a good upright vacuum.

Plenty of websites, including Consumer Reports have been creating scenarios for robot vacuums and traditional uprights to battle it out, head to head. What they’re finding, overwhelmingly, is that these two seemingly similar devices are actually two entirely different beasts. It’s especially obvious in areas like:

  • Cleanable surfaces. While similarly equipped robot and traditional vacuums will clean the same surfaces, robot vacuums tend to choke on deeper pile carpet. They may get stuck on area rugs or end up confused and disoriented while moving across different textures. Newer robotic models actually get “frightened” when they encounter flooring with dark areas, because it can set off their cliff sensors(basically, the machine thinks it’s approaching a drop-off like a stair). Robot vacs do much better on evenly colored hardwood floors, though.
  • Deep cleaning. Consumer Reports also probed the ability of the robot vacuum to clean deep down into carpets. They’re not that great at it, as it turns out. Where the Miele Dynamic U1 Cat and Dog upright vacuum picked up more than half of test debris composed of talc and sand, Samsung’s Powerbot SR20H9051 didn’t manage 20 percent. Pretty disappointing for a machine that costs about a thousand dollars.
  • If they only had a brain… Despite about 15 years of market exposure and evolution, most of the robot vacuums out there still aren’t that bright. Sure, they can heatmap your floor and they can usually find their way back to their chargers before their batteries die, but if they happen to pick up a toddler’s dropped PB&J, you can pretty much count on that sticky sandwich being rubbed all over the house, at least until your Roomba accidentally locks itself in the bedroom. This has all the makings of a bad 80s movie, really. Obviously a traditional vacuum doesn’t have to worry about this at all since you’re always there to pull the jelly out of its works (or, you know, not run it over in the first place).

So, the Winner Is….

No one. Not even you. You can’t ditch the upright just yet and, frankly, if you have pets, kids, grandchildren or just harbor a habit of dropping crumbs on the carpet and walking away from the mess, you really need the robot vacuum, too.

See, although they seem at odds, these two tools are actually complementary. Robot vacs help reduce regular cleaning, especially in the situations above. They can keep the floors clean day to day, then you can run the big vacuum across your carpets on the weekend. It’s a harmonious relationship, really.

Some homeowners are worried about the small size of many robotic vacs’ collection bins, but Roomba has devised a clever solution to that little issue. The iRobot Roomba i7+ not only parks itself in its dock when it gets sleepy, it also empties itself so it can get back to cleaning without your supervision. It’s still not as good at deep cleaning as your upright, but it’s one more evolution on that path.

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A Different Look At Years In The Industry
As a consumer, the first classic criteria – years in the business – seems like a good one because you think hiring a new agent would be a mistake. Perhaps, but consider that a new agent with an MBA probably knows more about business, finance, and negotiation than an agent with 20 years experience who handles no details in their transactions. The point is that your choice of agent, when considering experience, is better to focus on the necessary skills for the job.

The necessary skills are many but the biggest ones are data analysis (understanding the sales data), contract law (knowing and interpreting contract terms), negotiation tactics, marketing (in general), and customer service. When you interview an agent, ask them questions that give insight into each of these areas. You’ll find that when they can provide specific details showcasing their expertise in these areas, the years in the industry won’t matter.

The Overall Unit And Dollar Sales Gimmick
Regardless of the market you’re in, there is probably at least one agent who claims to be “#1” because of how many homes they’ve sold or the total dollars sold over their careers. It’s a gimmick for the most part. As a consumer, you’ve been led to believe that an agent that sells 200 homes a year must be good by default. How else would so many people list their properties with them? Well, there’s more to it than that.

It is entirely possible that an agent (more likely a team) selling hundreds of homes not only sells them all but does so with excellent customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, there are also many agents with large scale sales numbers who did so through sales of government or bank owned properties. Other means of inflating sales figures include:

• Heavily discounting commissions (buying listings)

• Reduced services

• Naturally high-volume markets

• Dominant advertising

While these may all be perfectly legitimate means of obtaining business, they belie the one criteria you care about – quality. Take a close look at the sales price to list price ratio and the overall days on market. Even those have the potential for manipulation but they could indicate how well a buyer’s agent gets a discount or a listing agent gets top dollar. Beyond either of those numbers, you’ll want a more objective measure of quality: references.

Most agents will have some number of references and don’t bother with the ratings you see on various websites. Get something that was written by the consumer themselves such as a copy of the letter or email they sent the agent. A good reference combined with quality metrics should give you insight into how well the agent performs.

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No matter what the numbers, references, recommendations or other data points tell you the agent you choose has to be someone you like. Get to know them a bit and make sure they’re someone you can work with. While this is a business decision and a business transaction, having a good working relationship will be important. Keep that in mind as you make your choice.

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While these may all be perfectly legitimate means of obtaining business, they belie the one criteria you care about – quality. Take a close look at the sales price to list price ratio and the overall days on market. Even those have the potential for manipulation but they could indicate how well a buyer’s agent gets a discount or a listing agent gets top dollar. Beyond either of those numbers, you’ll want a more objective measure of quality: references.

Most agents will have some number of references and don’t bother with the ratings you see on various websites. Get something that was written by the consumer themselves such as a copy of the letter or email they sent the agent. A good reference combined with quality metrics should give you insight into how well the agent performs.

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Regardless of the market you’re in, there is probably at least one agent who claims to be “#1” because of how many homes they’ve sold or the total dollars sold over their careers. It’s a gimmick for the most part. As a consumer, you’ve been led to believe that an agent that sells 200 homes a year must be good by default. How else would so many people list their properties with them? Well, there’s more to it than that.

It is entirely possible that an agent (more likely a team) selling hundreds of homes not only sells them all but does so with excellent customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, there are also many agents with large scale sales numbers who did so through sales of government or bank owned properties. Other means of inflating sales figures include:

• Heavily discounting commissions (buying listings)

• Reduced services

• Naturally high-volume markets

• Dominant advertising

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As a consumer, the first classic criteria – years in the business – seems like a good one because you think hiring a new agent would be a mistake. Perhaps, but consider that a new agent with an MBA probably knows more about business, finance, and negotiation than an agent with 20 years experience who handles no details in their transactions. The point is that your choice of agent, when considering experience, is better to focus on the necessary skills for the job.

The necessary skills are many but the biggest ones are data analysis (understanding the sales data), contract law (knowing and interpreting contract terms), negotiation tactics, marketing (in general), and customer service. When you interview an agent, ask them questions that give insight into each of these areas. You’ll find that when they can provide specific details showcasing their expertise in these areas, the years in the industry won’t matter.

Animal Kingdom’s Caring for Giants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, one of the best parts of living in Central Florida is the easy and discounted access to all of the theme parks. But not everyone is into roller coasters and turkey legs. Sometimes you just want to hang out with some elephants.

Caring for Giants is one of the extra tours you can book at the Animal Kingdom. You get a more intimate look at the females in the herd from a backstage lookout behind the Kilamanjaro Safari. A guide meets you at the check in point to the left of the Kilamanjaro Safari, and then you take a mini bus backstage where you meet up with an animal keeper. The animal keeper answers all kind of question for you and gives you insights and information about how they are cared for at the Animal Kingdom. We even got to see baby Stella, who has just turned 2.

A Cultural Representative from Africa also met us to give us firsthand accounts of elephants and to educate us about conservation efforts that are making a difference in her home country of Zambia. She also answered tons, and I mean tons, of questions from the kids in our group. you are also permitted and encouraged to take pictures. All of the pictures in this post were taken on the tour just last week. I can’t say enough good things about this. If you love animals, it’s an amazing and relatively inexpensive experience.

You can book this hour long adventure through the reservation line, 407-939-7529. The tour costs $30 per person, and they do give an annual passholder discount.  It’s totally worth it!

What’s Ahead for Real Estate in 2019?

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What’s Ahead for Real Estate in 2019?

[/fusion_title]As we begin another year, everyone wants to know: “Where is the housing market headed in 2019?”

It’s not only buyers, sellers, and homeowners who are impacted. The real estate market plays an integral role in the overall U.S. economy.  Fortunately, key indicators point toward a stable housing market in 2019 with signs of modest growth. However, shifting conditions could impact you if you plan to buy, sell, or refinance this year.

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HOME VALUES WILL INCREASE

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The value of real estate will continue to rise. Freddie Mac predicts housing prices will increase by 4.3 percent in 2019.While the rapid price appreciation we witnessed earlier in the decade has slowed, the combination of a strong economy, low unemployment, and a lack of inventory in many market segments continues to push prices higher.

“Ninety percent of markets are experiencing price gains while very few are experiencing consistent price declines,” according to National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.2

Yun predicts that the national median existing-home price will increase to around $266,800 in 2019 and $274,000 in 2020. “Home price appreciation will slow down—the days of easy price gains are coming to an end—but prices will continue to rise.”

What does it mean for you? If you’re in the market to buy a home, act fast. Prices will continue to go up, so you’ll pay more the longer you wait. If you’re a current homeowner, real estate has proven once again to be a solid investment over the long term. In fact, the equity level of American homeowners reached an all-time high in 2018, topping $6 trillion.3

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SALES LEVELS WILL STABILIZE

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In 2018, we saw a decline in sales, primarily driven by rising mortgage rates and a lack of affordable inventory. However, Yun isn’t alarmed. “2017 was the best year for home sales in ten years, and 2018 is only down 1.5 percent year to date. Statistically, it is a mild twinge in the data and a very mild adjustment compared to the long-term growth we’ve been experiencing over the past few years.”2

Yun and other economists expect home sales to remain relatively flat over the next couple of years. Freddie Mac forecasts homes sales will increase 1 percent to 6.08 million in 2019 and 2 percent to 6.20 million in 2020.1

“The medium and long-term prospects for housing are good because demographics are going to continue to support demand,” explains Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist for LendingTree. “With a slower price appreciation, incomes have an opportunity to catch up. With slower sales, inventory has an opportunity to normalize. A slowdown in 2019 creates a healthier housing market going forward.”4

What does it mean for you? If you’ve been scared off by reports of a market slowdown, it’s important to keep things in perspective. A cooldown can prevent a hot market from becoming overheated. A gradual and sustainable pace of growth is preferable for long-term economic stability. 

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MORTGAGE RATES WILL RISE

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The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates three times this year, resulting in a rise in mortgage rates.While no one can predict future mortgage rates with certainty, Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale estimates that the rate for a 30-year mortgage will reach 5.5 percent by the end of 2019, up from around 4.62 percent at the end of 2018.6

While mortgage rates above 5 percent may seem high to today’s buyers, it’s not out of line with historical standards. According to Hale, “The average mortgage rate in the 1990s was 8.1 percent, and rates didn’t fall below 5 percent until 2009. So for buyers who can make the math work, buying a home is likely still an investment worth making.”7

What does it mean for you?If you’re in the market to buy a house or refinance an existing mortgage, you may want to act quickly before mortgage rates rise. To qualify for the lowest rate available, take steps to improve your credit score, pay down existing debt, and save up for a larger down payment.

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AFFORDABILITY ISSUES WILL PERSIST

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Although the desire to own a home remains strong, the combination of higher home prices and rising mortgage rates will make it increasingly difficult for many first-time buyers to afford one.

“Buyers who are able to stay in the market will find less competition as more buyers are priced out but feel an increased sense of urgency to close before it gets even more expensive,” according to Hale. “Although the number of homes for sale is increasing, which is an improvement for buyers, the majority of new inventory is focused in the mid-to-higher-end price tier, not entry-level.”6

What does it mean for you? Unfortunately, market factors make it difficult for many first-time buyers to afford a home. However, as move-up buyers take advantage of new high-end inventory, we could see an increase in starter homes hitting the market. 

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MILLENNIALS WILL MAKE UP LARGEST SEGMENT OF BUYERS

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“The housing market in 2019 will be characterized by continued rising mortgage rates and surging millennial demand,” according to Odeta Kushi, senior economist for First American. “Rising rates, by making housing less affordable, will likely deter certain potential homebuyers from the market. On the other hand, the largest cohort of millennials will be turning 29 next year, entering peak household formation and home-buying age, and contributing to the increase in first-time buyer demand.”4

Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, predicts the trend will continue. “Millennials are also likely to make up the largest share of home buyers for the next decade as their housing needs adjust over time.”6

What does it mean for you? If you’re in the market for a starter home, prepare to compete for the best listings. And if you plan to sell a home in 2019, be sure to work with an agent who knows how to reach millennial buyers by utilizing the latest online marketing techniques.

I’M HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate numbers and predictions can provide a “big picture” outlook for the year, real estate is local – in my cases, hyperlocal. And as local market expert, I can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the local issues that are likely to drive home values in your particular neighborhood.

If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2019, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.

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START PREPARING TODAY[/fusion_title]

If you plan to BUY this year:

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you plan to finance part of your home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a jump-start on the paperwork and provide an advantage over other buyers in a competitive market. The added bonus: you will find out how much you can afford to borrow and budget accordingly.
  2. Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? We can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.
  3. Come to our office. The buying process can be tricky. We’d love to guide you through it. We can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!

If you plan to SELL this year:

  1. Call us for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it will also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property, and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.
  2. Prep your home for the market. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs and upgrades. We can help you determine which ones are worth the time and expense to deliver maximum results.
  3. Start decluttering. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up personal items and things you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or storage locker. This will make your home appear larger, make it easier to stage … and get you one step closer to moving when the time comes!

 

Sources:

  1. Freddie Mac Economic & Housing Research Forecast –
    http://www.freddiemac.com/research/pdf/201811-Forecast-04.pdf
  2. National Association of Realtors 2019 Forecast –
    https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/2019-forecast-existing-home-sales-to-stabilize-and-price-growth-to-continue
  3. Bankrate 2018 Year in Review –
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/year-in-review-for-housing-market/
  4. Forbes 2019 Real Estate Forecast –
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2018/12/06/2019-real-estate-forecast-what-home-buyers-sellers-and-investors-can-expect/#a98b80a70d9a
  5. Mortgage Bankers Association Forecast –
    https://www.mba.org/2018-press-releases/october/mba-forecast-purchase-originations-to-increase-to-12-trillion-in-2019
  6. com 2019 National Housing Forecast –
    https://www.realtor.com/research/2019-national-housing-forecast/
  7. FOX Business –
    https://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/where-mortgage-rates-are-headed-in-2019