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Is the Home Warranty Always Included in Closing Costs?

Is the Home Warranty Always Included in Closing Costs?

When buying or selling a home, who is responsible for the cost of a home warranty? Learn about your options and what is covered in a home warranty.

Buying or selling a home can be an exciting time in your life. Moving often signifies a new beginning or important changes in someone’s life.

When buying or selling a home, buyers and sellers need to agree on the sales terms and closing costs. One important detail that sometimes comes up is the home warranty.

So, what is a home warranty and is it always included in the closing costs? Let’s take a look at what’s covered in a home warranty and who usually pays for it.

What Does a Home Warranty Cover?

A home warranty is a service agreement that covers the cost to repair major appliances and important home system components from normal wear and tear. The warranty is designed to provide protection against unexpected appliance failure.

For example, a homeowner might have difficulty financing a $4,000 central air conditioning unit if their air conditioner stops working. A good home warranty could allow the homeowner to have their air conditioning repaired instead at a lower cost.

The company providing the warranty could cover some or all of the costs for repairs, depending on the policy.

Some appliances typically covered in a home warranty include the refrigerator and freezer, washer and dryer, oven and stove, microwaves and the air conditioner and heater. Plumbing, roof leaks and electrical systems may also be covered in some home warranty policies.

Aside from potentially saving a lot of money on costly repairs, some people like having home warranties for the convenience. It can be nice having someone you can call when you need to have a covered item repaired.

Contracts are normally good for one year and can be renewed each year if desired.

A home warranty should not be confused with homeowner’s insurance. Homeowner’s insurance protects a home from natural disasters like fires and hurricanes, but does not cover appliance or system failure from normal wear and tear.

How Much is a Home Warranty?

The cost of a home warranty will vary depending on what policy you get and where you live. Standard plans can cost anywhere from $300 to $600 per year and upgrade plans can add an additional $100 – $500 to that cost.

You may need to purchase a second home warranty or additional coverage if you own a second refrigerator or swimming pool as these items are normally not covered under a standard home warranty. With American Home Shield®, however, items such as these are typically included as part of some of their plans at no additional cost.

Be sure to shop around to find the best deal for your home warranty. While cost may be a factor, the number of items covered and the additional services offered, as well as the home warranty company’s reputation and quality of service, should also be considered.

Why Purchase a Home Warranty?

Real estate agents often recommend getting a home warranty for every real estate purchase.

Home warranties protect the seller from liability if appliances break down after the home purchase. Plus if something does break, the new homeowner can call the warranty company instead of calling the seller to get the issue resolved.

Warranties also give buyers the comfort and convenience of knowing that in the event of an appliance breakdown, the warranty will help reduce the cost of repairing or replacing the broken item.

How to Shop for a Home Warranty?

When looking for a home warranty, be sure to review the policy carefully. Policies usually only cover certain appliances and home systems, so be sure that everything you need covered is specified in your home warranty contract.

Also, check your contract to see how much you are covered for. Your home warranty might only cover a percentage of the costs for really expensive repairs.

Warranty companies often assign a local professional to perform the repairs. The quality of service provided by these repair professionals may vary, so be sure to ask the warranty company if and how they regularly select and review the professional contractors and technicians.

Additionally, warranty companies also charge a service charge whenever they send a contractor to do a home repair. This cost will vary depending on the company, but dollars. American Home Shield actually allows you to choose between your fee upfront when purchasing your plan.

Warranty companies may expect you to perform regular maintenance on your appliances or they may not be covered. Make sure you understand the terms of your agreement.

In short, when getting a home warranty, be sure you are clear on the following:

  • What is covered and what is not
  • Any deductibles and limits on coverage
  • Any fees required for service calls
  • How the service company selects professionals to perform repairs
  • What maintenance will I need to perform to my appliances to qualify for assistance?

Who Typically Pays for a Home Warranty During a Real Estate Sale?

Sometimes home warranties are lumped into the closing costs for a real estate transaction and closing costs are typically paid for by the buyer. Buyers will sometimes ask the seller to pay for some or all of the closing costs, but sellers are only responsible for these costs if they agree to these terms.

However, in some states, home warranties are not required as part of the closing costs. In these situations, sellers often are the ones to purchase the home warranty. Purchasing the warranty makes the property easier to sell and protects the seller from post-sale complications that may arise.

Nevertheless, whoever pays for the home warranty is negotiable between the buyer and the seller.

Note that if you are the seller and have an existing home warranty on your property, you can also transfer your warranty to the buyer.

If you are looking for a home warranty, our partners at American Home Shield can help. American Home Shield is the leader in the home warranty industry and our plans can help make your real estate transactions run smoother. If you’re in the market for a home, ask your real estate agent about our home warranties or if the warranty you purchased during the closing is coming to an end and you’re thinking about renewing, get a free quote today.

For more helpful tips, check out the American Home Shield blog!

4 Ways Home Warranty Plans Can Help You Win More Listings

4 Ways Home Warranty Plans Can Help You Win More Listings

Adding more listings is one of the most effective ways to build your real estate business, but it’s not always easy. Gaining listings can be especially challenging in low inventory markets, for new agents, and even for veteran agents trying to establish themselves in new areas. If you’re looking to boost listings, it’s important to use all the tools at your disposal, including home warranty plans. Here’s how:

Distinguish

An American Home Shield® Home Warranty Plan can help a listing stand out from others in the market. Listings that include home warranty plans can offer added value, show good faith, and may attract additional interest in the home.

Reassure

Household breakdowns can happen even when a home is on the market, and such malfunctions can bring additional anxiety to an already stressful time. By choosing an American Home Shield Home Warranty Plan with the Seller Coverage Option*, sellers receive all the advantages of AHS ® ShieldEssentialSM package protection for up to six months until the coverage transfers to the new buyers. ShieldEssential includes coverage for major components of the most crucial home systems that are the most expensive to repair or replace, including heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and more.

Differentiate

Adding a home warranty plan as part of your concierge service model can help differentiate your service from other agents. When sellers see that you care about their needs, they’ll likely want to work with you on the transaction. Paying for the Seller Coverage Option or the entire warranty as a closing gift adds unique service value and helps build the kind of long-term relationships that can garner referrals and repeat business.

Offset

If a client is worried about the marketability of a home with older systems and appliances, an American Home Shield Home Warranty Plan can help offset those concerns for both sellers and buyers. As American Home Shield customers, sellers can also save on updating appliances through the AHS Appliance Discount Program.

For questions or more information about how American Home Shield Home Warranty Plans can be beneficial for both you and your listing clients, contact your dedicated AHS Account Executive, visit ahs.com/realestate, or call 800.735.4663.

*Subject to a $2,000 cap for all trades during the listing period. An American Home Shield Home Warranty Plan covers major components of many home systems and appliances, but not necessarily the entire system or appliance. Please review the American Home Shield contract for limitations and exclusions.

For more home warranty tips, check out the American Home Shield blog!

10 Summer Prepping Ideas for Your Home

10 Summer Prepping Ideas for Your Home

Get your family and home ready for summer by using some of these prepping ideas. The weather is changing, which means time to get outside and get your home ready for warmer weather.

The weather is getting warmer, and that means it’ll soon be time for backyard barbeques, evening cocktails on the patio, growing a new crop of vegetables and playing catch with the kids. Break out the home maintenance checklist and get your home ready for summer with some of these tips.

1. Get Your AC Tuned Up

While there are some cool DIY projects on this list, getting an AC tune-up isn’t one of them – you should call in a professional for this task. Just as you need to get your furnace tuned up every fall, you need to get your AC tuned up every spring. An AC tune-up includes inspecting and cleaning components and connections inside your AC, and it’s important because the technician should be able to tell whether your AC will soon need repairs. With regular tune-ups, you can avoid most breakdowns of your AC unit. Many HVAC components are covered under a home warranty. If your warranty doesn’t cover your AC appliance, check out American Home Shield® today.

2. Conduct a Home Energy Audit

Now is the time to learn more about your home’s energy profile, and what you can do to improve its energy efficiency. A home energy audit can tell you whether and where your home is drafty, for example, or whether you need more insulation and where to install it. Whether you have it professionally done, or do it yourself, it’s worth it – and your local utility company may offer an incentive for homeowners to have this done.

3. Install a Smart Thermostat

Springtime is a great time to install a smart thermostat, because soon you’ll need to keep your home cool. A smart thermostat lets you program your HVAC to cool your home only when you’re in it, so you’ll save a bundle on cooling costs, while still staying comfortable on even the hottest days.

4. Get Ready for Bugs

Many species of insects go dormant during the cold weather of winter and early spring, but they come out again in full force as soon as temperatures rise. Before the bugs come out, get ready for their return. Take steps to keep the bugs away, such as cleaning up piles of leaves or other debris near your house, sealing cracks in doors and windows, and inspecting window screens for holes. If you want to put out pesticides or other repellants, now is the time to do so.

5. Check for Water Leaks

The summer months bring more than heat – they can also bring storms and flooding. Check your basement for signs of water leaks. Clear out grates or drains near your home so that water is directed away from the foundation. If dirt has settled around your home, or your home is at the bottom of a hill, water will run towards your foundation. Install grates to direct water away.

6. Clean the Gutters

If you only clean your gutters once a year, do it in the spring, so that they can most effectively direct the rains of summer storms away from your siding and foundation. Ideally, you should clean your gutters twice a year – once in the spring, and again in the fall.

7. Reseal Your Doors and Windows

Now is the time to inspect your doors and windows for missing, cracked or peeling caulk and reseal them to prevent water leaks and draftiness. If you have wooden window frames, check to see if they need repainting. You can also take this opportunity to repaint your front door, if necessary, and wash your windows.

8. Aerate, Dethatch and Overseed the Lawn

Okay, so this is three things, but they all go together, and they’re all equally important to helping your lawn look its best in the summer months, when you most want to use it. Your lawn may not need to be aerated, dethatched, and overseeded every year – if it looks healthy and lush, it’s probably fine, especially if it’s newly installed. But take the time to do it at least every two or three years, so your lawn stays healthy and oxygenated.

9. Spruce Up Your Garden Beds

Spring is a great time to weed, mulch, and plant in your vegetable and garden beds, and if you’re looking for summer crafts for kids, there are plenty of gardening tasks they can do. Kids love playing in the dirt, growing things, and helping out. They can help pull weeds, spread mulch and compost and even seeds or seedlings.

10. Clean the Lawn Furniture

Soon you’ll want to entertain friends, relatives, and neighbors outside, so it’s time to drag the lawn furniture out of the garage and knock the cobwebs off. Use a power washer or a hose to clean chairs, tables and other pieces of lawn furniture. Don’t forget to wash the cushions! You can also take steps in protecting your patio furniture, and have them last longer.

Summer is coming fast – don’t let it catch you unprepared. Get your home ready for warm weather, so you can focus on enjoying yourself and your loved ones.

For more tips, visit the American Home Shield blog!

5 Things You Should Do Before Moving into Your New Home

5 Things You Should Do Before Moving into Your New Home

Finally about to close on your dream house? Read this list to get some good tips on what you should do when moving into a new home to make the place your own.

Is there anything more exciting than moving into a new home? But preparing to move is a busy time. You’ve got to figure out how to pack for moving, pick up packing boxes and look up moving tips to make the whole process go more smoothly. Plus, there’s hiring movers, renting a truck, enlisting friends and family to help – and that’s on top of all the other stuff you’ve got to do to prepare for closing day and, once you’ve taken possession, get the place ready for move in.

Before you settle into your new home, these new simple home hacks can help you make the place feel like your own. Make moving day as smooth as possible, and stave off future new homeowner hiccups, with these moving day tips.

1. Change the Locks

The very first thing you should do after taking possession of a new home is change the locks, or have them re-keyed. If you’re handy, you can do this yourself with a re-keying kit from your local big-box hardware store, or you can buy new locks. These days, homeowners can choose from a range of smart locks, as well as old-fashioned ones.

Why change the locks? While the previous owners are probably great people, there’s no knowing who has keys to your home. There could be any number of copies of your house key out there, and you never know who has them. Make sure you and your loved ones are the only people who can access your new home. Locksmith rekey services are typically covered under your home warranty.

2. Forward Your Mail

Don’t miss important bills, housewarming cards or letters from Grandma – set up mail forwarding to begin on moving day. You can apply for mail forwarding online for $1.05, or you can do it in person at the post office. Of course, you’ll still have to change your address with your bank, credit cards, magazine subscription issuers and others who send you mail, but you’ll have 60 days to change your address for magazines and a year to change it for other kinds of mail.

3. Deep Clean the Whole Place

Just like you can’t know who has a copy of your house key, you can’t know how thoroughly the previous owners cleaned the place before they left. It’s a good idea to give your new home a good deep clean – clean the refrigerator, the oven, the walls, the floors and the cabinets inside and out, as well as the bathrooms. It’s easiest to do this before you start bringing your stuff in, or at least before you start unpacking it. If you don’t want to deep clean your new home yourself, you can hire professional cleaners to perform a move-in clean.

4. Check Your Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors

Smoke alarms and CO detectors are among the most important safety devices in your home. They could save your family’s lives in the event of a fire or a carbon monoxide leak. Before you move into your new home, test your smoke alarms to make sure they’re working properly.

Your new home may not have a carbon monoxide detector; many don’t. But carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless but can be deadly. Even when it doesn’t kill, it can cause serious symptoms, including brain damage. If your new home doesn’t have a CO detector, plan to install one on moving day. Make sure to calibrate it for the first time outside, so it can use fresh air for its baseline reading.

5. Look for Plumbing Leaks

If you have a leaking pipe in your new home, you need to know about it ASAP, and the easiest time to check for plumbing leaks is before everyone has gotten settled in. On moving day, check your water meter and either write down the reading, or take a photo of it. Wait two hours, making sure no one uses the water, and then check the meter again. If the reading isn’t exactly the same as it was two hours before, you have a plumbing leak somewhere in your home, and you need to locate it and put it on the priority list of things that need fixed right away.

While you’re looking for plumbing leaks, this is an excellent time to locate your home’s main water and gas shutoff valves as well as your breaker box. That way you won’t find yourself hunting for the breaker box in the dark with a flashlight or frantically hunting for the main water shutoff valve while a burst pipe fills your basement with water. Plus, if you find a plumbing leak, you’ll want to shut off the water to your home until you locate it.

Moving day is exhausting, stressful, and exciting – but it’s worth the work to finally settle into your brand new dream home. Make sure you take the time to do moving day right; it’ll save you a lot of trouble in the long run, and help you make your home your own a lot faster.

For more helpful tips, visit the American Home Shield blog!

7 Ways to Find More Time in Each Day

7 Ways to Find More Time in Each Day

There’s no doubt about it, real estate is a demanding career that requires a big-time investment to be successful. Keeping up with client requests, listings, showings, closings, generating leads and the myriad of other tasks you need to accomplish can leave you begging for more hours in each day. How can you manage your work days to be more efficient and productive? Here are some tips:

1. Track your day using a log or time sheet. Even if it’s just for a week or two, write down or electronically record your day’s activities in 15-minute increments from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. Then, look back and see where the biggest chunks of your time are spent and where there may be some minutes each day that you can shift activities to gain some spare time. Notice any patterns that emerge, such as activities that you tend to consistently do during certain times of the day.

2. Think about when you are typically the most productive. For some people, it’s early in the morning. Others may need a few hours to reach their peak energy, and for some the end of the day may be their most efficient time. Whatever yours is, try to schedule the most important or the most taxing activities during those hours.

3. Try to consolidate where you can. Group tasks and activities for maximum productivity. For example, try to return calls, texts, and emails together as much as possible so that you’re not constantly being interrupted throughout the day. Try to handle all appointments and errands in the same part of town to avoid wasted driving time.

4. Tap into your multi-tasking skills. Check listing activity while you wait for appointments. Listen to real estate related podcasts while you drive to stay abreast of industry trends. Return phone calls while you walk or exercise.

5. Take advantage of the technology around you. Set notifications for only the things you need to be alerted about immediately, such as texts and phone calls. Organize the apps on your phone and tablet so that you can access them quickly, and delete those that you don’t use.

6. Take a social media break, and avoid the social media rabbit hole. While social media platforms can help you with leads and building client relationships, they can also be a time drain. Designate a set period each day to post on your social media accounts and to comment on other posts. To keep you on track, consider setting an alarm on your phone to signal when it’s time to move on to other tasks.

7. Team up with professionals who can make your life easier. For example, an American Home Shield® Home Warranty can help transactions go more smoothly as well as help build lasting client relationships. When buyers have AHS® Home Warranty protection and a covered item breaks down, they’ll call AHS and not you about the problem, which can save you time and help you be productive. Your local AHS Account Executive can also help you with marketing tools and other ideas to help you be as efficient as possible.

For more helpful tips, visit the American Home Shield® Home Matters blog.

What is a Real Estate Home Warranty?

What is a Real Estate Home Warranty?

As a real estate professional, you probably already know that home warranties can serve many valuable purposes in real estate transactions. Home warranties can help market properties, offer reassurance to prospective buyers, and help homeowners protect their budgets when many common household breakdowns occur on covered items. In addition to knowing the advantages, do you know how to explain home warranty coverage to your clients? Here’s a quick explanation to help.

  • A home warranty is a service agreement, often for one year, that covers the repair or replacement of many major home system components and appliances that break down over time due to normal wear and tear.
  • A home warranty is not the same as a homeowners insurance plan, which typically protects homes from potential events like fires, theft, or natural disasters. While a home warranty is a good complement to standard homeowners insurance, it’s not a substitute for it.

Depending on the plan, most home warranties require an annual or monthly fee as well as a service call fee that is due per contractor specialty to diagnose a covered problem or to perform service. Knowing these costs in advance can help homeowners budget for many of the inevitable household breakdowns that always seem to occur at the worst possible times. In some cases, there could be additional costs associated with covered repairs or replacements, so always advise your clients to thoroughly review their home warranty contract for details to avoid surprises.

In addition to helping protect homeowners’ budgets, home warranties can also offer homeowners a reliable resource for repair help when breakdowns occur on covered items. Home warranty customers are given a number or website to contact for repair requests, which can save homeowners valuable time when seeking a qualified contractor. Home warranty companies, such as American Home Shield®, go the extra mile to monitor and grade contractors on their performance through customer satisfaction surveys.

For more helpful tips, visit the American Home Shield® Home Matters blog.

7 Tips on How to Prepare for the 2019 Real Estate Market

7 Tips on How to Prepare for the 2019 Real Estate Market

What’s ahead for the real estate market in 2019? While there’s plenty of speculation about new construction slowdowns, a low inventory of existing homes and rising housing prices and mortgage interest rates, nobody knows for sure yet exactly what the new year will bring. Even without a crystal ball to see into the future, there are some things real estate professionals can do to prepare for what’s in store for the coming year. Here are some tips:

1. Do Your Own Research

Read a wide variety of different forecasts and opinions from financial and real estate experts from different parts of the country. In addition to trade publications and online sources, listen to podcasts, radio programs, and watch financial news programs. Then, draw your own conclusions based on what you’ve seen and heard so that you can answer questions and give informed opinions when clients turn to you for expert advice about what’s ahead. Be sure to make copies of any articles that you find particularly interesting to share with clients and colleagues, or save the links to pass along.

2. Attend Industry Functions

This is an ideal time to network and to hear speakers address predictions and projections for 2019. Local and national industry and association meetings, conventions, and seminars can provide valuable market information as well as provide opportunities for question-and-answer sessions and the exchange of ideas. Make time to attend as many events as your calendar and schedule can accommodate.

3. Talk to Your Mortgage and Banking Contacts

Now is a good time to meet with your partners in the mortgage and banking sectors to find out what they see happening in the coming year. They may also be able to provide information about any changes to the mortgage application or approval process that could affect your clients and closing timeframes.

4. Survey Clients

Sending a brief, informal survey to your clients by mail or by email is a good way to gauge their real estate market outlook as well as whether they have plans to buy or sell a home in 2019. A survey also provides you with a touch point for helping to maintain client relationships. In addition, it gives clients the opportunity to ask you questions about the market in your area.

5. Update Technology

Whatever is in store for real estate market trends, one thing that is for certain in 2019 is that technology will continue to play an important role. Update your cell phone, computer, tablet, or any other outdated technology so that you can have the tools you need to succeed next year.

6. Revise Your Provider Network

Sometimes it takes a village to sell a home, and the relationships you have with provider partners can be crucial in closing transactions. Review your provider network and touch base with any partners you haven’t worked with in a while. In addition to a mortgage broker or lender, it’s a good idea to have established relationships with a home inspector, a home warranty provider, an appraiser, a pest control professional, a home stager, and movers. Clients may also ask you for other referrals, including roofers, pool inspectors, home stagers, movers, painters, and other services.

7. Add Value to Your Service

To be prepared for whatever the 2019 real estate market brings, look for ways to add value to the service you provide to your real estate clients. For example, adding an American Home Shield® Home Warranty to each transaction is a great way to reassure buyers and sellers, build client loyalty, and help deals close smoothly.  Make sure your clients know that while markets may fluctuate, the caliber of service you deliver never will. To learn more about an American Home Shield Home Warranty and how it can help protect your client’s budgets, contact your local Account Executive.

For more helpful tips, visit the American Home Shield® Home Matters blog.

What Kind of Homebuyer Is a Millennial?

What Kind of Homebuyer Is a Millennial?

The Millennial generation is entering the real estate market in numbers way beyond than before. But when it comes to buying a home, how do they view the home buying process?

With a population of 83.1 million, the Millennial Generation now outnumbers Baby Boomers and represents more than one quarter of our nation, according to the United States Census Bureau. The Pew Research Center defines a millennial as anyone born between 1981 and 1996, or those age 22 to 37 as of 2018. Millennials are entering the workforce and the real estate market in greater numbers than ever before, bringing with them a new set of values and expectations. Here are some things to keep in mind when helping millennials with real estate transactions.

The may not be sure they want to buy a home. In fact, according to the Urban Institute, home ownership rates are down for millennials when compared to the two previous generations, Gen X and Baby Boomers, at the same age. Many millennials may prefer to continue renting, for a variety of reasons that include delayed marriage and job flexibility. Preferring to live in cities and urban environments with higher real estate prices is another often-cited reason by millennials for renting instead of purchasing a home.

They may be more frugal than you think. Millennials often carry significant student debt or they may be in underpaid jobs when compared to their education level. Another factor that could influence spending habits is that millennials likely remember the most recent recession and housing bubble, which could sway their real estate purchase decisions.

They embrace technology. Because they grew up with technology at their fingertips, they use it frequently and expect their real estate partners to do the same. Millennials are likely to employ technology to do their own home searches and associated research.  Because they communicate largely through technology, their perspective of a normal workday is outside of the traditional Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. timeframe.

They are influenced by social media.  More than just for socializing, millennials use social media for professional purposes as well as for consumer choices. They are active on channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and others, where they like to connect with business colleagues and service partners (like you) as well as with friends.

They care about energy efficiency. When looking at homes, millennials are likely to take the energy performance of systems, appliances, and the structure into consideration. They care about energy efficiency from an environmental as well as from a cost savings standpoint. Their comfort with technology extends to energy-saving devices and advancements for the home.

They’re relationship driven. For all their dependence on technology, millennials still value one-on-one time and personal relationships. When making important decisions, millennials tend to seek out expert advice as well as solid information and hard data. Building relationships with millennials can help win their trust as well as their future business.

They may not know much about home ownership. Particularly if they are first-time homebuyers, millennials may not be familiar with what it takes to run and maintain a home.  An American Home Shield® Home Warranty can provide valuable coverage for many of the most expensive home systems and appliances to repair or replace. An American Home Shield Home Warranty can also provide reassurance and be a resource for millennials to use when covered items break down due to normal wear and tear. Telling millennials about the many benefits of American Home Shield Home Warranty protection is a great way to answer some of their concerns and build lasting relationships in the process.

How Community Service Can Help Real Estate Professionals

How Community Service Can Help Real Estate Professionals

Real estate professionals play a unique role in the community and are in a great position to get more involved with charitable and community-based service organizations. Not only does it feel wonderful to work for a worthy cause, but it is also a great way to network with people who share a passion for the community where you live and work. Here’s how to make the most of it.

They say one of the best things you can do for yourself is to do something for someone else. That is especially true if you are a real estate professional doing a service project in your community. It feels good, it relieves stress and infuses you with positivity. As a real estate professional, you have a unique role in the community. You come in and out of the lives of so many residents. The more relationships you have, the broader your business becomes. The more your community pulls together, the stronger the community becomes. It’s a win all around. It is also good to associate your name with causes you believe in.

Network with people who share your passion for your community

Charitable projects are a great bonding experience for people who want to improve their community. Serving this cause speaks volumes about your belief in your community being a great place to live. Plus, it gives you something else to talk about other than business.

What you can do: Find creative ways to leverage your philanthropic role in the community.

Looking for your next charitable activity? In addition to volunteering for an established organization such as the local Rotary Club chapter, here are some ideas that have worked well for other real estate professionals.

1. The quality of the schools in any community is an important benefit to local families. Why not support the local schools and teachers by organizing a school supply donation drive? It’s a great way to attract people to your office.

2.  Do the furry citizens in your community have a place in your heart? Organize a donation drive for pet supplies for a local animal shelter or organize a donation drive for their medical needs.

3.  A great way to support or partner with local businesses-—organize a charitable gathering at a local restaurant with proceeds benefitting your charity of choice. Add a table of silent auction prizes donated by other local businesses. Come up with a catchy name, i.e. “Brunch for Books” supports a local library, “Happy Hour to Support Happy Kids” provides scholarships to a local Arts Camp or an After-School Program.

4. Sponsor a walk or run for a cause, such as for cancer awareness or a local children’s hospital. Be sure to include donation opportunities for people who don’t attend the race.

5. Tie into the home theme by serving on the board of a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen.

6. Tie with the moving theme by co-sponsoring a charitable garage sale or rummage sale. Sometimes these are organized by a local church or community center. You can mention it on your marketing materials and they can mention you on theirs.

7. Offer to donate a portion of your commission to your favorite local cause, whether that might be an animal shelter or a program for kids with disabilities. This is a great way to differentiate yourself and create awareness on social media. This is a successful technique for some realtors in creating buzz and helps encourage referrals.

8. Find a cause that benefits your business AND your community directly—historic preservation, walkable communities, affordable housing or sustainable economies.

What it can do for you: Supporting a deserving cause can also support your business.

While your main goal is likely to help a great cause, there are added benefits for your business to consider, too, including the following:

1. Networking with other people involved in the charitable effort helps build your sphere of influence. This is especially important for newer realtors just starting to build their customer base.

2.  Building awareness, especially on social media. Supporting a charitable cause helps your business brand and your personal brand stand for something.

3. Having the ability to support local causes reinforces your business success. People like to work with successful people.

4.  Having a philanthropic presence strengthens your community ties.

5.  More and more, younger people are involved in activism — and they are the next generation of homebuyers.

Choose the charitable option that suits you best and enjoy the good that comes of it.

For more helpful tips, visit the American Home Shield® Home Matters blog.

The AHS Top 10: Best “Smart Home” Voice-Control Devices

The AHS Top 10: Best “Smart Home” Voice-Control Devices

Wondering what the thermostat is set on, but you really don’t want to get out of bed? Wishing the TV was on in the background while you cook, but you’re already elbow deep in the mixing bowl? Have no fear — voice-controlled home automation devices are here. The selection appears to grow every month; however, here’s our latest list of the top 10 “smart home” voice-controlled devices.

1. Vocca Light

Forget clapping; voice-controlled lights are where it’s at. And they’re easier to obtain than you may think. Vocca is a plug-and-play gadget that works straight from the box. In fact, it’s as easy to set up as it is to change a lightbulb. The best part? It can recognize your voice commands from up to 15 feet away.

2. Ivee Sleek

Speaking of 15 feet away, Ivee Sleek’s microphone can pick up commands from that distance, as well. And we’re not just talking about adjusting the thermostat. Want to create a new playlist? Schedule a ride with Uber? Ivee Sleek can handle it.

3. Jibo

The Jibo goes beyond connecting to your smart devices. Its built-in, high-resolution cameras (that recognize and track faces, might we add) can also capture pictures and enable video calling, too.

4. Athom Homey

Live in a multi-lingual household? You can take advantage of home voice control, too! The Athom Homey’s unique ability to understand commands in several languages makes it stand above the competition.

5. LG Vacuum Cleaner

No, we won’t judge you for talking to your vacuum cleaner. Especially if it’s one that can perform different cleaning patterns, such as spot cleaning those extra dirty areas, with a simple command.

6. Mycroft

Mycroft doesn’t simply lock the doors or switch on the lights. It can actually sync up with your streaming services, such as Netflix, and stream the content right on your Roku or Chromecast.

7. Samsung Smart TV

Tired of looking for the remote? Too lazy to get up and push buttons on the back of the TV? No problem. Samsung’s Smart TV allows you to control it — including apps like Netflix — without lifting a finger.

8. Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat With Voice Control

This device goes beyond the typical learning thermostat — it can actually expand its “command vocabulary” based on interactions with you.

9. Amazon Echo

Alexa is going to become your new best friend. We just know it. Can she play music? Sure. Answer questions and tell you the news and weather? Of course. Control your lights, thermostat, etc.? Easy.

10. Apple Homekit

Of course we couldn’t talk about home voice control without mentioning Siri. After all, she basically pioneered our voice-activated obsession, right? With Homekit, you can control all your smart devices at one time, ensuring a unified home environment. What’s more, you don’t even have to be home to have control. Just ask Siri to handle everything.