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How long it takes to break even on smart home upgrades

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) Smart home features can spruce up any house but when you’re upgrading to these features, where does the spending end and the savings begin?

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Smart home devices are primarily marketed as adding convenience and luxury to your home. They allow you to interconnect your appliances with your smartphone and to monitor and control your utilities remotely. But do smart home devices actually save you money?

Smart devices like speakers and music players are obviously designed to allow you the convenience of playing whatever music you want, wherever you want it. But smart devices that monitor or adjust utilities like heating and water could also save you money on your bills.

Joel Lee over at MakeUseOf has crunched the numbers. He’s published a rundown of the most money-saving smart devices, and how long it will take for the devices to “pay for” themselves.

Smart thermostats are perhaps the most obvious devices for saving you money on utilities. Nest says that their thermostat will save you 13 percent on heating and cooling; ecobee3 claims an even more impressive 23 percent.

Comparing these numbers with U.S. Department of Energy statistics on average household utility costs, Lee calculated that a Nest thermostat will pay for itself in just over two years, while an ecobee3 will pay for itself in just one year.

Rachio is a smart sprinkler device that maintains your lawn watering schedule. It makes sure that the sprinklers turn off on rainy days, conserves water when it’s cold out, and optimizes the watering schedule for maximum absorption.

Rachio claims it can help you cut your spending on water for the lawn by 50 percent. Lee estimates a more conservative 30 percent, but even so, says that the device will pay for itself within 15 months.

Plus, he adds, a smart sprinkler system will also increase the overall value of your home, letting you set a higher price point should you decide to sell it.

Lee wasn’t particularly impressed by LED lightbulbs, pointing out that it will take almost the full lifecycle of the LED bulb to recoup the expense of buying them in the first place. The savings are a bit better, he says, if you compare them to the costs of running incandescent bulbs, and if you skip over the big brand names in favor of lesser known, but also less expensive LEDs.

Lastly, Lee recommends smart moisture sensors. These devices can warn you of leaks, roof damage, and other water damage long before you might notice the effects. If these sensors can give you a heads up on even one potential water-damage disaster, the device will clearly have paid for itself.

It appears that smart home devices could be worth the investment, although it’s important to note that these devices are notoriously insecure. While you may save money on your utilities, one bad hack could easily cancel out these money-saving benefits.

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Real Estate Technology

Want a second home but don’t know where to start? Try Pacaso!

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) Owning a second home can be a daunting experience, but Pacaso looks to simplify it, and gives you more ownership over your dream vacation home.

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A second home on a lakefront property at sunset.

Owning a second home can be a lucrative investment, especially when the market goes up. Having your dream home near one of your favorite vacation spots can provide you a quick getaway without the hassle of having to find good deals and accommodations.

However, owning a second home is a huge financial decision. And, unless planned out properly, you could end up with plenty of surprising expenses your pocketbook isn’t ready to handle.

But, if that cabin in the woods or beach house retreat is a must-have, you could purchase part of a home with Pacaso. Pacaso is a marketplace for second homes, and it’s rethinking the timeshare model and nixing out the middleman.

Founded by CEO Austin Allison and Zillow Co-founder Spencer Rascoff, Pacaso says it’s “the modern way to buy and own a second home.” With them, you share joint ownership of a property with up to 8 other people so you’re able to get a second home for ⅛ of the cost.

How does Pacaso work?

You look through the company’s listings to shop for your perfect home. If what you are looking for isn’t on there, you can search for a listing on any real estate website and share it with them. If they decide the property is a match for the company, they will partner with you to purchase up to half of the property.

After you’ve chosen your home, Pacaso will create a property LLC for the home, referred to as the Pacaso home LLC. At the same time, they will remarket remaining shares, vet co-owners, and handle all the sales details and closing paperwork. Buyers can purchase from ⅛ to ½ of all shares. Then, at closing, the collective owners own 100% of the property.

The company also takes care of furnishings, repairs, utilities, and property management. And, once you’re ready to enjoy your new second home, owners can book a stay using the Pacaso app.

How is Pacaso different from a traditional timeshare?

In a timeshare, you are usually buying the rights to use a property for a set amount of time so you don’t necessarily own the property itself. With Pacaso, you’re buying shares of a real estate property so you have true real estate ownership.

Timeshares give you the right to use that property during a specific range of dates. With each Pacaso share, you get 44 nights per year. Since you aren’t locked to a specific time frame, you have the flexibility to plan your vacation whenever you want.

Also, Pacaso streamlines the resale process. You work with a real estate agent, and you set the selling price. So, you don’t need to settle for what the timeshare resale market sets for you.

If owning a second home is on top of your list, but the large financial burden is what’s holding you back, Pacaso might seem the right thing for you. You can still get that dream home, but for a fraction of the cost, and still enjoy all the second homeowner benefits.

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Real Estate Technology

Freelancers, easily sort out your admin tasks with new pack of Notion goodies

(TECH NEWS) Notion is one of the favored tools for freelancers, and with this new pack made by Ben Issenmann, it’s even easier to sort out your administrative work.

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Notion Pack advertisement image, showing features for freelancers.

Time is a valuable thing, and it’s one of the most important things for freelancers. There are only so many hours in a day, and only so many things you can get done in each 60-minute window. Being self-employed is rewarding because you get to work on the things you love. (At least, I hope you do.) However, this also means all those boring administrative duties fall into your laps. So, time needs to be set aside for the not so fun paperwork duties.

But, freelancers, fret no more! Ben Issenmann, founder of Supercreative, has created a pretty neat template pack that will help save you time. His company provides tools, ideas, and courses for professional designers. And, his new product is Notion Pack, a pack for freelancers that want to collaborate with their clients.

In a recorded interview, Ben shared how Notion came about when he had a conversation with his friends. Because of that conversation, he wrote an article explaining how his designer and freelancer friends were using Notion to collaborate with their clients. He received a great number of responses from people who wanted to use his product. Excitedly, Ben said, “And I was like, okay. There’s definitely something I can do with this!” A few weeks later, Notion Pack was born.

According to his website, the pack has “all the freelance documents you need.” It comes with 20 different templates. The pack contains templates for quotes, invoices, sales proposals, contracts, etc. “It’s going to save freelancers a lot of hours spent on admin, time they can use on creative activities instead,” wrote Ben on Notion Pack’s Product Hunt page.

And every hour saved means more time to work on new projects that put more money in your pockets. Yay to that!

Notion Pack is divided into two parts. The Template Generator gives you access to the 20 templates. By clicking on a template, you can generate a new Notion page. Each page is color-coded. Yellow highlights the fields that you need to change for every client. While red highlights the things you need to configure beforehand when you set up each pack.

The Freelance Workspace has an out-of-the-box structure. When you press “Create new client”, it will generate all the templates in the correct order. From there, you can collaborate with your clients directly in Notion or export a PDF. To add a personal touch, you can add a video to say a quick hello to your client. Also, instead of having to share 10 different pages, the workspace will capture everything you need in one organized shareable page.

Another cool thing about Notion is the ability for clients to schedule time with you. Powered by Calendly, an online appointment scheduling software, a collaborator can book a time to follow-up with you straight through their workspace. I like the idea of that!

The Notion Pack is available in English and French. But according to a comment on their Product Hunt page, it might eventually be available in more languages.

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Real Estate Technology

Organize your to-do list and journal in one place with this sleek app

(TECH NEWS) New desktop and phone app allows for journaling, to-do list making, and notetaking to be done all in one (shareable, but safe) place.

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Colorful sunrise mountains with text saying "Take back your day: journal, to do list, organization", advertising Daynote

Outside of one-hit-wonder pop culture, my hobbies include journaling and to-do list making. So, imagine my delight when I learned of a platform that offers both – plus notes – all in one place.

Daynote urges its users to “take back your day.” With so much happening all at once, there is a lot of information to keep straight. With that in mind, it’s nice to have the option to keep all of that information in one place.

This simple yet sleek platform allows you to navigate between your journaled thoughts, items to tackle, and notes of ideas. We all know that journaling is good for relieving stress and anxieties, and with Daynote, your journal’s privacy is protected.

You are able to search previous entries, receive yearly reminders of what happened previously on this date, and you can upload photos. Daynote is also teasing that more features are coming soon.

I’m the biggest proponent of to-do lists. They make you more productive and it just feels good to check stuff off. With Daynote’s to-do lists, you can schedule lists and to-do items, shuffle between lists, and share with others.

Notes is almost like a combination of a journal entry and a to-do list. My personal notes are just a collection of ideas and reminders of things to come back to later. According to Daynote’s description, “Record anything you’d like to remember for later. Wine lists, books you want to read, products you want to buy, travel itineraries. Anything.”

The opportunities of what to note-take are endless! Through this app, you can search all notes, share notes with others, and schedule notes for later dates.

Daynote operates on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and the web. Early access is available upon request.

I’m an iPhone user (and I would imagine there is a very similar tool on an Android or any other smartphone) and, minus the scheduling capabilities, you can pretty much do all of this through the notes app. Personally, I’m a pen-to-paper gal who keeps all of this info physically written down.

However, Daynote could certainly be useful for people who need more reminders for to-do lists and notes; and this is something that could be helpful for teams.

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