Archive for the ‘home’ Category

Our Smart Home

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

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Panasonic Smart Home starter kit

There was an interesting little something amongst the bills and junk mail this week. We took possession of this Panasonic Smart Home starter kit on Saturday. It’s a home monitoring and security system that lets you keep an eye on your home (and pets!) whilst you’re out.

Boxed Panasonic Smart Home box

The starter kit comprises a smart hub, indoor camera, two door/window sensors and a smart plug which allows you to switch on lights, radio etc from a remote location.  There are other components you can buy to extend the system including motion sensor, outdoor camera, siren and, soon to hit the market, a water leak sensor – something we’ll be investing in considering our history!

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home box

Before attempting to set the system up, we watched the 5-minute video tutorial which made the process look very simple.

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home hub un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home hub

Sure enough, five minutes was about right for me to download the app to my iPhone and link it to the house wi-fi network.

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home hub

Within another five minutes, the hub and the camera were set up and ‘talking’ to each other.

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home camera

In the case of the door sensors, all that was needed was to insert the batteries, attach the double-sided sticky tape, line up & attach the two parts of the sensor – one on the door and one on the door frame, press a button… and that was it – another five minutes per door!

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home door alarm

We positioned the camera so that we could see into the sitting room, the kitchen and up the stairs to the rest of the house. For such a small, unobtrusive unit it gives a surprisingly wide-angled view and high-definition live video footage. It even allows you to take still images (see my example below) which you can save to your smart phone/tablet and share via text message or email.

un-boxed Panasonic Smart Home camera still

Our dog Fudge normally sleeps on that leather sofa to the right when were out (well, that’s where we usually find him on our return anyway). Evidence suggests that he gets up to naughtiness too – like jumping up at the cooker & work surfaces to the left. Soon we’ll have photographic evidence and he’ll be put forward for a doggy criminal trial!

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Design ideas for a stylish home office

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

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Courtney Adamo's home officecredit

Working from home is living the dream for many people. You can crawl out of bed, put the coffee machine on, and be at your desk in less than five minutes. It really is perfect for anyone who would rather not suffer the daily commute or office politics. It’s also great if you like to work flexible hours because you can pop out to the supermarket or walk the dog whenever you feel like it.

The only disadvantage of working from home, apart from the fact that home and work boundaries can sometimes become rather blurred, is that you do need to have a space set aside where you can work in peace. If you’re lucky enough to live in a spacious dwelling, all is good, but if space is at a premium in your abode, you’re going to have to get a little bit creative. So what are your home office options?

Minimalist under-stairs officecredit

Workspace nooks

When you can’t afford to lose a room, your only option is to create a workspace in a corner of an existing room. This isn’t ideal as there’ll be a lot of distractions if you have other family members at home when you’re trying to work, but it’s better than working on the kitchen table.

Workspace nooks can be slotted in anywhere, but if you have some extra space under the stairs, this is the ideal place to fit a desk and chair. Build shelves and add a small desk lamp so you have a cosy little corner where you can work in peace. Alternatively, install a desk in the corner of a room and build a partition using bookshelves to screen it from view.

Attic office with Velux windowscredit

Attic offices

Attics make great home office spaces as long as they’re well insulated and you install windows for ventilation and light. Velux windows are perfectly designed for sloping roofs, but if installed at height, they can be difficult to open. One solution is to fit an electric window opener from Teal Products – that way you can continue working instead of looking for a chair to stand on to open the window.

Spare room being used as a home officecredit

Turn the spare room into an office space

Spare rooms make useful offices as long as you swap the traditional bed for a futon or sofa bed. You’ll also need to vacate the room if you have guests come to stay.

Garden officecredit

Build an office in the garden

If you’re the type of person who wants complete peace and quiet, building an office in the garden is the ideal solution. Wooden sheds can easily be converted into home offices with the right insulation and heating. If it isn’t too far from the main house it should be easy to install a telephone line. You might not need planning permission if the structure isn’t very large, but do check before you build.

Working from home is good for the environment and your sanity, but you’ll need to be disciplined as it is very easy to waste time watching TV or tackling household chores instead of working!

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Why 2015 is the best year to buy a house

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

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For sale signs

Buying a house can be a pretty daunting prospect. It’s a process that is expensive, stressful, tricky to get right and long-winded. Yet, despite all of that it’s still something many of us want to do. The safety and security of a permanent roof over our heads makes buying a house an attractive prospect – and the prospect of investing in something tangible makes the hassle financially worthwhile. So, with many people wanting to make that step into home ownership, what makes 2015 the year that they should take the plunge? What about people looking to move up the ladder too?

Stamp duty illustration

Stamp duty

One of the changes all buyers can benefit from in 2015 is those made to Stamp Duty. Brought in in December, these rules make a difference to the up-front cost that you’ll need to bear. Previously you had to fork out 1% of the purchase price in Stamp Duty on properties between £125,000 and £250,000 and 3% up to £500,000. Under the new system you still pay nothing below £125,000 and then above that you pay 2% of the cost over and above that figure, i.e. if your house is £130,000 you now pay 2% of £5,000, instead of 1% of the full cost, or £100 instead of £1,300. In Scotland the duty was rebranded as the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and although it operates in a similar way it carries no charge for the first £145,000 of the cost.

Monopoly board showing Mayfair

Rent

As with any decision there are push and pull factors when it comes to buying a house. One thing that may well ‘push’ you into buying a house this year is the increased cost of renting. The price of renting is rising to a point where the cost far outstrips the amount you could be paying towards your own bricks and mortar – with more than a quarter of landlords plotting above-inflation rent increases during this calendar year.

'Help to Buy' logo

Schemes

If you’re renting then chances are you can afford the mortgage payments, but it could be the deposit that you’re struggling with. The good news is that there are a whole host of schemes on offer during 2015 that can help you to overcome that hurdle. Check out the latest home buying schemes information to see how Help To Buy, Right To Buy and NewBuy all work. Essentially, Help To Buy sees the government stepping in to provide a loan – refundable on sale of the property – so that you’ll only need a 5% deposit. Right To Buy aims to help social housing tenants and NewBuy looks, as you’d expect, at freshly constructed properties.

Red Monopoly houses on pound coins

Economy

Forget the squabbling of the political parties; for house-hunters, the economy is in a relatively good shape to take the plunge in 2015. Low interest rates mean there are some excellent sub-2% deals out there and a host of options on fixed and flexible rates. It’s a competitive mortgage market and that’s a good sign for the buyer. Price increases have slowed – at least outside London – too, making this a steady year to invest.

Rising rents, falling Stamp Duty, a relatively stable economy and support schemes all mean 2015 could well be the ideal year to dip into the housing market.

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