Ok…so you didn’t snap up one of those new model condos with the smart pad in the wall and electronics that respond to voice command. We live in a smart world, so instead of paying that extra 5% for the I-pad in the wall…with a little ingenuity, any old home can be a smart as a new home. Here are six things you can do to make you and your home smarter and more technologically savvy…
1. Signal booster – Smart houses are often dependent on smartphones, which is why a service like SureCall exists. Put a SureCall antenna outside your home and it will grab your cellphone tower’s signal and amplify it so that your cellphone’s signal inside your house is 10 times stronger Price: SureCall costs $538 or $1,160, depending on the kit model you purchase.
2. Home management system – Since smart home devices are not always compatible with each other, home management systems aim to truly integrate all parts of a home. Current home management systems are focused on security features that keep burglars at bay (other features include carbon monoxide detection and smoke alarms). This is an evolving field. Home management systems that aim to capitalize on the future include AT&T’s Digital Life, which lets consumers control parts of their home with their smartphones and tablets. The service, which runs on Apple, Android and Windows phone devices, will eventually support hundreds of devices and applications.
There are many other options. Lowe’s home improvement stores has the Iris, which includes a kit and app with motion and contact sensors and a smart thermostat. The ADT Corporation, known for home security, offers ADT Pulse Interactive Solutions. Time Warner sells Intelligent Home, and the office supply store Staples offers Staples Connect.
Prices vary > AT&T Digital Life: $349.98 equipment fee, then $44.98 a month; Iris: $179 to $299, then free for basic service. Premium service is free for two months, and then runs $9.99 a month.
3. Keyless door locks – perhaps you already have this on your late model car. Punch in a code, and it unlocks. For home you have Kwikset’s Kevo, a state-of-the-art Bluetooth smart-enabled door lock that lets authorized users lock their door by touching the deadbolt with their fingerprint.
Above and beyond, you can send an electronic key – a digital code – via text to friends or contractors you trust to come into your house while you’re at work, and any time the door unlocks, you can receive a smartphone notification. Price: $219.
4. The Nest Learning Thermostat is indeed a smart item…as it learns from your interaction. As you adjust the dial whenever you’re too hot or cold, the thermostat learns what types of temperatures you prefer. It also takes the weather into account and will adjust the temperature inside based on what the weather is doing outside. It even knows if nobody’s home. Price: $249.
5. WallyHome uses sensors in your home’s walls to detect water trouble. If something goes wrong, like a roof leak, its base hub and six wireless sensors will send an alert to your phone. Using a smartphone app, you can receive data on the rooms with water trouble, and you may be able to figure out the problem even if you’re miles away. For instance, a sensor in the bathroom would pick up a change in humidity and would also send you an alert if there was a leak. Price: $299.
6. Do you desire a personal wireless LED lighting system – one you can control from your smartphone or tablet? Phillips Hue, a personal wireless LED lighting system, allows you to set timers so that things that are important to you are under control. You can have the lights in your child’s bedroom go off and on at a certain time, or have the lighting change when you have an important phone call to make or a favorite TV show to watch. If you throw a lot of parties, you can offer mood lighting. Price: The Hue Starter Kit, which includes three bulbs and a bridge that connects the Wi-Fi router to any device with an IP connection, costs $199. Each additional bulb is $59.
Love your old house and the story it has to tell? Looking to save on property taxes? You should know about Mills Act benefits.
Mills Act Contract
The Mills Act is a California State law that enables cities to enter into contracts with property owners of qualified historic structures. Mills Act contracts can provide tax benefits for both owner-occupied and income producing properties. The owner of any building more than 50 years old that is either a designated local landmark, structure of merit or a contributing building in a designated historic district may file a Mills Act Contract Application. Once approved, the County Tax Assessor’s office to determines the value of the historic property using specific criteria. In exchange for this reduction in property taxes, the contract requires the property owner to undertake specific restoration tasks, if necessary, and to properly maintain the historic structure.
Mills Act contracts are for a ten-year term and are renewed automatically each year on the contract’s anniversary.
Benefits & Tax Incentives
To encourage historic preservation, cities like Santa Monica offer benefits to owners of designated Landmarks or, Structures of Merit, and contributing structures in Historic Districts. These benefits include:
- Potential property tax savings through approval of a Mills Act Contract
- Waiver of Building Plan check and permit fees
- Waiver of Planning permit fees for Administrative Approval applications
- Waiver of fees for Certificates of Appropriateness
- Application of California State Historical Building Code to alterations
- Priority plan check processing
- Completed Mills Act Application Form
- Restoration/Rehabilitation and/or Maintenance Plan
A ten (10) year Restoration/Rehabilitation Plan with estimate cost and schedule prepared by a certified architect. Please note that a Mills Act Contract only regulates exterior restoration/rehabilitation and general maintenance of your property. Please describe all periodic/ongoing maintenance needs of the structure including plumbing, electrical, roofing and structural systems. If the building is already restored and in good condition, a maintenance plan must be submitted.
- Architectural Report
An Architectural Report identifying the status and condition of all character-defining features of the building and site prepared by a certified architect.
- Financial Analysis Form – Staff will use this form to calculate an estimate of the Mills Act tax assessment with the information provided. (Please note that this forthcoming analysis is only an estimate. The Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor will make a revised tax assessment that will be applicable for the next tax year.)
- Photographs of all building elevations and character-defining features of the structure(s)
- Copy of the legal description for the property (“Exhibit A” on a Grant Deed)
- Copy of latest property tax bill
Applicants will please submit one (1) unbound, single-sided copy of each of the following items or one (1) digital copy of above listed items on a CD or USB flash drive.
Mills Act Contract applications are reviewed by staff and then presented to the Landmarks Commission for review and recommendation to City Council. Once City Council approves the contract, it is recorded with the Los Angeles County Recorder, and the property owner’s tax payment is recalculated.
Applications must be received by August 15th in order to be processed and recorded for reassessment in the following year’s tax bill. Tax assessments are not retroactively revised.
Legal descriptions of the program may be found in SMMC 9.36.270, California Government Code Sections 50280-50290, and California Revenue and Taxation Code Sections 439-439.4.
Preservation Incentives: http://www.qcode.us/codes/santamonica/view.php?topic=9-9_36-9_36_270&frames=on
Sample Maintenance and Restoration Plan: Preservation Incentives: http://www.smgov.net/uploadedFiles/Departments/PCD/Applications-Forms/Mills%20Act%20Contract%20Sample%20Maintenance%20and%20Restoration%20Plan.pdf
Sample Financial Analysis Form:
More information @:
Fascinating facts and boring charts on owners and renters, according to the 2012 American Community Survey:
The typical owner-occupied household is headed by an individual between 45 to 54 years of age. The median household income in 2012 was $65,514. The average household size was 2.7 occupants with the most common household type being married.
The typical renter-occupied household is headed by an individual between 25 to 34 years. The median household income in 2012 was $31,888. The average household size was 2.53 occupants with the most common household type being single.
Nearly 17 million or 22.7% percent of all owners are between 45 to 54 years. The largest share of renters falls within the age bracket between 25 to 34 years. Just over 11 million of 26.4% of all renters are between 25 to 34 years.
The median income for rent-occupied households was $31,888. The median income for owner-occupied households was more than twice that amount at $65,514.
A large share of renter-occupied units is single-income households. Nearly ten million or 26.1% percent of all renter-occupied units are single-income households. Only 13.3% of owner-occupied units are single-income households. The largest share of owner-occupied units is married households at 60.1%.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 Consumer Expenditure Survey, average income for married couples with children was $98,104. The average income for all married couples was $90,393 in 2012.
The residents of Santa Monica tend to think they live in their own little self-contained city, with its own government, business economy, water supply and elitest real estate process.
Those on the outside of the “Republic of Santa Monica” see this city by the sea – with a daytime population of 250,000 and a nighttime population of 90,000 residents as a suburb of Los Angeles. The website Movoto.com has, rather curiously, named Santa Monica one of the 10 smartest suburbs in America. Check out the top 10 list and we’ll dialogue further…
1. Santa Monica, CA
2. Evanston, IL
4. Cambridge, MA
5. Towson, MD
6. Cupertino, CA
7. Scottsdale, AZ
8. Newton, MA
9. Seal Beach, CA
10. Alameda, CA
Movoto defined a suburb as any large population center near one of the nation’s 50 largest cities, and factored in whether or not the place was called a suburb on Wikipedia, in the list of inner-ring suburbs, or in any official capacity. Wikipedia defines a suburb as,”A residential area or a mixed use area, either existing as part of a city or urban area or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city.”
The methodology involved collecting data for 109 different suburbs using business listings, www.Greatschools.org, and the U.S. Census American Community Survey. Then, they were ranked from 1 to 109 in the following criteria:
Colleges and universities per capita
Public libraries per capita
Museums per capita
Percentage of students with bachelor’s degrees or higher
High school graduation rate
GreatSchools.org rating (based on test scores for the area)
We averaged these rankings into one overall Big Deal Score, where the lowest score was the best and brightest suburb, none other than Santa Monica.
1. Santa Monica, CA
Sure, we’ve got our beach and our pier, and real estate prices that average around $2,000,000 for a single family home, but did you realize that Santa Monica has the sixth most museums per capita out of all 109 places? It also ranked 10th overall for the percentage of its population who have bachelor’s degrees or higher (64.5 percent) and 11th for the number of nearby colleges and universities per capita. Bravo to us…
Here’s the big list:
To find out about all the other smart suburbs, go here…
It is election season. At the recent Santa Monica Squirm Night candidates for three sets of City positions were grilled by editors and guests of the Santa Monica Daily Press newspaper. As a city, we are blessed to have so many competent candidates to choose from. But, it was one of the sponsors – ProCon.org came out as a clear winner from the Squirm night debates.
ProCon.org – http://www.procon.org/ – is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity with the purpose of providing resources for critical thinking and to educate without bias. They research issues that are controversial and important, and freely present them in a balanced, comprehensive, straightforward, transparent, and primarily pro-con format.
Their presidential election websites helped millions of voters evaluate the candidates, so now they’ve expanded to local elections. Because they are a local business, Santa Monica is ProCon’s rollout for local election information. You can check public opinion metrics for City Council, School Board and College Board candidates.
Here’s how each quiz works:
- Selecting Yes or No for a question determines your candidate matches (% agreement). You’re matched only on yes and no responses you and the candidates have in common.
2. When you select “Neither or Unsure,” the question is not calculated in the result.
- You don’t have to answer every question.
- Candidates’ responses and positions are taken from questionnaires they each completed for ProCon.org.
- Remember to vote on November 4, 2014.
ProCon.org has gathered views from the City Council, School Board and College Board.candidates into one website, so you can see what they have to say about issues in the community. Click on a candidate, click on an issue, or take the quiz to see which candidate best matches your views on those issues. More than 600,000 people took a similar version of our quiz for the 2012 presidential election.
Candidates’ responses (no more than 200 words long) and positions (pro, con, or not clearly pro or con) are taken directly from questionnaires they each completed for ProCon.org. They have edited lightly for spelling, grammar, and nothing else.
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