What is a Smart Home? – 2019-04-05

You are currently viewing What is a Smart Home? – 2019-04-05

Smart home devices are becoming more and more prevalent the guys talk about some of the newest up and coming devices as well as some of the pitfalls to avoid when adding these to your home.

Podcast Transcription - Smart Home

Brian: Welcome to House Fluent Inspections Radio, where we help you enjoy stress-free home buying, home selling, and home ownership. I’m your host, Brian Botch, owner of House Fluent Inspections. I’m joined today by Bill Beck. We are both licensed, professional inspectors here in the state of Texas and we inspect homes of all shapes and sizes. So Bill, how was your weekend?

Bill: It was great, we did a college tour.

Brian: Awesome, did you guys go to any good restaurants while you were there?

Bill: No, we cooked out at the house.

Brian: Wait, I thought you went out of town for the college tour?

Bill: We did but we cooked out at my sister-in-law’s house.

Brian: Oh you stayed at your sister-in-law’s. Got it, got it, got it.

Bill: Yeah, out in the country.

Brian: Yeah, what was your favorite food?

Bill: We cooked at the firepit out front.

Brian: What’d you cook on the fire pit?

Bill: In the front yard. We cooked some steaks.

Brian: Were they good?

Bill: They were good. Where are we goin’ with this Brian?

Brian: What happened a few hours after you made the steaks?

Bill: Well I didn’t get rid of the steaks quite yet, but that was the next day.

Brian: That’s kind of where I was goin’ with it.

Bill: I was really concerned where this was going.

Brian: Yeah. So today we’re going to talk about smart home on the show.

Bill: Straight to the bowels of podcasts.

Brian: The number of smart devices that are proliferating homes at this time is pretty amazing and I thought I’d start the show by talking about one that’s a little unique. I’ll just read you the text straight from their website. It says, “Your personal quiet time is something that’s been long ignored by tech companies. Idealing’s new smart toilet is starting a revolution in your bathroom with a fully-featured, fully-customizable, Wi-Fi connected, app-controlled royal throne.

Bill: So is the steak chipped? How does that work? Does it get all the information on the way through or how does it work?

Brian: So the smart toilet is a smart health device.

Bill: Smart steak.

Brian: Yeah. It uses web-enabled apps along with sensors in the toilet itself to get an analysis of the content of your excrement.

Bill: There’s nothing good that is going to come out of today’s subject.

Kelley: That way they can tell if it was really Kobe beef that you ate.

Brian: That’s right. So the analysis that you get includes color, fiber, content, weight, taste, blood – oh sorry, blood sugar, and BAC.

Bill: I don’t even want to know what BAC stands for. Beyond crap?

Kelley: Blood Alcohol Content.

Bill: Ohhh.

Brian: Ohhh, there you go, see? The deviant.

Bill: I’m not going to ask how Kelley knows this.

Brian: Yeah, exactly.

Kelley: I quit drinkin’ a long time ago.

Brian: It also comes with a built-in personal assistant device that displays readings from the smart seat like your heartrate.

Bill: This is great. Who doesn’t want all that information. I occasionally look back to see what things are looking like, but this is way beyond that.Brian: Yeah. They automatically analyze the information with a proprietary algorithm and they give you dietary advice based on it. 

Bill: Oh, this is great. This is good. Um… up til now I had no idea. Just had to go by my own built-in devices.

Brian: Built-in devices?

Bill: Gotta let me know whoo, that ain’t good. Yeah, great.

Brian: So it also includes a social media integration so you can share your analysis with your friends.

Bill: This is where it’s gonna put you in jail. Oh boy.

Brian: But they don’t stop there, Bill. They have additional features.

Bill: All I can hear is, “Dude, you gotta check this out.”

Brian: Are you ready?

Bill: No.

Brian: It has a built-in surround sound system. It’s got bowel-shaking bass. It’s connected to IFTTT, so you can create recipes like changing the lighting. 

Bill: Are we still talking about the toilet? What are we talking about?

Brian: Still talking about the toilet.

Bill: Is my toilet now a subwoofer? What do we got going on here?

Brian: Pretty much. You have the ability to do that.

Kelley: That’s if you have regularity problems, you can just crank it up to 11 and subsonic.

Bill: I was gonna say, I know they can break up your kidney stones now with subsonic, but this is a whole new level. Why not just sit on a vacuum cleaner at this point? There you go.

Brian: Well.

Bill: Well.

Brian: Hmm.

Bill: Hmm.

Brian: You can also order it with the combo bidet/water fountain to keep you hydrated through bouts of diarrhea.

Bill: What?

Kelley: That takes drinking from the toilet to whole new levels doesn’t it?

Brian: It does.

Bill: I don’t think I want a drinking fountain built into my toilet. I don’t see how this is gonna work here.

Brian: It also comes with a water spray notification. It’s gonna let you know before the water sprays in the bidet.

Bill: That’s actually not a bad idea. That’s the one telling you, you need to be on the seat. Yeah. Alright. This is some good stuff for you out there folks. Eat your bran.

Brian: So Bill, how much would you guess something like this would cost?

Bill: $1 million. Um, I can tell you how much I’d pay for it.

Brian: How much would you pay for it?

Bill: I’m not there yet, man. I’m just not. When it costs as much as your car and there’s a 7-year option plan. Same as cash option. Or it’s a mortgage to know what you’ve got goin’ on downtown. Wow.

Brian: What about you, Kelley, what do you think? How much would you pay for somethin’ like this?

Kelley: Is it, like, 4K quality on the video camera? We’ve got to know these details.

Bill: Does it come with seat warmers?

Brian: It might. I don’t know. It doesn’t say.

Bill: It can’t hurt.

Brian: So $25,000. That’s the price tag, my friend.

Bill: That is a lot for the Turd Rater 2000.

Kelley: Is it turbocharged?

Brian: It might be turbocharged. Alright, so I got us a little bit off the rails. But we are going to talk about smart home today. And really the things that are proliferating the smart home. Obviously the smart toilet is an extreme. But they are coming. There are legitimate smart toilets out there that have seats that heat and they flush without you having to touch anything. Some of that goes to sanitation and things. 

Bill: I got a little trivia for you.

Brian: Yeah, go ahead.

Bill: Do you know what the name of the man was that invented the toilet?

Brian: Toilet? Well, no.

Bill: Do you know, Kelley?

Kelley: Thomas Crapper.

Brian: You’re not gonna tell me it was Crapper?

Bill: Thomas Crapper.

Brian: Yeah, there you go.

Bill: He was English. So, just a little…

Brian: Little trivia?

Bill: For those games that you’re playin’ out there. Board games. Just tryin’ to help.

Brian: For when you’re playing Trivial Pursuit from your smart toilet?

Bill: That term did not come from nothin’. It came from his name.

Kelley: I’ll bet there’s an app for that.

Brian: Nice. Alright. We are going to talk about smart home today. Let’s get a quick break in. Remember you can always tweet at us @HouseFluent. 

Kelley: Just not from the toilet.

Bill: Not from your smart toilet.

Brian: So let’s get a quick break in. Remember you can also tweet at us from your smart toilet @HouseFluent. You can use the hashtag #MyHomeQuestion. You can always follow-up with us on Facebook or at HouseFluent.com.

(smooth jazz plays)

Bill: At House Fluent Inspections, we make it our mission to take the stress out of buying or selling a home. By including repair prices with your modern, interactive report, we arm you with the information you and your agent need to negotiate smarter. We also provide 90-days of home warranty coverage through Complete Protection Home Warranty Company, to give you that little extra piece of mind. When buying or selling a home, it’s important to choose the right inspection company for you. Give House Fluent Inspections a call today at 817-601-5257 or go to HouseFluent.com and let us take the stress away.

(smooth jazz plays)

Brian: And we’re back. So Bill, a smart home provides a lot of convenience for a lot of people. It adds a lot of convenience to their lives, but sometimes those things can go wrong. Sometimes things can go wrong with a smart home. The crux of a smart home is that it’s connected. You have an interconnected smart home. So what happens when the network goes down?

Bill: Womp, womp, womp.

Brian: Yeah. You can lose your network. But what happens when the internet goes down?

Bill: Womp, womp, womp.

Brian: That’s right. So a lot of people found out the hard way. Several months ago there was a big AWS outage. For those of you that don’t know, that stands for Amazon’s Web Services. That’s where a lot of people host stuff on the Amazon Cloud. Including things like IFTTT. If you don’t know what that is, it stands for If This Then That. It’s an app that allows you to connect a lot of your smart devices throughout your smart home and create what they call recipes. It allows you to do things like dim the lights when you turn a movie on and things like that, right? So because Amazon went down, this service was lost. I’ll just read you some of the things people tweeted about. There was pandemonium ensuing.

Bill: Oh boy.

Brian: Oh it was, yeah, complete chaos. So here’s the first one, you ready? “Hmm, can’t turn some of my lights on at home. Welcome to the future.”

Bill: This is why mine are still with a switch.

Brian: “Can’t control my house via Google Home because AWS/IFTTT is down. Ugh.”

Bill: Ugh?

Brian: Ugh.

Bill: Phew.

Brian: “Even a simple action like turning lights on, I have to wait for 3-hour outage to end.”

Bill: You’re not helping sell smart devices right now, just to let you know.

Brian: I’m just saying, there’s good and bad to everything.

Bill: The dependency part is getting to be my big concern.

Brian: Yeah. It is a concern. It’s a concern for a lot of people.

Bill: One little sun flare up and we’re all in trouble.

Brian: We’re all in trouble, right? People can’t turn lights on.

Bill: We’re already there whether we realize it or not. Even if you don’t have a smart home, what don’t we do based off the internet or Wi-Fi or our G5 phone.

Brian: So what I would say to folks is, don’t panic. There’s virtually nothing with a smart device that you can’t do in a manual mode. Or at least most of the ones we’ve looked at.

Bill: Buy candles.

Brian: Yeah, buy candles. So even the smart light switches, right? There’s still a manual component to it. When we do inspections, we first inspect the manual components of everything. We make sure it works physically before we ever take a look at anything virtually. So yeah, while people were complaining about it, the reality is, you could have gotten up and walked over to the wall and touched the light switch. There is a manual component to it. We do look at that first. That’s always the first thing that we look at.

Bill: So all you’re saying is the house is getting smarter.

Brian: People are not necessarily getting smarter.

Bill: Unfortunately there’s some truth to that. The easier everything gets, the less we know how to do on our own.

Brian: Yeah, that is true.

Bill: And we’re all getting that way to some extent. But it’s a’comin’ whether you like it or not.

Brian: Oh absolutely. It’s definitely going to be a very interesting future.

Bill: It’s also why living off the grid has become so popular.

Brian: Maybe so. Well the idea behind a smart phone, the big crux of it is that the technology fades into the background. It is convenient to you, but the technology isn’t in your face. So because of that, people are not having to do these things. It frees them up to do other things. Maybe more enjoyable things. 

Bill: Surf on their phone.

Brian: Maybe things more intellectual. Yeah. Maybe just surf on the phone.

Bill: Social media.

Brian: Right.

Bill: Very important stuff.

Brian: Yeah, things like that.

Bill: All from the comfort of their driver’s seat.

Kelley: Hey Brian, I’ve got Buddy Knight on the phone.

Brian: Alright, so joining us now we’ve got Buddy Knight from Knight’s Quest Ministries, and he’s here to talk to us a little bit today about securing your smart home. So, Buddy, tell us a little bit about Knight’s Quest and what you guys do.

Buddy: Knight’s Quest does seminars and workshops for parents and youth and those that work with youth on internet safety. Because it’s a constantly changing thing and it’s hard for folks to keep up. So we provide folks to help them keep up and help them see what is a good, effective way to keep their family safer.

Brian: Yeah, that’s great. And that definitely applies to a smart home. Smart home are interconnected, all the devices in the home run across the home network. So what challenges are you seeing there?

Buddy: Well, one of the most important things is going through your network, whether you’re using one of the smart hubs like Google Home or Amazon Echo or even something like Samsung’s device, it’s all going to connect to your network, either directly or through Wi-Fi. And that’s where you have vulnerability if your network is not properly secured. The way you want to do that is you have to change what your router or your gateway comes with. It comes with some sort of network made, they call it an SSID, and it may be a very cryptic thing that’s hard for you to remember, such as ASPKG13. You need to go into your router or your gateway, change the name of the Wi-Fi to something else. Since they’re usually 2 bands, a 2.4 and a 5.0, I recommend naming them sort of this way. Let’s say you pick the name Krypton, Superman’s home planet, that’s what you want to name your network. You don’t want to use your family name either, because that lets people driving by…

Brian: Uh-oh, did we lose Buddy?

Buddy: …know that. But you’d name the 2.4 one Krypton 2.4, the other one Krypton 5.0. And the important thing after that is changing your Wi-Fi key. There’s probably a label that has the Wi-Fi key on your gateway or your router. But you want to change it, one, so people can’t just walk up and see what it is. But also to make sure it’s long enough to be good and secure. And it needs to be at least 12 characters with upper case, lower case, and numbs.

Brian: So the bottom line, I think, if I’m hearing you right, is if you don’t have a properly secured network is that then people can get into that and then they can get into all your devices. Is that essentially it?

Buddy: Right. And that can be a problem if you have indoor security equipment, such as indoor security cameras. Say looking at the TV room or looking at the back entry to your house from the inside.

Brian: Oh yeah, I never thought about that.

Buddy: Yeah. They can easily hack in and record you.

Brian: That does not sound pleasant. I don’t think my wife would like that very much.

Buddy: They’ve had some cases where the video baby monitors got hacked. People were able to talk to the baby over the monitors and possibly be recording it.

Brian: Wow.

Buddy: So I ask people to think of their home network sort of like their home itself. A lot of people just use basics or they don’t use much security at all. But that’s like, in your house, not having a dead bolt lock or even a key lock on the door at any time. It’s too much trouble to lock and unlock it, so we’ll just have a handle to open the door. And you wouldn’t do that for your physical home, you don’t want to do that for your smart home.

Brian: What about a lot of these devices that will allow you to invite guests. So smart locks and things will allow you to invite guests. Does that become an issue?

Buddy: You need to make sure, if you’re using your Wi-Fi, you’re using the guest network. What that does is that gives them access to the internet through your Wi-Fi, but they cannot ask to access your devices, such as your computers, your network drives, your printers, and things like that. On the smart home devices, if there is a guest configuration available on it, you want to have a separate password on it. If you have a whole bunch of people use it in a short period of time, you might just want to change that password after they finish.

Brian: Oh yeah, that makes sense.

Bill: Hmm, wow.

Buddy: Another thing that, if you have various people, or even just your kids, it’s called an IP Community War Driving. They’ll just go through a neighborhood with their phone or the tablet or laptop and see what houses they can jump in on. It may be that there’s no security key for the Wi-Fi itself, or it may be that it’s very weak, like 123456, which is one of the more popular password keys that people use.

Brian: Wow, you wouldn’t think that. Especially in this day and age.

Buddy: Oh you’d be surprised. A report came out last year that the word password is still in the top 5 for passwords. Yeah. I posted something on Facebook yesterday, a little cartoon that said, “It’s not 1989, I’m not good with computers is no longer an acceptable excuse.”

Brian: Oh yeah, definitely.

Buddy: But what they’ll do is, they may be trying to hack your system or they may just want to get on to your Wi-Fi, do some hacking of other systems. Maybe banks. They may be trading child pornography. And then they drive off. And there have been occasions where the police come to somebody’s house and they have no idea that their Wi-Fi has been compromised. But they haven’t set it up. 

Brian: That’s crazy. So Buddy, you’re here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I know you do TechSafe Home Seminars as part of some of the things you do there at Knight’s Quest. Can you talk a little bit about that for a second?

Buddy: Okay. TechSafe Home Seminars is a series. There are about 3-4 different programs available. There’s TechSafe Home, TechSafe Youth, in which I talk to youth sixth grade and up in how to be safer themselves with technically. They think they’re invulnerable. I have one uniquely for men’s groups in church called TechSafe Men. And then I have the TechSafe home professional edition, where I talk to either church staff or educators or mental health professionals and counsellors. Those who need a slightly different level of information. The TechSafe Home seminar is basically designed for parents and those over the age of 18. No one under the age of 18 allowed. I teach you how to catch your kids. You don’t want the kids in there hearing it.

Brian: Well very good. So Buddy, if people want to learn more about that or get in touch with you, maybe set a seminar up, how do they do that?

Buddy: My website is the first place to start at www.knightsquest.org. My email address is buddy@knightsquest.org. Or they can give me a call at my phone number, 817-715-4074.

Brian: Alright, well thanks buddy. I appreciate you being on the show. Enjoy the rest of your drive.

Buddy: Thank you so much Brian. You have a great week.

Brian: Okay you too. Take care.

Bill: Thanks Buddy.

Brian: So Bill, I want to talk about some smart home devices that never really saw the light of day.

Bill: Oh boy.

Brian: These are things that were tried…

Bill: There are smart toilets. What else?

Brian: These are things that were tried but never quite made it.

Bill: Okay.

Brian: So we’ll start with the Keurig of juicers.

Bill: Okay.

Brian: So what do you think could possibly go wrong with the Keurig of juicers as a product, right? So you stick the little juice pod in there, you put your cup underneath there, it fills it up. What do you think could possibly go wrong with an expensive, $400 juicer that works that way?

Bill: You’ve already lost me. What’s in the pod?

Brian: Juice.

Bill: Juice extract? Juice concentrate? What is it?

Brian: Hence the problem with the $400 juicer. It was no smart home gadget required. You could just open the pods and dump them into your glass. All the technically went into producing the juice pods.

Bill: That doesn’t even make sense to me. Okay. What’s next?

Brian: We have a toaster that prints messages.

Bill: Prints on your bread?

Brian: On your bread.

Bill: Oh, well who doesn’t need that? We thought we were really cool by making pancakes that were shaped like Mickey Mouse. Now we have to burn our bread? So is it like what you do with your cattle? What is it? 

Kelley: The branding?

Bill: The branding. 

Brian: Yeah it’s the same thing.

Bill: Brand your toast with your name?

Brian: Designed to better your morning by lifting your mood.

Bill: I’m gonna put my face on it and I’m gonna eat my face. Well that’s great.

Brian: How about a mattress that can tell if you’re cheating?

Bill: And this didn’t take off?

Brian: This didn’t take off.

Bill: Surprisingly. I’m going to go with a lawsuit probably had an end to this?

Brian: Maybe so. The $1800 SmartTress. It’s got motion sensors and things that are built into the mattress and they will alert you if you’re away from home and your mattress is being used.

Bill: I’m going to go with our government put a stop to that.

Brian: Maybe so. How about a fork that tells you when to stop eating?

Bill: You know, that brings up a lot of things.

Brian: The $100 Happy Fork is a smart home device that tracks how fast you eat and vibrates in your hand if you’re eating too fast.

Bill: I’m really surprised that’s not connected to your Fitbit at this point anyway.

Brian: Yeah, probably so.

Bill: You took 1,000 steps but you took 6,000 bites. You’re losing.

Brian: Alright, see if you can figure out why this one never took off. It’s a smart home device that is a floss dispenser that nags you to floss.

Bill: I can’t imagine why it didn’t take off. They call it your ex-wife

Brian: They might call it your ex-wife. How about a pan that tells you how to cook/

Bill: Wow.

Brian: $125 smart pan.

Bill: Smart pan. Hmm. It tells you how to cook?

Brian: Yep, it tells you when to flip your steak, gives you recipes, all kinds of stuff.

Bill: Wow. Tells you when to smack your spouse over the head too? You’re talking back to the pan! Whack.

Brian: How about an $80 app-controlled air freshener.

Bill: Wow, what could go wrong there? Huh. Wow, um…

Brian: It has different scents built in and learns over time which scents you like better than others, somehow.

Bill: I have a feeling it would be affiliated with chocolate companies and burgers.

Brian: It also talks with your thermostat so it won’t dispense the scents when you’re not home.

Bill: How close are we to the point where the McDonalds commercial doesn’t squirt out the scent of a Big Mac?

Brian: Oh, very close.

Bill: It’s comin’.

Brian: Yeah it’s coming fast.

Kelley: Smell-O-Vision.

Brian: Yeah that was a thing. Remember that? That was a thing but it never took off.

Bill: As if we don’t have a big enough obesity problem in the world. Alright.

Brian: Alright you ready for the next one?

Bill: I can’t even wait.

Brian: Alright, here we go. This is a thing.

Bill: This a big one?

Brian: I can’t believe this is actually a thing, but it’s a thing. It’s an ice cream cone that spins around.

Bill: Can’t you just chuck it up to your cordless drill now?

Brian: I guess. I don’t know.

Bill: The Lick-O-Nater 12000 rocks.

Brian: Yes, it’s a motorized Ice Cream Cone. I don’t know exactly what makes it smart. But – oh it knows when the ice cream’s melting and it turns at the right rate to keep it from dripping.

Bill: My hand usually does that for me. It’s running down your arm, you’re too slow.

Kelley: So was there a recall on it where it malfunctioned? It would just spin real fast and fling the ice cream all over the room?

Brian: Maybe so, I don’t know.

Bill: The Ice Sprinkler 3000.

Brian: That was the last one.

Bill: Huh, that didn’t take off? That’s weird.

Brian: Yeah, oddly enough.

Bill: Who has an ice cream that long enough to even need that? Mine are gone in, like, two seconds.

Brian: So Bill, we’ve kind of spent some time here making fun of some of these smart home devices and, in some cases, deservedly so. But really, they have a lot of benefits as well. So I thought we’d just spend some time talking about some of the benefits of actually having a smart home.

Bill: There’s a lot of benefits, even though I’m kind of going into this kicking and clawing and screaming. I know it’s coming and I’m definitely more of a DIY, old-school, fix it after it breaks kind of guy.

Brian: Sure.

Bill: Some of the plusses with this, by far, would be if something’s being monitored for its performance, it could definitely let you know there’s a problem coming before it gets big. That’s a huge cost-savings and good information and knowledge.

Brian: That’s been in the HVAC world right now.

Bill: Big time. And it will probably eventually get in to almost everything. If you had a leak. I think one of the biggest reasons people like the smart devices is you can see what’s going on at your house when you’re not home. That is huge. Good or bad, you can see what’s going on in your house, whether it’s safety, whether something’s broken. You can now have that ability to turn it off. If you had a leak, which is coming too. But there are a lot of plusses. A lot of people don’t love the idea of everything being controlled by Wi-Fi or that, just because we all know something interrupts your service or whatever and now you can’t do anything. But we’re already getting to that point whether we realize it or not, one way or another. Our cars are becoming that way. Now you can tell your car what you want it to do. That’s all coming too. So it’s going to be everywhere one way or another.

Brian: Yeah of course. How many times have you driven off and thought “Man, did I close the garage door?” And now you don’t have to worry about it, right? If you have a smart garage door opener, it will tell you, yeah it’s opened or it’s closed. And you can make it do whatever you want.

Bill: How does this affect restaurants? How does this affect lots of things? There’s so many ways you can look at this as far as where we’re headed.

Brian: The other big benefit too is energy. So a lot of these devices, in some cases they’re monitored and in other cases they’ve got sensors that let them know how much energy they’re using. Taking it back to your HVAC system, the modern systems have sensors in them that actually will check the humidity in the house and all sorts of things to determine how fast to spin the compressor, how much power doesn’t it really need?

Bill: Mm-hm, it’s variable.

Brian: Yeah.

Bill: They’ve even got variable pool pumps now where you can turn them way down.

Brian: So it only uses the amount of energy you need to cool or heat your home or circulate your pool water or whatever.

Bill: Sure. That’s a good thing for everybody. The idea of everything being controlled electronically or whatever is probably what makes most people nervous, including myself. The more complicated they get, the more it makes a lot of people nervous just to figure out how to get it all working. Once you’ve got it all working, it’s probably great. But there’s a learning curve, obviously, with everything.

Brian: From an accessibility standpoint, imagine if you’re injured or in someway confined to a wheelchair or something, being able to control a lot of your home with your voice through a digital assistant is a huge plus. If you struggle to reach over and fill up a tub, if you could just say, “Hey, fill it halfway with warm water” and it does it, that’s a huge bonus for you.

Bill: Yeah. As long as someone isn’t saying it on accident.

Brian: That’s a good point. Alexa, order pizza. Yes. 

Bill: Yes, yes. She runs everybody’s house at this point already.

Brian: She does, that’s true. But yeah, there’s a myriad of reasons to do it. The convenience factor of having your oven tell you when your food is ready and you can just get up and open it up. You’ll be sitting there watching Netflix and you get an alert on your phone that your steak has reached a certain temperature or your roast or whatever and you just get up and take it out and it’s time to eat. That’s a lot more convenient than getting up and down and looking at the thermostat all the time. 

Bill: It will be a lot tougher for people that go this route and have all this and then they go into a house that doesn’t have it.

Brian: Yeah.

Bill: It would be like my daughter getting into my old car that has window cranks and manual transmission amazed that that would make the window go up and down. She’s never seen one before and thinks it’s so cool. That would be the same for people that go into a house and are like, “What do you mean you can’t just say ‘Turn the lights on.’? You have to get up and turn them on? Oh my gosh.” It’s like the people that drive around and around and around at the gym because they want to get a spot up front, and I’m like, “Aren’t you at the gym?”

Brian: How about just the fact that your key is something that’s going the way of the Dodo. Your key for your door? You won’t need keys at some point soon.

Bill: Someone will steal my eyeball.

Brian: That’s right. Biometrics. But really, everything’s heading in that direction. The convenience of just being able to say “Bill’s coming over, I’m going to go ahead and just give him the ability to come on in.” And you walk up and you can open the door. Those things are already here. It’s kind of interesting that a lot of people that I meet talk about this big change that’s coming, this big change that’s happening. And I always tell people, the change is here. If you haven’t embraced it, you’re in real trouble because it’s already happened. It just may not have happened to you. These things are proliferating and they’re going to continue to. And they bring a lot of convenience and a lot of benefits to our lives. And yeah, like anything else, there’s somethings you have to watch out for. But really, smart homes are coming. Well, I say they’re coming. They’re here. There’s no coming. They’re here.

Bill: It’s going to be a lot of warning labels on those, folks. Because you can’t go anywhere now where it doesn’t tell you, “Don’t forget your kid on the changing table.” Or “Don’t forget them in your car.” So the smart devices are helping most stuff, but not everything.

Brian: There’s good and bad to everything, right?

Kelley: You remember in the late 80s early 90s when the internet started to become a thing, people were freaked out about that too. People didn’t know what it was for and how to use it, and look where we’re at now. It’s actually spawned a lot of this smart home technically.

Brian: Oh yeah, it’s crazy. There’s everything you could possibly imagine. There’s smart home pet treat dispensers, where you can push a button on your phone and treats will come out of a machine for your dog.

Kelley: It’s true, I have one of those robotic vacuums and I love the damn thing. It’s amazing. As long as I make sure, before it starts, that the dogs didn’t leave any surprises in the house.

Brian: Right.

Bill: I haven’t tried the smart lawnmower yet, but I know they have those too.

Brian: They do.

Bill: And they mow your lawn.

Brian: They are great. I want one. They’re solar powered and they just roll around your lawn.

Bill: Man.

Brian: You never have to deal with gas. You don’t have to get on a lawn tractor in my case. You don’t have to do any of that stuff.

Bill: Until it gets hijacked and it starts mowing all your neighbor’s flowerbeds. But not yet.

Brian: I’m okay with that.

Kelley: Remember that movie Maximum Overdrive?

Brian: Yeah.

Bill: Yeah. I mean, it’s a little overwhelming to think of all these devices. But at the same time, there are obviously going to be ones that we like. When you can yell from bed to make me breakfast. I remember the shows when I was a kid that they had the robots in their house. It was so cool that they had a robot. That never really took off, because I’m also supposed to be flying to work at this point, and we haven’t quite got there yet at this point.

Brian: Oh, nice. 

Bill: But it’s coming. Your personal smart drone.

Brian: Those are coming. It’s really kind of an interesting world we’re heading into.

Bill: GPS has changed, literally, everything. GPS has changed almost everything we do.

Brian: Yeah.

Bill: To the point where we’re tracking our kids and where they’re at. It’s everywhere. And there are parts of it that I’m really glad that we have. IT does help in a lot of ways.

Brian: Everything has moved in that direction already. Just think about our reports. Just in our work, in what we do. We do all of our reports on our smart device. 

Bill: Yep.

Brian: Everything. Our comments are there. Everything is there.

Bill: Video, photos, our reports are online.

Brian: Yeah. Everything is there. 

Bill: It’s about convenience for the consumer. That’s where all this is coming from, for the most part. Safety, convenience, monitoring. Knows what you ate yesterday. It’s all coming to it.

Brian: Knowing what you ate yesterday. Alright, let’s get a break it. Remember you can always tweet at us. @HouseFluent, use the hashtag #MyHomeQuestion. We try and get to those on the show. You can always check us out on Facebook or at a HouseFluent.com.

(airy music)

Bill: It’s time for another segment of What’s Best For You in Real Estate? With Richard Gaspar. Richard is a realtor with Ebby Halliday realtors in McKinney, Texas. You can contact Richard by calling 469-742-9009. His email address is richardgaspar@ebby.com.

Richard: First time home buyers and some investors, believe it or not, ask about earnest money. So here’s the deal on earnest money. It’s essentially money paid to confirm a contract when you enter into an agreement to buy a home. In the case of real estate, you’re firming that up with earnest money. Now earnest money can be paid in a couple of ways to the title company, and they hold that earnest money until the deal consummates. Or, if the deal doesn’t consummate, for a variety of reasons, those moneys can, if properly handled, be returned to you. So you can wire money, you can provide a personal check, you can do a cashier’s check to deposit earnest with your title company. Now the downside risk of a personal check can be, if you terminate the contract during option, for example, it usually takes time for your personal check to clear, and title is going to wait for it to clear before they remit that back to you. That could take anywhere between 5-7 days to clear. Whereas, if you use a wire or a cashier’s check, you can get those funds back on the same day. A couple things on the wire, just as a reminder. There’s a lot of wire fraud out there, so when you’re working with your title company and, specifically, with your escrow agent, be sure that you have dialogue with them and ask the, for sure, even if they send you an email with the wiring instructions, just note that that may not have come from them. So, to cover your bases, make sure that your money isn’t falling in the wrong hands, call the escrow officer. Confirm the specific wiring instructions before your wire those funds if, in fact, you decide to use that methodology. 

The other thing that’s worth mentioning is when you do deposit, if you deposit a personal check, they’ll usually go ahead and run that check through within 24 hours to make sure those are what’s called good funds and that you haven’t sent them a bad check. So if you have any other questions about escrow or earnest moneys, please feel free to give me a call. I’m always happy to help. Thanks a lot and I hope this visit has helped you. 

(airy music)

Brian: Alright Bill, we’ve reached my favorite part of the show where we get to answer questions from our listeners and clients. So the first one comes it us, it says “How much longer does my, fill in the blank, have left?” So water heater…

Bill: Water heater, A/C, roof…

Brian: Yeah, we get a lot of these.

Bill: Those are the big ones. Husband.

Brian: (laughs). So the real answer is if we had a crystal ball, we could tell you. All we can really do is tell you the current condition of it.

Bill: The current condition or if we think it needs servicing, have it serviced, but there’s units that look really bad and really old and, unfortunately, some of  those are made a lot better than they are today and they can go another ten years. You just don’t know. But we can check how it’s functioning that day. That’s what we go by. And if it’s not functioning up to par, we can recommend what you need to have done. But that’s the best we can do.

Brian: Yeah. Exactly. The next question. I’ve been looking at a lot of homes lately in a neighborhood, and they all seem to have cracking through the brick, is that always going to be a foundation issue?

Bill: No.

Brian: No, it’s definitely not. It could be a foundation issue. It could be some other type of issue as well. It could be that the home has settled some. It could be cracking from expansion if there’s no expansion joins on the home. It could be that somebody hit it. There’s a lot of things that could cause brick to crack.

Bill: Temperature differentials. The mortar could be bad. It wasn’t mixed right. 

Brian: It could be that they didn’t use enough brick ties. There’s a lot of things that can cause that.

Bill: I think where a lot of people think that the brick veneer on the outside of their house is structural, and it’s nothing more than siding. If you had vinyl siding on the outside of you house, it’s doing the exact same thing that the brick is. It’s just there for looks. Do we use it to gauge foundation performance? Depends. If it’s step cracking or there’s different types or if the cracks are very large, yes, there could be a problem. But cracks in your veneer or your brick does not immediately mean that there’s a foundation problem.

Brian: No, not in any way.

Kelley: Now just to clarify, you’re talking about cracks in the mortar itself, not through the brick?

Brian: Could be both.

Bill: Could be both. Typically, yeah, if you see cracking in the brick itself, there might be a bigger reason. But normally what we see the most of is just cracking in the mortar.

Brian: Yeah, agreed. Alright, so last question. I’m building a home. Should I get an inspection and when?

Bill: It’s up to you. We do different types of inspections in that process. We do phase inspections as you’re building or we do the final pre-close inspection before you close.

Brian: I think we should back up for a second and define what some of those things are. So Bill’s right, we do phased inspections as one option when you’re doing the home. And that’s where we’d come in at different points of the building process and just look it over to see what work has been done and what may or may not be an issue. That involves multiple trips out to the property. We’ll look at it all along the way and then we do a final inspect right around the time that you do your builders walkthrough. Then the other option is to just do that final inspection, call those a pre-close or a pre-walk inspection. We’ll go in and just make sure everything looks right. Make sure things are functioning. So a lot of the things we find in new homes are things that aren’t necessarily hooked up. We find sometimes that ovens aren’t hooked up or dishwashers aren’t hooked up or the air conditioning works but the heater doesn’t. We find a lot of those types of things in new construction.

Bill: You see that a lot. Things haven’t been tested or haven’t been run. It’s brand new. Whereas, on an older home, you don’t run into those types of problems because it’s either already broken or…

Brian: Yeah. Drains under sinks that haven’t been tightened enough and they’re leaking and dripping. Those are all pretty common on a new home.

Bill: What else you got?

Brian: Let’s wrap this thing up. Thank you for listening to House Fluent Inspections. We hope you enjoyed the podcast today. Remember you can always tweet at us, @HouseFluent or go to HouseFluent.com to book a home inspect, read articles about stress-free home buying, home selling, or home ownership, or just generally get to know us. So Bill, what do we have coming up on the next show/

Bill: Absolutely no idea.

Brian: Yeah?

Bill: It’s going to be a great show.

Brian: That sounds fantastic. Thank you today to Bill Beck and our producer Kelley Lamont. Music today and everyday was provided by Purple Planet Music. So Bill, smart home devices, you ready for them to proliferate in your house? We’re going to start testing them.

Bill: I am so not ready to be proliferated.

Brian: No?

Bill: I can’t even say it.

Brian: We’re going to open an R&D facility up here in the studio.

Bill: They can stick it. I’m going dumb as long as I can. I love my dumb home.

Brian: I love my dumb home. That should be a hashtag.

Bill: #ILoveMyDumbHome

Brian Botch
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Brian Botch

Brian is the owner of House Fluent Inspections and is licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission as a professional real estate inspector (TX License # 22824 ). In addition, he is certified by the National Swimming Pool Foundation as a Certified Pool Inspector.

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