Transforming Your House from Summer Home to Winter Hideaway

None of us want to admit it, but Winter is Coming. The new season of Game of Thrones might not be until 2019, but your home will need preparation before then. As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your investment from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep your home safe and warm for you and your loved ones throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple Sundays should be more than enough to knock this out:

Getting started: Check your toolbox to make sure you have all the materials you need for home maintenance in one place. This NY Times article provides a good list of the tools you’ll really need to maintain your home. After your toolbox is put together, you can confidently begin the maintenance on your home.

Insulation: Insulating a home can reduce your energy bill by up to 50%. For the best results, your home should be properly insulated from the ceilings to the basement. By starting in your attic and progressively adding insulation to other areas of your home over time, you will avoid spending a large sum of money up-front.

Cracks & Leaks: Do a run-through of your entire house for cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards. Winter weather is unpredictable. Whether your area gets rain, wind or snow, cracks in your house can lead to cold drafts or leaks that cause water damage. Depending on your house type, most cracks can be easily filled with supplies from your local hardware store in a do-it-yourself fashion. Use caulk to seal any cracks in the permanent building materials.

Windows & Doors: Another common place for heat leakage is in your windows and exterior doorways. Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Don’t underestimate the difference some weatherstrips and a door sweep can provide in preventing drafts and keeping the heat in.

Rain Gutters: Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak. Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.

Pipes: Pipes are a number one risk in winter climates. A burst pipe can become a winter disaster in a matter of seconds. Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.

Heating System: What’s one thing gas fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and central air heating systems all have in common? They all need to be cleaned and maintained. Annual checks of are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. If you use an old-fashioned wood stove, make sure there are no leaks and that all soot build up or nests are removed. If a furnace is what you have, remember to change the filters as recommended or clean out your reusable filters.

Fireplace & Wood burning stoves: Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%.

Outside: As we mentioned before, make sure you bring your patio furniture inside (or cover) for the winter- but don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including a hose and small planting pot. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season. If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any items that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.

Emergency Kit: Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up-to-date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids, etc- especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.

First posted at windermere-bellevue.com

Posted on September 26, 2018 at 7:41 pm
Oleg Doukhnevitch | Category: Christmas, Home Update, Real Estate Tips, Windermere Bellevue Commons News, winter | Tagged , , ,

The Gardner Report – Second Quarter 2018

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions.

Economic Overview

The Washington State economy added 83,900 new jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of 2.5%. This is a slowdown from the last quarter, but employment growth remains well above the national rate of 1.6%. Employment gains continue to be robust in the private sector, which was up by 2.8%. The public sector (government) grew by a more modest 1.1%.

The strongest growth sectors were Retail Trade and Construction, which both rose by 4.8%. Significant growth was also seen in the Education & Health Services and Information sectors, which rose by 3.9% and 3.4%, respectively.

The State’s unemployment rate was 4.7%, down from 4.8% a year ago. Washington State will continue adding jobs for the balance of the year and I anticipate total job growth for 2018 will be around 80,000, representing a total employment growth rate of 2.4%.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 23,209 home sales during the second quarter of 2018. This is a drop of 2.3% compared to the same period a year ago.

  • Clallam County saw sales rise the fastest relative to the same period a year ago, with an increase of 12.6%. Jefferson County also saw significant gains in sales at 11.1%.

  • The number of homes for sale last quarter was down by a nominal 0.3% when compared to the second quarter of 2017, but up by 66% when compared to the first quarter of this year. Much has been mentioned regarding the growth in listings, but it was not region-wide. King County saw a massive 31.7% increase in inventory, though all but three of the other counties covered in this report saw the number of listings drop compared to a year ago.

  • The takeaway from this data is that while some counties are seeing growth in listings — which will translate into sales down the road — the market is still out of balance.

Home Prices

  • Home prices continue to trend higher across Western Washington, but the pace of growth has started to slow. This should please would-be buyers. The spring market came late but inventory growth in the expensive King County market will give buyers more choices and likely lead to a slowing down of price growth as bidding wars continue to taper.

  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Mason County, which was up 17.4%. Eleven other counties experienced double-digit price growth.

  • Mortgage rates, which had been rising significantly since the start of the year, have levelled off over the past month. I believe rising rates are likely the reason that inventory levels are rising, as would-be sellers believe that this could be the right time to cash out. That said, the slowing in rate increases has led buyers to believe that rates will not jump soon, which gives them a little more breathing room. I do not expect to see any possible slowdown in demand until mortgage rates breach the 5% mark.

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by seven days compared to the same quarter of 2017.

  • King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 13 days to sell. Every county in the region other than Clallam saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop when compared to the same period a year ago.

  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 41 days to sell a home in the second quarter of this year. This is down from 48 days in the second quarter of 2017 and down by 20 days when compared to the first quarter of 2018.

  • Although we did see some inventory increases when compared to the first quarter of the year, we are essentially at the same level of homes on the market as a year ago. The market has yet to reach equilibrium and I certainly do not expect to reach that point until sometime in 2019.

Conclusions

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the second quarter of 2018, I have moved the needle very slightly towards buyers, but it remains firmly a seller’s market. This shift is a function of price growth tapering very slightly, as well as the expectation that we should see more homes come on the market as we move through the balance of the year.

 

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

 

 

 

 

 

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.

Posted on July 25, 2018 at 9:27 pm
Oleg Doukhnevitch | Category: Home Update, Market Stats, Real Estate News, windermere, Windermere Bellevue Commons News | Tagged homeless | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Stage Your Home to Impress Holiday Guests

 

A few tricks used by professional home stagers can make your home holiday-guest-ready, even if you’re preparing for a visit from your in-laws, not potential buyers.

 

While friends and family might be more forgiving than a home-shopper would be, you’ll still want to create a clean and uncluttered atmosphere for making holiday memories. A major difference is, for friends and family, you don’t need to depersonalize. Tastefully placed photographs and kids’ hand-made masterpieces can help make a house a home, after all.

 

But you do want to make your place look and smell clean, and you might even want to evoke a sense of holiday magic and warmth. Michele Graham, a Long & Foster regional administrator and accredited home stager who works with agents in the greater Philadelphia area, offered these tips:

 

Cleanliness first. Make bathrooms sparkle and shine, since these are rooms every guest will probably see. Add fresh cut greens on top of the window treatments, and set out festive holiday hand towels or napkins. Keep small caddies of cleaning supplies in the bathroom and kitchen, or at least on each level of the home, to make clean-ups faster. In the kitchen, run a piece of fresh lemon through the garbage disposal and wipe off the splash guard, which can collect grime.

 

Clip an automobile air freshener to your shower curtain in a hidden spot to keep the bathrooms smelling good. You can use dryer sheets to do a quick dust job or polish up chrome faucets. Baby oil will make stainless steel appliances shine.

 

Add sparkle. Put something shiny in every room, whether it’s mirrors, mercury glass, silver or gold candlesticks, picture frames, or a string of white lights. The light will bounce off eye-catching shiny and metallic surfaces.

 

Bring in some green. Liven up your mantle or table with evergreen branches, holly boughs with berries, dogwood, and other décor provided by nature. You might find the perfect accents right in your own backyard.

 

Layer and add depth. A few silver and gold accessories add formality, while plaids and burlap are more casual. Embrace the palette of the season, with its gray sky, snow and evergreens. Even after the holidays, you can use white and silver accents around the house. You can add a pop of color using throw blankets and pillows.

 

Festive curb appeal. Greet your guests upon their arrival with window boxes filled with fresh-cut greens or even fake ones. Holly branches, pine cones and shiny round Christmas ornaments catch the eye.

 

Graham said you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get your home ready for the holidays. Most of the items she recommends can be found at dollar stores and thrift shops.

 

And one of the best ways to brighten your space is free. “Keep your window treatments open to let in as much natural light as possible,” Graham said. “It will add a wonderful glow to accent your décor.”

 

Originally posted on Windermere.com

Posted on December 14, 2017 at 6:30 pm
Oleg Doukhnevitch | Category: Home Update

Preparing Your Home for the Winter

During the winter, it is tempting to curl up and hibernate in bed for the next few months. However, you shouldn’t put off these important home maintenance duties.

Clean and check the gutters: While you are on the roof hanging holiday lights, make sure your gutters are clear of leaves, secured to the house, and in good condition. If you do find problem spots, seal, secure, and make note to fix these in the spring. You want to divert water away from your home.

Insulate external water sources: In cold climates pipes can freeze, which can then lead to cracked pipes and flooding. Bring hoses and sprinklers inside for the winter and use insulation to wrap external faucets. Insulating interior pipes can help prevent disaster. If you don’t have insulation, you can keep a faucet dripping during particularly cold days, so water is flowing through the pipes.

Check your water heater: One way to save money during the winter months is to wrap your water heater, so it doesn’t have to use as much energy to keep the water hot in a tank. You should check on your heater to make sure it isn’t leaking and in good repair regularly.

Interior insulation: Keep the heat in and the cold out with increased insulation in your attic and basement. This is an investment, and best done before the winter hits, but can make a big difference in how warm your house feels and how high your heating bill goes.

Check for cracks and leaks: Do you feel a draft? Check the sealing on your windows and doors. You can add weather stripping and silicon to seal these leaks. Foundations can leak as your home settles, so you should also check your basement for water coming through the walls, pipes, and older windows. You will want to seal these appropriately to minimize damage from flooding or mold.

Weatherize your windows: Your windows can be a great source of heat leakage depending on their age and condition. If you have older windows, you can use a clear film to help insulate them during the winter. If you don’t want to film the windows you can install extra thick drapes or curtains to help keep the interior of your home warm.

Check your heating system: What is one thing gas fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and central air heating systems all have in common? They all need to be cleaned and maintained. Check and clean your indoor heating system thoroughly. If you use an old-fashioned wood stove, make sure there are no leaks and that all soot buildup or nests are removed. If a furnace is what you have remember to change the filters as recommended or clean out your reusable filters.

Check your chimney with care: Nothing is as cozy as sitting by the fireplace during the winter, but use with care! Have your chimney checked by a professional to ensure that it’s in good condition and clear of critters or nests. You can also use a creosote log at the start of the season to help break down any old residue.

 

Invest in home security: The holidays are prime times for burglars looking to score some extra gifts so make sure your home is safe and secure at all times. Check your locks to make sure these are secure and consider a home security system with visible cameras to act as a deterrent. Keep evidence of big gifts hidden from view too. And make sure you discreetly get rid of any large boxes that might alert a prowler that you have new big-ticket items in your home.

Deck the halls and be merry: Decorate your home and prepare for guests. If you have a Christmas tree, keep it from drying out (and creating a fire hazard) by watering regularly. Keep decorative candles and menorahs away from children and flammable materials. You may want to consider battery powered candles, these can be a safe alternative to traditional candles.

 

Wishing you and yours a happy and safe holiday!

Originally posted on Windermere.com

Posted on December 14, 2017 at 6:27 pm
Oleg Doukhnevitch | Category: Home Update

November Home Maintenance Checklist

 

 

November brings a transition to shorter days, colder weather and spending more time indoors.  It also brings anticipation, planning and preparation for Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter holidays.

Our checklist this month includes small, quick and easy tasks you can do now to get a jump start on your holiday hosting preparation so you can enjoy friends and family when they arrive.

Replace chair floor protectors. Prevent damage to your hardwood floors by adding or replacing floor protection pads to the legs of your chairs.  Hardware stores sell felt self-adhesive protectors that are easy to use.

Clean garbage disposal. Run a few pieces of lemon rind with some ice cubes through your garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh. The ice chunks scour the blades and scrape away debris. Products that clean and deodorize garbage disposals can also be purchased in retail stores.

Repair plumbing issues. Fix a slow drain or a stuck garbage disposal now rather than wait until you have a full house of guests.

Check bathtub caulk. Use diluted bleach to clean caulk that is moldy or mildewed. Avoid water damage to your home’s framing by replacing worn-out caulking as soon as possible.

Stock up for winter. Buy winter supplies like shovels and ice melting products now so you’ll be ready when the first snow falls.

Silence squeaky door hinges. Spray some cooking oil or other lubricant on door hinges. Be sure to first place a drop cloth on the floor to protect it and also blot the hinge with a rag to remove excess oil.

Clean kitchen exhaust fan filter. Remove kitchen exhaust fan screen and scrub with a mild detergent or run through the dishwasher.

Check fire extinguishers. Locate your fire extinguishers and be sure their gauge shows enough pressure.

Set aside a November afternoon to do the items on this home maintenance list, then sit back and enjoy a cup of hot apple cider. Happy Thanksgiving!

First posted on Windermere.com

Posted on November 15, 2017 at 6:19 pm
Oleg Doukhnevitch | Category: Home Update

Here’s your fall maintenance list

Is your home ready for fall?

Fall is an ideal time to tackle maintenance projects both inside and outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Gutters top to bottom

Water in the wrong spots can do a lot of damage. Start by ensuring that gutters and downspouts are doing their job. (Don’t attempt this task yourself if you have a two-story house with a steep roof; hire a professional instead.) If your home is surrounded by deciduous trees you may need to clean out your gutters a few times a year, especially in the fall. Check to make sure your gutters are flush with the roof and attached securely, repairing any areas that sag or where the water collects and overflows. Clean out the gutters and downspouts, checking that outlet strainers are in good shape, and are firmly in place. Finally, check that your downspouts direct water away from your house, not straight along the foundation.

If you haven’t already, you may want to consider installing gutter guards. Gutter guards create a barrier so water can get through to your gutters, but debris cannot, limiting gutter buildup (and the time you spend cleaning out your gutters). There are DIY installation kits available or you can always hire a professional to install a gutter guard system.

If you have a sump pump under your house, now is a good time to test it. Run a hose to be sure draining water travels directly to the pump (dig small trenches if needed), and that the pump removes the water efficiently and expels it well away from the foundation. For more information about how sump pumps work go to howstuffworks.com.

 

Check for leaks

The best opportunity to catch leaks is the first heavy rain after a long dry spell, when roofing materials are contracted. Check the underside of the roof, looking for moisture on joints or insulation. Mark any spots that you find and then hire a roofing specialist to repair these leaks. What you don’t want to do is wait for leaks to show up on your ceiling. By then, insulation and sheet rock have been damaged and you could have a mold problem too.

Don’t forget the basement. Check your foundation for cracks, erosion, plants growing inside, broken windows, and gaps in window and door weathering.  Make sure to properly seal any leaks while the weather is nice. This will ensure materials dry properly.

 

Pest Prevention

Rodents are determined and opportunistic, and they can do tremendous amounts of property damage (and endanger your family’s health). As temperatures cool, take measures to prevent roof rats and other critters from moving in. Branches that touch your house and overhang your roof are convenient on-ramps for invaders, so trip back branches so they’re at least four feet from the house. If you do hear scuttling overhead or discover rodent droppings in your attic, crawl space or basement, take immediate action. The website http://www.thisoldhouse.com has several helpful articles on the topic.

 

Maintain your heating and cooling systems

Preventative maintenance is especially crucial for your home’s heating and air-conditioning systems. Fall is a smart time to have your systems checked and tuned up if necessary. Don’t wait for extreme temperatures to arrive, when service companies are slammed with emergency calls. Between tune-ups, keeps your system performing optimally by cleaning and/or replacing air filters as needed.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, a professional inspection and cleaning will help prevent potentially lethal chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, always keep a supply of dry firewood or sawdust-composite logs so you have a backup heat source in an emergency.

 

Insulate & seal

Insulating your home is a cost-efficient investment, whether you’re trying to keep the interior warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Aside from more major improvements like energy-efficient windows and insulation, there are some quick fixes that do-it-yourselfers can tackle. If an exterior door doesn’t have a snug seal when closed, replace the weather stripping; self-adhesive foam stripping is much simpler to install than traditional vinyl stripping. If there is a gap under the door (which can happen over time as a house settles), you may need to realign the door and replace the vinyl door bottom and/or door sweep. Air also sneaks inside through electrical outlets and light switches on exterior walls. Dye-cut foam outlet seals placed behind the wall plates are a quick and inexpensive solution.

First Posted in Windermere Blog.

Posted on September 27, 2017 at 8:20 pm
Oleg Doukhnevitch | Category: Home Update | Tagged , ,