Spring Checklist For Homeowners

You’re a homeowner, now what? Whether you’re a new buyer or have been in your home for a year or two, you’ll want to make your home clean and comfortable for the many years ahead of you.  As a homeowner, it’s important to stay on top of the maintenance your home now requires.  Not only will this save you from a potentially larger problem down the line but it will also add value to your home when you decide to sell in the future.  Buyers (and their agents) love seeing a well maintained home (keeping your maintenance records is a bonus!) and could save you thousands of dollars in future negotiations, just by keeping your “house in order”.

This spring maintenance checklist has eight tips to help you avoid headaches down the road:

1. New Homeowner? Change the locks.

You may not have considered putting new locks on the doors, however, almost 70% of burglaries happen in residential neighborhoods. It’s unknown who or how many people the previous owner gave keys to, so you may want to install new locks. This is also a good opportunity to replace locks that are worn out or rusted.

2. Deep Clean Dusting

If you’re new to your home, you have probably had movers come through your home, and they bring quite a bit of dirt and dust with them. And even if you’ve been there  for a few years, spring is a great time to do a deep cleaning. If cleaning isn’t your thing, you can hire a maid service for less than $100.  If you do it yourself, begin with a thorough cleaning of any hardwood, tile or carpet. Wash the baseboards, which are often overlooked. If you’re going to install a new dryer, be sure to clean out the vent and exhaust space of any leftover dryer lint to avoid fire hazards.

3. Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Check every smoke and carbon monoxide alarm in your home at least once a year. If they aren’t working properly, you’ll need to change the batteries or have the alarms replaced. If your home is older, it may not have a carbon monoxide alarm, so be sure to get one installed.

4. Check air filters and ducts.

A proper heating and air conditioning unit means clean ducts and filters to circulate the cold or warm air throughout the home. If they’re filled with dust, dirt or grime from years of use, it could prevent rooms from getting warm or cool when turned on. Check the ducts and filters for any dirt and clean and replace as needed. This should be a top priority for anyone who has allergies.

5. Keep the insulation updated.

During your professional home inspection, your inspector checked for proper insulation. But it’s always good to understand how old that insulation is and whether additional layer could improve energy efficiency. Revisit the insulation question occasionally to make sure what you have is adequate. You should also insulate your water heater and its pipes due to the climate fluctuations, or if the water heater is outside. This way it doesn’t have to turn on often to keep the water hot for baths, dishes and washing machines, ultimately save you money down the line.

6. Clean out the gutters.

To avoid roof damage during the winter or major storms, you must keep the gutters free of leaves and sticks that will prevent proper drainage. If you’re nervous to do this yourself, the professional cost to clean gutters and downspouts average between $160 and $210.

7. Prune and trim the landscaping.

If you’ve just moved in or if your yard got out of hand during the winter, you may need to trim trees, prune shrubs and mow the lawn. To save money, you can prune trees yourself, but hiring an arborist will ensure proper techniques are used as well as free up your precious time.

8. Personalize rooms with paint.

When you bought your home, the seller may have depersonalized rooms by painting them neutral colors such as white or taupe. Now that you own the home, you can paint over those colors to make it yours.

The aforementioned are just some of the many project possibilities that will keep your home in top condition as a new homeowner.  If you have any questions, or would like referrals to services such as the ones mentioned feel free to shoot me an email!  Happy Spring Everyone!

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Fall Checklist For Your Home

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Fall is the perfect time to take care of the little things that can make a big difference for you and your home.  Most of the tasks listed below are well with-in the average person’s ability and even if you choose to have a professional handle them, it’s worth the expense. You’ll save money as well as prevent a larger expense down the road.  A large piece of why I enjoy writing a real estate blog for my business is my love for sharing information and helping others, I am still amazed at how much I learn when I look into each topic.  If you have a topic you are interested in knowing more about or would like referrals for professionals in the area who do the following work, please email me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com.

Check out those gutters!  Your roof’s drainage system annually diverts thousands of gallons of water from your house’s exterior and foundation walls. That’s why it is so important to keep this system flowing smoothly. Clogged gutters can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and to water in your basement. They are also more prone to rust and corrosion. Before the leaves fly this fall, have your gutters cleaned, then covered with mesh guards to keep debris from returning. A dry weekend like the one coming up is a great time to take care of this!

Video instructions on cleaning the gutter

Weatherize your home. A home with air leaks around windows and doors is like a coat left unbuttoned. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs. This material also reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Because weather stripping can deteriorate over time, it is important to inspect it periodically.

If you suspect a problem with weather stripping, you have several options for checking. Close a door or window on a strip of paper; if the paper slides easily, your weatherstripping isn’t doing its job. Or, close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. (Don’t let the flame get near anything flammable!) If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, you have an air leak.

While you’re at it, also check for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone, gas, and so. Seal any gaps with a suitable caulk.

Video instruction on weatherizing doors and windows

Get on top of roof problems. Few homeowner problems are more frustrating than a leaky roof. Once the dripping starts, finding the source of the problem can be time-consuming. Stop problems this fall before winter and increased precipitation from annoyance into a disaster.

Here’s how: Inspect your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if necessary. Check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage. Look for damage to metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. Scan the entire roof for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. Look in your gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating; expect problems soon. Finally, make sure your gutters are flowing freely.

If you are thinking of selling your home and your roof is in need of repair or replacement, start planning this into your budget.  It’s not an expense to ignore and will always be worth the upkeep.  

Silly but informative video with instructions for fixing leaky roof

Walk the walks (and drives). Damaged walkways, drives, and steps are a hazard year round, but their dangers are compounded when the weather turns icy. Fixing problems in the fall is also critical to preventing little problems from becoming expensive headaches.

Look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for disintegration of asphalt, or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths.

Most small jobs are well within the ability of a do-it-yourselfer, but save major repairs for experienced hands.

Video instructions for repairing driveway cracks

Chill out.  Although the mild Northwest weather doesn’t see extremes it is still important to take steps to ensure that outside faucets (also called sill cocks) and inground irrigation systems don’t freeze and burst.

Here’s how: Close any shut-off valves serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to drain the line. (There may be a small cap on the faucet you can loosen to facilitate this draining.) If you don’t have shut-off valves, and your faucets are not “freeze-proof ” types, you may benefit from Styrofoam faucet covers sold at home centers.

To freeze-proof an in ground irrigation system, follow the manufacturer’s procedure for draining it and protecting it from winter damage.

Freshen your filter. Furnace filters trap dust that would otherwise be deposited on your furnace, woodwork, and so on. Clogged filters make it more difficult to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can seriously increase your utility bills. A simple monthly cleaning is all it takes to keep you and your filters breathing free and clear.

Here’s how: Disposable filters can be vacuumed once before replacement. Foam filters can also be vacuumed, but they don’t need to be replaced unless they are damaged. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray.

Give your furnace a physical. Once a year, it’s a good idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional. To avoid the last-minute rush, consider scheduling this task in early fall, before the heating season begins.

Here are signs that you should have an inspection performed sooner:

Noisy belts. Unusual screeches or whines may be a signal that belts connected to the blower motor are worn or damaged.

Poor performance. A heating system that doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did could be a sign of various problems. Your heating ducts might be blocked, the burners might need an adjustment, or the blower motor could be on its last leg. One check you should be sure to conduct: Make sure your furnace filter is clean.

Erratic behavior. This could be caused by a faulty thermostat or a maladjusted furnace.

Gather round the hearth. Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards.

Inspect your flue for creosote. What is Creosote? If you don’t know, I had no idea what it was or that it can be a potential problem…this is WHY we clean the chimney (which we had done only a couple months ago) Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If it accumulates in a flue or chimney, the result can be a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace or wood stove frequently, have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.

For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep.

Look for flue blockages. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don’t have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions.

Exercise the damper. The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.

Check your chimney for damage. Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars.

Keep the humidifier humming. You may know that bone dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you also know it can make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running.

Here’s how: First, inspect the plates or pads, and if necessary, clean them in a strong laundry detergent solution. Rinse and scrape off mineral deposits with a wire brush or steel wool.

Head-off gas problems. Keeping a gas heater in good shape is both a safety and a cost issue. An improperly maintained heater can spew poisons into the air of your home, or it may simply be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually. There are also some maintenance items you should address.

Here’s how: First, shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages to the burner and clean the burner of lint and dirt. Follow the manufacturer’s advice for any other needed maintenance.

Keep the wood fires burning brightly. Wood burning stoves are a great way to add atmosphere and warmth to your home. But regular inspections are needed to ensure that these devices don’t become a safety hazard. Here’s how to check them.

Inspect stovepipes. Cracks in stovepipes attached to wood stoves can release toxic fumes into your home. Throughout the heating season, you should check for corrosion, holes, or loose joints. Clean the stovepipe, and then look for signs of deterioration or looseness. Replace stovepipe if necessary.

Look for corrosion and cracks. Check for signs of rust or cracking in the stove’s body or legs.

Check safety features. Make sure that any required wall protection is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that the unit sits on an approved floor material. If you have young children, be sure to fence off the stove when it is in operation.

At least once a year, do a top-to-bottom review of your home’s safety features. This is also a good time to get the family together for a review of your fire evacuation plan. Here’s how to do this:

Smoke and CO detectors. Replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven’t already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.

Fire extinguishers. Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). At a minimum, keep one near the kitchen; having one per floor isn’t a bad idea. Annually, check the indicator on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Make certain that the lock pin is intact and firmly in place, and check that the discharge nozzle is not clogged. Clean the extinguisher and check it for dents, scratches, and corrosion. Replace if the damage seems severe. Note: Fire extinguishers that are more than six years old should be replaced. Mark the date of purchase on the new unit with a permanent marker.

Fire escape plans. Every bedroom, including basement bedrooms, should have two exit paths. Make sure windows aren’t blocked by furniture or other items. Ideally, each upper-floor bedroom should have a rope ladder near the window for emergency exits. Review what to do in case of fire, and arrange a safe meeting place for everyone away from the house.

General cleanup. Rid your home of accumulations of old newspapers and leftover hazardous household chemicals. (Check with the state or local Environmental Protection Agency about the proper way to discard dangerous chemicals.) Store flammable materials and poisons in approved, clearly labeled containers. Keep a clear space around heaters, furnaces, and other heat-producing appliances.

Liven Up Your Kitchen With Full Circle + Easy Updates For Your Home


First things first, Happy Hump Day! I want to start off by offering all of my readers an opportunity to win one month of organic produce delivered by Full Circle! How do you enter? If you aren’t already, follow my blog! Not only will you get the latest real estate news and useful home ‘how-to’s’, but you will automatically be entered to win the Full Circle drawing. Already a follower or not interested in the long term commitment? Shoot me an email with your name/phone number/address and I will enter you.  All I ask is that you be a Washington resident when the winner is announced on Monday, September 1st.

What is Full Circle?

“Each week we handpick fresh, certified organic fruits and vegetables to create your personalized order. We build relationships with growers using sustainable farming practices and source our produce as locally as the season allows. We also source from organic growers in warmer climates for increased variety throughout the year. It’s like having the farmers market come to you—all year long!”  What’s not to love about that?

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Easy Updates For Your Home

Enhance the entry

First impressions matter. Invest in a new front door or paint your old one, it can dramatically change the look of your home and enhance curb appeal. Try other easy DIY fixes like repainting the exterior trim, replacing the house numbers or installing new outdoor lighting.

Build a Headboard

Headboards can be made out of anything – find something you’re passionate about and turn it into a headboard. Use old skis or skateboards; or make a collage by decoupaging magazines or attach family photos to an old headboard. Also, think about using salvaged materials such as fencing, old doors etc.  There are literally thousands of examples on Pinterest and is a great weekend project!

Illuminating Ideas

New kitchen lighting or a new fixture over the dining table is sure to brighten up any meal. Try one of these projects: Make a fabric-covered drum shade to match your decor. Install a dimmer switch to make your current lighting more versatile. Use a few cans of spray paint to give an old chandelier new life. Replace or paint the blades on a ceiling fan. Also, if you’re thinking about selling your house, remember that light creates an atmosphere that people either want to be in or not.  Think about creating a warm, inviting space with as much natural light as possible!

Paint Cabinet inside cabinet

Cabinet Facelift

If your cabinets need more than new hardware, paint them. It can be a time-consuming project, but if done right, your kitchen will look brand new and add value to your home.

Market Monday’s: Kirkland Condos

I’ve been watching what’s happening in the Kirkland condo market closely as of late, it’s fascinating that such a desirable location can have A LOT of affordable condos still on the market for people looking to make a great investment in their future, or get into their first home. Not only that, the rental market is creeping up in the area making it challenging to find an affordable place to live, which makes buying a condo even more appealing.  So, what’s happening? As of August 18th, 2014 there are 65 active condo listings ranging between $105,000 to over $6 million! The median list price is $315,000 while the average list price is $525,000, it’s pretty clear that the big listing prices are skewing the data.  There were 127 condos sold in the past 90 days in Kirkland, with the sale price being 98% percent of the list price.  This means that people are paying the list price, and in some cases more depending on the property and demand for that location.  

The graph below demonstrates the for sale/sold/pending condos through July 2014:

As of August 18th, 2014 the Kirkland condo market is at 1.54 months of inventory based on closed sales.  This is down slightly from 1.8 months of inventory in July of this year.  Interest rates dropped slightly last week, making buying a home even more appealing as well as affordable.  

The list/sale price ratio has been fairly consistent since last year, being close to 100%.  Again, this data is skewed slightly due to the million dollar + condo listings that aren’t seeing that kind of ratio (the million + residential home market, however, is seeing a 100% + list/sale ratio).

Months of inventory was up slightly in July to 1.8 months, although August is currently looking at 1.54 months of inventory.  This is definitely a hot market, with no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.  It is a great time to get into a condo either as a  first time home buyer or as an investment property.  The listing below is one of the many great condos available in Kirkland…

 

 

 

Open House (1)

 

Stay tuned for a post on financing and a big announcement this week! I have partnered with Full Circle organic produce delivery for an opportunity to give my followers! So, if you haven’t already…follow my blog via email for a chance to win some awesome, organic produce delivered to your door! Have a great week everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feng Shui Basics: How your space affects your mood

 

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How often have you walked into a room in your own home or someone else’s and thought things just didn’t “feel” right? Or, perhaps there are certain rooms that also feel exceptionally inviting and open.  It’s easy to forget how important the spaces we live in are to our health and well-being.  The Following are some insights into home decoration and how it can make you more peaceful, productive and happy.

Color:

Colors can alter your mood. It’s important to play around with colors to find the right balance for you. Here’s a quick color to mood chart for reference:

Red: Passion, power, stimulation, and high energy. (Suggestions: dining room, bedroom, or upholstery)

Orange: Creativity, happiness, enthusiasm, and communication. (Suggestions: accenting, throw-overs, or pillows)

Yellow: Cheerfulness, light-heartedness, and mental stimulation. (Suggestions: kitchens, not bedrooms)

Green: Growth, harmony, nature, safety, peace, and healing (Suggestions: bedroom, bathroom, or office)

Blue: Trust, loyalty, confidence, faith (Suggestions: accents around the house and in bedroom)

Purple: Romance, luxury, nobility, wealth, spirituality, and motivation (Suggestions: bedroom)

Black: Power, independence (Suggestions: picture frames)

Brown: Stability, humility (Suggestions: living room)

White: Cleanliness, vibrancy (Use sparingly; too much white can feel cold)

Use this as a general reference and then play around. Look at a color, its various tones, and notice your mood. Have fun and mix and match.

Furniture and Decor:

Many people simply put everything against the wall when it comes to furniture placement. I have been guilty of doing this after moving, leaving artwork to sit against the wall and allowing our busy lives to prevent us from taking care of one of our most important spaces. What I didn’t realize fully was that this creates negative energy and dead space.

Energy must always have flow, so you don’t necessarily need to make everything symmetrical at all times. Balance is more important than symmetry. The rule of thumb is to think outside the box and to decorate in a way that may not necessarily be the most obvious. Mix furniture and decor with a wide range of variety, vintages, and textures.

When it comes to the decor and furniture, if you want a strong and independent look, you may consider incorporating circular, oval, and arched shapes along with granite, marble, and flagstone. Artwork and decor with metal, stone, brass, iron, copper, or gold is integral as well.

For leadership and creating a healthy emotional interaction between people, it is suggested to use artwork that involves sunshine or any form of natural illumination along with pyramids, cones, natural sunlight, feathers, silk, or wool.

For more order and sensuality, use furniture with squares, rectangles, ceramic, tile, and brick.

For creativity, intuition, and flexibility, integrate more wood, floral upholstery, wall coverings, drapes, pillars, and columns.

For a more relaxed and spiritual environment, integrate anything with water, crystals, glass, or mirrors.

It’s important not to overdo too much of any element. Use variety and balance. HAVE FUN!

Using Scent to Uplift your Home Environment:

One of the greatest senses we have is smell. Smell is like touching or tasting something from a distance. It’s a subtle thing that can have a huge impact on our mood.

I am a huge fan of candles and notice that I am drawn to different scents at different times and seasons. Start lighting more candles, incense, and oils to produce pleasing smells throughout the day. You can also add more flowers like jasmine, violets, and gardenias throughout your home.

What’s wonderful about creating a pleasing home environment is that it’s not necessary to spend a fortune to make your space inviting and clear. Less is more. Just start experimenting with what feels good to you!

It’s time to take a look at your space so that you can remove anything that brings negative energy, add things that bring you positive energy, and that makes your family feel comfortable and happy around the house.

Remember, your home is your sanctuary.

 

Buzzwords explained: “green home”

 

 

With phrases like global warming, greenhouse effect and sustainable management being tossed around in everyday headlines, more people are focusing on the effects of their actions. It’s not just about what manufacturing companies are doing to help or hurt the environment; it’s also about what people do in their everyday activities.

How many of you have noticed the term “green home” weaving its way into your life? “Green” is a big trend in homes right now, but you’re forgiven if you’re not sure exactly what that means.  In fact, I wasn’t completely sure what it meant until I did some research of my own.  When I think “green home” I think of energy conserving, water miser Energy Star appliances, composting toilet and a home with solar panels.  But what about a home with traditional heating and electrical systems that also has low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) drapes, paint and carpet? Or, can it be as simple as making our environmental impact as small as possible, given the tools we already have?

What I found is that any of the aforementioned are steps in the right direction.  Going green can be anything from where you buy a home, how you build a home and the ways in which you cut water and energy waste.

It is possible to be a little bit green. Everything helps, even if you simply choose a floor of sustainable cork instead of Brazilian rain-forest cherry or a kitchen counter top of recycled glass tiles rather than granite. Not only will you help the planet, but doing so often helps your own bottom line through lower energy bills and your home’s potentially higher resale value.

So, how can you make improvements without breaking the bank?

  • Use certified (sustainably harvested) wood products
  • Buy products made of recycled materials
  • Cut energy use with insulation and a highly efficient furnace and appliances
  • Install renewable energy sources like a wind generator or solar panels
  • Reduce light pollution
  • Maximize open space on your land

You’ll be happy to know that some of the best investments are also the easiest to implement. These four will give you the most return for the money spent:

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. They last seven or eight years and use less energy, saving about $100 per year in electricity. Cost: $2+.
  • Install a timer on your lights and heating-and-cooling system so you can program your home to consume less energy when you’re gone or sleeping. Cost: roughly $30.
  • Put aerators on faucets to dramatically reduce water use. Find them at hardware stores for about $3 each.
  • Caulk and weather-strip air leaks around windows, doors and other places where the wall is penetrated. Cost: Roughly $5 for a 10-ounce tube.

Yes, there is some extra effort involved in going “green”, however, the lower monthly utility bills might just be worth the up front work.  Not to mention, according to the National Association of Home Builders, 85% said they were more satisfied with their green homes then with previous, traditional houses.  I know that I will be making some changes in my own home, what about you?