Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

Winter is coming!  You’ll be ready for Winter’s worst and prevent expensive repairs by taking care of some basic yearly maintenance tasks….

To-Do #1: Seal Up Cracks and Gaps

Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around  your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.

Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.

Check the following key areas for leaks:

  • Around door and window frames.
  • Gaps around electrical outlets, phone lines, and outdoor faucets.
  • Around heating and/or cooling units.
  • The seal around room air conditioners.
  • At corners formed by siding.
  • Openings around drain pipes in bathrooms and kitchens.

So…How Do I Caulk?

Good question, now that you have identified the problem areas around your home, it’s time to seal them up.  Below are some simple steps to make it happen

  • Start by cleaning the surface to remove dirt, loose paint, and old caulk
  •  Determine which caulk to use based on the size of crack or gap and the surrounding material.
  •  Cut the tip off the tube of caulking at a 45° angle and load it into the caulking gun. Since the tip is tapered, the more you cut off, the wider the bead of caulk.
  • Use a long nail or the puncture tool found on caulking guns to break the inner seal.
  • Apply a uniform bead of caulk to the gap, making sure it covers both sides and completely fills the crack.
  • Remove any excess then smooth the bead of caulk with your finger before it begins to set.
  • Insert a tight fitting nail in the end of the tube of caulking to prevent it from drying out.

To-Do #2: Give Your Fireplace A Once-Over

To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.

Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79 to $500.

You fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150 to $250 for the service

To-Do #3: Inspect Your Roof

If you live in the Pacific Northwest like I do, you know that November 1st basically brings the rainy season for the next 6 months, which makes this step one of the most important things you can do to prevent moisture penetration in your home.

If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.

Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately.

Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50 to $100 eval. Tom and Lori with Twin Peaks Roofing are wonderful to work with, affordable AND professional.  

A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar — called a boot — that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep your roof is.

To-Do #4: Clean and Repair Gutters

Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.

If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage (#5, below); it may be time for a roofing replacement.

Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions; $10 to $20 each.

To-Do #5: Trim Back Trees and Bushes

Trimming your trees and hedges in the fall not only leaves you with less mess, it also improves the appearance of your shrubbery and can prevent or correct a safety hazard. While power tools are terrific (and a must for a large number of trees and bushes) most seasonal pruning and trimming can be taken care of with a few affordable hand tools.

Hand pruners, hedge trimmers, loping shears, and a pruning saw will take care of most small branches and limbs. First look for and remove dead or diseased limbs, then cut back excessive growth and trim the bush into the desired shape.

For taller trees and thicker limbs, consider calling in a professional especially if branches are dangerously close to power lines, Arbor Magic Tree Services have been a client favorite. You may also consider contacting your town or utility company, as major tree trimming may be their responsibility.

To-Do #6: Get Your  Furnace In Tune

Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. You’ll pay $50 to $100 for a checkup.

An annual maintenance contract ensures you’re at the top of the list for checks and shaves 20% off the cost of a single visit.

Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.

Below is a helpful visual checklist:

Fall maintenance checklist

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Market Mondays: 2015 Economic Forecast

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This week I have decided to step back briefly and look at the market from a macro level as well as discussing predictions for 2015 that were shared at a recent conference.  It’s interesting and exciting to see where the housing market is headed, as well as the economic health of the real estate market as we head into 2015.  Before I dive into that information, as of October 27th, 2014 King County is at about 2.6 months supply of inventory while Snohomish County is hovering around 3.1 months supply of inventory.  Those numbers are a 4.2% increase from October 2014 in King County and a 6.2% increase in Snohomish.  With interest rates at a 16 month low, it is a great time to get in there and take advantage of this market if you are thinking of buying or selling your home.

What is the state of the real estate market?  Well, we are currently down 10.6% nationally from peak values in 2006, however, we are slowly making our way back up as demonstrated by the graph below.

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As demonstrated above, all but one top 30 metro areas show annual home value appreciation.  Seattle Metro leads the Puget Sound in annual home value gain at 8.3%, while other areas of the country who were drastically impacted by the recession are seeing a big jump in annual appreciation as well.

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Seattle Metro is currently down 11.5% from it’s peak, compared to the national average of 10.6%.

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Although Seattle Metro is slightly below the national average, what we are seeing is a steady increase in inventory, resulting in a healthier and more sustainable market as well as softening the rate of appreciation (which is still significant, regardless).  The nature of markets are to rise and fall (think rolling hills), however, slow and steady is preferred over sharp inclines and falls.

Are you ready for some good news?

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According to the National Association of Realtors and as demonstrated by the Zillow Real Estate Research for Professionals tool, negative equity has declined steadily since quarter 1 of 2012, which is great news for home buyers and home owners alike.  However, negative equity remains at 17% nationally and is highest in the bottom value tier.  The number of homes underwater is above 25% nationally and 30% in the Seattle area.  The middle value tier is 13% and the top value tier is 6% in the Seattle area.  Although these numbers are declining annually, there are still many homeowners who are underwater, especially in the bottom value tier.

As we move into 2015, mortgage rates are expected to rise, with interest rates expected to reach the 5% mark (which is still fantastic, historically), while rent affordability is below the historical average on a national level.  Renter households are forming faster than owner households for the first time since the late 1980’s and the market is responding with higher rental rates and a shortage of available rentals while the market struggles to keep up with the demand.  (translation: don’t rent if you can buy!)

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Below are some year over year percent change forecasts for Snohomish County, by city.  Appreciation rates are expected to continue to gain, however, slightly less than in 2014.  With rental rates skyrocketing, as well as a shortage of available rentals and low interest rates, now is a great time to get into a home for a first time home-buyer.  Investment properties in the bottom value tier to generate rental income are also a great option, it’s an exciting time in the real estate market around the country.  Please contact me with any questions you have at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com or call/text 425.324.0302.  I am available to help with any of your real estate needs.

And in other Simple Tranquil Living news, the holidays are quickly approaching! Okay, so that may not be news to you, but here at Simple Tranquil Living we have a lot of fun with holiday festivities so stay tuned for a special Halloween post and perhaps another GIVEAWAY! Happy Monday everyone!