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: Kirkland- Juanita Neighborhood

As a resident and home owner of both a rental property and primary residence in Juanita, I may be a little bias to this community.  However, there is good reason for that….with still semi affordable home prices relative to the rest of Kirkland, proximity to Lake Washington and a growing community… this area is on fire!

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In the 1920’s, Juanita was home to the Juanita Beach Resort complete with a 2-story bath house and an amusement park!  The Juanita neighborhood is defined as NE 145th to the North, I-405 to the East, NE 132nd to the South and 100th Ave NE to the West.  In analyzing this specific market’s housing data, the biggest growth in property values are happening South of 124th and East of 98th with close proximity to Lake Washington and new construction developments on the horizon.

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We are in a market where there is extremely low inventory!  As of October 19th, 2015 there are 12 active residential listings (excluding town homes and condos) in the Juanita neighborhood.  The price range is $359,950-$2.375M with a median list price of $715k.  An interesting observation is that $359,950 on the lowest end is located North of 124th, whereas the second most affordable listing is $499,950 located South of 124th (if you’re really interested in location specifics).

In the last 180 days, 17 homes are pending ranging from $350k-1.2M, with a median pending price of 625k.  To elaborate on pending, there have been 41 homes sold in the last 180 days ranging from 290k-1.15M, the median sale price was 500k and the average days on market is 8 days!!!  Another interesting note that I touched on in a previous blog post regarding pricing…homes that were priced strategically day 1 were the ones that sold in 8 days or less, AND sold for an average of 25k more than asking price!  The graphs below show months supply of inventory as well as list/sale price ratio graphics. (Note: the graphs only show data through September)

As you can see, the sale price/list price ratio is at or above asking price, this takes into consideration all of the data, including the homes that have sold for significantly over (all 8 days or less) as well as the homes that started out higher and dropped the price.

As of October 19th, 2015 Juanita has 1.5 months supply of inventory.  You can see that in August and September the months supply increased.  In my opinion, there were not many quality listings that came on during that time frame, and the ones that did come on the market were probably priced too high.  Those have since been absorbed but I will do another post updating the sale prices of these homes as we will see this impact in the market in October/November.

According to NWMLS September press release:

“Scarce inventory, new rules for mortgage closings and affordability concerns will likely slow home sales around Western Washington during the remaining months of 2015 and into early 2016, according to spokespersons from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.”

The “slow” months are a great time to both buy and sell a home.  Buyers will have less competition in a less frenzied sellers market and sellers will have little competition and attract serious buyers.  If you want “unbiased” real estate data, check out Seattle Bubble…it’s a great, data driven blog that illustrates some of the realities of the market.   It’s a nice balance to the sometimes “ra-rah” information coming from real estate professionals or skewed information from the media, but I always advocate clients to gather information from credible sources and think in a world where LOADS of information is available, it’s hard to sift through what is fact and what is BS.

I always welcome feedback, comments and questions so shoot me an email or text if you have any of the aforementioned!

Market Monday’s: Pricing in a Seller’s Market

What is my home worth?  It’s the question most home owners have and arguably the most important factor when deciding to sell a home.

In today’s hot seller’s market, where in King County there is a 1.4 months supply of inventory and a typical balanced market would be considered somewhere between 4 and 6 months supply.  According to a the most recent press release by NWMLS,  “Single family home prices across the 23 counties in the MLS report rose nearly 7.6 percent from a year ago, from $297,500 to $320,000. Single family homes in King County commanded the highest median price at $490,250, up 6.6 percent from the year-ago figure of $460,000, but down from June’s high of $500,000”.  Interestingly, 2,600 listings have expired this year in King County alone…the most common influencing factor? Overpricing.  Yes, it’s a sellers market but properties that sold for the most were strategic in pricing, ultimately attracting the most buyers when the property was most relevant and visible.  With all the valuation tools available to consumers (read 10 appraisals vs. Zestimates), below are some ways to take matters into your own hands and have a realistic look at your market area, ultimately helping you get the most for your home.

  • Study past sales. This is the starting point for any thoughtful and successful pricing strategy; think of it as the “science” part. Take the time to study past sale statistics for homes in your area and areas similar to yours. None will be identical, of course, but having a clear understanding of true market value is the first step in establishing your list price.
  • Do not confuse active listings with past sales. Active listings have not sold. They are just your competition. It is important to be aware of your competition’s pricing, but this is often just an indication of what your home won’t sell for.
  • Do not overprice because you have “time.” If the market is appreciating, this strategy may work, but if prices in your area are declining, you may quickly find yourself chasing a market and costing yourself money. And if the market is stable? Your home will just sit. Buyers pay in today’s dollars, and time is rarely on your side.
  • Leave some room for negotiation, but don’t overreach. No seller wants to feel he left money on the table, and no buyer wants to overpay. Your price should give both parties room to maneuver, but if it is too high, you risk being perceived as unrealistic, and buyers will pass over your home.
  • Think like a buyer. What are the things that you value in a home? Is it a large yard, an updated kitchen or a view? These are likely the same things that your buyer values as well. Talk to your agent about current buyer trends. Yesterday’s avocado green shag carpeting is today’s granite counter top. The property facing the interstate is going to be a tougher sell than the one with a mountain view. Your price should reflect how your home compares to the others offered for sale. Buyers will find objections to any home, as none is perfect, but it is curious how quickly objections disappear when the price is compelling.
  • React swiftly and decisively. If your home is on the market and is not being shown or if you receive feedback that you are priced too aggressively, don’t hesitate to adjust your price immediately!

First impressions are everything when selling your home. Studies have shown that the first two weeks on the market are the most crucial to your success. During these initial days, your home will be exposed to all active buyers making pricing and timing that much more critical.  If your price is perceived as too high, you will quickly lose this initial audience and find yourself relying only on the trickle of new buyers entering the market each day. Markets are dynamic, and your price has an expiration date. You have one chance to grab attention. Make sure your pricing helps you stand out on the shelf — in a positive way.

Oh, and here is a little infographic courtesy of Pinterest to help spruce up your curb appeal….

Tips for Selling Your Home; Curb Appeal. Curb appeal can mean the difference between a home that sells quickly for the asking price, and a home that sits for months on the market, below asking price.  #lakegeneva #fontana #curbappeal. http://agents.keeferealestate.com/michalene_melges/:

Home Buying FAQ: How Long Will I Live Here?!

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How long do I plan to live in my future home?

This may be the single most important question for you to answer.  Why? Because the answer directly affects the size and type of home that you buy, where it’s located, as well as the type of mortgage you use to finance your purchase.

Times have changed since our parents bought their homes.  Chances are, unless they’ve retired or are in professions where thy are required to relocate to different parts of the country from time to time, you parents are still living in the home in which you grew up.

Statistics from the National Association of Realtors (NAR, which your Realtor should be a member of), reveal that today, on average, people live in their homes only about 5 to 7 years. That’s it.  Then, they move.  

How are you supposed to know how long you’re going to live in your home?  I suppose there is no way to know for sure, but here are some general guidelines, which can be referred to as the Cycle of Life.

Cycle of Life:

Young and single:  If you buy a home here and you’re interested in having a long term relationship or getting married, it’s likely that what you can afford as a single person won’t be quite enough space for two.  Within five to seven years you’ll probably trade your one bedroom or two bedroom home for something larger.  Tip: look for a property that is an investment and in a neighborhood that is seeing appreciation. Ask your Realtor to help you locate a property that you may be able to turn into cash flow 5-7 years down the road

Newly Married:  You may want to start a family within a few years of your marriage.  Within 5-7 years, you’ll need additional space as your family starts to grow (and their stuff multiplies exponentially).

Divorced or Separated:  This can be another move.  At this point, in your second or third home, with young children in school, you’ll probably settle down for a while.  You may even find a house in a good school district and decide to stay for 10-15 years, until your children are through with school.

Empty Nesters: Once your children are grown and out of the house for good, you might decide to sell your big house, take your profits (up to $250,000 for qualified single homeowners and up to $500,000 for married homeowners, tax-free) and move to a smaller condo somewhere warm or perhaps cold, if you like skiing.

Vacation Home: And finally, it’s possible that you’ll purchase a second (or third) home, to which you may actually end up retiring.  The most popular age to buy a second home is 55-65, followed by 45-55, followed by 65-75, which mean the baby boomers are just beginning to enter their prime second home buying years.

Look Before You Leap

Before you start to look for a home, think about where you are in the Cycle of Life, and where you’ll be in five to seven years.

  • Is marriage, a life partnership, or living with someone else a possibility within five to seven years?
  • How many children do you plan to have during the next five to seven years:
  • Are your children near or at school age? Have you chosen the school district you want for them?
  • Is it likely you’ll be transferred for your job within the next five to seven years?
  • Do you have an aging parent in another part of the country who may require your close supervision or attention?
  • Do you have an aging parent or post-college-age children who might be moving back home with you? Will you need flexible living space that your current home can’t provide?

If you are thinking of buying a home, download my app (click on link OR download via QR code below) and pull all active, pending and sold listings in your neighborhood or desired neighborhood.  If you find a house you like, I am right at your fingertips and am happy to assist you!

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Live Washington: 5 “Cozy” Winter Getaways

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This week, we are embracing the sometimes bittersweet rainy season the PNW has come to be known for. As cold weather arrives, anyone looking for a weekend getaway often has “cozy” on the list of criteria. Here are 5 cozy getaways around Western Washington (and it’s a good time to enjoy low-season rates).

1. Coupeville Inn

Winter is the quiet season on Whidbey Island, but Penn Cove mussels are still fresh and salty in local restaurants and a hike at Ebey’s Landing will wake you up when Strait of Juan de Fuca winds blow. Afterward, cozy up in the pink lady of Coupeville, the Italianate Kineth House, part of the Blue Goose Inn, or one of the rustic madrona-log rooms of the Captain Whidbey Inn.

2. Tokeland Hotel

This funky/delightful historic inn at the upper edge of Willapa Bay has a view of old orchard trees and meadow-grazing deer rather than the ocean, but a 5-minute drive puts you on a sandy beach. Wine and Scrabble in front of the fireplace. No TV, no phones. A true winter getaway.

3. Lake Quinault Lodge

Rain, rain and more rain grows record-size trees here, and the rainy season is the right time to get cozy with a chess board and a cocktail from the bar in the lodge’s pleasantly-wood-smoky lobby. Dine in the Roosevelt Room, named for FDR from his 1937 visit where he fell in love with the area. Nine months after his visit, Roosevelt signed a bill creating Olympic National Park. Today, you can enjoy incredible food and drink, as well as panoramic views of the Lake and the mountains beyond.

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Quinault Lodge’s Beautiful + Cozy lobby

4. Ashford cabins

When the snow flies at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park, it’s a wintry wanderland for snowshoers and inner-tubers. If braving the cold and staying at Camp Muir isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of rental cabins at the foot of Mt. Rainier, most with fireplaces, many with hot tubs, all just right for snowy getaways!  Try Stormking Cabins(this is definitely our next adventure!). Or check other cabin listingshere.

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Cozy Mt. Rainier Cabin

5. Iron Springs Resort

This historical collection of bluff-top Mocrocks Beach-area cabins in Grays Harbor County underwent a major makeover a couple years back, so the original 1940s look has gotten a freshening up like there was a shipwreck of interior decorators out front. But the sandy Pacific beach is still classic, with razor-clam digs when the season’s right.

Live Washington: Winthrop

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Happy New Year Everyone! Week 2 of the “Live Washington” series will kick off with Winthrop, Washington which is best known for its winter recreation, sunshine, and dry snow!

Winthrop is home to the nation’s largest cross-country ski area and some of the most acclaimed snowmobiling and backcountry skiing around. Ski, snowshoe, sled, shred, or skate, the Methow Valley has it all.

Winthrop has 120 miles of groomed, interconnected trails, surrounded by more than a million acres of wilderness and forest lands, the Methow Valley is a beautiful getaway during the long winter months.

Winthrop also boasts Methow Trails, which operates the nation’s largest cross-country ski area of 120 miles of trails where Kids 17 and under ski free everyday on the cross-country ski trail system.  The Loup Loup Ski Bowl operates another 23 kilometers of Nordic trails which is also located just a hop, skip and a jump from the downhill ski hill.

If you enjoy back country skiing as much as my fiance and I do, Winthrop is just the place for you. Most local back country skiers will head up Highway 20 for ski-from-the-road access, or to the end of the plowed road and snowmobile in from there. The options are endless in the Methow Valley!

The Summer months in Winthrop are equally amazing, with an abundance of road/mountain biking opportunities, climbing, camping, golfing, farmer’s markets and according to Winthrop’s website you can also:

“Soar the skies above in a bright balloon, or experience the country at eye level by foot, hoof and pedal! Or stay close to the turf—play 18 holes on a certified Audobon Course. For the less serious golfer, putt-putt can be found right in downtown Winthrop, right next to Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe. Cool off on by floating the river, or paddling the lake.”

Winthrop is a great option for a vacation home for you and your family.  It’s also a good opportunity to have a rental property like the one displayed below, for an affordable $225,000.  The grounds and exterior maintenance of this 2005 condo are managed by the HOA (which means your driveway will always be plowed).  You can utilize your 3 bed, 2+ bath Methow Valley vacation cabin yourself, as a nightly rental, or both. Stay here on your next trip & check it out! If you are interested in this please email me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com or call/text 425.324.0302.

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!