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Smart Thermostats – Boost Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: October 8, 2015

What to look for when buying a smart thermostat

With the winter chill just around the corner, it’s time to get your home heating system in order. A great way to start is to install a smart thermostat. Boost your home’s energy IQ with a digital thermostat that can be pre-programmed to control the times your heat is turned up and down. A smart thermostat can store six or more daily settings, automatically adjusting the thermostat without you being there to monitor it.

By reducing the temperature on your thermostat by 10° to 15° for 8 hours a day (like overnight or when you’re at work), you can save 5% to 15% per year on your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Here’s what you need to look for when shopping for a programmable or “smart” thermostat:

  • Temperature control. Choose a unit that includes control of programmable fans, like the air conditioner’s fan, so that it can better manage the temperature.
  • Keypad lock. Protect your settings so that unauthorized people in your home (kids, in-laws) can’t mess with your energy controls.
  • Wi-Fi enabled. The software that drives the smart thermostat should allow you to program it from your smartphone or tablet. Make sure the mobile app is supported by your technology.
  • 7-day scheduling and away controls. A smart thermostat should include programming for at least seven days, as well as the ability to pre-program the temperature control when you’re away from home for days at a time.
  • User-friendliness. Simplicity is the key to effectiveness. If your thermostat is too hard to program, you’ll probably lose energy savings.
  • Some smart thermostats will let you know when you have an equipment malfunction or just need routine maintenance.
  • Before you buy, be sure the unit will work with your HVAC system.
  • Easy installation. Installation shouldn’t require a Ph.D. in rocket science. A good programmable thermostat can be set up without a pro, using online tutorials. Of course, hiring an installer is always an option!

Here are three models that fit this criteria:

The Nest Learning Thermostat is one of the most popular smart thermostats. Now available in version 3.0, the Nest’s intelligent programming learns your habits, and the “Heads Up” feature lets you track your furnace’s automatic shutoffs. You can also check your home’s energy usage via your smartphone.

The ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat is consistently rated with The Nest. The ecobee3 measures temperature and room occupancy, adjusting the heat where it’s needed. You can add more remote sensors to cover a larger home.

The Homewerks Radio Thermostat CT-80 can set seven different temperature points during one day, features a large display, works with most HVAC systems, includes a built-in battery backup, and monitors both your humidity and temperature. Admittedly, the Homewerks model doesn’t have the sleekness of the Nest or ecobee3.

Depending on the model you choose and your current energy bill, the cost of the smart thermostat might deliver return on your investment in one year or less.

Mortgage rates are still low…but not forever

Categories: Real Estate News | Posted: October 1, 2015

Not long ago, homebuyers reigned in the housing market. Home prices dropped dramatically after the 2008 financial crisis, and mortgage rates fell to an all-time low. People who were ready and able to purchase a new home reaped the rewards of under-valued home prices and historically low mortgage rates.

In 2012, home prices were below the fair value of the properties, lower than they had been since 1998. Since March 2012, those prices have been creeping up. Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research predicts that prices will continue to climb slowly for the next few years.

While the real estate market has rebounded, we’re still seeing people who are waiting and watching. But why wait?

Mortgage rates are still extraordinarily low. A 30-year fixed rate is currently as low as 3.75%, not far from the record low of 3.31% in late November 2012. Like the housing price, these interest rates have come back, but not by much. In fact, Freddie Mac reported that current rates have risen half a point since February 2015.

That’s good news for homebuyers. You can still get a great value on a new home while leveraging the low interest rates. However, you need to act. Mortgage rates are expected to continue to rise over the next two years. Forecasts are predicting a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage to go as high as 4.61%, almost a point higher than the current mortgage interest rate.

You might also qualify for a loan with a low or zero downpayment. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offer mortgage products that offer great rates with little or nothing down.

Remember, predictions are just that. We can only guess what is going to happen to the housing market in the near future. But with the current home values and low mortgage interest rates, now is the time to make the move.

Enjoy Your Outdoor Living Space All Year

Categories: Home Design Trends | Posted: September 25, 2015

When people talk about outdoor living space, all thoughts seem to head towards summer cookouts. Once the autumn weather slips in, however, you have plenty of time and activities to enjoy outside on your patio, deck, balcony, and yard.

Seasonal outdoor decorating is as festive outside as it is inside your home. Add autumn colors and décor, like pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, and wreaths. Place easy-to-tend container gardens with hardy plants like kale, asters, mums, and sedum, which can tolerate the chill but keep your outdoors colorful and alive!

Change your outdoor color scheme by swapping out the cushions on your patio furniture. It’s a good time to clean and stash the summer cushions. Have some warm lap throws available for use outdoors, too. Lay down an outdoor rug to cozy up an area for fall.

When winter rolls around, turn your outdoor living space into a winter wonderland, with twinkling white lights around the area. Add splashes of blue decorations—hanging from the trees, perched on walls, or nesting in the snow—to accent the winter white.

A cozy fire is a welcome spot in fall and winter. Use your fire pit for warmth and cooking—or add an outdoor fireplace. Roast marshmallows for s’mores or try your hand at outdoor cooking. Check out some campfire recipes here.

Do you have a pergola? If not, consider adding one. It’s a fairly simple task. In any season, this minimal enclosure can define an area while still being outdoors. When the fall sets in, you can cover the pergola with a canopy for a bit more shelter.

Even when the temperature drops a bit, you can still go outdoors and play, no matter your age. In the fall, lawn games like croquet, bocce, badminton, and cornhole will keep you active enough to stay warm.

Even if you decide to stay indoors during the winter months, invest some time in decorating your outdoor living space so you can enjoy the view. Birdfeeders, solar lights, and a stack of colorful pots will perk up a barren landscape and stave off the winter doldrums.

16 Tips for Fall Lawn Care

Categories: Home maintenance tips | Posted: September 17, 2015

Tips and information on fall lawn and garden care

As much as you may hate to admit it, summer will come to an end. Autumn slips in, with that recognizable chill in the air and the fluttering leaves falling from trees to the ground, where you’ll have to rake them.

Nature has its way of putting the summer plants to rest before the cold weather arrives. But you still can make it easier to wake it from the winter hibernation by following this fall lawn and garden clean-up checklist.

Here are our 16 simple tips to take care of your lawn and garden this fall

Lawn and garden clean-up

  • Rake your garden beds, getting rid of the dead annuals, weeds, and other debris that can attract bugs.
  • Fertilize your lawn between September and mid-October to feed it essential nutrients before the winter.
  • Resist the temptation to prune your trees and bushes. This action encourages new growth, which will die during the winter. The best time to prune is in the early spring, at the start of the growth season.
  • Gently till the garden soil, which both aerates it and exposes insects that will survive the winter underground.
  • If you plan to plant a new garden bed in the spring, cover the area with plastic or mulch to prevent further growth.
  • For the final mowing of the fall, set your mower to cut the grass shorter.
  • Prepare garden beds now for spring planting by testing and amending the soil with compost, and adding a layer of mulch to prevent weeds in the spring.
  • Remove and discard any diseased plants; don’t mulch or compost them.

Perennial care

  • Remove any delicate bulbs or tubers that won’t survive the winter, like dahlias and gladioli. Dig them up and store the bulbs in brown paper bags or newspaper in a dry area. For further protection, pack the wrapped plants in Styrofoam peanuts.
  • Once the ground has hardened, cut back the stems of hardy perennials to no more than three inches in height. Blanket them with mulch or straw for protection.
  • If you have some crowding in your perennials, dig up the bulbs, divide the root ball, and transplant portions.
  • Plant the spring-blooming bulbs before the ground hardens.

Tool time

  • Drain the fuel from your lawn mower, trimmer, and any other garden power tools.
  • Clean the blades and handles of your garden tools.
  • Drain your hoses before rolling up and storing them.
  • Clean the birdfeeders.

A little extra effort now will save you more time in the spring!

Montaire: A Kirkland Community of 5 Luxury Homes

Categories: Community Spotlight, Kirkland, Lifestyle, Real Estate News | Posted: September 16, 2015

Bainbridge in MontaireMontaire is a quiet, secluded community of 5 luxury home sites that feature unique walk-out basement home designs ranging from 4875-4977 square feet. These luxurious homes will vary from 5-7 bedrooms and will contain bonus and media rooms, as well as dry bars in the basement. If you’re one for entertaining outside you’ll be have plenty of room with Montaire’s over sized backyards. Or enjoy the fresh air on the large decks, which boast territorial views of Kirkland.

This desirable community is near the vibrant Kirkland area, including Juanita Beach Park, and its prime location gives easy access to Bellevue and Redmond. The community is situated near major employment centers and it is just minutes from any everyday conveniences you may need.

Montaire’s Gorgeous Luxury Home finishes include:

  • LIEBHERR 48″ Freestanding Side-by-Side Refrigerator & Freezer
  • 48″ Viking Gas Range Professional Stove
  • Kitchen Aid Architect Series Dishwasher
  • Bellemont Frameless Cabinetry with soft close doors and drawers
  • 50 Bottle Capacity Under counter Wine Cooler
  • 10′ Ceilings on the Main Level with 8′ doors
  • Slab Quartz & Slab Marble Counter tops
  • 2nd Generation Nest Thermostat
  • Extensive Millwork including Crown & Sill & Apron

The City of Kirkland Montaire map

Kirkland is located on the shores of Lake Washington and is just east of Seattle. Kirkland’s vibrant waterfront is unparalleled when it comes to waterfront parks and beaches in the Puget Sound. Kirkland is home to many companies, as well as branches of companies, including IBM, Google, Microsoft, Icom Incorporated, Kenworth, and more.

Recreation: Kirkland offers the unique opportunity to escape into nature without having to leave the city. You can take a stroll in one of the 45 parks, with Juanita Beach being the most popular beachfront park, or enjoy any number of Kirkland’s award-winning restaurants and wineries. Some other recreational activities that you can enjoy include boating on Lake Washington, cycling on one of Kirkland’s scenic bicycle lanes, bird watching at Juanita Bay Park, or going on an art walk of the city. You can find plenty of exciting activities by visiting Kirkland’s City page of events and activities.

Schools: Kirkland is served by the Lake Washington School District, and is home to Lake Washington Technical College as well as Northwest University. Montaire is served by the Highly acclaimed Lake Washington School District including: Carl Sandburg Elementary School, Finn Hill Junior High School, and Juanita High School.

Choosing the Right Size Home For You

Categories: New Home Selections | Posted: September 10, 2015

When building or purchasing a home, it's important to consider how much house you actually need.

When you’re house-hunting, do you ever feel like Goldilocks? This one is too big. This one is too small. How do you know which home is the perfect fit? How much house do you and your family really need? There are several variables to consider.

Right-sizing your home and your life is important to today’s homebuyers. When you factor in the maintenance, utilities, taxes, and comfort, you realize that the choice of your next home should be based on more than love at first sight.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re looking for a new home.

  1. What can I afford now and in the future? Look at your financial situation. Will the cost of purchasing and maintaining this new home prevent you from meeting your savings goals? Remember, that just because you are pre-approved for a particular mortgage amount doesn’t mean that you should spend that much. Be clear on your expenses and goals before committing to your new home.
  2. How much time do you have for home maintenance? Whether it’s more rooms to clean, a yard (and maybe a pool) to keep up, and possibly some aging systems or spaces that need updates, some homes need more tender loving care than others. A big yard is beautiful, but can you keep it looking nice? If not, can you afford to pay someone to handle the task (see question #1)? Do you like to travel? If you’re on the road, is your home easy enough to lock up and go, without worrying about its care and feeding?
  3. Is there room to grow—and do you need it? Calculate the number of rooms and square footage you need to be comfortable—and be realistic. Will your family be growing? Will you need a home office in the future? Is it possible an aging relative might live with you? Does the new home have enough storage space or will you have to de-clutter—and CAN you?
  4. Where do you feel comfortable? Do you like big spaces or is cozy a better feel for you? Do you need a getaway in your home? Will a spacious spa-like bath be a valuable retreat? Do you need space to accommodate hobbies, like a workshop, fitness room, or craft studio? Don’t compromise on the true comforts that make your house a home.

When you’re in the process of house-hunting, look at a wide variety of sizes and styles. Take note of the layouts you like, the room sizes that feel right, and the outside space that seems like a good fit for your comfort zone. Take the time to make a list of your new home priorities, and keep that with you as a checklist when looking at properties, so you aren’t swayed by appearance. Remember, size only matters when it’s the right size!

2015 Home Interior Paint Color Trends

Categories: Interior Design | Posted: August 28, 2015

One of the quickest, easiest, and most affordable makeovers in your home is a can of paint. One gallon can make a big difference in the look and feel of any room. Go from dull to daring, or tone down a prior adventure into boldness.

The popularity of paint colors changes from year to year, as evidenced in the home fashions you see in the stores and online. Fashion runways aren’t the only place where color trends emerge. Home decorating is influenced by designers and manufacturers, the driving force behind the paint colors you choose.

What’s trending right now? Here are some of the home interior paint color trends for 2015.

50 Shades of Gray—and we don’t mean the book. Gray is the most popular color for interior walls this year. Gray is neutral enough to complement any room, but the range of gray shades are so diverse that the choice can still make an impact—from a soft dove gray to a warmer hue that leans toward brown and all the way to gunmetal and charcoal.

Gray can go from warm to cool, and the tones can seem to shift according to pairings with home furnishings and décor. According to the Paint Quality Institute, “Grays that contain traces of warm hues like red, yellow, or brown seem cozier, and partner best with warm companion colors. On the other hand, grays that have hints of blue or green seem color and more austere, so they are inherently compatible with colors on the cooler side of the spectrum.

Fruitful Choices—Orange and olive are two home interior paint colors plucked for perfection by today’s leading decorators. “I saw a palette of 60s colors on the 2015 runways that was exciting—shades like olive and orange are being given new life,” said Alexandra Kaehler.

Orange can go from sunny and golden to deep rust, giving the homeowner a wide range of choices that can suit any décor. Olive adds a rich, warm backdrop to any room, and pairs beautifully with a diverse array of accent colors.

Feeling the Blues—Blue never ceases to lose its popularity. This year, we’re seeing a definite trend with brighter Aegean blue paired with bright white, creating a vibrant yet still calming effect, like relaxing somewhere in the Greek Isles. Shades of softer blue-green, with a coastal feel, still have a strong following. French blue is a consistently popular paint color among shabby chic fans.

Not Quite White—Creamy white, off-white, ivory, or any white with a hint of warmth is popular. Paint manufacturers never tire of producing a spectrum of not-quite-white hues, using prefixes like “Dune, “Linen”, “Bisque”, and “China”. When you’re looking for a color that’s as neutral as possibly but adds a bit of warmth to your room, you can never go wrong with “white with attitude”.

A Woman’s Guide to the Man Cave

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: August 20, 2015

ManCave_Blog

 

The man cave is a space—in the basement, garage, or somewhere that the “She” of the house allows—where a guy can be a guy. He doesn’t need coasters under his drink. He has total control over the remote. And he can eat what he wants without being reminded of his diet. He can yell at the television screen all he wants, play video games uninterrupted (theoretically), and escape the daily grind.

Women don’t understand some of the things that men want to display. They might not share the passion for sports and martial arts movies. And they probably find watching hunting and fishing shows and poker tournaments about as exciting as, well, listening about them.

But here’s the thing, ladies. Everyone needs a place to call their own, a room where they can be undisturbed. A woman might enjoy less isolation, as long as she has quiet time—reading a book by a sunny window, creating in a craft space, or relaxing with a cup of coffee on the patio. As long as she can be willfully ignored by the rest of the family, the woman of the house doesn’t need doors.

A man does.

A woman multi-tasks. A man doesn’t. So, give the guy a break—and a man cave. Here are some things you can add to his new haven, so that you enhance it without making it frilly.

Don’t say “décor”. While a man wants his man cave to look a certain way, he associates “décor” with women’s stuff. As soon as you use this word, you invade his sense of man space.

Don’t waste your energy on curtains. They don’t care what’s on the windows. Keep it simple—a fabric panel with his favorite team’s logo, window decal, or just a simple curtain with grommets that’s easy to open and close.

Let him decide where things go. As much as you might want to organize everything for him, don’t. He’s going to move things around anyway.

Toss pillows will live up to their name. While you might like pretty toss pillows, anything in the man cave will likely end up on the floor, under someone’s feet, or in some other place that will get them dirty.

Use man scents. If you want to add fragrance to the room, choose something manly. Plug-in air fresheners are best, because a man probably won’t light candles—and he definitely won’t remember to blow them out when he leaves the man cave.

Be the stocker, not a stalker. If you want to help, sneak in there and leave a bowl of snacks, preferably individually wrapped so they don’t go stale as quickly.

Bite your tongue. This is a man cave, not a family room. The primary user gets to decide how it looks, how it will be used, and when it can be entered. Ladies, keep the door and your mouth closed. On the plus side, you don’t need to clean it!

If you have a man cave, what are the rules? And what is your favorite man cave feature?

8 Bonus Room Ideas

Categories: Home Design Trends, New Homes | Posted: August 13, 2015

Bonus room ideas for transforming extra space in your home

How many ways can you use a bonus room? Here are 8 great ideas…

Who can’t use a little extra space in their home? The bonus room has become a desirable feature for new homebuyers. With one room that’s not designated for a particular purpose, you can create the functional space that best suits your lifestyle.

How many ways can you use a bonus room?

Family/game room. If you’re tired of having toys, books, DVDs, and video game system controllers kicking around your living room, you might be ready for a family room or game room, where you can centralize the more active entertainment. Accent the space with storage spaces, like cabinetry and cubbies, to store the games and toys.

Home theater. A home theater allows you, your family, and your guests to kick back and enjoy a movie in the comfort of your home—without the high cost of tickets and concessions. Convert the bonus room by adding a large tv screen, a home theater system to deliver the audio quality, comfortable seating, and the right lighting (with dimmers, of course).

Craft space. Any crafter knows that the supplies somehow pile up and clutter makes it hard to be creative and productive. A craft room, art studio, or other creative space will have all the equipment, tools, and supplies where you can readily access and use them. Hang racks and build storage for paper, ribbons, fabrics, and yarn, or whatever your passion requires.

Man cave. The two words that can send a man into a euphoric daydreaming state. The man cave provides a private haven, where the man of the house can hide from the “Honey Do” list, enjoy a book or magazine without interruption, play poker, have the remote control all to himself, and just revel in his thoughts. A great use for a bonus room, the man cave might feature comfortable furniture (e.g., reclining sofa with cup holders), a poker or pool table, gaming system, music system, small fridge, and bar.

Home office. More people are working from home, either occasionally or full-time. A bonus room enables you to designate a home office space where you can either close yourself away to get work done, or close that work off from your personal life. The dividing line between work and living is essential to thriving in both. Make sure you can readily access the Internet from this room. And don’t forget the home office deduction on your income tax return!

Exercise room. When you have an exercise room or fitness center—as opposed to a treadmill tucked in a corner where it doubles as a clothes dryer—you’re more likely to utilize the value of the equipment. Install a television screen so you can entertain yourself or watch workout videos. Include a small fridge or a water dispenser to keep hydrated. Choose flooring that is both durable and easy to clean. Foam and rubber tiles provide the cushioning you need and are easily replaced when damaged.

Homework station. Avoid “The dog ate my homework” excuse when your students can organize their books and assignments in a homework station. In addition to a desk, computer, Internet access (with parental controls) and bookshelves, include bulletin boards for posting calendars, notes, and reminders. You can also use dry erase, chalkboard, or magnetic primer right on the walls to turn them into functional space. With dry erase and magnetic primer, you apply one coat and then cover with your choice of wall paint.

Guest room. A bonus room generally doesn’t include a closet, but for a guest room, you don’t need one. Just furnish the space with an armoire to allow them to hang up and store clothing. You can also use a day bed with underbed storage or a trundle bed to accommodate an extra guest.

How will you use your bonus room?

Sammamish: A Wonderful City to Raise a Family

Categories: Sammamish Washington | Posted: August 7, 2015

The City of Sammamish, located approximately 20 miles East of Seattle, is one of the most desirable cities in Washington to live in. With it’s highly reputable schools, friendly residents, and its prime location near many large companies, there’s no doubt why homes there are selling fast. The school districts in Sammamish were rated as some of the best in the state.  It’s no wonder that this year, Sammamish was voted as the Best Suburb to Raise a Family in Washington State.

Recreation
The City of Sammamish offers plenty of water recreation, not only on Lake Sammamish, but also Beaver Lake and Pine Lake. There are several city parks including: Beaver Lake Park, Pine Lake Park, Sammamish Park, and Ebright Creek Park. Sammamish also has two private golf courses – Sahalee Country Club and the Plateau Club. It is located a very easy commute to Snoqualmie Pass to the East, where residents can enjoy snow skiing and hiking. Other recreational facilities include the Columbia Athletic Club and the Sammamish Family YMCA.

Sammamish has a massive list of city wide events going on all year round, including Concerts in the Park, weekly KidsFirst themed entertainment at the library, and art classes. Discover the current Sammamish list of events by checking their event calendar here.

Schools

Sammamish is served by both the Lake Washington School District and Issaquah School District. These are two of the most highly acclaimed school districts in Washington State. Included in the Issaquah District is Skyline High School which boasts a superior football program with seven state titles, Many of Skyline’s alumni have gone on to pay Division 1 college football.  Sammamish is also home to Eastside Catholic School, a faith-based private school for grades 6-12.

Grocery Stores

Sammamish has a great variety of shopping options from large grocery chains such as Costco, Quality Food Center, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes to small ethnic markets like Apna Bazar and the Sammamish Farmer’s Market. In the summer another shopping option that is very popular is the Farmer’s Market that are held on Wednesdays at the Sammamish Commons Plaza at City Hall.

With so many things to do in the city, it’s no wonder that Sammamish was Voted as America’s Friendliest Town in 2012 by Forbes Magazine.

American Classic Homes has built several lovely communities in Sammamish, Washington. Currently available in the area we have Tarrington Place, The Commons, Westmont, and Heritage Estates, in addition to those there are several Spot Lot Homes that are under construction in some fantastic established neighborhoods as well.

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