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New Home or Resale? It’s What You Can’t See That Matters.

Categories: New Homes | Posted: October 22, 2015

Thrifting has become a popular trend. People are looking for used items that still have value. Some will re-purpose them, others will do a makeover, and some will use as is.

When it comes to homebuying, does this approach deliver the same value? You’re making a huge investment—probably the biggest financial one of your life. What do you expect in return?

A resale or older home is often perceived as a better deal, because you can buy more house for less money—or so it seems. Whether you’re looking a buying a new home or a resale, it’s what you can’t see that matters.

Here are a few things for comparison when you’re looking at purchasing a home.

  • What will need replacing soon? In a new home, you can be confident that you won’t have to spend money on a new roof, HVAC, appliances, windows, plumbing, or other features that have a lifespan. Calculate any replacement estimates into your purchase price.
  • Is it “green”? From drafty windows and doors and insulation to energy-guzzling appliances, how energy-efficient is the home you’re considering? What’s the air quality? Appliances and plumbing (e.g. toilets, faucets, showers) have become much more energy-efficient over the past few years, and the newest ones can save hundreds on your annual utility bills.
  • How much do you need to invest on cosmetic improvements? This is where many homeowners underestimate the cost of their “dream home”. It’s never “just a few coats of paint”. You’ll probably change light fixtures, wall coverings, and flooring, to say the least. You might want to knock down a wall to open up the floor plan, or replace the kitchen cabinetry. Maybe you need to rewire in order to accommodate today’s electronics. In addition to the cost of any remodeling, there’s the time involved. Do you have the patience to see it through?
  • What’s the resale value? Never buy a home without considering the resale value. Situations change. No matter how certain you are when you sign the mortgage papers, there’s always the chance that you will move again. Be clear about what you can expect to regain from this investment.
  • Are there any purchasing incentives? Interest rates are still incredibly low, although they will continue to creep upward. Homebuilders frequently offer incentives, like no closing costs.

Both new homes and resales have their unique appeal to homebuyers. Regardless, don’t fall in love with what you see. Think about the other factors that contribute to the actual cost of buying your new home.

Gas Fireplaces: Cozy, Warm, and Energy-Efficient

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: October 16, 2015

Nothing warms up a room like a crackling fire in the fireplace—both in heat and ambiance, Gas has replaced the wood-burning fireplace mode in new homes, and for good reason. A gas fireplace is easy to maintain. You turn the fire off and on with a switch, instead of messing with kindling and babysitting the flames. Plus, you have no wood to buy and stack. With gas, you also avoid messy ashes to clean up, glowing embers to worry about when you leave, and the cost of a chimney sweep.

In addition to the convenience, a gas fireplace is more energy-efficient than the wood-burning alternative. Only 15% of wood’s energy is converted into useful heat when logs burn in a fireplace; the rest goes up the chimney. Compare that figure to today’s gas fireplaces, which generate up to 85% heating efficiency. One gas fireplace can efficiently and effectively heat up to 1,000 square feet of space.

  • When shopping for a gas fireplace, consider the efficiency rating. A 70 rating means that 70 percent of the gas consumed is converted into heat and the remaining 30 percent is used for combustion and ventilation. The higher the rating, the better the heating efficiency.

What are your options for harnessing the value and comfort of a gas fireplace in your home?

  • If you already have a fireplace, consider a gas fireplace insert. The insert fits into your existing firebox. It can be connected to your home’s gas lines or, if you don’t currently use propane, to a propane tank located outside.
  • Gas log sets are also placed inside an existing fireplace. These ceramic logs are available in vented and unvented. The vented log set ventilates through the chimney, but doesn’t produce significant heat. The unvented gas log set provides more efficiency but poses a risk of combustion leftovers (water vapor, particulates, carbon monoxide) when run for a long period of time. Gas log sets are more for appearance than warmth.
  • A built-in gas fireplace is ideal when you’re building a new home. Installation is easily handled during construction, allowing you to create the hearth style you prefer—from traditional stone to sleeker contemporary design. A ventless fireplace doesn’t need a chimney, making it an easier installation. The system uses sensors to monitor the oxygen levels in your home. A direct-vented unit uses a chimney or a venting pipe that goes through your home’s roof. This roof-venting option allows you to install a gas fireplace in any room. The most efficient of the gas fireplaces, the direct-vented unit offers up to an 85% efficiency rating!

With any type of gas fireplace unit, you have the option of choosing from a variety of styles and options, like a circulation fan to distribute the heat better. A remote control is a convenient option for controlling the fireplace operation. Plan now to cozy up to the fire this winter, and start shopping for the gas fireplace that fits your home and your lifestyle.

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?

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