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Why Not White Marble?

 

Are you thinking about replacing your kitchen or bathroom countertops? The choices are endless; tile, granite, soapstone, wood, or maybe marble? White marble often gets a bad rap because it’s a more porous metamorphic stone than most (which means it’s prone to stains and scratches), but we beg to differ, and here’s why.

 

White marble is as timeless as it is modern. Adding white marble to your kitchen or bathrooms is like bringing home flowers for your significant other; always a good idea. It looks great on kitchen counters, but also just about anywhere in your bathrooms, from the floor to the shower walls.  Adding white marble countertops to a dressing vanity in bedrooms is also a great way to incorporate it throughout your house.

 

After you’ve made the decision to install white marble into your home, you’ll need to decide on a finish. Honing gives a matte finish, whereas polishing creates a shiny, reflective surface. If you want to reduce etching, choose a honed finish instead of a polish. If you don’t mind some added etching, then polished white marble is as stunning as it sounds.

 

How do you keep your marble happy? Make sure to apply a seal prior to using it. To reduce staining, wipe away spills immediately, and only use a neutral detergent to clean your marble. These simple things will keep your white marble in shipshape condition.

 

When it comes to your marble, it’s more like you than you think. Marble goes through good times and bad times and some scars fade better than others. It will never be perfect, but in the end, we think you’ll love it—imperfections and all.

 

Check out white marble looks we love on Pinterest.

 

5 Deal Breakers that can blindside home buyers

 

Purchasing a home can be a complex endeavor for even the most well-prepared home buyer.  You’ve diligently saved for your down payment, followed the market, researched agents and now you are ready to make an offer on your dream home.  Don’t let these 5 “Deal Breakers” come between you and your new home.

  1. Big Purchases on Credit. It is tempting to buy the furniture for your new home or a new car for the garage before the sale closes. Take care if you are making these purchases on credit. Large purchases on credit can have a major impact on your credit profile which effects your mortgage application. It’s a better plan to wait until after closing or pay cash for these transactions or you may be putting that furniture in a different living room than you originally picked them out for.
  2. Overpaying. Before your bank will approve your mortgage they will appraise the home you are purchasing.  If they feel you are overpaying they are likely to decline your mortgage application. If you find yourself in this situation consult with your agent on renegotiating your offer to be more in line with the bank’s appraised value.
  3. Purchasing too close to Foreclosure. If you are making an offer on a house which is facing foreclosure be sure to have a closing date set before the foreclosure date. Have your agent work with the lender to structure closing before the house goes back to the bank and into foreclosure.
  4. IRS liens. You’ve heard the old saying “Death and Taxes”.  Back taxes and liens can derail your attempts to get financing for a mortgage so be sure to have your books in order before filing your loan application.
  5. Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). CLUE is a database of insurance claims for both people and property.  Your home insurance rates are determined by the information about you and the property you plan to purchase which is contained in this report. Past claims for water damage, falling trees and even dog bites from present and past owners can multiply your insurance rates. Consult your agent about the CLUE report for your future home as soon as possible once your home purchase offer is accepted.
  6.  

When purchasing a home there will be challenges which you can plan for and the unexpected hurdles.  By educating yourself as a consumer and choosing a well trained real estate agent you can avoid many of the pitfalls of 21st century home ownership.

 

What about you? Tell us if you have had any “deal breaker” experiences.

 

Home Decor Through The Decades

 

As we celebrate our 45th anniversary here at Windermere, we’re feeling a bit nostalgic. The fundamentals of helping our clients buy and sell homes haven’t changed much over the past 45 years, but the way we decorate our homes sure has. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore interior design trends from the past four decades—the good (farmhouse sinks), the bad (macramé owls), and the ill-advised (carpeted bathrooms!).

 

1970s

Inspired by the hippie movement, interior design in the 1970s centered around bringing the outdoors inside. Wood paneling could be found in bedrooms and basements alike, and wood accents adorned appliances in the kitchen.

Earth tones dominated throughout the house. If your refrigerator wasn’t avocado or burnt sienna and your shag carpet wasn’t harvest gold, you were not keeping up with the times.

 

1980s

In the 1980s, we wanted to make homes as cozy as possible, which for a lot of folks meant chintz, Laura Ashley–inspired florals, and tons of pastels.

The “country” look gained huge popularity during this decade as well. Even high-rise city apartments were filled with objects that seemed more at home on a ranch in Texas, including bleached cow skulls and weathered-wood dining tables and chairs.

 

1990s

Perhaps as a reaction to the excess of the decade before, the 1990s saw a rise in Japanese-inspired minimalism. Sparsely furnished rooms with rock gardens, clean lines, and simple colors were all the rage.

On the opposite end of that spectrum was the shabby chic craze. Distressed furniture, soft colors, and oversized textiles combined to create this look.

Texturized walls were also a big hit. Wall paper and paint brushes were out, and sponges became the way to get the chicest look for your home.

 

2000s

It’s hard to believe, but we’re nearly a decade out from the early aughts. And that perspective makes it easier to spot trends that felt of-the-moment only a few years ago but are waning in popularity today. One example is Tuscan-style kitchens. It seemed every new home—especially homes on the upper end of the market—included a kitchen with stone tiles, granite countertops, hanging vines, and beige and tan tones.

Another popular item from the early 2000s that is now facing a bit of a backlash is mason jars. Once a staple of homes looking to incorporate a rustic feel, mason jars are now so common in decorating both homes and restaurants that they no longer feel special or nostalgic.

 

Today

Trends are always evolving, but if you’re looking for some cutting-edge interior design ideas for 2018, here are a couple to consider.

Embrace super saturated colors, especially warmer tones like yellow and red. These bold hues no longer need to be saved for accent pieces like pillows or lamps. Larger pieces of furniture and entire walls make a bigger splash.

Incorporate geometric patterns. There’s really no wrong way to get on board with this trend. Whether your couch features large circles, you add patterned backsplash in your kitchen, or you cover your ceiling with octagonal wallpaper, geometric shapes will help your home feel fresh.

How Tax Reform Affects Homeowners

 

New tax legislation was signed into law at the end of 2017, and it included some significant changes for homeowners. These changes took effect in 2018 and do not influence your 2017 taxes.  Here’s a brief overview of this year’s tax changes and how they may affect you*.  

 

The amount of mortgage interest you can deduct has decreased.

Under the old law, taxpayers could deduct the interest they paid on a mortgage of up to $1 million. The new law reduces the mortgage interest deduction from $1 million to $750,000. These changes do not affect mortgages taken out before December 15, 2017.

 

The home equity loan deduction has changed.

The IRS states that, despite newly-enacted restrictions on home mortgages, taxpayers can often still deduct interest on a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC) or second mortgage, regardless of how the loan is labeled. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted December 22, suspends from 2018 until 2026 the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit, unless they are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.

 

The property tax deduction is capped at $10,000.

Previously taxpayers could deduct all the state, local and foreign real estate taxes they paid with no cap on the amount. The new law limits the deduction for all state and local taxes – including income, sales, real estate, and personal property taxes – to $10,000.

 

The casualty loss deduction has been repealed.

Homeowners previously could deduct unreimbursed casualty, disaster and theft losses on their property. That deduction has been repealed, with an exception for losses on property located in a federally declared disaster area. 

 

The capital gains exclusion remains unchanged.

Homeowners can continue to exclude up to $500,000 for joint filers or $250,000 for single filers for capital gains when selling their primary residence as long as they have lived in the home for two of the past five years. An earlier proposal would have increased that requirement to five out of the last eight years and phase out the exclusion for high-income households, but it was struck down. Find out more about 2018 tax reform.

 

How does tax reform affect your plans for buying or selling a home?

The changes in real estate related taxes may change your strategy. Contact your Windermere agent to learn more. If you need help finding an agent, we’re happy to help.

 

*Please consult your tax advisor if you have any questions about how the new tax reform impacts you

A Home Addition: What to Consider Before Starting to Build

 

 

Adding on to your current home may be your best bet if you’re short on space, but you don’t want to move or can’t find another house in the area with all the qualities you’re seeking. It’s also an attractive option if the house you have is lacking just one significant element (a family room, another bedroom, a larger kitchen, a separate apartment, etc.).

On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.

 

Define your needs

To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.

If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”

If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.

 

Types of additions

Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one of more walls to make a first floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.

First floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.

Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.

Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.

Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.

 

Permits required

You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.

 

Requirements for a legal apartment

While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:

  • Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it, or zone-approval requirements.
  • Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
  • ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.

In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.

 

Average costs

The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square food if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area, or about $100 per food in a lower-priced market.

You might be wondering how much of that money might the project return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details; but the average “recoup” rate for a family-room addition is typically more than 80 percent.

 

The bottom line

While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.

 

Myths and Truths About Millennial Home Buyers

 

In recent years there has been a lot written about millennials and their impact on the housing market. Because of this there are also a lot of misconceptions about what this generation wants from a home. To start, it’s important to know that there are more than 71 millennials, which are defined as those aged 22-37. They also represent 34 percent of all home buyers which makes them tremendously important to the real estate market. We were curious if what we’ve read about millennial home buying habits is true and here’s what we found.

 

Simple, Functional, Minimal Maintenance

 

Millennials do not appear to be drawn to fixer uppers in the same way as prior generations. They want something that is “move-in” ready with minimal maintenance. They also value simplicity and function over extravagance which means they’re drawn to spaces that serve dual purposes and furniture that doubles as storage. The old adage “less is more” takes on new meaning for millennial buyers. 

 

Location

 

Similar to older generations, millennials place a great deal of importance on location. The convenience to their job, friends, family, entertainment, and shopping is a must. But the rumor out there that they only want to live in city dwellings is a myth. Millennials are getting older and starting to have families, so like prior generations, many of them are moving away from the hustle and bustle of the city and into nearby neighborhoods with good schools and family-friendly amenities.

 

Digitally Engaged

 

Millennials have grown up surrounded by technology, so smart home technology is a high priority for these buyers. And they’re willing to pay more for it: a survey conducted by Wakefield Research states that millennials are willing to pay a 20 percent premium for smart home technology, such as voice assisted devices, smart phone-controlled security systems, electronic door locks, and doorbell cameras.

 

Experience over Luxuries

 

One of the main things we’ve learned about millennials is that they are not prone to conformity. They’re a practical bunch who places a very high priority on experiences and quality of life. Studies show that millennials would rather have discretionary income to pay for things like healthy food, gym memberships, and international travel than blowing their budget on an expensive home. In other words, they’re happy with a modest space so they have money left to spend on their quality of life.

In the end, millennial buyers aren’t that different from prior generations. They’re clearly a pragmatic group that sees their home more as a functional space than a symbol of their success. Technology definitely plays a far greater role for them than their baby boomer parents, but ultimately they still want a home in a nice neighborhood with good schools and access to friends, family, and nearby amenities.

Gardening Trends For 2018

Outdoor living during the spring and summer months is extremely popular. Months of cold, wet winters are followed by glorious spring colors and warm summer days of vivid blue skies. In this post, we thought that now would be the best time to share some pretty garden trends for 2018.

 

Wabi-Sabi

Leisure time should be just that: relaxing and rejuvenating. So why labor relentlessly to create and maintain a perfect landscape? Wabi-sabi, is the Japanese art of accepting transience and imperfect beauty. Relax and appreciate nature as it is, with humble imperfections, weeds and all. Recognize (and tell others) that dandelions and clover in untreated lawns are not blights. They are status symbols for ecological horticulture. Consider natural grasses and groundcovers as low-maintenance substitutes for sod. Opt for perennials instead of annuals, let flowers go to seed and give nature license to evolve on her own.

 

Reclaiming Small Outside Spaces

For many of us these days, space is at a premium and with house prices continually on the rise, more and more people are living in apartment blocks or tiny lots. Garden designers are determined to make even the smallest of spaces useful and attractive, and manufacturers have taken notice. Look for a better choice in planters that slot onto balcony rails. New models will have coverings for protecting plants from cold temperatures so that you can even grow seeds and vegetables on your balcony alongside your flowers.

Self-watering wall planter systems have been improved for 2018 and the hanging macramé plant holder is having a bit of a revival. Add a small patio heater and you have an outside space you can enjoy all year round with minimal effort.

 

Purple Passion

Pantone’s Ultra Violet is the color of the year. Maybe that’s why you find purple flowers in this year’s plant varieties and garden design. It’s easy to incorporate this color in the garden as there are many flowers and shrubs with this beautiful color. However, there are also several edible purple plants that you can grow. Purple vegetables are not only interesting and pretty, their unique color denote anthocyanins which are very beneficial to your health.

 

Re-Wilding

This is a style that keeps popping up time and again. However, 2018 has taken the re-wilding trend up another notch. It is still all about working with nature, growing wildflowers and supporting our pollinating insects. Re-wilding means adjusting plant selections to better support local wildlife and growing both seed-producing and berry-bearing plants. However, now it is also about using ‘green’ gardening products, natural solutions to bug and slug killers instead of chemicals and insecticides and using peat-free products.

 

Alfresco Living

Outdoor entertaining and kitchen areas are tipped to be a key trend for Spring/Summer 2018. We are not talking about a little nook corner just off the kitchen. Alfresco dining spaces are being pushed out into the garden itself and made into a major feature. These dedicated outdoor dining areas are surrounded by in-ground and container plants for that lush feeling. Special flooring, comfy furniture and mood lighting turn it into a little haven. Complete the trend with a sunken fire pit, barbecue or pizza oven and you might never want to leave.

 

Lighting The Way

Adding lighting to your garden is not a new thing. However, in this age of renewable energy, garden lighting companies are turning away from the more traditional lighting solutions we have seen in the past. The advances in solar energy capture, means that we can light up our gardens in a variety of fun, affordable and better ways. No more changing batteries or wiring up the garden with electricity.

The wide range of lighting methods allows you to create whatever ambience you want. Simple stand-alone lights can mark pathways, either discreetly embedded into the path edges or standing loud and proud along the side. Multi-colored fairy lights can be tangled among the overhead branches of a tree creating dazzling shapes and textures. Solar Mason jars can be hung from above or used as table lighting. Festoon lights can create an ambient glow around any outdo

Windermere and Zillow Economists Come Together To Discuss Housing

 

Earlier this week, nearly 200 Windermere brokers came together at Windermere’s monthly luxury breakfast at Overlake Golf Club in Medina, WA. The featured speakers were Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, and Zillow Senior Economist, Skylar Olsen. Matthew interviewed Skylar on a number of topics related to the housing market and economy, including interest rates, inventory levels, Millennials, and where they predict Amazon will open their second headquarters (they both are betting on Austin, TX). 

 

The two economists discussed the overall health of the housing market. Both predict sales to soften a little this year, but still remain strong overall. When asked about interest rates, Skylar stated that she believes they will land just below 5 percent by the end of 2018 and rise to around 6 percent by early 2019. They noted that luxury home prices have slowed a little in certain cities, with the exception of places like Seattle and San Francisco, where the economies and job growth are very strong.

 

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Matthew and Skylar addressed first time buyers – and more specifically – Millennial home buyers. Both say this generation will play an increasingly important role in the health of the housing market, but their biggest obstacle is saving enough money for a down payment. Skylar stated that more than 25 percent of first time buyers end up borrowing from the “bank of Mom and Dad” in order to be able to afford a home. With rapidly rising prices in many cities across the US, both agree that there probably isn’t much relief in sight in the near term for these buyers. 

 

 

It was an honor to have two such well-respected economists on hand to provide their insights into the housing market. For more information about Matthew Gardner, and to read his analysis of regional markets throughout the Western. U.S., please visit: https://www.windermere.com/economics

Read Across America Day: Assisting Our Communities with Literacy Programs

“Step with care and great tact, and remember that life’s a great balancing act.”  – Dr. Seuss

 

What is Read Across America Day

Read Across America Day was created by the National Education Association (NEA) and is held annually to promote reading for children and young adults. This day was created on March 2, 1998, and coincides with the popular American children’s book writer Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Schools and education systems across the country create events and activities on this day to bring people together and participate in reading books. This day is tremendously important to educators, parents, and children across the nation as the NEA represents about 3 million teachers, faculty and administrators that are provide activities and resources.

 

How do schools celebrate the day?

The NEA launched Read Across America last year by having a reading extravaganza with over 400 public school students. This kick off was in Washington D.C. where special guests The Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, and The Great Zucchini entertained and read to the public-school students who attended.  In hundreds of other schools across the U.S., teachers read students their favorite Dr. Seuss books. Some also dressed up as the Cat in the Hat and prepared green eggs and ham.

 

How is Windermere Involved?

Last year, the Windermere Foundation was proud to assist many community and school programs that provide resources for students in need. One example is Olympic Hills Elementary School in North Seattle which was able to purchase 130 new books for their library from a grant that came from the Windermere Foundation.

 

You can help support local schools and programs like the one described above by clicking the Donate button and selecting the Windermere Real Estate office near you. These donations go a long way towards helping non-profit organizations in your community.

 

 

*Photo courtesy of neaToday

February Home Maintenance Checklist

It’s February – winter’s not over yet, but spring is right around the corner. If you have cabin fever from being inside, cleaning and freshening up your house can help you get through this last month of winter and be ready to get outside when spring arrives.

Once you check these items off your to-do list, you’ll be able to relax by the fire with a good book and enjoy the last few weeks of winter.

  • Mop entryway floors. Clean your floors regularly to prevent damage from road salt and melting snow. Place a basket of old towels near the door to wipe up water and salt as soon as it is tracked inside.
  • Rotate or flip your mattress. Extend the life and comfort of your mattress by flipping or rotating it. At the same time, vacuum box springs and the mattress to eliminate allergy causing dust- mites.
  • Organize your laundry room. Scrape dried-on laundry detergent from the ridges in your washer. Throw away laundry products you never use and replace damaged sorting bins.
  • Clean out your spice cabinet. Throw away expired spices and other seasonings, which may not only lose their taste, but could harbor mold and bacteria.
  • Sanitize hand-held devices. Prevent germs that cause the spread of colds and the flu by disinfecting your phone, remote controls, tablets, as well as your door and cabinet knobs.
  • Dust blinds, ceiling fans and fixtures. Wipe down or use a feather duster to remove the dirt that builds up on blinds, ceiling fans, light fixtures other small electronics.
  • Add color to your table. Treat yourself to some fresh flowers to add cheer to your kitchen table while waiting for spring blooms to make their first appearance.
  • Plan your summer vacation. Reserve your vacation home now to get the best selection of available properties. Start your planning today at Long & Foster’s Vacation Rentals website.