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Go for Gold This Thanksgiving

We’re in the thick of autumn now, with Thanksgiving just days away. That means it’s time to start considering how to best showcase your home before the calendar shifts fully into winter. One of the cheeriest bits of fall is the shifting colors that bring a canopy of rustic rainbow hues to a walk through the neighborhood. You can bring that cozy feeling inside yourself with some golden-dipped creativity.

Gilded Pears – Use real or fake pears, whichever you prefer, spray paint gold, and allow them to dry completely. You can add little flags to the top if you’re really feeling crafty.  

Magnolia Wreath – Collect some Magnolia branches and use a wreath frame as a base. Spray paint the green side of each leaf with gold and then assemble using wire. Supposedly it’s not as complicated as it looks!

Dipped Pinecones  – First, you’ll want to make sure your cones are clean and dry. Apply gold leaf adhesive using a foam brush; deciding how much you add will determine how much of the cone is covered in gold. After they dry, it’s time to add gold leaf, which comes in whisper-thin sheets about 5” square. Wrap it around the cone and use a clean foam brush to rub it into the adhesive. Then give it a light spray with sealant and allow them to dry.

Gold Acorns – Hand pick your acorns, clean, and oven-dry them to make sure they are pest free. Paint them gold and then add a layer of clear shellac for a shiny look. Lastly, you’ll want to use a hot glue gun to attach the caps since they naturally fall off after the acorns dry. You can use these as filler in a glass vase or simply scatter them on a tabletop.

Shimmering Maple Garland – All you’ll need is a bag of artificial leaves, bought at any craft store, some Elmer’s glue, glitter, and string. Use a paintbrush to apply glue to each leaf and sprinkle lots of glitter over them. Let the glue set, then shake off the excess glitter, punch a hole at the top and attach a ribbon. Tie them all to a large strand and voilà, a perfect garland for the holidays.

Petite Pumpkins – If you are still head over heels for pumpkins, then using small ones for place cards will add some spice to your table. Tape each pumpkin halfway with painters tape, it can be horizontal, diagonal, you pick! Next paint the bottom portion with gold craft paint (may need multiple layers) and with the last layer still wet, generously sprinkle gold glitter over the painted half. After your pumpkin is dry and you’ve shaken off the excess glitter, wrap beading foil tightly around the stem. Leave a little extra at the end for you to bend for your place card.

Helping Homeless Youth Stay Warm From Head To Toe!

 

With the onset of winter, Windermere offices throughout the greater Seattle area came together this month to host another “We’ve Got You Covered” winter drive for YouthCare, a nonprofit that provides critical services to homeless youth. This drive is a part of Windermere’s #TackleHomelessness campaign with the Seattle Seahawks which aims to raise money, donations, and awareness for the homeless youth crisis. 

This winter, YouthCare predicts that over 1,500 young people in Seattle will call the streets home during the coldest time of the year, challenging local businesses to help however they can. So, for the third year in a row, over 30 Windermere offices came together to answer the call by collecting new hats, scarves, gloves, and warm socks.

During the four-week drive, our offices collected donations from agents, staff, and the community, which included over 8,100 hats, gloves, scarves, socks, and an assortment of other accessories and cash donations.

The staff at YouthCare were grateful to receive the delivery of the bins full of donated items. According to Nicole Phaysith, Communications Specialist at YouthCare, “As the rain endures and the temperature drops, it becomes that much harder for young people to focus on the day ahead. We are so grateful for the generous donation of cold weather essentials from Windermere and the community. We’re able to offer young people respite from the cold—and one less thing to worry about on their road to stability and independence. Thank you for keeping homeless youth warm and dry so that they can plan for their future.”

We are grateful to be able to partner with Gentle Giant Moving Company again this year, who generously donated their time, muscle, and trucks to pick up and deliver all of the donated items to YouthCare. 

This drive would not be possible without the support of the Seattle Seahawks, our offices, and all those who donated. From all of us at Windermere, thank you for making our Winter Drive a success and helping to support homeless youth in the greater Seattle area!

 

 

 

*Participating Windermere offices:

BellevueBellevue CommonsBellevue SouthBellevue WestBurienKirklandKirkland Yarrow BayLynnwoodMaple ValleyMercer IslandMill CreekProperty Management – BellevueProperty Management – EdmondsProperty Management – Seattle NorthProperty Management – SouthRedmondSeattle-BallardSeattle-EastlakeSeattle-GreenwoodSeattle-Madison ParkSeattle-MagnoliaSeattle-Mount BakerSeattle-NorthgateSeattle-NorthwestSeattle-Queen AnneSeattle-Sand PointSeattle-Wall StreetSeattle-WedgwoodSeattle-West SeattleServices CompanyShorelineWoodinville

Windermere Foundation to Donate $25,000 to California Community Foundation Wildfire Relief Fund

 

Like much of the nation, we’ve been heartbroken by the horrifying images and statistics rolling in as California suffers from the worst wildfires in the state’s history. For our staff, agents, and franchise owners who live and work in the affected areas, it’s a threat to their clients, their families, and their communities. Everything that Windermere is is thanks to the hard work and dedication of our team, and #WeAreWindermere is a mantra we hold to in good times and in bad. It is for that reason that the Windermere Foundation is donating $25,000 to the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund. 

The California Community Foundation (CCF) has over a century of experience supporting communities throughout California, with a stellar reputation for putting donations directly towards the causes they support. In 2003, the CCF created their Wildfire Relief Fund, and have raised over $5 million to help victims of wildfires rebuild. The CCF’s Wildfire Relief Fund puts their efforts towards “those who were displaced or lost housing, belongings and/or employment, or suffered physical or mental health problems,” as well as helping to rebuild homes, providing case management services, basic needs assistance, mental health services, provided respiratory equipment, and much more.

We’re proud to support the CCF’s Wildfire Relief Fund and hope you will consider doing the same. You can donate by visiting their site here.

 

5 Home Improvements That Will Boost Your Property Value

A home is the largest investment most people will make in their lifetime, so when it comes time to sell, homeowners often wonder what they can do to get the most return on their investment. Many have the misconception that remodeling is the way to go, but that isn’t always the case. Rather than going all-in on upgrading your home, you should know which home improvements are worth it, and which ones aren’t. 

We’ve sifted through the research and come up with a quick list of five home improvements that’ll help buyers fall in love with your home when it comes time to sell. 

1. Add a little curb appeal 

Curb appeal is critical. As the name suggests, it’s the first thing buyers see when pulling up to the front of any home so it needs to be in nearly pristine condition. Start with the garage door for the most immediate return. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2018 Cost vs. Value report and Money.com, the cost of updating your worn builder-grade garage door with an upscale steel model is about $3,470, and it’ll boost your home’s value by 98.3 percent of the installation price, which means you’ll lose about $60 when it’s all said and done.

Landscaping can also go along way for a minimal upfront investment. Six rounds of fertilizer and weed control will set you back about $330, but when it comes time to sell, you’ll see an ROI of about $1,000 according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors

Other improvements you can easily make to your curb appeal include:

  • Pressure wash the exterior
  • Liven up your front door with a fresh coat of paint
  • Replace hardware such as doorknobs and knockers
  • Install updated house numbers
  • Make your walkways pop with new greenery or flowers
  • Plant a succulent garden
  • Update your porch lights 
  • Add a little charm with window flower boxes
  • Stage your porch 

 

2. Install hardwood floors 

Installing or upgrading hardwood floors is pretty failsafe as most buyers love it. Ninety-nine percent of real estate agents agree that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell, and 90 percent of agents say that they sell for a higher sale price, according to the National Wood Flooring Association. Similarly, research from the National Association of Realtors shows that 54 percent of homebuyers are willing to shell out extra cash for homes with hardwood.

As for your return on investment, NAR’s 2017 Remodeling Impact Report projects that homes that already have hardwood floors will likely see 100 percent return. On the flip side, installing hardwood flooring pays off almost as well with a 91 percent return on investment. It can cost about $5,500 to install, and it’s projected to add about $5,000 to the home value. These estimates may vary depending on the type of flooring you install. 

 

3. Upgrade your kitchen

According to the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents believe that complete kitchen renovations, kitchen upgrades, and bathroom renovations will add the most resale value to a home (in that order). However, complete kitchen renovations can be costly and unnecessary. In fact, kitchen remodels have some of the worst return on investment stats. Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost Vs. Value report found that a mid-range kitchen remodel cost exceeds its resale value by more than $21,000, and that number more than doubles in an upscale remodel. Rather than spend a ton of cash and weeks (or months) on renovating, put a little elbow grease and a small budget into it. 

Instead of doing a full renovation, focus on these smaller updates:

  • Clean
    • Organize your pantry
    • Use a little Murphy Oil Soap and hot water on all of your cabinets
      • Polish cabinets with Howard Feed-In-Wax
      • Tighten all hinges
    • Clean grout and tiles 
    • Shine your sinks and hardware until you can see your face in it
    • Deep clean your stove
  • Give your kitchen a fresh coat of neutral paint
  • Update lighting fixtures, and replace light bulbs
  • Spring for a new cabinet and door hardware
  • Make your countertops look new
  • Upgrade your appliances

 

4. Go green

Today’s younger generations are embracing eco-friendly living, and millennials are leading the pack. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report, millennials make up the largest segment of buyers, holding strong at 34 percent of all buyers.  

When it comes to attracting buyers who are willing to pay top dollar, going green makes sense. A Nielson study found that, of more than 30,000 millennials surveyed,66 percent are willing to shell out more cash for conservation-conscious, sustainable products. Depending on where you live, consider installing solar panels, wind turbines, and eco-friendly water systems

No matter where you live, attic insulation replacement and weather stripping are safe bets. Attic insulation replacement was a top home improvement upgrade last year, and homeowners saw a 107.7 percent return on the investment. Weather stripping, a fairly inexpensive DIY project, costs, on average, about $168 nationally.

 

5. Create a summer retreat

Homes with pools can fetch a higher selling price if done properly. There are in-ground pools and above-ground pools. To truly add value, you’d want to go with an in-ground pool. It’s a permanent investment that costs more upfront, but above-ground pools don’t really add anything to a home other than a nice personal oasis from hot weather. 

Pools cost about $1,000 on average to maintain between the seasonal openings and closings, necessary upkeep and utility bills, according to Houselogic.com and financial consultant Dave Ramsey’s website. Some buyers might not be up for that cost. However, pools can help sell a home especially when you live in a higher-end neighborhood where everyone has pools and in warmer climates like Florida, Arizona or Hawaii. 

Ramsey wrote that a well-marketed in-ground pool can boost a home’s value as much as 7 percent, but he stresses the importance of making sure the style of the pool matches the house and surrounding property. Be sure that any pool doesn’t completely consume the outdoor space. Pools that make sense locationally and complement the property are the best. If the pool is just an expensive eyesore, it’s probably better to remove it. 

With these upgrades, your home will surely see a higher price tag when you go to sell because, as the numbers show, buyers swoon for an outdoor retreat, a like-new kitchen, classic hardwood flooring, and green upgrades. 

 

Our guest author is Sarah Stilo, the Content Marketing Coordinator for HomeLight, which helps pair homebuyers with agents. They can be found at HomeLight.Com.

Designing the Perfect Home Office to Work From Home In Style

Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes work. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to rise and grind and get into work mode.

Having a designated workspace is quite possibly the most important piece to the work-from-home pie. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall wellbeing. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? Here are the top five:

 

  1. Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.
     
  2. To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
     
  3. Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
     
  4. Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance.
     
  5. Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.

Trick or Treat! Five Frighteningly Decorated Halloween Homes

Who doesn’t love a good scare every now and then? One of the best parts about fall is the chance to celebrate Halloween. While some folks are in it for the costumes and bags of candy, the eerie spirit of the season also sparks some imaginative home decorations. From the creatively crafted to the downright fright-inducing, there’s no shortage of spooktacular stylings out there. Choosing our favorites was difficult, but these homes really sent a tingle down our spine.

The Graveyard

Photo Credit: OregonLive.com

Did something just move over there? Everything is a piece of the show at this remarkable home, which has featured a spooky pop-up cemetery every Halloween for the past 20 years. From its faux-church to the tombstones and skeletons, these homeowners have perfectly executed their very own haunted house.

 

Them Bones

Photo Credit: AngelaCoomey on Instagram

There’s nothing quite as creepy as a bit of uncertainty. If looked at a certain way, this extensive façade could almost pass for a heavy dosage of leafy décor. Instead, you can get just close enough to discover the boney truth. We’re just glad we didn’t come across this home at night!

 

The Monster House

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Photo Credit: IdealHome.Co.UK

A well-crafted monster-themed home is hard to beat. This particular property belongs to artist Christine McConnell, whose passion for things that go bump in the night led her to turn her home into an annual source of her neighbors’ nightmares. This year, she’s shifted from the many-eyed terror to a more fiery style. Scary enough for us, Christine!

 

Into the Clown’s Mouth

Photo Credit: @darthdoe on Instagram

We’re not sure if the rest of the house lives up to the terrifying standard its entrance sets, but we sure aren’t about to walk into that mouth and find out. The fact that it’s a clown makes it all the more unsettling. Walking down a row of similar houses only to notice that horrifying site from the corner of your eye is a terrifying thought.

Have a fun and frightastic Halloween!  

Planning for the Life Expectancy of Your Home

Nothing in life lasts forever – and the same can be said for your home. From the roof to the furnace, every component of your home has a lifespan, so it’s a good idea to know approximately how many years of service you can expect from them. This information can help when buying or selling your home, budgeting for improvements, and deciding between repairing or replacing when problems arise.

According to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study, the average life expectancy of some home components has decreased over the past few decades.  (This might explain why you’re on your third washing machine while Grandma still has the same indestructible model you remember from childhood.) But the good news is the lifespan of many other items has actually increased in recent years.

Here’s a look at the average life spans of some common home components (courtesy of NAHB). 

Appliances. Of all home components, appliances have the widest variation in life spans. These are averages for all brands and models and may represent the point which replacing is more cost-effective than repairing. Among major appliances, gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, at about 15 years. Electric ranges, standard-size refrigerators, and clothes dryers last about 13 years, while garbage disposals grind away for about 10 years. Dishwashers, microwave ovens, and mini-refrigerators can all be expected to last about nine years. For furnaces, expect a lifespan of about 15 years for electric, 18 for gas, and 20 for oil-burning models. Central air-conditioning systems generally beat the heat for 10 to 15 years.

Kitchen & Bath. Countertops of wood, tile, and natural stone will last a lifetime, while cultured marble will last about 20 years. The lifespan of laminate countertops depends greatly on the use and can be 20 years or longer. Kitchen faucets generally last about 15 years.  An enamel-coated steel sink will last five to 10 years; stainless will last at least 30 years; and slate, granite, soapstone, and copper should endure 100 years or longer. Toilets, on average, can serve at least 50 years (parts such as the flush assembly and seat will likely need replacing), and bathroom faucets tend to last about 20 years.

Flooring. Natural flooring materials provide longevity as well as beauty: Wood, marble, slate, and granite should all last 100 years or longer, and tile, 74 to 100 years. Laminate products will survive 15 to 25 years, linoleum about 25 years, and vinyl should endure for about 50 years. Carpet will last eight to 10 years on average, depending on use and maintenance.

Siding, Roofing, Windows. Brick siding normally lasts 100 years or longer, aluminum siding about 80 years, and stucco about 25 years. The lifespan of wood siding varies dramatically – anywhere from 10 to 100 years – depending on the climate and level of maintenance. For roofs, slate or tile will last about 50 years, wood shingles can endure 25 to 30 years, the metal will last about 25 years, and asphalts got you covered for about 20 years. Unclad wood windows will last 30 years or longer, aluminum will last 15 to 20 years, and vinyl windows should keep their seals for 15 to 20 years.

Of course, none of these averages matter if you have a roof that was improperly installed or a dishwasher that was a lemon right off the assembly line. In these cases, early replacement may be the best choice. Conversely, many household components will last longer than you need them to, as we often replace fully functional items for cosmetic reasons, out of a desire for more modern features, or as a part of a quest to be more energy efficient.

Are extended warranties warranted?

Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items, from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty. Essentially, warranty providers (manufacturers, retailers, and outside companies) are betting that a product will be problem-free in the first years of operation, while the consumer who purchases a warranty is betting against reliability.

Warranty providers make a lot of money on extended warranties, and Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, advises against purchasing them.  You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you; for some, it brings a much-needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also, consider if it the cost outweighs the value of the item; in some cases, it may be less expensive to just replace a broken appliance than pay for insurance or a warranty.

How a Windermere Agent Helped a Single Mother Pursue Her American Dream

Owning a home provides a sense of security, but the process of building towards homeownership can be overwhelming. There are obstacles that can get in the way of even the most diligent prospective buyer. For Zaharra Karungi, there were dozens of opportunities to see her dream of buying a home for herself and her daughter waylaid. But with hard work, a thoughtful lender, a baseball game, and a determined Windermere agent, Karungi is now a proud homeowner in Antioch, California. 

Windermere agent James Quintero didn’t suspect he’d walk away with a new client when he attended “Windermere Real Estate Agent Appreciation Day” at an Oakland Athletics baseball game earlier this year. But that’s exactly what happened when he ran into mortgage lender Bret Henly who told him about someone special he was working with by the name of Zaharra Karungi.

Karungi’s pathway to homeownership was a winding one. Arriving from Uganda at the age of 25 with the goal of studying to become a nurse, Karungi began her time in the United States with next to nothing. A generous friend allowed her to stay in their walk-in closet for eight months, but Karungi brought with her little more than a few changes of clothes and basic necessities. While studying for her nursing degree, Karungi babysat and worked odd jobs to afford her continuing education, finally emerging as a certified vocational nurse in 2013. Now a single mother with a precocious 10-month-old daughter named Victoria, Karungi was in search of the next step of security in pursuing her American Dream: owning a home. 

Finding herself frustrated with the agent she’d been working with, and outbid on multiple homes, Karungi was connected with Windermere agent James Quintero with the assistance of Henly. After attending an open house at an Antioch, CA, condo, Quintero helped Karungi make a well-constructed offer to the sellers. Despite two other offers, her bid was chosen. At Quintero’s behest, the sellers took extra care to ensure the home was unimpeachably safe for a 10-month-old like Victoria.

On August 9 of this year, Karungi received the keys to her new two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo – the same day that she officially gained her United States citizenship. Owning a home provides a sense of security and confidence, knowing that whatever happens, you have a refuge where you lay your head at night. For Zaharra Karungi it was a long time coming.

Don’t Get Spooked! These Are a Buyer’s Warning Signs of a Haunted House

While you hear a lot about ghosts in October, they’re actually a year-round phenomenon (and they’re not all as friendly as Casper). Specters come in all shapes and sizes in real estate, and they can be spookiest to prospective buyers. So, if you’re in the market for a home right now, you might want to consider your threshold for the paranormal. Here are some ways to identify – and avoid – ending up with a haunted house.

Something doesn’t feel right. When it comes to finding a home, we talk a lot about how a home feels. People generally feel it in their gut when they have found “the one”.  Same goes for ghosts. If you feel like something is off, but you just can’t put your finger on it, you probably want to investigate a little further. This is the perfect time to break out the Ouija board and grab a bottle of something strong for your nerves (caution: seeing ghosts may or may not be due to alcohol consumption).

Follow the history of the home. Hit the interwebs and do a little online investigation to find out if the home has any skeletons in its closets (literally). Did anyone die in the house? Was it built on an ancient burial gravesite? Both of these could be DEAD giveaways for paranormal activity. Public records can be helpful for basic information, or you can check out this handy website: www.diedinhouse.com. If you don’t mind the house’s sordid past, use it as leverage to knock some zeros off the asking price. What’s a house filled with dead people if you can get it for a steal?

Meet the neighbors. It’s always a good idea to get to know the neighborhood before moving in. Learn about the schools, check out the local shops and amenities, and take a good look at who your neighbors will be.  If you walk next door and the equivalent of the Adams family is staring you in the face, it might be a good time to look at other options. And if you have no other options, it’s never too early to invest in a respectable tombstone. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Follow the paperwork. When selling a home, homeowners are required to fill out a “Self Disclosure Form” to reveal any known issues. In some states, this includes revealing if the home has any paranormal activity. In fact, if a home is known to be haunted, it can be deemed a “stigmatized home” which can impact the sale. But keep in mind, self-disclosure of paranormal activity is hard to qualify and prove, so buyers beware.

Look for more overt signs. Did you feel a tap on your shoulder, but nobody was there? Is there blood oozing through the walls or furniture moving by itself? Or maybe a spirit physically manifested itself in front of you. Well, this might be a ghost trying to get your attention. If you have an experience like this, it’s probably a good idea to find the nearest exit as quickly as possible and move onto the next home.

Let logic be your guide. So you’ve fallen in love with a home, but you suspect that it’s haunted. There could be a totally plausible explanation. Start by trying to explain the phenomena you are feeling. Could the creaks and bangs come from pests or plumbing issues? Perhaps the chills you feel are caused by a draft? Are you watching too many horror movies? Do you need to make an appointment with your shrink? What you think are signs of a haunting could all be in your head.  

Puget Sound Business Journal Honors Windermere Agents as Tops In the Seattle-Area Luxury Market

Congratulations to our Seattle-area agents for representing a disproportionate share of clients on this year’s Puget Sound Business Journal list of Top 25 Most Expensive Home Sales. In the Seattle-Eastside luxury market, Windermere outperformed all other real estate companies, including participating in over half of the region’s most expensive sales, generating top returns for their sellers, and reaching closings at nearly double the pace of other agents. We’re proud of the expertise of our agents and look forward to seeing their diligent work continue to be recognized as they define luxury real estate.