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Windermere Helps Fight Food Insecurity by Funding Weekend and Summer Meal Programs

 

For many children, the free meals that they receive in the school cafeteria may be the only food that they get for the entire day. And that’s just on the weekdays. On the weekends, children often go hungry because their families cannot afford to cover basic household expenses, including groceries. And when the school year ends, they lose the security of those two meals, making summer the hungriest season of the year for children in our communities.

Through the Windermere Foundation, many Windermere offices throughout our network support programs that provide weekend and summer meal programs. These programs help girls and boys at risk of hunger get access to nutritious meals outside of school.

Here are just a few of the programs that our agents and offices support…

 

California

For the past two years, the Windermere Redding office has supported an afterschool/summer program at Eagles Soar Youth Activity Center (ESYAC) with a monthly donation of $54 that they can use to purchase food, clothes, and other necessities. The program serves “housed” homeless kids—kids who live in transient housing such as motel rooms and trailer parks. It is a 100 percent volunteer organization that is funded by donations from the community. Program volunteers pick the kids up after school twice a week and they also have a summer events program. They feed and tutor the kids, provide them with clothes if needed, and send them home with food for the weekend. Over 90 percent of the kids they help are on the honor roll.

 

Montana

For the past two years, the Windermere Missoula office has supported the Missoula Food Bank’s Kids Empower Pack program. The Kids Empower Pack is a nutrition program helping kids stay nourished when school is not in session. School officials identify children living with chronic hunger and enroll them in the program. And every Friday, they are sent home with a backpack full of nutrition for the weekend. In 2016, the Missoula office donated $1,200, with half of the proceeds from their annual standup paddle board race being donated to the program. The program will be one of the beneficiaries again for this year’s event. Last school year, Kids Empower Pack was helping 528 local kids every weekend. In 2017, Kids Empower Pack will feed 750 kids every weekend.

 

Oregon

The Windermere Gearhart and Cannon Beach offices support Warrenton-Hammond Healthy Kids, Inc., donating $500 to them in 2016 and $3,500 over the past six years. WHHKids currently serves Warrenton Grade School’s 771 students and Warrenton High School’s 261 students with food weekend backpacks, clothing, and hygiene items. The student population that receives free and reduced lunches is 55 percent. This is down from a high of 64 percent for the past few years. They also serve the district’s homeless population.

In 2016, the Windermere Portland-Raleigh Hills office donated $2,000 to Take Action INC. Take Action INC is an all-volunteer backpack program, non-profit organization, whose mission is to find resources to feed hungry kids, educate the public of the severity of childhood hunger in our midst, and encourage local communities to adopt schools of their own. One hundred percent of the grant is used to purchase food at a generous five percent discount from their Beaverton Grocery Outlet store partner to help 36 low-income families and feed 45 food-insecure kids at Hayhurst Elementary School.

 

Washington

Over the past three years, the Windermere Seattle-Wedgwood office has supported the Hunger Intervention Program with approximately $9,000 in Windermere Foundation grants. The program provides nutritious weekend food for students eligible for free or reduced price lunch when school lunches aren’t available, in addition to providing meals during the summer. The program currently serves students at Olympic Hills, John Rogers, BrierCrest, and ViewLands Elementary schools, as well as Kellogg Middle School and Nathan Hale High School.

Sometimes individual agents recognize a need in their communities and create their own programs, like Anne Jones, an agent at the Windermere Tacoma-Professional Partners office. After speaking with representatives from various schools, it was determined that food insecurity was a significant issue. So last fall, Anne created the Snacks for Schools program to support Tacoma area schools. The ultimate goal of the program is to not only provide food, but to also foster connections between community members and schools throughout the city. The program’s first delivery took place in March 2017 at First Creek Middle School, where they were able to provide a snack for all 750 students. In April, they stocked the pantry at Blix Elementary. So far, snacks have been provided for 2,400 students. With the help of other agents and community partners, the program hopes to reach 13 more schools during the month of May. 

 

Thanks to the efforts of our Windermere offices and agents, we are tackling issues of food insecurity in our communities and helping our nonprofit partners provide nutritious meals for children in need. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click on the Donate button.

To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation.

 

 

 

Oregon and Southwest Washington Real Estate Market Update

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Oregon State has added almost 40,000 new jobs over the past 12 months. Although growth has slowed significantly, we can attribute this to the fact that the state has reached “full employment.” When this is achieved, growth has to rely on the population rising to drive jobs higher and, inevitably, the pace slows. Year-over-year, employment in Oregon rose by 2.2%.

In February, the state unemployment rate fell to 4% and is now at a level that has not been seen in more than four decades. Additionally, the number of people who are unemployed dropped to about 82,000—a figure last seen in August of 1995. 

 

HOME SALES

  • First quarter home sales fell by 4.5% compared to the same period last year. In total, 12,299 homes sold in the first quarter of this year.
  • Sales rose the fastest in Klickitat County, which saw a 50% increase over Q1 2016. There were also noticeable increases in sales in Skamania, Cowlitz, Klamath, and Tillamook Counties. Home sales fell the most in Jefferson, Crook, Hood River, and Washington Counties.
  • There were 11 counties where sales rose year over year, and 15 counties that reported declines.
  • The low number of homes for sale continues to affect the market and is pushing home sales activity lower. This means sellers remain firmly in the driver’s seat.

 

HOME PRICES

  • The average home price in the region rose by 9.4% year-over-year to $334,299. This is down from 10.9% in the fourth quarter of 2016.
  • Jefferson County took over as the market with the strongest annual price growth, with homes selling for 30.7% above the level seen a year ago.
  • All but three counties experienced rising prices when compared to the first quarter of 2016, and most of these saw significant, double-digit increases.
  • Despite rising interest rates, the lack of inventory continues to drive home prices higher.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it takes to sell a home in the region dropped by five days when compared to the first quarter of 2016, but it took 17 days longer to sell a home than in the fourth quarter of 2016.
  • The average time it took to sell a home in the region was 98 days.
  • In several counties, days on market rose when compared to the same period a year ago. This is not too surprising given that the counties where sales slowed are small, which often leads to erratic demand.
  • Counties where homes sold the fastest were Washington and Multnomah Counties, where it took an average of 33 and 42 days respectively for homes to sell.

 

CONCLUSIONS

The speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. Economic growth in Oregon State remains impressive, and the region’s housing market clearly continues to benefit from such robust growth. Home sales have slowed, which has taken a little steam out of the strong appreciation rates we’ve seen over the past several months. That said, the market remains remarkably tight and unlikely to shift dramatically for the duration of 2017. As such, I have moved the needle slightly more toward sellers for the first quarter.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

 

 

How to Stay Organized During a Home Renovation

When you’re embarking on a renovation project, it’s a good idea to clear as much space as possible before the chaos ensues. Think about what you want and need in your new room, and thoroughly declutter the area. Follow these tips for clearing, organizing and storing to ensure your building work creates as little upheaval as possible.

Be systematic. Start sifting through your cupboards and bookshelves. If you need to pack up a room or two, now is a great time to assess what’s lurking in the back of your cabinets.

Pack frequently used items into transparent storage boxes. Label them clearly and move them to another room. They’ll be out of the way of dust and builders, but still easily accessible.

Items used less often can be packed in cardboard boxes and stored out of the way. Pack them carefully and label each box with the general contents. It’s a great idea to take photos of the box and label in its new location, so you can easily find things during the renovation or when you’re unpacking after the work is complete.

 

Organize 1: Hannah Brown, original photo on Houzz

 

Consider your needs. If you’re planning an interior remodel to change the way you use your space, think about why you want to change the layout. Do you need a safe play area for young children, or maybe a small office space to facilitate working from home?

Provide your designer or architect with as much information as possible about how you want to use your space, so he or she can make it really work for you. A good professional will listen and provide a solution tailored to your requirements. In this dining area, for example, the designer has incorporated neat wine storage beneath the bench seating.

Look at the space objectively. Once you have an idea of how you want your renovated space to look, you can plan your decluttering strategy. Take a few photos of your room and look at them with a friend or relative whose opinion you trust. Talk about what you need to take out to achieve your desired look. This will help motivate you as you declutter, getting rid of everything that doesn’t contribute toward your goal.

Also, think about whether you want to take on the mammoth task of decluttering yourself, or whether it’s worth calling in a professional organizer to help you declutter at the outset.

 

Organize 2: ZeroEnergy Design, original photo on Houzz

 

Use storage that moves. Plastic storage boxes on wheels will come in very handy, as you’ll probably be moving things around to give your builders access around the house.

If you’re planning a bedroom refurbishment, you’ll need to be selective about which clothes and toiletries you pack away and which you want to keep on hand for the duration of the improvements. A portable covered clothes rail and some lightweight drawers on wheels can store a capsule wardrobe and keep your clothes dust-free.

Think about daily routines. Most home remodeling projects involve some disruption, so plan ahead for changes to your daily routine. If you’re having your kitchen renovated, you could think about setting up a mini cook station elsewhere in the house. This could be something as simple as a table and microwave.

Related: Search for Console Tables

Alternatively, you could arrange to stay somewhere else for a while. Pets might also need a place to go; ask a friend to help out or research reputable pet sitters in your area.

 

Organize 3: Kelly Hoppen London, original photo on Houzz

 

Store valuables securely. While it’s important that you trust your builders, there will be periods during the renovation when your home will be left unlocked. It might possibly be without windows, doors and even walls at some point. In addition, a stream of tradespeople will be coming and going. So take precautions and keep valuables in a safe in your home, or in a deposit box off-site.

Make some room. Almost any renovation project will require you to be living in fewer rooms than usual, and these areas will probably need to be multifunctional. If you’re not going to keep all your room furniture when the work is finished, it’s a good idea to pass pieces on or sell them before the work starts. Decluttering prior to the renovation means you’ll have fewer items to move, pack, store and unpack once the work is finished.

If you’re planning to use a garage or loft for storage during the project, check in advance that large items will fit through doors and openings. Also, make sure you’ve cleared out sufficient space for the furniture to fit. Alternatively, you could rent a secure storage locker while the renovation is taking place.

 

Organize 4: The Posh Shed Company, original photo on Houzz

 

Don’t forget the outside. If your project involves some external work, do that outside decluttering you’ve been putting off. Clear away all those items you’ve left outside to deal with in the future, as the future has now arrived! Rent a dumpster or a van and get rid of your accumulated junk. If it’s not junk, add to your project budget by selling your unwanted possessions.

Gather everyday essentials. With all the disruption of a home improvement project, it’s crucial that you don’t lose essentials such as your keys, phone, chargers, project paperwork and tape measure. Consider setting up a special workstation to keep these necessities on hand.

 

By Hannah Young, Houzz

Windermere Welcomes China to 31st Windermere Cup This Saturday

For the past 31 years, Windermere Real Estate and the University of Washington have joined together to host the annual Windermere Cup rowing regatta, which brings the world’s best crews to Seattle to compete against the nationally acclaimed UW men’s and women’s teams. Held annually on the first Saturday in May, the Windermere Cup is both an international sporting event and opening day party, followed by the world’s largest boat parade.

 

This year’s event will see the Huskies take on the Shanghai men’s and women’s High-Performance Rowing teams from China on Saturday, May 6. This matchup will mark the third time that a team from China has travelled to Seattle to compete in the Windermere Cup. Their first appearance came 27 years ago when the People’s Republic of China took home the Windermere Cup ahead of Navy, Washington, and Cambridge. Twelve years later the Chinese men’s rowing team returned for the 2002 Windermere Cup.

 

In addition to the crew races, the family-friendly Windermere Cup event also includes food vendors, booths to purchase UW and Windermere Cup apparel and commemorative gear, as well as a bouncy house for the kids.

 

Windermere Cup App:

javascript:void(0)The crew races start at 10am and end around noon. Following the final Windermere Cup race is the Seattle Yacht Club’s Opening Day Boat Parade. Download the Windermere Cup App to access schedule and team information, and for live race results: https://event.crowdcompass.com/windermerecup17

 

 

 

Windermere Cut Cinco de Mayo Party:

A new addition to this year’s event is the Windermere Cut Cinco de Mayo party down along the north shore of the Montlake Cut. Twenty dollars gets you into the beer/margarita garden where you can listen to Spike and the Impalers while munching on food from one of three Mexican food trucks. For more information and to buy tickets go to Brown Paper Tickets.

 

Windermere Cup Book:

This book is about the athletes, colorful characters, and brilliant people the Windermere Cup rowing regatta has featured every first Saturday in May since 1987. Through interviews, original documents and pages upon pages of breathtaking photographs, author Gregg Bell captures this event’s more than 30 remarkable years, its spirit and its soul.

 

 

The Windermere Cup is a touchstone for our company, our family of offices and agents, and the University of Washington. Not only is this an international sporting event, it’s a celebration of camaraderie, teamwork, and community – and truly great tradition that we are honored to be a part of.

 

For more information please visit windermerecup.com and follow us at Facebook.com/WindermereCup and @WindermereCup on Twitter.

 

Over half-a-million dollars has been disbursed to non-profits so far this year!

Thanks to the generosity of Windermere agents and the community, the Windermere Foundation collected over $325,000 in donations during the first quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 17 percent compared to this time last year! Individual contributions and fundraisers accounted for 55 percent of the donations, while 45 percent came from donations through Windermere agent commissions. So far, we have raised a total of $33,431,017 in donations since 1989.

Each Windermere office has its own Windermere Foundation fund account that they use to make donations to organizations in their communities. Year to date, a total of $545,354 has been disbursed to non-profit organizations dedicated to providing services to low-income and homeless families throughout the Western U.S.

One organization that has been the recipient of Windermere Foundation funds is the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless operates a range of integrated programs to support children and families. These include family support services, pediatric services, eye and dental care, child, adolescent, and family therapy, and child care.

A recent donation from the Windermere Real Estate office in Centennial, Colorado is helping to fund the Coalition’s Family Support Services Program. The program provides services including emergency shelter information and referrals, housing information and referrals, referrals to other agencies, programming designed specifically to meet needs of children ages birth to 6 years, access to medical and mental health services, and diapers and baby supplies.

Generous donations to the Windermere Foundation over the years have enabled Windermere offices to continue to support local non-profits. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click on the Donate button.

To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 4 Phases of Remodeling: Happily Ever After

This fairy-tale phase of a home remodel is the tail end of any major project. The Honeymoon has come and gone. The Midproject Crisis has thankfully passed. The Renewal of Vows has given you the strength you need to continue on, and now we’re finally, and gratefully, just about out of phases. It’s time to wrap up this series on the ups and downs of remodeling by detailing the final few steps that are taken to complete a home remodel. What I call the Happily Ever After phase.

 

Ever After 1: Sophie Metz Design, original photo on Houzz

 

Whether you have experienced it, known someone who has gone through it or have only read about it, you’re probably familiar with what it’s like to be in love. Emotions run the gamut of excitement, happiness, giddiness and contentedness (as well as a wide range of others). The person in love is likely to be gushing about her beau or his sweetheart to anyone who will listen. It’s a time when even the most cynical of people looks at the world through rose-tinted glasses.

Moving back into a house after remodeling can be a bit like being in love. Are you not excited to use all your new appliances or plumbing fixtures? (Hello, new bathtub!) Is there not a smidge of giddiness as you think about coming home to your pristine new bathroom, kitchen or living room? Don’t deny it — you’re probably even babbling to the barista at Starbucks about your new space.

During this Happily Ever After stage, finally, the work is done! At last, there are no more nail guns and saws and vacuums making noise in your house. After months of destruction and disarray, it’s time to move back in and enjoy your home, sweet home, for the rest of your days (or at least until you sell it or remodel again). And though most of this phase is just you at last having the chance to enjoy the fruit of your general contractor’s labor, there are a few odds and ends that your contractor will be taking care of to make sure your Happily Ever After really lasts forever.

 

Ever After 2: chadbourne + doss architects, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Cleaning. This probably will happen before you move back into your home (or at least it should). Since day one of demolition, dust and debris have been thrown into the air and, much to your contractor’s chagrin, have crept into other places in the house that weren’t touched in the remodel. Now’s the time to do an all-inclusive clean. No, the cleaners won’t do your laundry for you, but they’ll do just about everything else, from polishing the floors to dusting the ceiling fans. The end-of-project clean is like a cleansing spa day for your home.
  • Final walk-through. The last walk-through ensures that you are completely satisfied with everything — and I mean everything — in your home. This is where you will have the chance to sit down and bring up all the odds and ends that you feel need to be addressed. This can be anything from “this faucet isn’t on straight” to “there’s a scratch on the new fridge” to “my shower isn’t draining correctly.”

    Contractors may vary on when they hold a final walk-through, but in my experience, it’s scheduled after the homeowners move back in and have a chance to use the new space. Your contractor should’ve caught just about everything during his or her own informal walk-throughs throughout the remodel, but sometimes there are items that just don’t come to the surface until a house is lived in.

 

Ever After 3: Collins & DuPont Design Group, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Warranty begins. Most builders and remodelers have a warranty for their projects. The length and amount of coverage can vary, of course, but what remains constant is the promise to stand behind their work for any unforeseen circumstances that arise and need addressing. (Side note: If you’re looking at contractors right now, ask them about their warranty. This can be very telling of how they conduct their business. The more that contractors are willing to warrant their work — or the longer the warranty — the more effort they will put into getting the job done right the first time.)

    For some contractors, the warranty formally begins after the final walk-through is hosted and the last payment is received. After that, some will stand behind any light fixtures that fizzle, appliances that break, tiles that come loose — you name it. In an ideal world, everything would work right the first time, and it would work right forever. In our world, however, there are bad manufacturing batches and recalls and oversights that may need to be taken care of. Fear not. If you have selected the right remodeler, these issues will be handled.

 

Related: How Builders Deal With Problems Beyond the Warranty

 

Ever After 4: Mark Hickman Homes, original photo on Houzz

 

What else is involved in the Happily Ever After? Absolutely nothing. Take a deep breath in, let it out, look around your new place and smile, knowing that it’s all yours, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do you part. You get the picture.

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz

How Neighborhood Affects Home Value

 

Whether you’re buying or selling, accurately pricing a home requires professional assistance from someone who knows the neighborhood.

The “estimated” home prices you see posted online can be off by tens of thousands of dollars – not because they’re dishonest, but because the computer programs generating these guesstimates don’t take into account the current condition of a house, the amenities that are included, the qualities of the surrounding neighborhood, and so much more.

A real estate agent’s appraisal will not only consider the selling prices of surrounding properties, as the online services do, but also take into consideration a host of other criteria. For instance, when it comes to assessing the surrounding neighborhood, the following factors can often significantly affect the market price of a home:

 

School quality

The quality of neighborhood schools has a dramatic impact on home price, whether buyers have school-age children or not. In the most recent study on the subject, researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that above-average public schools (those with math scores 4.6 percent better than the average) increased the value of nearby homes by 11 percent (or an average of $16,000) in the St. Louis area.

 

A park within walking distance

Parks are so important to families today that simply having one within a quarter mile can increase the value of a house by 10 percent, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

 

Stores nearby

The impact that retail areas have on home values depends on the type of community. According to a study recently released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, homes in urban areas sell for six percent to eight percent more than average if they’re within a quarter mile of a retail cluster (shops and restaurants). However, in suburban communities, it’s the homes that are a mile from any retail centers that sell for the most (homes located closer than that actually sell for 8 percent less than average).

 

Freeway access

Because we’re a car-oriented society, most people are willing to pay more to live within a couple miles of an on-ramp to a major highway or freeway, which saves gas and speeds commute times. However, if the home is located too close (within a half mile of the freeway), the associated noise and air pollution can push the price in the opposite direction.

 

Vacant lots in the vicinity

Being surrounded by vacant land can be a good thing in rural areas, but it’s usually a negative for urban homeowners. A recent Wharton School study found that higher concentrations of unmanaged vacant lots in an urban neighborhood drag down the values for surrounding homes by an average of 18 percent.

 

Proximity to nuisances and environmental hazards

Two recent studies (one from an Arizona assessor’s office, the other by the University of California Berkeley) show that homes located near a landfill or power plant usually sell for four to 10 percent less than more distant homes. The same can usually be said for homes located too close to manufacturing facilities – especially those that make lots of noise or produces noxious odors.

 

Neighborhood foreclosures

According to a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the value of a home decreases by one percent for every foreclosed home within 250 feet of it. Why? The lower sales prices of foreclosed homes can quickly drag down the neighborhood’s comparable prices. Plus, the owners of these properties usually don’t have the money or interest in maintaining them after they go into foreclosure, which can create an eyesore for all the other homes in the vicinity.

 

Percentage of homeowners

Are there more owners than renters living in the neighborhood? If so, property values are usually better than average. Homeowners tend to take better care of their property than renters or landlords, which improves the curb-appeal for the whole community.

 

Public services

Some communities have a wealth of quality public services available to them – including regular street cleanings, scheduled street repair, graffiti removal services, landscape maintenance, neighborhood beautification efforts, and more. Needless to say, homes lucky enough to be located in those areas typically command higher property valuations.

 

Home sellers can use these factors to justify a higher asking price. Buyers can use them to try and negotiate something lower. However, when it comes to attaching specific dollar amounts, that is something best left to your real estate agent, an objective professional with a deep understanding of the local market.

 

If you would like to connect with an experienced real estate agent fill out a form here 

The 4 Phases of Remodeling: The Renewal of Vows

Passing the midway point of a remodel can be an exciting time. After weeks (or months, but hopefully not years) of being in a state of disarray, things finally start to feel as if they’re coming together.

You’ve experienced the fast-paced bliss of the Honeymoon. You’ve trudged through the slowdown that comes with the Midproject Crisis. And now? Now you’re ready to gaze lovingly into your contractor’s eyes again.

 

Vows 1: Priority 1 Project Management, original photo on Houzz

 

Everything you’d hoped and dreamed about when you first envisioned your project is coming true, and you’re feeling ready to say “I do” all over again. It’s time for the remodeling phase I like to refer to as the Renewal of Vows.

You probably won’t hear your contractor refer to this phase as such (but how fun would that be?). Just as the Midproject Crisis is more commonly referred to as the mechanical rough-in stage, this phase has other, more industry-standard names. You will probably hear words like “finish out,” “trim out,” “mechanical trims” or “finishes.”

And, as you can probably guess, this phase is about finishing and beautifying the work that was started in the first couple of months. There’s a lot that may (or may not) be involved in the finish stage of your job, depending on your scope of work, but here’s a list of the most common steps that happen during this phase.

 

Vows 2: Traci Connell Interiors, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Sheetrock. Holes made during rough-in will be patched, new Sheetrock will be put up at any new walls or ceilings, and texture will be applied to make your walls look like walls again.
  • Trim carpentry. There are a few different types of trim that may be installed at this phase: baseboard (which runs along the joint where the bottom of a wall meets the floor), door and window casing (which is installed around the perimeters of doors and windows) and crown molding (which is run along the joint where the top of a wall meets the ceiling). Trim is purely optional — some more contemporary designs forgo it entirely — but it is meant to create a finished, unified look.

 

Vows 3: TOTAL CONCEPTS, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Cabinetry. The installation of cabinetry is usually around the time when I see a little glimmer come back into a homeowner’s eyes. This is when the kitchen starts looking more like a kitchen, but it’s also when you can visualize how your other storage pieces, such as built-ins and bathroom cabinets, will change the function of your home.

    Related: Shop for Kitchen Cabinets
     

  • Electrical and plumbing trim. This is the other big “wow” that comes with the finish-out phase. A master bathroom can start to look completed when tile and cabinetry is installed, but throw in a freestanding tub and a shower full of rain heads, handheld fixtures and a steam unit, and suddenly you’re not looking at a mostly done, unidentifiable space — you’re looking at your master bathroom.

 

The same goes for electrical items like decorative light fixtures or appliances. Seeing new stainless steel (or whatever your preferred finish is) appliances being brought into and installed in your kitchen make most people go starry-eyed and drool a little. No judgment here — I’ve done the same.

 

Vows 4: DKOR Interiors Inc. – Interior Designers Miami, FL, original photo on Houzz

 

  • HVAC trim. I mentioned in the last installment that most HVAC work is done during the rough-in stage, so what is left? Essentially, all that needs to be done is the installation of vent covers and thermostats and maybe a little tweaking of the air-conditioning system. Nothing too exciting, but it should be noted nonetheless.
  • Miscellaneous. Like I said, there is a lot that can be going on during the trim-out stage. Flooring — such as carpet, wood, tile or laminate — will be installed. (Flooring installers are known for insisting that they be the absolute last people to work on a house.)

 

Tile will go up in showers and as backsplashes. Countertops will go in. Priming and painting of walls, ceilings, trim and cabinetry will be completed. A little landscaping may even be done.

 

Vows 5: Viyet Luxury Consignment, original photo on Houzz

 

There are a million moving parts during the mechanical finishes phase. And I admit, as a homeowner and general contractor, this is exciting to see.

Just like during the Honeymoon, a lot of visibly quantifiable work is being completed. Only this time, instead of things being torn up and thrown out, they’re being brought in and installed. The puzzle pieces are finally fitting together, and you are starting to see the big picture. (Dreamy sigh.)

I’ve harped repeatedly about how communication is key, and this still rings true during the Renewal of Vows stage. But patience is also important.

As you see new things being carried in and installed, it can be so tempting to begin moving back into your new space or using your new kitchen. But your contractor may still need some time and space to work.

There are last-minute items that will ultimately guarantee your satisfaction that need to be taken care of before you and your family can begin enjoying your new remodel. So hang in there, and your patience will be rewarded.

 

Vows 6: Jay Jeffers, original photo on Houzz

 

You may be thinking: There can’t be anything left, can there? That’s it, right? Everything is installed, the house looks like a house again, time to move in and get settled. Not so fast. You’re almost there. Find out what final bits and pieces are involved in the end phase of a remodel, what I like to call the Happily Ever After stage.

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz

 

How to Avoid the Most Common Buying and Selling Mistakes

 

There’s nothing more exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling than buying a home. However, it’s a complex transaction, and there are a number of steps along the path that can confuse, betwixt, and befuddle even the most seasoned buyers and sellers.

How can you avoid those potential pitfalls and common mistakes? Look to your real estate professional for advice and keep these guidelines in mind:

 

BUYERS:

 

#1 Review your credit reports ahead of time

Review your credit report a few months before you begin your house hunt, and you’ll have time to ensure the facts are correct, and be able to dispute mistakes before a mortgage lender checks your credit. Get a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Why all three? Because, if the scores differ, the bank will typically use the lowest one. Alert the credit bureaus if you see any mistakes, fix any problems you discover, and don’t apply for any new credit until after your home loan closes.

#2 Get pre-approved

Before getting serious about your hunt for a new house, you’ll want to choose a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just pre-qualified—which is a cursory review of your finances—but pre-approved for a loan of a specific amount). Pre-approval lets sellers know you’re serious. Most importantly, pre-approval will help you determine exactly how much you can comfortably afford to spend.

#3 Know what you want

You and your real estate agent should both be clear about the house you want to buy. Put it in writing. First, make a list of all the features and amenities you really want. Then, number each item and prioritize them. Now, divide the list into must-haves and really-wants. A good place to start is the “HUD Wish List,” which is available online for free at http://www.hud.gov/buying/wishlist.pdf

#4 Account for hidden costs

In addition to the purchase price of the home, there are additional costs you need to take into consideration, such as closing costs, appraisal fees, and escrow fees. Once you find a prospective home, you’ll want to:

  • Get estimates for any repairs or remodeling it may need.
  • Estimate how much it will cost to maintain (gas, electric, utilities, etc.).
  • Determine how much you’ll pay in taxes monthly and/or annually.
  • Learn whether there are any homeowner or development dues associated with the property.

#5 Get an inspection

Buying a home is emotionally charged—which can make it difficult for buyers to see the house for what it truly is. That’s why you need impartial third parties who can help you logically analyze the condition of the property. Your agent is there to advise you, but you also need a home inspector to assess any hidden flaws, structural damage or faulty systems.

#6 Evaluate the neighborhood and location

When house hunting, it’s easy to become overly focused on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the condition of the home and its amenities while overlooking the subtleties of the surrounding neighborhood. Take time to check crime reports, school options, churches and shopping. If schools are a key factor, do more than simply research the statistics; speak with the principal(s) and chat with the parents waiting outside.

 

SELLERS:

#1 Avoid becoming emotional or sentimental about the sale

Once you decide to sell your house, it’s time to strip out the emotion and look at it as a commodity in a business transaction. If you start reminiscing about all the good times you had and the hard work you invested, it will only make it that much harder to successfully price, prepare, and market the home.

#2 Fix problems (or price accordingly)

Homes with deferred maintenance and repair issues can take far longer to sell and can be subject to last-minute sale-cancellations. These homes also often sell for less than their legitimate market value. If you simply can’t afford to address critical issues, be prepared to work with your agent to price and market your home accordingly.

#3 Don’t overprice your home (and/or refuse to negotiate)

Getting top dollar is the dream of every seller. But it’s essential that you let the market dictate that price, not your emotions or financial situation. Allow your agent to research and prepare a market analysis that factors in the value of similar homes in the area, and trust those results.  

#4 Use quality photos

The vast majority of prospective buyers today search for homes online first. In order to make a good first impression, you need a wealth of high-quality photos of your home and surrounding grounds. You may also need to consider professional staging in order to position your home in the best possible light for prospective buyers.

 

The process of buying or selling a home can have plenty of twists and turns, but with some smart decision making, you can avoid the most common mistakes and pitfalls. 

The 4 Phases of Remodeling: The Midproject Crisis

We recently covered the ins and outs of what I refer to as the Honeymoon Phase of construction. Next up is a stage similar to a concept most everyone is familiar with: the Midlife Crisis. (Whether you’ve experienced one or not is an entirely different story.) It often comes with questions like, “What am I doing? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life?”

 

Midproject 1: J Design Group – Interior Designers Miami – Modern, original photo on Houzz

 

Likewise, the second phase of a home remodel, which I fondly refer to as the Midproject Crisis, is paired with parallel questions: What’s my contractor doing? Are we still moving forward as planned? Was this really all worth it? And of course: What is the meaning of life?

Fear not: Your contractor is working hard, your project is moving forward and, yes, your decision to renovate your home is, and will be, worth it. I can’t really speak about the meaning of life, but I can speak about the experiences of homeowners and remodelers during this period of a remodel.

 

Related: The Reality of Living Through a Remodel

 

Midproject 2: Vivid Snaps Photography, original photo on Houzz

 

Typically, once demolition and framing is finished (the Honeymoon Phase) and before sheetrock is put up, mechanicals will begin. (This probably is referred to as “mechanical rough-in” or “mechanical rough” by your contractor.) Mechanicals refer to the guts of the house: electrical; plumbing; and heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC). Like our own guts, most of the work done during mechanicals occurs behind the scenes.

So what is going on behind the scenes? Let’s break it down by type of work:

 

Midproject 3: Janet Brooks Design, original photo on Houzz

 

Electrical. The groundwork for all new light fixtures, outlets, switches and appliances will be done during this phase. New wiring will be run in the walls and ceilings, electrical boxes will be installed for future fixtures, and electrical panels may be upgraded so they can handle heavier loads (this is especially prevalent in remodels where appliances are added). At this point, electricians are making sure that everything that will need power will have access to it and meet your municipality’s building code.

Plumbing. As with electrical, plumbing rough-in ensures that all plumbing fixtures, appliances and other water features will be supplied with water, gas (if your house uses natural gas) or both. So pipes may be moved or installed in new places, shower pans (the things that make sure the water stays in the shower) are installed and inspected, and gas lines may be moved, extended or even put in.

HVAC. Unlike electrical and plumbing, HVAC is the only mechanical where nearly all the work is completed during the rough-in stage. Pathways for new vents (for bath exhaust fans or kitchen vent hoods) are determined and vents are installed, air conditioning units may be replaced, and air return vents are located in appropriate positions.

 

Midproject 4: Melbourne Contemporary Kitchens, original photo on Houzz

 

All this sounds exciting, right? No doubt, it is. But the progress isn’t as visual as it is in the Honeymoon Phase. Since everything occurs behind walls, under foundation or in attics, the big “wow” just isn’t there like it is when everything is torn apart.

It’s around this time that I’ve often seen homeowners concerned about progress. Yes, plumbers are there, but where are the new sinks? Why isn’t there a single light fixture installed yet? Is the HVAC guy even working, or is he just taking a nap in the attic?

The other contributing factor to the crisis is the fact that any speed bumps that crop up during this phase take a bit more time to resolve. Overall, the placement of existing framing is the biggest obstacle in mechanical rough-ins.

If your plans specify that there is going to be a can light in Location A, but Location A has a structural beam directly above it — no can do. Or say your architect has designated a toilet to be mounted on the wall instead of on the ground, but existing wall framing prevents this from being a viable option. Back to the drawing board. Or maybe your HVAC contractor needs to be able to provide ductwork to a new vent hood location in your kitchen, but there is no open attic space to place the ducts. Time to think through the alternatives.

Another obstacle, which is less common but should still be noted, is the condition of existing mechanicals. Any wiring, plumbing or venting that is found to be damaged, dangerous or just not up to par with your municipality’s building code will likely need to be remedied.

And don’t even get me started on inspections. If your job is permitted, inspections for mechanicals will occur during this stage. City building inspectors are (at least where I’m from) well known for being thorough. If you don’t have everything just right (which ultimately is good, because they’re looking out for your safety), they will not hesitate to make your contractor fix the issue before any work can continue.

 

Midproject 5: Kasper Custom Remodeling, LLC, original photo on Houzz

 

And finally, don’t forget to communicate with your remodeler. If you don’t understand something about mechanical rough-in (which is common), ask. If you’re concerned about the placement of pipes or wiring, say something. If you want an update on project status, request one.

I know it may be tempting to ask for advice from your neighbors who remodeled their house last year or your friend whose cousin’s husband is an architect, but in the end, the person with the most knowledge about your project is your building professional. See if you can get on your contractor’s schedule for a recurring biweekly meeting. It will help make the Midproject Crisis less of a crisis and more of an extended honeymoon.

So we’re halfway there. What’s next? Is the light at the end of the remodeling tunnel finally visible? When will your house start to look like a home again? What is the meaning of life? (I’ll tell you one last time — I can’t help with the meaning of life!)

 

But for more information on the next phase of a remodel, look for the next installment in this series: the Renewal of Vows.

 

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz