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Sensible Spring Cleaning

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Sensible Spring Cleaning

Although the weather is trying to convince us otherwise, spring is coming - and fast. Before we know it, the sun will be streaming in through the windows, highlighting every flaw from little fingerprints to dust. We love the sun but curse the announcement of poor housekeeping.

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When a Home goes Searching for its Identity: Comparables

There are two kinds of situations that homeowners looking at Bainbridge Island comparables run into:

1.      THE SIMPLE COMPS: Your home is part of an area that’s more uniform than not, in a neighborhood where there are a sufficient number of similar houses to have produced several sales recently. Your street may not be part of a literal development with models that have near-duplicate floor plans—but the area is, in general, homogenous. When it comes to selling your Bainbridge Island home, you’re in luck!

2.         THE NOT-SO-SIMPLE COMPS:  AKA, the incomparable situation. Your home is one of a kind, almost totally unlike any other in the neighborhood (two bedrooms, six-and-a-half baths) or unlike any other in any neighborhood (who else has a swimming pool built into the attic?).  All right, maybe your house isn’t quite that weirdly incomparable, but it’s still the case that no similar home has sold within a 5-mile radius within the last year or two. When it comes to selling your home, you may still be in luck—but not because of ‘the comps’!

When your property falls into the first category, one whole part of your selling situation becomes a piece of cake because of the comparables. Puget Sound area comparables from previous sales make the ultimate, convincing case that your home has at least $X value, because the market says so. In writing. Real people have plunked down their hard-earned dollars as proof. Even better, real banks have backed them up with their also very real dollars. It’s all verifiable in the public records.

When your property falls into the second category, in terms of the comparables for our area, it really doesn’t matter if you have the most attractive house or the best bells and whistles and bathroom renovations that will take a buyer’s breath away. If no other home within a reasonable distance has sold with a reasonable period (say, six months) that are close to the same size as yours, or if none has anything like similar features, you and your Realtor® are going to be pretty much on your own even settling on a listing price. Here’s a few lesser known reasons why paying attention to comparables is important when selling your home.

·            Unique amenities won’t always guarantee a higher comparable value. If the amenities are unusual for our area, it might make it that much more difficult to find enough comparables in your area to come up with a listing price.

·            School districts factor heavily into value. You might have grumbled about paying school taxes if you aren’t sending your own children off to school, but the quality of the school district has a large influence on comparables.  

·            Scarcity of housing inventory in your neighborhood can be either an advantage or disadvantage. It’s a plus if the housing inventory is low due to high demand (there will be enough recent sales information to set an accurate listing price). It’s a negative if scarcity occurs because no one is buying nearby homes—and appraisers will find it more difficult to place a value on the property.

It’s my job to get your home the best offers in the shortest amount of time for either category of comparables. Give me a call—regardless of which one yours falls into, we’ll discuss how we can produce results that are truly incomparable!  

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3 Budget-Wise Tips for Winterizing Your Home

Home owners don’t have to live in the kind of February landscape that features blizzards and snowdrifts to want to winterize their home before the onslaught of the chilliest temperatures. In even the mellowest of climates, winterization is a way to shrink energy bills. And even if the recent shocking downward spirals in world oil prices have sent your home heating costs to the bottom of your budget-tightening “to do” list, remember that if and when you eventually put your home on the market, low utility expenses can be a strong selling point. Regardless of how you set your internal thermostat, the Big Three of energy cost reduction always include the following:

Raise the Air Temp; Lower the Water Temp

Two tips that could seem counterproductive will cut energy costs in many a home. You’d think you should just switch ceiling fans off until spring, but not so. For cooling, the blades are set to spin counterclockwise so that cool air won’t be wasted down near the floor. The tip is to reverse the fan’s rotation to clockwise. That will act to push warmer air down from the ceiling. Wait until the blades come to a stop, then slide the small direction switch (it’s usually next to the pull cord). The second tip is actually one you can do any time of the year since hot water heaters are usually set to heat to 140 degrees. In truth, most of us don’t need it that hot. Try resetting the temperature to 120 degrees, and see if it’s sufficient. If so, in the course of a year you’ll save more than a few dollars!

Block Air Creep

For a few dollars, a tube of caulk can be a final defense against the creep of cold outside air. Use caulk to seal cracks in the walls and gaps around your windows and doors. In extremes, there are inexpensive extra measures, such as see-through plastic sheets to cover windows with a second seal (doing both would keep the most remote Siberian cabin as buttoned-up as a baby kangaroo). If a drafty door will have to wait until spring for full renewal, an interim trick is to roll up a bath towel and place it against the threshold. This temporary fix keeps out the worst drafts and doesn’t cost a dime.

Take Care of Your Air Conditioner

If you have water-served central air, during the colder months when it’s out of service, good maintenance requires draining the water hoses. Split air conditioners don’t have that issue, but some of them need an exterior cover for preventing drafts (if you haven’t felt any on chilly evenings, it’s not necessary). If you haven’t already removed any window units, better go to the hardware store to buy exterior covers: a lot of chilly air can make its way in through uncovered vents.

The Big Three tips alone comprise a home winterization program that costs less than a burger and fries—yet can result in measurable energy savings. If you have found any other simple energy savers, I hope you’ll share: drop me an email, or give me a call at the office!

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Bainbridge Island Rental vs. Purchase Choice Involves Multiple Factors

When your primary residence is one of our Bainbridge Island rentals, from time to time you may find yourself pausing, pen hovering over checkbook, thinking, “What if this check were going to buy this place, instead…?” 

It’s a nearly unavoidable thought because common wisdom has it that buying a home usually makes more financial sense than renting it. That sounds sensible simply because at the end of the day (or, more accurately, at the end of a 15- or 30-year mortgage term), ownership means you no longer have to write those checks: you own that Bainbridge Island rental. It could be true—but there’s a lot more involved in the purchase-or-rental decision. If you make it a point from time to time to recalculate your situation, should it turn out that you aren’t any better off exiting the rental ranks, writing those checks to the landlord will become a less stressful activity.

The first consideration is location, location, location—but not in the usual sense. The question is how permanently you are likely to stay where you are. What are the odds that your job or family issues will take you away? If it’s likely that you will be moving out of Bainbridge Island within five years or less, a rental could well be a better choice. Buying and selling expenses—plus the time and effort involved—are factors that often make it wiser to delay buying until you are situated more permanently.

Then there is the real monthly outlay comparison between the two. Realistic calculations for owning take into account all of the monthly expenses involved. They include property taxes, homeowner or condo fees, insurance, gardening expenses, utility costs, and maintenance costs (they tend to be more than you first estimate). If your rental check is significantly smaller than the monthly home owning total, your financial ship might float higher if you put the difference into a savings account. You should consider whether your money might be put to better use elsewhere.

That last item points to the overriding issue: whether your current savings are able to support a purchase without incurring too much financial strain. That monthly home ownership calculation did not include the initial cost—the down payment. This part may have become less of a hurdle recently: the Federal Housing Administration has reduced its requirements. In fact, it may be possible to buy a house with an FHA mortgage with as little as a 3.5% down payment…although a higher down payment means a lower mortgage payment and no private mortgage insurance.

The last part of your calculation is one that can be a very positive financial benefit of ownership vs. rental: the mortgage interest tax deduction. Especially for those in higher income tax brackets with hefty mortgages, it can tilt the scales toward ownership.

I’m here to offer help and advice about any rental and ownership questions—in fact, about any of your real estate questions. I hope you won’t hesitate to give me a call!


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Tasty! Selling Your Deliberately Foodie-Friendly Kitsap County House

“A kitchen can sell a house” is a proposition that often proves true—well-designed kitchens can drive value. Given the popularity of cooking shows, artisanal cuisine, and the growing number of new gizmos and gadgets concocted for the advancement of culinary hobbyists, selling a house in Kitsap County can turn on its gastronomical appeal—at least to a select segment of today’s home buyers. You may not want to fight it—especially if your house has a shopping cartload of gourmet potential. If you have a spacious kitchen, it could be a possibility! Consider some of the marketing maneuvers that have been shown to attract foodies looking for a place to lay their platters:

Finding Foodie Features

A Kitsap County house doesn’t necessarily need a fully outfitted gourmet kitchen to catch a foodie’s eye (although that doesn’t hurt, either). Any reasonably food-obsessed family will be attracted by features which focus on the preparation, storage, and/or enjoyment of delicious food. Rebranding a closet as pantry, a deck as outside dining area, or even a basement bar as canning station can invite home cooks to visualize the unique culinary features your house has to offer.

Milking the Kitchen

If you are going to invest in any one remodel for your house, target the kitchen. But know the risks. In order to sell to a true gourmand, the kitchen will need to be up to snuff (and foodies are known for being picky). Simpler can be better when it comes to a soon-to-be gourmet kitchen—and it’s probably true that most any would-be chef will be bringing his or her own specialty gear to the party (it’s half the fun!). Focus on utility instead of bling, counter space over weird gadgets, and big sinks instead of big windows.

Tempting Their Senses

Don’t forget the power of suggestive staging when it comes time to tempt a true foodie. Many prospective buyers will be entering your house with hopes that they’ll be able to create their future fabulous tables here. For a foodie, that means the ability to prepare and enjoy delicious meals. It’s unimportant if the fantasy is a notch higher than their actual skill level—that’s what aspiration is all about. Indulge imagination by focusing on the senses. Offer pristine spaces, pleasing light, and generic (yet tempting) flourishes, such as a well-set table and evocatively, not-quite-bare counters. And don’t forget to remove any and all incriminating food vestiges before allowing foodies in for an open house! Your old cereal boxes, two-liter bottles of soda, and meals-in-a-box may be a busy weekday’s go-to fare, but they’re anathema to a true foodie. Banish them until the last open house visitor has departed.

Remember, selling your Kitsap County house can wind up being all about how you market, stage, and re-imagine the space. To garner foodies as buyers, pick up a couple of copies of Cooks Illustrated and Saveur, tune into The Food Network, and start to think like a foodie. And give me a call, too: between us, we should be able to produce a truly delicious sale!

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The Holiday Advantage for Selling Your Home on Bainbridge Island

I’m always a little surprised that more people don’t take advantage of the holiday season to sell their Bainbridge Island home. The spring selling season may be the most popular, but there are a host of reasons why, for a home that is already market-ready, you might think twice about waiting to list it. 

Among the leading reasons that make this an especially advantageous time of year to sell a home is the financial motivation for some prospective buyers. Especially when an individual’s financial picture changes toward year’s end, a few prospective buyers find that the tax advantages of a purchase in the current year are reason enough to speed a sudden purchase. Classical supply and demand forces add another reason the decision to sell a home on Bainbridge Island now could be a good one. Since listing volumes taper off toward the end of the year, the choices are relatively few, increasing the value of each to motivated buyers. 

Experience tells us that the average holiday-season buyer does tend to be more highly motivated, if for no other reason than that they are choosing to house hunt over all the other activities the season calls for. In short, this is not the season for lookyloos. There is also the advantage that holiday decorations add. The emotional appeal of a well done (not overdone!) display can augment a home’s underlying curb appeal. Add to that the fact that all of us tend to be a bit more emotional during the holidays, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find buyers more flexible in what they are willing to bid. As every merchant has come to realize, the holidays are shopping days. 

For those who will be traveling for the holidays, rather than that being a reason to put off listing, those days can be ideal times to sell your home. The house will be unoccupied, clean and available for showings at any time of day—the perfect situation for turning the otherwise slow holiday season into a standout to those buyers who need a home now. 

I will be working throughout, so give me a call if selling your Bainbridge Island home is an idea that makes good sense. The more available you make your home during the holidays, the more likely you’ll find a buyer during this hectic time of year.

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Possibilities for Squelching the Empty Nest Syndrome

You’ve watched as your little ones grew from stumbling toddlers into young adulthood… and now out into the world on their own. It’s been a slow transition—but it’s also sped past in the blink of an eye! The bumpy economy may yet prompt some extended home stays in the future, but for now, the empty nest is suddenly reality. 

So now what? 

For most parents, the onset of your own empty nest comes at a time when emotions are decidedly mixed. There is the satisfaction of the child-rearing project well done—perhaps a measure of astonishment at the personal time that has now amazingly been liberated—but also undeniable tinges of loss and anxiety. The anxiety part is familiar (what parent hasn’t lost sleep as their offspring gradually ventured further and further from the not-yet-empty nest)? 

The sense of loss is new, though. 

Letting go without getting down in the dumps is not easy for everyone. We’ve heard it called the “empty nest syndrome,” which may not be a clinical diagnosis, but it’s a condition with easily relatable symptoms. Local homeowners with newly vacant rooms and a suddenly quieter environment may find that it takes a while to get past feelings of emptiness. Psychologists recommend allowing time to adapt to the sudden change of role; some say it can take as long as 18 months to fully adjust. There’s no huge rush—they say, “be gentle on yourself.” 

Moms seem especially prone to the negatives of going from motherhood as primary role to …??? To the extent that an empty nest creates a loss of role, recognizing the array of newly opened positive possibilities is an antidote. Sooner or later, it’s going to be time to reclaim your space! Just pick your plan of action, for instance— 

Create a gym: Use the space for something positive that will benefit the whole family. Has there ever been a better time to lose those extra pounds and get into shape? 

Turn your hand to meditation: Create a relaxing space to unwind, meditate or practice yoga. When you take active steps to find your own pathway to a positive frame of mind, the journey itself can be hugely restorative 

Turn fallow space into a creative den: Do you have a book in you that is just itching to get out? Did you once abandon the promise of an artistic pursuit because there just wasn’t enough time or the right space? Well, hold on! Here it is! 

Rent out the spare room: Think about turning your empty nest area into a rentable space—or, if you’ve ever enjoyed the hospitality of a stay in a home-based bed and breakfast (and hankered to do some homespun inn-keeping yourself), consider the possibilities for transforming the whole place into a welcoming B&B. Vacation rental website AirBnB.com has gained worldwide popularity as the new ‘go-to’ booking vehicle for renting out a furnished room (or house) on a short-term basis. 

Plan for that big road trip: Empty out the room, pin up the map and start planning that road trip, Alaskan cruise or trek across South America. Why wait any longer? 

An empty nest may create a vacuum—that is, until you let life rush in to fill it! If filling your own nest opens up some promising real estate prospects, I’m standing by to see how I can help you make them happen!

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8 Ways to Get Your Home Ready for Thanksgiving

It's almost here! Check out these tips on how to prep your abode for the busy, food-centric holiday.

Thanksgiving is a welcome tradition, allowing friends and family to gather together and enjoy celebrating the holidays together. If you regularly host Thanksgiving you know that cooking, serving and cleaning up are massive tasks. So is preparing the home for houseguests. You can alleviate stress and mess by getting your home ready for the holidays and making sure your family and guests are safe in your home. 

1. Respect your sink 
Bones and vegetable peelings (and sometimes an errant fork) often become stuck in the disposal, causing a backup. Homeowners can alleviate all of these plumbing issues by not treating the garbage disposal like a garbage can. When preparing the meal, set out a large bowl for compost material (produce, food-soiled paper goods, coffee grounds, eggshells), regular garbage (animal skin, fat and bones), recycling (aluminum foil, paper, plastic and glass), and grease or oils. To easily dispose of grease simply drain it into a container with a lid and place it in the freezer until solid. When the grease is solid, pop it out into the garbage and clean the container. Read more about composting tips here. 

2. Schedule a plumber 
The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest day for plumbers. Why? Sink drains and garbage disposals become clogged with animal fat and grease and starchy foods like rice and pasta swell in the drain and cause a sticky mess for pipes. Add to that added houseguests and you could have a plumbing disaster waiting to happen. If you already have slow drains, have a plumber snake the line before Thanksgiving Day. 

3. Get ready for houseguests
If you have slow drains in the kitchen or bathroom, and are expecting houseguests, schedule a proactive plumbing appointment for a day or two prior the holiday. A licensed professional can inspect and snake problem areas and get them ready for the great deluge.   If you plan on having overnight guests, make sure your bathrooms are well stocked with supplies and set out a garbage can in plain site. This will remind guests to not flush objects down the toilet that don’t belong there. Ask guests to allow about 15 minutes between showers to ensure proper drainage of pipes as well as allow hot water to sufficiently warm up. 

4. Be mindful of younger (and older) guests 
Hosting Thanksgiving may involve having family and friends of all age groups. If you are expecting small children or toddlers on Thanksgiving, and it’s been awhile since you’ve had a baby in the house, make sure you go through your home on your hands and knees and “see” your home from a toddler’s point of view. Cover exposed outlets, place dangerous or breakable objects up high, and consider asking the parents to bring a temporary gate if you have stairs. Older guests may also have trouble in an unfamiliar setting. Remove tripping hazards on the floor and have enough clearance between furniture and in hallways. It’s okay to make a couple of rooms in your home “off limits” and simply store away objects that you think might be in the way. 

5. Get your tools ready 
Sharpen your knives prior to the holiday preparation time. Dull knives can slip, causing painful cuts. You can easily sharpen knives at home with an inexpensive tool or take them into a shop to have them professionally serviced.   If you haven’t done so already, have your major appliances serviced. This may sound excessive however, the months of November and December are when dishwashers, ovens, stoves, washers and dryers, heating units and generators are heavily used. Trying to get a repairperson to your home a day before Thanksgiving is difficult, so schedule your appointments as soon as possible. 

6. Mind your energy & water usage 
Thanksgiving is a day of heavy energy and water usage for homeowners. Even with the oven, stove and TV in overdrive, you can still conserve energy. Don’t open the oven to check on your meal; opening the oven lowers the temperature inside and makes the oven work harder to raise the temperature again. Use the correct size pan for the stove. Using a 6” pan for an 8” range can waste up to 40 percent of energy. Try not to overstuff your refrigerator. 

Not only is it unsafe for your food, your refrigerator will need to work extra hard to keep food at the ideal temperature. Unplug any appliances that you aren’t using so that “vampire” charges aren’t accumulating. Not sure if it’s better to use the dishwasher or wash dishes by hand? The answer depends greatly on your dishwasher model and how fast you can actually hand wash. Read this great comparison from Treehugger and decide for yourself.  Having low-flow toilets and shower heads can save you a lot of money on your water bill, this is especially important when you have a house full of guests. If you needed a reason to have your toilets upgraded, now is a great time. You can purchase the toilets yourself and hire a plumber to install them in a single day. 

7. Check smoke alarms 
Holiday cooking and baking, along with candles and the distraction that parties create, can accidentally create unintentional fires. Before Thanksgiving, test your smoke alarms and make sure they are functioning in all areas. Have a small kitchen fire extinguisher in plain site (so any guest can use it) as well as near the fireplace or any exposed flames.

8. Climb with safety 
Every year thousands of homeowners are sent to the emergency room after falling off a ladder. If you need to climb a ladder to clean your gutters or roof, or are trimming branches and hanging holiday lights, use caution. Always have another adult to help spot you or hold a ladder and if you are feeling unsafe, hire a pro who is expertly trained in ladder safety. 

This article originally appeared on Porch.com

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3 Ways to Boost Curb Appeal for Kitsap County Home Buyers

Home buyers’ first impressions are visual, and a flawed exterior will turn them away faster than a two-hour wait time at a family restaurant. Kitsap County curb appeal is the same as it is anywhere: when ‘curb appeal’ becomes ‘curb repel,’ the outcome to expect is at best offer numbers lower than they should be. Since major exterior remodels can carry prohibitive price tags, keeping the asking price competitive involves finding ways to brighten up the outside of a home without breaking the bank. It’s doable (and affordably) when you tackle the issue keeping the bottom line in mind. Some ideas: 

1. Go for the Deep Clean 

Cleaning up is the first order of business—but creating true curb appeal may mean being prepared to go beyond the surface. Remove any weeds attacking walkways, then rent a power washer to clean both them and the home exterior (being careful that the power setting isn’t so strong it damages fragile areas). If the gutters look moldy or mildewed, use it on them, too—perhaps with a little mildew-killing solution to finish the job. Really important: wash the windows (once your local prospects get past the curb appeal hurdle, sparkling windows are guaranteed to brighten their impression of the inside). 

2. Pick Pots 

A mistake many homeowners make is to spend a bundle on landscaping at the last minute. If you’ve devoted years to fostering a well laid-out and cared-for garden, it’s a big plus—but just too expensive to try to create in a few weeks. A pretty yard can certainly help with curb appeal, but it’s also true that not every local buyer will be looking for a gardening experience that involves much upkeep. The budget-minded alternative that can be quite effective? Add the color and curb appeal of flowering plants—but put them in pots. This has the added value of providing local home buyers with green thumbs the general idea of what the yard could look like with their loving care, but without the permanence of established plants. If your home offers a pristine canvas, prospects are more likely to draw their own home ideal on it. 

3. Numeral-ology 

You’d be surprised at how difficult some people make it to just to find their home. You need only provide an address that’s clearly visible from the street, to obey the Curb Appeal First Commandment: Thou shalt not irritate thy buyers! Adding big, attractive house numbers in a font that matches the style of the property is a finishing touch whose value far outstrips the cost and effort involved. 

Curb appeal predictably affects both the speed and bottom line of any sale. When you boost it with just a little bit of time and money, you expand the opportunity to show off the gracious interior of your home. Give me a call anytime—we’ll put our heads together to come up with more ideas to tweak your property in ways that are effective and cost-effective!

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Are Drones the Next Big Thing in Real Estate?

When you hear the word “drone,” you’re more likely to think military target than residential listing. But drones could be the next big thing in real estate photography—that is, if they don’t run afoul of the law.

Technically known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), drones have swooped and dived into the public consciousness in a big way within the past year. In addition to the amusing tiny model helicopters that have been found under many a Christmas tree over the few holiday seasons, their more ambitious cousins, remote-controlled, lightweight flying vehicles have begun to be used by firefighters, filmmakers, and the military. And as the technology becomes less and less expensive, everyone expects to see drones in more applications than you could imagine—for instance, CBS’s 60 Minutes report that previewed Amazon.com’s plans to test online purchase deliveries via driveway drop-offs by creepy four-rotor drones.

What’s the connection with Bainbridge Island real estate? Just ask commercial photographers, who think the lightweight vehicles would be their key to the perfect high production value property shots. Think of it: instead of chartering an expensive helicopter flight to photograph a site from the air, a real estate photographer could use a much cheaper and more easily controlled lightweight drone. The result? Dramatic, breath-taking shots that used to be only rarely seen in listing video tours (and then, only in million-dollar listings). With more than 90% of prospective home buyers now using the Internet, those kinds of shots could make the difference between a stagnant listing and a quick turnaround.

But don’t hold your breath for the rise of drone-based real estate photography—at least not yet. The Federal Aviation Administration requires a permit for each flight whose goal is the “commercial use of airspace”—even by small devices like photography drones. As a consequence, the National Association of REALTORS® is advising real estate pros not to use drone-based photography until next year, when new FAA guidelines will be announced. Until then, a special FAA waiver has to be obtained for each flight (and you can bet a local property would have already been sold long before that came to pass!)

While we may heave a sigh over the exciting drone videos that might have been, the real possibility that drones will become a factor in Bainbridge Island's residential real estate reinforces the importance of having your home sale-ready from all angles. Imagine the fallout if drone photos revealed a leaky roof—or an unkempt backyard!

Bottom line: it’s always going to remain vital to prep a property to shine in more than just the “curb appeal” photo. That planning can start with a call to my office for a no-obligation review of how to set into motion a proven marketing plan that gets your home sold!

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