Here’s Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist:

 

Fall is an ideal time to tackle maintenance projects both inside and outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Gutters top to bottom: Water in the wrong spots can do a lot of damage. Start by ensuring that gutters and downspouts are doing their job. (Don’t attempt this task yourself if you have a two-story house with a steep roof; hire a professional instead.) If your home is surrounded by deciduous trees you may need to clean out your gutters a few times a year, especially in the fall. Check to make sure your gutters are flush with the roof and attached securely, repairing any areas that sag or where the water collects and overflows. Clean out the gutters and downspouts, checking that outlet strainers are in good shape, and are firmly in place. Finally, check that your downspouts direct water away from your house, not straight along the foundation.

If you haven’t already, you may want to consider installing gutter guards. Gutter guards create a barrier so water can get through to your gutters, but debris cannot, limiting gutter buildup (and the time you spend cleaning out your gutters). There are DIY installation kits available or you can always hire a professional to install a gutter guard system.

If you have a sump pump under your house, now is a good time to test it. Run a hose to be sure draining water travels directly to the pump (dig small trenches if needed), and that the pump removes the water efficiently and expels it well away from the foundation. For more information about how sump pumps work go to howstuffworks.com.

Check for leaks: The best opportunity to catch leaks is the first heavy rain after a long dry spell, when roofing materials are contracted. Check the underside of the roof, looking for moisture on joints or insulation. Mark any spots that you find and then hire a roofing specialist to repair these leaks. What you don’t want to do is wait for leaks to show up on your ceiling. By then, insulation and sheet rock have been damaged and you could have a mold problem too.

Don’t forget the basement. Check your foundation for cracks, erosion, plants growing inside, broken windows, and gaps in window and door weathering.  Make sure to properly seal any leaks while the weather is nice. This will ensure materials dry properly.

Pest Prevention: Rodents are determined and opportunistic, and they can do tremendous amounts of property damage (and endanger your family’s health). As temperatures cool, take measures to prevent roof rats and other critters from moving in. Branches that touch your house and overhang your roof are convenient on-ramps for invaders, so trip back branches so they’re at least four feet from the house. If you do hear scuttling overhead or discover rodent droppings in your attic, crawl space or basement, take immediate action. The website http://www.thisoldhouse.com has several helpful articles on the topic.

Maintain your heating and cooling systems: Preventative maintenance is especially crucial for your home’s heating and air-conditioning systems. Fall is a smart time to have your systems checked and tuned up if necessary. Don’t wait for extreme temperatures to arrive, when service companies are slammed with emergency calls. Between tune-ups, keeps your system performing optimally by cleaning and/or replacing air filters as needed.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, a professional inspection and cleaning will help prevent potentially lethal chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, always keep a supply of dry firewood or sawdust-composite logs so you have a backup heat source in an emergency.

Insulate & seal: Insulating your home is a cost-efficient investment, whether you’re trying to keep the interior warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Aside from more major improvements like energy-efficient windows and insulation, there are some quick fixes that do-it-yourselfers can tackle. If an exterior door doesn’t have a snug seal when closed, replace the weather stripping; self-adhesive foam stripping is much simpler to install than traditional vinyl stripping. If there is a gap under the door (which can happen over time as a house settles), you may need to realign the door and replace the vinyl door bottom and/or door sweep. Air also sneaks inside through electrical outlets and light switches on exterior walls. Dye-cut foam outlet seals placed behind the wall plates are a quick and inexpensive solution.

Posted in Living by Tara Sharp 

Posted September 16 2016, 2:00 PM PDT

How to Finance a Vacation Home That’s Also a Short-Term Rental

This was posted in the Wall Street Journal:

 

Renting out a second home is one way to pay off the mortgage while leaving time for family fun

By
Anya Martin

The rise of short-stay rental sites like Airbnb and HomeAway is tempting homeowners to purchase vacation homes that will also generate income.

For some, renting is a way to recoup some costs of a second home purchased primarily for family fun. Others do the math and find it makes sense to rent full time or close to full time.

Rental income can also defray the cost of improvements if the second home is a fixer upper, says Brian Sharples, CEO of HomeAway, which has more than 1.2 million paid listings in 190 countries. Vacation homeowners make an average of $28,000 a year in rental income, according to results of a quarterly survey released in March of 1,253 owners who list on HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and VacationRentals.com.

.
In a separate annual HomeAway survey released in June, 70% of 663 respondents said rental income covered more than half of their mortgage payments. Fifty-four percent said rental income covered 75% or more of their mortgage payments. Owners also used the income to fund their everyday living expenses (23%), upgrade and renovate the property (23%), pay for a child’s education (21%) and save for retirement (11%).

Last year, the average purchase price for a vacation home in the U.S. was $192,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. Of the 920,000 vacation homes sold, 61% were financed with a mortgage. ( News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal, also owns Realtor.com, the listing website of the National Association of Realtors.)
Overall, home prices have been rising over the past few years in most vacation hot spots. But buyers also should consider that interest rates are low, says Don Ganguly, CEO of HomeUnion, a California-based residential investment and management firm. “It could be the perfect window to blow cheap money into an area that is doing well and rents are going up,” he adds.

Buying a property solely for rental income has its risks. And how the property is used affects the borrower’s mortgage options. Both conforming and jumbo mortgage rates for a second home usually are equal to or within a quarter of a percentage point of current market rates for a primary residence mortgage, says Norman T. Koenigsberg, president and CEO of East Brunswick, N.J.-based First Choice Loan Services. Lenders typically require a minimum down payment of 10% for conforming loans and 20% for jumbos on second home mortgages, he adds.

Also, the lender will factor in the borrower’s existing home payments as well as the new mortgage payments when calculating the debt-to-income ratio, which reflects the borrower’s monthly debt payments as a percentage of gross monthly income. Lenders prefer a ratio that is 43% or lower, but some will go up to 45% for an otherwise strong applicant, Mr. Koenigsberg says.
However, if an owner plans to rent the home most of the time, a lender will categorize the property as “investment,” making it ineligible for a second-home mortgage, says Dave Gorman, Bank of America sales executive for the Northwest region. Qualification guidelines are tighter for investment-home mortgages, including a higher minimum credit score, higher down payment (25%), and a lower DTI, he says.

On the plus side, projected rental proceeds may be included in income calculations for an investment-home loan, Mr. Gorman says. If a home hasn’t been previously rented or is a new property, the lender will consider comparable rental income for the area, he adds.

Here are a few more considerations:

• Local regulations. Some counties and municipalities consider vacation-home rentals the same as hotel stays and require owners to collect occupancy or lodging taxes from guests. Communities also sometimes limit the number of homes that can be rented on a temporary basis, so vacation-home buyers who intend to rent should check for any local restrictions before purchasing, Mr. Gorman says.

• Budget fully. While borrowers may be able to afford another mortgage payment, they should be comfortable paying for the property taxes, insurance and upkeep of any property they own and finance, Mr. Gorman says. Remember these expenses remain even if there are no renters, he adds.

• Repair and write off. If the vacation home is rented, expenses related to repairs, maintenance, cleaning and utilities may be tax deductible, either fully or prorated based on the time it’s rented. However, costs for improvements must be capitalized and then depreciated. Check with a tax expert for specific rules and restrictions.

Corrections & Amplifications:
Investment-home mortgages may require a higher down payment of 25%. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the down payment could be 75%. (Aug. 3, 2016)

Six Key Factors That Affect the Sales Price of Your Home

 

 

Pricing a home for sale is not nearly as simple as most people think. You can’t base the price on what the house down the street sold for. You can’t depend on tax assessments. Even automatic valuation methods (AVMs), while useful for a rough estimate of value, are unreliable for purposes of pricing a home for sale.

AVMs, like those used by Zillow and Eppraisal, have been used for many years by banks for appraisal purposes. They are derived from algorithms based on past sales. But producers of AVMs agree that they are not accurate indicators of home value. For example, Zillow.com states, “Our data sources may be incomplete or incorrect; also, we have not physically inspected a specific home. Remember, the Zestimate is a starting point and does not consider all the market intricacies that can determine the actual price a house will sell for. It is not an appraisal.”

So what does Zillow recommend sellers do instead? The same thing the real estate industry has been advising for decades: Ask a real estate agent who knows your neighborhood to provide you with a comparative market analysis. To accomplish that, I typically consider the following factors—plus others, depending on the house:

 

Location

The location of your home will have the biggest impact on how much it can sell for. Identical homes located just blocks apart can fetch significantly different prices based on location-specific conditions unique to each, including: traffic, freeway-access, noise, crime, sun exposure, views, parking, neighboring homes, vacant lots, foreclosures, the number of surrounding rentals, access to quality schools, parks, shops, restaurants and more.

Recommendation: Be willing to price your house for less if it’s located in a less desirable area or near a neighborhood nuisance.

 

Market

Another major factor that also can’t be controlled is your local housing market (which could be quite different from the national, state or city housing markets). If there are few other homes on the market in your local area (a situation known as a “sellers market”), you may be able to set a higher price. However, if there’s a surplus of homes like yours for sale (a “buyer’s market”), your pricing will also reflect that.

Recommendation: If it’s a buyer’s market and you can delay selling your home until things change, you should consider doing so. If you can’t wait, be willing to price your home extremely competitively, especially if you are in a hurry to sell.

 

Condition

The majority of buyers are not looking to purchase fixer-uppers, which is why any deferred maintenance and repair issues can also significantly impact the selling price of your home. When your home’s condition is different than the average condition of homes in your location, AVMs tend to produce the widest range of error.

Recommendation:  Hire a professional home inspector to provide you with a full, written report of everything that needs upgrading, maintenance or repair, then work with your real estate agent to prioritize the list and decide what items are worth completing before the property is listed for sale, and what should be addressed through a lower list price. Also, some defects are best addressed during negotiations with buyers.

 

Widespread appeal

If you want to sell your home quickly and for the most money, you have to make it as appealing as possible to the largest pool of prospective buyers. The more universally attractive it is, the greater the interest and the faster competing offers will come.

Recommendation:

Hire a professional home stager (not a decorator) to temporarily stage the interior of your home. Also spend time making the exterior look its best: address any peeling paint, make sure the front door/ door hardware is attractive, prune bushes and trees, remove old play equipment and outdoor structures, etc.

 

Compare homes

The only neighboring homes that should be used to estimate the value of your home are those that have been carefully selected by a real estate professional with special training, access to all sales records, and in-depth knowledge of the neighborhood.

Recommendation: If you’re considering selling your home, ask your real estate agent to recommend a professional appraiser.

 

Searchability

When working with a prospective buyer, most real estate agents will search the available inventory only for the homes priced at (or less than) their client’s maximum, which is typically a round number. If you home is priced slightly above or below that amount (e.g., $510,000 or $495,000), it will appear in fewer buyer searches.

Recommendation: Be willing to adjust your selling price to maximize visibility.

 

Periodic price adjustments

Pricing a home isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposal. As with any strategy, you need to be prepared to adapt to fast-changing market conditions, new competition, a lack of offers and other outside factors.

Recommendation: After listing your house, be ready to adjust your asking price, if necessary.

 

Posted August 31 2016, 11:00 AM PDT by Tara Sharp

http://www.windermere.com/blogs/windermere/posts

Emerging Trends in Seattle’s New Construction Housing Market

Posted January 13 2016, 3:00 PM PST by Shelley Rossi

Posted in Windermere

At yesterday’s Windermere Builder Solutions Breakfast, more than 150 Windermere brokers came together to listen to Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner lead a panel discussion on new home construction trends in the greater Seattle area. The panelists included Todd Bennett, CEO: BDR Capital Partners; Ron Boscola, GM: Murray Franklyn Companies; and Eric Campbell, CEO: MainStreet Property Group. New construction housing was arguably one of the biggest casualties of the real estate crash of 2008, when a staggering 60 percent of the local builders went out of business. But those who weathered the downturn are beginning to build again and some interesting new trends are emerging.

The builder panelists told us that the size and scope of today’s new construction projects have changed significantly from the booming market of the 2000s. Not only are builders more cautious, but they also don’t have access to the same level of financing that they did a decade ago. Some are avoiding financing altogether by only building when they have the cash to do so. Another challenge they face is finding buildable land, which is heavily impacted by both the King County Growth Management Act and the natural boundaries that water and mountains pose in the greater Seattle area.

So what are home builders doing to combat these challenges? For one, they’re building smaller housing developments. Gone are the days of master planned communities with thousands of homes; in place of them are spec homes and small “infill” developments with only a handful of properties. Others are focusing on “upzoning”, which is all about increasing density closer to the job centers in the form of multi-family developments.

In terms of home design, things have evolved as well. Over the years, builders have listened closely to the changing needs of buyers. The results are much more open floor plans, outdoor living spaces, and more square footage. Gone are formal living and dining rooms and cookie cutter homes that all look the same.

When discussing the rising prices of new construction homes, the panelists all agreed that the biggest factors for them are the costs of land and skilled labor. When the new construction housing market dried up back in 2008, a large number of those skilled laborers found new, more reliable employment. When the market returned, many of the remaining laborers were snatched up by the apartment building boom. This has heavily impacted the pool of skilled laborers available to home builders, as well as the cost to hire them, which is ultimately reflected in the price of homes.

New home construction is very important to the overall health of the housing market. Historically, when inventory levels are low, we look to the builders to supplement the market with new homes. It helps keep a balance between supply and demand. But because of the challenges local builders face, there haven’t been enough new homes to significantly impact our woefully low inventory levels. Looking forward to 2016, the panelists all agreed that we should see the supply of new homes increase modestly; however, probably not enough to meet the demand. It would appear that the will is there, but the way continues to be a challenge for King County builders.

Top 30 island escapes

dreamtown-orcas-l

Orcas Island, WA

The long summer weekend was invented in Washington’s San Juan Islands,
or should have been. Summer stretches languorously here, with 16 hours of daylight—
enough time to savor orcas and eagles, kayaking and hiking, and a wonderful food scene.
Orcas is the island of superlatives. It’s the biggest of all the San Juans’ 750 islands,
with the highest mountain, the deepest fjords, and the most jaw-dropping views.
All this inspiration draws a notably creative crowd, and many artists call Orcas home for
at least part of the year.
By Thomas J. Story
Published in Sunset Magazine

Eco-friendly design by Frances Badgett

Back in the 1970s, environmentally conscious house design was relegated to the fringes. Solar homes were first gaining notoriety, but were rare projects. No one built to preserve trees on new construction sites. But with a growing consciousness and improvement in materials and costs associated with eco design, the paradigm has shifted dramatically. Considerations like direction of sunlight, storm runoff, window materials, and flooring are all part of the eco package.

Exterior Excellence

Trees

Simple, affordable, and great for hanging tire swings, trees are a lovely addition to your outdoor living space. They can reduce energy bills while also filtering pollutants and stabilizing soil from erosion. Leafy deciduous trees are great for summer shade and for processing carbon dioxide, the big contributor to global climate change.

Rain Gardens

Runoff from your property ends up in storm drains which lead to the bay or to a nearby lake. One way to ensure that runoff is cleaner and better for habitat is to plant a filtering system, or rain garden. Though few things sound less pretty than stormwater treatment, these swales can be beautiful.

Edible Lawns

You see the signs around town that read “food, not lawns.” What are they even talking about? You can’t eat your front lawn, can you? Well, maybe you can. There is a movement afoot to have people give up the pool table lawn for something a little more useful. By planting blueberries instead of bluegrass, you not only get more mileage out of your exterior space, you increase the absorption of on-site storm water, help out the bees and birds, and you get fewer trips to the grocery store. Have too much left over? Victory Gardens in town provide our local food banks with fresh, local produce. Small Potatoes Gleaning will come by and help harvest if you can’t get it all into crates. So get out in your yard and get planting!

Solar Panels Not only are solar panels better for the environment by making us less dependent on other forms of energy, they are making more and more sense financially. There are several local workshops to get you oriented in the world of solar. As with so many sustainable practices, there are rebates and incentives. And then there’s that check from the energy company. Not a bad deal at all.

Going Inside

Keeping a drafty house at a comfortable temperature can be as easy as turning up the thermostat—but that comfort comes at a price. Here are some tips and materials that keep your house cozy year-round without heavy drains on energy or your bank account.

Audit Your Usage

If your home is an existing structure you want to green up a bit, Sustainable Connections has an excellent program called the Community Energy Challenge. They will perform an energy audit to determine where your leaks and gaps are, then they help you prioritize your needs. Maybe some extra insulation will do the trick, or maybe a few solar panels will be a more effective use of your dollars. They help you sort through the options and pick a project. Not only do they get you started, they vet all the construction, so you know you’re getting reliable, quality work done on your most important asset. There are incentive programs and rebates that Sustainable Connections can help you puzzle through. In the end, you will save money and energy at the same time.

Windows

Windows’ efficiency is rated with a U-factor. Passive solar windows are generally south-facing and unshaded by structures or trees during daylight hours. According to energy.gov, these windows store the sun’s heat, much like solar panels. Unlike solar panels, they provide daylight year-round, and cooling in the summer through ventilation.

Flooring

Few things have affected our planet more than deforestation. Using reclaimed and sustainable wood, you can extend the life of hardwood for beautiful wood floors that have character and style. Some great sources are our own ReStore, Duluth Timber in Bow, and Reuse Consulting. Bamboo is a sustainable, hardy, and excellent ecofriendly wood as well. For a beautiful example of bamboo, check out Village Books in Fairhaven. Natural linoleum made from tree resin is also a great versatile option.

Heating and Cooling in Comfort

Now that you have your solar panels in place, hook them up to your furnace and really get yourself off that grid. Even without the solar boost, switching to a tankless system, replacing an old, inefficient furnace with a newer one, and insulating the heck out of your home will all lead to greater energy savings. And that’s good news for your wallet and for the planet. Whether you’re starting with new construction or updating a Sunnyland bungalow, there are now more options than ever for creating an eco-friendly space that serves both your bank account, and our ailing planet.

Eco-friendly design

Why Washington’s Orcas Island Should Be Your Next Family Getaway

This was just posted to the Conde Nast Traveler website
Written by Rebecca Misner August 02, 2016

On remote Orcas, off the coast of Washington State, the summer is short, the days are long, and the empty beaches, gin-blue lakes, and dense forest trails add up to the castaway vacation you’ve been dying to take.
Although I’m from the Pacific Northwest, I hadn’t heard of the San Juan Islands until my mid-twenties, when I was living in New York and dating my now husband, Alex, who grew up on Orcas. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I feigned knowledge of his seemingly exotic origins—pre-Google, it took me weeks to figure out that the San Juans were not some Caribbean island-nation but an archipelago of about 175 forested and rocky islets scattered along the Salish Sea, which separates Washington State from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. (Orcas is the largest of the four reachable by passenger ferry.) I’d listened to Alex’s stories about having just 35 people in his graduating class, taking a ferry to play a rival basketball team, not to mention sailing, hiking, and fishing after school—there being no malls or 7-Elevens to slack in. But it wasn’t until I visited a few years later that I finally grasped how tiny and off the grid the island really is—you can drive the 20 miles from Deer Harbor, on the western edge of the M-shaped island, to Doe Bay, on the far eastern side, in about 35 minutes—or how Mowgli-esque his childhood had been.

Alex’s family’s home is on the eastern lobe, where we spend most of our time. It’s a mountainous, lush area, heavily forested with Douglas firs and enormous cedars. The best hiking and all of the clear freshwater lakes are here too, which means it’s where swimming and cliff-jumping take place. (The latter is an Orcas teen rite. of passage that Alex introduced our New York friends to when they decamped to the island for our wedding—the groom and officiant took the plunge about an hour before the ceremony.) The center of the island is mainly rolling farmland with grazing sheep and horses, while the western side is dry and rocky and the vegetation a little scrubbier, giving it a vaguely Mediterranean feel. It’s also, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of this place, and where you’ll find the stunning Four Winds Westward Ho—a throwback of a sailing camp that’s been around since the 1920s. Anyone can enroll their kids, as we do, though to my daughter’s dismay the girls still wear bloomers and middies. Aside from a few more places to eat, and the introduction of stand-up paddleboarding to the island’s water sports repertoire, Orcas looks remarkably as it did when I first arrived 20 years ago. And with no stoplights, big-box chain stores, or tall buildings, it has seemingly changed little in more than a century.

The San Juans’ first recorded inhabitants, the coastal Salish tribes, considered Orcas to be a sacred place. There’s a part of the island, Madrona Point—a wild, rocky outcropping thick with twisted, ­ruddy-barked madrona trees that grow right down to the water—that only Lummi nation tribal members are allowed to access. Orcas’s first white settlers were Hudson Bay men sent in the mid-1850s to hunt black-tailed deer—and who, knowing a good thing when they saw it, decided to stay on, marry local Lummi women, and become homesteaders rather than return to Vancouver Island.

The 1960s and ’70s somewhat predictably brought artists, organic farmers, and other idealists looking for utopian simplicity, while the 1980s, when my in-laws moved to Orcas from Oregon to take over the local newspaper, saw a bizarrely diverse set of transplants. They included followers of the spiritual sect Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment (leader JZ Knight, who claimed to channel a 35,000-year-old sage named Ramtha, moved her publishing operations to the island—Ramtha’s sword is supposedly buried somewhere on Mount Constitution); Hollywood types like producer Richard Donner (of Goonies and Lethal Weapon fame); and outdoor-brand moguls such as surfboard and sailboat designer Hobie Alter and Oakley eyewear founder Jim Jannard. In the 1990s, Microsoft money quietly flowed into the San Juans (Bill Gates owns property on nearby Shaw, Paul ­Allen on Lopez) in the form of subtly expensive, beautifully constructed post-and-beam summer homes. Recently, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, a wavelet of young entrepreneurs, artists, and farmers relocated to Orcas to pursue their passions without the high risk, rent, and competition of big cities.

But regardless of when locals arrived, they all cite similar reasons for staying: the island’s pulse-charging natural beauty (there’s even a cringeworthy term for the landscape’s dizzying effect—Orcasm) and its ­almost primordially human pace. Days are planned around the weather and tides and remain free of mainland intrusion, since cell phones only work in the town of Eastsound (and only sometimes). But also, without fail, they’ll pause, shrug, and resort to words like calling, magical, and spiritual.

Clearly there is magic at play. But for me, it’s not the type that comes from Ramtha’s buried sword. Rather, it’s from returning again and again to an island that so gracefully captures all that is glorious about summer.

LIVE LIKE A LOCAL

Planning a trip to Orcas isn’t plug-and-play, but it’s not daunting (and totally worth it) if you have the right intel.

Finding Your Way There
Orcas is not easy to get to, which is why, even over a holiday weekend in summer, you’ll see only one or two other hikers on the trails and will have the rope swing at Mountain Lake to yourself. You can get to the island by boat or plane.

If you’ve got half a day, going by Washington State Ferry is a nice intro to the region’s geography. Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International, rent a car (you’ll need one on Orcas), and drive 100 miles north to Anacortes to catch the car ferry to the San Juans. (In summer, make a reservation at least two weeks in advance.) During the hour-long trip, you’ll cruise by tiny Blakely, Cypress, and Decatur islands, and maybe see pods of orca whales, or a weekend regatta, before stopping at Lopez and Shaw. The time-pressed should consider flying by seaplane: Kenmore Air will pick you up at Sea-Tac and take you to Lake Union in downtown Seattle. From there the six-passenger crafts fly breathtakingly low—the Space Needle is at eye level as you leave—and when you veer west (try to sit on the left side of the plane), you’ll see all the way up the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Canada. Alternatively, Kenmore can shuttle you to nearby Boeing Field, where you can take a small Cessna plane to Orcas’s airport in Eastsound. Once there, you can rent a car.

Playing House
You’re not going to Orcas for its hotels, most of which are fine, if fusty and dated. The better move is to rent a house. Vacation Doorways has a strong portfolio of rentals—many of them Pacific Northwest modern style, meaning lots of glass and wood with an expansive great room, large wraparound deck, and beach access. If you don’t mind going simple, reserve a waterfront cabin. My favorites are Cabins-on-the-Point on Massacre Bay, on the island’s western side (the two-bedroom house and cluster of early-twentieth-century cabins are ideal for groups), or the log cabins at Beach Haven Resort, on the northwest shore, where the sunsets are spectacular (these book up quickly with regulars, though).

Alex and I have made some of our best summer meals on Orcas. You can find any staples at Island Market in Eastsound. For fresh produce, hit the Saturday-morning farmers’ market in town. It’s a place to hang out as much as to shop—there’s often a local bluegrass band playing, and the prepared food is fantastic (get a round of fried oysters and papusas topped with crema and hot sauce). The best vendor for heirloom tomatoes, baby lettuces, new potatoes, and berries is Maple Rock Farm. Other market highlights: wildflowers from island growers and local fruit preserves from Girl Meets Dirt (the peach-chamomile jam is heaven on toast). We go to Buck Bay Shellfish Farm in Olga at least once a day. Toni Knudson, who runs the farm with her husband, Mark Sawyer (Mark’s family has been farming oysters and clams here since the early 1930s), will shuck a few Pacific oysters for you to eat while you decide what looks good for dinner. There’s usually local salmon (king, silver, or sockeye), Manila clams (small and tender and great in pasta con vongole) or the meatier littlenecks (excellent grilled with a little butter and fresh herbs), and Dungeness crab. For wine, ­­­fresh-baked bread, meats, and cheeses, Roses Bakery Cafe in town is the place.

Getting Out of the Kitchen
As lovely as it is to have your own setup, there are excellent places to eat out—most take full advantage of the access to amazing seafood, island-raised beef and pork, and produce. Stop by Brown Bear Baking on Main Street for a pre-hike coffee and a pastry—any order should include the flaky, buttery kouign-amann and at least one of the huge, gooey sticky buns. The best lunch spot on the island is The Kitchen: It’s little more than a few picnic tables beneath a large corkscrew willow tree, but its take on healthy, fast Asian food has earned it a die-hard following—get the chicken or vegetarian pot stickers with zesty plum sauce and the fried tofu and sesame rice cakes with crispy kale, prawns, and ginger-wasabi-soy sauce. You’ll want to go to Hogstone’s Wood Oven for dinner twice: once to sit outside and drink beer and eat chef/owner Jay Blackinton’s divinely thin wood-charred pizza (the smoked tomato and goat cheese, and Mangalista pork with peppers, are particularly good pies), and a second time to eat in the cozy dining room, with its ambitious locally sourced and foraged tasting menu and well-curated wine list. For a cocktail and classic Northwest farm-to-table cuisine in a (slightly) more formal environment, the restaurant at the Inn at Ship Bay is always solid.

It’s All About the Water
Because of the island’s M shape, there’s a lot of protected shoreline to explore, and sea kayaking is the best way to do so: It’s not uncommon to paddle past orca whales, Dall’s porpoises, and harbor seals while bald eagles and peregrine falcons circle overhead. Shearwater Kayak Tours in Eastsound offers three-hour and full-day trips. Our favorite is the afternoon trip from Doe Bay Resort & Retreat, on the remote eastern tip. It’s so peaceful—it seems like there are fewer private and commercial boats on this side—and we always see a ton of marine life. Bonus: When you return, you can pay a drop-in fee and use the resort’s sauna and hot outdoor mineral pools (they’re clothing optional, which is no big deal unless you run into someone your husband went to high school with). Afterward, head down a fern-lined path to the sound and plunge into the ocean; you may even see some bioluminescence—and during the ten seconds you brave the icy water, you’ll glow.

The Hiking’s About the Water Too
There are dozens of different hikes on Orcas, from casual rambles to serious climbs. The three-mile loop around Cascade Lake in Moran State Park is one of the easier, family-friendly hikes. You’ll have multiple opportunities to swim along the way—from a tame swim park (there’s a lifeguard on duty as well as paddleboards for hire), to a more thrilling jump off a 20-foot-high bridge that separates the lake from the lagoon, to a staggered group of cliffs that only the brave (the lowest cliff is a 25-foot jump) and the stupid (the highest feels close to 60 feet) should attempt. Other gentle hikes include the loop around Mountain Lake (there’s a rope swing near the start if you’re going clockwise) and the half-mile hike to Obstruction Pass, which ends at the best tide pools on the island. My favorite hike, and one of the more difficult, starts at the summit of Mount Constitution and, on a series of thigh-killing switchbacks through old-growth forests, takes you down to Twin Lakes, accessible only by trail.

Worth Their Weight
Despite the 25-pounds-per-person luggage limit on seaplanes, I always bring something back. There are a number of well-respected artists on the island, but my two favorites are master potter Jerry Weatherman, who sells out of his studio, Olga Pottery, and wood shaper Rob Thornber, whose work can be found at the Orcas Island Artworks. Both reference the island beautifully: The glazes Jerry uses on his ceramics—deep indigos, cold grays, black-greens—capture the Orcas palette, while Rob somehow manages to lathe-turn solid pieces of local madrona wood into whisper-thin, organically shaped bowls. Back at home, I drink my morning coffee from one of Jerry’s mugs and use my enormous madrona bowl for salad nightly. It seems fitting that these summer keepsakes have worked their way into my everyday life.

http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2016-08-02/why-washingtons-orcas-island-should-be-your-next-family-getaway

 

Western Washington Real Estate Market Update

Posted July 28 2016, 11:00 AM PDT by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

Posted in Market News and Western Washington Real Estate Market Update by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Washington State continues to see strong employment growth, outpacing national numbers with an annual rate of more than 3%. Interestingly enough, despite these substantial job gains, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 5.8%. However, I’m not overly concerned about this because it’s largely due to a growing labor force rather than a declining job market. This means that those who are unemployed who had previously stopped looking for work are now resurrecting their job searches because they have confidence in the economy.

I expect to see a modest drop in the unemployment rate through the balance of the year, and believe we will continue to outperform the nation as a whole with above-average job gains.

 

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 22,721 home sales during the second quarter of 2016, up by 4.4% from the same period in 2015. We finally saw a much-needed increase in listings, which rose by 30.1% between first and second quarter. This increase in the number of homes for sale led to an increase in sales, which rose by 4.4% when compared to the same period in 2015.
  • Island County saw sales grow at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with sales up by 22.1%. This is a small county which is subject to wild swings, so I take the data at face value. That said, the larger Thurston County saw sales up by an equally impressive 19.7%. Most interesting is that King County saw sales fall modestly compared to the same time period in 2015. Price—and supply—are clearly an issue in the most populous county in our state.
  • Overall listing activity was down by 21.8% compared to the second quarter of 2015, but the good news is that the supply side deficit is actually getting a little less than we have seen over the past few years. The total number of homes for sale was 30.1% higher than seen at the end of the first quarter. While much of this can be attributed to seasonality, it is still nice to see!
  • The region is experiencing positive job growth, and with it, migration to Washington State is running at a very brisk pace. Given these factors—in addition to our lack of new home construction—it is not surprising to see demand substantially usurping supply. As I look forward, I believe inventory levels will continue to rise modestly, but it will remain a solidly seller’s market for the rest of the year.

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • With demand still exceeding supply, we should not be surprised to see average sale prices continuing to rise, as is certainly the case in our region. Home prices rose by 8.1% between the second quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of this year. This is down from the annual rate of 10.1% that we showed in our last report, but the rate is still far higher than the historic average of 4%.
  • Regular readers of this report will remember that there were several counties where average sale prices in the first quarter were actually lower than seen a year before. I suggested that seasonality was to blame and that was indeed the case, with all counties in this report now showing annualized price gains.
  • When compared to the second quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in San Juan County and, in total, there were nine counties where annual price growth exceeded 10%.

 

  • The prevailing supply/demand imbalance continues to push prices higher, and persistently low interest rates are just adding fuel to the flames. If rates stay at current levels, it is unlikely that we will see much in the way of slowing appreciation for the rest of the year.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by 17 days when compared to the second quarter of 2015.
  • It took an average of 67 days to sell a home in the second quarter of this year—down from both the 86 days it took to sell a home in the first quarter of this year, and from the 84 days that it took to sell a home in the second quarter of 2015.
  • The only market where the length of time it took to sell a home rose was in the notoriously fickle San Juan County, where it rose by 30 days to 196 days. In the rest of the region, the average decrease in the time it took to sell a home between the second quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of 2016 was 20 days.

 

  • Snohomish County has joined King County as a market that takes less than a month to sell a home. At 18 days, King County is unarguably the hottest market in the region, but sales are slowing due to the lack of inventory. This imbalance is unsustainable over the long term.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the second quarter of 2016, I am leaving the needle in the same position as last quarter. Inventory levels have improved, albeit modestly, and price growth has slowed very slightly. However, this is offset by a jump in pending sales, a slightly higher number of closed sales, and a drop in interest rates. As such, the region remains staunchly a seller’s market.

 

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.

 

Travel & Leisure Magazine Picks the San Juan Islands as the 5th Best Island In the Continental US for 2016

by
Melanie Lieberman
If you thought you had to travel to Hawaii to experience island life in the U.S., you may be surprised to discover that some of the most well-loved islands are scattered around the country’s coasts.
Every year, T+L asks readers to rank their travel experiences in our World’s Best survey. Here, they share their opinions on the best hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. When it comes to world’s top islands, reader scores were based on their natural attractions and beaches, their sights and activities, friendliness, food, and overall value.

In 2016, wherever you are, you won’t likely be too far from one of the best islands in the continental U.S. Half fringe the American South, while the remainder flank New England, the Pacific Northwest, and the southernmost tip of Florida — there’s even one in the Midwest.

In the Salish Sea, just a short ferry ride from the Washington State mainland, travelers have discovered the San Juan Islands, a counterculture stronghold. Creative designers and sculptors, foragers who double as innkeepers and chefs, and nature enthusiasts have made the tight-knit communities scattered across 172 islands welcoming and exciting destinations.

On the opposite coast, readers loved Cumberland Island, Georgia, a 17.5-mile-long stretch of woodlands, marshes, and beaches that sits at the end of Georgia’s Sea Island chain. “It was wonderful to see wild horses,” wrote one reader. “There are beaches to walk on without a crowd — unless you count the horses.” Another raved about the island’s “peaceful, untouched” quality.

That same stuck-in-time feel helped Mackinac Island — between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas in Lake Huron — score the No. 9 spot.

Here, cars are outlawed, making horse-drawn carriages and bicycles two of the more popular methods of transportation. At least 80 percent of the island is preserve parkland, meaning you may just be better off on foot, exploring the historic forts, iconic rock formations, and caves. And most travelers will bed down in the 19th-century Grand Hotel, which offers lawn games and after-dinner dancing.

 

Living on the Water is a Lifestyle

Posted June 8 2016, 3:00 PM PDT by Kelly Weisfield subscribe to post Email-icon
Buying Waterfront Properties – What You Should Know Before You Take the Plunge

Posted in Luxury Homes, Premier Event , Selling, Buying, and Living by Kelly Weisfield

Living on the Water Is a Lifestyle

Enjoying direct and private access to the water is typically the primary motivator for buyers seeking a waterfront property. As such, it’s really important to consider how you intend to use your waterfront. For example, if you’re a boater, evaluate the moorage at the property. Is the water deep enough for your particular type of boat? Is there a boat lift to keep the boat out of the water when not in use, or do you plan to dry dock for the winter? If you’re a swimmer, is the lakeshore accessible to wade in, or do you have to jump off a dock or platform? If you have jet skis, sail boats or other water toys, is there a place to store them or moor them? If you’re looking forward to peaceful days on your stand-up paddleboard, is the water in front of your home typically choppy or calm? When you entertain, is there ample parking for guests or space for visitors to tie up their boats on your dock?

Your directional orientation will also impact your waterfront living experience. East-facing waterfront will allow you to enjoy wonderful sunrises. If you prefer sunsets, west-facing waterfront is preferable. South-facing properties generally enjoy light all day but can also experience more direct weather.

Focus on the Property More than the House

The golden rule of real estate, “location, location, location,” is even more true when considering a waterfront property. The ratio of land value to total property value is generally higher in waterfront properties. You can always update and change your home, but you cannot change the location. Consider especially the following features of the property:

View. One of the great perks of being on the water is enjoying the beautiful views. Understand if your view is protected by CC&Rs or view easements. If there are any view-obstructing trees or structures, identify whose property they are on and your ability to maintain your view.
Proximity to the Water. If the home is not close to the shoreline, consider how you’ll access the water. If you plan to entertain lakeside, think about how you’ll get food, beverages and supplies down to the waterfront easily.
Privacy. The property’s feeling of privacy usually corresponds to its waterfront frontage. The larger your waterfront frontage, the more buffer you’ll have from your neighbors.
Topography of the Land. Is the waterfront property on a level lot or a steep slope? Access to the water is easier on a flat lot – many lakefront lots are steep and can be difficult to get up and down to. Again, this impacts the value of the property

Understand What You Can and Can’t Do with the Property

Waterfront properties are subject to additional regulations and codes from various local, state and federal agencies. There are very strict regulations on shoreline development. If the property requires a new dock or bulkhead, it’s important to know that this can be a very challenging process given the multiple government agencies involved. These limitations are likely to get even more restrictive in the near future as the shoreline regulations are being updated. Sooner is better than later in applying for any permits related to docks, bulkheads and changes to the shoreline.

Finally, if you’re planning to build or significantly remodel, do a thorough feasibility analysis given city codes and shoreline regulations. New construction often cannot be built as close to the water as the existing structure under current code. In addition to meeting with the city, engage an architect and builder who have significant experience building waterfront properties in your area to help advise you about what likely limitations there are on your particular parcel.

Every Waterfront Property Is Unique – Learn the Nuances

Living on the water means that you have an additional set of factors to consider concerning your waterfront experience. For example, what is the boating traffic like in front of your home? Is it a busy channel or near a favorite fishing spot where boaters tend to congregate? Look closely at the properties of your waterfront neighbors: is there a tear-down next door so there will likely be a construction barge in front of you for the next few years? Does your neighbor have a huge yacht moored all summer that blocks your view? Is there a public beach nearby or community club that will cause noise late into the evenings?

If you’re considering shared waterfront, be especially thorough in understanding your rights and ownership interests. Some shared waterfront properties have a specifically deeded boat slip, though many others share an interest in a community dock. The system for moorage assignment and rotation can often lead to contention among neighbors, so it’s important to learn as much as you can about how the shared waterfront and is handled in your neighborhood.

There is a reason that owning a waterfront home is a life-long dream for so many people – it brings an extraordinary lifestyle. As a significant financial investment and very unique type of real estate, it’s especially critical to engage professionals who understand the complex issues inherent in waterfront properties. Equipped with the right expertise, guidance and knowledge, you’ll be ready to turn to your waterfront dream into a reality.