If you are a homeowner, you probably know all-too-well how costly home repairs can be. And, thanks to Murphy’s Law, appliance break-downs seem to happen at the worst possible time—like when you are selling your home. For this reason, it is in the best interest of all home sellers to consider purchasing a home warranty.
A home warranty offers many advantages to the home seller, the least of which is a peace of mind that your major home appliances are covered in the event of a break down. Most home warranties cover both parts and labor of your home’s most vital systems and major appliances. This protects the home seller from potentially large, unexpected repair bills and also allows the buyer to purchase the home with more confidence. Additionally, a home warranty is usually for the term of at least one year, so any unforeseen repairs/replacements are also covered well after the home has been sold. A home warranty also provides a competitive edge over those homes without warranties because it communicates confidence to buyers. This can add up to a faster selling period, resulting in a more convenient process for all involved.
A home is probably the single largest investment you’ll ever make, so the last thing you want as a home seller or buyer, are unexpected home repairs/replacements. Major appliance replacement can cost you several thousand dollars, and during the process of a home sale/purchase, your budget doesn’t often allow for costly expenses. A home warranty is designed to protect you from these types of expenditures. Furthermore, it is convenient for home sellers because a home warranty offers after-sale liability. While an inspection may find many faults that are covered by a home warranty, it cannot account for latent problems that are beyond an inspection’s scope, or problems that occur down the road. In most cases, a home warranty will cover these expenses, alleviating potential financial burdens for the seller once they have sold the home.
When considering a home warranty, it’s important to ask the right questions. Warranties vary from one company to the next and there are also many different types of coverage available. Your Realtor should be able to help you with this process. First and foremost, you should identify which components of the home will be covered by the warranty. It’s also important to attain annual costs and the charge for service calls. You will want to ask what the total dollar limit is on the warranty and what the limits are for the individual items that are covered. Many home sellers purchase home warranties, which are then passed along to the homebuyer when they move into the home. As a homebuyer, you may want to look into whether or not the coverage can be renewed once the warranty has expired.
According to American Home Shield, one of the largest home warranty companies in the nation, the average home warranty customer uses their warranty plan 2.3 times. Furthermore, the number of home warranties is increasing with every year because homeowners are becoming more informed of their benefits. Eventually home warranties will become commonplace, as buyers and sellers realize the advantages they offer. Ultimately, what it comes down to is that a home warranty is a very simple, cost-effective way to purchase a peace of mind for both homebuyers and sellers alike.
Cooking and dining alfresco is arguably the single greatest thing about warm weather in spring and summer, but most backyard barbeques involve a million trips to and from the kitchen. As such, one of the hottest trends in new home construction is outdoor kitchens. Outdoor kitchens typically feature a comfortable eating area with a combination of cabinets, sinks, warming drawers, prep counters, ranges, and refrigerators—all within arm’s reach of the grill. Outdoor kitchens provide a natural gathering spot for friends and family and can add to the value of your home.
How elaborate your outdoor kitchen should be depends on how often you plan to use it. Some people enjoying dining outdoors every evening, while others reserve it for special occasions and social gatherings. Regardless of the frequency of use, you need to use materials that do well in all kinds of weather. Stone sinks, stainless steel cabinets, and slate countertops will withstand the Seattle rain, as well as the months that pass between barbeque seasons. Many outdoor kitchens also feature pergolas or other roof structures to shield guests from sun and rain. Something else to consider is adding an outdoor gas heater or fireplace, which will extend the amount of time you can use your outdoor kitchen into the fall and winter months.
In addition to the convenience of having all your grilling accoutrements within a handy distance, a well-built outdoor kitchen also adds to the value of your home. And you don’t have to have a new home to reap the benefits. With the right space and backyard layout, owners of existing homes can easily add-on an outdoor kitchen area. When adding an outdoor kitchen to an existing home, power, gas, and water lines often have to be extended from the home, so be sure to hire a qualified contractor to do the work for you. By extending your living space outside, you have essentially increased the square footage of your home. In many cases the increase in your home’s value will equal or even sometimes exceed the cost of the project itself.
The benefits of an outdoor kitchen area and living space are many. And with the convenience of having your drinks, condiments, meat, and cooking space all in one easy-to-reach place, you can spend the precious summer moments right where you should—outside with friends and family.
What features would you include in an outdoor kitchen?
By Richard Eastern
If you’re shopping for a home, you may have noticed that a large number of the homes that are currently on the market are short sales. A short sale occurs when a homeowner owes a lender more than their home is worth, and the lender agrees to let the owner sell the home and accept less than what is owed. Lenders may agree to a short sale because they believe it will net them more money than going forward with a lengthy and costly foreclosure process.
Short sales do differ in a number of ways from conventional home sales. Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about buying a short sale property.
Short sale homes sell for less, but not significantly less than market value.
Buyers hoping to snap up a home for half the market value will be disappointed. The selling price for short sales average about 10 percent less than for non-distressed properties. The bank is looking to recover as much of the value of the home as possible, so they will not accept offers that are significantly under market value. That said, with savings that can equal tens of thousands of dollars, a short sale is a great way to get more house for your money.
Short sale properties are sold “as is”.
The lender will not be making repairs to the home. Any improvements that need to be made are most likely going to be the responsibility of the buyer. A savvy buyer’s agent/broker will get contractor bids for any necessary repairs and use those to help negotiate a lower sales price with the bank.
A short sale will take longer than a conventional home sale.
Once you and the seller have mutual acceptance on an offer, you need to allow 60 to 90 days for the lender approval process. There are often long stretches when the offer is slowly winding its way through the bank’s system, so buyers need to be patient.
If you have to sell your home first, a short sale is probably not the best fit.
Lenders generally will not take contingent offers on a short sale.
A short sale is one real estate transaction that you shouldn’t attempt on your own.
Short sales are complicated transactions that involve a different process and significantly more paperwork than a standard real estate sale. An agent/broker that is unfamiliar with short sales can write an offer in such a way that they inadvertently cause their buyers to lose the deal. An experienced short sale agent/broker will protect your interest and help the process move forward smoothly.
The bottom line: As long as you can be patient, and are working with an agent/broker who understands the process, buying a short sale is a great way to purchase the house you want at a price you’ll love.
Richard Eastern is a Windermere agent in Bellevue and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 600 homeowners sell their homes. A Bellevue native and a UW grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or at www.washortsales.com.
Buying a home is one of the most significant financial and emotional purchases of a person’s life. That’s why it is so important to find an agent that can not only help you navigate the home search process, but one who can also answer your questions and represent your needs from start to finish. Most importantly, your agent should care about your happiness and ensuring that you find the home that best fits your needs. Here are some qualities to consider when selecting a real estate agent:
- Someone you like. More than likely, you will be spending a lot of time with your agent, so look for someone that you enjoy interacting with.
- Someone you trust. One of the best ways to find an agent who you feel you can trust is to ask friends and family for a referral. Another way to do this is to interview different agents and ask for client references.
- Someone who listens. While your agent can’t read your mind, they should be able to make educated recommendations and offer advice by listening closely to your needs. Make sure you talk to your agent about your priorities, what types of features appeal to you, as well as any factors that could be deal breakers. This will arm your agent with everything they need to help find you the perfect home.
- Qualified and experienced. Make sure your agent has the qualifications and experience to meet your specific needs. For example, some agents have more experience with short sales, while others might be experts on certain neighborhoods or types of housing. Your agent should also be fully trained in contract law and negotiations.
- Knowledgeable. A great agent is someone who is out in the neighborhoods, exploring communities, visiting listings, performing marketing analyses, and collecting all the information that you need to make an informed, confident decision about your real estate needs.
- Honest. Your agent should be upfront and honest with you about every aspect of your home search process – even if it involves delivering bad news. The best real estate agents are more concerned about finding the right home for their clients, not just the home that brings in the fastest commission check.
- Local. Every community is different and all real estate is local, so it’s important to find someone who really knows the local market and can provide you with whatever information you need to familiarize yourself with a particular area.
- Connected. A well connected agent will have relationships with lenders, inspectors, appraisers, contractors, and any other service provider you might need during your home search.
- Straight forward. You want an agent who will work hard to help you find the best home, but you also want someone who will be straight forward with you about the process, the market reality, and what is realistic for you.
- Committed. Your agent should be in it for the long haul, meaning that they’re looking out for your best interests every step of the way, no matter how long the process takes. The best way to find an agent with these qualities is by asking around. In all likelihood, someone within your circle of friends or family will have experiences to share and professionals to recommend. You can also search for agents based on area, so you know you’re getting someone who is knowledgeable of the neighborhood(s) you’re interested in. Click here to learn more about the buying process.
Memorial Day traditionally represents the kick-off of summer. Kids are getting out of school, families are making summer vacation plans, and backyard barbeques are on everyone’s minds. This is also a great time of the year to get your house in order and ready for the summer season. The following is a handful of ideas and tips to help you with this process.
Gardening– It’s not too late to start your garden! This weekend I will be planting an herb garden; I planted summer vegetables a few weeks ago. If you’re thinking of doing the same, just make sure you use starts because many summer harvest vegetables won’t start from seed this late in the season.
Outdoor living– My home has an outdoor space with great potential, including a partially covered patio perfect for entertaining. This weekend I plan to upgrade the space with small touches to make it summer party ready. This includes finding outdoor lighting options, updating the seating and cleaning up the barbeque.
BBQ- Make sure your grill is ready to go this season by making sure everything is clean and in working order before you fire it up. In the northwest that includes making sure the fuel lines are spider-web-free. Also, make sure you have propane or charcoal on hand for impromptu dinners.
Clean Windows- Now is a great time to clean your windows, inside and out. Sun shows more dirt and smudges.
Lawn care- Prepare your lawn for the months ahead. Depending on where you live this means different things. Check your sprinkler system to make sure it wasn’t damaged over the winter; upgrade your lawn care to ensure fuller greens, check for and remove moss to prevent dead patches and start your weeding regimen.
Pool prep- If you have an outdoor pool get this ready for a summer season of fun in the sun, (unless you are lucky enough to enjoy your pool year-round). Same goes for hot-tubs. Make sure your equipment has been serviced, chemicals are available and your pool is clean and ready to use. OR, head to the local hardware store and buy your kiddie pool now before they run out, as I learned one particularly hot July!
De-winterize- I once was doused head to toe when we were turning the water back on to our exterior pipes because the pipe had split in the winter- so make sure all your pipes survived the cold, check your winterized projects and prepare your house for summer. This is also a good time to look around the exterior, checking roof, gutters and siding.
Summerize- Check or replace AC filters, window screens, and household fans to make sure these are all functioning and will help provide maximum circulation in your house. Consider installing an attic fan or vent to help pull heat out of your home all winter long. Pack away excess cold weather items such as heavy blankets, jackets and other items so they aren’t in your way. Same goes for any sundry items you only use during fall and winter.
Lighten the Space- Though I likely won’t spend much time inside once the mercury rises, I want to keep the house as light and cool as possible. I have found that replacing the curtains with a lighter shade lets the light in, but also keeps the rooms from overheating from sun exposure. Summer always makes me want to lighten up with the accessories- lighter colors, more whites, bright accents and less clutter.
Rearrange – Freshen up spaces by rearranging some of your wall art. If you don’t have enough wall pieces to rearrange regularly it may be time to add to your collection. You can find inexpensive original art online at stores such as Etsy or in person at local galleries. You can always play with other items like framed images from books, vintage posters or record albums. Here are some terrific ideas for using what you have to add interest to a room.
Air it out- Open all the windows, shake out the rugs and update home fragrances to fit summer moods (citrus, freesia, clean linen, coconut, melon, fruits and tropical, etc.). You can create your own diffuser with essential oils to distribute fragrance. This may be more symbolic than practical but it always makes me feel ready for summer.
Paint- If you have a room you really want to refresh, a three-day weekend is a good time to take on a project of scale, so you have plenty of time to prep, paint, dry, and clean up. Painting is one of the least expensive ways to really transform how a room feels. Need help picking colors and paint type? Here is some good advice.
Garage or Basement- Tackle a big space that makes a big difference. Our garages and basements often become year-long dumping grounds for seasonal decorations and clothing, items that don’t fit in cabinets, memorabilia and maintenance tools. Go through your items and sort by keep, throw out and donate/sell and then group your keeps by function. Make sure your tools are accessible for easy gardening and entertaining by making sure your tools are accounted for, ready to go, and easy to reach. Here is a useful video on garage organization.
Yard/Garage Sale- If you have overflow at your house, plan a yard/garage sale to get rid of items you no longer need or want. Just make sure to pack everything up and donate it at the end of the sale otherwise you are just letting the clutter back in!
Plan a party- Once your space is all cleaned up and redecorated you will want to show it off! Plan a summer BBQ, dinner party, pool party, picnic or any other gathering.
What are your planning for Memorial Day weekend?
If you have been in your home for a while you may be restless for change. The great part about having a home of your own is you can make improvements and give your home a chance to evolve over time. You just need to help your home live up to its potential! Here is a top ten list of improvements that will help you make the most of your home.
- Find your home’s purpose. Each home is as unique as its owners, so in order to fully utilize your home, consider how you view your home’s purpose. Some people like to entertain, others find it a calm space in the frenzy of daily life; some nurture their families and others nurture their creativity. Your home’s purpose can be any combination of these and more, but it helps to consider the function of your space in order to ultimately find its purpose.
- Assemble a list. A list always helps me figure out where to start or prioritize what is the most important project. Think about what you want to change in your home, inspirations, and preferences.
- Make an “inspiration board”. An “inspiration board” is a great way to visualize your home’s decor. You can create a board online with a tool like Pinterest to organize ideas you love or you can do it the old fashioned way with a board, magazine cutouts, color swatches, and fabric samples. Doing this will allow you to see all the elements you like in one place so that you can then tie it all together into a room you love.
- Create a collection. If you have items that you like to collect, think about how to transform that collection into something you can display. If you don’t already have a collection of loved objects think about what this collection would be for you. You can center a room design around your travel souvenirs, old camera collection, figurines, unique plates, or familial objects. Adding to this collection over time can be a great way to keep your spaces new while maintaining a personal feel to your decor.
- Choose a new palate. Shake up your sensibilities and think of a color that will compliment your room while making a statement. It’s easy to fall into the white/beige standby to keep our rooms neutral, but sometimes a color that provides a contrast to your décor will make the room pop.
- Repurpose an old piece of furniture. Instead of replacing your furniture give it a facelift. You can have a sofa or chairs reupholstered or make use of a slip cover. Also, Painting and staining can add new life to your wood pieces.
- Rearrange. Moving furniture around is another easy way to reinvent your space. Try placing your sofa on an angle to open up your entertaining room or move your lamps to improve lighting. You can also think about moving a piece of furniture into a room to give it new life, like using a unique dresser for a credenza or a chair as a side table.
- Make a room of your own. Find some space in your home that is uniquely yours, whether this is the corner of the guest room or an office of your own. It can be very rewarding to have a space that you can organize to fit your personal needs without the worries of others intruding
- Find an inspirational object. Have you ever fallen in love with an object that inspired you to want to completely redo a room to accommodate it? Designing a room around an inspiring object can be a great way to create a space that truly embodies your design sensibility.
- Find design motivation. Home design evolves over time and can be sustained by finding items that inspire you. Read magazines and books that inspire your interests in architecture, design, art, etc. Or find stores and flea markets that sell pieces that influence your aesthetic. Or bring a camera with you when you’re doing your favorite activities and bring back memories or inspirations. Most of all have fun!
What inspires your home design?
This weekend I spent the greater part of Saturday taking care of the ongoing household to do list and the transformation made a huge impact. There certainly is more to do, as is the nature of home improvement, but having a finite list of things to accomplish and making time to enjoy them made all the hard work worth it! Here is my top ten list of how to make the most of your time when tackling home-improvement projects.
1. Imagine your perfect place. Your home should reflect your personality, the way you spend your time, and fit your needs. If you want a place to entertain, to relax and meditate, to create art, nurture your children, or display your collections, you will want to consider your priorities. Once you have explored the possibilities the next step is to prioritize your to-do list in order to make the most impact.
2. Make a list. Some home project lists could go on and on (and on), so it’s a good idea to write out a list and discuss the details with the members of your household so you know where to start and who is responsible for what.
3. Prioritize. Once you know what needs to be done it’s time to prioritize the list. If there is something timely (like getting gutters before the fall) keep that in mind when prioritizing, but also think about those projects that will bring you the most joy in daily life.
4. Do one project that really makes a difference. I recently finished sprucing up the living and dining rooms with new curtains and new furniture for storage and display. These are the rooms I spend the most time in at home, so the difference is palpable to how I view my home. Now we are ready for a big dinner party which is one of the most important things in our household. From this experience, I realized that small changes and some cleanup can make a huge difference.
5. Keep it reasonable. Make sure your list is reasonable. The goal isn’t to get everything done in one weekend, which typically isn’t feasible anyway. Rather, you want the time you invest in your home to be enjoyable and give you the sense of satisfaction (and motivation to do more).
6. Gather your tools. Nothing will derail a project like not having the right tools. Once you know what you are going to accomplish make sure all your supplies are ready. You’ll be far more efficient if you hit the hardware store, fabric store, gas station, etc. prior to getting started.
7. Work together. Some projects are two-people projects. If you share your household, enlist other members to share the work. Some projects need two people to lift, spot, hand tools, push, pull, etc. If you live alone, have a work party by inviting a friend over to help. You can return the favor if they ever need help with a household project.
8. Enjoy the process. Blast music, take breaks, and step back to reflect on your household improvement. If you need to dedicate a weekend to doing your chores, you may as well still enjoy it!
9. Get the list done. If you’ve taken the time to make your list reasonable you shouldn’t have any trouble completing it. Doing so will reaffirm your sense of accomplishment, so when you look at what was done, you won’t be thinking about what you have to do next.
10. Bask in your success. Focus on the improvement, enjoy your space, and most importantly, use it! If you made your bedroom a sanctuary, light a candle and relax with a good book. If you reconfigured your kitchen for more efficient use, have your own Iron Chef moment and cook a huge meal. Just remember, all your planning and hard work should be enjoyed.
What are your tips for making the most out of your home?
Ipod and water bottle in hand, Dave strolls down a flower lined path toward his first destination of the morning, his gym. At the door to the gym, he is greeted by his wife, Janet. Janet takes a sip of her latte, gives Dave a kiss and tells him she’s off to the studio. While Dave is turning on some music and contemplating how many miles he’ll put on the treadmill today, Janet walks up a staircase to her studio.
The kiln in the corner warms the studio from the chill of the rainy night before. Janet hangs her coat and inspects yesterday’s creations on the drying rack. In her mind, she’s sizing up what glaze and design she’ll use for each piece. Dave will head to his office on the other side of the building after his workout.
Depending upon where you live, you might have your own vision of this scene. Perhaps it’s a downtown building that has ground level shops, like a gym, and small spaces upstairs for rent, like a studio. Maybe an office park in the suburbs. Perhaps even a co-op village. For Dave and Janet, though, the gym and studio are in a part of their backyard that used to be home to a jungle gym, sandbox and 4-square court. When they became empty nesters, they decided to consolidate their life, cut commuting expenses, and take advantage of some unused space at home. They created a two story, backyard cottage that had a gym, bath and shower, and kitchenette on the ground floor, as well as side-by-side offices on the upper level. Dave, rather than a kiln and pottery supplies, has a desk and display of catalogues that he will use in presentations when clients visit him.
Backyard cottages have been gaining in popularity and attention lately. With the changes in the housing market making it impractical to sell some homes, possibly gas prices making long commutes impractical, or maybe the desire to simplify a life that’s been too removed from home, its’ easy to see why someone might choose to build one. Many people build them to be guest quarters, mother-in-law apartments, a rental unit for additional monthly revenue, or temporary lodging for boomerang offspring who are trying to land that first job out of college. Some of these are as simply built as a miniature starter home, and yet others are elegantly equipped as a five-star hotel.
To maximize the value of these buildings, they should be planned by an architect so that they will work for your intended use. In the example, Janet’s kiln would be heavy and very hot, so several building precautions would be warranted. One short cut to avoid would be to do anything less than fully permitted and inspected, as failure there can cost far more than the property tax levy to take care of later. It’s advised that unless you have lots of experience, have the riskier tasks done by subcontractors.
These buildings will add value to the homeowner’s property over time, as if they are built properly, they’ll appreciate in conjunction with the value of the home. The reasons for having one are many and personal, but if you were to drive down many city streets, you will find one hiding under the trees in a corner of the backyard.
Can you see a point of your life, and a place on your property, in which a backyard cottage would make sense?
By Eric Johnson, Director of Education
Johnson has several years experience as a real estate agent and real estate instructor, as well as experience in construction project management, digital media/publishing and insurance. He has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from University of Colorado.