Winter Safety Tips for your Home

Here in the Northwest we’ve had quite a variety of weather this fall – from beautiful sunny days, to torrential rain, high surf and gusty winds. It’s typical weather for fall and winter, and a good reminder that taking care of our homes before we have a storm-related problem makes riding out the nasty weather much easier.

Below are some great tips for protecting your home – and family – this winter.

1. Adequate lighting: When the power goes out, flashlights are much safer than candles! Even better, purchase battery-operated lanterns … they’ll provide a lot more light and you can place them on tables and counters. They come in many sizes, from small ones that you can put in a drawer or carry in your car, to large ones that can light up your bathroom.

2. Gutters: Take the time to either clean our your gutters – or hire it done. Between spring and fall, leaves and other tree debris collects in your gutters, clogging them up and creating dams at drain points. Another worry – when gutters are heavy with debris and not securely  attached to the eves of your house, high winds can rip gutters right off and send them flying.

3. Fire and CO2 alarms: To be on the safe side, replace alarm batteries every winter and summer. Risking a failed battery could be risking a life … changing out batteries costs very little and takes just a few minutes.

4. CO2 placement: If your garage is attached to your house, be sure to put an alarm near the door between garage and house.

5. Look for tripping hazards. While you might know where something is during the day (and you instinctively avoid it), when the power goes out and your house is dark it’s easy to forget where those trip hazards are. Emergency rooms and medical treatment are often the next stop for people who trip in the dark.

6. Space heaters: If you use space heaters for extra warmth, check the plug and cord for any fraying and keep a 3′ radius clear all the way around the heater. We often hear about space heater-ignited fires where the heater has either malfunctioned or had something ignitable laying against it. Consider replacing your older space heaters with new models which have a safety switch that shuts the unit off if it tips over.

7. Slippery surfaces: In the Northwest, decks, walkways and driveways are notorious for becoming slippery due to a build up of moss. (Even if you can’t see it, microscopic moss is probably there!) In most cases a pressure-washer will do a great job of cleaning surfaces – if you need more help use only environmentally-friendly products.

8.  Exterior lighting: Especially during the fall and winter when we’re living in up to 15 hours of darkness a day, consider exterior lighting that either is set on a timer, or has a motion-detector sensor. This is particularly important from a safety and security standpoint. Solar lighting is great during spring and summer, but it’s not terribly effective if there’s not enough light during the day.

If you’d like more ideas on keeping your family and home safe this winter, give one of our Windermere Whidbey Island brokers a call. They can put you in touch with home safety and maintenance experts from across Whidbey Island.

Why Not White Marble?

Are you thinking about replacing your kitchen or bathroom countertops? The choices are endless; tile, granite, soap stone, wood, or maybe marble? White marble often gets a bad rap because it’s a more porous metamorphic stone than most (which means it’s prone to stains and scratches), but we beg to differ, and here’s why.

White marble is as timeless as it is modern. Adding white marble to your kitchen or bathrooms is like bringing home flowers for your significant other; always a good idea. It looks great on kitchen counters, but also just about anywhere in your bathrooms, from the floor to the shower walls.  Adding white marble countertops to a dressing vanity in bedrooms is also a great way to incorporate it throughout your house.

After you’ve made the decision to install white marble into your home, you’ll need to decide on a finish. Honing gives a matte finish, whereas polishing crates a shiny, reflective surface. If you want to reduce etching, choose a honed finish instead of a polish. If you don’t mind some added etching, then polished white marble is as stunning as it sounds.

How do you keep your marble happy? Make sure to apply a seal prior to using it. To reduce staining, wipe away spills immediately, and only use a neutral detergent to clean your marble. These simple things will keep your white marble in shipshape condition.

When it comes to your marble, it’s more like you than you think. Marble goes through good times and bad times and some scars fade better than others. It will never be perfect, but in the end, we think you’ll love it—imperfections and all.

Check out white marble looks we love on Pinterest.

If you're wondering what kinds of updates will give you the most bang for your buck when it's time to sell your home, give one of our experienced Whidbey Island real estate brokers a call - they're great at helping you determine what is worth the time and cost, and what's better left to the person who buys your home.

It’s the season to be grateful

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us will reflect upon this past year and remind ourselves of what we are thankful for in our lives. It’s also a time when many of us get together and work towards helping those that have not been so fortunate. This season, our Windermere Real Estate offices and agents have been hard at work collecting food, clothing and other necessities to help out our neighbors in need. These are just a few of the activities taking place throughout our Windermere network…

Our Windermere Whidbey Island-Oak Harbor office purchases winter coats and supplies for the women and children in their local area shelter. This year, 22 children will receive warm coats for the winter.

The Windermere Ballard office is collecting new and lightly used adult clothing and gear for The Bridge Care Center in Ballard, which benefits the homeless men and women in their neighborhood.

The Windermere Bellingham-Bakerview office is collecting donations of coats and blankets now through December 2nd for the men, women and children of Whatcom County that are being helped at the local Lighthouse Mission.

The Windermere Edmonds office raised nearly $11,500 and collected over 12,000 pounds of food which was donated to the Edmonds Food Bank.

The Windermere Federal Way office is collecting non-perishable food items for the Federal Way Multi-Service Center now through December 5th. Donated items will be distributed through the Federal Way MSC food bank, which serves the Federal Way community in South King County, Washington.

The Windermere Kingston office is holding a Thanksgiving Food Drive for the Kingston Food Bank to fill their Thanksgiving baskets for local families.

The Windermere Medford office has partnered with KDRV TV for the past 15 years on their coat drive for kids. Throughout the month of October, Windermere agents helped with picking up coats twice a week to deliver to the cleaners. They also sorted the coats into sizes and delivered them to the local schools. An estimated 2,000-2,500 new and used coats were distributed to schools (Head start through twelfth grade), with another 1,000 donated to local shelters. Additional coats will be purchased with funds through the Windermere Foundation, if the need exceeds the amount of coats collected.

The Windermere Mukilteo office participated in the 2014 Snohomish County-Camano Association of REALTORS Food Drive in October and collected over 4,600 pounds of food and over $1,000 in cash donations.

The Windermere Prescott and Prescott Valley offices in Arizona helped collect and sort winter clothing for the homeless and families in need in the Greater Tri-City area at the annual Southwest Windermere Community Service Day on October 17. They sorted nearly 500 jackets, along with hats, gloves, socks, scarves, sweaters, pants, turtlenecks and shoes. Donated items were distributed through the First Congressional Church.

Thirty-five Windermere offices throughout Oregon and SW Washington are holding their annual Share the Warmth Coat & Blanket Drive now through December 17th.

The four Windermere Professional Partners office locations held a food drive the first half of this month to benefit The Families Unlimited Network Food Bank. The food bank provides at least a three-day supply of food for individuals and families of Pierce County.

The Windermere Shoreline office has a coat drive and food drive scheduled for November and December. Coats and clothing collected will go to local organizations such as Jacob’s Well.

The Windermere Stellar offices in Oregon recently pledged $2,000 through the Windermere Foundation to Oregon City’s Backpack Buddies, an organization that supplies backpacks full of food for low-income kids to take home over the weekend. The food is simply slipped into each child’s backpack during recess to prevent the kids from feeling embarrassed about receiving help. They are also holding a food drive for the organization, in addition to the $2,000 donation which will supply 500 backpacks.

The Windermere Foundation is thankful for the continued support and contributions of our Windermere Real Estate offices, agents and staff, and for the generous donations made by those in our communities. If you’d like to learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation.

Add Some Sparkle to Your Holidays with Gilded Decor

It's holiday season, and this time of year it's all about coordinating fall colors with metallics - gold in particular. From gilded pears to golden leaves, there’s something here for everyone and every home ... regardless of whether your style leans toward casually elegant or luxurious.

Gilded Pears – Use real or artificial pears, whichever you prefer, then spray-paint gold, and allow them to dry completely.

Magnolia Wreath – Collect Magnolia branches and use a wreath frame as a base. Spray paint the green side of each leaf with gold and then assemble using wire. This takes a bit of time, but the end result is nothing short of fabulous!

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

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

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

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

We've got more ideas on our Gilded Fall Décor board on Pinterest - take a look!

House Feeling Cluttered? Ten Ideas for Extra Storage

It doesn’t matter whether you live in a tiny apartment, a mid-sized home, or a luxury estate … as you live in your home you’ll collect things … and all those things can take up a lot of space and make your home feel cluttered and disorganized. But with a little bit of creativity you can find extra storage space all over your house. Here are ten tips to get you started:

1. Got bikes in the middle of your garage? Use simple wall hooks or a rope & pulley system to store them up and out of the way.

2. Heavy-duty storage shelves don’t take up much space, but can hold everything from paint cans to tools to sporting equipment.

3. If you have a staircase, check to see if you can create storage space beneath it.

4. If closet space is at a premium, using flat under-bed storage boxes can help tame even the most-stuffed closets.

5. Speaking of closets – inexpensive storage systems can double or even triple your closet space.

6. If you’re short on kitchen counter space, consider purchasing a smaller microwave to hang on the wall under cabinets. Every-day appliances like coffee makers and stand mixers take up lots of counter space … get rid of large dishes, pots and pans that you no longer use and adapt that space to store appliances that you use on a regular – or even daily – basis.

7. Remember the old ‘lazy Susan’ revolving cupboard? (The one you often pinched your finger in.) They really are pros at using space efficiently, and today’s versions are much more user-friendly. From corner cabinets and pantry shelves to spice racks and even condiment holders in your refrigerator, the lazy Susan is a storage work-horse.

8. If you have cabinets that are hard to reach into, install rolling drawers and/or shelves that allow you to maximize your storage, rather than front-loading a cupboard and leaving the inaccessible back empty.

9. An entry way can be a catch-all spot for shoes, coats, backpacks and dog-leashes; storage benches come in every shape and size and can completely eliminate the  clutter that is in everyone’s way.

10. Creating a designated storage spot for items that you use frequently will make them easier to find when you’re in a hurry. And things you use infrequently? Either store them out of sight, or donate them to places like the Goodwill, Salvation Army or second-hand shops.

According to the HomeGain National Home Improvement Survey, real estate brokers nation-wide report that for every dollar spent on de-cluttering and organizing, homeowners can return a whopping 403 percent return on their investment … which means that if you’re thinking about selling your house,  the tips above can also be of financial benefit when it’s time to put your house on the market. For more ideas on getting your house ready to sell, give one of our Windermere Whidbey Island brokers a call … we’d be happy to come take a look at your home.

 

Take a Look at Whidbey Island This Fall

We love Whidbey Island in the fall – fleece jackets and warm drinks replace shorts and sandals, and our landscape shifts from summer lushness to the beautiful reds and golds of fall. It’s a perfect time of year on Whidbey!

We’re not the only ones that love Whidbey in the fall – the November issue of Sunset Magazine (pgs 22-24) has a great article on Langley, which is at the southern end of island. Take a peek to learn more about places to shop, eat and stay. Don’t let the article fool you, however, into thinking we’re a one-town island… Whidbey has 4 distinct communities including Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Langley and Clinton … each with its own special vibe.

If you’re not yet a Whidbey resident, either full-time or as a second-home owner, we’d like to invite you to take a closer look. We have homes and properties that run the gamete from estates to cabins, and from condos to investment properties. The best place to start is by using our Search Properties tool on our website – you can select the parameters that most meet your needs (including amenities, price and location) and then pull up the current inventory. Be sure to use our photo gallery tool to take a closer look at the outside and inside of properties. If you want to a snapshot of what our current market looks like we’ve provided you with a whole section called Market Trends; you can view recent activity to get a sense of what’s listing and selling, what our current pricing looks like, and how days-on-market statistics affect the market. If you’re in the market for a rental, we have a section for that as well.

And if you live on Whidbey now and are thinking it’s time to either downsize or up-size your living space, we invite you to use our website as a beginning resource. Once you’ve looked around a bit at our inventory, give your Windermere Whidbey Island broker a call to explore the possibilities.

Fall is a wonderful time on Whidbey Island – we hope you take time to enjoy everything our island has to offer you!

 

Trick or Treat: Dress up Your Porch With No-Carve Pumpkins

For those of you out there who have older kids or just want to do something different than the typical Halloween jack-o-lantern this year, try a more sophisticated pumpkin. Instead of carving one, paint one. Here are some ideas:

Flower Power – Use a drill or nail wide enough to poke holes through for stems of flowers and cover pumpkin in them. Use flowers with your favorite fall colors: yellows, oranges, and reds.

Watercolor pumpkins with glitter stems - Paint with traditional acrylic paint and allow it to dry overnight, then put glue all over the stem and sprinkle glitter on it. Sparkles and gold accents will add glam to your fall décor and make you wish pumpkins were always in season.

Halloween meets Day of the Dead – Begin by painting the whole pumpkin white, then allow it to dry overnight. Next draw a skull face with a pencil, and then go over it in paint.

Monogram – Add your initial to your pumpkin with glitter or thumbtacks. If you are putting it outside, another idea is to put your house number on it.

Different types of paint - Use chalk paint for vintage looking pumpkins with muted tones or glow in the dark paint for extra spookiness.

Accessorize – Add rhinestones, confetti (which sticks right to the paint), or a bow on top to add a little something extra.

Not only is it quick and easy, it’s super chic too. Spray paint your pumpkins gold, silver, black, and red, add stripes or polka dots. This year, it would appear that the no-carve trend is the way to go.

Check out our favorite pumpkins on Pinterest!

Safety Tips for Sellers

Are you getting ready to sell your home? While there is a lot to do before your home is listed, there are also things you need to consider once your home is on the market. Making sure you and your possessions are safe is a critical piece to selling your home.

We’ve gathered a list of tips to help you – talk to your Windermere Whidbey Island broker for more suggestions.

1. Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
2. Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family air looms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting displaced or stolen.
3. Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.  
4. Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. 
5. Never ever show your own home on your own. If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. Tell them to contact your agent directly. (Have a few extra business cards just for this purpose.)

We want your selling experience to be a great one – and we’ll work with you every step of the way to make certain that’s the case! For more information and suggestions on seller safety, check out this article on selling safety.

And to find out more about selling your home and our current market conditions, give us a call. We’re Whidbey Island’s real estate experts!

 

In the market to buy a home? Make a list and check it twice.

Are you thinking of buying a home on Whidbey Island, and you aren't sure exactly where to start? Here is a checklist to help you get ready to make your home dreams come true:

Decide where on Whidbey you want to live! Generally, you will want to plan on staying in your home for at least 5-7 years in order for you investment to pay off, so it’s important to look at homes on Whidbey that will meet your needs over the long term.

Explore the market. Once you know where you will be looking for homes - whether that's up on the north end, the south end, or somewhere in between - you can start to explore. Get to know the neighborhoods, the schools, the local businesses, and amenities in our four main communities ... Freeland, Coupeville, Oak Harbor and Langley.

Make a list of what you need and want. Create a list of the things in a home that are most important to you such as the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, home features, etc. Then make a list of things that you would like to have, but aren’t as important, such as a fireplace, a fenced yard and a home close to a park. Knowing your "must have's" and your "would like's" ahead of time will help your broker know how to help you.

Hire a real estate broker who specializes in Whidbey Island properties. Why? Because our brokers are keenly aware of the issues that come with buying property on Whidbey Island. They know this island inside and out, and keep abreast of important issues surrounding property - including permitting and environmental issues that might affect your future home. You may have a non-Whidbey broker you've worked with before ... ask them to refer you to one of our offices and brokers so that you have a knowledgeable and island-savvy broker to represent you and your interests.

Search for comparable houses in your chosen location. Once you know where you’d like to buy and what type of house you’re looking for, you can start to realistically assess how much it will cost. You can find listing price and sale price information on our Windermere Whidbey Island website.

Take a good look at your finances. Once you have an idea of what homes cost, you can start figuring out how much money you need for a down payment, monthly mortgage payments, property taxes, etc. Make sure to check your credit score to ensure that everything is in order before applying for a home loan.

Develop your financial plan and get pre-approved for your home loan. Determine how much you need to save for your down payment and create a plan and timeline to achieve this goal. Talk to a local lender so that you know ahead of time how much house you can afford, and so that you're ready to buy when you find the perfect home.

Start shopping! This process involves everything from searching for homes on our Windermere Whidbey website, to visiting open houses on the weekends. But perhaps the most important part of this process is looking at homes with your real estate broker. Looking for homes online lets you search more efficiently, but there’s nothing like seeing the home – and its surroundings – first hand.

The negotiating process. Negotiations between buyers and sellers differ from region to region and season to season ... what might be common in your current location might not be at all the same on Whidbey! Look to your agent to guide you, based on your priorities and financial abilities, and whether you are buying during a 'buyers market' or a 'sellers market'. There could be multiple buyers bidding for the same home; your broker can help you create a well thought out strategy ahead of time.

Ready to start shopping for a new home on Whidbey Island? Give us a call and we'll help you get started - including pairing you with just the right Windermere broker who will get to know you first, and then help you meet your individual needs and reach your personal financial goals.

4 Easy Ideas for Lowering Your Heating Bill

It’s that time of year again … the leaves are changing color and there’s a shift in the temperature that has us bringing out the cozy fleeces and turning on the household furnace for the first time. Which – for many of us – means a higher electric or gas bill is on the horizon until we see warm spring and summer weather again.

Here are some suggestions to help you maintain your heating system, as well as lower your wintertime heating bill.

1. First and foremost, hire a heating expert to inspect and clean your furnace. Just doing this one simple step can often save you hundreds of dollars in heating bills. Additionally, any problems found can be addressed now … rather than in the dead of winter when it’s freezing outside and you discover your furnace has stopped working.

2. Maintain your insulation and weather protection. Look for cracks and gaps that need repair. Calking installed around windows and doors has anywhere from a 5-10 year lifespan, depending on the quality and installation.  Also check the weatherstripping at the bottom of doors. A good way to test is to wait until dark, turn off your inside lights and turn on outside lights near the door, then look under the door to see if you can see light coming through. Any gaps where light is showing means that cold air is coming in, too. (Small gaps are also a huge ‘welcome’ sign to mice who are looking for a warm and cozy spot!)

3. Keep flooring, rugs and furniture away from heating ducts and cold-air returns. And while you’re at it, do a thorough job of cleaning your cold-air return. It’s an easy thing to ignore, but over the years dust and dirt can cause all sorts of problems – from inefficient heating and cooling to extra dust and potential allergy issues.

4. If you don’t yet have one, install a programmable thermostat. While a good one might run you $50-$100, the return is worth the initial expense. You can warm your house up in the morning when you are home, turn your heat down during the day if your house is empty, then have the heat come on in the late afternoon so your house has warmed up by the time you get home. Programmable thermostats can often lower your monthly heating bill by 10-20% – which over the course of a year can be a substantial savings.

Whether you’re looking for heating and cooling experts, or you’re thinking that perhaps you’re ready to move from the chilly house you have now into a warm and energy efficient home before winter comes, give us a call. We’d love to chat with you!