Indoor Air Quality Basics

Most of us tend to think of air pollution as something that occurs outdoors where car exhaust and factory fumes proliferate, but there’s such a thing as indoor air pollution, too.  Since the 1950s, the number of synthetic chemicals used in products for the home has increased drastically, while at the same time, homes have become much tighter and better insulated. As a result, the EPA estimates that indoor pollutants today are anywhere from five to 70 times higher than pollutants in outside air.

Luckily, there are many ways to reduce indoor air pollution. We all know that buying organic and natural home materials and cleaning supplies can improve the air quality in our homes, but there are several other measures you can take as well.

How pollutants get into our homes

Potentially toxic ingredients are found in many materials throughout the home, and they leach out into the air as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. If you open a can of paint, you can probably smell those VOCs. The “new car smell” is another example of this. The smell seems to dissipate after a while, but VOCs can actually “off-gas” for a long time, even after a noticeable smell is gone.

We all know to use paint and glue in a well-ventilated room, but there are many other materials that don’t come with that warning. For instance, there are chemicals, such as formaldehyde, in the resin used to make most cabinets and plywood particle board. It’s also in wall paneling and closet shelves, and in certain wood finishes used on cabinets and furniture. The problems aren’t just with wood, either. Fabrics—everything from draperies to upholstery, bedding, and carpets—are a potent source of VOCs.

The good news about VOCs is that they do dissipate with time. For that reason, the highest levels of VOCs are usually found in new homes or remodels. If you are concerned about VOCs, there are several products you can buy that are either low- or no-VOC. You can also have your home professionally tested.

How to reduce VOCs in your home

Make smart choices in building materials.

~ For floors, use tile or solid wood—hardwood, bamboo, or cork – instead of composites.
~ Instead of using pressed particle board or indoor plywood, choose solid wood or outdoor-quality plywood that uses a less toxic form of formaldehyde.
~ Choose low-VOC or VOC-free paints and finishes.

Purify the air that’s there.

~ Make sure your rooms have adequate ventilation, and air out newly renovated or refurnished areas for at least a week, if possible.
~ Clean ductwork and furnace filters regularly.
~Install air cleaners if needed.
~ Use only environmentally responsible cleaning chemicals.
~ Plants can help clean the air: good nonpoisonous options include bamboo palm, lady palm, parlor palm, and moth orchids.
~ Air out freshly dry-cleaned clothes or choose a “green” cleaner.

Fight the carpet demons.

~ Choose “Green Label” carpeting or a natural fiber such as wool or sisal.
~ Use nails instead of glue to secure carpet.
~ Install carpet LAST after completing painting, wall coverings and other high-VOC processes.
~ Air out newly carpeted areas before using.
~ Use a HEPA vacuum or a central vac system that vents outdoors.

Prevent Mold.

~ Clean up water leaks fast.
~ Use dehumidifiers, if necessary, to keep humidity below 60 percent.
~ Don’t carpet rooms that stay damp.
~ Insulate pipes, crawl spaces, and windows to eliminate condensation.
~ Kill mold before it gets a grip with one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water.

If you would like to learn more about VOCs and indoor air quality, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/.

Taking Good Care of our Water Supplies

When you live on an island, like we do here on Whidbey Island, you’re surrounded by water – beautiful, blue water. And boy, does is make for a spectacular view from nearly every corner of our island. Sunrises and sunsets, in particular, are pretty darn stunning when they dance across the Puget Sound.

All that water (salt water) makes it easy to forget that we’re still an island, and we still need to take care of our domestic water supplies. Our water supply sustains not only people, but plants, birds and animals … and taking good care of it, and conserving where we can, is an important piece of being a good island resident and steward.

There are lots of resources aimed at helping educate us on conserving water where we can, and understanding why taking care of our water is vitally important to our island way of life.

Here are two resources that are informative and offer great ideas and advice.

1. Water Conservation: Tips That Save Water & Money – Did you know that if all the old toilets in the U.S. were replaced with water efficient models, we would save 520 billion gallons of water each year. That’s the equivalent of the amount of water that flows over Niagara falls in 12 days!

2. Our Islands Our Water – Did you know that groundwater is Island County’s main water source?  Seventy-two percent of Island County residents rely on groundwater. As such, groundwater quantity and quality are the driving reasons for our water resource management efforts.

As real estate brokers, we work closely with Whidbey Island buyers and sellers on a daily basis, and as Whidbey Island residents ourselves we pay close attention to issues that affect our island communities. If you’re interested in finding out more about water quality, water conservation, and what you can do to help with both, give your local Whidbey Island Windermere office a call and we’ll help you find the resources you need.

 

 

Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

Just in time for summer maintenance jobs around the house – here’s a nifty list of tools that every homeowner should have.

1. Level: Pictures, shelves, appliances, fences … there are hundreds of things that you’ll want to make sure are level.

2. Tool bucket or box: Unless you have loads of wall space to organize and display your tools, a basic bucket or box works great for keeping all your tools in one place.

3. Toilet plunger: Consider having one on each floor of your house … when you need one in a hurry, running to the garage or basement takes an awful lot of time.

4. Tape measure

5. Slip-joint pliers: With a handy adjustable ‘jaw’, you can use them for all sizes of jobs.

6. Screwdriver set: There are a variety of screws, both in use today and in older items, so have a set that gives you lots of options.

7. Needle-nose pliers: Pick up a couple sizes.

8. Hacksaw and crosscut saw

9. Combination wrench set: The best sets will have both a standard set and a metric set.

10. Claw hammer

12 Caulking gun: Home repair caulking and glue most often come in a large tube; a caulking gun makes it much easier to dispense.

13. Hand-held wire cutters: A good pair of small wire cutters will save your household scissors for more delicate jobs like paper and fabric.

14. Small electric screwdriver and drill

Summer Entertaining Guide

Summer is officially here, and the season is ripe with opportunities for parties, barbeques, and outdoor entertaining with friends and family. To set the stage for fun gatherings, we have collected some ideas for outdoor decorating, fun party themes, and more on the “Summer Entertaining” Pinterest board. What are your tips for throwing a fantastic summer soirée?

Outdoor improvement

Add some finishing touches to your outdoor spaces to create a fun atmosphere and a touch of your personal style.

Party ideas

You don’t need an excuse for a party! Elevate your gatherings to a whole new level with these fun party ideas.

Get your game on

From Bocce to Horse Shoes, there are plenty of games for guests of all ages.

Summer safety

Keep your friends and family safe outdoors with these quick tips.

How to feed a crowd

Don’t forget to search for delicious recipes, quick BBQ tips, kid-friendly foods, and summery cocktails.

You can find more fun home decoration and entertaining ideas on the Windermere Pinterest Board.

Community Service Day 2014

There are lots of reasons why it’s so great to be a part of our Windermere offices here on Whidbey Island – one of the most important, and most-loved reasons is Community Service Day.

It all started in 1984 when a handful of Windermere owners and agents came together to make repairs at a local elementary school. Today, every year Windermere closes its offices for one day to help make a positive difference in our local communities. Thirty years and more than one million hours of community service later, we’ve continued this tradition through neighborhood-enhancing projects in the areas where our Windermere teams live, work, and play.

This past Friday, June 2oth, our local offices spent the day giving back to the communities we love and live in. Here is just a sample of where we were!

The Oak Harbor agents and staff were at Help House Food Bank - Help House is the ONLY food bank in Oak Harbor.  This is a heavily used facility so it needed an overall freshen-up.  Volunteers weeded the entire property, including trimming shrubs and trees as well as removing a lot of ivy that was taking over one of the buildings.  They also painted the exterior trim and the entire interior, which included a bathroom and kitchen, and freshened up the paint on the organization’s sign. Special thanks to Rhonda Porter from Alaska Credit Union, who has provided lunch for our volunteer crew for more than 10 years!

 

 

 

The Coupeville agents and staff were at the Coupeville Boys and Girls Club - Coupeville volunteers built garden boxes for the kids to plant vegetables, they painted the benches and the bike racks, and assisted in general maintenance and upkeep projects. Painting supplies were donated by Island Paint and Glass; People’s Bank in Coupeville also participated in the day.

 

 

 

 

We love Windermere Community Service Day because it’s a way for us to give a helping hand and offer a huge “Thank You!” to the people and organizations that so richly and generously enhance the lives of everyone who lives here on Whidbey Island.

 

June Perspective

Recently, we were at a luncheon honoring corporate philanthropists from throughout the Puget Sound region. Companies of all shapes and sizes were honored, from the largest technology giant to a local shipyard committed to preserving Ballard’s Nordic heritage. The commonality among all these companies was giving back. Some do it by donating millions of dollars to non-profit organizations, while others give through volunteerism and in-kind donations.

We were reminded that philanthropy is not a one-size-fits-all proposition – and it got us thinking about our own charitable efforts at Windermere. While we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to achieve through the Windermere Foundation, can we do more?

The answer is always yes.

For us, that comes in the form of our annual Community Service Day. Cash is king, but there’s something to be said for rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. That’s the philosophy behind Community Service Day.

For 30 years, Windermere offices have closed their doors for one day to help make a positive difference in the local community. This year’s event is on June 20, and on that day you will find us doing a variety of projects, including cleaning, landscaping, and painting at local senior citizens centers, facilities for homeless children and adults, public parks and schools, low-income housing, and emergency shelters, among others.

We love living in a region that is known globally for its charitable giving. And we love being a part of a company whose agents prove time and time again that service to other is not something you do, it is who you are.

 

 

Time to De-Clutter? Some Tips for Selling Your Stuff

If you are looking around your home and thinking to yourself that it’s time to de-clutter, the summer months provide an ideal time to hold a garage sale. But if that sounds like too big of an undertaking, there are other options available to you thanks to popular resale sites like eBay and Craigslist. And if even that sounds like too much effort, you might also consider donating lightly used items to charity or sending them off to the dump. Here are some questions to help you decide which method is best for you.

How much stuff do you have? Are you liquidating your space of large furniture items, a large quantity or quality items, or do you have a small pile of electronics?

If you have yards worth of stuff to get rid of, you definitely want to consider a garage sale. Getting rid of multiple items on Craig’s list can be time consuming, and shipping items sold on eBay can be expensive and eat into your profits. On the other hand, if your items are easily shippable or you have a small enough quantity to take quality photos and post online, then you can save time by using eBay or Craig’s list – and potentially make more money too.

What type of stuff am I getting rid of? Is it worth anything?

If you have large furniture or unique/valuable pieces it may be worth the time to take some quality photos and try to sell these items on Craigslist first. Generally Craigslist works as “first come, first serve” so be prepared to respond to inquiries quickly. If you have small items that have some value, you may want to consider eBay. You reach a much larger audience through eBay which can result in a greater financial return.

How much time do I have?

Garage/yard sales are by far the most time intensive of your options. If you choose to hold a garage sale, you will likely need to dedicate at least three days for prep, clean-up, and the sale itself. All items should be cleaned up, priced, and neatly displayed for sale. Signage should be prominently placed around your neighborhood. You can also place an ad in your local classifieds or on Craigslist to attract a larger crowd.

Will your home/community accommodate a Garage Sale?

Garage and yard sales are generally held at a single-family residence. If you live in an apartment or condo, you may want to consider alternatives due to limited public space. You may also want to consider your community traffic. If you live on a quiet street, you may not get enough customers to generate sales.

Can you enhance a sale by joining with neighbors, friends and family?

Some communities hold an annual neighborhood garage sale, encouraging all neighbors to participate on the same day. This increases your ability to market the event and attract a larger audience.

Summer is the perfect time to think about buying or selling a home on Whidbey Island - give us a call today and let's talk about how to make that happen for you!

 

Sellers: 10 Things Buyers Want in a Home

If you’re thinking about updating your home this summer, this list will help you prioritize your improvements … regardless of the scope of your project. And – if you’re thinking about selling your home soon, the list will also help you determine which improvement projects you should concentrate on first. These recommendations from 24/7 Wall St. are based on data from the National Association of Realtors®.

*The percentage after each item indicated how many potential buyers are willing to pay more for this item)

Central Air Conditioning – 69%. Even if you live in the Northwest, it’s nice to be able to cool your house down quickly and efficiently after a very warm day. And buyers coming from other parts of the country are used to having central air conditioning.

New Kitchen Appliances – 69%. Buyers want new rather than worrying about costly repairs once they own the home.

Master Bedroom Walk-in Closet – 60%

Granite Countertops – 55%

Hardwood Floors – 54%

In-suite Master Bath – 49%. Many of us consider a master bathroom a quiet, personal sanctuary that we can retreat too after a long busy day.

Kitchen Island – 48%. Buyers appreciate an island that has extra storage, counter tops, and a place to hang out with family.

Stainless Steel Appliances – 41%

Eat-in Kitchen – 40%. Parents in the 35-54 age range are the most interested in this feature.

Fireplace – 40%. Many of today’s buyers long for the comfort of a room with a fireplace where family and friends can spend time together.

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, keeping tabs on our Whidbey Island real estate market is an important part of the home-selling process. You can stay connected to the market on our Facebook page, by checking out the market via our Windermere Whidbey Island website, or by talking to one of our Windermere Whidbey brokers.

USA Today Favorite Islands Poll: We’re In Good Company!

Photo courtesy of Whidbey Panoramas

People around the Northwest know that Whidbey Island is a pretty special place. And we’re darn happy that we get to live and play here.

And … drumroll please … now we know that there are a heck of a lot of people around the country who also think Whidbey Island is pretty special, too!

After 4 weeks of voting, readers of USA Today/10Best have dubbed Whidbey Island as their #3 choice for favorite island … and we couldn’t be prouder! Also on the list is Puerto Rico at the #1 spot, Kauai, Hawaii at #8 and Hilton Head South Carolina landing at the #10 spot.

We are in GOOD COMPANY – and we’re going to strut our stuff a little bit! (This is where, if a computer screen had movement, it would take a bow)

From the charm of Langley, Freeland and Coupeville, to the hometown happiness of Oak Harbor, and from our beautiful beaches and stunning views to towering Deception Pass bridge and our state parks … Whidbey Island is an absolute gem that we love having as our home.

If you haven’t been here in a while, come visit us! We’ve got lots to do and see, and friendly people to help you vacation here. Even better, why not think about buying a home on Whidbey Island! (And then you’d be in good company, too!)

 

 

Whidbey Island – Tons of Fun for Visitors and Local Alike

The sun is out, the water is brilliant blue, and there are a ton of fun things to do on Whidbey Island this time of year!

Whether you’re a local looking for something new and different, you’re a part-time resident still getting your feet wet, or you’re brand new to Whidbey, there are lots of resources to help you explore this wonderful, beautiful island.

Oftentimes travel itineraries are helpful as you’ll get the local skinny on where to go, where to stop, and how long it will take you. Check out the itineraries available through Visit Langley and the Visit Coupeville – they’ve got lots of information to help you create a driving tour.

If you’re looking for a centralized website for information on Whidbey Island, the Visit Whidbey website includes all kinds of assistance, including things to do, lodging information, and local history/geography.

Oak Harbor is another great place to visit; their visitor website has an area attractions section that offers many options for things to do on Whidbey.

Whidbey is such a magical, wonderful place … we bet you’ll find things to do that you never even knew existed here on our charming and friendly island!

Want even more local advice? Stop by one of our Windermere Whidbey Island offices – Freeland, Langley, Coupeville and Oak Harbor - or give us a call. We’d be glad to show you the island we love, and talk about ways to make the most of living in our special place on the planet!