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Archive for March, 2010

A Cottage in the Backyard
March 26, 2010 · Written by Becki French · Filed under General

Backyard CottageBackyard cottages are just that; Cottages.    They are a spacious  “MIL” mother-in-law.  However they cannot be more than 800 sq. ft.   They are allowed in single-family zoned properties  throughout Seattle under an  ordinance approved unanimously by the Seattle City Council.  Owners of the property must live on the premise and Seattle would allow about 50 new cottages a year.   The lot size along with height and depth requirements are covered under city ordinances as well.

Cottages  or DADU’S (Detched Accessory Dwelling Units) are an additonal way to support needed housing in Seattle.  They can be a nice niche for students,  relatives, elderly or low-income rental property.  They are small dwelling units that are on the same lot but separate from a single-family home.

Permit fees for backyard cottages will vary according to whether they are “new construction” or existing structures.  It can take time to go thru the permit process.    For more information about legalizing a currently occupied backyard cottage, please contact Dianec.davis@seattle.gov.  For information needed on permit requirements go to www.seattle.gov/dpd/BackyardCottages or call Applicant Service Center (ASC) at 206-684-8850.

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Realtor Nationwide Open House April 10th and 11th 2010
March 26, 2010 · Written by Becki French · Filed under Real Estate

Welcome to the National Realtor Open House Weekend on April 10th and 11th 2010.  This event is backed by the Washington Association of REALTORS.  You’ve probably already heard it on the Radio, TV and read it in the Newspapers.  This is a state wide event. . . .along with other parts in the nation. 

Realtors Open House

The market and pending sales were  sparked with increased confidence due to the positive response of last years event. This year REALTORS hope to have even a bigger and better event by inviting buyer’s to view homes and possibly take advantage of the last minute buyer’s tax credit, coupled with a  great time to buy with record-low interest rates and a  great selection of homes across the price spectrum.

The National Open House weekend will showcase the wide selection of homes offered for sale for both move-up buyers and first time buyers.  Informing buyers of the  extended/expanded homebuyer tax credit which expires on 4/30/2010.

Get out and take a look. . . . . . . .

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Rethink, Retrain, Reuse, Recycle, and Reduce
March 26, 2010 · Written by Becki French · Filed under Helpful Tips

RecycleOn the way to save your planet and your home.  . . . “green” investments can start with the obvious; a programmable thermostat, heating/HVAC system tune-up, energy efficient light bulbs and pressure regulated shower heads.  All of these are the beginning “investments” in your home that can be tax incentives.  See http://www.greenandsave.com/homecheckup/

A programmable thermostat can save between $200 to $500 annually for heating and or cooling costs.  The benefits of a programmable thermostat are that it’s cost effective, time saving , and provides convenience and comfort at the times you need them.

Heating/cooling system tune-ups can save money and up to 90% return on investment in the first year.  If your system is older than 15 to 20 years then consider replacing it with a high efficiency system or heat pump.

Pressure regulated shower heads and tank inserts can help to reduce water flow by 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM) to about 1.6 GPM.  That is up to a 40% savings of water required.  The new pressure regulated shower heads are state-of-the-art and have the similar feeling of a traditional shower head yet helps to reduce  wasted water.

GreenandSave.com offers links to reports, research, carbon counter, green job training and a forum for community involvement.  Their data is used for education and  curriculums by industries like the AIA (American Institute of Architects)and the National Association of REALTORS®(NAR).

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Bank of America to Reduce Principle of At-risk Mortgages – Helping Homeowners
March 24, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under News, Real Estate

Bank of America, one of the hardest hit lending institutions in the country, plans to offer nearly $3 billion in loan forgiveness beginning in May. The bank said Wednesday that it will forgive up to 30 percent of some customers’ total mortgage balance.

It was determined that to help the company stem greater losses, keeping people in their homes was their solution. By keeping homes out of foreclosure, Bank of America, while taking a loss initially on total principle, would be able to keep people in their homes, and paying a reduced mortgage.

Bank of America is taking an innovative “earned principal” forgiveness approach to HAMP modifications where mortgages are at least 60 days delinquent and the current loan-to-value ratio is 120 percent or higher.

  • An interest-free forbearance of principal that the homeowner can turn into forgiven principal over five years which would result in a maximum 30 percent decrease in the loan principle balance, aiming to achieve 100 percent loan-to-value ratios.
  • In each of the first five years, up to 20 percent of the forborne amount will be forgiven annually for borrowers that remain in good standing on their mortgage payments.
  • Forgiveness installments for the first three years are set at the 20 percent level.
  • In the fourth and fifth years, the amount of forgiveness will be updated based on the home’s value at that time.  This is toensure that the loan-to-value ratio won’t be reduced below 100 percent through principal forgiveness.

Hopefully other institutions will follow suit and will help distressed homeowners recover from the housing market collapse in 2007. This is a bold, progressive move on behalf of Bank of America to encourage a recovery of homeowners in distress.

For more information, see Bank of America’s website.

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Home-equity Lending Recovering
March 24, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

Home Equity LendingRising home prices and an economy that is recovering have prompted a rebound in home-equity lending, the driver of consumer spending for the first half of the decade. However, this time around, lenders and homeowners will be more cautious about taking equity out of their homes and converting it into cash.

Because of the recession, many homeowners are better managing their finances. Many people became financially overextended and are now more focused on paying off any debt they incurred as well as less likely to make luxury purchases. The home-equity lending will of course be limited to those homeowners who don’t owe more than their home is worth.

Bank of America, which is the United States’ large lender holds $43 billion in properties who’s debt exceeds the property’s value. Despite this, property prices will begin to rise for the first time since around 2006, boosting homeowners’ equity.

This is just another positive sign that the economy has begun to stabilize. There are indeed some areas that still remain depressed, and others that are doing better than some, but with the recent growth in home equity lending, things are expected to improve.

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Amazon Set to Add 180,000 square feet to South Lake Union Space
March 24, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under News, Real Estate

Amazon.com has recently leased another 180,000 square feet of space in the South Lake Union neighborhood, increasing it’s total leased space by about 10%. Amazon intends to occupy office space in Vulcan Real Estate’s recently completed 2201 Westlake building. This addition of leased space increases the already 1.7 million-square-feet headquarters complex that Vulcan has under construction for Amazon.

Amazon is scheduled to start it’s occupation of those buildings next month and will begin moving into 2201 Westlake by midyear.

Despite the economic downturn the national economy has seen, Amazon has continued to thrive. It’s website has around 900 jobs listed, many for its Kindle e-reader business. The newest space acquisition of the 2201 Westlake building will help Amazon accommodate its growing employee base.

E-commerce will continue to be a driving force for the economy, and will most likely double, with Amazon in the lead. Undoubtedly, Amazon’s success will influence the area and will help to stabilize the local economy.

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The Moisture Festival 2010
March 18, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Local Events

The Moisture Festival is back in Seattle! Since 2004, The Moisture Festival has presented it’s Comedy/Varietè to the people of Seattle every Spring. For those like myself who weren’t familiar with what Comedy/Varietè is, here’s a short explanation.

Comedy/Variete is an intriguing assortment of entertainment. It is often highly skilled performance that’s mixed with many bizarre talents, often humorous and only limited by the imagination. Presented as a variety show, act or artist performs his or her routine for their 3 – 15 minute time slot accompanied by a live show band. Some acts include aerialists, jugglers, comedians, dancers, rope acts, bubble acts, clowns, acrobats, can can girls, strong women, strong men, tap dancers, drill teams, musical numbers, the weird and the wonderful, all keeping in tradition of Comedy/Varietè/Vaudeville alive.

While trying to find out more about the Moisture Festival, here are some fun youtube videos that I ran across. The first being an act from Godrey Daniels the 7 foot tall giant clown with a balloon.

Next was a group called Nanda which seemed very entertaining.

Overall, this festival looks like a lot of fun. 

The festival started on March 11 and will run until April 4, 2010, so there’s still time to go see it.

Tickets are on sale at the five venues for Moisture Festival, such as the ACT Theatre, Hale’s Palladium, Open Space for Arts & Community on Vashon Island, Georgetown Ballroom, and the Siff Cinema.

For more information about this wonderful event, please visit The Moisture Festival Website to order tickets and learn more about the festival.

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Bullitt Headquarters to be Greenest Building in Seattle
March 16, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under News

Artist Rendering of Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction The Bullitt Foundation is devoted to helping the Northwest achieve environmental sustainability.  The foundation offers grants to organizations, offices, and businesses, who want to direct their company in the direction of sustainability and “to go green”.  Despite the foundations very determined stance to help the region attain a more sustainable human presence and interaction with the environment, the foundations main building and headquarters doesn’t reflect that sentiment.  Currently, the Bullitt Foundation Headquarters is operating out of a historic First Hill house at the Stimson-Green mansion. The mansion, isn’t insulated, and doesn’t perform to the high standards the foundation sets for itself and for the grantees it helps. This is why, the foundation has set in motion the plans for a 6-story office building, that will be the city’s, and regions “greenest building ever”.

The Bullitt Foundation is calling its new building the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction. It would house the foundation’s headquarters and serve as a showplace for cutting-edge green engineering, eco-friendly energy consumption, and architecture.

The building is planned to use only one third of the electricity that conventional office building use. All of which the building will generate itself.

All of the water the building uses will come from treated rain water from it’s roof, and treated water from it’s drains and toilets.

All six of its parking spaces would be devoted to hybrid vehicles.

The building is being designed to last 250 years.

The Cascadia Center aspires to meet the most difficult green-building standards on the planet: the Living Building Challenge. The Living Building Challenge was developed by Seattle-based Green Building Council in 2006. The group administers the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system.  The idea behind the living building challenge is analogous to how a tree interacts with its environment and surrounding.  The tree produces it’s own energy and water and it doesn’t pollute. Living buildings aim to have that kind of minimal footprint. The building would be virtually self-sustaining.

The hope is that eventually, more companies will follow in the footsteps of the Bullitt Foundation and help make the Northwest and Seattle area a more sustainable, and eco-friendly region.

For more information, please visit the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction pdf.

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How to Build A Rain Garden
March 15, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips

What are rain gardens?

Rain gardens are commonly areas designated in a homeowners yard that are depressions in the soil, usually 6-12 inches deep from the grade of yard. Below these depressions is usually highly permeable soil anywhere from 12 -24 inches deep that help keeps runoff water from driveways, roofs, and patios from going to the storm drains. By slowly filterting this runoff, rain gardens help protect our streams,  reduce sewer overflows, flooding, and cleanse the water. If planted correctly, rain gardens can be a beautiful addition to your landscape, with attractive plantings in deep, rich soil.

Is a rain garden right for you?Rain Garden

Depending on the scope and scale you of the rain garden there are several things you will need to consider. A small, shallow rain garden can be an easy project, however, a large one that is intended to handle most of your roof runoff is a bigger undertaking. Before starting here are several things you’ll need.

You need:

  • A relatively level yard – at most a 5% slope (1 foot drop in 20 feet).
  • A large enough area – the area needs to be free of roots, structures, underground pipes, and cables.
  • A way for the roof and driveway runoff to flow towards your rain garden.
  • A safe route for excess water to overflow to the street drains.

How to get started.

In order to get started, you will need to plan your rain garden. Below are some things you need to consider concerning the planning stage of your rain garden.

  • Safety: Can the rain garden be built safely? This means that you can not install the rain garden within 500 feet of steep slopes or landslide-prone areas as over saturation of a rain garden on a hillside can weaken it, causing damage to your home, or those below. If in doubt, consult a geotechnical engineer.
  • Location: Where do you want to place your rain garden?
  • Materials: What plants will you use to not only decorage, but support the rain garden? What rocks if any will you use and how will you transport the materials?
  • Sizing: How big will your rain garden need to be? Never attempt to drain more than half of your water runoff to a single rain garden. Doing so will increase it’s chance of failiure.
  • Hire a qualified professional to design or do the work, if any of the above sounds like it may be too much for you to do on your own.

4 Step Process

Step 1 – Locate and size possible areas for rain gardens.

  • Don’t locate rain gardens in soggy areas or steep slopes.
  • Set rain gardens back at least 10 feet away from structures or buildings.
  • Determine the direction that water will flow away from your building or structure.
  • Make sure that there is a safe route for overflow water in the event the rain garden can’t sustain an excess of water.

Step 2 – Design, excavate, and amend soil in the rain garden. Then create a safe inflow and overflow.

  • Use chalk powder or a garden hose to mark the shape you want your rain garden to be. Measure and adjust to get the needed size.
  • Excavate 18-30 inches of soil.
  • Mix about 2/3 soil with 1/3 compost and replace it looesly at the bottom. Level the compost/soil mix without compacting it so that the bottom of the rain garden is at least 6 inches, but not more than 12 inches below your overflow height.  This is referred to as the “ponding depth” which will hold rain and let is slowly soak back into the ground over time.
  • Create an overflow area where water can flow off if the rain garden is overwhelmed.

Step 3 – Plant and mulch.

  • Choose plants that fit your yard. Also consider using native plants as not only will this promote the health of the rain garden, but will support other surrounding wildlife as well.
  • Choose plants that fit the conditions of the rain garden.
  • Plants that are used to being in wet conditions, put them at the bottom of the rain garden.  Plants that can tolerate wet or dry soil, place them on the sides. Plants that can sustain drought, put them on the edges.
  • Make sure to water your plants regularly so they can get established for at least the first 1-3 years.

Step 5 – Maintenance

  • Water new plants and make sure they are well established.
  • Replenish mulch layers to conserve water and reduce weeds.
  • Weed in spring, summer, and fall until the plants close in. Don’t use fertilizers or weed killers.
  • Make sure inflow and overflow areas of your rain garden are kept free of debris.

By building your own rain garden, you can keep poluttants and other contaminants from entering sewer systems and causing damage to our local water resources such as streams, lakes, and oceans.  Rain gardens will help the water soak into the ground naturally, helping to filter the water so when it reaches the water table, it’s pristine.

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Custom-built or Fixer-upper?
March 4, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Real Estate

There’s been a lot of talk about what might be better when choosing either to custom build your home vs. fix an existing home. Between the two, here’s some pros and cons, so, lets explore them!

Custom Built Homes

Pros:

  1. Your own unique “stamp” on where you live and how you live. The ability to step back and say, “this is how I wanted it.”

  2. Endless potential to design from the ground up.

  3. Everything in in the home is usually brand new.

  4. Customize not only the interior, but the exterior as well as the landscaping.

  5. Build directly for your budget and needs.

Cons:

  1. Time. Building a custom home can take months of planning and 3 – 4 months of construction.

  2. In some instances and locations, building a home can be more costly. Hiring an architect to draft plans can be spendy.

  3. The cost of new appliances and other household needs can be spendy as well. Despite the fact that they’ll last awhile, the initial monetary setback can be difficult to accommodate.

  4. Too many choices to make. If you’re the type of person who can make the hundreds of decisions on a “from the ground up” design then this might not be a con. For most of us though, the number of decisions to make can be overwhelming.

  5. People can make mistakes. A mismeasured angle can cost you at the least time, and at the most, more money.

Fixer-Uppers

Pros:

  1. Structure is already there. You have the tracings on the canvas done, now you just have to have the time and money to mold it how you picture it in your mind.

  2. You can sometimes move in and make the changes/repairs gradually over time.

  3. Sometimes less expensive. Fixer-uppers can be less expensive to get into as the sellers realize that the home or property needs some serious TLC. However, hidden problems that might be missed could cost you later.

  4. A fixer-upper in a good location is a great pro. Whereas with a custom built new house, you need to find some vacant land to build on.

  5. You can work at your own pace. The point of the fixer is that you can usually “do it yourself”. Having the freedom to put your efforts into something you care about means you can ensure you’re involved in every step of the modification.

Cons:

  1. Unless you know ALL the facts and everything about the property, there’s always the chance that something can go wrong, fixers can be costly.

  2. Fixer’s can be time consuming. Usually, when you invest in a fixer, you are often the one that will be doing the work to restore or modify it. For those who have little experience, remodeling/restoring/fixing up a home for the first time can be a tough learning experience. These projects aren’t for the faint of heart.

  3. Fixer’s can be overwhelming. Unless you plan to hire someone to do the work, doing it yourself can be exhausting and overwhelming. This could generate some resentment towards your investment.

  4. It can be hard work. Most likely you’ll have another job that requires 8 or more hours of your attention per day and it might be hard to motivate yourself to get home and start work again.

  5. Possibility of injury. Working closely with any tools or anything of that nature, there’s always the chance of injury.

Summary

It all comes down to what you want to do, and what you think you can handle. Before you consider building new, or remodeling/buying a fixer-upper, weigh what makes more sense. Try to estimate the time-frame you’re looking at, gauge your funds, and understand what it is you really want to accomplish.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide:

  • Can you handle the decisions associated with building new?

  • Can you handle working every day on your fixer-upper?

  • How much time do you have?

  • What location do I want to be in?

  • How can I accomplish the work?

  • Who will decide?

  • How will we decide what I/we want in my home?

  • What matters to me? Do I want brand new or do I want to do everything myself?

  • How much space do I need?

Again, it comes down to what you are looking for in a home. Remember the three tenants of real estate. Location, location, location.  Happy house hunting! Feel free to contact us if you’d help or information on real estate in your area, and don’t hesitate to ask us questions.

 

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