Fiberglass attic insulation is a worthwhile upgrade

If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive upgrade project for your home that will warm your cockles as well as add resale value, look up! Up into your attic, that is. Adding fiberglass insulation to your attic may not be sexy, but it’s a good investment for now and the future.

According to the “Remodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report”, the nationwide average cost of the project is about $1,300, with an expected return of about $1500 upon resale. That translates into a recouped cost of 116%. Best of all, until you do sell, your home’s interior will increase in the kind of cozy comfort we all enjoy, while reducing your heating bill.

This is the first year the report looked at attic insulation and it grabbed the report’s number one spot in terms of project costs recouped. 

Source:  NAR Green Council

posted 2/19/16

Home prices show no signs of slowing

If you are thinking of buying a house, but waiting for the home prices to stop climbing, you may as well hunker down.

Recent statistics from the FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency) show that although home prices were expected to slow by the end of last summer, they have now risen for 17 consecutive quarters. Nationwide, the increase in August averaged 8%, rather than the 3 to 5 percent economists had predicted.

“The long-anticipated slowdown in home price appreciation did not occur in the third quarter,” said FHFA Principal Economist Andrew Leventis. “The factors that have contributed to extraordinary price growth over the last few years — low interest rates, tight inventories, strong buyer confidence, and improving income growth — continued to drive prices upward in much of the country. However, as prices continue to rise, reduced affordability will be a stronger market headwind,” Leventis said.

Translation? It means that the old adage “time is money” is truer than ever. The longer you wait to purchase a home, the less buying power you will have unless your income increases at a faster clip than home prices. When home mortgage interest rates rise (rumor has it that the Federal Reserve Board has an itchy trigger finger), your buying power will shrink even further.

So if you are serious about wanting to buy a home in the coming 3 to 6 months, your best move is to find a skilled real estate broker (that would be me, 206-708-9800) who can point you to a reputable lender, who can then get you pre-approved for a home loan.

Once you know how much you qualify for, we can get to work finding you a home.

Posted 11/29/15

Aging in place

Reports show that by the year 2030, the 65+ year-old population in this country will more than double — from 35 million to 73 million! (Source: Bipartisan Policy Center Report)

Increasingly, the majority of seniors express the desire to stay in their current homes as long as their health allows. But many of them may find that reaching the goal of “aging in place” requires modifying the structure of their existing home to include features that make independent living a safer option.

Home builders note that about three-quarters of remodeling projects now include aging-related retrofits. Adding grab bars, entrance ramps and main floor bathrooms are high on the list of priorities. Widening doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers is also a common request. Filling out the list of features that add to safety and convenience are lever-style handles on doors and faucets, plus switches and outlets that are height-appropriate and therefore easily accessible.

One level homes, aka ramblers and/or ranch style homes, are obviously a good choice for older residents because they have few, if any stairs. Many of the existing ramblers were built in the 1950’s and the demand is already outstripping the supply. Moreover, the high cost of land dictates that most new construction is in the form of multi-level homes these days, and that shift is not likely to reverse itself.

Stair lifts are another option to overcome stairs, but one has to wonder, will the next big trend will be home elevators?

You might want to start buying stock now.

Posted 11/18/2015

Estimating the true cost of a fixer-upper

Everyone loves a bargain, but when you are talking about homes, how wise an investment is a fixer-upper?

The answer is, it depends.

Here are some key considerations.

  • How much of the work can you do yourself and how much will you need to contract out? If you can’t do a quality job, don’t attempt it. Repairs that have obviously been done by an amateur do not increase the value of your home. True professionals earn their money, but the expense of hiring them strips away some of your intended savings.
  • Get solid estimates for labor and materials before you make an offer. If you will be hiring a contractor, get him or her to tour the house with you and give you a written estimate. Then add 10-20% to allow for unforeseen problems. They are as certain as the sunrise.
  • Research permit costs and requirements. Remodeling without the mandated permits may save you time and money in the short-run, but you are likely to pay for it down the road. In addition to possible safety hazards, unpermitted work can hurt your resale value, if not squelch a deal altogether. Also, if you are on a tight timeline, a lengthy permitting process can cost you money, and create headaches.
  • Think twice about homes with structural problems. If you are considering an older home (built 50+ years ago) or one with obvious structural defects, spend the money to hire a structural engineer to give you a written assessment of the existing and foreseeable problems.Then get a binding, written estimate for the repairs before you make an offer. You may want to tack on another cushion for potential cost overruns. In my opinion, unless you have money to burn, homes needing major structural work should be left to investors and contractors.
  • Determine the cost of financing. If you will be borrowing money to make the purchase, get pre-approved first. If you will not be occupying the home, you may be required to borrow as an investor. These loans carry a higher interest rate. Keep in mind that a typical home loan will not include additional funds for renovations, so you will need savings, a second loan or some other source to pay the costs of remodeling. A home renovation loan, such as a 203(k) loan, may be at least a partial solution. However, these loans are notoriously difficult to get and administer, and are not likely to cover the full cost.
  • Work with your real estate broker to determine a fair offer price. Once you have a solid estimate for the renovations you want to make, use that figure to decide what your offer price should be. I.e., if the home were in post-remodel condition, what would it be worth in today’s market? Take that number and deduct your cost for renovation to calculate your opinion of the home’s current value. If this is a number that is acceptable to both you and the seller, you’re in business. If it’s not, you’d best move on to another property.
  • Work with an agent who knows how to write a strong offer that will be accepted, while still protecting your interests. The offer should include an inspection contingency that allows you to back out of the deal — with your earnest money intact — if inspections reveal deal-breaking surprises for which the seller is unwilling to negotiate. Don’t forget to have the sewer line or septic system inspected. These repairs, when needed, typically start in the $10K-$20K range. You should also have a financing contingency that protects you in the event that your loan falls through.

If this all sounds like fun to you, then forge ahead and enjoy the ride! If not, I recommend that you find another place to invest your time and money.

Posted Nov. 8, 2015



Solar panels becoming a common sight

Have you noticed how many homes in West Seattle neighborhoods are sprouting solar panels on their rooftops?

Here are some reasons the City of Seattle gives as to why you might want to consider investing in a solar electrical system for your home.

  • Solar electrical systems are safe, reliable, pollution free and use the sun as a renewable source of energy.
  • The option of connecting to the utility grid allows you to earn energy credit when you generate more power than you need.
  • Federal tax credits and state renewable energy production incentives offer additional financial benefits for owning and operating a solar electrical system.

FAQ’s about solar energy systems:

How much does it cost?

Cost depends on a number of factors, but for conventional systems mounted on a sloped roof, a typical 3,000 watt system would cost $15,000-$24,000 installed. Local solar electric providers can give you estimates and bids. Financing may be an option to help spread out the initial costs.

Is solar electricity a good investment?

Unlike electricity purchased month to month, solar electricity comes with an initial investment but not monthly charges. You’ll have lower electric bills, but the initial expense of installing a system may be jarring.

More info at

Posted October 31, 2015

Packing your emergency “Go Kit”

Here is another in a series of quick tips for preparing your home for the event of a natural disaster such as a flood or earthquake.

The next time you get ready to donate your old clothes to charity, think about whether or not they are good candidates for your “Go Kit.”

A “Go Kit” is a backpack or duffle bag filled with the essentials you will need if you are forced to flee your home on short notice. Suggested contents include:

  • Change of clothes
  • Sturdy pair of shoes
  • Combo flashlight/radio
  • Whistle or signal light
  • List of key contacts
  • Cell phone charger
  • Bottled water
  • Protein bars/non-perishable food
  • Disposable rain poncho
  • Mylar “space” blanket
  • Copy of driver’s license/ID
  • Credit card numbers or cash
  • Medications/first aid supplies

Each member of your household should have their own go kit stashed beneath their bed, just in case the “unthinkable” happens.

More tips at

Posted 3/8/15


Emergency preparedness for your home

What do the holidays and winter storms have in common? They both tend to make us appreciate our homes even more than we do the rest of the year.  So what can you do to make sure your home remains a safe haven in a region that is prone to earthquakes?

We all know that the threat of a major earthquake happening here is very real — it’s a question of when, not if. Experts warn that we need to be prepared to fend for ourselves for at least three days (seven is a more realistic number) before public emergency services may be available to assist us.

If the thought of gathering food, water and supplies seems overwhelming, try taking a “baby steps” approach to the task. Here’s the first one.

Clear out one kitchen cabinet shelf and dedicate it to the storage of ready-to-eat foods. You don’t need to buy anything special, just consolidate all the canned and non-perishable foods you already have, onto this one shelf. This will increase your awareness of what you have on hand and remind you to replenish it as you use it. Keep a manual can opener on the shelf too.

Chances are that even after an earthquake you will be able to re-enter your home, at least briefly, to retrieve items you need. Cupboards and closets are areas that are more likely to maintain their structural integrity so they are good places to store emergency supplies.

If you want more information on this topic sooner rather than later:

posted 1/15/15 by Alice Kuder


Good Neighbors Increase Your Property Value

It’s true. Having and being a good neighbor, translates into increased home values when it comes time to sell. Meanwhile, good neighbors increase your enjoyment of your home today.

I recently became aware of three free local community resources that might interest and benefit you. All three are web based and designed to encourage personal connections among neighbors. Each is run by volunteers with a goal of enabling neighbors to help one another, somewhat like the barn raising traditions of a bygone era.

The first is  Nextdoor describes itself as “a private social network” designed to “build stronger and safer neighborhoods.”  Members use the online network to communicate with each other about things like lost pets, recent break-ins, recommendations for  local tradespeople, and selling or giving away personal belongings. More info at:

The second is Time Bank of West Seattle. At its most basic level, time banking is simply about spending an hour doing something for somebody in your community. That hour goes into your timebank account as one credit hour. You then have a credit hour to spend on having someone else do something for you. All hours are valued equally.

The third is a group within Facebook called Buy Nothing.  As the name implies, the objective of the group is to help members avoid buying things that others might already have but no longer want.  It’s a way to share our  communal wealth. There is no bartering, trading or selling. Members offer each other things they have and ask for things they need. Each “Buy Nothing” group is neighborhood specific (Westwood homes fall within the West Seattle-South grouping). Joining this closed group requires permission from the administrators but the only requirement is that you live within the geographic boundaries set for the group.  If you have a Facebook account, simply access it and in the search bar type in: Buy Nothing West Seattle (South). Or ask me to send you an invitation to join.

If you know of other valuable local resources, please post a comment or contact me and I will post about them in the future.

Rid your home of autumn pests

MS CA ant


Ants may not be as creepy as spiders, but most of us don’t like them in our homes anyway.

Here is a simple, easy and inexpensive way to get rid of ants, but note this important caution. One of the ingredients is Boric Acid, which can be toxic if ingested or inhaled in large quantities, so this solution should only be used where children and pets cannot access it.* 


> 1 cup sugar

> 3 tablespoons Boric Acid or Borax laundry soap

> 3 cups warm water

Mix the sugar and boric acid; slowly add the warm water, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Fill a milk jug cap or soda bottle lid with the mixture and add a cotton ball, which will soak it up. Leave the saturated cotton ball wherever you see ants gathering*. Do NOT kill the ants that congregate on/ around the ball. Let them ingest the liquid and return to their colony to share with their buddies. In a day or two, the entire colony should be gone.



Here’s another simple, low-cost solution to an annual problem.

Take a small dish, such as a juice glass or ramekin, and add about an inch of apple cider vinegar . Mix in a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap. Leave the dish wherever fruit flies are congregating. You will soon find the flies floating in the dish. Empty and repeat as necessary.

Another variation is to omit the soap but cover the dish with plastic wrap. Poke a hole in the plastic big enough for the flies to get in but small enough to made escape difficult.

Note: If you were hoping I would tell you how to rid yourself of HUMAN pests, sorry, I can’t help you there 😉

Do you really need new windows?

You might be surprised to hear that the answer is ‘probably not.’

Experts in “green building” will tell you that unless old window frames are thoroughly rotten, most windows can be repaired for a fraction of the replacement cost. Instead, if you spend about $1K to update insulation, caulking and weather stripping, you’ll still save 10%-20% on your energy bill. To recoup the cost of new windows, plan on staying in your house for another 10 years.

Posted by Alice Kuder on April 22, 2014