In Seattle, upkeep of public sidewalks is homeowner responsibility

I recently had the misfortune of tripping over a “lift” on a public sidewalk in my West Seattle neighborhood. Although I wasn’t seriously injured, I fell hard and even scraped my cheek on the sidewalk. My right shoulder and hip absorbed most of the impact, leaving my quite sore for the next couple of days and contributing (I suspect) to an attack of bursitis in my right hip.

When I was telling a friend about the incident, she informed me that (in Seattle, at least) homeowners are responsible for the upkeep of the portion of public sidewalk connected to their property. Sure enough, when I went on the City of Seattle website, I discovered that not only are homeowners responsible to maintain the sidewalk, they are also charged with care of planting strips, RainWise rain gardens and cisterns, unimproved roadway shoulders (i.e. where there are no sidewalks), and unpaved alleys.

This could come as a nasty surprise if someone injures themselves on an area you are responsible to maintain. The words “potential lawsuit” come to mind.

You can bet that I went right out to check the condition of my own sidewalk. Especially when I read the part that says, “a fault or other discontinuity greater than 1/2 inch in the sidewalk” must be remedied.

In the case of my fall, the obstruction was caused by tree roots that forced the sidewalk to lift; a common occurrence we’ve all seen all too often. As you can see from the photo, the roots had created a bulge that was substantially more than 1/2″.

photo of bulge in sidewalk

Tripping hazard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sent the homeowners a letter informing them of the incident and the city requirements, but so far, they haven’t taken any action to mitigate the situation.

What does the sidewalk in front of your home look like?

Posted 1/1/2017

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 www.FEMA.gov/    www.Ready.gov/

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:  

http://Seattle.gov/emergency-management

http://Ready.gov/be-informed

http://FEMA.gov/plan-prepare-mitigate

http://makeitthrough.org

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.com.  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: www.roxhillseattle.nextdoor.com

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.  www.tops.timebanks.org

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.

MORGAN JUNCTION COMMUNITY FESTIVAL JUNE 22ND, 2013

2013_Festival_Program

Summertime is just around the corner, and with it comes a number of community festivals and street fairs. First up in West Seattle is the Morgan Junction Community Festival from 10:30A-7P Saturday, June 22nd. I call this “the little festival that could.” It offers all the usual suspects: live music, vendor booths, children’s activities, plus “Bite of Morgan”. This year there will also be food trucks and The Bark of Morgan! You can wander through this fun and very intimate festival in less time than it takes to mow your lawn, and most of the activities are free. Rapid Ride will drop you off right in the center of the festivities at the intersection of California and Fauntleroy. I will be there staffing a booth to collect food for White Center Food Bank. More info at: www.morganjunction.org

Kitchen design trends for 2013

Red Carnations in the KitchenWondering what the new kitchen design trends are on the horizon this year? Whether you plan to stay in your home for the foreseeable future or sell soon, everyone loves a remodeled kitchen. Here are a few of the top trends in updating your kitchen.

• Modern trumps traditional. I.e. simpler, with less detail and trim.
• Dark or white cabinets. Light wood finishes are less popular these days. Dark furniture-like stains and veneers help the kitchen blend with other rooms, especially with open floor plans and great rooms. Classic white is the other popular alternative.
• Moveable islands. Islands aren’t just for cooking anymore. They serve as snack stations, wine racks, breakfast bars and storage. Islands on wheels can be moved to help direct traffic flow when guests are present.
• Peek-a-boo appliances. Replacing the overt appearance of commercial-style kitchen appliances are faux finishes and veneers designed to hide the workhorse contraptions.
• Glass tile backsplashes. Also, clear glass panels to cover and protect painted walls. One-of-a-kind, hand painted tiles are also in vogue as wall accents.
• Open-air kitchens move the party outdoors for entertaining and every day.
• Granite countertops are finally giving way to a broader range of alternatives. Look for porcelain tile to emerge as a versatile, durable and easy-to-maintain option. Porcelain tile is a molded, fired product that mocks the look of stone, metal, terracotta and more. Most porcelain tile is appropriate for both walls and floors.
• Eye-catchers. If you wan to add a little extra style to your kitchen space, consider a deep, stone sink, high-tech faucet, stylish hood vent or ventless fireplace.
• For more great ideas go to: www.houselogic.com

Home maintenance checklist for spring

Keeping up with routine home maintenance can be challenging, both in terms of time and money. Whether you intend to stay in your house for years to come or sell it soon, deferred maintenance – upkeep and repairs left unattended until they become critical – will always cost you more in the long run.

Following is a list of suggested tasks for Spring that will help you stay ahead of the game.   Special thanks to Amy Ecklund, of AmyWorks for this helpful list.

¨ Fertilize the lawn.

¨ Service the heating and cooling systems.

¨ Inspect foundation, basement, or crawl space for cracks and water damage.

¨ Clean gutters & downspouts; ensure that water drains away from the house.

¨ Check roof for damaged shingles. Trim branches that extend over the roof.

¨ Inspect all electrical cords, wall plates and outlets for damage and wear.

¨ Check alarm systems to ensure they are functioning. Replace batteries.

 Best Places to Buy New Appliances

Are new appliances on your wish list? A recent study by Consumer Reports determined the top-rated stores for small and major appliances. Here are the top 4 in our area, for each category.

Best Prices: Amazon.com, Costco, Kohl’s, Sam’s Club

Best Overall for Major Appliances: Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sears, Best Buy

Best Overall for Small Appliances: Amazon, Costco, Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond

Food drive to benefit White Center Food Bank May 18, 2013

White Center Food Bank

The White Center Food Bank needs our help, so I am joining with some of my Prudential Northwest Realty colleagues to sponsor a food drive benefitting White Center Food Bank on Saturday, May 18th.  While it is common for most of us to think of helping the hungry during the holidays, the food banks typically experience a slow down in donations during the summer months. Not surprisingly, demand for assistance is still high. Hunger doesn’t know from holidays.

Volunteers from Prudential Northwest Realty will be on hand from 11A-3P on the 18th, at the QFC in Westwood Village and the Albertson’s at 12725 1st Ave S in Burien. Your favorite Realtors will be there in person to collect your food and/or monetary donations, so please come say hi and introduce yourself!

Bonus opportunity! Mention that you read about the food drive here (on my blog) and I will give you a coupon good for a free ice cream cone from West Seattle’s own Husky Deli!

Canned food, other non-perishables and cash are all welcome donations. High protein items such as peanut butter and tuna fish are especially appreciated.

The White Center Food Bank is located at 10829 8th Ave SW Seattle WA 98146 ~ 206.762.2848. Their website address is: http://www.whitecenterfoodbank.org

And don’t forget the West Seattle Food Bank at 3419 SW Morgan St.! Both these worthy facilities depend upon the generosity of folks like you and me.

Hope to see you on May 18th.

Do you live in a small home?

What is your definition of a small home? How much living space do you need and/or want?

As a Realtor, I always have this discussion with my buyers before we start looking for homes. One person’s cubicle is another person’s mansion.

Aside from personal preference, affordability figures into the equation prominently. Whether renting or buying, once we move out of mom and dad’s home, most of us face a reality check concerning how much space we would like vs. how much we can afford. The calculations becomes even more complex when you fold in factors such as location and condition. Again, when starting to look for a home — especially a first home — I ask my clients to prioritize A) location B) price C) condition, and D) size (sq. footage). It’s usually not an easy task.

Most couples tell me that they can’t imagine living in a house that is less than 1000 sq. ft.  Interestingly, many single individuals feel they need about that same minimum just for themselves.

Many of the houses that were built in the first half of the 20th Century (at least, in this part of the country; I don’t know about other areas) were very simple and plain-looking 2 bedroom/1 bathroom homes averaging about 750 sq. ft.  Brokers often refer to such homes, built in the mid 1940’s, as “war boxes.” They were intended as affordable housing for all the men (and women) returning from WWII. Presumably, most would get jobs, get married, start families and then move into bigger houses. Thus these houses were dubbed “starter homes.”

Of course, much of the time, the amount of space we think we “need” is influenced by the amount of space we are used to. I worked with one couple who moved here from Hawaii. They were amazed by how much more square footage they could get here in Seattle for what they paid in Hawaii. Europeans, I’m told, are also used to living in much smaller spaces than Americans are. It’s hard to argue that we are not spoiled.

So, back to my original question. What is your definition of a small home?

I am about to list a property that is host to perhaps the smallest free-standing (as opposed to a condominium, co-op or townhouse) house in West Seattle… just 380 square feet! That’s about the size of many RV’s and studio apartments! The house is situated on a large 7,560 square foot lot, however, so the potential for building a bigger home is there.

Originally built in 1920, the house was rebuilt from the studs out in 2004. It’s in great condition, move-in ready and absolutely adorable. The challenge for me, as the broker, will be to find a buyer who is comfortable in such small living quarters. Who do you know who might fit that description?

Just out of curiosity, what is the smallest space you have ever lived in?

Tumbleweed Home

Have you spotted new home design trends for 2013?

home design trends

Home design trends come and go — that’s why they’re called trends — and it can be fun to see how quickly you recognize their arrival.

Here are a few home design trends that author, Barbara Ballinger, believes will be coming into vogue this year.

  1. Automated control systems for the various electronics in your home. Systems are becoming easier to use and more affordable all the time. You can remotely turn on your furnace, security system, lights, media, etc. with a press of a button or two.
  2. Outdoor living spaces such as kitchens and living rooms. In days gone by, screened porches were quite common. Then they went out of style in favor of decks and patios. Now they are having a come-back and are much more comfortable and versatile. The outdoor bbq grill is getting an upgrade, too, often under cover or screened in with comfortable tables and seating.
  3. While not exactly a home design trend (more like a backyard design trend), home farming gives new accessibility to organic foods. Small, raised backyard garden beds require less stooping and bending, are more manageable with limited time, and are often more attractive than traditional gardens. Watch for the emergence of backyard ponds, as well, for raising fish fit for the dinner table. (I’m not sure what animal rights activists will have to say about this, however.)
  4. As fewer homebuyers see a need for formal living rooms, “TV rooms” are re-emerging. Less dark and less stark than the media rooms of recent years, this newer style of “family room” provides comfortable, casual space for a variety of activities.
  5. Tinted neutral paint shades are replacing whites and beiges. Accent walls are more muted, while still providing a pop of color.
  6. Dual-purpose furnishings are becoming popular both for economic and space reasons. As MacMansions become less common and baby boomers start downsizing, use of living space becomes a bigger priority. Sofa beds, ottomans that double as storage space, tables with drop leaves and kitchen islands on wheels can all save space and money. Clunky, chunky, overstuffed furnishings are likely to be disappearing as well.
  7. Remodeling has become more common than room additions since the economic downturn of the past few years. Kitchens and bathrooms remain the favorite spaces for updates and face lifts. When planning the remodel, homeowners are more likely than ever to favor the use of sustainable products and materials for countertops and flooring. Low VOC paint products are also in demand, as they emit fewer harmful fumes and are considered less harmful to the environment. The website http://HealthyHomePlans.com can be a helpful resource in this regard.
  8. Efficient systems for managing water and energy are also on the top of many lists as a means of stretching the household budget. Low-flow shower heads, dual-flush toilets, solar panels and gray-water systems can all translate into worthy investments.
  9. Lastly, architectural designs are beginning to take into account a wider age-range of homeowners. Forward-thinking home designs incorporate wider doorways for wheelchairs and walkers, low counter heights in some bathrooms and higher counter tops in others, grab bars that double as towel racks, and even elevators in multi-level homes. All are features that will help homes remain suitable for occupants of varying generations.

How many of these home design trends appeal to you? Have you spotted some we’ve missed?