Alexa, change your name

Alexa, change your name

How to be More Secure in your Smart Home

Smart home devices are all the rage. Raise your hand if you bought or received one (or more) this past holiday season.

From virtual voice assistants to thermostats to keyless door locks, life at home is getting easier, but is it more secure, or less secure?It depends, in part, on how secure your home Wi-Fi system is.

Here are some TIPS on how to help ensure your privacy while enjoying those devices.

1) Consider changing your virtual voice assistant’s name so strangers can’t control her.

2) Install a Smart Home Cybersecurity Hub to protect your internet-connected devices from malware, stolen passwords, identity theft and spying.

3) Read (yes, actually read) the privacy policies for each of your smart devices and call the manufacturers, if necessary, to find out if they use end-to-end encryption, so no third parties can decipher the data being communicated or stored.

Sigh. If only hackers would use their powers for good instead of evil…

DIY Earthquake Retrofitting for your Home

DIY Earthquake Retrofitting for your Home

Homeowners who live in Washington State have to wonder: Will my home withstand the next major earthquake?

Prior to 1980, building codes did not require builders to secure houses to their foundation. If your home is not properly secured, it may be at increased risk of “slipping” off the foundation during a major earthquake. You can reduce damage caused during an earthquake by seismically retrofitting your home. 

Learn to become an informed consumer and how to do home retrofit yourself.

The Seattle Public Library system periodically hosts free 2-hour classes on DIY retrofitting.

Retrofit experts will show how to assess your home’s needs and how to use the City of Seattle’s pre-engineered Home Retrofit plans to permit and retrofit your home.

Here’s where to sign up and/or get more information:

Attention Home Buyers! July and August are great months to buy a home

Attention Home Buyers! July and August are great months to buy a home

Attention home buyers! Especially those of you who are discouraged, exhausted and just plain frustrated.

Now is the time to regroup and call on your second wind, because there is less competition this time of year, so you may even be able to avoid the bidding wars.

Why? Because many of the buyers who were active in the spring have either run out of steam or have become discouraged beyond their limits. Combine that with nice weather (who can think of anything but play when the sun shines in Seattle?) and vacations, and the pool of buyers shrinks substantially. That’s good news for those with the stamina to hang in there.

Although still undeniably hot, and generally favoring sellers, the real estate market in West Seattle (and some other parts of Seattle) has slowed down a bit in the past few weeks. More homes have come on the market recently, and many are seeing their “offer review” dates come and go with no offers. Some sellers are even having to do price reductions.

Again, this is good news for buyers, especially since interest rates are expected to start rising, and every increase — even one as small as one-eighth of a percent — effectively decreases a buyer’s buying power.

A similar situation happens every December due to bad weather and holidays.

So, if you or someone you know, wants to buy property this year, DON’T WAIT!

Contact me today for more details and a FREE CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) of your home if you are already a home owner.

Water and sewer line insurance

Water and sewer line insurance

If you are a home owner who has ever experienced problems with your water or sewer lines, you know that repairs can be very costly. Fortunately, there is low-cost insurance available that can significantly defray, if not cover the entire cost of the repair.

The following is directly off the National Water Company website.

National Water Company is a Program Administrator offering underground water and sewer line insurance and warranty programs direct to homeowners, and through a network of licensed Agencies such as AAA Washington and many more. If you’re like many homeowners, you may be unaware that your home Insurance Does Not generally provide repair coverage for your underground water and sewer pipes leading to the street. Over time, unpreventable, environmental conditions cause exterior water and sewer lines to deteriorate. The cost to locate, excavate and repair these underground service lines can have a serious impact to your finances.”

As of this posting (7/1/18), the coverage for exterior water and sewer lines is just $12.09/month.

Coverage for interior water and sewer lines and exterior electrical lines is also available at similarly low rates.

As with any insurance policy, be sure to read the fine print to know exactly what is and isn’t covered if you decide to sign up.

Guaranteed fun at Morgan Junction Community Festival!

Guaranteed fun at Morgan Junction Community Festival!

Looking for some summer fun on a budget? If you’ve never been to the annual Morgan Junction Community Festival, you owe it to yourself to go and check it out. It’s so intimate they don’t even block off the street traffic!

This is the 13th year for the Morgan Junction Community Festival produced by the Morgan Community Association (MoCA). It will be celebrated on Saturday, June 16th, starting at 10:00 am and ending at 4:00 pm. That’s right! Just one, short, summer afternoon to enjoy this “little festival that could.”

The festival is family-friendly, but has something for everyone. Check out the local vendor booths which include some unusual products and services. These are folks you’ll want to support.

This year’s festival will feature live music, kid’s entertainment and activities, commercial vendor and community informational booths, and food vendors.  The festival takes place in and around Morgan Junction Park, with the apex at California Avenue SW and SW Fauntleroy.

Visit their website for a schedule of activities for the day.

Morgan Junction Festival poster

How to Kill a Watt in 10 Seconds or Less

How to Kill a Watt in 10 Seconds or Less

Hey, Seattle City Light customers. Most of us would like to reduce our electric bill. We can’t do anything about the rate we are charged, but we can control our usage and efficiency.

If you are already a power switch watchdog, you may want to go a step further and investigate how much power each of your appliances and devices are using. You might be surprised to discover which ones are undetected energy hogs.

An easy way to root them out is to borrow a Kill a Watt poweimage of kill a watt meterr monitor from the Seattle Public Library. (Not available at all locations.)

According to the Seattle Public Library website, “The Kill a Watt power meter can tell you the actual electrical consumption of small to medium electrical devices in your home. It will also help you discover the hidden or ‘phantom’ loads that are surprisingly common when electrical devices are turned off.”

The meter is easy to use. Simply plug it into any wall outlet and then plug your device into the meter to get power usage details.



Rebates for Seattle Area Home Owners!

Rebates for Seattle Area Home Owners!

The City of Seattle offers a number of rebate programs designed to encourage homeowners to make improvements that will increase their homes’ energy efficiency.

Here are a few:

•laundry appliances – $50-$250

•water heaters – $500

•heating/cooling systems – $100-$1200

•windows – $50/window

•insulation – up to 50% of project cost

•showerheads – in-store discounts

•LED lighting – in-store discounts

Get details and rebate forms online at:

Professional home energy audits are often available for free or at reduced prices through the City of Seattle and from Puget Sound Energy. Energy Star is another source of helpful information and resources.

If you’d rather conduct your own, here’s where to download a PDF with instructions for doing just that.

You can also contact a Home Energy Advisor by phone 206-684-3800, or e-mail:

Find even more rebates at


How and Where to Get Financing for Home Energy Efficiency Upgrades

How and Where to Get Financing for Home Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Ever heard of an EEM (energy efficiency mortgage) loan? Making your home more energy efficient may reduce your utility bills for the long term, but paying for the upgrades upfront can be a challenge. EEM’s can be one source.

Another potential source of funds is a traditional HELOC (home equity line of credit). Check with your bank, credit union or mortgage servicer for details and rates.

There are a number of financial institutions with programs specifically designed for financing energy efficiency upgrades. These are often called EEM loans (Energy Efficiency Mortgages).

Homeowners can take advantage of EEM’s to either finance energy efficient improvements to existing homes, including renewable energy technologies, or to increase their home-buying power when purchasing a new energy efficient home.

Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union, Craft 3, and Umpqua Bank are just three financial institutions you can check out for EEM’s and similar loan programs.

If you’d like ideas and information about the variety of energy efficiency projects you might want to take on, consider attending The Northwest Green Home Tour on Sunday, April 28th and 29th. This is a multi-location event and free tickets are available (though a $10 donation is suggested). For a location map and more detailed information, go to: