By Michael Longsdon
For many seniors, there comes a time when the expense and upkeep of a big home no longer seem realistic. All of your kids have moved out, and suddenly, your multi-bedroom house feels excessively large and empty. Plus, it may be difficult to keep up with mortgage payments if you’re expecting a lower income during retirement. Whether downsizing is a financial necessity or an emotional decision, here’s how to tackle the process without getting overwhelmed.
Do Online Research
Before you start looking at houses in person, narrow down your options by doing some research online. Search the local housing market on sites such as Redfin to get a feel for house prices in your desired area. For example, homes in Seattle, Washington have sold for an average of $685,000during the past month. Explore listings in your preferred size range and location so you can come up with a realistic budget for your new home.
Think far ahead as you look at homes, considering the possibility that the needs of you and your spouse may change over time. One-story homes can be much more accessible for you and your friends down the line. You should also take time to research the neighborhood and pay attention to the house’s proximity to grocery stores, leisure centers, and public transportation.
Plan for Your Storage Needs
If you’re moving to an apartment or condo, you may not have the attic, basement, or even the closet space that you’re used to. Look for a nearby for an affordable self-storage unit so you aren’t left crowding boxes and furniture into your new home. Some simple online research can help you find the best deals in your area. In the last 180 days, for instance, self-storage units in Seattle, Washington cost an average of $88.45 per month.
Go Through Your Possessions Methodically
One of the hardest parts about downsizing is getting rid of things you’ve had for decades. Apartment Guide recommends looking at pictures of clutter-free rooms in magazines for inspiration before starting your own purge. This will mentally prepare you for getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need cluttering up your new, smaller space.
As you declutter, go room by room and sort items into no more than five piles: keep, donate, sell, gift, and throw away. Don’t be afraid to let go of things that are useful but not particularly necessary in your own life. Likewise, don’t keep things out of obligation or feelings of guilt. While you’re cutting the clutter, keep a floor plan of your new home nearby so you can plan out your rooms and ensure your furniture will fit. If you’re worried about accurately measuring your space, you can hire a professional to help you out.
Pack Like a Pro
Protect your items during your move and make them easier to unpack later by trying out some expert packing tips. For example, socks make great padding for glasses and mugs, while oven mitts are perfect for transporting knives a little more safely. Secure entire desk drawers and kitchen storage trays with plastic wrap for much faster unpacking later. Also, keep your clothing on hangers and simply slip a garbage bag over them for protection. Remember to pack an essentials box of everything you need during your first day and night in your new house.
Follow a Moving Checklist
There is a lot to remember to do before moving day. For example, you need to update your mailing address with the post office, find a new doctor, and transfer your utilities. Follow a moving checklist (or hire a senior move manager for around $316 per day) to avoid forgetting important tasks. One of your moving tasks should involve researching moving companies at least two months before your move. This gives you plenty of time to find the help you need within your budget. Learn about how to spot rogue moving companies so you can avoid being scammed, especially if you’re moving long distance.
Moving is exhausting for anyone. But moving into a smaller home can be especially emotional as you say goodbye to personal objects that have surrounded you for much of your life. For this reason, it’s important to take things slow while you sort through your possessions and search for the perfect place to spend your golden years.
Mr. Longsdon provides advice to seniors on downsizing and aging in place and can discuss concerns like tackling home accessibility modifications, how to find a great contractor, the benefits of aging in place, and more.
Warmer months are ahead, so now is the time to plan for spring cleaning and maintenance. A clean home offers a fresh start for the year, and a checklist of tasks guides your efforts towards efficiency. For many homeowners, spring cleaning can be a personal challenge. It can also be one accomplished with the help of the rest of the family or other residents. In some occasions, however, professional assistance may be advised, or even necessary. Regardless, regular home maintenance not only increases your home’s value, but it can also make your home more comfortable and enjoyable.
Check Your Attic
Once summer arrives, it can be too hot in many regions to comfortably perform an inspection. Use late winter and early spring to ensure the following: there’s ample insulation (10 to 14 inches), there are no signs of mice or rats (droppings, strong odor, nests), there are no bugs (flying, crawling, or otherwise), and there are no signs of roof leaks (water stains, etc.).
Schedule HVAC Maintenance
Annual tune-ups on your heating/cooling equipment will reduce your energy bill and help ensure you can maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
Fix the Window Screens
It won’t be long before you’ll want to throw open the windows for fresh air, or relief on a warm afternoon. Take time now to ensure your window screens are ready for the challenge. Many traditional neighborhood hardware stores still offer re-screening services. Contractors also specialize in this service and are available for house calls.
Clean the Ceiling Fans
During the warm weather and the cold, ceiling fans can help moderate the temperature and better distribute the air. But your fans will be far more efficient if you give them a good cleaning a couple times each year. For fans mounted up to 10 feet in the air, you can use a ladder to access the tops of the fan blades. For those mounted on vaulted ceilings, use a long-handled duster.
Apply Weather Stripping
Many homeowners think of weather stripping as a cold-weather commodity, but it’s just as important during summer. To keep the cool air in and the hot air out, use any of the many filler materials available to seal gaps around windows, doors, exhaust fans, and any other point where you can see light peeking through.
Look for Damaged Roof Shingles
Use binoculars (with your feet safely planted on the ground) to scan for roof shingles that are curling, broken, or missing. If anything seems compromised, have a roofing company perform an inspection and provide a bid. If you or any members of your family are enterprising drone users, a camera-affixed drone can also be a useful aid in this reconnaissance effort.
Wash the Exterior
An easy way to extend the life of your exterior paint – and make your house look better than ever – is to give the siding a good washing. Use mostly water (to avoid harming any plants) and a stiff pole brush.
Search Out Rotten Wood
While you’re washing the exterior, keep an eye out for areas where there may be rot. Use a screwdriver to gently but firmly press on any siding or trim where you see black mold, missing paint, or exposed gray wood. If the area you’re probing feels mushy or bone-dry, contact a contractor to assess and stabilize the situation.
Clean the Gutters
All it takes is a handful of leaves to clog a gutter downspout and cause overflow and flooding. Hire a professional to give the gutters a thorough cleaning and you’ll avoid the very real dangers of working from a ladder. If you live in an area with lots of trees, consider getting quotes for some of the leaf-less gutter systems.
Prepare Your Lawn to Grow
The winter sets impediments for your lawn, and it takes preparation to help it shine. Rake away any dead grass and aerate the whole lawn to allow nutrients to access the roots. Reseed bare spots and apply a spring fertilizer to ensure your lawn has the fuel it needs to grow strong and beautiful.
Great news for buyers! There are more homes to choose from. It seems there is relief from the days of drastically low inventory levels.
Compared to a year ago, residential inventory levels are up:
• 9% in Northern Colorado (Larimer & Weld Counties)
• 45% in Metro Denver (wow!)
You can get many more fun facts like these plus get our predictions on the 2019 market by joining our annual Market Forecast. Just click the link below!
Photo Credit: Pantone Color Institute
Design inspiration comes in many forms, but few carry the cache of the Pantone Color of the Year. For two decades, the Pantone Color Institute has convened to debate and determine an appropriate color that represents the current times. In a tradition harkening to the pageantry and mystique of secret societies, biannual meetings are held in private by color and design experts to determine the appropriate shade for the upcoming year. Through this deliberation, we have been delivered our next design baseline: the 2019 Pantone Color of the Year is Living Coral.
Living Coral is a mesmerizing pinkish hue with a light base that makes it a spectacular pairing with a variety of other options. Evoking the way natural coral often forms a basis for entire, vibrant ecosystems, Living Coral seeks to be eye-catching, while simultaneously drawing attention to what surrounds it. So how can Living Coral be best incorporated into your home this year? We have a few ideas.
It can be overwhelming to dive headlong into an entire stylistic renovation. Even a single feature, like a Living Coral colored chair or settee can brighten a space.
Entryway and Living Room Walls
Photo Credit: France and Son on Pinterest
Make a bold first impression by inviting guests into a space that is framed by Living Coral walls on every side.
Photo Credit: HoneyComb Studio on Pinterest
Any room can be brightened by a touch of Living Coral. From coral curtains to stylish gilded vases and accent pillows, there are numerous ways, great and small, to sprinkle this seaside shade throughout your home.
Photo Credit: Krista4Coral on Instagram
One of our favorite interior design trends pairs perfectly with Pantone’s 2019 selection. Coating one wall with Living Coral is a great way to accent a space without committing to painting an entire room.
Photo Credit: DesignStudio039 on Instagram
Whether gracing your front door or a unique space in your home, Living Coral inspires an optimistic feeling for what lies beyond.
Do you plan to incorporate Living Coral into your home this year? We’d love to hear about it!
As we step forward into 2019, eco-friendly “green homes” are more popular than ever. Upgrading your home’s sustainability improves quality of life for those residing in it, but it is also a savvy long-term investment. As green homes become more popular, properties boasting sustainable features have become increasingly desirable targets for homebuyers. Whether designing a new home from scratch or preparing your current home for sale, accentuating a house with environmentally-friendly features can pay big dividends for everyone.
While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star, or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.
There are dozens of eco-friendly features that can provide extra value for you as a seller. To name a few:
Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.
Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.
For many years, fuel cells have been far too expensive or unreliable. But as technology has improved, so too has reliability. Companies like Home Power Solutions and Redbox Power Systems have increased the reliability of these fuel sources while reducing their size. Much like we’ve seen computers and cell phones shrink in size while improving reliability and power, fuel cells continue to be refined.
A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.
But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.
Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious homeowners are very attracted to the concept.
Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.
Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.
Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. Similarly to wind turbines, your geographical location may determine the feasibility of these installments. Even on cloudy days, however, solar panels typically produce 10-25% of their maximum energy output. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.
In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But as of December 2018, the average cost after tax credits for solar panel installation was just $13,188! Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).
Solar water heaters
Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.
Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.Gov.
Regardless of which option you choose, these technologies will help to conserve valuable resources and reduce your monthly utility expenses. Just as importantly, they will also add resale value that you can leverage whenever you decide it’s time to sell and move on to a new home.
There comes a time in life where gifts take different forms during the holidays. Toys are replaced by tools and appliances. Games are supplanted by gift cards and gear for grander hobbies. Clothing ranges from stylish to functional, but typically reflects real-life necessities over fantastical dresses or costumes. But for many, books remain a timeless gift, offering windows into worlds we know well or have yet to discover. Approaching the new year is a wonderful time for any lucky recipient to reorganize their collection and make a statement.
Start with a blank canvas. Take everything off your shelves before you decide to start putting your books back on.
Mix it up. Don’t have all of the books vertical or horizontal (but never stack anything on top of vertical stacks). Layer them on top of each other in different ways on all of the various shelves. Bigger books on the bottom of stacks, smaller ones on top. Place your most attractive books at eye level.
Accessorize. Add items in between, in front, and on top of books. This can mean collectibles, candles, small plants, pictures, you name it. You can use a variety of shapes and sizes, but try to keep all non-book items to the same theme/color.
Leave Space. Adding just a little bit of space between items gives space for the eye to breathe and helps your book and collectibles to stand out.
Little details. Don’t follow the same pattern on each shelf otherwise, it could end up looking too stiff. Try to zig-zag your way down (or up).
Add color. If you’re ready for a full-fledged redo, paint the back of the bookshelves to add dimension and character before styling. If you don’t want to permanently color your bookcases, try fabric or wallpaper. For example, if you have glossy accessories, choose a metallic wallpaper to turn your bookshelf into a shimmering showpiece.
Have too many books or don’t feel like accessorizing? No problem. Color code your books ROYGBIV style to make a bold and fun statement in your room.
When people in the West Seattle community are in need, they’ve learned they can turn to Windermere broker Mary Ann Vandergriff. After a company backed out of providing turkeys for 40 elementary school families the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the school’s family support worker called Vandergriff in a panic. Just a few phone calls later, the big-hearted broker had rounded up 40 vouchers for 20-pound turkeys.
“I have all this stuff in my head… things that come to me,” she says. “I love a challenge; give me a complicated puzzle.”
Volunteering was a big part of Vandergriff ’s childhood, so it was only natural that she got involved with the Windermere Foundation soon after joining the company in the early 1990s. As a single mom of two, Vandergriff was especially drawn to the mission of the Windermere Foundation, which collects a portion of the proceeds from homes bought or sold through Windermere to donate to projects that benefit low-income and homeless families. “Giving kids a chance, that’s the most important thing to me,” she says.
As the Windermere Foundation representative for the West Seattle office, Vandergriff has worked with countless organizations over the years. Early on, she jumped into spearheading fundraising for Project Cool, a program from the King County Coalition on Homelessness that provides students with backpacks stuffed with school supplies.
More recently, her office has supported the West Seattle Helpline, which provides emergency assistance to neighbors in need. Last year the team spent a service day setting up Clothesline, West Seattle Helpline’s free clothing store. “We completely put that store together, from laying carpet to organizing clothes to organizing the hangers that were donated,” Vandergriff says. “When you have 40 of us brokers in a day, you can move mountains.”
Although it creates more administrative work, the West Seattle office spreads its giving budget—about $25,000—throughout the year so that they always have some seed money on hand to fulfill a need when asked. They’ve helped mothers with breast cancer pay their bills while going through treatment, outfitted children in new winter coats, purchased appliances for a food bank, provided computers for a school, and made sure families had enough to eat during holiday breaks.
The list of organizations they’ve helped only grows over the years, and Vandergriff wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You help one person at a time,” she says. “It may not be big, it may be small, but even changing the life of one or two children makes a difference.”
By Haley Shapley – Originally published in Windermere Living
Since 1989, the Windermere Foundation has donated more than $36 million to provide shelter, food, children’s programs, emergency assistance, and other services for our communities. Learn more at Windermere.com/Foundation.
What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.
The U.S. Economy
Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.
Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing. Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.
The U.S. Housing Market
Existing Home Sales
This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market. In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.
Existing Home Prices
We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017. In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.
New Home Sales
In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.
That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.
In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.
In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or levelling. We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.
I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.
There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating. In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.
That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.
Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.
Originally published on Inman News.
Do you want to find your perfect home for a fair price and make your move in a reasonable amount of time? With inventory lower than it was four months ago and buyers coming out of the woodwork to take advantage of the tax credit before it ends, you may want to think about what you can do to prepare so you’re ready to take action when the time is right for you.
We asked a few of our Windermere agents what top five pieces of advice they would give to a buyer in today’s market.
Top five by Bruce McKinnon Windermere Mukilteo
- Get pre-approved with a “known” lender.
- Learn the market. Pay attention to price per square foot, be realistic on pricing and observe short sales and foreclosures.
- Understand “showing” protocol such as scheduling viewing appointments and a respect for privacy.
- Identify your location preference. Initially focus your search there for efficient time utilization. Think about your ideal community, neighborhood and school district.
- Mini buying process overview. For example, to minimize surprises, get a five minute explanation of offer, inspection, appraisal, closing, etc. by a professional or two.
Top five by Erin Mitchell Windermere Bellevue Commons
- Work with a great agent that specializes in the area that you want to live. Meet with them prior to looking at homes to make sure you ‘fit’ each other’s personalities, they really listen to your wants and needs and that they ask you questions about what is important to you.
- Ask your agent for a good referral to a great loan officer. Call them now and get pre-approved.
- Make a top 10 list of the most important things you want in a home. If you find one that has at least eight of them, strongly consider the home.
- When you find a home that fits, your agent will run a market analysis to determine appropriate value. Value is not always price related.
- Write a good offer that includes a fair price, good terms and is realistic. If you want the house, buy it. If there is more than one offer, use an escalation clause in the offer.
Get pre-approved with a “known” Lender
Learn the market (e.g., price / sq ft, be realistic on pricing; short sale and foreclosure observations)
Understand “showing” protocol (e.g., appointments, respect for privacy)
Identify location preference (e.g., to initially focus search for efficient time utilization — community, neighborhood and school district – where possible)
Mini Buying process overview (e.g., 5 minutes – to minimize surprises — offer, inspection, appraisal, closing)
All the talk of the market cooling off might make someone think that prices must be going down.
The truth is prices are still going up.
Here are the latest year-over-year appreciation numbers from the Federal Housing Finance Authority (they track 243 markets all across the Country):
Colorado Springs 11.44%
Fort Collins/Loveland 8.64%