Tuesday, December 4, 2012

real estate report card for 3rd qtr

Just in ... Matthew Gardner's 3rd quarter 2012 report on the real estate market in Western Washington.

Highlights from his conclusion:

"The economy and real estate market in Washington continue to exhibit positive growth, but the rate of growth has started to taper. 

Now, some of this can certainly be attributed to seasonal fluctuations, as well as the current political environment, but it is important to put this into context. Our region continues to outperform not only all other West Coast markets, but also the United States as a whole.

The headwinds that do exist, mainly in the form of low levels of housing for sale, are likely to be temporary."  Matthew Gardner

Mr. Gardner is a land use economist and principal with Gardner Economics .
He is considered by many to be one of the foremost real estate analysts in the Pacific Northwest.

Matthew will be presenting his annual kick-off presentation
at a private event hosted by myself and colleagues
January 30, 2013
Montlake Community Center
This will be a great opportunity to ask Matthew questions on his view for 2013!
To be placed on our invite list please email me at darcy@windermere.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Trivia

I firmly believe it is the memories we create in our house that make it our home. With two teenage daughters, I am always looking for some fun conversation starters to introduce at the dinner table. In my search I ran across some great trivia. I plan to stump them all at our Thanksgiving dinner..right!

What is the name of the famous rock where the pilgrims landed?
          Plymouth Rock

The Indians invited to the Thanksgiving feast were?

What is the name of the ship the pilgrims came over to the United States on?

What is the name of the Captain of the Mayflower?
          Christopher Jones

Who was instrumental in declaring Thanksgiving Day a National holiday?
          Sarah Hale

What is the original name for pilgrams?

What part of the turkey that is broken that is considered good luck?
          The wishbone

Indian corn should only be used as decorations and not for cooking?

What year did the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade start?

What year was the first Thanksgiving?

Who was the first President to pardon a Turkey?
          President Harry Truman

Name the first balloon in the 1927 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
          Felix the Cat

How many pilgrams came over on the Mayflower?

How long did it take the pilgrams to travel from England to the United States?
          66 days

What was the Mayflower originally designed to carry?

How long did the first Thanksgiving Day last?
         One week

What football teams played in the first Thanksgiving Day game in 1934?
          Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears

President Bush pardoned two turkeys in 2005. What were their names?
          Marshmellow and Yam

Of the 102 pilgrams that came over on the Mayflower only half of them survived to attend the first ever Thanksgiving dinner. We have much to be thankful for.

Wishing you a fun and festive holiday.

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Sources: history.com

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Transforming spaces

I'm deviating from my normal "house" blogging to write about an event I'm involved in this year, and every year for the past eleven years....my children's school auction. Over the course of a few days St. Joseph's Wyckoff gym is transformed into a spectacular venue for Saturday night's Auction and Gala.

Last year's auction theme "There's No Place Like Home" found my co-chair Anne Cunningham and myself wanting to transform the gym into the Emerald City. We enlisted the help of Blue Danube Productions, whose talented team of a/v professionals executed our vision to perfection.  

We added greenery/poppies to the boulders, a yellow brick road for fun and lit the exterior in green

The gym's vestibule was transformed into a field of poppies using green drape, over sized poppies and green lighting

The poppies were absolute "perfection"

40 tables were draped in luscious emerald green linens from Choice Linens and the entire room was draped in shimmering white 20' panels then lit so the room glowed a beautiful emerald green....gorgeous. Our three screens were 20' rounds which continued and fully executed our orb theme.

We added dangling crystals and incorporated our orb theme by adding round lights. Can't you just imagine Glinda popping out of one of these?

We found an artist in Arkansas who hand blew 40 glass orbs from emerald green glass

We nested them in reindeer moss and anchored them in a tin vessel...out of respect for the tin man

Every year there is a special VIP table...this year we played with the good and the evil by using Glinda's crown on one end and the Wicked Witch's hat on the other. We added lots of mercury glass for sparkle and Anne designed a spectacular wand

Anne also designed and created Glinda's beautiful crown 

The tables sparkled

Glinda's crown designed and crafted by Anne

Incorporating our orb theme, local graphic artist Mary Cunningham designed the wine labels, table numbers and other signage for the event

The Dessert Dash was an enormous success

Anne Cunningham and I, decor co-chairs for last year's event
This week finds me at it once again. Our theme is La Ville-Luminere, or City of Light, the Magic of Paris. Ah, crystals, gold gilt, Monet, Chanel, shimmer and champagne - now that is truly C'est Magnifique

Until next time.

la chasse au bonheur

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall maintenance plan

Many of you know I would rather be posting about all the wonderful and creative ways to decorate your porch for fall but I know how important it is to have a solidly maintained home and how critical it is to have a regular maintenance plan.

OK, I had to add at least one photo for inspiration

There is a chill in the air and it's clear fall has finally arrived which means it's now time for some fall maintenance. If you follow a regular plan your home stays a healthy living environment and you save costs by avoiding big "surprise" maintenance issues down the road. As I always say "you pay now or you pay later but either way, you pay".

So grab the kids, some gloves and head outdoors this weekend.
Check the outdoors

  • Clean out debris from gardens, pots, and areas around the house.
  • Clean out gutters and check downspouts and the roof for any signs of leaking.
  • Check and repair all exterior caulking. Look around windows, doors, and under the eaves.
  • Trim back any limbs or shrubs that are touching the house or roof.
  • Inspect and clean windows and install storm windows if you have them. 
  • Clean out window wells. 
  • Clean out under decks and porches.
  • Drain and cover exterior hose bibs.
  • Drain and store hoses before the temperature dips to freezing.

Check the inside

  • Have the furnace serviced and change the filter.
  • Check and replace any worn weather-stripping.
  • Check crawl space for any broken ducts, excess moisture or inspects. 
  • Replace any fallen insulation. 
  • Check chimney and have it cleaned, if needed.
  • Clean the garage and put away equipment no longer needed for this year.
  • Find and check snow shovels and snow removal equipment and replace now, if necessary.
  • Prepare lawn mower for winter storage after the last mowing. 

If you keep your home in good condition with a regular maintenance plan your property will:
  • Maintain its property value
  • Sell more readily and usually garner a higher price
  • Be more comfortable to live in
  • Have few expensive repair bills

Until next time, 

la chasse au bonheur

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

beyond bricks and mortar

Please watch this short video prior to reading this posting Harborview Hall Video

Harboview Hall is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It was placed on
the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation's 2012 Most Endangered Historic Properties list. 

Too often, the pros and cons of saving an historic building revolves around architectural significance, structural integrity, obsolescence, and the cost to bring it up to code and its systems into the 21st century. 

What sometimes gets lost or is relegated to a minor role in these discussions is the value the building has had to generations of residents and workers and the direct and indirect impacts on the economic, social, and cultural identity it has brought to the area. 

For several years, Historic Seattle, an organization I am passionate about, has been involved with a number of local groups in making a case for preserving Harborview Hall on First Hill.

King County built Harborview Hall to support a new concept in nursing curriculum pioneered nationally by the first Dean of the UW School of Nursing, Elizabeth Soule, It put students next to a hospital (via an underground tunnel) where they would complete the newly required two years of hospital experience. 

A 1932 Seattle Times article was critical of the building calling the building more lavish than a luxury hotel, with "fudge kitchens, electric elevator, private rooms for each student, beautifully appointed recreation rooms, and a drawing room with a fireplace."

Former Harborview Hall residents are universally dismayed at plans to demolish the building. Patricia Ross, who was sworn into the U.S. Surgeon General's Nurse Cadet Corps on the steps of Harborview Hall in July 1944, lived there and did three-month rotations to all area hospitals. In an email she said, "through our work and training we saved the collapse of the health care system across the country." This was done right here in Harborview Hall. 

"Harborview Hall reflects the architecture of the hospital," said Ms. Bakeme, age 83, Class of 1952, "and they (have) the tunnel joining them-they are...married. How could they possibly take one away?"

We are trained in real estate to look at real property and apply the "best-use" approach to its development/use. The current plan is to demolish Harborview Hall and replace it with a plaza. However, King County is working on a proposal to preserve and rehabilitate the former residence for the UW School of Nursing students. As discussions fly around this proposal, I encourage everyone involved to look at the intrinsic elements of this building - I firmly believe it is not just about bricks and mortar but so much more. 

Historic Seattle is dedicated to educating, advocating and preserving. For more information please visit www.historicseattle.org

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finding my inner kitchen

It's funny how people buy homes. Some will visit numerous times, taking copious notes and measuring every room to make sure the furniture will fit. They might open every cupboard, window and door, in search of what? I am never sure. But I understand their process, they have to know what lies behind. 

Then there are those of us who decide immediately. With only a foot inside, we have fallen - we are in love.   

When I first set eyes on my home I knew it was the one. To say it had me at 'hello' is an understatement. I was smitten on the walk up and to be totally honest, I didn't need to see the inside. I didn't care to see the gardens. I didn't need to see anything else. But being the responsible real estate agent that I am I forced myself to take a quick, obligatory tour of the main floor before shouting "I'll take it"!  Why my house had this effect on me I will never know. It is not a fancy house by any means. In fact, there were many other homes that made better sense for our family at the time. But I wasn't in love with any of them. 
I moved in the spring of '99 and soon realized that during my quick tour I had missed the fact that my  kitchen was a flat out disaster. The disaster began with a blue and white lino floor, moved up to the electric blue counter (often seen in worn out post offices and must have contributed to the majority of 'going postal' incidents in the United States), and ended with cabinets made of, well let's just say, nothing 'real'. 

Beyond the cosmetic vomit, the layout was tight and compounded with an 'adorable and charming' breakfast nook that was completely unusable (unless you were playing dolls). Over the years, this charming nook has become a storage unit for all the kitchen items that I don't have room for in my dysfunctional kitchen. 

Around the time of 'bigger is better' and before I understood what that meant, I engaged an architect to 'blow out' the back half of my darling Tudor. Thank goodness the market tanked (InfoSpace plummeted to earth to be exact) as I didn't move forward with that 'approach'. 

Over the years I wrestled with what to do. I penciled out different layouts and chatted with anyone who would listen. I really was in a quandary and nothing but $100,000 would fix my woes. Obviously I waited. What I was waiting for I am not exactly sure - was it money or was it a thoughtful plan?

I decided to tackle the kitchen redo again in 2005. This time, I told myself, I was going to do it right. I'd learned a great deal about myself and about the beauty of smaller, thoughtful homes. I had a good sense of what I wanted but I knew I needed to bring in a professional, someone who understood the nuances of kitchens. I hired a local kitchen designer. $1,500 and three months later I sat down with her to go over the plans. Cabinets. That's the only word I can use to describe her plan. My initial thought was "how could so many cabinets fit in my itty bitty kitchen?" My second thought was "clearly kitchen designers are paid a commission from cabinet manufacturers". Not a bad business when you combine that with her proposed cost to redo my kitchen. 

So, I rolled up the plans, thanked the designer and left devastated that I was no where closer to a new kitchen. 

In the effort to keep this posting shorter than War and Peace, let's just say I tried a few more times to get a good plan together - one that made sense for the house, our lifestyle and my personal style. 

Given that I see roughly 40+ houses a week, I knew what made sense for the house. I can recite product numbers to anyone inquiring about backsplash tiles, appliances, flooring, paint, etc. But it was in 'creating a kitchen that reflected my personal style' that I wrestled with. You see, in today's branded marketplace we have acceptable prepackaged looks that we know will sell a home. They sell homes because buyers like them. There's no question this look and its variations are very nice, and a heck of a lot better looking than what I have going on, but they didn't reflect me

What helped me in the end was arriving at the decision that I was going to create a kitchen that I liked and not one for resale (I know, I have become one of those clients that I have to have a chat with, the one that starts with "not everyone likes carpeting up the side of the walls so we might want to remove that prior to listing the house"). 

This freedom opened the flood gates and I am happy to say, stage one is complete. My oversized main floor bath has been reconfigured to a ladylike powder room giving well needed space to my kitchen. Stage two is right around the corner - removing an internal bearing wall which will create the perfect size and space for what will surely be the perfect kitchen, for me that is. 

My inspiration board.

An old farm table will be used as an island and casual dining 

Searching for the perfect 1930's cast iron sink with cast iron legs

If we can't find an antique Welsh cupboard we will have a local artisan craft one
Love the idea of combining an old English plate rack and lower cabinet piece 

There are aspects of this kitchen that I like but I prefer the sinks with the legs

We have the perfect sunny corner for a banquette and the farm table

Our goal - no overhead cabinets unless it's an old plate rack or other furniture piece

In the end, time has been on my side because it has allowed me to fully explore what I really want and what best reflects me. I wish the same for you as you make your house your home (sans the carpeting running up the sides of the wall or anything quite like that of course).

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Friday, June 22, 2012

2012 Schedule

 Seattle Farmers Markets
MAGNOLIA · 10AM - 2PM · JUNE 9 ~ SEPT 29
33RD Avenue & W McGraw Street

NE 50th & University Way
Ballard Avenue NW—between 20th NW and 22nd NW    

BROADWAY · 11AM - 3PM · APRIL 22 ~ DEC 23
Seattle Central Community College - Broadway & Pine

West Seattle Junction - California Avenue SW & SW Alaska
COLUMBIA CITY · 3 - 7PM · MAY 2 ~ OCT 17
Columbia Plaza—Rainier Avenue S & S Edmunds Street

WALLINGFORD · 3 - 7PM · MAY 30 ~ SEPT 26
Meridian Avenue & N 50th Street

LAKE CITY · 3 - 7PM · JUNE 14 ~ OCT 11
NE 125th Street & 28th Avenue NE

QUEEN ANNE · 3 - 7:30PM · JUNE 7 ~ OCT 11
W Crockett Street & Queen Anne Avenue N

MADRONA · 3 - 7PM · Starts MAY 18 ~ SEPT 28
Martin Luther King Blvd & E Union Street

PHINNEY · 3 - 7PM · JUNE 1 ~ OCT 12
67th Street & Phinney Avenue N

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

the life expectancy of your home's components

According to one expert, 50% of the equipment and building materials that make up a house will need to be replaced over a period of 30 years. That being the case, knowing how long individual items typically last will make it far easier to control expenses, budget for the future, plan improvement projects, and maintain your home.

Of course, how you treat and maintain these products and materials will have a direct impact on how long they faithfully serve you. And when it comes to the outdoors, weather is a factor that must also be considered-not just the weather for your region, but also the 'microclimate' for your specific location. The more extreme the heat, cold, wind, wet, or dryness, the shorter the expected lifespan of any products and materials that live outside.

How long these products will last is difficult but two of the most respected resources on the subject chime in: Consumer Reports and the National Association of Home Builders.

While the annual studies performed by Consumer Reports show it's not true, many homeowners feel that home appliances today just don't last as long as they once did. However, it is true that modern appliances have become so complex that most are too expensive to repair when there is a failure. How long can you count on your appliances? Here are some estimates:
  • Dishwasher: nine or 10 years
  • Range: 17 years for an electric model, 19 years for gas
  • Refrigerator: 13 to 17 years
  • Microwave: nine to 11 years
  • Garbage disposal: 10 years
  • Washer and dryer: 13 to 14 years

Good old wood, if properly maintained and cared for, is one of the longest-lasting flooring products (100 years on average). Marble, slate and granite flooring products will last equally long.

Soft, cushy carpeting has the shortest average lifespan: eight to 10 years. Expect linoleum flooring to last between 20 and 25 years, while vinyl can be counted on for twice that long.

Heating and Cooling Equipment
Because your heating and cooling equipment is called upon to run for hours most every day, it's important that it be regularly serviced and properly maintained. For water heaters, pumps, and boilers, the quality of the water circulating through these things will also play a role in their longevity. In general, however, you can expect these items to last about:
  • Water heater: 14 years for an electric model, 11 to 13 years for gas
  • Whole-house air conditioner: 10 to 15 years
  • Furnace: 15 to 20 years
  • Hot-water boiler: 20 to 30 years
  • Heat pump: 16 years
  • Water pump: seven to 10 years
  • Water softener: 20 years

When properly cared for, entry doors (the main entrances/exits for your house) made of wood should last as long as the house itself. Solid core entry doors made of steel and fiberglass will last equally long, plus require less maintenance. Double entry doors (also called French doors) are a bit more particular, and therefore can be expected to last a little less time: 30 to 50 years.

Well constructed garage doors can be counted on to last 20 to 50 years, while the motors that open and close them typically perform well for about 10 years.

Old-fashioned wood windows can last 30-plus years. Vinyl versions typically last between 20 and 40 years, while aluminum models should be good for 15 to 20 years.

Asphalt shingles, by far the most common type of roofing, have been found to last on average 20 years. Wood shingle roofs can be counted on for about 30 years. Metal roofing will typically provide protection for 25 to 40 years, while slate and clay/concrete tile roofs will last the longest of all, over 50 years.

The wood siding on older homes (when thick, old growth cedar was used) will last 100 years; newer wood siding may only last 10 years. Siding made of brick, fiber-cement boards and engineered-wood should last as long as the house.

Exterior latex-based paints will last seven to 10 years. Interior paints don't usually need to be recoated for 15 years or more.

When to repair or replace a broken appliance. This checklist might provide some guidance.

Reasons to repair a broken appliance:
  • If the cost for the repairs is covered under a warranty
  • If the future life expectancy of the appliance is six years or more
  • If the estimated repair cost is less than 50% of the cost to purchase a new replacement
  • If the appliance has features and/or functions not matched on newer models
  • If costly changes to surrounding counters or cabinets must be made to remove the old model and/or make a new model fit the same space
Reasons to replace a broken appliance:
  • If replacement parts will be especially hard to find
  • If the estimated repair cost is more than 50% of the cost to purchase a new replacement
  • If a newer model is more energy-efficient
  • If a newer model has the features you desire

I hope this information helps answers questions you may have on this topic. If you need a list of reliable vendors in the greater Puget Sound region, drop me a line and I will get one off to you.

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Monday, April 23, 2012

A trip to the Hamptons anyone?

It's not always easy coming back from vacation - it's back to the same old, same old routine. But this past week I felt like I had packed my bags in Palm Springs only to land in the Hamptons, and in time for the 'season' too boot!

You see my clients have a stunning residence in Redmond that gives the classic shingle style architecture of the Hamptons a serious run for its money. This new listing gave way to many Broker's Opens and a delightful and sunny Sunday Open House this past week, making my job simply, well, relaxing.

A dear friend has a family home on Martha's Vineyard. She spends time there every summer with her two sons, husband and his family. She comes back tanned and relaxed with the most marvelous stories and as she chats my mind drifts off to images of lounging on the porch of a classic weathered beach house breathing in the salty ocean surf. Ahhh.

Last week was a bit like that, sans the salty ocean surf of course. Architect, Peter Stoner captured the true essence of a classic Hamptons residence (those wonderful shingle structures that sit magnificiently along the coastline) when he built my clients' beauty.

My love of shingle style architecture was formed when I spent weekends at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, Oregon and has remained with me since.
Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, Oregon

Sometimes, when I need a quick fix (could I possibly be addicted?) I'll pop in the movie Something's Gotta Give which eptimizes the classic Hamptons beach house. To me, it's the grand daddy. Yep, I know it's not really in the Hamptons and that the interiors are just a series of sets, but man o' man how I love that home.
Exterior shot of Diane Keaton's character's Hamptons beach house in Something's Gotta Give
Living room set from Something's Gotta Give

The kitchen from Something's Gotta Give that swept the nation
- people are still dreaming about this one

Here's a list of characteristics found present in most classic shingle style homes:

1) Weathered and worn wooden shingles with a complimenting trim color, most often bright white but sometimes a deep green or a rich New England red and less often a soft turquoise or seashell pink.

2) Great windows with lots of grille work in varying shapes and design.

3) Excellent use of 'massing' by way of dormers, porches, turrets, and/or conservatories and wonderful use of decorative ornamentation such as intricate molding and trim detail.

Most shingle style homes are quite large (my client's home is 6280 sq. ft.). To make them feel more welcoming and less austere, good architects employ tricks of the trade such as massing (building the house to look as though it had been added onto over time by using different styles, shapes and sizes to the faux additions).

Looking through this list, there is no question my clients' home, built in 1990 embodies the characteristics of a true classic Hamptons shingled home. The architect used the same 'tricks' as the original builders of this style to create a truly delightful home here on the west coast.
additional photos online at www.darcylabelle.com
Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

bring on the bunny

Raison d'etre is an expression I glommed on to early in my French lessons. Translated, it means 'reason for existence'. I have found many raisons d'etre in my life but none more important than my two daughters, Renee et Nicole.

Hosting events, where family and friends gather close, to celebrate the holidays has always been key to my goal of creating warm and happy childhood memories for them. I admit, as an avid entertainer, my reasons for Puttin' on the Ritz are not purely selfless - I so enjoy throwing a party!

This year we will be celebrating Easter in Palm Springs but that doesn't mean I can't take along some of my favorite traditions.

Easter just isn't Easter unless you have the right basket for that special hunt. Click here for some great ideas for using and decorating Easter Baskets

We start our festivities early by coloring hard boiled eggs and blowing out raw eggs to use in our decorations. Saturday night, the girls fill their grass lined baskets with these eggs and set them out along with some carrots and a note for the Easter Bunny. Legend has it, the Easter Bunny hops in, replaces the eggs with chocolate goodies and hides them for them to find Easter morning. Upon waking, they run around the house searching for their treasure - looking in cupboards, the oven, behind curtains and drapery, under beds and on top of furniture. Even now, as teens, they relish in this fun hunt and their just rewards!

Who wouldn't love going from this....

to this?
Once the baskets have been found it's time to start cooking. We've been cooking the same dishes for years now. This classic French Toast made with buttermilk is the best you will ever serve. I personally love this spicy Bloody Mary and of course it wouldn't be a spring brunch without asparagus in hollandaise sauce.

Martha Stewart's Classic Buttermilk French Toast Recipe from 1991
Martha Stewart's Spicy Bloddy Mary Recipe
Saveur's easy Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

Spring decor is always easy. With so many colorful blooms just outside the door all it takes are some simple vessels, a little moss, some blown eggs and voila! - instant spring. 

For a cheery welcome make this simple door decoration. Take an ordinary umbrella, tie a ribbon 1/3 way up. Create pockets with the front ribs then fill with moss, a nest with blown eggs, and some spring blooms tucked in vials or plastic bags filled with wet oasis.  Goodbye rain - hello sunshine!
Holiday decorating is easy when you keep it to a minimum and everything in the same color palette.
Keep it simple...
but add some special touches here and there. Who doesn't like a bunny?
(be sure to click on all the purple type for helpful links to the subject matter)

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Easter!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur