Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Come to the table

This is the time of year when a house is no longer four walls and a floor but rather a home filled with family and friends, laughter and joy!

As we gather together this week to celebrate our many blessings the dining room table becomes the focal point of our celebrations. In figuring out what my table will look like this year I ran across some great ideas that I wanted to share.

Simple Centerpieces

Pacific Fabrics and JoAnn's Fabric both sell burlap by the yard

A ring of oasis cut to fit over the candlestick allows you to easily tuck roses, berries and greens to create these sweet arrangements. The Flower Lady on Eastlake sells Oasis or ask at your local grovery store's floral department.

Vegetables, or fruits, in your color pallette make for a simple and interesting centerpiece.
Clean and modern. You can add names to the rocks for place cards or write words of thanks.

While hunting last month with my brother in Northern Idaho, we ran across perfect birch bark in the woods but unfortunately I didn't stop to pick any up.

So simple, it's nutty!

Simple place card ideas and links

Local art supply stores sell these cute little round push pins.

They say you can run fabric through your printer...I might try it with my extra burlap.

Wishing you and yours many blessings this Thanksgiving!

Until next time.

la chasse au bonheur

Monday, October 24, 2011

In the Dog House

This past weekend the Seattle Animal Shelter held its first annual "Raining Cats and Dogs" auction benefit. Due to a number of stars misaligning I had to miss this event but heard wonderful reviews from my husband.

Two of our three dogs (I know, we are certifiable) were adopted from rescue shelters so we know first hand the work these shelters are doing. And of course, in this economic downturn, how hard their budgets and donations have been hit. So this posting is for all the dedicated volunteers and workers who are doing god's work with these homeless animals. 

A few years ago I listed a home with five, yes, five Jack Russell Terriers. The funny thing was, when I was there, I never saw them. When I asked the owners where they were she pointed to a clever little cabinet in their family room. That clever cabinet opened to the back yard where a much larger dog house was smartly tucked away.

This benefit and our growing family of pets got me thinking about dog houses. I decided to research what's available, on the market so to speak! Man was I surprised to see the number of designer houses available. The economy has not hit this market....it seems as if the real estate market is doing just fine in the dog house arena.

There is no end to the architectural styles available. I found a dog house to match just about any style of home.

Tres Modern

Going Green

Traditional and Classic

Cottage Chic

yes, there's even an RV available

It seems as if the concept of the dog house has been rethought from the ground up. For those dedicated to spoiling their amicus fidelis protectio fortis (faithful friend, strong protector) the options are endless. 

I am off to walk the dogs, until next week,

la chasse au bonheur

Friday, September 23, 2011

pay now or pay later

but either way, you pay! I am referring to home maintenance, specifically those jobs that land on your honey do list but often fall off having never been done turning your home into this.

This recent market correction, while excruciatingly painful, has had some positive impacts on our local real estate market. 

Most notably are the changes to lending practices and the return to proper qualification for loan approval. In the past, as prices soared at a staggering rate, buyers cobbled together all their resources to make home ownership work, and lenders were all too eager to approve a higher loan amount with higher monthly mortgage payments. This left the new owners with little reserves and a lower monthly cash flow to make household repairs and to properly maintain their home. 

As the market corrected down along with the general economy, household cash flow was squeezed even more making dollars even tighter for home repairs and maintenance.

As a result, homeowners turned a blind eye to replacing the rusting hot water tank, repairing peeling window sills, and leveling sinking foundations, not to mention repairing leaning fences, uneven walk-ways and replacing fallen roof tiles. 

A friend in college purchased a shiny new BMW for her graduation present. She had worked three jobs her senior year to come up with the down payment. As she headed off to her first career job and a monthly salary that barely covered her rent, car payment and top ramen (sound familiar?), I asked her how she planned to maintain such a high performance car. Her reply, "I'll skip every other maintenance check-up. That'll save me a ton and I'm sure the car doesn't need them all". You guessed it, within the year her engine seized and she spent thousands to fix it.

So back to the lending practices. Now that the lenders' hands are being forced and buyers are being approved for home loans they can actually afford, buyers now have the monthly cash flow to create a reserve for household repairs. 

I see hundreds of homes every month and I attend close to forty inspections each year. I find it shocking to see how few homes have been maintained with pride. Don't get me wrong, I see many shiny new kitchens  and baths and lots of fresh paint. But what I do not see maintained are those critical working parts of the house that, ahem, are not all that sexy, but man are they necessary for a healthy home. I am talking about furnances, water heaters, foundation, decks, etc.

Perhaps the best way to think of it is what we hear from our dentist each year - preventative maintenance. That's right, brush twice daily, floss and get your annual check-ups. The same is true for your home. Preventative maintenance is the key to maintaining the value of your home. 

Notice I said maintaining the value of your home and not increasing the value of your home. Many sellers think that because they have maintained their home that their home's value has increased. I am sorry to burst the bubble, but that is not true. Think of it like a credit score. When you pay on time and fulfill your credit obligations then your credit scores are higher. But there is no accounting with the Credit Bureaus for paying your taxes - it's assumed that a responsible adult will pay their taxes. Home maintenance is the same. It is assumed you will maintain the home. If you don't keep up with the maintenance however, your home will depreciate in value. I know, life's simply unfair. 

Which leads me to the other fall out of our corrected market - the buyer's attitude. No longer will they buy a home, unless it is priced accordingly, with deferred maintenance. Buyers are demanding more, which is forcing sellers to put a higher quality product on the market. Not bad!

In addition, as sellers weigh the cost of trading up versus renovating, many are taking hammer and nails to their home to make it better....reinvesting in their investment is what I call it. But anyway you look at it, it's good. We see more quality on the market than in the past. 

So, keep your home painted, sealed and water tight. Clean your roof yearly and repair any missing tiles right away, check your foundation periodically. Maintain the home's systems by vacuuming out heating ducts, servicing the furnace and hot water tanks. Repair any water issues immediately.  Prune trees and shrubs as needed to stay away from the roof and power lines.  Have your chimney checked every few years by a mason and make sure there are rain caps on the chimney tops. Keep dirt away from any wood on the house. 

If you would like a copy (available in hard copy and virtual) of my Household Maintenance Check List and/or my 2011 Resource Guide with over 190 qualified vendors, pop me an email. 

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

from sea to shining sea

Recent news of our nation's economic situation, congress, the stock market and of course, the real estate market, including the all time low mortgage rates, warrants a hard hitting post. But I just don't have it in me. It's still the lazy days of summer and a fluff piece seems more appropriate.

I have been working on my annual client appreciation calendar. Whether concentrating on entertaining ideas, gardens, interior or exterior spaces, this calendar is always a hit.

This year I wanted to showcase the varied styles of homes that dot our nation, from sea to shining sea. The following photos are homes that while are absolutely lovely, did not make the final cut for my 2012 calendar.

I hope you enjoy this short tour across our great nation and that it helps remind us that we are united under the red, white and blue.
January - A Cedar Home rings in the New Year in Utah
February - Winter in a Pueblo Style Home in New Mexico
March - A Cattle Ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana
April - Spring Break in Miami
May - Memorial Day in Maine
June - Summer in the City, Brooklyn Brownstones to be exact
 July - Happy Birthday America from a Federal Style home in Iowa
August - Mint Juleps on the Veranda of this Louisiana Antebellum 
September - Welcoming Fall in this California Bungalow
October - Vermont Farmhouse in Fall Foliage
November - Giving Thanks in an Oregon Farmhouse
December - Down for a long Winter's nap in Illinois
If you would like a 2012 Calendar just pop me an email and I will get one off to you this coming November.

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur

Monday, August 1, 2011

Surf's up

Growing up in Lake Oswego, the beauty of the Oregon Coast was just a quick drive away. When I was young, our family took summer road trips whenever possible to this remarkable area. We spent endless days in surf and sand and nights in the modest beachside motels (virtually gone now) that flanked Route 101. 

Court Cottages, Seaside, Oregon
As I grew up so did the coastline. Child's play turned into long, romantic walks on the beach followed by weekend stays in charming inns that rival the world's most romantic getaways.  The sea, the ragged coastline, the wind swept trees are a big part of who I am. It is clear to say that the Oregon Coast runs through my veins.
Arch Cape Inn, Arch Cape, Oregon
It's no surprise then that I find myself back there. Not for me, but for my oldest daughter who has found a passion for surfing. As fate would have it, the stretch of coastline from Seaside to Manzanita is ideal for surfing!

Renee at 'The Cove/Avenue U', Seaside, Oregon
Renee watching the surf at 'Short Sands', Oswald West State Park, Oregon
 All this surfing, leaves lots of time to explore the string of quaint beach towns. 
Gearhart, Oregon
Loving the charm of a true cottage, I feel as if I have hit pay dirt. The younger version of me didn't appreciate the sweetness of these homes, rather I spent time dreaming of ice cream and boys. Now as I tool around the towns, up and down narrow lanes I relish in the sweet sights of these shingled beachside cottages.

It is no wonder I love these so, they're not too far off from the cottages I dream about in the UK.

I have always loved the look of the neutral Nantucket interiors. In fact, Pam Robinson, owner of Red Ticking, a store in Madison Valley, became a friend because of the countless hours I spent in her store. On my 'to do if I win the lottery' list is buy a beach house and have Pam appoint the interior with her incredible found objects and keen eye for all things perfect.

I did noticed a lot of 'for sale' signs during these past trips. It seems inventory levels are high right now at the coast. The economy appears to be putting a damper on vacation home ownership. With the high level of inventory in a corrected market, it seems that now might be the time to buy a cottage by the beach.

If you are considering buying a vacation property, here are some points to keep in mind. 

Location: Is it easily accessible or do you need to depend on a costly ferry or minimally maintained service road? Is it close enough to home that you can use it on weekends or is it just for longer stays a few times a year?

Looking ahead: Your family needs will change over time. You may face retirement or changes to your work situation. Teenagers may not want to spend time away from friends or may have work and school schedules that make family vacations harder. Could your children or extended family use the cabin without you there?

Financial factors: Beyond the initial expense of buying a vacation home, consider the ongoing maintenance, insurance, property taxes that you will need. If your plan is to rent the cabin out and offset some expenses, find out if rentals are permitted in that area. Then consider when you may wish to use it yourself. If you're there during peak times you will lose a portion of your rental income.  With a rental you will also have additional insurance and maintenance costs, and possibly property management costs. 

Vacation home ownership isn't for everyone. If it's not for you, consider renting a cottage by the week or month. There are plenty of management companies (big and small) who can ease this process.

And if that's not in the future, then how about pulling up a chair, pouring a Long Island Iced Tea and spending the afternoon lost in this month's Coastal Living magazine?  Just hang out this sign and exhale!

Here are some links that will help you explore the Oregon Coast. Lexie Hallahan is the owner and director of NW Women's Surf Camps and is an amazing teacher. I graduated High School with Lexie and have enjoyed catching up with her while she has been teaching my daughter to surf. Now I just need to get out there....next time! Enjoy the summer, wherever you may be. 

The town of Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals

NW Women's Surf Camps and Lessons

Cleanline Surf Shops, Seaside and Cannon Beach, Oregon

Until next time.

la chasse au bonheur