Newsletter

How to Clean Up Your Garden for Fall & Winter

Tidy your garden for fall and winter before the first frost to keep it comely even after the growing ends.

Growing season is winding down, but your garden still needs your love. Spent vines, stubborn weeds, greens gone to seed are making your garden look sloppy and tired.

Here are some fall vegetable garden cleanup tips.
Bury the dead

Nothing looks sadder than leggy tomato vines, yellow zucchini leaves, and dried-up perennials that long ago displayed their last bloom. So pull and prune the dead or dying plants in your garden.
Bury spent plants in your compost pile; double-bag diseased and infested plants and place in the trash. (Empty mulch bags are great final resting places for these plants, so be sure to stockpile them in spring.)
If your tomato vines are still bearing fruit, keep staking and pruning them until the first hard frost, when they’ll likely die. And give the birds a break and leave some seed-bearing but spent blooms for them. They love sunflowers, cone flowers, berries, and black-eyed Susans.
Pull weeds

This is the last time this season to pull weeds. Pluck them before they flower and send seeds throughout your garden that will rest in winter and sprout in spring.
If you have a mulcher, chop the weeds and throw them on your compost pile. If you want to be extra sure that weed seeds are dead, bag weeds in black plastic and place in a sunny place for a couple of months. The heat will kill the seeds. Then throw the cooked weeds on your compost pile.
Harvest seeds

One way to cut garden expenses is to harvest and store seeds. One large sunflower, for instance, can provide seeds for hundreds of plants next spring. Here are some seed guidelines.

  • Disease can spread through seeds, so only harvest seeds from your healthiest plants.
  • Don’t harvest seeds from hybrid plants, which often are sterile or will look nothing like the parent plant.
  • Only harvest mature seeds from dry and faded blooms and pods. Mature seeds are often cream colored or brown.
  • After seeds are dry, store them in envelopes or glass jars in a cool, dry place.

Gather supports

Stack and cover metal tomato cages. Bundle wooden or bamboo stakes, and store in a dry place so they don’t rot over winter. And retrieve panty-hose vine ties that you can re-use next spring.
Instead of throwing out broken cages and stakes, repurpose them. Snip off remaining cage legs to use for pepper supports. Broken tomato steaks will support smaller plants if you whittle one end into a point, so it easily slips into the ground.

 

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon        

Published: August 21, 2012


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Will my new credit score make it easier for me to get a mortgage?

 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau thinks it will.

The home mortgage market in the second quarter improved as demand increased and many banks eased their lending standards.  Note that in August, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.12 percent.

New credit scores

A change in how credit scores are tallied will likely make it easier for millions of Americans to get loans and mortgages.  Fair Isaac Corp. has stopped including in its FICO credit-score calculations any record of a consumer failing to pay a bill if the bill has been paid or settled with a collection agency. Further, they will give less weight to unpaid medical bills that are with a collection agency.

These moves are the result of discussions with lenders and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Under the previous system, collections could impact credit scores as much as foreclosures and bankruptcies did. That is changing.

Promoting mortgages and loans

The changes are expected to increase lending, especially among borrowers who were shut out by high interest rates and low credit scores.  The rules are aimed at boosting lending without raising credit risk. Most consumer infractions are small. For example, they are generally on time paying their bills, but disrupted by a  medical emergency. More than half of all debt-collection activity on credit reports comes from medical bills, according to the Federal Reserve.

"The new rules expand banks' ability to make loans to people who might not have qualified, and to offer lower interest rates to others," said Nessa Feddis, senior vice president of consumer protection and payments at the American Bankers Association.


Smart homes make some very cool sales.

Smart homes powered by smart phones are coming in the near future and they are coming a big way.  From high end integrated systems to basic kits, homes are getting smarter and, as you might expect, the smarter a home is the more valuable.

 According to IHS Electronics and Media, 20 million home automation devices shipped worldwide in 2012, with 1.5 million home automation systems installed in the U.S. in 2012.  That number is expected to rise to 8 million by 2017.  But today there are smart homes and there are really smart homes.  At the high end, Creston home automation is an example of a company whose installation can start at a cool $1 million for complete control of a home.

 Coming home from vacation?  Get your smart phone out, turn up the air conditioning, heat up the hot tub, turn on the lights and, when you arrive, wave your phone across a door sensor to enter. Sweet, but you still have to carry the luggage unless the footman is available. According to the New York Times, this sort of integrated system, installed during construction or at remodel, can set a high end house apart from the competition. But homes that are not built to be smart, can get some learning for just a little bit of effort and money.

A smart home that does some very basic tasks, using a broadband internet connection and a computer, tablet or smart phone, are becoming very affordable.  ADT offers a beginning system for about $80.  Lowes' DIY Iris System, for example, costs $179 for basic components and requires little more than a broadband connection and a phillips head screwdriver to install. These are a component group that connects with a broadband modem. You can buy various components to suit your needs. For example, if you want to control lights, you can buy smart plugs for lamps and decide when the lights will go on and off.  With a pet collar device, your pet doors will open and close as the animal approaches the door.

Video cameras can let you see your house when you are away and keypads will email you if someone opens the door without a code. Nearly every system offers thermostat control, but beware. Customer reviews note that if you do not understand how the system works, or if you make the wrong setting, your utility bills could soar on your mistake -- especially if you are out of town. Other home features that you can install include entertainment controls, voice controls, security pendants for seniors, and window monitoring. These modest systems will probably offer sellers a slight 'wow' edge -- if they work properly.  But they could also detract from a sale if the buyer likes another brand.


Seattle ninth-best U.S. market for home sellers and Sammamish friendliest city

Zillow reports that home sellers in only eight other U.S. cities have more leverage than Seattle home sellers while Forbes says Sammamish is the friendliest city in the United States.  Perhaps Seattle sellers should consider buying in Sammamish.  I can help them with that!

Seattle ninth-best U.S. market for home sellers: Report - Puget Sound Business Journal.

My favorite part of the Sammamish article is this quote.. “Wives in the suburban Seattle community have been known to swap recipes while their husbands borrow tools. Children play in the cul-de-sacs and walk to school by themselves if they live close enough,”   Hey wait a minute, isn't there a TV series based on this?  Anyone ever watch Leave it to Beaver?  OK, granted Sammamish is a GREAT place to live but is this really what they are basing this on?  How about low crime, great schools, affordable housing, proximity to jobs and amenities?

http://www.issaquahpress.com/2012/12/26/forbes-ranks-sammamish-as-friendliest-city/

So here is the question.. Why do YOU think Sammamish is America's friendliest city?  The best response to this question will receive a $20 Tully's gift card, that's right the NEW about to be owned by "McDreamy"  Patrick Dempsy.

 


Bathroom Renovations Made Simple

The bathroom is one of the most popular home renovation sites. While some homeowners seek to dramatically redesign their bathrooms to create luxurious spa-like escapes, others plan basic renovations to upgrade fixtures and improve the value of the home. For these homeowners, and everyone in between, here are some easy tips to make a bathroom renovation painless.

8 Tips for a Stress-Free Bathroom Renovation

  1. Choose your colors well. Stick with classic colors and neutrals, especially if you plan to sell in the near future. However, if you like a bold look, but don’t want to paint the room a vibrant color, select bright colored fixtures. The faucet, light fixtures, rugs, towels and artwork all provide opportunities for bold pops of color.
  2. Know the building codes. If you need permits, apply early to make sure you get them in time. Also, make a list of the professionals you’ll need to enlist to get the job done. Bathroom renovations often become expensive because of the materials used and the specialists you have to hire, such as plumbers, electricians, etc.
  3. Keep lighting in mind. The bathroom is where we get ready to start our days, so make sure yours is properly lit. If your bathroom is windowless, keep your walls a light color to make the most of artificial light. Look for UV lights.
  4. Maintain the same footprint. If you decide to move the waste line, your costs will increase. Instead, keep the toilet and shower where they are, and only replace the fixtures themselves.
  5. Do it yourself. If your tub has a few cracks, repair it yourself. You can also install the toilet yourself as long as you’re only replacing the toilet and not the plumbing.
  6. Save money on cabinetry. Instead of expensive custom cabinets, buy stock or semi-custom cabinets, vanities and vanity tops, or use refinished side cabinets or a bedside table for storage.
  7. Keep your space functional. A pedestal or wall-mounted corner sink can free up space for extra storage or luxury fixtures.
  8. Go faux. Use tile that looks like natural stone—it’s cheaper and lower maintenance than real stone.

Remodeling the bathroom has a 64.1% return on investment.
Source: Realtor® Magazine, January 2011

The cost of the average bathroom renovation is $5,000, but can climb to $25,000 for a high-end project.
Source: Consumer Reports, January 2008

Install Green to Save Green

More than half of our indoor water use occurs in the bathroom.* As rates increase in many areas across America, homeowners are replacing old fixtures with ones that conserve water. In fact, many water districts and cities offer rebates for installing water saving faucets and toilets. Did you know that before 1992, the average toilet used 3.5 gallons of water per flush and the average showerhead used 5.5 gallons per minute? New toilets use a mere 1.6 gallons of water per flush, while the average high-efficiency showerhead uses 2.5 gallons per minute or less.*
Additionally, low-flow showerheads and faucets enable you to reduce your water-heating costs. This translates to more money in your pocket and less wasted water.

Do you need to replace your showerhead?
This simple experiment will give you an idea of how much water, and money, is going down the drain. Place a bucket under your showerhead and turn on the water. Time how long it takes for the water to reach the one-gallon mark. If it takes less than 20 seconds for water from your showerhead to reach the one-gallon mark, you may want to install a low-flow showerhead.  When replacing older models of faucets, toilets and showerheads, look for high-efficiency models bearing the WaterSense label, which meets third-party certification through the Environmental Protection Agency.

Green on the cheap
A cost-effective way to regulate the flow of your faucet is to replace the aerator, the screen at the tip of the faucet. For maximum efficiency, purchase an aerator  with a flow rate of one gallon per minute (GPM) or less. To make sure you buy the right size, unscrew the aerator from your existing faucet and match it with the options at the store.


The State of America’s Housing Market a look at the big picture

With spring on the horizon, many people are beginning to think about selling their homes. Even those not currently considering a move are curious about the state of the American housing market.

The information we are sending this month is intended to give you an overview of what’s going on in the national housing market. The statistics offered on the first page provide a glimpse into current trends and predictions for the year, while page two delves into the financing choices of recent homebuyers.

Here is a quick review of today's More than 80% of Americans view housing as critical to the nation’s economic recovery, and nearly 70% feel that a presidential candidate’s position on housing will be an important consideration in the voting booth.1 Whether you’re thinking of buying, selling or are actively involved in the market, the statistics below will give you a clearer perspective of the state of the market.

Current National Trends in Housing

  • 70% of Americans view owning a home as part of the American dream.2
  • 62% of consumers feel that buying a home in the current market is a good investment over the next 10 years.3
  • $190,000: Median home price,4 up from $170,000 the previous year 5
  • $155,000: Median home price of first-time buyers 4
  • $219,500: Median home price of repeat buyers 4
  • Homeownership rate rose to 66.1% in Q3 2011, up from 66.0% in Q2 2011.
  • 6 95% of metro areas are expected to see home prices rise in the next year.7 75.1% of homeowners state that their home defines their identity.1 

Buyer Overview

  • Buyers searched for a median of 12 weeks and visited 12 homes before they found the one they purchased.4
  •  27% of homebuyers, including 60% of first-time homebuyers, said that the desire to own a home of their own was the biggest reason they bought.4
  • First-time homebuyers comprise 37% of the market.4
  •  64% of all buyers are married couples,18% are single women, 10% are single men and 7% are unmarried couples.4
  • $80,900: The median household income of homebuyers.4
  • 84% of buyers purchased a previously-owned home and 16% purchased a new home.4

 Seller Overview

  • 35% of homes were on the market less than 2 months before they sold.6 The average time a home was on the market was 9 weeks.4
  • 66% of sellers were first-time sellers.4
  • 39% of sellers did not reduce the asking price,
  • 26% of sellers reduced it once and 35% reduced the price two or more times.4

Sources: 1. Move, Inc. 2. Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2011 3. Bank of America: Mortgage Index Study, December 8, 2011 4. National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2011 5. National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2010 6. National Association of REALTORS® 7. CNN Money, November 4, 2011

Financing the Home Purchase Talk to Your Real Estate Professional Today! While these figures provide an overview of the national market, keep in mind that your local market may differ. Consult your trusted real estate professional for more information about your local market.

  • The average rent on vacant properties is 28% higher than the average mortgage payment.1
  • The estimated median monthly mortgage principal and interest payment of a first-time homebuyer was $794.2
  • The estimated median monthly mortgage principal and interest payment of a repeat buyer was $1,006.2
  • 94% of buyers financed their home purchase, including 96% of 25-44 year olds 82% of 45-64 year olds 66% of buyers 65 and older 2
  •  35% of buyers had a down payment of 20% or more.2
  • 74% of consumers who plan to buy a home in the next 12 months will use their personal savings for a down payment.3
  • The average buyer financed 89% of the home purchase.2
  • 94% of first-time homebuyers chose a fixed-rate mortgage.2
  • 54% of first-time homebuyers used a low down payment FHA mortgage.2
  • Mortgage rates are expected to rise and reach 4.5% by mid-2012.4

Sources: 1. Forbes, November 14, 2011 2. National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2011 3. Bank of America: Mortgage Index Study, December 8, 2011 4. National Association of REALTORS®


OK, It's real estate..

When one of my clients called the other day with a real estate question, I was surprised when she prefaced the question with “I know your main business is mortgage but...” I was delighted to help her with her question and found it interesting that the image I had cultivated is that mortgage is my primary business. One of the things this tells me is I need to do a better job educating my clients, so here goes.

Real estate is my primary business. In pursuit of my goal of delivering excellent service in real
estate I found that a consistent weakness in transactions was the mortgage component. This led me to the conclusion that the only way to make sure my clients were adequately served was to become
an expert in mortgage as well as real estate. I began serving my clients with their mortgage needs more than 18 years ago. The objective of the mortgage company has, from our first day in business, been threefold:

1. To serve my real estate clients by thoroughly educating them about their financing options so that they can select the best mortgage product for their needs.

2. To deliver competitive interest rates and low fees.

3. To maintain the highest level of integrity putting client needs first always.

Because of this we weathered the mortgage industry meltdown in a market that most of our
competitors did not survive.

As stated previously, real estate is my primary business but a large part of my success is the unique
ability to merge both the real estate and mortgage component taking service to a higher level. Even in the event that my client uses another source for their mortgage financing, the same level of
service and heart of the teacher are there.

In closing I would like to take a moment and say thank you to my many, many loyal clients who helped me during this very difficult time by referring friends and family for both their
real estate and mortgage needs. I can never thank you enough for your loyalty and support. I am blessed because of you.

Brian


How to Avoid Scams This Holiday Season

 Anyone can be the victim of a scam. However, there are several common sense ways to prevent being swindled:

  • Beware of pop-up ads online. While these ads may promise big savings, you’ll only receive steep monthly charges.
  • Your bank will never send you an email to verify your account or social security number. These email schemes are common and can look quite convincing. However, if you receive such an email, report it to your bank immediately.
  • Shred your paper statement. If you choose to receive paper statements in the mail, make sure you shred them when you’re finished.
  • Don’t do any financial transactions on a public computer. This includes everything from checking your statements to shopping online.
  • If you plan to shop online, purchase the latest antivirus and antispyware software and make sure you update it regularly.

Beware of these debit card scams
Many of the latest scams involve stealing information from debit cards. Common ways to steal or copy information from your debit card include:

  •  Card theft: The thief uses a special device that makes it appear as if your bank card is stuck in the machine. After you leave, they steal your card.
  • Double swipe: The thief, a staff member of the store or restaurant, swipes your card through a hidden device that duplicates the magnetic information.
  •  Copycat technology: The thief inserts a tiny device into the card reader of a cash machine or gas station to record your card and PIN data.
  •  Faux Machines: Thieves set up a phony ATM machine that records your card and PIN information and makes a duplicate card.

Unlike credit cards, where you’re only responsible for $50 if it’s lost or stolen, you may be held responsible for the unauthorized charges if you do not notify your bank within two business days. Sign up for online ranking and review your account balances daily for unauthorized charges.


Score Top Deals This Holiday Season

Here are some tips to help you take advantage of the significant discounts the season has to offer. This holiday season is right around the corner and you know what that means: Black Friday. While many people brave the crowds before dawn to capitalize on big savings from major retailers, others sleep in and surf the internet for similar deals. Whatever your strategy, this month's information will help you prepare for the holiday shopping season. The first page offers tips and tricks to help you score deals on gifts for everyone on your list. Page two provides valuable information about how to avoid scams and protect your credit and debit card information both in the store and online.

  • Make a list. Create a shopping list of items you hope to purchase on Black Friday, whether for you or the people on your holiday list, and stick to it.
  • Do your homework. Use a pricing search engine, such as http://milo.com, to find store deals in your area and to ensure that the product you want is in stock.
  • Compare sales. Go to http://pricegrabber.com to compare sale prices at different retailers and find the best deal.
  • Get sale information early. To get the inside scoop on Black Friday sales, join the email lists of your favorite retailers. Many companies send emails leading up to the sale to advertise deals and provide exclusive discount codes and maps featuring sale items.
  • Avoid the crowds and go online instead. Many major retailers, including Macy’s,Kohl’s and Wal-Mart, offer the same bargains online as they do in their stores. Check the retailers’ websites to find out when the deals will be available.
  • Score big on Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, with exclusive online discounts the Monday after Black Friday. Nearly 77% of online retailers send promotional emails to subscribers in the days leading up to Cyber Monday. If you're not on the email list of your favorite retailer, now is the time to join.

You won't find me out on Black Friday, but I do hope to have all my shopping done by Thanksgiving. Please share your Holiday Shopping tips in the comments section below!


Valentine's Day Newsflash! Cupcakes...the New Box of Chocolate

If you're looking for great Valentine's day ideas to love up that special someone here is a great list of idea to show the one you love how much they mean to you!

Cupcakes… the new box of chocolates. Cupcakes are all the rage… here are some local cupcake bakeries.

Bellevue has Cupcake Royale, www.cupcakeroyale.com; New York Cupcakes, www.newyorkcupcakes.com and Trophy Cupcakes, www.trophycupcakes.com.

Issaquah now has Confetti Cupcakes, www.confetti-cakes.com

Redmond has PinkaBella Cupcakes, www.pinkaliciouscupcakes.com

Renton has Common Ground Coffee & Cupcakes, www.commongroundcupcakes.com

In Seattle you can find several choices: Cupcake Royale, www.cupcakeroyale.com; Look Cupcake, www.lookcupcake.com; The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co., www.theyellowleafcupcake.com and Trophy Cupcakes, www.trophycupcakes.com; Wink Cupcakes, www.winkcupcakes.com

If your sweettheart doesn't have a sweet tooth, check out these unique ideas to show your affection.
For the traveler or adventurer look to www.xperiencedays.com, www.kerdowney.com, www.cloud9living.com for great ideas.

For the foodie head to www.swinerymeats.com, www.homebrewers.com, www.tastebudsmarketplace.com for tasty ideas.

For the techie or science lover do some sleuthing on www.npowerpeg.com, www.thinkgeek.com or
www.x-tremegeek.com.