Bringing Your Plants Inside for Winter

Winters in many parts of the Western U.S. can easily see temperatures that dip down below freezing. For many gardening homeowners, this can be troublesome when precious plants are concerned. Covering your plants with sheets may not be enough to save a plant from succumbing to freezing temperatures. Check out these ways to bring your plants inside for winter:

Take Inventory of Plants

Unless you have planted exotic plants that are definitely not going to survive cold temperatures, there are probably more than a few plants within your yard that should be okay. Healthy native plants are used to the climate of your area and should be able to withstand the winter temperatures without any issue. Those plants that are better suited for a higher growing zone will need to be cared for in order to best survive the season. Consider every plant within your yard and access their health, maturity, and location in order to choose which plants to bring indoors.

Indoor Placement

Exotic plants love the sun and should be placed near southern facing windows that aren’t drafty or cold. Create a spot within your home that is far from drafts or cold breezes from open doors. Spread plastic sheeting to protect flooring and create a little greenhouse group of plants that will still receive plenty of sunlight. Refrain from placing plants too close together in order to allow for equal access to sunlight and air flow.

Container Issues

Many potted plants can easily be moved indoors without having to transplant them. Easily place potted plants in a group to ride out the winter season. In-ground plants within your landscape will need to be transplanted to a container in order to bring them indoors. Make sure that you consider the size of the plant and use a container that is big enough around for the root ball of the plant. Using a container that is much too large for a plant is better than one that is too small and could damage the plant’s root system.

Keep the Fan On

Many indoor plants enjoy being near a window but will also need adequate air circulation to prevent soggy soil conditions. It is a good idea to keep the ceiling fan on in the room, at a low speed, in order to keep the air moving within the room. Don’t place plants too close to heating vents in order to keep them from becoming too hot and overheated. Plants that produce browning leaves will need to be moved to a room with a humidifier in order to keep them in good condition as well.

Keep Pets Away

Many indoor plants can become curious items for an indoor pet. Make sure to keep pets away from plants in order to keep both safe. Some tropical plants are toxic for animals and some pets can prove damaging to plants. Create a barrier between plants and animals so that both are kept safe during the winter season.

Water & Dust

Keeping your plants watered indoors may look different than what it receives in an outdoor environment. Make sure to consider the plant before watering in order to keep it in soil that it prefers. Many winter climates will not see a lot of added water so choosing to water your indoor plants at a minimum will help mimic those conditions that it would receive outside.

Also, check the plants for accumulating dust that can easily be found after a few weeks indoors. Dust off plants on a regular basis in order to keep them healthy and able to absorb important nutrients. Use a wet cloth to gently wipe down leaves in order to keep dust free from indoor plants.

There are many things to consider when choosing to bring plants indoors for winter. Make sure to choose plants carefully and monitor their progress as the winter season wears on. Consider all of these tips for bringing your plants inside for winter in order to keep them from freezing outdoors.

 

By Kelly Holland on the Windermere Blog

Kelly Holland is a gardening and landscape design writer who loves experimenting in her kitchen. Her quirky nature loves a bright color palette so naturally, her coveted garden is covered in a rainbow of fruits, vegetable, and flowers. 

Posted on November 28, 2018 at 11:47 am
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How to Stay Safe During the Holidays With Design and Planning

While many people look forward to the arrival of a jolly red-suited visitor one night this winter, for all of us the holidays are a gift and a danger. All of us want to stay safe from burglary, and there’s nothing paranoid about taking a bit of extra time to stay safe. The holidays are a time for relaxation, peace of mind, and sharing love and affection. From old-school security tricks to new digital home monitoring tools, there are many options when it comes to keeping our homes safe and preserving that sensibility.

Security bars and gates:

Sometimes the simplest security is just deterring people from trying to get in. While security bars across windows are a great way to keep intruders out of your home, they can be a real eyesore. Luckily, there are now options for decorative security bars that simultaneously protect your home while enhancing its beauty.

Upgrade your locks:

A poorly installed deadbolt can make it easy for an intruder to kick in your door. Start by making sure that your door frames are in good condition and then look into getting a higher quality deadbolt. You’ll find everything from classic models with keys, or digital options that require passcodes or a fingerprint.

It’s also a good idea to check all the locks on your windows. Some older models are easy to jimmy open with a little wiggling. For ground floor windows, you may want to consider double locks. It goes without saying, leaving windows open during the summer is a bad idea – especially those that can be easily accessed.

Exterior and interior home lighting:

Having your exterior lights on timers or motion sensors is a good way to deter nighttime snoopers. Add sensor lights to key entry points on your home, including the front door, back door, and/or basement entries. If you have an unused side yard, consider lighting there too. Keeping your home lit makes unwanted visitors weary of being seen.

If you will be gone from your home for an extended period of time, consider using timed lighting options in your home to make it appear someone is around. You can select timers for bedrooms or living areas. Also, you can program a radio to turn on and off for sound.

Alarm systems:

If you are considering an alarm, you have an array of options that vary from self-install motion detection kits to full-service home security systems. If you choose to do-it-yourself, you will want to install motion detectors on doors and windows – especially those that can be easily accessed on the ground floor. In most cases, these kits also offer a 24-hour call service for an extra fee.

Full-service security systems can include everything from an alarm system and panic buttons to and integration with your smoke detectors/ fire prevention system. These services are expensive up front but usually have a reasonable monthly rate. And keep in mind, having a home security system installed can also reduce your insurance rates.

If installing an alarm system is cost-prohibitive or does not fit your lifestyle, consider purchasing stickers and a sign that state that your home is monitored by a trusted security system, and place them so they are visible at every entrance.

Security cameras:

Security cameras are readily available for home installation. You can install these in prominently viewed places to deter burglars. There are do-it-yourself install options and professional systems that come along with monitoring services. There are even options that will work with your smartphone. If the cost of security cameras is too steep for your budget, you can purchase fake cameras to act as a visible deterrent for intruders.

Build your community:

Programs like Neighborhood Watch are very successful in some communities, by creating an environment where everyone is looking out for each other. Building close-knit relationships with your neighbors can go a long way in making you feel safe at home. Whether this is through a formalized program, or a shared agreement with your community, developing relationships with your neighbors is a great way to keep your home safe.

 

Posted on the Winderemre Blog by John Trupin

Posted on November 27, 2018 at 11:40 am
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The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring a Contractor  

 

Constructing or remodeling a home is a complex, expensive endeavor. Ideally, everything goes as planned, and when the dust clears, the homeowner can settle in and enjoy the new home — and never think about the building process again.

But what happens when, nine months after the owner moves in, the floor develops a crack, the dishwasher begins to leak or the shower water won’t run hot? Or when these things happen three years later? It’s time to refer to an all-important piece of the contract: the warranty.

What Is a Warranty?

The purpose of a warranty is to protect both the homeowner and the builder — homeowners from shoddy work with no recourse; builders from being liable for projects for the rest of their lives.

A warranty may be included in a contract, or it may not be since it’s not required. There is no standard length of time for one. Rather, a warranty is a negotiable portion of the overall agreement (contract) between a homeowner and a contractor.

The laws that relate to warranties are somewhat vague and vary by state, so the advantage of having one as part of the contract is that everything can be clearly spelled out. However, by agreeing to a particular warranty without understanding its finer points, owners may inadvertently limit the protections they would have otherwise had under the law.

“A warranty describes the problems and remedies for which the builder will be responsible after completion of the project, as well as the duration of the warranty and the mechanism for addressing disputes,” says David Jaffe, vice president of legal advocacy at the National Association of Home Builders.

At least in the ideal case.

 

The Law Governing Warranties

Before homeowners agree to a particular warranty as part of their contract, it’s important to understand what protections they already have under the law. In the U.S., we have a legal concept of an implied warranty — which is a warranty that does not have to be spelled out in the contract but is simply understood to exist thanks to the law. There are two important implied warranties when it comes to home construction.

The first is the implied warranty of good workmanship, which is the reasonable expectation that a home will be built in a workmanlike manner. The second is the implied warranty of habitability, which is the reasonable expectation that the home will be safe to inhabit.

The implied warranties, however, have limits in the form of statutes of limitation and statutes of repose, which essentially are time clocks that determine for how long a homeowner may sue a contractor.

Statutes of limitation in each state dictate how long an owner can invoke various types of legal claims — for example, a breach of contract claim.

Statutes of repose apply specifically to construction projects and set the time for which builders and designers are liable for their product. These also vary by state. In California, the statute of repose is four years for most defects, but 10 years for latent defects (those that aren’t observable right away, such as a faulty foundation). In Georgia, the statute of repose is eight years for all claims related to the design or construction of the building.

Finally, most states also have a right to repair law, which means that before homeowners can sue a contractor, they need to notify the contractor of the problem and give him or her a chance to come to see it and repair it.

To find out what the laws are in your state, simply do an online search for “statute of repose” and “right to repair” in your state.

 

The One-Year Warranty

The key thing to understand about warranties is that many builders offer their own warranty in lieu of the implied warranty. Additionally, many contracts specify that homeowners are giving up their rights to the implied warranty by agreeing to the builder’s express warranty. Also, builders will “often try to shorten statutes of limitation and statutes of repose. Some states allow you to do that. Others don’t,” says Anthony Lehman, an Atlanta attorney who advises homeowners.

Though there is no industry-wide standard, many residential contractors have adopted a one-year warranty for their contracts. The practice likely trickled down from commercial construction, where a callback warranty is typical. A callback warranty means that within one year, a building owner has the right to call back the contractor and expect him or her to repair work, Lehman says.

The downside for homeowners who agree to a one-year warranty is that they likely trade away their right to the implied warranty, and they may also agree to limit the time they have to discover a defect and sue. Obviously, this is a plus for builders because it limits their risk.

But there is no real reason a homeowner has to accept a one-year warranty simply because that’s the builder’s first offer. “It’s a negotiated point, and people can negotiate warranties that are broader — and they often do,” says Robert C. Procter, outside general counsel for the Wisconsin Builders Association. “If you don’t ask for more, you won’t get more.”

 

Pros and Cons of a Builder’s Warranty

Though a one-year warranty may seem like a poor deal for a homeowner, a contract with details spelled out does provide an upside: some degree of clarity in the process. Ideally, a warranty includes not only the time period that the warranty covers, but also the standards by which various materials will be evaluated, and the steps to follow when a problem arises.

In a minority of states, the legislature has codified what a warranty is and how long it lasts for a variety of materials, Jaffe says. They are California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. If you live in one of these states, you can refer to the state-set standards.

If you do not, one option is to refer to the NAHB’s publication Residential Construction Performance Guidelines. “It’s broken down by categories within the home: foundations, exterior, interior, roofing, plumbing,” Jaffe says. “If there’s an issue that comes up, you look in this publication, and it tells you what the observation is — what’s the problem.” The guide then spells out what the corrective measure — if any — should be.

If you decide to use this guide as the standards by which problems will be judged, be sure you read it first and are comfortable with its terms. Sometimes having the terms spelled out is simpler than relying on the implied warranty because the implied warranty is so vague.

“The implied warranty doesn’t have a fixed time; it’s a reasonable period of time,” says Jaffe, of the NAHB. “If you’re a homeowner, and you call your builder up in year five and say, ‘There’s a crack here, and I think you should come out and fix it because it’s a defect,’ well, at that point, it may or may not be related to something that the builder did or didn’t do. Is it a defect? Who is going to make that determination? What is the fix? Who is responsible for it?”

Relying on the implied warranty means that these sorts of questions would need to be resolved in court if the parties aren’t willing to, or can’t, come to an agreement on their own. Open for debate is whether an item is a warranty item, and for how long it’s covered. Having these issues determined in court can be an expensive, time-consuming headache for everyone involved.

Still, some attorneys say owners might be better off with the implied warranty than giving up their rights for a limited one provided by the builder. “You build a house, and you expect it to be there for a long time. The buildings in Europe have been there a long time. The pyramids have been there a long time. The question is how long is it reasonable for you to expect it to last,” says Susan Linden McGreevy, an attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, who specializes in commercial real estate work. “If it has to get before a jury, the contractor has lost already. What I mean is, the jury will always find in favor of a homeowner — unless they’re a real flake.”

 

Going Beyond Warranties

Despite all this talk of legalities, there is an important caveat: Many good builders will continue to be helpful even after their express warranty has passed. Anne Higuera, co-owner of Ventana Construction in Seattle, provides a one-year warranty to her clients. Nonetheless, Ventana has made repairs and fixes even years after the one-year warranty expired. Higuera says the company does so because the builders want good relationships with their customers, and because they feel as though it’s the right thing to do. “Warranty issues come up very rarely if you do things well in the first place,” Higuera says. “Just finding a contractor who does the right thing on the front end helps you avoid issues with warranty.”

 

More Ways to Protect Yourself

So what should homeowners do if a builder is offering only a one-year warranty? One option is to negotiate for a longer period of time. “You might want to say, ‘I’ll take a one-year warranty for everything except latent defects,’” McGreevey says. (Reminder: Those are the kind that take a long time to discover, such as foundation problems.)

Another option owners have is to ask builders about insurance products. Many builders offer products with an extended warranty — as long as 10 years — that is backed by insurance companies. These are typically paid for by the builder, with the cost passed on to the homeowner.

Third, homeowners would be wise to consult an attorney to make sure that they’re not giving up rights unknowingly. Given that owners are spending thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction, paying for five to 10 hours of an attorney’s time (at $300 per hour, $1,500 to $3,000) to ensure that the contract is sound is probably a good investment. “Would you buy a car for $50,000 and not read any of the financing information?” says Lehman, the Atlanta attorney. “And then people do that for a home construction project.”

Finally, the most important thing is for both contractors and owners to screen each other carefully. “Ninety-eight percent of the homeowner-builder relationships, when there’s a disagreement, most parties reach a reasonable conclusion, even if they’re not 100 percent happy,” says Procter, the Wisconsin attorney. “The contracts matter more when someone is not being reasonable.”

 

By Erin Carlyle Houzz.com on the Windermere Blog

Posted on November 27, 2018 at 11:40 am
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Designing the Perfect Home Office to Work From Home In Style

 

Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes work. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to rise and grind and get into work mode.

Having a designated workspace is quite possibly the most important piece to the work-from-home pie. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall wellbeing. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? Here are the top five:

Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.

To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.

Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.

Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance.

Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.

 

By John Trupin on the Windermere Blog

Posted on November 9, 2018 at 12:52 pm
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How Reliable Are Home Valuation Tools?

by John Trupin on the Windermere Blog

What’s your home worth?

It seems like a simple question, but finding that answer is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And which one do you believe if you get three different answers? Online valuation tools have become a key part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve been proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. One thing that is for certain is that these valuation tools have reinforced that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were – and maybe even more so now.

There are limitations to every online valuation tool. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate”, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 4.5%, with varying accuracy across the country. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that amounts to a difference of about $31,500 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar ranges in results. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no small wonder that there are discrepancies, as they rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.

Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services(MLSs) all over the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, but also rely on public records, as well as homeowners’ records. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of the dangers of relying too heavily on them.

Home valuation tools can be a useful starting point in the real estate process, but nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about a home’s unique characteristics or those of the surrounding neighborhood. They also can’t answer your questions about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market. All of this – and more – can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.

If you’re curious what your home might be worth, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations about your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agent who can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could sell for in today’s market.

Posted on October 3, 2018 at 4:53 pm
Bellevue Commons | Category: Bellevue News, Home owner tips, Home Selling, Windermere Bellevue Commons News | Tagged

Transforming Your House from Summer Home to Winter Hideaway

by John Trupin  on the Windermere Blog

None of us want to admit it, but Winter is Coming. The new season of Game of Thrones might not be until 2019, but your home will need preparation before then. As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your investment from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep your home safe and warm for you and your loved ones throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple Sundays should be more than enough to knock this out:

Getting started: Check your toolbox to make sure you have all the materials you need for home maintenance in one place. This NY Times article provides a good list of the tools you’ll really need to maintain your home. After your toolbox is put together, you can confidently begin the maintenance on your home.

Insulation: Insulating a home can reduce your energy bill by up to 50%. For the best results, your home should be properly insulated from the ceilings to the basement. By starting in your attic and progressively adding insulation to other areas of your home over time, you will avoid spending a large sum of money up-front.

Cracks & Leaks: Do a run-through of your entire house for cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards. Winter weather is unpredictable. Whether your area gets rain, wind or snow, cracks in your house can lead to cold drafts or leaks that cause water damage. Depending on your house type, most cracks can be easily filled with supplies from your local hardware store in a do-it-yourself fashion. Use caulk to seal any cracks in the permanent building materials.

Windows & Doors: Another common place for heat leakage is in your windows and exterior doorways. Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Don’t underestimate the difference some weatherstrips and a door sweep can provide in preventing drafts and keeping the heat in.

Rain Gutters: Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak. Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.

Pipes: Pipes are a number one risk in winter climates. A burst pipe can become a winter disaster in a matter of seconds. Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.

Heating System: What’s one thing gas fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and central air heating systems all have in common? They all need to be cleaned and maintained. Annual checks of are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. If you use an old-fashioned wood stove, make sure there are no leaks and that all soot build up or nests are removed. If a furnace is what you have, remember to change the filters as recommended or clean out your reusable filters.

Fireplace & Wood burning stoves: Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%.

Outside: As we mentioned before, make sure you bring your patio furniture inside (or cover) for the winter- but don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including a hose and small planting pot. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season. If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any items that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.

Emergency Kit: Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up-to-date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids, etc- especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.

Posted on September 18, 2018 at 4:20 pm
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