Tiny Houses – A Big Trend

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If you are even a casual fan of TV channels like HGTV, you’re sure to have noticed our nation’s current real estate obsession: Tiny Houses. Tiny House living can offer more financial freedom, more mobility, a lower environmental footprint, and an emphasis on experience over stuff. People who have adopted this lifestyle typically want to live a simpler, more pared-down life, and the rest of us want to watch them do it.

These homes have come a long way in the past five years. Designs for them have gone from extremely simple structures that are more affordable than the average new car, to extensive thought and design – including “Smart” Tiny Homes that can live “off the grid” using solar power and water recycling.

To the contemporary Tiny House purist, the structure is very small and simple. This usually means less than 300 square feet and a loft for the bed.

The “Tiny Living” model (shown below) is offered by Tiny Home Builders. They offer everything from pre-built homes and basic shells to tiny house plans.

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Keeping the home on wheels allows everything from moving whenever the mood strikes you, to overcoming issues with building codes that require permanent structures to have a larger square footage.

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Interiors are designed to be simple, providing basic needs and amenities without a lot of flourish or detail.

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Sleeping lofts are the norm, so if you have an issue with climbing stairs or ladders then a larger model with a main floor sleeping option is definitely a better choice.

A great example of how far they have come with regards to space and amenities is the Farallon model by the Tumbleweed Tinyhouse Company.

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They offer two sizes with a usable space option of 218 square feet or 246 square feet and the roof is just begging to have solar panels installed.

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Not only does this model provide what looks like a decent amount of counter space, it also has a main floor bed and bath, unlike many other tiny homes that only provide a sleeping loft.

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The cost for this kind of tiny living starts at $62,950 – $72,950.

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Many people who adopt the tiny house lifestyle say that communities are the key to a happy and successful living environment. Another trick to living large in small spaces is to have great public places to go to – preferably by foot or bike. Creating a micro-friendly community requires careful planning, walk-ability, and dedicated public spaces, but for those who achieve this trifecta of tiny living, the rewards can be anything but tiny.

 

Artfully Organizing Your Bookshelf

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When it comes to organizing a bookshelf, there are a multitude of directions you can go. For example, a simple Pinterest search will turn up endless results of bookshelves stylishly organized by color, but what if that entails separating books from within a series? For some of us, that’s like separating our children. Ultimately, how you organize your bookshelf is a personal choice based on your own aesthetic, but if you’re looking for inspiration, here are some tips to help give your reading space photo-worthy style.

Sorting by color:

  • One color per shelf (a blue shelf, a green shelf, and so on). If you’re having trouble filling a shelf, wrap some of the books in craft paper.
  • A gradual “rainbow” flowing from one color to the next or from the most saturated colors to pastels.
  • A pattern that creates a flag or other simple image when the whole bookcase is filled. This is time-consuming, but impressive.

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Sorting by size:

  • Large, heavy books should be shelved on sturdy shelves, below head height.
  • Start by placing the tallest and largest books on the lowest shelf, placing smaller and smaller books as you move upward. This creates a tidy, organized appearance. On some bookcases, this is a necessity to adapt to the height of each shelf.
  • Large decorative objects and oversized books look best if they are spaced out between different spots in the bookcase, leaving plenty of space between them to create separate focal points. They also make excellent bookends and will help to keep books in place. A zig-zag pattern works well.

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Design effects to consider:

  • Create a dark backdrop.The bookcase will look more striking if the backdrop is darker than the surrounding walls and shelves. Consider painting the back of the bookshelves to create this vivid effect. This can be anything from basic black to pale beige. For open-backed bookshelves, hang a cloth between them and the wall.

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  • Stack books on top of each other on some shelves, and vertically next to each other on others. Shelving books in different orientations by varying the position of the books is eye-catching and chic.

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  • Try a pyramid of books, topped with a small trinket.

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  • Leave plenty of empty space. Gaps often look better than a shelf clogged with paperbacks and origami. This is especially important for open-backed bookcases placed in the middle of a room, which need a large amount of space to let light through.

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First Time Buyers, Millennials, and What to Expect in 2017

Millennial Buyers words on a home for sale or house real estate sign to illustrate or advertise Generation Y young people buying their first property

 

By Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist at Windermere Real Estate

I believe that the big story for the coming year will be first-time home buyers. Since they don’t need to sell before purchasing, their reemergence into the market ensures that sales will continue to increase, even while inventory is limited. Thirty-one percent of buyers currently in the real estate market are first-time buyers, but it would be more ideal if that figure was closer to 40 percent.

Why don’t we have enough first-time buyers in the market? With Baby Boomers working and living longer, we aren’t making much room for Millennials to start their careers. Plus, the major debt that the younger generation owes on student loans ($1.3 trillion today) hugely impacts the housing market. But the bigger issue is lack of down payments. Before the recession, many Millennials could look to their parents for help with down payments; however, these days that is not as much the case.

I would also contend that the notion of Millennials being a “renter generation” is nonsense. In a National Association of Realtors survey, 75 percent of them said that buying a home would be the most astute financial decision they’d ever make; however, 80 percent said they don’t think they could qualify for a mortgage. I do believe that Millennials will eventually buy, but they’re delaying their purchasing decisions by about three years when compared to previous generations, which is about the same amount of time they’re waiting to start families as well.

Mortgage rates have risen rapidly since the election, and unfortunately, I do not see a turnaround in this trend. That said, they will remain cheap when compared to historic averages.  Expect to see the yield on 30-year mortgages rise to around 4.7% by the end of 2017. For those who have grown accustomed to interest rates being at historic lows, this might seem high, but it’s all relative.

If I were to gaze all the way into 2018, my crystal ball takes me to the dreaded “R” word. Like taxes and death, recessions are another one of those unwanted realities that inevitably comes to visit every so often. Irrespective of who was voted into the White House, my view remains the same: prepare to see a business cycle recession by the end of 2018, but, rest assured, it will not be driven by real estate, nor will it resemble the Great Recession in any way.

Inspired By Nature: Pantone 2017 Color of the Year

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pantone-color-of-the-year-lee-eiseman-quoteEach year the Pantone Color Institute declares a color of the year that ultimately influences trends in all facets of design; including architecture, interior design, graphic design, and fashion. This year they chose Greenery which is shade #15-0343 in the Pantone color spectrum.

A symbol for fresh, new beginnings it also has a feeling that reflects the mindfulness of healthier food resolutions, growing vegetarian trends, and an appreciation for the outdoors.

Here are some ways the 2017 Color of the Year can be incorporated into spaces within your home:

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The vivid color of Greenery is perfect for adding a punch of color to the exterior of the home, like painting your doors.

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An accent wall can immediately brighten interiors and plays beautifully with muted furniture.

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For a smaller commitment to the color, buy a few accent pillows and throws while indulging in lots of fresh flowers and greenery in vases.

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Bringing Greenery into your Kitchen can be done in many ways: rugs, table runners, accent pieces, and chairs.

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Don’t be afraid to mix other colors! There are a myriad of ways to use Greenery. Visit Pantone for color pairing suggestions and inspiration.

What’s In Store For The 2017 Seattle Housing Market?

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By Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

2016 was another stellar year for the Seattle housing market, in which a surplus of buyers and a deficit of sellers drove home prices higher across the board. So, can we expect to see more of the same in 2017? Here are some of my thoughts on the Seattle/King County housing market for the coming year:

  1. Our market has benefited greatly from very healthy job growth, driven in no small part by our thriving technology companies. Economic vitality is the backbone of housing demand, so we should continue to see healthy employment growth in 2017; however, not quite as robust as 2016. Migration to Seattle from other states will also continue in the coming year, putting further pressure on our housing market.
  2. Are we building too many apartments?  The answer to this question is “maybe”. I believe we are fast approaching oversupply of apartments; however, this glut will only be seen in select sub-markets, such as South Lake Union and Capitol Hill. Developers have been adding apartments downtown at frantic rates with many projects garnering very impressive rents. In the coming year, look for rental rate growth to slow and for concessions to come back into play as we add several thousand more apartments to downtown Seattle.
  3. The Millennials are here! And they are ready to buy. 2016 saw a significant increase in the number of Millennial buyers in Seattle, and I expect to see even more in 2017. The only problem will be whether Millennials will be able to find – or afford – anything to buy.
  4. Home prices will continue to rise. But price growth will taper somewhat. The market has been on a tear since bottoming out in 2012, with median home prices up by a remarkable 79% from the 2012 low, and 14% above the pre-recession peak seen in 2007. Given the fact that interest rates are now likely to rise at a faster rate than previously forecasted, I believe price appreciation will slow somewhat, but values will still increase at rates that are well above the national average. Look for home prices to increase by an average of 7.5 – 8.5% in 2017.
  5. More homes for sale? I am optimistic that inventory levels around Seattle will increase, but it still won’t be enough to meet continued high demand.
  6. This is my biggest concern for the Seattle housing market. Home prices – specifically in areas with ready access to our job centers – are pulling way ahead of incomes, placing them out of reach for much of our population. This forces many buyers to move farther away from our job centers, putting additional stress on our limited infrastructure. We need to have an open discussion regarding zoning, as well as whether our state’s Growth Management Act is helping or hindering matters.
  7. New Home Starts/Sales. As much as I would love to say that we can expect a substantial increase in new homes in 2017, I am afraid this is not the case. Historically high land prices, combined with ever increasing construction and labor costs, slow housing development, as the price of the end product is increasingly expensive. This applies to single family development as well as condominiums. We should see a couple of towers break ground in 2017, but that’s about all. Vertical construction is still prohibitively expensive and developers are concerned that there will not be sufficient demand for such an expensive end product.
  8. Are we setting ourselves up for another housing crash? The simple answer to this question is no. While home price appreciation remains above the long-term average, and will continue to be so in 2017, credit requirements, down payments, and a growing economy will all act as protectors from a housing crash in Seattle.

New Year’s Eve at Home ~ With Style

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Invite a few close friends to ring in the New Year with an easy, intimate party at home.

Preparation

Considering that New Year’s is a pretty hot-ticket holiday, it’d behoove you to let your friends know sooner rather than later that you’ll be hosting a party at your place. Paperless Post is a good alternative for those who don’t want to track down friends’ addresses, go out to buy a roll of stamps, or leave the house. For those on a budget, there are several free invitation designs to choose from.

Safety

Hire a carpool so no one has to drive home. This is best done by using a traditional car service that can be scheduled for pick up and home delivery. Other ride share companies like Uber and Lyft offer similar services but they cannot be reserved and on a busy night you might find your friends coming in late and leaving far later than desired.

Drinks

For a refreshing alternative to Champagne, try Prosecco. For nonalcoholic selection try Twelve, a fizzy blend of fruit and herbal tea. It’s delicious and certainly more elegant than sparkling cider. Pellegrino and Perrier are also very nice to keep people happy and hydrated.

Food

Don’t let people get hungry! Make it easy on yourself and your wallet. Get some fabulous, frozen pre-made appetizers and keep them rolling from the oven. Cheese and cracker, charcuterie and veggie platters that require no cooking and can be made ahead of time are always crowd pleasers. These can even be purchased from your local deli if time is more important than slicing and arranging your own cheese.

Sweets

We’ve all been eating way too much sugar all December but if you want to do a small dessert and make it look special, dust some edible glitter onto your store bought cookies or cake. Yes, edible glitter is a thing.

Music

Set up Pandora at a volume where you can hear it – but don’t have to raise voices to hear each other. Hipster Cocktail Party is a great one. Don’t let the name turn you off; the music they play is terrific. Bill Withers, Nina Simone, Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin are some regulars you’ll find on this station.

Parting Gifts

Send everyone home with recovery bags: Insert a packet of emergenC, a pre-packaged duo of Tylenol and breath mints and attach it to a bottle of water.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Mount Baker

Located just south of I-90, and running south to Genesse Park, Mount Baker is a neighborhood that is definitely reaping the benefits of a booming real estate market. Taking their name from the sweeping views of Mount Baker to the north, this neighborhood is a great cross section of what Seattle has to offer. On the water side it boasts the sprawling mansions that once typified Seattle following the turn of the last century, but as you move west toward Rainier Avenue, older single-family homes are giving way to town homes and modern architecture. The rising cost of housing continues to force a surge of new construction, and with easy access to the new light rail, commuting from Mount Baker has never been easier.

Given the relative affordability and continued growth, Mount Baker has seen a 13% increase in home prices over the past year and currently has a median home price of $568,800.

Home sales in Mount Baker over the past two months by listing brokerage:

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Why We Love Seattle Series: Dick’s Drive-In

Dick’s Drive-In on Broadway , circa 1955

Seattle has a plethora of locally sourced, gluten-free, vegan, and organic food available, but let’s be honest, sometimes you don’t want any of that. Enter Dick’s Drive-In – for every Seattleite’s favorite $2 non-organic, extra-gluten, cheese-filled burger.

The first Dick’s opened in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood in 1954. Little has changed since then, including the large, revolving “Drive-In Restaurant” sign beckoning to the hungry masses with a clear promise of the type of food they serve. And prices are astoundingly inexpensive: $3.10 gets you the biggest burger on the menu.

Notorious for being a “cash only” establishment for decades, they recently decided to finally start accepting credit and debit cards in September 2016. This is a big deal for those of us who rarely carry cash, and for a restaurant known for being steadfast in their constant reluctance to change. The last time the menu changed was in 1982, when they started serving Diet Coke and stopped serving orange soda.

What is it about Dick’s that makes them so special? They will tell you it’s their product: The beef patties are “fresh, never frozen, and delivered locally every day.” Their fans will tell you it’s more than that. They have an enviable compensation rate for employees that includes 100% healthcare coverage for anyone working over 24 hours per week and their children, college and trade school scholarships, childcare assistance, paid community service hours, and a very strong commitment to helping homeless youth and families in the Seattle area.

More than six decades after the first Dick’s opened its doors, there are now six locations around the Seattle area, each open seven days a week until 2:00 am, so your greasy burger cravings can be gratified pretty much any time, day or night.

Perspectives: 2017 Forecast

Well, it’s December; the time of year when we look to our crystal ball and offer our housing market predictions for the coming year. And by crystal ball we mean Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, who has been travelling up and down the West Coast giving his annual forecast to a variety of real estate and financial organizations. Last month’s surprising election results have created some unknowns, but based on what we do know today, here are some thoughts on the current market and what you can expect to see in 2017.

HOUSING SUPPLY: In 2016 the laws of supply and demand were turned upside down in a majority of markets along the West Coast. Home sales and prices rose while listings remained anemic. In the coming year, there should be a modest increase in the number of homes for sale in most major West Coast markets, which should relieve some of the pressure.

FIRST-TIME BUYERS: We’re calling 2017 the year of the return of the first-time buyer. These buyers are crucial to achieving a more balanced housing market. While rising home prices and competition will act as a headwind to some first timers, the aforementioned modest uptick in housing inventory should help alleviate some of those challenges.

INTEREST RATES: Although interest rates remain remarkably low, they will likely rise as we move through 2017. Matthew Gardner tells us that he expects the 30-year fixed rate to increase to about 4.5 percent by year’s end. Yes, this is well above where interest rates are currently, but it’s still very low.

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY: This remains one of the biggest concerns for many West Coast cities. Some markets continue to see home prices escalating well above income growth. This is unsustainable over the long term, so we’re happy to report that the rate of home price appreciation will soften in some areas. This doesn’t mean prices will drop, but rather, the rate of growth will begin to slow.

Last but not least, we continue to hear concerns about an impending housing bubble. We sincerely believe these fears to be unfounded. While we expect price growth to slow in certain areas, anyone waiting for the floor to fall on housing prices is in for a long wait. Everything we’re seeing points towards a modest shift towards a more balanced market in the year ahead.

Originally posted on the Windermere Blog 

 

Merry & Bright: The Best Christmas Light Displays in Seattle

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Christmas in the United States is a combination of traditions from around the world. Evergreen trees inside homes were popularized in Germany during the 16th century. Decorating with poinsettias? That idea came from Mexico. 18th-century England helped to change mistletoe’s image from a poisonous plant into a festive kissing trap.

However, there’s one favorite tradition with an All-American origin: electric Christmas lights. It started when Edward H. Johnson, a friend and business partner of Thomas Edison, put a string of 80 hand-wired red, white and blue electric lights on a Christmas tree in 1882.

Since then, it’s become an essential part of American Christmas celebrations, whether that means a couple of strings of “tasteful” white lights around the family tree or a pulsating public display synchronized to “Jingle Bell Rock” that can be seen from low orbit.

With a nod to Mr. Johnson’s first tree, here are six of the best locations in the Seattle area where the electric light tradition continues to shine brightly.

Wild Lights at the Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo’s Wildlights features thousands of brilliant LED lights lit up as familiar animals in their sometimes familiar, sometimes exotic habitats around the zoo property. Beyond making the rounds, families can also get in on an indoor snowball fight at the Snowmazium, take a night ride on the carousel and meet some sleigh-pulling experts, Santa’s reindeer

Winterfest at Seattle Center

The Seattle Center transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland for this very special holiday event. The classic Winter Train and Village is held in the Armory, where hundreds of performances – including dance, music, and comedy – are also featured throughout the winter season.

Candy Cane Lane: Many Seattle-area neighborhoods go all out for the holidays, but there’s none more adorably decorated than the row of 1920s-era Tudors lining Candy Cane Lane. With lights, music and moving objects, this sweet neighborhood has been a Seattle holiday institution since 1949. Open 4-11 p.m. daily, north of Ravenna Boulevard at 21st Avenue Northeast, Seattle.

The Olympic Manor Neighborhood light display: makes for a lovely winter evening walk (or slow drive) for families. The houses in the area are decked and then decked again for a truly illuminating effect that can’t help but make you smile. Bundle up for this one! Located just north of Ballard, between NW 75th and NW 100th, Seattle WA.

Kerry Park Viewpoint, Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill neighborhood: A driving tour through the picturesque, historic homes of the Queen Anne neighborhood is always a treat, but it is particularly striking when the holiday lights are on display. Top it off with a stop at the Kerry Park Viewpoint for a panoramic view of the neighborhood, along with a glimpse of the Christmas tree topping our beloved Space Needle. Kerry Park is at 211 W. Highland Dr., Seattle WA.

The Keener’s Christmas light display in Bothell: A north end favorite for oh-so many reasons. As you drive through the towering arch, you land in the middle of over 500,000 lights, for a truly magical effect. Located at 16504 112 Place NE, Bothell WA.