Western Washington Real Estate Market Update

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

I’m happy to report that Washington State continues to add jobs at a steady rate. While the rate of growth is tapering, this is because many markets are getting close to “full employment”, during which time growth naturally slows. That said, I believe that the state will add around 70,000 jobs in 2017. Washington State, as well as the markets that make up Western Washington, continues to see unemployment fall and I anticipate that we will see this rate drop further as we move through the year. In all, the economy continues to perform at or above average levels and 2017 will be another growth year.

 

 

HOME SALES

  • There were 15,652 home sales during the first quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 9.5% from the same period in 2016, but 20.7% below the total number of sales in the final quarter of 2016.
  • With an increase of 45.5%, sales in Clallam County grew at the fastest rate over the past 12 months. There were double-digit gains seen in an additional 10 counties, suggesting that demand remains very robust. The only modest decline in sales was seen in Grays Harbor County.
  • The number of homes for sale showed no improvement at all, with an average of just 6,893 homes for sale in the quarter, a decline of 33% from the previous quarter and 25% from the first quarter of 2016. Pending sales rose by 2% relative to the same quarter a year ago.
  • The key takeaway from this data is that 2017 will offer little relief to would-be home buyers as the housing supply remains severely constrained.

 

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • With demand continuing to exceed supply, home prices continued to rise at above-average rates. Year-over-year, average prices rose by 9.5% but were 1.1% lower than in the final quarter of 2016. The region’s average sales price is now $409,351.
  • Price growth in Western Washington is unlikely to taper dramatically in 2017 and many counties will continue to see prices appreciate well above their long-term averages.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in Kittitas County, which rose by 19.6%. Double-digit price growth was seen in an additional 10 counties. The only market where the average price fell was in the ever-volatile San Juan County.
  • It is clear that rising interest rates have not taken much of a sheen off the market.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the first quarter dropped by 16 days when compared to the first quarter of 2016.
  • King County remained the tightest market, with the average time to sell a home at just 31 days. Island County was the only area where it took longer to sell a home than seen a year ago; however, the increase was just one day.
  • In the first quarter of the year, it took an average of 70 days to sell a home. This is down from the 86 days it took in the first quarter of 2016, but up from the 64 days it took in the final quarter of last year.
  • Given woefully low levels of inventory in all Western Washington markets, I do not expect to see the length of time that it takes to sell a home rising in 2017. In fact, it is likely that it will continue to drop.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the first quarter of 2017, I moved the needle a little more in favor of sellers. The rapid increase in mortgage rates during the fourth quarter of 2016 has slowed and buyers are clearly out in force.

 

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

 

Over half-a-million dollars has been disbursed to non-profits so far this year!

Thanks to the generosity of Windermere agents and the community, the Windermere Foundation collected over $325,000 in donations during the first quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 17 percent compared to this time last year! Individual contributions and fundraisers accounted for 55 percent of the donations, while 45 percent came from donations through Windermere agent commissions. So far, we have raised a total of $33,431,017 in donations since 1989.

Each Windermere office has its own Windermere Foundation fund account that they use to make donations to organizations in their communities. Year to date, a total of $545,354 has been disbursed to non-profit organizations dedicated to providing services to low-income and homeless families throughout the Western U.S.

One organization that has been the recipient of Windermere Foundation funds is the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless operates a range of integrated programs to support children and families. These include family support services, pediatric services, eye and dental care, child, adolescent, and family therapy, and child care.

A recent donation from the Windermere Real Estate office in Centennial, Colorado is helping to fund the Coalition’s Family Support Services Program. The program provides services including emergency shelter information and referrals, housing information and referrals, referrals to other agencies, programming designed specifically to meet needs of children ages birth to 6 years, access to medical and mental health services, and diapers and baby supplies.

Generous donations to the Windermere Foundation over the years have enabled Windermere offices to continue to support local non-profits. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click on the Donate button.

To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation.

 

 

Over half-a-million dollars has been disbursed to non-profits so far this year!

Thanks to the generosity of Windermere agents and the community, the Windermere Foundation collected over $325,000 in donations during the first quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 17 percent compared to this time last year! Individual contributions and fundraisers accounted for 55 percent of the donations, while 45 percent came from donations through Windermere agent commissions. So far, we have raised a total of $33,431,017 in donations since 1989.

Each Windermere office has its own Windermere Foundation fund account that they use to make donations to organizations in their communities. Year to date, a total of $545,354 has been disbursed to non-profit organizations dedicated to providing services to low-income and homeless families throughout the Western U.S.

One organization that has been the recipient of Windermere Foundation funds is the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless operates a range of integrated programs to support children and families. These include family support services, pediatric services, eye and dental care, child, adolescent, and family therapy, and child care.

A recent donation from the Windermere Real Estate office in Centennial, Colorado is helping to fund the Coalition’s Family Support Services Program. The program provides services including emergency shelter information and referrals, housing information and referrals, referrals to other agencies, programming designed specifically to meet needs of children ages birth to 6 years, access to medical and mental health services, and diapers and baby supplies.

Generous donations to the Windermere Foundation over the years have enabled Windermere offices to continue to support local non-profits. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click on the Donate button.

To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 4 Phases of Remodeling: Happily Ever After

This fairy-tale phase of a home remodel is the tail end of any major project. The Honeymoon has come and gone. The Midproject Crisis has thankfully passed. The Renewal of Vows has given you the strength you need to continue on, and now we’re finally, and gratefully, just about out of phases. It’s time to wrap up this series on the ups and downs of remodeling by detailing the final few steps that are taken to complete a home remodel. What I call the Happily Ever After phase.

 

Ever After 1: Sophie Metz Design, original photo on Houzz

 

Whether you have experienced it, known someone who has gone through it or have only read about it, you’re probably familiar with what it’s like to be in love. Emotions run the gamut of excitement, happiness, giddiness and contentedness (as well as a wide range of others). The person in love is likely to be gushing about her beau or his sweetheart to anyone who will listen. It’s a time when even the most cynical of people looks at the world through rose-tinted glasses.

Moving back into a house after remodeling can be a bit like being in love. Are you not excited to use all your new appliances or plumbing fixtures? (Hello, new bathtub!) Is there not a smidge of giddiness as you think about coming home to your pristine new bathroom, kitchen or living room? Don’t deny it — you’re probably even babbling to the barista at Starbucks about your new space.

During this Happily Ever After stage, finally, the work is done! At last, there are no more nail guns and saws and vacuums making noise in your house. After months of destruction and disarray, it’s time to move back in and enjoy your home, sweet home, for the rest of your days (or at least until you sell it or remodel again). And though most of this phase is just you at last having the chance to enjoy the fruit of your general contractor’s labor, there are a few odds and ends that your contractor will be taking care of to make sure your Happily Ever After really lasts forever.

 

Ever After 2: chadbourne + doss architects, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Cleaning. This probably will happen before you move back into your home (or at least it should). Since day one of demolition, dust and debris have been thrown into the air and, much to your contractor’s chagrin, have crept into other places in the house that weren’t touched in the remodel. Now’s the time to do an all-inclusive clean. No, the cleaners won’t do your laundry for you, but they’ll do just about everything else, from polishing the floors to dusting the ceiling fans. The end-of-project clean is like a cleansing spa day for your home.
  • Final walk-through. The last walk-through ensures that you are completely satisfied with everything — and I mean everything — in your home. This is where you will have the chance to sit down and bring up all the odds and ends that you feel need to be addressed. This can be anything from “this faucet isn’t on straight” to “there’s a scratch on the new fridge” to “my shower isn’t draining correctly.”

    Contractors may vary on when they hold a final walk-through, but in my experience, it’s scheduled after the homeowners move back in and have a chance to use the new space. Your contractor should’ve caught just about everything during his or her own informal walk-throughs throughout the remodel, but sometimes there are items that just don’t come to the surface until a house is lived in.

 

Ever After 3: Collins & DuPont Design Group, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Warranty begins. Most builders and remodelers have a warranty for their projects. The length and amount of coverage can vary, of course, but what remains constant is the promise to stand behind their work for any unforeseen circumstances that arise and need addressing. (Side note: If you’re looking at contractors right now, ask them about their warranty. This can be very telling of how they conduct their business. The more that contractors are willing to warrant their work — or the longer the warranty — the more effort they will put into getting the job done right the first time.)

    For some contractors, the warranty formally begins after the final walk-through is hosted and the last payment is received. After that, some will stand behind any light fixtures that fizzle, appliances that break, tiles that come loose — you name it. In an ideal world, everything would work right the first time, and it would work right forever. In our world, however, there are bad manufacturing batches and recalls and oversights that may need to be taken care of. Fear not. If you have selected the right remodeler, these issues will be handled.

 

Related: How Builders Deal With Problems Beyond the Warranty

 

Ever After 4: Mark Hickman Homes, original photo on Houzz

 

What else is involved in the Happily Ever After? Absolutely nothing. Take a deep breath in, let it out, look around your new place and smile, knowing that it’s all yours, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do you part. You get the picture.

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz

How Neighborhood Affects Home Value

 

Whether you’re buying or selling, accurately pricing a home requires professional assistance from someone who knows the neighborhood.

The “estimated” home prices you see posted online can be off by tens of thousands of dollars – not because they’re dishonest, but because the computer programs generating these guesstimates don’t take into account the current condition of a house, the amenities that are included, the qualities of the surrounding neighborhood, and so much more.

A real estate agent’s appraisal will not only consider the selling prices of surrounding properties, as the online services do, but also take into consideration a host of other criteria. For instance, when it comes to assessing the surrounding neighborhood, the following factors can often significantly affect the market price of a home:

 

School quality

The quality of neighborhood schools has a dramatic impact on home price, whether buyers have school-age children or not. In the most recent study on the subject, researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that above-average public schools (those with math scores 4.6 percent better than the average) increased the value of nearby homes by 11 percent (or an average of $16,000) in the St. Louis area.

 

A park within walking distance

Parks are so important to families today that simply having one within a quarter mile can increase the value of a house by 10 percent, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

 

Stores nearby

The impact that retail areas have on home values depends on the type of community. According to a study recently released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, homes in urban areas sell for six percent to eight percent more than average if they’re within a quarter mile of a retail cluster (shops and restaurants). However, in suburban communities, it’s the homes that are a mile from any retail centers that sell for the most (homes located closer than that actually sell for 8 percent less than average).

 

Freeway access

Because we’re a car-oriented society, most people are willing to pay more to live within a couple miles of an on-ramp to a major highway or freeway, which saves gas and speeds commute times. However, if the home is located too close (within a half mile of the freeway), the associated noise and air pollution can push the price in the opposite direction.

 

Vacant lots in the vicinity

Being surrounded by vacant land can be a good thing in rural areas, but it’s usually a negative for urban homeowners. A recent Wharton School study found that higher concentrations of unmanaged vacant lots in an urban neighborhood drag down the values for surrounding homes by an average of 18 percent.

 

Proximity to nuisances and environmental hazards

Two recent studies (one from an Arizona assessor’s office, the other by the University of California Berkeley) show that homes located near a landfill or power plant usually sell for four to 10 percent less than more distant homes. The same can usually be said for homes located too close to manufacturing facilities – especially those that make lots of noise or produces noxious odors.

 

Neighborhood foreclosures

According to a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the value of a home decreases by one percent for every foreclosed home within 250 feet of it. Why? The lower sales prices of foreclosed homes can quickly drag down the neighborhood’s comparable prices. Plus, the owners of these properties usually don’t have the money or interest in maintaining them after they go into foreclosure, which can create an eyesore for all the other homes in the vicinity.

 

Percentage of homeowners

Are there more owners than renters living in the neighborhood? If so, property values are usually better than average. Homeowners tend to take better care of their property than renters or landlords, which improves the curb-appeal for the whole community.

 

Public services

Some communities have a wealth of quality public services available to them – including regular street cleanings, scheduled street repair, graffiti removal services, landscape maintenance, neighborhood beautification efforts, and more. Needless to say, homes lucky enough to be located in those areas typically command higher property valuations.

 

Home sellers can use these factors to justify a higher asking price. Buyers can use them to try and negotiate something lower. However, when it comes to attaching specific dollar amounts, that is something best left to your real estate agent, an objective professional with a deep understanding of the local market.

 

If you would like to connect with an experienced real estate agent fill out a form here 

The 4 Phases of Remodeling: The Renewal of Vows

Passing the midway point of a remodel can be an exciting time. After weeks (or months, but hopefully not years) of being in a state of disarray, things finally start to feel as if they’re coming together.

You’ve experienced the fast-paced bliss of the Honeymoon. You’ve trudged through the slowdown that comes with the Midproject Crisis. And now? Now you’re ready to gaze lovingly into your contractor’s eyes again.

 

Vows 1: Priority 1 Project Management, original photo on Houzz

 

Everything you’d hoped and dreamed about when you first envisioned your project is coming true, and you’re feeling ready to say “I do” all over again. It’s time for the remodeling phase I like to refer to as the Renewal of Vows.

You probably won’t hear your contractor refer to this phase as such (but how fun would that be?). Just as the Midproject Crisis is more commonly referred to as the mechanical rough-in stage, this phase has other, more industry-standard names. You will probably hear words like “finish out,” “trim out,” “mechanical trims” or “finishes.”

And, as you can probably guess, this phase is about finishing and beautifying the work that was started in the first couple of months. There’s a lot that may (or may not) be involved in the finish stage of your job, depending on your scope of work, but here’s a list of the most common steps that happen during this phase.

 

Vows 2: Traci Connell Interiors, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Sheetrock. Holes made during rough-in will be patched, new Sheetrock will be put up at any new walls or ceilings, and texture will be applied to make your walls look like walls again.
  • Trim carpentry. There are a few different types of trim that may be installed at this phase: baseboard (which runs along the joint where the bottom of a wall meets the floor), door and window casing (which is installed around the perimeters of doors and windows) and crown molding (which is run along the joint where the top of a wall meets the ceiling). Trim is purely optional — some more contemporary designs forgo it entirely — but it is meant to create a finished, unified look.

 

Vows 3: TOTAL CONCEPTS, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Cabinetry. The installation of cabinetry is usually around the time when I see a little glimmer come back into a homeowner’s eyes. This is when the kitchen starts looking more like a kitchen, but it’s also when you can visualize how your other storage pieces, such as built-ins and bathroom cabinets, will change the function of your home.

    Related: Shop for Kitchen Cabinets
     
  • Electrical and plumbing trim. This is the other big “wow” that comes with the finish-out phase. A master bathroom can start to look completed when tile and cabinetry is installed, but throw in a freestanding tub and a shower full of rain heads, handheld fixtures and a steam unit, and suddenly you’re not looking at a mostly done, unidentifiable space — you’re looking at your master bathroom.

 

The same goes for electrical items like decorative light fixtures or appliances. Seeing new stainless steel (or whatever your preferred finish is) appliances being brought into and installed in your kitchen make most people go starry-eyed and drool a little. No judgment here — I’ve done the same.

 

Vows 4: DKOR Interiors Inc. - Interior Designers Miami, FL, original photo on Houzz

 

  • HVAC trim. I mentioned in the last installment that most HVAC work is done during the rough-in stage, so what is left? Essentially, all that needs to be done is the installation of vent covers and thermostats and maybe a little tweaking of the air-conditioning system. Nothing too exciting, but it should be noted nonetheless.
  • Miscellaneous. Like I said, there is a lot that can be going on during the trim-out stage. Flooring — such as carpet, wood, tile or laminate — will be installed. (Flooring installers are known for insisting that they be the absolute last people to work on a house.)

 

Tile will go up in showers and as backsplashes. Countertops will go in. Priming and painting of walls, ceilings, trim and cabinetry will be completed. A little landscaping may even be done.

 

Vows 5: Viyet Luxury Consignment, original photo on Houzz

 

There are a million moving parts during the mechanical finishes phase. And I admit, as a homeowner and general contractor, this is exciting to see.

Just like during the Honeymoon, a lot of visibly quantifiable work is being completed. Only this time, instead of things being torn up and thrown out, they’re being brought in and installed. The puzzle pieces are finally fitting together, and you are starting to see the big picture. (Dreamy sigh.)

I’ve harped repeatedly about how communication is key, and this still rings true during the Renewal of Vows stage. But patience is also important.

As you see new things being carried in and installed, it can be so tempting to begin moving back into your new space or using your new kitchen. But your contractor may still need some time and space to work.

There are last-minute items that will ultimately guarantee your satisfaction that need to be taken care of before you and your family can begin enjoying your new remodel. So hang in there, and your patience will be rewarded.

 

Vows 6: Jay Jeffers, original photo on Houzz

 

You may be thinking: There can’t be anything left, can there? That’s it, right? Everything is installed, the house looks like a house again, time to move in and get settled. Not so fast. You’re almost there. Find out what final bits and pieces are involved in the end phase of a remodel, what I like to call the Happily Ever After stage.

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz

 

How to Avoid the Most Common Buying and Selling Mistakes

 

There’s nothing more exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling than buying a home. However, it’s a complex transaction, and there are a number of steps along the path that can confuse, betwixt, and befuddle even the most seasoned buyers and sellers.

How can you avoid those potential pitfalls and common mistakes? Look to your real estate professional for advice and keep these guidelines in mind:

 

BUYERS:

 

#1 Review your credit reports ahead of time

Review your credit report a few months before you begin your house hunt, and you'll have time to ensure the facts are correct, and be able to dispute mistakes before a mortgage lender checks your credit. Get a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Why all three? Because, if the scores differ, the bank will typically use the lowest one. Alert the credit bureaus if you see any mistakes, fix any problems you discover, and don’t apply for any new credit until after your home loan closes.

#2 Get pre-approved

Before getting serious about your hunt for a new house, you’ll want to choose a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just pre-qualified—which is a cursory review of your finances—but pre-approved for a loan of a specific amount). Pre-approval lets sellers know you're serious. Most importantly, pre-approval will help you determine exactly how much you can comfortably afford to spend.

#3 Know what you want

You and your real estate agent should both be clear about the house you want to buy. Put it in writing. First, make a list of all the features and amenities you really want. Then, number each item and prioritize them. Now, divide the list into must-haves and really-wants. A good place to start is the “HUD Wish List,” which is available online for free at http://www.hud.gov/buying/wishlist.pdf

#4 Account for hidden costs

In addition to the purchase price of the home, there are additional costs you need to take into consideration, such as closing costs, appraisal fees, and escrow fees. Once you find a prospective home, you’ll want to:

  • Get estimates for any repairs or remodeling it may need.
  • Estimate how much it will cost to maintain (gas, electric, utilities, etc.).
  • Determine how much you’ll pay in taxes monthly and/or annually.
  • Learn whether there are any homeowner or development dues associated with the property.

#5 Get an inspection

Buying a home is emotionally charged—which can make it difficult for buyers to see the house for what it truly is. That’s why you need impartial third parties who can help you logically analyze the condition of the property. Your agent is there to advise you, but you also need a home inspector to assess any hidden flaws, structural damage or faulty systems.

#6 Evaluate the neighborhood and location

When house hunting, it’s easy to become overly focused on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the condition of the home and its amenities while overlooking the subtleties of the surrounding neighborhood. Take time to check crime reports, school options, churches and shopping. If schools are a key factor, do more than simply research the statistics; speak with the principal(s) and chat with the parents waiting outside.

 

SELLERS:

#1 Avoid becoming emotional or sentimental about the sale

Once you decide to sell your house, it's time to strip out the emotion and look at it as a commodity in a business transaction. If you start reminiscing about all the good times you had and the hard work you invested, it will only make it that much harder to successfully price, prepare, and market the home.

#2 Fix problems (or price accordingly)

Homes with deferred maintenance and repair issues can take far longer to sell and can be subject to last-minute sale-cancellations. These homes also often sell for less than their legitimate market value. If you simply can’t afford to address critical issues, be prepared to work with your agent to price and market your home accordingly.

#3 Don’t overprice your home (and/or refuse to negotiate)

Getting top dollar is the dream of every seller. But it’s essential that you let the market dictate that price, not your emotions or financial situation. Allow your agent to research and prepare a market analysis that factors in the value of similar homes in the area, and trust those results.  

#4 Use quality photos

The vast majority of prospective buyers today search for homes online first. In order to make a good first impression, you need a wealth of high-quality photos of your home and surrounding grounds. You may also need to consider professional staging in order to position your home in the best possible light for prospective buyers.

 

The process of buying or selling a home can have plenty of twists and turns, but with some smart decision making, you can avoid the most common mistakes and pitfalls. 

Home Decorating Trends Expected To Last Through 2018

 

Home décor and design trends are an ever-changing landscape by nature. Consumers grow weary of seeing the same colors and styles, and who doesn’t love to freshen up their home with a few new throw pillows? Some trends can be fleeting and you might feel resistant to jumping into them if you’re afraid that this year’s color of the year is next year’s Harvest Gold.

According to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, there are several trends in home decorating right now that are so popular, she doesn’t see them going away any time soon.

 

Geometric Patterns

Geometrics are seemingly everywhere right now; from backsplash tile, throw pillows, and bedding to wallpaper - the biggest commitment of them all.

 

Typography

The popularity of this trend is not exactly new and it doesn’t appear to be losing any steam. Whimsical pillows and framed art with sweet messages seem to be the new text message of the home, inviting guests and proclaiming love for our friends, families and home town. In a world where Instagram and Pinterest appear to have taken over our lives – it’s no wonder we are so fond of these visual and tactile messages of inspiration, love, and comedy.

 

Wood treatments

The presence of technology, especially a year from now, will have us craving natural elements like wood more than ever. Expect to see wood in unexpected places like ceilings and as accent walls. But this won’t be your Grandparent’s wood-paneled basement from the 50’s. Think one accent wall of rustic, reclaimed wood with natural aging, or elegant box-beamed ceilings.

 

Fringe

Already very popular in fashion, fringe edging in small doses adds texture, softness and evokes a home-spun feeling that is endearing and blends well with other trends right now, like wooden accent bowls and handmade ceramics. Expect to see it used in more areas like blankets and curtains, as well.

 

Metallics

Metallic accent furniture continues to become so popular, it has been referred to being “the new neutral”. Along with larger pieces like coffee tables and dining room tables, iridescent fabrics and wall art are also becoming more readily available to add a little sparkle to a room. Don’t think that this means you’ll need gold-plated columns erected into your home. Vintage finds from thrift shops and DIY projects like painting old furniture are also a fun way to bring this trend home.

 

Intense colors

Anyone who is active on Pinterest knows that dark wall colors in vivid tones are wildly popular right now. In stark contrast to the bright and lively Greenery, chosen as color of the year by Pantone, the Benjamin Moore Paint Company chose their color of the year to be Shadow 2117-30. They describe it as “Allusive and enigmatic — a master of ambiance.”

Clearly a bold statement like this isn’t for everyone but an accent wall in a room that is not too small or dark already could be an amazing feature. Paired with metallic and lots of white furnishings and the effect is dramatic and glamorous.

This blog originally appeared on Windermere Spaces and Places.

 

The 4 Phases of Remodeling: The Midproject Crisis

We recently covered the ins and outs of what I refer to as the Honeymoon Phase of construction. Next up is a stage similar to a concept most everyone is familiar with: the Midlife Crisis. (Whether you’ve experienced one or not is an entirely different story.) It often comes with questions like, “What am I doing? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life?”

 

Midproject 1: J Design Group - Interior Designers Miami - Modern, original photo on Houzz

 

Likewise, the second phase of a home remodel, which I fondly refer to as the Midproject Crisis, is paired with parallel questions: What’s my contractor doing? Are we still moving forward as planned? Was this really all worth it? And of course: What is the meaning of life?

Fear not: Your contractor is working hard, your project is moving forward and, yes, your decision to renovate your home is, and will be, worth it. I can’t really speak about the meaning of life, but I can speak about the experiences of homeowners and remodelers during this period of a remodel.

 

Related: The Reality of Living Through a Remodel

 

Midproject 2: Vivid Snaps Photography, original photo on Houzz

 

Typically, once demolition and framing is finished (the Honeymoon Phase) and before sheetrock is put up, mechanicals will begin. (This probably is referred to as “mechanical rough-in” or “mechanical rough” by your contractor.) Mechanicals refer to the guts of the house: electrical; plumbing; and heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC). Like our own guts, most of the work done during mechanicals occurs behind the scenes.

So what is going on behind the scenes? Let’s break it down by type of work:

 

Midproject 3: Janet Brooks Design, original photo on Houzz

 

Electrical. The groundwork for all new light fixtures, outlets, switches and appliances will be done during this phase. New wiring will be run in the walls and ceilings, electrical boxes will be installed for future fixtures, and electrical panels may be upgraded so they can handle heavier loads (this is especially prevalent in remodels where appliances are added). At this point, electricians are making sure that everything that will need power will have access to it and meet your municipality’s building code.

Plumbing. As with electrical, plumbing rough-in ensures that all plumbing fixtures, appliances and other water features will be supplied with water, gas (if your house uses natural gas) or both. So pipes may be moved or installed in new places, shower pans (the things that make sure the water stays in the shower) are installed and inspected, and gas lines may be moved, extended or even put in.

HVAC. Unlike electrical and plumbing, HVAC is the only mechanical where nearly all the work is completed during the rough-in stage. Pathways for new vents (for bath exhaust fans or kitchen vent hoods) are determined and vents are installed, air conditioning units may be replaced, and air return vents are located in appropriate positions.

 

Midproject 4: Melbourne Contemporary Kitchens, original photo on Houzz

 

All this sounds exciting, right? No doubt, it is. But the progress isn’t as visual as it is in the Honeymoon Phase. Since everything occurs behind walls, under foundation or in attics, the big “wow” just isn’t there like it is when everything is torn apart.

It’s around this time that I’ve often seen homeowners concerned about progress. Yes, plumbers are there, but where are the new sinks? Why isn’t there a single light fixture installed yet? Is the HVAC guy even working, or is he just taking a nap in the attic?

The other contributing factor to the crisis is the fact that any speed bumps that crop up during this phase take a bit more time to resolve. Overall, the placement of existing framing is the biggest obstacle in mechanical rough-ins.

If your plans specify that there is going to be a can light in Location A, but Location A has a structural beam directly above it — no can do. Or say your architect has designated a toilet to be mounted on the wall instead of on the ground, but existing wall framing prevents this from being a viable option. Back to the drawing board. Or maybe your HVAC contractor needs to be able to provide ductwork to a new vent hood location in your kitchen, but there is no open attic space to place the ducts. Time to think through the alternatives.

Another obstacle, which is less common but should still be noted, is the condition of existing mechanicals. Any wiring, plumbing or venting that is found to be damaged, dangerous or just not up to par with your municipality’s building code will likely need to be remedied.

And don’t even get me started on inspections. If your job is permitted, inspections for mechanicals will occur during this stage. City building inspectors are (at least where I’m from) well known for being thorough. If you don’t have everything just right (which ultimately is good, because they’re looking out for your safety), they will not hesitate to make your contractor fix the issue before any work can continue.

 

Midproject 5: Kasper Custom Remodeling, LLC, original photo on Houzz

 

And finally, don’t forget to communicate with your remodeler. If you don’t understand something about mechanical rough-in (which is common), ask. If you’re concerned about the placement of pipes or wiring, say something. If you want an update on project status, request one.

I know it may be tempting to ask for advice from your neighbors who remodeled their house last year or your friend whose cousin’s husband is an architect, but in the end, the person with the most knowledge about your project is your building professional. See if you can get on your contractor’s schedule for a recurring biweekly meeting. It will help make the Midproject Crisis less of a crisis and more of an extended honeymoon.

So we’re halfway there. What’s next? Is the light at the end of the remodeling tunnel finally visible? When will your house start to look like a home again? What is the meaning of life? (I’ll tell you one last time — I can’t help with the meaning of life!)

 

But for more information on the next phase of a remodel, look for the next installment in this series: the Renewal of Vows.

 

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz

Work Smarter – Not Harder with Smart Home Technology

 

While still in its infancy, the number of smart home products—devices that let you control lighting, thermostat, or even your crock pot from your smartphone—is rapidly growing. These are products and whole ecosystems that help you control your home via a single iOS or Android app. You can pick and choose your favorite gadgets to assemble an affordable, intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.

While home automation is becoming more prevalent, naturally there are more and more products becoming available as “smart devices”. Here are some of the more diverse home gadgets we have found, beyond thermostats and security cameras:

 

 

GE WiFi CONNECT WASHER AND DRYER

Check washer progress with an app that lets you monitor cycles and settings, extend drying times, monitor levels of Smart Dispense tanks, download custom specialty cycles and receive alerts when clothes haven't been removed.

 

 

LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE, UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL

More than just a TV remote – the Logitech Harmony Elite offers all-in-one control of up to 15 home devices including your TV, satellite or cable box, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Blu-ray player, game consoles, plus connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors and more. There’s even a free app that turns your smart phone into an additional remote.

 

 

PETZI TREAT CAM

Missing your pet while you’re away? The Petzi Treat Cam provides a way to connect with them through your smart phone from anywhere. Dispense treats, watch live HD video and speak with your pet using the 2-way audio.

 

 

FRIGIDAIRE SMART WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER

A wifi connected air conditioner that you control through an app on your smart phone allows you to turn the unit on or off, change temperature, control modes and adapt fan speeds – especially handy if you want your home cooled off before you get home!

 

 

SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR

A few years ago, having a French door refrigerator with cameras, wifi, and a gigantic touchscreen would have been the stuff of dreams. Today it is a reality. This high-end fridge will let you peek inside it while grocery shopping, search for recipes on the 21.5 inch display, mirror your smart TV so you can keep watching your movie while you grab a drink, share calendars, photos and best of all – it even keeps your food cold.

 

Originally posted on www.windermereseattle.com.