Archives: November 2009

Green Update: Pacific Northwest Named a Surprising Place for Solar Power

daisiesThe Daily Green recently posted an article discussing the benefits of utilizing solar power. Though recent economic troubles have slowed the transition to more earth-friendly power sources in businesses and homes in The Pacific Northwest and the rest of the U.S., TDG says the future is still bright for alternative energy.

Though solar power is extremely popular in places like California and Florida for obvious reasons, research out of Seattle-based Cooler Planet suggests that, while major factors such as availability of sun, social and political values, income and local incentives impact the number of homes using solar power, there are also some big surprises in the mix.

At the top of their list of surprises: Washington State, where — let’s face it — the lush green landscape is gorgeous, but sunshine isn’t exactly the main draw.  “While the Evergreen State does have a concentration of progressive, tech-savvy and green-leaning folks in the Seattle area and Bellingham, it’s interesting to note that interest in solar power is still fairly strong in rural areas and, to a lesser extent, the eastern part of the state, where incomes are much lower.”  People are catching on to the fact that the benefits of solar power aren’t limited to the sunniest locales.

If you’re interested in a greener home, keep checking back for our Green Updates each month here at LiveInThePacificNW.com.  Also, if you’re ready to make changes, but not sure where to start, check out Cooler Planet.  Their goal is to match interested homeowners and businesses with a network of pre-screened green professionals, and their services are free.  “Over time, we aim to provide you all the tools and resources you need to reduce the carbon footprint of your home, your business, and your life.”

Feel free to browse our Pacific Northwest Green Home listings on our Pacific Northwest Real Estate website!

Other helpful links:

Green Updates

The Daily Green

Cooler Earth

Meet Your Local Pacific Northwest Olympic Athletes!

This year is special for 2010 Olympic athletes from the Pacific Northwest—they get to make history in their own backyard in Vancouver stadiums and on Whistler’s slopes. When the eyes of the world are on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games in February, here are a few familiar names to watch for:

J.R. Celski—Short Track; born July 17, 1990; from Federal Way, WA.

Patrick Deneen—Skiing; born December 25, 1987; from Cle Elum, WA.

Nicole Joraanstad—Curling; born November 10, 1980; born in Seattle, WA (resides in Madison, WI).

Torin Koos—Cross-Country Skiing; born July 19, 1980; lives in Leavenworth, WA.

Scott Macartney—Alpine Skiing; born January 19, 1978; from Crystal Mountain, WA.

Christian Niccum—Luge & Bobsled; born January 27, 1978; from Seattle, WA.

ApoloOhnoApolo Ohno—Short Track; born May 22, 1982; from Seattle, WA.

Karen Thatcher—Hockey; born February 29, 1984; from Blaine, WA. Karen is from right here in Whatcom County and we are all so proud of her!

Laura Valaas—Skiing; born March 2, 1984; from Wenatchee, WA.

Ashley Wagner—Figure Skating; born May 16, 1991; lived in the Pacific Northwest and still has family here; now lives in Delaware.

To see photos and full bios on these amazing Northwest Olympic athletes, visit King 5.

For a full rundown of Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Events and great ideas for finding Olympics accommodations and making Vancouver travel arrangements, visit our Vancouver 2010 page!

Helpful Ideas to Add Value to Your Northwest Home, Part 1

iStock_000002058065XSmallWhen most of us think of trying to add value to our Pacific Northwest homes, we tend to think of big-ticket items first, but the truth is that there are simple things you can do to increase the selling value of your home that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Here are a few ideas to help get you started on adding value to your Western Washington home.

Upgrade now, before you need to sell

The real tragedy of many home upgrades is that people wait until just before they sell their Northwest home to make improvements. This isn’t wise, because: 1) it doesn’t allow you to reap the benefits of your own hard work—you don’t get to enjoy that new paint job, deck, or faucet fixture in the bathroom; and 2) you don’t get 100% of your renovation dollar back at resale. Make the improvements that you can now, while you can enjoy and appreciate them—reap the benefits of your investment later when it’s time to sell, without feeling disappointed that you’re not receiving a 100% return.

Get out that paintbrush

Give your home a modern, fresh look that will appeal to buyers—all with a simple paint job. This is a relatively easy home improvement that most Pacific Northwest homeowners can do themselves—all they need are some basic pieces of equipment, some time spent researching attractive color palettes, and a few days of hard work.

Despite the relative simplicity of this home improvement, however, the effects are dramatic. A little color goes a long way in determining how inviting your home will be to buyers looking for a Northwest home.

Go for some new fixtures and hardware

Never underestimate the power of a modern faucet, new drawer handles, or an attractive doorknob to breathe new life into your home. For a relatively small investment, these add big-time visual appeal to all-important rooms of the home—kitchens and bathrooms are VERY important.

Though negative changes in the housing market have lowered the returns on remodeling, small kitchen and bathroom renovations still return somewhere between 80 and 85% on the dollar at resale, according to a 2009 cost-versus-value report in Remodeling Magazine.

New countertops? Go for granite when possible.

When it comes to countertops, granite communicates luxury, though it need not cost you a luxury price. Because bathrooms are small areas, it’s sometimes possible to buy small quantities of slab from local businesses, so start there.

Another aesthetic improvement that can add significantly to the value of your home is fresh tiling. Where tiling is concerned, options abound in color, style, material and price. Done well, this improvement stands to give you a great return on your investment.

Check back later this week to get more helpful tips on improving the value of your Pacific Northwest home. Please request my free Home Selling Guide to receive tips straight from an expert Whatcom County Realtor!

Pacific Northwest Home Sales Get Big Boost from Tax Credit

1150489_property_for_sale_5Though the First-Time Homebuyer Credit was eventually extended through April 30, 2010, the looming original deadline still prompted a surge in Pacific Northwest home sales through October. The Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported a 63 percent jump in pending sales this past month compared to October 2008.

These new figures continue to indicate some stability in the market and some improvement in consumer confidence. Inventory is at its lowest level since December 2008. For the month of October, Whatcom County has 364 new listings on the market, while Skagit County has 208 new listings. Island County reports 162 new listings, and San Juan County listed 25.

(Wanted to also mention good news for homeowners in San Juan County, where the median sales price for last month’s completed sales was $454,250: price changes are rising rather than declining at a gain of 15%!)

NWMLS director Kathy Estey says that while the tax credit has been incredibly helpful to getting the housing market moving again, there are actually a number of factors at work: “Sales are not just fueled by the first-time buyer stimulus,” but include the stabilization of entry-level homes and diminished inventory, just to name a few catalysts.

“The fourth quarter is one of the best times for buyers, so we expect the positive activity to continue,” she says.

If you’re looking to buy a home in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, or San Juan County, the time is right to start moving forward in 2010! Feel free to view our free Pacific Northwest MLS search, or contact me, your expert Pacific Northwest realtor, directly for details.

A Pacific Northwest Resource for 2010 Olympics Information!

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We are currently 89 days from the start of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games – and now is the time to get going on those plans to be a part of the festivities!

For everything from Canadian/US border crossing requirements and Olympic travel information, to great Vancouver and Whistler accommodation tips, to a schedule of Olympic sports events and celebrations at the Games, we’re here to help. Check out our Vancouver 2010 page at LiveInThePacificNW.com for everything you need!

Whatcom Middle School Students Find Warm Welcome at Bellingham Host Schools

pic-8644Students and teachers from Whatcom Middle School are likely to remember this first day of school more than any other: on November 12th, they began classes in their new school home – at least for the time being.

One week after 106-year-old Whatcom Middle School was severely damaged in an early-morning fire, 580 students joined together in an assembly at Bellingham High School. There, they celebrated what makes them Whatcom Wildcats – not a school building, but their connections to each other. After the assembly, they loaded on buses to take them to their temporary host schools – likely to be “home” to them for the remainder of the school year.

Sixth graders now attend Geneva Elementary, in the Whatcom Falls neighborhood. Seventh graders are in class at Fairhaven Middle School. At both schools, students out front held large signs and cheered the new students on as the bus arrived.

Eighth graders now attend Bellingham High School – they have their own wing, dubbed “The Wildcat Wing” – while students in special education go to Squalicum High School in the Mount Baker neighborhood.

Teachers hope that the warm welcome their students received will make it easier for them to settle into a new routine in a new school. They are proud of the students who’ve helped to welcome new kids to their school, and are proud to be a part of this great Bellingham community.

To find out more about schools in Whatcom County, browse our Bellingham neighborhoods page, where you’re find photos of local schools as well as helpful details about each area.

Great News for Pacific Northwest Homebuyers: Tax Credit Extension Passes!

1229466_dollar_signGood news for people looking to purchase a home in the Pacific Northwest – President Barack Obama recently approved the first-time homebuyer tax credit extension which will extend the tax credit until April 30, 2010.

This extends the $8,000 tax credit for homebuyers who are purchasing their first home from the current November 30 deadline and expands the program to offer a credit of $6,500 to homeowners who have lived in their current home for at least five years and are seeking to relocate.

If you’re thinking of buying a Northwest home in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, or San Juan County in 2010 – the first half of the year may be the time find your dream home!

The following details apply to the homebuyer tax credit expansion:

Who is Eligible
First-time homebuyers, who are defined by the law as buyers who have not owned a home during the three-year period prior to the purchase, may be eligible for up to an $8,000 tax credit.
-Existing homeowners who have been residing in their principal residence for five consecutive years out of the last eight and are purchasing a home to be their principal residence (“repeat buyer”), may be eligible for up to a $6,500 tax credit.
-All U.S. citizens who file taxes are eligible to participate in the program.

Income Limits
Homebuyers who file as single or head-of-household taxpayers can claim the full credit ($8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers) if their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is less than $125,000.
-For married couples filing a joint return, the combined income limit is $225,000.
-Single or head-of-household taxpayers who earn between $125,000 and $145,000, and married couples who earn between $225,000 and $245,000 are eligible to receive a partial credit.
-The credit is not available for single taxpayers whose MAGI is greater than $145,000 and joint-filers with a MAGI that exceeds $245,000.

Effective Dates
-The eligibility period for the tax credit is for homes purchased after Nov. 6, 2009, and before May 1, 2010. However, home purchases subject to a binding sales contract signed by April 30, 2010, will qualify for the tax credit as long as closing occurs prior to July 1, 2010.

Types of Homes that Qualify
-All homes with a purchase price of less than $800,000 qualify, including newly-constructed or resale, and single-family detached, townhomes or condominiums, provided that the home will be used as their principal residence. Vacation home and rental property purchases do NOT qualify.

Tax Credit is Refundable
-A refundable credit means that if the amount of income taxes you owe is less than the credit amount you qualify for, the government will send you a check for the difference.

-For example:
-A first-time buyer who qualifies for the full $8,000 credit who owes $5,000 in federal income taxes would pay nothing to the IRS and receive a $3,000 payment from the government. If you are due to receive a $1,000 refund, you would receive $9,000 ($1,000 plus the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit).
-A repeat buyer who owes $5,000 would pay nothing to the IRS and receive $1,500 back from the government. If you are due to get a $1,000 refund, you would get $7,500 ($1,000 plus the $6,500 repeat buyer tax credit).
-All qualified homebuyers can take the tax credit on their 2009 or 2010 income tax return.

If you’re looking for a dream home in the Pacific Northwest, I’m here to help! Contact me or feel free to browse my free, no-hassle Northwest MLS search.

Whatcom County Recycles – Here’s How You Can, Too!

sanitary-service-company-(ssc)_logoMany of you are probably aware of how to recycle things like aluminum cans and glass bottles – with curbside recycling common in Whatcom County, most of us are conscious of what goes into our garbage cans each day.

In our part of the Pacific Northwest, however, there are more recycling options than ever before, and some of you might be throwing away things that you don’t have to!

Here’s a helpful list of common household recyclables & reusables you may not know about, from a recent spread in The Bellingham Herald:

APPLIANCES – Large broken appliances can be recycled at Appliance Depot at 802 Marine Drive, Bellingham, 360-527-2646, or at Bellingham Appliance Center in the Birchwood neighborhood, 360-714-8102.

Small broken appliances such as microwaves or toasters can be taken to ReLectronics in the Lettered Streets neighborhood at 1000 C Street, Bellingham, 360-734-1235.

BATTERIES – Rechargable batteries can be taken to the Disposal of Toxics Facility in the Birchwood neighborhood, located at 3505 Airport Drive, Bellingham, 360-380-4640.

Alkaline batteries can be recycled at Walmart in the Guide Meridian neighborhood, 360-647-1400, or the Western Washington University Bookstore on High Street in Bellingham.

CELLPHONES – Donate cellphones with chargers to the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center at 1407 Commercial Street in Downtown Bellingham, 360-671-5714.

CLEANING SUPPLIES – Recycle new or partially-used cleaners at the Disposal of Toxics Facility, at 3505 Airport Drive, Bellingham, 360-380-4640.

COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHTBULBS (CFLS) – Unbroken CFLS can be recycled at Home Depot located in the Meridian neighborhood for free at the orange bins inside the store. 420 Telegraph Road, Bellingham, 360-715-0090.

COMPUTER HARDWARE (LCD MONITORS, LAPTOPS, TOWERS) – ReLectronics accepts computer hardware for free at 2422 E. Bakerview, Bellingham, 360-734-1235. Non-LCD monitors are charged a $15 fee. They also accept computer accessories such as mice, keyboards, etc.

All computer hardware can be recycled at Safe and Easy Recycling in the Mount Baker neighborhood at 4131 Hannegan Road, Bellingham, 360-715-3279.

EYEGLASSES – Leave old pairs of glasses at LensCrafters in Bellingham’s Bellis Fair Mall, and they’ll donate them to international clinics. 360-676-5665.

FORMAL CLOTHING – Donate used formal clothing to the Downtown Bellingham YMCA, which provides prom dresses for low-income students. 1026 N. Forest St, Bellingham, 360-734-4820.

FURNITURE – The Arc of Washington State will pick up furniture in good shape for free at your door. 360-671-3344. Other options include the Assistance League of Bellingham (360-738-2803), Goodwill (360-738-0483), Salvation Army (360-733-1350), Value Village (360-733-2333), the Second Chance Thrift Store in Lynden (360-318-9333), and Project Hope Chest in Lynden (360-354-4673).

HOUSEHOLD ITEMS – Many household items, including clothing, bedding, and kitchen items, can be donated to the following second-hand places: Goodwill (360-738-0483), Salvation Army (360-733-1350), Value Village (360-733-2333), the Second Chance Thrift Store in Lynden (360-318-9333), and Project Hope Chest in Lynden (360-354-4673).

Northwest Center also has donation bins located all over Whatcom County. Go to www.nwcenter.org for more information.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS – Broken, used, or new instruments can be donated to Created to Worship, a music store located in Downtown Bellingham at 901 W. Holly St, Bellingham, 360-756-2043.

PLASTICS – Save mixed plastics (Ziploc bags, grocery bags, Saran wrap, plastic hangers, etc.) in a 30-gallon garbage bag and drop off at Sanitary Service Co (SSC – located in the Columbia neighborhood) for a $5 fee. 1001 Roeder Ave, Bellingham, 360-398-2025.

Also recycle grocery bags and Ziploc bags (rinse & cut off the zip-top) in the bins at Whatcom County Haggen or Wal-mart stores.

PRINTER CARTRIDGES – Recycle old printer cartridges for free at ReLectronics, 2422 E. Bakerview, Bellingham, 360-734-1235.

SHOES – Soles 4 Souls is a non-profit organization that accepts gently worn shoes and gets them to people in need all over the world. Visit www.soles4souls.com to learn more.

TELEVISIONS – Broken TV’s can be recycled for free at Safe and Easy Recycling at 4131 Hannegan Road, Bellingham, 360-715-3279.

TOWELS – Trim snags  and donate your clean worn towels to the Whatcom Humane Society. 360-733-2080.