When I meet a client in their home for the first time before listing their property for sale, I am often asked what they can do to increase their chances of selling at the highest price. My number one answer is always, “staging”—decluttering to the extent that it looks more like a model home than one you actually live in.
- Paint – a fresh coat of paint in a modern, updated color not only cleans up the home considerably, but also makes your professional photos pop. It makes the home smell new, too!
- Carpet and flooring – if your flooring is old, tired and worn, replacing it might be in order, especially if the color is outdated. Coordinate the colors with your new paint and instantly modernize your home (and this also adds to the “new home smell!”).
- Lighting and fixtures – if you shop sales well, lighting and fixtures can also be relatively inexpensive and can instantly give your home a face lift. Brass and glass is out—if that’s what you have, consider replacing it with something more up-to-date.
- Cabinets and hardware – if your kitchen and bathroom cabinets are obviously dated, consider giving them a coat of paint and new hardware. More elbow grease than money, but a big impression!
- Curb appeal – this can potentially cost you nothing, but first impressions are golden! Get out in the yard and make sure your lawn is weed-free and edged, beds are raked smooth (and add new bark if necessary), driveway and walkways are power-washed and clean, gutters and front door are clean and fresh (by painting if necessary), and add a little color, even if it’s some pretty pots that you get to take with you after you move. You want buyers to love the outside so much that they can’t wait to see the inside.
Even if you don’t plan on moving, take a look around your home. With a few small improvements, would you enjoy living there just a bit more? Then go for it! If you would like my “expert” opinion, I’m happy to come and help you with that.
I read recently that twenty percent of the population has a predisposition to traveling. Wanderlust is in their genes. I think I have this gene. My parents have been all over the world and I, myself, have traveled on three continents. I’ve logged in time in probably three-quarters of the states in the union (at least, maybe more) plus the Bahamas and Bermuda.
Airports energize me. I love the chaos and the smell of jet fuel. Airports mean travel. Not everyone there is destined for their dream vacation, but I can imagine they are. Having never traveled for work, airports, for me, always mean a fun destination. They mean leaving real life behind for a while and walking a different path, seeing new things.
But there is also something about getting in the car and just driving. Getting out of our forest-lined, albeit beautiful, Pacific Northwest landscapes and seeing the scene change to wide open skies anchored by golden hills does something for my soul. It’s freeing. Relaxing. Energizing.
Last week, Joe and I drove. We had loose plans, but nothing concrete. We had just said good-bye to our two youngest kids, both off to college in Oregon, the youngest for the first time. In order to avoid a quiet house for a while, we allowed ourselves a week to see new things. We had an absolute blast.
Our trek took us through Spokane and Idaho into Montana where we stopped at most of the small towns we went through. We discovered copper in Butte and a formerly charming town in bad need of attention. We stayed in a historic stage stop in Nevada City, and just up the road was historic Virginia City where we walked the paths of gold miners and ate the best meal of our trip alongside ranchers and outdoor adventurers.
We got our cowboy on in Ennis and Bozeman, Montana, then spent the night in a motor inn like true rodeo performers in Cody, Wyoming where we paid homage to Joe’s dad, a talented rodeo cowboy in his younger years.
Our whims took us to Yellowstone for a day and we covered the part of the park we hadn’t been to before. Bison gave us quite a show several times and the awe of walking in an active volcano was stunning at times.
Back in Montana, we discovered more small towns like Dillon, where we ate our best lunch, and the ghost town of Bannack, a skeleton of what it once was, but perfectly authentic and accessible. We got a good feel of what the wild west felt like in this wonderfully preserved state park.
Twin Falls, Idaho treated us to the sport of BASE jumping, as spectators. We watched daring athletes pack their chutes then jump off the Perrine Bridge into the beautiful Snake River canyon, the only place in the world they can jump year round without a permit.
Headed back home, we saw more small towns when the need to stop for fuel or food arose, towns with a history like Boise, Baker City, and Pendleton. Each one had a little something special about it.
As the vistas changed and we headed back into the forest tunnel of Western Washington, my wanderlust gene felt satisfied. For now. And as we moved further west toward home, we talked about where our car would take us next time. Because for those of us with the gene, next time can’t come soon enough.
Our family recently took a trip to San Diego, just because. I’ve had people ask why we chose that city because it’s really not an obvious vacation destination. But we love beaches and we wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before. We chose well.
Not having been there before, I wasn’t really sure where to stay, but I kept coming back to a particular condo on a beach (literally!) I had never heard of, Imperial Beach. We took a chance and booked it. It payed off in spades…we loved this town. It’s a small beach town south of Coronado, just four miles from the Mexican border. It’s beachy in a sandy, surfer kind of way with surf shops, taco stands, a pier with countless fishermen on it, a beautiful sandy beach, and Hawaii-like surf.
Our first hour there we saw dolphins cresting the waves and watched a guy pull a stingray out of the water onto the pier (this was about 45 minutes worth of entertainment). In the following days, we played in the warm surf on boogie boards for hours, got a little burnt in the not-too-hot-but-just-right sunshine, ate way too many fish tacos, marveled at wide-open sunsets, and enjoyed people watching from the beach and from our condo’s deck.
The city of San Diego has so much to offer. We did a day at the Zoo which was maybe our favorite destination, and the beautiful pandas were our favorite habitat. We spent a day at Sea World which was a bit touristy-feeling, but worth it once. An evening in the Gaslamp District led us to find a charming Italian restaurant, Panevino, where the servers were the real deal as was the food. Father’s Day was spent on the USS Midway where we all received multiple history lessons and enjoyed exploring the fascinating aircraft carrier. We spent some time in Old Town, one of the first settlements in California, and liked it so much we went back again for some amazing Mexican food. One of my favorite afternoons was spent strolling around the Hotel del Coronado and the town of Coronado itself. It’s every bit as glamorous and charming as the novels I’ve read depicted.
But we began and ended our trip at the beach, along with a day or two in between all the other activities. If we only had the beach, we would be happy. The other things are just bonuses. And now we can add another happy place to the list. We hope to return again someday, but maybe there are more happy places to discover first.
My youngest child has 16 days of high school left. Ever. She’s our third so we’ve been through this before, but we always had another one following behind to occupy our attention. This time, every milestone is a last:
The last football game she cheered at, then the last basketball game, then the last cheer competition which was truly the last time she will wear the uniform.
The last track meet.
The last choir concert.
The last prom.
Soon we will be attending the last high school graduation, then taking her off to college…our last to leave home.
But her graduation coincides with a first—our first college graduation, that of our oldest daughter.
And many more firsts will follow in the next few years, I’m sure:
The first full-time job.
The first apartment.
The first to bring home a future spouse for dinner.
The first vacation for Joe and I alone, not to get away from our kids, but because they can’t join us.
Our lives have been full the past years, and we will miss every moment of chaos. But maybe we will have time to slow down and savor the next round of lasts and firsts in this next season of life.
I’m looking forward to it, with a few tears mixed in. I am blessed.
A new year is a great time to take inventory of our priorities, set goals and dream big. Sometimes our plans are large and life-changing, like choosing a college, changing careers, or relocating to a new neighborhood. But sometimes it’s the little things added up together that make the biggest impact, like an impromptu walk to Starbucks with a child, turning off the TV and playing a game, or a quiet conversation over a great glass of wine. These are the moments that define life.
Recently, I spent the day with a friend who wanted to take me beach glass hunting. We had been talking of this day trip for a couple of years and finally decided to make it happen. After a peaceful ferry ride on a spectacular fall day, we drove to North Beach near Port Townsend, a quiet beach notorious for its bountiful beach glass.
As I started hunting, I was disappointed that there weren’t large chunks of glass lying in wait for me to pick them up…I had always thought that beach glass only consisted of healthy-sized pieces. No, what we hunted for were tiny, gem-sized bits that, put together in a clear bag, made for a good-sized handful of sparkling, beautiful color. The slower we went, the more we found, sometimes sifting through handfuls of sand and pebbles to find the treasures. There were people on the beach who had collected large bags of these little pieces of color and when grouped together, they were stunning. Big pieces were rare, but the small pieces were bountiful if we took the time to look hard enough.
This year, we have some large, life-changing events happening in our family that will move us into a different phase of life. Because school graduations don’t happen often but tend to alter life dramatically when they do, and we have two of them, I plan to do what I can to look beyond those large pieces of glass, sift through the pebbles, and search for the little gems, those snatches of time that are so precious. Added up, these are what give sparkle and color to life.
And life will be more beautiful because we slowed down and took the time to find the gems.
Those of you who know us know we are no strangers to Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound. Since I was 10 years old, my family has been frequenting the island. Most of the time, we keep to the beach, not wanting to leave it when the weather is nice. But occasionally we will venture out to browse the quaint towns of Langley or Coupeville, explore Fort Casey, or tour one of many local wineries.
Sometimes, though, we long for something different. Something not so ordinary. If you have been to Whidbey, you have no doubt passed through the town of Greenbank, maybe without realizing it. This tiny town is one easily overlooked when cruising up the highway, but sometimes treasures are hidden in the most obvious of places, right alongside the beaten path.
The Greenbank Farm was started in 1904 and was once the world’s largest loganberry farm. Today you can wander through the old fields on an easy hiking trail (dogs off-leash permitted!), taking in a beautiful view of the farm and the Puget Sound. Stroll down to the farm itself where you will find a wine shop, a cheese shop, several art galleries featuring local artists, and most importantly, Whidbey Pies which makes delicious fruit pies in a variety of flavors including, of course, the infamous loganberry. Don’t tell Grandma, but theirs might be better! The picturesque farm also features beautiful gardens and ponds, and a barn that can accommodate weddings and parties.
Up the road a ways is the Greenbank Store. Also opened in 1904, it features a market and a full-service restaurant, but the real gem here is the deli in the back of the market. They make custom sandwiches the old-fashioned way, reasonably priced with lots of fresh ingredients. You can take it to go if you have planned another outing for your day, or eat it right there with the locals in the back of the store. When ordering, be sure and check the box “dill pickle” at the bottom of the order sheet (you fill out your own). At no extra charge, you will be given a large slice of a delicious pickle…but you have to ask for it.
Round out your visit to Greenbank with a tasting at Holmes Harbor Cellars. Family-owned, this picturesque vineyard released their first wines in 2008. Tour the European-inspired tasting room on the 20-acre estate and sample award-winning wines made from grapes grown in the Yakima and Walla Walla valleys.
Sometimes the best adventures in life are the ones that aren’t so ordinary. So on your next visit to Whidbey Island, stay on the beaten path, looking just to the side of it, and find a hidden treasure.
Our family loves a good breakfast. Not every day, but sometimes on weekends we will whip up a batch of chocolate chip pancakes, or Joe will make his special eggs (a yummy concoction of whatever meat is in the fridge—salami, bacon, sausage—and onions, peppers, spinach, etc.). Often, though, it’s a breakfast bar on the run. Going out for breakfast doesn’t happen too frequently with our busy schedules, so when it does we make it count. And we don’t go for yuppy food…we prefer trucker-style, hearty fare where the calories outweigh your car.
While Denny’s makes a decent breakfast (I’m serious!), we like little Mom & Pop joints that aren’t duplicated anywhere else. It turns breakfast into something a little more memorable. Here are our picks:
#3 – George’s in Kirkland is a classic diner with a Greek twist. Situated on Kirkland Avenue just a couple of blocks from the water, this 39 year-old establishment is Kirkland’s longest family-owned restaurant. The all-day menu includes classics like burgers (really good!), salads and sandwiches, and also throws in Greek classics like Gyro Pitas, Spanakopita and Mousaka. For breakfast, you can get your traditional Bacon & Eggs, Eggs Benedict or Biscuits & Gravy, or try something a little more interesting like the Olympic Omelet (pictured). This delicious omelet is made with gyro, pepperocini’s, tomato, Kalamata olives and feta, and comes with a side of Tzatziki sauce. So good! Portions all day are hearty and reasonably priced. And wandering downtown Kirkland afterward is a fun way to burn off the extra calories!
#2 – Brown Bag Café in the Totem Lake area of Kirkland is a long-time favorite of ours. We frequented their downtown Redmond restaurant often before it closed several years ago and Kirkland is now their only location. This restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch—pick one, you won’t need both with these monster-sized portions. The Brown Bag is famous for their gigantic, fluffy cinnamon rolls and these are a must-have item. Everything we have tried is amazing but a couple of favorites stand out. The Italian Omelet (sausage, peppers, mushrooms, onions olives, tomatoes, basil, garlic, mozzarella and feta) is huge and tastes like a pizza. I am usually not a fan of sweet breakfast, but by far the most delectable thing I’ve put in my mouth here is the Cinnamon Roll French Toast (pictured). They take those famous rolls of theirs, frosting and all, slice them up, dip them in egg batter and grill ‘em up. Oh. My. Word. Incredible!
#1 – Sunbreak Café in Auburn is our absolute favorite breakfast place of all time. This little diner is on A Street across from the train station and is only open for breakfast and lunch, and you will have to stand in line to get a table (totally worth it!). Lunchtime sandwiches are incredible, but breakfast is where it’s really special. They have all the traditional favorites like pancakes, omelets and my favorite Chicken Fried Steak (pictured), but a couple of unique touches make this place unlike any other. First, their portions are HUGE. Only order a half order, unless you want to feed your whole family, and you might not even be able to finish that. Second, the potatoes that come with savory dishes are so good—crispy and tender with the right amount of seasoning. Third, they offer green Tabasco sauce at the tables—silly, I know, but it’s my favorite and I haven’t found any other restaurant that does. And last, but most important, a “toast” option is their famous Banana Bread. You can’t leave without trying this. It comes with your breakfast, served warm and dripping with melted butter. Made with molasses, it’s dark and rich and absolutely mouth-watering. Everything here is delicious and you won’t need another meal for quite a while afterward.
So as summer nears an end, make some family time for breakfast and start your day out right—with a hearty meal big enough to push you right into fall. Don’t worry—I’m sure the calories don’t count before noon.
For seven months, I have been unable to put into words how I feel about a tragic loss. Now seems an appropriate time to share my heart.
Seven months ago last week, we lost a dear friend, a young man who meant a great deal to our family. On Monday, July 4th, we celebrated his favorite day of the year with his family, our family and our extended beach family, as we do every year. This year’s celebration was tough; a little bitter, but a whole lot of sweet, too, honoring a boy who will now be forever young.
Corey Lee was a special guy, and not just to us, as we have found out over the last seven months, but to pretty much everyone who met him. He had a huge, kind heart and befriended nearly everyone who came across his path.
We met Corey when he was not much bigger than a toddler, on our beach. Natalie and he were the same age, within two months. Corey’s younger brother, Cameron is the same age as Anthony. The kids became fast friends, starting out by spending summers playing in the sand in big holes dug by their dads, then eventually graduating to building their own impressive forts (one was so good that an inspector was called out to see if it needed a building permit!). Tessa was the tagalong, but always included, and the five of them would spend hours playing hilarious games of Apples to Apples, having canon ball contests in the pool, riding waves brought in by cruise ships, talking around beach fires consuming my famous Beach Bars, and just hanging out in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.
Corey taught Natalie how to braid out of material found on the beach, because rope was needed to make their forts stronger, and he taught her about the constellations as they sat around beach fires late at night looking up at the stars. He took long walks on the beach with Anthony because no one else wanted to walk that far, and they were pyro buddies on the 4th, the two of them lighting off the majority of the fireworks. He called Tessa “Leftfield” because her cards in Apples to Apples were always out of left field and made him laugh. He exhibited great leadership among the pack of kids he directed on the beach and was always respectful to the older folks as well. In recent years, our families spent more time together, and not only in the summers. We started making Coupeville’s Musselfest a tradition in the late winter, and got together for the occasional Seahawks game.
Corey carried with him a semi-secret, though. I say that because only a few friends and family knew the extent of the struggles he was going through with drug addiction. They call it “high-functioning” because Corey mostly carried on as though everything was just fine. An Eagle Scout and honor student, he kept his secret well hidden from most of the world. What started as an “innocent” experimentation with marijuana years ago led to the ultimate tragedy.
After Corey overdosed, we were privileged to be at his bedside for a little while before his passing. There, we each were able to recount our memories with him, and usher him to heaven’s gate.
Corey’s passing has left a huge hole in our hearts and while our Whidbey family truly stepped up this year and made the celebration one to remember, something was missing. We kept expecting Corey to walk up off the beach and join in our game of whiffle ball, jump in the pool just to get everyone on the side wet, try out our new paddle boards, or light off something during the fireworks show that could be heard two states away. Instead, we honored his beautiful life by doing all the things we had always done that he had loved, and also with some incredible artwork by another beach friend, Cheryl King. And before the best fireworks display we have ever had, our kids were honored to be some of the few who were privileged enough to scatter Corey to his final resting place, on the beach he loved so well.
As we carry on, we intend to honor Corey by telling his story. You can ready more about it at the website for the foundation created by his parents, ChoicesForAChange.org.
We trust we will see Corey again someday, on a heavenly beach where the forts will be impressive beyond our imagination…where we will all be together again, forever young.
I’m often asked, “When is the best time to sell a house?” Most people think spring is “real estate season” and according to a recent Zillow report, they would be right. May 1st through 15th is statistically the best time to sell, nationally and locally. The factors that go into this data would include fewer days on market and higher sales prices.
But what if you aren’t ready to sell your home on May 1st? What if you are suddenly relocated by your company on September 1st? Or December 15th? Or what if your heart doesn’t tell you the time is right until January 31st?
Then September or December or January is the best time for you to sell. People buy houses all the time. They aren’t limited to the season and they have reasons to be looking at all times of the year. Joe and I have sold houses the day before Thanksgiving and the week after Christmas. Life happens!
However, if you are thinking of selling, now is a good time to put those thoughts into action. Many people do look for homes in the spring because they are wanting to be in their new home before school starts in the fall. Or they want to move in warmer weather. Or their perception is that there is more inventory available (which there often is) so they get pre-approved with a lender in order to search in earnest.
Whatever your reason and whenever you are ready, I’m only a phone call away. And while I don’t work on Thanksgiving or Christmas (a couple of days off a year is ok, right?), I’m always ready to answer your questions and help you get started.
Your time is always the best time.
We are in a crazy market. In some areas, homes are still receiving multiple offers for well over the asking price and it seems it doesn’t matter much what the home looks like (or does it?). In other areas, it takes a little longer to find the perfect buyer. Sometimes it’s because of location, sometimes because of condition, sometimes it’s price. But there is usually something a seller can do to make their home more appealing to buyers than the one down the street. Part of my job is to pinpoint the things that are necessary, easy and low cost to accomplish, and then maybe suggest what would be worth putting some money into in order to increase your bottom line.
Here are my top five things sellers can do to make their homes more appealing to the average buyer:
1. Good first impression. The home should look great from the window of the buyer’s car—clean, manicured yard, pretty flowers, nice front door, no cobwebs in the entryway, no peeling or faded paint. It should be welcoming.
2. Pleasant smells. When we open the door to see a home, the first thing that greets us shouldn’t be a nasty smell. Make sure pets are cleaned up after and light a nice candle. If the home has a musty smell, there might be mold somewhere (often the carpet) and this needs to be taken care of prior to listing the home.
3. Cleanliness. Buyers don’t want to see a dirty or messy home. It makes them wonder what else has been neglected. We want them to remain in your home as long as possible, not make a beeline for the exit.
4. Clutter-free. People want to see your home, not your stuff. Packing ahead when you will be moving anyway, and some basic staging, will help folks see the potential of the home. Clutter equals chaos and we want to create a calming environment.
5. Basic updates. Even if you don’t want to remodel your entire house, do the basic items work? Kitchen appliances should be somewhat modern (not from 1964!) and entirely functional. Bathrooms should be void of ugly stains and leaks. Flooring should gleam and look new, even if it isn’t. Does the hot tub in the backyard work? If not, get rid of it. And remember, the more updated the house, the easier it will sell.
My consultation always comes with advice on what I think you could do to get your home sold faster and for more money. After all, who doesn’t want more of that?