Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New Efficiency Regulations Impact Homeowners

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) initiated new regulations, in January, regarding air conditioning. Manufacturers rate this type of equipment and others, such as heat pumps, on their efficiency using what's known as SEER ratings, Seasonal-Energy-Efficiency-Ratio.

For several years, the minimum efficiency standard has been 10 SEER. On Jan. 23,2006, the law changed to require 13 SEER equipment impacting the heating, ventilation and air conditioning market across the country. The new standard requires manufacturers to cease production of A/C components rated less than 13 SEER. While no one can predict how long existing systems may remain in use, manufacturers are now prohibited by law to build A/C components rated less than 13 SEER. The law will ultimately result in a phase-out of less efficient machines altogether.

One result of 13 SEER is the increased size of the new units. They are almost twice as large as 10 SEER units are. They take up more space in warehouses and delivery trucks, and may require more than one person to carry and install. That means additional work hours and more cost to both contractors and, ultimately, consumers. Homeowners will face another very real problem when the industry depletes the existing supply of less efficient components now that building them is illegal.

An A/C system includes two units that work together: one outside and one inside. If the outside unit of a less efficient system breaks down and there are no compatible parts left to repair it, there may be no other option than to upgrade the entire unit to 13 SEER, at considerable expense. Since the indoor unit must be compatible with the one outdoors to meet manufacturer efficiency guidelines, it will also require additional work.

It is understandable, that homeowners will be frustrated when they face a possible system upgrade instead of the standard repair they were expecting. The lack of education on 13 SEER and energy efficiency in general will serve to compound that frustration with shock and related financial worries. Another issue is the Home Warranties many homeowners have in effect, as the warranty may not address 13 SEER mandated upgrades. So, check with your warranty company. It is probably a good idea to talk with your homeowner insurance company also.

American Home Shield, one of the country’s largest home warranty companys, is offering an upgrade to get 13 SEER coverage now for just $30. The AHS resource center can be reached at 800-735-4663 and online at

To learn more about 13 SEER efficiency guidelines, check out,where you can read the actual 13 SEER legislation and find out about the history of the new mandates. Contact the U.S. Department of Energy for more legislative information and questions by mail at 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20585 or by phone at 800-DIAL-DOE.

Good luck and call, 425-308-3669 if I can help in anyway!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

What Is Your Snohomish County Home Really Worth?

A new website claims to give the numbers in Snohomish County, King County and beyond.

Wherever you live in Snohomish County from Mt. Lake Terrace, to Everett, to Stanwood, if you plan to buy or sell a home, one of the most important pieces of information you will need is the home's current value in reasonably accurate terms.

Well, is a new national website that purports to be able to tell you that so that you - uh - won't need a Realtor like me.

Well, I just read a good post on this by my friend Margaret Rome in Baltimore, Maryland and want to share it with you. It really says it all:

"In the last few days, a new Web site launched with great fanfare but spotty performance. When CNN included a story about it on their evening news, the site couldn’t keep up with the hits.

Why all the fuss? Zillow promises to give homebuyers and sellers up to date and complete information about the value of their home and comparables in their area. Some have suggested this will make real estate agents obsolete because people will be able to price their own homes to be competitive.

The early returns are that the site’s information is incomplete and sometimes wrong, which makes the suggested price ranges they give hard to justify. In some cases, the range is optimistically high, and for others, I’ve negotiated sales higher than their top amount.

The site depends on public records for its data. But public records will not show factors, like recent additions and improvements or the condition of the interior, that affect price. Public records can also be wrong; a friend of mine checked her house and said she wants that fireplace she’s supposed to have, but will not give up the second bathroom they didn’t count. If the information about a house is wrong, how valid is the price estimate? In time, the site will undoubtedly improve, but for now – caution.

There is no question about real estate agents becoming an endangered species because of this or any other site. Price is only one factor in buying or selling your home, and getting to the settlement table means avoiding traps and overcoming obstacles. A top agent will be experienced at:
  • negotiating the terms of your contract,
  • making sure only qualified buyers troop through your home,
  • meeting and dealing with appraisers, and
  • working with home inspectors and title companies to be sure you are protected from start to finish.

Buying or selling a home is an emotionally-charged transaction. Now more than ever it pays to have an experienced professional on your side. Embrace the benefits of new technology, but don’t fall into the trap of believing it will replace market knowledge and personal service.

The end of real estate agents? Not any time soon. Margaret"

Visit Margaret Rome's Blog here.

I am glad to provide you with a complete, accurate home evaluaton. Click here for your no-obligation report.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Update On Proposed Excise Tax

As President-Elect of the Snohomish County Camano Board of Realtors®, it was my pleasure to attend Realtor® Hill Day in Olympia on January 18. Over 375 Realtors® attended the event with 30 from just our local board. Our efforts to "Stop The Home Tax" has had a profound effect. The sponsors of the legislation to increase real estate taxes have indicated the home tax increase will NOT move this session! While this is spectacular news, Realtors® will not sit back and watch sponsors run a real estate tax increase this session or in the future. We launched another round of newspaper, ratio and TV ads January 9 to let legislators know we're still watching. The ads state:

"Washington homeowners are making their voices heard: they're overwhelmingly opposed to raising the Real Estate Excise Tax -- the tax you pay when selling your home. And most state lawmakers are realizing a home tax hike is a bad idea. But we must continue to send a loud and clear message to legislators: No New Real Estate Taxes! Now now, not later. Learn how to protect your home's value from excessive taxes. Get the facts at Protect your home's value today.

In addition to the "stop the tax" program, the Realtor® members urged their leaders to support our package of legislation to provide more housing opportunities in Washington State.

Remarkably, all of the bills in Realtors® Housing Package are seeing executive action in committees. HB 2217, our GMA/Housing bill that provides housing to accommodate growth, was passed out of the House Local Government Committee and is now in the House Appropriations Committee. Three of the bills, HB 2323, removing barriers to accessory housing, HB2324, providing density bonuses for more housing and HB 2325, allowing flexibility in short subdivisions through lot size averaging, have been heard in the House Local Government Committee and are waiting for executive action.

We are champions for the homeowners and are doing everything we can to protect your rights.

Oh, by the way, if you or a friend or family member is interested in buying or selling, please send me their information and I'd be happy to contact them, providing the quality service I have given you. Referral are the lifeline of my business and I appreciate all you do for me.

Regards and Good Day,

Karen Schweinfurth
To find your home's value or search for properties, visit:

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Celebrity Designer Offers Tips for Creating Curb Appeal on a Budget

(ARA) - If improving your home's curb appeal tops your list of projects to do around the house, take note: creating curb appeal doesn't have to be extensive or expensive. For instance, replacing old, worn-out garage doors with something dressier like a carriage-house style door can change the look of a home, almost more than any other improvement to the exterior -- especially one with a front-facing garage. And the project takes less than a day to complete.

Celebrity designer Chayse Dacoda from the hit TLC home improvement series, "While You Were Out" has built her reputation on helping homeowners refresh worn-out spaces. Here are her suggestions for minor cosmetic changes that yield big impact on a home's exterior appearance on a not-so-extreme budget.

Top Ten Things You Can Do to Add "Curb Appeal"

1. Paint your house! This may be an obvious one, so I have to get it out of the way first. Even so, not enough people do it. Most houses need it anyway. Go crazy, do what you have always wanted. Many tones of the same hue can really add dimension to the house. And remember, decorative moldings on older houses give license to use more than one color. Good prep work, like sanding off worn and chipping areas and priming, can make an exterior paint job last a lot longer and look better.

2. Change out-dated light fixtures -- or add lights if you don't have some already. Light up your doorways and walkways. Better to have more lights at lower wattages than one, very bright one.

3. Add landscaping. Consult your local nursery for plants and shrubs that work best in your area. If you're an urban dweller, don't let cement stop you -- add potted planters. The right landscaping around a property will make all the difference in the world.

4. Replace a worn-out garage door with a new, decorative model. This will have a big impact especially if you have a front-facing garage. Manufacturers offer many designs and decorative accessories so it's easy to find a door that will complement the architecture of your home.

5. Illuminate your landscape. This will completely change the look of your property at night. Angle low lights to point up at trees and bushes and point down along a pathway for safety. Keep it simple. Use solar lights that charge during the day and you won't have to run wires.

6. Resurface your driveway. Instead of a tarred or cement driveway, consider installing one with a woven stone and grass pattern. This can do wonders for curb appeal.

7. Add details such as shutters, decorative moldings and fun elements like weathervanes to the outside of your house. Make bland windows come alive and define the architecture of your house with mullions, moldings, decorative eaves, fixed shutters or iron scrollwork.

8. Add a stone walkway or path going to the house instead of grass or a wide berth of cement.

9. Replace a chain-link fence with a wood one. Be unpredictable. Instead of a picket fence - put in one that has slanted multiple-height wood slats - like the kind found commonly in Carmel, Calif.

10. Plant a tree. Nothing will appreciate more in value than what this tree will look like 10 years from now.

Interested in transforming your home on someone else's dime? Meredith Corporation, publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, Country Home, Traditional Home, Midwest Living, Renovation Style and Better Homes and Garden's Remodeling Ideas and Simply Perfect Exteriors, and garage door manufacturer Clopay Building Products are offering materials, money and a personal consultation from designer Chayse Dacoda, from TLC's hit home improvement series "While You Were Out."

The grand prize winner of the "Clopay Transform Your Home Contest" will receive a personal in-home design consultation from Chayse, a new Clopay garage door installed, $500 in exterior lighting fixtures, exterior paint and $5,000 toward the cost of repainting their home and a $1,000 landscaping allowance.

Two first-place prizes and 50 runners-up prizes will also be awarded. All winners will receive a signed copy of Dacoda's "While You Were Out" book.

Contest entries are being accepted from February 3 until April 21, 2006. To enter, homeowners are asked to mail a color photo of their home's exterior, including the garage, along with a 50-word letter explaining why your home is the best candidate for an exterior makeover. Log onto for more information.

Home Sellers, I offer a FREE report, 450 Ideas To Help Your Home Sell for More Money. Visit my website for your free report. Click here. Or contact me at 425-308-3669 for a personal consultation.