Winter Retreat Ideas

Wintertime in the Pacific Northwest is often cold and wet, but this year, we’ve had a comparatively mild winter and many folks are considering heading outside to explore the area they live in. Winter retreats or getaways are a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of regular life and get caught up on some necessary rest and relaxation. Here are some of my go-to places in the Pacific Northwest that help me recharge!

Hood River:
This area has beautiful views of the water and lots of fun things to do. It’s full of amazing hiking and walking trails that offer breathtaking views of the Columbia River Gorge. There are also several wineries and vineyards that are fun to explore, as well as some great dining spots. There are a variety of vacation rental homes available or stay at one of the several in-town hotels, such as the historic Hood River Hotel.  No matter what you do here, you’ll be surrounded by quintessential Pacific Northwest stunning scenery.

Skamania Lodge:
This is another great place to unwind. It’s only a short drive from Clark County and the lodge is surrounded by forest greenery and overlooks the Columbia River Gorge. The lodge is known for their outstanding weekend brunch – it’s one that you won’t want to miss! Many of the rooms have fireplaces, so if a book and a cozy blanket by the fire sounds nice for your retreat, you’re in luck. Or, venture out to one of the nearby walking trails or take a short drive to Multnomah Falls to walk around.

Oregon/Washington Coast:
If escaping to the ocean is one of the ways you can best relax, you’re in luck with many different beach options. Rockaway Beach, Long Beach, Ocean Shores, Seaside, or Cannon Beach are all great options when it comes to a winter retreat. Wintertime at the beach can sometimes be rainy and stormy, but the smell of the ocean air is invigorating, no matter what. Stay inside and read or watch some of your favorite movies if the weather is stormy, and when the weather settles down for a bit, head out for a beach walk and some famous coast clam chowder.

Clark County:
Of course, if you need a retreat but your budget doesn’t allow for any overnight getaways, there are great ways to relax in the comfort of your own home. Unplug your laptop and your phone for a day or two and recharge without any electronics. Focus on doing some things that you love doing locally, even if it’s just sitting at home with your favorite warm beverage and catching up on reading your newspaper or watching some of your favorite shows.

No matter how you decide to take a break from the stresses of every day life, setting time aside for yourself to recharge is important and a winter retreat will do great things for your soul, body, and mind!

Posted on February 5, 2018 at 9:57 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home, Vancouver History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Avoid Contractor Scams

Looking for a contractor or local company to help with some of those home improvement projects around the house that you’ve let go during the winter? Spring is a busy time for contractors and unfortunately, it’s a time where scammers go through neighborhoods and start offering seasonal services to homeowners. Whether it’s a window repair, window washing, leaf raking, or HVAC installations, there are people out there that will make promises on doing a great job, take your money, then never deliver the service they agreed to do. In addition to asking me for recommendations on reputable contractors, here are some other ways to avoid contractor scams.

Tip #1: Know what some of the popular scams are.
Most of the time, the person pretending to be a reputable contractor will come to your door and claim that he or his team is already in the neighborhood doing work on other people’s homes. The company or individual will claim to provide you a large discount because they’re already in the area doing a job. Then, the person will ask for partial payment upfront in order to secure your place, then will promise to return the next day after he finishes his other job in the area. It’s likely that the person will take your money and run – you’ll probably never see him or that money again.

Another common scam happens when contractors enter your home to work on it and they start adding in extras to the job that were not part of the original price and scope of work. If the contractor does not want to write up something that includes all of the details regarding what work will be done and how much it will cost, this should be a red flag.

Tip #2: Know how to protect yourself from scams.
There are several great ways to stay alert to possible scams. First, work with reputable local businesses. To find out if someone is part of a reputable business, ask for proof of their business license, ask for a business card or examples of estimate sheets, and look to see if their vehicle has professional signage on it. Next, do your research online to see what kind of reviews are there. Look at sites like Yelp, Google, Better Business Bureau, or Angie’s List to start. If you notice a lot of negative reviews, you should probably consider looking for a new contractor.

One of the unique services I offer is the ability for you to call me and ask for recommendations on contractors or companies that are reputable. If I don’t have a specific recommendation for what you’re looking for, I can check with over 120 Windermere agents in Vancouver who do.

Posted on March 10, 2017 at 12:23 am
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Home Remodeling Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How New Thermostats Can Benefit Your Home

Winter isn’t over yet and chances are, your heater has been working hard already these last couple of months. But did you know that your heater can only do so much in keeping you comfortable? Your thermostat plays a direct role in how your heating and cooling system operates. If you have an old thermostat, consider upgrading it. Here’s why:

Reason #1: The temperature in your home will be accurate.
Older thermostats are likely not efficient and usually, they have great variation between temperatures. This could mean that the rooms in your home could be unevenly heated on those cold days of winter. In addition, inefficient thermostats can also cause utility bills to increase, which means you’re paying more than you need to every month. By upgrading to a digital thermostat, you’ll be able to use digital display or push buttons that can help you set the temperature to exactly what you want. This ability to have an accurate set temperature translates to having a warmer, more comfortable home throughout.

Reason #2: Convenience.
Programmable thermostats will change how you interact with your home’s heating system. You won’t need to worry about manually adjusting your thermostat every time you want to make an adjustment. Instead, set the temperatures one time and let the thermostat do the rest of the work. For instance, if you program the thermostat to turn off or turn down the heat when you go to work, then have it set to come back on right before you get home, you’ll save yourself time.

Reason #3: Utilize smart technology.
Technology is always changing and it’s integrated into almost all parts of our daily lives. Your thermostats, heating system, and other appliances in your home aren’t any exception. If you choose to upgrade your thermostat to one that uses “smart technology”, you could connect it to your Internet and keep track of your energy usage. You could also set it up so you can program your thermostat while you’re away from the home and you can even access energy reports, which could help offer tips on how to minimize any negative impact you’re having on the environment.

There are a variety of smart thermostats on the market today for your home. You can contact your local heating and cooling supplier or make a trip to your nearest home improvement store to see what is out there. Research which one might work best for your specific space and soon you’ll be comfortable while saving money!

Posted on February 7, 2017 at 5:24 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Remodeling Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Continued: 4 Housing Trends for 2015

File:WE PRR Master Suite4 (8310448375).jpg
My most recent blog series covers some of the top trends predicted for 2015. This week, I’ll be covering 4 more things that home buyers can expect to see in homes on the market.

  1. Charging stations.
    Our society is one that is completely technology-minded and technology-dependent. Home buyers today can expect that there will be plenty of areas for people to set their electronic devices down and charge them when needed, so much so that there will be dedicated space for charging stations. The most popular locations will be home office spaces, as well as kitchen corners, garage areas, and mud rooms.
     
  2. Multiple masters.
    What’s better than one master suite? How about two. This is predicted to be a popular trend in 2015, which makes homes work better for families with multiple generations living under one roof. Master suites that have adjoining bathrooms are great for families that have aging parents living with them or those that often have out-of-town guests.
     
  3. Storage space.
    Every home owner wants ample storage space. The trend for 2015 is leaning toward large spaces such as a butler’s pantry with an area for prep or even completely separate rooms for wrapping gifts or crafting.
     
  4. No keys? No problem.
    Do you lose your keys on a regular basis? Then a keyless entry might be a perfect answer for you. Many builders today are switching to keyless entry systems, which can allow people to open their homes with fingerprint door locking systems. This creates not only convenience simply because no keys are required, but it also provides an added safety feature because only those with saved fingerprints in the database can enter the home.

Home trends are interesting to watch, but be mindful of what your budget is and what things are “musts” rather than just “wants” in a home.

Posted on April 13, 2015 at 4:28 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Home Remodeling Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How spring cleaning and de-cluttering can help you sell your home

Have you enjoyed the amazing days of warm, spring-like weather that we’ve had? It has been uncharacteristic of this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, so it has been a real treat! With spring on its way and our clocks officially set forward, do you feel the urge to purge and clean out your home and garage. If you’re considering selling, spring cleaning and decluttering your home will help you greatly when it comes to listing your home.  

Pay attention to the details.
Details make all the difference when it comes to making your home look and feel clean to both you and potential homebuyers at a showing. One of the most important things that prospective homebuyers notice when they first walk into a home is smell. So, if you’re cleaning your home, try to avoid harsh chemical odors or strong perfume style fragrances that can overwhelm. Instead, use products that help neutralize odors in the home and be sure that your carpets, upholstery and air ducts are recently cleaned. In addition, if you do choose to use home fragrances, choose mild scents that are comforting and familiar.

Maintain the outside.
After a long winter of rain and colder weather, it’s easy to let the outside maintenance of your front or back yard go to the wayside a little bit. When buyers first see the outside of your home, they will instantly form a first impression.  Be sure that the lawn is mowed, edged, and leaves and other outside debris or clutter is picked up before each home showing.

Clutter, be gone!
If you’ve been in your home for any number of years, you know how clutter can build up around your home. Tackle each room one by one, no matter how long it takes and get rid of everything that isn’t a necessity. If there are things you want to keep but don’t need access too, find some decorative boxes or some other storage solution to keep them handy but tucked away from sight.

Whether you have already listed your home or you’re considering that spring is the right time to get the paperwork started to put your home on the market, your home will look better, feel more spacious, and be ready to go if you follow some of these helpful hints.

Posted on March 17, 2015 at 4:28 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Redesigning & Remodeling Can Open Up Your Floor Plan!


Open floor plans are one of the most desirable features in homes today. In fact, many of the remodeling and design shows on TV feature knocking out walls, adding support beams, and changing up the whole floor plan, making it feel open and spacious. Sometimes it makes you think, “Can I do that to my home?”

Open layouts provide a welcoming space that doesn’t feel cramped or cluttered. Unfortunately, some homes simply don’t have the open space that you might desire. But, there is good news! You might be able to remodel or redesign the space in your home so that you can have the open plan that you want.

Idea #1: Remove unnecessary walls.
If you have walls in your home that aren’t supporting or load-bearing walls or ones that don’t cover plumbing pipes, you may be able to take down the walls and combine the space to make the area feel bigger. After all the necessary permits are in place, this is a pretty simple task for construction companies, as they simply will need to knock out the wall and rewire any electrical lines that need to be adjusted. Even if a whole wall isn’t removed, even partial wall removal might be an option to help open up the space.

Idea #2: Paint, paint, paint.
Even though you might love that dark purple color, it might not be the best choice to lighten up the room.  Choosing lighter colors for your walls and floors can make your home look and feel bigger. So, when choosing colors, keep in mind the size of your room. In addition, be sure that the paint color, and furniture colors flow together from room to room, in addition to using matching or similar flooring throughout the home. If these things don’t flow, the space might be made to feel choppy rather than fluid and open.

Idea #3: Add more light.
Adding more natural light is a fantastic way to make the rooms feel brighter and bigger. Add French doors or a sliding door at the back of your home. Or, consider installing skylights or new bigger and brighter windows in your rooms to bring in more light. When it comes to window coverings, avoid bulky curtains and instead, consider adding fabric blinds or lighter sheer drapes so the space doesn’t feel heavy or too dark.

Your home should be your retreat space, so making it feel warm and inviting is important and these projects are often affordable and won’t cause you to dip into your savings account too much!

Posted on March 2, 2015 at 5:20 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Remodeling Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tips on Saving For a Down Payment


Have you dreamt of home ownership since you were young? You may have been thinking about what type of house you want and what neighborhood you want to live in. You have probably started thinking about how much money you’ll need to buy a home and saving up for the down payment is a big part of the equation. There are a few tips on how you can save up for the down payment and it may not be as hard as you might think.

Tip #1: Figure out how much you need.  
The first step to home ownership is getting a financial plan in place so you can know exactly how much you can afford and how much you will need when it comes to finding a home that meets your criteria. Review your credit and contact a local lender that can help you walk through the steps of what it takes to buy a house. Talk to your real estate agent and determine what houses are available in your price range and exactly how much of a down payment you need. Down payments usually range from 3% to 20%, which depends on the lender and what type of loan you get.

Tip #2: Save, save, save.
When you decide to make the leap into saving for a down payment, you will need to take a close look at your spending habits. In what categories can you cut your spending? Do you eat out regularly or travel on a consistent basis? Or, do you treat yourself to a fancy mocha a few times a week? Cutting back on even little things like that can put more money into your down payment account.

Tip #3: Earn extra money.
If your budget is already as tight as it can get, consider some ways to make a little extra cash on the side. Check out Craigslist for part time work opportunities or freelance gigs. Or, take on a tutoring job for a few high school or college age students in your field of expertise. No matter what your training or skills, there are probably some jobs that are simple, don’t require a lot of time, and can put some extra money in your account every month toward your goal.

Tip #4: Be patient.
Saving for a down payment is usually a process that takes a while.  When you first start, set a goal and then set some rewards or mini-celebrations as you go along.  For example, if you want to save $8,000 total, plan on a little celebration when you reach the half way mark – maybe it’s a fun weekend getaway trip or a fancy dinner out at your favorite restaurant. Celebrating along the way helps keep you excited and motivated to keep on going!

The process is well worth it and will put you on the road toward financial stability and in the end, home ownership! 

Posted on February 2, 2015 at 5:58 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Which Home Repairs Should You Make Before Selling Your Home?


When it comes to selling your home, there is probably a checklist of to-do items that might seem endless. Cleaning carpets, purging cluttered closets, repairing odds and ends around the home – all of these types of tasks are par for the course when it comes to getting your home ready to sell.  Before you put your home on the market, it’s important to do a thorough review of your home – inside and out – to see what potential problem areas there are.  Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer. What would they notice and what would they want to be fixed? Here are three most important home repairs to make before you list your home. 

  1. Leaking or damaged roof.
    If there are suspected leaks or apparent damage on your roof, it will need to be fixed right away. Damaged or leaky roofs can be potentially hazardous, as it can lead to serious water damage. If the roof isn’t leaking, check for missing shingles and have them replaced immediately. If there are shingles that are damaged or loose, fix those as well so they don’t fly off in windy or rainy weather.
     
  2. Electrical issues.
    Is your electrical panel overloaded?  This is something that an inspector will notice and tell the buyer about right away.  In addition, be sure that your wall switches, electrical outlets, or other fixtures in the home are fixed or replaced and be sure that any exposed wires are fixed and covered up so there is no risk of fire or electric shock. If you don’t have an electrical background, don’t attempt to fix all of these things yourself – a trained and licensed electrician should be the one that makes any upgrades or significant repairs to your system.
     
  3. Plumbing problems.
    If your home has problems with plumbing, this is something that should be fixed right away. Be sure that all of your drains are working well and that there aren’t any leaks coming out of fixtures or major appliances like dishwashers, toilets, or showers. This could lead to water damage in walls or flooring, which could cause rot.

It’s important to take care of the big things first. Then, take care of cosmetic fixes and get your home staged well so it’s appealing to potential buyers. Then, you’ll be on the track toward a quick and efficient selling process!

Posted on November 16, 2014 at 9:41 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Remodeling Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Benefits of Home Staging

One of the most popular real estate trends in the last several years has been home staging.  Television stations like TLC and HGTV have showcased how important and effective real estate home staging can really be. Real estate professionals and home sellers all over the country have implemented the home staging techniques that we have seen in recent years, and because of that, homes often sell faster and for a higher amount than homes that are not staged. Not sure if home staging really works? Check out the top 3 advantages of having your home staged when it comes to selling your home.

Advantage #1:  Staged homes compete better in the market.
By staging, you are able to feature the best parts of your home.  This means that buyers will see the advantages of your home over others and sometimes it even leads to a faster sale.  It also presents a great impression when the appraiser arrives.  This all means that you have the best chance of getting into a new home faster since you will get the money from your home quicker.  This also saves you the carrying costs of maintenance, utilities and more.

Advantage #2:  Staging makes an emotional connection.
When your home is staged well, potential homebuyers can envision themselves in the space. In addition, it’s important to know that even when it comes to home shopping, potential home buyers will use their emotions to make part of their decision on which home they want. They will remember how the home made them feel when they entered and walked around that house. They will make an emotional connection with the space almost immediately upon seeing it and when they can start seeing themselves in that space, there is often a sale. 

Advantage #3: Pictures are more appealing.
Many prospective home buyers start researching homes online before they go into any homes. With unattractive pictures online, they might pass by the home quickly, simply because they don’t see the value in the home. Staging the home means that your pictures will turn out better and in turn, give you the visual edge that you’ll need to get buyers to set up showings. 

Of course, choosing an agent that will effectively market your home is key, and professional staging can enhance your competitive advantage. Reveal why your home has appeal and get your home staged today!

Posted on October 22, 2014 at 4:02 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Remodeling Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Benefits of a home inspection


Well, after hours of searching and a lot of different house showings, you’ve finally found the home you want.  With a home sale, there are a lot of different things that need to happen. Paperwork needs to be signed, loans need to be cleared, and a home inspection needs to be done. You might have wondered why you need a home inspection. Even though the house might appear to be perfect, there are often hidden problems that can be diagnosed when a reputable home inspector comes to take a thorough look at the property.

Benefit #1: Peace of mind.
Buying a home is arguably one of the largest and most important purchases that you will ever make in your lifetime. Because of this, you should make sure that there aren’t any hidden issues that could have been spotted with a home inspection.  When it comes to buying a home, you need peace of mind, knowing that you’re getting a fair price for the home. 

Benefit #2: Hidden problems can be discovered.
A home inspection will include a full report of the condition of the home, both interior and exterior, as well as those harder to see areas such as the crawlspace, chimney, or attic. The report is designed to point out any major problems as well as some minor ones that can be fixed with simple improvements. No one likes surprises when it comes to home repairs, so knowing what you are getting into before you move in is important.

Benefit #3: Saves you money in the long run.
If you don’t have a home inspection and you decide to go ahead with the purchase of the home, there may be costly issues that pop up after you move in. This could be avoided by simply having a home inspection done during the purchasing process. It’s very common that the seller will fix issues before the sale goes through. This means the seller is responsible and you’re off the hook for those repairs – that can save you big bucks down the road!

Your home is a big investment and in order to be protected and know the exact condition of the home, a home inspection is a definite must-have.

Posted on September 9, 2014 at 2:45 am
Nancy Johns | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,