Micro Homes Making Big Waves

What exactly is a “micro home”? It’s exactly what it sounds like. Micro homes are generally between 150 – 350 square feet. Former storage units, shipping containers and even dumpsters are being converted into these tiny abodes along with new construction of these tiny spaces in our cities.

1Micro homes as they are emerging fall into two categories: on the one hand they are tiny spaces in response to urban growth and skyrocketing rents and on the other they are created as architectural spectacles. The former are often derided as a means to squeezing more rent out of city-dwellers, particularly in San Francisco and New York; the latter can be truly amazing, innovative and progressive pieces of functional art.

The more promising concepts of a micro home and their reality are as yet seen in these stark contrast. However, for those looking to enjoy one, their growing popularity means that in no time we’ll be seeing the convergence of both their cost-effectiveness and their aesthetic potential. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the development of this new idea because for better or worse, micro homes may be here to stay.

Warm & Dry in Wet Northwest Weather

Pacific Northwest winters can wreak havoc on your home and this winter is about to prove it will be no different. There are a few key precautions that can protect your home from the particularly wet winter we’re about to face:

1)     Water Flow | don’t use French drains or sub drains and don’t direct water toward slopes. In our area mudslides can be a problem. Though directing water down a slope may seem a good way to prevent ponding, it can actually erode carefully engineered and compacted land that is necessary for the stability of your property.

2)     Heat Retention | along with making sure any gaps or cracks in your home are completely sealed, check heating ducts as loose ducts can cause you to seep out up to 20% of your interior heat.

13)     Trees | Check your trees and trim any overhang. Falling limbs or even entire felled trees are common in our area as the ground softens with increased moisture.

4)     Street Drains | it’s not just about your home, but your whole property. Ensure your street drains are clear of leaves and other residue that could potentially cause water to back up into the street.

The two goals of weatherizing your home are safety and efficiency. Anticipating how precipitation will affect your grounds can avoid future issues. As well, taking stock of your home’s vulnerabilities when it comes to losing heat can save you quite a bit of cash in the coming months.

Should you have any questions about how to prepare your home for our upcoming winter, get in touch with us here at Encore Custom Homes. We have endless resources, vendors and information to help you face this winter head-on.

The Government Shutdown and the Real Estate Market: What You Need to Know

It’s bound not to be good news, but it’s important to know how bad the news is and why. At this point, most experts agree that the shutdown has caused more fear than actual harm, but if this continues that could soon change.

1If you have ever gone through a real estate transaction, and certainly recently, you know how much paperwork is involved. Thus far, mortgage lenders and title have found ways to keep things running fairly smoothly, but with the Federal Housing Authority running on a severely restricted staff and the IRS unable to provide financial documents agents need to close transactions, things are going to get trickier. Along with the potential for failed closings due to inability to obtain necessary documents from government entities, with Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac unavailable, banks are using their own capital and they can only continue to do this for so long.

However, since the last government shutdown lasted only 21 days, there is little we can surmise about what would happen to the market should this one continue for an extended period of time. Again and with all of this said, for now the shutdown is having more of a mental impact on people than a concrete one. However, with the past fragility of the market and the encouraging rebound we’ve been seeing of late, the sooner everyone gets back to work, the better. So keep calm, carry on, and cross your fingers.

Cooking Up More ROI in Your Kitchen

With so many buyers at-the-ready, how do you make sure your home is prepped to fetch top dollar and bring you the most nesting satisfaction? Of all the remodeling options out there, revamping your kitchen can be key to sprucing up your home.

1Here are a few tips to ensure you know what you’re doing before you dive in:

1)     Set your budget at 10-15% of the value of your home. This prevents skimping but also the far more dangerous potential for overspending.

2)     In a room that has you working so hard, make sure your lighting is working for you. Kitchens that are under- or over-lit can affect not only the look and feel of the kitchen but also its functionality. Under-cabinet lighting to help illuminate prep work and recessed lights and pendants can liven up eating spaces.

3)     Keep it buyer-friendly. We all have our own tastes when it comes to colors and patterns but that means so do buyers; avoid anything that’s too vibrant or eclectic so you don’t turn off potential buyers should you be selling or decide to do so in the future.

4)     Think practical. Counter space is critical in your kitchen. Take the time to really understand the flow of cooking processes so you know you’ve made the most user-friendly kitchen possible.

5)     Backsplashes are a no-brainer – easy to clean, a useful aesthetic accent and generally a great way to top off the interior of your kitchen.

Even in a market as hot as this one, you want to make sure you’re giving your home the best chance to sell for what it’s worth. Here at Encore Custom Homes, we have trusted vendors and years of experience with this kind of work so should you find yourself wondering how to spruce up the culinary center of your home, we’re always here to help.


Amenities Making a Comeback

And the good housing news continues. According to Mortgage News Daily, “The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is seeing an improving market reflected in the size and amenities Americans now expect in both new homes and when they remodel” (see article).

Here are a few ways that what homeowners are expecting to see in homes is changing:

1)     Bigger is better! Higher prices per square foot equals more square feet.

2)     Outdoor spaces are seeing a renewed focus. What’s on the outside is as important as what’s on the inside.

3)     Open-space layouts and single-floors are trending. This makes it easier to make outside spaces flow indoors and add to the versatility of the home.

1The types of amenities are also changing. Again, the focus on outdoors means that spaces that allow for a healthier lifestyle are in high demand – less wine cellars or mud rooms and more gyms and yoga rooms.

Since it’s not just important to have more amenities, but ones that are desirable in today’s market, we recommend getting in touch with us to discuss what kinds of upgrades are going to bring your home the most value as we continue to keep our finger on the pulse of the market.

Bringing the World Home in the Northwest

We know the market is back, and no less so in the Northwest. Foreclosures are at their lowest levels in seven years (read article) and international investors are flocking to the West coast to take advantage of the hot market. In particular and certainly noticeable in our area, “Chinese buyers accounted for 18% of the $68.2 billion that foreigners spent on homes during the 12 months ended March 31, according to the National Association of Realtors” (see article).

1For Asian buyers, homes in the U.S. are a sign of status and wealth. It’s also used for many children of Asian families to live locally while studying at American universities. The Eastside is particularly attractive for such overseas buyers given our stunning environs, mild climate, top notch education institutions and ease of international travel.

So what does this mean for you and your home? Should you be considering selling or remodeling, it’s important to keep in mind that your target audience will increasingly consist of these overseas buyers and that means tailoring your spaces to broader tastes. There is tremendous opportunity for home sellers and investors looking for custom built homes to capitalize on this trend and further enrich and strengthen our local housing market. A globally expanding buyer pool will surely be a boon as we look to sustain the health of our markets locally.