Preparing for the School Year at Home

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For those whose children will be taking classes online or participating in remote learning this school year, keeping the following tips in mind will help create an at-home learning environment that prioritizes health and learning, while being able to adjust to this year’s unknowns.

A home cannot fully replace all that a formal school classroom has to offer. However, what it lacks in traditional classroom appeal it makes up for in comfort and familiarity. Prepping your home to take on this additional role will help set your child up for success during what will be a unique academic year for many.

 

Set the tone

One of the best ways to set your children up for success this school year is to get them excited. It is important to communicate that this school year, even with all its unknowns, is an exciting opportunity for new and creative ways to learn and grow. Helping your child understand the unique learning possibilities your home provides will get the school year off to an enthusiastic start.

 

Create a space 

Establishing a designated space for school at home is important for a child’s ability to focus and to associate a space with learning. How you create a classroom environment will depend on your home and your needs. If your child is most comfortable in their room, try incorporating their classroom setup there. Depending on your child’s age, it may help to have toys or familiar room objects nearby. However, if your child is distracted by their own room, it may be better to set up elsewhere to help them focus, such as a nook or office.

Allowing your child the freedom to make the space their own will help stimulate their imagination, which is vital to their learning and enjoyment of school.

Wherever the home classroom is, be sure that area has minimal distractions, maintains a strong internet connection, and is well-stocked with school supplies within reach at all times.

 

Back to school

To maintain a sense of normalcy, keep your family’s back-to-school traditions intact this year, such as picking out school supplies, back to school clothes shopping, and everyone’s favorite first day of school photo. These ceremonies of preparation for the school year will build excitement while bringing some familiarity to those final days of summer.

Establish a routine

Just as adults have discovered new routines to parallel the shift to remote work, children need a shift in their daily flow to mirror the change to remote learning. The rigor of their school schedule will determine how much flexibility you have in putting together a routine.

Stay active, incorporating movement breaks throughout the day to make up for the lack of physical activity. Plan out times away from their computer screens to differentiate between work and play time.  It’s recommended that children move at least 60 minutes a day, so prioritize exercise and movement, going outside when possible. This change of scenery is a helpful intermission for children. It gives their eyes a rest from their screens and returns them to their learning space feeling refreshed and revitalized.

 

Granted, your ability to facilitate your child/children’s preparedness and monitor their continued learning is based on various factors like your work schedule and what resources your school district is providing for at-home learning. No matter your household’s situation, taking these factors into consideration where possible will help set your student(s) up for success.


Posted on September 3, 2020 at 1:38 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

Your Guide to Going Solar

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For homeowners looking to reduce their home’s carbon footprint, increase its sustainability, and add value to their property, going solar is an obvious choice. Understanding how solar works and how to maximize its benefits are key first steps in your journey to becoming a solar energy-producing household.

How does solar work?

The technology that turns your house into a solar energy-harnessing hub is called photovoltaics, more commonly known as PV. PV works by fielding direct sunlight and absorbing its photons into the solar panels’ cells, which then creates electricity that provides energy for your home. This energy reduces your home’s output of carbon and other pollutants, which translates to cleaner air and water.

With the sun as the power source, the majority of the power generation occurs during the middle of the day, making summer the highest producing season. But don’t worry, it all evens out in the end.

Rooftop panels work best when they are exposed to sunlight, free of shade or shadow from nearby trees or structures. Given the sun’s east-to-west path, south-facing roofs are best-suited for maximizing your solar power. To see if your roof is set up for success, consult a mapping service or solar calculator to establish your roof’s suitability. If your roof isn’t up to standard, there are options such as ground mount solar installations and community solar gardens that you can explore.

Components

  • Solar panels: Capture the sun’s energy
  • Inverter: Converts the sun’s energy to a form that powers devices
  • Racking: The foundation that holds your solar system in place
  • Batteries: To store the energy generated
  • Charge controller: To control how quickly the batteries charge

What are the benefits of solar power?

  • Sustainability: Having a renewable source of energy coursing through your home reduces your household’s carbon footprint and increases your eco-friendliness.
  • Savings: How much money you save by going solar depends largely on how much energy your household consumes and the energy output of your solar panels. The cost of going solar has continued to decrease every year, so you are more likely to save as time goes on. For information on state incentives and tax breaks, explore what options apply to your home by visiting DSIRE(Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency).
  • Utilities: Whether your utility company charges a flat rate for electricity or charges variable rates throughout the day based on electricity production—i.e. higher rates in the afternoon, lower rates at night—solar power offsets the price you are charged for electricity. It becomes even more valuable during those higher-rate periods or during seasonal fluctuations in utilities costs.
  • Sell it back: Homeowners can sell their solar energy back to utilities through “Net-metering” plans. When your power generation rate is greater than your household’s consumption rate, the end result on your electric bill is a net energy consumption. Refer to DSIRE for region-specific regulations and policies.
  • Home value: A recent study by The Appraisal Journal found that homes with solar PV systems increased their sale price by an average of 3.74%, equaling a premium of $14,329.

Although the right solar solution looks different for each household, what remains true across the board are the environmental benefits and increased home values that solar power brings. Taking all this information into your research will improve your home’s renewable energy and reduce your carbon footprint.


Posted on August 13, 2020 at 10:00 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Homeowners, Living | Tagged , , , ,

Setting Up Your Home Gym

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As the stay-at-home hours add up, setting up a home gym is not only physically beneficial, but can bring some added mental wellness to the new normal many of us find ourselves in. In comparison to a gym membership, even with the up-front investment of purchasing equipment, an at-home gym can deliver savings in the long run. With far-ranging fitness gear options online, there are more ways to save than ever before.

 

Location, location, location

Before the lunges, pushups, and weightlifting, the first step in setting up your at-home gym is deciding where to build it. You’ll want plenty of room for the activities and workouts you have in mind. Rooms with low ceilings or narrow walls are not well-suited for a gym. They will limit your ability to perform any kinds of jumping exercises or workouts with wide ranging movements. This space is dedicated to physical activity and the environment should support that. If extra space is hard to come by in your home, consider taking your gym outdoors to a patio, multipurpose space, or other less commonly used area.

 

A space with level, hard flooring, like wood, laminate, or tile, is the best fit for your gym, especially if you plan on establishing a workout plan based around lifting or cardio. Having spatial awareness at all times is important while working out, so you’ll want plenty of light in your home gym. Mirrors are a common fixture in gyms, consider adding one to your wall to analyze your technique.

 

Gear up

  • Strength training: Simple workout tools like kettlebells and dumbbells allow you to perform a variety of workouts without taking up much space. Kettlebells are a great tool for incorporating cardio workouts with added weight. Dumbbells at a lower weight are better for toning exercises, while those at heavier weights are better for low-repetition, bulk exercises.
  • Cardio training: Smaller workout tools such as jump ropes, wrist and ankle weights will add intensity to your cardio workouts. Yoga mats provide proper support while performing core exercises or other body weight circuit workouts during your cardio sessions.
  • Large equipment: To get the most out of large workout equipment like treadmills, stair climbers, and bikes in your home gym, plan for them to be a significant part of your workouts.
  • Additional: Applying a layer of gym flooring will help prevent damage and provide added support. If you prefer music and/or video to accompany your workouts, add speakers and a TV to get the motivational juices flowing.

 

Establish a routine

Your home gym is no good if it gets no use. With zero commute time to account for, arrange a workout routine that suits your daily schedule. Even if you have 30 minutes, getting into a routine of working out is the key to building up your healthy lifestyle in this new normal of home life.

 

Once your home gym is set up, it can be either your individual fitness sanctuary or an opportunity to work out with others. Invite a friend to exercise via video chat and schedule times to feel the burn together. With more virtual fitness classes available now than ever, surf the web to find the classes that best fit your schedule and desired workout intensity.


Posted on July 23, 2020 at 10:17 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

SUPPORT LOCAL: WAYS TO BOOST OUR COMMUNITY DURING COVID-19

Now more than ever, our local community needs our love and support. Whether you’re able to donate time, money or other resources, we’ve rounded up a few comprehensive local guides to help you get involved and give back.

Donate to Coronavirus Causes

This list compiled by The Seattle Times is extensive — covering everything from animals to research and social services, direct support for artists, businesses and restaurant workers, and volunteering opportunities. The Times also includes helpful information for researching charities and how to look up nonprofit spending.

Volunteer Across King County

This comprehensive crowd-sourced list is organized by what’s needed. From writing notes to neighbors living in senior centers to delivering food, mentoring kids or donating blood, this list connects you with organizations across the county and gives you the info you need to get involved.

Help Feed the Front Lines

The brokers at Windermere Real Estate Co. have started a drive to get lunch twice a week for the medical professionals at UW Neighborhood Clinics. The drive is a  partnership with chef Renee Erickson, a James Beard Foundation award winner, and her restaurant The Whale Wins. This effort serves both as a thank you to our medical front-liners and as a boost to a beloved local business. The goal is to raise $19,000 to provide over 1200 lunches. If you’d like to participate or donate, you can do so on the Windermere Foundation’s website and make sure to type Feed the Front Lines in the “Office Name” box at the top of the form.


Posted on April 16, 2020 at 9:11 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

Designing Your Home Office

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Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes effort. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization in order to be successful.

Having a designated workspace is one of the most important elements to your success when you make the switch to telecommuting. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating their work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall wellbeing. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? Here are the top five:

  1. Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.
  2. To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
  3. Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
  4. Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance. Choose which options works best for you by playing with both options, or something in between and see which one lets you be more productive with the least amount of stress.
  5. Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.

Posted on March 18, 2020 at 2:43 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

Refresh Your Bathroom into a Spa

 

Image Source: Canva

With some creative thinking and a few do-it-yourself projects, you too can transform an everyday bathroom into a spa-like experience:

High-end shower head

There are a plethora of shower head options available today that can make even a simple shower space feel like a luxuriating experience.

Heated towel rack

Once out of the tub/shower, heated towels help you comfortably maintain your body temperature while the pampering continues.

Dimmable lights

Adjust the bathroom lights to match your moods and activities: brighter for primping, and dimmed to create a calming effect.

Less clutter

Not everything that’s meant for the bathroom needs to be stored in the bathroom. Look for things that can be moved elsewhere to make the space feel a bit bigger and more organized.

Calming scents

Essential oils, luxury soaps, and scented candles are an easy way to create an aromatic atmosphere of luxuriousness.


Posted on January 26, 2020 at 2:48 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

Home Security for the Holidays

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The holiday season can bring joy and peace, but it can also bring package thieves and burglary. Stay safe this winter by taking a few precautions with your home security. From old-school security tricks to new digital home monitoring tools, there are many options when it comes to keeping our homes safe and preserving that sensibility.

 

Upgrade your locks:

A poorly installed deadbolt can make it easy for an intruder to kick in your door. Start by making sure that your door frames are in good condition and then look into getting a higher quality deadbolt. You’ll find everything from classic models with keys, or digital options that require passcodes or a fingerprint.

It’s also a good idea to check all the locks on your windows. Some older models are easy to jimmy open with a little wiggling. For ground floor windows, you may want to consider double locks. It goes without saying, leaving windows open during the summer is a bad idea – especially those that can be easily accessed.

 

Exterior and interior home lighting:

Having your exterior lights on timers or motion sensors is a good way to deter nighttime snoopers.  Add sensor lights to key entry points on your home, including the front door, back door, and/or basement entries. If you have an unused side yard, consider lighting there too. Keeping your home lit makes unwanted visitors weary of being seen.

If you will be gone from your home for an extended period, consider using timed lighting options in your home to make it appear someone is around. You can select timers for bedrooms or living areas. Also, you can program a radio to turn on and off for sound.

 

Alarm systems:

If you are considering an alarm, you have an array of options that vary from self-install motion detection kits to full-service home security systems.  If you choose to do-it-yourself, you will want to install motion detectors on doors and windows – especially those that can be easily accessed on the ground floor. In most cases, these kits also offer a 24-hour call service for an extra fee.

Full-service security systems can include everything from an alarm system and panic buttons to and integration with your smoke detectors/ fire prevention system. These services are expensive up front but usually have a reasonable monthly rate. And keep in mind, having a home security system installed can also reduce your insurance rates.

If installing an alarm system is cost-prohibitive or does not fit your lifestyle, consider purchasing stickers and a sign that state that your home is monitored by a trusted security system, and place them so they are visible at every entrance.

 

Security cameras:

Security cameras are readily available for home installation. You can install these in prominently viewed places to deter burglars. There are do-it-yourself install options and professional systems that come along with monitoring services. There are even options that will work with your smartphone.

If the cost of security cameras is too steep for your budget, you can purchase fake cameras to act as a visible deterrent for intruders.

 

Build your community:

Programs like Neighborhood Watch are very successful in some communities, by creating an environment where everyone is looking out for each other. Building close-knit relationships with your neighbors can go a long way in making you feel safe at home. Whether this is through a formalized program, or a shared agreement with your community, developing relationships with your neighbors is a great way to keep your home safe.


Posted on December 22, 2019 at 8:37 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

Remodel for the Most Resale Value

Image Source: karamysh on Shutterstock

 

What’s the best remodeling project for your home? The answer, in part, depends on where you live. Every year, Remodeling Magazine evaluates which projects bring the most return at resale in different markets around the country in their “Cost vs. Value” report.  For the purposes of this blog, we are focusing on the Pacific states (WA, OR, CA, AL) and the Mountain states (MT, ID, UT, CO, NV).

According to Remodeling Magazine, these are the six top projects in those two regions that currently have the best return on your investment when it comes time to sell.

 

Garage Door Replacement

The project with the most return from Washington State to Nevada? A new garage door.

In the Pacific States, replacing your garage door will cost an average $3,785, but will increase your resale value by $4,686, recouping 123.8 percent of what you paid for it. Homes in the Mountain States will also benefit from a garage door replacement, recouping 98.6 percent of their costs.

Due to its size, a garage door can have a big impact on a home’s curb appeal.  But adding to your home’s aesthetic is only one advantage; the warranty that comes with the new garage door is also a selling point for potential buyers who can trust that they likely won’t have to deal with any maintenance issues in the near term.

 

Manufactured Stone Veneer

As long as the new stone veneer is consistent with your neighborhood’s overall look, this siding is the second-best project across the Pacific and Mountain states.

Stone veneer can replace your home’s existing siding, adding a fresh, modern look that conjures a cozy vibe all the way from the street, before buyers ever step foot inside. Along the West Coast, it can recoup 110.4 percent of the cost when you sell, and Mountain states will recoup 96.5 percent of the cost.

 

Wood Deck Addition

While building a deck might seem like a big undertaking, it’s actually a pretty cost-effective way to positively impact your home’s resale value. Pacific states can expect to pay around $15,000 and Mountain states just above $13,000, but they’ll see 87.8 percent and 74.3 percent recouped respectively when they sell.

Adding a deck extends the living space of your home and provides even more area for entertaining, relaxing, and enjoying the outdoors.  Whether you choose a natural wood deck or a low-maintenance composite deck, you can pick from a variety of styles based on the lay of your land and the areas of your backyard you wish to highlight.

 

Minor Kitchen Remodel

No need to move walls or appliances around, a minor kitchen remodel will do the trick to recoup 87.1 percent of the cost in the Pacific states, and 80.3 percent in the Mountain states.

An outdated kitchen can go from drab to fab and become a focal point with a fresh palette. Replace the cabinet doors with new shaker-style wood panels and metal or metal-looking hardware. Switch out the old counter tops with laminate that matches the new look. Think about adding a resilient flooring option, then finish the project with a fresh coat of paint to the walls, trim, and ceiling.

 

Grand Entrance

Looking to improve your curb appeal and create an entrance that guests and homebuyers won’t soon forget? Add a fiberglass grand entrance. This project involves replacing a standard-sized front door with a larger opening with dual sidelights (glass panels). Typically costing around $8,000, Pacific states will see 85.1 percent of that recouped in the sale, and Mountain states will see 71 percent.

 

Siding Replacement

Depending on the size of your home, replacing the siding can be an expensive undertaking. However, it’s a project that comes with high returns. For Mountain states, sellers can expect 75.4 percent of the costs recouped, and Pacific sellers will see 84.3 percent.

Not only is siding one of the first things a buyer sees, but it also serves as an indicator of the overall health of the home. Broken or damaged siding could mean that there are other problems with the home, such as pests and rot. Replacing old siding is a cost-effective way to boost your home’s curb appeal and ensure buyers are going to walk through your front door.


Posted on December 9, 2019 at 8:40 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

10 Tips to Minimize Stress When Selling Your Home

When I was growing up, my family must have moved a dozen times. After the first few moves, we had it down to a science: timed out, scheduled, down to the last box. Despite our best efforts, plans would change, move-out and move-in days would shift, and the experience would stress the entire family out. Despite the stress, we always managed to settle in our new home and sell our old one before the start of school.

With a lot of planning and scheduling, you can minimize the stress of selling your house and moving. Here are some tips:

Plan Ahead

Know when you want to be moved out and into your new home and have a backup plan in case it falls through. Before you sell your home, familiarize yourself with local and state laws about selling a home so you’re not caught by surprise if you forget something important.

Lists and schedules are going to be your new best friend through the process. Have a timetable for when you want to sell your house when you have appraisers, realtors, movers, etc. over. Also, keep one for when your things need to be packed and when you need to be moved into the new place. I suggest keeping it on an Excel sheet so you can easily update it as the timeline changes (and it will – stuff happens).

Use Resources

First time selling a house? Check out some great resources on what you need to know. US News has excellent, step-by-step guides on what you need to know to sell. Appraisers and realtors can also be good resources, and since you’ll be working with them through the process, be sure to ask them questions or have them point you to resources.

Appraisal

Have your house appraised before you sell so you know your budget for your new home. This will help you look for an affordable home that meets your family’s needs. It will also help you maximize the amount you can receive for your old home. You can also learn useful information from an appraisal, such as which repairs need to be made, if any.

Repairs

Does your house need repairs before you move? If so, figure out whether you’ll be covering them, or whether your buyers will (this will be a part of price negotiations, so factor it in with your home budget). Will you need to make repairs in your new house, or will that be covered? Either way, make sure you know which repairs need to be made – and either be upfront with buyers about them or make them before you sell.

Prepare to Move

If you’re moving to a new town or a new state, you need to prepare more than just a new home. Research doctors and dentists, places to eat, and what to do for fun. If you have school-aged children, look at the local school district or private school options – not only to learn how to enroll your kids, but also to get a feel for the school culture, see what extracurricular activities your kids can do, what standards/learning methods your kids’ new school will implement, etc.

Packing

Think: how soon are you moving, what will you need to use before you move, what can get boxed and what needs to stay out?  The sooner you’re moving out, the sooner you need to pack, but if you have time, just take a day per weekend to organize a room, pack what you want to take and arrange to donate what you want to get rid of.

Downsizing

Moves are a great time to purge old, unwanted and unused stuff from your home. Sometimes, it’s necessary if you’re moving into a smaller space. Either way, as you pack each room, think about whether you use what you’re packing to take with you. If you do, pack it to go. If not, put it in a separate box to go to your local donations place. You can also call some organizations to have your unwanted things picked up, no hassle.

If You Have Kids

Moving with kids can be extra stressful. Be sure to include them in the process. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach younger children about moving and prepare them for the changes it brings. Older children can help out with responsibilities, like packing their room or researching their new town.

Your New Place

Moving into a new place takes some planning as well. Once you’ve bought your new home or condo, design at least a basic outline for where your stuff will be set up. Make necessary repairs and decorate (painting, for example) before you unpack. Ideally, you should have some time to do these things before, but if you don’t, don’t be in a hurry to unpack everything – it can be a hassle to paint if you have all your furniture and bookshelves up!

Staying In Touch and Making New Friends

Finally, moving can mean good-byes with family and/or friends. Social media is a great way to keep in touch with people after you’ve moved, but distance can still weaken these old relationships. Make some time to call or message your old friends to keep in touch. Pair that work with a concerted effort to meet new people. See what hobbies or groups are in your new area and start there. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can make your new house a home and make your new town a community you can enjoy.


Posted on October 10, 2019 at 2:39 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living, Sellers | Tagged , , , , , ,

You’ve Moved into Your New Home. Now What?

Congratulations on your new home! You made it through the arduous process that is buying a new home. Now it’s time to take on the task of moving in.

You did your research about the neighborhood and you feel like you know the home like the back of your hand. However, there are some things to do as you move in to protect your newest investment, and yourself, from the unknown variables in and around your home.

Change the locks garage door codes

Previous owners might have changed the locks, but they may not know who all has a key or a code to open your garage, especially neighbors who they trusted to watch their place while they were away. Changing the codes and locks on all the doors ensures that you have complete control over entry to your home

Check or Install Fire and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If the home already has fire and carbon monoxide devices, make sure they are in working order by testing each one with the tester button. Keep a note of when to replace them as well.

If they don’t have them, install a device in each sleeping room, as well as common areas like the living room or kitchen. Hallways are a great place to cover multiple rooms with one detector as well.

Install a security system

Enjoy total peace of mind with a new security system. Meet with a consultant on the best ways to protect your home for a system that works best for you and your lifestyle.

There are also app-connected systems that you can set up yourself that notify you of movement on the cameras or doors and windows opening.

Meet the neighbors

Build a sense of community and get to know the lay of the land by knocking on neighbors’ doors to get to know them. Bring a small gift as a “thank you” for dealing with the moving trucks. This is a great initial step for figuring out who you can trust to watch things while you’re away should you need a helping hand in the near future.

These are just a few ideas on what you should do as soon as you move in. What are some things you do, or suggest to friends and clients on move-in day?


Posted on September 26, 2019 at 3:36 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Homeowners, Living | Tagged , , , , ,