Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dear Readers, I just returned from the "Built Green" annual conference and I want to share some of the excitement of that event.

"Built Green" is the trademark of one of the fastest growing builder organizations in the country. It is supported by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish counties and includes hundreds of architects, designers, builders, landscape professionals and developers (yes, there are "green" developers) from our region.

This year they decided to include real estate professionals in their program and, although there were only 18 of us out of the 600 plus attendees, it's a start. Being a "green" Realtor has always been a part of my business so it's good to see others in my profession getting involved in sustainability.

I believe that the best way to make a commitment to sustainable development is to "recycle" a house rather than build new. One of the keynote speakers was David Johnson, contractor, designer and visionary who is a leader in combining environmental design and excellence in residential construction. He was a dynamic and inspirational speaker and I came away with his most recent book, "Green Remodeling; Changing the World One Room at a Time". I highly recommend that you read it.

This book is full of excellent advice, tips and resources. It takes you totally through the process from choosing an architect or designer, selecting a contractor, finding energy conservation products, choosing building materials and discovering what you really want your home to be. There are resources for finding recycled and less toxic building materials and state of the art heating systems that will save you money as well as save our planet's resources.

Here are some of his words, "Each decision we make today regarding energy use, building materials, and water consumption will have a long lasting impact on future generations. We have a responsibility today to make the wisest decisions possible to address the environmental issues we face." He added that the building industry uses 40% of all our planet's resources. He thinks it's time they address conservation and sustainable design.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Q:We sort of rushed into the purchase of a piece of land and now we just don't know where to turn for help.

We didn't know about septic systems (I know that sounds naive but we came from a large city) so we didn't have the land "perked". Now we've started the process of getting a septic design and are blown away by everything we have to do. We have to get something called a Critical Areas Review (for $800 deposit and it could go higher) and then the design itself, for $1,500 plus King County fees.

We have to drill a well, which will be at least $10,000 according to the well driller, plus the cost of developing the water system, whatever that means. Plus, we've talked to the County and they say we have to prove the lot was subdivided before 1972. We don't even know how to begin doing that. We're thinking of selling the land and forgetting the whole thing, but we really do love the property and Vashon Island.

A: Take a deep breath and let's talk. Of course you should have looked into all of this before you bought and you should have worked with someone who would have educated you about it beforehand, but you didn't. Don't despair. Others have been there before you and managed to get through this.

Go one step at a time. Take the advice of the excellent King County Technician who comes out to the Island every week. He will walk you through the process. If you really feel like you're floundering there are folks who will act as a project manager for you and do the County paperwork for you.

As for the date the lot was subdivided, that should be in your title documents. Call your title company and have them find the proper document to prove the age of the lot. If you are working with a local builder they're often willing to be involved in the land development process. Read, study, learn. Take your time and get it right.