Monday, December 10, 2007

Q: The flood damage from this awful storm (first week of December) has driven us out of our house.

I just had our gutters cleaned out, but the house still flooded. The house is built on a slab. All the rain water pooled on the slab, came through the walls, and wicked up into the rooms. I didn’t know this, but our insurance won’t pay for flood damage. Now I don’t know what to do.

A:
Sadly you are not alone. Thousands of people are out of their homes, and may not be able to return. Vashon didn’t have as much damage as many places in the state, but there are households even here that had damage.

Your house was built in the 50s, on a slab, and very likely did not have any moisture barrier installed (that is required by building codes today.) In addition, there probably was no drainage system dug around the perimeter to draw water away from the foundation. That would also be standard now.

At this point, you need to pull out the waterlogged sheetrock, which will mold quickly. Get a good drainage contractor to install a “French” or perimeter drain around the house, and find out what else they recommend to prevent this from happening next time. After that is done, replace the sheetrock. A new moisture barrier under that wallboard might be a good idea, too. Discuss it with your contractor.

Most people do not have flood insurance, particularly in Western Washington. There are identified flood plains on Vashon. To see if you are in one, look at the flood plain maps at the King County website. Occasionally, if you are not in a flood plain, you can get some flood insurance coverage.

Most of the damage done by the water in this latest storm is not covered by insurance. In some cases, FEMA, or other federal and state agencies, may be able to offer housing assistance for you.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Q: My folks just sold their home to a couple from out of state.

These people, who were middle-aged, bought it for a second home! I was surprised. First because the house was over $700,000 and that's no "vacation cabin" to me. Second, I've never thought of Vashon as a vacation destination. What could make someone spend that kind of money to be here for just a few weeks a year?
A: Surprisingly, according to recent studies, Washington is a major market for second homes. In fact, according to published studies our state is one of the country's top second home markets. The percentage of our sales that represent second homes has grown over 140% in just a few years. Although there are no specific statistics available from Vashon Island, I would say that from my own experience, that second home sales have increased dramatically in the last 5 or 6 years.

There are at least three things at work here. First, we are a spectacularly beautiful island that is a dream destination for many visitors and vacation home buyers. We offer friendly people, beautiful scenery, close to a major metropolitan city, with a vibrant business and art community. We have water, mountains, beaches, forests, parks and are close to major recreational destinations.

The second issue is that more and more people are making larger sums of money than ever before. The "Microsoft Millionaires" are not the only people who have become wealthy at a young age. The average age of second home buyers nationwide today is 44! While it's sadly true that the poor are getting poorer in our country, the rich are getting richer, and these folks want a second home to go to for relaxation.

The third thing is the simple fact that Vashon has always had many second homes. Most of our waterfront cottages were built by Seattle area folks over 50 years ago for a summer playground for their families. That hasn't changed. We still have people from the region that want a getaway. They can just pay more for it.