Friday, December 05, 2008

Q: Could you please call me when prices hit the very bottom?

My wife and I would like to invest in some property here on Vashon, but we don't want to pay too much.
A:
If I could predict when we would hit the bottom of the market, or anything else concerning the economy, I would probably be rich (I'm not) and be working as a six figure financial guru!
We've had recessions several times in the recent past. Americans seem to share a talent for forgetting our past, both short- and long-term, so you may not remember them.
We had a major recession that lasted from 1980 to 1982 and during that time the real estate market in our region was all but dead. The stock market plunged and people lost their retirement savings. The Seattle area was hard hit. We had a shorter recession in 1990 and 1991. Our real estate market was very sluggish because people moving here from California or even other parts of Washington couldn't sell their homes to buy here.
The last one was in 2001. This also affected our real estate market, but it was shorter and our regional economy was more diversified so we weathered it fairly well.
According to most experts I've read, our current crisis will likely be longer and could be deeper. However, Vashon continues to be a "boutique" market. For those with money, and thee are still many of these folks, we offer an exceptional community, beautiful environment, and affordable prices.
Prices have come down this year, but I can't say there are bargains to be had. I doubt if that could ever be true here. But there is certainly good value for your money available. Moreover, we have had a larger than normal inventory of homes to offer this year, which is really unusual. That has happened in past recessions, too.
These recessions are usually followed by robust growth and higher prices, so I'd recommend taking advantage of our downturn now before the market turns upward again. Once that starts, your opportunity will have passed.

Q: We just moved into our new home here on Vashon.

We've only lived in apartments in the city before this and don't really know what we need to be doing to get ready for winter. Our neighbor told us that you could give us some ideas. He has been really busy doing all kinds of things to his place, but we don't really know where to start.
A:
It's almost Halloween and owning a home can certainly be a "treat", but there are also a few "tricks" to doing it right (sorry, I couldn't resist.) I'm glad you're asking now since the last sunny days of October are a good time to try to get things done in preparation for winter.
Probably the most important job is cleaning your gutters. Not doing that can cause serious problems. It can rot your roof, cause dangerous mold to grown, and cause flooding in basements and crawl spaces. Next would be servicing your furnace. Especially if it's oil, natural gas, or propane, your furnace needs to be cleaned and serviced annually. It's best to do that before the major heating season.
Another obviously good thing to do is to have your chimney cleaned. As you use your fireplace or wood stove be sure you use only really dry wood. Wet wood causes more creosote build up in your chimney and releases more smoke and particulates that are bad for the environment and for you to breathe.
This is the time of the year that many of our rodent population would like to come in and live in your warm house. Go around the outside of the house and be sure even tiny holes into your crawl space are sealed and that there is strong wire mesh secured at the foundation vents.
We're a friendly place, so don't hesitate to ask locals what they do to get ready for winter. Go online to VashonBePrepared.org and you'll find lists of items you'll need to have on hand for emergencies. You should be prepared for power outages, wind storms, and possibly freezing weather.