Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Q: I can’t believe what we’ve been through in the last month.

A water line broke under the bathroom and flooded the crawl space, we got some kind of mold growing in our living room from something wrong with the roof, and a big tree branch fell on our storage shed and ruined it. Somebody should be warning people about this stuff! We didn’t have a clue that this could happen. How are we supposed to know how to get prepared?

I feel badly for all that you’ve been through but I have to say that there were many opportunities for you to become prepared. The Beachcomber carried detailed preparation guidelines from Vashon Be Prepared, an organization that helps Islanders get ready for disaster. I always make sure to put out a detailed list in this column every Autumn with instructions to insulate pipes, clean gutters, etc. There are also many resources on line to help you prepare.

Winter isn’t over yet so here’s what I’d do now. Be sure the plumbing repairs are made and that pipes are insulated. Even after doing that you might want to run the water just a bit in all the bathrooms and kitchen during weather that’s well below freezing.

Clean out gutters and keep them clean. If you can’t do this yourself find a good handyman who can (contact us for a referral if needed). Have a roofer take a look at the roof and make necessary repairs. Often, if the flashing isn’t done well, water from overflowing gutters will seep under the roofing and rot the plywood decking. That can cause mold to grow fast.

I am a real tree hugger and probably have some trees in my yard that could cause damage. However, I am willing to risk it as long as they are healthy. If there are unhealthy or dangerous trees around your yard you should consult an arborist to see if they should be thinned or taken down. The fire marshal recommends a 30 foot buffer, free of trees, around all buildings. Good luck with the next storm. We all have to be prepared.

Q: I'm worried about the value of my home.

I read all these stories about how real estate in the Seattle area has dropped so much. Is there any way to know when the decline in values will stop? I was hoping to sell in a couple of years and move closer to my children.
There's no way to really predict when we will hit "bottom" in this current financial crisis. Keep in mind that although this is a record setting recession and a truly global financial crisis, it isn't the first time we've seen values decline.
We had a stock market meltdown in the mid 1980's that lost many people their retirement money and saw a significant drop in real estate prices. We were hit with another big recession and the savings and loan disaster in the early 1990s. Prices froze and money was lost. Our current crisis is worse, of course, but our region is doing far better than most.
Let me go over some figures that may help you see the picture on Vashon. According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, the average price for a Vashon home that sold in 2007 was $576,560. The average this year was $566,000; that's less than a $10,000 difference. The median price in 2007 was $549,000, and in 2008 was $523,750; a slightly greater difference.
The real change locally was in number of sales and length of time on the market. In 2007 it took an average of 71 days on the market to sell. In 2008 that shot up to an average of 133 days. The number of homes sold in 2007 was 139. The number this year (2008) was only 83. THAT is a huge change.
Another issue is that sellers have been pricing their homes higher than last year's prices. That won't work when prices are dropping. As for your concerns, your home is worth a great deal more than you paid for it, which is good, and will likely appreciate even more before you are ready to sell.