Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Some Quick Tips To get Ready For Winter!

I’m always asked to repeat this list from year to year to help you get ready for winter:

1. Clean the gutters! Water can penetrate under you crawl space and even into your walls and roofing and cause serious mold problems.

2. If you haven’t done it already, call the heating and cooling contractors and have your furnace serviced and cleaned for the year. This is critical if you use a fuel like oil, propane or natural gas. This makes your furnace safer, but also saves you big bucks by running more efficiently.

3. Be sure you’re ready for power outages. A generator is fine, especially for pumping your well and running the refrigerator but frankly, a few days without the TV is good for you! Use battery or propane lamps, a battery powered radio for weather news and be sure you’ve stored plenty of food and water.

4. Clean decks and walkways so the moss build-up won’t be too slippery. Consider putting non-skid strips or outdoor carpet on slick stairs.

5. Look around your yard for objects that can get lost under a few inches of snow. You don’t want to lose the dog’s favorite ball and you sure don’t want to step on a rake you forgot was there!

6. Have your car serviced and checked out for winter driving. Have ice scraping tools in the car as well as jackets and a warm blanket in the trunk in case you get stranded.

7. Try not to use portable heaters in the house, but if you must, then unplug them when you leave home. They are a major cause of fires.

8. Clean dryer vents and range vents which are also fire hazards.

9. Have the chimney cleaned if you have a wood stove or fireplaces. They are another source of house fires.

10. Go to online and print out their emergency readiness brochure with check lists for everything you need to know about weather related and other emergencies.

Last but not least: stock up on hot chocolate!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Q: My wife wants to turn our workshop into a rental.

It already has power and water. We got several estimates and it looks like it will take about $40,000 to $50,000 to turn it into a nice little cottage. I figure it will take five or six years to get that money back. That doesn’t sound so good to me. I’m thinking we’d get about $900 per month for it. What do you think?

A: Your idea about return on investment is one way of looking at it. Many people look at the "pay back" of improvements. But we are talking about a long term investment here. What would you make if you put that $50,000 into a savings account? How about bonds? You’d be lucky to get a thousand a year on that amount of investment.
Some mutual funds deliver higher rates of return but they can also drop fast and hard. With the rental you will get a return of 20% on that investment every year, even accounting for insurance and expenses. That’s not bad! Thinking of it in terms of getting back the money you spend on it seems backward to me. I’ve worked with many investors buying rental property here and all of them are getting a higher rate of return on their money than they would have in more traditional forms of investment. That goes for those who "flip" the house too. To me the best part of buying real estate as a choice for investing is that it is "real." You can live there, rent it, borrow on it, or sell it. In a solid market like Vashon Island you will also see a good profit after you’ve held on to it for awhile. Buyers pay more for a home with a mother-in-law unit or guest cottage. Don’t get too fancy with what you do to the place or you’ll end up spending more than necessary. Besides, you should look on the bright side. If you get too old and infirm to care for yourself you have built in caregiver housing!