New Year, New Start

The New Year is a great time for renewal, and there’s no reason why your home shouldn’t share in this time of rejuvenation. Here are a few ideas to give your home - and your spirits - a lift as you move forward in 2015.

Get organized

One change that might make a big difference in your life is organizing your space. Like most projects, the hardest part is getting start, so start small. Decide which one area would make you feel the best to have organized. Kitchen wraps and unruly pots lids driving you crazy? Start there. You may just feel so good afterwards that the next area won’t seem so daunting! Here are some organizational strategies to help:

Contain it: Seasoning packets, magazines, rubber bands… they’re easier to locate and cause a lot less mess when they’re all in one place. Just choose an appropriately sized container, be it a jar, box, basket or drawer, and consolidate.

Consider a container that’s both attractive and durable, particularly if your items will be in view. Decorative baskets come in many sizes, shapes and materials, from fabric to wicker and solid wood. They’re pretty and versatile enough to corral magazines in the living room or toiletries in the bathroom cupboard. Office supply stores carry metal mesh accessories that are great for gathering pushpins or pens. Stylish glass jars are good for colorful items such as buttons. You can even buy premade organizers or order custom inserts to straighten mess drawers.

Make the most of the space you have: You probably have storage space that’s not well utilized because it’s inconvenient. For deep corner cabinets, you can install lazy-Susan shelving so you can actually get to the items in your cupboard. Sliding storage racks hold pan lids, cleaning supplies and more, pulling out for easy access. Stair step shelf organizers let you see (and reach) what’s in the back row of a cupboard. And shelf-helper platforms double your shelf space and help you separate fragile items to keep them from breaking.

Look for space in new frontiers: You may have more room in your home than you think. There are lots of storage options designed to make use of hidden space. Under-counter paper towel dispensers and space racks. Kitchen-wrap organizers that hang on the bottom side of shelving. Bike risers and ceiling-mounted storage shelving for garages. Walls can also offer an alternative to precious counter space, with magnetic strips to hold knives, scissors, tools, jars with metal lids and more.

Create additional space: You can give yourself even more room by doing away with some traditional pieces of furniture. For instance, a fold-down ironing board frees up space in a closet or laundry room. A wall bed lets your guest room double as an office or craft room. A desk armoire gives you an “office in a box” that fits right into your living room after-hours. And bed risers can give you extra space under the bed.

Reinvent your space

With a little imagination, you can give your space an entirely new look and feel for the New Year. And even small changes can work wonders to rejuvenate your home.

Introduce new colors or patterns: Winter is a time for deeper hues and richer colors. You can transform your home by adding slipcovers, switching shower curtains and bedding, adding a new area rug or changing out throw pillows.

If you don’t want to change the room’s color palette (if your room is white on white, for example), you can still mix things up by incorporating textures such as jacquard, quilting, animal patterns, faux fur, chenille, mohair or velvet.

Shake things up: Sometimes just changing things around can make a huge difference. Try rearranging the furniture, and maybe even take out a piece to give the room more space. Shuffle the items on your mantle, the books on your coffee table, potted plants and pictures. By featuring items with a winter color palette, you can make your home warmer and more inviting.

Dress up the walls: Not everything that hangs on a wall has to be in a frame. Consider something different, perhaps a metal sculpture, small rug or tapestry, decorative dishes, masks, antique items, such as old keys…the list is only limited by your creativity.

Accessorize: Area rugs make your room or hallway cozier and add a touch of sophistication. Plants not only add a nice decorative touch, but research shows they’re also good for your health. Spice up your entrance with a shiny new doorknob and knocker. Add some stylish light switch plates, or new drawer and cabinet hardware in the kitchen.

It’s amazing how much changing our personal space can change the way we feel about our home. What do you do to update your home décor for the season?



2015 Is the Year Millennials Start Buying Homes

Millennials, who make up one-third of the population in the States, haven’t been buying homes at the same rate as previous generations of young people. Due to the Great Recession, college grads have had a hard time finding jobs and an even harder time getting mortgages with their not-so-great credit scores. Tack on the mountain of student debt, and for a while, it seemed like “Generation Wait” might be their new nickname. But according to Bloomberg Businessweek, OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate, says that “this is going to be the year they start buying homes.” Economists and real estate agents agree, saying that 2015 will be a turning point for millennials, which could potentially put an even tighter squeeze on the already tight market.

Read more about this and other predictions for the 2015 housing market here.​

Ring in the New Year right! Party inspiration and home décor ideas

New Year’s Eve is the one-day each year where you can incorporate as many sparkles and as much confetti as your heart desires. In fact, we’re pretty sure that New Year’s Eve is the quintessential holiday for glitter. Whether your plans involve throwing a party or attending one, here are some creative ideas to consider. 

Bubbly Bar: It’s not a New Year’s Eve party without one of these. A “bubbly bar” allows your guests to taste and personalize their champagne drinks. A bar cart is a great alternative if you want to make the “bubbly bar” a mobile attraction. They’re the perfect display for your champagne and treats. Pop, fizz, clink!

Golden-Brushed Balloons: Go out and get a dozen helium-filled white latex balloons with strings attached. Wear gloves and hold the balloon by the tied end. Use gold enamel paint or “liquid gold leaf” and apply to balloons in quick, upward strokes. Make sure to only gild the bottom third to get this look.

Sparkly Bottles: Glam up your bottles and make them as sparkling as the wine inside. Grab a can of Super 77 adhesive spray, latex gloves, an old sheet, and as much glitter as you can find. Spray the bottle and sprinkle glitter over the adhesive one section at a time. Repeat until the whole bottle is covered, then shake off the excess glitter and display. Make sure to leave the top third of the bottle clean so you can pop the champagne!


Photo Booth Props: If you don’t have pictures it didn’t happen, right? Having photo props instantly adds to the fun and lowers the risk of awkward poses. You can also have a chalkboard that people write their resolutions on and hold up for a snapshot.

Quirky Tip: Add a little extra something by hanging a fortune cookie off of each champagne glass. Everyone is going to want to know what’s in store for them once the clock hits midnight.










Check out more ideas and details on our Pinterest page. 

Windermere Offices Make Christmas a Little Brighter for Those in Need

When people come together and rally for a good cause, they can accomplish great things. And it’s that spirit of giving and compassion that makes the holidays such a special time of the year. It’s also a favorite time of year for many of our Windermere offices with “all hands on deck” as owners, agents, and staff shop for, wrap, and deliver gifts to those who otherwise would not have such a happy holiday. Here’s just a sampling of our offices helping to make the season bright for those in their communities.

The Windermere Raleigh Hills office in Portland, Oregon raised over $8,000 at their Winter Wonderland Silent and Live Auction on December 4, which benefitted the Windermere Foundation. Through these funds, they will be able to help many underprivileged families and children this holiday season. A group of agents from this office also participated in The Parry Center Cookie project. They pitched in to roll, cut, and bake sugar cookies and gingerbread men to be decorated by the kids at the center.




The Windermere Bellevue Commons office partnered again with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue for their Adopt-a-Family campaign. Early in the month, the agents go as a group and shop for gifts for the children. Then they have a group wrapping party the following week and deliver the gifts to the Boys and Girls Club. This is the office’s fourth year participating in annual event, which last year benefitted approximately 200 children. This year, the Windermere Bellevue Commons office wrapped and donated gifts for 25 children and 13 families.

Agents and staff from the Windermere Tri-Cities Kennewick office adopted two families for Christmas through the Union Gospel Christmas Miracle Program. Along with helping provide gifts and other items to the families for the holidays, they also partnered with Charlie’s Automotive in Kennewick who provided some much needed car repairs for the families.

Owners, agents, and staff from the Windermere City Group in Spokane are committed to their community and feel that by giving, they truly receive. This holiday season, they had the opportunity to donate their time helping with lunch service at their local Union Gospel Mission.



The Windermere Professional Partners office in Tacoma teamed up with Penrith Home Loans to collect much-needed coats and clothing for kids of all ages, in support of Charlie’s Dinosaur, an outreach program by Crime stoppers of Tacoma/Pierce County. Donations were collected at the Windermere North Pearl and Gig Harbor offices. And earlier in the holiday season, offices collected food for the Families Unlimited Network Food Bank. They delivered over 2,500 pounds of food and $924 in cash donations that will provide over 1,950 meals to individuals and families served by the food bank.





The Windermere Redding office was busy this holiday season. First with their annual Windermere Foundation Fundraiser for Make-A-Wish & Wings of Angels. Then with a Wish List Drive benefitting One Safe Place, a domestic violence crisis center. Personal hygiene items, clothing, food, and other necessities were collected at the office. The donations they collected will help over 100 people at the center.





The holiday season was made brighter for two local families thanks to the Windermere Mercer Island office and the Windermere Foundation. As part of the 2014 Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) Adopt-A-Family program, the Windermere Mercer Island office adopted two local families, providing funds for holiday meals and gifts. The families received $600 worth of grocery cards and three gifts for each child—there were five children total. Gifts included two bikes, a doll house, board games, Legos, books and more.



At the Target for Kids event on December 6, over 200 brokers from six Windermere Real Estate/East, Inc. offices helped bring the holidays to 100 children and their families. With the help of a broker and $200 each, children shopped for gifts for members of their families. Windermere brokers also set up wrapping stations and children enjoyed Santa photos, crafts, The Dickens Carolers, and more. This group of offices has participated in this holiday tradition 14 times in the last 17 years, donating almost a quarter-of-a-million dollars to the event through the Windermere Foundation.

Through the Windermere Foundation, Seattle-area Windermere Real Estate offices (Windermere Eastlake, Windermere Ballard, Windermere Madison Park, Windermere Real Estate/Wall St., Inc., Windermere Queen Anne, Windermere Magnolia, Windermere Greenwood, and Windermere West Seattle) came together to donate $35,000 to Mary’s Place “No Child Sleeps Outside” campaign, whose goal is to raise $250,000 by December 23. The money will be used to open a crisis-response night shelter for Mary’s Place so that every homeless family in Seattle has a warm place to sleep during the winter months.






Thanks to the generosity and support of our agents, Windermere has been able to help make this holiday season a little brighter for those in need in the communities we serve. From all of us at Windermere, we wish you all a happy and prosperous holiday season.

To find out more about the Windermere Foundation, or to make a donation, please visit

Insolvency Clause Tax-Saving Alternative to Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act in 2015

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act Extended Retroactively for 2014:
Future of Mortgage Debt Relief Uncertain in 2015

On December 16, 2014, President Obama signed a bill that extended the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act retroactively to cover mortgage debt cancelled in 2014. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (MFDRA) prevents homeowners who went through a short sale from being taxed on the amount of their home mortgage debt that had been forgiven. For homeowners to qualify for a tax break in 2014, their short sale must close by December 31, 2014.

The Act has only been extended through 2014. Congress is expected to debate further extension of the Act as part of a larger tax package in 2015. In the meantime, mortgage debt forgiven by a lender in 2015 might count as taxable income.

According to a brief from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), about 5.3 million homes are still under water. In addition, there are still more than 1 million homes in the process of foreclosure. If the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act is not extended further, hundreds of thousands of American families who did the right thing by short-selling their home will have to pay income tax on income they never received.

IRS “Insolvency Clause” Offers Tax-Saving Alternative

Short sale sellers can still be exempt from tax liability under the “insolvency clause” of the Internal Revenue Code. The clause states that a seller is exempt from paying tax on any forgiven debt to the extent that they are insolvent. In other words, if the seller’s debts and liabilities exceed their assets by more than the amount of debt forgiven, they do not have to pay taxes on the forgiven debt.

Here’s an example of how the Insolvency Clause works:

A seller has a home valued at $300,000, but the mortgage debt is $400,000. We short sell the property for $300K and the bank elects to forgive the debt on the $100,000 shortfall amount. Since debt that has been forgiven counts as taxable income, the IRS would treat the $100,000 of forgiven debt as income.





(Taxable income)


This is where the insolvency clause formula comes in. Begin by adding up all of your debts/liabilities in one column and all of your assets in another. For this formula, the IRS wants you to include the mortgage debt as a liability, and the fair market value of your house as an asset. Let’s say you have $600,000 in assets and $700,000 in debts/liabilities. You are insolvent by $100,000.







Since your insolvency amount of $100,000 equals the forgiven debt amount of $100,000, it’s a wash and you will not have to pay taxes on that forgiven debt. You are shielded dollar-for-dollar on the amount of forgiven debt up to your insolvency number. Let’s say you were only insolvent by $80,000. In that case, you would still have to pay income tax on the remaining $20,000 of forgiven debt.







It is critical that homeowners considering a short sale meet with a professional to review their options and discuss the potential legal and tax implications.


Richard Eastern is a Windermere broker in Bellevue, WA and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 900 homeowners sell their homes. A Bellevue native and a University of Washington grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or at

Making Memories: Fun holiday traditions for you and your family

Get Outdoors! Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the great outdoors are off limits! Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, there’s still plenty to do outside. Sledding, ice-skating, and carriage riding are great places to start. Plus, it’ll give you a reason to cozy up inside with hot cocoa in hand. 


Deck the halls! Into DIY? Not into DIY? This is the one time of year where a little “do it yourself” is a requirement. Making holiday ornaments and decorating your home is something the whole family can participate in and give their own personal touches to.

Visit Santa: Whether you have kids or not, stop by a Santa display to figure out whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year. Santa pictures are timeless and never seem to go out of style, no matter what your age.

Decorate Gingerbread houses: The perfect holiday challenge. There are definitely tricks to building gingerbread houses and some turn out better than others. Regardless of how it looks in the end, the process is where all the magic is.  

Visit neighborhood light displays: Do you love over-the-top holiday decorations as long as they’re not on your house? If so, find a local neighborhood that goes all out and revel in their overdone lights and displays. Even if you are one of those houses, it’s not a bad idea to go check out the competition for next year. 

Community Service: Everyone can use a helping hand during the holidays, so consider giving back by volunteering as a family, Help serve food at a local church, sort donations at a food bank, distribute gifts to families in need, or volunteer at your local animal shelter. Not only will you be helping others, but also setting a great example for your kids.  

Find more holiday traditions on our Pinterest page: 

If you are interested in finding local Holiday activities in your community, here are resources for some of the areas Windermere serves:


Seattle, WA:

Bellevue, WA:

Tacoma, WA:

Spokane, WA:

Portland, OR:

Kona, HI:

Coeur d’Alene, ID:

Salt Lake City, UT:

Bozeman, MT:

Phoenix, AZ:

Las Vegas, NV:

Redding, CA:

San Diego, CA:

Fort Collins, CO:

No Child Should Have to Sleep Outside


A few weeks ago the Windermere Foundation was approached with a remarkable opportunity to support the #NoChildSleepsOutside campaign, which is trying to raise $250,000 by December 23 to open a crisis-response winter night shelter for homeless families in Seattle. The Windermere Foundation was able to contribute $35,000 towards this campaign, started by Dick's Drive-in Restaurant, and benefiting Mary's Place in Seattle. Please read more about this issue that is facing all of our communities, and contact us at the Windermere Foundation for ways to help in your neighborhood. 


No Child Should Have To Sleep Outside

Imagine you are a young woman with two boys who gathers up the courage to save your children from an abusive spouse. When you arrive at a shelter, you’re told you can’t stay because your boys are too old. It’s cold, it’s dark and you’re alone.

Lend a hand & donate at

As leaders, wives and mothers, we’ve joined forces with Mary's Place to make sure this family and others like them have a safe and warm place to go this winter!

Homelessness is a major challenge facing Seattle and it’s hard to miss if you live, work or drive downtown. But, there is a group of homeless individuals you don’t see – families with children.

Homeless families live in the shadows. They can’t apply for temporary housing if they are staying with friends. They must be sleeping in a shelter or on the street to apply. Most of the emergency shelters available in Seattle are gender specific and require that married couples or parents and children split up. For many, the only other choice is to sleep in their car, a tent, or a public bathroom. This is unacceptable.

Imagine you're a single dad with a 5-year-old daughter. You lose your job and you can’t find work. You lose your apartment and you have nowhere to go. You call around, but you can’t find a shelter that will accept a single father. Your greatest fear is coming true. If you can’t find shelter you will have to place your daughter in foster care. It’s cold, it’s dark and you’re alone.

Mary’s Place is one of the few organizations in the city that provides emergency shelter to families. In addition to the much-needed services offered at their day shelter, Mary’s Place provides 160 family members with meals and a safe, warm place to sleep every night. But with over 500 families without shelter in Seattle, it’s not enough.

We don’t have to wait for political debates or city budgets. If we can raise $250,000, we can move more families into transitional housing, freeing emergency shelter spaces and open a new emergency shelter to bring many more homeless families inside.

There will always be emergencies; the lost job, the house fire, the diagnosis, the abuser, the natural disaster that cannot be planned for or anticipated. Getting families and children out of the cold and into a warm, safe place is the first step. We cannot allow these families to sleep in public bathrooms, cars, or tents for one more night. It’s cold, it’s dark, but they are not alone.

We are women helping women, mothers helping mothers, families helping families. We won’t give up until we have enough shelter to bring all 500 families inside.

Donate, Share & Change a Life:


Marty Hartman, Executive Director of Mary’s Place
Jasmine Donovan, VP Dick's Drive In Restaurant
Christine Wood, Executive Director Windermere Foundation 
Kelli Schneider, Seahawks Women’s Association (wife of Seahawks Special Teams Coach, Brian Schneider)
Lindsey Hauschka, Seahawks Women’s Association (wife of Seahawks Kicker, Steven Hauschka)


December Perspectives

A few weeks ago, we heard a term that was new to us: “emerging adulthood.” It was defined as the life stage where young adults in their 20s take time to find themselves. Otherwise known as the time when kids graduate from college and move home because they don’t know what the heck they want to do with their lives. We have a student like that graduating this spring, so this topic is definitely of interest to our family.

It got us thinking about the millennial generation and first-time home buyers. A lot has been written about this generation’s barrier to home ownership due to school debt, high unemployment, and tight lending standards. But times they are a changing. For one, the recent loosening of credit conditions is making it easier for first-time buyers to secure a mortgage.  Secondly, economists say that all of the jobs that were lost locally during the Great Recession have now returned. In fact, Seattle’s unemployment rate is now at levels we haven’t seen since before the 2008 financial crash.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about kids graduating from college with absolutely no job prospects, but in some cities, like Seattle, things appear to be getting a lot better. In fact, the National Association of REALTORS® recently published the top five most affordable cities for millennial home buyers based upon home prices, unemployment rates, and income growth. Seattle was number four. In part, we can thank the growth spurts of local companies like Amazon for this, as well as several Silicon Valley-based behemoths that have taken up residence in Seattle. All of this is helping create a solid job market.

First-time home buyers are critical to the health of the overall market; they’re the vital first link in the all-important housing chain. So it’s encouraging to see that lending standards are loosening, and Seattle’s employment outlook is sunny. It makes us optimistic that the dream of homeownership won’t die with the millennial generation. And that the housing market will continue to strengthen. It also gives us hope that, someday, our soon-to-be college graduate will find somewhere other than our basement to call home.  

Preparing Your Home for a Winter Wonderland

As they say, winter is coming, and while it is tempting to curl up and hibernate in bed for the next few months, you shouldn’t put off these important home maintenance duties.

Clean and check the gutters: While you are on the roof hanging holiday lights, make sure your gutters are clear of leaves, secured to the house, and in good condition. If you do find problem spots, seal, secure, and make note to fix these in the spring. You want to divert water away from your home.

Insulate external water sources: In cold climates pipes can freeze, which can then lead to cracked pipes and flooding. Bring hoses and sprinklers inside for the winter and use insulation to wrap external faucets. Insulating interior pipes can help prevent disaster. If you don’t have insulation, you can keep a faucet dripping during particularly cold days so water is flowing through the pipes.


Check your water heater: One way to save money during the winter months is to wrap your water heater, so it doesn’t have to use as much energy to keep the water hot in a tank. You should check on your heater to make sure it isn’t leaking and in good repair regularly.

Interior insulation: Keep the heat in and the cold out with increased insulation in your attic and basement. This is an investment, and best done before the winter hits, but can make a big difference in how warm your house feels and how high your heating bill goes.

Check for cracks and leaks: Do you feel a draft? Check the sealing on your windows and doors. You can add weather stripping and silicon to seal these leaks. Foundations can leak as your home settles, so you should also check your basement for water coming through the walls, pipes, and older windows. You will want to seal these appropriately to minimize damage from flooding or mold.

Weatherize your windows: Your windows can be a great source of heat leakage depending on their age and condition. If you have older windows, you can use a clear film to help insulate them during the winter. If you don’t want to film the windows you can install extra thick drapes or curtains to help keep the interior of your home warm.  

Check your heating system: What is one thing gas fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and central air heating systems all have in common? They all need to be cleaned and maintained. Check and clean your indoor heating system thoroughly. If you use an old fashioned wood stove, make sure there are no leaks and that all soot build up or nests are removed. If a furnace is what you have remember to change the filters as recommended or clean out your reusable filters.

Check your chimney with care: Nothing is as cozy as sitting by the fireplace during the winter, but use with care! Have your chimney checked by a professional to ensure that it’s in good condition and clear of critters or nests. You can also use a creosote log at the start of the season to help break down any old residue.

Invest in home security:  The holidays are prime times for burglars looking to score some extra gifts so make sure your home is safe and secure at all times. Check your locks to make sure these are secure and consider a home security system with visible cameras to act as a deterrent. Keep evidence of big gifts hidden from view too. And make sure you discreetly get rid of any large boxes that might alert a prowler that you have new big-ticket items in your home.

Deck the halls and be merry: Decorate your home and prepare for guests. If you have a Christmas tree, keep it from drying out (and creating a fire hazard) by watering regularly. Keep decorative candles and menorahs away from children and flammable materials. You may want to consider battery powered candles, these can be a safe alternative to traditional candles.

Wishing you and yours a happy and safe holiday!




Why Not White Marble?

Are you thinking about replacing your kitchen or bathroom countertops? The choices are endless; tile, granite, soap stone, wood, or maybe marble? White marble often gets a bad rap because it’s a more porous metamorphic stone than most (which means it’s prone to stains and scratches), but we beg to differ, and here’s why.

White marble is as timeless as it is modern. Adding white marble to your kitchen or bathrooms is like bringing home flowers for your significant other; always a good idea. It looks great on kitchen counters, but also just about anywhere in your bathrooms, from the floor to the shower walls.  Adding white marble countertops to a dressing vanity in bedrooms is also a great way to incorporate it throughout your house.

After you’ve made the decision to install white marble into your home, you’ll need to decide on a finish. Honing gives a matte finish, whereas polishing crates a shiny, reflective surface. If you want to reduce etching, choose a honed finish instead of a polish. If you don’t mind some added etching, then polished white marble is as stunning as it sounds.

How do you keep your marble happy? Make sure to apply a seal prior to using it. To reduce staining, wipe away spills immediately, and only use a neutral detergent to clean your marble. These simple things will keep your white marble in shipshape condition.

When it comes to your marble, it’s more like you than you think. Marble goes through good times and bad times and some scars fade better than others. It will never be perfect, but in the end, we think you’ll love it—imperfections and all.

Check out white marble looks we love on Pinterest.