Thursday, December 20, 2012

More Americans confident they can get mortgages

The housing slowdown may have been accompanied by an inability for potential homeowners to obtain mortgages, but the latest Fannie Mae National Housing Survey shows movement on the mortgage consumption-front.

For the month of November, 51% of survey respondents said it would now be easier to obtain a mortgage. This larger vote of confidence suggests tighter lending standards may be easing enough to grant more credit access.

Overall confidence in housing is up somewhat, with 14% of those interviewed believing home prices will go up in the next 12 months, a four-percentage point hike from the previous month. Twenty-three percent of survey respondents believe it's a good time to sell a home, up 5-percentage points from October.

This is the highest rating of confidence since the survey's inception more than a year earlier, the GSE said. In addition, 67% of the survey respondents said they would buy if they had to move in the near future.

The Fannie Mae November survey, which is the result of 1,001 interviews with Americans, concluded that consumer attitudes towards the economy and housing market are improving.

Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae, noted that 11 of the national housing survey indicators evaluated by Fannie Mae are "at or near their two-and-a-half-year highs."

About 44% of Americans believe the economy is now on the right track, and only 50% say it's on the wrong track, which is 25-percentage point decline over the past year. The small gap between those two indicators suggests more improvement in overall economic confidence.

The number of survey respondents who foresee an increase in mortgage rates jumped 4 percentage points to 41%.

Respondents expecting home prices to fall over the next year rose by 4 percentage points to 14% over the previous month, while the number who expect home prices to go up over the next 12 months edged up to 37%.

Americans also seem more confident in their own financial situations, but remain worried the fiscal cliff will put them in worse shape next year. 18%, up 5 percentage points, felt that their personal financial situation would get worse over the next 12 months.

56% of respondents expect their household expenses to remain the same when compared to a year earlier.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Which home repairs are the most expensive?

Renovation rebound

For a few years, carpets have been allowed to fray, faucets to drip and paint to peel. Now, home-improvement spending may be rebounding. Harvard University's Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity suggests spending will be up 16.6% by the middle of 2013.

To see what projects homeowners are likely to pursue and what they'll spend, used survey data from Houzz, a home-improvement website and application. Estimates on potential payoffs from projects come from Remodeling Magazine, which asks appraisers and others how much hypothetical projects recoup their cost in the form of increased home value. Projects are ranked from most to least expensive.

Cost estimates and most other data come from a survey of 29,000 Houzz users. We used National Association of Home Builders estimates on how long improvements should last.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Minimum wage in Washington going up in 2013

The minimum wage in Washington state will increase to $9.19 per hour next year, the highest rate in the country.

The 15-cent-per-hour increase goes into effect Jan. 1, the Department of Labor and Industries announced Friday. The change reflects a 1.67 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Washington is one of ten states that adjusts its minimum wage for inflation.

Children who are 14 and 15-years-old can be paid 85 percent of the adult minimum wage.

Oregon has the second-highest minimum wage in the nation, which will be $8.95 per hour starting Jan. 1.


Friday, December 7, 2012

KW achieves Highest Overall Satisfaction Among National Full Service Real Estate Firms

Pros, cons of remodeling

Remodeling isn’t cheap, and that’s just for starters.

If you’re considering remodeling but can’t decide if it’s worth going ahead, here are some things to consider.

1. Is it truly necessary or are you just trying to keep up with the neighbors? Sometimes a big remodeling job is so expensive you might be better off moving to a newer home.

2. Consider all the possibilities. Think about the cost. Can you afford it? Is your income secure? Remember that once you start, you can’t turn back. A good architect and a good building contractor are worth the money, so don’t skimp when it comes to choosing help.

3. Consider how long you intend to stay in this house. If you plan to stay for the rest of your life, then remodeling is a good idea. If you are planing to stay less than five years, you might consider simple improvements.

4. Remodeling is a messy, inconvenient and frustrating process filled with large and small disappointments. It will take longer than estimated. It will cost more as unforeseen costs appear. Prepare yourself.


By Rosemary Sandez Friedmann

Scripps Howard News Service

Thursday, December 6, 2012


We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top entertainment picks for the 2012 holiday season

As the top half of the globe tips away from the sun, Northwesterners look to light displays, community gatherings and holiday arts events to raise the spirits.

With that in mind, The Seattle Times offers a collection of seasonal-events listings, divided into categories: festivals, theater, arts and crafts fairs, dance and concerts (classical and pop).

Here are some highlights from each list, all of which can be found in their full glory by following the related links.

Remember, winter weather and other unforeseen events sometimes affect schedules. So call or go online to check the details in advance. Then bundle up and venture out — a bright Northwest night awaits.

Seattle Times staff


Gingerbread Village

THRU JAN. 1 Gingerbread castles by Seattle architecture firms, trade associations and Sheraton culinary staff, daily through Jan. 1, Sheraton Seattle Hotel and Towers, 1400 Sixth Ave., Seattle; free, donations for Northwest Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation requested (

Holiday Parade

NOV. 23 Floats, marching bands, drill teams and Santa, 9 a.m., from Seventh Avenue and Pine Street, ending at Fourth Avenue and Pine Street; Seattle (

Macy's Star and Westlake Center Holiday Tree Lighting

NOV. 23 Holiday star lighting at Macy's, tree lighting ceremony, fireworks (weather permitting), 4:45 p.m., Westlake Center, 400 Pine St., Seattle (

WildLights at Woodland Park Zoo

NOV. 23-JAN. 1 Light sculptures of wild animals and destinations around the world, carousel, reindeer visits, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 23-Dec. 23, Dec. 26-Jan. 1, Woodland Park Zoo, 5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle; $6.50-$9.50 by online advance purchase, night of event sale if space available; ages 2 and younger free (

Holiday Carousel

NOV. 23-JAN. 1 Carousel, benefits Treehouse for foster kids, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Nov. 23-24, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Nov. 23-29, through Jan. 1, times subject to change due to weather and other conditions, Westlake Park, 401 Pine St., Seattle; suggested donation $2 (

Seattle Center Winterfest

NOV. 23-DEC. 31 Winter Train and Village display, entertainment including Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, 12:30 p.m. Nov. 23; Seattle Men's Chorus, 12:30 p.m. Nov. 24; Armory/Center House, Seattle Center, Seattle (206-684-7200 or;

Winterfest Ice Rink indoor ice skating, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays through Jan. 6, Fisher Pavilion, Seattle Center; $7/adults, $5/ages 6-12, $2/ages 5 and younger, includes skate rental, cash only

Bellevue Magic Season

NOV. 23-DEC. 31 Snowflake Lane snowfall, live toy soldiers and winter characters, music, light show, 7 p. m. daily Nov. 23 through Dec. 24 along the sidewalks of Bellevue Way and Northeast Eighth Street; Celebration Lane Dec. 26-31, Bellevue Way and Northeast Eighth Street, Bellevue; free (

Bellevue Ice Arena open-air ice skating rink, food concessions, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Nov. 23-24, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 25, hours vary daily through Jan. 13; Bellevue Downtown Park, 10201 N.E. Fourth St., Bellevue; $10 includes skate rental, two skate for the price of one Tuesdays (;

Garden d'Lights, light sculpture flowers, animal characters, 5-10 p.m., last entry 9:30 p.m., Nov. 24 through Dec. 31, Bellevue Botanical Garden, 12001 Main St., Bellevue; $5, ages 10 and younger free; advance ticket purchase recommended; free Nov. 26-29, Dec. 3-6 (425-452-6844 or

Gingerbread Lane gingerbread sculptures by architecture firms, bakeries, Dec. 1-16; Bellevue Hilton, 300 112th Ave. S.E., Bellevue (

Issaquah Reindeer Festival

DEC. 1-30 Meet Santa and his reindeer, story times, animal exhibits, gift shop, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Dec. 1-23, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 26-30, Cougar Mountain Zoo, 19525 S.E. 54th St., Issaquah; $10.50-$12.50 (

Great Figgy Pudding Street Corner Caroling Competition

DEC. 7 Entertainment, caroling competition by 40 teams, benefits Pike Market Senior Center and Food Bank, 5-8:30 p.m., Westlake Park, 401 Pine St., Seattle (

Candy Cane Lane

DEC. 8-31 Neighborhood Christmas display, lights and music, 4-11 p.m. Dec. 8-Jan. 1, until midnight Dec. 24, 25 and 31, Northeast Park Road, off Ravenna Boulevard, Seattle; free, donations for Northwest Harvest collected.


Best of the Northwest

NOV. 18 Over 250 Northwest artists providing handcrafted jewelry, designer clothing, paintings, works of glass, wood, clay, metal and more. Live music by local musicians and wine tasting from boutique Washington wineries. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today. Smith Cove Cruise Terminal 91, 2001 W. Garfield St., Seattle; $6-$8 (206-525-5926 or

Drawing Jam

DEC. 1 A community celebration of music, art, cuisine and hands-on art activities with live models to draw. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Dec. 1. Gage Academy of Art, 1501 10th Ave. E., Seattle; $5-$10, free for kids and teenagers (206-323-4243 or

South Park Art Under $100 Sale

DEC. 1 Wine, appetizers and holiday shopping on local art priced under $100. Proceeds from art raffles will benefit the South Park Teen Program and South Park Arts. 3-9 p.m. Dec. 1. South Park Community Center, 8319 Eighth Ave. S, Seattle; free (206-898-8778 or


"Inspecting Carol"

Ends Dec. 23 Seattle Repertory Theatre, Bagley Wright Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle; $15-$80 (206-443-2222 or

"A Christmas Carol"

Nov. 23-Dec. 30 ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle; $22-$55 (206-292-7676 or

"Owen Meany's Christmas Pageant"

Dec. 4-23 Book-It Repertory Theatre, Center House Theatre, lower level, Seattle Center; $23-$37 (206-216-0833 or


Deck The Hall Ball with the Killers, M83, Metric, AWOLNATION, Passion Pit, Grouplove, the Lumineers, Of Monsters And Men, the Joy Formidable

DEC. 4 2 p.m., KeyArena, 305 Harrison St., Seattle; $47.70-$127.70 (800-745-3000 or

A Very Special Christmas Performance with Brandi Carlile

DEC. 8, 9 8 p.m. Dec. 8, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia; $44 (877-784-4849 or 8 p.m. Dec. 9, Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St., Bellingham; $40 (877-784-7849 or

Earshot Jazz: Duke Ellington's Sacred Music

DEC. 22 7 p.m., Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $15-$34 (800-838-3006 or


Tudor Choir: American Folk Holiday

NOV. 23 Carols and songs from New England, Appalachia and the Shakers. 7:30 p.m., Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $20-$30 (206-323-9415 or

Seattle Men's Chorus: Baby, It's Cold Outside

NOV. 30, DEC. 1, 9, 13, 16, 20, 21-22 Festive songs from south of the border, Hawaii, and other tropical locales. 8 p.m. Nov. 30, 2 p.m. Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20, 8 p.m. Dec. 21, 2 p.m., 8 p.m. Dec. 21-22, Benaroya Hall (S. Mark Taper Forum), 200 University St., Seattle; $25-$75 (206-215-4747 or 8 p.m. Dec. 13, Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma; $42-$58 (253-591-5894 or

Seattle Symphony Holiday Pops

DEC. 6-9 New principal pops conductor Jeff Tyzik will lead the symphony and vocalists Doug LaBrecque and Christiane Noll in holiday favorites. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6, 8 p.m. Dec. 7, 2 p.m., 8 p.m. Dec. 8, 2 p.m. Dec. 9, Benaroya Hall (S. Mark Taper Forum), 200 University St., Seattle; $19-$91 (206-215-4747 or

Seattle Symphony and Seattle Symphony Chorale: Handel's Messiah

DEC. 14-16 Stephen Stubbs conducts. 8 p.m. Dec 14, 1 p.m., 8 p.m. Dec. 15, 2 p.m. Dec. 16, Benaroya Hall (S. Mark Taper Forum), 200 University St., Seattle; $24-$91 (206-215-4747 or

Messiah Sing-and-Play-Along

DEC. 26 With conductor Karen P. Thomas. All singers and instrumentalists invited. 7 p.m., University Unitarian Church, 6556 35th Ave. N.E., Seattle; $13-$18 (206-525-8400 or

Seattle Symphony: New Year's Eve: Concert, Countdown & Celebration

DEC. 31 Ludovic Morlot conducts Beethoven's Ninth and Rachmaninov's Second. 9 p.m., Benaroya Hall (S. Mark Taper Forum), 200 University St., Seattle; $45-$152 (206-215-4747 or


Pacific Northwest Ballet: Nutcracker

Dec. 7-29 McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $25-$130 (206-441-2424 or

Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker

Dec. 11-27 Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $28-$45 (206-838-4333 or

Christmas ships

Nov. 24 to Dec. 23 More than two dozen sailings, each with multiple visits to waterfront communities (206-623-1445 or



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy December!!!


Welcome to my new blog!  I'm so excited to start writing and posting all sorts of great stuff for you!  Please come back any time to see everything I've posted.  I plan on blogging about your everyday needs, such as recipes, gardening tips, important real estate information and other fun things.

Allison Holz
Serving you since 2000