Kitchen Remodel Strategy


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Budget Kitchen Remodeling: 5 Money-Saving Steps

By: Gretchen Roberts

Can’t afford an entire kitchen remodel in one fell swoop? You can complete the work in 5 budget-saving stages (and still cook dinner during the down time).

Stage one: Start with a complete design plan 

Your plan should be comprehensive and detailed — everything from the location of the refrigerator to which direction the cabinet doors will open to whether you need a spice drawer.

To save time (and money) during tear-out and construction, plan on using your existing walls and kitchen configuration. That’ll keep plumbing and electrical systems mostly intact, and you won’t have the added expense — and mess — of tearing out walls.

Joseph Feinberg, vice president of Allied Kitchen and Bath in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recommends hiring a professional designer, such as an architect or a certified kitchen designer, who can make sure the details of your plans are complete. You’ll pay about 10% of the total project for a pro designer, but you’ll save a whole bunch of headaches that would likely cost as much — or more — to fix. Plus, a pro is likely to offer smart solutions you hadn’t thought of.

For a nominal fee, you also can get design help from a major home improvement store. However, you’ll be expected to purchase some of your cabinets and appliances from that store.

  • Cost: professional designer: $5,800 (10% of total)
  • Key strategies: Once your plans are set, you can hold onto them until you’re ready to remodel.
  • Time frame: 3-6 months

Read on to learn more budget kitchen remodeling tips:

Stage two: Order the cabinets, appliances, and lighting fixtures
Stage three: Gut the kitchen and do the electrical and plumbing work
Stage four: Install cabinets, coutertop, appliances, flooring, and fixtures
Final phases: Upgrade if necessary

Stage two: Order the cabinets, appliances, and lighting fixtures and appliances are the biggest investments in your kitchen remodeling project. If you’re remodeling in stages, you can order them any time after the plans are complete and store them in a garage (away from moisture) or in a spare room until you’re ready to pull the trigger on the installation.

Remember that it may take 4-6 weeks from the day you order them for your cabinets to be delivered.

If you can’t afford all new appliances, keep your old ones for now — but plan to buy either the same sizes, or choose larger sizes and design your cabinets around those larger measurements. You can replace appliances as budget permits later on.

The same goes for your lighting fixtures: If you can live with your old ones for now, you’ll save money by reusing them.

You’ll have to decide about flooring, too — one of the trickier decisions to make because it also affects how and when you install cabinets.

You’ll need to know if your old flooring runs underneath your cabinets, or if the flooring butts up against the cabinet sides and toe kicks. If the flooring runs underneath, you’ll have some leeway for new cabinet configurations — just be sure the old flooring will cover any newly exposed floor areas. Here are points to remember:

  • Keep old flooring for cost savings. This works if your new cabinets match your old layout, so that the new cabinets fit exactly into the old flooring configuration. If the existing flooring runs underneath your cabinets and covers all flooring area, then any new cabinet configuration will be fine.
  • Keep your old flooring for now and cover it or replace it later. Again, this works if your cabinet configuration is identical to the old layout.

However, if you plan to cover your old flooring or tear it out and replace it at some point in the future, remember that your new flooring might raise the height of your floor, effectively lowering your cabinet height.

For thin new floor coverings, such as vinyl and linoleum, the change is imperceptible. For thicker floorings, such as wood and tile, you might want to take into account the change in floor height by installing your new cabinets on shims.

  • Cost: cabinets: $16,000 (27% of total); appliances and lighting fixtures: $8,500 (15% of total); vinyl flooring: $1,000 (2% of total)
  • Key strategy: Keep old appliances, lighting fixtures, and flooring and use them until you can afford new ones.
  • Time frame: 2-3 weeks

Stage three: Gut the kitchen and do the electrical and plumbing work

Here’s where the remodel gets messy. Old cabinetry and appliances are removed, and walls may have to be opened up for new electrical circuits. Keep in close contact with yourcontractor during this stage so you can answer questions and clear up any problems quickly. A major kitchen remodel can take 6 to 10 weeks, depending on how extensive the project is.

During this stage, haul your refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven to another room — near the laundry or the garage, for example — so you’ve got the means to cook meals. Feinberg suggests tackling this stage in the summer, when you can easily grill and eat outside. That’ll reduce the temptation to eat at restaurants, and will help keep your day-to-day costs under control.

  • Cost: $14,500 for tear-out and installation of new plumbing and electrical (25% of total)
  • Key strategies: Encourage your contractor to expedite the tear-out and installation of new systems. Plan a makeshift kitchen while the work is progressing. Schedule this work for summer when you can grill and eat outside.
  • Time frame: 6-10 weeks

Stage four: Install cabinets, countertop, appliances, flooring, and fixtures

If you’ve done your homework and bought key components in advance, you should roll through this phase. You’ve now got a (mostly) finished kitchen.

A high-end countertop and backsplash can be a sizable sum of money. If you can’t quite swing it, put down a temporary top, such as painted marine plywood or inexpensivelaminate. Later, you can upgrade to granite, tile, solid surface, or marble.

  • Cost: $12,000 (21% of total)
  • Key strategy: Install an inexpensive countertop; upgrade when you’re able.
  • Time frame: 1-2 weeks

Final phases: Upgrade if necessary

Replace the inexpensive countertop, pull up the laminate flooring, and put in tile or hardwood, or buy that new refrigerator you wanted but couldn’t afford during the remodel. (Just make sure it fits in the space!)


Olympia WA Kitchen Design:


Sound Advantage Realty


Real Estate Terminology


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While browsing real estate listings, you may run into unfamiliar terms. Here are a few definitions that may come in handy when deciphering listing information.

Short Sale: Also known as Pre-foreclosure or Third Party Approval Required

When the net proceeds from the sale of the home are not sufficient to pay off existing loan(s), the sale is conditioned on approval by the seller’s lender to accept less than the full amount owed. Negotiations may be carried out by the listing broker or an attorney. The term “Third Party Approval” is also used when bankruptcy or other court approval is required to complete the sale.

As-Is Sale: Often used in the case of foreclosures or short sales to warn the buyer that no repairs will be made during the inspection period, or that the seller has never lived in the home and has no personal knowledge of the home’s condition. In actuality, the term has no legal meaning. It does not absolve the seller of legally required disclosures. The term “As-Is” does not necessarily mean that the home is in poor repair. However, the value of a professional inspection is paramount.

HUD Home: Homes that have been acquired by HUD after foreclosure on an FHA insured mortgage.

HUD: US Department of Housing and Urban Development. FHA: Federal Housing Administration. FHA insures loans for low-to-moderate income buyers and others who may otherwise be unable to qualify for conventional financing. Mortgage insurance is included in monthly payments until the home’s value exceeds 78% of the loan amount, at which time the buyer may request to have it removed.

Submission Bid Deadline: When a new HUD home comes on the market, the first two weeks are generally set aside as “exclusive” available for bids from owner occupant buyers. An initial bed deadline is set, after which all offers will be reviewed. If no acceptable bids are received, the bidding continues on a daily basis until an acceptable bid has been received.

FHA Insured Escrow (IE) with $xxx.xx in repairs: When looking at HUD homes, you will see this terminology a lot. Homes that revert to HUD ownership are inspected by an FHA approved appraiser, and an as-is value is set. If no obvious repairs are necessary, the home is deemed (IN) or insurable for FHA 203b financing. When repairs under $5,000 are necessary to meet FHA lending guidelines, the needed repairs will be specified in this way. Repairs are to be completed after closing, using money set aside for this purpose. If the actual repairs cost less than estimated, any additional funds left in escrow will be applied to the mortgage principal. Note that the seller does not contribute funds to this escrow account, it is part of the buyer’s loan. If FHA financing is not used, the repair escrow does not apply.

203K Eligible: When buying a home needing more than $5,000 in repairs, it may qualify for FHA 203(k) Rehab loan program. The borrower can get just one mortgage loan, at a long-term fixed (or adjustable) rate, to finance both the acquisition and the rehabilitation of the property. To provide funds for the rehabilitation, the mortgage amount is based on the projected value of the property with the work completed, taking into account the cost of the work. Talk to an FHA approved lender for more details.

HUD homes are listed in the local MLS, however all offers must be submitted through by a real estate broker registered with HUD.

FTC: Real Estate Glossary


Sound Advantage Realty

Recommended Lenders


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There are lots of great lenders around Olympia with low rates and top-notch service.

Here are some Mortgage professionals I trust and recommend to my clients…

1. Mortgage: Axia Home Loans Logo
Axia Home Loans

Contact: Michelle Wickett
NMLS 27830
Michelle is the most knowledgeable lender I can think of for any type of loan, USDA, WA State Funds, etc.

3. Mortgage: Homestreet Bank Logo
Homestreet Bank
(360) 491 3037
Contact: Jeri Ross
NMLS# 298313
Jeri is one of the most trusted lenders in Olympia.

chad poundstone
Mortgage One Northwest
Contact: Chad Poundstone
NMLS# 82426
Chad has both financial background and military service. VA loans. He is helpful and easy to work with!

6. Mortgage: Olympia Federal Savings Logo
Olympia Federal Savings
Contact: Barbara Whitlow
NMLS# 628466
Barb is a great resource for my clients.

Find a Mortgage Lender and Get Preapproved for a Mortgage


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Find a Mortgage Lender

Joy Moran, WA Licensed Broker

Before you are ready to buy a home, before you even start looking, unless you are paying cash you should START by speaking with a Mortgage Loan Officer at your bank or credit union, or a local Mortgage Banker.

Start Local

Its a good idea to use a local lender. Why?

First, when you submit an offer with a pre-approval letter from a trusted local lender, it lets the seller know that you are actually a serious buyer. Online mortgage companies may input your numbers into their software and give you a figure, but unless they actually view your documentation, its not genuine.

Also, when it comes down to closing, there should be good communication between you,  your REALTOR®, your lender, and your escrow officer. Without that circle of communication, getting the transaction to close on time can be dicey.

Getting Pre-Qualified for a Mortgage

Your loan officer or mortgage lender will ask you for some basic financial information, and check your FICO scores. With this information, they will determine your price range. You can find out about rates, APR, locks, and which loan programs will work to your benefit.

Multiple hits on your credit report caused by shopping around for a loan used to lower your scores, but Fair-Isaac has a new policy that ignores multiple inquiries for mortgage or auto loans.

Your FICO Credit Scores

Your mortgage professional will show you anything on your credit report that is negatively affecting your ability to qualify for a mortgage. If there are errors on the report, you can dispute them in writing. If you have a lot of credit card debt, your mortgage professional will explain how to proceed– which accounts to pay down first,  in order to improve your score. You may need to set a budget and start saving up cash for a down payment, closing costs, or reserves. This discussion will help you set a price range and a timeline for your home purchase.

Once you have your mortgage all lined up, its time to start shopping for a home!


Sound Advantage Realty

Should You Buy or Rent a Home?


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Should You Buy or Rent a Home?

by Joy Moran, Keller Williams Realty Olympia

In my opinion, buying a home was the best financial decision I ever made. My starter home, purchased in 1984 was a small (under 1000 sqft) 3 bedroom 1 bath home in Eastgate, WA.


My mortgage payment at 11% interest was $700/mo. ($200 more than I had been paying for rent). 28 years later, that home would rent for $1600/mo. Had I stayed put, I would be about ready to pay off that $60,000 mortgage. Of course, property taxes have tripled over the years, so I’d now be paying over $300/mo just in taxes.

Increased Wealth, Higher FICO Scores

Historically, homeowners have increased wealth over time as compared with renters. They also have higher credit scores. One of the primary objectives of home ownership is to let the home increase in value over many years, providing financial stability for the owners as well as a place to live. These days, about 1 in 6 Americans move each yearThe average American moves 11.7 times in a lifetime.

The first years of mortgage payments are mainly going to interest, with the later years payments going toward the principal. You are far better off to buy a home you can stay in for 10 or more years, rather than relocating in 5 years. Equity is gained when you stay put!

Low Prices and Low Interest Rates

Arguably, mortgage interest rates have more affect on affordability than home prices. In 1984, after seeing 17% interest rates in 1980, 11% looked great. Its all relative. Sure, homes were cheaper back then, but interest took a much larger chunk of every housing dollar.

Total Interest Paid Over 30 Years on $100,000 Mortgage

See what an unusual time we are living in, with interest rates at or near all-time lows?

Weekly average rates on 30-year fixed, 15-year fixed and 1-year adjustable rate mortgages vs. Prime Rate, 1-Year CMT, 1992 - present.

Home Prices Have Come Back to Scale

Five or six years ago, there was a buying frenzy. Home prices were skyrocketing, and banks were loaning money to anyone who could fog a mirror. That’s changed. If you look at home prices over the last 100 years or so, you can see that prices are back in line with long-term trends. Pair that with low interest rates and we have housing affordability like nobody has seen since they started keeping track!

Why Buy?

To me, the real benefit of owning a home is the freedom to modify it to fit your needs. Face it, everyone needs a place to live. It gets old staying with family or friends. Apartments usually have parking issues. Rents keep going up, and you don’t even have the freedom to leave anytime you want, because you probably signed a lease.

Tools to Compare Rent vs. Buy

Are you even in a position to buy? This calculator may help answer that question.

How do the numbers stack up? Use this calculator to crunch the numbers.

Ready to search for a home in Olympia?


Sound Advantage Realty

Zero Down USDA Rural Mortgage


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USDA Rural Development 100% Financing 

by Joy Moran, Sound Advantage Realty, Olympia

For eligible borrowers and properties, USDA Rural loans offer a great deal for home buyers, because you can borrow up to 100% (Zero Down) without monthly Private Mortgage Insurance.

There are a few caveats; both the borrower and the property must qualify…

Borrower Eligibility

In Thurston County, if you have annual adjusted income below $86,250, credit scores above 660, stable employment and low debt, you probably qualify. USDA Income Eligibility

Property Eligibility

Much of Thurston County real estate is eligible for USDA Rural financing. All of Mason County, Lewis County, and most of Grays Harbor County are USDA eligible too. See the map below or use the USDA Address Eligibility tool. (Accept the disclaimer to get to the tool)

In addition, the property must not be sub-dividable, must not house a business or be “income producing” (i.e. farm, large shop, etc.) or have an in-ground swimming pool.

I recommend using an experienced mortgage professional for your USDA Rural Mortgage. For more information, contact Michelle Wickett with AXIA Home Loans: (360) 459-1200


Sound Advantage Realty

Real Estate Paperwork – What to Save?


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 A friend at Chicago Title sent me this article. It’s a good reminder…

Closing  Documents You Should Keep

The Closing Table

On closing day, expect to sign a lot of documents and walk away with a big stack of papers. Here’s a list of the most important documents you should file away for future reference.

  • HUD-1 settlement statement.  Itemizes all the costs ”commissions, loan fees, points, and hazard insurance” associated with the closing. You’ll need it for income tax purposes if you paid points.
  • Truth in Lending statement.  Summarizes the terms of your mortgage loan, including the annual percentage rate and recision period.
  • Mortgage and note.  Spell out the legal terms of your mortgage obligation and the agreed-upon repayment terms.
  • Deed.  Transfers ownership to you.
  • Affidavits.  Binding statements by either party. For example, the sellers will often sign an affidavit stating that they haven’t incurred any liens.
  • Riders.  Amendments to the sales contract that affect your rights. Example: The sellers won’t move out until two weeks after closing but will pay rent to the buyers during that period.
  • Insurance policies.  Provide a record and proof of your coverage.

Sources:  Credit Union National Association; Mortgage Bankers Association;  Home-Buyer™s Guide  (Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University)


Sound Advantage Realty

Move UP to the Home You WANT


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Move UP to the Home You Want (NOW!)

by Joy Moran, WA Licensed Broker, Sound Advantage Realty, Olympia WA

There are Advantages to Trading Up in a Down Market.

You’re living in a home you’ve outgrown, waiting for prices to increase before you sell it to buy the home you really want to live in. Did you know that replacing your home right now will SAVE you money in the long term? Its true. While you’re waiting around for the market to recover, the home you want will increase in value MORE than your current home. 

Here’s an example.


Let’s say you bought your current 3 bedroom home in 2005 for $230,000. It was a seller’s market, so you paid $2,000 over asking. You still owe around $160,000 on your mortgage, and your house is currently worth $190K-$200K. OUCH! That really hurts, but you’re better off than folks who bought at the top of the bubble, in 2006-2007.

After preparing your home for sale, real estate commissions, WA state excise tax, title and escrow fees, and paying off your current mortgage you’d be lucky to clear $10,000. If you’re LUCKY!  NOBODY is thrilled at the prospect of bringing cash to the closing table.

The 4 bedroom home you really like is $295,000. You have some savings, your credit scores are good, and you can afford the higher payment, but NOBODY WANTS TO LOSE MONEY ON THE SALE OF THEIR HOME, so you decide to wait until the market recovers and your home is worth around $250,000.

That decision is going to cost you at least $20,000.

Let’s look at an example.

Say home prices go up an average 3% per year. At that rate you will be waiting 8 years. By the time your current home is worth $250,000, the home you want will have gone up to around $370,000.

                   Current Home   Dream Home   DifferenceImage

Now              $195,000           $295,000          $100,000

In 2020        $250,000           $370,000          $120,000

Increase        $55,000             $75,000           $20,000

It’ll cost you an extra $20,000 to wait. Not only that, you probably will not see today’s rock bottom interest rates eight years from now.

Why not take advantage of today’s low prices and low interest rates, and ENJOY the next eight years in a home you love living in!


Sound Advantage Realty

Host Beehives for Free Local Honey


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Host Beehives for Free Local Honey

By Joy Moran, Sound Advantage Realty

Albert Einstein once said “If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years left to live.

Ever since moving to a rural area near Olympia WA, I’ve thought about keeping some bees for pollination and a verifiable source of local honey (said to improve allergy symptoms) but I had procrastinated. That is, until I met a beekeeper who was looking for a place to keep some hives and offered me free honey in exchange. This arrangement, known as honeybee hosting, seemed like a natural win-win solution. The beekeeper gets pesticide-free foraging for his bees and time for natural hive building and I get plenty of hyper-local honey, without having to learn beekeeping.The beekeeper stops by regularly to care for the hives, and one day I came home to find 6 quarts of natural raw honey on my front porch. SWEET!


One-third of all US crops depend on honeybee pollination. Thirty years ago, growers could rely on a combination of native pollinating insects and local honeybees for most crops. Since then, for a variety of reasons, the world’s honeybee population has declined by half. Bees have to be trucked in to large scale agricultural farms for pollinating or food crops will suffer and food costs rise.


Honey from my own backyard! FREE!

Micro-scale, local, natural beekeeping will help build healthy hives to pollinate our future.n Want to find out more? If you live on 3 acres or more and would like to try honeybee hosting, contact a beekeepers association in your area and ask to be connected with a local beekeeper willing to place hives. Or get in touch with me and I will put you in contact with my beekeeper.


Sound Advantage Realty

Saving Water with a Rain Barrel


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Save Water and Money with a Rain Barrel

By: Laura Fisher Kaiser

Water Savings Barrel Rain Barrel Water Conservation

This plastic rain barrel has a screen on the lid to keep out leaves, insects, and other debris. Image:

Using rain barrels to harvest rainwater from your roof is a simple, low-expense solution for conserving water and saving on your water bill.

Considering that an inch of rain dumps 500 gallons on the roof of a typical 2,000-square-foot house, it’s possible in most parts of the country to collect more than enough runoff for basic landscape irrigation needs. A rain barrel will save about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In a national survey by DC Urban Gardeners, a rain barrel lowered water bills by about $35 a month in the summer. For as little as $100 for the barrel and downspout fittings, a rain-harvesting system can pay for itself in just a couple of seasons.

How much rain can you collect?

The first step is to figure out the potential runoff amount from your roof. Multiply your area’saverage annual rainfall in inches by the square footage of your roof. If you don’t know exact roof area, it’s fine to use the dimensions of your house’s footprint. Then multiply that number by 0.623–the amount of water in gallons needed to fill one square foot of space to a depth of one inch. The result is the number of gallons you can harvest. (Keep in mind, though, that most rain barrel systems are set up to collect only a portion of that, depending on irrigation needs.)

If your main goal is to water flower beds or run soaker hoses during dry spells, one or two 55-gallon barrels will suffice. If you want to turn off the garden tap all together, you’ll need multiple barrels or a cistern, a large tank that stores from 300 to 3,000 gallons. But cisterns cost considerably more (up to $2,500) and are more complicated to install and use, which makes them best suited for larger-scale rain harvesting systems that include such indoor uses as flushing toilets.

Rain barrels made from recycled food containers

These containers, formerly used to hold produce, have been repurposed into rain barrels. Image: The Rain Well

Commercial barrels cost between $50 and $200, though you can also make one yourself from castoff food-grade containers. One couple linked together five 55-gallon syrup drums they bought for $10 apiece from the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. Their blog is an amusing and instructive rain-harvesting primer.

A typical system consisting of one or two barrels and off-the-shelf parts such as spigots, downspout extensions, mesh screens, and soaker hoses costs between $35 and $600. Cobbling it all together might take a weekend or two, but it’s not rocket science. TheMaryland Environmental Design Program offers easy step-by-step instructions for building your own barrel with about $15 worth of supplies.

Unfortunately, most rain barrels are not very handsome, and it’s not always easy to camouflage them. Some people like the folksy wooden water barrel look, but generally speaking, the more water you’re trying to capture, the bulkier the containers–and the harder they are to make inconspicuous or tuck behind bushes, especially since they need to be located near a downspout on your house.

Safety requirements and caveats

Rain barrels work via gravity, so the barrel must be level, stable, and elevated to allow water to move out of the tank. You’ll want two spigots, one at the bottom to connect a hose and the other about two-thirds of the way down to fit a watering can or bucket underneath. If you want to move water to a higher level, you’ll have to add a small pump ($50 to $150, depending on type).

You’ll also need to take a few other precautions for safety:

Covers and screens: A secure cover keeps children, pets, and wildlife out. Fine mesh screens prevent mosquitoes from breeding (a mosquito dunk, which kills mosquito larvae but is non-toxic to plants or other animals, is also not a bad idea) and block leaves and twigs from clogging the works.

Organic growth: Water that sits for days or weeks, especially in hot weather, can start to grow algae. Try adding a capful or two of bleach to the tank and letting it stand for a few days before using. If that doesn’t work, you may have to drain and scrub the inside periodically.

Overflow: A 55-gallon barrel (or even two) will quickly fill up, especially during intense downpours. An overflow system that diverts water to a storm drain or into a moisture-tolerant part of the garden is essential.

Restricted uses: Although good for plants and perfectly fine for washing cars or garden tools, water that comes off the roof is far from pure. It may be contaminated with dust, insects, bird droppings, pine needles, pollen, and other pollutants. Be sure to clearly label all rainwater-supplied fixtures as “Non-potable–Do Not Drink.” Nor is it safe to mix fertilizer or garden chemicals in the barrel, even for garden use.

Benefits that go beyond saving money

Collecting rainwater has numerous benefits apart from low-cost irrigation. Free of chlorine and sodium, naturally soft rainwater is superior for plants. Capturing roof runoff also lowers the risk of flooding and reduces the burden on storm sewers and local watersheds.

That’s one reason why a number of local and state governments are offering tax breaks or rebates for rainwater harvesting systems. A few, such as Washington, D.C., San Antonio, Texas, and San Jose, California, will even conduct a rainwater audit of your property, make recommendations, and implement rain barrels or other storm-water runoff strategies at a subsidized rate.

Find the home you’ll love to live in:


Sound Advantage Realty