How to Lighten a Dark Room

Sometimes you get stuck with a small room or one without much natural light, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in the dark. There are lots of easy (and some not so easy) ways to lighten and brighten a dark room.  


Painting the walls a lighter color can drastically change the appearance of a room. White is always an option, but light pastels can have the same effect without the starkness. Also consider using a satin gloss, which will reflect light, as opposed to a matte finish.


Most changes to floors are fairly significant, ranging from refinishing hardwood to installing lighter wall-to-wall carpet. When refinishing hardwood with a lighter stain, top it off with a high gloss to reflect light. You can also “lighten” the appearance of a dark hardwood floor with a pale-colored area rug.


Dark furniture can really weigh a room down. Choose light fabrics and paint wooden furniture light colors. Also think about adding reflective surfaces to your furniture, like a mirrored table top.


Mirrors are your best bet for fighting darkness. Place them opposite a light source (a lamp or window) to maximize the amount of light reflected. Smaller items, like mirrored picture frames, reflect light as well.


Maximize the natural light coming in through windows. Keep the windows clean. Hang curtains higher and wider than the window frame so the entire window is exposed. Stay away from heavy drapes and thick blinds that block the light.
Lights   Use light that is cast up and down, such as wall sconces and lamps with shades that open at the top and bottom. Aim for diffused light. Use walls and corners to reflect the light around the room.

To Fix or Not to Fix?

When you’re getting ready to sell your home, that is always the question. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that a house in good condition will sell faster than one that needs work.

Low-cost, minor improvements that increase the appeal of your home are always a good idea – you want to be sure it looks like the house has been well taken care of. Patch nail holes and repaint, fix or replace damaged flooring, repair plumbing leaks, replace outdated light fixtures, clean out and reseal gutters, and keep up with the yard and garden.

Beyond the basics, ask yourself these questions when deciding what to fix:

What is the market like? In a seller’s market, you may not need to do much. In a buyer’s market, you might have a long list of repairs and updates to make in order to keep your house in the running.

How fast do you need to sell? If you must sell quickly, you’ll probably need to make the necessary improvements so your house is move-in ready. If you have time to test the market, you can hold off on pricey fixes and see how your house fares as-is, knowing you have the option of repairing those things later on – if you’re not getting the offers you’d like.

What is the condition of comparable homes on the market? If other homeowners have prepped their houses to move-in condition, you may need to do the same.

As your real estate professional, I would be happy to discuss how to best prepare your home for the current market in our area. Please contact me at your convenience!

Simple Ways to Allergy-Proof Your House

Protecting yourself from household allergens can be a daunting task, but start simple and you might see quick results.

  • Use two doormats at every house entry point – one inside and one outside.
  • Take off your shoes when you enter the house.
  • Vacuum carpets weekly using a vacuum with a small-particle filter.
  • Damp-mop floors once a week.
  • Wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth once a week.
  • Hang machine-washable curtains instead of heavy draperies.
  • Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in dust-proof zippered covers.
  • Wash bedding in hot water once a week.
  • Repair cracked or broken caulk and tile in the bathroom.
  • Always run the bathroom exhaust fan when you take a shower.
  • Clean out under the kitchen sink and check for leaks.
  • Monitor the humidity in the air (ideal is 30 – 50 percent).
  • Change air filters once a month.

If you can only make a few changes, start with your bedroom — you spend about one-third of your time sleeping. And, if possible, go to an allergist and find out what you are allergic to. This will help you focus your efforts and make sure you are treating the right problem.

Saving Water through Xeriscape

Tired of wasting water and money to achieve a lush lawn and garden? Maybe you should try Xeriscape — using creative landscaping to conserve water.

Xeriscape is a combination of seven common-sense gardening principles that save water while creating a lush and colorful landscape:

  1. Plan and design for water conservation and beauty.
  2. Create turf areas of manageable sizes and grasses.
  3. Select low-water plants.
  4. Use soil amendments, such as compost or manure.
  5. Use mulches to reduce evaporation and keep soil cool.
  6. Irrigate efficiently.
  7. Maintain the landscape properly.

Originally developed in Colorado for drought-afflicted areas, Xeriscape is now used across the country in efforts to be more environmentally conscious. The practice offers many benefits:

  • Saves water – Reduces landscape water use by 60 percent or more.
  • Improves property value – Can increase property value by as much as 15 percent.
  • Less maintenance – Aside from occasional pruning and weeding, maintenance is minimal.
  • No fertilizers or pesticides – Using plants native to your area will eliminate the need for chemical supplements.

Better Your Life with Feng Shui

It’s said that your space — your home, your office — is a mirror of you. If you are looking for ways to improve your quality of life, you might consider first improving the quality of your space. Feng shui, the ancient Chinese art and science of placement and energy flow, can help you do both.

The basic theory behind feng shui is that everything is energy and everything is connected. So if you change the energy in your home, you also will be changing the energy in your life. “Your home can often be a mirror of your inner life that can symbolically or literally manifest practically everything that is going on in your life,” says holistic design expert Laura Benko. “There are so many actions you can take to address these issues. It first begins with shifting your perspective and connecting the dots between your environment and yourself.”

Here are a few easy steps you can take now to give your space, and hopefully your life, a little lift.

Eliminate clutter. Clutter stagnates your energy and promotes disorder.

Keep your bathroom door closed. The bathroom is full of drains (sink, tub and toilet) and by leaving the door open you allow good energy to literally drain out of your home.  

Get two nightstands. Regardless of the number of people sleeping in the bed, two nightstands create a more supported and balanced bed for everyone. The nightstands don’t necessarily need to match, and they don’t need to be traditional nightstands; tables, stools or benches can work.

Place furniture so it faces the door. Place yourself in a position of power in every room so you are always facing the door and nothing can “sneak up” on you.

Add plants.
Plants encompass nature, growth, creativity, and even air purification all in one! Especially if you have a lot of electronics, add one or two more plants than may seem necessary and you’ll feel the difference.

Fix what’s broken.
You aren’t broken on the inside — don’t be broken on the outside either.

“If you’re feelingoverwhelmed, a calming thing to do is clear off the surfaces in your home. It does away with visual and, more importantly, psychological clutter.”

Laura Benko, Benko Feng Shui, New York

Choosing the right paint brush

Painting is the quickest way to give a room a fresh new look. It is also quite possibly the easiest do-it-yourself project. Most people will spend hours poring over colors, finally choosing the paint, and then just throwing the cheapest paint brushes or rollers in the cart on their way out of the paint section.

This is a big mistake. The results you get from a high-quality paint brush will always be much better than with the "whatever's on sale" brush or rollers.

A quality paint brush holds more paint, gives you more control and provides a smoother finish. It also covers more with fewer brush strokes, which saves you time.

Here's what you need to consider when buying paint brushes.

You want paint brushes that have balance. It should feel comfortable in your hand and be easy to control.

Bristle density
Paint is held in the space between the bristles, so the more bristles a brush has, the more paint it will hold. A cheaper paint brush won't hold much paint and smears the paint rather than flowing the paint onto the surface.

Bristle flagging
Take a look at a good brush and you'll notice that the bristles have split ends. This is called flagging and helps to provide finer and smoother application.

Bristle type
The type of paint you're using determines what bristle you should choose. Use hog hair or China bristle for oil-based paints. However, you can't use hog hair when using water-based paints because the bristles absorb water. Some synthetic brushes use a combination of polyester and nylon – polyester provides stiffness and nylon is soft for a smooth application.

The ferrule holds the bristles against the handle and are commonly metal. A high-quality brush will have either a stainless steel or other rust-proof ferrule. Cheaper brushes use lower quality metals and are subject to rusting.

Surface area determines what type of brush you use. Wide surfaces warrant a 3 - 4" brush. When trimming around doors, you will want a smaller 1½ - 2" brush.

A good brush is thicker at the bottom and narrower at the top. The tapered shape makes the brush stiffer and gives you more control. A cheaper brush has bristles all the same length.

Easy-to-grow edibles for your home garden

Starting a garden can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you have a plot for a garden, plans for a raised garden or just a few pots around your patio, growing your own fruits and vegetables can be very rewarding.

The good news is that you can start small and add some new plants year after year. The better news is that there are some fruits and vegetables that are easy to grow.


There are many types of lettuce and other salad greens – head lettuce, leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, just to name a few. They are easy to maintain, grow quickly and don’t need a lot of room. They prefer the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, rather than the heat of summer. To ensure that you have greens all summer long, you can plant seeds every two weeks.


The flavor of summer comes from tomatoes. You can buy starter plants from nurseries and home improvement stores. Tomatoes prefer the sun and can be grown in pots and even upside-down hanging baskets. Opt for heirlooms and grow a variety ranging from green to yellow to purple.


Vine cucumber plants need some room because they spread out. They can take over areas of your garden and choke out sun and nutrients from other plants. Opt for bush rather than vine plants. They don’t spread as much and are more resistant to disease. Cucumbers will grow all summer long.


A root vegetable, carrots grow until they hit something, then grow around it. If you have rocky soil, you’ll get crooked carrots. Still edible, but not visually appealing. For long, beautiful carrots, you need deep soil. Carrots are ready to harvest when you can see them above the soil.


If you like radishes, the good news is that they’re incredibly easy to grow. Spring radishes are mild in flavor, can grow in pots and are ready in three to four weeks. Hot summer soil produces spicier radishes.

Green beans

There are many varieties from which to choose. Beans prefer sun and well-drained soil. As with cucumbers, there are vine and bush types of bean plants.


Preferring warm soil, zucchini and other types of squash are perfect to add to your garden later in the year. They can grow just fine in pots or in mounded soil. Zucchini plants do need water in order to flourish.


If you want to start even smaller, grow an herb garden. Herbs can be grown in pots or in a garden. Basil, thyme, dill, cilantro, chives… all can be grown with minimal effort, space and maintenance.

Whether you want to reduce your carbon footprint, explore the possibilities of sustainable food sources, or simply like the idea of gardening, if you’ve got a back yard with a bit of space, gardening can be rewarding, cost-effective and best of all, delicious!

Asbestos: Where to find it and what you should do about it

Making sure that your home is safe for you and your family is absolutely essential. If your home was built before 1960, it is important to test for asbestos. Not only is it important to know if it is present should you decide to sell your home, it is critical for your health.

According to World Health Organization estimates, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure. Perhaps the most famous person to die from asbestos exposure is Steve McQueen, who was exposed to the material while removing asbestos lagging from pipes aboard a troop ship while in the Marines.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous, silicate mineral that can be woven into heat- and fire-resistant material in insulation for heating pipes and attics, as well as roofing and siding materials. It was used in homes built before 1960.

Asbestos can also be found in:

  • Car parts, including clutches, brake pads, brake linings
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Siding
  • Shingles
  • Wallboard and sheetrock
  • Spray on fireproofing
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Textured paint
  • Caulk

How asbestos affects your health

Asbestos is made of long fibers that can be breathed in easily. When inhaled, these fibers become lodged in internal body tissues, and this can cause cancer.

Most people are exposed to a small amount of asbestos every day. Health problems start with prolonged exposure to high amounts of asbestos. It causes mesothelioma, and cancerous tumors form in the linings of the lungs and abdomen.

What to do if there is asbestos in your home

The best thing you can do is to leave the material alone if it is in good condition. Unless the material is damaged and fibers are released and inhaled, you are not in danger.

If you find damaged material in your home that may contain asbestos, don’t sand, scrape or vacuum it. Asbestos should only be removed by trained professionals to limit exposure. If you are worried about asbestos in your home, call a specialist to do an inspection. If there is damage or deterioration, the technician will recommend remediation.

Testing your home for radon gas

Making sure that your home is safe for you and your family is absolutely essential. If your home was built before 1960, it is important to test for radon. Not only is it important to know if it is present if you decide to sell your home, it is critical for your health. Radon is known to cause cancer through repeated exposure. According to EPA estimates, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, with 20,000 deaths per year on average.

What is radon?

It is an odorless, colorless gas produced when uranium in the soil breaks down. Radon enters your home through the foundation, where the foundation comes in contact with the soil. If radon is present, it is drawn in to the home because the air pressure inside is usually less than that of the soil. It acts as a vacuum, drawing radon gas in through gaps, cracks and cavities in walls where plumbing enters, and through construction joints.

Radon is a fairly common occurrence. One in 15 homes has radon levels high enough that the U.S. government recommends that action is necessary to control the leakage. A simple home test can tell you if radon is above the safe level. You can purchase a test kit from Kansas State University’s National Radon Program Services for about $15.

The kit is placed in the lowest lived-in area of the house, generally the first floor or basement, for three days or four days. If testing reveals an unsafe level of radon in the home, it is important to take action immediately. Radon remediation methods are highly effective. Radon mitigation is like many other home repairs — you may want to get a few estimates before choosing your radon contractor.


Sales of Condominiums and Cooperative Apartments showed strong growth in 2013, increasing 24% over the prior year and outpacing the sales of all residential properties. Representing a relatively small portion of the overall market at only 4.3% of residential properties sold, owned-apartment living is an attractive option for many homeowners in Yakima.  Condominiums constitute the vast majority of this segment, as Cooperative Apartments make up less than 10% of the sales in the category.

Prices of units sold increased by 5% over the prior year, posting an average price of $154,000, up from $147,000 in 2013.  Similarly the increase in price per finished square foot was a bit stronger, rising 7% from $97 in 2012 to just over $104 per foot last year.  Condominiums prove to be a safe and solid investment when compared to housing overall.  Buyers are looking for the convenience offered by condo living, enjoying the lock-and-leave lifestyle and delegating the responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep to others.  That said, this convenience comes with a monthly fee of Condominium or Co-op Dues, which for the properties that sold in 2013 averaged just over $200 per month, ranging from a low of $60 to a high of $337 per month.

textexport YTD Dec 2013 all trxs.xlsx

Slightly more than half of condominium buyers choose to utilize conventional bank financing, yet over a third pay for the unit outright with cash.  This coincides with many condo buyer’s stage of homeownership, where they are downsizing from a larger, and frequently more expensive, single family home.  Single level units are preferred, and those with enclosed private garages are sought after also.

Most condominiums sold are 2 Bedroom units with a few 3 bedrooms changing hands last year also.  The average size was 1475 square feet, ranging from a low of 700 square feet of living area to a high of 3024 square feet for a three bedroom unit.  Two bedrooms condominiums averaged 1400 square feet.  The age of these buildings range from just over sixty years to a small building in Selah with only two units that was built in 2011.  The majority of buildings, just under 42% of sales, were built in the 70’s, with the remainder primarily built in the 80’s or 90’s.  We find buyers are looking for updated condo’s to purchase, but most sellers have not modernized their units prior to sale and usually they reflect the era in which they were constructed.

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The vast majority of units sold were located in the West Yakima area, representing 73% of condominiums sold.  The balance were mostly in Yakima itself at 21% of the total, with just a few units sold in other neighborhoods.  Those apartment homes sold in Yakima commanded the highest average sales price at $175,000, including one downtown condo.  Without this outlier, a resale at The Lofts Condominium, Yakima prices averaged just under $159,000.  In West Yakima condominiums and cooperatives sold at an average price just shy of $150,000.

To view all new condominiums and co-ops for sale, visit our website and select Condominiums on left side navigation bar.

Click here to view the entire market report.

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By: Chris Pauling