Dark purple postcard image reading "Seasonal Maintenance Checklist - Fall 2022"

We're back after a bit of a break—and, at your request, consolidating into seasonal maintenance reminders so you can tackle it in one big transition push! This Fall, it's all about relatively easy indoor tasks that have a big impact on comfort and quality of life. So don't delay...




Most of us ignore the HVAC (heating, ventilation, A/C) system in our home until something breaks. Just like your car, though, it pays to do routine preventative maintenance and budget for big-ticket fixes at least once a decade! And there are environmental considerations when choosing/changing your system's fuel sources—not to mention the fact that inefficient heating/cooling can be expensive.

Options for HVAC help (very rough estimates):
  • Have a service and evaluation of your current system by a vendor that also does replacements ($~300-700)
  • Replace a gas furnace with a newer model ($4000-10,000)
  • Replace an oil furnace with gas or electric ($5000-12,000--includes decommissioning oil tank)
  • Replace a gas or oil furnace--or older electric--with a heat pump or ductless mini-splits ($7,000-20,000 depending on system, house size/layout)
Contact, Availability & Pricing

Like MANY other trades, the best & most experienced HVAC vendors are incredibly busy right now. Some are not even taking on new installation projects, or are focusing only on one type/brand of system where they may have previously done anything. I highly recommend getting bids from multiple outfits, since there are often multiple ways to approach any project and a wide variation in cost/availability. It may take you a fair amount of calling around to get the info, but if you start *before* there's a dire need, you'll be OK.

For furnace & A/C service and duct cleaning, most companies are just a week or two out. For full system replacement, it may be several weeks or a few months, depending on the availability of supplies.

In addition to the cost of a particular system, it's important to consider any ancillary costs of changing fuel sources (adding a gas line, capping a gas line, decommissioning an oil tank), as well as any improvements to existing ducts, insulation of lines, or exhaust.




If you have central air, it's important to clean the ducts upon move-in, after any major construction projects, and every few years (especially if you have pets or are sensitive to allergens). While you're at it, make sure you have the right filters (HEPA? Correct size?) on furnace & A/C and that they're replaced at least two times per year. While you're at it, make sure your dryer ducts, fireplaces, and any other vent-like spot in your home is clean as well!

Contact, Availability & Price

Most of these vendors are only a week or two out, and cleaning is in the $200-600 range depending on home size.



Plumbing is another one of those things we don't tend to pay attention to until they break—usually in pretty dramatic fashion! There are some key things we can do to proactively save money and keep our pipes in good shape... First, consider getting a home inspection if you don't have a recent one. The inspector can evaluate existing plumbing work and spot issues *without* any conflicts of interest as a vendor. Then, just as with HVAC work, get multiple bids & evaluate methods of improvement if it's a bigger job. If you own an older home, assume that at some point you will need to replace:

  1. Water line IN to the home from the street.
  2. All interior plumbing (depending upon whether it was steel, copper, older plastic, etc.)
  3. Plumbing at sinks/tubs/laundry or appliances, including waste lines.
  4. Sewer lines, both interior waste stack and line to city main.
Contact & Availability

Good plumbers are like toilet paper in mid-2020: Hard to find and worth their weight in gold. You may have to call around and call BACK to the same vendors to get on the top of their service list. Don't expect them to call you back if you email or leave messages (I know, I know); they're swamped! You will likely have to wait several weeks to schedule non-emergency services, so do your best to be patient. If it's an emergency, expect to pay a premium.

Price Range

It's hard to ballpark plumbing costs; most small projects are a few hundred dollars hourly, and bigger projects should be bid out (and always in the thousands) each time. Like other big system work, you shouldn't have to do this work very often!


What to know about damage & insurance

infographic about water damage and insurance coverage


URGENT REMINDER: Slow leaks may NOT be covered by your homeowner's insurance! Every time Jeffrey does a home inspection for my clients, I'm reminded that most people leave the standard-issue plastic water hoses on their washing machine—and this is a potentially dangerous oversight (replace with this type). This was reaffirmed in a recent conversation with an insurance agent, where he offered additional "seepage & leakage coverage" for slow leaks of water pipes, toilets, etc. because they're NOT covered by the standard policy. Home insurance generally focuses on "sudden and accidental damage," not the effects of long-standing problems that technically could have been corrected through proactive maintenance or upgrading systems. Yikes!

How to make sure you're covered:

  • Conduct your own home audit or bring in a pro (home inspector, plumber, etc.) to identify any possible issues that might lead to water or mold damage. Read about some potential causes.
  • Make fixes/upgrades that will help protect you against future uncovered damage—and consider that a few hundred or a couple thousand dollars spent now might save you tens of thousands later.
  • Call your home insurance broker/agent to make sure you're covered for longer-term issues or understand what's NOT covered.

I'm always here if you need to talk through options or want recommendations for professional support.

graphic of the cycle of remodelingWORKING WITH CONTRACTORS

Save your sanity

Hiring and managing contractors and sub-contractors for home remodel work can be intense; there is an overwhelming amount of choice, then hundreds of small decisions as projects progress and present challenges. The trick to staying grounded throughout? Make a plan ahead of time—but then be ready to flex.

My top 10 tips for contractor success:

  • Get everything in writing, including bids & work changes.
  • Ask about payment options, including cash discounts & installment options.
  • Add a 30% buffer to any estimate (time AND money).
  • Ask who will be performing the actual work—and how they'll be supervised.
  • Touch base with your contractor weekly (by phone) to stay on course.
  • Update any estimate after 6 months of lag to make sure it's still relevant.
  • Check references for contractors on the big projects. Every time!
  • Ask if any parts of the job are new to the vendor, and their plan of attack.
  • Ask if there are money-saving options for either product or process.
  • Plan for a LOT of dust! Cover everything and expect to clean.

BONUS: Best practices to avoid frustration...

  • Plan early - Start researching options and contacting [several] vendors as far in advance as possible. Don't forget to research which supplies you might need and any permit or sub-contractor considerations.
  • Look for opportunistic gaps - Is your job "too small" for contractors or are they booked out super far? Consider asking whether they can break it up into smaller pieces to fit in around other people's jobs.
  • Pre-order supplies - Make sure to share your vision with your contractor ASAP and suss out any supplies you need to order or request as early as possible. Also consider using the same materials as your contractor's other client (and bundling an order) to save time and money.
  • Be flexible - Things will be delayed. Sub-contractors may fall through. The key here is flexibility and reasonable expectations; you may have to adjust mid-job, but focus on the relief you'll feel when it's done.
  • Have a Plan B - Make sure to check in frequently with vendors about impending snafus, status of materials, etc., so you can change your back-up plans when needed. Likewise, you may have dreamed of replacing ALL of your appliances at the same time, but you may have to settle for the fridge now and the rest later.
  • More tips here and here

It's helpful to remember that vendors are just as stressed as we are. They want to deliver and hate snafus, but problem solving is their job. Ours? Be clear, be kind, be adaptable! I'm here if you need support...

Purple postcard that says APRIL Monthly Maintenance

Sun! No, rain & hail! Wait, sun again! Yes, April in Seattle is...an adventure. But if you can catch a weather break, get cracking on those small outdoor tasks/checks that will keep your home from hiding bigger issues down the line.




There's a huge range of work to be done on your yard, from DIY trimming on your tiny patch of grass to full landscaping redesign/architecture with native plantings and water features. So how do you know whom to call?

Options for landscaping/yard help:
  • One-time consulting to plan out your yard & plantings ($500-2000)
  • Full landscape, patio, & deck redesign including lighting, drainage, water recycling, and shade plans ($5000+)
  • Twice-yearly plant trimming, weeding, and yard cleanup ($1500-4000)
  • Bi-weekly lawn mowing & edging ($50-100 per instance for a 5000 SF lot)
Contact, Availability & Pricing

In the yard & landscaping world, there are fancy-feeling design & architecture outfits, solopreneurs, and inexpensive yard crews. Communication best practices vary widely, but I always suggest calling first, then following up with email or text.

Yard crews will usually have a standard lawn care rate dependent upon yard size and frequency, and whether you're adding edging, weeding, and other services to mowing. Design services are sometimes hourly if you're not doing an install, but can be rolled up into a larger project if there are multiple phases. Always get an estimate and ask how much prices are likely to change--but know that if YOU add scope to the project or drag your feet on kicking it off, the cost may increase.

Straightforward lawn care should be 1-3 weeks booked out; landscaping and design outfits may be multiple months out.

Call first, then email, then call again!




If you've ever had a Jeffrey Tosh inspection, you know that drainage is a BIG deal for Seattle-area houses and often neglected. The average roof in our area gets tens of thousands of gallons of rain each year, and all that runoff has to go somewhere...ideally not directly next to the foundation! It's amazing, though, how many of us live with poor drainage around our homes for years without noticing or remedying it. The result? Major foundation settlement, mold/mildew, and more. It's critical to direct water 6-10 feet away from the foundation and following the laws of gravity. Either via a Jeffrey inspection or consulting with Hoffman or American Crawls, you can come up with a drainage plan to help keep downspout/runoff water where it should be. And, while you're at it, make sure your gutters and drain pipes are properly connected and your soffit in in good shape. Oh--and don't let ANYONE talk you into just doing a sump pump and calling it done.

Contact & Availability

Email AND call/text to make an appointment for a consultation. Vendors may be 1-8 weeks out depending on the size of the project, but may be able to squeeze smaller jobs in among larger ones.

Price Range

Cost of these services depend entirely on what you're correcting, the size of your home, and whether you're after "good enough" or "best practices." You can assume $3000+ for most crawl space projects, and upwards of $10,000 for significant drainage work. Luckily, if you do it right, you only have to do it once in a long period of ownership.

It's Spring! Let's get moving on a few safety items, then head outside. Regular tasks like changing furnace filters and cleaning your gutters aren't exactly exciting, but if you do them regularly, you'll save yourself a bundle of money by extending the life of your systems.





You may be starting with a list of electrical cleanups from your inspection report; common fixes include fixing reversed polarity in outlets, adding GFCI to kitchen or bathroom outlets, closing wires/ends in junction boxes, replace knob & tube wiring with 3-wire, and replacing electrical panels. Good electricians/companies know how to help you set the context for your project, ideally both pricing out the work you requested and identifying other opportunities to make improvements at the same time to find efficiency. Sometimes that means expanding the scope outside of your initial expectations and can help you troubleshoot when complexities arise.

Important questions to ask when requesting/discussing service:

  1. X is my goal (safety, more power for this appliance, etc.) - what is the best way to go about getting it?
  2. Is there anything I'm missing on this request?
  3. Is there a more cost-effective way to get this job done?
  4. Are there any pieces I can DIY safely to save some money?
  5. What would YOU do in this case?
Contact, Availability & Pricing

Most electricians will come out to your home to work up an estimate, or they may suggest an hourly "time & materials" arrangement for smaller issues. Either way, know that final amounts are subject to change if unexpected issues arise when walls are opened and past work examined! Typical pricing is around $150-400 per hour.

Most electricians are booked several weeks out at the moment, though they may be able to squeeze you in for smaller jobs among larger ones. Timing also depends upon the supplies needed; specialty electrical panels and lights may take longer to arrive than standard materials that most electrical companies keep in stock.

Call first, then email, then call again!




Straightforward! Just make sure you ask for non-abrasive roof cleaning, and for vendors to visually survey your roof & gutters for any issues while they're up there (pictures are helpful).

Contact & Availability

Email or call with property information. These folks are anywhere from 1-6 weeks out, depending on the time of year. Pretty straightforward; they'll give you an estimate based on the size and height of roof & gutters and any special needs, and most will take a deposit and bill you when it's done. It takes just a few hours!

Price Range

The price depends on the size of the house; often $300-1000 for roof and $200-400 for gutter cleaning.


Most of these folks also do interior & exterior window cleaning and pressure washing (driveway, sidewalks, siding) as well. You can "feed two birds with one scone!"

Welcome to 2022! This month, we're doing critical cleaning, spotting outside issues, & planning work for the year...


Project Planning & Design - Kirsten Dumo, Satterberg Desonier Dumo Interior Design


Kirsten helped Grant and I to plan out our ADU remodel; we first spoke by phone, then she came over to consult on our goals & vision and toured the space. Then she measured and offered up a few drawing versions for us to consider, really helping to visualize what would fit in the square footage and what trade-offs we might have to make. She was knowledgeable about code requirements, typical clearances we might need, and simply human behavior/how people move about! It set us on a great path to work with electricians, our contractor, etc. with confidence that we had thought through all the options.

Contact & Availability

You can email or call Kirsten; she's usually available within a week for initial consultations, then can complete work within a few weeks depending on her availability and the size of the project.

Price Range

She has an industry-average hourly range and bills monthly.


Since Kirsten has an architecture background and design expertise, she can also consult on structural changes but is not a currently licensed architect. Also, she's great at lighting design as well!


Dryer & Air Duct Cleaning - WA Duct Cleaners


Cleaning is fairly straightforward, depending upon how accessible your dryer duct is (some townhouses require a tall ladder for exterior access).

Contact & Availability

Call David at (206) 852-2976. Share the square footage of your home and he'll know how many vents and how long it should take. He will review what you want, give  recommendations, and set a plan. They're currently scheduling about a week out.

Price Range

The price depends on the size of the house; up to 15 vents is about $500 + tax; more vents add about $200.

You can get a 10-15% "Neighbors discount" if 3 or more houses within 3-5 minutes of each other book together.

General Contractors / Exterior Repair

Considering a big remodel project? Did you find a siding or foundation issue when you were walking around outside?

My favorite teams:

These are full-service contractors who can both manage your whole project and/or fit in small repair jobs as needed. They typically charge more to manage subcontractors (and may require you have others work under them for liability & insurance reasons), but also make sure the timing of everything comes together. You can get bids from multiple folks, making sure to discuss timing and ask for creative ways to stay within your budget. Tell them I sent you 😎

About Seattle...


City resources


Seattle history


Seattle neighborhoods

Coming soon!

picture of yellow sign with phrase "Are You Ready?" in the middle in all capital letters. Background is a photo of a cloudy blue sky and trees.

Whether you're feeling anxious after watching a disaster unfold in another part of the country/world or you've just experienced a crisis yourself, you suddenly feel more motivated to get that disaster plan and resources assembled! So where to start?

  1. Run through the disaster preparedness checklists from a place like Good Housekeeping or Ready.gov.
  2. Connect to your local resources, including the City of Seattle Emergency Management Hub.
  3. Talk with your family, friends, and neighbors to understand your collective resources and make a plan in case of emergencies—and make sure you get everyone's contact information!
  4. Make a calendar reminder to check your supplies at least once per year, discarding expired food, replacing batteries as needed, and making sure everything is in working order.
  5. Consider what might make YOU feel safe in a crisis. Is it making sure your pet is cared for? Knowing how to contact your elderly mother? Having the medication you may need? You might want to take special measures to ensure these boxes are checked for your peace of mind.

There are so many resources for emergency/crisis/disaster preparedness online and through local city governments. Which have you found most helpful?

Line-dot graph showing list price-to-sold price ratio over the past several years

Taking the temperature

Following on last month's graph, we can see that sale price versus list price %—rather than starting to dive precipitously from September to October—stayed about steady this fall. Don't let that mislead you, though: While there are still wildly competitive homes going under contract (16 offers last week on a house in Wedgwood, 23 in Wallingford), home prices have flattened compared to the insane gains of the spring.

Mortgage interest rates have also fluctuated a touch more than expected; as of this week, they're back down below 3% for conforming (Fannie/Freddie-backed) loans, so it remains to be seen whether they'll stay under 4% for all of 2022.

I expect another HOT spring, but as with the last 2 years...I think the one thing we have learned to expect is the unexpected! Ping me anytime to talk numbers...

Image of tiny wooden craft house on wood table with the word "Rent" spelled out in Scrabble letters, along with an internet search box with the phrase "Should I buy a rental property"

Rather than the typical “move-up” buyer of the past, who sold their previous home upon buying a larger one, these days many Seattle-ites [who can afford it] are instead turning their first home into a rental. There’s a LOT to keep in mind, however, when making the change—including regulations on short-term rentals, the city’s RRIO program, and current state & local laws.

For instance, here are some recent changes to landlord-tenant laws, in effect as of November 7th:

  • Required notice for rent increases changed from 60 days to 180 days.
  • Requirement for landlords to pay equal to three months of rent for low-income tenants who depart after rent increases of 10% or more.
  • Any term lease signed prior to 11/7 is “grandfathered” in until the next renewal.

With frequent shifts in the sands of rental property ownership, I always suggest that clients talk with the experts before launching their own rental: a real estate lawyer who specializes in investments and/or a knowledgeable property manager. And while you’re at it, go beyond the uber-political headlines to understand the true history, context, and intent around landlord-tenant laws in our area.

Ready to go deeper on the renter protection debate? Start here.