Category Archives: Homeownership

Return of Manchester Mudslide, The Movie

Last night, I covered a meeting between county officials and Manchester residents on stormwater management. The county is planning to install “green” techniques like rain gardens, bioswales and pervious pavement in strategic locations around town.

Manchester is notorious for is mid-winter flooding. The town, on Puget Sound, sits at the bottom of a hillside. The water table is high and the soil in many places nonporous. Manchester may as well be at the bottom of a bowl. When winter rains hit, resident Dave Denniston thinks about going white water rafting.

All kidding aside, flooding in Manchester is a chronic problem. I reported on an appeal back in 2007 related to a 2006 mudslide that threatened properties downhill. The county took a video of the slide in action the day after heavy rains that kicked it off. The video was shown as part of a hearing on the appeal before the hearing examiner.

I found the video riveting and still get a kick out of watching it, especially seeing two county employees, uttering in amazement, jump back from the brink as another chunk of mud falls into a 15 foot ravine. So now, back by popular demand … Manchester Mudslide, The Movie.






Baby Doll Road and Other Odd Kitsap Street Names

On Thursday, I am going to do an interview with someone who lives on Cozy Lane in South Kitsap. Sound like a nice place.

As I’m out and about, I often wonder how some of these, typically rural, streets got their names. For example, Baby Doll Lane, also in South Kitsap, has a story behind it that I once knew — heard it from an old-timer. But in the course of daily dumpings of my mental trash, I’ve forgotten it. Can anyone help me out?

I’ve always been fond of Egg and I Road in Port Ludlow, which surely must have been inspired by the 1945 book by Betty McDonald about her life on a chicken farm in Chimacum.

I’ve noticed many roads that seem to be named after an individual or family, probably the first person to build there.

Kitsap County has just passed a new resolution to impose some uniformity of addressing, which will help firefighters and other first responders locate homes in case of emergency. The version that passed was revised, reducing the number of new road names to less than the 200 officials originally expected. Neighbors will be able to name their road by coming to a consensus. If they can’t, or won’t, the county will choose the name.

Do you live on a road with an interesting name? If so, what’s the story behind it? And if you lived on a road without a name, what would you call it and why?

Chris Henry, reporter

DIY Kitsap: Landscaping with Sandbags

The Road Warrior in his recent column forwarded information from the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management on how to dispose of sandbags.

“Most homeowners wouldn’t want them as a permanent part of their landscaping, I would think,” RW speculates.

Au contraire, with all the recent flooding, Kitsap stands poised to start a trend. Can’t you — especially you in South Kitsap — see it? Sandbag retaining walls, sandbags lining walkways, sand bag planters, sandbag sculptures (bet we could interest Bremerton in that idea).

HGTV, here we are, looking our rainy winter best.

Oh, and don’t be too quick to ditch those sand bags. Winter officially only just began on Tuesday.

The Anatomy of a Foreclosure

In the hallway of the Kitsap County Courthouse sits a table of croissant sandwiches, cookies and bottled water. People — some dressed for success, some quite casual — mill about chatting, as if at a party. Cell phones chime and chirp. An infant, sitting on the floor at his mother’s feet, twirls a tube of “Butt Paste” scavenged from his diaper bag.

It’s Friday, auction day for properties in foreclosure, a scene repeated weekly. With the recession, the inventory has soared. It’s been a boon for Kevin Day of the Vestus Foreclosure Group, a Silverdale Company that helps ready properties for auction. Vestus works in partnership with The Legacy Group, also of Silverdale, which provides interim financing to clients. Day and Shaun Guerrero of Legacy coach prospective buyers through the process and often bid in proxy for them.

Chelle Anderson of Seattle is one such client. She, her husband Luke and four kids, ages 8 years to 9 months, live in an 800-square -foot rental. They’ve been following a short sale in Kitsap County for about 6 months now. Financially speaking, buying a foreclosed property is their only hope of home ownership, and Vestus “is our only option even with an auction.”

The property, which Anderson heard of through her mother, a Gig Harbor resident, could come up for auction today. How does she feel?

“Nervous,” said Anderson, even though she won’t do the actual bidding. “My heart’s beating. I feel like I’m going to have a baby.”

The facilitator’s services are 3 percent of the purchase price, plus closing costs, which includes a blanket insurance policy. Guerrero has encountered not so mysterious cases of concrete dumped in toilets.

Standing at one end of the hallway, a woman reads legal babble from a sheet of paper. Nobody pays any attention to her. She is “crying the sale” as it’s known. After some minutes she finally concludes her notification of the exact legal description of the property, the minimum bid and other details of the offer. No takers. “Going once, going twice.” The woman has done her duty. She folds up the the paper and leaves, unwilling to give her name to the press.

Another crier launches into her litany about a 2,500-square-foot split level in South Kitsap (not Anderson’s target). Day and others hover near the crier but generally disregard her until she opens the bidding. It’s Day versus Julie Powers, an Olalla resident and licensed real estate broker whose primary job for 15 years has been flipping houses.

The bidding starts at just more than $200,000 for the home, valued at about $350,000. Powers and Day, who’ve done this dance before, lob offers back and forth, along with the banter of friendly foes.

“Just get to your number, so I can beat it by a dollar,” Day says, as the bidding approaches $260,000. “You realize this is way out of your realm.”

Powers is a fierce and seasoned competitor, but Day takes the property with a bid of $267,000. “It’s OK,” says Powers. “There’s others.”

The supply of foreclosures and short-sells has yet to show signs of dwindling, since the onset of the Great Recession. It’s been a heyday for folks like Powers, Day and Guerrero. It’s also drawn plenty of newbies.

“There’s a lot of naive folks, and a lot of folks who just come to learn,” Powers said.

She usually juggles two houses at a time; she’s done three, but it makes her crazy. She hires out the often-extensive renovation work to subcontractors, or buyers will offer sweat equity. It’s a highly speculative venture. Properties can have undisclosed liens. Buyers take them “as is.” Powers, got burned early in her career, but now is wiser.

“I’ve been doing it long enough that now it’s more of a calculated risk,” she said. “I like it, the risk, actually. It’s high risk, but that’s what keeps it fun.”

Byron Harris of Silverdale is another speculator who looks like he’s having fun. Harris in a white Hawaiian shirt is a partner in B.H.D. Holdings LLC of Silverdale, which deals in properties in Kitsap, Whatcom and Skagit counties, as well as Southern California. He got into the business a couple years ago, he said “trying to make lemonade out of lemons. They’re all lemons. We just try to squeeze ‘em.”

Harris clearly enjoys schmoozing with his fellow speculators. “It’s just like one big dysfunctional family,” he said.

What kind of personality does it take to survive a business with so many potential land mines? “A foolish gambler,” Harris says, with a joker’s glint in his eye.

No, he doesn’t gamble. But he is heading to Las Vegas that afternoon for a half-marathon.

Any advice for would be speculators? “Stay away!” Harris says. And the raucous foreclosure fraternity cracks up.

Anderson’s house does come up for auction. It is held by two banks, and one bank essentially buys the other out, shouldering other bidders aside.

“I heard the news and just started crying, because I thought we’d lost the house,” Anderson said.

She leanred, however, that this is a common practice and doesn’t mean the price for the house will soar beyond her reach. Vestus will approach the bank with an offer and try to get it for the family before it goes on the market.

“We’ll see what happens,” Anderson says. “I’m still holding out hope.”

Note to readers: This is just a quick snapshot of auction day. It’s not meant to disregard the experience of those who have lost their homes to foreclosure.

Chris Henry, reporter

Kitsap Building Trades Benefit From Mother Nature’s Economic Stimulus

Earlier this week, when I was researching a story about storm related damage from fallen trees, I saw an interesting example of how the extreme weather event of Nov. 22 is having a trickle-down effect on the local economy. A crew from Northwest Tree Service of Port Orchard was doing the heavy lifting on a massive Douglas fir that had leaned over onto the roof of Marilyn and Bob Falk of Port Orchard.

“It’s our economic stimulus package,” said Ron Rider, the company’s owner. “(His business) went from pretty lethargic to total chaos. It’s still total chaos, and I don’t know when we’ll get caught up. This should keep us going for quite a while. I don’t see any slow down before Christmas.”

In the backyard, scurrying around like ants, Eddie Shelby and his family were removing chunks of firewood from the Falk’s yard.

Shelby, who sells firewood and runs a hunting guide service, has a symbiotic relationship with Northwest Tree Service that works to the advantage of both parties. Shelby makes money selling the firewood he scavenges, and Ron Rider, the company’s owner, doesn’t have to charge families.

All corners of the construction and building services industry are experiencing an economic bump from the storm, according to Teresa Osinski, incoming executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Kitsap County. But she’s having a hard time taking cheer in the bonus, given the hardships it’s placing on many families during tough economic times and right before the holidays.

Osinski also is concerned about the potential for people to be taken advantage of. Under normal circumstances, homeowners have the time to research companies that provide services. In the heat of the moment, Osinski fears, they may cut corners, leaving themselves vulnerable to scams or shoddy workmanship. If a company is not insured and workers are hurt on the job, the homeowner is liable.

“Yes, there is potential for some economic benefit as a whole,” Osinski said. “What’s more important for us is that the consumer be very conscious about who they’re hiring and that they do their due diligence.”

The homebuilders association is a good resource for referrals for all types of contractors. But people still must ensure that the company they are considering is licensed, bonded and registered as a contractor with the state’s Department of Labor and Industries.

Trees Are Not the Enemy, Arborist Says

My working title for today’s article on storm damage was, “It’s the Trees, Stupid.” But I ditched the idea early on in my research, because it seemed too flip and simplistic for the complicated relationship we as homeowners and Kitsap County residents have with trees.

We love our trees, they provide privacy and a sense that we are living in the wilderness. They also serve important ecological functions in terms of absorbing groundwater, which prevents flooding and erosion. The trade-off is that when major storms come through, trees and limbs fall. This should not come as a surprise.

Kitsap County clearly is tree-central. With 240,000 residents, the county is suburban in population, but rural in character in many areas, especially in South Kitsap, where numerous homes are nestled in heavily wooded areas or next to greenbelts. If you doubt it, see Puget Sound Energy’s statistics on outages related to limbs or trees on lines. Of the 100,000 PSE customers who lost their power, an estimated 70,000 to 75,000 were in Kitsap, according to Dorothy Bracken PSE spokeswoman.

But arborist Jim Trainer, an advocate for trees, criticized the article as being incomplete to say the least. Trainer, who lives and breathes trees, said there are measures that can be taken to minimize the danger of trees falling, while leaving them standing (see below). Trainer wasn’t the only one to mention the idea of trimming branches to create less “sail” in the trees, enabling them to better withstand high winds. “Nobody,” commenting on the article, described trimming done on his (or her?) property in Mason County.

Trees are not the bad guys, Trainer says, and it serves them poorly to fan the flames of fear that incite people to simply be rid of them.

Trainer’s point, if I take it correctly, is “think before you just start blindly whacking down trees.” The Kitsap Sun published an article in 2008 (right after a big winter storm) interviewing Trainer and others on the benefits of doing a health evaluation and pruning of trees on or around your property.

The article raises and, I will admit, does not fully address the complex issue of who is responsible for trees. Literally, it is the individual or entity who legally owns the property on which they grow. But these folks or groups have to work within local regulations, made, as I mentioned in the article, by public officials who try to balance to environmental and aesthetic benefits of trees with public safety and the pressures of commerce.

********************************************

Here’s what Jim had to say.

Chris,

I have read your article on the trees that were taken down due to the storm we had and have given it a lot of thought.

What the county needs to do is develop a Tree Safe Program for property owners with a local Arborist. The project would be to window the large Douglas Fir trees by removing 10% to 15% of the limbs in the canopy of the tree. The wind will go through the area where the limbs were removed taking the sail out of the tree. This is a lot cheaper than having the tree fall on the house. The homeowner needs to check with their insurance company to see if they are willing to subsidize the cost of the Arborist visit.

Buffers were mandated and the width of the buffer is too small to stand high wind events. When trees blows over inside buffer areas where the trees are not replaced it makes it more vulnerable to high winds. Heavy rain events along wih the wind also make buffer areas trees more susceptable to fail. Most buffer areas will have tall and small trees mixed in with very large trees. This would be a domino effect making the tall trees susceptible to blow over and knock the small trees down.

It is really a treeacide every time you guys do an article about trees that are laying on the ground. How about a positive article about what to do to help prevent these problems? You need to talk to an expert in the field, not county staff who don’t have the knowledge of trees.

Please contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Jim Trainer
Treez, Inc.
www.treezinc.com

County Kicks Off Home Weatherization Program

With a meeting tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 29) in South Kitsap, Kitsap County will launch a weatherization program for homeowners.

Part of the program involves helping middle- and lower-income homeowners pay for energy efficiency audits. The audits, county officials presume, will help homeowners identify low- to no-cost ways they can save money on energy bills. Another aspect of the program helps homeowners get low-interest loans for larger projects.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Park Vista Retirement Community, Olympic Dining Room, 2944 SE Lund, Port Orchard.

People in the neighborhood got notice from the county, but the meeting is open to anyone. There will be meetings in Central and North Kitsap in October and November.

As to where money for the program is coming from, the county in 2009 received $2.23 million from the U.S. Department of Energy in the form of an Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant. The county, in its grant application, proposed a variety of energy saving endeavors involving resource conservation, “green” building techniques and promotion of local food production.

The county was able to divert funds to the weatherization program when other projects came in under cost.

The $253,259 saved on those projects will go to help moderate-income homeowners pay for energy audits, required to qualify for weatherization loans. The audits, which cost $600 to $750, identify ways homeowners can reduce energy costs.

Puget Sound Energy customers can already get a $350 rebate per audit. Cascade Natural Gas customers are not eligible for rebates. The grant money would provide up to $200 per household toward the audit for customers of both utilities.

Many of the cost-saving measures identified through the audits would be minor, yet result in long-term savings, said Autumn Salamack, the county’s resource conservation manager. Homeowners could apply for low-interest loans, made available through a stimulus-funded loan guarantee pool, to cover more costly weatherization projects.

For more information on the homeowners’ weatherization program , e-mail asalamack@co.kitsap.wa.us. or call (360) 337-5670.