Your Next Home Could Run on Batteries

 | Oct 16, 2017

In the near future, your home could be battery operated.

This is especially true if you live in New York, California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Arizona or a growing roster of other states and municipalities experimenting with revamping their electrical grids for the 21st century.

You might not even know your lights are being kept on by the same chemical process that powers your smartphone, since the batteries could be tucked into what looks like a neighborhood junction box, or behind a fence in a substation. But now, thanks to efforts by startups and the utility companies they sell to (and sometimes battle), you might get one right inside your home.

The rise of these home batteries isn’t just a product of our collective obsession with new tech. Their adoption is being driven by a powerful need, says Ravi Manghani, of GTM Research: renewable energy.

Without batteries and other means of energy storage, the ability of utility companies to deliver power could eventually be threatened.

Solar power, especially, tends to generate electricity only at certain times—and it’s rarely in sync with a home’s needs. In some states, such as California and Arizona, there’s an overabundance of solar power in the middle of the day during cool times of the year, then a sudden crash in the evenings, when people get home and energy use spikes.

For utilities, it’s a headache. The price of electricity on interstate markets can go negative at certain times, forcing them to dump excess electricity or pay others to take it.

“This is not a long-term theoretical issue that might happen—this is now,” says Marc Romito, director of customer technology at Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility.

There’s something ruggedly individualistic and inherently American about having batteries in your home. They’re good for keeping power going in a disaster, as customers of the two biggest firms by sales volume in this field, Sonnen and Tesla, demonstrated in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. And in combination with rooftop solar panels, they free people from total dependence on the grid—a kind of energy cable-cutting that wonks call “grid defection.

Solar power tends to generate electricity only at certain times and is rarely in sync with homes’ needs.
Solar power tends to generate electricity only at certain times and is rarely in sync with homes’ needs.

The very real possibility of grid defection is changing the power dynamics between utilities and their customers.

Last week, real-estate developer Mandalay Homes announced a plan to build up to 4,000 ultra energy-efficient homes—including 2,900 in Prescott, Arizona—that will feature 8 kilowatt-hour batteries from German maker Sonnen. It could eventually be the biggest home energy-storage project in the U.S., says Blake Richetta, senior vice president at Sonnen.

The homes, which will come with the Sonnen battery preinstalled, will be part of a Sonnen-managed “virtual power plant for demand response” that could allow the houses to stabilize the grid, lower its carbon footprint and decrease peak load, says Mr. Richetta.

An exterior shot of the Mandalay Homes development in Prescott, AZ.

While the Mandalay Homes project is still in the blueprint stage, with only one test home built so far, this kind of radical, battery-enabled rethink of the grid is already happening in Vermont.

In partnership with Tesla Energy, Green Mountain Power is offering 2,000 of its customers the opportunity to have a Tesla Powerwall in their home for $15 a month. The 13.5 kilowatt-hour batteries retail for $5,500, but the utility can afford to put them in homes because they help the company save on other grid infrastructure, says Mary Powell, GMP’s chief executive and president. “Peaker plants,” for instance, are fired up only when the grid is strained to maximum capacity, saving the utility from using one of its most expensive forms of electricity.

GMP also uses batteries from Sonnen, SimpliPhi and Sunverge. Ms. Powell says the larger battle for home battery storage will be over how each of these companies—and dozens of others—differentiates itself, selling different size batteries adapted for different uses in homes, businesses and utilities.

Arizona Public Service’s Mr. Romito says not all of these batteries are created equal—though he wouldn’t name names.

The biggest challenge to home battery storage remains economics. Utilities’ current rate structures don’t charge most homeowners for using excess power, nor do they change the price based on time of day. For the overwhelming majority of homeowners, the payback on a solar power system with battery storage could take decades.

Batteries aren’t the only way to reduce the need for short-order energy, or so-called “demand response,” says Mr. Romito. Smart thermostats, managed by the utility company, can precool homes when solar power is at peak production, reducing load on the grid in the evening.

This cannot only be as useful as batteries in certain cases, it can be more cost effective. Other possibilities include remotely determining when electric vehicles charge and even shifting large industrial loads to different times of year.

In states where electricity is more affordable, it’s still early days for batteries in homes. But Mr. Romito says users and utilities will continue to move toward them with the inexorable addition of more and more renewables to the grid.

Mr. Manghani of GTM Research agrees. His battery storage adoption forecasts track closely with states and regions where renewable energy is being generated.

Falling prices also help. Battery pack prices have decreased, on average, 24% a year since 2010. Cheaper batteries shorten the resulting payback period, which in turn makes renewable energy more attractive to home owners. In 2016, solar grew faster than any other energy source, according to the International Energy Agency.

At the intersection of these and other trends is a simple fact: For the first time since the discovery of fire, the way humans get energy is set to fundamentally change.

Posted on October 17, 2017 at 12:05 am
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Mid-Century Inspiration

My listing on SW Greenleaf Court was built in 1981 but was inspired by the styles seen so often in mid-century architecture. By incorporating some of the colors, furniture, light fixtures and details from that time, this property would feel fresh yet stay true to its inspiration. For more information on my listing, click here. 

Posted on July 14, 2017 at 8:54 am
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2970 NW Circle A Drive | $2,295,000

Posted on June 7, 2017 at 12:18 am
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720 NW Warrenton Terrace

Posted on June 5, 2017 at 11:58 pm
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Portland Luxury Homes | A Home for Every Lifestyle

Posted on May 24, 2017 at 5:55 pm
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Home Prices Are Soaring – Here are the 20 Places Where Owners are Reaping the Biggest Profits in 2017

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home this year, you probably know the housing market is booming in virtually every corner of the country.

In fact, homeowners who sold in the first quarter of the year realized an average price gain of $44,000 since purchasing their home, a new ATTOM Data Solutions report shows. That equals an average 24% return on purchase price across the country — the highest average price gain for home sellers in nearly 10 years.

“The first quarter of 2017 was the most profitable time to be a home seller in nearly a decade, and yet homeowners are continuing to stay put in their homes longer before selling,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM Data Solutions.

The report showed homeowners are staying in their homes just shy of eight years on average. “This counter-intuitive combination is in part the result of the low inventory of move-up homes available for current homeowners, while also perpetuating the scarcity of starter homes available for first-time homebuyers,” Blomquist added.

Of course, there are still some laggards. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for example, saw average home prices decline by $15,000 from their previous purchase price. The same is true for Huntsville, Alabama, where average home prices declined by $8,100.

Of the 20 metro areas with the highest percent return on the previous purchase price, 10 were located in California and three were in Colorado. Competition among homebuyers, especially in these areas, is fierce, so it’s particularly important to have your finances locked and loaded before you start your search.

Regardless of where you’re looking, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is key. You’ll also want to be sure your credit is in good shape so you’ll get the best mortgage terms available. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

These are the top 20 metro areas where home sellers are making the most money when selling their homes.

19. TIE: Port St. Lucie, Florida

19. TIE: Port St. Lucie, Florida

Average return on investment: 39%

Average price gain: $53,000

19. TIE: Austin-Round Rock, Texas

19. TIE: Austin-Round Rock, Texas

Average return on investment: 39%

Average price gain: $81,795

16. TIE: San Diego-Carlsbad, California

16. TIE: San Diego-Carlsbad, California

Average return on investment: 41%

Average price gain: $144,000

16. TIE: Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California

16. TIE: Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California

Average return on investment: 41%

Average price gain: $90,000

16. TIE: Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire

16. TIE: Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire

Average return on investment: 41%

Average price gain: $111,100

13. TIE: Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California

13. TIE: Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California

Average return on investment: 43%

Average price gain: $160,000

13. TIE: Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, California

13. TIE: Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, California

Average return on investment: 43%

Average price gain: $99,000

13. TIE: Fort Collins, Colorado

13. TIE: Fort Collins, Colorado

Average return on investment: 43%

Average price gain: $97,500

12. Greeley, Colorado

12. Greeley, Colorado

Average return on investment: 44%

Average price gain: $85,050

10. TIE: Urban Honolulu, Hawaii

10. TIE: Urban Honolulu, Hawaii

Average return on investment: 46%

Average price gain: $161,110

10. TIE: Salem, Oregon

10. TIE: Salem, Oregon

Average return on investment: 46%

Average price gain: $70,800

9. Vallejo-Fairfield, California

9. Vallejo-Fairfield, California

Average return on investment: 47%

Average price gain: $115,000

7. TIE: Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado

7. TIE: Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado

Average return on investment: 50%

Average price gain: $110,000

7. TIE: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California

7. TIE: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California

Average return on investment: 50%

Average price gain: $187,000

5. TIE: Stockton-Lodi, California

5. TIE: Stockton-Lodi, California

Average return on investment: 51%

Average price gain: $101,000

5. TIE: Modesto, California

5. TIE: Modesto, California


Average return on investment: 51%

Average price gain: $87,500

4. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington

4. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington

Average return on investment: 52%

Average price gain: $110,799

3. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington

3. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington

Average return on investment: 56%

Average price gain: $139,325

2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California

2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California

Average return on investment: 65%

Average price gain: $276,750

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California

Average return on investment: 71%

Average price gain: $356,000

Posted on May 1, 2017 at 11:55 pm
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NYT’S What You Can Get for $1,225,000 | PDX vs. SF

PORTLAND:

Built in 1909 / Redone | 4 Bedrooms | 2.1 Bathrooms | 3,148 Sq. Ft. |

This completely remodeled classic Old Portland residence is located in the heart of Portland Heights. Formal areas, marble bathrooms and eat-in kitchen, high-end finishes, period moldings, hardwoods, wainscoting, family room, master suite. Ipe deck and porch, partial views. Minutes to the city, NW 23rd Ave, trails, park. High tech, walk-ability.

SAN FRANCISCO:

Built in 1907 | 3 Bedrooms | 2 Bathrooms 1,535 Sq. Ft.

Step into this quiet Edwardian home & instantly feel at ease. Soaring ceilings, hardwood floors, double pane windows, & open living space set the mood. The nicely sized front bedroom features built-in window seating. Follow the hallway down to the master bedroom w/ updated en-suite bathroom. The third bedroom is ideal for a home office/nursery. In-unit laundry & 2 hallway closets complete the front of the home. The back of the house has been opened into a great room that hosts the living, dining, & kitchen space. The kitchen has granite countertops, SS appliances, a 5-burner range & space for bar seating.

Posted on March 13, 2017 at 7:29 pm
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1767 SW Prospect Drive | Art Studio

With a lower level art studio, my listing on SW Prospect offers an ideal space for artists of all ages to get creative. Featuring natural light, exterior access and a sink this is the perfect place for the future Monet to work.

Posted on February 10, 2017 at 8:35 am
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10 Markets Feeling the Housing Crunch

Here are the 10 U.S. markets in the U.S. with the lowest inventory of homes for sale, according to Realtor.com:

  1. Seattle, Washington

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 0.4 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 13.4 percent

Impacts: Only one in every 263 homes in Seattle is for sale. Around 65 percent of Seattle’s land is zoned only for single-family homes, limiting high-density apartment buildings and foreign investors are holding on to property with no immediate plans to inhabit it.

“Buying houses without occupying them is really bubblelike behavior,” says Peter Orser, chairman of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. “Right now it’s not at its peak yet, but it’s certainly a growing concern.”

  1. Eugene, Oregon

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 0.6 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 27.3 percent

The Ducks hometown has its strongest housing market since 2006 and low inventory has homes selling within 24 to 72 hours, says Karen Church of Re/Max, who predicts some relief from an increase of ready sellers.

  1. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 0.7 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 24.7 percent

Workers are being hired by data warehouse company Switch and the city has net in-migration for the first time in a decade.

  1. Buffalo, New York

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 0.6 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 15.9 percent

The city’s large population of 45- to 64-year-olds, mean fewer homeowners willing to sell.

  1. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 0.8 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 24.9 percent

Prices jumped 14 percent last year as the unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent with robust advanced manufacturing jobs in aerospace, auto and medical devices. New construction hasn’t kept pace, leading the number of homes on the market to drop 24.9 percent.

  1. Sacramento, California

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 0.6 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 5.5 percent

Redevelopment funding has improved the state capital, says Tom Gonsalves, owner of Gonsalves Real Estate Properties, but low construction activity is causing a housing shortage

  1. Detroit, Michigan

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 1 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 25.7 percent

Housing prices spiked last year and downtown neighborhoods saw the sale of $300,000 condos and a rare $1 million loft. From 2015 to 2016, for-sale homes dropped by 25.7 percent. Homeowners in neighborhoods where home values have yet to recover can’t afford to sell.

  1. Portland, Oregon

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 0.6 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 24.7 percent

California and other transplants moving to here means the housing crunch gets more intense. Skyrocketing rents, including for pricey microapartments, create a sense of urgency among buyers. Developers are replacing modest dwellings with bigger homes or multifamily rental units, creating even fewer homes for entry-level home buyers.

  1. Santa Rosa, California

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 0.4 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 1.8 percent

The city in Sonoma wine country is a modest alternative in pricey Northern California, which results in three to five offers, says Realtor Kimberly Sethavanish of Kimberly James Real Estate.

  1. Omaha, Nebraska

Percentage of housing stock for sale: 0.8 percent

Decrease in for-sale homes in 2016: 6.6 percent

With affordable homes and promising job opportunities from Omaha’s “fab five” Fortune 500 companies, including Berkshire Hathaway and ConAgra Foods, the city is overwhelmed with homebuyers eager to make a move.

“Existing homeowners in established neighborhoods are not in a hurry to move,” says Realtor Mark Leaders with CBSHome Realty. “Most new homes are in west and southwest Omaha. Even if folks want to trade up, they don’t want to leave the urban hubs. So instead they are rehabbing the homes and staying,”

— Homes & Gardens of the Northwest staff

Posted on January 23, 2017 at 11:14 pm
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Tips for Selling a Home with Pets

2G9A2132 copyWe love our pets, whether they be dogs, cats, hamsters, capybaras, hedgehogs, or pygmy goats—but that doesn’t mean that they want to see said pets (or any evidence of them) when looking at a home they’re thinking of buying.

“Pets are either an attractive distraction, so cute they distract prospective buyers from looking at the real estate, or completely the opposite—smelly, frightening, or otherwise off-putting,” says Diane Saatchi, an East Hampton, NY, real estate broker with Saunders & Associates.

Don’t want your precious property to be known as “that dog house”? Well, you need to pet-proof your place when preparing and showing it for sale. Here’s how, in six simple steps.

Although you know your pets would never hurt anyone, they could scratch or bite a potential buyer whom they mistake for an intruder on their territory. You could be held liable for any harm your pet causes, so make sure your homeowners insurance covers you for incidents like these.

However, some insurers will not cover anyone who owns what they deem vicious or aggressive breeds, such as pit bulls; and if they do provide coverage, it could be expensive. If you have such a dog (and even if you don’t), it’s best to keep him out of the house during a showing.

2. Prepare your yard

Buyers will walk around your yard, a stroll that will be ruined if they step in poop or turn an ankle where your dog likes to dig.

Perform a poop patrol before each showing. Double-bag the waste before disposing, so your garbage cans don’t smell when buyers walk by. Fill all holes and sprinkle grass seed on top.

Before putting your house on the market, make sure your yard is a green oasis—not a brown-and-yellow dustbowl created when pets pee on grass. You can try to aerate and seed bare spots. But if that doesn’t work fast enough, you can replace ugly patches with new sod. Then, train Travis the Titan Terrier to use an out-of-the-way spot for his business. Or take him for very long walks.

3. Remove the odors

Removing the odors pets leave behind is one of the biggest challenges. It’s easy to clean and tuck away kitty’s litter box. But it’s way harder to erase years of piddle from rugs and hardwood.

If a bacteria-eating pet odor remover doesn’t banish all traces of cat or dog urine, you might have to hire a professional service to clean carpets or rugs. (Perhaps you should consider this whether you are selling your home or not.) Often, however, the odor returns, so if a carpet continues to reek, replace it before buyers trek through.

Clean turtle, hamster, and guinea pig cages frequently, to prevent odors. And make fish tanks sparkle; a daily swipe with an eraser sponge will do the trick.

4. Clean up the hair

Not only does a layer of pet hair on floors and sofas make your home look messy, it can trigger allergies and send potential buyers sneezing and wheezing out the door.

Before each showing, vacuum and dust to remove any settled hair or dander. Or, consider buying a vacuuming robot (such as a Roomba) that you can schedule to suck up hair several times a day. They actually work.

If your pet sheds, brush him frequently outside, so the hair doesn’t fly around the house. Bathing can help minimize shedding, too.

5. Hide the evidence

Like kids, pets (or rather, their caretakers) tend to accumulate lots of stuff—leashes, collars, toys, water bowls, food, cute sweaters, and costumes for Christmas and Halloween (ladies and gentlemen: It’s canine Ken Bone!). But no matter how adorable you may think it all is, to buyers, it’s just clutter.

Make sure you stow pet paraphernalia in a cupboard or closet. Put dry food bins in a laundry or mud room. Wash pet beds to remove odors and dirt, and only display them if they’re attractive.

6. Say goodbye to your pets (just for a while!)

If you decide to leave your dogs or cats at home, either crate them or confine them to a special area of the house, and make sure your real estate agent knows where they are. Keep them busy with interactive toys or long-lasting treats, says Chris Rowland, CEO of Pet Supplies Plus, based in Livonia, MI.

“Even purchasing a new exciting toy or treat just prior to company coming may keep them more preoccupied,” he says.

But it’s best for everyone if you can find a playdate for your pet before a showing, or to send him to Grandma’s for an extended stay. But remember that pets have emotions, too—especially when it comes to change in their routines.

When you stow their toys, move their water bowl, or put them in a crate when strangers inspect their home, some pets will feel confused and anxious. So before making any major changes in the life of a dog or cat, talk to your veterinarian, who can help you ease your pet’s transition to a temporary new home.

Posted on November 7, 2016 at 7:04 pm
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