Welcome to the Muljat Group, Kyle Martin!

We’re excited to welcome our newest agent, Kyle Martin, to the Muljat family! Broker Kyle Martin, whose family ties to Whatcom County date back to the 19th century, recently joined...

The post Welcome to the Muljat Group, Kyle Martin! appeared first on Muljat Group - Bellingham, Lynden, & Whatcom County Real Estate.

How Current Interest Rates Can Have a High Impact on Your Purchasing Power

How Current Interest Rates Can Have a High Impact on Your Purchasing Power

According to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage are currently at 4.61%, which is still near record lows in comparison to recent history!

The interest rate you secure when buying a home not only greatly impacts your monthly housing costs, but also impacts your purchasing power.

Purchasing power, simply put, is the amount of home you can afford to buy for the budget you have available to spend. As rates increase, the price of the house you can afford to buy will decrease if you plan to stay within a certain monthly housing budget.

The chart below shows the impact that rising interest rates would have if you planned to purchase a home within the national median price range while keeping your principal and interest payments between $1,850-$1,900 a month.

How Current Interest Rates Can Have a High Impact on Your Purchasing Power | Keeping Current Matters

With each quarter of a percent increase in interest rate, the value of the home you can afford decreases by 2.5% (in this example, $10,000). Experts predict that mortgage rates will be closer to 5% by this time next year.

Act now to get the most house for your hard-earned money.

Raising the Bar

raising the bar

Getting Started with Raised Garden Beds


Raise gardening to a new level with raised beds—aboveground growing containers that are open to the ground underneath. The benefits are many.

If your property has adverse soil conditions such as poor drainage, low fertility, or poor soil structure, rise above the problem by building a raised bed filled with rich soil. Tired of weeding on your hands and knees? Build a bed with a wide rim that’s high enough to sit comfortably on the edge while you’re tending to the plants. Open the possibility of gardening to people in wheelchairs with beds build at an appropriate height.

A raised bed helps you concentrate and focus your water usage to exactly where it should be, thus reducing weeds. They also reduce the possibility of compacting the soil or damaging plants due to walking in the growing area. To provide access to the plants without the need to walk in the bed, make it narrow enough (about four feet) to reach at least halfway across from either side.

If you’re building a raised bed next to a garden living space, such as a patio or terrace, build it in a style and out of materials that complement the surrounding structures so the look is unified and harmonious. In more utilitarian areas, such as a remote vegetable or cutting garden, wood or composite plastic materials are the most common building materials.

Gardeners are spoilt for choice when it comes to materials for building raised beds. Review the following three main materials and the pros and cons of each before embarking on your new garden design.


Rot-resistant woods such as cedar (Eastern White or Western Red), redwood, and cypress contain natural chemicals that make them resistant to decay. These woods are an attractive, natural material; however, even rot-resistant wood eventually will degrade. The lifespan will depend on the type of wood and climate. Wood lasts longer where the air is dry and rots quickly in rainy regions.

If you opt for wood, make sure it is old-growth or second growth. Sapwood (milky white outer wood) will quickly rot. Do not use chemically treated lumber, particularly if you plan to grow food. The toxic preservative materials leach out of the wood, potentially contaminating the soil and the plants growing in it.


HDPE (High-density polyethylene) is a long-lasting material typically guaranteed for a minimum of fifty years. It is a stable material so the chemicals do not leach, and it is resistant to cracking, chipping, and freeze-thaw cycles. The boards do not shrink, warp, or expand over time, although the linear strength is less than wood, so long lengths need more cross-bracing.

The recyclable material comes in a choice of fade-resistant colors. The major negative is the cost, which is high; however, if amortized over decades, it ultimately costs less than wood, which will need replacing much sooner.

Raising the Bar

Photography provided by ©iStockphoto.com/cjp.


Because they are joined with screws, composite woods are easy to assemble. The printed wood grain pattern conveys a quasi-natural look; nothing in nature repeats so uniformly. The material is weather and rot resistant, and the joint system with straight and curved sections allows for enlarging beds and for shape flexibility, including circles and ovals.

The hollow boards can easily be damaged, and tall and long beds are likely to bow outward. In addition, the color is less stable than the HDPE material, fading in just a few years.

Whether built of wood, plastic, brick, stone, or other building materials, raised beds can add immeasurable value to your gardening pleasure and success.

Best Soil for Raised Beds

There is no one-size-fits-all soil for raised-bed gardening. Some plants, such as blueberries, require acidic soil; others prefer a neutral or alkaline base. In an arid climate you will want a mix that retains moisture; in wetter parts of the country, a good draining soil is best. The beauty of a raised bed is that you can custom-tailor your soil to the plants’ needs.

A good, all-purpose raised bed soil is a well-blended mix of 50 percent each topsoil and compost. Be sure of the quality of both ingredients. Some companies will deliver dirt taken from the top layer of the ground and call it topsoil. Do your research before you place an order.

Shannon & Gordon Neufeld

Shannon & Gordon Neufeld

360.393.1183 Shannon

360.393.8299 Gordon


Lic.# Shannon: 94057

Lic.# Gordon: 118864

Why Home Prices Are Increasing

Why Home Prices Are Increasing | Keeping Current Matters

There are many unsubstantiated theories as to why home values are continuing to increase. From those who are worried that lending standards are again becoming too lenient (data shows this is untrue), to those who are concerned that prices are again approaching boompeaks because of “irrational exuberance” (this is also untrue as prices are not at peak levels when they are adjusted for inflation), there seems to be no shortage of opinion.

However, the increase in prices is easily explained by the theory of supply & demand. Whenever there is a limited supply of an item that is in high demand, prices increase.

It is that simple. In real estate, it takes a six-month supply of existing salable inventory to maintain pricing stability. In most housing markets, anything less than six months will cause home values to appreciate and anything more than seven months will cause prices to depreciate (see chart below).

According to the Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the monthly inventory of homes for sale has been below six months for the last five years (see chart below).

Bottom Line

If buyer demand continues to outpace the current supply of existing homes for sale, prices will continue to appreciate. Nothing nefarious is taking place. It is simply the theory of supply & demand working as it should.


Have further questions? Interested in selling or buying a home? Click here to contact us today!

Rustic Glamour

Home By Design

April | May | 2018

Rustic Glamour

A Bedroom Suite That Marries Distinct but Diametric Styles


“There’s nothing over-the-top about this bedroom. It’s refined without being overdone,” says Julie Dodson, owner of Dodson Interiors, a Houston, Texas-based firm. Dodson designed the interior of this newly constructed home, located in the Memorial area of Houston, for a young couple with three daughters.

The key to Dodson’s design process is getting a feel for her clients’ personalities. She describes the husband as an avid hunter, fisher, and former college football player. The wife, says Dodson, is into fashion and enjoyed the prospect of cosmopolitan shopping trips to furnish the new home. “I made the house an exact blend of who they are as a family,” she explains. “Once you hone in on who the clients are, you start to develop a concept and a plan.”

For this couple’s bedroom, the concept seemed clear to Dodson: rustic glamour. The two words are literal opposites. Rustic means simple, rough, and of the country. Glamour means alluring, sophisticated, and beautiful. How can a style be both rustic and glamorous? Again, she says it comes down to creating a cohesive blend. As she describes the rooms, you can almost imagine the same description applying to the couple. “Each room has its own uniqueness and stands on its own. Yet each room has to flow together. Without that flow, a home feels disjointed and uncomfortable. To make it work, it’s all about keeping the right balance.”

The simplified color palette unifies elements—vintage case goods, new linens, and an antique mirror—that span multiple decades.


One of the first design challenges Dodson faced in the bedroom was the wall-spanning arched window. “That window gave me fits,” she says. “It allows in a lot of light, which is wonderful, but it’s huge. That made it hard to figure out how to dress it right.” She ultimately chose a tailored cornice that was hand-embroidered by Michael Savoia. The construction adds needed weight to that side of the room.

A leather sofa, with simple lines and showing only a single button tuft, sits at the foot of the giant window. It’s flanked by chairs that are casually covered in monochromatic fabric. Matching mirrored tables and floor lamps partner on both sides of the sofa. Dodson says the chandelier hanging over the sitting area is a vintage piece. “I wanted something different and funky. It had a modern feel but still worked in this traditional space,” she says. An antiqued mirror hangs over the bedside table and reflects the rock crystal base of the table lamp.

The master bath perhaps best exemplifies rustic glamour. The lines of the tub are modern, while the heavy clawed feet are more traditional. “That juxtaposition shows what this house is about,” explains Dodson. “You could put that tub in the middle of a pasture and it would still look beautiful.”

Antlers and a shaggy stool are masculine counterpoints to the shimmer, shine, and femininity found in the rest of the master bath.

Rustic Glamour

Bedrooms are havens that should embody peace and calm. They’re where you completely relax and unwind. They’re where you can be yourself.

How to Mix Styles Like a Pro

As designer Julie Dodson says, good interior design is about more than “picking the pretty.” It’s also about making smart choices and adding your own special touch to a room. Here are her tips for how to mix styles like a pro.

Hunt for the perfect piece. Try to find a single piece that shows both the styles that you’re going for, like the claw-foot tub and the vintage chandelier in the master bath. Each beautifully mixes the rustic with the glamorous.

Learn from what you like. “Find images that you love and then study them,” suggests Dodson. “Take the time to notice how each item is laid out.”

Unify with color. This bedroom suite uses a monochromatic color scheme. Even though some of the pieces in the room come from different eras, the unified color scheme brings it into balance.

Utilize repetition. The bedroom design features matching chairs, tables, lamps, and art pieces. Symmetry, especially in a bedroom, provides a peaceful and calming effect.

Dodson anthropomorphizes the stool sitting next to the tub. “That’s my little Fraggle Rock,” she says referring to the Jim Henson puppet program from the 1980s. “I accidentally found him during an antique fair. I loved his color. I didn’t know where he was going to go, but I grabbed him and said, ‘You’re coming with us.’” Its shaggy seat and animal legs do make it seem like a live animal grazing next to the tub.

The antlers on the wall are a hat tip to the husband’s hunting pursuits. “They’re the perfect example of the unexpected in this elegant and feminine bathroom,” says Dodson. “They just worked to bring the rustic aspect into the bathroom and to tone down the glamour a bit.”

Dodson found another antique chandelier for this space. “When I saw it, my jaw dropped,” she says. “I fell in love with it and knew exactly where it was going.” The clean, curvy lines of the glass support what could easily be mistaken for candle tapers dripping with melted wax.

“Bedrooms are havens that should embody peace and calm. They’re where you completely relax and unwind. They’re where you can be yourself,” explains Dodson. Just like the couple it was designed for, this suite is a happy mix of opposing styles. “I’m pleased with how the whole space turned out. It’s such a good blend of contrasting textures and styles.”

Shannon & Gordon Neufeld

Shannon & Gordon Neufeld

360.393.1183 Shannon

360.393.8299 Gordon


Lic.# Shannon: 94057

Lic.# Gordon: 118864

Houseing Market Expected to “Spring Forward” This Year

Housing Market Expected To "Spring Forward" This Year | Keeping Current Matters

Just like our clocks sprung forward in the majority of the country, the housing market will soon “spring forward!” Similar to tension in a spring, the lack of inventory available for sale in the market right now is what is holding back the market.

Many potential sellers believe that waiting until Spring is in their best interest, and traditionally they would have been right.

Buyer demand has seasonality to it, which usually falls off in the winter months, especially in areas of the country impacted by arctic temperatures and conditions.

That hasn’t happened this year.

Demand for housing has remained strong as mortgage rates have remained near historic lows. Even with the recent increase in rates, buyers are still able to lock in an affordable monthly payment. Many more buyers are jumping off the fence and into the market to secure a lower rate.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently reported that the top 10 dates sellers listed their homes in 2017 all fell in April, May, or June.

Those who act quickly and list now could benefit greatly from additional exposure to buyers prior to a flood of more competition coming to market in the next few months.

Bottom Line

If you are planning on selling your home in 2018, meet with a local real estate professional to evaluate the opportunities in your market. Click Here to Contact us Today!

Moving up Is MORE Affordable Now Than Almost Any Other Time in 40 Years


If you are considering selling your current home, to either move up to a larger home or into a home in an area that better suits your current family needs, great news was just revealed.

Last week, Trulia posted a blog, Not Your Father’s Housing Market, which examined home affordability over the last 40+ years (1975-2016). Their research revealed that:

“Nationally, homes are just about the most affordable they’ve been in the last 40 years… the median household could afford a home 1.5 times more expensive than the median home price. In 1980, the median household could only afford about 3/4 of the median home price.

Despite relatively stagnant incomes, affordability has grown due to the sharp drop in mortgage rates over the last 30 years – from a high of over 16% in the 1980s to under 4% by 2016.

Of the nation’s 100 largest metros, only Miami became unaffordable between 1990 and 2016. Meanwhile, 22 metros have flipped from being unaffordable to becoming affordable in that same time frame.”

Here is a graph showing the Affordability Index compared to the 40-year average:

Moving up Is MORE Affordable Now Than Almost Any Other Time in 40 Years | Keeping Current Matters

The graph shows that housing affordability is better now than at any other time in the last forty years, except during the housing crash last decade.

(Remember that during the crash you could purchase distressed properties – foreclosures and short sales – at 20-50% discounts.)

There is no doubt that with home prices and mortgage rates on the rise, the affordability index will continue to fall. That is why if you are thinking of moving up, you probably shouldn’t wait.

Bottom Line

If you have held off on moving up to your family’s dream home because you were hoping to time the market, that time has come. To learn more and to see what’s happening in the market in your area, click here to contact us now!

The Four Elements


the four elements

Principles of Good Garden Design


Great gardens don’t happen by accident. They are the result of good planning that relies on the key elements of design: unity and harmony, proportion and scale, mass and space, and texture and pattern. A good designer will effectively use these elements to make a pleasing composition.


There are many ways to achieve a sense of harmony and unity in a landscape. Start by growing healthy plants. A garden with plants that are struggling to survive is an uncomfortable place, lacking in harmony. Group plants that have similar needs. It is jarring to see plants that require moisture growing with ones suited to dry conditions, or sun lovers paired with shade seekers. Harmonize the garden with its surroundings.

Echo an architectural detail from your house in the garden to help create a cohesive whole. Use materials in the garden that are consistent with the house. Repeat color or planting themes in different parts of the garden to create visual unity. Patterns and shapes repeated throughout a garden also provide pleasing rhythms that unify.


Put a large a couch in a small room and it will look enormous. The same couch in a large room looks quite small. The phenomenon at work is scale. Any object will look larger or smaller, depending on the relative size of its surroundings. The same principles of scale and proportion apply outdoors. Be sensitive to the size of your space, and design accordingly.

A common mistake people make in small gardens is to have too many undersize features because they think the pieces are in scale to the space. Instead of making the garden feel bigger, it looks busy and lacks focus. Plant one tree or specimen shrub as an important statement in a small garden, and then use that plant as a reference, relating the scale and proportion of the rest of the plantings and ornaments to it.

A vertical element in a small garden, such as a tree, trellis, or arbor, will help distract from the close boundaries of the property.


Massive plants, especially if their colors are dark, take up more space in the garden both physically and visually. These plants have mass, and are important to define and fill space as well as to provide resting places for the eye in a landscape that is busy with plenty of floral and other ornamental interest. They are like punctuation marks, providing moments of rest and giving form to the design.  In winter, when all the frills and distractions of summer’s bounty are removed from the garden, you can best judge whether your garden has adequate mass. If your design is well done with enough mass, the garden will be interesting even in this bare state.

The other source of visual rest in a garden is space. An expanse of patio, a change in level, a swath of lawn, a reflecting pool, and an uninterrupted view are all ways to provide an open, horizontal break in the design.

An ideal design is a pleasing mix of mass and space. If there is too much mass, the garden will appear heavy and dark. If there is too much horizontal space, the garden will feel empty.


Patterns in gardens are primarily provided by the physical layout. Whatever the pattern, whether symmetrical and ordered for a formal garden or an abstract pattern for an informal design, it will establish the essential character of the garden. On a smaller scale, you can create additional patterns in many ways. Laying bricks or stones in special designs is an obvious option.

Foliage is another source of texture. Large-leaf plants are bold in texture, creating a strong, assertive look; small-leaf plants appear more delicate. Experiment by combining contrasting textures to create a balanced and visually stimulating display.

Flower form also contributes to texture in the garden. The most interesting designs combine different shapes and textures, including round heads; tall, pointed spires; airy sprays of small blossoms; umbrella-shaped blooms; and tiny petal flowers.

For color in the garden, look beyond flowers to foliage. Take advantage of the incredible range of hues in yellow, red, blue, and purple that are found in leaves. For added interest, opt for variegated leaves that combine two or more of the possible colors.

By effectively using the basic principles of design, you can create a garden that evokes delightful tensions between restful and stimulating; one that is harmonious without being repetitive and boring. Aim to make a garden that is balanced and unified, while at the same time surprising. But most importantly, design your garden so it reflects your own personality.

It’s Tax Season… Use Your Refund To Jump Start Your Down Payment Savings!

It’s Tax Season… Use Your Refund to Jump Start Your Down Payment Savings!

According to data released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Americans can expect an estimated average refund of $2,840 this year when filing their taxes. This is down slightly from the average refund of $2,895, last year.

Tax refunds are often thought of as ‘extra money’ that can be used toward larger goals; for anyone looking to buy a home in 2018, this can be a great jump start toward a down payment!

The map below shows the average tax refund Americans received last year by state. (The refunds received for the 2017 tax year should continue to reflect these numbers as the new tax code will go into effect for 2018 tax filings.)

It's Tax Season… Use Your Refund to Jump Start Your Down Payment Savings! | Keeping Current Matters

Many first-time buyers believe that a 20% down payment is required to qualify for a mortgage. Programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae all allow for down payments as low as 3%, with Veterans Affairs Loans allowing many veterans to purchase a home with 0% down.

If you started your down payment savings with your tax refund check this year, how close would you be to a 3% down payment?

The map below shows what percentage of a 3% down payment is covered by the average tax refund by taking into account the median price of homes sold by state.

It's Tax Season… Use Your Refund to Jump Start Your Down Payment Savings! | Keeping Current Matters

The darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership! For those in Alabama looking to purchase their first homes, their tax refund could potentially get them 69% closer to that dream!

Bottom Line

Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task. But the more you know about what’s required, the more prepared you can be to make the best decision for you and your family! This tax season, your refund could be your key to homeownership!

Have questions regarding the Real Estate Market or interested in homeownership? Click here to contact us today!

Low Inventory Pushes Home Prices Higher


According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index, prices appreciated by 6.9% year-over-year from December 2016 to December 2017 on a national level. This marks the fifth month in a row with at least a 6.9% increase.

Dr. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, gave insight into the reason behind the large appreciation,

“The number of homes for sale has remained very low. Job growth lowered the unemployment rate to 4.1 percent by year’s end, the lowest level in 17 years. Rising income and consumer confidence has increased the number of prospective homebuyers. The net result of rising demand and limited for-sale inventory is a continued appreciation in home prices.”

This is great news for homeowners who have gained nearly $15,000 in equity (on average) in their homes over the last year! Those homeowners who had been on the fence as to whether or not to sell will be pleasantly surprised to find out that they now have an even larger profit to help cover a down payment on their dream homes.

As we near the traditionally busy spring buyers season, there is still hope for buyers as mortgage rates remain low compared to recent decades. The report also predicted that home price appreciation will slow slightly, rising by 4.3% by this time next year.

Bottom Line

If you are looking to enter the housing market, as either a buyer or a seller, give us a call, we can explain exactly what’s going on in your neighborhood and discuss your options!

Call Shannon at  360.393.1183 or Gordon at 360.393.8299 or Click Here to Contact Us Now!