Homeowner Resources – During the Covid-19 Outbreak

Mortgage help is available

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are implementing a number of relief strategies to help borrowers during this critical time. Here’s what they are doing.

If coronavirus has caused job loss, income reduction, sickness, or other issues that impact your ability to make your monthly mortgage payment, relief options are available.

  • Homeowners impacted by this national emergency are eligible for a forbearance plan to reduce or suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months
  • Homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees
  • Credit bureau reporting of past due payments of borrowers in a forbearance plan as a result of hardships attributable to this national emergency is suspended
  • After forbearance, a servicer must work with the borrower on a permanent workout option to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including a loan modification
  • Foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers are suspended for 60 days

These generally apply to anyone who owns a home, whether it’s your primary residence, a second home or a rental. For more info visit Fannie Mae – Know Your Options or Freddie Mac – Mortgage Help.

More resources for Seattle Homeowners and Renters

Don’t just stop paying your mortgage

Please, please don’t just stop paying your mortgage though! If you are currently in, or expect to be in, financial distress in the coming weeks or months, CALL YOUR LENDER! This is the company you pay your monthly mortgage to. They will work with you to figure if your mortgage is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and help you navigate the necessary steps for getting relief! Without entering into an official agreement with your lender first, late and missed payments will be reported to credit bureaus. NOT A GOOD THING!

It’s also important to understand the difference between a mortgage forbearance plan (usually comes with a balloon payment at end) and a mortgage deferment plan (no balloon payment, just resume paying regular monthly amount). Learn more…

Mortgage relief offered for workers who lost jobs due to coronavirus closures

Utility companies are also stepping up

Puget Sound Energy has announced that they “Will not be disconnecting customers for non-payment during this time”, and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has suspended shut-offs for customers of Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities. Ok phew! But again, it’s critical that you call them to work out a plan, before you just stop sending them a check.

Puget Sound Energy – Covid-19 Response
Seattle Public Utilities – Contact
Seattle City Light – Contact

There is a moratorium on evictions in Seattle right now

If you are a landlord, it’s also important to know that as of March 14th, residential evictions for non-payment of rent are prohibited for 30 days.

FAQs Covid-19 Eviction Moratorium

Seattle’s New Backyard Cottage Rules

A Backyard Cottage, also known as a DADU or “detached accessory dwelling unit”, is a small, standalone house or carriage house (above a garage), located on your property but separate from your main home.

Contemporary Cottage in Greenwood Designed by Live Work Play

Backyard cottages have been increasing in popularity in urban areas like Seattle because of their many benefits, including:

  • Providing a sensible density increase in existing single-family neighborhoods;
  • Empowering homeowners (versus only developers) to create new and more affordable housing options;
  • Creating space for extended family, friends or guests, while also maintaining privacy.

Seattle has allowed backyard cottages since 2009, but with many caveats that worked to restrict rather then encourage their numbers. Fast forward to 2019 and we finally have the code changes we need to really start seeing progress.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the major changes to backyard cottage rules, which took effect in August 2019:

  • Lot size requirement now 3,200sf (was 4,000sf);
  • Maximum size now 1,000sf (was 800sf);
  • The owner-occupancy requirement was removed (both the main house and cottage can be rented);
  • The off-street parking requirement was removed;
  • Two ADUs now allowed*, in addition to the main house.

*Two ADUs (accessory dwelling units) are allowed if one is attached to the house (like a basement MIL) and the other is detached (a backyard cottage). Two backyard cottages are also allowed, but only if they are built green.

One question we know people will be asking is whether this means Tiny Houses are now allowed. Unfortunately a Tiny House on wheels is still considered a recreational vehicle, and by King County zoning code definition, a recreational vehicle or park model RV is not a dwelling unit and may not be used as a full-time residence. Although whether Seattle is enforcing that these days, seems up for debate! A Tiny House with a foundation, on other hand, has to be permitted as a backyard cottage.

Like any other major remodel or addition, creating an in-home apartment or building a backyard cottage means permits and building codes must be met. Seattle is working to expedite that process as well, but it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional or attend a workshop first. If you need referrals for either, drop us a line!

Helpful Links

Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections: Accessory Dwelling Unit (Mother-in-Law Apartment) – Seattle.gov

Accessory Dwelling Units – Seattle.gov

It’s about to get easier to build a backyard cottage in Seattle – Phinneywood.com

New Backyard Cottage Rules Allow More Density in Seattle’s Single-Family Neighborhoods – Crosscut.com

Seattle Says Yes to the Best Rules in America for Backyard Cottages – Sightline.org

Fall 2018 Seattle Market Update

In the news…

“Seattle’s housing market has cooled more in recent months than any other metro area in the country, according to Zillow. Just recently, prices were rising faster here than anywhere else; now, Seattle is 12th on a list of the biggest 35 metro areas.”
– Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times

Is Amazon responsible for Seattle’s housing cooldown?
– GeekWire, 9/8/18

Improving supply helps slow escalating home prices in Western Washington
– Kirkland Reporter/Northwest MLS, 9/7/18

Price cuts increasingly common in Seattle home listings
– Curbed Seattle, 8/27/18

Is Seattle’s housing market taking a turn? 
– Seattle PI, 8/24/18

Buyers see some hope in cooling Seattle real estate market
– King5 News, 8/23/18

We’re here to answer your questions about Seattle’s cooling market and what it means for buyers and sellers alike, so drop us a line any time!

Must See Projects! 2015 Green Home Tour

NWGHTThe 5th annual NW Green Home Tour, hosted by the Seattle Chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, is only a few weeks away!

Saturday & Sunday, April 25th & 26th, 11am to 5pm

With a wide array of projects featuring everything from solar power to rainwater recycling, tour guides and project team members on-site, and a plethora of information and resources, this is a fantastic opportunity to really get inspired first-hand! Plus, it’s FREE!

We have to admit we are a little blown away by the sheer number of great sites on the tour this year (oh how to choose!), but we never-the-less made our selection of must-sees! Note that sites are open Saturday or Sunday only.

Open Saturday…

View Haus 5

View Haus 5

View Haus 5 in Madison Valley
Built by award winning Cascade Built & designed by b9 Architects, View Haus 5 is Seattle’s first Passive House-constructed townhome project. With 5 unique floor plans these 5-Star Built Green homes are visionary and built to last.

While in the Central area you might also stop by the Madrona Passive House.

Urban Haven in Magnolia
This modest 1940’s home was extensively remodeled in 2011 to increase natural light, energy efficiency, garden views, and unique storage space, and is now fully integrated into the sustainable garden, featuring cisterns, permeable paving, a small green roof, a compost fence, urban livestock and a large kitchen garden.


21 Acres in Woodinville
Visit 21 Acres, a LEED Platinum certified facility with the unique distinction of being fully integrated with 21 Acres’ own bio-diverse Organic farm. Walk the farm, shop the market, see the commercial kitchen and experience the entire green-built campus.

While in Woodinville you might also want to stop by Clearwater Commons.

Open Sunday…

Emerald Star Net Zero House in Ballard
Dwell Development’s first attempt to certify a project at the rigorous Emerald Star Built Green level. In fact, it will be the first single-family spec house in the Northwest to attempt such a feat. It’s more like 10 Star Built Green!

While in Ballard you might also stop by the Plum House by Green Canopy Homes.

 City Cabins

City Cabins

City Cabins in North Seattle
Imagine living in a net-zero home with enough juice left over to charge the car! This is Martha Rose Construction’s latest 5-Star Built Green project, where you will find garden roofs and rain cisterns, stained concrete and stainless steel, and much more.

While in North Seattle you might also stop by the Greenwood LEED Platinum Prefab.

Retreat in the Trees in Sandpoint
SIPs construction, triple-pane windows, super-efficient ductless heat pump, LED lighting, compact, efficient appliances, low-flow water fixtures, and elegant use of a small space are just some of the features of this 400sf ADU.

While in NE Seattle you might also stop by the Lifestream Backyard Cottage.


What is a Passive House?

While building uber-efficient airtight homes sounds a little obsessive, it’s actually become the “right thing to do” and the next milestone for many designers/builders in Seattle and around the globe. Better known as Passivhaus in Europe, the Passive House building standard is one of the most rigorous in the world when it comes to energy efficiency, yet it’s catching on like wildfire because it makes so much sense.

While it’s not likely we’ll all be living in passive houses any time soon, understanding the basic concept will make you stop and wonder why we haven’t been building homes like this all along. Check out this 90 second video!

Picture this! A modern, comfortable house with no cold drafts from unknown places in the winter, no sweltering rooms in the summer, no temperature variations from room to room, no need to close the blinds to prevent all your body heat from being sucked out the windows, and virtually no heating or cooling bills. Well, that’s a Passive House folks! And, the coolest part is they can be built in any climate or geographical region, and stay at a comfortable temperature year round with minimal energy inputs.

The prescription for achieving this level of comfort in a house (or any building for that matter!), without using expensive “active” technologies like photovoltaics or solar hot water systems, is relatively straight-forward (watch the video).

  • Super-insulated
  • No thermal bridges
  • Airtight envelope
  • Energy- or heat-recovery ventilation
  • High-performance windows and doors
  • Efficient systems
  • Passive solar and internal-heat gains

The result? “All heating needs in a typical Passive House can be met by a heater the size of a hair dryer. Heat from people, lights, appliances and the sun does the rest.” Mastering these principles and getting a project Passive House certified is not for the feint of heart though, which is why we’re lucky to have a growing number of architects, builders and consultants in Seattle with Passive House expertise. Their projects include:


Park Passive in Madison Park
Designed by NK Architects, built by Sloan Ritchie of Cascade Built, and with the assistance of Passive House Consultant Rob Harrison, this became the 1st certified Passive House in Seattle.
Now home to the Ritchie family!

Ballard Passive House

Ballard Passive House
Designed by VELOCIPEDE architects and built by Hammer & Hand in 2013.


Courtland Place Passive House in South Seattle
Designed & Built by Passive House Consultant/Builder Dan Whitmore in 2012,
this was the first project to be built to Passive House standards in Seattle.

Recent Passive House News
City’s first certified passive house is also a fun family home – Seattle Times, May 9th 2014
Passive House: The House of the Future – Huffington Post, May 7th 2014
Designing a passive house for Seattle that’s ‘resourceful, replicable and beautiful’ – MNN, April 23rd 2014

Don’t Miss the 2013 Green Building Slam!

10 projects x 10 slides x 10 minutes! That’s the recipe for an exciting, high-energy evening of presentations by some of the Puget Sound’s best green home designers and builders. Hosted by the Seattle Chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, and emceed by Roger Faris (best known for his home repair show on KUOW), this year’s Green Building Slam is an evening you won’t want to miss.

Saturday, Nov 16th, 5-10pm
University of Washington, Kane Hall (2nd Floor)

Park Passive

Park Passive by Cascade Built

Here’s the schedule:

5:00 p.m. – Registration, Drinks & Appetizers, Networking
6:30 p.m. – SLAM begins (15 minute intermission around 7:45 p.m.)
9:00 p.m. – Networking, Dessert & Coffee

And, here are a few of the projects/presenters:

Park Passive House – Joe Giampietro of NK Architects & Sloan Richie of Cascade Built
City Cabins at Columbia Station
Martha Rose of Martha Rose Construction
Historic House Deep Green Remodel – George Ostrow of Velocipede Architects & Jon Alexander of Sunshine Construction

We hope to see you there!

Ballard Built Green

Main FloorWe just listed a fabulous townhome in the heart of Ballard! This beauty was built in 2007 by Noland Homes and has the distinctive contemporary architecture and quality finishes that became their signature style. It’s a street-side, south-facing unit with a fully fenced garden patio and alley access to the garage. Being west of 24th Ave NW makes this particular locale quieter then central Ballard, yet the home is steps from the new QFC, coffee shops, pubs and the Burke Gilman Trail. It actually has a Walkscore of 92 – a Walker’s Paradise, so this is definitely urban living at it’s best!

3BR | 2.5BA | 1270sf | 1-Car Garage | $450,000

Special features:Office

  • Certified 3-Star Built Green
  • Pre-wired for solar hot water & photovoltaics
  • Energy efficient appliances, lighting & heating
  • IceStone kitchen countertops (concrete & recycled glass)
  • Custom cabinets (in kitchen & baths)
  • Heat & Glo high-efficiency, free-standing fireplace
  • Brazilian Cherry hardwoods & custom tile
  • Entertaining deck w/ glass & metal railing

We held an open house this past weekend and the feedback was great! “This place was remodeled right? It looks brand new!”, “What a great kitchen, love the countertops & cabinets!”, and “This place has a really good feel to it!”.

We agree! Noland Homes built this place right, and the homeowner has taken excellent care of it. See our Ballard Built Green featured listing for more photos & all the details. We’re reviewing offers July 3rd @ 5pm, so contact Danielle @ 206.679.0185 for more info.

Seattle Green Builders – Now Selling!

Now that building season is once again open and buyers are eagerly anticipating each and every new listing, we thought you’d like to know which Seattle green builders are raising roofs to meet the demand. There are certainly many more builders, and all sorts of impressive green projects under construction, but we featured these guys and gals because they have homes ready to sell.

Green Canopy Homes
These guys have created a wildly successful model for bringing green homes to market, and have so many projects in their pipeline, they can’t fit them all on their website! Visit their Our Homes section to see their upcoming gorgeous green remodels and new homes, all around Seattle.

Martha Rose Construction
The ‘Queen of Green’ has been working feverishly all spring to bring her latest project ‘City Cabins’ to market. These high-performance townhomes in Columbia City were featured on the 2013 NW Green Home Tour, and are now available for presale.

Dwell PassivHaus

Dwell PassivHaus

Dwell Development
Modern, modern, and more modern, but while these guys may have started out ‘light green’ they have come full circle with the first spec home to meet PassivHaus standards in the Northwest, and are now consistently building to 5-Star Built Green standards. In Seattle and now on the Eastside, check out Dwell’s latest projects.

5-Star Built Green and modern, but always with a sustainable twist! Whether it be reclaimed wood siding, salvaged concrete walkways, rainwater recycling for flushing toilets or edible community courtyards. You won’t find upcoming project info on their website, but they do indeed have a full pipeline. Follow gProjects on Facebook to get the latest updates.

Isola Homes
These guys have hit the ground running this year with Built Green projects ranging from single family craftsmans to ultramodern rowhomes, and of course a feature project on the NW Green Home Tour. Check out Isola’s new homes around the Puget Sound, which is definitely long, and getting longer every day!

Playhouse Design Group
Lickety-Split, Stereo Sons, Cookies & Cream! Dubbed ‘one-of-a-kind architectural solutions for every seeker of chic’ Playhouse is creating modern, green living spaces, and has teamed up with the well-versed Greenleaf Construction to turn these dream homes into reality.

Ready for an in-person tour of upcoming green projects? Give us a call today!

It’s Time for Resilient Design!

The entire Fall 2010 issue of YES! Magazine was dedicated to A Resilient Community, and they covered everything from Just the Facts :: Why Build Resilience? to a Crash Course in Resilience. Fast forward to 2013 and we now have the building and architecture industry showing considerable interest in resilience as an essential part of sustainable design.

In fact in 2012 Alex Wilson, founder of GreenBuilding Inc and executive editor of Environmental Building News, started the Resilient Design Institute, with the goal of advancing the many facets of resilience at personal, community, and regional scales.

Resilience is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption of some sort. At various levels —individuals, households, communities, and regions — through resilience we can maintain livable conditions in the event of natural disasters, loss of power, or other interruptions in normally available services.

Relative to climate change, resilience involves adaptation to the wide range of regional and localized impacts that are expected with a warming planet: more intense storms, greater precipitation, coastal and valley flooding, longer and more severe droughts in some areas, wildfires, melting permafrost, warmer temperatures, and power outages.

Resilient design is the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities, and regions in response to the these vulnerabilities.

As much as we’d like to think that living sustainably is about green homes & gizmos, hybrid cars and solar panels, the reality is it’s also about continuing to thrive in the face of adversity and rapid change. But, how do we do that?

We learn from buildings and communities designed before the age of oil and electricity; from cities devastated by natural disasters; and from building programs like Passive House and Living Building, which drastically reduce resource use. Resilient design explores these ideas and more, and calls on each and every one of us to actively participate in preparing ourselves, our homes and our communities for a very uncertain future.

Interested in learning more? Alex Wilson will be in Seattle May 14th addressing resilient design in the context of a transition toward sustainability. He will cover a wide range of practical solutions, from boosting energy performance of homes to maintaining livable conditions during extended power outages, to redesigning communities to function without gasoline and encouraging local food production.

For your additional reading pleasure, more on Resilient Design…

Building Green Is No Longer Enough, It is Time To Build Resilient – TreeHugger

Will the Resilience Movement Help the World Cope With the Resource Crunch? – IMT Green & Clean Journal

Seattle’s Tool Libraries – Open for Lending!

Seattle’s tool lending libraries are yet another inspiring example of how our neighborhoods (and our neighbors!) are taking sustainability and resilience into their own hands. A ‘sharing economy’, ‘collaborative consumption’, or ‘underused asset utilization’, call it what you will, because sharing is contagious!

These tool libraries offer pay-what-you-can community access to a wide range of tools, training, and advice, as well as ongoing classes & workshops, fixer collectives, and neighborhood gatherings. They also aim to inspire people to participate in community projects such as park restorations, and pursue sustainability at home through energy improvements, water harvesting and edible landscaping.

West Seattle Tool Library
Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle, WA 98106
Membership $40 (discounts for seniors, students and low income)
library@sustainablewestseattle.org or (206) 317-4671

ToolLibraryPNA Tool Lending Library
Phinney Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98115
PNA membership – individual ($30-$99), household ($60-$99), business & more. PNA members may borrow tools for a modest suggested weekly tool maintenance fee listed with each tool. (206) 783-2244

NE Seattle Tool Library & Bike Shack
10228 Fischer Pl NE
Membership $40 (discounts for seniors, students and low income)
info@neseattletoollibrary.org or (206) 524-6062

Capitol Hill Tool Library
1552 Crawford Place, between Pike and Pine
Membership by donation

Ballard Tool Library
7549B 15th Ave NW
Membership $35

Interested in starting a tool library in your community? A good first step is to contact your local neighborhood association and see what’s already in the works. Additional resources include the Tool Library Starter Kit, created by Share Starter and the West Seattle Tool Library, and ‘How to start a tool library in your community’, an online webinar featuring a number of tool library founders around the country.

For your additional reading pleasure, tool library headlines…

Tools are costly and take up space. Tool libraries are popping up so people can share – Washington Post

DIY Heroes: 10 Backyard Builders Changing the World – Popular Mechanics