Real Estate Transitions: Using a Reverse Mortgage to Stay or Move

  • Written by The Blue Team

by The Blue Team: Michelle Blue & Ashley Farrington, Windermere Woodinville

Many people have heard about reverse mortgages but don’t really know what they are.

To put it simply, a reverse mortgage is where the payment stream is "reversed" and instead of making monthly payments to a lender, the lender makes payments to you. 

If you, or a loved one, is 62 or older, a reverse mortgage can help convert 50-66 percent of the appraised value into cash without having to sell the home, give up title or take on a new monthly mortgage payment.

It can also be a way to purchase a new home without having to make monthly mortgage payments.

What does that really mean?

• Stay in your home and be able to access part of the equity you have built in order to consolidate debt, eliminate mortgage payments, cover unplanned medical expenses, pay for in-home care, remodel home for current needs, avoid foreclosure, supplement retirement income, or any other need you may have for cash.

• Purchase a new home that provides more affordable living, is smaller and easier to care for, is on a single level or more accessible, is closer to friends or family, or even is the dream home you have always wanted.

• Features of Loan Program: FHA insured, no monthly mortgage payments (must continue to pay home insurance, property taxes, and home maintenance as needed); retain title to home; non-recourse loan (no recourse to borrower/estate/heirs if loan balance exceeds the home’s value at maturity as long as the home is sold to pay off the debt or balance is paid in full if borrower/estate wants to retain property); right to remaining equity (any equity that remains in the property after the reverse mortgage is retired, belongs to borrower/estate/heirs); no time limit on length of time staying in home; mandatory mortgage insurance premium (ensures that the mortgage balance will be paid in full, if the home sells for less than owed); a single set of closing costs when purchasing a home; and funds are available as a line of credit or monthly payment.

• Qualifications: Homeowner must be 62+, the home in name of homeowner and is primary residence, must have at least 50 percent equity in home or ability to make a monetary investment at closing from an allowable funding source, must occupy property within 60 days, mandatory counseling session required, and must be able to and continue to pay taxes and home insurance.

• Eligible Properties: Single family, 1-4 unit, FHA approved condos and town homes, meets minimum FHA property standards, within maximum FHA loan limit ($625K currently), no other 1st or 2nd liens against property and any existing mortgages must be paid off with the loan proceeds.

We are not lenders, but can recommend a fabulous Reverse Mortgage Loan Officer if you’d like to explore this further. The Blue Team – working twice as hard for you and providing a team of experts to guide you in all your real estate transitions!

Crazy for conifers

  • Written by Molbaks

When you hear the word conifer, what do you think of? Aromatic cedars, needle-heavy pines, or perhaps one of the many firs that cover our countryside?

Here in the Pacific Northwest, land of the tall trees, we tend to take conifers a little for granted, and sometimes forget how varied and dramatic these plants can be.

Conifers are a garden staple at Molbak’s. Often called the "backbone" of landscape design, they bring four seasons of color and texture to your yard. And contrary to popular belief, they aren’t just green anymore. You can choose from a wide array of colors: steely- blue, bold gold, vibrant plum and needles iced with snowy-white, many with textured bark and bold, vivid cones that add a splash of color that can change with the seasons.

Conifers come in many sizes, from mini to mighty.  And they grow in a variety of silhouettes — round, weeping, arching and spreading — so whether you use them for tall accents, as background, hedging, as low edging, in containers or even as groundcovers you will find that there is indeed a conifer for every spot.

And the best thing about conifers is that for the most part, they are low maintenance and drought tolerant. Once established, they are largely plant-and-forget shrubs and trees. That’s right – no pruning!

When you are looking to add conifers to your yard, we suggest you take a look at some of these distinctive types we have in our nursery.

Native to Japan, Hinoki cypress are beautiful additions to Pacific Northwest gardenscapes. Unfurling ruffled fans of lacy, textured foliage in gold, plum, white or green, these easy-care conifers come in heights from tiny to tall and a variety of silhouettes. One of the more unusual varieties is "Chirimen," a rare Hinoki cypress  named after Japanese silk.

Cryptomerias are another Japanese native that thrive in our area. These carefree evergreens spread delicate, fine needles in shades of green that change color with the seasons. Accents of red, shredded bark and tiny cones add a mix of texture and dimension. Choose from a variety of silhouettes, from mounding shrubs that are soft to the touch to tall, airy trees. 

Robust Korean firs are prized for their curved, thick needles in shades of green, gold and silver that are arranged in spirals around their branches. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of these easy-care conifers are their large bold purple or red upright cones accented with golden winged seedpods, standing at the end of their branches. One favorite variety is "Silberlocke," boasting elegant silvery needles and large purple cones.

Of course, Molbak’s stocks endless varieties of your other conifer favorites – firs, spruces, yews, pines, junipers and more, most sun-loving, and some for the shade – and all easy to grow and care for. So when you are ready for some carefree color and texture – Go Crazy for Conifers.


Want to learn more?

March 1, 10-11am

Molbak’s FREE SEMINAR:  Crazy for Conifers

Featuring Jock Demme, Iseli Nursery

Winterize your home

  • Written by Jeff LaFlam, Northshore Fire Dept.

winterize your home imageWith winter weather upon us, we worry about icy roads, frozen plants and just staying warm. Your home, whether it is an apartment, condo or house, also needs special attention this time of year. Freezing temperatures can cause substantial damage to buildings if you are not prepared.

Here are a few tips to help keep you and your home comfortable this winter:

1. Keep your pipes warm. Some of the most expensive winter damage comes from burst pipes. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and in outside walls are all vulnerable to freezing.

Make sure that pipes in cold areas are well insulated, keep sink cabinet doors open to allow warm air to reach the pipes and in severe conditions allow a slow trickle of water to flow through faucets that are connected to pipes running through unheated spaces.

When you leave your house set the thermostat to no lower than 55°F and if you will be gone for an extended period, consider shutting off your main water supply and draining the pipes by opening the faucets. If you suspect a frozen pipe, don’t take chances, call a plumber. NEVER try to thaw pipes with an open flame as this is a significant fire hazard.

2. Protect the outside of your house. Clean gutters and downspouts so water doesn’t back up and freeze. Cut back tree limbs that could break off and damage your roof. Disconnect garden hoses and protect outside faucets from freezing weather.

3. Prepare emergency kits. Put together an emergency kit for your home and one for your car. You should have a flashlight, batteries, a portable radio and warm clothing. You should also keep extra food and water at home and in your car. For more information on emergency kits, go to

4. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

One of the most significant winter hazards is carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the improper ventilation of furnaces, generators, portable fueled heaters and fireplaces. Install a CO detector on each level of your home.

While you’re making your home winter-ready, don’t forget fire safety. Test your smoke alarms monthly, take safety precautions with candles, fireplaces, cooking and smoking. These are all potential causes of devastating home fires.

Check out the additional safety information available at

Winter Wonders - Flower's

  • Written by Molbak's

We are so fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest, where gardening is a four-season activity. With a little perseverance and the right equipment (waterproof work gloves and warm boots – Bogs are a great choice), one need not wait until the arrival of spring to nurture and enjoy the beauty of our gardenscape.

And, because of our milder climate, there is an amazing collection of winter and early spring-blooming shrubs and perennials that reward us with fragrance and flowers, even when winter is at its height.

One of the most versatile and easy-to-grow cold weather bloomers guaranteed to light up your beds and containers are Hellebores. Also called Lenten or Christmas Roses, these charming, mostly evergreen perennials are beloved by "collectors" because there are so many colorful varieties to choose from. Sporting single, double, or water lily-shaped blossoms some striped, speckled or edged, in shades from the deepest burgundy-black to green and ivory backed with rose, many have contrasting stems and leaves that add to their eye-catching display. And you can take your pick from array of bloom-times from early winter through spring. With just a modest collection you can have flowers all winter long.

Hardy cyclamens are also a bed and container favorite. Their pink, red or white comet-like flowers and leaves with contrasting veins, create texture and color when other bloomers are dormant. Combined with small conifers in containers, or accenting a border, they add radiance to frosty gardens.

When you are looking to make more of a statement, there are countless evergreen shrubs that flower and add fragrance to fight the winter blues. Evergreen Camellias colorize any spot with their long-lasting blossoms and deep glossy green leaves. Available in an endless number of flower styles, colors and bloom times, these easy-care classics are tireless garden performers. Or try a native evergreen Oregon Grape with its clouds of scented yellow blossoms that transform into metallic blue berries in the fall, or spicy Sweet Box that infuse frosty borders with drifts of fragrant, white winter flowers.

For a more sculptural look, deciduous shrubs that blossom on bare branches create a sense of drama. Silhouetted against cloudy winter skies, fragrant Witch Hazels burst with red, orange or yellow blossoms that look like sizzling fireworks. Rare Asian Paperbushes cheer up even the darkest days with their brilliant yellow pom-poms of scented flowers dangling from cinnamon colored branches.

And "Dawn" Viburnums add a blush of blossoms that perfume the air; just snip a branch and set in water to scent your indoors. When planting, remember that some of these shrubs need a little protection from colder temperatures, so try to locate them in a sheltered spot if needed. One option is planting them near a doorway, where you can always be sure to take in their delightful fragrance and blossoms.

So – chase away winter’s gloom with vibrant blooms! Come to Molbak’s for our assortment of fragrant and flower-filled perennials and shrubs and cold-weather gardening gear that will keep you warm and toasty, when the temperatures are cold and frosty.

Kick your holiday decorating up a notch

  • Written by Molbak's

Submitted by Molbak’s

The holidays – a joyful celebration of hearth and home – and what better time to express your creativity. Whether your décor is traditional or modern, sprinkled with glitter or more rustic, festive plants that celebrate the season are a carefree way to bring excitement to your Yuletide display.

This year, dial up the holiday "WOW" factor with some new poinsettia varieties and ideas featuring traditional blooming houseplants and topiaries that can showcase your own special style.


Brilliant color and long lasting "flowers" make easy-care poinsettias cool Yule bloomers.  A decorating go-to in red, pink and white, these merry must-haves come in dazzling color combinations with contrasting stripes and sparkles. Try "Christmas Feelings Marble," a frothy confection of cream touched with pink, or "Tapestry Red," a vibrant crimson with green and gold leaves.

Assemble a variety of plant sizes and shades, to create a multi-tiered explosion of color, or fill a large, shallow ceramic dish with tiny, pint-sized pink poinsettias for a simple, elegant centerpiece. Molbak’s features the hottest new varieties in eye-catching shapes and shades, even a bold orange-red that will light up your Thanksgiving table. 

Showering the season with bursts of star-power, Christmas cactus and cyclamen are at their holiday best. Vibrant color-soaked blooms in tones of red, pink and white are perfection alone placed in a birch bark cachepot, tied with ribbon.  Place a trio of snowy white cyclamen in silver or slate grey planters, accented with glittering branches to create a frosty focal point. 

Take your decorating to new heights with paperwhites and amaryllis. Flaunting generous single, double and exotic bird-like blossoms, amaryllis now delights in colors that complement any décor. Create a stunning amaryllis centerpiece of three pots, rising from a bed of cedar garland and pinecones. Or give your fragrant paperwhites a refreshing look by growing them in seaglass chips and shells, or place the pot in a glass vase surrounded with brilliant red-berried garland.  And this season – break outta of the pot! Poinsettias, amaryllis and paperwhites can be used as long-lasting cut flowers too!


Elegant and easy topiaries add an air of quiet sophistication. Shaped as gentle wreaths, bold lollipops or mini-me holiday trees, they create dimension and structure that will grace your home long into the new year and beyond. Whether you choose English ivy, delicate Myrtle, fragrant lemon cypress, aromatic, silvery lavender or kitchen classic rosemary, just pop one in a terracotta pot and finish with a flourish of ribbon.  Add tiny ornaments and lights for a touch of sparkle and place a pair to frame your mantle, or on your dining table as gracious accents. And, when warmer weather comes, you can plant them outside in your containers or herb garden!

Visit Molbak’s for more ideas not only for your home, but for unforgettable hostess gifts as well. We have plants, containers, baskets and ribbon, everything you need to make this holiday season one to remember!