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Bruce Woodstrom, Jolyn David, Bill Hurme

A legend is an old man with a cane known

 for what he used to do. I’m still doing it.

Miles Davis (1926 – 1991) 

On Thursday, November 1, 2012 Bruce Woodstrom, co-founder of Fusionhappens, LLC was inducted, in front of a large crowd of his peers at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center, as a “Legend” by the members of The New Home Council.

Bruce is pretty used to award ceremonies.  He’s also pretty used to winning. Winning is one of the things Fusion is known for. But this evening, Bruce was caught off guard and quite visibly moved by the recognition.  So were his partners and team members at Fusion.

Bruce is the fourth Tribute Legend, joining the august company of Suzanne Britsch, Jolyn Davis and Bill Hurme.  Legend winners, Jolyn Davis and Bill Hurme, presented the award and leading up to the announcement Bill made a point of noting how, since the 1960s, Bruce has been the guy who “shows up”.  When help is needed Bruce shows up.  When leadership is needed, Bruce shows up.  When a good “talking to” is needed, Bruce shows up.  Bruce has been steadfast leader and supporter of the New Home industry, in the Northwest and around the county.

We, his co-workers, are as proud of Bruce and this new recognition as are the rest of his peers in the industry.

Next year a new legend will be added to this elite list.  Now is a good time to be thinking about who in our industry deserves special recognition for a career of selfless service.  Then make sure someone knows about it!

 There used to be a time when the idea of heroes was important.
People grew up sharing those myths and legends and ideals.
Now they grow up sharing McDonalds and Disneyland.
(New York, 1989)

Bob Dylan (1941 -)

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Bait and Switch?

bait and switch one 1024x804 Bait and Switch?

Wouldn’t you love to live in this lovely setting? Note the strong architectural variety.

For several months on our near daily walks, Dorothy and I pass this sign.  Since I am a big fan of anything that expands the availability of new homes to those who need some help, I was excited to see what looked like a great deal of care in the architecture and land plan for this new work-force housing community.  Looks pretty cool doesn’t it?  I’ll bet that’s what the City of Bainbridge Island planners thought too when they approved the project. Ferncliff Village is now well underway with homes in all stage of completion.  And the prices?  The Ferncliff Village website peg prices at $148,000 to $220,000 for income qualified buyers.  This is admirable!

Today walking by, I snapped a couple more photos.  For week’s I’ve been concerned that the promise and the reality of this project just didn’t seem to be in synch.  You take a look and make up you own mind.

bait and switch two 300x154 Bait and Switch?

We’ve seen worse. But, we didn’t see this step-and-repeat bland design in the rendering shown before start of construction.

Ferncliff Village is an affordable community developed by the Bainbridge Housing Resource Board.   This is a group that does very good work providing affordable and work-force housing in a community where land prices are high and development restrictions prevent land prices from every again being in the reach of “everyman”.  We like the work of this group, but simply question, does being affordable mean less care and attention to detail?  Less imagination?  Less focus on good design?  We challenge those in the affordable arena to push the envelope a bit more.  In past generations we have seen what started off as “affordable” turn into “the projects”, and in some communities, into slums.  We believe Ferncliff Village clears this bar, but just barely.

If you are one of our friends in architecture, land planning or development, we encourage your teams to try harder, apply more creativity and leverage the mass amount of talent the new home industry possesses to do much more with less.

bait and switch three 300x148 Bait and Switch?

Do you see this streetscape on the initial rendering? Neither do I!

Fusion has a standing policy  to provide a minimum 30% reduction in our rates when we work for non-profits serving the affordable/work-force housing market sectors.  And we approach that work with all the passion and creativity we can muster!

It’s been good for business. And good for the soul.

Some Fusion work-force/affordable communities:





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Who Dunnit?

I’m moving.  Getting prepared is kind of a pain. Packing means digging through some family history. Last night I took a trip down memory lane.  Memory lane is a place where I advise one to be very cautious.  It’s fraught with detours and lots of baggage you thought you’d rid yourself of years ago.  I did have one or two pleasant surprises in the form of a couple of video tapes from yesteryear. Remember the Beta format?  Thank God, Flying Spot, the video transfer house in our building, remembered.  One of those videos went up on our website this week.  It was more than nostalgia.  It was a wake-up call.  Back in the late 1980s, Puget Sound Energy (then Puget Power) hired Bruce and I to help develop a marketing package to encourage home builders to voluntarily adopt building standards producing above code energy efficiencies.  We came up with the ComfortPlus brand and the video I’ve posted here shows highlights of our completely “over-the-top” promotion, combining a show-street of energy efficient ComfortPlus homes with a “live murder mystery.”  Over 7,000 industry influence leaders attended “Who Dunnit at Eagle Ridge.”  We received top honors for the promotion in that year’s The Nationals competition.  Kudos to our very courageous clients:  Deborah Gohrke and Jerry Lehenbauer for aiding and abetting this madness.  In light of the green movement, global warming, our continuing dependence on foreign oil, perhaps it’s time to be bold again when it comes to getting the green building and sustainable development messages in front of our builders and buyers.

itwasntme 300x292 Who Dunnit?

These buttons were showing up all over town following the “Who Dunnit at Eagle Ridge” ppromotion. Usually on waiters and waitresses. There were no baristas back then.


There is Now Scientific Proof that Urban Village Life Makes People Happier, Healthier and Wealthier

ptl orenco stat There is Now Scientific Proof that Urban Village Life Makes People Happier, Healthier and Wealthier

“The Orenco Station study is probably the first to show, in an academic study, such a big difference in social activity between a new urban community and a comparable suburban development. Also, it is the first to show such high rates of walking to stores.”New Urban News, September 2009


In the late 1990s, the Fusionhappens creative crew led the team working with developer Rudy Kadlub on the branding and marketing of Orenco Station, just west of Portland in the Hillsboro area.Orenco Station was one of the Northwest’s first TODs (Transit Oriented Development) with its own stop on the new MAX train from downtown Portland.As the creative director on the project, my job was to bring to life the concept of a lifestyle that broke with the prevalent suburban mode.

We believed the planners when they said a walkable community would be more healthy.The planners also said that the front porch architecture and community gathering places would foster neighbor-to-neighbor contact and communication, and that should make people happier.We believed that, too.Other experts hinted at the savings in commute time and other cost benefits that would actually save residents money over time, making them wealthier.We bought it all and created brochures, sales presentations, sales offices and newspapers ads that told the story.People bought the story, making Orenco Station one of Portland’s real estate success stories.Our peers bought the story, awarding Orenco Stations the prestigious America’s Community of the Year at The Nationals Awards presented by the National Association of Home Builders.

Recently, Urban Land News published an article summarizing the findings of a study by researchers from Lewis and Clark College, led by sociology professor Bruce Podobnik.Their study takes a look at social issues, transportation patterns, and other factors that make up the overall wellbeing of these neighborhoods.Their findings were very gratifying to our team.We found in it proof positive that residents of a well planned TOD or Urban Village like Orenco Station are happier, healthier, and wealthier.It’s well worth the read.

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One More Reason To Buy A Home

FReshLogo2 209x210 custom One More Reason To Buy A HomeA lot of my friends have been shooting around a link to a recent Wall Street Journal article “Ten Reason To Buy A Home”.   On that discussion I’d like to turn the volume up to Eleven!  This weekend in the Puget Sound market the FRESH IDEAS HOME TOUR is kicking off.  For the next two week over 80 homes will be open and on tour featuring millions of ideas.  Pick up the Saturday Seattle Times, Everett Herald or Tacoma News Tribune and look for the insert.  You’ll find lots of great articles plus a great tour map to guide your way. You can also visit the tour web site. Let me know if you find something you like!

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Who Are the Ones who Go Above and Beyond?

imgres Who Are the Ones who Go Above and Beyond?

As Published in The Seattle Times/ New Homes Saturday

by Al Doyle

Several years ago I was shopping for a new home and happened onto an open house that caught me eye.  There I met an agent with whom I would have a relationship for at least two decades so far.  I have bought from her. Sold with her. And referred her to numerous friends.  I learned there is real value brought to the table by a highly motivated, well-schooled real estate agent.  Today, I am in contact with dozens of top quality agents who are dedicated to one homebuilder or one community.  This group of New Home Professionals has earned my highest respect based on their knowledge of product and process as well as their unwavering commitment to making sure that the home buyer is well represented in the transcation.  Today a New Home Professional, when working for any of the major new home builders is a consummate professional.  These agents are given hours and hours of training, required to know their homes inside and out.  They know financing options. They understand what it takes to help a home buyer get exactly what they want. The attribute that impresses me the most is their commitment to their buyer’s needs.   If you’re in the market for a new home (and today would be a good day to start looking) I suggested you make friends with the agents, New Home Professionals, you meet along the way.  Get to know them.  Understand that they are pros who are paid to help you find what you need. Be as forthcoming with them as you are comfortable with.  Let them know your price ranges and budgets.  Share about a home you might have to sell. Ask them to assist you on finding out how much home you can comfortably finance.  When you give the New Home Professional the information they need, stand back and expect exceptional results.  Be sure you describe your tastes, your lifestyle, special needs and commuting habits. This way the New Home Professional can match you up with a home that is just right for you. Where the extra value really kicks in is during the process of closing the home sale. Your agent can walk you through the process, do the needed follow-up and make sure all the varied parties from builder to lender to appraiser to closing agent stay on track.  That alone provides huge peace of mind you need to sleep like a baby.

By the way, if you happen to be a New Home Professional reading this message, I want to remind you of the Tribute Awards of The New Home Council.  These annual rewards are designed to recognize those agents who go above and beyond in taking care of their new home customers.  If you, as an agent or manager, would like to nominate one of your peers, visit www.thenewhomecouncil.com for details. It’s quite simple and can really encourage and reward the professionalism of the entire industry.

New, for those who are thinking this might be the right time to buy a new home, my advice is start with the Saturday paper, and get out there today and start meeting some New Home professionals it’s a great way to make a new friend and end up in a new home.

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What is the Best Time to Buy A New Home?

imgres What is the Best Time to Buy A New Home?

As Published in The Seattle Times/ New Homes Saturday

by Al Doyle

I bought my first home at age 18.  I needed to get the loan co-signed, most of my friends laughed at me, but this was without a doubt one of the best moves of my life.  Today, some 40+ years later, I’m renting for the first time in my life, and thinking a lot about when is the best time to buy a new home.  Every morning there is a new blog, a news story or an office conversation that speculates about the future of the housing industry.  Each expert attempts to top the next with stories varying in nature from The Apocalypse to Pollyanna.  Most of these pundits are focusing on the wrong point — the investment aspect of a new home.  Not until the early 2000s did investment become a major driver in home ownership.  It was a given that over time, owning a home would benefit a family nest egg, but new homes were not get-rich-quick schemes.  Today is no different.

Here are the generation-proven reasons for buying a new home.  A new home is a place to settle in and put down roots.  It’s a chance to make a commitment to a neighborhood and a community and build friends and contacts.  A new home gives a person or a family a sense of pride and wellbeing.  A new home, particularly today, is built to energy efficiency and sustainable standards that can save the owner tens of thousands of dollars in operating and maintenance costs over its lifetime.  A new home is something, unlike a rental, that can be personalized and decorated to reflect your tastes, your values and your entertaining style.  A new home, and making regular payments, not only build equity, but also can anchor a personal credit score, enabling other investments.  With a new home, your monthly cost can be fixed for the next thirty years (then go away when it’s paid off).  Often homebuyers learn that a new home can be paid for in full in less than 15 years with a little extra payment each month.   If you are renting a home or an apartment now, what direction do you think your rent payment is headed?  Historically rents rise, and with an increasing demand on the housing stock in the Northwest and limited new apartments under construction, a shortage of rental units could easily drive rents up faster than the cost of living.

For me, personally, the best reason to buy a new home, instead of renting or shopping for a resale home, is design.  New homes offer floor plans and features that are more exciting that ever.  Homebuilders, particularly in the Puget Sound market, are becoming quite innovative in their offerings.  Now more than ever, the selection is outstanding.  Depending on your stage of life you should be able to find the perfect match in the perfect neighborhood, from high rise condominiums in a downtown setting to cottages tucked along quaint tree-lined streets, to the family home with a big back yard and lots of neighbor kids to play with.

So, what is the best time to buy a new home? How about now?  I always start with the Saturday paper.

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The Get Rich Quick Gene

imgres The Get Rich Quick Gene

As Published in The Seattle Times/ New Homes Saturday

by Al Doyle

“Get Rich Quick.”  It’s a topic that sells books, videos, lectures and seminars.  I guess the peope to teach us how to get rich quick are actually the ones who do get rich off us.  Recently a favorite cocktail party conversation has centered around making a killing by buying a foreclosed or short-sale home.  In theory it sounds tempting, but in reality, the prospects of profiting from the misery of others is something best left o the IRS.  In the Puget Sound market and around the country the inventory of foreclosure and short-sale homes is large and has influenced the entire housing market, new and used, by lowering prices to right around the 2005 levels. Let’s take a look at what it means to take a swim in this pool of distressed housing.  First of all some terms.  A foreclosed property is one that a lender has taken back through a legal process and now holds title to and need to sell to recover their losses.  A short-sale is an offer made to a seller for an amount less (or short) that what is owed to the lender, and therefore the lender has to approve the sale.  It is generally thought that because of the distressed position of the lender, foreclosed or short-sale homes should be great deals.  In reality this is far from the truth.

The truth is shopping for a foreclosure or a short-sale property is not pretty!  There are a few things you might want to consider before you start your search.

§       Do you have a lot of time to search for your home? To find a true bargain takes weeks and weeks of effort.

§       Are you EXTREMELY patient?  Once you find a home you are interested in, it can take weeks or months for the financial institution to respond to your offer.

§       Can you afford the time and possible “lost opportunity” of placing offers on multiple foreclosed properties, hoping you get one?

§       Do you like risks? Foreclosed and short-sale properties often have major hidden defects.

§       Do you have lots of cash to repair a foreclosed home?  Will you have to buy appliances and window coverings?  Will you have to replace stained carpets or refinish floors? This all adds up.

§       Are you willing to take on legal hassles if there are other liens on your new property that may not be easily known?  More cash out of your pocket!

§       Is this strictly and investment for short-term gain, or do you want a place where you and your family can live and enjoy?

My experience indicates a brand new home is a far better option, particularly now with prices at a great level and record low interest rates increasing buying powe.  Here are some of the reasons I suggest home shoppers consider new.

§       New homes are a great value

§       You know what all the costs are before you sign

§       You know who the seller is

§       There is no hidden damage or destruction

§       You won’t face repairs, replacements or cleanup before move-in

§       You can choose your finishes, options and upgrades, and finance it all with one loan

§       New homes are usually in new and up-coming neighborhoods

§       New Homes are energy efficient saving you operating costs for years to come

§       Most new homes have great builder warranties to protect your purchase

§       You get a certain closing date and don’t have to wait around (sometimes months) for lender approval.

The “Get Rich Quick” motive has never been a good reason to buy a home.  It’s not about a fast buck, it’s about a having the home of your dreams, a place to live you are proud of, in a location that’s right for you.  Today would be a very good day to start looking for a new home

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Confessions of an Old Home Junkie and What Cured Me

imgres Confessions of an Old Home Junkie and What Cured Me

As Published in The Seattle Times/ New Homes Saturday

by Al Doyle

I woke up one morning realizing I was an old home junkie. You know the type. We feel the irresistible pull as we  drive through the neighborhoods around Puget Sound.  Old homes seem to jump out and call our name, offering up the plea: “fix me, save me”! It’s all very seductive and I fell for them all. The bungalows, cottages, Craftsman, Victorian. Tudor and even one very appealing mid-Century modern (or Brick Ick a my friends named it). Over the years I’ve bought and sold a few, so I know what it feels like, both the good and the bad.  Old homes had me hooked.  I loved the idea of preserving history.  I adored the ornate trim and the solid woods. I bought the books, the magazines and wore my leather tool belt with great flair. Then recently I realized that old homes had become a very expensive habit and one of the biggest costs was to my lifestyle and comfort. No matter what I did to an old house, or how much money I poured into it, the results were still and old home. I would end up with a home that never had enough bathrooms and never had a master site. It usually had rooms I seldom used and never had rooms I really needed.  And then there’s the money thing.  Last time I went home shopping I noticed used homes cost as much as new one.  What’s up with that?  Don’t used cars cost less than new cars and doesn’t used furniture ends up in thrift stores?  Why on earth was I willing to pay as much for something old, creaky and needed a huge infusion of time and money when for the same price I could get exactly what I want in a new home?  That thought changed me.  Now I’m in the market for a home again  and I’ve started looking at new homes.  Here’s what I’m finding in my last few weeks of searching.  New homes are now designed with the kind of architectural charm we all love. Long gone are the days of the 70s and 80s and those dull split-level boxes.  Now I can choose from a wide array of styles from highly traditional to excitingly modern. I also found that new homes have far better floor plans. Architecture has come a long way and today’s homes are designed for today’s lifestyles. I’ve found home offices, media rooms, flex spaces, master suites-to-die-for and every home I’ve looked at has enough bathrooms (that’s a big deal if you’ve lived in old homes all your adult life!).  Then there is the lower maintenance costs.  Since everything is new and made with advanced materials, you can expect to go years without major repairs or upgrades.  New homes also cost far less to operate, with better insulation, more efficient heating and cooling systems and appliances and water-saving fixtures. I think I’m almost over my old-house habit.  It feels good.  I still may watch reruns of Bob Villa from time-to-time…just for old time sake.  Get our there this weekend and see what you can find.  Buy new, it’s the best investment you can make.


Facebook is Not Free

facebook1 Facebook is Not Free

“Facebook is Free.” So is Twitter, your Blog and those incessant email blasts we send and receive.That “Free” thing is quite far from the truth, actually!Access to these services may be at no-charge, but using them correctly and effectively is far from free.

That is a good thing.

The typical consumer does not value FREE. We are attracted to free. We are enticed and tempted by free.For years consumer research has shown that the average consumer cares more about products and services they have to pay for than those they don’t invest in.So the fact that “Facebook” has a cost is a good thing.

What is the cost? It’s the cost of creating good content and management.An effective Facebook, Twitter, blog or other Social Media campaign requires commitment and investment.A company and its leadership must treat Social Media like any other communications investment. Put enough resources against the job to do it right, or don’t do it at all.The resources can be the management time needed to state some goals and scratch out a posting schedule on the back of a napkin.It can be the staff time needed to research and add posts.The time it takes to respond to friends, fans and customers.The resolve to promote your Social presence in other places such as on your website, business cards, email signature, literature and packaging.The costs may seem quite reasonable compared to a major advertising or public relations campaign, but when we know we’re making an investment, we’ll take much more care in making it pay off.That is a good thing.

There is also another cost that we often do not see. That is the cost to our audience. I am sure we all put a high value on our own time and attention.We hate meaningless interruptions and rude intrusions on our attention.Remember that when you post.Your friends, fans and customers are investing their precious time and attention in reading what you have to say. Say it well. Say it concisely and move on.

I hope that’s what I’ve done here.


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