Buyer beware, listing broker’s duties

You drive-by sign in front of a house for sale and call the number on the sign – or, you see there is an open house coming up and walk in and speak with the listing broker. You are excited and want to write and offer, and the listing broker says, sure, I’ll write that up for you!

You think your are being represented, but in fact, in this situation, the listing broker’s first duty is to the seller. They may even have an agreement that if they bring in both sides, they will receive a discounted commission. That said, they might want to move the property and convince the seller to take a low offer.

In this last month I have heard or been involved in this scenario three times.

One friend and client told me that he dropped his listing broker because she represented a buyer at such a low price, that he felt she wasn’t actually representing him, as she is supposed to do.

In the second case, I wrote a back-up offer on a property where the listing broker has both sides, and claims the older home should appraise at “offer price”, which to me means a price lower than asking.

The third situation was the hardest. Clients called me and wanted to see a condominium in a somewhat remote vacation area, and we all took a road trip over there. They were so excited that the property had a price drop after a year, and decided to write an offer that was almost full price.

While I was writing the offer, the listing broker (a one man operation) called and said he was showing the property to an investor, but the chances were slim that they would write. We turned our offer in that night to the listing broker using a solid conventional mortgage for second/vacation home. Lo and behold, he turned in an offer on his own listing the next day which was cash. As the cash offer was a quicker close, and had no appraisal, the seller chose that offer.

In my firm we are coached in best practices. When we are operating as the listing broker, we refer a buyer of our own to another broker if they want to write on our own listing. If we don’t refer, our managing broker presents the offer to make sure there is no conflict of interest and that the buyer is fully represented.

I was referred buyers to write on an associate’s listing a few months ago, and it went quite well as we did have the strongest (not highest), offer.

Give a chance, my clients probably could have converted the loan to cash, or taken out cash on their first home as a line of credit. However, as the property needed some work due to winter damage, we wanted a full inspection and an appraisal.

We’ll be watching that property to see what the final price is, and wait for the next, most likely better, property to come on the market.

Offer Accepted!

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Congratulations to my sellers, they are signed-around and can start the transition they are so looking forward to, moving onto a boat!

I was so impressed by the buyer’s agents and offers. Here is a quick rundown on the winning offer:

1. The buyer’s agent called and chatted almost every day to get a feeling for how many pre-inspections and offers were coming in. He told me the buyers had lost five offers and were determined to get this one by escalating way over, and committing money for a low appraisal.
2. The buyers came to an open house and asked a few questions before telling me they were the ones writing the offer – and said, “I hope you like us so we can win this house, we love it”. Of course, I said, “I do really like you and hope you have the winning offer”!
3. When offers were coming in on Monday at 3:00pm, their lender called to say they were fully underwritten, approved and could escalate to X amount, way over list.

Sure enough, their offer was the strongest!

We had the average for that neighborhood, four offers, high escalation. Three downloaded the online third-party pre-inspection (sellers and brokers are blinded to it), one had a walk-through pre-inspection.

A bottle of wine and a good luck jade plant for my clients!

New Listing – Shoreline Rambler

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Easy living in this Shoreline rambler near several local parks! Walk or bike the Inter Urban Trail to Central Market, Trader Joes, Thai Bistro, Menchies. Enjoy local parks such as Twin Ponds, Paramount, Hamlin, Boeing Creek and Richmond Beach. Home boasts remodeled kitchen with adjacent patio perfect for summer barbecues and a master suite with bath and laundry. Plenty of off-street parking, detached garage.

Website: http://andreehurley.coldwellbankerbain.com/Home/WA/Shoreline/1307-N-161st-St-98133/34520417

Tour Factory Slide Show: http://www.tourfactory.com/1779954

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHwaC4h3QIk

What the sellers love about their neighborhood:

Our close-knit neighborhood is amazing. People often go for walks and check in with one another. We always enjoy closing off our street for the yearly neighborhood street BBQ.

We love that our neighborhood is full of families with kids. There is a great group of boys ages 6 to 15, who often play together.

The back patio is quiet and peaceful under the Japanese maple. We enjoy BBQ’s and roasting marshmallows in our mobile fire pit.

This is a great location – easy bus and freeway access and close to many parks and woodland areas. Our favorites are Boeing Creek, Hamlin, Twin Ponds, Carkeek and Richmond Beach.

We love to walk/ride the Interurban Trail to restaurants, Menchies, the YMCA or Trader Joes.

Our house stays cool in the summer and our yard has places of sun and shade.

It’s fun to have a berry patch and apple and hazelnut trees.

Having a workshop in the garage with built in cabinets has been fantastic for all sorts of projects.

Our dining space is big enough for large gatherings with family and friends.

It’s a rambler!

New Listing in Kenmore

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Get ready to unpack, move in, and enjoy living in this well maintained and recently updated home in the Arrowhead community. Enjoy a chilly winter’s day or a sunny afternoon in the enclosed sun porch. Plants optional. Take a stroll around the neighborhood or walk to and from the local Arrowhead elementary school. With a master on the main and two bedrooms upstairs, this home can appeal to many. Welcome home.

6605 NE 154th Street, Kenmore 98028

MLS #1105879 | $499,999

Built in 1956
8,450 square foot lot
1,630 square foot home
Two bedrooms and full bath on second floor
Master bedroom and three-quarter bath on the main floor

See more about the listing here:
http://www.tourfactory.com/1764822

List It and It will sell.

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I am getting ready to bring on a listing, and as you may have heard, there is a phrase going around right now: “list it and it will sell”.

As I recently summarized the process for this client, I thought I would share the process on my blog.

The few days before a listing goes active can be very dynamic as last minute touches are being applied inside and out.

One task is to schedule the photography. In some cases we might have the staging set in the morning and the photographer come in the afternoon. I like to take advantage of natural light, so if the home shows best on the outside near dusk, I’ll schedule for mid to late afternoon.

At this point the rooms need to be photo ready; if need be we can move clutter into closets.

The photographer will send me the photos within twenty-four hours and I will have the seller review them. I will then create the flyers; upload them to the Multiple Listing Service and to our dynamic online program called Tour Factory. I can then be ready to list anytime.

In advance of the listing the seller and I will review strategies for reviewing offers, one of which could be determining a day to review offers that have come in over the weekend.

That said, my preference in this market is to go active on Monday or Tuesday, hold at least one broker’s/public open during the week, and a public open on Saturday and Sunday.

Once the listing goes active in the Multiple Listing Service it will then start propagating to other real estate websites and be visible nationwide and worldwide. I will also showcase it on the main social media sites, print flyers for box on the signpost, and for the open houses.

The sign will go up very close to when the listing goes active; the post might go in a bit sooner.

The sign provides important marketing as it tells the neighbors and anyone driving by that a home is for sale. I always ask buyers how they found out about a listing, and while they usually say online, one day three quarters of the buyers said they drove by the sign and decided to stop in at the open house.

The goal is to hit all channels with a bang on the first day! ☺ Once the listing is active it will have a secure key box on the doorknob – this is unlocked via Bluetooth, usually from an application on the phone. The seller can opt to not have appointments. A vacant listing is much easier to sell as showing appointments do not need to be made. I will compile a report including how many brokers accessed the home and any feedback we get. This can be once a day or once a week, depending on your preference.

I would recommend asking for offers on the following Tuesday. If priced correctly, we will hopefully have multiple offers with escalations. I will organize them on a spreadsheet to present to you. The offers may come with escalations – these will start with the offer price and go up in increments. The most common increment is 5k, but sometimes a percentage is used which can actually win an offer, as it’s an odd amount – not the usual increment.

I encourage sellers to give buyers as much due diligence time as possible, and always take the approach that inspections allow for a clean and clear break when the home closes. It is in everyone’s best interest to have inspections. You may have heard that the strongest offers are sometimes thought of as all cash, no contingencies, but these may not properly protect the buyer or the seller.

Thus inspections are an important topic; I will detail four types of inspections:
– Inspection contingency upon offer acceptance: After an offer is accepted, the buyer will schedule a home inspection and probably a sewer inspection.
– Pre-inspection: Often used in multiple offer situations, these are done prior to the offer being submitted. I will schedule these if approved by the seller, and have a form signed which limits liability. These can be expensive when buyers have to put in more than one offer.
– Seller pre-inspection – The seller conducts an inspection and is party to the results.
– Third party pre-inspection – A newer concept, conducted by a firm such as Pillar and Post, uploaded to a web site and paid for by the buyers. Unseen by the sellers and brokers.

On the offer review date we should have a few offers to review – recently properly priced listings have had from ten to twenty offers. I will organize the main criteria on a spreadsheet for you to review. As we narrow down to the strongest, it is recommended that the seller writes “Respectfully declined at this time” on the weaker offers with the date and initials.

Love letters, a letter that buyers write about themselves to appeal to the seller’s emotions, are a trend in this market. Buyers want a seller to know more about them and sway their offer to float to the top, even if it might not be the strongest in other areas such as earnest money, down payment, type of mortgage).

We often put these aside as they can be a fair housing violation. This is the reason we don’t always look at love letters until after the matrix. Then we might take a peek at the letters associated with the top offers, as some sellers do want to know if a developer or family is buying their house.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in bringing on a new listing; call or write with any questions.

The Current Seattle Market

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Today I was perusing the NextDoor.com newsfeed for the Ballard/Crown Hill neighborhood, and saw a question from a homeowner regarding the proliferation of letters she gets from developers and real estate brokers.

I answered it with this explanation:

I am a Realtor and have occasionally sent a letter to a property owner on behalf of a buyer. I have tried to create as personal a letter as possible and am currently working on one such project which is complicated but may be coming to fruition to the satisfaction of both parties.

First time homeowners, families moving up and people wanting to downsize are all having a difficult time with the transition as there is so little inventory on the market. Home owners who want to move are worried about selling as they are more worried about finding a new home. Additionally, interest rates are going up so those who are at 3.5% may need to go to 4.5% (generalistically).

That said, developers do target many properties in zoning that allows them to build the fourplexes as seen in Ballard. I researched one a couple of years ago on 24th, just north of 65th. The developer bought it directly for approximately 550k, took out a mortgage for over 1 million, and sold each of four for about 600k (I would have to do more research to find the exact details).

In a market such as we have in Seattle, we have far more demand than supply; one home in Broadview saw about 30 buyers through each open house and had 13 offers, despite needing all new windows, floors, cabinets, bathroom overhaul, etc.

Developers can make profits during this kind of a market.

Sellers can also make far more if they put the home on the market – many go up 100-200k. The home at 7750 9th Ave NW escalated:
List Pr: $575,000
Org LP: $575,000
SP%LP: 115.65%
Sold Pr: $665,000

Some of the home owners who receive these letters may not want to go through the process and see these letters as an easy way to move on.

Realtors will usually try to make the process as easy as possible by managing the details.

I could go on and on about this market as this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Meanwhile, know that many of the letters are from both developers and real estate brokers looking to buy either for development, investment or for bonafide buyers. Most real estate professionals will provide you with a free market analysis if you are interested.

Andree

February’s Offer on a Downtown Condominium


Snow on the Olympics behind the historical Bell Harbor Marina.

In January I put an offer on a condominium across the street from the Bell Harbor Marina and experienced the core Seattle market firsthand. We were the best of several offers, although during the escalation process we were asked to put in our “highest and best”. It was very competitive, according to the listing agent, as the other brokers were somewhat unrelenting in phone calls and emails. Our offer was stronger than the others because we had a large down payment, we were able to escalate, and, while we did include an inspection contingency, it was only two days. (Many offers are considered stronger without an inspection contingency, but this does not protect the buyer).

The process stayed interesting. During the inspection, my clients requested a mold inspection. The inspection was $600 dollars and took another four days, so we needed to write this up in the inspection response. This was a stressful waiting time for the sellers, but thankfully for everyone, there were no signs of mold that were unhealthy.

There was presence of Aureobasidium. It is a natural mold that is tracked in from the outdoors. I called Lance, from Northwest Restoration, and he assured me that so long as the mold content on the inside of the home is less than the outside, it is considered acceptable by various standards. It’s important to keep good ventilation in a home (as we all know), but he also recommended airing or “burping” a home periodically. Here in Seattle we have so many days of rain, even light rain, that residents keep their homes closed most of the winter. It is a good idea to open them up on those glorious sunny days that punctuate the rainy days.

As an aside, he pointed out that the “black” mold some people see in a house is not necessarily the black mold that is dangerous.

The inspector did notice that the washing machine showed signs of a leak from the door. We asked for a $700 credit at closing for a new washer, and it was accepted.

As inspections can be a sticky point, many sellers have started to do their own home and sewer inspections and offer them to the buyers. There is a service that will do an independent inspection that the seller won’t see, and upload for interested buyers to purchase for a nominal fee.

Another trend we are seeing is that some sellers are not allowing pre-inspections in order to level the playing field, so to speak. Many buyers have put in offers on more than one listing, and have had to pay the pre-inspection fee more than once. By not allowing a pre-inspection, that element is removed and when the strongest offer is accepted the buyer can then conduct an inspection.

I hope that by sharing this story I can educate you on what we are seeing in the Seattle marketplace, shed light on the offer and inspection process! Buying and selling a home is a bit of an adventure as there are always a few unknowns to navigate through in the future.

Appreciation Rates, Sales

New Newsy Links – see has been happening in real estate.

The most recent Northwest MLS Press Release

Click-here to see the latest appreciation chart of all neighborhoods.

Reports for various areas are below – if you would like one for your neighborhood please let me know! These links are all supposed to update automatically!

The Multiple Listing Service gave us a new tool, “InfoSparks”! I ran a report using: Seattle, Residential, all price ranges: InfoSparks Report for “Seattle”

Ballard

Magnolia

Queen Anne

Eastern Side of West Seattle

Central Part of West Seattle”>

Western Side of West Seattle

Bellingham

Port Townsend

Waterfront Properties North of Seattle

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Recently a gentleman asked me how much our waterfront homes north of Seattle sell for…I said I’d seen them as low as $500,000 – which was a bit tongue-in-cheek.

This does beg a question, or two, what is the definition of a waterfront home? Does one want a waterfront home with a dock, retaining wall, beach rights (clam and oyster digging), deep enough to moor a boat, low bank, and high bank?


How about railroad tracks? Many of our waterfront homes along the water are adjacent to railroad tracks. Some waterfront homes are on a pond or on a lake…this is all before the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and price.

If this will be a vacation rental or second home, does it need a vacation permit from the local government, as in the San Juan Islands? What is the definition of north of Seattle – five miles, ten miles, fifty miles?

 

 

I am somewhat familiar with waterfront as my father purchased a beautiful investment property along the California sea cliffs when I was in the late sixties. It was a Spanish style home on six acres. He developed a few acres of it after living there for a few years, sold it and moved to a condominium in Marina del Rey where he could see his sailboat in front of the living room windows. He then further retired to Kaanapali, on Maui, where his condominium had a nice view of the beach and lapping waves. Because of this, I have always tried to locate myself near water.

Waterfront north of Seattle could include neighborhoods of Shoreline, Richmond Beach, and Woodway. All of these are on or near the railroad tracks. Railroad tracks extend up to Everett and Canada.

I lived in Richmond Beach for a time and loved walking the beach. The trains came by regularly and I got accustomed to them. They didn’t have much reason to use their horns, as they do in other places where people often cross on the tracks.

I went to explore the beach near a property just south of Mukilteo, and found that the trail to the beach had been buried by a recent slide. This is indicative of several areas of high bank, beachfront property. The home I previewed sits high above the railroad tracks, and so might not have as much noise or visible distraction when the trains go by.

A beach community on the north end of Camano Island.

Due to the number of Native American tribal lands, listings north of Seattle may come with a lease or there may be a listing that specifically states it is fee simple property, even though it looks as if it’s on the reservation land. It’s important to read through the listing materials carefully and research it through the title company.

There are a few areas that are not on tribal land, but adjacent to or surrounded by tribal land, such as Mission Beach Drive. Just north of Everett, and west of Marysville, one listing sits on high bank on the south side of a little peninsula with a great view, has a large garage and tennis courts to the north, and a dock on the far north side (across the road), which is somewhat protected from the predominately south west winds. There is a little fence and the gate to the dock. The house needs a bit of updating. Here is a link: Mission Beach Drive

Warm Beach is an enclave of homes on the way to Stanwood from Mission Beach Drive. I found a little barn style house with a short retaining wall, right along the beach and west facing. According to the listing agent, some of the residents like the winter better as they see more wildlife and love how the light on the water is constantly changing. Here is a link: Warm Beach

The listing agent mentioned that the tide flats off the home are exposed during low tide; some of the boats are tied to buoys, while others use the launch site close.

Warm beach is in an unincorporated area of Snohomish County.


Moving on to Camano Island, a similar area with low bank is Madrona Beach. I walked by a little cottage that had been on the market for one day and went pending. The listing agent said it created quite a frenzy as one rarely sees anything at that low a price (425k): Madrona Beach

If one is looking for an area where one can moor one’s boat outside one’s window, the west side of Whidbey Island has a planned development called Lagoon Point. It was evidently created from a marsh back in the seventies. Here is an example of a listing that is just under 600k: Lagoon Point

Of course, when considering a waterfront home, it is also important to research taxes and buffer regulations (in case of building).

The properties near Snee-oosh Drive are on leases with tribe and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The lease is five to eight thousand dollars per fifty-foot lot per year and is fifty-year leases. This property is on a double lot and is a vacation property. The listing agent said serious buyers might ask for the financial history: Golden View Trail

It has been on the market a long time, partly because it has been challenging to get a mortgage due to the fact that is was originally modular. Academy Mortgage is now will to lend on it.

Shelter Bay is also leased land, just across the Swinomish Channel from La Connor. About 850 homes are on one lease. It is gated; I heard that the lease runs through 2044 and seems to be in negotiation for a 75-year extension. This is keeping prices low – half that of Anacortes.

Other leases are radically different – the least is $390, high $1190. Some have supplemental $80-90…plus the HOA of $115. One ends up with about $280 additional to the mortgage. That lease rate will probably change. Most of the owners don’t care what happens in 27 years as they have a beautiful home on beautiful property. There is a guard at the entrance, RV storage, and typically people leave for months and don’t worry about their homes.

Seagull

If you don’t watch out, seagulls may steal your lunch

From here one can look in Anacortes, or north to Bellingham and Canada. I love Fidalgo Island near Deception Pass, and Sammish Island.

Appreciation Rates, Sales

New Newsy Links – see what has been happening in real estate.
Northwest MLS Press Release – January 5
Reports for various areas are below – if you would like one for your neighborhood please let me know!
Click-here to see the November appreciation chart of all neighborhoods.
Ballard
Magnolia
Queen Anne
Bellingham
Port Townsend

Discussion on Commission Rates

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With the sellers market, many sellers are looking for brokerages that offer a low commission. Many sellers think the home will sell itself due to the demand, and that the listing broker won’t have to do much.

This might be the best case scenario, however it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I am a broker with Coldwell Banker Bain, who is a traditional brokerage with a wonderful support team in each office. We have a transaction coordinator, front desk receptionist, two managing brokers with an open door policy, and a legal team. We have an office in just about every county where I can stop in and have client meetings.

If I did keep track of all of my hours, I would find that the hourly rate would probably be equal to the person who had a regular nine-to-five job. Much of my work is behind the scenes and includes driving to meetings, previewing the listing, working up a comparative market analysis, keeping track of active, sold and pending listings in the target neighborhood.

To keep track of the listings, I attend the broker’s opens to tour each one and follow it to see the final selling price.

When I have the listing, I usually open title with Rainier (our in-house firm), order professional photography, create flyers and input all to the Northwest Multiple Listing service (with the help of staff). When the date to go active is set, I order sign installation and schedule three open houses – one midweek for the broker’s open, Saturday and Sunday. I also often buy an advertising service that sends the listing out across the state. I put a lockbox on the house (these have gone up in price as they are all run by Bluetooth).

The goal is to expose the listing to as many buyers as possible, through all channels (including social media), to get as many people in the door as possible. This helps get as many offers as possible in by the offer review date, if one has been set.

I write a progress report after each open house, and keep sellers informed of any inquires and showings.

In this market, multiple offers are common when a home is priced correctly, and often presented via a spreadsheet. Ten offers might be an average on a very desirable listing. A strong offer could be all cash, no contingencies, although those can also backfire by not providing either side with much protection.

I have a spreadsheet to detail multiple offers.

Here are some of the variables:
Price
Included Items
Earnest Money
Deferred (?)
Contingent Upon (?)
Closing Date
Possession Date
Financing Contingency
Timeline
Type of Loan
Seller Contribution
Pre-approval
Lender
Inspection Contingency
Timeline
Title Review
Neighborhood Review
Continent or Subject to (?)
Escalator?
Remove Escalator?
Septic Inspection
Other Items (Appraisal, Commission)

The buyer’s agent is paid from the commission, or has an buyer’s agency agreement with the buyer to make up the difference in the commission if a low commission is offered. They might write-in a higher commission than what was offered.

Once we accept the offer, I create a timeline to keep track of the contingencies. For example, the inspection contingency is often ten days, title review five days, etc. I then keep in touch with all of the professionals in the transaction to see if the timelines are being met.

By the time all is said and done, and the commission is split (my office share is 50%, and my share a percentage of that), I feel that I have earned my keep.

This is also a good article which explains much:
https://www.angieslist.com/articles/realtors-commission-negotiable.htm

The Latest Press Release from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service

Mike Grady summarized our climate in the Northwest perfectly in yesterdays press release, which summarized the year-end climate and a bit of forecasting for 2017:

Grady believes the pattern of low inventory and increasing prices will continue. “We believe it is a
predictor for what to expect throughout 2017,” he commented. “There’s simply not enough new construction to fill the needs of new employees being hired both locally and new to the state. The key is employment,” Grady continued, saying “There’s no reason to think that a new administration will cause employment to slow down; rather, it’s more likely we’ll see it increase in the Puget Sound region so we’re off to another strong start in 2017,” he stated.

Read the full press release here: http://andreehurley.com/blog/northwest-multiple-listing-service-monthly-press-release/

November Market Flash

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Thanksgiving is is one of my favorite holidays because it is all about appreciating what we have in our friends, family and the wonderful environment around us. A couple of weeks ago I visited Port Townsend and took Watson for a run at North Beach, just adjacent to Fort Worden and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I just felt grateful to be there!

I’m also grateful that two of my listings closed last month and one just went pending.

Client reviews were positive, saying: “Andree is a very productive and creative agent. </em>” and “10/10 – Andree Hurley was a good communicator, competent, and very helpful. She was imaginative and showed initiative in helping me prepare for and execute the sale.”

Many thanks to my friends and clients who trust me with their real estate needs!
Everyone is wondering how the election results are going to affect our real estate market. I think it is a bit early to tell, although interest rates with our in-house mortgage lender, Julia Eaton (from Axia), did go uplast week. Some think this might also be attributed to securities. Julia did encourage current buyers to try to lock in their rates.

Reports for various areas are below – if you would like one for your neighborhood please let me know!
http://www.andreehurley.com/PDF/MarketFLASH_September_Hurley.jpg to see the appreciation chart of all neighborhoods in traditional format (through September).

http://www.coldwellbankerbain.com/MarketReport/186b2913-b5d4-445e-92f1-327e0b508a68

http://www.coldwellbankerbain.com/MarketReport/af020671-0791-4f45-8ff1-b1529b975ad0

http://www.coldwellbankerbain.com/MarketReport/ef8faa96-c990-41b0-b7d1-4849213b5147

http://www.coldwellbankerbain.com/MarketReport/b074b5b5-a6b5-48d4-bde3-6942597263c1

Buying and Selling During the Holidays

For home buyers and sellers wanting to get settled in a new home in the new year, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are buying or selling during the holidays:

• It can be a great time to buy – With fewer buyers in the market and sellers ready to have closure by year end, there are opportunities to be had during the holidays. If you don’t like what is currently on the market, let’s scour the market for listings that were previously on the market as there was seller motivation earlier in the year.
• Stick to your list of needs – It is easy to let the emotion of the holiday overwhelm your good sense. Holiday décor and the smell of baked goods can make a property seem like a better fit than it truly is. Shop smart!
• Timing – The holidays can cause more challenges to your contract to closing timeline than you may think. From federal holidays to people being out of the office on vacation, your closing deadline may be delayed. It is best to plan ahead and let your entire team know about your expectations and timeline so everyone can be on the same page. I can help you with this type of communication.

Sellers:
• It can be a great time to sell – Although there may be fewer buyers out, the buyers who are out are usually serious and ready to buy. Also, with visitors from out of town, someone considering a relocation may just have the time on their hands to look for homes during their vacation. There may also be fewer sellers to contend with because some will have taken their homes off the market for the holidays. Finally, buyers who may have more time on their hands may be spending more time on the internet in their home search.
• Going out of town can make home selling easy – It is easiest to show your home if you are not in it. Let me take care of the details!
• Don’t go too crazy with the holiday décor – It is easy to add layers of holiday decorations on top of what is already in your home such as moving the couch just a little closer to the other living room furniture or cramping the stockings on the mantle. Avoid overwhelming clutter during the holidays and take out more than what you add. You want the space appearing bigger, not smaller.
• Be clear about your timeline – If you get an offer on your home, be grateful, but also realistic. If the buyers are looking for a close date between Christmas and New Year’s, think about what this means for your holiday plans.
The holidays provide an amazing opportunity for both buyers and sellers, but don’t get carried away. If you are thinking about a move, let’s strategize now. Give me a call or text: (206) 669-1622 or email: andree@seattlehometour.com.

November News, Giving Thanks

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Giving Thanks

dsc_3634watsonNorth Beach, Port Townsend
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it is one of my favorite holidays because it is all about appreciating what we have in our friends, family and the wonderful environment around us. A couple of weeks ago I visited Port Townsend and took Watson for a run at North Beach, just adjacent to Fort Worden and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I just felt grateful to be there!

I’m also grateful that two of my listings closed last month and one just went pending.

Client reviews were positive, saying: “Andree is a very productive and creative agent. ” and “10/10 – Andree Hurley was a good communicator, competent, and very helpful. She was imaginative and showed initiative in helping me prepare for and execute the sale.”

Many thanks to my friends and clients who trust me with their real estate needs!

Everyone is wondering how the election results are going to affect our real estate market. I think it is a bit early to tell, although interest rates with our in-house mortgage lender, Julia Eaton (from Axia), did go uplast week. Some think this might also be attributed to securities. Julia did encourage current buyers to try to lock in their rates.

residential-percent-of-active-inventory-sold-pending-october-2016
Reports for various areas are below – if you would like one for your neighborhood please let me know!

Click-here to see the appreciation chart of all neighborhoods in traditional format (through September).

Ballard

Magnolia

Queen Anne

Bellingham

Buying and Selling During the Holidays

For home buyers and sellers wanting to get settled in a new home in the new year, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are buying or selling during the holidays:

Buyers:

• It can be a great time to buy – With fewer buyers in the market and sellers ready to have closure by year end, there are opportunities to be had during the holidays. If you don’t like what is currently on the market, let’s scour the market for listings that were previously on the market as there was seller motivation earlier in the year.

• Stick to your list of needs – It is easy to let the emotion of the holiday overwhelm your good sense. Holiday décor and the smell of baked goods can make a property seem like a better fit than it truly is. Shop smart!

• Timing – The holidays can cause more challenges to your contract to closing timeline than you may think. From federal holidays to people being out of the office on vacation, your closing deadline may be delayed. It is best to plan ahead and let your entire team know about your expectations and timeline so everyone can be on the same page. I can help you with this type of communication.

Sellers:

• It can be a great time to sell – Although there may be fewer buyers out, the buyers who are out are usually serious and ready to buy. Also, with visitors from out of town, someone considering a relocation may just have the time on their hands to look for homes during their vacation. There may also be fewer sellers to contend with because some will have taken their homes off the market for the holidays. Finally, buyers who may have more time on their hands may be spending more time on the internet in their home search.

• Going out of town can make home selling easy – It is easiest to show your home if you are not in it. Let me take care of the details!

• Don’t go too crazy with the holiday décor – It is easy to add layers of holiday decorations on top of what is already in your home such as moving the couch just a little closer to the other living room furniture or cramping the stockings on the mantle. Avoid overwhelming clutter during the holidays and take out more than what you add. You want the space appearing bigger, not smaller.

• Be clear about your timeline – If you get an offer on your home, be grateful, but also realistic. If the buyers are looking for a close date between Christmas and New Year’s, think about what this means for your holiday plans.

The holidays provide an amazing opportunity for both buyers and sellers, but don’t get carried away. If you are thinking about a move, let’s strategize now. Give me a call or text: (206) 669-1622 or email: andree@seattlehometour.com.

Happy Halloween…

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mountsi
A view of Mount Si adjacent to the Three Forks Off-Leash Dog Park

Here in the northwest it seems as if Halloween is the transition into holiday season and a time to reflect on the current year and prepare for next year.

I have plenty to celebrate as two of my listings closed and I have two to look forward to in the near future. Preparing a home for sale is never easy. It seems first there is the contemplative period of deciding whether or not to sell. After the decision to sell, there is the process of deciding what to do to get the home ready.

In some cases, the home may be an investment property and have tenants – selling a home with tenants in it opens up more questions considering lease agreements, tenants rights and marketing, to name a few.

If the home will be occupied by the tenants or owners, how will showings occur? It is much better to allow showings without an appointment, and to allow open houses, for the best exposure.

Next, how much work to put into the house? What will be the return on investment? In this seller’s market, neutral but contrasting colors are recommended, keeping in mind that the buyer might have completely different tastes. The buyer needs to be able to see their vision when they walk into a listing. Taking up or replacing carpets, redoing floors, even changing out countertops can bring more value to a point – in the end, the market will be the final judge on price.

Looking at the Seattle home price index, we have surpassed the high we had ten years ago in 2007. It has been a seller’s market and it could continue into next year considering Seattle’s economy is strong. Real estate trends seem to run in ten year cycles; we are moving into 2017 and according to the index, those who bought in 2007 have recovered their equity as prices are higher now than they were then. The question is, will the prices remain high or will we see a correction?

It could be a good time to sell, with interest rates being at a low.
Home Price Index
Mortgage Rate Chart

Of course, being an election year also brings challenges and the potential for changes…in the couple of weeks leading up to the election, there seems to be a bit of a lull, prompting some experts to say it is a good time to buy.

Regardless of what side of the fence you are on, looking at your own needs and goals in the short and long term will help to make some of these decisions.

Please contact me for a complimentary market analysis to help you make some of these difficult decisions.

September News; Fall is Here!

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September News; Fall is Here!

Gold Creek Pond
Gold Creek Pond, Snoqualmie Pass

While I love living and working in Seattle, it makes me happy to have remote vacation property listings in beautiful places. The other day I drove to Snoqualmie Pass to support Search and Rescue, and not only checked on a lockbox at my Gold Creek listing but walked around Gold Creek Pond; literally a breath of fresh air!

Active listings in August reached the same level as last year, and based on my buyer’s feed, maintained that level or went up a bit – we will see when the statistics are crunched in October. Both pending and the absorption rate went up a bit as well. Historically things quiet down towards the end of year with winter settling in and the holidays.

Active, Pending and Absorption Rate
Reports for various areas are below – if you would like one for your neighborhood please let me know!

Click-here to see the appreciation chart of all neighborhoods in traditional format.

Ballard

Magnolia

Queen Anne

Bellingham

Remodeling – Windows, Paint and More

Do you have a home you are fixing up to sell or perhaps to rent as an investment property? Either way, you may have some common goals.

The importance of creating a neutral environment is important to each, as is using quality products. In both cases you are probably interested in getting the best product for the least money.

Windows fall into both of these categories – and into a third, the home you have chosen to live in. Many older homes have metal framed, double-paned, windows and because a seal in a double-paned window is old, the window might have a fog problem. Single-paned windows have little to no insulation and also let in sound.

We had a segment on windows and doors during a monthly course I attend and our guest speaker was a representative from Westeck Windows and Doors. I have to admit at the beginning I had a rather ho-hum attitude, but by the end I was excited about the product!

Westeck has developed a manufacturing system which produces high quality, innovated and low cost windows which can transform a house. With the trend towards bringing the outside in, they have both doors and windows which can range to eighteen feet – as a matter of fact they just installed eighteen foot, double-paned windows along the railroad tracks in Bellingham and they are so sound proof one can hardly hear the trains. Nice if one is a train buff, but also love the views of Lummi Island and the Salish Sea!

They also install corner windows which can make a room look larger. Instead of sliding or Nano doors they use a stackable frame system, and encourage homeowners to use a similar flooring inside and outside to create a sense of space.

We have all heard that aluminum windows installed in homes attract black mold (which cause illnesses), and that the fog may accrue on the inside due to the failure of the spacer. Westeck makes aluminum windows but use a warm-edge super spacer to alleviate this problem. If one looks at their windows carefully, they have a grey bar inside which doesn’t allow for condensation.

That said, they offer Vinyl and Vinyl combination windows that look like wood, have less maintenance, and are less expensive.

They use airborne paint and can redo some existing windows by putting them into their machine where cleaning, paint and Vinyl become one. Their black paint doesn’t heat up more than white paint do to the process.

When asked about skylights, they did say they use Columbia Skylights, another Canadian company. In this case they recommend aluminum, which are the strongest, especially for snow load.

They can also match the window color to your home’s color, which then turned the conversation to paint colors.

Some colors age a house. Color is out, neutral is in. Taupe and beige are out, grey and white in. Especially when selling or renting, one wants a modern, clean minimalistic look.

2016 Benjamin Color of the year is Simply White with a trim of Revere Pewter

When it came to kitchens, we reviewed Candice Olson’s Favorite Wall Colors – the main message was contrast.

Glossy is out; it’s the quality that counts for wiping down walls. The older the house, the older the drywall, the gloss is unforgiving…but matt is forgiving.

Test the paint for three days. Use oversize samples or order paint sheets. Always start with a simulator and finish with a wall test. Use paint boards and move them. Always use primer and don’t cheap out on one coat.

Thinking about fixtures? Polished chrome goes with everything.

When renovating laundry and powder rooms, one doesn’t to need pay for a slab, buy two slabs….but don’t assume because they are the same name they are the same color… whoever accepts the slab is responsible for color matching.

When using tile, go with porcelain instead of ceramic, as ceramic breaks on impact.

That’s about it for remodeling investment properties and keeping costs down if fixing up a hom for sale…some of these ideas can also be used if you are planning on staying in your home for a long time, but in that case you are freer to go wild in keeping with your own tastes!

Seattle Market Update

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SailingWhidbey

Summer is in full swing and I was excited to be invited by the skipper of the boat I sail on in Duck Dodge (The Ignitor) to crew in Whidbey Race Week! I must admit we didn’t have much wind, but it was a lovely week with wonderful people. I hope you are also having a fun and enjoyable summer!

ActiveJuneOnce again we have data this month for the previous month (June) from Barbara Sanders, in our office, and Rainier Title. Following this year’s light blue line, we can see that active listings have still have been on the increase.

SoldPendingJunePending listings peaked in May and showed a slight drop in June, while the absorption rate took a swing – up in March, down in April, up May, and even lower in June. PercentActivePendingJuneThe higher this number, the more of a seller’s market we have, while the lower tends towards a buyer’s market.

Through attending the weekly sales meetings in my office on Monday mornings, I have heard many brokers report higher days on the market and price reductions in more expensive listings.

As one might expect, there is a lot of action in certain price points such as the 300-500k range. Two listings I had scheduled open houses for went pending before the offer review date, as the sellers were so inundated with offers.

Taking the first offer can result in a lower price than waiting for all the offers to come in. It may seem confusing to a seller but the offers can be presented on a spreadsheet, which simplifies them (see below). This usually will get a better price for a seller.
MultipleOfferSpreadsheetImageSM

Overpricing has been a bit of a trend in this seller’s market but tends to backfire as brokers and their buyers are very savvy. Overpricing generally brings a lower price in the long run than a properly priced listing.

Considering the above charts are for the whole of King County, I generated graphs in our Matrix program for active and sold numbers in Magnolia, Queen Anne and Broadview:
MatrixMagnoliaQueenAnneBroadviewForSalevsSold

By the way, the multiple offer spreadsheet also works on the buying side – it is a good guide to what ducks one needs to have in a row for a strong offer. For example, many sellers will look at the lender as a partner in an offer wondering if the lender will be responsive to timelines. For this reason I recommend mortgage brokers I have worked with who are local. More likely than not, a local lender will understand what is going on in our market better than, say, a lender on the other side of the country. I had a situation where a buyer contacted a lender of a national institution on the front-end, but the person we ended up working with on the back-end was on the other side of the country and so didn’t know the local market. In that case we had to ask for an extension on closing (a bit scary in this competitive market).

Contact me for more information, I would love to help you buy a new home or sell your current home so that you can upgrade or downsize!

Appreciation Rates

On to the appreciation rates from Rainier!

Click here to see the reports! I’ve uploaded both the synopsis and the full reports for King, Puyallup and Snohomish counties. Many buyers are looking outside King county as prices are so high and the demand so great.

Thank you for reading; I hope you enjoy the great weather!

Investment Properties

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16 Important Considerations You Must Make When Investing in Real Estate

Investing in real estate can be one of the most lucrative investment vehicles available today. It can also turn into a financial nightmare if you do not do your investment homework first. Before you even think about investing in real estate you need to think about the following 16 points that I advise investors to follow.

Real estate investing is a wonderful tool to achieve financial freedom. If you do your homework, invest wisely, take emotions out of your decisions and plan carefully, you will reap financial rewards. I hope the following points give you the confidence you need to take the leap into the lucrative world of real estate investing.

There are three important categories that must be analyzed when purchasing real estate and they are……….

Location

Property

Financial Side

LOCATION

1. ZONING – Never purchase any investment property until you determine the zoning of your potential property and your neighbor’s property. Your property’s value is directly affected by the surrounding properties. When you check the zoning, be sure to check the surrounding properties as well.

2. AREA APPRECIATION – Check to make sure that the area where you are considering purchasing has had a steady and consistent appreciation growth of at least 7% per year for the last 5 years on average. You do not want to buy in an area that has already peaked.

3. POPULATION GROWTH – Is the area where you are considering purchasing an area where people are moving in? The easiest way to track this is to check population growth numbers. Where there is growth – there is opportunity.

4. DO BABY BOOMERS WANT TO LIVE HERE? The country has an incredible number of baby boomers; therefore invest in an area where baby boomers want to live. Baby boomers want a lot of recreational possibilities as well as easy access to good health care facilities.

5. OWNER OCCUPIED – Is the neighborhood where you are thinking of buying primarily owner occupied or tenant occupied? Homeowners, that live in their homes, invest more money to fix them up than do renters. Remember, your property’s value is also determined by its neighbors.

6. NEIGHBORHOOD APPRECIATION – Before you buy in any neighborhood make sure you research the sales in that neighborhood for the past 5 years. Check to see how that neighborhood has appreciated.

7. EMPLOYMENT STABILITY – Without question, one of the biggest factors that affect a local real estate market is the job market. You could be in the nicest recreational area in the world, but if there are no jobs, people leave because they have to find work. Check to make sure that employment in that area has been stable over time.

8. PROPERTY MANAGERS – Make sure that there is a property management company that can manage the property in the area where you are choosing to purchase. Many investors have gone on real estate shopping sprees only to find that there is not a property management company available in that area. This poses a huge problem for the out-of-area investor.

PROPERTY

9. FLOORPLAN – Floorplan is more important that square footage. Of course it would be wonderful to find an investment that is both large in square footage and perfect in floorplan. However, this does not happen often. If you find a house that lacks a little in square footage but shines in floorplan, buy it. Renters look for properties by price and by bedrooms. They don’t search for square footage. Having the right numbers of bedrooms is more important than having the biggest bedrooms.

10. YARD – Often times people come with children and with pets and both of these need room to roam. Many investors that I have consulted have shared their horror stories about not being able to rent out the big beautiful house with no yard. Big beautiful houses are filled with children and pets. Even a small yard will help keep your property occupied year round.

11. INSPECTION/AGE OF THE HOUSE Never, ever, ever buy an investment property without having a thorough inspection of the house. Make sure the inspector gives you a good age range for the home and make sure you check the electrical wiring and plumbing thoroughly. Old pipes and wiring can be extremely expensive the replace. Make sure the mechanical side of your investment is not so old that you may be looking at a costly replacement in the near future.

12. THE 10% RULE – One of the easiest ways to make money on your investment is to do a cosmetic makeover. A good rule of thumb is “The 10% rule”. This means that if you purchase a house for $150,000, take 10% of that or $15,000 and you should be able to do a nice cosmetic makeover within that budget. If, however, you have to spend a good portion of that money on the mechanical side, not the cosmetic side then you may want to look at another property.

13. RENTAL STABILITY – Remember, if you buy a 1 bedroom condo you are definitely limiting the different segments of the rental market that can rent from you. If you purchase a 3 bedroom, 2 bath single family residence you have just expanded your rental possibilities. Just because the condo is $50,000 less does not mean it will be a better investment. In fact, you often have to go a little above your comfort zone to get a highly sought-after rental property. The stretch is well worth it!

14. COMPARING RENTAL RATES – It is imperative that you know what the rental market is like in your area. Before you buy a rental property, make sure that you know what similar properties are renting for and how long they are taking to rent. Call a property management company and ask if they do opinions of rental value. Many of them do in hopes of getting your business.

PROPERTY

15. THE FINANCIAL SNAPSHOT – You must do a financial analysis of the property. What will your net operating income be? This is the total amount that you will receive from owning this property (rental payment). Also make sure you know what your total expenses will be. (Mortgage payments, principle, interest, taxes, insurance, utilities, neighborhood association dues, etc.) Your net income less your expenses equals your gross spendable income. This will tell you whether the property gives you a positive or a negative cash flow. Don’t be alarmed if it is a negative cash flow because your capital appreciation potential may be so great that having to financially feed the property for a few years would be OK.

16. SELLER FINANCING – Always, always, always ask for seller financing if you can get it. WHY? Because you can often get better terms, better rates and save on loan origination fees.

The best advice I can give a new investor is to put together a team of experts to help you. You should be working with a good inspector, a good mortgage broker, a good contractor and most importantly a good real estate agent who truly understands investment real estate. (Do not just settle for a real estate agent that sells residential homes. If you are going to invest, you need an investment specialist). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and always, always, always do your investment homework.

Low Listing Inventory in Seattle’s Real Estate Market

Residential Active Listings April 2016

We are still seeing low to the  lowest inventory in the Seattle market. As pictures say a thousand words, I am showcasing the the three charts which show the current climate. The absorption rate, or percentage of active listings that have gone pending is at 120%. How can that be? There was so little new inventory in April, that many of the homes that were on the market in past months have gone pending.

Average days on the market in Seattle are from seven to ten days, with open houses often seeing up to forty groups through, and up to twenty competitive offers with escalation clauses. One home near Broadview and Bitterlake had seven offers, with the highest being an offer from a California buyer who bought it sight-unseen.
Residential Sold Pending April 2016Another home was purchased by a buyer who offered $2,000 over what any other offer brought in. Evidently the sky was the limit for that buyer!

There are all sorts of tactics and strategies at play in the market.

On the selling side, it is important to price a home reasonably. Some sellers think that pricing high gives room to negotiate, but it has been shown through research that an overpriced listing brings in less profit than a reasonably priced listing.

 

Some listings are underpriced and when this is done intentionally to encourage a bidding war, can incur fines through our multiple listing service. Reasonably priced listings will still see some bidding (such as an eBay environment) in this market.

Residential Percent of Active Inventory Sold Pending April 2015

To arrive at a price range, I always research a neighborhood thoroughly – with the advent of the internet, there are so many statistics available to us it is possible to narrow down a price range accurately.

I also drive through the neighborhood and tour any active and pending homes. As it often will take a seller from one to six months to prepare their home to be sold, this is usually enough time to present research so that my clients can make an informed decision.

Configuration and condition of the home also needs to be considered. For example, some buyers will want a master on the main, while others may want three bedrooms and a bathroom (or two) upstairs. The latter seems to be in more demand.

I was at a get-together in Canada last month, and one of the guests was another Realtor. The host asked, casually, what is my home worth? The Realtor said, “While I am not prepared to answer this question now, I’ll ask you how old is your roof, water heater, heating system, and electrical? Have you updated your kitchen or any of the rooms?”

If you are thinking of selling your house, consider your potential market and what they may be looking for.

For buyers, I recommend looking at least ten percent below what you are qualified or prepared to pay. I recently had clients who were looking up to nine hundred thousand dollars in cash, but we were looking in the seven to eight hundred thousand dollar range so we would be prepared to escalate.

Additionally, many buyers are waiving their contingencies such as financing and inspection – this is a very risky game to play which I don’t recommend.

Contact me for more information, I would love to help you buy a new home or sell your current home so that you can upgrade or downsize!

Duck Dodge Schedule

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Ignitor400px I am continuing my journey into sailing through attending Duck Dodge again this year on the Ignitor. A fellow sailer posted this image of us to Facebook and I love the how we are sailing blissfully past my the Space Needle, the busy cranes and my office!

 

 

 

Here is the Duck Dodge schedule, important as one needs to know the theme for the evening:
May 10th Committee Appreciation Night
May 17th Ugly Sweater Night
May 24th Skippers Choice Night
May 31th Star Wars Night
June 7th Wild West Night
June 14th Hip Hop Night (anything 90’s)
June 21st Pirate Night
June 28th Prom Night
July 5th Red, White, and Blue Night
July 12th Race week (no Duck Dodge)
July 19th X-mas in July Night
July 26th Toga Night
August 2nd Fleet Week (Military Appreciation Night)
August 9th Tropical Night
August 16th Mardi Gras Night
August 23rd Pajama Night
August 30th Pink Boat Regatta
September 6th Committee ReAppreciation / Dead Presidents
Rum Run

Sail Race Results

April Real Estate Report

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Ci Ci and WatsonI love Broadview as it is quiet, friendly and just a few minutes down 3rd Avenue to Ballard, Greenwood and Fremont. As my fourteen year-old dog, Ci Ci, doesn’t go far, I walked my younger dog, Watson, around the neighborhood tonight and met at least five others doing the same thing. The gardens were in bloom, I could hear birds singing in the trees and the clouds surrounding the Olympics were dramatic over the water!

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service April press release came out today and gave a summary of the market in March. March saw less inventory than ever with more escalating prices. That said, many of us commented in our sales meeting today that we are seeing more inventory coming on the market now; while we can’t pre-market our own listings, I know of two homes going on the market in the next couple of weeks, and some of our brokers announced listings coming up by the end of the week in the core Seattle neighborhoods.

Click here to read the press release.

The Rainier Title Market Flash came out in late March with the February statistics so I waited to send it out with this early April report. While some neighborhoods such as Ballard/Wallingford are showing a negative appreciation (205 new listings, 183 closed sales) of -5.7%, Magnolia/Queen Anne/Lake Union (95 new listings, 75 closed sales) shows about 19.4%. West Seattle (140 new listings, 122 closed sales) is showing 28.6% appreciation. Central and downtown Tacoma reads 46% appreciation – it is going strong thanks to the port agreement and the enhancing of the infrastructure.

The more detailed appreciation report by Rainier Title is also available at the same link below. This is organized by zip code rather than by neighborhood. Broadview, or 98177, is a neighborhood I follow as I live there and it had the following data:

5 closed sales in February vs. 9 last year with a -44% change, a median $667,500 sales price vs $660,000 last year. The median sales price went from $684,500 to $634,000, or -7%.

Click this link and see what is happening in your zip code!

One other way of looking at this is by a chart generated by our office:
Residential Percent Active Inventory Sold Pending February 2016

On a lighter side, here are more articles to read regarding real estate:
Going to New Heights to Please Buyers
Opulent Staircases
Stage Your Home for the Millennial Buyer
The Best Colors to Use When Staging Your Home
See the “Newsy Links” page for more of the latest real estate related links!

Landscape Design

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Landscape design and gardening are very close to my heart. It all started when my father bought a beautiful property on the sea cliffs of California. The home was a large Spanish style affair made from adobe. It was surrounded by fuchsia, bougainvillea, rose gardens and needed a lot of weeding. Cleverly, he tied my allowance to gardening and then encouraged me to study horticulture at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, which I did. Landscape design was my favorite class and when I went back to college later (to the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington) I picked up several clients which helped me pay for my schooling. In some cases I worked on garden maintenance and in other cases I was fortunate to be able to redesign their yards.

I recently joined the Master Gardener program to update my skills and learn new things – mostly about organic gardening, composting and worm bins! However Saturday I attended a continuing education course by Bruce Bennett called Simple Garden Design Concepts for Clinics and Ourselves and was reminded of the main principles in landscape design. Here is a synopsis:

We have the big five of design: Balance, contrast, repetition, rhythm, and focal point.

Balance gives equilibrium, harmony, and stability. One large shrub vs. three small shrubs can be balanced as we look for weight with negative/positive spaces.

We don’t want to try too hard to achieve balance unless want a formal garden which can look contrived.

Contrast is the easiest concept. For example, we can harmonize with different shades of green or different colors.

Repetition creates cohesiveness. Repeat colors in different plants or use same plants over again. Roses can be a vignette of different species.

Rhythm and flow control the movement of the eye. We can highlight or obscure an area using plant material such as grasses which provide movement and sound.

Put the tallest plants in the back to draw eye up or frame a view. Introduce low cover with taller plants (I remember that we need two-thirds fine ground cover to balance a tree with large leaves).

Paths and hardscape can be designed to appear and disappear – this lends a mystery to what is in the back. A straight path indicates we just want to “get there and get it done”.

A focal point os the first place the eye lands – an arbor or bench; it gives eye a place to rest. Sheds, sculptures, or plants can be focal points but they need interest throughout the year. Evergreens can work well or certain Japanese maples with beautiful bark and branching structure.

Plant odd numbers as even numbers indicate formality – if one dies you will notice.

My favorite part of landscape design is the beginning – taking the plan of the home on the property and drawing in all of the main features that are staying – mature trees and shrubs, patios and the driveway. Sketch in the placement of windows and doors and figure out what views to enhance or hide. Draw in the various use areas and paths of travel.

From here, begin to add trees – deciduous if shade is needed in summer, evergreen to block a few or provide year long interest. Add in any landscaping curves or beds.

Choose plant materials – will the garden be full of natives or would species from other countries work? In the Northwest we can pull from other similar climates – is the yard shady and rainy or is it south facing and hot (such as those on Phinney Ridge). I’ve seen everything from Italian style gardens to those that use palm trees as a focal point.

When I studied in San Luis Obispo we use many plants from Australia and Africa such as eucalyptus and a variety of colorful flowers and bushes.

It takes a bit of time but I suggest drawing the plan and then working on it a little bit at a time, month by month.

I love visiting the University of Washington Arboretum as within an hour I can enjoy various styles of gardens with plant materials from around the world.

TomasGarden This is a garden surrounding a home one my real estate clients purchased in Kingston. It was designed over three years by the previous owner and fits in well with the surrounding forest.

Alan Pope and Appraisals

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I attended a talk by Alan Pope, a well respected appraiser in Washington state. He is also known for his charting of inventory and real estate predictions as he has been in the business for over forty years.

Many real estate brokers complain about low appraisals in this
market, but he asks “is it a low appraisal or an over zealous buyer”.
When the offer comes in above list – is it undo duress or is the buyer
forced to acquire above market so can have a piece of the pie.

He is not saying that the appraiser is correct or incorrect…but
appraisal and market value may not be the same.

He first goes in to define a neighborhood, looks at the MLS listing,
steps into the market place, and reviews the sold and pending listings.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac set up guidelines. If an appraiser steps
out of the guidelines they need to explain why.

What is a neighborhood? Most neighborhoods are defined by boundaries
but may also have similar features.

Condition of property. Unique Identification numbers UID and the Frank Dodd act come into play.

Here are some of the guidelines:

C1 – Research online.

C2 – A home can be up to 10 years old and be C2 – a home is always
staged for resale.

C3 – Does’t require repair but is older.

C4 – Deck and roof near end of life – carpets need cleaning

C5 – Bad – roof at end, deck rotting, dry rot, some appliances don’t
work – need repairs. Fix first then it will be a C4.

C6 – Really bad, no mortgage.

One can see comparables for gross and net adjustments.

There is an opportunity to tweak adjustments – guidelines are 15-20%.

Time adjustments need to be supported – for example, if a comparable
is over six months old, the appraiser needs to explain why they used
it.

The average appraiser does not have a degree in literature…they are
required to support their adjustments but it may not be in flowery
language.

Appraised value has an algorithm – real estate brokers see this in the
Realist report or the Zillow reports.

He pointed out that real estate brokers, fee appraiser and REALTORS®
inspect the subject property and then we present our marketing and show comparables.

He suggests asking a seller if they want a personal touch or a mass appraisal?

There is the impact of a rising market and multiple offers in
appraisals – appraisers need to see the data. He suggests taking the
lockbox off after an offer is accepted.

Be diligent with the appraiser (ask him what he drinks).

Give him the most recent Purchase and Sale agreement – this may be
after the roof was replaced.

Have the architect’s floor plan for him – roll them out in the table –
this will help with measuring the interior and exterior walls. This may work for
a 300k remodel.

If it is an exotic wood floor be sure to tell the appraiser.

Are there any other important site characteristics?

Call all the pending listings and trade Purchase and Sale agreements if possible.

Appraisers are running at ninety miles an hour as want to make money.
They have overhead and charge maybe fifty dollars an hour (the plumber gets more).

We are usually biased to the transaction.

Give accurate, truthful, but not misleading data for the appraisal – if
appraisal is off, ask for a new appraisal. If lender says no, don’t
use the lender again.

Let’s say there are eighteen offers – the highest is FHA with three
percent down – would you accept it? Highest isn’t the best – want it
at at least fifteen percent. The seller wants the buyer who has twenty
percent down and more money to pay equity down.

Are cash buyers hurting appraisals? The appraiser needs to do more work.

Was a listing sold off market? He has his appraisers go door knocking so they can
see the inside of the house.

For-sale-by-owners are hard as we don’t know condition inside.

Confirm the sale – look in the tax record – use it but explain what
happens. If can’t use it explain why.

What about appraiser pools? Larger banks have a firewall between them and the bank – Appraisal Management Companys (AMC).

AMC pleases client (the bank) by being cheap and low. They have a pool
of appraisers that they use.

In the eighties appraisals were needed for home equity loans. Then we
had the collapse in banking so everything is scrutinized more carefully.

Appraisals also go to a database and are cross checked.

While an appraisal seems fairly obvious up front, it was interesting to hear from Alan what goes on behind the scenes. We never know who is going to show up and so have to be prepared.

I have a great example from two listings I had over the summer. They were three doors down from each other and on a golf course.

The first listing went pending, the appraiser came over, was quite pleasant and returned a favorable appraisal above list.

The second listing went pending and the appraiser called me and began picking apart most everything he could find online (including that the clients had asked me to keep their contact information and names confidential). He came by and did his walk-through, I gave him my comparables and he left. A few days later I found out that underwriting was being held up and so called the lender. The buyer’s lender not helpful so I called the appraiser (as I had gotten his card) and he said that the backyard deck needed handrails. I suggested there was no deck, only a cement slab in the backyard. He disagreed.

I called my client and asked her to text me a picture of the 4’x6′ slab, which she did, and I texted it to him. He apologized for using a different listing’s image, fixed the error and we moved on to closing but with a one day extension. He appraised the home for less than when it was purchased by my clients the year before, but over list.

Adding Alan’s perspective into previous experience and knowledge will be a real asset. I’m grateful to the Womens’ Council of REALTORS® for sponsoring the talk!

January News, Final Appreciation Report for 2015

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MorroBayHappy New Year! I had a lovely trip down the California coast to join college friends for a reunion at the Parkfield V6 ranch! I drove along Highway 46, above Morro Bay, to purchase wine from the oldest winery I can remember, Rotta Winery. When I was attending Cal Poly, it was one of the only wineries to be found.

It’s my wish that 2016 brings us a more level playing field in real estate! We still have low inventory and a seller’s market in Seattle much do to a lag in new construction. We are seeing many younger people starting to move away from home and many baby boomers downsizing or looking for a second vacation home. It’s possible more people around Seattle may start looking for homes in the suburbs. I have a new inquiry from an out-of-state buyer looking for a home in Kitsap county within thirty minutes of the Bainbridge Island ferry – comparing some of the listings with Seattle, one can still buy more for your money on Bainbridge than you can in Seattle.

As usual, listings waned in December and early January creating even more scarcity, but they are now on the rise. If momentum keeps building into spring we should see many more listings which will benefit all of those buyers out there who are waiting on the sidelines for an inventory increase.

Of course, the longer sellers wait to put their home on the market, the more competition they will have. Pricing a home reasonably is still a good idea as savy buyers will spot an overpriced home. Reasonable pricing encourages lots of interest – one home in the Greenwood/Broadview area had thirteen offers and eight pre-inspections; the final offer was higher than seventy-five thousand over the list price.

The Northwest Multiple Service has released their Annual Report showing that we had a great year!

Appreciation Rates
The final appreciation report is out for 2015. The Insignia condominium project is primarily responsible for the 24% appreciation in Belltown. It could be that the predictions of the port agreement between Seattle and Tacoma are responsible for the 23.4% rise in Tacoma; we have seen federal dollars improving the roads from the Port of Tacoma in expectation of more shipping traffic, thanks to this agreement. If you are looking for an investment property, this may be a good time to by in and around Tacoma!

Zillow Review

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I am very excited to showcase the wonderful review I received on Zillow from a friend and client!

He says: “Prior to moving into the house that Andree had found for me, I was planning on renting out my former residence but decided to sell it instead. Since she did an such an amazing job in helping me buy this incredible home, I chose her to list and sell my former home.

She assisted me throughout the process and was there immediately when I had questions or needed to have more information on any aspect of the selling process. I have to admit, I always had questions.

She held Open Houses and had the home listed nationwide (worldwide). She kept me posted on how many visited the home, pertinent positive or negative comments, and generally how the sale was going. She responded to several inquiries from as far as the east coast and to a multitude from the local area.

In the final analysis the most important question is, did she sell the house? And the answer is a resounding YES! Within 60 days of listing, it was closed and sold with a full price offer.

In my opinion, she again did an amazing job in selling this house for me as she did in buying my new home. I think she was aggressive and tenacious without being overly so and all the while being courteous, affable and amiable to all customers. I most heartily recommend her to anyone who is either buying or selling their home.

FIVE STARS throughout is my rating!”

Listing your Home

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The Seattle market is still strong! It is a seller’s market thanks to all of the people who are moving to our beautiful Northwest to work for some of the high tech firms such as Amazon.

If you are interested in selling give me a call – here is a sneak preview of what I can do for you:

October Facts, Trends and Appreciation Rates

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While we usually see a slowdown in real estate this time of year, this year we are seeing steady activity and even a bit of an uptick! This good news is in part thanks to our high-tech industry which is bringing in a steady stream of employees. Read more about it in the monthly press release by our Multiple Listing Service which I am archiving on my website.

This is also supported in the following graph which shows the percent of active inventory going pending:

Residential Percent of Active Inventory Sold Pending October 2015

This means it is still a seller’s market – a great time to sell!

That said, overpricing a home even in a seller’s market could have deleterious effects such as the listing sitting on the market for a long time and becoming stale. It is a much better strategy to price a home at a reasonable price point and have an offer review date. In Seattle, most homes with this strategy are only on the market for about a week!

I would also recommend having a plan once your home does sell. This may seem obvious, but an elderly couple walked into an open house the other day and was very excited that their home of many years on Queen Anne had sold, but they were in a bit of a panic on what to do next. Sometimes one does need to sell a home to buy a home and so finding a nice extended stay hotel, “whole house” AirBnB or space at a relative’s home can make those view days or weeks more comfortable.

Appreciation Rates from October are out, thanks to Rainier Title.

This last month I attended a seminar on investment properties. I joined about twenty brokers on a tour of ten properties. We collaborated on why each would or would not make a good investment and then voted on the best property. The properties that had the most opportunity were those that needed updating and we discussed how much we would put into each. This varied from $10,000 in the kitchen to $5,000 in the landscape. Adding a backsplash in the kitchen is an easy way to upgrade the look and feel as well as using flooring with large or no pattern to make the area look bigger.

It was pointed out that if one is going to redo a bathroom to stay away from the temptation to add a shower insert but instead to spend a little more money and tile.

It was also recommended to paint the doorframes white (although I love natural wood and was sad to hear this!).

Removing a popcorn ceiling can be about $1/foot (although test it to see if it contains asbestos – removal will be more expensive).

Paint? Bubbly for ceiling and Lyndhurst Gallery Beige by Valspar for the walls.

Those are just a few of the tips – contact me if you are interested in more!

Moving on to the wealthiest neighborhoods – here is an interesting article by the Puget Sound Business Journal: Wealthiest Neighborhoods. None of these are that surprising but I was interested to see Fox Island listed. This island is just over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and is accessible by it’s own little bridge. With appreciation rates in Tacoma at 20% it may be a good idea to find an investment property there and see it go up!

See the “Newsy Links” page for more of the latest real estate related links!

I’m pleased to have received this nice comment from a fellow broker: “Andree is wonderful with clients, lives in Seattle and is very familiar with the popular areas…”

Who can you think of that could use my help buying or selling a home? I appreciate any referrals as mine is a referral based business. I would like to offer a $75 gift card of your choice for any referral that results in a consultation!

My office is located on Lake Union. I meet clients in the conference room with a beautiful view of South Lake Union, the Museum of Natural History and Industry and the Center for Wooden Boats.

We also have a Starbucks and Mccormick and Schmick’s in our building for optional meeting places.

Of course, I also meet clients at a place of their choice. One thing I love about my car – a Highlander Hybrid – is that is uses little gas and can go almost anywhere 🙂

Buying Vacant Land with Water Rights

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Have you ever thought about buying vacant land or land with water rights? I recently attended a clock-hour course featuring John Rose from the Department of Ecology. While the class ranged from our recent draught (a snowpack issue) to wells, I found it most interesting to review water rights and was reminded that they may not show in title. They are “their own thing” as he put it. If someone gives you a water-right certification call the Department of Ecology to see if it is appurtenant (or going with the land).

Land may have an existing well but can be a use-it or loose-it situation. There are various ways water rights can be lost such as statutory forfeiture due to nonuse. Take a farm; has it been using the 100 gallons per acre-feet it was originally allotted? They may have paper rights but those may not hold true today. Many farmers in the Skagit valley saw their usage cut-back fifty percent.

I also learned that because California was interested in using water from the Columbia River, the department of Ecology needed to start a survey of water usage in Eastern Washington going back to 1917.

Much of this may seem esoteric but there are some beautiful homes built on land with wells. I’m currently helping to purchase one and aside from these issues it’s also important to make sure the well will produce for a long period of time – some of the wells bring water up from the aquifers and reduce the water table. The law “first in line, first in right” still holds.

Also, the appreciation numbers are out for last month: http://andreehurley.com/blog/seattle_market_flash/

Please visit my new “Newsy Links” page for the latest real estate related links!

September Newsletter with Appreciations

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I told a friend of mine I was writing my “appreciation” newsletter and she said “who are you appreciating”? We both laughed at that but it caused me pause to think about who I do appreciate, especially in my real estate career. I have a team of people behind me that I appreciate during every transaction.

My principal managing broker, John Deely, is a great resource as he has been in the real estate industry for over forty years and sits on the board of the multiple listing service.

Sophie is our transaction manager; she sifts through and files the transactions of multiple brokers in our office and keeps everything organized.

Jan, of Rainier Title, is always available by phone for any odd-and-end questions. She frequently teaches a class called “As the Title Turns”.

I’m currently working with Radha, at Escrow Professionals of Washington (EPOW), on my latest transaction. Their service is above and beyond – they recently sent a courier to pick-up an earnest money check from a buyer’s agent I am working with as she was sick with the flu and couldn’t drive. As earnest money checks are due two days after mutual acceptance time was of the essence.

Both Rainier Title and EPOW are affiliated with Coldwell Banker Bain and so add to a great team!

I also appreciate the rest of our staff – Barbara, Katherine and Kacey who alternate between reception and in generating many of our marketing pieces for listings.

Meanwhile, here is the latest MarketFlash with appreciations rates from Rainier Title! Downtown Tacoma still has the record with a 20% appreciation rate; it has had 312 closed sales this year. Nearby Gig Harbor has had 938 closed sales with a 12.5% appreciation rate.

Belltown/Downtown Seattle is showing 104 closed sales in August with a 16.8% appreciation rate for the year. In June we had zero so one can only assume this must be related to condominium sales; it turns out the new Insignia building closed 267 listings in the last ninety days.

Just for fun I ran two more reports on downtown Seattle condominiums:

Downdown Condominium Sales

The first is the list-to-sales price average, and the second shows the number of sales with the dollar volume, showing some interesting trends.

Speaking of condominiums and downtown views, it seems there are at least three new high rises slated to be built in the future. Antioch University seems to be selling to a developer on the east side of Insignia and another will be to the west at Fourth and Bell. The latest in the planning stages will be taller than our Columbia Center.

Thinking back to when I moved to Seattle (on Halloween, 1979) it is amazing the changes we have seen. I remember walking past ghosts of old buildings and wondering where all the people were. Now we have exquisite architecture and traffic jams; go figure!

Ci Ci and WatsonBeing a dog lover, I have one adopted dog and one dog that I found while searching for a listing.

Ci Ci was bred to be a champion Rottweiler, however she was too shy when moving about the show ring. Watson, a standard poodle, was racing around at night in a storm with no identification. He was about seven months old and had been seriously neglected. I couldn’t find his owner so I began grooming and training him. The rest is history – he is a wonderful dog.

It is because of this love I am very excited about our corporate company’s recent dog project!

Coldwell Banker Homes for Dogs Project: The Story of Owen & Haatchi

Here it is. The amazing story of a boy and his adopted dog as seen at the Chicago Theater as part of the opening of the Generation Blue Experience. Congrats to all for your helping in achieving our goal of finding homes for 20,000 adoptable dogs in 2015!

We’ve teamed up with Adopt-a-Pet.com, North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption website, to help 20,000 adoptable dogs find a loving home this year.

Community Partnership Program

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Donating to Washington Water Trails

Donating to Washington Water Trails

Through the process of finding Tomas’s dream retirement home closer to the waters where he likes to kayak and fish, we were able to donate a percentage of Andrée’s commission to Washington Water Trails through the Coldwell Banker Bain Community Partnership Program.

Tomas says: “I am proud and honored to be a part of this endeavor. This is just a small effort to continue to maintain and leave behind these natural resources for the recreation and enjoyment for our children and their children.”

Andrée is the president of Washington Water Trails.

Do you have a favorite 501c3 non-profit in the State of Washington? They may be eligible for the program!

Development in Seattle

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Ballard Cottage GardenI moved back to Seattle from Port Townsend a few years ago and had a picture of a patchwork of lovely neighborhoods as they were in the early nineties. Today I am watching the demise of a single family home which is being replaced by four towering modern structures. It is rising behind the neighbor’s homes across the street, blocking their views and shading their properties.

I did a little research on the new project and see that a developer bought it for about 675k and has a mortgage of over 1.3 million. The parcel is zoned L3. It was owned by the same person since 2000 so was ripe for a sale as many people sell after ten years on average.

The owners probably just wanted to take a short-cut in the sale process and may think that it is worth it, although most often the higher price is attained by exposing the home to the market.

The assessed value of that house was 468k but the high range value estimate from the “Realist” program that I have access to was 716k – of course that depends on the condition. It sold for just over the Zillow estimate which many people believe in:

SOLD: $675,000
Sold on 06/08/15
Zestimate®: $653,156

If the home is in disrepair, old and zoned other than single family it is probably on a developer’s or real estate broker’s mailing list. Homes that have been occupied over ten years may also be on a mailing list.

My thought is that if you live in a neighborhood you cherish and don’t want to see this happen, appeal to your neighbors through a blog or newsletter. Offer to help them with cleanup and moving as these things may seem to loom.

There is more than one way to preserve a neighborhood.

New Listing – Fabulous and Peaceful on the Ninth Fairway

33670_22_1Peaceful home on the Ninth Fairway of the Lipoma Firs Golf Course! Four bedrooms up with a bonus room on the main floor, three full bathrooms, living room with vaulted ceilings and a dining or family room with a gas fireplace off of the open kitchen. Look out windows to expansive greens and tall firs. Plantings of sedum in back rockery, plus Rhododendron and Japanese Maple in front for sense of privacy. Gas fireplace, forced-air heat, water heater. Covered front deck. Two-car attached garage.33670_1_1

Lower than ever Inventory in Seattle

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Residential Active Listings March 2015

Seattle is seeing lower than ever inventory which begs the question, why is no one selling? Profits to be made in selling are incredible right now and interest rates are still at a historic low.

For those potential move-up buyers, think of the opportunity in selling and look at what interest rate you may be paying now as compared to the interest rate you can lock-in on a new home.

Because inventory is tight, you may need to ask for rent-back to give you time to find and puchase a new home, unless you are able to purchase first and sell second.

Residential Percent of Active Inventory Sold Pending March 2015

Buyers need to strategize on how much they can escalate to their maximum approved. Be prepared to escalate – some are saying at least ten percent. If you don’t have a big downpayment you may be able to offer the seller the consessions they want, and, remember, some sellers to want to see their home go to someone that will care for it in the long run so writing a heart-felt letter to the seller can make your offer stronger.

Our in-house mortgage broker, Julia, will also underwrite on a pre-determined address. This will make your offer much stronger.

I don’t recommend buyers give up on all of the contingencies as you may need some protection in the long run.

Meanwhile, here are the latest appreciation charts: (Click here to see this chart and two other appreciation charts (King and Pierce County appreciation rates) in your browser.)

The Seattle Times recently published an interesting article about migration between counties and it surmises that we are seeing a large flow from King to Pierce county.

I have been helping buyers in Lynnwood, Burien, Puyallup, Issaqauh and Kingston as the inventory is low in Seattle. As I lived in Port Townsend for ten years, I am very familiar with Kitsap and Jefferson counties. Please contact me if you are also interested in areas surrounding Seattle!

What to do with your dog during an open house?

Watson the LabradoodleI am so excited that my advice on what to do with your dog during an open house was published by our Coldwell Banker corporate office.

I have two medium to large dogs. Watson, a Labradoodle, who I found running around a neighborhood on a dark and stormy night. I found him when I was looking for a home. It took me hours to catch him, hours to groom him, and as I could not find his owner, months to train him. After eight months, he is still a diamond in the rough.

CiCi the rottweiler
Ci Ci, a thirteen year-old Rottweiler, was adopted from the breeder as she was too shy in the ring. She has been a great ambassador for the breed as she is loyal and has a perfectly even temperament.

Both of these dogs would be affected if strangers were walking through their home, so much so I could not imagine leaving them. This is why I recommend considering your open house a time to take a walk or go to a dog park.

If you live in the city, do what my grandmother did with me – window shopping! I use to love walking with her around the beautiful shops in downtown Los Angeles when I was growing up.

Perhaps none of these options are available to you but you may have a doggy day care facility nearby. Seattle has so many it would be hard to count. I would ask for references around my local dog park (I frequent Golden Gardens, Greenlake, Magnolia and Magnuson) or look on Yelp.com.

Real Estate Absorption Charts

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One of my managing brokers puts out absorption charts each month to show us the state of the market. One of the most interesting is the percent of active inventory that is pending (Pending/Active) within residential King County.

This chart is used to determine the percent of active inventory changing status to a pending sale (pending sales are offers that been accepted but are not closed) and indicate the velocity of the market. The higher the percentage indicates movement towards a seller’s market and a lower percentage indicates movement towards a buyer’s market.

Seattle is still a seller’s market – as a matter of fact, the number of listings on the market is even lower that last year while the buyer pool is increasing. Some of the brokers who have held open houses in the last two weeks have reported up to forty groups through a house during the three-hour period on Sunday afternoon.

If you have been thinking of selling this is a great time and I can give you a complimentary market analysis. Many owners who bought during the bubble are seeing their homes returning to their values and are starting to accrue equity. Others have been waiting for prices to go up – we have a supply and demand situation in Seattle in which demand is high and supply is very, very low.

Click here to view the full PDF or view it in the window below.

New Retirement Home!

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FrontKingstonHansville

Just sold!

I’m excited to announce that a friend and client now has his dream retirement home in Kitsap County. Being an avid fisherman, kayaker and gardener he can now enjoy all of these things and more just a step away from Gamble Bay near Kingston!

I had a lot of fun finding properties near or on the water in Kitsap county throughout the summer and fall. We would do our touring and then find a nice place to have happy hour or dinner.

I think he will love living near Kingston, Hansville, Poulsbo and Bainbridge as there are so many great community events and excellent restaurants. Access to the water and wilderness areas is also very easy – not much traffic!

The return of the subprime mortgage?

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IMG_9886 I have had nice time attending holiday parties recently and have been interested to hear my friends express worry about the subprime mortgage market and a return to the mortgage crisis.

In many of the predictions for 2015 we also hear that our millennial generation is going to enter the first-time homebuyer market this year as the economy is getting better and unemployment is down. We have also heard predictions that interest rates are going to start going up.

I think this article from the Wall Street Journal addresses the topic well and points to tighter lending standards.

Through open houses I have met many first-time home buyers and a few of them have been very disappointed that they still could not qualify for a mortgage. Despite having two incomes their debt-to-income ratio is still too high considering their student loans.

Julia Eaton of Axia Home Loans is our in-house mortgage broker. She pointed out that we do have some great news – President Obama and the White House have announced that HUD and FHA will be lowering the annual mortgage insurance premium for borrowers effective February 1st. Right now the monthly premium when putting 3.5% down is 1.35%; this is being lowered to .85%.

What does this mean?

If purchasing a home for $350K with 3.5% down; the current monthly mortgage insurance premium is $376.99 per month. Effective February 1st this will now be $237.36 per month; a savings of $139.63 – this is significant.

When putting down 5% or more, the new mortgage insurance premium is now .80% from 1.30%.

FHA is now much more appealing for someone with a lower credit score as well as a small down payment.

Even with this, considering the tight lending standards across the board, I don’t think we need to worry about irresponsible lending.

What do you think?

Homes near Kingston and Hansville

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Lately I have been helping a friend of mine look for a home either on the water or near the water. He is an avid fisherman and kayaker and so has specific needs for storage of gear and parking his motor home. I was very excited to find one that had many of his criteria (three garages, extra parking and much storage space) but was also a beautiful, custom home. There is much Asian influence in the home as one of the sellers leads tours in China. He has carried the theme outside and designed some beautiful gardens carved out of the native forest. As the home is adjacent to a wetland there will never be any homes built to the south so it has a lot of privacy.

I asked for permission and posted a few of my own photos to my Facebook page.

Seattle Neighborhood Appreciation Rates

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Rainier Market Snapshot- Appreciation by Zips- recap thru September 2014_HurleySingleDigitalEach month Rainier Title sends us the previous month’s appreciation rates. In September Crown Hill real estate appreciated 15% and West Queen Anne/Green Lake/Phinney/Wallingford at 14%. Following these were Magnolia and Lake City/Northgate by 12%.

These numbers substantiate the demand we are seeing for homes in and around Seattle. The competition is still high for new listings with multiple offers and escalations.

If you are preparing to put an offer on a home, be sure to give yourself enough room to escalate. Be pre-approved or even underwritten for a to-be-determined address and customize a nice letter to the seller (some want to see these, others don’t).

Less contingencies also make your offer stronger. For example, if you can get a pre-inspection and then waive the inspection contingency your offer will be more likely to float to the top. However, this can get expensive if you are making many offers and some sellers don’t allow this.

Another contingency is the financing contingency. Again, you do want to be pre-approved. There is a little room built in to change lenders however this should be used carefully.

The neighborhood review is another contingency – try to satisfy your needs in advance for good schools and a secure neighborhood. This falls under the auspices of the buyer as brokers are not allowed to specify what neighborhood might be safe. The city of Seattle has a great crime statistics website.

A substantial down payment also sends a strong message, especially combined with solid financing. The seller wants to know you are serious.

A steady job counts for a lot – if you work for yourself you may be required to show one to two months of tax returns.

One may think that an all cash offer would trump financing, but this hasn’t always proven to be the case, especially when the cash offer is lower than the final escalator.

The escalator amount can also matter; some escalate in numbers such as $5000 at a time, others go up a percentage. The percentage can put the offer at a higher mark.

From the sellers side, your home needs to be priced appropriately; homes that are obviously overpriced are staying on the market longer than one or two weeks and can have the impression of having something wrong with them. Homes that are priced correctly are seeing from two to as many as forty offers.

The home should have great curb appeal and professional photography – most buyers shop online and those images are what brings them to your doorstep.

In summary, the appreciation rates show continued demand for homes in the Seattle area. If you are in the market as a buyer be sure to have your ducks in a row ( 🙂 ) before you make an offer (I can help you with this!).

If you are the seller, prepare your home carefully, price correctly and have great marketing.

Real Estate Transaction Map for Buyers and Sellers

Many people wonder what real estate brokers do and how the home buying and selling process works. This is a great transaction map for buyers and sellers to help you see all the twists and turns in the buying and selling process.

Real Estate Transaction Map

On the buyer side one of the most important boxes to check off is early loan approval. Aside from not wanting any last-minute surprises, in our competitive Seattle market it is critical to be pre-approved. You may need to put an offer on a home a day after touring and you want that pre-approval letter to go with the offer.

The seller needs to make sure they have clear title. One common occurrence is the situation of having a wrong or even old name on the title. This can happen for many reasons but it should be cleared up at the beginning by having your real estate broker pul preliminary title.

Once an offer has been accepted there will be timelines as dictated in the offer. Some competitive offers may limit the number of contingencies, but to protect a buyer there is usually at least the inspection, neighborhood review, and title contingencies. There is a standard number of days written into the contract but these can be overridden by writing in the number of days into the space.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

 

 

Chinese group to build Seattle high-rise in front of Insignia

After all the talk about downtown condominiums and which views are protected, it seems that the lower half of the Insignia building will lose a bit of it’s view. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, construction won’t start until 2016.

Insignia is the only new condominium building in downtown Seattle and many prospective buyers are interested in a protected view.

The new building will take the place of the Franklin Apartments which have been in existence since 1918.

Click-here for the full article.

Related article

Insignia Update and Condominium Mortgages

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InsigniaSouthTower

Melissa Camp came to our office this morning to update us on the Insignia project. She brought a beautiful large-scale image of the project but pointed out that we can see the south tower prominently out our windows!

On their website they have a fun interactive visual of what one can see from the various floors.

She filled us in on the main buyer profiles (maybe you fit into this category!).
1. Relocated to work at a high tech company (such as Amazon) and are paying exorbitant rent (I’ve met buyers in this category paying $3,500 for a small condominium). Aside from reducing the monthly payment, these buyers will also have tax benefits.

2. People living on the Eastside who want to downsize as their child will be graduating from high school soon.

3. Live in the city now and love it so are ready to commit to a home.

4. Live in an outlying area such as Spokane and want to have a pied-a-terre in the city.

5. Live overseas and have a child in college so want a place to stay when visiting.

She pointed out that people outside of our city and state love Seattle! She hears a lot about the Seahawks winning the Superbowl when she is speaking with buyers!

Many people are looking for a protected view, and while this is walking a fine line she points out that a ten story building is going up to the west and the current zoning to the west is 200 feet.

Antioch is to the east and love their building which is quite short – the zoning to the east is 400 feet.

The Insignia is the only new construction condominium in Seattle right now. One reason is because Matt Broza is bringing the project out of the ground with his own money. She loves working for Matt saying that everything is spotless and safety is at a premium. Buyers are most impressed when they go to see their unit being built wearing a hard hat! (Sounds like fun to me!).

They have sold 50% or 350 residences in the south tower. The north tower is under review as the penthouse suites sold within a month and they may combine more units to create more square footage.

Please let me know if you would like to tour Insignia and I will make an appointment with Melissa!

Continuing the condominium theme of the morning, Julia Eaton, our in-house mortgage broker, gave us a run down on requirements for a condominium mortgage.

If you are applying for a mortgage for a condominium here are a few things to think about:
– For all conventional mortgages with less than 20% down and if the condo will be for an investment or second home the building can only have 30% non-owners (70% primary residence).
– If you will be the primary resident then the building can have up to 49% investment (51% primary residence).
– HOA dues must not be more than 15% delinquent.
– In a building of 10 or more total units, no one can exceed 10% ownership.
– The underwriter will need to do a budget review and 10% of the budget needs to be set aside for reserves.
– Our mortgage broker, Julia, helped one of the residents in an HOA who volunteered to do the budget. The funds were not listed correctly so she helped rearrange so they wouldn’t lose the sale.