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:

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, 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

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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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.

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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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.

Magnolia Open House, Sunday, September 21st

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Tree with DeckI love the living area of the listing I am holding open in Magnolia today! This house is primed for a few simple updates – open the kitchen to the living room and remove a recently added wall to create a master on the main. Spend summers on a deck right out of Sunset Magazine – I love the way the deck has been built around a heritage tree. This is often done with the California Live Oak in the wine country but not often seen in Seattle.

This home is just a block from Discovery Park  and four blocks from the bluff overlooking the Puget Sound and Olympics – making for easy daily strolls in a quiet neighborhood.

Houseboat Open House on Fairview

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FrontThis is a cute little houseboat that has been updated nicely – it would make a great home or vacation rental!

Located off of Fairview Avenue, it is within walking distance of all the great restaurants on Eastlake. The roof-top deck is a wonderful spot for a party or to sit and watch the Lake Union traffic go by.

Do you like to row and crew? The Montlake Rowing Club is just up the street!

Condominium Open House Today! Queen Anne, South Lake Union

I’m excited about my condominium open house in Alterra – it is directly above my office with wonderful views of Lake Union!

This condominium has two bedrooms and two full baths. It is on the top floor of the building with unobstructed views of Lake Union. The upper floor of the building is fully air conditioned which was a great relief on an eighty degree day in August.

This unit has only had one owner since the building was built in 1999 and has been very well kept up – even the beige plush carpeting is spotless.

The Alterra currently has a 74% owner-occupied to rented ratio.

South Lake Union is a buzzing culture thanks to Paul Allen, Amazon, the Gates Foundation and many other high-tech and bio-tech firms!

Each condominium building has it’s own culture and amenities, and if you are like one of my clients, you may be looking for one that is not only dog friendly but has a dog walking and bathing area.

I previewed a condominium in the Olive 8 (a dog friendly building) which just came on the market. It is a one bedroom, one bath and is in a tower of ten which have views of the Puget Sound. It is on the same floor as the dog walking area and deck – so no more wandering down to the street level when one gets home at eleven o’clock! The Olive 8 is a bit of walk to South Lake Union but the downtown Trolly is just a few blocks away.

The Enso is a very popular building as well – a bit more expensive and in demand. It is located in the Denny Triangle right across the street from Whole Foods – if you are like me, you will be wandering across the street to the hot bar when you are busy, or picking up groceries for the gourmet dinner you will be cooking that night.

The Enso is dog friendly – I was previewing one condo and passed a professional dog walker with two Labradoodles going up the elevator – it doesn’t have a dog walking area but it seems this dog walker has a lot of clients in the building.

Ballard Place is a fair ways from South Lake Union but it is an easy commute by bus or bike. I bring it up as it is dog friendly, has a concierge during working hours and a beautiful roof deck with Pea Patch containers for gardening. It also has an area for bike and kayak storage.

Many buildings will have a dedicated storage closet for each unit and dedicated parking spots, although there is a trend towards new buildings with no parking at all. This concept cites the trend for walking, biking or bussing as a commuting alternative.

It is important to do your “due diligence” and look at the CC and R’s (as we call them – convenants, conditions and restrictions). These will spell out all the rules and some of them are very important.

For example, each building will have a rule concerning rentals – this is called the “rental cap”. While some buildings allow no rentals (a bonus for some), others have no “cap” – any and all units can be rented. Sometimes there may be a waiting period before a new owner can rent. There can be a minimum lease period, screening of the tenant and a need to inform the management.

An HOA can put forth a change to the CC&R’s and rental cap but it would need to be approved by the ownership. It doesn’t mean they could enact one in the future but it would require a vote and approval by the ownership. This process and the percentages needed will be spelled out in the resale certificate/CC&R’s.

Other important items to note are the reserves, any special assessments and the strength of the HOA (home owners association).

Each building will have monthly dues – sometimes these are based on the square footage of the condominium. These dues will cover various things but usually cover water, sewer, garbage, earthquake insurance, common area maintenance and sometimes cover WiFi, basic cable and other amenities.

Dues that are not immediately used for the above are put into the reserves and saved for large expenditures such as painting the building. If there are not enough reserves for a big project, the HOA might ask for a special assessment for the project.

The strength of the HOA refers to a few different situations – it could refer to the amount of money in the reserves or the amount of involvement by the board. Some HOA’s are sticklers about following the rules and others are very loose – this can also change with the board.

Condominiums are not the only entities that have an HOA – many houseboats are “fee simple” and the dock will have an HOA (while others are often cooperatives). Housing developments can also have an HOA (and may or may not allow rentals).




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.

Vacation Homes

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LivingRoomRecently I have been showing waterfront homes around San Juan Island to a clients who likes to kayak. As many do, they want a home that can double as a vacation rental and that they can possibly retire to. We have toured four  homes on the northeast side of the island and three on the west side, none of them over 750k.

One listing is a custom built home with tall ceilings, a loft, chef’s kitchen, two bedrooms and bathrooms. The interior walls are lovely and the
cabinets are flush – as secret compartments.


A path from the deck leads to a prominent point past the little sauna and full-sized hot tub. The neighbor told us one can watch the sun set four months out of the year (although we were there on one of the most damp days this summer!) The two-car garage has a guest unit above which is totally self contained.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat at Roche Harbor in the middle of our tour – the main spot on the west side of the island.







I decided to stay the night at the Bird Rock in Friday Harbor and had a delicious sushi dinner at the Tops’l Seafood Bar.

As there are properties on Orcas Island I decided to preview a couple of them and I was glad I did as my clients returned on Saturday. This was a working vacation at it’s best other than the fact that being at the height of the season there were not very many places to stay. I stayed at Doe Bay Thursday night (I met many people attending weddings) and the Lodge on Orcas Island Friday and Saturday night which is somewhat akin to a hostel. The host made me feel very comfortable and I felt that his home was my home and especially enjoyed the beautiful aquariums and flower baskets.
My favorite listing was right by Rosario (completely booked for the weekend, by the way). It sits on a sunny high bank and has full access to the marina and beach adjacent to Rosario. The seller lovingly updated the home with imported limestone for the kitchen, stone from California around the fireplace and designed and built the deck to take advantage of the view.

Considering it’s proximity to Rosario I think it would make a great vacation rental.

If you are looking for a vacation rental in the San Juan Islands (I’ve toured San Juan Island, Orcas Island or Lopez Island) a couple of items to note is that some homeowners associations won’t allow what used to be called transient rentals. It is important to check out the CC and R’s (covenants and restrictions). Some people may tell you that despite the CCRs rentals are overlooked, but as a buyer beware.


IceCream2Pre-existing rentals will have track record and will provide you with a history. One rental on the island now is bringing in about forty thousand a year, for example, but it is being sub-platted it will need a new septic system as it shares the septic with the seller.




Here is a link to the page which has the permit application.


If a property does not have a permit it will cost $1000.00 for a provisional permit and $2300.00 for a conditional permit. A rural farm is considered provisional while a residence is considered conditional. This is a one-time fee.



The sun came out while I was on Orcas and I stopped to have an ice cream cone at Moran State Park  and to walk the dogs at north beach.

As I was catching the ferry I noticed this cute taxi and thought what a way to tour homes on Orcas Island!


Seattle Housing Prices up Six Percent!

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Prices in Seattle are still rising do to low inventory! Some sellers are still waiting to sell and we often wonder why – is it because they are worried about finding their next home due to low inventory, or are they waiting for prices to rise further? We are in the midst of real estate’s busy season and may not see a slow-down until the end of the year when we all settle down for the holidays.

Houseboat Open House in Fremont

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July 6, 2014

Houseboat Open House

933 N Northlake Wy 6, Seattle, WA, 98103

I love houseboats – the experience of being on the water, the neighborly aspect and the continually changing views of boats and weather are all inspiring.

This houseboat is located on the north shore of Lake Union right in the Fremont neighborhood and adjacent to Adobe, Google, PCC and – it is one of Seattle’s high-tech neighborhoods.

Stop by between one to four o’clock to experience houseboat living!

Click Here more information!

June MarketFlash with Appreciation Rates

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Our monthly MarketFlash shows that we are still seeing some great appreciation rates! Mercer Island has the highest appreciation at 23.4% and 62 new and 103 active listings, 50 closed sales in May and 162 closed this year, a median sales price of $1,091,000, and an average of 55 days on the market.

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

Many homes have reached or are reaching the values they saw before the 2007 recession which is great news for for many homeowners who have been underwater!

Axia, our new in-house mortgage brokerage

Our in-house mortgage broker, Julia Eaton Harford, is now with Axia and she has some great things to say!

Axia’s mortgage rates are fantastic! Today a Conventional 30 year fixed mortgage is 4.375%; Agency Jumbo 30 year fixed (Loan amount between $417,001 and $506K) is 4.50%; and Jumbo 30 year is (Loan amount over $506K) 4.375%! Axia also passes on sizable lender credits (all based on the days pricing) which can really help your borrower save on closing costs. For example; the Conventional 30 year fixed rate of 4.375% comes with a $1500.00 credit. Note like interest rates, credits change daily as well.

Underwriting a mortgage with a To Be Determined address file continues to be a great way to set yourself from the pack and Axia recognized this!

Axia will guarantee a 15 Day Close when a loan has been fully approved on a TBD property prior to going into contract on a home. Guarantee is subject to the borrower maintaining their credit rating and score, income, debt and asset status, etc. This only applies to primary residences, & 1st lien position only. The borrower needs to provide time sensitive documentation within 48 hours of accepted offer and the guarantee is valid up to 20 days prior to initial credit approval expiration. This guarantee does not apply to Jumbo loans, VA, REO, short sales, & property flips.

One of her suggestions is to become pre-approved on a to-be-determined address. This helps make your offer stronger and helps quicken the closing process.

Waterfront Life and Vacation Homes

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Four of my friends are looking for vacation homes on waterfront property and so I have been lucky to tour the Olympic Peninsula and islands such as Lummi, Orcas, San Juan and Lopez!

I consider these tours working vacations as I am visiting places I have loved over the last thirty years as a kayaker.

Lummi Island is my least visited island although I did camp with friends at the DNR site on the southwest corner and then circumnavigated the island the following day. Lummi was put on the map in the last few years by the Willows Inn and Chef Blaine Wetzel. I had stopped at the Willows for happy hour a few years ago and enjoyed the view and peaceful setting.

Returning as a Realtor brought the Willows to my attention again as they lease a few of the homes that are up for sale. Considering my clients would be absentee owners for the first few years, buying a home leased by the Willows could be an asset if the contract could be renewed.

There is also one main vacation rental company on the island, another option for an absentee owner who is interested in an investment property.

Orcas, Lopez and San Juan vacation rentals are governed by the San Juan County Code. Some of the homes listed come with a vacation rental permit while one would need to apply if they don’t. There are two applications; $1000.00 for a provisional permit (rural farm) and $2300.00 for a conditional permit (rural residence). This is a one-time fee.

These designations can be found on Polaris.

Lopez is often used by bicyclists and kayakers, Orcas has a proliferation of art studios and San Juan boasts Friday and Roche Harbors which are popular with the yachting crowd.

Aside from sailing, motoring, kayaking or canoeing to the San Juans, the Washington State Ferry system or a short flight (next door to my office on Lake Union) are the best ways to travel!

I hope this is a helpful article for anyone who wants to buy a second home in the San Juan Islands!

Customer Satisfaction Survey

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As I have several clients in the “mid point” of looking for a home I developed a Survey Monkey survey to see how I could help my clients further.

This is one of the first and is quite pleasing! My take on the constructive feedback is that it is important to see homes in person. While this may seem to be obvious, pictures don’t always tell the full story. Sometimes they are so professional they show the home in it’s best light and the leave out certain features – how close the house is next door, the unimproved basement, the fact that the view may be from one upstairs window only and a myriad of other things!

The flip side of the coin is that some realtors use point-and-shoot cameras or their phones to take pictures. In my case, I rarely want to send the listing out.

Most of us always try to preview a home in person before we send a listing out – this is why we spend time going to broker’s opens, for example. When I go to a broker’s open I always find out more about the home that I did when I saw the listing on the MLS as the listing agent shares more than what one can see online.

As I have been showing some waterfront homes in remote locations lately (Lummi and Orcas Islands) I often can’t preview – then we are having an adventure together and I can help by doing as much research as I can in advance through the tax records, by pointing things out as we go through and by engaging in follow-up research to answer any questions that come up.

Here is a web link to the survey:

Q1: How did you find me? (Check all that apply)
Q2: How satisfied, dissatisfied, or neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with your experience to date with me?
Extremely satisfied
Q3: How likely are you to recommend me to others?
Extremely likely
Q4: What has been your favorite experience to date while searching for a home or listing your home for sale?
The professional manner in which Andree conducted herself was exceptional; as well as on a personal level she showed she cared by treating me as a member of her family. I appreciated her empathy and hard work, as well as her dog Cici.
Q5: Are you happy with the home suggestions sent to you?
Q6: How is our communication?
Andree is still trying to help me, although, she understands that I am not looking to relocate into her…town.
Q7: What would you like more of?
Nothing more, my agent was almost perfect.
Q8: What would you like less of?
Not having control of how pictures of properties are taken, which can not be realistic at times.
However, this was not my Agent’s fault. Thank you.

A Comparison of Three Neighborhoods

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We have heard that there is low inventory and short days on the market, but of course it’s important to put a few other things into the mix such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms and price. The demand from new families is huge and most are looking for three bedrooms and at least one bath on one floor. Homes that fit this layout that are in the four to seven hundred thousand price range are seeing a lot of competition.

I track sales in various neighborhoods and this time studied Maple Leaf, Richmond Beach and Magnolia.

Charts from Maple Leaf, Richmond Beach and Magnolia, neighborhoods in Seattle.

(Click Here to see the full sized image.)

Maple Leaf: The listing at 8236 16th Ave NE was listed at $464,950 and sold for $523,000 which is %12.49 above list – the price per square foot was $278.19 and it was only on the market for 6 days. Click here for the full report on 98115. The chart shows that Maple Leaf has an absorption rate of 213% in pending sales – how can it be more than 100 – market is fluid, pendings are overlapping and actives have been absorbed because they have built up.

Richmond Beach: The listing at 19604 18 Ave NW was listed at $399,950 and sold for $420,000 which is %5.01 above list – the price per square foot was $149.47 and it was only on the market for 6 days. Click here for the full report on 98177.

Magnolia: The listing at 3615 38th Ave W was listed at $899,000 and sold for $920,000 which is %2.34 above list – the price per square foot was $302.83 and it was only on the market for two days.Click here for the full report on 98199.

One of the best strategies is to price these homes at market value and expose them for approximately a week. This gives enough time for a brokers and two public open houses. Some listings allow pre-inspections and some do not (scheduling appointments for a pre-inspection can be important.)

Following this time period offers are reviewed on a weekday evening and usually they will see escalations. We have heard of upwards of forty groups attending some open houses and as many as forty offers on a single listing.

Another reason there is low inventory is because new construction is lagging behind, although it is picking up as builders are finally able to access needed loans to start or complete projects.

If you have been on the fence about listing your home this is a great time. I can prepare a market analysis to show you at what price we can list your house and send you a copy of the two reports I generated for these charts.

Absorption Rates for Neighborhoods in King County

When we say the Seattle market is really hot right now, it is because inventory is even lower than last year and demand is higher than last year. In King County over all we have 3,000 active listings. Pending listings are somewhat flat and the absorption is down.

Inventory hasn’t grown compared to last year; it’s down from last year!

Last year we had a 99% absorption rate in Residential King County (it was 60 percent in 2012). This year the inventory is same but pending is not keeping up, so the absorption rate is down.

Condominiums were at 90% absorption last year still behaving this year like last year.

However, active condominiums are going down – they dropped from January to February. Last year we had 2900 pending, this year 2600.

If we compare neighborhoods – talking about hot markets – looking at 710, North Seattle – 137 percent absorption – how can it be more than one hundred percent? The market is fluid, pendings are overlapping and actives have been absorbed because they have been building up….118 pendings, 86 active listings.

While these numbers come from studies, they play out in “real life” too – one of the Realtors in our office listed a duplex in Greenwood a few weeks ago and had forty offers – it went well above listing price.

700, Queen Anne, Magnolia – 83%
715, Richmond Beach, Shoreline – 85%
140, West Seattle – 90%
390, Central Seattle – 82%

The Eastside (Bellevue, Kirkland) is weaker…
Mercer Island – 54%
Bellevue east of 405 – 57%
390, Central Seattle – 82%
705, Ballard-Greenlake – 140 percent

Coldwell Banker Bain Community Partnership Program

I just signed up Washington Water Trails to the Coldwell Banker Bain Community Partnership program!

Each time a Washington Water Trails member buys or sells a home with me, Coldwell Banker Bain will donate an amount equal to 10 percent of his/her commission to Washington Water Trails.

We have several organizations in our program – if you want to donate to one of them after your transaction closes, please let me know and I will get them signed up!

Remodeling? The steel entry door pays off!

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When I was at the Magnolia open house a week ago a few people mentioned they were on the fence between remodeling and buying. Of course most of them wanted another bathroom or bedroom but if one is looking for value it seems a steel door is your best bet (followed by the bedroom in the attic).

Kitchens always come up high on the list and one can choose between minimal (82%) or major (74%). Granite counter tops, dishwashers and eating nooks are high on the list as are creating open space and pass-throughs.

Colors are important – if you are thinking of selling, neutral trumps creative as your buyers will look at your home as an open canvas.

Here are more tips and statistics on remodeling:

Vacation Home in Leavenworth Closed!

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I smile when I think about my client and her family spending time at their new cabin!

They say: “We have been working with Andree for some time to find the perfect vacation home in Leavenworth. In the end, she was able to help us find the perfect place and worked hard through the entire process going above and beyond when the listing agent was not doing their job. We would highly recommend Andree to anyone – especially if you are looking for a place in Leavenworth to call their own!”

Rainier Title’s February Report

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More statistics! Real estate volume is building in March and February showed more appreciation – I am almost getting tired of the word I say it so often. The good news is that equity in the housing market has built up and more sellers are comfortable putting homes their homes up for sale.

With the job market and economy improving more people are moving out of family homes and looking for their own homes, driving up the demand. Add-in first-time home buyers and families moving up and we still have great demand!

Click here or view the report in the window below.

Ryan Lewis and the Elgins

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Moving can be stressful but the Elgins have gracefully moved out of their three story home on the Seattle waterfront within a month and meanwhile entertained the new owner, Ryan Lewis, while they were at it. This is a poignant story which shows how transition can be a positive experience!

Forbes gives a bit of Ryan’s background.

I toured the home a few months ago and while it stated to be four bedrooms it seems much larger! The home has a lot of “nooks” that might not count as rooms.


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I took the time today to go over Rainier Title’s most recent appreciation report and noticed some interesting figures. For my friends at Stevens Pass who have vacation cabins or live in Skykomish the rate shows 330% – however there was only one sale.

For the rest of us in the metropolitan area the figures include many more sales – Enumclaw has seen an increase and a 31% appreciation rate, Issaquah 28%, Lake Forest Park 95%. In Seattle 98105 has seen 38%, 98133 at 51% – things are looking up for sellers!

Green Lake, Ballard, Queen Anne and Magnolia are all moving quickly right now – with the short supply and high demand multiple offers are still the rage. I held an open house at Green Lake yesterday and spoke with a buyer who is moving with his family back from a government job in Vietnam. He put an offer on a home and was the highest bidder, however another buyer had waived all of their contingencies and won the offer. They are still in underwriting so there may be hope.

As buyers agent it is a good idea to keep in touch with the listing agent in case they will keep you up-to-date. A listing agent did call me at nine o’clock pm and indicated she was asking all buyers to remove their contingencies and give their highest and best – a tough call but we did I was able to deliver that home to my buyer.

It is still a seller’s market – that old supply and demand issue. If you have been on the fence about selling your home please contact me about an analysis – many home prices are back up and equity is building.

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

Lifestyles, Micro-housing and Other Trends

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I have always been a lifestyle person thanks to my parents. I grew up in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles and we had a nice garden with a swimming pool; I spent a lot of time climbing and swinging from a lovely sycamore tree and even watching birds and wildlife out the windows of our mid-century modern. I not only learned to swim before I could walk, I learned to ski so early I can’t remember my first time! My first major was in landscape design and as I was living in San Luis Obispo attending Cal Poly it was all about pools, decks, fruit trees and framing views.

So it was much to my surprise that I attended a discussion that housing is not only getting smaller but oriented towards more outdoor living. Here in the northwest. outdoor living spaces include large fireplaces and other heating elements for warmth. I saw a home which fits this description near Indianola recently – it is located on the water and made out of large blocks of stone. It’s outdoor patio has a fireplace large enough to border one side and a roof to shelter from the rain.

On the small side the conversation moved to pods – Seattle is catching up to Hong Kong, Europe and some American cities in bringing these in. While it seems to be negatively impacting neighborhoods such as Eastlake and Capital Hill, they seem to be well received over all and a much needed housing solution for the influx we are having thanks to many of the high tech companies. Demand analysis will tell us more.

A final trend which picked up speed last year is remodeling – four homes are being completely remodeled right around my house. These homes aren’t necessarily being flipped but are having a full facelift.

Inventory is so low right now that one home on Capital Hill had over thirty offers and escalated over one hundred thousand – it will be interesting to see how these trends play out in 2014!

Seattle Times Highlights Real Estate’s Low Inventory and Higher Prices

Supply and demand seem to be at work! The Seattle Times highlights January’s real estate market and low inventory.

The chat around my office in the AGC Building on Lake Union is “I am helping a lot of buyers but there is nothing to show them”. Pent-up demand is high and while many sellers want to show their home during the spring when the flowers are blooming, buyers are looking now.

Our Monday morning sales meeting revealed that an average home on a corner in the Queen Anne neighborhood had over thirty offers and possibly escalated from 550k to over 650k. Granted it might be a tear down but it does show the seriousness of the market.

Seahawks are Gaining Momentum!

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Seahawks to the Superbowl!

Go Hawks, I’m in!

While teaching my group of nine-year olds skiing at Stevens Pass yesterday I was swept up in Seahawks excitement! Stevens Pass sold one thousand twelve-dollar tickets and is hosting a special buffet today for people who love to ski and watch football!

It is apparent everywhere; one of my student’s parents flew to the Superbowl, I was given a Seahawks hat to wear and saw a parade on Lake City Way in honor of the game.

Feeling the need to get more educated, I found this excellent article on the New York Times this morning which filled me in on the teams and past statistics.

Now to watch the game (and the commercials!)!

National News and the Seattle Real Estate Market

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The national news has a trending topic that real estate is down. Is this an economic fact affecting everyone in the nation or is housing being affected in certain local markets due to weather or other local events?

Seattle has picked up after the holiday season and while more listings are hitting the market it is still a sellers market. I have met many buyers who are specifically looking for three bedroom, two bath homes – often hoping for three bedrooms and one bath on the same floor.

As they are hard to find some buyers are being less particular about the neighborhood and just trying to satisfy their criteria.

Other buyers are looking to be close to a school or medical center and so their search might take a bit longer.

I have run a few reports today that show the active, pending and sold listings in the Seattle area. I included Queen Anne/Magnolia and went as far north as Shoreline, east to Lake Forest Park and as far south as Capitol Hill/Madrona.

Comparative Market Analysis of homes between 400-600k, three bedrooms and two baths in the Seattle area.

Statistical Market Analysis of Seattle between 400-500k, two plus bedrooms and bathrooms.

Area Market Survey of listings between 400-500k.

Also affecting today’s market is a rise in interest rates and new stricter rules on lending that have been created to make sure that a buyer can pay back a mortgage. These rules protect both the buyer and the lender but being more restrictive are creating a situation where some buyers might have qualified in December but aren’t qualifying today.

Additionally, the Fed spoke yesterday and they are cutting back on the purchase of mortgage backed securities by another 10 billion per month for a total of 20 billion per month. Interestingly this hasn’t affected interest rates in a negative way. The rate for a 30 year fixed today is 4.50% paying zero points up to a loan amount of $417K.

Jobless claims came in a bit higher than expected this week so this may be the reason why rates have stayed on the lower side.

Our economy is still showing signs of weakness here and there which overall is keeping rates under 5% for the time being.

It is a very competitive market out there as you all know! Julia, our in-house lender at Landover, will underwrite with a “To Be Determined” address to help buyers be more competitive. An official approval letter vs. a pre-approval letter can make a huge difference.

While it is a seller’s market, sellers still need to be careful of overpricing. I often hear people talk about a strategy of starting high. Sometimes this is because a seller wants or needs to get a certain amount from a home to pay off a mortgage or to have the buying power to purchase a new home. Some think buyers can then make a lower offer perhaps when asking for a repair.

We talk about seller optimism versus market realism. The market sets the price and our job as Realtors is to prepare a market analysis to show you where your property sits as compared to other properties.

If the property is overpriced the public perception that something is wrong, however when it is priced correctly to the market then the listing will get multiple offers.

One compromise is to list five percent above the price pulled from the market analysis and if the property doesn’t sell after one month, drop the price by five percent.

2014 is off to a great start in real estate – all we need now are a few more listings on the market to satisfy the buyer demand!

Cabin Listing and Photography

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I headed up towards Mount Baker over Martin Luther King weekend to hold my vacation cabin listing open. Between customers I did day and nighttime photography of the mountain and the stars from the upper deck.

Paying attention in this way brought back to me the peace and stillness of life outside the city and a greater appreciation of a get-away such as this!

Mount Baker with Orion

This image is an overlay of the sunrise and evening stars, specifically the constellation Orion. I set-up my Nikon D7000 in interval mode to create star trails and thought the image of Orion the best. Orion shows in the early evening a couple of hours after sunset.

When Issues of Title Become Interesting

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Everyone has their war stories and often a Realtor’s is about title! In this video we hear how a couple was relocating to another state and so put their home on the market. Much to their surprise when title was drawn they found two erroneous liens on their property.

I purchased a home for a buyer on top of the hill in Magnolia. When I pulled preliminary title it claimed that there was a railroad easement through the property – we had that fixed right away.

Here is a video from about our in-house company, Rainier Title:

King 5 and Get Jesse

Quick comparison of Seattle and Shoreline

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As I have heard that some buyers who haven’t been able to purchase in Seattle are going to Shoreline, increasing the demand. It is said that prices drop once one crosses 145th Street however according to the Trendgraphix report prices rose 25.8% compared to the last year.


Seattle For Sale, Sold, Pended

Home For Sale in December 2013: 759 units.
• Down 19.4% compared to the last month
• Up 1.1% compared to the last year

Home Listed in December 2013: 315 units.
• Down 34.5% compared to the last month
• Up 20.2% compared to the last year

Home Closed in December 2013: 504 units.
• Down 9.8% compared to the last month
• Down 2.1% compared to the last year

Home Placed under Contract in December 2013: 404 units.
• Down 23.8% compared to the last month
• Up 16.1Content % compared to the last year

Seattle For Sale, Sold, Pended, New

*Buyer’s market: more than 6 months of inventory based on closed sales
Seller’s market: less than 3 months of inventory based on closed sales
Neutral market: 3 – 6 months of inventory based on closed sales


For sale, sold and pending in Shoreline
December 2013 Average For Sale Price is Neutral*

Average For Sale Price (in thousand) in December 2013: $505
• Down 3.3% compared to the last month
• Down 17.9% compared to the last year

December 2013 Average Sold Price is Neutral*

Average Sold Price in Shoreline

Average Sold Price (in thousand) in December 2013: $405
• 0% compared to the last month
• Up 25.8% compared to the last year

*Based on 6 month trend – Appreciating/Depreciating/Neutral

Links for Trends and Statistics in Real Estate

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It is nearing the end of the year and time to take a look at recent past trends and predictions for next year! The shortest summary is that we have seen appreciation in home prices and an increase in interest rates – and both are expected to continue into 2014. The increase in interest rates reduces buying power. For example, a buyer looking at a home listed for 600k in December will probably be able to afford a home at 550k in January when the rate they were locked-in at moves up.

The news is better for sellers – due to the low inventory in Seattle and the appreciation rate a seller can expect to receive more for their home in 2014.

With the economy improving many people will have more buying power. There are predictions that some households who incorporate their children and/or parents will have the buying power to move out buy their own homes, or buy second and vacation homes.

We are also currently experiencing the largest passing of wealth from the silent generation. Baby boomers are not excited about stock and so are investing in real estate and vacation homes.

Interest rates – the federal reserve will keep near zero until the economy is stronger. Short term rates will stay low; long term rates will rise – treasury rates will rise with the 30 year rise closer to 5%.

Credit availability – FICO scores from 2007-2012 were almost impossible. FICO on closed loans will reduce…easing up of lending, makes surge of buying. Banks and lenders need to make money and so need to be creative.

Please peruse the following links:

Greg McBride

Top 5 Reasons Americans Buy a Home

Owning is still…

Return on Investment

Breakdown of the American Family’s Net Worth

The 2 Best Ways to Invest, Home Prices Over the Next 12 Months

Recent Rate Movement

Mortgage Rate Projections

Mortgage Bankers

Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae

Daren Blomquist Quote

Yanling Mayer Quote

Stan Humphries Quote

30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage History

Pending Home Sales, Months Inventory, Distressed Properties

S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices

Jennifer Listens Blog

Open House Map for December 15, 2014

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Open House on Lorentz PlaceI’ll be holding an open house today!

Some have described this listing as walking into a time capsule – it is a well maintained home which retains a period feel. Set on a quiet dead-end street it boarders a beautiful ravine. I have enjoyed the privacy and, being a bird watcher, have enjoyed seeing Stellar jays, ravens and chickadees. The lower level is in use a master bedroom and has floor to ceiling windows with a deck overlooking the trees.

If you are touring open houses see the map below or click here for the full document. These are homes priced between 400-600k, three-plus bedrooms and two-plus baths. Many buyers are looking for this specific criteria in many different neighborhoods.

November’s Market Stats

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Our November 2013 Market Statistics came out today and it shows us that West Bellevue/Medina had the highest appreciation followed by Federal Way, Woodinville, Richmond Beach, Mt. Baker, Kirkland and Auburn. The University District/Ravenna had the shortest average days on the market at twenty-four days.

Read it below or click here for the full document.

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service’s Monthly Report

Here is the monthly report on real estate trends in the northwest! (Read it below or click here for the PDF.)

It seems most prices have gone up and may continue to go up while hopefully leveling off so as to not create a bubble.

Interest rates are continuing to go up reducing buying power in the future.

I am excited to see my principal managing broker, John Deely, quoted in the press release!

Christmas Ship Schedule

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The sound of Christmas carols outside my office window reminded me to post the Christmas ship schedule. One ship is boarding in front of MOHAI! See the schedule below for Argosy Cruises or Click here for the full sized version!

Christmas Ship at South Lake Union and MOHAI

Christmas ship at the Museum of History and Industry at South Lake Union

Christmas Ship Schedule in Seattle

Christmas Ship Schedule in Seattle on Lake Union and in Elliot Bay