Beware of Craigslist Rental Scams

 As if it isn’t challenging enough to sell a home or find a place to rent, real estate agents report that their active residential listings are being posted on Craigslist and other legitimate websites as rental properties. The scammers post listing details such as the address, listing photos and verbiage in the false ad. While each scam is slightly different, they often have these similarities:
  • The scammer pretends to be the homeowner or listing broker
  • The contact email address in the fraudulent ad may include the name(s) of the actual owner or listing broker
  • The scammer claims to be out of the area and asks the renter to inspect the property on their own rather than meeting in person
  • The scammer claims that the keys will be sent after a rental application, application fee, deposit, or first month’s rent is received

Craigslist is arguably the top source for finding rental properties. It publishes effective tips and hints about how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud in rental scams.

There are numerous websites (including mine) that make it easy to research a home address to see if it is actively for sale. If it is, call the listing agent and ask if the property is actually for rent.

Taking a few extra minutes to research a rental listing can help you avoid rental scams, saving you untold heartache and $$$$!

 

Broker, agent or REALTOR? What’s the difference?

Real Estate Agent. Real Estate Professional. Real Estate Broker. REALTOR®*. What’s the difference? This might be something you’ve wondered about (though I doubt it keeps you up at night).

For the most part, ‘a rose by any other name…’ is an apt description of the differences. With the exception of the title REALTOR®, an individual with a Washington State real estate license can choose any number of terms to describe themselves. “Real Estate Agent” is probably the title you hear and use most often.

On July 1, 2010, Washington State implemented a new law that changed the terminology used to identify licensed real estate salespeople; we are now called brokers. Why? I do not know.

To make matters more confusing, there are now two levels of licensure. An individual who has just earned their license is identified legally as a broker. A broker with three or more years of experience can earn the designation of managing broker. The general public will more likely identify us as agents and managers. For all practical purposes, nothing has changed in the relationship between clients and their agents/brokers. To avoid unnecessary confusion, I typically refer to myself as either a REALTOR® (see below) or an agent.

The exception I noted above is an important one, however. A broker cannot use the title of REALTOR® unless they are a paid member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). As a broker who is a REALTOR®, I agree to subscribe to a strict code of ethics which regulates my professional behavior and expresses my personal dedication to represent you and your interests with integrity and honesty. This is why I am proud to identify myself as a REALTOR® working as an associate with Prudential Northwest Realty.

Contact me today for a personal consultation and further explanation of why my status as a  REALTOR® should matter to you.

 

*NAR rules require that the term REALTOR® be capitalized and followed by a trademark symbol.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Required

If your home is currently on the market, there is a new law becoming effective April 1st that will affect you, as the seller.

(The following information is provided by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.)

Effective April 1, 2012, RCW 19.27.530 requires the seller of any owner-occupied single-family residence to equip the residence with carbon monoxide alarms in accordance with the state building code before a buyer or any other person may legally occupy the residence following the sale. This requirement applies to all single family residences, including single family homes, condominiums, and manufactured/mobile homes.

 The building code (WAC 51-51-0315) requires that an alarm be installed: (1) outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of each bedroom; (2) on each level of the dwelling; and (3) in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. The building code also requires that single station carbon monoxide alarms comply with UL 2034.  There are no exceptions for properties that do not have fuel-fired appliances or an attached garage. The alarms may be battery operated and can be purchased for as little as $25 from a variety of sources.

The building code also requires that single station carbon monoxide alarms comply with UL 2034. There are no exceptions for properties that do not have fuel-fired appliances or an attached garage. The alarms may be battery operated and can be purchased for as little as $25 from a variety of sources.

 In addition, effective April 1st, the building code requires a property owner to install carbon monoxide alarms when alterations, repairs or additions requiring a permit occur, or when one or more sleeping rooms are added or created. There has been a requirement to install carbon monoxide alarms in new construction since January 1, 2011.

 Additional information about carbon monoxide is available at the Washington State Department of Health’s website (http://www.doh.wa.gov/).

Carbon Monoxide detectors can be purchased online and at most hardware stores. Prices range from approximately $16 to $77 each. They can either be hardwired or batter operated.

 

Who’s your agent?

One of the questions I always ask visitors to my Open Houses is “Who is your agent?”

With so much information available on the internet, many buyers start shopping on their own before choosing a real estate agent, so some already have agents and some don’t. What I find interesting, and a bit baffling, is the number of people who are working with an agent whose full name they can’t even remember.

If you are really impressed by someone and by their service, don’t you usually remember their name? There are so many agents out there, don’t you want to be working with one who is really exceptional at their job? I mean, buying a house is one of the most significant financial investments you are likely to make. Don’t you want to work with someone who can maximize your efforts?

A case in point is a single woman who came into one of my Opens recently. She was already working with an agent (whose name she couldn’t recall) and we started chatting about her house-hunting experience. She had been working with her agent, who shall remain nameless because she didn’t know it), for several months, and seemed satisfied enough with the service she was receiving. Several minutes into the conversation, she asked me about Short Sales and Foreclosure properties, wondering if they might be a good option for her. I was stunned to hear that her agent hasn’t taken the time to educate her about this significant part of the market!

So what should you, as a home buyer, expect from your agent?

And here are some pointers about what to ask when interviewing an agent.

Who’s YOUR agent?

Seattle homes sales increasing

The latest statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) show increased home sales in the Seattle area.

> Pending sales in Seattle for February increased 27% from one year ago.

> Pending sales were particularly robust in Central Seattle (up 56%), Normandy Park (up 58%), Kent (up 61%) and Lake Forest Park (up 73%).

If you are a buyer and you’ve been waiting for the bottom of the market, look around you.   It may very well be here, or even behind us.

Inventory in Seattle is down 22.5% compared to one year ago. If this trend continues, the current buyer’s market will transition to a seller’s market. The Law of Supply and Demand always prevails: as supply goes down, demand goes up and so do prices. Although Short Sales and Foreclosures are still in plentiful supply, we are already seeing the return of multiple offers on well-maintained, well-priced homes. These sellers are no longer having to give away the farm.

Just as importantly to buyers, interest rates will not stay this low forever, and an increase of even one half of one percent makes a significant difference in the price of the home you can afford.

Are you ready to start shopping? Approximately 90% of home buyer’s now start their search on the internet before ever talking to a licensed agent.  So why not just call the Listing Agent directly when you find the property you want?  Here’s why.

The Listing Agent is hired by, and paid by the Seller to protect the Seller’s best interests, so it is important for you to hire a Buyer’s Agent to protect your best interests.

When one agent works on behalf of both the seller and the buyer in a single transaction it is known as Dual Agency.  Although Dual Agency is legal in this state, it is outlawed in many others because of the ethical difficulties involved in trying to serve two clients without favoring one over the other.

Asking a Listing Agent to help you buy a house is like asking a Prosecuting Attorney to defend you in court.

You deserve to be represented by an agent who is committed to serving only your best interests. That’s my job and I take it seriously. Call me for a no-obligation consultation. 206-708-9800.

 

Wine and Wisdom permeate Savvy Seattle Women

Savvy Seattle Women (SSW) is an organization I started in February of 2010 to encourage home ownership for women. The core of the group is a Board of 6 women, all working in professions related to home ownership. Our intent is to grow our businesses by serving the unique needs of women who own their own homes, or aspire to own their own homes. (It is worth noting that we do not serve exclude men. Our programs and services are available to the general public.)

During our first two years we concentrated on offering monthly workshops, referrals and online advice and complimentary services. Beginning March 21st, 2012, we are changing the style of our monthly event from a workshop format to a discussion and information format, we are calling “Wine and Wisdom”.

Rather than focusing on a single topic, we will host a Q & A session where you can get expert advice for all topics related to buying, owning and maintaining a home. SSW Board members and other home service professionals will be on hand to answer whatever questions you’d like to ask of us.

“Wine & Wisdom” gatherings happen on the 3rd Wednesday of every month. They start at 6PM and end around 7:30 at the Prudential Northwest Realty office in West Seattle’s Jefferson Square Shopping Center. 4700 42nd Ave SW, Suite 600. 

Drop in for just a few minutes or stay the whole time.

Here are examples of some of the questions you could get answered during these informal discussions:

~ What home maintenance tasks should I do on a regular basis to upkeep my home?

~ I currently rent, but I’d like to own. What steps should I take to achieve this goal?

~ What are my options for refinancing my home?

~ What are my options for financing remodeling projects?

~ What remodeling projects will net me the highest return in re-sale value?

~ What are some low-cost DIY projects I can do for my home?

~ I’m thinking of selling my home. How can I find a good real estate agent?

~ How do Community Property laws affect my rights as a home owner?

~ How can I find a good electrician? plumber? contractor? painter? etc.

We weren’t kidding when we said “Wine & Wisdom”! We serve complimentary wine and refreshments at the event!

You can sign up to receive reminders about Wine & Wisdom by registering on the  www.Meetup.com website.

Another avenue for getting your questions answered is to join our Google Group. Send your e-mail to SavvySeattleWomen@GoogleGroups.com. The professionals on our Board will review and answer your questions.

Spread the word! Savvy Seattle Women are here to help!

Property Tax Exemptions Available for Seniors and the Disabled

Did you know that Washington State law provides two tax benefit programs for senior citizens and the disabled? The two programs are: 1) property tax exemptions, and 2) property tax deferrals.

More than 26,000 eligible tax payers have not applied for these benefits. Are you one of them?

Qualifications include:

  • Annual household income of $35,000 or less
  • Own and occupy a house, mobile home, condo or co-op,
  • 61 years of age by December 31 of the previous year, or
  • Retired because of physical disability or
  • Veteran with a 100% service-connected disability
  • You are a widow, or widower, or state registered domestic partner at least 57 years of age whose spouse or state registered domestic partner had an exemption at the time of death

Here is the website that gives you all the details about how to register and receive these valuable financial benefits: http://www.kingcounty.gov/Assessor/TaxpayerAssistance/TaxRelief.aspx

 

Open House events: March 4th

Studies show that approximately 90% of all home buyers now search the internet as the first step in buying a new home. Technology makes it incredibly easy to get a virtual look at  Active listings, saving everyone a lot of time and energy. I suspect, however, that a large majority of those who search online and then visit homes in person, will tell you that there is no substitute for seeing the real thing “live”. Whether by intention or not, the photos you see online can be very deceiving. Sometimes they make the home look better than it does in person and sometimes they do not do the home justice. So despite all the advantages of online searches, Open House events remain popular, particularly for those who are still not ready to choose a buyer’s agent just yet.

This is the place to access a list of all public Open House events entered in the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (aka the MLS).

If you prefer to have a private tour of homes for sale, call or text me at 206-708-9800 to set up a time that works for you.

On Sunday, March 4th, from 11A-1P I will be holding open my own listing, a fabulous 1-bedroom condo on West Seattle’s Beach Drive. Here’s where to go for photos and details: www.SingleMindedRealEstate.com/321982. Come visit me at 4004 Beach Dr. SW, then walk across the street to access the public beach through Andover Park or stroll on down to Me-Kwa-Mooks park. So much to see, so much to do.

As usual, I will be giving away coupons for a free ice cream cone at West Seattle’s own Husky Deli.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen!?

Yep.

That’s the name of a new movie by CBS Films starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. Allied THA Marketing asked me to help promote it. In exchange, YOU can get free passes to previews of the film just for reading this blog entry 🙂

Here’s the synopsis: A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.

To get your complimentary passes to the movie. Just follow these links below and enter the accompanying code:

March 5th at AMC Pacific Place, 7PM – www.gofobo.com – Y8U5YET9

March 7th AMC Kent Station, 7PM – www.gofobo.com – FB1EDYX0

Enjoy and let me know how you like the movie!