Bring your questions to “Ask and Answer”

 Do you have questions you’d like to ask home service professionals about your home improvement projects? “Ask & Answer” is a free monthly event where you can do just that.

Sure, you can find information online and you can get faceless referrals on Yelp, Angie’s List, etc. but wouldn’t you prefer to meet these pros in person and ask them specific questions about your specific needs? Ask & Answer provides just that. Live people!

Sponsored by the not-for-profit group, Savvy Seattle Women, Ask & Answer provides a casual, friendly, no-sales opportunity for home owners and business owners to meet, mingle and get acquainted.

Ask & Answer happens on the 3rd Wednesday of every month from 6-7PM. Drop by for a few minutes or stay the whole hour. There is no formal presentation, just mingling.

The next Ask & Answer event is Wednesday, Sept. 19th, 6-7PM at the Prudential Northwest Realty office in West Seattle. 4700 42nd Ave SW, Suite 600, in the Jefferson Square Shopping Center.

SPECIAL GUESTS FOR THE SEPTEMBER ASK & ANSWER EVENT INCLUDE:

♣ Laura Elfline, General Contractor, Mighty House Construction, 206.715.0893

♣ Irmi Jensen, Yard and Lawn Specialist, 206-325-4677

♣ Laurie Aull, Contract Painter, Aull the Best Painting, 206-799-5988

So mark your calendar, grab your friends and make a list of your questions!

AND, if you are a business owner or independent contractor, bring your own business cards because this is a great opportunity for networking!

Here’s why house numbers need to be visible

Have you ever noticed how few homes have their house numbers posted prominently so they are easily visible from the street?

I can’t give you any hard-and-fast statistics, but just from personal observation I’m guessing the number is about 30%. And that’s during the light of day. The percentage is even lower for numbers that are visible at night.

Why so few? I suspect it is because home owners rarely stop to think about why it might be important for their house numbers to be visible. After all, the mail carrier certainly knows your address, who else needs to know?

Emergency Responders do, that’s who!

If, heaven forbid, your home catches fire or a loved one has a heart attack, Emergency Response personnel need to be able to find your home quickly. A missing or nearly-invisible house number can cost precious time in the event of an emergency. It can literally mean the difference between life and death for you or your loved ones.

Here are some guidelines for maximizing the visibility of your house numbers.

~ Numbers should be posted near the front door, above eye level and within an area illuminated by a porch light. This is preferable to less obvious places such as above the garage door.

~ Posting house numbers on the mail box is fine, but this should be in addition to near the front door.

~ Numbers should be visible from both directions of travel. Check periodically to make sure that trees, bushes or shrubbery haven’t grown up and obscured your house numbers.

~ Numbers should be a color that contrasts with the background. E.g. if your house is painted a dark color, the numbers should be a light color. They should not blend with the background. Brass and bronze numbers tend to be difficult to see on many backgrounds.

~ Numbers should be at least 4″ high. The bigger and bolder, the better.

~ It is not necessary to include the street name on your house or mail box, especially if it forces a reduction in the physical size of the house numbers.

You can buy house numbers at any hardware store, with prices starting at about $2/numeral. That’s about the cheapest form of insurance you can find to help safeguard your home.

Are your house numbers visible?

Good.

 

 

Not so good.

 

Have you requested your free credit report this year?

Did you know that you are entitled to request and receive a free copy of your personal credit report from the 3 national consumer credit reporting agencies once each year? This valuable service began in 2005 in response to a law passed by Congress, known as the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). The reporting service is accessed via the website www.AnnualCreditReport.com, which is  a run as a collaborative effort among the 3 nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

What exactly is a credit report and why should you care about yours?

According to the FAQ’s on the AnnualCreditReport.com website,  “A credit file disclosure, commonly called a credit report, provides you with all of the information in your credit file maintained by a consumer reporting company that could be provided by the consumer reporting company in a consumer report about you to a third party, such as a lender.”

In other words, the report contains information about how you have handled bill payment in the past and gives it to companies that are considering giving you credit with them. This can be especially important if you are thinking of buying a home.

This information, whether accurate or inaccurate, can positively or negatively impact your ability to qualify for home and auto loans, credit cards and other sources of credit. Given the large volume of information that flows through these credit reporting agencies, it is not surprising to find that errors occur. The sooner any errors are discovered, the easier it is to correct them and minimize any negative impact on you and your credit rating. Monitoring your records regularly via these free annual reports helps accomplish this goal.

If you are new to this process, here are a few tips worth noting.

First, although you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report, the report does NOT include your credit score. Again, according to the FAQ’s at www.AnnualCreditReport.com,  “A credit score is a complex mathematical model that evaluates many types of information in a credit file. A credit score is used by a lender to help determine whether a person qualifies for a particular credit card, loan, or service.”

In other words, a credit score is similar to the grades you got in school. It is based on how you have handled credit in the past.

When you request your reports from one, two or all three of the reporting agencies, you will be given an opportunity to purchase your credit score. You are NOT required to purchase your credit score information in order to receive your report.The price and conditions to purchase your score vary with each agency; you should read the information very carefully before providing credit card information. You might be required to sign up for a credit monitoring service with a monthly fee that renews automatically each month or year, unless and until you cancel the service.

Another important thing to note before you pay for a report of your credit score is that the rating is NOT ordinarily your FICO® score, and the FICO® score is the one most lenders use to determine your credit-worthiness. Although the credit scores you can purchase from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax can give you a general idea of your current standing, they are not the same scores lenders see when they pull up your scores.

A third caution is to watch out for websites that may try to make you believe you are ordering a free credit report when you are not. Several websites have names very similar to www.AnnualCreditReport.com, but are NOT associated with it. The services they offer may or may not be free. Examples include: www.freecreditreport.com, www.freecreditscore.com and www.creditscore.com.

Lastly, if you have concerns about keeping your credit information private online, here is one more resource you may find helpful. The website is www.OnGuardOnline.gov. According to the website, it “provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against phishing and internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.”

If you have other tips related to this topic, please share them in the comments box below.

Have you received unsolicited offers to buy your home?

Have you received unsolicited calls or letters from real estate agents who offer to buy your home?  You might even have received an actual Purchase and Sale Agreement with your name, address and a purchase price already filled in. Have you wondered how they chose you and if the price they are offering is fair?

Before I answer those questions, let me provide a little background information.

Some real estate agents specialize in finding low-priced properties for developers who want to build and sell new homes. An influx of new construction can be a very positive, effective way to build or revitalize a community because many buyers want brand new homes rather than existing homes. The construction of new homes creates jobs and often brings economic benefits along with the new residents to a community.

Many builders hire or team up with real estate agents who look for properties that can be developed. These agents look for neighborhoods that are perhaps undervalued but still well located. Prices and property taxes in these areas tend to be lower, allowing builders a better chance of making a profit on their investments.

Now, back to the questions I posed in the first paragraph.

You and your home may have been chosen because you have lived there for many years. This increases the likelihood that the mortgage is paid off and you may be at a point in your life when you are thinking of downsizing. Such circumstances can make a cash offer from out of the blue seem more attractive than going to the work of putting your house on the market in the traditional way.

How do you know if the unsolicited offer you received is a fair price for your property? Chances are, you don’t know. Very few home owners can accurately estimate the current market value of their own home without first doing a lot of research. A much easier way is to contact your real estate broker (me) and ask for a free, comprehensive market analysis.

I can pretty much guarantee you that the price you would receive for your home on the open market will exceed the offer from the developer by tens of thousands of dollars. This is not because the builder is trying to cheat you, it is because he is running a business and he needs to make a profit, which is not usually possible if he pays you full market value. He is hoping that the opportunity for you to make a quick, cash sale at a lower price will outweigh the financial benefits of putting your house on the market. Sometimes it does.

If you receive an unsolicited offer to buy your home and would like my help in evaluating the offer, give me a call at 206-708-9800. I am happy to provide you with a free comprehensive market analysis (aka CMA) that will help you clarify your options. No obligation, no pressure.

Be aware that some “offers” you receive may not be from anyone represented by a licensed real estate broker. The note pictured below is from a company with a questionable business model. These hand-written notes are apparently designed to give the homeowner the impression that a passer-by liked their house enough to stop and inquire if  it is for sale. In reality, this company has targeted specific homes and researched them ahead of time. Although this company apparently buy and sell homes, they are not affiliated with a licensed real estate company or builder. If you consider responding to such an offer, I strongly recommend that you consult an attorney to be sure that the business is on the up-and-up.

 

Five Star Performance from Alice Kuder, Realtor

“The Five Star Award goes to service professionals who provide quality service to clients,” according to the researchers at Five Star Professional.

I am proud to announce that for the third year in a row, I have been selected as a Five Star Real Estate Agent. This recognition is awarded by Five Star Professionals and is  based on research with clients I have served. Less than 7% of Seattle real estate agents receive this recognition each year. Even fewer receive it for consecutive years of exemplary service.

In addition, Seattle Magazine selected Prudential Northwest Realty for its list of 2011 Seattle Real Estate Agents.

Why should you care about this award? There are more than 20,000 licensed real estate agents in Western Washington (approximately 16,000 of those are in Metropolitan Seattle). That’s a lot to choose from. Do you want just any old agent to help you with one of the most significant financial investments you will ever make? My Five Star designation tells you that the level of service I provide ranks me above at least 93% of my colleagues. But don’t stop your research there. Check out my website and call my past clients for first-hand testimonials of my exceptional service.

That is company I am proud to keep, and this is an award I am proud to accept.

The complete list of this year’s Five Star real estate agents will be published in the December issue of Seattle Magazine. (Don’t say I didn’t give you enough advanced notice.)

For more information about Five Star Awards, go to: http://www.fivestarprofessional.com/awards/five_star_award.php

How easy is that?

What do the following things have in common?

> Flipping a light switch

> Closing a cabinet door

> Stepping on the car brake

> Clicking a mouse

> Turning on/off a faucet

Give up? For most of us, they are all incredibly easy tasks to perform, requiring very little personal energy, yet we often regard them as too much work.

Think about it. It’s a lot easier to flip on a light switch than to build a fire, or even light a candle! Equally easy to flip a switch off, but how often do we leave a room without doing it?

If you’re like me, you often fail to close the cabinet doors in your kitchen? Why? How much personal energy does it really take to shut them? (And if I don’t mind showing the mess inside the cabinets, why have doors on them at all?)

I don’t know how much the average car weighs these days, but let’s say 1,000 pounds. Can you believe you can stop the forward motion of that much weight just by pressing your foot on a pedal? So why are so many pedestrians left in the dust at crosswalks?

What about the effort required to click a computer mouse? It’s easier than turning a page (which doesn’t take much effort either). Marketing researchers can tell you exactly how many clicks the average person will perform before deserting one website for another. It isn’t very many.

Next time you turn on a faucet, ask yourself when is the last time you had to draw your water from a well? Now that takes personal energy! (No, I’ve never had to do it either.)

So what’s my point? Well, it’s really nothing very profound. I just find it interesting that we have come to regard many simple tasks to be annoyances unworthy of expending our time and energy.

It’s so easy to become complacent and take modern-day conveniences for granted. Especially when we are still healthy and able-bodied.

Sometimes it’s good to step back and take a little reality check. At least it is for me.

Any thoughts on the subject?