Key box provides insurance against lock-out’s

Have you ever locked yourself out of your car or home? Or maybe you’ve needed to ask a neighbor to access your home when you’re not there. Do you have a safe spot to hide a key?

You’d be surprised how many people still leave a key under the doormat. (Shhh! Don’t tell the bad guys!)

A safe, inexpensive solution is to buy a “contractor’s” key box and attach it to a railing (or other permanent fixture) on your property. They are simple to install, can be moved from one location to another and use a re-programmable combination lock to give access to anyone you choose.

You can buy them at any hardware store for about $25. Be sure to get a sturdy one with a metal casing — not plastic — to prevent theft.

Here’s what they look like. Most are blank, but this one has my branding on it, because I gift them to my clients on move-in day.

Posted 3/16/17

photo of contractor's lock box

Help for Homesellers

It’s a seller’s market! Should you take advantage of it? 

If you own your home, it’s definitely worth considering. But where do you begin? How do you know how much your home is worth and whether or not it makes financial sense to sell?

I can help you answer those questions in one of two ways. 1) a one-on-one complimentary consultation at a time and place of your convenience; or, 2) via a free, group presentation on Sat., March 11th in West Seattle.

My BHHS (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices) colleague, Shari Kruse, and I will be co-presenters. Together, we have over 45 years of experience helping people just like you, buy and sell their homes. Our goal is always to get our sellers the most amount of money in the least amount of time, and we have a proven track record of doing just that. 

If you are considering selling, the first thing you need to do is to get a professional CMA (comparative market analysis) from one or more experienced Realtors®. Not all CMA’s are created equal, however.

My preferred method is to use a two-step process. I make an initial visit to your home to tour your property and discuss your goals, then I go to work finding comparable properties to use in the written report I will review with you a few days later.

At the end, I will provide you with TWO suggested list prices.

The first is the price you should ask if you want to sell “As Is.” I.e. if you want to put your house on the market with little-to-no preparation.

The second is the price you can expect to get if you do a list of recommended repairs.

My presentation will also include a “Net Proceeds” sheet that will show you how much of a profit you can expect after paying off your current mortgage and deducting selling expenses.

It is rarely a good idea to do major remodeling just for the sake of getting a higher price. The chances of your tastes matching those of potential buyers is too low to justify the time and expense. Besides, most remodeling projects do not even re-coup their costs, let alone increase the value beyond that point.

Remodeling Magazine publishes an annual report called “Cost vs. Value.” It includes information about how much you can expect to spend on specific remodeling projects and how much of the investment you are likely to regain in resale value. The report even goes so far as to provide statistics that are geographically specific to various parts of the country, including Seattle. You can download the report here: Cost vs. Value 2017 – Seattle.

You undoubtedly have many, many more questions about the process of selling your home. As I said above, I am happy to help either one-on-one or by way of a group presentation.

Give me a call today to discuss your real estate needs. 206-708-9800.

Posted 2/8/17

 

In Seattle, upkeep of public sidewalks is homeowner responsibility

I recently had the misfortune of tripping over a “lift” on a public sidewalk in my West Seattle neighborhood. Although I wasn’t seriously injured, I fell hard and even scraped my cheek on the sidewalk. My right shoulder and hip absorbed most of the impact, leaving my quite sore for the next couple of days and contributing (I suspect) to an attack of bursitis in my right hip.

When I was telling a friend about the incident, she informed me that (in Seattle, at least) homeowners are responsible for the upkeep of the portion of public sidewalk connected to their property. Sure enough, when I went on the City of Seattle website, I discovered that not only are homeowners responsible to maintain the sidewalk, they are also charged with care of planting strips, RainWise rain gardens and cisterns, unimproved roadway shoulders (i.e. where there are no sidewalks), and unpaved alleys.

This could come as a nasty surprise if someone injures themselves on an area you are responsible to maintain. The words “potential lawsuit” come to mind.

You can bet that I went right out to check the condition of my own sidewalk. Especially when I read the part that says, “a fault or other discontinuity greater than 1/2 inch in the sidewalk” must be remedied.

In the case of my fall, the obstruction was caused by tree roots that forced the sidewalk to lift; a common occurrence we’ve all seen all too often. As you can see from the photo, the roots had created a bulge that was substantially more than 1/2″.

photo of bulge in sidewalk

Tripping hazard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sent the homeowners a letter informing them of the incident and the city requirements, but so far, they haven’t taken any action to mitigate the situation.

What does the sidewalk in front of your home look like?

Posted 1/1/2017

Seattle Real Estate Recap: 2016

What will the new year bring for the real estate market in Seattle? If only I had a crystal ball!

I can, however, give you a quick recap of 2016, which may be the best predictor for 2017. It’s both good news and bad news, depending upon whether you are a seller or a buyer.

November (2016) marked the second straight month that the Seattle area was crowned top in the nation in home-price growth.

That’s a dubious honor when you consider that the typical single-family home across King, Snohomish and Pierce counties cost 10.7 percent more in October than it did a year ago.

Brisk job growth and a continued sparseness of homes on the market continues to drive prices higher as buyers compete for a dwindling number of houses for sale. The typical single-family house now costs $550,000 in King County.

The surge in home prices does seem to be slowing, at least a bit, compared to the dizzying pace seen last spring and summer.

Meanwhile, interest rates have crept up, but are still incredibly low.

If you’d like to discuss your plans to buy or sell in the coming months, please give me a call. 206-708-9800.

Posted 12/31/16

Home design trends: 2016

DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2016

BUILDER recently asked real estate professionals to share their thoughts about the top design trends their clients are currently requesting. Here are some of the top design trends that real estate pros said are in demand:

  • Open layouts
  • Neutral color schemes
  • Multigenerational floor plans
  • First-floor master suites
  • No dining rooms
  • White kitchens
  • Extra-large garages
  • Big closets
  • Finished basements with 9-foot high ceilings
  • Barn sliding doors

Source: “REALTORS®’ Most In-Demand Design Trends,” BUILDER (Nov. 16, 2016) and “15 Things REALTORS® Want Builders to Know,” BUILDER (Nov. 14, 2016)

Take Inventory of Your Home’s Contents

If you are a homeowner with a typical mortgage, then you most likely have homeowner’s/hazard insurance because lenders require it before approving your loan. They want to ensure that you can repair or rebuild your home in the event of a catastrophe such as fire or flood. This ensures that the bank can continue to collect mortgage payments.

The cost of the insurance is rolled into your monthly payment so you probably don’t even think about it, which may be a good thing.

If you ever need to file a claim, however, you might be surprised to discover how difficult it is to list all the belongings you lost. That’s why you should shoot digital video of the contents of your home.

Why shoot video rather than take photographs? Because video also captures audio and it’s easier and more efficient to verbally describe the objects as you pan the room to record.

Once you have the video recording, be sure to transfer it to a cloud and/or send a copy to a trusted friend or relative. If the video only exists on your hard drive, it may go down in flames with your house!

Lastly, be sure to take video of the exterior of your home as well in order to document its condition.

Following these simple tips could save you headaches as well as money.

Posted December 7, 2016

Automated Home Valuations

Safe to say that every homeowner wants to know, “What’s my home worth?” And the easier it is to get that information, the better. Zillow, for one, built a multi-billion dollar business based on that assumption.

Now you can get THREE free automated home valuation estimates by going to my website and entering your home address ONCE!

(Here is a shortcut to the same site: www.bit.ly/yourhomevalues)

When you see the results, you may wonder why the three estimates vary as much as they (usually) do. It’s because they lack human sensibilities.

Automated valuations produce their results by gathering statistical data from a variety of sources such as tax records. Then they take that data and apply algorithms comparing square footage, lot size, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc.  The algorithms may even include some (very subjective) information about location, neighborhood desirability, views, etc.  What the algorithms can’t account for is the condition of the homes. That is their biggest problem, and a limitation none of them have been able to overcome.

It takes the visual observations of a live person such as a real estate broker or an appraiser (hopefully, not your neighbor) to provide vital information about the condition of the homes being used for comparison. Without that input, your home may be compared to one that is in significantly worse or better condition, which greatly skews the results.

The moral of the story? Have a little fun using the automated valuation tools on occasion, but when you get serious about selling your home, call a professional to determine the current value of your home. Of course, our estimates aren’t always on the nose either. That’s why it’s best to get a CMA (comparative market analysis) from two or more experienced agents.

You might also be interested in downloading my mobile app. One of the really cool things about it is that when you are out walking the dog and you come upon a house with a new “For Sale” sign in front, you can tap the app and hit “Nearby For Sale” and it will bring up info for that house and others. Download my mobile app here.

Posted December 6, 2016

How’s the Seattle Market in December 2016?

We are still firmly situated in a sellers’ market. New (appropriately priced) listings typically sell in less than two weeks. Many receive multiple offers that push the price above asking.

That being said, we are seeing a surprising number of homes stay on the market long enough to require price reductions. Why?

Although it is partly a seasonal phenomenon, the most common reason is that sellers listen to the wrong advice. Friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers — all think they know what price you should ask for your home. This often results in overpricing, which eventually leads to a price reduction.

That’s why it’s important to hire and work with an experienced Realtor® who will do careful research and provide you with an educated evaluation of your home’s current market value. Better yet, consult two or more Realtors® until you find one you trust and who gives you confidence in your pricing decision.

Posted December 4, 2016

 

Winter “Do’s & Don’ts” for Homeowners

For all the perks of home ownership, property maintenance is a never-ending job, and each season brings its own list of special chores. Here are a few to keep in mind.

DO: Invest in outdoor faucet protectors. Many styles cost less than $2  and are easy to install. Without these covers, cold air can enter your pipes and cause them to burst at the most inconvenient times (not that there is even a convenient time for a pipe to burst). Better yet, wrap any exposed pipes with foam plumbing insulation — also cheap & easy to do.

DON’T… forget to clean out your gutters. Yes, it’s a nasty job and it’s no fun to do, but if your gutters are so full that rain water cascades over them instead of flowing through them, the water is likely to reach your foundation and will eventually cause some serious, expensive damage.
DO: Play detective. Investigate the nooks, crannies, cracks and crevices where cold air can sneak into your house, robbing you of the warm you crave on winter days. The most common offenders are window sills, baseboards, fireplaces and dryer vents. Once you find the culprits, buy a tube of caulk and seal them off.

DON’T… forego a fireplace inspection. A dirty flu won’t just irritate Santa, it may cause a fire you didn’t intend.

DO: Schedule a furnace inspection. Servicing your furnace is NOT a DIY project. Most furnaces have a life expectancy of about 15 years. Failing to service it regularly can reduce that life span by 5 years!
(This next one may surprise you.)

DON’T… level your fridge. Refrigerators have adjustable feet to allow for uneven floors, but you should adjust them so the front feet are slightly higher than the hind feet. That way, the door will never be left open accidentally; it will close itself.

DO:  Invest in a programmable thermostat — or pledge to use the one you already have. Why heat your home when you’re not there?

Want more information and resources concerning your home and real estate? Visit my agent website: www.SingleMindedRealEstate.com

Posted December 3, 2016

 

FSBO vs. Agent: What’s a homeowner to do?

When the real estate market gets this red-hot in favor of sellers, many homeowners begin to wonder why they should hire an agent to help them sell their home. After all, homes are flying off the shelf and practically selling themselves. Why not just do it yourself and save the commission?

It’s a fair and reasonable question. My response is, selling a home isn’t as simple as it looks. Where the purchase and sale of real estate is concerned, what you don’t know can really hurt you. Here’s how.

1) The key to getting top dollar for your property is market exposure, because competition is what drives up the price of your home. Like it or not, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the most efficient and effective means of advertising the sale of your home. Agents pay (some would say, handsomely) to be members of the MLS in order to have this advantage. Non-members (i.e. the general public) are not able to list their property on the MLS. Granted, there are companies such as “MLS for Owners” that allow homeowners to use their license to list property, but that only solves one of the potential problems.

2) A typical Purchase and Sale Agreement (aka, sales contract) consists of approximately 25 pages of legal documents, detailing everything from contingencies to timelines to loan terms. “Time is of the essence” means exactly that. One missed deadline can void a sale.

3) Agents perform a myriad of essential tasks behind the scenes that can only be learned through study and experience. Even brokers with decades of experience will tell you that they learn something new with every transaction. A home owner may be fortunate enough to get a smooth, simple sale, but when something goes wrong, a professional really earns their money.

4) We live in a litigious society. If an unrepresented seller makes a mistake, the blowback can be much more costly than the commission.

Obviously, I’m biased, but I hope I have provided food for thought.