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

Need a neighborhood expert for real estate? I’ve got you covered!

Although I specialize in West Seattle real estate, I help clients buy and sell properties all around the Greater Seattle area: as far north as Everett, as far south as Tacoma, and on the Eastside as well. 

To ensure that I can provide you with expertise concerning neighborhoods outside of West Seattle, I have gathered a network of brokers who specialize in outlying areas such as Federal Way, Bellevue and Maple Valley, to mention just a few. I have carefully vetted each broker in terms of skill, experience and professionalism, so I am working only with the cream of the crop, and so are you!

So, if you, or someone you know wants to check out neighborhoods in:

Kirkland

Bellevue  

Newcastle                 

Issaquah

Bothell                       

Kenmore 

Covington                 

Mercer Island

Ballard

Fremont  

Magnolia 

Bainbridge Island

Queen Anne             

Des Moines               

Burien                       

Maple Valley

Tukwila   

SeaTac                       

Kent                          

Auburn

Renton                      

Puyallup 

Tacoma   

Federal Way

Have I forgotten any? You get the idea.

As I said, if you need hometown expertise when buying or selling real estate in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve got you covered.

Posted 3/14/17

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

 

Determining home value: What makes a good “Comp” for your home?

Photo of home and patio

In real-estate-speak, a “comp” refers to a comparable property used to help you, the homeowner, determine the current market value of your home.

Most any real estate broker will happily prepare a complimentary CMA for you as a preliminary step to listing your home for sale, but a CMA can also be useful in other circumstances. For instance, you may want a CMA to present to your bank prior to paying for an appraisal when refinancing your home loan, or when helping an elderly parent assess their assets.

It’s helpful to note that not all CMA’s are created equally, i.e. with the same degree of attention and care. Don’t be afraid to ask more than one agent to prepare a CMA for you. Their willingness (especially if you are not yet committed to listing your home) and the quality of the report can help you decide if they are the best agent to help you, whether now or down the road.

What should a carefully prepared CMA look like?

First, it will show homes in the same neighborhood with similar statistics for the basics such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, lot size, year built, and amount of living space. These numbers need not be exactly the same, but the variance should be within about 10%. For example, a home with 1600 square feet of living space could be compared with others in the range of 1400-1800 square feet.

The architectural style of a home is also significant in determining value. Comparing a two-story home to a home that has one-story and a basement or a split-level will call for some adjustment in the value. This is because buyers (and appraisers) tend to assign less value to a remodeled basement than to a finished second story.

Location within a neighborhood can also affect the value of the home. Is it on a busy street? A corner lot? Across from a run-down property? On a dead-end street? If few homes in your neighborhood have sold recently, you may need to look at home sales in similarly valued areas within a few miles of yours.

Older homes should not be compared to new construction, of course. And homes built more than 20-30 years ago should have similar degrees of remodeling/restoration. I.e., a home with the original 1945 kitchen is not going to compare favorably with a home that has new granite countertops and stainless steel appliance. This is one of the main reasons that it is so difficult for automated (i.e. computer generated) home valuations to be accurate. They lack the advantage of the human eye.

Parking accommodations are also a financially significant factor when calculating property value. Is there covered parking? If so, is it attached? Detached? Garage or carport? Is there space for multiple cars, for a boat or an RV?

A seasoned agent will be able to estimate how much each deviation between the properties being used for comparison affects their respective values. For instance, two properties may be comparable in almost every way EXCEPT one has a garage and the other has no covered parking. The agent should be able to tell you that the garage will be worth an extra “X” number of dollars to the average buyer in your market.

As you can see, estimating the value of a home presents some significant challenges. The number is somewhat of a moving target. Keep in mind that list prices are merely a wish, and sold prices are yesterday’s news. That makes pending sales the most valuable source of information because they indicate the price point at which a buyer was enticed to make an offer today.

Contact me today to request a CMA for your home.

Posted 2/1/17

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

 

Beware the HELOC

Does this rapidly-inflating real estate market look suspiciously familiar?

With many communities in our country still feeling less than financially recovered from the recession, we have to wonder if the more fortunate (i.e. prosperous) communities have learned any lessons from the bust.

Some financial analysts insist that we are NOT headed for another bubble because banks are no longer giving away money as feely as they were in the early 2000’s. However, another reason that we (collectively) got in trouble is because homeowners used their property as ATM’s by borrowing against their equity from an inflated market. It seems as if that part of the equation might repeat itself.

Because interest rates have remained so low for so long, most homeowners who want to refinance to a lower loan rate, have already done so. That means that financial institutions need to find a way to replace the income they were making from refi’s. Some of the large banks have begun encouraging homeowners to once again tap into their equity by applying for a HELOC — Home Equity Line of Credit — to finance things like second homes, vacations, college tuition, etc.  The beauty of a HELOC is that it can be used for any purpose you wish, or simply left as an open line of credit. Much like a credit card, there are no payments to make until you access that credit. Unlike a credit card, your home is used as collateral.

Bankers know that most people who apply for a HELOC, even if they don’t intend to access the credit, will eventually do so. It’s simply human nature. Make no mistake, a HELOC is the equivalent of a second mortgage.  When home prices stop their drastic rise, or perhaps even go down, those who have added a HELOC to their first mortgage could find themselves underwater. I.e. the total of the loans against the property could be more than the property is worth. Or, at the very least, the lack of remaining equity could thwart plans to purchase another home.

I’m not saying that it is never a good idea to utilize a HELOC — it may very well make financial sense for you — but I am cautioning homeowners to consider how it might impact you if home prices don’t continue their current meteoric rise.

If you’d like to know more, give me a call at 206-708-9800, or talk to a trusted lender.

If you know of anyone who is thinking of selling their home, I would appreciate the opportunity to tell them about my services!

Posted 4/1/16