March 22, 2018

10 Tips to Increase Your Homes Value

1. Make sure your kitchen looks clean and reasonably updated.

For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones.

If you’ve got a slightly larger budget, you can give the cabinets themselves a makeover. Rather than install an entire new cabinet system, look in to refacing your cabinet doors, painting them or updating the hardware. Your cabinets will look like new!

If you’re handy, you can order your own replacement cabinet doors and door fronts from retailers like Lowe’s Home Improvement or The Home Depot and install them yourself.

2. Give appliances a facelift. If your kitchen appliances don’t match, order new doors or face panels for them. 

Many dishwasher panels are white on one side and black on the other. So you can check to see if all you have to do is flip yours around. A more cohesive-looking kitchen makes a big difference in the buyer’s mind — and in the home’s resale price.

3. Buff up the bath. Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of cash. A home owner can easily install a new toilet seat or pedestal sink and it can change the look of a bathroom.  

Replacing old vinyl is not too difficult as well. You can typically install new vinyl right over the old vinyl and it can give your bathroom a fresh look.

If your tub and shower are looking dingy, consider re-grouting the tile and replacing any chipped tiles. A more complete cover-up is a prefabricated tub and shower surround. These one-piece units may require professional installation but can still be cheaper than paying to re-tile walls and refinish a worn tub.

4. Step up your storage. Old houses, particularly, are notorious for their lack of closet space. If you have cramped storage areas, you can add do-it-yourself wire and laminate closet systems to bedrooms, pantries and entry closets.

In the end, your closets will be more functional while you’re living in the house and will make your home look more customized to potential buyers when you’re ready to sell. 

5. Add a room in a week or less.  If you have a three bedroom house with a den, you could add a closet to that room, and now you have four bedroom house, which will add value. The drywall and closet system installation would probably cost you less than $1,500.

6. Mind the mechanics. It's often a good idea hire an electrician and plumber for a couple of hours to look over your electrical services, wrap or fix loose wires, fix any faulty outlets, and check for and fix any water leaks. This will let the buyer know you have done your due diligence to prepare the home for market.

7. Clean your carpet. Carpeting is another detail that can quickly update a home and make it look cleaner. A professional carpet cleaning is an inexpensive investment, especially if your rugs are in good shape and are neutral colors.

If your carpet is showing serious wear, cover it with inexpensive, strategically placed area rugs. Unless the carpet is in really bad condition, most real estate brokers would not recommend replacing the carpet.  

8. Let there be light. If you have boring recessed lights in your dining and living rooms, consider replacing one of the room’s lights with an eye-catching chandelier. Home stores offer a wide range of inexpensive, but nice-looking, ceiling fixtures these days. If you have a ceiling fan and light, you can also buy replacement fan blades (leaving the fan body in place) to update the fixture’s look.

9. Repaint or replace your front door. Repainting your front door or replacing it with a new door with a window can add more light and make it more appealing. New hardware would also be a good idea.  It is an inexpensive update that can add value to your home.

10. Consider curb appeal. Mow the lawn, add a few well-placed shrubs, sweep the walkway and add some potted plants. Consider hiring a landscaper to install some new sod, plant a few evergreen shrubs and give your front yard a good cleanup. These kinds of changes can instantly change people’s perception of your home and, therefore, increase its value.

Feb. 13, 2018

February 2018 NWMLS News Release: Home Buyers Still Competing for Sparse Inventory in Western Washington, Driving Up Prices

Home Buyers Still Competing for Sparse Inventory in Western Washington, Driving Up Prices - Especially for Sought-After Condominiums

Latest Press Release


KIRKLAND, Washington (February 5, 2018) - "The Seattle area real estate market hasn't skipped a beat with pent-up demand from buyers is stronger than ever," remarked broker John Deely in reacting to the latest statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The report on January activity shows a slight year-over-year gain in pending sales, a double-digit increase in prices, and continued shortages of inventory.

Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle and a board member at Northwest MLS, noted a shift in the ratio of pending sales to new listings in King County.

Member brokers added 6,805 new listings of single family homes and condominiums to the system-wide database last month for a gain of about 4.6 percent from a year ago. During the same period, they reported 7,820 pending sales. In King County, the number of new listings outgained pending sales for the first time since September:

 

King County (SFH+Condos) Jan-18 Dec-17 Nov-17 Oct-17 Sep-17
New Listings 2326 1165 2102 3088 3856
Pending Sales 2282 1850 2831 3533 3514
Difference 45 -685 -729 -445 342

  
"Sellers that have put their properties on the market early this year have less competition and are seeing multiple offers. Open houses are experiencing heavy traffic with hundreds of potential buyers attending," reported Deely.

For the MLS overall, last month's 7,820 pending sales marked a slight increase compared to January 2017 when members reported 7,724 mutually accepted offers, a gain in of 1.24 percent. Not all areas reported increases. Of 23 counties served by Northwest MLS, eight counties, including three in the Puget Sound region (King, Kitsap and Snohomish), reported fewer pending sales than a year ago. In King County, where acute inventory shortages exist in many neighborhoods, pending sales dropped 7.5 percent and closings dropped 18.5 percent.

"The decline in sales last month can't be blamed on the holidays, weather or football. It's simply due to the ongoing shortage of housing that continues to plague markets throughout Western Washington," said OB Jacobi, the president of Windermere Real Estate.

With January's additions, the number of total active listings at month end stood at 8,037 homes and condos, down nearly 17.6 percent from a year ago when the selection totaled 9,750 listings. Measured by months of supply, there was only about 1.5 months overall, well below the 4-to-6 month level many industry experts use as a gauge of a balanced market.

Condo inventory is especially tight in Snohomish County (0.8 months of supply) and King County (0.92 months). System-wide there is under a month's supply (0.93 months). For the four-county Puget Sound region, there were only 427 active condo listings at month end, down almost 31 percent from a year ago.

Despite the sparse selection, brokers expect inventory to improve.

"I actually believe 2018 will bring us moderately more listings, which should help offset the growing demand that continues to result from the area's strong economy," remarked Jacobi.

"The month of March can't come soon enough for home buyers," said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. "In March, the number of new listings will bump up substantially from the low number of new listings typical for winter months. Better selection will start in March as we enter the spring housing season," Scott predicts.

In the meantime, Scott reported "a multiple-offer everything, virtually sold out market" in all price ranges close to job centers and in the more affordable and mid-price ranges in surrounding counties. "Sellers are receiving premium pricing and home buyers are pouncing on each new listing," he added.

George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties, agreed. "January still saw aggressive buyers as they jockeyed for homes in some of the hottest areas in Seattle and the Eastside," he commented.

Prices continue to rise in all but a few counties, even as the volume of closed sales fell about 9.3 percent. For January's 5,325 closed sales, the median price was $363,500, a jump of about 11 percent from the year-ago figure of $327,500. Twelve counties reported double-digit spikes.

Within the four-county Puget Sound region, King County had the largest year-over-year gain. Prices for homes and condos combined shot up 20.3 percent in that county, rising from $475,000 to $571,250. Pierce County reported a jump of 15 percent, followed by Snohomish County at about 12.2 percent and Kitsap County at nearly 3.5 percent.

The depleted supply of condos meant premium prices. Area-wide the median price for last month's completed transactions rose nearly 18.6 percent, from $269,900 to $320,000. Snohomish County's condo prices surged nearly 25.5 percent, followed by King County at nearly 22.6 percent.

Some brokers expect the hefty price gains to ease.

"As interest rates rise, the rate of price increases will slow down," predicts Northwest MLS director Dick Beeson, principal managing broker at RE/MAX Professionals in Gig Harbor. Despite this expectation, he believes sparse supply and the area's appeal both nationally and internationally will mean ongoing competition and multiple offer situations.

"What it costs to rent small spaces astounds me," he remarked citing recent reports that put Tacoma and Olympia on lists of top cities for increased rents during 2017. "Investors, because rents are high, compete daily with home buyers, and they often win the deal in the lower priced homes. Because they are buying all cash, they consistently beat out buyers who have to get loans."

Builders are trying to respond to the pent-up demand, according to Moorhead. Seattle and the Eastside are seeing a growing number of infill homes in the core areas, some on lots as small as 3,000 square feet, he said. Builders are doing smaller releases and setting offer review dates, and then determine price ranges for the next phase.

"What used to be an affordable way to build homes has now become more mainstream for both smaller and larger builders," Moorhead stated, adding, "Historically, infill homes did not get the same return as homes built in large community plats, but now they're realizing similar price points."

The luxury market is also off to a quick start in 2018. "Close to job centers, the luxury market is gaining positive momentum due to the wealth effect of the stock market, the strength of the U.S. economy, and homebuyers from the Pacific Rim, especially China," noted Lennox Scott.

Northwest MLS figures show sales of homes selling for $2 million or more are far outpacing year-ago activity. Last month, member-brokers reported selling 55 residences at this price threshold. That's up 66 percent from the same month a year ago when brokers sold 33 such homes.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of more than 2,200 member offices includes more than 28,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in the state.

Statistical Summary By Counties
Market Activity Summary and 4-County Puget Sound Region Pending Sales (PDF)

 

Jan. 22, 2018

Eye on the Market - February 2018

 

According to CW Title, a recently released report on real estate activity nationwide shows the Seattle metro area with 19 of 25 most competitive markets in the country. The study took into account price appreciation, days on the market, how many sales were above list price, and other factors. That stunning result supports why many in the market for a home are currently experience; our region is hot, and competition is fierce.

The latest statistics from the Northwest MLS show closed-sales prices for single-family homes are again up year-over-year in King County by 15.45 percent, in Snohomish County by 12.50 percent and in Pierce County by 12.25 percent.

Inventory remains the biggest concern for our region's housing-market health. Brokers are reporting brisk traffic at open houses, and properly priced listings are moving fast. Some are speculating that the Seahawks missing the playoffs this year might have allowed prospective buyers a bit more time on the weekends to visit homes. While that may be true in many cases, the fact is that there are plenty of qualified buyers scouring the market and more entering every day.

It's a great time to live and work in our area, and to invest in real estate here. There is no shortage of buyers, and for those who've been sitting on the fence about selling a home, now is a great time to enter the market and maximize their return.

Dec. 14, 2017

What to expect after the closing of your property

Nov. 28, 2017

Key Indicators for Western Washington housing still rising, but brokers detect slowdown and uncertainty

Latest Press Release by the NWMLS

Market Snapshot Infographic

KIRKLAND, Washington (November 6, 2017) - Early seasonal snow and questions swirling around the tax plan unveiled last week by House Republicans could make the usual seasonal slowdown more pronounced, say industry leaders from Northwest Multiple Listing Service. For October, however, key indicators trended upwards.

Pending sales rose nearly 8 percent from a year ago, closed sales were up 5.2 percent, and prices jumped about 8.2 percent, with 14 counties reporting double-digit gains. Even the number of new listings improved on the year-ago total.

Northwest MLS figures for the 23 counties it serves show members added 8,466 new listings to inventory during October, outgaining the year-ago total of 7,575 by 11.8 percent. Buyers outnumbered new listings, with 10,586 of them having their offers accepted. That number of pending sales was up nearly 8 percent from the same month a year ago.

"The challenge for buyers actually isn't lack of choice, it is the rapid pace of sales," suggested Ken Anderson, president/owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty.

"The market in Thurston County has never been better for sellers, and they're getting the message," Anderson remarked. His analysis revealed a 10-year high for sellers coming to market during October. "These savvy sellers are not waiting until spring to sell. They are taking advantage of today's great market and making their move now," he reported.

Buyers may find themselves in a quandary as the year winds down as they contemplate limited supply, possible upticks in interest rates and tax reform. Last week's announcement of a provision in a GOP tax proposal to cap the mortgage interest deduction is concerning to buyers, brokers and builders.

"Imagine if the proposed plan to cap the mortgage interest deduction at $500,000 is approved in a market that is starved for homes and where the median price [for a single family home in King County] is now $630,000," said O B Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. "Homeowners may be less likely to sell because they would be giving up their grandfathered tax credit on their current home. That's fewer homes for sale in a market where we really need them," he stated, adding, "There could also be a flood of new buyers trying to purchase before the plan is passed, adding to the already hyper-competitive market conditions."

The president of the National Association of REALTORS® also weighed in, saying details are currently under review, but stated, "Eliminating or nullifying the tax incentives for homeownership puts home values and middle class homeowners at risk, and from a cursory examination this legislation appears to do just that."

Northwest MLS data show 66 percent of single family homes sold so far this year (Jan. - Oct.) in King County had selling prices of $500,000 or higher.

The median sales price system-wide for October was $373,000, up more than 8.1 percent from twelve months ago when it was $344,900. All counties in the four-county Puget Sound region notched double-digit gains.

For single family homes (excluding condos), the median sales price for last month's completed transactions was $381,000. Within King County prices are considerably higher. In Seattle, year-over-year prices jumped 17.6 percent, from $625,000 to $735,000. On the Eastside, the median price for a single family home rose 10 percent from a year ago, increasing from $768,000 to $845,000. Nevertheless, high prices did not seem to deter many house-hunters.

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, noted October was the "best ever for sales activity in the Puget Sound region."

Northwest MLS brokers reported 7,740 pending sales in the four-county region (King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap), bettering the year ago mark of 7,487 mutually accepted offers. System-wide, pending sales increased from the year-ago total of 9,805 to last month's total of 10,586 (up 7.97 percent).

"With a large buyer pool for each new listing, we saw a higher percentage of new listings sell within the first 30 days of coming on the market," Scott reported, while also noting the seasonal change in housing market dynamics. "As we enter the winter market, the number of new listings being added will be in short supply from now through February," he explained.

Compared to spring months, Scott expects volumes in the next few months will be at 30-to-50 percent of spring totals. "The stage is set once again for a frenzy housing market after the first of the year in the price ranges where there is a shortage of active listings for sale."

Frank Wilson, branch managing broker at John L. Scott's Poulsbo office, also commented on supply, noting in Kitsap County, the number of active listings is down nearly 24 percent from a year ago. "What this means to Kitsap County buyers is that everything is compressed: with lower inventory and higher prices the pressure continues to build for those buyers who need to find a home."

Inventory remains low in many counties in the Northwest MLS system. Overall, there is only 1.5 months of supply of single family homes and condos combined. In King County, it's less than one month. Industry analysts say four to six months typically indicates a balanced (or "normal") market.

Most brokers agree inventory will not grow over the next few months. "Sellers who bring their homes on the market over the next three months will have a lot of interest because of the pent-up demand of buyers who are going to have fewer houses to consider," suggested Wilson.

"Homebuyers in our area are at a real disadvantage right now," commented Wilson, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors. "They have to be pre-underwritten with their lenders, put forward a conventional or better offer, put down substantial earnest money, and hope that multiple offers do not escalate the price out of their affordability zone." He fears "more and more buyers will be sidelined."

Brokers in Snohomish County are detecting some tapering of activity.

"Buyers are no longer being as aggressive with concessions on homes when making offers and they are unwilling to compete for a home where sellers are being too aggressive with a list price," commented George Moorhead, designated broker and owner at Bentley Properties. He also noted buyers who have been on the sidelines are now more active as they see a slowdown "and an opportunity to finally own a home without the multiple offer competition."

Diedre Haines, principal managing broker-South Snohomish County at Coldwell Banker Bain in Lynnwood, believes the usual seasonal slowdown is apparent "a bit earlier than usual." She reported multiple offers are continuing but listings in Snohomish County are experiencing longer market times, fewer above-list price offers, and a noticeable increase in price reductions. "All of this puts an emphasis on how important correct, accurate pricing has become."

Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain, suggested statistics for October "at first blush suggest the lack of listings of single family homes and condos in the region is self-correcting." As an example, he notes new listings in the tri-county region (King, Snohomish and Pierce) increased 11 percent from a year ago, while year-over-year sales rose only 6 percent. "That implies the shrinking inventory of homes for sale experienced over the past couple of year may be evening out."

Looking at year-to-date figures tells a different story, according to Grady. His analysis of the three counties shows a 20 percent reduction in active listings. Factoring in strong sales yields a statistic known as months of inventory, which is under two months in the four counties comprising the Puget Sound region.

"The story continues to be in the 'commuter' counties, which are experiencing the biggest shrinkage from a year ago," said Grady. "This reduction of supply will continue to put pressure on rising prices. Bottom line: investment in a home continues to be bullish with no change in sight."

Northwest MLS board member Robert Wasser said while it may be a difficult time to be a buyer and a positive time to be a seller, the best strategy "regardless of market conditions is to calculate the pros and cons involved and make informed choices." Wasser, the owner/broker at Prospera Real Estate in Seattle, recommends working with a real estate professional who, among other topics "is equipped to discuss market conditions, financing considerations, historic trends, and buying and selling strategies."

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of more than 2,200 member offices includes more than 26,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in the state.

Statistical Summary By Counties
Market Activity Summary and 4-County Puget Sound Region Pending Sales (PDF)

Oct. 26, 2017

First Time Buyer Programs

First Time Buyer Programs

Lenders now have new options available to first time buyers!  These programs help buyers get their foot in the door for home ownership.  One of these programs is called a Down Payment Assistance programs or DPA Grants.  The benefits of a DPA Grant are:

    1.  Down payment and/or closing cost assistance grant, up to 5% of the loan amount.
    2.  DPA grant never has to be repaid.
    3.  Affordable interest rates and variety of grant levels.
    4.  FHA, VA, USDA and Conventional mortgage loan options.
    5.  NOT limited to first-time homebuyers.

The three main types of down payment assistance are grants, second mortgage loans, and tax credits.

    Grants – Grants are funds that you do not have to pay back as long as you own and occupy your home for a certain period of time.
    Second mortgage loans – The most common down payment source, many second mortgage loans offered by state and local governments have low or zero interest rates, and the payments are deferred over a specified time span and, in many cases, the loan is completely forgiven over time.
    Tax credits – Certain states and local governments, including housing finance agencies, issue mortgage credit certificates, which reduce the amount of federal income tax you pay. This makes more money available upfront for your down payment or closing costs.

Depending on the program, assistance may be limited to first-time homebuyers and/or low- and moderate-income homebuyers. Home buyer counseling may be required and we highly recommend that you get advice through the process.

For more information about First Time Buyer programs or down payment assistance, please contact a lender or give us a call and we can refer you to some great local lenders.

 

Aug. 1, 2017

Buyer's beware of wire fraud

Real Estate wire fraud is on the rise. Buyer's need to be aware never to transfer funds into an account per instructions received via email. Instead, they should contact the escrow company personally to confirm any account numbers before they transfer funds.

Escrow company's are responsible for any lost funds when they transfer money out of their accounts, however, buyer's are responsible for all funds transferred into the lenders account. Thus, if the funds are transferred into a fraudulent account, those funds can be lost forever with no way to recover them and the buyer is out the money and won't get the home.

Hackers have become quite savvy with logging into email accounts and watching what is happening with a transaction. They can then start sending you emails that appear to be the real estate broker, the lender, or the escrow/title company involved in that transaction. The hacker can use the same logo and have the same branded appearance.

Here are some tips to help prevent against wire fraud according to an article in RealEstate.Boston.com:

-Brokers should tell their client that everyone is exposed to the risk of wire fraud, but explain what precautions they will use to guard against theft.

-Brokers should stress to the home buyer that any change in the transfer of funds will be discussed face to face to ensure the validity of the request.

-It’s recommended that agents, realtors, attorneys, every party handling property transactions use only those devices that are on secured Wi-Fi networks encrypted to prevent “break-ins.’’

-Everyone involved should change their passwords frequently; use only complex, impersonal character combinations; and write different ones for every site.

-Real Estate Brokers and attorneys should use company e-mail addresses. Ex. Name@SolutionPartnersNW.com. It’s more difficult for hackers to create a duplicate company e-mail address than a Gmail or Yahoo one. And look for subtle differences: Jane.Johnson@gmail.com could very easily become Jane.Jonson@gmail.com.

-Clients should pay attention to the URLs, the e-mail addresses, and the times of day they’re receiving correspondence from the parties in the transaction.

-Report suspicious activity to the parties involved.

So it is better to be safe than sorry and confirm any wire transfer number directly with the escrow company before sending the money. 

June 9, 2017

Risks of listing homes below market to stimulate multiple offer situations

A popular listing strategy some agents are implementing is marketing homes substantially below market to stimulate a frenzied multiple offer situation. This means buyers compete to outbid one another with escalation clauses. The result is the seller may receive an above market final closing price and the buyer might end up paying more than the home is actually worth.

The risk with this approach is the sellers might not receive escalation high enough to bring them up to market. For example, homes in a neighborhood might be closing for sales prices at $625,000 or $278/square foot.  A broker may list a home for $499,999 to stimulate multiple offers on the home, but the escalation might only reach $585,000 or $260/square foot, thus the seller loses potential income. And, homes in the neighborhood could be devalued if the strategy fails.

Another problem with this approach, is buyer's may see a home is listed for $499,999 and be very hopeful that they can purchase the home for this price and be extremely disappointed to learn they have been outbid and will never have a chance to buy this home. This creates a tough situation for buyer's agents.

Due to the competitive bidding happening in the Seattle market, buyer's and their agents are getting fatigued. Buyers may not even bid on a home they know will likely escalate beyond their reach when they know it is listed below market.

May 4, 2017

Should Sellers get a Pre-listing Inspection?

Should sellers do a pre-listing inspection when the market is buzzing and it is a seller's market?  With homes around the region bidding up with multiple offers, and most buyers waiving the inspection, it would seem a pre-listing inspection is not necessary.  However, a pre-listing inspection can make your home even more attractive to buyers. 

This way buyers don't have to pay $500 for an inspection and they feel more comfortable waiving it.  This also can eliminate pre-inspections and the possibility of having multiple inspectors going through your home before it is under contract. 

A pre-listing inspection also lets buyers know exactly what they are getting.  You, as a seller, have an option to fix the items on the list - which could increase your home's value even more, or you could just opt to sell your home "as is."

"Sellers who have a home inspection upfront also can identify any major problems that could potentially derail a sale later on at the closing table. Any major repairs can be addressed beforehand. Doing repairs ahead of time might also be more cost-effective than having to pay a buyer's own licensed contractor do the work," according to the National Association of Realtors.

If a home is under contract and an inspection is done as part of the contract - often buyers will use the inspection as a way to negotiate the price down.  However, a pre-listing inspection takes that negotiating power away from the buyer's agent. 

March 30, 2017

Things to Know when Selling a Condo

Selling a condo has a few more steps involved than selling a single-family home.  First the seller needs to order a resale certificate, which will disclose to the buyer if there are any impending Home Owners Association (HOA) special assessments for the development.  A special assessment is assigned when there are not enough reserves for replacements in the HOA budget.  For example, if the siding on the building needs to be replaced but was not in the budget, then a special assessment may become the burden for all of the homeowners.  Thus, as a real estate broker, it is very important to read the resale certificate to advise our buyer's of this potential cost. 

Also note, a resale certificate is only typically good for 90 days.  If selling time exceeds 90 days, then the lender may request an updated resale certificate. 

Another important question to ask, is if there a rental cap on the development.  A rental cap is a limit to the number of renters allowed in a condo or development (also known as owner-occupancy rates). If you own a property with a rental cap and the rental cap has been met, you need to add your name to the HOA waiting list before you can rent out your unit. If you are selling you condo, you will want to disclose if there is no rental cap.  A condo development without a rental cap is more desirable to an investment buyer.  Condominiums with low owner occupancy rates, under 51% can also have difficulty obtaining financing. 

If the HOA is well managed, then selling condominium is not a difficult process.  It is important for a real estate broker to help their client through the selling and buying process and ensure the due diligence has been done.