Posted in Buying, Selling, Community, and Living by Tara Sharp
“Of course, thanks to the house, a great many of our memories are housed, and if the house is a bit elaborate, if it has a cellar and a garret, nooks and corridors, our memories have refuges that are all the more clearly delineated. All our lives we come back to them in our daydreams.”
Gaston Bachelard, the Poetics of Space
I have been following the news about the housing market pretty closely and am pretty disappointed with some of the articles declaring a case against homeownership. I couldn’t disagree more. If anything, I see the value of homeownership: responsible financial investment, social stability and community connection as more important than ever.
I was particularly moved by the story in the Seattle Times yesterday about the Lutz family in Ballard, a family with seven adopted siblings that are helping their parents move from their family home to a smaller condo now that their children have left the nest. Though their story is far from typical, it really resonates how home is the center of family life, a place where memories are created and how houses tell the stories of the lives we build while in their shelter.
Homes do that for people. They are the places where some of our most intimate stories unfold.
Finding and creating a home is an emotional, psychological, social and financial investment. There is a lot of energy involved in finding the place to envision the future, raise a family, and perhaps retire. There is no other investment as enjoyable as your own home. Investments in gold or stocks cannot compare to the feelings about a place where you collect memories, create spaces that reflect your ideals and develop to fit your needs over time.
Beyond the emotional ties to home, a number of studies have shown that home ownership has a great impact on feelings of personal autonomy, life satisfaction and increased investment in the community. The sense of satisfaction goes beyond the ability to paint walls whatever color we want, or make improvements to our homes on our own terms. It goes deeper by improving our sense of well being. Furthermore, when we have a stake in the community we live in, we participate more, making our neighborhoods safer and healthier for all members.
Not all the news about the housing market is negative, actually there are many great articles: “in defense of home ownership”, “ten reasons to buy a home “and “a dream house after all” to name a few. But regardless of where you stand on the housing market right now, we can all likely agree that there is no place like a home.
All of our experiences of home are unique. Please share your best memories of home.
As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you’re selling your home, it’s true, except that there are several impressions to be made, and each one might have its own effect on the unique tastes of a prospective buyer. I’ve worked with scores of buyers, witnessed hundreds of showings, and I can summarize that experience down this: a tidy and well maintained home, priced right, listed with professional photographs, enhanced curb appeal and onsite visual appeal will sell fastest. We all know first impressions are very important, but the lasting impressions are the ones that sell your home. It’s not easy, but if you can detach a little and look at your home from a buyer’s perspective, the answers to selling it quickly may become obvious to you.
The very first impression your home will make is through its web presence, whether on Windermere.com, the MLS, Craigslist or any multitude of websites. Fair or not, the price is typically the very first thing people look at, and it will be the measurement by which your home is judged. You can always adjust to the right price later, but the impact is lost. It will take something dramatic to get a buyer to reassess the way they feel about the value of your home.
Closely following price are the listing photos. According to this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, professional photos will not only impact your first impressions, it may also make a difference in the final selling price. Great photos might even overcome those initial price objections. Does the exterior photo capture your home at its hi-res best? Does the accompanying text enhance or distract? Online, your home has only a few seconds to capture the home buyer’s attention. If it doesn’t, they’ll click the “Back” button and resume their search. The goal is to have buyers excitedly calling their agents to arrange a showing.
Another old saying is “Location, location, location,” and sure enough, the first live impression of your home is the location. Forget this one; you can’t move your home. There’s not much you can do about location, right? Actually, there is one thing you can do: price it right from the start.
Let’s move on to the first time a buyer sees your home as they pull to the curb out front. Go stand out at the curb and look at it the way you would if you were shopping for a home. Sometimes, a couple hours of labor and $100 worth of beauty bark can be worth thousands in the sales price. I’ve had buyers choose not to get out of the car when we pulled up to a home that they had once been excited to see.
Likewise, I’ve had buyers say they’ve seen enough simply by peaking into the front door. The nose trumps the eyes when it comes to the first impression when entering the house. Buyers get more caught up in the details. Once the home shopper is inside, it’s easy for them to get distracted and focus on something that seems to have nothing to do with the structure they will be buying, from a dirty dish in the sink to a teenager’s bedroom that’s been decorated in posters and/or melodrama. Do everything you can to set a positive lasting impression. The buyer may look at dozens of homes. What is your strategy to convince them to make an offer on yours?
Guest post by Eric Johnson, Director of Education
It seems the winter is settling in early through much of the West Coast this year, with October frost and early winter warnings. Last week The Seattle Times reported, “This year will bring the most intense La Niña conditions since 1955 … Meteorologists say more rain, colder temperatures and bigger snowstorms are likely.” Whether the meteorologists are right this year or not, now is the time to do some home repair so you can enjoy the winter inside your warm house.
Weatherizing your home should be more than just packing in your patio furniture, checking your furnace and cleaning out your rain gutters, though these make a big difference in preparing your home and avoiding December disasters. Weatherizing your home–especially in light of harsh warnings–will protect your investment from preventable damage, save money on energy costs and, most importantly, keep your home safe and warm for you and your loved ones throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project.
Getting started: Check your toolbox to make sure you have all the materials you need for home maintenance in one place. This NY Times article provides a good list of the tools you’ll really need to maintain your home. After your toolbox is put together, you can confidently begin the maintenance on your home.
Insulation: According to the Sustainable Energy Info Fact Sheet “Insulating a home can save 45-55% of heating and cooling energy”. For the best results, your home should be properly insulated from the ceilings to the basement. However, if insulating your complete home is not in your budget, the U.S. Department of Energy states, “one of the most cost-effective ways to make your home more comfortable year-round is to add insulation to your attic.” By starting in your attic and progressively adding insulation to other areas of your home over time, you will avoid spending a large sum of money up-front.
Cracks & Leaks: Do a run-through of your entire house for cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards. Winter weather is unpredictable. Whether your area gets rain, wind or snow, cracks in your house can lead to cold drafts or leaks that cause water damage. Do-it-Yourself.com reports, “The average house, even when well-insulated, contains cracks and gaps between building materials that add up to a hole about 14 inches square. All year long, a leaky house not only wastes energy, but can lead to water damage and provide a path for insects”. Depending on your house type, most cracks can be easily filled with supplies from your local hardware store in a do-it-yourself fashion. Use caulk to seal any cracks in the permanent building materials.
Windows & Doors: Another common place for heat leakage is in your windows and exterior doorways. Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. This 5 minute video, How to Caulk Windows & Doors, demonstrates how to find leaks, pick the correct tools to use, and fill in the leaks. Don’t underestimate the difference some weather strips and a door sweep can provide in preventing drafts and keeping the heat in.
Rain Gutters: Clean your rain gutters of any debris. Buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak. Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed.
Pipes: Pipes are a number one risk in winter climates. A burst pipe can become a winter disaster in a matter of seconds. Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take. This article from Insights, Natural Hazard Mitigation advises, “Vulnerable pipes that are accessible should be fitted with insulated sleeves or wrappings, the more insulation the better”.
Heating System: What is one thing gas fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and central air heating systems all have in common? They all need to be cleaned and maintained. Check and clean your indoor heating system thoroughly. This is important to avoid dangers such as house fires. If you use an old fashioned wood stove, make sure there is no leaks and that all soot build up or nests are removed. If a furnace is what you have remember to change the filters as recommended or clean out your reusable filters.
Fireplace & Wood burning stoves: Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption as much as 30%.
Outside: As we mentioned before make sure you bring your patio furniture inside (or cover) for the winter- but don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including a hose and small planting pot. These items can be damaged or broken in extreme cold. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcomed guests over the cold season.
If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any items that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.
Emergency Kit: Make sure your emergency kit is up-to-date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids, etc- especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.
When it comes to protecting our investments and our families’ safety “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a good philosophy. Your winter preparedness plan will fit your property, schedule and needs. What are some tips you have for preparing for winter? What are some of your favorite activities to do at home over the winter while weathering out a storm?
By Brittany Lockwood
You may know Brittany as the helpful voice behind the Marketing Solutions Help Desk. She grew up in Cheney, Washington so she knows a thing or two about harsh winters.
Posted by Geoff Wood
The other day I was searching for my daughter’s cell phone number – which I haven’t memorized because I simply speed-dial it – and I realized it’s been years since I memorized anyone’s phone number. And this was just after I’d booked a flight online and selected my seat, and downloaded some new music into my iPod.
It occurred to me that these are just three examples of the tremendous changes that have happened just since the new millennium began. At the beginning of this decade, iTunes, YouTube and Facebook did not exist. Today, their combined daily views and downloads are in the billions.
An article in Newsweek a few months ago highlighted how much things have changed in a decade. The numbers are staggering and surprising.
- Ten years ago, a total of 400,000 text messages were sent per day; today 4.5 billion are zinging through cyberspace every day.
- In 2000, 12 billion emails were sent each day; today 247 billion are sent daily (many of which were in my spam filter this morning).
- Ten years ago, about 208 billion letters were mailed through the postal system each day; today the number of letters mailed daily is less than 176 billion.
This decade has been tumultuous, to say the least. Beyond the tremendous technology-driven advances, we are still struggling with this economy. Unemployment rates are too high. Banks are still struggling. And it is heartbreaking that people have lost their homes.
Even though there is a lot of uncertainty, I remain optimistic. I am realistic enough to know that this recovery will take awhile. But recover we will.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the past decade is the resiliency of real estate over time. When you look at median single-family home prices ten years ago versus this year, you’ll see that home values have increased since 2000. This is encouraging, especially when you consider that the stock market today is the same place it was 10 years ago. For most people, their home is worth more today than when they bought it. It might be worth less than it was two or three years ago, but real estate has never been about day trading. It’s a long-term investment. And if the last 10 years, or 100 years, are any indication, we can count on growth in home values.
And that’s a good thing.
July Median Home Prices*
What are some of the most memorable changes for you in the past decade?
Purchasing a home can be a complex endeavor for even the most well prepared home buyer. You’ve diligently saved for your down payment, followed the market, researched agents and now you are ready to make an offer on your dream home. Don’t let these 5 “Deal Breakers” come between you and your new home.
- Big Purchases on Credit. It is tempting to buy the furniture for your new home or a new car for the garage before the sale closes. Take care if you are making these purchases on credit. Large purchases on credit can have a major impact on your credit profile which effects your mortgage application. It’s a better plan to wait until after closing or pay cash for these transactions or you may be putting that furniture in a different living room than you originally picked them out for.
- Overpaying. Before your bank will approve your mortgage they will appraise the home you are purchasing. If they feel you are overpaying they are likely to decline your mortgage application. If you find yourself in this situation consult with your agent on renegotiating your offer to be more in line with the bank’s appraised value.
- Purchasing too close to Foreclosure. If you are making an offer on a house which is facing foreclosure be sure to have a closing date set before the foreclosure date. Have your agent work with the lender to structure closing before the house goes back to the bank and into foreclosure.
- IRS liens. You’ve heard the old saying “Death and Taxes”. Back taxes and liens can derail your attempts to get financing for a mortgage so be sure to have your books in order before filing your loan application.
- Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). CLUE is a data base of insurance claims for both people and property. Your home insurance rates are determined by the information about you and the property you plan to purchase which is contained in this report. Past claims for water damage, falling trees and even dog bites from present and past owners can multiply your insurance rates. Consult your agent about the CLUE report for your future home as soon as possible once your home purchase offer is accepted.
When purchasing a home there will be challenges which you can plan for and the unexpected hurdles. By educating yourself as a consumer and choosing a well trained real estate agent you can avoid many of the pitfalls of 21st century home ownership.
What about you? Tell us if you have had any “deal breaker” experiences.
Posted in Selling by Windermere Guest Author
The following post was written by Kathryn Madison, a real estate broker out of the Windermere Portland-Raleigh Hills office. You can learn more about Kathryn and read more insightful articles on her blog, GoBeyondtheOrdinary.com.
How do we transition from the mindset of a homeowner to a home seller? Homes bring us shelter, comfort and are a place to express our individuality. But when it’s time to move on, that same home will now be the financial springboard to the next chapter in our lives.
We start by letting go of the home layer by layer.
Both buyer and seller benefit when the seller- perhaps with some judicious coaching from their skilled Realtor- peels away those things that made their home uniquely theirs. In essence, the serious packing begins once the decision has been made to sell; bookcases and closets should only suggest their function with a few items, rather than store seasons and years worth of books and clothes. Carefully removing prized collections and family photos is also vital- nothing should distract the buyer from seeing the house, and seeing themselves in it.
Personal colors are just as important to remove as objects. After all, if you were serving ice cream to a few thousand people (that’s how many will see your house photographed online)- would you serve them mango flavor? It’s a lot more likely you would choose vanilla- and that’s pretty much what the color of your walls should be- neutral or deep neutral tones.
The last touch is a good deep cleaning- ask your REALTORtm if they have the name of a reputable company.
The seller can then replace those familiar objects with a fresh new welcome mat at the front door.
This process allows the buyer the visual and emotional space to move in.
This process allows the seller to move on.
When I first moved into my new place, I was naively excited for making it exactly the way I wanted…immediately. New paint, new furniture and all of it would be so stylish. Then I realized I have a mortgage payment due soon and even though I want a new chair, I need to buy groceries.
Lately, I’ve been channeling my energy to shop for new furniture and decor on a few websites that let you find, save and share your favorite items from across the web in one place. You can even group your saved items by each room to keep things really organized. Each of these sites also have fun community features and giveaways so it may be personal preference which one you like best. I recommend:
- Stylehive.com – fabulous for the fashionistas out there.
- Thisnext.com – a very clean and simple interface makes this site easy to use.
Bonus: sort and save inspiration by room
On Houzz.com you can create and save “ideabooks” of various rooms around your home. Ideabooks are basically photo slideshows featuring inspiring interior design images added all the time by users. Ideabooks often have fun themes like “Feeling (wonderfully) Blue” and “Get Your Outdoor Party On.” You can look through other users’ ideabooks and save their photos to create your own.
How do you create your vision?
Post written by Katherine Garsi
What does your inspection cover?
Insist that you get it in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want inspected.
How long have you been in business?
Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.
<!–more–>Are you experienced in residential inspections?
Residential inspection is a unique discipline with specific challenges.
Do you do repairs or make improvements based on the inspection?
Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.
How long will the inspection take?
A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.
How much will it cost?
Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age and foundation of the house.
What type of report will you provide and when will I get it?
Ask to see samples to make sure you understand his reporting style. Also make sure the timeline works for you.
Can I be there for the inspection?
This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.
Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?
Ask to see their membership ID; it’s some assurance.
Do you keep your skills up-to-date through continuing education?
An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important with older homes or homes with unique elements.
Any other good questions to ask? Post yours now!
It can sometimes be tough to hear an agent asking you to hide your prize possessions when preparing your home for sale. I overheard two agents giving each other advice about how to politely help their sellers relocate their pink flamingo display and car collection off the front yard before putting the homes on the market.
Studies indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds of entering a home. You get one chance to make a first impression.
Make sure your house looks attractive, well maintained and move-in ready at a glance. Before you put out your “for sale” sign, put these tasks on your to do list.
• Get your yard in shape—Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, haul away debris, sweep the walk, porches and patio, and consider adding some potted plants or hanging baskets for a touch of color.
• Keep it clean—Make sure your house can pass the white-glove test. Polish windows and scrub bathrooms, appliances, counters and floors until they gleam. Vacuum carpets, rugs, drapes and upholstery. Dust shelves, floorboards and molding.
• Give it a fresh coat—Paint the front door, walls leading to entrances, ceiling stains, cracks, chipped or damaged areas. A little paint goes a long way to improve the look of your home.
• Just fix it—Repair anything that needs it, including broken doorbells, torn screens, leaky faucets, broken deck railings or banisters, damaged floor tiles or doors that don’t close properly.
• Lose the chaos—Organize your rooms, closets and basement—anywhere a prospective buyer is likely to look. And don’t forget to remove pets and litter boxes.
• Set the stage—Help prospective buyers imagine life in your house. Remove excess furniture and rearrange what remains so that rooms look spacious and welcoming. Light scented candles, play soft music, add flowers here and there, you might even bake cookies.
• Hire a pro—Don’t have time to get your house ready to show? Turn to a realtor with an ASP® (Accredited Staging Professional) designation to stage your house professionally.
As a seller today you are faced with a challenge when it comes to selling your home for a fair price and getting it done in a reasonable amount of time. Even though inventory is lower than it was five months ago, we are still looking at about 9 months of inventory in many areas. This large amount of inventory indicates there is a lot of competition out there to attract the right buyer.
We all know there are more than five steps involved when it comes to selling your home. We asked a few of our Windermere agents what advice they would give a seller today if selling your home came down to just five key things.
Top five by Liz Talley Windermere Ballard
- Refresh the garden.
- Clear the entry and front porch.
- Minimalize & depersonalize.
- Price it a wee bit under the competition so that it pulls in buyers.
As always, market presence, professional photos, etc. all make an enormous difference but these five steps are the key right now.
Top five by Jamie Johnson Windermere Camano Island
- Price. Listen to your real estate expert and don’t try to “start high.”
- Clean and stage. You are competing with other great deals out there. Yours needs to stand out and shine.
- Follow a marketing plan. Drop your price 3% every 30 days.
- Ask yourself – what is your goal? Most sellers have a dream of making a lot of money off the sale of their home. If your goal is to purchase another home, you will make up for your loss” there. It’s all relative.
- Hire a local expert. Interview at least three agents. Do your research. A good agent will do all that for you.