What Every Seller Needs to Know About Closing + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

What Every Seller Needs to Know About Closing + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Walk-throughs, closing costs, and other items to check off your list before the big finish!


Closing time. The end of the road. The last hurrah — and hurrahs are in order.

If you’re here, then you’ve found a buyer, negotiated home repairs, and are ready to move out — and on. But before you can make this sale official (and get paid!), you still have a few items to cross off your list.

Here, we’ve laid out everything you need to know to have a successful settlement.

Closing Is the Final Step

Closing, or “settlement,” is when both parties sign the final ownership and insurance paperwork, and the buyer becomes the legal owner of the home.

Typically, closing day takes place about four to six weeks after you signed a purchase and sale agreement. During this window, the buyer’s purchasing funds are held in escrow until all contingencies, like the home inspection contingency and appraisal contingency, are met.

Your agent will be able to answer questions and offer support through closing. Here’s what to expect from the process, start to finish.

Before You Close, You’ll Have a Final Walk-Through

Most sales contracts give the buyer one last chance to do a walk-through of the home within 24 hours of settlement. This is their chance to check that the property is in good condition, and to make sure the agreed-upon repairs were completed.

In most cases, no problems arise at this stage of the transaction. (If something is amiss, your agent can walk you through it.) The final walk-through mostly gives buyers peace of mind knowing that you, the seller, have adhered to the conditions of the sales contract and home inspection-related repairs.

Related Topic: Sell a Home: Step-by-Step

Follow These Steps to Prepare for the Final Walk-Through

To help ensure that the walk-through goes smoothly, take these six steps ahead of time to prepare:

Step #1: Clean house. Your home should be spotless for the final walk-through. Assuming the buyer is taking ownership on closing day, you should be fully moved out at this point. But moving can be messy. After purging, packing, and moving, you may want to do one more deep cleaning.

Step #2: Leave owner’s manuals and warranties. Make the buyer’s life easier by providing all manuals and warranties you have for home appliances. Print physical copies and put these documents in one place for the new owner. If you have receipts from contractors for repairs, leave them with the manuals.

Step #3: Provide a vendor list. Give the buyer contact information for home contractors or maintenance companies that you’ve used in the past. These vendors are familiar with your home, and the new owner will appreciate having a list of servicers they can trust will take good care of their new home.

Step #4: Check for forgotten items. Do one more check throughout the home to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind. One exception: You may want to leave unused or leftover paint cans in the colors currently in use within the home — but confirm with the buyer first.

Step #5: Turn off water shut-off valves. The last thing you want before closing is a flood. With the buyer’s permission, turn off your house’s main shutoff valve 24 hours before closing.

Step #6: Lock up. Until settlement is complete, you’re legally responsible for the home — meaning you’d be liable if there’s a break-in before closing. So, the day before settlement make sure to close window coverings and lock the entry doors. If a house looks un-lived in, it’s a welcome sign to burglars. It’s a good idea to leave a porch light on, or to set an interior light to turn on and off with a timer.

If the final walk-through reveals an issue with the house, don’t panic. The standard protocol is for the buyer’s agent to immediately alert the listing agent that there’s a problem. Then, both parties work together to solve it. Typically, either the closing gets delayed or there’s additional negotiation, such as monetary deduction of the sales price. In other words: There are options, and your agent can help you through this.

Up Next: The “Closing Disclosure”

Let’s assume the final walk-through is smooth sailing. (Woo-hoo!) What happens next?

You’ll get info about your closing costs from the title company.

Meanwhile, the buyer’s mortgage lender must provide the buyer with a Closing Disclosure, or CD, three business days before settlement. This is a formal statement of the buyer’s final loan terms and closing costs. As the loan borrower, the buyer is entitled to a three-day review period to see if there are any significant discrepancies between their CD and Loan Estimate (LE) — a document buyers receive when they apply for a loan. The LE outlines the approximate fees the buyer would need to pay.

In most cases, there are no major differences between the CD and LE. However, if certain closing costs differ by 10% or more between the estimate and the disclosure, the buyer’s loan has to go back to the mortgage lender so that cost differences can be reviewed. If that happens, closing is usually delayed until the issue is resolved.

Expect to See These People at the Closing

The closing typically takes place at the escrow company, attorney’s office, or your agent’s real estate office. The list of legally mandated attendees will depend on your state, but usually you’ll be joined by the escrow company representative and your agent.

Remember to Budget for Closing Costs

Closing costs can vary widely by location, but you’ll generally pay closing costs of 8% to 10% of the home’s sales price. In most cases, these costs are deducted from your proceeds at closing.

Closing costs for sellers typically include:

  • The commission for the listing agent and buyer’s agent
  • Transfer taxes or recording fees
  • Loan payoff costs
  • Unpaid homeowner association dues
  • Homeowner association dues included up to the settlement date
  • Prorated property taxes
  • Escrow, title, or attorney fees

Be Sure to Bring These Things to Closing

At the closing you should have:

  • A government-issued photo ID
  • A copy of the ratified sales contract
  • House keys, garage remotes, mailbox keys, gate keys, and any pool keys
  • A cashier’s check, or proof of wire transfer, if your closing costs are not being deducted from the sales price. (Yes, it’s OK to use a cashier’s check — especially if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of a wire transfer, which can take time to clear. With a cashier’s check, you’re guaranteed the money you need for settlement will be there at closing.)

Don’t Forget to Dot These I’s and Cross These T’s

Before you rush off to pick out paint samples for your new place, remember to do these two steps that are often overlooked by sellers:

Transfer utilities. Don’t want to pay for the new owner’s utility bills? Coordinate with the buyer so that utilities — including not only gas and electric but also water and cable — are transferred to the buyer on closing day.

Change your address. You obviously want your mail to be sent to your new home. Setting up a forwarding address will also ensure that you can be reached if there are any post-closing matters. You can file a change of address with the U.S. Postal Service here.

Finally: Celebrate!

At last, your home is officially sold. Congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back — and then start settling into your new phase of life.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

What You Need to Know Before Accepting — or Rejecting — an Offer + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

What You Need to Know Before Accepting — or Rejecting — an Offer + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

It’s not always about the money (except when it is).


The day will come — and it will be a wonderful, joyous, do-a-happy-dance day — when you receive an offer, or multiple offers, for your home.

And on that day, you’re going to face a question you may not have previously considered: How do you know if an offer is the best one for you?

Your listing agent will be a big help here. They will understand and help you suss out the merits and faults  of an offer because — believe it or not — it’s not always about price.

One buyer’s beautifully high offer might not look so good anymore, for example, if you discover that it’s contingent upon you moving out a month earlier than planned. Or, conversely, you may prefer speed over price, particularly if you’re moving to a new city.

Your listing agent will have a sense  of what you want financially and personally — and can help you determine whether the offer at hand satisfies those goals.

Before the first offer rolls in, here’s what you need to know about the offer evaluation process, including the main factors that should go into making a decision — accept or reject? — with your agent.

5 Important Things — Other Than Price — to Consider When Evaluating an Offer

Want to fetch top dollar for your home and walk away with as much money in your pocket as possible? Of course you do. You’ve gone through the time-consuming process of setting your asking price, staging your home, promoting your listing, and preparing for open houses — and should be rewarded for your efforts.

Your first instinct may be to just pick the highest bid on the table. But the offer price isn’t the only thing worth considering.

When vetting offers, evaluate these five areas in addition to price:

1. The earnest money deposit. One important consideration when weighing an offer is the size of the earnest money deposit. The “EMD” is the sum of cash the buyer is offering to fork over when the sales agreement is signed to show the person is serious (i.e., “earnest”) about buying your home. This money, which is typically held by a title company, will go toward the buyer’s down payment at closing.

A standard EMD is 2% to 3% of the cost of the home (so, that would be $16,000 to $24,000 on a $800,000 house). If a buyer tries to back out of an offer for no good reason, the seller typically keeps the EMD. Therefore, the higher the earnest money, the stronger the offer.

2. The contingencies. Most offers have contingencies — provisions that must be met for the transaction to go through, or the buyer is entitled to walk away from the deal with their earnest money. Contracts with fewer contingencies are more likely to reach closing, and in a timely fashion.

Here are five of the most common contingencies:

  • Home inspection contingency. This gives the buyer the right to have the home professionally inspected and request repairs by a certain date — typically within five to seven days of the purchase agreement being signed. Depending on where you live, you may be required to make home repairs for structural defects, building code violations, or safety issues. Most repair requests are negotiable, though, so you have the option to haggle over which fixes you’re willing to make.
  • Appraisal contingency. For a mortgage lender to approve a home buyer’s loan, the home must pass appraisal — a process during which the property’s value is assessed by a neutral third party. The appraisal verifies that the home is worth at least enough money to cover the price of the mortgage. (In the event the buyer can’t make their mortgage payments, the lender can foreclose on the home and sell the property to recoup all — or at least some — of its costs.) Generally, the home buyer is responsible for paying for the appraisal, which typically takes place within 14 days of the sales contract being signed.
  • Financing contingency. Also called a loan contingency or mortgage contingency, a financing contingency protects the buyer in the event their lender doesn’t approve their mortgage. Although the timeframe for financing contingencies can vary, mortgage lenders report that buyers generally have about 21 days to obtain mortgage approval.
  • Sale of current home contingency. Depending on the buyer’s financial situation, their offer may be contingent on the sale of their home. Usually, buyers have a window of 30 to 90 days to sell their house before the sales agreement is voided. This contingency puts you, the seller, at a disadvantage because you can’t control whether the buyer sells their house in time.
  • Title contingency. Before approving a mortgage, a lender will require the borrower to “clear title” — a process in which the buyer’s title company reviews any potential easements or agreements that are on public record. This ensures the buyer is becoming the rightful owner of the property and the lender is protected from ownership claims over liens, fraudulent claims from previous owners, clerical problems in courthouse documents, or forged signatures.

These contingencies are standard for most real estate sales contracts. There’s one exception: the sale of current home contingency, which tends to be used more often in strong buyer’s markets, when buyers have greater leverage over sellers.

That being said, contingencies are always negotiable. (The caveat: Mortgage lenders require borrowers to have appraisal financing contingencies, or they won’t approve the loan.) It’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable agreeing to, and your agent can help you make that decision.

3. The down payment. Depending on the type of mortgage, the buyer must make a down payment on the house — and the size of that down payment can affect the strength of the offer. In most cases, a buyer’s down payment amount is related to the home loan they’re taking out. Your chief concern as a seller, of course, is for the transaction to close — and for that to happen, the buyer’s mortgage has be approved.

Generally, a larger down payment signals the buyer’s financial wherewithal to complete the sale. The average down payment, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, is 10%. Some mortgage products, such as FHA and VA loans, allow for even lower down payments.

If, by chance, the appraisal comes in higher than your contract’s sale price, the buyer with a higher down payment would more likely be able to cover the difference with the large amount of cash they have available.

4. The all-cash offer. The more cash the buyer plunks down, the more likely the lender is to approve their loan. That’s why an all-cash offer is ideal for both parties. The buyer doesn’t have to fulfill an appraisal contingency — whereby their lender has the home appraised to make sure the property value is large enough to cover the mortgage — or a financing contingency, which requires buyers to obtain mortgage approval within a certain number of days. As always, having a sales contract with fewer contingencies means there are fewer ways for the deal to fall through.

5. The closing date. Settlement, or “closing,” is the day when both parties sign the final paperwork and make the sale official. Typically, the whole process — from accepting an offer to closing — takes between 30 and 60 days; however, the average closing time is 42 days, according to a report from mortgage software company Ellie Mae.

Three days before closing, the buyer receives a closing disclosure from the lender, which he compares with the loan estimate he received when he applied for the loan. If there are material differences between the buyer’s loan estimate and closing disclosure, the closing can’t happen until those amounts are reviewed and approved. But this is rare.

Some transactions can take more time, depending on the buyer’s financing. For example, the average closing time for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is 43 days, according to Ellie Mae.

Whether you want a slow or quick settlement will depend on your circumstances. If you’ve already purchased your next home, for instance, you probably want to close as soon as possible. On the other hand, you may want a longer closing period — say, 60 days — if you need the proceeds from the sale to purchase your new home.

When Should You Make a Counteroffer?

Depending on the circumstances, you may be in the position to make a counteroffer. But every transaction is different, based on the particular market conditions and your home. In some circumstances, you can be gutsy with your counteroffer. In others, it might serve your goals better to give in to the buyer’s demands. Your agent can provide helpful insight about when and why a counteroffer will be the right thing for you.

For instance: If you’re in a seller’s market — meaning that homes are selling quickly and for more than the asking prices — and you received multiple offers, your agent may recommend you counteroffer with an amount higher than you would have in a buyer’s market.

If you choose to write a counteroffer, your agent will negotiate on your behalf to make sure you get the best deal for you.

A caveat: In many states sellers can’t legally make a counteroffer to more than one buyer at the same time, since they’re obligated to sign a purchase agreement if a buyer accepts the new offer.

Related Topic: Sell a Home: Step-by-Step

When Does an Offer Become a Contract?

In a nutshell, a deal is under contract when the buyer’s offer (or seller’s counteroffer) is agreed upon and signed by both parties. At that point, the clock starts ticking for the home buyer’s contingencies — and for the sweet moment when the cash — and home — is yours.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

TheMarketTalks.com

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Staging Your Home: How to Make Buyers Fall in Love + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Staging Your Home: How to Make Buyers Fall in Love  + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

With these tips and tricks, your house will be swoon-worthy in no time.


All the world’s a stage, said the Bard.

That includes your house. Which is for sale. And thus needs to look bee-yoo-tee-ful.

Staging entails hiring experts with a flair for interior design. They reimagine your living space and give your house a makeover (with temporary decor and furnishings) so that it gets “oohs” and “aahs” from the buying masses.

Great staging isn’t an insurance policy — there’s no guarantee it will bring in more money when you sell your home — but it’s an important marketing tool. It presents your house in a flattering light and helps you compete at a favorable price. (In that sense, staging is like dressing your house for the price you want, and not the price you have.)

Staging also leads to eye-catching listing photos, which are especially valuable given that most homebuyers begin their search by scrolling through listings online.

So, are you thinking about hiring stagers for your home? Here’s what to consider.

Staging Really Does Help. Like, a Lot.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. A recent survey from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® revealed that:

  • 77% of buyers’ agents said staging makes it easier for their buyer to visualize the property as their future home. It’s like helping the buyer dream it so they can achieve it — and so you and your agent can make the sale.
  • 39% of sellers’ agents said staging a home greatly decreases the amount of time a house is on the market. For you, time saved could mean moving into your new house even sooner.
  • 21% of sellers’ agents said staging a home increases its dollar value between 6% and 10%. Simply put, that may lead to more money in your pocket.

Before You Stage, Budget Accordingly

Many listings agents offer staging services to clients as part of their services. If you want to use someone you find yourself, you typically will have to pay out of pocket.

Staging costs vary depending on where you live and how many rooms you’re staging. On average, home sellers pay between $302 and $1,358 for staging, according to HomeAdvisor.com (although staging in higher-priced markets such as the Seattle area is considerably higher). If your house is empty because you’ve already moved, you might also have additional expenses for renting furniture and other homey decorations to make it look lived-in.

Many stagers offer consultations for as low as $150, Fixr.com reports. Using the advice you learn during the consultation to try DIY staging may be your best option if you’re on a tight budget. Listen for tips on how to use the furniture and decor you already have to show off your home’s best assets.

Related Topic: Sell a Home: Step-by-Step

For the Best Results, Declutter

Spoiler alert: No buyer wants to walk into a messy house.

So, take time to clean and declutter your home. Organize everyday household items into crates and keep them out of sight. Stow away seasonal decorations (that means no Christmas in July). Make time for — or invest in — a whole-house cleaning, including carpet shampooing. Change light bulbs, finally make those minor repairs, and add a fresh coat of paint to any room that needs it. Clean out closet spaces— because buyers will want to check out the closets.

Also worth considering? Removing personal items from view, such as copious family photos, artwork, or religious keepsakes. The concern is not that home buyers will be offended by you or your lifestyle. The goal is to neutralize the space and help home buyers imagine themselves living there. (But don’t go overboard. You don’t want rooms to feel sterile, either.)

Yes, we did just tell you to clean out your closets. So where are you supposed to put all this stuff? If you don’t have a discrete place to tuck things away, consider renting a storage unit.

To Find the Right Stager for Your Home, Ask Questions

If your agent doesn’t offer staging services, he or she can likely recommend local stagers for you to work with. Before you hire a stager, it’s best to interview at least three candidates in person. You’ll want to get a sense of how much they charge — and whether they have good taste.

To do your due diligence, here are 10 questions to ask prospective stagers:

  1. On average, how many days were your staged homes on the market last year?Experience is important, but it’s not the only factor to consider when vetting stagers. You want someone who stages homes that sell — ideally within 30 days, because that’s when agents often recommend making a price reduction if your house is still on the market.
  2. What price range do you typically work in? Staging luxury homes is a totally different ball game than staging starter homes. Find someone who specializes in homes near your listing price.
  3. What styles of homes do you usually stage? Staging different types of homes also requires different skill sets (think of a penthouse versus a bungalow, for instance). Look for someone with experience working in homes similar to yours.
  4. What formal training have you received? A number of staging organizations, such as the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) and the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP), offer certification or accreditation. Training from these associations can distinguish professional stagers from beginners.
  5. Do you have insurance? Your home could get damaged when the stager moves furniture in and out. Find someone with business insurance so that you’re protected.
  6. Can I see your portfolio? One of the best ways to judge a stager’s skills is to look at their work. Ask to see photos from the person’s three most recently staged homes.
  7. Do you select the accessories, furniture, and paint for the homes you stage, or do you collaborate with other experts? Some stagers work independently, while others collaborate with other vendors. Make sure you know everyone who will be involved in staging your home, so you don’t have surprise guests rearranging your living room.
  8. What are your rates? Some stagers charge a fee for decorating services, plus a monthly fee for renting furniture, while others charge a flat fee per room for the duration of the listing. Ask about how a stager determines costs before you commit to working with him or her.
  9. What’s your availability? If you’re on a tight timetable, make sure the stager can get your house ready by the date you want to put your house on the market.
  10. Can you provide contacts for past clients? Get in touch with two or three people who have worked with the stager before. Ask how the stager’s services helped with the sale of their homes, and what they might have done differently.

Focus On the Rooms That Count the Most

You don’t have to stage your whole house to make buyers swoon.

Staging the rooms where people tend to spend the most time usually makes the biggest impression on buyers. Start with the living room, followed by the master bedroom and the kitchen.

Keep in mind that you’re not going for an HGTV-worthy overhaul: Even small touches, like putting fluffy towels in the bathroom or replacing shabby throw pillows in the family room, can make your home that much more attractive.

Oh, and BTW: Stage Your Yard, Too

Your house has to look its best — inside and outside. After all, buyers form their first impression when they pull up in front of your home. It’s no surprise, then, that curb appeal — how your home looks from the exterior — can increase your home’s sales value up to 17%, a Texas Tech University study found.

If you’ve never had your yard professionally landscaped, now may be the time to do it. Landscaped homes have a sales price advantage ranging from 5.5% to 12.7%, according to research by Alex Niemiera, a horticulturist at Virginia Tech. That would mean an extra $16,500 to $38,100 in value on a $300,000 home.

Professional landscaping, however, can cost a lot. You’re aiming for polish, not a new garden of Versailles. If budget is a concern, start with these DIY improvements:

  • Plant blooming flowers and fresh greenery. Even if it’s winter, you can add colorful winter blooms and seasonal touches such as garland or lights.
  • Mow the grass.
  • Reseed bare patches of lawn and add fresh sod, as needed.

Then move on to these easy upgrades to your home’s exterior:

  • Wash the front windows.
  • Power wash siding and walkways.
  • Repaint or stain porches and stairs, as needed.
  • Make sure house numbers are easy to see, visible, and pretty.
  • Make sure important outdoor features such as the front door, porch, and sidewalks and paths are well lit. (If not, install new fixtures or lighting.)

Even basic upgrades — like laying fresh mulch, changing porch lights, or installing a new mailbox — can help a buyer fall in love at first sight.

Just wait ’til they come inside and see what else you’ve done with the place.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

TheMarketTalks.com

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The Ins and Outs of Setting a Price for Your Home + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

The Ins and Outs of Setting a Price for Your Home  + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

It’s a big decision with a lot of factors, but don’t worry — you have backup.


Everything has value. Especially your home.

And when it comes to selling your home, assigning a price to that value is complicated. You made memories there. You’ve got a major financial interest in the place, too.

Buyers think of value, but they’re more concerned with price. And your home’s price is one of its most attractive — or unattractive — features. The right price can attract buyers, quickly. The wrong price may mean the house sits on the market, which can create the vibe among buyers that there’s something wrong it. (If the home buying process is Instagram, think of a wrongly priced home as a photo that isn’t getting any likes.)

It’s your agent’s job, as the real estate expert — mining his or her expertise and knowledge of the market — to determine the best price for your home. But it’s your house. You need to have your own idea of how much your property is worth. Here’s how to get it.

Work With Your Agent
This is crucial. Your agent brings the right mix of industry expertise and knowledge of your local market to the table.

To understand whether your agent is pricing your home properly, read through each of the steps below. Use what you learn about your home’s fair market price to evaluate any price your agent recommends.

Throughout the pricing process, a good agent will:

Listen to your needs
Take into account your research
Use his or her knowledge of the local market to help you pick the best asking price
You’re a team. It’s in both of your interests to price your home correctly — a timely, profitable sale is win for everyone.

And Yeah, You Should Also Check the Internet
Pricing a home is both art and science. To understand what will inform your agent’s pricing decisions — and to be prepared to bring your own educated input to the conversation — start with a pricing research phase.

This includes taking advantage of online estimating tools — but only to an extent. Property websites like realtor.com® and Redfin enable you to plug in your home’s address to see approximately how much your house is worth. They base their estimates on your home’s square footage and real estate data they’ve collected, such as recent home sales in your local market.

But those results are estimates based on generalized factors, not your unique situation. If at any point the price you see in an online calculator doesn’t align with what your agent suggests, prioritize the agent’s advice.

Online estimators also have a reputation among real estate professionals for misleading buyers and sellers alike with less-than-optimal pricing information. But as a starting point, they have their utility.

Related Topic: Sell a Home: Step-by-Step

Know Your Local History
What your home’s listing price should be largely depends on what similar homes, or “comps,” recently sold for in your area. To price your home, your agent will run the average sales prices of at least three comps to assess your home’s value.

What constitutes a comp? A number of factors, including a home’s:

Age
Location
Square footage
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
Agents will look into the difference between each comp’s listing price, and the price it sold for. He or she will consider price reductions and why they happened, if relevant. All the while, your agent will also rely on inside knowledge of housing stock and the local market. That nuanced understanding is invaluable, particularly when measuring the unique aspects of your home with raw data about comps.

When selecting comps, agents generally look for properties that sold within a one-mile radius of your home, and in the past 90 days. They find these homes using the multiple listing service (MLS), a regional database of homes that agents pay dues to access.

Size Up the Competition
In addition to recently sold homes, your agent will also look at properties that are currently for sale in your area. These listings will be your competition. But because listing photos don’t always tell the full story, a good agent will check out these homes in person to see what condition they’re in and to assess how your home sizes up.

You can do the same. For additional perspective, you can also get in touch with your local association of REALTORS®. Ask if they have information to offer about your neighborhood and the local market.

Understand the Market You’re In
The housing market where you live can greatly impact your pricing strategy.

If you’re in a seller’s market, where demand from buyers outpaces the number of homes for sale, you may be able to price your home slightly higher than market value.

But if you’re in a buyer’s market, where buyers have the advantage, you may have to price your home slightly below market value to get people interested.

You can see local market trends by checking the online resource realtor.com®. It offers charts that display important housing market data, such as a city’s average listing price, median sales price, and average days a home is on market. It’s a lot of information. At any point, you can ask your agent to help you make sense of how your local market will influence your home’s price.

Put Your Feelings Aside
As previously mentioned, many sellers think their home is worth more than it is. Why? Because memories. Because sentiment. Because pride.

But you have to stay objective when assessing your home’s value. Buyers, after all, won’t know your home’s personal history. What makes your home special to you may not be something that entices them. Read: They may want to convert that craft room you worked so hard to perfect into a man cave.

The lesson: As much as possible, set aside your emotional attachment to your home. It will make it easier to accept your agent’s realistic, clear-eyed calculation of its price.

Remember: It’s All Relative
As you and your agent are talking price, the local market may throw you a curveball or two.

In some markets, for example, it could make sense to price your home slightly below its fair market value to spark a bidding war.

Of course, there’s no guarantee a pricing strategy such as this will pay off. Similarly, there’s no one-size-fits-all playbook. Your home should be priced for its own local, or even hyper-local, market. Period. Confer with your agent before you decide to try any market-specific pricing tactics.

Be Savvy With the Dollar Amount
Pricing your home requires careful attention. In some cases, fair market value may not be precisely what you should list it for — and the reasons can be subtle.

For example, if comps show that your home is worth $910,000, setting that as your asking price can backfire — the reason is that buyers who are looking online for properties under $900,000 won’t see your home in search results in that case. This explains why many agents use the “99” pricing strategy and, for example, list $900,000 homes for $899,000. The idea is to maximize exposure.

Have a Heart-to-Heart With Your Partner
Not the sole decision maker in your household? Talk to your partner about your home’s price before it’s listed. You can use this worksheet as a guide for that discussion.

The reason isn’t just to foster the kind of open communication that’s important to any relationship. It’s that if you’re not on the same page about price or the other things that are important to you about sale, each subsequent step of the selling process will be impacted by that tension.

Keep Your Head in the Game
You’ve considered your agent’s advice, and the two of you have agreed on the right price for your home. Hey, champ! Your house is on the market.

Even after the listing date, price should be an ongoing discussion between you and your agent. Markets are fluid, so it’s possible that you’ll have to make tweaks.

In any case, it’s important to to stay in continuous dialogue with your agent, the MVP of Team Sell Your House. Together, keep your eyes on the price.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

TheMarketTalks.com

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The Everything Guide to Selling Your First Home + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

The Everything Guide to Selling Your First Home  + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

How to figure out exactly what you want, and how to work with the experts who’ll help you get it.

Selling, a famous salesman once said, is essentially a transfer of feelings.

You love and cherish your home. You want the next owner to fall in love with it, too — through photos, through words, and through the experience of walking through your front door. But, perhaps most, you want to get the price you want.

This isn’t a small task. Selling a home requires work. It requires time. The journey isn’t always easy. There will be frustrations. But when you seal the deal and move on to your next chapter  — wow, what a blissful, boss feeling.

Below, we preview and link to each step in your journey.  We’ll discuss how to know what you want (and what your partner wants, if you’re selling together). How to understand the market, and ways to make a plan. And most importantly? How to create relationships with experts and trust them to help you get the job done.

Now, let’s talk about selling your house.

Know, Exactly, What You Want

First things first: You need to know what you want (and what your partner wants) in order to sell your home with minimum frustration. Why are you moving? What do you expect from the process? When, exactly, should you put that For Sale sign in the yard? We can help you get your thoughts in order with this home selling worksheet.

Do Your Research

Unless you bought your home last week, the housing market changed since you became a homeowner. Mortgage rates fluctuate, inventory shifts over time — these are just a few of the factors that affect the state of the market, and every market is unique. Educate yourself on what to expect. Start with our study guide on the market.

Related Topic: Sell a Home: Step-by-Step

Interview and Select an Agent

This is the most important relationship you’ll form on your home selling journey. Pick the right agent and you’ll likely get a better sales price for your house. Here’s how to find and select the expert who’s right for you.

Price Your Home

How much is your home worth? That’s the … $1,000,000 question. Whatever the number, you need to know it. This is how your agent will help you pinpoint the price.

Prep Your Home for Sale

Today, home buyers have unfettered access to property listings online, so you have to make a great first impression — on the internet and IRL. That means you’ll have to declutter all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years, make any necessary repairs, and get your home in swoon-worthy condition. Here’s how to stage your home.

Market Your Home

Home buyers look at countless listings online. The best-marketed homes have beautiful photos and compelling property descriptions, so they can get likes — which can amount to buyer interest — on social media. Some agents are even using videos, virtual tours, texts, and audio messages. It’s time to consider how to promote your property.

Showcase Your Home

One of the best ways to get buyers in the door is to have an open house. This is your chance to show off your home’s best assets, and help buyers envision themselves living there. Know how your agent will organize, advertise, and host the event to ensure it’s a success.

Receive Offers

Yes, you might get offers plural, depending on your market. Assuming you’ve collaborated with your agent, you’ve likely positioned yourself to receive attractive bids. Your agent will review each offer with you to determine which is best for you. (Read: The offer price isn’t the only factor to consider: Here’s why.)

Negotiate With the Buyer

To get the best deal for you, you’ll likely have to do some negotiating. Your agent will help you craft a strategic counteroffer to the buyer’s offer, factoring in not only money, but contingencies, etc. Let’s talk about how to ask for what you want.

Negotiate Home Inspection Repairs

Ah, the home inspection. It’s as much a source of anxiety for buyers as it is for sellers. Nonetheless, most purchase agreements are contingent on a home inspection (plus an appraisal, which will be managed by the buyer’s lender). This gives the buyer the ability to inspect the home from top to bottom and request repairs — some even could be required per building codes. The upshot: You have some room to negotiate, including about certain repairs. Once again, your agent will be there to help you effectively communicate with the buyer.

Close the Sale

Settlement, or closing, is the last step in the home selling process. This is where you sign the final paperwork, make this whole thing official, and collect your check. Before that can happen though, you’ll have to prepare your home for the buyer’s final walk-through and troubleshoot any last-minute issues. We’ve got you covered with this closing checklist.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

TheMarketTalks.com

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Keep Your Home Sale from Falling Apart + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Keep Your Home Sale from Falling Apart  + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

After finding a buyer, all you have to do to make it to closing is to avoid these five traps.

Finding a buyer for your home is just the first step on the homeselling path. Tread carefully in the weeks ahead because if you make one of these common seller mistakes, your deal may not close.


Mistake #1: Ignore Contingencies

If your contract requires you to do something before the sale, do it. If the buyers make the sale contingent on certain repairs, don’t do cheap patch-jobs and expect the buyers not to notice the fixes weren’t done properly.

Mistake #2: Don’t Bother to Fix Things That Break

The last thing any seller needs is for the buyers to notice on the pre-closing walk-through that the home isn’t in the same condition as when they made their offer. When things fall apart in a home about to be purchased, sellers must make the repairs. If the furnace fails, get a professional to fix it, and inform the buyers that the work was done. When you fail to maintain the home, the buyers may lose confidence in your integrity and the condition of the home and back out of the sale.

Related: 10 Common Repair Costs

Mistake #3: Get Lax About Deadlines

Treat deadlines as sacrosanct. If you have three days to accept or reject the home inspection, make your decision within three days. If you’re selling, move out a few days early, so you can turn over the keys at closing.

Mistake #4: Refuse to Negotiate Any Further

Once you’ve negotiated a price, it’s natural to calculate how much you’ll walk away with from the closing table. However, problems uncovered during inspections will have to be fixed. The appraisal may come in at a price below what the buyers offered to pay. Be prepared to negotiate with the buyers over these bottom-line-influencing issues.

Related: How to Field a Lowball Purchase Offer

Mistake #5: Hide Liens from Buyers

Did you neglect to mention that Uncle Sam has placed a tax lien on your home or you owe six months of homeowners association fees? The title search is going to turn up any liens filed on your house. To sell your house, you have to pay off the lien (or get the borrower to agree to pay it off). If you can do that with the sales proceeds, great. If not, the sale isn’t going to close.

Related:

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who wanted a successful closing on a Wisconsin property so bad that she probably made her agent rethink going into real estate. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

REALTOR® Content Resource, by G. M. Filisko. Republished with permission of National Association of Realtors.

TheMarketTalks.com

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

7 Tips for Staging Your Home + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

7 Tips for Staging Your Home  + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Make your home warm and inviting to boost your home’s value and speed up the sale process.

The first step to getting buyers to make an offer on your home is to impress them with its appearance so they begin to envision themselves living there. Here are seven tips for making your home look bigger, brighter, and more desirable.


1.  Start with a Clean Slate

Before you can worry about where to place furniture and which wall hanging should go where, each room in your home must be spotless. Do a thorough cleaning right down to the nitpicky details like wiping down light switch covers. Deep clean and deodorize carpets and window coverings.

2.  Stow Away Your Clutter

It’s harder for buyers to picture themselves in your home when they’re looking at your family photos, collectibles, and knickknacks. Pack up all your personal decorations. However, don’t make spaces like mantles and coffee and end tables barren. Leave three items of varying heights on each surface, suggests Barb Schwarz of Staged Homes in Concord, Pa. For example, place a lamp, a small plant, and a book on an end table.

3.  Scale Back on Your Furniture

When a room is packed with furniture, it looks smaller, which will make buyers think your home is less valuable than it is. Make sure buyers appreciate the size of each room by removing one or two pieces of furniture. If you have an eat-in dining area, using a small table and chair set makes the area seem bigger.

4.  Rethink Your Furniture Placement

Highlight the flow of your rooms by arranging the furniture to guide buyers from one room to another. In each room, create a focal point on the farthest wall from the doorway and arrange the other pieces of furniture in a triangle around the focal point, advises Schwarz. In the bedroom, the bed should be the focal point. In the living room, it may be the fireplace, and your couch and sofa can form the triangle in front of it.

5.  Add Color to Brighten Your Rooms

Brush on a fresh coat of warm, neutral-color paint in each room. Ask your real estate agent for help choosing the right shade. Then accessorize. Adding a vibrant afghan, throw, or accent pillows for the couch will jazz up a muted living room, as will a healthy plant or a bright vase on your mantle. High-wattage bulbs in your light fixtures will also brighten up rooms and basements.

6.  Set the Scene

Lay logs in the fireplace, and set your dining room table with dishes and a centerpiece of fresh fruit or flowers. Create other vignettes throughout the home — such as a chess game in progress — to help buyers envision living there. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light.

Make your bathrooms feel luxurious by adding a new shower curtain, towels, and fancy guest soaps (after you put all your personal toiletry items are out of sight). Judiciously add subtle potpourri, scented candles, or boil water with a bit of vanilla mixed in. If you have pets, clean bedding frequently and spray an odor remover before each showing.

7.  Make the Entrance Grand

Mow your lawn and trim your hedges, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before showings to make your lawn sparkle. If flowers or plants don’t surround your home’s entrance, add a pot of bright flowers. Top it all off by buying a new doormat and adding a seasonal wreath to your front door.

Related:

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who occasionally rearranges her furniture to find the best placement—and keep her dog on his toes. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

 

REALTOR® Content Resource, by G. M. Filisko. Republished with permission of National Association of Realtors.

TheMarketTalks.com

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Find the Best Agent to Sell Your House + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Find the Best Agent to Sell Your House + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

 Ask detailed questions about their experience and skills to help you find the right agent for your home sale.

Working with the right real estate agent can mean the difference between getting prompt, expert representation and feeling like you’re going it alone when selling your home. Here are 10 questions to ask when you’re interviewing agents.


1. How long have you been selling homes?

Mastering real estate requires on-the-job experience. The more experience agents have, the more likely they’ll be able to handle any curveballs thrown during your home sale.

2. What designations do you hold?

Designations like GRI (Graduate REALTOR® Institute) and CRS® (Certified Residential Specialist), which require that agents complete additional real estate training, show they’re constantly learning. Ask if agents have designations and, if not, why not?

3. How many homes did you sell last year?

Agents may tout their company’s success. An equally important question is how many homes they’ve personally sold in the past year; it’s an indicator of how active and aggressive they are.

4. How many days on average did it take you to sell homes?

Ask agents to show you this data along with stats from their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) so you can see how many days, on average, their listings were on the market compared to the average for all properties in the MLS.

5. How close were the asking and sales prices of the homes you sold?

Sometimes sellers choose their agent because the agent’s suggested listing price is higher than those suggested by other agents. A better factor is the difference between listing prices and the amount homes actually sold for. That can help you judge agents’ skill at accurately pricing homes and marketing to the right buyers. It can also help you weed out agents trying to dazzle you with a lofty sales price just to get your listing.

6. How will you market my home?

The days of agents putting a For Sale sign in the yard and hoping for the best are long gone. Look for an agent who does aggressive and innovative marketing, especially on the Internet.

7. Will you represent me exclusively?

In most states, agents can represent the seller, the buyer, or both in a home sale. If your agent will also represent buyers, understand and consent to that dual representation.

8. How will you keep me informed?

If you want weekly updates by email, don’t choose an agent who plans to contact you only if there’s an offer.

9. Can you provide references?

Ask to talk to the last three customers the agent assisted. Call and ask if they’d work with the agent again and if the agent did anything that didn’t sit well with them.

10. Are you a REALTOR®?

Ask whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR). NAR has been an advocate of agent professionalism and a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s worked with many real estate agents in the past 20 years. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

REALTOR® Content Resource, by G. M. Filisko. Republished with permission of National Association of Realtors.

TheMarketTalks.com

View this week’s full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.


windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Home + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Home + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Before you put your home up for sale, understand how the right comparable sales help you and your agent find the perfect price.

How much can you sell your home for? Probably about as much as the neighbors got, as long as the neighbors sold their house in recent memory and their home was just like your home.

Knowing how much homes similar to yours, called comparable sales (or in real estate lingo, comps), sold for gives you the best idea of the current estimated value of your home. The trick is finding sales that closely match yours.


What makes a good comparable sale?

Your best comparable sale is the same model as your house in the same subdivision—and it closed escrow last week. If you can’t find that, here are other factors that count:

Location: The closer to your house the better, but don’t just use any comparable sale within a mile radius. A good comparable sale is a house in your neighborhood, your subdivision, on the same type of street as your house, and in your school district.

Home type: Try to find comparable sales that are like your home in style, construction material, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, basement (having one and whether it’s finished), finishes, and yard size.

Amenities and upgrades: Is the kitchen new? Does the comparable sale house have full A/C? Is there crown molding, a deck, or a pool? Does your community have the same amenities (pool, workout room, walking trails, etc.) and homeowners association fees?

Date of sale: You may want to use a comparable sale from two years ago when the market was high, but that won’t fly. Most buyers use government-guaranteed mortgages, and those lending programs say comparable sales can be no older than 90 days.

Sales sweeteners: Did the comparable-sale sellers give the buyers downpayment assistance, closing costs, or a free television? You have to reduce the value of any comparable sale to account for any deal sweeteners.

Agents can help adjust price based on insider insights

Even if you live in a subdivision, your home will always be different from your neighbors’. Evaluating those differences—like the fact that your home has one more bedroom than the comparables or a basement office—is one of the ways real estate agents add value.

An active agent has been inside a lot of homes in your neighborhood and knows all sorts of details about comparable sales. She has read the comments the selling agent put into the MLS, seen the ugly wallpaper, and heard what other REALTORS®, lenders, closing agents, and appraisers said about the comparable sale.

More ways to pick a home listing price

If you’re still having trouble picking out a listing price for your home, look at the current competition. Ask your real estate agent to be honest about your home and the other homes on the market (and then listen to her without taking the criticism personally).

Next, put your comparable sales into two piles: more expensive and less expensive. What makes your home more valuable than the cheaper comparable sales and less valuable than the pricier comparable sales?

Are foreclosures and short sales comparables?

If one or more of your comparable sales was a foreclosed home or a short sale (a home that sold for less money than the owners owed on the mortgage), ask your real estate agent how to treat those comps.

A foreclosed home is usually in poor condition because owners who can’t pay their mortgage can’t afford to pay for upkeep. Your home is in great shape, so the foreclosure should be priced lower than your home.

Short sales are typically in good condition, although they are still distressed sales. The owners usually have to sell because they’re divorcing, or their employer is moving them to Kansas.

How much short sales are discounted from their market value varies among local markets. The average short-sale home in Omaha in recent years was discounted by 8.5%, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha study. In suburban Washington, D.C., sellers typically discount short-sale homes by 3% to 5% to get them quickly sold, real estate agents report. In other markets, sellers price short sales the same as other homes in the neighborhood.

So you have to rely on your real estate agent’s knowledge of the local market to use a short sale as a comparable sale.

More from HouseLogic

What You Must Know About Home Appraisals

6 Reasons to Reduce Your Home Price


Carl Vogel, a freelance writer and former editor of The Neighborhood Works magazine, lives in a home in Chicago that is not typical of those nearby, so he appreciates a savvy comp.

REALTOR® Content Resource, by Carl Vogel. Republished with permission of National Association of Realtors.

TheMarketTalks.com

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

5 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Sale + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Working to get your home ship-shape for showings will increase its value and shorten your sales time…even in a red hot market.

Many buyers today want move-in-ready homes and will quickly eliminate an otherwise great home by focusing on a few visible flaws. Unless your home shines, you may endure showing after showing and open house after open house — and end up with a lower sales price. Before the first prospect walks through your door, consider some smart options for casting your home in its best light.


1.  Have a Home Inspection

Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. For $250 to $400, an inspector will warn you about troubles that could make potential buyers balk. Make repairs before putting your home on the market. In some states, you may have to disclose what the inspection turns up.

2.  Get Replacement Estimates

If your home inspection uncovers necessary repairs you can’t fund, get estimates for the work. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home and the repairs. Also hunt down warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for your furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items you expect to remain with the house.

3.  Make Minor Repairs

Not every repair costs a bundle. Fix as many small problems — sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, dripping faucets — as you can. These may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression your house isn’t well maintained.

4.  Clear the Clutter

Clear your kitchen counters of just about everything. Clean your closets by packing up little-used items like out-of-season clothes and old toys. Install closet organizers to maximize space. Put at least one-third of your furniture in storage, especially large pieces, such as entertainment centers and big televisions. Pack up family photos, knickknacks, and wall hangings to depersonalize your home. Store the items you’ve packed offsite or in boxes neatly arranged in your garage or basement.

5.  Do a Thorough Cleaning

A clean house makes a strong first impression that your home has been well cared for. If you can afford it, consider hiring a cleaning service.

If not, wash windows and leave them open to air out your rooms. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. Wash light fixtures and baseboards, mop and wax floors, and give your stove and refrigerator a thorough once-over.

Pay attention to details, too. Wash fingerprints from light switch plates, clean inside the cabinets, and polish doorknobs. Don’t forget to clean your garage, too.

Related:

  • 7 Tips for Staging Your Home
  • How to Keep Things Cleaner Longer

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has found happiness in a Chicago brownstone with the best curb appeal on the block. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

REALTOR® Content Resource, by G. M. Filisko. Republished with permission of National Association of Realtors.

TheMarketTalks.com

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Keep Your Home Purchase on Track + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Keep Your Home Purchase on Track + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

You’ve found your dream home. Make sure missteps don’t prevent a successful closing.


A home purchase isn’t complete until you make it to the closing. Until then, the transaction can fall apart for many reasons. Here are five tips for avoiding mistakes that cause a home sale to crater.

1.  Be truthful on your mortgage application.

You may think fudging your income a little or omitting debts when applying for a mortgage will go unnoticed. Not true. Lenders have become more diligent in verifying information on mortgage applications. If you fib, expect to be found out and denied the loan you need to fund your home purchase. Plus, intentionally lying on a mortgage application is a crime.

2.  Hold off on big purchases.

Lenders double-check buyers’ credit right before the closing to be sure their financial condition hasn’t weakened. If you’ve opened new credit cards, significantly increased the balance on existing cards, taken out new loans, or depleted your savings, your credit score may have dropped enough to make your lender change its mind on funding your home loan.

Although it’s tempting to purchase new furniture and other items for your new home, or even a new car, wait until after the closing.

3.  Keep your job.

The lender may refuse to fund your loan if you quit or change jobs before you close the purchase. The time to take either step is after a home closing, not before.

4.  Meet contingencies.

If your contract requires you to do something before the sale, do it. If you’re required to secure financing, promptly provide all the information the lender requires. If you must deposit additional funds into escrow, don’t stall. If you have 10 days to get a home inspection, call the inspector immediately.

5.  Consider deadlines immovable.

Get your funds together a week or so before the closing, so you don’t have to ask for a delay. If you’ll need to bring a certified check to closing, get it from the bank the day before, not the day of, your closing. Treat deadlines as sacrosanct.

REALTOR® Content Resource, by G. M. Filisko. Republished with permission of National Association of Realtors.

View this week’s full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Assess the Real Cost of a Fixer-Upper + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Assess the Real Cost of a Fixer-Upper  + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

This will help you figure out how much to offer for a fixer-upper.


Trying to decide whether to buy a fixer-upper house? Follow these seven steps, and you’ll know how much you can afford, how much to offer, and whether a fixer-upper house is right for you.

#1 Decide What You Can DIY

TV remodeling shows make home improvement work look like a snap. In the real world, attempting a difficult remodeling job that you don’t know how to do will take longer than you think and can lead to less-than-professional results that won’t increase the value of your fixer-upper house.

Do you really have the skills to do it? Some tasks, like stripping wallpaper and painting, are relatively easy. Others, like electrical work, can be dangerous when done by amateurs.

Do you really have the time and desire to do it? Can you take time off work to renovate your fixer-upper house? If not, will you be stressed out by living in a work zone for months while you complete projects on the weekends?

#2 Price the Cost of Renovations Before You Make an Offer

Get your contractor into the house to do a walk-through, so he can give you a written cost estimate on the tasks he’s going to do.

If you’re doing the work yourself, price the supplies.

Either way, tack on 10% to 20% to cover unforeseen problems that often arise with a fixer-upper house.

#3 Check Permit Costs

Ask local officials if the work you’re going to do requires a permit and how much that permit costs. Doing work without a permit may save money, but it’ll cause problems when you resell your home.

Decide if you want to get the permits yourself or have the contractor arrange for them. Getting permits can be time-consuming and frustrating. Inspectors may force you to do additional work, or change the way you want to do a project, before they give you the permit.

Factor the time and aggravation of permits into your plans.

#4 Double-Check Pricing on Structural Work

If your fixer-upper home needs major structural work, hire a structural engineer for $500 to $700 to inspect the home before you put in an offer so you can be confident you’ve uncovered and conservatively budgeted for the full extent of the problems.

Get written estimates for repairs before you commit to buying a home with structural issues.

Don’t purchase a home that needs major structural work unless:

  • You’re getting it at a steep discount
  • You’re sure you’ve uncovered the extent of the problem
  • You know the problem can be fixed
  • You have a binding written estimate for the repairs

#5 Check the Cost of Financing

Be sure you have enough money for a downpayment, closing costs, and repairs without draining your savings.

If you’re planning to fund the repairs with a home equity or home improvement loan, get yourself pre-approved for both loans before you make an offer.

Make the deal contingent on getting both the purchase money loan and the renovation money loan, so you’re not forced to close the sale when you have no loan to fix the house.

Consider the Federal Housing Administration’s Section 203(k) program, which is designed to help home owners who are purchasing or refinancing a home that needs rehabilitation.

The program wraps the purchase/refinance and rehabilitation costs into a single mortgage. To qualify for the loan, the total value of the property must fall within the FHA mortgage limit for your area, as with other FHA loans.

A streamlined 203(k) program provides an additional amount for rehabilitation, up to $35,000, on top of an existing mortgage. It’s a simpler process than obtaining the standard 203(k).

#6 Calculate Your Fair Purchase Offer

Take the fair market value of the property (what it would be worth if it were in good condition and remodeled to current tastes) and subtract the upgrade and repair costs.

For example: Your target fixer-upper house has a 1960s kitchen, metallic wallpaper, shag carpet, and high levels of radon in the basement.

Your comparison house, in the same subdivision, sold last month for $200,000. That house had a newer kitchen, no wallpaper, was recently recarpeted, and has a radon mitigation system in its basement.

The cost to remodel the kitchen, remove the wallpaper, carpet the house, and put in a radon mitigation system is $40,000. Your bid for the house should be $160,000.

Ask your real estate agent if it’s a good idea to share your cost estimates with the sellers, to prove your offer is fair.

#7 Include Inspection Contingencies

Don’t rely on your friends or your contractor to eyeball your fixer-upper house. Hire pros to do common inspections like:

  • Home inspection. This is key in a fixer-upper assessment. The home inspector will uncover hidden issues in need of replacement or repair. You may know you want to replace those 1970s kitchen cabinets, but the home inspector has a meter that will detect the water leak behind them.
  • Radon, mold, lead-based paint
  • Septic and well
  • Pest

Most home inspection contingencies let you go back to the sellers and ask them to do the repairs, or give you cash at closing to pay for the repairs. The seller can also opt to simply back out of the deal, as can you, if the inspection turns up something you don’t want to deal with.

If that happens, this isn’t the right fixer-upper house for you. Go back to the top of this list and start again.

REALTOR® Content Resource, by G. M. Filisko. Republished with permission of National Association of Realtors.

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.


House hunting is just like any other shopping expedition. If you identify exactly what you want and do some research, you’ll zoom in on the home you want at the best price. These eight tips will guide you through a smart homebuying process.

1.  Know thyself.

Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If you’re leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2.  Research before you look.

List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you’d like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto realtor.com to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you’d like to view.

3.  Get your finances in order.

Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you’re comfortable spending each month on housing. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you’re eligible to borrow. The lender won’t necessarily consider the extra fees you’ll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you’re comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4.  Set a moving timeline.

Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, you’ll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5.  Think long term.

Your future plans may dictate the type of home you’ll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you’ll still love years from now.

6.  Work with a REALTOR®.

Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you’re interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent’s style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers’ reps work only for you even though they’re typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7.  Be realistic.

It’s OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don’t be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, don’t be so swayed by a “wow” feature that you forget about other issues — like noise levels — that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there’s no such thing as the perfect home.

8.  Limit the opinions you solicit.

It’s natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you’ve identified as important.

REALTOR® Content Resource, by G. M. Filisko. Republished with permission of National Association of Realtors.

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

7 Steps to Take Before You Buy a Home + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

7 Steps to Take Before You Buy a Home + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

By doing your homework before you buy, you’ll feel more content about your new home.


Most potential home buyers are a smidge daunted by the fact that they’re about to agree to a hefty mortgage that they’ll be paying for the next few decades. The best way to relieve that anxiety is to be confident you’re purchasing the best home at a price you can afford with the most favorable financing. These seven steps will help you make smart decisions about your biggest purchase.

1. Decide How Much Home You Can Afford

Generally, you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Remember to consider costs every homeowner must cover: property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care if you plan to have children.

2. Develop Your Home Wish List

Be honest about which features you must have and which you’d like to have. Handicap accessibility for an aging parent or special needs child is a must. Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are in the bonus category. Come up with your top five must-haves and top five wants to help you focus your search and make a logical, rather than emotional, choice when home shopping.

3. Select Where You Want to Live

Make a list of your top five community priorities, such as commute time, schools, and recreational facilities. Ask a REALTOR® to help you identify three to four target neighborhoods based on your priorities.

4. Start Saving

Have you saved enough money to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20% of the purchase price set aside for a down payment, but some lenders allow as little as 5% down. A small down payment preserves your savings for emergencies.

However, the lower your down payment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for, and if you still qualify, the higher your monthly payment. Your down payment size can also influence your interest rate and the type of loan you can get.

Finally, if your down payment is less than 20%, you’ll be required to purchase private mortgage insurance. Depending on the size of your loan, PMI can add hundreds to your monthly payment. Check with your state and local government for mortgage and down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers.

5. Ask About All the Costs Before You Sign

A down payment is just one home buying cost. A REALTOR® can tell you what other costs buyers commonly pay in your area — including home inspections, attorneys’ fees, and transfer fees of 2% to 7% of the home price. Tally up the extras you’ll also want to buy after you move-in, such as window coverings and patio furniture for your new yard.

6. Get Your Credit in Order

A credit report details your borrowing history, including any late payments and bad debts, and typically includes a credit score. Lenders lean heavily on your credit report and credit score in determining whether, how much, and at what interest rate to lend for a home. The minimum credit score you can have to qualify for a loan depends on many factors, including the size of your down payment. Talk to a REALTOR® or lender about your particular circumstance.

You’re entitled to free copies of your credit reports annually from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Order and then pore over them to ensure the information is accurate, and try to correct any errors before you buy. If your credit score isn’t up to snuff, the easiest ways to improve it are to pay every bill on time and pay down high credit card debt.

7. Get Prequalified

Meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter that says how much house you’re qualified to buy. Start gathering the paperwork your lender says it needs. Most want to see W-2 forms verifying your employment and income, copies of pay stubs, and two to four months of banking statements.

If you’re self-employed, you’ll need your current profit and loss statement, a current balance sheet, and personal and business income tax returns for the previous two years.

Consider your financing options. The longer the loan, the smaller your monthly payment. Fixed-rate mortgages offer payment certainty; an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) offers a lower monthly payment. However, an adjustable-rate mortgage may adjust dramatically. Be sure to calculate your affordability at both the lowest and highest possible ARM rate.

REALTOR® Content Resource, by G. M. Filisko. Republished with permission of National Association of Realtors.

 

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

What Do the Weekly Numbers Tell You? + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

What Do the Weekly Numbers Tell You? + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Comparing one week to the next is the best way to see what is transpiring in the micro-market you are researching. Tracking weekly activity in this way captures trends that occur at the neighborhood and price point level before they reach mainstream data sources. Another relevant factoid is that some price points are where all of the attention is while others are much quieter. If you are frustrated with your search efforts and happen to be looking in a range that bridges two price points, you might have more success shifting into the more moderately-paced bracket.

While monthly data provides a nice historical look-back, its nearly two months’ old just prior to each release. If you’re a buyer or a seller in this frenzied market you know first-hand just how important real-time data is in giving you a competitive edge.

 

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

When to Use Average Price vs. Median Price + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

When to Use Average Price vs. Median Price + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

You often hear the terms Average Sale Price and Median Sale Price when stats are discussed. When it comes to real estate, what’s the difference between the two and how do you know when to use average price vs. median price to determine value?

Here’s a quick overview:

The Average Sale Price is calculated by adding all sale prices for homes sold and dividing that total by the number of properties sold. The Median Sale Price, on the other hand, is the 50% point in the data, regardless of the rest of the data. For example, if you have the following data:

$500,000, $500,000, $500,000, $500,000, $500,000, $500,000, $1,000,000, $1,000,000, $2,000,000

The median sale price is $500,000 since that is the middle number in the data set, while the average is $777,778.

The problem with the average sale price is that if one or more properties were sold at an extraordinarily high or low price, the average is skewed higher or lower as a result. In this case, the average becomes a somewhat unreliable metric.

Average is best to use when your price range falls in the upper segment of a bell curve (ie. within a mainstream price point for the area). But if your data is at one extreme or another with fewer sales for analysis, the median will often be a more helpful value in evaluating overall trends such as year-over-year appreciation.

 

Is the Median Sale Price or Average Sale Price a Better Reference Point?

Both the average sale price and median sale price can be valuable when analyzing the market. It’s important to remember either value may be skewed due to outliers in the data such as a price far higher or lower than typical for the area or if there are very few overall sales.

When you’re pricing a home it’s a good idea to use both average sales price and median sales price as a comparison to help you see the full picture.

When an outlier is present, you can decide to use the median sale price as your benchmark.

Still have questions? Contact one of our knowledgeable brokers for assistance with how to determine your best sale price based on both the average and median price trends, as well as other factors that might apply be happening in your neighborhood’s micro market right now.

 

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

How to avoid overpaying for a home in an ultra-competitive market + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

How to avoid overpaying for a home in an ultra-competitive market + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Here are four attributes, beyond the number of bedrooms and baths, that you should have your eye on.

Home (building) quality: Very well-built homes are a rare find and typically worth every penny of their price. Don’t confuse them with so-so homes that just measure up to the city inspector’s threshold. Lesser quality homes will cost you more in upkeep and replacement as systems and components wear out. If you purchase a lesser quality home for less, the differential might just cover the added maintenance expense. But, if you purchase a fair quality home at the going rate of higher quality homes, you might likely be overpaying.

Deferred maintenance: Different than home quality, deferred maintenance includes the to-do list of items that need to be done to maintain a home’s integrity. A home that has been well maintained over its life typically is a better investment than one that hasn’t. The true cost of deferred maintenance often adds up to more than the cost of the repairs themselves. Don’t forget to factor in the reduced life span of other components—like replacement of damaged wood beneath peeling paint or mold remediation in a damp basement caused by a clogged foundation drain.

Setting: The saying “location, location, location” didn’t get its fame from out of nowhere. A home with an ideal setting on its lot and in the neighborhood—away from busy roads and utility poles/boxes, with adequate privacy, good topography, best positioned to capture views if available, and not adjacent to undesirable elements (poorly maintained homes, water towers or other unsightly public structures, high traffic facilities, etc.) will have more value than a less-ideally sited home. When deciding what to pay for a property it is critical that you evaluate these aspects and any others relevant to a specific neighborhood to determine the +/- effect on value.

Floor plan: How a home lives—flow from room to room, size of rooms, open/closed-off spaces, and below ground vs. above ground living are every bit as important as the total home square footage. You can change a lot of things about a home but it is very difficult to change a bad floor plan. When you are deciding how high to make that multiple offer bid, consider factoring in the added value or take-away of the floor plan.

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Finding Homes in a Listing Deprived Market + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Finding Homes in a Listing Deprived Market  + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Seven out of the box ideas that might help you find your next home

  1. Consider posting a “home wanted” story on social media. Share your buyer bio online with your connections. you never know who might know someone who will be selling. Your broker can still help you see and submit an offer to an off-market home to take the awkwardness out of negotiating directly with the homeowner.
  2. Attend estate sales and garage sales to see if the owner might be preparing for a sale. If so, find out if you can arrange to have your broker show you the home and structure an offer that best protects your interests.
  3. Walk or drive through your A-list neighborhoods (neighborhoods that have the style, amenities and location that you most want) and take note of homes that are quickly being spruced-up—possibly indicating they might be coming up for sale.
  4. Check out Zillow and identify “Make Me Move” homes that might be of interest.
  5. Let co-workers and acquaintances (especially hairdressers, handymen and home services providers) know that you are looking for a home. They often hear the scoop before anyone.
  6. Contact owners of homes for rent in your A-list neighborhoods to see if they would consider selling.
  7. Set up a Google keyword search for New Listing + (your a-list neighborhood name). Often photographers and home stagers share photos of listings they are helping prepare for market.

 

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Peak Seattle Real Estate Market + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Peak Seattle Real Estate Market  + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Seattle’s real estate peak season market typically begins the week after mid-winter school break

If you’re one of the many buyers out there looking at the dismal 1-2 homes that come on the market in your price range each week, you may be in for some good news. Sellers who have been preparing their homes for sale since January are finally just beginning to put their homes up for sale. Next week will kick off our market’s peak season with seasonally more homes for sale (now through June) than any other time of year. There will be more competition too as buyers come out of the woodwork to circle around the most desirable homes.

This week would be a great time to get your ducks in a row. Get your loan pre-approval or underwriting squared away. Get your inspector short-list lined up. Re-review your must-have and nice-to-have home feature lists. Make sure your broker is at-the-ready and available. Write a buyer bio about yourself and why you would be a great buyer for any seller’s home. Get clarity about where you want to live and zero in on that neighborhood. Consider walking/driving through your A-list neighborhoods weekly. You’ll notice which homes are getting an exterior spruce-up—possibly indicating they might be coming up for sale. Lastly, let family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who will listen know that you are looking for a home. You never know who will know someone who will be selling. The more homes you have to consider, the better your odds of finding the one that is just right for you.

 

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Historical Interest Rate Chart + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Historical Interest Rate Chart + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

How Today Compares to Historical Interest Rates

With mortgage interest rates rising many home buyers are asking the question of how today’s rates compare with historical rates of the past. This chart shows the average annual mortgage interest rate as tracked by Freddie Mac for the past 46 years.

The current 30-year fixed rate mortgage is right around 4.32%. Compare that with the historical 46-year average of 8.17% and rates still look phenomenal. Yes, they are up from a low of 3.65% in 2016…but nowhere near the high of 16.63% in 1981.

Often its hard to picture just how that pencils out. So, let’s compare the monthly principal and interest payment (not including taxes and insurance) on a $750,000 mortgage at each of these rates to see just how big of a factor the interest rate is.

@ the current rate of 4.32% – $3,720

@ the 46-year low of 3.65% – $3,431

@ the 46-year average of 8.17% – $5,592

@ the 46-year high of 16.63% – $10,478

Historical Mortgage Interest Rate Chart

View the full residential market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Advice for First Time Buyers + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Advice for First Time Buyers + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

COMPETING AS A FIRST TIME BUYER IN A WILD AND CRAZY SELLER’S MARKET

First off, this adventure isn’t for the faint of heart. Being a first-time buyer in the Seattle area will test your patience, your sanity, and maybe even your will to be a homeowner. That said, there are a few things you can do to better your position.

1 – Get pre-underwritten (not just pre-qualified or even pre-approved) by a local lender who sellers will trust. This means your loan application goes to the underwriter and is approved subject only to a clean appraisal. Most sellers want the assurance that your sale above most anything else. We’ve all heard the horror stories of financing falling through at the eleventh hour. Sellers have heard them too. Getting pre-underwritten is the best guarantee you can offer a seller that you are a sure bet.

2 – Save as much as you can. Putting 20% or more down is the ideal, but in today’s bidding war arena, you might even have to agree to make up the difference for a low appraisal.

3 – Consider shelling out money for a pre-inspection on the right home. As a first-time buyer especially, you need to know about a home’s deficiencies. Sellers aren’t likely to allow an inspection contingency today, so often your only opportunity to inspect is before you write an offer. At an average of $500 an inspection that can add up to a lot of dough. Consider setting personal guidelines for which homes you’ll pre-inspect and which ones you won’t. For example, you might choose to pre-inspect a home that is an 8 or better out of 10 on your criteria scale, is very comfortably in your price range (with room to spare for escalation) and has fewer than 2 other pre-inspections being conducted.

4 – If the home is occupied, consider giving the seller a free rent-back period to make their move out less stressful (and your offer more enticing). Typical rent-back periods are 3-60 days depending on how aggressive you need to be. Yes, it costs money…but it just might make the difference between your offer and a better offer with no rent-back. Sometimes peace-of-mind (and sanity) at move-out are more important to a seller than getting more money.

5 – Assuming you have done all the above, consider waiving typical contingencies and releasing a part or all your earnest money to the seller on mutual acceptance to sweeten the pot. While there is a degree of risk in doing this, if you’ve done your due diligence ahead of time, this can be a compelling approach that doesn’t cost you any more at the closing table.

6 – Of course, it is essential to have a competent real estate broker who can help you navigate these waters, determine the value (as compared to similar properties), history (permits, prior sales, etc.), and activity (other offers, pre-inspections, expressions of interest) of potential properties you are interested in. This helps you go in armed with the information to make sound decisions with a clear offer strategy that will help you win far more effectively than the typical guesswork that goes in too many offers written without this guidance. A reputable broker also makes for a more reputable offer. It goes back to that assurance that the sale will close. Most sellers feel more comfortable accepting an offer when there is a solid realtor, lender and buyer behind it. It’s a package deal and everyone plays a role in making it all happen.

Lastly, be prepared for the adventure. There will be joy, surprise, heartbreak, anger, frustration and bliss along the way (hopefully not all in one day). If you go in knowing it will be a challenge, you’ll be much better prepared for the task at hand.

View the full market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Are We in a Bubble? + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Are We in a Bubble? + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

ARE WE IN A BUBBLE?

The short answer is no, or at least not yet. While Seattle prices have been escalating at breathtaking rates, demand remains strong, employment growth stable and climbing, and mortgage credit is still very strict.

The average FICO score required to obtain the best conventional financing is 750, while the lowest scores qualifying for standard conventional financing are around 701 and require substantially more down.

Today’s purchasers are very well-qualified and typically put 10-20% down on a home purchase. This is vastly different from the years before the loan crisis when nearly anyone (working or not) could obtain a mortgage loan with little or no down payment.

In fact, today’s homeowners have a have a higher equity position-an average of 40% home equity-than anytime in recent history.

What could cause a bubble in our region? Substantial easing of FICO scores and other qualifying loan criteria, significant increases in unemployment, or a sudden lack of buyer demand caused by rapidly rising interest rates.

Next week we’ll explore how to best protect yourself when buyer in a peak market. In the meantime, here are a few great articles we found interesting.

Washington State Housing Insights by Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell

Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner’s 2018 Forecast

Zillow Research: What We Learned About Housing Over the Past Year

 

View the full market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

3 Reasons There is So Little Inventory + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

3 Reasons There is So Little Inventory + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

Three Reasons There is So Little Inventory for Sale

  1. People are staying in their homes nearly twice as long as during the previous peak market cycle. The current average home tenure is 8.2 years.
  2. Boomers aren’t selling. Most are working far longer than previous generations and want the benefits of living close to work and play.
  3. New construction isn’t meeting demand. The shortage of skilled labor, and the high cost on both land and materials puts new construction out of reach for many buyers.

View the full market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

A Shortage of Condos + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

A Shortage of Condos + Seattle Area Real Estate Report

As Seattle-Eastside homes become less and less affordable, buyers are turning to condominiums in droves. Convenience is a huge part of this equation too. From easier commute options from more centralized locations to their low maintenance living, condos have a lot to offer today’s buyer.

While there are many aspects to condo ownership, the pros may just outweigh the cons in many scenarios. What we do know is that solid research and soul searching are a requirement of any successful lifestyle change.

Looking at this week’s snapshot, Downtown Bellevue condos are in very short supply while Downtown Seattle offers more to choose from.

View the full market report


ABOUT WINDERMERE MERCER ISLAND

We earn the trust and loyalty of our brokers and clients by doing real estate exceptionally well. The leader in our market, we deliver client-focused service in an authentic, collaborative and transparent manner and with the unmatched knowledge and expertise that comes from decades of experience.

windermeremercerisland.com | (206) 232-0446 | mercerisland@windermere.com
2737 77th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

© Copyright 2018. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.