The Truth About Real Estate Agents!

The Truth About Real Estate Agents!

Real estate is a prolific profession. Everyone either knows a real estate agent, or is connected to one through six (probably less) degrees of separation. Between friends and relatives, and the stereotypical representation of real estate agents on television and in pop culture, the general public has a adopted some assumptions about agents that are very far from the truth.

Here are ten things that people assume about real estate agents that just aren’t true. Read more

Mistakes to Avoid – First Time Homebuyer!

hand holding key against house background

Mistakes to Avoid – First Time Homebuyer!

Not every mistake in a real estate transaction can be reversed, much less fixed before closing. If buyers goof up and make an innocent mistake, they might very well be stuck with the consequences for a long time or, worse, their deal might not even close. Enlisting the help of an experienced real estate broker, specifically a buyer’s agent, can make all the difference in your home buying experience. Check out this list for the 10 most common homebuyer mistakes.

Finally, It is Time to Buy a House!

Family house.

Is Housing on the Mend?

Be fearful when others are greedy, be greedy when others are fearful.
Warren Buffett

And if you’re not instinctively scared of the housing market, then global warming, saturated fat, running with scissors and the bogeyman probably aren’t keeping you awake at night, either.

The fact that everyone is scared to dabble in—much less commit to—housing makes it a close-to-perfect investment based on Mr. Buffett’s principle. But buying real estate is a good long-term investment for many more reasons, some of which have only become apparent in recent weeks.

Some Americans are still jittery over the housing market, but here are eight positive signs that should quell some of their fears.

Is Your Basement Getting You Down?

Is Your Basement Getting You Down?

In some home designs, basements and cellars are nothing more than storage or utility spaces in a house used to hold fuse boxes, air-conditioning and water-heater systems, breaker panels and the furnace. Today, savvy homeowners have completely waterproofed their basements and expanded the use of their below-ground space, converting it into a thoughtful extension of their aboveground living space. The design minded have also turned their basements into entertainment lounges with a full wet bar, a guest room, a man cave, a home gym and a home office. If your basement space has little to be desired, check out these gorgeous options. This cover picture defines a contemporary style with ‘rational’ cabinetry–Atmos Collection in Bookmatched stripey oak and a bog wood horizontal wood grain finish. The bar features a stainless steel back splash, antiqued cambrian black stone surface along with a glass bartop on stainless step posts, with footrest. A floating (ceiling hung) decorative bulkhead with lighting and wine glass racks finishes it off. WOW! Just beautiful! Click on the image above to view more great options for your basement face lift!

One Fabulous Place to Live–Mukilteo, WA!

Mukilteo Lighthouse

City by the Bay

Mukilteo (pronounced MUCK-ill-TEE-oh) is a waterfront community situated on Puget Sound in southern Snohomish County, about 25 miles north of Seattle. This scenic area has views of the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Northern Cascade Mountains to the north and east. In 1980, an area to the south of the city boundaries was annexed, which was followed by the 1991 annexation of Harbour Pointe; a master planned community that included a shopping center and an award winning public golf course. The city is also a neighbor to the Boeing Company, Paine Field Regional Airport and other major employers along a technology corridor that reaches from northern King County through Mukilteo. As West Coast towns go, Mukilteo is in good economic shape.

Established: 1947
Population: 20,310 (April 2011)
Area: 6.25 square miles
Parks: Centennial Park, Mukilteo Lighthouse Park, 92nd Street Park, Elliott Pointe Park, Fowler Pear Tree Park, Goat Trail Park, Harbour Pointe Village Park, Mary Lou Morrow Park, Totem Park
Other Amenities: Quaint shopping areas, restaurants, seasonal Farmer’s Market, financial institutions and numerous open spaces for recreational opportunities.
Schools: Columbia Elementary, Endeavour Elementary, Mukilteo Elementary, Olympia View Middle School, Harbour Pointe Middle School, Kamiak High School
Median Home Price:

• May 2012: $445,000

• Dec 2011: $357,500

• May 2011: $310,000

Development on the Horizon: Mukilteo is unique with sweeping Puget Sound vistas and 4.8 miles of shoreline. Pioneers bragged about the beautiful water views, a one-of-a-kind lighthouse and vibrant waterfront replete with mills, boat houses, restaurants and four-masted sailing ships. In 1941, Mukilteo changed with World War II and the US Army Air Corps’ construction of Paine Field and the Mukilteo Waterfront Fuel depot (Tank Farm). Nearly one-half of the Downtown 22 acres east of Park Avenue was bought by the US government to support the country’s war fighting effort. Our community is proud of its role in the Country’s war efforts, but that ended over 60 years ago and it’s time for Mukilteo to reclaim its waterfront.

Waterfront Key Objectives

1. Cultural Resources Protection and Least Disturbance: the City recognizes an obligation to protect and, therefore, only allow the least disturbance of the cultural resources along the waterfront.

2. Reclaiming Public Access to the Waterfront: through a series of parks connected by a waterfront pedestrian promenade forming a mile-long loop trail when the Tank Farm site is connected with the Mukilteo Lighthouse Park and a 2-mile loop with Japanese Gulch added. Pedestrian connectivity, including Edgewater Beach, is an important objective to providing access to the waterfront.

3. State Ferry Terminal Relocation: increasing capacity for at-grade ferry holding and separated loading.

4. Building New NOAA Mukilteo Biological Station Facilities: with improved water intake facility on a reconstructed pier that can also host a research vessel.

5. Completing ST Commuter Rail Station: with pedestrian bridge and extended platform.

6. Building a Parking Structure: through a partnership between Sound Transit and other entities for passenger, commuter and business parking.

7. Enhancing the Environment: 1) removal of the old Tank Farm Pier; 2) daylighting Japanese Gulch; and, 3) enhancing the nearshore profile at the existing and old Tank Farm pier bases.

8. Complete Access to the Port of Everett Mount Baker Transfer Facility: for safe access to park users.

9. Creating a Multimodal/Intermodal Station: allowing passengers to transfer modes easily by separating vehicles and pedestrians through the use of a second-story walkway system and parking garage. The multimodal station allows passengers to transfer from other modes, such as bus, taxi, vanpool or drop-off.

10. Redeveloping Waterfront into a Mixed-Use Pedestrian-Oriented Commercial Area: which emphasizes water-enjoyment activities on Front and Park Streets.

11. Providing 20% in Open Space: of the redeveloped area on the Tank Farm site.

12. Relocating the Boat Launch: to the Tank Farm site, if feasible.

13. Lighthouse Park Phases 3 & 4 Redevelopment

14. Building a Pedestrian Bridge: to connect old town with the ST pedestrian bridge.

Real Estate Market: Bank-owned homes represent a small fraction of houses on the market, and area employers, including Boeing, are hiring again. Mukilteo has affordable homes by Seattle standards, good schools, and a killer location right on Puget Sound. Plus, the town is spending to beef up its attractions: A new 29,000-square-foot community center debuted in February 2011, and the historic ‘Lighthouse Park’ recently got a makeover.

For detailed real estate or additional community information, contact kristy@betterhomesproperties.com.

Help Sellers Get More Bang for their Kitchen Remodel Buck!

Luxury wood kitchen with granite countertop.

Kitchen Remodeling Can Help You Sell!

If you are planning to sell your home in the near future, an attractive kitchen could really help to improve your chances of finding a buyer and getting a good price. Of all the home improvement projects you could carry out, a kitchen remodel is one of the few that could still give you a good return on your investment, despite the weak housing market.

The kitchen is the hub of most homes–nourishing the body, mind and soul. A great kitchen can help buyers overlook other flaws in a home; one that’s not-so-great can quickly derail any hopes of an offer.

If you’re thinking about selling and have the time, money and energy to do so, you may want to consider a kitchen remodel. Notwithstanding a kitchen upgrade, here are seven fail-safe tips to make your kitchen more eye-catching to buyers:

• Replace all light bulbs with “true light” bulbs.
• Clean all windows, windowsills and screens.
• De-clutter cabinets and drawers. Pare down the number of plates, glasses, dishware, utensils and cookware stored in your kitchen.
• Clean out food storage areas (refrigerator-freezer-cupboards) to reduce the amount of food stored in your home.
• Replace cabinetry pulls.
• If you have draperies or blinds in your kitchen, have them professionally cleaned.
• Make sure your stove, refrigerator, cupboards and drawers are immaculate.

Click on the image above for more information.

Washington State Carbon Monoxide Alarm Law – New Seller Requirements!

Carbon monoxide alarm

Washington State Carbon Monoxide Seller Requirements!

Effective April 1, 2012, RCW 19.27.530 requires the seller of any owner-occupied single-family residence to equip the residence with carbon monoxide alarms in accordance with the state building code before a buyer or any other person may legally occupy the residence following the sale.* This requirement applies to all single family residences, including single family homes, condominiums, and manufactured/mobile homes.

The building code (WAC 51-51-0315) requires that an alarm be installed: (1) outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of each bedroom; (2) on each level of the dwelling; and, (3) in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. The building code also requires that single station carbon monoxide alarms comply with UL 2034.** There are no exceptions for properties that do not have fuel-fired appliances or an attached garage. The alarms may be battery operated and can be purchased for as little as $25 from a variety of sources.

The building code also requires that single station carbon monoxide alarms comply with UL 2034. Again, there are no exceptions for properties that do not have fuel-fired appliances or an attached garage. The alarms may be battery operated and can be purchased for as little as $25 from a variety of sources.

In addition, effective April 1st, the building code requires a property owner to install carbon monoxide alarms when alterations, repairs or additions requiring a permit occur, or when one or more sleeping rooms are added or created. There has been a requirement to install carbon monoxide alarms in new construction since January 1, 2011.

What exactly is carbon monoxide and why are alarms necessary?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that kills approximately 500 people in the United States every year. Carbon monoxide killed over 1,000 Washington residents between 1990 and 2005. You cannot hear, taste, see or smell carbon monoxide. In many cases of reported carbon monoxide poisoning, victims were aware they were not well, but became so disoriented that they were unable to save themselves by either exiting the building or calling for assistance. Young children and household pets are typically the first affected. Carbon monoxide alarms are intended to trigger at carbon monoxide levels below those that cause a loss of ability to react to the danger of carbon monoxide exposure.

Click on the image above for additional information.
____________________
* RCW 19.27.530 was adopted in 2009. However, in WAC 51-51-0315, the building code council provided an exception for owner-occupied dwellings. That exception will be deleted from WAC 51-51-0315 on April 1st, which gives effect to the point of sale requirement in RCW 19.27.530.
** UL is a global independent safety science company. UL 2034 is the standard for safety of single and multiple station carbon monoxide alarms.

A Homeowner’s Guide to Taxes!

Searching for a Tax Refund - Magnifying Glass

A Homeowner’s Guide to Taxes!

Tax season can be a real pain in the wallet, but if you’re a home owner, tax deductions and credits can lessen the blow. We’ll help you find all the opportunities to maximize your return. Click on the image above for more information.

Wearing Your Home on Your Sleeve!

House of hearts

Wearing Your Home on Your Sleeve!

Buying or selling a home may be the biggest financial transaction an individual will make in his or her lifetime. Even though it’s business, the challenge often has to do with managing the emotions. While sellers want top dollar, buyers want top value, meaning they will almost always negotiate price. If you’re a homeowner who wants and needs to sell, there are some recurring issues that can become obstacles. Here’s how to mitigate them.

Overpricing the property — To a seller, the home is invaluable. It’s not really possible to put a price tag on the domicile that has offered many intangible benefits. But quantify you must. Researching the price points of other homes in the area and recent sales history is key. A serious seller will want to consult with a savvy real estate professional who can conduct a comparative market analysis, market the property, and help negotiate.

Saying no to an early bid just because it’s early — A seller may feel that such an offer, submitted within the first two weeks, signals that the property was under-priced from the get-go. Avoid this scenario by pricing the home at what the market will support. Of course, you may have other considerations — a small window to sell due to relocation or finances — so adjust accordingly. If the offer is fair, “waiting for a better offer is counterproductive and can result in a property languishing,” says Nick Jabbour, a New York City real estate agent and vice president of Nest Seekers International.

Posting photos that push rather than pull — Potential buyers almost always review photos online before setting up an appointment. If you’re not a professional photographer, hire one. This is one place where skimping can cause buyers to shut the door before they take a real visit. SmartMoney suggests that shoppers want to see many facets of the house. Pictures of the kitchen, bathrooms, and outdoor spaces should be included.

Taking offense at low bids — Remember that what’s highly personal to you is business to others. Rather than reacting out of offense, analyze the bids using hard and fast data. If they are truly below market value, you can sit tight knowing that the right buyer is in the wings.

In any market, the process of selling a home can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Keep the end goal in mind — being free to live how and where you want in the next phase of life — and the ride will end well.

Fannie and Freddie–Details on HARP 2!

Refinance home mortgage loan

Fannie and Freddie Details on HARP 2!

On November 15, 2011, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the government sponsored enterprises, or GSEs) announced changes to their mortgage refinance programs to reflect enhancements to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) that give more “under water” borrowers an opportunity to refinance their loans. The revised program, known as HARP 2, continues to be available only for borrowers with loans purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009. In addition to reducing risk for lenders who refinance eligible mortgage loans, changes to the HARP program include:

• Eliminating the 125% loan-to-value (LTV) ratio cap for fixed-rate mortgages with terms up to 30 years.

• Reducing risk-based fees for borrowers and eliminating these fees altogether if they refinance into a mortgage loan with a term of 20 years or less.

• Requiring that borrowers receive a benefit from refinancing in the form of either a reduced monthly mortgage payment (principal and interest) or a more stable product, such as a fixed-rate mortgage instead of an adjustable rate mortgage.

• Extending the program expiration date to December 31, 2013.

The changes will become effective for mortgage loans with application dates on or after December 1, 2011. To be eligible, borrowers may not have had any mortgage delinquency in the last six months nor had more than one 30-day or more delinquency in the last 12 months (months 7-12). As under the original HARP program, the current LTV ratio must exceed 80% for the borrower to qualify. Borrowers with a GSE loan may contact their existing lender or any other mortgage lender that agrees to handle a HARP 2 refinancing. Servicers will implement the program over the coming months.

Fannie HARP Refinance Changes
Freddie HARP Refinance Changes