Spring Checklist For Homeowners

You’re a homeowner, now what? Whether you’re a new buyer or have been in your home for a year or two, you’ll want to make your home clean and comfortable for the many years ahead of you.  As a homeowner, it’s important to stay on top of the maintenance your home now requires.  Not only will this save you from a potentially larger problem down the line but it will also add value to your home when you decide to sell in the future.  Buyers (and their agents) love seeing a well maintained home (keeping your maintenance records is a bonus!) and could save you thousands of dollars in future negotiations, just by keeping your “house in order”.

This spring maintenance checklist has eight tips to help you avoid headaches down the road:

1. New Homeowner? Change the locks.

You may not have considered putting new locks on the doors, however, almost 70% of burglaries happen in residential neighborhoods. It’s unknown who or how many people the previous owner gave keys to, so you may want to install new locks. This is also a good opportunity to replace locks that are worn out or rusted.

2. Deep Clean Dusting

If you’re new to your home, you have probably had movers come through your home, and they bring quite a bit of dirt and dust with them. And even if you’ve been there  for a few years, spring is a great time to do a deep cleaning. If cleaning isn’t your thing, you can hire a maid service for less than $100.  If you do it yourself, begin with a thorough cleaning of any hardwood, tile or carpet. Wash the baseboards, which are often overlooked. If you’re going to install a new dryer, be sure to clean out the vent and exhaust space of any leftover dryer lint to avoid fire hazards.

3. Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Check every smoke and carbon monoxide alarm in your home at least once a year. If they aren’t working properly, you’ll need to change the batteries or have the alarms replaced. If your home is older, it may not have a carbon monoxide alarm, so be sure to get one installed.

4. Check air filters and ducts.

A proper heating and air conditioning unit means clean ducts and filters to circulate the cold or warm air throughout the home. If they’re filled with dust, dirt or grime from years of use, it could prevent rooms from getting warm or cool when turned on. Check the ducts and filters for any dirt and clean and replace as needed. This should be a top priority for anyone who has allergies.

5. Keep the insulation updated.

During your professional home inspection, your inspector checked for proper insulation. But it’s always good to understand how old that insulation is and whether additional layer could improve energy efficiency. Revisit the insulation question occasionally to make sure what you have is adequate. You should also insulate your water heater and its pipes due to the climate fluctuations, or if the water heater is outside. This way it doesn’t have to turn on often to keep the water hot for baths, dishes and washing machines, ultimately save you money down the line.

6. Clean out the gutters.

To avoid roof damage during the winter or major storms, you must keep the gutters free of leaves and sticks that will prevent proper drainage. If you’re nervous to do this yourself, the professional cost to clean gutters and downspouts average between $160 and $210.

7. Prune and trim the landscaping.

If you’ve just moved in or if your yard got out of hand during the winter, you may need to trim trees, prune shrubs and mow the lawn. To save money, you can prune trees yourself, but hiring an arborist will ensure proper techniques are used as well as free up your precious time.

8. Personalize rooms with paint.

When you bought your home, the seller may have depersonalized rooms by painting them neutral colors such as white or taupe. Now that you own the home, you can paint over those colors to make it yours.

The aforementioned are just some of the many project possibilities that will keep your home in top condition as a new homeowner.  If you have any questions, or would like referrals to services such as the ones mentioned feel free to shoot me an email!  Happy Spring Everyone!

5 Tips For Competing in a Multiple Offer Market


Holy Smokes! It’s been a minute since I have updated my blog, I’ve been busy in this absolutely insane real estate market and thought it was appropriate to share with you how to compete (and win) in a multiple offer real estate market.  Our current market has seen 32 consecutive months of multiple offers and shows no signs of slowing down.  With historically low inventory (below 1 month supply in many areas), continued job and population growth in the Puget Sound region as well as a backlog of buyers for each home, it’s important to be well equipped going into the real estate market.

In  the Seattle area market, you can expect a multiple offer situation on any property in a prime location that’s priced well. The following are some tips that I’ve been sharing with my clients to set them apart from the masses.

1. Price is the bottom line

The price you offer is generally the most important factor in a bidding war (Duh!). To determine what price you should offer, have your real estate agent run a search for comparable sales in the areas (a.k.a., comps). If you’re like most buyers and have been looking online or in person for a while, you’ll have a good feel for the market already.

A fear that everyone has when making an offer is overpaying. No one ever wants to pay too much for anything, let alone real estate. One way to make your offer attractive, while protecting how much you’re spending, is to add in something called an “Escalation Clause.” The escalation clause increases your offer price by a set dollar amount ($1,000, for example), up to a specific dollar cap that you set. The offer only increases by $1,000 if there is another offer that bumps it up.

For example, let’s say you offer $439,000 on a house, and add an escalation clause with a cap of $455,250. You’ll beat any competing offer up to your cap of $455,250 by $1,000. If there is another offer with an escalation clause with a cap of $450,000, your new offer price is only $1,000 higher than this, so your offer is now just $451,000 ($450,000 + $1,000). 

Keep in mind that asking the seller to give you a credit to pay for your closing costs is basically decreasing the amount of your offer. The seller only cares about their net (your offer minus any closing cost credits = their net). So if your cap is $455,250, but you’re asking for $10,000 in closing costs, your real cap is just $445,250, and in the above situation, you would have lost out of this house.

One last tip about escalation clauses – don’t make your cap a round number. An example of this is, let’s say I have a client with an escalation clause with a cap of $466,750, and the next highest offer had a cap of $466,000. By setting his cap higher than a round number (i.e, $25,000, $50,000, etc), we just barely beat of the competition.

2. Remove as many contingencies as possible

An offer to buy a house is generally dependent on a number of factors, including a number of contingencies (like an inspection, appraisal, financing, etc). The more contingencies you remove from your offer, the more attractive your offer will look to the seller. Unfortunately, this also means that it’s harder for you to get out of your offer if you needed to.
The most common contingency that people remove prior to making an offer is the inspection. A pre-inspection is where you pay the inspector $300-$500 out of pocket prior to making an offer. The home inspector will go through the property and tell you of any major and minor issues with the home. If he or she finds minor items, then generally I wouldn’t recommend asking the seller to make any repairs. If there are major issues found, then you need to decide whether this is the right property for your or not. The big problem with pre-inspections is when you pay for one, and then lose out on your offer and have to do it all over again on another property. If you don’t want to pay $300-$500 for a preinspection over and over, another option is to have a short inspection contingency window (1-3 days).  Although this is not ideal in a sellers market, it’s an alternative to paying out of pocket for an inspection at the risk of not getting the home.

Having cash, and not having to get a loan to purchase the property, really makes your offer attractive since there are very minimal contingencies needed. One reason why is because cash is quick (you can close in 7-10 days, as opposed to 30 days when getting financing), and there is no appraisal. An appraisal is where the bank sends out an appraiser to ensure that the price you’re paying for the property is fair based on comparable homes in the neighborhood. An appraisal is required when getting a loan.

Since not everyone has a half-million dollars sitting in their bank account, how do you compete with an all cash offer? The first way is to close as quickly as possible. I have a mortgage broker on hand that can close in as quick as 14 days. That means that we are almost as fast as an all-cash offer, and about twenty days faster than any offer with financing. This is a HUGE plus in this market, making sure you have a lender working with you to get things closed quickly is imperative in this market.

Another way to compete against cash offers is to waive your financing or appraisal contingency. I must warn you that doing this can be a risky move since the appraisal might come in lower than the price you’re paying, and if that happens you will have to pay the difference between the price you’re paying and the appraisal amount out of pocket at closing. This is also risky if you don’t end up getting approved for your loan. If that happens, you could lose your earnest money.

3. Come In Strong!

Sellers wants to know that you are serious and have the ability to close when you say you can. There are things you can structure within your offer to communicate your position to the seller, such as: pay for and have a pre-inspection done prior to making your offer, the larger the down payment the better, the higher your earnest money deposit the better, use a local lender (lenders that process loans in-house are preferable because they’re generally quicker and closing your loan, and you can usually get in touch with them easier), have a quick closing, use the preferred title and escrow company of seller, and consider waiving the appraisal or financing contingencies (but be sure to talk to your agent about the pitfalls of doing this because it can be a risky option at times). Doing these things don’t necessarily cost you more money (other than the pre-inspection), but they definitely make your offer stronger and more appealing to the seller.

4. Discover The Sellers Motivation

Quick closings, free or inexpensive seller rent-backs are appealing to most sellers depending on their goals.  It’s worth taking it one step further to find out what else they are looking for…do they need to get rid of their furniture? Offer to buy it, even a few hundred dollars.  If you can spend a few hundred bucks purchasing a few of the sellers unwanted furniture items, you save them the hassle of having to sell it on Craigslist or somewhere else. Doing this can set your offer apart from the crowd, even if you’re not the highest-priced offer because you’re saving the seller time and energy (which is something money can’t buy, and something that is extremely valuable to the seller when moving). This is one way to make a more creative offer, even if you don’t want or need the furniture you’re offering to buy since you’re only spending a few hundred bucks (and possibly saving thousands of dollars by not increasing your offer even higher). 
 You want to stand out, find out how you can set yourself apart.

5. Make it Personal

Adding a pre-approval letter is always a necessity, but adding in a love letter is a little extra touch that adds the emotional aspect to the mix. The point of the love letter is to appeal to the seller’s emotions, and make then realize that they want to sell to someone like you who will tale care of the house the same way that they have over the many years that they’ve owned it. Believe it or not, these letters have gotten my clients offers accepted, even when there are offers higher in price. There are a few key points to add to these letters, and I have some samples that I’m happy to share with you. Shoot me an email at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com if you would like some examples.  My favorite letter recently, included a couple photos of my clients from their wedding and a more personal photo of them hiking in the mountains.  The feedback from the seller was that she really enjoyed reading their letters, and felt connected personally to their photos. It was a really neat touch!

Home Buying FAQ: How Long Will I Live Here?!


How long do I plan to live in my future home?

This may be the single most important question for you to answer.  Why? Because the answer directly affects the size and type of home that you buy, where it’s located, as well as the type of mortgage you use to finance your purchase.

Times have changed since our parents bought their homes.  Chances are, unless they’ve retired or are in professions where thy are required to relocate to different parts of the country from time to time, you parents are still living in the home in which you grew up.

Statistics from the National Association of Realtors (NAR, which your Realtor should be a member of), reveal that today, on average, people live in their homes only about 5 to 7 years. That’s it.  Then, they move.  

How are you supposed to know how long you’re going to live in your home?  I suppose there is no way to know for sure, but here are some general guidelines, which can be referred to as the Cycle of Life.

Cycle of Life:

Young and single:  If you buy a home here and you’re interested in having a long term relationship or getting married, it’s likely that what you can afford as a single person won’t be quite enough space for two.  Within five to seven years you’ll probably trade your one bedroom or two bedroom home for something larger.  Tip: look for a property that is an investment and in a neighborhood that is seeing appreciation. Ask your Realtor to help you locate a property that you may be able to turn into cash flow 5-7 years down the road

Newly Married:  You may want to start a family within a few years of your marriage.  Within 5-7 years, you’ll need additional space as your family starts to grow (and their stuff multiplies exponentially).

Divorced or Separated:  This can be another move.  At this point, in your second or third home, with young children in school, you’ll probably settle down for a while.  You may even find a house in a good school district and decide to stay for 10-15 years, until your children are through with school.

Empty Nesters: Once your children are grown and out of the house for good, you might decide to sell your big house, take your profits (up to $250,000 for qualified single homeowners and up to $500,000 for married homeowners, tax-free) and move to a smaller condo somewhere warm or perhaps cold, if you like skiing.

Vacation Home: And finally, it’s possible that you’ll purchase a second (or third) home, to which you may actually end up retiring.  The most popular age to buy a second home is 55-65, followed by 45-55, followed by 65-75, which mean the baby boomers are just beginning to enter their prime second home buying years.

Look Before You Leap

Before you start to look for a home, think about where you are in the Cycle of Life, and where you’ll be in five to seven years.

  • Is marriage, a life partnership, or living with someone else a possibility within five to seven years?
  • How many children do you plan to have during the next five to seven years:
  • Are your children near or at school age? Have you chosen the school district you want for them?
  • Is it likely you’ll be transferred for your job within the next five to seven years?
  • Do you have an aging parent in another part of the country who may require your close supervision or attention?
  • Do you have an aging parent or post-college-age children who might be moving back home with you? Will you need flexible living space that your current home can’t provide?

If you are thinking of buying a home, download my app (click on link OR download via QR code below) and pull all active, pending and sold listings in your neighborhood or desired neighborhood.  If you find a house you like, I am right at your fingertips and am happy to assist you!

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Live Washington: Valentines Day Getaway


This week in the “Live Washington” series, we are getting into the spirit of love in honor of the beloved consumer holiday, Valentines Day.  Whether or not you are single or coupled up, these mini getaways are a great alternative to the traditional activities, as well as another perfect excuse to see what Washington has to offer it’s residents.

I hope your week is full of love and am so grateful for all of the amazing people that make up this incredible community I get the privilege of living in.  

The Heron Inn & Day Spa
117 Maple Ave.
La Conner, WA 98257
(360) 399-1074
Located in the artist town of La Conner, The Heron Inn & Day Spa is near both the small town art galleries and Fir Island. La Conner is a small town, filled with wonderful restaurants and art galleries. It sits on the Swinomish Channel, across from Hope Island. The channel is home to otters, great blue heron and other wildlife. The galleries feature local Pacific Northwest artists of all disciplines. The Next Chapter Bookstore & Coffee House has some of the best coffee in town, and great selections of books. The La Conner Pub & Eatery has wonderful fish and chips, burgers and other food. In the other direction, Fir Island is the wintering grounds for 40,000 to 60,000 snow geese. The birds feed in the wintering farm fields along Fir Island Road and other areas throughout the island. A stay at this inn will fulfill your wildlife fix with your loved one.

Crystal Mountain Ski Resort
33914 Crystal Mountain Blvd.
Crystal Mountain, WA 98022
(360) 663-2265
If I had to choose, this would be my perfect getaway….Crystal Mountain Ski Resort is located about two hours from Seattle. It is situated off Highway 410 and near Mount Rainier. The resort offers runs for beginners through advanced skiers. Equipment is available for rental or purchase at the Mountain Shop (base area) and the RDL Test Center (top of the gondola). They both offer opportunities to test out the latest equipment and will take the rental fee off of the purchase price. The resort also offers guided snowshoe tours. Lodging is available in the area and is listed on the website.

A Tree House Retreat

A Tree House Retreat is a romantic getaway in the trees. The Tree House has views of the forest and Puget Sound (looking west). A continental breakfast is included, and guests can make an appointment with Whidbey Wellness in the Woods for a rejuvenating massage. The beach is a 1/8-mile walk, with views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sounds. Other areas to visit in the area are Fort Casey State Park, South Whidbey Island State Park and Fort Ebby State Park. The area is home to deer, raccoons, eagles and more. Reservations are required.

Salish Lodge & Spa
6501 Railroad Ave. S.E.
Snoqualmie, WA 98065
(425) 888-2556
The Salish Lodge & Spa is located at the scenic 270-foot Snoqualmie Falls near North Bend on I-90. The lodge is the perfect place for a pampered getaway for any couple. The spa facilities are first class, offering a variety of services for both men and women. The four-star restaurant is one of the best in Western Washington, and looks out over the falls. In North Bend, the avid shopper can explore the North Bend Premium Outlet Mall, which includes stores like Reebok, Eddie Bauer Outlet, Wilsons Leather, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and more. For those who love the outdoors, the lodge is next to Snoqualmie Falls Park, which has two observation decks overlooking the falls.

Argosy Cruise
1101 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 622-8687
The Locks Cruise is 2.5 hours of seeing Seattle and Ballard from the water. It starts at Pier 56 on the Seattle waterfront and ends at Lake Union. Visitors are brought back to the pier via motor coach, which takes about 15 minutes. The tour starts in Elliott Bay, goes around Magnolia, through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, and finishes in Lake Union. Local history and current sites are shared throughout the trip. Tours are discounted if booked more than one month in advance. The company offers several other tour options that cover the Seattle waterfront, Tillicum Village, Lake Union and Lake Washington areas.

Home is where the heart is; Creëer jouw lievelingshuis - Blog - ShowHome.nl

And remember, YOUR referrals are the HEARTBEAT of my business. Thank you all, love and blessings to you and your families.

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Market Mondays: Kirkland


Happy Monday everyone! The Holidays are over, football season has ended and the post Super Bowl depression has started to lift…that means people are getting back into thinking about real estate!

This week, we are taking a quick look at the current market in Kirkland, Washington.  If you want to see what is happening in your immediate neighborhood, download my app at http://jlsapp.com/rachelwagner , this will show you all the active listings in your area as well as pending and sold! It’s a great resource to have at your fingertips and I use it personally daily and clients also love it! If you want more information on a property, you can request it on the spot and I will get back to you immediately.

Currently, there are 105 active listings in Kirkland, ranging from $234,000-3.4 million with a median list price of $900,000.  In the last 90 days, there have been 116 residential/condominium sales ranging from $220,000-3.12 million, with the median sale price of $860,000.  The graph below shows months of inventory based on closed sales.  Currently, we are in what is considered a “sellers market” with 1.8 months supply of inventory, up slightly from the end of December and similar to the numbers seen in January.  As we move into the Spring months, this may fluctuate slightly with the increase of inventory.  With historically low interest rates, however, it’s a great time to purchase a home in any area…Kirkland being one of the hottest markets in the greater Seattle area.

The home below is listed for $489,500 on 112th st in Kirkland, Washington and is a perfect home for first time home buyers on a large lot, beautifully updated and located near the Kirkland Corridor trail, elementary school, gym and within walking distance from Juanita beach park and shopping.  Call/text 425.324.0302 if you are interested in more information.

Market Mondays: First Time Home-Buyers + West Seattle


The market predictions for 2015 are all about buyers – especially young home buyers – having their best shot in years at finding a home.

First-time buyers who stayed out of the market – either for demographic reasons or because they just couldn’t find the right entry-level home – will have a breakthrough year in 2015..

These predictions are based on housing data that shows rents continuing to skyrocket while the for-sale market levels off. That economic reality, increased inventory, and millennial s getting married and having children after delaying those choices, will give buyers more negotiating power.

In fact, it is predicted the millennial generation will overtake Generation X as the biggest group of home buyers in 2015.

This week I’m excited to look at the market in West Seattle., from the beach culture at Alki and tide pools of Lincoln Park to “city” living at The Junction (SW Alaska Street and California Avenue SW) and its proximity to the multicultural up-and-comer White Center, West Seattle is diverse and full of opportunity.  It is becoming an increasingly popular destination for young families and with it’s affordable housing opportunities, I am beginning to see why.  For those who are concerned about the commute, through some qualitative research (asking West Seattle friends about their commute), the average commute time to downtown Seattle is approximately 30 minutes, which isn’t too bad considering the lifestyle and community that West Seattle offers its residents.

Micro ’hood to watch: Arbor Heights. While it’s not a destination, Arbor Heights, full of modest homes built for Boeing workers in the 1940s, is on the rise. Sadly, it ranks 98th of 100 Seattle neighborhoods on Walkscore.com, which means you may have to drive to get a latte, a cupcake and a library book, but people love it because the backyards are huge, the views are expansive, and the kids can walk safely to the school right down the street.

Don’t miss: Primo shopping at The Junction, including a growing assortment of consignment boutiques; the fried chicken at Ma‘ono; anything from Bakery Nouveau; and a delicious, kid-friendly breakfast at Salvadorean Bakery and Restaurant (technically in White Center).

Go-to for out-of-town guests: Lincoln Park for the view.

Famous for: Current resident Eddie Vedder and former residents Frances Farmer and Ivar Haglund.

So, what’s happening in the housing market? Well, as of January 26th, 2015 there are 148 active listings which include both single family homes and condominiums.  The price range is between $143,100- $2.85 million with the median list price being $469,500.  In the past 90 days, there have been 368 homes sold, ranging from $113,500-$2 million with the median sale price being $399,000.  This puts months of inventory based on closed sales at 1.21 months, down slightly from December that was at 1.7 months inventory.  This indicates a really hot market, which is understandable based on historiclly low interest rates and a great place for young famlies who are first time home-buyers to move.

Months of inventory through Devember 2014. January 2015 is almost down to record low months supply of inventory.

Average price for sale vs. actual sale price through December 2014.

What does $400,000 get you in West Seattle? After doing some research, I have become quite the fan of West Seattle myself and below are a few pictures of what $400,000 will get you in West Seattle.

New Construction Town homes minutes from Alki + the city

If you are thinking of purchasing a home, please contact me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com, shoot me an email and I can send you a buyer’s packet outlining the process.  It’s a great time to buy, and the more questions you ask up front the better prepared you will be when you decide to take the purchasing plunge.  Happy Monday everyone!

Tips for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood

The neighborhood you choose can have a big impact on your lifestyle—safety, available
amenities, and convenience all play their part.  While the home itself is the icing on the cake of the home buying process, the neighborhood your home is in can be equally important in the decision.  You are not only buying the home itself, but are also becoming part of the community that home is in.  The following are a few helpful tips in narrowing down your perfect neighborhood.

1. Make a list of the activities—movies, health club, place of worship—you engage in
regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel from each
neighborhood you’re considering to engaging in your most common activities.
2. Check out the school district. The Department of Education in your state can probably
provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college,
and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, also consider paying a
visit to schools in the neighborhoods you’re considering. Even if you don’t have children,
a house in a good school district will be easier to sell in the future.
3. Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime
statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type—burglaries, armed
robberies—and the trend of increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is crime centered in
only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area?
4. Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city
economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood
are stable or rising. What is the percentage of homes to apartments? Apartments don’t
necessarily diminish value, but they do mean a more transient population. Do you see
vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months?
5. See if you’ll make money. Ask your REALTOR to get information about price
appreciation trends in the neighborhood. Although past performance is no guarantee of
future results, this information may give you a sense of how good an investment your
home will be. Also, your REALTOR or the government planning agency may be able
to tell you about planned developments or other changes in the neighborhood—like a
new school or highway—that might affect value. Check out City Data for some
great information by zip code or city.
6. See for yourself. Once you’ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go
there, and walk around. Are homes tidy and well maintained? Are streets quiet? Pick a
warm day if you can and chat with people working or playing outside.