Market Mondays: First Time Home-Buyers + West Seattle

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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.

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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.

Live Washington: 5 “Cozy” Winter Getaways

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This week, we are embracing the sometimes bittersweet rainy season the PNW has come to be known for. As cold weather arrives, anyone looking for a weekend getaway often has “cozy” on the list of criteria. Here are 5 cozy getaways around Western Washington (and it’s a good time to enjoy low-season rates).

1. Coupeville Inn

Winter is the quiet season on Whidbey Island, but Penn Cove mussels are still fresh and salty in local restaurants and a hike at Ebey’s Landing will wake you up when Strait of Juan de Fuca winds blow. Afterward, cozy up in the pink lady of Coupeville, the Italianate Kineth House, part of the Blue Goose Inn, or one of the rustic madrona-log rooms of the Captain Whidbey Inn.

2. Tokeland Hotel

This funky/delightful historic inn at the upper edge of Willapa Bay has a view of old orchard trees and meadow-grazing deer rather than the ocean, but a 5-minute drive puts you on a sandy beach. Wine and Scrabble in front of the fireplace. No TV, no phones. A true winter getaway.

3. Lake Quinault Lodge

Rain, rain and more rain grows record-size trees here, and the rainy season is the right time to get cozy with a chess board and a cocktail from the bar in the lodge’s pleasantly-wood-smoky lobby. Dine in the Roosevelt Room, named for FDR from his 1937 visit where he fell in love with the area. Nine months after his visit, Roosevelt signed a bill creating Olympic National Park. Today, you can enjoy incredible food and drink, as well as panoramic views of the Lake and the mountains beyond.

Quinault Lodge

Quinault Lodge’s Beautiful + Cozy lobby

4. Ashford cabins

When the snow flies at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park, it’s a wintry wanderland for snowshoers and inner-tubers. If braving the cold and staying at Camp Muir isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of rental cabins at the foot of Mt. Rainier, most with fireplaces, many with hot tubs, all just right for snowy getaways!  Try Stormking Cabins(this is definitely our next adventure!). Or check other cabin listingshere.

Three Bears Lodge view of the mountain

Cozy Mt. Rainier Cabin

5. Iron Springs Resort

This historical collection of bluff-top Mocrocks Beach-area cabins in Grays Harbor County underwent a major makeover a couple years back, so the original 1940s look has gotten a freshening up like there was a shipwreck of interior decorators out front. But the sandy Pacific beach is still classic, with razor-clam digs when the season’s right.

Live Washington: Winthrop

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Happy New Year Everyone! Week 2 of the “Live Washington” series will kick off with Winthrop, Washington which is best known for its winter recreation, sunshine, and dry snow!

Winthrop is home to the nation’s largest cross-country ski area and some of the most acclaimed snowmobiling and backcountry skiing around. Ski, snowshoe, sled, shred, or skate, the Methow Valley has it all.

Winthrop has 120 miles of groomed, interconnected trails, surrounded by more than a million acres of wilderness and forest lands, the Methow Valley is a beautiful getaway during the long winter months.

Winthrop also boasts Methow Trails, which operates the nation’s largest cross-country ski area of 120 miles of trails where Kids 17 and under ski free everyday on the cross-country ski trail system.  The Loup Loup Ski Bowl operates another 23 kilometers of Nordic trails which is also located just a hop, skip and a jump from the downhill ski hill.

If you enjoy back country skiing as much as my fiance and I do, Winthrop is just the place for you. Most local back country skiers will head up Highway 20 for ski-from-the-road access, or to the end of the plowed road and snowmobile in from there. The options are endless in the Methow Valley!

The Summer months in Winthrop are equally amazing, with an abundance of road/mountain biking opportunities, climbing, camping, golfing, farmer’s markets and according to Winthrop’s website you can also:

“Soar the skies above in a bright balloon, or experience the country at eye level by foot, hoof and pedal! Or stay close to the turf—play 18 holes on a certified Audobon Course. For the less serious golfer, putt-putt can be found right in downtown Winthrop, right next to Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe. Cool off on by floating the river, or paddling the lake.”

Winthrop is a great option for a vacation home for you and your family.  It’s also a good opportunity to have a rental property like the one displayed below, for an affordable $225,000.  The grounds and exterior maintenance of this 2005 condo are managed by the HOA (which means your driveway will always be plowed).  You can utilize your 3 bed, 2+ bath Methow Valley vacation cabin yourself, as a nightly rental, or both. Stay here on your next trip & check it out! If you are interested in this please email me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com or call/text 425.324.0302.

Live Washington: Leavenworth

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Leavenworth is where Bavarian charm and the Northwest meet, located on the Eastern cusp of the Cascades 2 1/2 hours from Seattle.  Not only is it a mecca for recreation, with endless opportunities for climbing, camping, mountain biking and golfing in the spring and summer months and skiing, sledding, cross country skiing and ice climbing in the winter, the town is also jam packed with festivals and events in almost every month.  

The Live Washington series will explore some of the best places to visit and invest in vacation homes or rentals that are accessible, family friendly and embody the Pacific Northwest lifestyle that draw us to call this place home.  I am excited to share these places with you, and am inspired by the beauty that is so close to home!

Leavenworth is an affordable and beautiful place if you are looking to purchase a second home.  The median sale price in Leavenworth for the last 90 days is $325,000 with prices ranging from $150,000- $1 million there is something for everyone here.

Beautiful waterfront home with lake and mountain views + close to downtown Leavenworth

cozy open floor plan + perfect setting for family gatherings

Magical Holiday lights in downtown Leavenworth

Hiking + Mountain Biking destinations in Spring/Summer months 

Market Mondays: Kirkland Condos and Holiday Happenings

Happy Monday everyone! Can you believe it’s almost Christmas? It’s been an amazing year and I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store personally and professionally. I am grateful to be part of such an exciting and dynamic time in real estate.  Nothing is more fulfilling than walking alongside each and every one of you through this process.  While most people don’t think of the holidays as a good time for house-hunting, that may be just the reason to do it. Less competition with other buyers and more motivated sellers can mean a smoother transaction and more leverage in the negotiation process.

This week we are taking a quick look at the Kirkland/Bridle condo market.  There have been 94 condominiums sold in the last 90 days, ranging from a low of $105,500 – $3.1 million with a median sale price of $350,000.  With 43 active listings ranging from $169,950 – $5.75 million and a median listing price of $375,000 there is about 1.4 months supply of inventory in the market! There is typically a shortage of inventory during the winter months, however, sellers are still seeing 98% percent of their listing price…people are still buying houses! With low interest rates and a healthy market, it is a prime time to buy and sell!

As we move into 2015, where do you see yourself next year? Is buying your first home or perhaps moving into a larger home one of your goals? I have talked to a lot of people who are looking into buying homes in 2015 and I challenge you to write down what that looks like for you! We have a lot of exciting things planned and will be holding a webinar workshop for First Time Home-Buyers in January that will take you step by step through the process as well as allow for any questions you may have….so stay tuned and get your questions ready! 

As a continuation of last week and as I can’t help but marvel at all the beautiful light displays, there is one house that has developed quite the reputation in the Kirkland neighborhood AND shows huge support for our beloved Seahawks.  Dubbed the “Seahawks House” by locals, this home is a sight to behold, it’s one you MUST check out for yourself! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

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Market Mondays: Issaquah

Happy Monday! This week we are looking at the beautiful community of Issaquah, one of my absolute favorite locations and is becoming a hotbed for growth and development as people see what this community has to offer.  Issaquah is just 17 miles east of Seattle, sitting on the southern border of Lake Sammamish. With its proximity to Seattle, nearby mountains, and perfect summer weather, the town has grown in recent years and attracts enough new blood to be the second fastest growing suburb in the state.

Issaquah is nestled up against the Cascade foothills. Several small mountains make up the so-called Issaquah Alps to the south of Issaquah: Tiger Mountain, Cougar Mountain and Squak Mountain.  This area is also a major attraction for the outdoor lovers, making it a perfect lifestyle fit for those who like the best of both worlds. The Issaquah and Sammamish Plateaus and Lake Sammamish are to the north.

So, what’s happening in Real Estate? Issaquah has seen steady growth and like I mentioned earlier is the second fastest growing suburb in the state of Washington.  Issaquah has seen a 12% increase in home sales when compared to December of 2013 with a median sale price of $700,000.  As of December 15th, 2014 there are 43 single family homes for sale ranging from $358,300-$4.98 million.  In the last 90 days, 70 single family homes have sold, ranging from $272,888-$1.83 million with a median sale price of $700,000 like I mentioned earlier.  The average days on market is 36 days! Who said that December is a bad time to buy or sell a home?!

The graph above displays months of inventory through the end of November, however, as of December 15th 2014 Issaquah is at 1.84 months of inventory based on closed sales which is slightly higher than December of 2013.  What this tells us is that there is a shortage of inventory, more buyers than sellers.  Issaquah is a hotbed for new construction so this will be an interesting market to keep an eye on.

If you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell their home, please don’t hesitate to contact me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com or call/text 324.0302.  Don’t forget to follow my blog for weekly market updates, which you can do by clicking the “follow” button at the top right hand side of the page.

Oh, and here is a lovely display of lights that you might be interested in checking out in Issaquah, in the spirit of the holiday season!  This light show is dressed to impress with hundreds of thousands of lights that the Ginnaty family has been putting on for over a decade.

Ginnaty Christmas Light Show
9325 240th Avenue SE
Issaquah, WA 98027

South of Issaquah on Front Street, take SE 96th Street east to the turn. Turn left on 240th Ave SE. You can’t miss it on the left a few houses up the street. Look for the sandwich boards at the turns to confirm you’re in the right spot.

Market Mondays: Kirkland/Bridle

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Happy Monday! Can you believe it’s already December 1st? I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and is ready to finish out 2014 strong! It has been an exciting year in the real estate market and this week we are looking at what’s happening with single family homes in the Kirkland/Bridle area.

As of December 1st, 2014 there are 90 active listings (115 when pending sales are included) ranging from $285,000- $3.7 million with a median listing price of $939,000.  When we look at sold homes, there have been 166 sales in the past 90 days, ranging from $225,000- $7.75 million with a median sale price of $830,000. The graph below demonstrates the average days on market as well as the sale price to list price ratio.

When you compare October 2013 to October 2014 (the most recent up to date data), we see a slight decrease in the sale price to the original list price and a huge increase in inventory.  What this graph fails to show is that the average sale price has gone up 57%, from an average sale price of $667,000 in October 2013 to an an AVERAGE sale price of $1.5 million in October 2014.

As of today, there is 2.09 months supply of inventory when pending sales are included and 1.63 months supply of inventory when only active listings are included.  The market is seeing a shortage of inventory and there is still a backlog of buyers ready to jump at their perfect home.  If you are thinking of selling, now is a great time!

If you or someone you know has an interest in a specific area or market, please feel free to contact me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com or call/text 425.324.0302. I am happy to answer any of your questions, as they relate to real estate! Have a great week!

Credit 101: True or False

I receive a lot of questions on a daily basis from prospective buyers (especially first time home-buyers) relating to finances and primarily, CREDIT! Today, we are playing a little game of True or False as they relate to all things credit! What I love about Real Estate is the opportunity to learn and grow on a daily basis.  Many times, I grow right along with the people I’m working with and seek out answers to things I’m unsure of.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with David Bryce, Senior Loan Officer with Priority Home Lending and he broke down some of your most common credit questions.  If you are considering purchasing a home, I highly suggest giving him a call at 425.466.4533 and know he will be able to answer any questions you may have as they relate to financing. Also, feel free to email rachelwagner@johnlscott with any other questions you may have, I’m always happy to help!  Happy Wednesday and I hope you learned as much as I did in the following Q&A.

1.  Paying off an account that has been turned over to the creditor’s collections department or a collection agency will increase your credit score.

Sorry to start out with what amounts to a trick question but, the correct response is false- most of the time.  Only if the account has gone into collections recently is it wise to pay it off.  Older accounts should be left alone.

Scoring systems place the most emphasis on the most recent activity in your credit record.  Paying off collection accounts, no matter their age, registers as recent activity.  Consequently, the closer such a step takes place to pulling a credit report, the lower your score will be.  If the date of the last activity exceeds 12 months, leave it alone.

If the mortgage lender requires that you pay off an account in collections as a condition of obtaining funding, do so as part of the closing process so it will not impact the score the lender will pull shortly before closing to make sure nothing detrimental has happened to your credit since the loan was first approved.

2.  Closing a credit card account will increase your score.

False.  Closing a credit card could actually lower your score because the amount of revolving credit available to you will decrease.  Rather than close an account, keep your balance below 30% of its limit.  Credit scoring models rate debt utilization or the amounts owed on your accounts, almost as important as payment history.

3.  Having cash on hand in a saving account will improve your score.

False.  While lenders prefer that borrowers have some cash reserves to tide them over in case of emergency, scoring systems look only at credit.

4.  Borrowing money from a finance company is no different than borrowing from a bank.

False.  All credit accounts are not ranked equally.  Credit from finance companies will score lower than a bank card, travel and entertainment card, oil card or auto loan.  Ditto for payday loans, cash advance loans, check advance loans, post dated check loans or deferred deposit check loans.

5.  Seeking the help of a qualified consumer credit counselor will automatically improve your score.

False.  More often than not, a credit counselor negotiates on behalf of the consumer to make a lower monthly payment on an overdue account.  Even thought the creditor agrees, it is not the same arrangement for which the consumer signed up originally.  As a result, the payment more than likely will appear as late on the person’s credit report.

6.  You only need to worry about your credit score when you are buying a big ticket item such as a house or automobile.

False.  With the amount of fraud and identity theft taking place, all of us should check our credit reports at least once a year, and Credit Plus recommends twice.  By law, you are entitled to one free copy annually. Go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com to get your free annual report.

7.  Your credit score differs, depending on the item you are purchasing.

True.  Different industries use different scoring models, so scores will change, depending on whether you are buying a house, purchasing a car or applying for insurance.  Make sure your lender uses a score developed solely for the mortgage business.  Others are almost always 50 to 60 points higher than the score developed solely for the mortgage business.

8.  A finance company credit card scores the same as any other credit card.

False.  Finance company cards, which typically allow borrowers to open a store account with zero interest for a year, weigh more heavily on credit scores.  Worse, when you open the account, the creditor sets your limit at the cost of your purchase, meaning the card is maxed out and well above the 30% balance you should strive not to exceed.

9.  Negative credit information can stay on your record forever.

False.  Generally, negative information remains on your report for seven years from the last activity.  But if it involves a bankruptcy, it can stay for as long as 10 years.  The exception is a federal tax lien, the removal of which is determined by a prescriptive period.

10.  There’s nothing wrong with using your maiden name when pulling your credit report.

False.  Always use the same, full legal name.  Being consistent will help avoid confusion with other borrowers with the same name as yours.  Not all credit bureaus use Social Security numbers as the primary means of identification.

11.  If you have poor credit and cannot obtain credit on your own, the best ways to start rebuilding your credit record is by obtaining a secured credit card or asking someone to co sign with you for a major credit card.

True.  One reason for a low score is because there is not enough “positive’ revolving credit in your report.  Indeed, in many cases, when “positive” credit is added, a score will increase.

Simply Home: Wednesday Inspiration

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I think it’s safe to say that Pinterest is a great source of home inspiration, providing a wonderful resource for DIY home improvement projects and crafts.  The photo above depicts a mantle project that took me under 2 hours to complete, which included painting (white chalk paint, amazing), creating the banner and the sign.  Although my version may pale in comparison to some of the following mantle photos, it brought a huge amount of light and joy into our home, welcoming the Holiday season. We have quite a few home improvement projects planned in the future, so expect to see more of these as we continue the process of updating our home!  ENJOY!

Be Thankful Thanksgiving Mantel & Gratitude Frame - Landee See Landee Do

Simply Country Life: Rustic Burlap and White Pumpkin Fall Wreath

I drew inspiration from the “give thanks” concept, a nice modern twist to Thanksgiving decor

11 Inspiring Fall Mantles - cute mantle, can't find the 11 though...looks like a good blog though - cute tutorials!

Beautiful Fall display

Mod Vintage Life: Elegant Thanksgiving

Elegant Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Table Center Piece via Amy Huntley (The Idea Room)

Lovely Table Centerpiece

Pretty Painted Pumpkins

Orchard Girls: Top 12 Fall Decorating Ideas definitely will have a fireplace in the house we buy. :)

And remember…..

7 Inspirational Quotes That Remind Us To Find Comfort In Our Homes (PHOTOS)