Buying New Construction

A lot of people ask what’s different about buying new construction.  We are seeing a lot of new construction coming up in the area with such a high demand for properties that it’s important to know what makes it unique for buyers!

First of all, you’re buying from the person who built it, not the person who called it home. The property is often one of many the builder is trying to sell. This can lead to a different dynamic both in negotiating and throughout the transaction.

What can you expect? Here are some of the most important things to consider when buying new construction.

1. Find a great agent.

Be sure it’s someone who has experience in new construction and isn’t affiliated with the builder. Model homes are typically staffed by a real estate agent who has a relationship with the builder. It’s important for you to have an agent to represent your best interests, from advising you on how to structure your offer to be most appealing to the builder to making choices that can affect your home’s resale value. Some developments have site registration policies that require your agent to accompany you on one of your first few visits.

Tip: Ask your agent to check the site’s registration policy before you go. Your agent may be able to register you online or via phone so you can visit the model at your convenience. Or you may arrange a time to look at the community with your agent.

2. Be creative during negotiations.

Builders don’t like to drop their prices. Instead, consider asking for the builder to pay closing costs or perform upgrades at no additional charge. Builders are often reluctant to set a precedent for negotiating prices since future buyers in the development may expect similar discounts. Consequently, builders are often more likely to negotiate “on the back end” since closing costs and upgrades are a less obvious way for them to sweeten a deal.

Tip: If you’re considering an offer, ask your agent to research the builder’s negotiating style on prior sales in the community and other developments they have built to determine if there is a particularly effective way to approach the offer.

3. Get everything in writing.

Don’t sign anything until everything has been negotiated, agreed upon and written into the contract. If you’re considering purchasing a home that is not yet complete, it’s very important to spell out how the home will be finished, what will happen if construction is not completed on time and the deadlines for decisions that will occur through the process. Verbal conversations are not binding, so everything important must be put in writing and signed by all parties.

Tip: Builders often use customized purchase agreement documents in place of standard forms commonly used in your area. Ask your agent to get a copy of the builder’s documents to review in advance.

4. What you see isn’t always what you get.

The fit and finish of the model home doesn’t necessarily represent what comes standard.Often the model home reflects a mix of standard materials and fixtures, as well as a handful of upgrades. When touring the model home, make sure to find out which is which. The important thing is to know exactly what you’ll be getting, what’s available and, of course, what it will cost. Keep in mind that costs can change. The price quoted at the start may not be the same when you decide to move forward.

 Tip: Ask your agent to help you get a list of standard features and, if available, a list of common upgrades and their associated costs.

5. Do your research on the builder.

Visit other developments and talk to homeowners. Search online for reviews, testimonials and news. Keep in mind that many builders will have both happy and unhappy customers in their past. Look for trends in reviews and make sure any concerns are covered in the purchase agreement documents.

Tip: Ask your agent if they’ve worked with the builder in the past or are aware of their reputation.

6. Get a guarantee.

You’re often buying a home that is not completed. What guarantees do you have the home will be ready on time? Your purchase agreement documents should specify a completion date. However, many builders add provisions that make the completion date dependent on permit approvals from the municipality or availability of building materials from suppliers. There can also be additional charges if you’re unable to close on time if your lender isn’t ready.

Tip: Ask your agent to point out in the agreement what happens in the event of a delay on either side.

7. Get the home inspected.

New homes have problems too. Hire an inspector to make sure everything is safe and up to code. Even though most municipalities require new homes to pass permit inspections, an independent verification with a qualified inspector is money well spent. In many cases, the builder will allow buyers to conduct an independent inspection and agree to repair code compliance issues but do not include a provision that would allow the buyer to walk away and retain their deposit if they are not satisfied with the result of the inspection.

Tip: Ask your agent to investigate and explain the inspection process and your rights in the agreement to request repairs or terminate the agreement.

8. Find out what’s covered.

Many new homes come with a warranty from the builder, but not all warranties are created equal. Know what is and isn’t covered and for how long. Many builders use a third-party warranty company. In some cases, the manufacturer of certain products, like windows, may have a separate warranty or guarantee and the builder might refer all issues with those components to the manufacturer instead of handling any issues directly. The builder should be able to provide details on which part of the home is covered by which policy.

Tip: Ask your agent to obtain warranty information early in the process so your offer documents can be prepared to address any concerns upfront.

9. Look to the future.

Check with the city to see what is planned for the surrounding area. If you have a view, will it still be there in five years? Most builders put the responsibility on the buyer to be aware of neighborhood or community dynamics related to other development in the area like traffic planning, the development of neighboring parcels, etc. Many new communities also have homeowners associations that can impact your potential new home as well.

Tip: Ask your agent about writing in a review period for you to investigate the area or plan to do some research before submitting your offer.

10. Do your homework on lenders.

Don’t automatically use the builder’s lender. Shop around for the loan that is best for you, not them. Some builders require that you get pre-approved with the builder’s preferred lender. By the time you are ready to make an offer, you probably have already spoken to a lender of your own. It can come as a surprise when the builder requires you to also get pre-approved with their lender.

Why would they do that? First off, it’s reassuring for the builder to hear about your qualifications from their lender, even if you don’t wind up using them. Secondly, it can sometimes be the most cost efficient option. Much like using the financial arm of a car company, they are often willing to offer more competitive rates and fees.

Additionally, in some instances, the preferred lender is the only option. This is especially true for projects that are in the early phases of development. If no other lender has entered that development yet, it can be hard to obtain a loan from any lender but the preferred lender.

Tip: Ask your agent to help you find out if there are any special offers, promotions or contractual differences if you agree to use the builder’s preferred lender.

If you or someone you know is thinking about buying new construction, contact me at 425.324.0302 or email me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com for a complimentary kick-off consultation and strategy in buying your new construction home!

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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.

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.

Market Mondays: Bellevue Condos

Happy Monday everyone!

This week, I chose the Bellevue condo market to look at. As a resident of Kirkland, Bellevue is one of my favorite neighboring cities to explore and is a lovely place to live, raise a family as well as one of my favorite things to do: recreate.  The following are some interesting facts about Bellevue:

As of 2014, Bellevue’s population is 122,873 people. Since 2000, it has had a population growth of 8.69 percent!

——————–The median home cost in Bellevue is $554,300. Home appreciation the last year has been 12.50 percent.

——————–Compared to the rest of the country, Bellevue’s cost of living is 77.90% Higher than the U.S. average, wow!

——————–Bellevue public schools spend $12,674 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $12,435. There are about 19.3 students per teacher in Bellevue.

——————–The unemployment rate in Bellevue is 3.90 percent(U.S. avg. is 6.30%). Recent job growth is positive and continuing to grow. Bellevue jobs have Increased by 2.64 percent.

As of November 3, 2014 there are 90 active condo listings WEST of 405 in Bellevue.  The range is $189,000-$3.5 million with a median listing price of $890,000.  There have been 74 condos sold in the last 90 days, ranging from $184,950- $3.3 million dollars with a median sale price of $504,000 and 19 days on the market.  Based on the number of condos sold, Bellevue is looking at 3.6 months supply of inventory, however, when all pending sales are included, months of inventory drops to about 2.5.  There are currently 104 condos that have gone pending or sold in the last 90 days, ranging from $184,000- $6 million dollars!  The median pending/sold price is $689,000, the graph below displays the months supply of inventory through the end of September 2014.

As you may know from my previous posts, a balanced market is considered to be around 6 months supply of inventory, which puts Bellevue (and most areas in King and Snohomish County) in a position where there is a high demand for inventory and homes are selling quickly, although somewhat less so than what we saw earlier in the summer.

Currently, the number of condos for sale vs. sold for the month of November are up from both September and October.

Bellevue continues to see high list price/sale price ratio and demonstrates a range of average days on market, currently the median days on market are 25.  Most likely, the number of days on market reflects the inventory available and it’s subsequent price point.  Because these numbers vary slightly every month, or every day for that matter, it makes sense to see the fluctuations represented above.

Stay tuned for a post on “Kirkland Lifestyle” later in the week, I’m excited to share with you one of my favorite places to play and live.  Make this week a good one everyone!

Market Mondays: 2015 Economic Forecast

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This week I have decided to step back briefly and look at the market from a macro level as well as discussing predictions for 2015 that were shared at a recent conference.  It’s interesting and exciting to see where the housing market is headed, as well as the economic health of the real estate market as we head into 2015.  Before I dive into that information, as of October 27th, 2014 King County is at about 2.6 months supply of inventory while Snohomish County is hovering around 3.1 months supply of inventory.  Those numbers are a 4.2% increase from October 2014 in King County and a 6.2% increase in Snohomish.  With interest rates at a 16 month low, it is a great time to get in there and take advantage of this market if you are thinking of buying or selling your home.

What is the state of the real estate market?  Well, we are currently down 10.6% nationally from peak values in 2006, however, we are slowly making our way back up as demonstrated by the graph below.

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As demonstrated above, all but one top 30 metro areas show annual home value appreciation.  Seattle Metro leads the Puget Sound in annual home value gain at 8.3%, while other areas of the country who were drastically impacted by the recession are seeing a big jump in annual appreciation as well.

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Seattle Metro is currently down 11.5% from it’s peak, compared to the national average of 10.6%.

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Although Seattle Metro is slightly below the national average, what we are seeing is a steady increase in inventory, resulting in a healthier and more sustainable market as well as softening the rate of appreciation (which is still significant, regardless).  The nature of markets are to rise and fall (think rolling hills), however, slow and steady is preferred over sharp inclines and falls.

Are you ready for some good news?

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According to the National Association of Realtors and as demonstrated by the Zillow Real Estate Research for Professionals tool, negative equity has declined steadily since quarter 1 of 2012, which is great news for home buyers and home owners alike.  However, negative equity remains at 17% nationally and is highest in the bottom value tier.  The number of homes underwater is above 25% nationally and 30% in the Seattle area.  The middle value tier is 13% and the top value tier is 6% in the Seattle area.  Although these numbers are declining annually, there are still many homeowners who are underwater, especially in the bottom value tier.

As we move into 2015, mortgage rates are expected to rise, with interest rates expected to reach the 5% mark (which is still fantastic, historically), while rent affordability is below the historical average on a national level.  Renter households are forming faster than owner households for the first time since the late 1980’s and the market is responding with higher rental rates and a shortage of available rentals while the market struggles to keep up with the demand.  (translation: don’t rent if you can buy!)

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Below are some year over year percent change forecasts for Snohomish County, by city.  Appreciation rates are expected to continue to gain, however, slightly less than in 2014.  With rental rates skyrocketing, as well as a shortage of available rentals and low interest rates, now is a great time to get into a home for a first time home-buyer.  Investment properties in the bottom value tier to generate rental income are also a great option, it’s an exciting time in the real estate market around the country.  Please contact me with any questions you have at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com or call/text 425.324.0302.  I am available to help with any of your real estate needs.

And in other Simple Tranquil Living news, the holidays are quickly approaching! Okay, so that may not be news to you, but here at Simple Tranquil Living we have a lot of fun with holiday festivities so stay tuned for a special Halloween post and perhaps another GIVEAWAY! Happy Monday everyone!  

Fall Checklist For Your Home

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Fall is the perfect time to take care of the little things that can make a big difference for you and your home.  Most of the tasks listed below are well with-in the average person’s ability and even if you choose to have a professional handle them, it’s worth the expense. You’ll save money as well as prevent a larger expense down the road.  A large piece of why I enjoy writing a real estate blog for my business is my love for sharing information and helping others, I am still amazed at how much I learn when I look into each topic.  If you have a topic you are interested in knowing more about or would like referrals for professionals in the area who do the following work, please email me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com.

Check out those gutters!  Your roof’s drainage system annually diverts thousands of gallons of water from your house’s exterior and foundation walls. That’s why it is so important to keep this system flowing smoothly. Clogged gutters can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and to water in your basement. They are also more prone to rust and corrosion. Before the leaves fly this fall, have your gutters cleaned, then covered with mesh guards to keep debris from returning. A dry weekend like the one coming up is a great time to take care of this!

Video instructions on cleaning the gutter

Weatherize your home. A home with air leaks around windows and doors is like a coat left unbuttoned. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Weather-stripping is easily the most cost-effective way to rein in heating and cooling costs. This material also reduces drafts and keeps your home more comfortable year-round. Because weather stripping can deteriorate over time, it is important to inspect it periodically.

If you suspect a problem with weather stripping, you have several options for checking. Close a door or window on a strip of paper; if the paper slides easily, your weatherstripping isn’t doing its job. Or, close the door or window and hold a lighted candle near the frame. (Don’t let the flame get near anything flammable!) If the flame flickers at any spot along the frame, you have an air leak.

While you’re at it, also check for missing or damaged caulk around windows, doors, and entry points for electrical, cable, phone, gas, and so. Seal any gaps with a suitable caulk.

Video instruction on weatherizing doors and windows

Get on top of roof problems. Few homeowner problems are more frustrating than a leaky roof. Once the dripping starts, finding the source of the problem can be time-consuming. Stop problems this fall before winter and increased precipitation from annoyance into a disaster.

Here’s how: Inspect your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if necessary. Check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage. Look for damage to metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. Scan the entire roof for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. Look in your gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating; expect problems soon. Finally, make sure your gutters are flowing freely.

If you are thinking of selling your home and your roof is in need of repair or replacement, start planning this into your budget.  It’s not an expense to ignore and will always be worth the upkeep.  

Silly but informative video with instructions for fixing leaky roof

Walk the walks (and drives). Damaged walkways, drives, and steps are a hazard year round, but their dangers are compounded when the weather turns icy. Fixing problems in the fall is also critical to preventing little problems from becoming expensive headaches.

Look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for disintegration of asphalt, or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths.

Most small jobs are well within the ability of a do-it-yourselfer, but save major repairs for experienced hands.

Video instructions for repairing driveway cracks

Chill out.  Although the mild Northwest weather doesn’t see extremes it is still important to take steps to ensure that outside faucets (also called sill cocks) and inground irrigation systems don’t freeze and burst.

Here’s how: Close any shut-off valves serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to drain the line. (There may be a small cap on the faucet you can loosen to facilitate this draining.) If you don’t have shut-off valves, and your faucets are not “freeze-proof ” types, you may benefit from Styrofoam faucet covers sold at home centers.

To freeze-proof an in ground irrigation system, follow the manufacturer’s procedure for draining it and protecting it from winter damage.

Freshen your filter. Furnace filters trap dust that would otherwise be deposited on your furnace, woodwork, and so on. Clogged filters make it more difficult to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and can seriously increase your utility bills. A simple monthly cleaning is all it takes to keep you and your filters breathing free and clear.

Here’s how: Disposable filters can be vacuumed once before replacement. Foam filters can also be vacuumed, but they don’t need to be replaced unless they are damaged. Use a soft brush on a vacuum cleaner. If the filter is metal or electrostatic, remove and wash it with a firm water spray.

Give your furnace a physical. Once a year, it’s a good idea to have your heating system inspected by a professional. To avoid the last-minute rush, consider scheduling this task in early fall, before the heating season begins.

Here are signs that you should have an inspection performed sooner:

Noisy belts. Unusual screeches or whines may be a signal that belts connected to the blower motor are worn or damaged.

Poor performance. A heating system that doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did could be a sign of various problems. Your heating ducts might be blocked, the burners might need an adjustment, or the blower motor could be on its last leg. One check you should be sure to conduct: Make sure your furnace filter is clean.

Erratic behavior. This could be caused by a faulty thermostat or a maladjusted furnace.

Gather round the hearth. Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards.

Inspect your flue for creosote. What is Creosote? If you don’t know, I had no idea what it was or that it can be a potential problem…this is WHY we clean the chimney (which we had done only a couple months ago) Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If it accumulates in a flue or chimney, the result can be a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace or wood stove frequently, have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.

For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep.

Look for flue blockages. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don’t have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions.

Exercise the damper. The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.

Check your chimney for damage. Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars.

Keep the humidifier humming. You may know that bone dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you also know it can make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running.

Here’s how: First, inspect the plates or pads, and if necessary, clean them in a strong laundry detergent solution. Rinse and scrape off mineral deposits with a wire brush or steel wool.

Head-off gas problems. Keeping a gas heater in good shape is both a safety and a cost issue. An improperly maintained heater can spew poisons into the air of your home, or it may simply be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually. There are also some maintenance items you should address.

Here’s how: First, shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages to the burner and clean the burner of lint and dirt. Follow the manufacturer’s advice for any other needed maintenance.

Keep the wood fires burning brightly. Wood burning stoves are a great way to add atmosphere and warmth to your home. But regular inspections are needed to ensure that these devices don’t become a safety hazard. Here’s how to check them.

Inspect stovepipes. Cracks in stovepipes attached to wood stoves can release toxic fumes into your home. Throughout the heating season, you should check for corrosion, holes, or loose joints. Clean the stovepipe, and then look for signs of deterioration or looseness. Replace stovepipe if necessary.

Look for corrosion and cracks. Check for signs of rust or cracking in the stove’s body or legs.

Check safety features. Make sure that any required wall protection is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that the unit sits on an approved floor material. If you have young children, be sure to fence off the stove when it is in operation.

At least once a year, do a top-to-bottom review of your home’s safety features. This is also a good time to get the family together for a review of your fire evacuation plan. Here’s how to do this:

Smoke and CO detectors. Replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven’t already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.

Fire extinguishers. Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). At a minimum, keep one near the kitchen; having one per floor isn’t a bad idea. Annually, check the indicator on the pressure gauge to make sure the extinguisher is charged. Make certain that the lock pin is intact and firmly in place, and check that the discharge nozzle is not clogged. Clean the extinguisher and check it for dents, scratches, and corrosion. Replace if the damage seems severe. Note: Fire extinguishers that are more than six years old should be replaced. Mark the date of purchase on the new unit with a permanent marker.

Fire escape plans. Every bedroom, including basement bedrooms, should have two exit paths. Make sure windows aren’t blocked by furniture or other items. Ideally, each upper-floor bedroom should have a rope ladder near the window for emergency exits. Review what to do in case of fire, and arrange a safe meeting place for everyone away from the house.

General cleanup. Rid your home of accumulations of old newspapers and leftover hazardous household chemicals. (Check with the state or local Environmental Protection Agency about the proper way to discard dangerous chemicals.) Store flammable materials and poisons in approved, clearly labeled containers. Keep a clear space around heaters, furnaces, and other heat-producing appliances.

Market Monday’s: Kirkland Single Family Homes

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Happy Monday! Fall has definitely made its way here, leaves are dropping, rain is sprinkling and the housing market? Well, it’s still trucking right along here in Kirkland. The photo above is from our Sunday night run out Carillon Point in Kirkland, fall here can be quite lovely! The change in seasons typically brings a slight drop in real estate activity, this year however, is proving to be different.  As we adjust to the “new normal” as far as the real estate market goes, if there is one, foreign investors are still driving the market and the economy as well as job growth continues to grow at a healthy pace.

As of September 29th, 2014 there are 160 single family homes for sale in Kirkland, Washington.  The range of list price for these homes range from $265K-$2.2 Million with a median list price of $940K.  When we take a look at the 216 homes that have been sold in the last 90 days, the sale price ranges from $307K-7.5 Million with a median sale price of $750K.  An interesting aspect of this data is that the median “days on market” for the active listings is 80 days, while the median “days on market” for the sold and pending properties is only 17 days.  Why such a big difference? Well, first of all, some of these homes could have been taken off the market and relisted with the intention of creating buzz around the homes again…similar to a grand reopening, a way to invite the backlog of buyers to explore again.  However, what is more likely is that many of the homes that have been on the market for longer are either not priced correctly OR have passed the “sweet spot” for buyer interest.  Currently, Kirkland is at 2.2 months supply of inventory, which is still significantly below what we would call a normal or “healthy” supply, so when I talk about homes sitting on the market, it’s really not long at all when looking at the bigger picture.

We are beginning to see some price drops happening across the board, which I will be talking about in a post later this week.  I will also be talking about how you can add value to your home with simple exterior and interior projects if you are thinking about selling your home, so stay tuned!

Kirkland is still seeing an almost 100% list/sale price, demonstrating the demand for the area.

August 2014 saw 2.3 months of inventory and we are hovering around 2.2 for the month of September as well.  A normal supply is 6 months, we are still operating in a sellers market or an under supply.