Market Monday’s: Pricing in a Seller’s Market

What is my home worth?  It’s the question most home owners have and arguably the most important factor when deciding to sell a home.

In today’s hot seller’s market, where in King County there is a 1.4 months supply of inventory and a typical balanced market would be considered somewhere between 4 and 6 months supply.  According to a the most recent press release by NWMLS,  “Single family home prices across the 23 counties in the MLS report rose nearly 7.6 percent from a year ago, from $297,500 to $320,000. Single family homes in King County commanded the highest median price at $490,250, up 6.6 percent from the year-ago figure of $460,000, but down from June’s high of $500,000”.  Interestingly, 2,600 listings have expired this year in King County alone…the most common influencing factor? Overpricing.  Yes, it’s a sellers market but properties that sold for the most were strategic in pricing, ultimately attracting the most buyers when the property was most relevant and visible.  With all the valuation tools available to consumers (read 10 appraisals vs. Zestimates), below are some ways to take matters into your own hands and have a realistic look at your market area, ultimately helping you get the most for your home.

  • Study past sales. This is the starting point for any thoughtful and successful pricing strategy; think of it as the “science” part. Take the time to study past sale statistics for homes in your area and areas similar to yours. None will be identical, of course, but having a clear understanding of true market value is the first step in establishing your list price.
  • Do not confuse active listings with past sales. Active listings have not sold. They are just your competition. It is important to be aware of your competition’s pricing, but this is often just an indication of what your home won’t sell for.
  • Do not overprice because you have “time.” If the market is appreciating, this strategy may work, but if prices in your area are declining, you may quickly find yourself chasing a market and costing yourself money. And if the market is stable? Your home will just sit. Buyers pay in today’s dollars, and time is rarely on your side.
  • Leave some room for negotiation, but don’t overreach. No seller wants to feel he left money on the table, and no buyer wants to overpay. Your price should give both parties room to maneuver, but if it is too high, you risk being perceived as unrealistic, and buyers will pass over your home.
  • Think like a buyer. What are the things that you value in a home? Is it a large yard, an updated kitchen or a view? These are likely the same things that your buyer values as well. Talk to your agent about current buyer trends. Yesterday’s avocado green shag carpeting is today’s granite counter top. The property facing the interstate is going to be a tougher sell than the one with a mountain view. Your price should reflect how your home compares to the others offered for sale. Buyers will find objections to any home, as none is perfect, but it is curious how quickly objections disappear when the price is compelling.
  • React swiftly and decisively. If your home is on the market and is not being shown or if you receive feedback that you are priced too aggressively, don’t hesitate to adjust your price immediately!

First impressions are everything when selling your home. Studies have shown that the first two weeks on the market are the most crucial to your success. During these initial days, your home will be exposed to all active buyers making pricing and timing that much more critical.  If your price is perceived as too high, you will quickly lose this initial audience and find yourself relying only on the trickle of new buyers entering the market each day. Markets are dynamic, and your price has an expiration date. You have one chance to grab attention. Make sure your pricing helps you stand out on the shelf — in a positive way.

Oh, and here is a little infographic courtesy of Pinterest to help spruce up your curb appeal….

Tips for Selling Your Home; Curb Appeal. Curb appeal can mean the difference between a home that sells quickly for the asking price, and a home that sits for months on the market, below asking price.  #lakegeneva #fontana #curbappeal. http://agents.keeferealestate.com/michalene_melges/:

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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.

Finance Friday: Improve Your FICO Score Quickly!

With mortgage interest rates hovering near record lows, you may want to either refinance your mortgage or purchase a new home before rates go higher again.  There is no better time than now to buy a home, interest rates are expected to climb which can have a big impact on the amount of home you can purchase!

The question is — can you qualify for refinancing or a purchase loan?

Since the recession, lenders have tightened loan qualification standards and their most widely used tool to determine if you qualify for a loan and at what interest rate are your credit scores. Credit scores are determined by a software algorithm that analyzes your credit and payment history.

These “FICO” scores run between 300 and 850, with the highest numbers considered to be the best scores. The 47% of Americans with credit scores of 720 or higher receive the best interest rates, according to MyFICO.com.

Credit scores make a significant impact. For every 20-point credit score increase, according to Zillow, the average low APR declines 0.12 percent, a savings of $6,400 on a $300,000 home over 30 years.

Improve your credit scores

FICO scores are based on your credit history. Each credit reporting bureau, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax calculates its own score, so you may have three scores.

The first thing you need to do is review your credit reports for errors and get them resolved as quickly as possible. Visit freeannualcreditreport.com to get copies. You can then purchase your credit scores for approximately $14.95 from each agency or all three at myfico.com.

FICO scores change with every new piece of information that comes into the credit reporting bureau, so the credit score you receive today can be improved quickly by following some dos and don’ts.

 

Don’t close credit card accounts. FICO scores utilize a credit utilization ratio that turns against you because it appears that you might be overusing your available credit.

Don’t max out or consolidate credit cards. Credit card companies like it if you only use about 30% of your available credit on your card. You’re better off having small balances on multiple cards than a large balance on one card.

Don’t apply for new revolving credit or transfer balances. If you’re buying a new home, it’s tempting to buy some new furniture, but don’t open that account until after your loan closes. You don’t want “inquiries” to be raised in the scoring algorithm.

Don’t change jobs right before you apply for a home loan, although job changes within the same field are considered more favorably in scoring.

Do pay all bills on time and with at least the minimum payment due. Lenders like on time payment histories.

Do pay down your debt, as lower income-to-debt ratios are attractive to lenders. Start by reducing credit card balances first, beginning with the balances that generate the highest interest rates. Revolving credit is considered riskier debt than installment loans such as student loans or car payments.

Do shop lenders simultaneously. Credit score software takes into account several inquiries from mortgage lenders as normal, but if you space rate-shopping out over weeks or months, that could impact your credit score negatively.

Remember, mortgage lenders are most interested in your ability to repay their loan. The most important factors are job and debt payment history. Job security — long-term employment in the same field and on-time.

There are literally thousands of people renting that could be saving money by owning their own home, and like I mentioned earlier, there is no better time than now.  If you are wondering if this applies to you, contact me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com and I can connect you with a lender who can educate and begin the process.

Market Mondays: Around The Sound

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Pending sales of homes in Western Washington have seen a 13% increase compared to one year ago and listing activity continued to increase, According to NWMLS, along with the increase in the number of mutually accepted offers, data shows an increase in year over year CLOSED sales (up 4.6%) and prices (up 2.5%).  Inventory levels have declined, however, dropping about 1.2% throughout Western and Central Washington.

In September 2014, we saw 6.551 pending sales, compared to 5,193 pending sales in September 2013 and an impressive 6,020 closed sales, a 4.6% increase when compared to the 2013 numbers.

Sale prices have also increased 2.5% in 2014, with the median sale price being $285,000, compared to $278,000 in 2013.  5 counties have seen double digit increases, with King County increasing 9.1% in 12 months, rising from $384,925 to $420,000.

The luxury market has also been very strong, primarily the demand for homes over the $2 million mark.  This can be attributed to the economic boom we are seeing in Seattle, an interest from International buyers and foreign investors as well as an increase in executive level positions for large companies.  This is great news for Seattle home sellers, as well as a positive indicator regarding Seattle’s real estate market health.

Although it is a great time to sell your home, pricing your home correctly from DAY 1 is more important than ever.  Today’s buyers are educated and have a good understanding of market value.  Homes that are priced above market value are not getting offers, resulting many times in the homes being sold well below market value.

Industry experts have been weighing in on WHERE the real estate market is headed.  Many agree that we are seeing a slight correction in the market, with a balance of pricing, inventory and overall health.  J. Lennox Scott, CEO and Chairman of John L Scott Real Estate shared that “As we head into fall, we expect sales to remain strong-and market conditions are already shaping up for a brisk market starting the first of the year.”

Stay tuned this week, I will be sharing some valuable information about the economic projections for 2015, with Dr. Krishna Rao, Ph.D, economist at Zillow.  I am looking forward to sharing with you all the insight I learn as they relate to current market conditions and what we can expect for housing in the area next year!