About ARDELL

ARDELL is the Managing Broker of Sound Realty in Seattle/Kirkland. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and 25 years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. Follow Ardell on Google+

Moving to Seattle from the East Coast

Everyone who is buying a home comes to the marketplace with some preconceptions as to how things will proceed. If someone is selling a house in the area and buying a different house in the same area, there are not as many surprises that cause a lot of confusion. If someone is moving here from California, the process of buying a home is not different and the home styles are often so completely different that the expectation of what they will find is not carved in stone.

When someone is moving here from the East Coast, especially the Northeast, there are a few differences best known before you head out to buy a house.

1) THE HOUSES ARE DIFFERENT

facade

The main difference in the home style is what is called “Craftsman” style. If you are building a house, they often will ask “Traditional or Craftsman?” when asking for the main styling of all of the millwork in the house. While “Traditional” will resemble an East Coast Colonial style a little bit…”traditional” does not mean “colonial”. The floor plan may or may not be different, but the facade will definitely be different.

The four homes in the photo are basically new homes by the same builder with the two on the left being on the East Coast and the two on the right being in The Seattle Area.

Some of the main differences:

1) Wood or wood facsimile products vs Brick A lot of people moving here from other States and other Countries like the more solid look of brick. But know that one of the reasons this area avoided brick for the most part is due to earthquake activity. Wood has some flexibility. Brick and mortar joints do not. There are plenty of old brick tudors still standing that have been through earthquakes. But I have seen many where there are patches over time from the brick cracking in a step pattern. I had some pictures in my phone of a house over in Montlake with this issue recently. If you do buy a brick house, examine it carefully, not just for cracks but for sections where the mortar is wider and often in a step pattern. Do use a structural engineer in addition to or as the home inspector as well. The new homes the brick is just a “facade” and not part of the construction. Still, brick doesn’t move well, even to a small degree.

That said, many of the homes today are built with a wood-like cement product as the siding. More expensive and custom homes still use wood. But most tract homes use the wood-facsimile product that may not have more movement than brick. You just don’t have to deal with the mortar issues.

2) Shutters Most of the time you will feel like the shutters are missing. Often, especially when buying older homes of the exact same style you can find on the East Coast, people will remark that they need to add shutters. Colonial homes had shutters going back centuries of the type shown on the homes in the photos on the left. Once in awhile you will find a form of shutters here that are more of a tudor style shutter. Same with the uneven pitched roof on the bottom photo on the right. There is a tudor influence. But no shutters has been more common for a very long time and because the homes were built that way it may not be easy to add them.

3) Closing and Closing Day

ALMOST NEVER DO YOU MOVE ON THE DAY OF CLOSING ON THE WEST COAST. NOR DO YOU TAKE OFF ANY TIME FROM WORK ON CLOSING DAY.

This has always been the most significant difference in the process, and one that often confuses people who are buying homes.

DO NOT MAKE ANY ARRANGEMENTS FOR MOVERS OR ANY OTHER SERVICES FOR CLOSING DAY!

This is vastly different from the East Coast where closings happen all day and several times in a day, usually every hour or so.

Whether or not you are moving here from the East Coast, it does seem a bit odd for the seller to be signing over his house to a buyer before it is paid for. It also seems a bit odd to sign all of your closing paperwork as the buyer and even bring your funds to closing, and not get the keys to the house. Even more odd that the day of closing is not the day you can tell your movers to bring your belongings to your new house.

The difference is that on the West Coast (and several other States) “closing” means the County has actually recorded the Deed to the property in the buyers name. On the East Coast that is not the case and the Deed is often recorded “in due course” and sometimes a month or so after closing. HUGE difference. On the East Coast they do a table funding and the buyer and seller are often in the same room with the agents and the closing agent. They buyer brings their money, the lender sent the money early in the day, the seller gets a check and hands over the keys to the buyer. All that within one hour. So if the signing is at 10 you can usually have the movers start moving things in around noon. If your closing is at 1 you can usually have the movers ready to move things in by 3 ish.

NOT so on the West Coast. On the West Coast the seller sometimes signs the new Deed over to the buyer a couple of weeks before closing. The buyer most often signs a few days before closing. Closing Day is too late to do much of anything. If it all wasn’t done before Closing Day, or at least most of it, less likely it will close by end of day. Closing is a phone call saying “we have recording numbers”. That means the new Deed has been recorded in the buyer’s name and that usually happens between 4 and 5 p.m. (not always; but often)

BUT! KEYS ARE NOT DUE UNTIL BY 9 P.M.

Once in awhile the seller is not completely moved out by the time that phone call comes in. Technically they have until 9 p.m. to be vacated and hand over the keys. I have only seen it go all the way to 9 p.m. a couple of times in a dozen years. But neither is it practical to want the keys to the house as soon as you get the phone call that it is closed.

The Seller gives the keys to their agent. Their agent gives the keys to the buyer’s agent. The buyer gets the keys from their agent. Most always the Agent for the Buyer can’t get the keys until after it closes. There are a dozen different ways we arrange this depending on the agents and parties, but do know that having cleaners or movers standing outside the door at 5:30 p.m. can end very badly.

Things are changing a bit because of the new rules that lenders must follow as of October 3rd. We are seeing more table funded loans and more buyers signing the morning of closing. We can’t move to a system where all buyers sign the morning of closing. It just wouldn’t work for the Title Companies.

As a buyer you don’t get much notice as to when you will be signing. More and more people are paying an extra cost for a mobile signer so they can sign after business hours or very early in the morning before work.

Just know that Closing Day on the West Coast is very, very different and once your loan documents get to escrow, there will be a signing appointment scheduled with very little advance notice. It’s a bit chaotic, but, it’s just how it is done here.

If you have moved here from the East Coast and have some other observations as to the differences, do note them in the comments along with where you moved here from.

Seller Will Review Offers on Monday…

cc4d542f-3346-4b02-930c-2b5b443d80edA seller setting a time in the future when they will review all offers at the same time has become common enough to warrant a blog post explaining the general pros and cons and procedure for this type of listing instruction. I just did a spot check of new listings in Kirkland 98033 and a full 2/3rds have this instruction, including both single family homes and condos. If you look only at the single family homes, the percentage is even higher. There is very little written on this topic that can be googled, so I will try to explain the ins and outs of this process best I can. Everyone does it a little differently, so this is by no means a full explanation or an absolute description that pertains to all listings with this instruction. But it should serve well as a guide to those who have not run into this yet, such as first time buyers just starting to look at homes to purchase.

First it should be noted that the SELLER, and not the Agent, must direct this instruction. Usually as a result of a conversation with the seller regarding whether or not they “have to” respond to the first offer quickly. In fact while I noted 2/3rds of the listings have the direct wording “…will look at-review offers on…” At least half of those who didn’t show that restriction, throw in vague language insinuating that the seller will not be responding quickly because they are out of town for a few days. A roundabout way of saying “…will look at offers on…” loosely.

Let’s lay out the mechanics of how this works before discussing the pros and cons from both the Seller and Buyer side of things. To that end I will describe how I do it.

Usually I list a property on Wednesday night after midnight, which is actually Thursday morning. I do this because the public sites don’t always pull the photos in the same data pull as the listing information, causing the listing to appear in mobile instant alerts with no photos. By listing a property in the middle of the night, the photos have time to catch up with the listing by the time people wake up and view the new listing on their phones or laptops. So I do this whether there is a “…will look at offers on…” instruction or not. Most often the “…will look at offers…” day and time will be Monday in the evening with a deadline for receipt of offers in the afternoon. This gives the agent for the seller time to print out and review the offers, call agents if needed for explanations or changes, and often summarize the offers in advance of meeting with the seller to review them.

It really is as simple as that without going into the particulars of how, when and why to apply this instruction or not. So we’ll move quickly into what this means for Buyer and Sellers with some of the pros and cons.

BUYERS:

When you first see a listing come on market that you want to see, you usually contact your agent. These days the first thing the agent looks for is this instruction, because it almost never shows in the public remarks and only in the Agent Only remarks. I don’t have a good “why” for that except that the public remarks has a limit as to number of characters, and most if not all of that is used to advertise the property with no room left to go into other topics. The agent only remarks area is even more limited, but there is usually room to very briefly describe this agent instruction.

The main reason the Agent for the Buyer first looks for this instruction noting how FIRM…or not…the instruction is, is to determine how quickly the agent needs to meet the buyer at the property.

If you see a property come on market on Wednesday or Thursday and they are not looking at offers until Monday, you still want to see it as early as possible to have time to consider the property before writing an offer. But if this instruction appears, you might not have to jump up from work with no notice or leave the children standing in front of school waiting for you to pick them up or interfere with the baby’s normal nap time. ALSO not all agents can jump up “right now” to run over to the property the minute it hits the market.

So the primary benefit to buyers and their buyer’s agent is it gives them a bit of time to schedule a convenient and mutually agreeable showing time.

That does not mean you wait until a Sunday Open House if the property comes on Market on Thursday and they are looking at offers on Monday. In fact most of the time I do not do an Open House during that 4 to 5 day period which encourages the buyer and their agent to view the property privately, which is usually better for the buyer. The more time you have after seeing the property to investigate further, collect your thoughts, make a good and firm decision before writing an offer…the better. The time frame is short enough from list to review date. Use that time wisely.

The second and possibly only other benefit to the buyer is it gives them some time to fully consider both the property and their offer before needing to submit that offer.

Some people are very quick decision makers and others are not. From what I have seen, buyers who have competed in multiple offers without success respond much more quickly than those for whom this is their first offer. This is not a “how to win in multiple offers” post, and in fact my next post may be “how to LOSE in multiple offers”.

This is just a basic outline of a common practice that most all buyers need to be aware of if they are looking for homes in some of the most popular neighborhoods in the Seattle Area.

Cons to the buyer of course are that they have to wait until Monday for an answer from the Seller and they are more likely to have to deal with multiple offers than if they could write an offer within an hour of the home coming on market and put a response time of same day. However this “con” from the buyer side will be addressed more as a “pro” from the seller side.

SELLERS:

Whether it is a strong or a weak market, over the 25 years I have been helping sellers sell their homes and buyers buy them, most every seller likes the property to get past the weekend before responding to offers. Given the best buyers often work for a living, unless they are cash buyers, the seller would like the people who are working for a living to have a chance to see their home before the seller responds to offers. They like their home to be listed before the weekend and they like to look at offers after the weekend. This is nothing new. In fact I just saw a house that used a wishy-washy “…will look at offers on…” stated as “Seller would like to wait until after the Open House on Sunday to respond to any offers.” I’m not a big fan of wishy washy as it leads to confusion. Some buyers will read that as a hard and fast indicator that they have plenty of time, only to be very upset to find that the house was sold earlier and the Open House was cancelled.

It is very important for the Agent for the Seller to have a very LONG and detailed “What IF?” conversation with the seller, to pin this down very clearly as to the sellers’ wishes. If the seller is a couple, you need to have this conversation with BOTH sellers.

This is not to say that the Agent should guide the seller to a “…will look at offers…” instruction. But it is important for the agent to know the sellers intentions by asking questions such as:

“If you receive an offer on the first day the property is on market and the buyer wants a same day response, are you prepared to accommodate that offer as written?”

The answers to that question are many and varied and almost no one answers a clear YES. That surprises some buyers and even some agents that the seller wouldn’t be very happy to have a good offer on the first day and take it on the first day. But in my experience the answer is usually another question as in “Do I HAVE to?” Once the seller has indicated a reluctance to accept an offer, the Agent for the Seller needs to go through a whole series of what ifs to come to a full understanding of the Seller’s intentions as to how they plan to react to offers.

Historically the “reasonable” time frame for responding to offers has been 2 days, not counting the day the offer is submitted.

In the above noted scenario of listing by very early Thursday morning, the anticipated response date and time would be Saturday by 9 p.m. here in the Seattle Area where a day ends at 9 p.m., unless stated otherwise. HOWEVER the buyer is the one who types in the response date and time in the offer and what was previously reasonable and customary is not what all or even most buyers will do in a hot market.

Since control of that response date in the offer is on the buyer side…it is important for the seller to give an instruction if they do not intend to comply with whatever a buyer may write. It is not good for anyone to start off on the wrong foot by the seller being angry at the time given or the buyer being angry that the seller chose not to respond by the time given.

Most sellers whether they have an Open House or not would prefer the home be shown all weekend when most people are available to see it, than respond on Saturday night. So Sunday night would often be the earliest date the seller expects to respond and Monday night is not a stretch and gives those buyers who weren’t available until Sunday, or even very early Monday if they were out of town for the weekend, a chance to see the property.

You might ask why not longer, and the answer to that is buyers are often frustrated with waiting 4 days and so extending that to a week or 10 days is really pushing it and usually causes more harm than good. That is a conversation the Agent for the Seller and the Seller discuss in the “what ifs” discussion. Every Seller will have a different opinion and there are no hard and fast rules and every Agent for the Seller will have a different counsel on that subject. For the most part, since I can’t speak for every Agent in the Country, I am basing most of this on how I do it and on conversations I have had with actual sellers. But the options can be many and varied.

The obvious Elephant in the Room from the buyer side is “Aren’t you just trying to start a bidding war?” Or from the seller side “Do I HAVE TO take a full price offer?”

This is where the issue gets very controversial and it is not uncommon to get some very angry calls within the first hour the home is on market.

1) NO the purpose is NOT to instigate a bidding war. The purpose is to give the seller a reasonable time to market his/her property before having to accept an offer. By any definition and anyone’s perspective, 72 hours seems reasonable. So Thursday to list, Friday-Saturday and Sunday to view and prepare offers, and Monday to submit and respond, seems more than reasonable. Except to the person who wants to be “The Early Bird Who Catches the Worm”, and I don’t blame them. But that, in many if not most cases, does not give the Seller ample time to market his/her home.

For some sellers “ample time” could be much longer or possibly shorter. But the bottom line is the seller gets to decide what is and is not “ample time”.

2) Pretty much yes…you do “have to” as to the seller’s question of whether or not they have to accept a full price offer. At least this is the conversation BEFORE the home is listed for sale. Mainly because the Agent for the Seller needs to confirm that the seller is willing to take the price at which they list the home.

It’s OK to hope for multiple offers and a price higher than the list price. BUT it is NOT ok to list the home for less than you are willing to take.

To some extent the rules and practices of this particular topic have changed somewhat since Craig wrote a post with his concerns Titled “Offers to be Considered on a Future Date” Is this Really Fair to Buyers?” in that sellers have to attach the instruction before the home is listed and must note whether or not they intend to reserve the right to NOT wait until that date to respond. Still, reading his post via that link in conjunction with this one is advised.

I wish I had 10 or more links to others expounding on this topic, but the only other has been here on Rain City Guide that I can find. If you see any others on “…will look at offers on…” vs simply multiple offer situations which I will cover in my next post, please do put those links in the comments. Thank you.

Best Place To Live – Testing Your Parameters

CornerSeattle Area – Choosing Best Place to Live. I recently received a request to write a new post on this topic. Even I find most of the articles I have read on this topic to be very confusing. Like this one that mixes a few “Really?!?” with the obvious best places. Or this one that jumps from one extreme to the other pretty quickly back and forth.

If you are renting vs buying you can use the lists of Best Places to Live in the Greater Seattle Area pretty freely, as you can skip around at the end of each lease until you find a place you may want to permanently call “home”. But if you are buying a home, you need to dig a lot deeper before spending your hard earned money, as switching out is costly and easier said than done.

Since this post is by special request, I asked the requester to give me some basic parameters he has set before beginning his quest as to where to find that type of home, at that price, in the “best” area his money can buy.

With inventory so very low and “best” homes in best areas selling very quickly and often with multiple offers, you can shorten your time frame dramatically by testing your parameters in advance. This way you will not be waiting and waiting for something that simply does not exist in the area you have targeted to search.

Again, these are parameters given to me by an unknown person in an email request to write this post, and not necessarily in the order given.

1) SCHOOL RANKING

The stated objective was:

Elementary School Ranking = 9
Middle School Ranking = 9
High School Ranking = 9

I think we can assume that this person is referring to GreatSchools.org when noting a 9 ranking. The thing that strikes me as odd is that there is a specific number vs a range like 8 to 10. Many if not most of my clients who have school ranking as one of their parameters will most often want 8 to 10 rank for Elementary School. That is a reasonable and common request at Elementary School level but not on all 3 levels.

What bothers me most about someone asking for “a 9 ranking” for school is it leads me to the conclusion that this person thinks school ranking number is a constant vs an ever changing number.

Let’s jump to the areas noted by the person who requested this post and see how this one main criteria alters and narrows even these modest area parameters. Referring to the photo above, nothing “paints you into a corner” faster than School Ranking as a parameter.

“Hopefully Eastside, Bothell, Kirkland, kenmore, Issaquah, Sammamish.”

There are only a couple of high schools currently ranking as high as 9 or better in Seattle. But since this person noted Eastside let’s skip over that for a minute except to say Ballard High School riding high at 9 right now is a big factor in the price run up there.

Kirkland is out, though one of my personal favorite Best Places to Live, given there are only two high schools Juanita weighing in at a 6 and Lake Washington High School weighing in at a 7. I clearly would not rule out Kirkland, but when I first saw this email I thought, well I guess it’s going to be Sammamish…maybe Issaquah, to get all 3 schools ranking as high as a 9.

Bothell High School is running at a 10 as is Inglemoor in Kenmore. Would I or most of my clients exclude Kirkland in favor of Bothell or Kenmore? Not usually. So really have to be careful about the corner you are painting yourself into with this requirement. All things considered, some of which are not in this post yet but are in the email, I’d still be at Issaquah-Sammamish and probably Issaquah I-90 corrider for this particular person.

My general advice for people planning to have children or with very young children just starting school, is to set your ranking based on Elementary School only. Middle school is a can of worms mostly having to do with puberty. Limiting by High School rank leads you into a very small corner, which may be fine as long as you happen to like that particular corner.

– Below $425,000 (may be even going up to $500,000)
– single family home
– town home with no to very low HOA
– area where property value is appreciating. If I buy now (resale after 5 years should be a profit)
– crime should be low
– commuting to Downtown Seattle should be good.
– King County
– newer construction
– few foreclosures in the general area
– areas with construction quality/grade of 8 or more.

Let’s hit these quickly:

King County OK though you can find lower prices outside of King and the Bothell option changes since most of Bothell is not IN King. I’d still be at Issaquah for that reason.

Newer construction…well depends on how you define “newer” but lets say 1995 or newer since home styles haven’t changed much in that time frame.

Few Foreclosures in the general area – When you have a school ranking of 9 or better and a low crime criteria, you usually don’t run into foreclosures generally except in a neighborhood where everyone bought at peak because it was built and sold at peak.

Low Crime is a given on the Eastside for the most part in the Cities mentioned, so not a big factor.

Commuting to Downtown should be good is where I get stuck as to Kenmore which is not known for its “quick commute” to most anywhere.

That leads us to the big one…price.

PRICE OF HOME

I ended with price, but in real life vs a blog post I START with price, because nothing draws a hard line faster than how much you can afford to spend.

I’m thinking Single Family Home is now out of the question and we are moving straight to townhome if “newer” is 20 years or less and High School is 9 or 10. Then we run into HOA dues that are likely going to be considered excessive. Let’s assume for a minute HOA dues of $300 a month and an interest rate of 3.75%. Now we move price to a $425,000 Townhome or a $485,000 Single Family Home being the same, given the $300 monthly dues value at $65,000 of price.

Here’s where the person who asked the question gets to go back to the drawing board with these questions.

1) If Kirkland only has two High Schools ranked 6 and 7 are you ruling out Kirkland altogether?

2) If the only place in Bothell that meets your parameters is in Snohomish County vs King County, do you drop the King County requirement? Bothell runs into 3 or 4 different School Districts pretty quickly.

3) If the only way to get a Single Family Home is to buy an old one vs a new one, do you stop at townhome or change the age of home criteria?

Without having to change anything you can get a newer 3 bedroom townhome in Issaquah High School…possibly Skyline High School, and pretty easily match that up with a high ranking Elementary and Middle School. Many if not most of these are close to I-90 for a pretty fast commute into Downtown Seattle. If 1995 to 1998 Single Family Home appeals to you more than a new or newer townhome, then Issaquah still an option.

Play with your own parameters now. Go to GreatSchools.org and put in the Cities you are considering and set the High to Low on Rank and you will easily see which schools you want to consider, or not, and note them by name. Once you have your complete list of schools it is easy for your agent to find the neighborhoods within those schools that fit your price parameters.

Point being that when you are using school ranking as a consideration you start there and you, the buyer, do the research to make an accurate and complete list of all schools that are an option for you. It is a parent’s job to pick schools…or not. When using this method it is then better to have an agent set you up in the mls for alerts than to use a public site, since it is pretty much the only place where you can put in a big list of schools vs setting up separate searches for each school. That still leaves you in a bit of a jam since individual schools is not a “required” data field. BUT if you start at finding the neighborhoods by looking at sold property over the last year or more…well, it’s a good start and good luck.

Personally, and for most of my clients, they pick their BEST WHERE first…and then find the best schools in that where, vs painting themselves into the corner of only being able to live in one place. Overall if this were my client I’d be adding Redmond to the mix and then choosing between Issaquah and Redmond.

As to Grade 8 or better as to construction, that’s pretty much a given after piling in all of your other parameters. 8 is not very high as to quality grade and new or newer construction is usually an 8 or 9 in modest price ranges. I just spot checked several and most all in that price range are an 8. So leave that check point for last after you find a home and before you make an offer.

Ask not what your client can do for you…

Bill Gassett wrote a blog post a couple of days ago titled “Things Buyers Do That Real Estate Agents Hate”. I happen to know and like Bill and would not normally engage in a “correction”, point-counterpoint post with him. However one of my clients posted Bill’s article on his facebook page with this tag “Ardell DellaLoggia? Thoughts?”

Since my thoughts are more than will fit in a facebook comment…I am writing the full answer here. My facebook comment answer was:

I like Bill…and his piece is somewhat right…but for ALL the WRONG reasons. The only thing I “HATE” that a client does, is something that is against their own best interests OR anything that hints of fraud or discrimination. I would never HATE something one of my clients may do because of how that might impact me vs them or the public at large. Writing a point counter point to Bill’s piece…be back with the link when I am done.

Bill Gassett’s post has 13 points and I will use his point captions…but with my answer vs his. To compare to his answers…read his post in conjunction with this one.

Things Real Estate Agents Wish Buyers Wouldn’t Do

1. Buyer Calls Listing Agents On Their Own

Even MORE “wrong” than the buyer doing that is the real estate industry still using the term “Listing Agent” vs Agent for the SELLER. The main reason a buyer should not call the Seller’s Agent is the ONLY job of that agent for the seller is to answer your questions, and listen to what you say, to and for the seller’s benefit and not yours. In multiple offer situations, what the buyer may have revealed about themselves to the Agent for the Seller during that call could cause their offer to not be accepted…even if they would otherwise have had “the winning offer”. It’s like asking your wife’s attorney questions during a divorce. After warning you that they represent the other party…their job becomes to use what you are saying to THEIR client’s advantage, if you continue to talk after they ask you not to do that. Perhaps we need a miranda-type warning:

“I represent the seller and not you. Anything you say can and will be used to further my client’s best interest and not yours.”

2. Buyer Asks the Listing Agent to Show Them the Home

Same answer as 1 except even worse. Now not only do your words help further the seller’s best interest, but your general demeanor and body language as well. Not a good idea for a lightweight to get into the ring with Joe Frazier.

3. Ask Real Estate Agents to Show Them Properties Before They Are Pre-approved

It does not serve a buyer’s best interest for them to succumb to multiple and unwarranted credit checks needed for a pre-approval, because the act itself will lower their credit score. There are many contradictory versions of whether or not and when that is true. But a homebuyer’s loan costs and mortgage interest rate, when they do purchase, is directly tied to that credit score. If they are shopping for an agent while viewing 3 to 5 properties with different agents before they are ready to choose an agent and property, then getting 3 to 5 pre-approvals through those agent’s many and varied preferred lenders could seriously harm the buyer for years to come. EVERY real estate agent learns how to qualify a buyer as part of their required education for licensing. There is no reason an agent can’t qualify a buyer well enough to show them enough properties to decide if they are well suited to working with one another, usually 1 to 3 properties. The potential damage to the buyer has to outweigh the potential damage to the agent in this case. If the buyer tells me they have worked at Microsoft or Google for 5 to 7 years and have a salary of $200,000 and a credit score of 760 and want to look at houses costing $500,000…I don’t need a lender to run a credit check that I believe will lower the buyer’s credit score by about 25 points. Many of my clients fit that scenario and are well qualified and are buying below their means. If I worked in an area where 9 out of 10 buyers who come to me can’t get a mortgage…I would feel differently. An agent needs to consider the harm to the buyer and not just protect themselves from “wasting their time”.

4. Buyer Asks to View Property Outside of their Price Point

This involves more than the buyer and the agent, as the main reason NOT to show properties outside of a buyer’s price point has more to do with licensing ethics and sellers. We as agents have “The Keys to the Kingdom”. Having access to enter people’s homes is a HUGE privilege that comes with a responsibility not to abuse that privilege. Since I have been in the business for almost 25 years, I can’t say that I have never had someone ask me to enter a $2 Million listing for “the fun of it”, as example. My answer is no because my access to people’s homes is to a given purpose and “fun” isn’t one of them. If there is an Open House, well that’s an open invite. But using my access key to enter someone’s home for other than the purpose of buying it…answer has to be no. The main reason I don’t like Bill Gassett’s answer vs mine is many agents do, and often, make appointments to see homes to value a home they are soon going to be listing. If the home is occupied, I don’t think it is right to do that unless I disclose to the seller that I am not there for the purpose of showing their home to a prospective buyer. But MOST agents do think seeing the home to help them list a competing home in the neighborhood IS a legitimate reason. When you think about the seller cleaning for you and leaving their home for you…you have to agree that for them to do that to help you do your job for a different seller, is clearly not OK…in my book.

5. Buyer Does Not Respect The Agent’s Time By Calling Last Minute

I don’t get this one at all because in a hot market we have to be very “Johnny Jump Up”. Anyone who doesn’t want to jump through hoops to get their client the house they want, just shouldn’t be in this business. Often “the early bird gets the worm” around here. Last Minute is really First Minute in a hot market. I can’t tell you how many times my client got the house they wanted because we were there “Johnny on the Spot” and the first offer in. To hell with respecting the agent’s “time” and schedule. Whatever makes the most sense for the client to achieve their objective is the ONLY respect factor in the room! End of Story.

6. Buyer Looks At Home 5 Times and Does Not Make an Offer

Thank God they stopped themselves from buying a home they didn’t want, I’d say. Really? If it takes 5 times for them to know they don’t want it…then 5 times it is! This is just ridiculous, Bill. Sorry, you know I like you, but Holy Caboley! I have in fact had a client or two say they were going to buy a house because they felt badly FOR ME if they didn’t because of all the time and work I had invested in the endeavor up to that point. I was aghast that they would put me before their family’s best interest. I love those people…but Oh My God! No!

7. Buyer Not Researching Where They Want To Live Before Asking Agent to Show Them Homes

Duh! Isn’t looking at a few homes in various areas part of that “research”? Another “I don’t “GET” what Bill is getting at…or I don’t agree. Hard to say which.

8. Buyer Makes Unjustified Low-ball Offers

That’s a tough one to answer as everyone’s definition of “unjustified” and “low-ball” is different. If the market has already proven by lengthy days on market that the asking price is the wrong asking price, then basically it’s time to ignore that asking price in the offer. There are too many considerations here. If the buyer and I decide the price is $100,000 over-priced, and that happens often, and it came on market at that price 5 minutes ago, and my clients really want the house at the correct price, then the strategy of how we get that house for them at the right price is very important. I get Bill’s point here, but if you accept that person as a client, then…well…if you don’t like the way the client is acting you need to help that client find an agent better suited to their needs. This may be a reason to drop a client or not accept them as a client in the first place. But you don’t get to continue a bad relationship. Once you view your client as “an unreasonable low-baller”…it’s time to part ways. Breach of relationship, I’d say. There’s another agent who might love that client…release them so they can find a more compatible agent to work with.

9. Buyer Wants To Make An Offer Contingent On The Sale Of Their Home

I have to quote Bill’s Opening words on this one ” Sellers are not going to accept an offer with a home sale contingency 99% of the time.” Another Duh! If you knew your client needed to sell before buying, and you took them to see homes they now want to buy with a home sale contingency…whose fault is that? The time to have this conversation is NOT after you brought them to see the house and now it’s time to write an offer and you don’t want them to have to sell their house first. Why did you bring them to a house they now love…and then tell them they can’t buy it? Mean…just mean. ALSO AND IMPORTANT if the forms are available to make a contingent offer…and they ARE…then guess what? It IS sometimes OK to make a contingent offer and sellers DO sometimes take them, for sure! Might have to buy new construction, as example, to do a contingent offer. But if your client needs to do a contingent offer…then you have to figure out how to make that work. If you can’t…then drop them so another agent who does know how to do that can help them achieve their goals.

10. Buyer Asks To Negotiate Items That Were Visible Prior To Inspection

Huh? If the house needs a new roof, and I could tell that before the inspection, the buyer can’t negotiate that as part of the Home Inspection Negotiation…why? That’s just wrong. Of course the buyer can negotiate items “that were visible prior to the inspection”. Why not?

11. Buyer Expects the Home To Be Perfect After the Inspection

Now I just feel like someone Turned Back Time. Who died and made the agent in charge of what is and isn’t a “reasonable” request? If it hinders their objective to ask and sometimes it does, then we have to figure out how to meet the buyer client’s needs without risking losing the house, if getting that house is the client’s primary objective. The buyer in escrow is protected from the seller viewing their request “unfavorably”. That is why we do the inspection when IN escrow vs at time of offer. In fact your #11 explains why your #10 makes perfect sense to you. You seem to be more worried about the other agent’s seller client than you are about your buyer client? Do you not have Buyer Agency where you work? You do. Take the seller’s agent hat off when representing a buyer please.

12. Work with a Buyer’s Agent for Months and then Buy a House Through a Different Agent at an Open House

I have never had that happen to me in 24 plus years, not with another agent. But one time about 22 years ago I had a buyer client who got cornered by a seller at a ForSaleByOwner Open House. It was kind of funny too. I was doing their Open House on the property they needed to sell in order to purchase. They called me all excited “We Just Bought a House!!!” They were so happy. Had already signed the contract with the seller who had contracts AT the Open House for buyers to sign. It took them a few minutes after telling me their great news to realize what happened. LOL! They were so happy…how could I not be happy for them? They started apologizing once they realized that I basically felt like they just punched me in the gut. But I told them that THEIR goals and happiness was truly my foremost consideration. It happened. I was truly happy for them. I picked myself up…dusted myself off…and proceeded to help them in any way I could. Now as to Bill’s tale of woe…yes…I have seen that happen to many other agents. Most of the time it is the agent’s fault. Sometimes it is the seller agent’s fault at the Open House just like that FSBO Seller in my example. Sometimes it is the Buyer’s Agent who was not realizing that it was a one sided relationship for way too long. In any case this is usually a “look in the mirror” problem and not the buyer’s fault.

13. Buyer Works With More Than One Agent

You really can’t marry the first frog you kiss. Most of my clients are committed at first contact because they are referred to me by friends and family who highly recommend me. But buying a home with an agent is a very personal thing, and without a good personal referral a buyer needs to try a few agents on for size before choosing one. Also…it is sometimes hard not to use more than one agent if you have two completely different geographic options. I don’t have that problem here in the Seattle Area, but I did when I worked in PA and people often made a choice between Yardley PA and Princeton NJ. No one agent could do both. Any agent should know if a buyer needs to use more than one agent to best serve their interests and should actually be recommending that they use more than one agent if that is what is needed. They should be the first to tell the buyer to do that if and when it is needed.

Again…not to pick on Bill Gassett here, and the ONLY reason I have gone through this point by point is because my client happened on Bill’s post and asked me for my thoughts. I saw no way to do that without covering all of the points…and to do that on facebook where my client asked the question…well, too long. So I am posting a link to this post there now.

Real Estate – Why DATA is the New Black

Early Friday evening one of my favorite long term clients asked me this question: “Why is the market so slow these days? I have an alert for ($) houses in (zip code) and I barely get a couple of hits every week west of (the freeway). Almost always tear-downs.” (actual specifics from his email removed)

My first data set pulled was a line up the number of homes sold where I primarily work (North King County – North of I-90), by month, over the last 6 years from 2009 to 2014 YTD. This to answer only the first 8 words of his question “Why is the market so slow these days?” The easy answer would be “because it is past October 15th”. I test my knee jerk response by pulling all of the relevant data to be sure I am not answering like grandma in a rocking chair pulling some now irrelevant data from her long term memory bank. I also do this because I need to discover why this person’s current perspective may vary from the long term norm.

Something may recently have happened leading this person to believe that the standard progression is no longer the realistic expectation. I value his thought process as part of how I answer the question…by first pulling the data…lots and lots of data.

The line graph below documents the data pulled for the last 6 years. But as I almost always do when pulling stats, I went back 12 years because data expires! More on that in graphs 4 and 5. Since I almost never regurgitate already documented data from other sources, but rather only trust the data if I calculate it myself, I usually go back as far as my data source will allow, which in this case was 12 years.

First I test my perception that 2014 is not a low inventory year, even though there are tons of articles saying that inventory is low. Many articles talking about the frustration of buyers with “low inventory”. But look…no…my perception is indeed correct. The red line is the “low” or at least the first half of 2009 depicted in the red line. The green line of this year is not only NOT “low”…it is pretty close to the high over the last 6 years.

To be clear, I am using “homes worth buying” as “inventory” and the proof that they ARE homes worth buying…is someone actually bought them.

Volume 2009-2014

After I peruse some of the recent data as an attempt to start at the point where he may be coming from when asking the question, I dive into my own “expert opinion” perspective, which is my 2001 baseline. This information is really already carved in my brain, but since I turned 60 this year I figure it wouldn’t hurt to double check that my memory is still accurate. 🙂

Volume 2001 baseline

I actually did all 12 years before honing in on the actual answer to the question, which comes from comparing 2014 with 2013 and 2013 with both 2001 and 2005.

To determine which were the correct comparison years, I had to first pull ALL of the data that the data source would allow.

While yes…my knee jerk answer of “because it is October” would have been correct, by pulling all of the data I can see from the variance of the actual stats from 2013 against the baseline of 2001 exactly why the question made 100% sense from this person’s perspective at the time he asked it.

This person, along with every average homebuyer, is looking week to week over a period of 6 months to 18 months for a home to buy. They have no “baseline perspective”. Their expectations come from more recent history’s actual activity, and rightly so, with no way to tell if the last 6 months was exceeding or under performing standard market expectations.

The bar graph below explains where the expectation may come from. I have 2005 in there just because it is the one year over the last 12 years when the most number of homes were purchased (ipso facto “available” to be purchased), so highest inventory year. But the key to answering the question is in the 12% of June 2013.

If you look at every piece of data on this page which looks at all 12 months for all 12 years in 6 different comparative charts…12% of a full year’s total inventory being available to buy in one 30 day period is pretty much unheard of! That was June of 2013.

I had another client who started looking in early 2013 and did not buy the house they could-should have purchased in June of 2013. After that they were progressively and continuously disappointed with the number of homes that came on market for months and months afterward. They had no way to know that the volume of homes coming on market since they started looking were many more than the normal market expectation.

In hindsight every subsequent month looked pss-poor in comparison. Pretty much all activity if you started looking in April of 2013, and didn’t purchase by June-July of 2013, is looking relatively dim. BUT in reality inventory is not dim. Inventory, the number of homes you can expect to choose from, is in fact currently performing at or over market expectations adjusted weekly for seasonality. All this can be gleaned from the 12% spike in that bar graph, noting the rational explanation as to why your expectations may be “off” by comparing relatively recent actual data against 12 years of data comparisons.

Basically that makes us both right. I’m right at “because it’s October” and the person asking the question is right to consider the options dim based on more recent relative comparison.

Volume 2001-2013-2005

Posting the data and graphs that helped formulate the above. Worth noting, while I brought forward the Red Line year of 2009 to note inventory low point, the graph below shows that the 12 months of low inventory started in the 2nd half of the gold line of 2008 and proceeded to the lowest point of Jan and Feb of 2009, which some of my readers may remember as “my bottom call” that made front page news at the time.

Volume 2005-2008

Looking above and below at the thick green line of 2014 inventory against the high inventory years of both 2004 and 2005 you can easily see why all of the articles calling 2014 low…and actually they were saying that last year in 2013 as well, are simply not true.

Volume 2001-2004

While my analysis will continue to use 2001 as a baseline, you may want to use the bar graph below to set your expectations. This is the average good homes on market based on the average of 12 years worth of data.

I use 2001, as many of the variances over the last 12 years are influenced by Tax Credit Incentives coming in and out and artificial interest rate jockyings…not to mention all of the massive changes in loan approval criteria over this same period. For that reason 2001 is still the purist baseline by which to compare and contrast other market influences as they come and go from time to time.

WHY IS THE MARKET SO SLOW THESE DAYS?

Getting back to the first 8 words of the original question…because based on normal seasonal activity you can expect that there will be HALF the number of homes coming on market that are worth buying by December than in May. “coming on market” activity is the month prior to the sold month. So highest SOLD volume in June will = highest number of instant alerts of new listings coming to your phone in May.

Expect the numbers to increase from December through May and then begin a decrease through year end before beginning the next climb.

Volume 12 year average

WHY IS DATA THE NEW BLACK?

Because it saves you time and reduces your stress to DRILL down the data from the general comparisons above and fine tune your actual parameters before you waste any time looking for something that doesn’t exist in the place where you are looking. That brings us to the 2nd and 3rd part of this person’s question ” I have an alert for ($) houses in (zip code) and I barely get a couple of hits every week west of (the freeway). Almost always tear-downs.” (actual specifics from his email removed)”

Only 25 houses were sold using a full $150,000 spread with your $ amount as the cap in the whole 6 months of “high season”. So expecting 2 a MONTH in low season let alone 2 a week…is an invalid expectation. Expect ONE really good one a month from here to February of 2015.

“Almost always tear-downs” means you are looking for a nice home at the price of the land alone. Again an invalid expectation. Changing your price to what that home will sell for there is not an option. Changing your choice of what to a tear down is also not a reasonable option.

The only answer to your dilemma is to change the where and not the price or the what.

(Required Disclosure: Stats in this post are not compiled, verified or published by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service.)

VERY “Walkable”…but is it SAFE to walk there?

walkscoreI am very happy to report yesterday’s news that WalkScore has added a crime overlay, something I have been asking for since WalkScore first came about.

Local residents often roll their eyes when they see an awesome walk score attached to an area where it is simply not very safe to walk after dark AT ALL. Not a big problem for local residents, but what about the many people relocating to The Seattle Area who are relying on various internet tools to guide them in their search for a home in their new City?

I have not tried the new tool out extensively, but from what I have seen the crime grade does NOT reduce the walk SCORE, so a previous score of 87 will still be a score of 87. BUT if you take the time to study the color coded crime map after viewing the score, you will be better able to judge an area now than ever before. Previous to this change I have always recommended that people use Homefacts.com to pull the crime data and photos of local registered sex offenders. Not sure if the changes to walk score will replace that need or not, but I am very happy to see that they are finally acknowledging that some very “walkable” neighborhoods as to their scoring…are in reality sometimes not very safe to walk in at all.

Try it out, as I will, and let me know what you think.

Costco Signs Major Lease With Vulcan – Issaquah

costco vulcanJust received a press release that Costco is leasing 176,656 sf of space from Vulcan (Paul Allen) Real Estate at Sammamish Park Place in Issaquah. Sammamish Park Place is a 3 building complex totalling 586,823 sf with the other two buildings being occupied by Microsoft.

This complex was built in or around 2000, so I am wondering who left that Costco is replacing. I don’t see any stories on this move yet, but will post a link if and when someone else picks it up with more info.

How much for stainless appliances?

Stainless has become a preferred color option. Most people who say “stainless” are not always talking about expensive Stainless STEEL. As long as the color is the same, most people don’t care. Easy way to tell if it is Stainless “Look” is to carry a fridge magnet when you are shopping for appliances or houses and if the magnet doesn’t stick to the front door then stainless is the color and not the material used.

For this post I am pricing out some basic upgrades for a client. Earlier today I did the carpet cost and now am moving to the appliances. We’re looking for relatively low prices for standard sized everyday appliances. The type you might use if you were selling a property or upgrading a modestly priced home. A quick change in the look from white or black and basic clean and new appliances. Nothing too fancy.

REFRIGERATOR

I would say $1,000 or less including tax and delivery. I found a few good ones for about $750 which are sometimes $685 or so on sale. There are many in the $800 to $900 range. The property has a standard opening from the 1970s, so 18 cubic feet or so at 65″ high and 30″ wide will probably fit better than a 21 or 22 cubic foot fridge that requires more height between the floor and the upper cabinet of about 70″. For the family I’m doing this for, the $750 fridge on sale for $685 shown in the picture below should be fine. This would work for any full sized 30″ wide opening. The opening is usually 32″ to 34″ and the 30″ has a little room on both sides.

RANGE

In this case we will be using a standard 30″ wide electric range in mostly stainless and partly black. I will post all the photos together at the bottom so the client can see how they look side by side. For some reason the power cord is often sold separately and the total cost should come in at around $650. The lower priced ones are black or white and we want to stay with a full stainless steel or stainless look result in the kitchen.

DISHWASHER

All of the appliances are white and we are replacing with stainless, but worth mentioning that the current appliances are all in working order and can probably be sold on Craigslist for a few hundred dollars for all of them or donated to charity for a write off. Most people just let the company bringing the new appliances haul them away. But I do have a few resourceful clients that sell everything, like the young man who actually sold his old carpet that he tore out. 🙂 I haven’t had to replace a dishwasher when selling a home…well pretty much ever. So I’m pricing these off of Home Depot. In this case I used a $600 Dishwasher in the photo. You can get a cheaper one in the same black and silver version as the range…but this all stainless dishwasher is so much better looking and impressive in person for a little more cost. I recommend you not skimp on this appliance and not get the one with some black plastic on it. You need some black on the range for the knobs and digital display. But not on the dishwasher. Speaking of which the fridge can have black sides and sometimes better to have that as fridge magnets will adhere to the sides usually if they are black. Since the range is mixed silver and black, that usually makes a lot of sense.

MICROWAVE

I’m showing a picture of a $260 over the range microwave. You can find them a little cheaper or pricier, but we’re just trying to get a total price to move out the white appliances and bring in Stainless Steel or Stainless Look appliances. I thought this one was as showy as the dishwasher, and when the nicer looking one is only $60 more…why skimp? USED TO BE you would just put a range hood there, and nothing wrong with that. BUT the last time I tried to do that with stainless vs white or black…it cost an arm and a leg! Might as well go with a Microwave that has a vent fan. You can look at both, but I wouldn’t pay the same for a plain vent as I would for a Microwave. YMMV

So we’re looking at $700 to $800 for the Fridge. $650 or so for the Range including tax and power cord, $600 or so for the dishwasher and another $250 for a microwave or $2,200 to $2,500 total. Roughly the same price as the carpet in the other post. So let’s say we are at $5,000 for all new appliances in the kitchen and all new carpet in the house. Not bad.

First pictures of the kitchen appliances, then I’ll move to washer and dryer which can be simple full sized white top load washer and front load dryer. Note that I just cut and paste these pictures together. I didn’t put model numbers or brand names as you want to be sure they are matching color. Usually best to stick to one brand name for that reason or at least see them together in a store. If you buy the full 4 piece appliance package in the same store you can usually get a better deal of about 20% off.

appliances

I’m just going to throw in the washer and dryer at $1,000 for both. People have been getting carried away with washers and dryers costing $3,000 or more for both. But for the purpose of this modestly priced home and knowing the clients as I do, they actually can probably do all of this including the washer and dryer, kitchen appliances and all new carpet for $5,000…$6,000 tops.

Carpet Credits do not help sell your home

I think most people know that offering a carpet credit does not work…except that many sellers and real estate agents still fall back on the language “$5,000 allowance for carpet” as a lazy way out.

1) It doesn’t work because once people see filthy, pet stained carpet, they don’t buy the house period unless it is a super discount of well over the cost of replacing carpet.

2) It doesn’t work because the seller’s idea of what carpet will cost and the buyer’s idea of what carpet will cost is not nearly the same.

3) It doesn’t work because many areas where there is carpet in the home will not be replaced with carpet by the new owner. If there is nice fresh clean carpet there, they will buy the house and change some areas to wood later. But if there is dirty filthy carpet there then they have to come up with the money right away to put wood, and that is usually not practical for many people buying a home.

Back in the 90’s through 2004 or so the answer was easy. You went to Home Depot and said “Realtor Beige” and you were done. But Realtor beige went out of style. Realtor Beige was replaced with caramel colored or sage frieze, but that fad only lasted about 18 months on the sage and never worked for higher end homes.

If you have filthy carpet then you have to replace it with clean carpet. You don’t want to spend a ton of money on that carpet for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the buyer may cut it out and throw it away in short order in some, but not all, of the places where you put it. You need a nice clean blank canvass that someone can live with for two to five years. If you have a higher end home costing $700,000 or more…stop reading now. This is more for the standard $450,000 or less townhome or split-entry or tri-level. Once you get to a full and newer two story home costing $650,000 plus…different answer. This answer is also good for condos, apartments and rental properties.

Below is a picture of the carpet. I might not choose this color, which is a fleck blend, but this carpet is so low in cost that it only comes in one color. 🙂 You want to minimize cost and maximize clean and odor free and utilitarian type serviceable for most people…i.e. neutral as to color but not too white-light.

carpet

Let’s jump straight to cost since cost is the reason why I use this carpet over and over again. It is a Home Depot product called…uh oh. They don’t have it anymore. 🙂 I am writing this post for a client so I will proceed with a suitable replacement carpet and update the costing. The carpet I was using was only 55 cents per square foot and then it went up to 62 cents a square foot. But the option is not currently available and the lowest priced replacement is 90 cents a square foot. Let’s allow $1.00 a square foot for a “twist” carpet. There are several options at Home Depot between $.90 and $.98 cents a sf. The benefit of a twist carpet is it has a thicker look without added cost and the padding is not meant to be bouncy thick. So you can use cheap padding at about $4.50 a square yard.

Rough cost for a whole house of 1,200 to 1,500 sf is $2,500 all things included IF you do it the way I am suggesting below. Of course not all of the floors in the house are carpet. The bathrooms and kitchens are not carpet. The last 1,750 sf house had 1,460 sf of carpet. That is the one in the picture. The one I’m working numbers for up right now is a 1,500 sf house so I’m estimating 1,200 sf of carpet. The total price should come out the same at $2,000 to $2,500 as the carpet price went up but the house is smaller.

I haven’t found anyone that can beat Home Depot prices and I’ve shopped around. Once I found someone who could match the price with a higher quality carpet, but higher quality is not always better as many of those colors have gone out of style…as in too light or too white. You are better off with current color cheaper carpet.

Get new padding!!! Often we are trying to freshen up not only look but smell. Even without pets you have “dusty old house smell” or cooking odors stuck in the carpet and padding. Not worth the savings usually to not get new padding.

TO GET LOWEST COST pull the old carpet and padding out yourself. Leave the tack boards (wood strips around the room edge with nails sticking up.

1,200 sf of carpet at 90 cents to a dollar a sf is $1,200. Padding should be about half that cost, so $1,800 for carpet and padding. Usually Home Depot has a whole house installation special for about $100. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. That special may not always be running, but let’s assume you have some flexibility in timing. STEPS are additional! so if it is a one level condo or apartment or a 1 story home you can still bring it in for $2,000 including installation and tax. Steps cost about $8 each for a simple box step. The properties I have done are either a 14 step tri-level or a one flight up 2 story. But a lot of steps like an extra full flight up or down you have to add $8 per step or thereabouts.

In the job I am costing and the one in the picture there are about 14 steps for a total extra cost of $110.

So “Hall Up, Master bedroom and closet, 2 additional bedrooms and closets, additional up hall closet, family room, and stairs”. $1,200 carpet, $600 padding, $110 for steps, $100 for installation is $2,010 which is exactly what it cost for the house in the picture including the tax with the cheaper carpet. So plan on $2,500 for a little wiggle room.

If you are a seller, spending $2,500 for new carpet is MORE EFFECTIVE than giving a “$5,000 carpet allowance”. Your home will sell faster and for more money and cost you half as much or less. A buyer thinks carpet will cost at least $10,000, so they won’t like your $5,000 offer for new carpet. Don’t be lazy. Spend the $2,500 on new carpet vs a “sorry my carpet is dirty credit”.