Buying a House in Seattle 2015? Check out Quill’s free Home Buying Class

2015 Home Buyer Class

Free Home Buyer Seminars offered by Alternative Brokerage in Seattle

Are you thinking of buying a house in Seattle in 2015? Or perhaps it’s time to sell your home? Either way, you’ll learn some great information at Quill Realty’s free House Buying Seminars for 2015.  We ‘re offering a free home buyer class – great for sellers too – on the fourth Wednesday of every month through June, from 7p – 9p here at the Quill office in Georgetown. Whether you’re a first time homebuyer or a seasoned veteran looking to “move up,” you’ll learn something valuable at these free real estate classes. Topics will include the current and anticipated future of the real estate market, common real estate legal issues (including from the seller’s perspective), and real estate search tips for finding “the one” (and other good marketing tips for sellers). All from the unique perspective of a consumer-driven, alternative real estate brokerage.   Continue reading

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.

The Death of Mortgage Blogs

iStock_000017972256XSmallThere is a buzz going on among fellow mortgage bloggers about how days may be numbered for mortgage blogs. This is as a largely the result of guidance issued by federal regulators late last year specifically on social media. When I first read this guidance, my initial response was “so what? This is pretty much what lenders are supposed to be doing anyhow”… stuff like properly quoting rates, not being misleading to consumers, etc.  It’s also my opinion that this seems to be written in favor of mortgage banks and not mortgage companies. The big banks seem to not want loan originators who have or express their own opinions.

After more thought and discussion with other mortgage bloggers, I can see the real issue is the compliance factor. Many mortgage companies are already stretched with the cost of compliance with just the day to day operations of originating mortgage loans. It’s my understanding that some lenders have made the decision to just not allow their loan officers to have any independent sights or social media sights (like Facebook or Twitter) as this is the easiest route…no extra compliance cost (additional personal hours) and less risk.

Blogs typically have information released freely and quickly. There are times that I have done “live post” when I’m covering an event, such as the Fed testifying before Congress or to illustrate how something like that may impact mortgage rates. I’m not sure it’s feasible for a compliance officer to be able to regulate and approve everything that a loan officer says or does with social media – imagine a person having to approve any comment or update you put on Facebook or Twitter… it’s simply not realistic and it’s no longer “you” being social or in the moment – it’s you-approved by your employer.

The thought of me no longer being able to blog or to no longer have my  blog, The Mortgage Porter, which I began back in 2006 is absolutely depressing. I really enjoy writing and sharing information with my readers about mortgages, including the process of financing a home and various mortgage programs. At times, it’s even been therapeutic by allowing me to vent or “rant”.  Blogging and social media has brought me so many wonderful opportunities and experiences that I would not have had as a non-blogging mortgage originator.

When I began my blog, it was because of a lack of information, or actually because the wrong information was being shared by the media about loan officer licensing. I never dreamed anyone would read it or that people would actually decide they want me to be their loan officer because of the information I freely shared with them – information that they could not find anywhere else!  I use my blog to share information with potential clients – like “what is a letter of explanation” and sometimes, I’ll write a post just to address an answer to a clients question… if they’re asking it, odds are somebody else is searching for that answer too.

I fully agree that content on mortgage blogs must be compliant – however doing away with mortgage blogs is a travesty.

Less information and less transparency is never good for the consumer.

Good thing I have a back up career! 

Stay tuned.

Seattle RE BarCamp will be here soon!

seattle

This year Seattle RE BarCamp is actually going to be south of Seattle at the Center Point Conference Center in Kent (south of Southcenter Mall and north of the Showare Stadium)… so technically, we’re calling this “Greater Seattle reBarCamp”.  Regardless, this event will be taking place on March 13, 2014.

This event is an “un-conference” where topics (which tend to be about social media or related to real estate) are decided by the attendees the morning of the event. You literally submit topics on subjects you would like to learn more about (such as word press, for example) or perhaps you have a great idea that you would like to brain storm with a group of like minded people… the possibilities are endless. The only thing really not allowed are presentations or sales pitches.

This years event is going to be cozier than our last Seattle RE BarCamp (which was humongous)… so we are charging $10 for tickets in advance – which will include a boxed lunch from Alki Bakery.  If you decide that you’d rather show up the day of, without a ticket, the cost will be $20 assuming we’re not sold out (as I mentioned, space is limited).

Jay Thompson will be kicking off the event with a quick “rules of the road” to refresh attendees on how to get the most of your REBC experience. Drip coffee and some pastries are being provided by Alki Bakery (first come/first serve).

Want to join us?  Learn more here… and buy your tickets!! 🙂

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”.

Lower Conforming Loan Limits

Publication2 (1)

Back on December 12th, Rhonda posted that FHA etc Loan Limits would be coming down to the same level as previously lowered conventional rates. This came up in a recent discussion I was having with a client and thought the news, which I believe became effective 1/1/2014, should be highlighted a little better, as this is very important news for some people.

Not surprising to us inside the industry. But definitely important to anyone thinking about buying with minimum down and even for those who were not aware of the previously lowered limit for conventional financing.

Disclosure: I am not a lender. Just bringing this news to the forefront now that these limits have become effective so that more people heading out to buy a house in 2014 are aware of the changes.

I also think it is interesting to compare our loan limits to the much lower limits around the State of Washington.

Seattle listed as 2nd hottest housing market for 2014

The new Zillow predictions for the 2014 housing market show Seattle as the second hottest market in 2014.

They also predict only 3% increase in prices overall, so “hottest” could be kind of cool. 🙂

Personally I think it all depends on how many sellers come out to play this year. You will have your same average turnover for must sell reasons. Relocations as example. But with most sources predicting a slower increase in home prices and possibly a slight turn down, perhaps those sellers waiting for a better housing market will succumb to the fear that it might not get any better than this.

No one knows how “hot” the market will be, but the more sellers there are the “better” it will be whether there is growth or not. Zillow is also predicting rates will get to 5% by year end, but that looks more like someone trying to create a sense of urgency whereZC there really isn’t one.

Have you ever heard, “Don’t worry, it’s just paperwork” from your Real Estate Agent?

Recently some good friends of mine decided to buy a home.  Such good friends, in fact, that we mutually agreed to keep business and friendship apart so as to not create any problems on either end.  So they didn’t use my services.  Instead, they first used a “discount” agent affiliated with a large, local real estate brokerage, before finally landing on a “traditional” agent.

It ended up being a great opportunity for me as well to learn more about the process through their eyes.  One thing that they mentioned, in particular, caught my attention.  On more than one occasion, they expressed a degree of concern to their agent about the volume of documents that were apparently required.  Being prudent and sophisticated folks, they wondered what all of this “paperwork” really meant, why it was necessary, and how it related to their interests in the transaction.

The response?  “Don’t worry, it’s just paperwork.”  Well, it may be “paperwork,” but that doesn’t mean a buyer shouldn’t worry.  Those are legal documents that impact a buyer’s interests.  It is a disservice to the client to dismiss that concern without addressing it.  Everyone should at least have the opportunity to understand the process and the inherent risks.  If a buyer chooses to keep his head buried in the sand, so be it.  But it shouldn’t be an agent’s job to hold the buyer’s head down in the sand.  If the buyer wants to pull his head up, learn about his environment, and understand what is going on, an agent should encourage, not discourage, it.  If you don’t get that encouragement, think about getting another agent.

This principle underlies my new real estate firm, Quill Realty.  You’ll never, ever hear this expression from a Quill agent.  Instead, Quill will provide its clients with a lawyer, in part so that the client can ask questions about and really understand the “paperwork.”  Just another benefit of using Quill.

To say I am excited about the model would be a gross understatement… 🙂