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.


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 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.


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 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.

What is an Alternative Brokerage? Who is an Alternative Real Estate Agent?

One of the great challenges of being on the “bleeding edge” of change in any industry is identifying the words to be used in discussing the new model. The real estate industry is, at more than a century old, steeped in history and culture. So it’s even more of a challenge to create a dialog that accurately captures the essence of a particular innovation and the characteristics that distinguish it from the old way of doing business. It’s hard to create new meanings for words that have long-standing and well-understood definitions.

One term used to describe real estate firms that are working to change the industry is “alternative.” But absent some definition, the term is meaningless. So what is, exactly, an “alternative brokerage”? And who would be an “alternative agent”?

Does use of the internet define Alternative Brokerage?

One possibility: A firm that leverages the internet to more efficiently provide client services, and passes at least some of the savings back to the consumer. The second clause is important. Every real estate broker by now has leveraged the internet, in particular by sharing their listings not just with other brokers but with the public via the internet (a change driven by anti-trust efforts of the Department of Justice). So simply using the internet cannot be considered alternative.

But passing the savings created by this efficiency back to the consumer? Now that’s new. On the other hand, though, there are lots of brokers out there now who will negotiate unique fees with their buyer clients and who will then rebate the balance of the seller-paid commission to the client at closing. These brokers recognize the fact that most buyers now do at least some of the home search themselves. Does that make their real estate firm an alternative brokerage?

No. If that’s the case, then the term “alternative” doesn’t begin to describe the many distinctions between the new business models that are emerging in the real estate industry and the traditional way of doing business. Agents (legally now called brokers, previously licensees) have been independent contractors, each largely responsible for their own real estate practice (independence is the hallmark of being an “independent contractor”). Every agent must be licensed through a managing broker, who remains responsible for the agent’s conduct. That agent then either pays a flat fee to the managing broker (i.e. a desk fee), or splits in some percentage with the managing broker (and firm) the commissions earned. One managing broker can be responsible for two hundred or more agents in the office. Each and every one of those 200+ agents is responsible for finding their own clients and generating their own income.

So the traditional model is defined in part by independence for the agents and limited oversight. If one agent in the office decides to charge a lower fee, does that make the whole office “alternative”? Clearly not.

It’s more than the internet. Modern business principles define an Alternative Brokerage

Therefore, the definition needs to be expanded. Here’s another possibility: A real estate firm that operates as a modern business and passes some of the savings realized by those modern efficiencies back to the consumer. This definition still captures “leveraging the internet,” clearly a hallmark of operating as a modern business. But what about the notion of branding and efficient marketing? In the 21st Century, there are more efficient means of advertising the firm’s services and acquiring new clients than making each agent responsible for their own business.

Finally, a modern business is more likely to value the brand and the resulting need to provide high quality service every time to every consumer. Many of the new real estate models employ their agents. This gives them a far greater degree of control over their agents’ conduct and the services they provide. While generalizations cannot be drawn about any particular agent, there is no dispute that the bar to entry into the profession is quite low. A modern business structure reduces the risk generally that a consumer will be poorly served by a real estate agent.

So operating as a modern business, and passing the savings realized by the resulting efficiencies back to the consumer, seems to define an alternative brokerage. Which begs the question: Can an alternative agent only work for an alternative brokerage? I think so. Otherwise, we once again define “alternative” way down, such that it’s only a shade off traditional. In today’s real estate industry, where there lots of alternative brokerages – as defined here – that definition just doesn’t convey reality.

What say you, RCG community? What is an “alternative brokerage“? Who is an “alternative broker”?

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.

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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

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.


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


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 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.

Should you hire a lawyer when buying or selling a home? Depends – do you want to reduce your risk?

[Updated 3/2016]

Buying or selling a home is a legal transaction. Real estate brokers are able to engage in the limited practice of law needed to put together contracts for real property. But brokers certainly aren’t lawyers. And buying or selling a house is usually one of the biggest financial transactions in someone’s life.

So “forward thinking” consumers – both buyers and sellers – might consider using a lawyer instead of a broker. This allows them to save money while getting superior legal services. Other consumers will go the traditional route, but end up wondering whether they should also hire a lawyer to assist them in the transaction. If that describes you…

You should hire a lawyer in a real estate transaction when the legal risk outweighs the cost of a lawyer.

What is “legal risk”? For a seller, it means possible liability for someone else’s financial losses. So there are two parts to “legal risk.” First, what is the possibility of being held liable? And second, what is the probable amount of that liability? A 98% chance of owing $100 is a very different legal risk than a 2% chance of facing a cool $1m liability.

What sorts of issues might create liability? On the seller side, there are two general obligations: disclosure obligations, and title obligations. An attorney will help you to understand these obligations, what you need to do to comply with them, and the possible amount of liability if you fail to do so and are held accountable. In other words, by hiring a lawyer, you’ll be able to identify – and then reduce – legal risks.

On the buyer side, “legal risk” means the possible hassle and costs associated with some condition of the property. In other words, a buyer engages in due diligence specifically to identify the legal risk of completing the purchase and owing the house, usually under the title contingency and the inspection contingency. If there are land use concerns or landlord/tenant issues, an attorney will really help. And regarding title, only an attorney is qualified to analyze a title report. For example, if a neighbor has a driveway easement across the property, you’ll want to know that. Based on what you find, you might have the ability to renegotiate the contract to account for the defect. An attorney can help there too.

And of course you need to know the cost of an attorney. As a general rule, expect to spend $1-2k on an attorney if you need to rope one in for some legal analysis and counsel.

At the end of the day, it simply makes sense to hire both a lawyer and a broker if you are a prudent consumer. Why? Because…

Every transaction has risk. A lawyer reduces it.

Those two statements are simply not debatable.  And as a long-time practicing attorney, I have lots of examples of the risks associated with buying or selling a home, and how a lawyer will reduce those risks. Here is one such example.

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