Fremont: the Center of the Universe!

While it has nothing to do with the MIT Forum, I thought it would be fun to present and comment on the TurnHere video of the Republic of Fremont along the lines of Dustin’s post on Ballard.

The video is a lot of fun and gives a great perspective on the funky, hip side of Fremont, while also acknowledging Fremont’s changing demographics.

The Russian in me can’t help but comment on the statue of Lenin that sits in a parking lot of a local Taco Del Mar. Roger Wheeler gives a brief history of the statue on the Fremont Chamber of Commerce website:

Poprad, Slovakia is the place, 1978 the year our story begins. Emil Venkov won a commission to sculpt and cast a bronze statue of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Russian revolutionary leader. He worked for ten years, finishing in 1988 – just in time for the regime to collapse. Demand for Lenin bronzes was nil, with the exception of visiting American teacher Lewis Carpenter. He was intrigued by the bold and unusual design, Lenin striding out of – what – rifles, flames, wheat? Carpenter decided to take the statue home with him, a decoration for a Slovakian restaurant maybe. He decided big time. He mortgaged his house, bought the statue for $13,000, then paid $28,000 to truck it to Scandinavia and ship it via the Panama Canal to Washington state. Carpenter was killed in a car accident in 1994 and his mother, Lydia, was left with a seven-ton Lenin in her Issaquah back pasture. Lydia called Carpenter’s Fremont sculptor-friend, Peter Bevis. Bevis and the Fremont Artwalk Committee were looking for something big to kick off their event. Lenin was just certainly that. After much welding and grinding and banging at Bevis’ Fine Arts Foundry Lenin was ready to thrust his way into Fremont history, being unveiled at Artwalk amid much carping, griping, and fist banging from critics and former countrymen who remembered Lenin as something other than heavy-duty art. Lenin is for sale. For a mere $250,000 (obo), you too can join Lenin’s well-traveled history.

Fremont attracts many local artists there are quite a few galleries. One of my favorites is Frank and Dunya, which features art and collectibles from artists from all over the world.

Some other things mentioned in the video include:

  • The weekly Fremont Sunday Market is an outdoor European-style Market has something for everyone!
  • With the charm of an old home setting, the Fremont Coffee Company is one of the best coffee shops in Fremont (but definitely not the only great one!).
  • The Fremont Troll that sits under the Aurora Bridge is definitely a fun attraction. Interestingly, a street that leads into the troll was recently named Troll Avenue.
  • Sonic Boom Record is a great local record store.

Local Treasure: Welkom to Ballard!

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been taking a break from writing to take care of my beautiful baby boy. During this time off the Ballard community has been so wonderful to me and my family, I thought it would be fun to highlight one of the aspects that makes Ballard a wonderful place to raise a family. Interestingly, this will likely give a different (although hopefully complementary) view of life in Ballard than the video that Dustin linked to the other day.

Ballard is known for having one of the largest Norwegian populations outside of Norway. But the Nordic influences are not limited to Norway as there is a huge Scandinavian influence all around. Along with the Nordic Heritage Museum, there are many local specialty stores that sell things like pickled herring, specialty breads and other traditional Nordic foods.

In addition, the Leif Ericson Lodge plays a wonderful role in uniting the local population through a ton of community events. Lief Ericson Lodge was first organized on May 13 1903 and currently has 2,000 members. Just this past Saturday it had a large bazaar with lots of music, dancing, singing and wonderful food.

We became involved in the community through a wonderful dance class (called Barneleikarringen) that Dustin attends with our daughter every Tuesday night. The class is taught by a wonderful elderly couple who dedicate their time and effort in order to share their cultural dances and stories with the kids. Despite the fact that neither Dustin or I have Nordic heritage (that we know of anyway), everyone at the lodge has been wonderful to our family. (By the way, anyone with children is invited to attend this great dance class… It starts at 6:30pm every Tuesday and the suggested donation is $5/month, which probably doesn’t even cover the cost of the treats that pass out after each class.)


There are a bunch of benefits to taking part in this dance class that the kids simply love. For starters, they get to walk in the Norwegian Constitution Day Parade as well as dance at a slew of community functions.

(By the way, they also have dancing lessons geared toward adults, but I don’t know much about that… yet!)

The strong Nordic roots are just one more reason that Ballard is a wonderful place to live.

Rain City Guide in Russian?

I had a good laugh when I read over WorldLingo’s translation of Rain City Guide in Russian.

“Interview with John Mudd of Inside Real Estate” became “Interview with John Mudd Real Estate Guts.” There were a bunch of other funny issues with the translation, but that was my favorite.

Rain City Guide in Russian

I’m yet to find a good Russian-to-English translator (or even one that is usable). Anyone out there know of one that works?

Here are the one’s I’m aware of:

Google: We need you!

Meet a Realtor Who Doesn't Sell Houses…

The NY Times ran an article a few weeks ago on how hard it is for new real estate agents to break into the market (I’d like to the article but it is now behind a password-protected wall, so instead I’ll just link to the Property Grunt’s excellent summary and analysis). This article got me thinking of a way that I could still be very useful to my clients without actually buying or selling any homes.

What’s that? A Realtor who doesn’t buy or sell any homes?

For the next six-months or so, I really won’t be in a position where I can dedicate a significant amount of time to helping clients. (higher priorities! ) But what I would really enjoy doing over the next few months is staying connected to the business by helping buyers and sellers find appropriate agents.

Say that again?

Mariel Kicking a Soccer BallIn my office alone, there are almost 100 real estate agents who would love to have your business (assuming you’re buying or selling a home) and while I don’t know all of these agents, I do know the successful ones . What I would like to do is use my inside knowledge of successful Seattle agents to connect individuals with the right agents.

For example:

  • Are you looking for a condo in Downtown? I know an agent who specializes there!
  • Are you looking to buy land in Woodinville? I know a different agent who specializes there!
  • How about a modern-style home in Seattle? I know a different agent who specializes in modern homes.

Regardless if you’re trying to sell a home, condo, boathouse, townhome, etc., I’ve come into contact with a highly successful agent who specializes in that field. Talk with me, and I’ll connect you with the right person.

Why would I do this?

It is really a win-win-win situation. You get the best representation possible, a successful real estate agent gets one more client, and I can continue to help people in a small but important way. (I’ll also get a small referral fee from the agent…)

By the way, my recommendations are not limited to just people moving to Seattle. I know a few listings agents who go out of their way to please, so if you are currently a Seattle-area homeowner looking to list your house, talk with me before you list. I’m confident that no matter how good your realtor is, I can get you a better one!

Local Treasure: Golden Gardens

[photopress:golden_gardens_beach.gif,thumb,alignright]There’s a fun story on the City of Seattle’s website about the history of the Golden Gardens park. Turns out this local gem was named and developed “in 1907 as an attraction at the end of the novel, new electric car lines being built by realtors to induce townfolk to take a ‘Sunday outing’ out of town and through the woods to a picnic or swim at a beach. (Along the way they were made aware of the real estate available!)”

Wow! Back then agents understood that a rail project adds to property values! 🙂

Of course, some things never change:

“In 1933, the community celebrated the opening of Seaview Avenue, a narrow two-lane road alongside the railroad, but on its own fill behind a new rock seawall, that ended abruptly with a new railroad underpass connecting with the old parking lot and providing a drive through the park, as well as auto access to the beach area. Then traffic really became a problem!

[photopress:golden_gardens.JPG,thumb,alignleft]Why was (and is) parking so tight? Because Golden Gardens is still a great place to take a ‘Sunday outing’ (or an outing on any day of the week!). The park has a little bit for everyone…. There are beaches and creeks for the kids, fire pits for the teens and wonderful views and trails for the rest of us!

Want more? More history of Golden Gardens in this acrobat file (pdf). More on Seattle’s first electric streetcar. More archived photos of Seattle. More archived photos of Golden Gardens. More modern shots of Golden Gardens.

And, of course, there are more local treasures on Rain City Guide.

Ballard Jazz Festival

Jazz MusiciansThis weekend in Ballard:

2 days / 50 musicians / 1 nordic fishing village

Artists include: Joe Locke/Geoff Keezer Quartet, Larry Goldings Trio, Kate Hammett-Vaughn, Eric Alexander, Peter Bernstein, Marc Seales Band, Jovino Santos Neto Quarteto, Origin Uber Band, Tumbao, Dawn Clement Trio, John Stowell, Rob Davis, Matt Jorgensen +451, Bill Anschell … and many more!

All the venues for the Jazz Walk are on a $15 joint cover (a $25 Festival Pass will also grant admission). Tickets can be ordered online or you can buy tickets at either the New York Fashion Academy (5201 Ballard Ave NW) or Mars Hill (1401 NW Leary Way) on Friday, November 18 starting at 7:30pm. Tickets may also be purchased at any Sonic Boom Records location.

Agent? Broker? Realtor? What’s the Difference?

[photopress:409_0991_IMG_1.jpg,thumb,alignright]The Motley Fool has a nice article explaining the different between a real estate agent, real estate broker and a realtor:

Ever wonder whether a real estate broker and a Realtor are the same thing? Well, they’re not. Not exactly, at least. Someone with a real estate license is a licensed real estate professional, or an agent. This person may also be a Realtor but isn’t necessarily one.

We often think of any real estate agent as a Realtor, but to be one, he or she must be a member of The National Association of Realtors, which has trademarked the word “Realtor.”

A real estate broker, meanwhile, has had additional training and holds a different license. Don’t think that you need a broker and not an agent, though. Either can serve you very well. Although many people casually refer to those who show and sell homes as brokers, they’re often actually agents. Most people use the terms interchangeably.

If you’re curious, I’m a real estate agent (not a broker) and a Realtor.

Is it Time to Refinance to Cash Out?

rubber duckThe Seattle Times posted an interesting article giving the pros and cons of refinancing homes in order to take out an cash (or a line of credit). Interestingly, the number of people doing this is extremely high with “nearly three out of four homeowners who refinanced through Freddie Mac between July and October cashing out.”

What are the downsides to “cashing out”?

  • By carrying more debt (secured by your house), you put your assets at greater risk if you lose your job, get sick or run into other financial difficulties.
  • More debt also means higher monthly payments, especially if you opt for a 15-year payback term.
  • Refinancing typically costs much more in settlement and loan-origination fees than home-equity lines, unless you have your closing charges rolled into the note rate.

With that said, there are several good reasons to strongly consider an equity line:

  • Convenience and control
  • You pay interest on only the amounts you’ve pulled out, not the approved limit.
  • Most lines allow immediate access to more money using credit cards or checks

Stressful living!

[photopress:IMG_5046.jpg,thumb,alignright] In reading today’s Seattle Times article on people who have used interest-only loans to get into homes they could not otherwise afford, I get the feeling that some people are much better at living under constant stress than me! 🙂

It can be a wonderful experience to own a home, but it still doesn’t make sense to me why people put themselves in these situations. I’ve heard some darn good arguments from investors regarding why it makes sense for them to use interest-only loans, but for the rest of us, it feels too much like gambling…

Dean Baker sums up the I/O like this: “In a falling interest-rate environment, you may be saving enough to make it worthwhile. But … in a higher-rate environment, there may not be a loan to bail you out.”

To quote the same phrase Dustin used a few days ago with regard to hiring a lawyer, “A good night sleep should not be underestimated.”