Can you believe it’s October already and Halloween is just around the corner? I love Fall (or Autumn as we call it in England!) for many reasons. October is my birthday month so what’s not to love about that. Then there’s the weather – I always have romantic hopes that there will be more crisp, cold and sunny days than dreary, rainy days.
What I love most about Fall is that it signifies change. The changing of the season, the changing of the weather, the turning back of the clocks. But there’s more to it than that. September is always our busiest month with the start of school, curriculum nights and the resuming of after school activities. So, come October, I feel we’ve all found our groove and life settles down before the Holidays – I think of it as the calm before the storm! Plus, both children have August and September birthdays so it’s a time of year when they just seem to grow up almost overnight. This year my daughter started Middle School and she’s become so much more mature in just a few short weeks. Just this morning she announced I didn’t need to walk her to the bus stop. It was bitter sweet – it was raining and only 7:15am – but I was saddened by the loss that I feel with her growing independence. My son has started 3rd grade – he’s now officially half way through his elementary school career, and I know I have just a few short years of boyhood to enjoy.
From a personal perspective, it’s at this time of year I begin to reflect back on the year. I review both my Vision Board and the Business Plan that I create in January which allows me to see not only what I’ve achieved for the year and the goals I’ve hit (or not!) but also how much life has evolved. This year, the change is more significant than in previous years. In January I challenged myself to lead a healthier lifestyle, to love and to laugh more and embrace what lay ahead held for my new family of three. I’m proud of all that has happened.
I also start planning for the year ahead. What do I want to achieve from a business perspective? Where shall we go on vacation? What personal goals shall I set myself? So far all I know is that 2019 will be the year I learn to Paddle Board and I’ll take a vacation somewhere with my parents and my brother’s family. The rest is yet to be figured out. And that’s ok. Change is what happens when you’re busy leading your life. It’s how you react to the change that counts.
Here’s to your positive changes.
P.S. The housing market has also experienced significant change in recent months. If you’d like to know more about the current market conditions or know anyone I can help with buying or selling a home, I’m always here to help!
Yesterday the stock market took a nose dive, dropping nearly 5% – one of the worst single day losses in history.
With no particular underlying reason for this volatile activity, for most of us it will have little impact, even if we have a stash of investments. The likelihood is we can ride out the losses and wait for it to regain its value. But what happens if you’re under contract to buy or sell a house, and the buyer is dependent on the sale of those assets to close on the home.? There’s a strong possibility that some the transaction could fail in such a situation.
Increasingly lenders are allowing buyers to use company shares as part of their asset/debt ratio to help increase their purchasing power. And with many Amazon and Microsoft employees who receive a healthy stock bonus every year, there are plenty of buyers in this area who do rely on those assets to fund the purchase of their house – either directly or indirectly.
Should you ever find yourself in this situation, I have two words of advice for both buyers and sellers.
- Buyers – Disclose, Disclose, Disclose! The purchase and sale agreement should specify that the closing of the transaction is dependent on the liquidation of assets and what those assets are. Also include a statement of value. Failure to do so means you don’t have a contingency in place should the value of those assets suddenly plummet overnight, even if you have a financing contingency for a loan of any sort. While some sellers may be understanding if you disclose once under contract, ultimately the seller has the right to refuse and terminate the contract. In such a hot market, where back up offers are common, is this a risk worth taking?
- Sellers –request that your buyers liquidate any such invested assets within three or five days of mutual acceptance. This should be included in the purchase and sale agreement, irrespective of how long the closing window is. Buyers, this may seem to put you at a disadvantage, but cash in the bank is always preferable to invested assets. Any appreciation you might stand to gain from those shares rising in value while you are in Escrow will be minimal compared to what you stand to lose should they drastically drop in value, and you don’t have the required cash to close on the home.
My final word of advice is for sellers working with cash buyers. While cash is great – it’s not always king. Be sure to have your realtor dig deep with the buyers agent to find out if they are really are all cash buyers, or if perhaps they are relying on the liquidation of other assets to come up with the required cash at closing. Proof of funds that reach, or better yet exceed, the value of the purchase is the best way to do this.
Buying a house can be scary – especially when you don’t know the facts.
If owning a home is one of your dreams, but you’ve convinced yourself you wouldn’t quality for financing, it could be time to think again. Here are the most common myths that prevent buyer’s from pursuing their home owning dreams.
Credit scores of 780 or above and 20% down payment are not key criteria. Here are the facts:
- 40% of millennials who purchased homes this year have put down less than 10%. FHA and VA loans require even less. And if either your or your partner have served in the military, you may qualify for a VA loan.
- 76.4% of loan applications were approved last month.
- The average credit score of approved loans was 724 in September.
I don’t know about anyone else, but following last night’s Halloween festivities, it feels like there’s not enough coffee in the world to get me going this morning. Being British, Halloween has never been a big deal for me, but as they say ‘When in Rome’. After 10 years living stateside I have to confess it’s my least favorite celebration of the year – especially as a parent. My kids are just so overexcited for so long, there’s always costume drama, it’s a late night (always fun on a week night) and then there’s the candy hangover to deal with. To say I’m feeling sluggish today is an understatement.
But here’s a little Hump Day Trivia that certainly shocked me – and made me oh so grateful for today’s low interest rates.
It was about this time in 1981 that interest rates reached their all time high – of a shocking 18.65%. Today’s buyers balk at it going above 4%, having seen lows in the high 3’s for much of the year. Can you imagine 18%!! Here’s some numbers that will force you throw down your left over Milky Ways in horror!
Based on today’s median house price of $853,000, and a 20% down payment, you’d be paying $10,646 per month for your mortgage. And that’s not including taxes and insurance. Add those in, and monthly payments would add up to $11,446. Wow – that’s a number I can’t even comprehend. To put it into even greater perspective: Lenders only like to see mortgage payments of approximately one third of your total net monthly income, so we’d all need to be bringing home the bacon to the tune of over $30,000 per month. It’s just not going to happen!
So while there’s much of the 80’s I’m grateful for (Madonna, George Michael and The Eurythmics to name just some of my musical heros), I very happy that we’ve not seen the interest rates that came with the wonderful music and equally shocking fashions.
Fast forward to today: As I said interest rates are currently hovering around 4%. Economists are predicting that to hold steady in the short term, but are expected a rise to closer to 5% in 2018. This has the potential of slowing down the current double digit price growth we are experiencing – which could be a good thing.
The perception is that the Eastside real estate market is slowing down. Having taken a look at data from the month of August, the data does support that – to a degree. Take a look at the video below for key stats and data. I’m still pretty new to this video game, so be patient with me as I perfect the art of talking to the camera. I’ve not yet tried a Facebook Live video – perhaps I’ll try that next month!
My key takeaway from this market update is that while the data seems to only support a very slight market slow down, and still predicts growth for the foreseeable future (albeit at a slower pace), perception is reality. And if buyers are suspecting a slowing of the market, no matter how small, that perception will translate in their offers. Even for hot homes, my guess is that we’ll start to see fewer multiple offers, lower escalation clauses and ultimately fewer houses selling for significantly above asking. In turn, this will of course impact the market as brokers look at recent sales to price their upcoming listings. So, while the current slow down may be small, I believe it’s real and will continue to a degree. Ultimately I think this is a good thing as hopefully, in time, it will take us closer to a balanced market. I come from, and like to follow a win-win mindset – i.e encourage situations where both parties win in a transaction. And it’s hard to find the win-win in such a strong sellers market.
In today’s real estate world there are many ways to market a property. Some people, particularly when faced with such a strong seller’s market, will argue that online is really all that counts. Put it on Zillow and Redfin, and surely the buyers will find your home? While there is a small degree of truth in that, there’s a difference between finding a buyer will ‘like’ your home, and finding buyers that will love your home, and do almost anything to make it theirs.
Here’s where video, as well as staging, come into to play. Add the two together and you’ve got a very special combination. As I tell all my sellers, you’re not just selling your home, your selling your lifestyle. You want buyers to be captivated by your home, to immediately enter it and get a taste of your life (no matter how far removed from your reality that may be!). Better yet, you want them to believe that in buying your house, their life will be infinitely better – because it will be more like yours. And you want to leave them with a sense that you could actually be good friends.
Admittedly a friendship rarely blossoms out of a sale of a home, or at least not in my experience. But my point is that if a potential buyer has an immediate love and respect for you and your home, you have a far greater chance of receiving stronger offers, from more qualified buyers.
It was because of all of these reasons that I opted to make a video of my most recent listing in Ballard. Just steps away from Market Street and the weekly Farmers market, I wanted to show off the home, and the lifestyle it provided. I hope you agree, this video captures that pretty well. We received multiple offers on the home in a matter of days, and went straight to pending. I’m not naive enough to believe that was solely because of the video, but I do strongly believe it helped.
So I’ve discovered video! And I love it so you’ll be seeing a lot more of me in the future as I move my blog to a video format.
For my debut blog series, I want to focus on why it’s now a good time to buy a home. Despite the market currently being in the sellers’ favor, there are many reasons why it’s now a good time to buy. For now I’m going to focus on just one – Interest rates. If you’ve been putting off buying a home, the numbers I mention in this video may make you think twice. Big shout out to Dietrich Miklautsch at RPM Mortgage for crunching the numbers for me. Forgive me for the goofy image below! –
As ever, you’d like more information, or a lender recommendation, please get in touch.
For families with children, a good school is often the most important criteria in a home search.
Last week, at Issaquah School District's Monthly PTSA Council Meeting, the super intendent shared some information about www.greatschools.org – a website that many realtors (myself included) recommend to those looking for more information about schools in the area. It gives each school a score out of 10, with a score above 8 generally considered to be very good.
Now it's time to shake it up a bit, and as realtors we have to reeducate ourselves and most importantly our clients. Greatschools.org has recently revamped their scoring criteria and as a result it's drastically altering the scores of many schools. Some of our best schools in the state have seen their ratings plummet, while others who have received low scores for some time, have seen their score sky rockets. Does this mean that the good schools have deteriorated and the poorer schools dramatically improved? Seemingly overnight? Of course not. Life is just not that simple.
Let's take Skyline High School in Sammamish as an example. For many years, it's enjoyed scores of 9 or 10. It's one of the most desirable high schools in the district. And deservedly so. For a long time it's seen some of the highest graduation rates, and academic scores in the state. It's a truly fantastic school. But last week its score dropped from a 9 to a 4. Just like that. Has the bottom dropped out of this school? Did all the good teachers leave and were suddenly replaced by less qualified staff? Of course not. The reality is nothing has changed, except the rating system. This in itself is not a problem. Change is good right? The issue comes arises because the metrics being employed are not necessarily the right metrics (for example Advance Placement Class Participation) and, more concerningly, they are not being applied consistently across all schools.
So, my advice to home buyers is go deeper in your research. Many of school rating websites are private companies, with little or no ties to the public education system. So it's little wonder that their ratings are only skin deep. If you really want to find out about a school, its academic success and its demographic profile, the best resource is the Washington State Report Card. Yes, it's a little (ok a lot) harder to interpret than a score out of 10, but it really is worth the extra effort.
Beyond desk research, I also encourage anyone really wanting to find out about a school to do their own research in the field. Go and tour the school for sure, but go beyond that. Speak to students, speak to parents and ask their opinions of the school. What they like, why they like it. And don't forget to research the PTA. A strong, supportive and financially generous PTA can make a huge difference to a school.
As a woman in real estate safety is always my top priority. And with a passion for fashion, accessories are a big part of my wardrobe. Finally, I can combine the two with CUFF – a good looking line of smart jewelry that notifies your contacts when danger arises.
Here's how it works:
Set up a network of people who you'd like to be notified when you need help.
In an emergency, simply press and hold your piece of jewelry for 2-3 seconds. Your network will receive a text message indicating you need help. All they need to do is access the Cuff app to see your location on a map, and, if needed, they can simply tap to call 911. Finally, if the piece of jewelry is open at the time the alert is triggered, your emergency contacts will be able to hear live audio streaming from your phone. The Cuff will work as long as the Cuff and your phone are within 20-30 ft of each other – all through the magic of Bluetooth.
I think my favorite is the Lucky Bracelet.
To see the full collection visit https://cuff.io.
Cuff is currently compatible with iOS and Android phones only.
Every once in a while I'm reminded that Corporate America rocks! And what I've written below is 100% truthful. No exaggerations.
In recent months we've received endless letters from our mortgage lender about refinancing and promising a better mortgage rate. Yeah, right – what corporate bank (and I am talking one of the big 5) actively encourages you to pay them less money every month?
Because of this skepticism I've been putting off calling them for weeks, months if I'm honest, because I thought it would be too painful and probably too good to be true.
I've finally made the call this afternoon because finally the knowledgeable realtor in me finally beat down the skeptical consumer. Just 10 minutes on the phone (with a most charming lady called Kellie I might add) saved us $766 per month without changing the type of loan, or any pre-payment penalties.
Admittedly there's an upfront fee but with the savings we're making, we've covered that in just a few payments – and even then all but $500 is rolled into the cost of the loan so the out of pocket expenses is minimal.
So the lesson here folks is don't be as lazy and skeptical as I was. Mortgage rates really are at an all time low. If you haven't refinanced in the last few years now really is the time to do it.
I don't have a crystal ball but I'm fairly certain that interest rates will go up early next year, the cost of borrowing will increase, even if only marginally. Now is the time to save some big $$$$$$. Had I made this call just 8 weeks ago when the letters started arriving we'd have already saved over $1000.
Now, where did I see that pair of must-have shoes…