Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a current owner looking for a bigger home, the ideas below will help you better navigate that all-important first step: Finding a property that you like (and can afford).
The search for a new home always starts out with a lot of excitement. But if you haven’t prepared, frustration can soon set in, especially in a competitive real estate market. The biggest mistake is jumping into a search unfocused, just hoping to “see what’s available.” Instead, we recommend you first take some time to work through the four steps below.
Step 1: Talk to your agent
Even if you’re just thinking about buying or selling a house, start by consulting your real estate agent. An agent can give you an up-to-the-minute summary of the current real estate market, as well as mortgage industry trends. They can also put you in touch with all the best resources and educate you about next steps, plus much more. If you are interested in finding an experienced real estate team in your in your area, reach out to us.
Step 2: Decide how much home you can afford
It may sound like a drag to start your home search with a boring financial review, but when all is said and done, you’ll be glad you did. With so few homes on the market now in many areas, and so many people competing to buy what is available, it’s far more efficient to focus your search on only the properties you can afford. A meeting or two with a reputable mortgage agent should tell you everything you need to know.
Step 3: Envision your future
Typically, it takes at least five years for a home purchase to start paying off financially, which means, the better your new home suits you, the longer you’ll most likely remain living there.
Will you be having children in the next five or six years? Where do you see your career heading? Are you interested in working from home, or making extra money by renting a portion of your home to others? Do you anticipate a relative coming to live with you? Share this information with your real estate agent, who can then help you evaluate school districts, work commutes, rental opportunities, and more as you search for homes together.
Step 4: Document your ideal home
When it comes to this step, be realistic. It’s easy to get carried away dreaming about all the home features you want. Try listing everything on a piece of paper, then choose the five “must-haves,” and the five “really-wants.”
For more tips, as well as advice geared specifically to your situation, call or e-mail us. We’re happy to answer any questions and help with your search.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere blog.
As we step forward into 2019, eco-friendly “green homes” are more popular than ever. Upgrading your home’s sustainability improves quality of life for those residing in it, but it is also a savvy long-term investment. As green homes become more popular, properties boasting sustainable features have become increasingly desirable targets for homebuyers. Whether designing a new home from scratch or preparing your current home for sale, accentuating a house with environmentally-friendly features can pay big dividends for everyone.
While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star, or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.
There are dozens of eco-friendly features that can provide extra value for you as a seller. To name a few:
Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.
Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.
For many years, fuel cells have been far too expensive or unreliable. But as technology has improved, so too has reliability. Companies like Home Power Solutions and Redbox Power Systems have increased the reliability of these fuel sources while reducing their size. Much like we’ve seen computers and cell phones shrink in size while improving reliability and power, fuel cells continue to be refined.
A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.
But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.
Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious homeowners are very attracted to the concept.
Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.
Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.
Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. Similarly to wind turbines, your geographical location may determine the feasibility of these installments. Even on cloudy days, however, solar panels typically produce 10-25% of their maximum energy output. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.
In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But as of December 2018, the average cost after tax credits for solar panel installation was just $13,188! Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).
Solar water heaters
Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.
Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.Gov.
Regardless of which option you choose, these technologies will help to conserve valuable resources and reduce your monthly utility expenses. Just as importantly, they will also add resale value that you can leverage whenever you decide it’s time to sell and move on to a new home.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.
Home price increases in the Puget Sound area have started to moderate. While down from the unsustainable highs of this spring, prices continue to be up compared to a year ago. So, where are home prices headed next?
The Home Price Expectation Survey checks in with over 100 national real estate experts every quarter, including Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. Here’s where they think prices will go:
Gardner predicts our local market will fare better than the nation overall.
“As I look to 2019, I believe home prices in King County will increase 7.8% over the current year.”
– Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner
“The local economy will continue to grow and that will drive demand for ownership housing,” according to Gardner. “Supply will slow during the holiday season before we see a new influx of listings in the spring. With more supply, I believe that home price growth will continue to slow, but values will still increase.”
Whether you’re thinking of buying or selling we can provide you with market data that will help you make the best decision for your circumstances.
Appraisals are designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions. They provide a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.
Appraised value vs. market value
The appraised value of a property is what the bank thinks it’s worth, and that amount is determined by a professional, third-party appraiser. The appraiser’s valuation is based on a combination of comparative market sales and inspection of the property.
Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. A home’s appraised value and its market value are typically not the same. In fact, sometimes the appraised value is very different. An appraisal provides you with an invaluable reality check.
If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show him comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give him a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.
What information goes into an appraisal?
Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.
They also conduct an inspection. Typically an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:
- The condition of the property and home, inside and out
- The home’s layout and features
- Home updates
- Overall quality of construction
- Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately)
- Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools)
After considering all such information, the appraiser arrives at three different dollar amounts – one for the value of the land, one for the value of the structure, and one for their combined value. In many cases, the land will be worth more than the structure.
One thing to bear in mind is that an appraisal is not a substitute for a home inspection. An appraiser does a cursory assessment of a house and property. For a more detailed inspection, consult with a home inspector and/or a specialist in the area of concern.
Who pays and how long does it take?
The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.
An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report comes to your loan officer, a real estate agent or lender within about a week.
If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal, but they must request it. Typically the requested appraisal is provided at closing.
What if the appraisal is too low?
If your appraisal comes in too low it can be a problem. Usually, the seller’s and the buyer’s real estate agents respond by looking for recent and pending sales of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can renegotiate the contract or cancel it.
Where do you find a qualified appraiser?
Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call our team and we can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.
Tips for hassle-free appraisals:
- What can you do to make the appraisal process as smooth and efficient as possible? Make sure you provide your appraiser with the information he or she needs to get the job done. Get out your important documents and start checking off a list that includes the following:
- A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
- The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
- A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
- If you have a mortgage, your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have
- A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
- Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency
- Any personal property that is included
- If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases
- A copy of the original house plans and specifications
- A list of recent improvements and their costs
- Any other information you feel may be relevant
By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary phone calls and delays and get the information you need quickly and satisfactorily!
This post originally appeared on the Windermere blog.
Last week Windermere hosted 16 members of the China Alliance of Real Estate Agencies (CAREA) during a daylong tour of Seattle and Bellevue, WA. CAREA is a coalition of the largest regional and national real estate companies in China, representing over 60 percent of all Chinese real estate sales. Their stop in Seattle was a part of a four-city tour that also included Chicago, New York, and Dallas. The cities were identified because of their popularity amongst Chinese investors/buyers, and the CAREA member’s desire to better understand the residential real estate markets in those areas.
The group’s interest in Seattle stems from the growing number of Chinese foreign national buyers in the area, especially in neighborhoods like West Bellevue where real estate brokers say buyers are drawn to the newer homes, top-performing schools, and proximity to high-end restaurants and shopping. This year, Seattle surpassed San Francisco as the second place in the world where Chinese millionaires want to purchase property (according to Shanghai-based Hurun Research).
Windermere took the group on a tour of three luxury homes in West Bellevue that are on the market for between $5 and $10 million. The tour started with a new construction home priced at $6.8 million in Clyde Hill, represented by Windermere broker Shawna Ader. The second stop was a more traditional home in Medina for $5.3 million, listed by Windermere broker Wendy Paisley. The last home was the show stopper, an incredible manse priced at just under $10 million on Yarrow Point, represented by Windermere broker Anna Riley.
Along for the ride were also several members of the media who were drawn to the story about Chinese interest in the Seattle-area housing market. KING 5 News, KOMO 4 News, Q13 News, and the Seattle Times all spent time touring the homes and interviewing representatives from CAREA and Windermere about the reasons why Seattle is an increasingly popular location for international buyers.
Following the luxury home tour, the Chinese guests and Windermere executives gathered for lunch and a presentation by Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, who provided an overview of the greater Seattle area housing market and economy. The day was then capped off with a seaplane tour of Seattle by Kenmore Air. As CAREA vice president Yi Lui stated after the tour, “A float plane is the way to sell Seattle.”
This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.
If you’ve been looking to buy a house, it’s easy to get discouraged. With our local real estate market still the hottest in the country, a lot of buyers have become frustrated after losing out to multiple offers and all-cash sales. While some buyers are considering waiting out the market, here is why that’s not a wise move.
1. Historically, this time of the year is the best time to buy a home.
The fourth quarter of the year has always seen the lowest demand for home sales. Kids are back in school. The holiday season is gearing up. It’s just not the time of year when people want to uproot their lives and move into a new home. That all changes in a few months. The market traditionally experiences the highest demand and the lowest inventory of the year between January and May. Your best bet is to make an offer now.
2. Home prices are expected to increase next year.
A booming economy, rising population, and an influx of highly-paid workers are all expected to sustain the strong demand for housing through 2018. While the sharp home price increases of the past few years are expected to moderate, Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner predicts that home prices will increase by 9 percent next year.
3. Interest rates are predicted to rise.
Waiting means you’ll get less house for your money. It’s all about the One in Ten Rule. As Matthew Gardner explains, for every 1 percent increase in mortgage rates your buying power decreases by 10 percent. Even if home prices are flat a year from now (which is not expected), an increase in interest rates means you’ll have to borrow more money to buy the same house.
With home valuations at high levels today, buyers should consider three things before they purchase a home: Can I afford the monthly payments, do I like the location, and am I planning to live in the home for at least five years?
If you decide to move forward, your real estate agent can make the difference between winning the deal or not.
Here’s what sets Windermere Real Estate brokers apart:
- We can position your offer to have the greatest appeal to the seller (and sometimes that’s not just a higher price).
- We receive extensive training on how to create the most competitive offer and negotiate successfully in a multiple-offer situation.
- Other agents are more confident in completing a transaction with an agent from Windermere than they are with any other real estate company.
Contact me today.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere Eastside blog.
We knew Seattle area home prices were growing – and quickly – but just how much and how fast? Enough that we surpassed Portland, Dallas, and other major metro areas to top the country for home price growth for the seventh straight month. According to the monthly Case-Shiller home price index, single-family home prices across the Seattle metro area in March increased 12.3 percent from a year prior – the fastest growth in more than three years.
This rapid increase stems from the fact that there are more interested buyers than homes for sale. This imbalance means bidding wars are not only common, but they should be expected. New data shows about 90 percent of houses for sale in Seattle over the last two months wound up in bidding wars. Compare that to three years ago when 71 percent of homes attracted multiple offers and the beginning of the decade when less than half did. Additionally, this fierce competition has spread outside of the city of Seattle to affect the entire metro area. It has been reported that home prices have set records in places an hour’s drive from Seattle in every direction.
What does all of this mean for buyers?
It is taking qualified buyers six months to a year to purchase a home because they keep losing in multiple offer situations, some of which have been won by offers of more than $100,000 above asking price. Eager buyers are waiving contingencies and inspections, submitting more cash offers, and submitting escalating bids on houses sight unseen.
If you are looking to buy a home, it is more important than ever for you to have a knowledgeable, experienced team by your side to help you navigate our hot market. We would appreciate the opportunity to help you rise above the competition to find and secure your dream home.
Source: The Seattle Times
Today’s buyers use a lot of resources in their home search – and 92% count on a real estate agent to help them purchase their home.
How People Buy Homes Today
If you’re looking to buy or sell your home, reach out to a Windermere Real Estate broker to help you successfully navigate the Seattle housing market.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere Eastside blog.
The housing market and economic climate of today are very different from the conditions that led to the housing bubble in 2007. Nobody can predict what’s going to happen with 100% certainty, however we do have answers to these 4 things!
Online home guesstimates are just that. They are guesstimates! Besides a knowledgable agent, here are 9 items that also impact your homes value.
Whether you’re buying or selling, accurately pricing a home requires professional assistance from someone who knows the neighborhood.
The “estimated” home prices you see posted online can be off by tens of thousands of dollars—not because they are dishonest, but because the computer programs generating these guesstimates don’t take into account the current condition of a house, the amenities that are included, the qualities of the surrounding neighborhood, and so much more.
A real estate agent’s appraisal will not only consider the selling prices of surrounding properties, as the online services do, but also take into consideration a host of other criteria. For instance, when it comes to assessing the surrounding neighborhood, the following factors can often significantly affect the market price of a home:
The quality of neighborhood schools has a dramatic impact on home price, whether buyers have school-age children or not. In the most recent study on the subject, researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that above-average public schools (those with math scores 4.6 percent better than the average) increased the value of nearby homes by 11 percent (or an average of $16,000) in the St. Louis area.
A park within walking distance
Parks are so important to families today that simply having one within a quarter mile can increase the value of a house by 10 percent, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
The impact that retail areas have on home values depends on the type of community. According to a study recently released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, homes in urban areas sell for six percent to eight percent more than average if they’re within a quarter mile of a retail cluster (shops and restaurants). However, in suburban communities, it’s the homes that are a mile from any retail centers that sell for the most (homes located closer than that actually sell for eight percent less than average).
Because we’re a car-oriented society, most people are willing to pay more to live within a couple miles of an on-ramp to a major highway or freeway, which saves gas and speeds commute times. However, if the home is located too close (within a half mile of the freeway), the associated noise and air pollution can push the price in the opposite direction.
Vacant lots in the vicinity
Being surrounded by vacant land can be a good thing in rural areas, but it’s usually a negative for urban homeowners. A recent Wharton School study found that higher concentrations of unmanaged vacant lots in an urban neighborhood drag down the values for surrounding homes by an average of 18 percent.
Proximity to nuisances and environmental hazards
Two recent studies (one from an Arizona assessor’s office, the other by the University of California Berkeley) show that homes located near a landfill or power plant usually sell for four to 10 percent less than more distant homes. The same can usually be said for homes located too close to manufacturing facilities—especially those that make lots of noise or produces noxious odors.
According to a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the value of a home decreases by one percent for every foreclosed home within 250 feet of it. Why? The lower sales prices of foreclosed homes can quickly drag down the neighborhood’s comparable prices. Plus, the owners of these properties usually don’t have the money or interest in maintaining them after they go into foreclosure, which can create an eyesore for all the other homes in the vicinity.
Percentage of homeowners
Are there more owners than renters living in the neighborhood? If so, property values are usually better than average. Homeowners tend to take better care of their property than renters or landlords, which improves the curb-appeal for the whole community.
Some communities have a wealth of quality public services available to them—including regular street cleanings, scheduled street repair, graffiti removal services, landscape maintenance, neighborhood beautification efforts, and more. Needless to say, homes lucky enough to be located in those areas typically command higher property valuations.
Home sellers can use these factors to justify a higher asking price. Buyers can use them to try and negotiate something lower. However, when it comes to attaching specific dollar amounts, that is something best left to your real estate agent, an objective professional with a deep understanding of the local market.