Real Estate June 7, 2021

Things to avoid after pre-approval

Getting pre-approved is a great first step for buyers, but there can be a number of hurdles in the process. Here are a few cautionary steps that can be taken to make the experience as smooth and worry-free as possible.

 

Pre-Approval

Getting pre-approved has many benefits for buyers: it strengthens their buying power, assists in identifying their price range, helps communicate their preparedness to sellers, and, once their offer is accepted, helps to speed up the closing process.

Pre-approval is broken down into two steps: pre-qualification and pre-approval. During pre-qualification, buyers will share their financial information with their bank or lender to understand the approximate loan amount they can expect to qualify for. The pre-approval process is a little more involved, as the lender will conduct a thorough review of the buyer’s financial health to give them a more detailed picture of how much they can borrow, estimated monthly costs, and what interest rate they can expect on their loan.

 

A woman holds a tablet, analyzing her finances.

Image Source: Getty Images

 

Mistakes to Avoid After Pre-Approval

Being pre-approved doesn’t mean buyers are all set. There are certain mistakes that can throw buyers off course, and in some cases, lead to a denial of financing. Here are five common mistakes that can do just that:

  1. Large Purchases

    Any large purchases—credit or cash—made after getting pre-approved can easily cause trouble for buyers. Making a large credit purchase equates to increasing debt, which raises a buyer’s debt-to-income ratio. Large cash purchases decrease a buyer’s cash-readiness from the time when they were pre-approved. In both scenarios, the lender may call into question a buyer’s ability to make their mortgage payments.

 

  1. Quitting or Changing Jobs

    Knowing that a buyer has a stable source of income is important to lenders. Accordingly, it is best for a buyer to wait until after the home loan process is complete before taking steps to change their employment. Not only could changing jobs potentially put their mortgage pre-approval at risk, but it could also delay their settlement, since it takes time to prove a new salary.

 

  1. Unpaid Bills

    Missing bill payments can be especially harmful to a buyer’s candidacy in the time between getting pre-approved and closing on the home. During pre-approval, lenders are using your ability to pay bills on time to help them paint a picture of your finances and it’s important to keep that picture consistent.

 

  1. New Credit

    Opening new credit accounts will likely change a buyer’s credit score, which may cause adjustments in their interest rate. Lenders, upon seeing a new line of credit, even a store credit card, may elect to review the buyer’s risk of non-payment.

 

  1. Paying Off Debt

    While most people would think paying off debt is a good thing, if a buyer pays off any significant loans or credit card debt after pre-approval, their lender will want to know where the money came from. The decrease in debt will also have an effect on the buyer’s debt-to-income ratio, which may alter their creditworthiness.

 

The period of time between pre-approval and closing on a home can be a tedious one for buyers. Before making any significant financial decisions, it’s helpful for buyers to speak with their lender to get an idea of how it may impact their financial standing. The complexities of this process also highlight the importance of working with an experienced agent.

Real Estate May 19, 2021

Buyer’s Real Estate Agent

What is a Buyer’s Agent?

 

A typical real estate transaction involves a buyer’s agent representing the buyer and a listing agent representing the seller. A buyer’s agent helps the buyer identify potential homes to pursue, advises them on negotiations, and helps navigate any hurdles during the buying process. Once they are under contract, the buyer’s agent will work to close the sale, monitoring all the key dates and deadlines along the way. Once the transaction is complete, buyer’s agents split the commission of the sale with the listing agent.

 

Advantages of Working with a Buyer’s Agent

Find the right home

A buyer’s agent not only possess expert knowledge of local market conditions, but they also have access to tools that will help their clients see the widest array of available homes, and eventually, find the right home. By exploring the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), they can access the vastest network of available listings, and receive up-to-date alerts on open houses. They are usually the first to know when a home hits the market and are sometimes aware of homes that are scheduled to list in the near term.  Buyer’s agents can advise their clients on how a home’s outstanding repairs and improvements could affect their decision to purchase, whether the home is in need of an inspection, and discuss the necessity of a home warranty.

 

Save time

Buying a home takes time, but a buyer’s agent will help streamline the buying process. This includes paying close attention to their client’s budget and preferences in order to focus their home search to only those listings that match their needs. Buyers can then decide which homes they would like to view in-person and their agent will contact the corresponding listing agent to set up showings. Buyer’s agents are founts of knowledge, able to provide or track down information a buyer may not be able to readily access on their own. Additionally, they are connected to a network of professionals and can produce references for mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, inspectors, and more as needed.

 

Making an Offer

Once you’re ready to make an offer on a home, the importance of working with a buyer’s agent kicks into high gear. There are many different elements that impact an offer’s success, and this is where a good buyer’s agent’s specialty lies. Through their expertise, they can help their clients craft a more competitive offer and negotiate as needed. Sometimes the most competitive offers are not just about the price. Offers can win when a buyer’s agent has researched the seller’s needs and pulled together an offer that speaks to those needs. Any advantage buyers can gain to make their offer stand out will strengthen their case. This is especially important in competitive markets when multiple competing offers are on the table.

Throughout the process of making an offer on a home, a buyer’s agent is there to answer any questions that may arise and pore over the details so that nothing goes unnoticed. This is critical since sellers will likely toss aside any offers that come in with missing documents, errors in the contract, and other inconsistencies. When buying a home, buyers often fear that they will miss something during the buying process, that they are going to pay too much, that there will be something wrong with the house after they buy it, or that they’ll lose the home to another buyer. Buyer’s agents help to alleviate these stresses and make sure the buying process runs smoothly.

 

When determining which agent to work with, it’s important to ask questions to gain an understanding of their expertise, see their personality, and get a gauge of how well they understand what you’re looking for in a home. If you would like some help connecting with an agent, you can get started here: Connect with me

Real Estate May 19, 2021

Vacation Home

For some homeowners, purchasing a second home – or a vacation property – provides a place where they can have a change of scenery and an escape from day-to-day living. Since the start of the pandemic, a number of homeowners have chosen to move into their vacation homes to do exactly that on a longer-term basis. However, certain aspects of buying and moving into a vacation home differ from a traditional home purchase, so it’s important to work with a buyer’s agent who understands the nuances of both.

 

Before You Buy

One of the first things to consider before buying a vacation property is whether you are financially ready to take on everything that comes with managing and maintaining another home. If you’re still in deep with your primary residence’s mortgage and are not cash-ready, it may not be the best time to purchase a second home.

Like any home purchase, there are pros and cons to owning a vacation home. Vacation properties are likely to retain their value depending on where they’re located. They also allow you to experience the never-ending vacation lifestyle. However, owning a vacation property can come with its own set of unique expenses. Not only will be you responsible for all the maintenance work that you might normally leave to a property management company, but if the vacation home is located on the water or a steep hillside, you can also expect higher homeowner’s insurance costs.

 

Moving In

Any moving process presents unforeseen challenges and moving into a vacation home is no different. Whereas previously the home provided accommodation for relaxing, moving in will require it to meet the demands of everyday living. It may be high time to make repairs or upgrades to the home, which could drive up your move-in costs.

Before moving in, assess the condition of all furnishings to get an idea of what needs replacing. Making the home your main residence will put added strain on your appliances, so what may have previously worked well for short-term stays won’t cut it for full-time living. Check your refrigerator, dishwasher, and washer and dryer to see if they need updating before moving in.

If you’ll be working remotely in your vacation home, think about your desired work conditions before putting together your home office. Having a designated workspace will help balance your home and work life.

Uncategorized April 30, 2021

New Stats for Real Estate in Western WA

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere Real Estate agent.

 

REGIONAL ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

In the summer and fall of 2020, Western Washington regained some of the jobs lost due to COVID-19, but employment levels in the region have been in a holding pattern ever since. As of February, the region had recovered 132,000 of the 297,000 jobs that were lost, but that still leaves the area down by 165,000 positions. Given the announcement that several counties may have to roll back to phase 2 of reopening, I would not be surprised to see businesses hold off on plans to add to their payrolls until the picture becomes clearer. Even with this “pause” in the job recovery, the region’s unemployment rate ticked down to 6.1% from the December rate of 6.4% (re-benchmarking in 2020 showed the December rate was higher than the originally reported 5.5%). The lowest rate was in King County (5.3%) and the highest rate was in Grays Harbor County, which registered at 9.2%. Despite the adjustment to the 2020 numbers, my forecast still calls for employment levels to increase as we move through the year, though the recovery will be slower in areas where COVID-19 infection rates remain elevated.

WESTERN WASHINGTON HOME SALES

❱ Sales in the first quarter were impressive, with 15,893 home sales. This is an increase of 17.5% from the same period in 2020, but 32% lower than in the final quarter of last year—a function of low levels of inventory.

❱ Listing activity continues to be well below normal levels, with total available inventory 40.7% lower than a year ago, and 35.5% lower than in the fourth quarter of 2020.

❱ Sales rose in all counties other than Jefferson, though the drop there was only one unit. There were significant increases in almost every other county, but sales growth was more muted in Cowlitz and Thurston counties. San Juan County again led the way, likely due to ongoing interest from second-home buyers.

❱ The ratio of pending sales (demand) to active listings (supply) shows how competitive the market is. Western Washington is showing pendings outpacing new listings by a factor of almost six to one. The housing market is as tight now as I have ever seen it.

A bar graph showing the annual change in home sales for various counties in Western Washington

WESTERN WASHINGTON HOME PRICES

A map showing the real estate market percentage changes in various Western Washington counties

❱ Home price growth in Western Washington continues to trend well above the long-term average, with prices 21.3% higher than a year ago. The average home sale price was $635,079.

❱ Compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Grays Harbor and Mason counties, but all markets saw double-digit price growth compared to a year ago.

❱ Home prices were also 2.9% higher than in the final quarter of 2020, which was good to see given that 30-year mortgage rates rose .4% in the quarter.

❱ I expect to see mortgage rates continue to trend higher as we move through the year, but they will remain significantly lower than the long-term average. Any increase in rates can act as a headwind to home-price growth, but excessive demand will likely cause prices to continue to rise.

A bar graph showing the annual change in home sale prices for various counties in Western Washington

DAYS ON MARKET

❱ The market in early 2021 continued to show far more demand than supply, which pushed the average time it took to sell a home down 25 days compared to a year ago. It took 2 fewer days to sell a home than it did in the final quarter of 2020.

❱ Snohomish and Thurston counties were the tightest markets in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 15 days to sell. The greatest drop in market time was in San Juan County, where it took 52 fewer days to sell a home than it did a year ago.

❱ Across the region, it took an average of only 29 days to sell a home in the quarter. All counties saw market time decrease from the first quarter of 2020.

❱ Very significant demand, in concert with woefully low levels of supply, continues to make the region’s housing market very competitive. This will continue to be a frustration for buyers.

A bar graph showing the average days on market for homes in various counties in Western Washington

CONCLUSIONS

A speedometer graph indicating a seller's market in Western Washington

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

Demand is very strong and, even in the face of rising mortgage rates, buyers are still out in force. With supply still lagging significantly, it staunchly remains a seller’s market. As such, I am moving the needle even further in their favor.

As I mentioned in last quarter’s Gardner Report, 2021 will likely see more homeowners make the choice to sell and move if they’re allowed to continue working remotely. On the one hand, this is good for buyers because it means more listings to choose from. However, if those sellers move away from the more expensive core markets into areas where housing is cheaper, it could lead to increased competition and affordability issues for the local buyers in those markets.

 

Real Estate March 19, 2021

How to price your house

It’s natural for sellers to want to get every step of the selling process right, but a successful home sale depends on an accurate listing price. Your real estate agent will work closely with you to set the price, but in the meantime, you can use  the following information to better understand what goes into this process. .

 

What factors influence home prices?

 Understanding what factors influence home prices will give you a deeper knowledge of the market, give clarity to the selling process, and help you work toward the accurate listing price of your home.

 

Comparable home sales

Comparable home sales—or “comps”—have a major impact on the price of your home. Comps refer to the comparable homes in your area, both pending and sold, within the last six months. Your Windermere agent can provide you with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to better determine the price of your home. CMAs factor in aspects, such as square footage, age, and lot size compared to other homes in your area, to determine how your home should be priced among the competition.

 

Your home’s location

Naturally, you home’s location plays a significant role in its asking price. Depending on the market conditions in your area, whether you reside in a metropolitan, suburban, or rural location, and the home’s proximity to amenities, schools, and entertainment all contribute to the price.

 

The home’s condition

If you have recently invested in upgrades or other maintenance projects for your home, they could increase your asking price. However, the price increase potential depends on the kind of renovation, its ROI, and how valuable it is to buyers in your area. If the home is in need of repair, it will likely fetch less interest than better maintained homes at your price point. Any outstanding repairs or projects looming overhead will make the home less attractive to buyers and could lead to a low appraisal.

 

Seasonality

Any factors that impact market supply and demand are worth taking into consideration when preparing to price your home, and seasonality is one that cannot be overlooked. Typically, market activity slows in the winter and picks up during the spring and summer months. However, market seasonality varies region to region. Talk to your Windermere agent about the seasonality trends in your area and how they factor into your asking price. 

 

Market conditions

Naturally, all sellers want to price their home competitively, but what a competitive price looks like depends on the market conditions, such as whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market. Some sellers think that pricing their home over market value means they’ll sell for more money, but the opposite is often true. Overpricing your home presents various dangers, such as sitting on the market too long, which can result in selling for well below what it’s worth.

 

What’s your home worth?

 Nothing can replace the professional knowledge and local expertise of a real estate agent, but automated valuation models (AVMs) can be a helpful first step in determining what your home is worth. Like comps, AVMs assess your home by comparing its information with the listings in your area.

If you’re curious about your home’s value, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations on your property and the surrounding market. You can find it here.

These are the basic tenets for understanding what goes into the price of a home. When you’re ready, I would be happy to assist you and interpret and expand on this information, perform a CMA for your home, and be the expert in your selling journey.

by Sandy Dodge

Stats March 18, 2021

New Stats for Real Estate

Please enjoy the latest real estate stats for Magnolia, Seattle. This page updates automatically so you always have the latest stats available to you. For more information of the Magnolia neighborhood, please visit my Magnolia Page or call me anytime.

LivingReal Estate March 11, 2021

Relocating for Remote Work

As the ubiquity of working from home continues, many homeowners are making the decision to move. Whether the motivation for relocating is to lower the cost of living, to be closer to family, or simply a fresh start, there are various factors to keep in mind when relocating for remote work.

Before You Relocate

Before you make the jump to a new life in a new place, making time for some strategic planning will help ensure your relocation goes as smoothly as possible. A logical first step is to consider the financial impact of your move. Depending on your company’s policy, there may be adjustments to your pay when you relocate. If this is the case, factor in your pay change as you form your relocation budget. Research the cost of living in your new hometown to understand how a compensation adjustment may affect your home search and your lifestyle once you move.

If you are moving out of state, relocating could affect your benefits and your taxes as well. There’s a chance that your employer’s health insurance plan does not offer coverage in the state you’re moving to. Talk to your employer to discuss your options. Before moving out-of-state, find out whether the two states have a reciprocal tax agreement, especially if you’re moving between states that have differing income tax regulations.

Your New Home for Remote Work

Working remote has given homeowners the freedom to choose their desired location, unbound by a work commute, especially if their company has indicated that there are no clear signs of returning to in-person work anytime soon. Knowing your desired work environment will help to tailor your home search. If you’re looking for peace and quiet while you work, explore listings in rural areas. If the hubbub of city life is your idea of a comforting backdrop, direct your attention to metropolitan areas.

For the remote worker, it’s more important than ever that your home accommodates your working needs. As many homeowners have experienced throughout the pandemic, you spend a great deal of time in your home office, so finding the home with the best workspace for you should be a priority. If you desire a private area where you can focus, a home with an open floor plan may not be the best choice. Instead, you may want to look for homes with a separate bonus room or extra bedroom.

Once you’ve moved into your new home, it’s time to put together your home office. Whether your previous home office was a professionally curated environment or a makeshift workspace in the corner of a room, a new home means a fresh start for your remote work. Like many homeowners, by now you’ve likely got a solid grasp on what your ideal home office looks like. Keep those elements alive when you relocate and enjoy productive workdays in your new home.

by Sandy Dodge

Décor March 4, 2021

Simple Bathroom Upgrades

The thought of upgrading a bathroom often brings to mind large-scale renovations, demolition, and hefty price tags. Even projects like replacing a backsplash or repairing tile can be more involved than you might think. However, it’s possible to give your bathroom a makeover without breaking the bank (or your back). Whether you’re looking to just freshen it up or make it feel like your own personal spa, these simple projects can help take your bathroom to the next level.

 

Upgrade your Décor

If you want to make a big splash without spending big money, consider upgrading your bathroom with new décor. A fresh coat of paint on the walls or a bold, patterned wallpaper can completely change the character of the space, while accent pieces like a new shower curtain and towel racks can reinforce your color choices. Installing shelving is a simple, functional tactic that gives dimension to your walls. Whether it’s in the shower, above your toilet, or beside your vanity, a shelf can save surface space while helping to tie the room together.

 

Upgrade your Tub

Upgrading your tub doesn’t have to mean buying a replacement. Simply refinishing your tub will have it looking brand new and helps you save money. Over time, tubs accumulate cracks, dings, and discoloration due to mold, but refinishing can cure these imperfections right away. Start by removing all hardware from the tub. Sand the whole surface, fill in any cracks or holes with putty or epoxy, then sand them smooth. Apply multiple layers of primer and topcoat, give it a buff, and enjoy your brand-new bathtub.

If refinishing your tub is too much to handle, consider simply touching it up. Fill in any cracks and apply a fresh line of caulking around the surface. After this is done, shop around for new tub hardware to polish off your cost-effective bathtub makeover.

 

Upgrade Your Vanity

With just a few tweaks, you can turn your vanity area from a mirror with counter space to an impactful centerpiece. Instead of going all out with a new cabinet install, simply replacing your cabinet hardware and drawer pulls can make a big difference. Think of ways your new hardware can reinforce the style of your bathroom. Match them with your shower rod, faucet, and showerhead to make your bathroom more eye-catching.

Your vanity also offers a great opportunity to add some color to your bathroom. Giving it a fresh coat of paint will help to liven up the space at a low cost. For wooden vanities, a re-stain is a great way to give them new life. Start by removing the doors and drawers. Apply wood stripping to all surfaces, then let them sit for the recommended time. Now you can begin to scrape away the old finish. Sand down all surfaces and apply the primer before staining the wood. Once your stain settles in, apply a second coat and your vanity will be good as new.

 

Finishing Touches

Well-organized surfaces and compartments will help to create serenity in your bathroom. Whether it’s in the shower, the medicine cabinet, or below the vanity, look for multipurpose organizers that help cut down on bathroom clutter and save space. Add in natural elements like bamboo and river rocks to make your bathroom feel like a soothing sanctuary.

 

For more ideas on affordable home makeovers, check out our tips for upgrading your bedroomhome office, and kitchen.

by Sandy Dodge

Real Estate February 22, 2021

Why Stage a house when you are selling.

In order to sell your home, it must be successfully marketed to potential home buyers. Developing a winning strategy to attract as many buyers as possible to your home is something your real estate agent will work on, and part of that process may include staging.

Staging doesn’t just involve decorating your home; it’s using furniture and décor to reveal the possibilities in the space in order to make it appealing to a wide variety of buyers. It is an important step to helping buyers imagine the space for their own use, and it often leads to a higher dollar value and quicker sale time.

Staging for Buyers

A well-staged home creates stunning photographs that will attract buyers as they search online. In 2020, 97% of home buyers used the internet to search for prospective homes, and about half of them used mobile devices like smart phones and tablets. Because photos on a mobile device can be quite small and easily swipeable, staging has the potential to grab a buyer’s eye and pull them into the listing. Once they visit in person, staging serves to elevate your space while allowing buyers to visualize themselves living in your home.

Investment and ROI

For a relatively low investment, the return on investment (ROI) for a staged listing is worth it for just about any home seller. No matter the size of your home, the average investment on staging is 1% of the sale price of the home. And that 1% investment can lead to amazing gains. According to a 2020 survey by the Real Estate Staging Association, of those who spent 1% on staging, 75% saw a return of 5-15% over the asking price. As this shows, investing in staging can turn into one of the best ways to add value to your home.

In addition to increasing the dollar value of your home, staging is also likely to lead to a quicker sale. In 2020, staged listings sold after an average of 23 days on market. That’s two days faster than the national average of 25 days on market in the same year.

Your real estate agent can connect you with a professional stager who they will work side-by-side with to create a cost-effective strategy for staging your home and getting it sold in the most efficient and effective manner.

Living February 15, 2021

Buying a House with Remodeling in Mind

Everyone has their own definition of a dream home. For some, they know right when they see a home that it’s perfect as is. For others, it takes remodeling to achieve their vision. Whether you’re looking for something in need of a few upgrades or a total fixer-upper, buying with the intention of remodeling comes with added considerations.

 

Finding the Right Home to Remodel

When it comes to choosing the right home to remodel, you’ll want to look for a property that not only aligns with your renovation plans but has significant ROI potential. How much value a home stands to gain depends on a variety of factors, like the cost of the project and your local market conditions. Knowing this information will help paint a picture of a home’s potential ROI. By conducting detailed Comparable Market Analyses (CMAs), your Windermere agent can provide helpful info on how similar homes in the neighborhood have performed on the market. Though these factors don’t provide a concrete valuation, they will help you understand how much your home could be worth. 

 Choose the Right Remodeling Projects

The right remodeling projects are the ones that align with your plans for living in the home. If you’re looking for an investment property, you’ll be targeting renovation projects that appeal to buyers, like a kitchen remodel, attic conversions, garage door replacement, and exterior projects that boost the home’s curb appeal. However, if you’re planning on putting down roots and staying for an extended period of time, you’ll want to focus on projects that maximize your enjoyment of the space. In either case, any structural issues require immediate attention and should be at the top of your list.

Know Your Remodeling Budget

Your remodeling budget will help you determine the scope of renovations you’re able to afford, and ultimately, which home is right for you. Knowing this information will help your agent identify which homes fall within your range. It will also guide your conversations with your lender when structuring your loan. For more information on home renovation loans, talk to your Windermere agent.

Break Down Your Remodeling Costs

Although remodel cost estimates aren’t always final, they give you an idea of what you can expect to spend. No renovation comes without hurdles and complications, so leave some wiggle room in your budget for unforeseen costs. This will allow you to expect the unexpected and stay within your budget. A cost breakdown will also help to identify areas where you can save money by doing-it-yourself. Painting projects, landscaping, and small-scale demolition are common DIY projects that can add up to significant savings.

Find the Right Contractor

For the remodeling projects that require professional expertise, finding the right contractor is another pivotal step in making your dream home a reality. Start by reaching out to your circle of friends and family for referrals. If someone you know and trust had a positive experience with a contractor, that’s a great starting point. Continue your search by gathering information for multiple contractors in your area and request project bids and timelines from each one. This will allow you to compare pricing and make a more informed decision. 

Conduct Thorough Inspections Before Remodeling

Buying a home with the intention of remodeling means that a home inspection is likely to produce a longer list of items than a newly constructed home. Conducting a thorough home inspection is critical to formulating your plans for remodeling. Additionally, it will help identify which issues need immediate attention, enabling you to negotiate repairs and concessions, so long as the inspection is performed during your inspection contingency period.

by Sandy Dodge