Why Hire Me To Buy a Home When You Have The Internet?

3292307605_7f17566940_o

Let me start with a story that has nothing (and everything) to do with real estate.

A few years ago I started having heart palpitations. It was simply annoying at first, until it happened in the middle of the night and I thought I might die. I didn’t know much about it so I researched it on the internet. There were tons of articles and WebMD info about heart palpitations. It started by saying that most of the time this condition is harmless… unless it’s not… then you might die. Then it gave a list of 50 things to improve the symptoms. The list seemed to be the same for every health problem I’d ever had: reduce stress, eat better, exercise more-unless it increases the heart palpitations of course. So I went back to bed with lots of info but no clear direction.

After another night of not sleeping and more online research, I went to see my doctor. I explained my problem and her answer was that I should cut out caffeine for 2 weeks and see if that worked. To be honest, I was pissed. I took a half day off work, drove into the city, paid for parking, waited in the office, sat on the crunchy paper, had my pulse taken, turned off my phone etc. etc. for something this simple? Not ok. I told her I needed a real fix. She said…”Ok, here’s how this looks; I send you to a specialist, you go to the appointment, they do all these tests, hook you up to a machine that monitors your heart for 2 weeks, and you have to check in every couple days. But before they can start all that, they send you home with an order of no caffeine for 2 weeks.”

Aha. I understood.  She short circuited all my overthinking and personal problem solving with a clear direction. The simplicity of it was initially confusing but in reality she had seen thousands of people just like me and knew how to best help me with the least amount of pain and hassle.

My job as a Realtor is similar. Clients can access lots of online information about homes, neighborhoods, and schools all without me. They hire me because I am their advocate against information overload, helping sort out the meaningful content from the noise.  There are so many decisions to make in a transaction and it is impossible to pre-plan for all of the possible problems.  For example – when should you have a sewer scope done and when should you skip it?  What happens if there is a sewer line issue?  You might have been the winning bid, but your bargaining power is decreased when 3 other buyers are lined up in case you don’t want to buy the home.  Should you buy it anyways?  The answer is… it depends, and that is what I help clients decide.

Information is great, but it’s different than knowledge. At an average price of over five hundred thousand dollars per home in the Seattle area, it’s important to know when to have open heart surgery, and when to simply lay off the caffeine.

Sincerely,

Decaf Girl

Advertisements

8 Reasons to Dump Whistler Next Ski Season

he ocean stirsthe heart, inspiresthe imagination& brings eternaljoy to the soul

It’s time to dump your Whistler ski trip in favor of Sun Peaks, BC. (For people over 30 or who have always wanted to be).

Side note- This is a real estate blog but it’s the end of summer and everyone is on vacation, so my blog is going on vacation too. J

Sun Peaks Resort

  1. Cost of tickets and rooms – Lift tickets are $15 less per day, and rooms are 25%-30% less. Save the extra for retirement, you’re over 30 now.
  2. Snow – Remember the 2010 winter Olympics in Whistler with no snow? They should have known, it’s the standing joke. Sun peaks has dryer snow for powder days first, followed up with perfect corduroy from the groomers the next morning.
  3. All trails lead to the base– Lots of terrain with most of it ending up in the main village- more likely ski patrol will find your kids the same day.
  4. Lift lines– Whistler needs to implement the Disney fast pass if any of us are going to take more than one run. Not at Sun Peaks… I’m annoyed if I can’t slide in sideways and straight onto the chair. And who is that other person on my run?
  5. Find Your Groove– Frankly-half my time on Whistler Mountain is spent skiing around figuring out where the heck I am. I’ve spent more time on crappy cat tracks trying to get around the hill than actually skiing runs. Sun Peaks is all about the ski runs; you’re only cat-tracking if that’s your thing.
  6. Real estate– Prices you might actually be able to afford in your lifetime. Honestly, part of skiing is dreaming of owning one of the ski/in-ski/out properties. Sun peaks has them for under $500k US.
  7. Night life – Since you’re probably here to ski as your main activity, a good night’s rest is a necessity. The drunk chicks screaming in Whistler Village will wake you up at 3am. Not at Sun Peaks. Everyone is tucked in by midnight.
  8. Dogs– Bring em’-Everyone has one. They’re the new Uggs.Bolacco Caffe

9***Bonus-Secret Eats*** No Starbucks. Instead, small business owner (Conrad from Poland) making fabulous lattes and the best berry scones hot out of the oven. Best you’ve ever had. Don’t miss Bollaco Caffe’ for your morning brew.

Does having A/C increase your home’s value?

Girl talking into fan

To A/C or not to…..That is the question

Ever since we purchased our current home without A/C thirteen years ago, this conversation has been a hot topic (pun intended) for my family. I argue that for $10,000 to install the new system, we could spend quite a few nights camped out at The Westin. In fact, 5 days per year at $200 per night means we could hotel it for ten years before we were in the hole.  On the other hand, my husband claims that a good night’s sleep allows for better work days, therefore upping our overall earning power which would offset the cost.

Fueling the discussion recently, Seattle has had particularly hot summers in the past few years. Last summer saw 12 days over 90 degrees and 26 days over 85 degrees. The year before was the previous record at 22 days. Not to mention the 116 days over 70 degrees. Typically Seattle only has 10 days a year with temps over 85 degrees. With the heat climbing, I know we aren’t the only ones dreaming of A/C on another sweaty sleepless night.

So how does having A/C play into the value of your home? Here comes the tough truth… it doesn’t add value to your home.  It is a fabulous feature to market, and the buyer will be very happy to have it, but I couldn’t take the value of a home and add $10k because of the A/C.  I help folks from all over the country purchase in Seattle. The locals never assume a house has A/C, and people from the East always assume it has A/C. Either way, they don’t make their decision to purchase it, or whether it is worth the price, based on A/C.  In that moment there are too many other important considerations, mostly about location, lot size, room size/count, overall condition, schools etc.

So here is my advice. If you want to get A/C for the enjoyment and comfort of your family, go for it!! Consider it an investment in your well-being. As for us, after 13 years of discussion, we have decided to make the investment. And since we will apparently be getting a better night’s sleep, we will be extra ready to help you sell your home- A/C or not. J

Bonus Round – Ideas in case you don’t want to purchase full A/C

  1. Buy a small local unit. It’s good for one room at a time. Cost $400
  2. Once the sun goes down, open all windows and turn on fans to blow the hot air out. It usually cools down enough at night making for a natural A/C.
  3. Visit your friend who has A/C. We all have that one friend with A/C. Now seems a good time to catch up. (Give us a call if you want to come mooch off of ours).
  4. Starbucks – At $4 per coffee, the price of A/C is built in, so stay and hang out all afternoon.
  5. Movies – So cold you’ll need a sweater.
  6. Small plastic pool – for the adults. Put it in your front yard, pull up a lawn chair and put your feet in. It will give your neighbors something to talk about. If you want to give your neighbors another reason to talk, leave it there over the winter.

Home buyers don’t want a stranger in their shower

Bathroom Picture.png

Exhibit A

 

My teenage son’s bathroom is a source of angst in my house. No, not from the teenager himself, but the mess left in his wake. Every day I walk past the usual basketball shorts and balled up socks on the floor. The damp towel barely clinging to the rack, deathly scared to join the shorts on the floor. The myriad of personal grooming items scattered on the counter grow in number as a new scent or 10 blade razor system is added and never used. Despite its incredible radius, most of the time I just don’t notice the mess. I call this “Selective Blindness.” My husband, however, does not have selective blindness causing much angst which we shall save for a future post, or my therapist/hairdresser Amy.

Because I don’t see his messy bathroom anymore, I figured this is what it’s like for my clients when they put their home on the market. Thankfully, my clients’ bathrooms are rarely as messy as my teenager’s. Nevertheless, clients will clean up their whole house, install new carpets, paint the walls, and declutter the kitchen, but when I go into their bathroom they still have out their razors, toothbrush and soaps out!  This is another version of selective blindness.

The most important part of making a bathroom presentation-ready is to have ALL personal items put away. Even Shampoo is a very personal item to a buyer who is in your home looking at your shower. To you, it may blend into the natural landscape of the bathroom, but all a buyer sees is the mental image of a stranger showering in their potential new home.

I understand that there’s a practical reason for having these items out. Toothbrushes and razors are used every day. Unfortunately, getting a home ready for sale means suspending some of the everyday comforts of home. Ask anyone who has eaten Teriyaki for dinner five times a week to avoid messing up their kitchen for showings – not practical. Selling your home can sometimes be stressful, but I promise that this part doesn’t have to be!

So… what to do? Don’t worry, there’s an easy solution. Get a shower caddy or basket to hold all of your bathroom items and tuck it under the sink. Pull it out when you need to use it in the morning. Before you leave for work, tuck it back under the sink and out of sight. A quick wipe of the counters and you’re done. The bathroom will stay tidy for the duration of the home being on the market with little additional effort.

Our own son will be a college kid in a few months, but I am not going to bother buying a shower caddy for him…we all know why right?

April 2016 Events in the Seattle Area

Happy April everyone! I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine as much as I am. Here are some events around the Seattle area and South King County. Click on the image below to make it larger, and make sure to check out our blog while you’re there. 🙂

I’m excited to try out some new places during Seattle Restaurant Week. What are you looking forward to most? Let me know in the comments below!

-Jen

April 2016 Events

 

Why I hate your House Plants

How could anyone “hate” house plants?  I know, I just made some enemies.  As I have come to know over the years, your house plants are these docile, often forgotten looking, affectionate things in random containers throughout your houses.  Many of these “family members” have stayed with you over the years, moved with you, been gifted to you by mothers-in-laws, given to you by neighbors, and are almost invisible comforting treasures you don’t even really think about.  The fact that you don’t think about them is evidenced by at least half of them looking like they almost died last week, two weeks ago, 3 months ago, and frankly, are probably almost always on the verge of dying, except for the last minute watering that revives them and reminds you they are special little things to be loved and cared for.

Blog Pics.JPGI say all of this in pure judgement, finger pointing accusation.  The only flaw in my argument is that I am one of you.  Maybe not to the extreme of some, but I too have 1 house plant I cannot part with. I have a love/hate relationship with it. It is a giant spiky leafy plant/tree (don’t even know what kind) that moved in 12 years ago and since then has made a  permanent mark on my wood floor, is outgrowing its pot, the leaves are always half brown and when I finally water it, it reaches out and hugs me, so I keep it . In addition, my husband Mike has 5 or 6 in our home at one time depending on how well the resuscitation goes each month. His plants live with plastic containers under them to keep from staining the ledge they sit on. For those who argue that plants give oxygen, I’m not sure these particular plants are fully up for their intended duties.

UntitledHere’s where the tough part comes in.  You call me to sell your home.  I come over as any good Realtor and we talk about “Getting the home ready for market.”  One of the tasks is de-cluttering, and turning the house from a home into a product for maximum appeal.  It’s fairly easy for me to talk you into putting away the toaster, the 35 spatulas in the utensil holder, and the kitchen sponge that has been in the family since your first child was born.  But for some reason…..the house plants always cause for pause.  Surely I don’t mean ALL the house plants do I?  Yep, I do.   All of them.  Here’s why.

Home buyers are starting their home search online.  To help sell your home we hire a high-end photographer to take pics and videos that highlight the home and give tours through the home.  Pictures are 2-D and any medium objects such as house plants block the view of the room, the view between rooms, or the view outside.  In addition, the smaller plants look like do-dads in pictures, which are distracting. The goal is to help the buyer purchase the space, not the items in the space.

Plant Staging

Unfortunately there is a genuine cause for alarm. What do you do with house plants that you can’t have in your house?  If you have natural light, and a warm garage, you could put them in there.  If that doesn’t work, it will need to be part of the strategic planning, along with things such as Fido and kiddos.  One tactic might be to ask a friend to watch your kids and your pets, and when they hesitate, offer the house plants instead….they will gladly care for them while you get your house sold.

Holiday Travel

Twas the week after Christmas and all through the house….not a creature was stirring, except one swimming mouse. Swimming mouse???  Ok, there was no mouse, but if there was he would have been swimming for his life!!  Here’s what happened.

download (2)Some clients of ours, Dave and Wendy, packed up their Christmas and 3 young boys, as they do each year, and headed for their cabin in Montana. They would enjoy cutting down their own tree behind the cabin, waiting for Santa to squeeze down their 3-story chimney on Christmas Eve, and frolic in the vast amounts of snow. As planned, the Christmas holiday went “swimmingly” well until they pulled into their driveway back in Kent, a week later, after a 9 hour drive across treacherous winter roads. The 3 kids peeled out of the car, all needing a bathroom break, grumpy, tired, and on Dad’s last nerve. As the kids piled out of the car, mom Wendy headed toward the door to start the great migration back into the house. As she turned the knob and went to step inside, the water came rolling out the door and down the steps. The entire one-story house held a few feet of standing water and the water was still running.  Thus began the $100,000 home restoration project.  The pipe in the wall had burst while they were away and the water had been running for several days.

So, what is the moral of the story?  Don’t go on vacation? Nope. Dave and Wendy would tell you that every time they go on vacation now, they turn the water off at the water shutoff in their closet. They open the tap in the sink and let the water in the lines run out so no pressure is left.

porchlight.jpgHere are some things your family can do while traveling for the holiday season. Personally, we have joined them in the vacation water shutoff protocol. In addition, we go online and have our mail held by the post office, leave our front porch lights on, leave our thermostat at 60 degrees, and let our neighbors know we will be gone so they can watch the house.

Cheers to a safe and dry holiday season!

5 Ways to Get Your Home Sold this Holiday Season

So, it’s November and you need to sell your home. King County averages about 2,000 home sales in December. That’s about half as many homes as in the Spring/Summer months.  The good news is houses do sell!  There are also less house options for buyers than in the summer, so you have less competition.  Here are the top 5 things to consider when selling this holiday season.

  1. Price it right – This is not the time of year to “test the market.” Prices flatten out in the fall and winter. Stay conservative and price it based on actual Sold Comparables, not homes currently trying to sell.
  2. Pack up – Your Moving!! If you are going to dare compete with the big boys this time of year, make it count. Houses do sell.  Pack your house, knick knacks, family pictures, everything off the counters etc.  It needs to look like that sterile, perfectly tidy house that your one annoyingly perfect girlfriend has mastered (I mean that affectionately Wendy.)
  3. Every showing counts – There are less buyers this time of year. Don’t worry, these buyers are serious home purchasers, they are going to buy a house and it might as well be yours. Let them come see the house…when they want to…not when you want them to. They often don’t come back to see it a different time.  It might mean you are kicked out of your house during dinners and have to eat Chinese Food on Christmas like Ralphie’s family.  Ok, that’s extreme.
  4. Holiday Decorations – Yes, you can have them. But keep them minimal and coordinating.  This is not the year to put the tree out with the 22 art projects from your children’s k-6 grade classes.  It’s not because they look tacky (maybe a little) but because it will distract buyers from looking at your home. If they don’t look at your home, they won’t buy it.
  5. Light up your FOR SALE sign with a string of lights. Why not….I just told you basically you were going to have no fun this holiday, but this is one tacky thing that might be good. Helps people see your house is for sale in the dark, which happens to be about 18 hours during the winter.

Cheers!!

Should I scope the sewer line when I buy/sell a home?

What is it? How much? Should I get one? What is a typical problem?

 A Sewer Scope is a type of inspection where a sewer expert or plumber runs a camera through the sewer line between the house and the street connection. They typically gain access through a sewer clean out at the house or they pull a toilet. A sewer clean out is an entry point to the sewer line. “Pulling a toilet” is when the plumber physically lifts the toilet off the floor and accesses the sewer line. He then reattaches the toilet. The goal is to confirm the line is in good condition with no breaks, blocks or trees growing in it. The cost is $200-$250.  This would be done during a buyer’s inspection timeframe, or, on occasion, it makes sense for a seller to get one prior to putting their house on the market.

Should you get one if you are buying or selling a home? If you are selling a home, you would typically not get a sewer scope as it would be part of the buyers due diligence. That said, in the current market there may be an exception. If you are selling a home built before 1980 in Seattle, and you anticipate multiple offers, handing a potential buyer clean sewer paperwork may allow them to feel more comfortable making a stronger offer and/or bypassing an inspection contingency. If you are buying a home, and it’s built prior to 1980, it is recommended to inspect the sewer. After 1980, the type of line material was changed from concrete to ABS and/or PVC which is more flexible than concrete and does not erode It’s also glued at the seams so roots cannot get in the line and block it.

What if there is a problem with the sewer line found? It needs to be fixed and it can be expensive. Repairs typically run $2000-$8000. Most common issues are trees growing into the line, which can often be cleared through a rooter. If there is a break in a line, it will need to be dug up and fixed.