Selling Your Home? Go Through This Safety Checklist With Your Real Estate Agent

Selling your home can be stressful for many reasons. Not only are you trying to get the best financial return on your investment, but you might also be working on a tight deadline. There’s also the pressure to keep your home clean and organized at all times for prospective buyers.  One thing you can be sure of when selling your home is that there will be strangers entering your space, so it’s important for you and your agent to take certain safety precautions.

 

  • Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
  • Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family heirlooms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting displaced or stolen.
  • Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.  
  • Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. If someone is looking to get back into your home following a showing or an open house, they will look for weak locks or they might unlock a window or door.
  • Consider extra security measures such as an alarm system or other monitoring tools like cameras.
  • Don’t show your own home! If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. You want to have an agent present to show your home at all times. Agents should have screening precautions to keep you and them safe from potential danger.

Talk to your agent about the following safety precautions: 

  • Do a walk-through with your agent to make sure you have identified everything that needs to be removed or secured, such as medications, belongings, and photos.
  • Go over your agent’s screening process:
    • Phone screening prior to showing the home
    • Process for identifying and qualifying buyers for showings
    • Their personal safety during showings and open houses
  • Lock boxes to secure your keys for showings should be up to date. Electronic lockboxes actually track who has had access to your home.
  • Work with your agent on an open house checklist:
    • Do they collect contact information of everyone entering the home?
    • Do they work with a partner to ensure their personal safety?
  • Go through your home’s entrances and exits and share important household information so your agent can advise how to secure your property while it’s on the market.

Your safety, as well as that of your agent and your home, is of paramount importance when selling a property. For more information, visit:

http://www.mercurynews.com/los-gatos/ci_26509084/realtors-issue-safety-tips-folks-who-are-selling

http://realtormag.realtor.org/sales-and-marketing/feature/article/2014/09/safety-talk-you-need-have-clients

#YourStoryIsOurStory: Kicking off the School Year Right

 

Starting the school year can be nerve wracking; new friends, new classroom, and for some, a new school all together. Imagine starting the new year already behind, with shoes that don’t fit, clothes that are stained or too small, and inadequate school supplies. Many Windermere offices work very hard at the start of the school year to ensure this doesn’t happen for kids in our communities, and our office in Mercer Island, WA took the challenge to a new level by ensuring that more than 300 homeless youth were ready to kick off the school year right.

 

For the last three years, Windermere Mercer Island has partnered with Mary’s Place for their annual #KicksforKids back-to-school drive. Mary’s Place provides emergency and transitional housing for homeless families in the greater Seattle area. While most homeless shelters cater to adults, Mary’s Place helps ensure families can stay together, providing the support and stability kids really need while waiting for permanent housing solutions.

Three years ago, Windermere partnered with Mary’s Place, calling on multiple area offices to help provide shoes, and our Mercer Island office really took this shoe-raiser to heart. Each year their office has upped the ante, gathering more shoes, and supporting more kids! This year, new shoes were donated by agents, staff, clients, and the Mercer Island community, with the office matching donations, collecting a grand total of 432 pairs for kids of all ages and sizes.

 

On Wednesday, August 31, 11 Windermere agents and staff spent the day at Mary’s Place North Seattle Emergency Shelter, delivering and organizing shoes, and acting as personal shoppers for more than 300 kids. After a giant pizza party, a personal shopper helped each child find a new pair of fitting shoes. From pre-school to high school, the joy of a new pair a of kicks was palatable, reminding us all that something as small as a pair of shoes can make a big difference for a kid’s confidence at the start of the school year.

Thank you to Mary’s Place for all the incredible work you do within our community to help families who need shelter, services, and hope. And thank you to the Windermere Real Estate Mercer Island office for taking the #Kicks4Kids drive to a whole new level. Together we can make a difference!

 

 

First Day of Autumn

first-day-of-autumn

Even though it happens year after year, the arrival of autumn is always a little surprising. Almost as if on a switch, one day late in the summer you feel it – a subtle crispness in the air. And before you know it, it’s pumpkin-spice-everything everywhere. We are suddenly swathed in sweaters, wearing boots, and bombarded by shades of orange, often even before the thermometer warrants it. After slogging through a long hot August, it can feel exciting.

Making the transition to autumn is also a great way to reorganize after a hectic summer and be better prepared going into the winter months. To make the transition a little smoother, we have created a to-do-list of ideas to help.

fall-bedroom
Start with your bedroom

Gauzy cotton feels decidedly summer, while soft cashmere has a distinctly autumnal vibe. This time of year, feel free to use both luxe textures at once, but incorporate them in colors that are appropriate for the changing seasons: cream for cashmere, gray or stone for linen.

fall-florals
Pay attention to plants

As the season changes, so should your indoor greenery. Switch out those palm fronds or orchids for eucalyptus branches or hydrangeas in deep purple hues.

fall-car-2
Winterize your car

Due for an inspection? Been meaning to get those tires changed? It’s tedious, but dealing with maintenance issues now instead of three months from now (when you’re stuck in a freak snowstorm) is definitely a smart move.

fall-pantry
Perform a pantry audit

First, remove all the cans and boxes from the shelves and vacuum any lingering dust or crumbs. Then inspect each item before putting it back in its place, tossing anything that is expired or past its prime. If you are overloaded with canned goods, make a bag for the local food bank.

fall-calendar
Sync your family calendars

Now that you’re not in the land of weeklong vacations, keeping track of everyone’s schedule can be tricky. Go old-school by using a chalkboard calendar and placing it in a high-traffic area, like your mudroom. Or go high-tech and download the app Cozi. This tool combines everyone’s calendar and even lets you set up a shared grocery list (so you’ll never forget to pick up milk from the store).

fall-fireplace
Don’t neglect the Fireplace

You may not be ready to think about it yet, but on the first chilly night you’ll be glad you did. Hire a professional to inspect the fireplace and chimney to make sure it’s clear and ready for use.

U.S. Government $10,000 Short Sale Incentive Expires December 30, 2016

 

The federal government’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) Program is set to expire December 30, 2016. The program pays homeowners $10,000 to complete a short sale rather than go through the foreclosure process.

Since the application deadline for HAFA is only a few months away, it is important for homeowners to apply as soon as possible. A real estate professional who specializes in short sales can help you find out if you qualify for HAFA. 

 

Here are some of the benefits of the HAFA program:

  • The HAFA incentive is $10,000 cash.
  • The money can be used however the seller sees fit.
  • The program applies not only to primary residences, but also to second homes, vacant properties, and rental properties.
  • Once you complete a HAFA short sale, there is a waiver of deficiency, meaning you are released from paying any remaining mortgage debt.

 

For people with underwater mortgages who need to sell their home, HAFA is a great opportunity to get a much-needed infusion of cash.  You can get more details about the HAFA program here.

 

Do you qualify for a short sale?

HAFA is only available to homeowners who do a short sale.  Although every situation is unique, the basic criteria for qualifying for a short sale are:

  • You need to sell your home.
  • You owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth.
  • You have a personal financial hardship that will prevent you from making future payments. (Examples of hardship include loss of job, divorce, death of a spouse and medical emergency or illness.)

 

Find out more about short sales.

 

It is critical that homeowners considering a short sale meet with a professional to review their options and discuss the potential legal and tax implications.

 

 

Richard Eastern is a Windermere broker in Bellevue, WA and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 1300 homeowners sell their homes. You can learn more about Richard here or at www.washortsales.com.

Here’s Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist:

Fall is an ideal time to tackle maintenance projects both inside and outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Gutters top to bottom: Water in the wrong spots can do a lot of damage. Start by ensuring that gutters and downspouts are doing their job. (Don’t attempt this task yourself if you have a two-story house with a steep roof; hire a professional instead.) If your home is surrounded by deciduous trees you may need to clean out your gutters a few times a year, especially in the fall. Check to make sure your gutters are flush with the roof and attached securely, repairing any areas that sag or where the water collects and overflows. Clean out the gutters and downspouts, checking that outlet strainers are in good shape, and are firmly in place. Finally, check that your downspouts direct water away from your house, not straight along the foundation.

If you haven’t already, you may want to consider installing gutter guards. Gutter guards create a barrier so water can get through to your gutters, but debris cannot, limiting gutter buildup (and the time you spend cleaning out your gutters). There are DIY installation kits available or you can always hire a professional to install a gutter guard system.

If you have a sump pump under your house, now is a good time to test it. Run a hose to be sure draining water travels directly to the pump (dig small trenches if needed), and that the pump removes the water efficiently and expels it well away from the foundation. For more information about how sump pumps work go to howstuffworks.com.

Check for leaks: The best opportunity to catch leaks is the first heavy rain after a long dry spell, when roofing materials are contracted. Check the underside of the roof, looking for moisture on joints or insulation. Mark any spots that you find and then hire a roofing specialist to repair these leaks. What you don’t want to do is wait for leaks to show up on your ceiling. By then, insulation and sheet rock have been damaged and you could have a mold problem too.

Don’t forget the basement. Check your foundation for cracks, erosion, plants growing inside, broken windows, and gaps in window and door weathering.  Make sure to properly seal any leaks while the weather is nice. This will ensure materials dry properly.

Pest Prevention: Rodents are determined and opportunistic, and they can do tremendous amounts of property damage (and endanger your family’s health). As temperatures cool, take measures to prevent roof rats and other critters from moving in. Branches that touch your house and overhang your roof are convenient on-ramps for invaders, so trip back branches so they’re at least four feet from the house. If you do hear scuttling overhead or discover rodent droppings in your attic, crawl space or basement, take immediate action. The website http://www.thisoldhouse.com has several helpful articles on the topic.

Maintain your heating and cooling systems: Preventative maintenance is especially crucial for your home’s heating and air-conditioning systems. Fall is a smart time to have your systems checked and tuned up if necessary. Don’t wait for extreme temperatures to arrive, when service companies are slammed with emergency calls. Between tune-ups, keeps your system performing optimally by cleaning and/or replacing air filters as needed.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, a professional inspection and cleaning will help prevent potentially lethal chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, always keep a supply of dry firewood or sawdust-composite logs so you have a backup heat source in an emergency.

Insulate & seal: Insulating your home is a cost-efficient investment, whether you’re trying to keep the interior warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Aside from more major improvements like energy-efficient windows and insulation, there are some quick fixes that do-it-yourselfers can tackle. If an exterior door doesn’t have a snug seal when closed, replace the weather stripping; self-adhesive foam stripping is much simpler to install than traditional vinyl stripping. If there is a gap under the door (which can happen over time as a house settles), you may need to realign the door and replace the vinyl door bottom and/or door sweep. Air also sneaks inside through electrical outlets and light switches on exterior walls. Dye-cut foam outlet seals placed behind the wall plates are a quick and inexpensive solution.

 

Great Design Element: Why Awnings Are Making a Comeback

Awnings are a valuable home design element that our grandparents knew all about. In the days before air conditioning, they were used to shade interiors and help keep homes cool. With the focus on sustainable design today, there’s renewed interest in the power of awnings. They block the sun from entering the house and warming it on hot days, and can be removed or retracted during the winter months when you’re craving light and warmth. Depending on the fabric you choose, they can also keep harmful UV rays from damaging your skin and fading your fabrics.

 

Awnings 1: Flagg Coastal Homes, original photo on Houzz

 

Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Besides all of that great money- and energy-saving function, awnings are an aesthetic asset. Colorful materials, stripes and scalloped edges are just a few of the options. Awnings bring softness, pattern, color and nostalgic charm to a home’s facade.

This photo shows awnings at work — you can see the shadows they create and how they’re protecting the interiors and the second-floor balcony area from the sun’s rays. Aesthetically, the stripes break up the white on the home — they are the home’s flirty false eyelashes.

 

Awnings 2: Christina Karras, original photo on Houzz

 

The retractable awning is curb appeal gold and transforms a space out front into a shady outdoor room. This style of retractable awning has poles that help support it, but there are other options that don’t require the added support.

Retractable awnings that don’t require support poles have retractable arms to support them. This provides a cleaner look. These can extend up to 14 feet.

 

Awnings 3: Exteriors by Chad Robert, original photo on Houzz

 

This style of awning, called a spear awning, adds to the style of the home. The decorative wrought iron rods have finials that pick up on the iron lantern and metal furniture frames on the patio.

These awnings are easily rolled up by hand when inclement weather is expected.(You will need to retract awnings when high winds are predicted. The awning company will let you know how many miles per hour their products can withstand.) There are also motorized versions on the market. Factors to consider when deciding whether to go hand-cranked or motorized include the ease of simply pushing a button versus the increased cost of the product, installation and maintenance.

“The motor is an upcharge and usually adds another $800 to the cost of the awning,” says Sandy Price of PYC Awnings. “The motor comes with a 12-foot cord and a plug, or you have an electrician hard-wire it for you.” (That cost is not included in the $800.) By the way, motorized awnings come with a hand crank in case the power goes out.

 

Awnings 4: Our Town Plans, original photo on Houzz

 

This roller shade protects those on the porch from the sun and wind. “It has a cable on each side that passes through rings at the bottom of the shade to keep it from flapping in the wind,” says Suzanne Stern of Our Town Plans. The shade has a crank for rolling it up and down by hand (which you can make out on the left side of this photo if you really squint).

 

Related: Patio Details: Awning-Covered Patio and Playhouse for a Shared Property

 

Stern also notes that this solution doesn’t change the look of the column and that the shade can be rolled all the way down below the railing.

 

Awnings 5: Becky Harris, original photo on Houzz

 

These valance awnings on a house on Florida’s Marco Island are more decorative than functional. They’re installed across extensive porches and tie into larger retractable awnings used in other spots on the home. “The customer used the Costa Track installation so they wouldn’t see any hardware and did a ceiling-mount installation,” Price says.

 

By Becky Harris, Houzz

Windermere and the Seahawks partner to #TackleHomelessness

What do Windermere Real Estate and the Seattle Seahawks have in common? We both got our start in Seattle in the 1970s. And we’re both organizations who believe in giving back to our community. So when presented with the opportunity to become the Official Real Estate Company of the Seattle Seahawks, we didn’t have to think twice.

At the center of this partnership with the Seahawks is a new #tacklehomelessness campaign in which the Windermere Foundation will donate $100 for every Seahawks home-game tackle during the 2016 season. And on the receiving end of these donations is YouthCare, a Seattle-based non-profit organization that has been providing services and support to homeless youth for more than 40 years.

In addition to raising money, the #tacklehomelessness campaign will also bring awareness to the very issue of homeless youth struggling in our community. We know the Seahawks are equally committed to this important cause.

Our partnership with the Seahawks and YouthCare fits perfectly with the mission of the Windermere Foundation which is to support low-income and homeless families in the communities where we have offices. Through the #tacklehomelessness campaign, we hope to be able to do even more.

You can follow our progress throughout the Seahawks season on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/WindermereRealEstate.

 

Do You Have ‘Average’ Credit? If so, Getting a Mortgage May Be Tough

This article originally appeared on Inman.com  

 

In the early 2000s, getting a mortgage was hardly difficult thanks in great part to lax lending standards.

This practice eventually led to a bubble forming in the nation’s housing market — which, as we all know, subsequently burst.

Since that time, the pendulum has swung the other way — to an extreme.

Today, lenders require nothing short of pristine credit to obtain a mortgage. We can never return to the reckless lending policies of the past, but I believe they’ve gone too far, and it concerns me.

 

What will your credit score get you?

I took a look at data produced by the Federal Reserve and was shocked by what I saw. Of the $426.6 billion in mortgage originations during the second quarter of this year, almost 62 percent went to households with a credit rating of 760 or higher.

Borrowers with a credit score in the range of 620 to 659, which many lenders view as below-prime credit, received just 6.3 percent of the dollar volume of mortgages in the second quarter.

Now, when we compare that with the same quarter of 2004, the group with 760-or-higher credit received 23.5 percent of the mortgages, and the 620-to-659 borrowers received 8 percent.

Although surveys say credit is loosening for some types of loans, standards are still far tighter than necessary.

 

Too risk-averse?

The data raises questions about whether regulators and banks have become too risk-averse. It’s also possible that borrowers without prime credit have just given up owning a home for now.

Figures from property-data provider CoreLogic show that home-purchase mortgage applications from borrowers with credit scores below 640 fell to 6 percent in 2015, from 29 percent in 2005. In other words, lower-rated borrowers aren’t even applying.

But why?

Rising home values might simply be putting property out of reach for a lot of lower-income people.

For example, prices in Seattle are up 55 percent from their 2012 post-crisis low, according to the Case-Shiller Index. Nationally, prices are up 35 percent from their 2012 low.

Higher prices require larger down payments and bigger mortgage payments, especially for borrowers with lower credit scores.

But equally as culpable as rising home prices are homeowners who went through a foreclosure between 2004 and 2015.

Of these 7 million homeowners, only 7.3 percent have obtained a mortgage again, and 69 percent still have a foreclosure on their credit score, thus precluding them from buying again.

The market is making it remarkably hard for many families to buy a home.

I would never suggest that we consider returning to the “old days” of sub-prime lending, but understanding that there are a large number of families who want to buy — and who meet acceptable standards for risk — should give lenders some pause for thought.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, the second largest regional real estate company in the nation. Matthew specializes in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

 

 

Investing in Rental Property: The Risks, Rewards, and Benefits of Owning Rental Property

 

One area of the real estate market that is thriving right now is rental property.

All indications suggest that the rental market will continue to improve because of low vacancy rates and rising rents. In fact, the demand for rentals is predicted to far exceed supply through 2016, with 4.5 million new renters expected to enter the market in the next five years.

What to consider before buying a rental

Being a landlord has its challenges. The recession took a toll on rental prices for a few years and any future economic downturns could do the same. Once the job market returns to normal, there’s a strong possibility that more people will choose to move from rentals into homes of their own. And the demand for rental properties could become oversaturated at some point, resulting in an investment bubble of its own.

What’s more, while the income from a rental property can be significant, it can take at least five years before you’re making much more than what you need just to cover the mortgage and expenses. In other words, the return on your investment doesn’t happen overnight.

However, in the long run, if you select the right property, it could turn out to be one of your best investment decisions ever—especially since rental real estate provides more tax benefits than almost any other investment.

Tax deductions for the taking

One of the greatest things about owning rental properties is the fact that you’re able to deduct so many of the associated expenses, including a sizeable portion of your monthly mortgage payment.

The commissions and fees paid to obtain your mortgage are not deductable, but the mortgage interest you pay each month is, including any money you pay into an escrow account to cover taxes and insurance. Whatever your mortgage company reports as interest on your 1098 form at the end of each year can likely be deducted.

For example, you may be eligible to deduct credit card interest for goods and services used in a rental activity, repairs made to the building, travel related to your rental (local or long distance), expenses related to home office or workshop devoted to your rental, the wages of anyone you hire to work on the building, damages to your rental property, associated insurance premiums, and fees you pay for legal and professional services. However, as is the case with any transaction of this type, be sure to consult your attorney or accountant for detailed tax information.

What to look for

As with any real estate investment, the location of the property and its overall condition are both key. But with rental properties, there are some other, unique factors you’ll also want to consider.

Utilities

Look for a building with separate utilities (water, electric, and gas, etc.) for each rental unit. This will make it far easier to legally charge for the fair use of what can be a very costly monthly expense.

Competition

If your property is one of the few rentals in the neighborhood, there will be less competition for interested renters.

Transportation

Rentals that are near popular public transportation options and/or major freeways (without being so close that noise is an issue) are usually easier to rent—and demand more money.

Landscaping

Properties with small yards and fewer plantings are far easier and less expensive to manage.

Off-street parking

Not only is off-street parking a desirable feature (people with nice cars usually don’t like to park on the street), it’s also a requirement for rental properties in some communities.

How to start your search

Unlike homes, rental properties do not typically have a visible ‘for-sale’ sign standing out front (as landlords don’t want to irritate, bring attention to their current renters, or turn off any prospective renters). Therefore, if you are interested in a rental property, your best option is to schedule an appointment with your real estate agent/broker to discuss your investment goals and identify what opportunities currently exist in the market place. 

Raising money for those in need—one putt at a time.

Did you know that for the past 27 years, the Windermere Foundation has donated a portion of the proceeds from every home purchased or sold towards supporting low-income and homeless families in our communities? What started in 1989 as a grassroots foundation serving families in need in Washington State has grown to encompass eleven states and has raised over $30 million for programs and organizations that provide shelter, food, children’s programs, emergency assistance, and other services to those who need our help most.

 

In addition to those transaction donations, Windermere offices also hold fundraisers throughout the year to raise even more money for the Windermere Foundation. And one of the most popular fundraisers is a golf tournament, some of which have turned into an annual event.

 

 

Snohomish Golf Tournament

The 22nd Annual Windermere Golf Tournament at Legion Memorial Golf Course in Everett, Washington was held on July 20. Organized by the Snohomish County group of Windermere offices, this event had 124 golfers and raised $36,600. Proceeds of the golf tournament went to Housing Hope—specifically its ChildHope program. Housing Hope’s ChildHope Initiative is dedicated to helping homeless and low-income children achieve age-appropriate development, pursue their potential, and ultimately thrive in school and community.

 

Windermere Legends Golf Tournament

The annual Windermere Legends Golf Tournament took place on August 18 at the Golf Club at Newcastle in Newcastle, Washington. 120 golfers helped raise nearly $30,000, for a grand total of $500,000 raised since its inception. Proceeds benefit The Don Deasy Memorial Leadership 1000 Scholarship Fund, which each year awards scholarships to Quincy High School graduates who demonstrate high potential and financial need, and who have been accepted to the University of Washington.

 

Windermere Stellar Golf Tournament

Windermere Stellar’s seventh annual Golf Tournament was held on August 22 at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Oregon. Over 150 players and volunteers from Windermere Stellar offices and the local community participated in the event, which raised $53,630, for a grand total of nearly $225,000 since its inception. All proceeds benefit local non-profit organizations serving low-income women and children. One such organization is Friends of the Children, which has received over $200,000 since 2014 from Windermere Stellar offices via the Windermere Foundation.

 

Windermere Real Estate’s Chip in for Charity Golf Tournament

Windermere’s in-city Seattle-area offices will come together on October 3 at the Sand Point Country Club for their annual charity golf tournament. Around 120 golfers are expected to play this year to raise money for the Seattle Public School programs that serve low-income students. Last year, 23 teams from 11 Windermere Real Estate offices came out for golfing, a silent auction and dinner, and raised more than $20,000. They hope to raise even more at this year’s event.

 

Windermere Foundation Golf Classic

The 10th Annual Foundation Golf Classic will take place this year on October 17 at The Club At Prescott Lakes in Prescott, Arizona. The event will include breakfast, a silent auction, awards ceremony, raffle, and lunch. To register an individual or a team of four for the event, or to become a sponsor, please visit www.WindermereNAZGolf.com. All net proceeds benefit the Windermere Foundation, which directly supports local charities that assist families and children in need in the greater Prescott area.

 

Thanks to fundraisers like these golf tournaments, as well as a variety of other fundraisers held by our offices throughout the year, the Windermere Foundation is able to continue to support non-profit organizations that provide services to low-income and homeless families throughout the Western U.S. 

 

If you’d like to help, please consider donating to the Windermere Foundation. To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit http://www.windermere.com/foundation.