Category Archives: Real Estate

9 Steps to Take Now to Buy a Home Next Year

9 steps to buying a home in 2018You and your family are thinking of buying a new home – or your next one – in 2018. There are things you can do now to prepare yourself. Here are seven steps to get you ready for this exciting move!

  1. Check your credit score. Target a credit score of 740 or higher to get the best mortgage rate. See mistakes on your credit report? Because this process can sometimes take months, you’ll want to start doing that now.
  2. Follow the real estate market and interest rates. What is the market doing in your area? Is inventory low? What about interest rates – are they inching up? You’ll want to lock in the lowest interest rate you can to lower your monthly mortgage payments and long-term financial outlay.
  3. Save, save, save. We can’t stress this enough. Make sure you have enough to cover a down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, etc. Read our article on closing costs to get a better idea of what those might run.
  4. Don’t use your credit cards or rack up more debt. Obviously, you don’t want to open any new credit cards before you apply for a mortgage, but it is just as important not to use the existing credit you already have. Banks will look at your debt to income ratio, so you want that debt figure to be as low as possible.
  5. Don’t overspend during the holidays. It can be tempting to spoil your loved ones during the holidays, but this could make it harder to get a mortgage – particularly if you use your credit cards for holiday shopping. Instead, get creative. Offer services (e.g., dog walking, babysitting, home organizing, handyman skills) or experiences (gourmet meals, outings, etc.)  instead of giving gifts.
  6. Meet with two to three potential Realtors. We say “Realtor” instead of “real estate agent” because “Realtors” have different and a code of ethics to abide by. Real estate agents are held to a lesser standard. Talk to friends, family and co-workers to get recommendations, and do your research before scheduling no obligation appointments to interview. In addition, check their online reviews on Facebook, Zillow, LinkedIn and other sites to see what they’re clients are saying about them.
  7. Shop for a lender. Just like you would shop for a Realtor, explore your mortgage lending options. Check with your bank, local credit unions and mortgage brokers to see where you can find the best deal and the best long-term relationship.
  8. Gather your documents. When you meet with a mortgage lender, you’ll need to provide tax returns and W-2s for the last two years, pay stubs for the last few months, proof of your current living expenses, a list of debts and other expenses, etc.
  9. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Once you’ve selected a mortgage lender and have pulled together all of your documentation, it’s time to get pre-approved! This will help you determine what your interest rate will be and how much home you can afford. Read more about getting pre-approved here.

Not sure what’s next? Have questions? Call Team Marti  at 253-859-8500. We’d be happy to help you prepare to buy your next home in the New Year!

 

4 Reasons to Sell Your Home This Fall

Just like the fall leaves, the real estate market is changing. Here are 4 reasons to consider selling your home this fall.

4 Reasons to Sell Your Home This Fall

Buyer demand still outpaces the supply of homes for sale, so buyers are competing for the few homes that are on the market now. If you list now, before the cold weather sets in, you are likely to get multiple offers on your home, so you can choose the right buyer for your home.

Not sure if this is the right time, based on your specific circumstances? We can help. Call Team Marti today for  a 206-391-0388 for a no-obligation assessment.

3 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall

3 Reasons to Buy a Home This FallBuying a home can be a difficult decision, particularly in a hot real estate market, but research shows that buying a home is a great investment — and is more financially advantageous than renting. Here are three reasons to consider buying a home this fall:

  1. Prices will keep going up. According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index, homes have appreciated by 6.7 percent in the last 12 months. They are expected to increase another 5 percent over the next year, so the home you are looking at buying today will be 5 percent more this time next year.
  2. Mortgage rates will also go up. Mortgage and banking experts project that interest rates for 30-year mortgages will go up, which means your monthly mortgage payment will also go up. Buy now and lock in an interest around 4 percent.
  3. You’re paying someone’s mortgage; it might as well be yours. Even if you are renting, you are paying your landlord’s mortgage. Why not take that same amount of money to buy your own home.

If you aren’t sure if this is the right time for YOU to buy, let us know. We’d be happy to meet with you to discuss your circumstances.

5 Reasons to Sell Your Home This Fall

5 Reasons to Sell Your Home This FallThis summer was a great time to list your Kent, Covington, Maple Valley, Auburn or Black Diamond home, but if you missed your window, don’t despair. Fall is in the air, and in our current market, it is still a good time to sell. In fact, here are five reasons to consider selling your home this fall.

  1. Demand remains strong. According to the National Association of Realtors, buyer demand is strong across most of the country. In our area, home inventory is low, so buyers are competing for homes on the market, so sellers often get multiple offers once they list.
  2. There is less competition now. While inventory is low, experts anticipate that a new wave of homes on the market is coming. Why? The average number of years a homeowner would stay in their home was six, but it is now now, so homeowners who bought in 2008-2010 will have accumulated equity, giving them the freedom to put their homes on the market. If you wait until that happens, demand will drop, and so will prices.
  3. The selling process is quicker than normal. Because the housing market is competitive right now, buyers are doing their part to stand out from the crowd, so sellers will choose them. This includes getting pre-approved for a mortgage, so when they are ready to buy, they’ve already got a tentative commitment from their mortgage lender. This speeds up the process for closing.
  4. Now is the time to move up! According to CoreLogic, prices are expected to appreciate by 5.2 percent over the next year. That means if you want to upgrade to a larger home or purchase a luxury home, you will get a better price on that home now than you will a year from now. The longer you wait, the higher that luxury home will cost.
  5. It’s time to move to the next stage of your life. Right now buying a home makes more sense than renting one, so selling your home to purchase another one with appreciating value makes sense. Is your family growing? Did you just get married? Are you downsizing because you’re now an empty nester? These are all good reasons to sell your current home and to buy one that better suits your changing lifestyle.

If you have questions or would like to discuss whether or not this is the right time for you to sell your South King County home, let us know. Team Marti would love to help you understand your options!

 

10 Reasons South King County, Washington is a Great Place to Live

If you’re thinking of relocating to the Seattle area, and are wondering which area to choose, consider South King County, Washington. Here are 10 reasons it is a great place to live!

  1. Convenient location. Whether you live in Kent, Covington or Maple Valley, South King County is located between Seattle and Tacoma with either major metro area being a 20- to 30-mile drive, depending on your destination.
  2. Easy access to mass transit. King County has a great mass transit system, including everything from buses and water taxis to trains and SeaTac International Airport.
  3. Breathtaking views. On a clear day, you can view the majestic Mount Rainier from just about any vantage point. You can also see the Green River (Kent and Auburn), the Cedar River (Renton) and Puget Sound (Des Moines, Burien and Federal Way). Most cities in South King County also have lakes. Renton, of course, is on the tip of Lake Washington. Kent has Lake Meridian, Clark Lake and Lake Fenwick, and Maple Valley has the beautiful Lake Wilderness.
  4. Fabulous parks and trails. All of our South King County cities have access to fabulous parks and trail systems, as well as county and state parks and trails. In Kent, for example, we have the Soos Creek Trail, the Green River Trail and the Interurban Trail. In Des Moines, there is Saltwater State Park and Dash Point State Park, both on Puget Sound.
  5. Shopping. We all need to shop, whether we like it or not, and South King County has a wealth of options including The Landing (Renton), Kent Station (Kent), The Outlet Collection Seattle (Auburn) and Southcenter (Tukwila). In addition, we have lots of boutiques, shops, and locally owned stores.
  6. Dining. South King County is home to very diverse populations, bringing people from all over the world together. To celebrate our diversity, we have a wide range of dining options featuring everything from All American diners and Asian flavors to Indian and Ukrainian food. No matter where you choose to call home, there will be dozens – if not hundreds – of options nearby.
  7. Arts and entertainment. South King County is rich with culture, including long-time favorites like free summer concerts and the year-long Spotlight Series in Kent to seasonal festivals like Sausage and Cider Fest in Covington and Renton River Days in Renton. Live music, theatre, art galleries and studios, movie theatres and much more.
  8. Schools. From award-winning school districts to local colleges like Green River College and Renton Technical College, there is a wide range of educational opportunities in South King County, serving students of every age and ability.
  9. Weather. People across the nation have the misperception that it always rains in this part of the state. Yes, we get rain in the Seattle area, primarily in November, December and January, but we rarely have snow. And our summers are breathtaking. In Kent, for example, our average temperature in December is 46, and in August our average temperature is 78, according to U.S. climate data.
  10. People. We love the diverse populations that make up South King County, and we are proud that people from around the world call this area home. We have hundreds of cultures and languages represented here, and we love that sharing that with each other, as evidenced by the many cultural events and festivals here including the Kent International Festival, the Khalsa Day Parade and the Renton International Festival, just to name a few.

If you are looking for a home in Kent, Covington, Maple Valley, Auburn, Renton, Federal Way or Black Diamond, there are countless reasons to live here. If you’re looking for specific information, please let us know. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about the area. We love calling South King County home – we know you will too!

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3 Tips for Homebuying Success in Today’s Real Estate Market

3 Tips for Homebuying Success in Today's Real Estate Market

In today’s highly competitive real estate market, where home inventory levels are not keeping up with the constant stream of buyer demand, there are steps you can take to ensure you are most prepared for success when buying a home.

The 3 tips we are going to expand on today come from a recent blog by Trulia entitled, The Skinny on Skinny Inventory. 

1. Be Prepared

“Homebuyers should talk with a lender, real estate agent, and a home inspector BEFORE finding a home to make an offer on.”

Being intentional, pre-approved, and prepared will set you up for the accelerated time tables that come with a highly competitive market. If you are the most prepared buyer interested in a home, if you have already secured financial approval, and if you are ready to move fast, your bid will be that much more attractive to a seller.

2. Think Strategically

“Starter homebuyers don’t have a home to sell and can be flexible on closing dates compared to homebuyers who are also trying to sell at the same time.”

If you are one of the many first-time buyers looking for your dream home, know that being strategic and flexible about closing dates can also help your offer stand out from the rest. But don’t fret if you are a homeowner who will also have to sell your own house first – be upfront about your timeline with your agent and with any offers you make.

3. Seek Out the Ugly Ducklings

“Buyers might consider looking for homes that have been on the market for a while and investigate why. The reasons may be a deal-killer but all it takes is one ugly duckling to turn into a swan.”

Finding a fixer-upper or a home that needs a little love might be your best way to guarantee that you are able to find a home in the neighborhood that you want. The worst house on the best block will go for a steal and offer instant equity once you fix it up!

Bottom Line

In today’s market, full of bidding wars and tough competition, finding ways to stand out from the rest by getting creative will improve your chances of having a home to call your own.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Sell Your Home Yourself

5 Reasons Not to Sell Your Own HomeIn today’s market, with home prices rising and a lack of inventory, some homeowners may consider trying to sell their homes on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). There are several reasons why this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.

Here are the top five reasons we discourage homeowners from selling their own homes:

1. Exposure to Prospective Buyers 

Recent studies have shown that 94% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 16% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Many individual home sellers do not.

2. Results Come from the Internet

Where did recent buyers find the homes they actually purchased?

  • 51% on the internet
  • 34% from a Real Estate Agent
  • 8% from a yard sign
  • 1% from newspapers

The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.

3. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With 

Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale by Owner:

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value

4. FSBOing Has Become More And More Difficult

The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 8% over the last 20+ years. 

The 8% share represents the lowest recorded figure since NAR began collecting data in 1981.

5. You Net More Money When Using an Agent 

Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $185,000, while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $245,000. This doesn’t mean that an agent can get $60,000 more for your home, as studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.

Bottom Line

Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, contact us discuss the options available in the South King County real estate market today. Team Marti would love to see how we can help.

The Current Cost of Renting vs. Buying

Deciding to buy a home instead of renting is a tough call, especially in a hot real estate market like this one where housing is scarce. This infographic shows that the tide has shifted a bit, and it will actually cost you less to purchase a home than it is to rent a home, apartment, condo or townhouse. Buying right now costs significantly less than renting.

 

Here are some other statistics from Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy Report:

  • Interest rates remain low, and though home prices are appreciating, they haven’t outpaced rental appreciation.
  • Shifts in the ‘rent vs. buy’ decision are largely driven by changes in mortgage rates.
  • Nationally, rates would have to reach 9.1% (the current average is 4%) for renting to be cheaper than buying.

For more on renting versus buying, please read these two previous blog posts:

If you’re thinking of buying instead of renting this summer, give us a call. We can help you analyze your situation, so you can make the right choice.

Team Marti’s Top 10 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Team Marti's Top 10 Tips for First-Time HomebuyersA seller’s market can be a tough place for first-time homebuyers to purchase their first home, but don’t despair. It is certainly doable. Educate yourself on what’s needed to succeed in a seller’s market and work with an experienced Realtor who will give you world-class, 24/7 service. Here are our top 10 tips for first-time homebuyers. Good luck!

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. We recommend doing this before you begin shopping a home, so you know how much home you can afford and what type of credit you have, which will ultimately impact your loan terms, including the interest rates.
  2. Begin your home search online to get an idea of what’s available. Check out Realtor.com, Zillow, Northwest MLS or your favorite Realtor’s website.
  3. Work with a Realtor early on in your process. A talented Realtor can help guide you through what can be a very complex process, and offer advice specific to your situation. Get recommendations from friends and colleagues, and be sure to check out the referrals online before you meet with them. Read their online reviews and testimonials and their LinkedIn profile to see how long they’ve been selling real estate. You might also interview a couple of different agents to see who might be a good fit for you.
  4. Know the difference between your wants and needs in a first home. List all the features you want in a home and categorize them as ‘must haves,’ ‘should haves,’ and ‘absolute wish list.’ Learn more here.
  5. Check out the neighborhood and schools. The features of your home will be very important to you, but the neighborhood where you want to buy should also play a factor. Are there similar homes in the neighborhood? Are they well maintained? What amenities are nearby (e.g., parks, restaurants, shopping)? If you have a school-age child, or will be starting a family, what schools will your child attend? Visit the neighborhood at different times of day, if possible.
  6. Attend open houses. This is a great way to tour homes on the market to see what’s available. Keep in mind though that in a HOT real estate market like this one, a new listing may receive multiple offers the day of the open house. If you fall in love with a house you are touring, you’ll want to act on it right away.
  7. Write a winning offer. In a seller’s market, you need to bring your best offer to the table with as few contingencies as possible. Work with your Realtor to offer a fair but attractive price.
  8. Understand that your offer might get rejected. Competition is tough these days, so you may not get the first home you put an offer in on. Be patient. It will happen.
  9. Be prepared to cover closing costs. In a seller’s market, the seller tends to have control, so prepare to cover your own closing costs which will be on top of your down payment. Here are some additional guidelines.
  10. Don’t expect any home to be perfect. Sure, you have your heart set on a dream home with all of the desired features, but that is unrealistic. Realtor.com suggests you focus on three main factors: price, size and location. If you get all three, great, but getting two is more likely.

Good luck, and let us know if Team Marti can help!

[Sources: Inman, Realtor.com and CNN Money]

5 Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional

Five Reasons to Hire a Real Estate ProfessionalHome buying and selling are complicated, detailed processes and, because they are often the most significant financial commitments of your lifetime, they can be highly stressful too. However, with a real estate professional on your side, buying or selling a home can be manageable, even enjoyable. Here are 5 reasons to hire a real estate professional when buying or selling a Kent, Covington or Maple Valley home.

  1. Rules, regs and paperwork. Each state regulates the contracts needed to buy or sell a home and these regulations change all the time. However, a real estate professional – ideally a Realtor – is up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations, and she can streamline the process for you.
  2. 180 steps to closing. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), there are 180 steps a full-service Realtor follows in return for their sales commission, including everything from pre-listing activities and entering a home into the MLS database to the home inspection and post-closing follow-up. Yes, 180! Let your real estate professional focus on those steps, while you focus on selecting the right home and getting ready for your move.
  3. Negotiation. Even if you enjoy a good negotiation, it can be very stressful, particularly when you are talking about a transaction worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A real estate professional like me can take the emotion out of that process for you while putting years of negotiating experience to use.
  4. Home value. A real estate professional has the experience to price your home correctly, based on its true value and how current market conditions will affect the value. While you may know what you paid for your home and what you need to get out of it, a real estate professional can provide an objective value and her recommendations for putting a price tag on your home.
  5. Market conditions. The Seattle real estate market is one of the hottest in the country right now. An experienced and trusted real estate professional will stay on top of selling trends and know the ins and outs of the local real estate market to ensure you get the best deal possible.

If you are thinking of buying or selling a home this summer, contact Team Marti now for a no-obligation consultation of your situation.