Category Archives: Reporter

5 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for a Summer Sale

5 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for a Summer SalePeople say that spring is the best time to sell your home, but Realtor.com says that 50% of homes are sold during the summer! June, in particular, tends to be the best time to sell your home. In fact, according to Trulia, June is 29% busier than any other month when it comes to real estate.

Home asking prices tend to peak at the beginning of the season, and in our current market, demand exceeds supply so quality homes are the first to go. Summer is also a good time for families with school-aged, so children can adapt to their new environment before the school year begins in late summer/early fall.

Ready to sell? Here are some ways to prepare your home for sale:

  1. Do necessary and obvious repairs, inside and out, including repairing leaking gutters, fixing chipped paint, cleaning floors, replacing broken tile, and repairing loose deck boards and cracks in the driveway.
  2. Declutter and depersonalize. Prospective homebuyers find it easier to imagine themselves in your home if it has a neutral feel of it, so put away the kids’ sports photos, collections and crafts. This is also a good time to declutter. It will help you get organized for the move, and it will make your home more appealing to home buyers.
  3. Focus on curb appeal. Realtors® talk about this a lot, but you want your home to look its best for seller photos, buyer drive-bys and open houses. This means maintaining a well-manicured lawn with seasonal flowers, a tidy front porch and a clean and cozy entry way.
  4. Stage your home for sale. In the Pacific Northwest, outdoor living in the summertime is a great way to extend the living space of your home. Hire a professional stager (your Realtor® can recommend someone) to stage the interior and exterior of your home. For example, stage the BBQ area with a nice set of tools and other BBQ accessories, keep your patio furniture clean and organize it in a cozy seating arrangement, and consider upgrading your outdoor décor.
  5. Keep it cool. When your Realtor® hosts an open house, make sure the air temperature in your home is comfortable. If it is hot out, turn on central air, if you have it. If you don’t have air conditioning, turn on your ceiling fans and open the windows to let in the fresh air. A pitcher of lemonade and freshly-baked cookies can’t hurt either!

If you’re ready to sell your home this summer, call a trusted, local Realtor for more tips on preparing your home for sale.

King County Proposes Septic System Fee and Monitoring Requirement

Public Health of Seattle and King County to consider an on-site septic system fee and monitoring proposal at June 16 meeting

 

If you live in King County and have an on-site septic system, or you’re considering a King County property with an on-site septic system, you’ll want to be aware of a proposed septic system fee and monitoring requirement.

The Public Health -Seattle and King County will consider the fee and monitoring proposal on June 16 and vote on July 21. You can view the June 16 agenda here and download the meeting packet here.

You can also learn more about the proposal at an informational meeting on June 21:

Tues., June 21, 2016
6:30 p.m.
Tahoma Jr. High School
25600 SE Summit Landsberg Rd.
Ravensdale, WA

The meeting is being hosted by legislators from the 5th, 31st and 47th state legislative districts. If this could impact your King County home, you’ll want to be sure to attend.

 

What’s the Difference Between Being Pre-qualified and Pre-approved for a Mortgage?

What’s the Difference Between Being Pre-qualified and Pre-approved for a Mortgage?There are all kinds of terms thrown around when it comes to buying a home. Two of these terms are “pre-qualified” and “pre-approved.” While these terms are similar, they are, in fact, very different. Let’s talk about the differences.

Pre-qualification

Being pre-qualified for a mortgage does not guarantee that you will get a mortgage. A lender will talk to you while you’re still a prospective buyer and ask you questions about your credit, assets and income. During this meeting, you will not be required to show proof of income, and a credit check will not be run. There’s no harm in being pre-qualified, but focusing on pre-approval should be your priority.

Pre-approval

Pre-approval from a lender means your credit check has been approved, and that your income and assets have been verified by the lender. The mortgage lender has made a decision to lend you money to buy a home.

There is a time frame to use your pre-approval for the purchase of a home, generally 120 days, according to Realtor.com. For pre-approval, you will need at least two years of tax documents, several weeks of paystubs, your two most recent tax returns, and any other proof of your income. A credit score of 740 or higher will help you get the lowest interest rates and a minimum credit score of 620 to be approved for an FHA loan.

In short, pre-qualification means a lender will have an overview of your financial history, without pulling a credit report or verifying your income. Pre-qualification will not help much when it comes to buying a home, but it will help you learn where you stand and if there are areas you need to work on. Pre-approval, on the other hand, is vital to getting a mortgage.

For more information, please contact your mortgage lender or an experienced Realtor®. Good luck!

 

Summer Landscaping: 7 Tips for a Beautiful Yard

Summer Landscaping: 7 Tips for a Beautiful YardIt may still be spring, but we are experiencing some lovely summer weather. This is the perfect time to make sure your landscaping is up to par, so your lawn and gardens look beautiful year-round. This is particularly important if you are considering selling your home this year. Here are some summer yard maintenance and landscaping tips to get and keep your yard in tip top shape:

  1. Trim away dead or hanging branches. This improves the appearance and overall health of your trees, as well as preventing safety hazards from falling limbs.
  2. Check bushes, shrubs, vines and other large plants for overgrowth, particularly those that are close to your house. Untrimmed bushes look uncared for and they can interfere with your central air conditioning unit and trap moisture which can attract pests like termites and mosquitoes. Untrimmed bushes near windows also make good hiding places for burglars too!
  3. Make sure your lawn, trees and plants get sufficient water, but don’t overdo it. See the DIY Network’s “how to” guide for how often to water and how to do so properly.
  4. Reduce summer cooling costs and boost your home’s curb appeal with attractive landscaping. Mature shade trees like maple trees and oak trees can help cool your home, while darker stone can absorb heat better than light stone which reflects the sun.
  5. Add seasonal flowers and shrubs so that you have something in bloom most of the year. One of the great things about living in the Pacific Northwest is that our weather is mild enough to encourage year-round growth. Take advantage by planting bulbs in the fall for spring flowers, and plant annuals or perennials in the spring for year-round color.
  6. Keep your yard neat with regular lawn mowing and sidewalk trimming. In the summertime, you can get away with a slightly lower mower height (3 inches) to keep your lawn mowing to a minimum. Also, use an edging tool to stay on top of weeds and keep your lawn – and sidewalks – looking trim.
  7. Weed early and often. One disadvantage to a long growing season is that weeds can easily get out of control. To get rid of weeds without hurting your back, try using a weeding tool that pulls weeds out at the root!

While summer landscaping and maintenance can take work, it is a wonderful way to take advantage of the warmer weather and to invest in your home. Need some inspiration? Look online at lawn and garden sites or check out Pinterest for ideas for landscaping, gardening, container gardens, outdoor living and more. Good luck and enjoy your beautiful yard this summer!

4 Ways to Improve Your Chance of Getting a Mortgage

Mortgage talk is HOT on everyone’s minds right now –  especially in the midst of the spring and summer buying season. Homes rarely stay on the market for long if they’re a hot buy — so here’s how to jump start your likelihood of getting a mortgage, so you can get the home of your dreams faster!

  1. Financial Literacy: Shopping for a MortgageCheck your credit report. Make sure everything on your credit report is accurate, and dispute anything that’s incorrect. Make sure you pay down any debt you have, and don’t rush to close old accounts. According to Realtor.com, 15% of your credit score is due to overall account length. The longer you’ve had a certain credit account open, and as long as that account is intact, it’s wise to keep it open.
  2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage loan. Getting pre-approved may not guarantee you a home loan, but it will help you get an “in” with your lender to show that you are capable of being fiscally responsible and are serious about buying a home.
  3. Don’t apply for new credit shortly after applying for a mortgage. This could affect your score, and down the road, lead to rejection of getting a mortgage. Lenders will see every time that you have applied for credit, and your even searching for it can register a ding on your credit file.
  4. Decide on the right type of mortgage. According to Realtor.com, the type of home you want, as well as assistance you’ll need, will help decide what type of loan you’re eligible for. If you’re a veteran, you could consider a Department of Veterans Affairs loan.  If you’re a first-time homebuyer, the FHA could help you out, and provide you with a 3.5% down payment. Daily Finance recommends to get your paperwork together. Your lender will want to see proof of income, assets, credit documents, and any other important documents showing you make what you say you make, and that you are who you say you are.

Have questions? Reach out to a local mortgage lender or ask an experienced Realtor for referrals. Happy Hunting!

 

Important Factors to Consider When Downsizing Your Home

Are you considering downsizing – or rightsizing – your current home to accommodate your changing needs? Maybe your kids have left for college, you have more space than you want to maintain, or perhaps you and your spouse are tired of caring for a large yard. Here are some important factors to consider as you consider downsizing your current home.

Important Factors to Consider When Downsizing or Rightsizing Your HomeAccording to Realtor.com, the first thing to consider is how much money downsizing will actually save you. You might be surprised to learn that downsizing does not always save money, so it’s critical to evaluate your expenses carefully. For example, if you downsize your home but move to a more expensive part of town, your bills may actually increase.

The same might be true if you’re moving into an older home which may have an outdated heating or electrical system. Will making repairs or replacements in an older home cost you more than staying where you are? To help make this decision easier, trying using a downsizing calculator to help figure out how moving will affect your finances.

Next, take a look at why you’re downsizing. Do you want to move just so you can save some extra money month to month? Have your kids left for college, or moved out on their own? Do you want to live in a condo to save time on lawn maintenance, or are you tired of climbing the stairs because of health concerns? All of these are valid reasons for wanting to move.

HGTV offers some important questions to ask yourself when you’re considering downsizing. For example, will you miss important things about having a more spacious home? How will different life scenarios pan out if you live in a smaller home? Take a look at your options to see if downsizing is really the right option for you. Will the cost of selling your current home cover the cost of buying your newer, smaller home?

You might also have to get rid of or replace things that you have come to know and love over the time that you’ve lived in a larger home. Know how small you’re willing to go with your home, and make decisions about personal belongings accordingly.

Like any other housing decision, you also need to take in common lifestyle and convenience factors. Will your home have what you need and what you want in it? Is it in a neighborhood you feel comfortable living in? Will you have enough space to live comfortably? Are the services and amenities you access regularly nearby? How much “stuff” will you have to part with if you move?

There are many factors to consider when downsizing or rightsizing. Think through all of them carefully before making your decision. Can’t quite decide? Discuss the choices with your family and consult an experienced Realtor® who specializes in rightsizing. They’ll be able to talk you through the decision more objectively. Good luck!

 

5 Tips for Staging Your Home Like a Pro

According to Realtor.com, staged homes sell 88% faster, and for 20% more, compared to homes where sellers left their belongings in place. Thinking about selling your home this spring? Follow these tips to stage your home professionally. It’s easier – and less expensive – than you think!

  1. 5 Tips for Staging Your Home Like a ProClear out the clutter! No one likes a messy or disorganized home, especially someone trying to envision themselves in your space. Put away knickknacks, personal photos, stacks of mail and magazines.Have more furniture than you need? Move it to another room or store it out of the way in an attic, garage or storage facilities. In other words, if it doesn’t need to be there, toss it, donate it or store it.
  2. Rearrange furniture and home décor. Give your home a fresh, new look without spending a dime by pulling furniture away from the walls, moving rugs and wall hangings around, and reimagining your home’s look with small adjustments here and there. Hanging curtain rods higher can give the illusion of higher ceilings.
  3. Depersonalize your home. Sure, having your family photos and past awards and recognitions on display makes your family feel warm and fuzzy, but it’s hard for some buyers to picture living in a home they can’t see themselves in. Tuck the photos and acknowledgments away.
  4. Go neutral. Paint the walls a neutral color so buyers won’t have to immediately paint their new home. Using neutral when decorating can make spaces appear bigger. Save your favorite bold colors for accent pieces (e.g., lamps, pillows, wall hangings, rugs) that will go with you when you move.
  5. Revive your home’s curb appeal. If your home has dead flowers, dirty windows, chipped paint, or the landscaping needs some TLC, make time to give it a fresh appearance before showing your home. Power wash the outside of your home, add a fresh coat of paint to your mailbox and front door, and replace dead plants from last season with fresh flowers and greenery to make your home inviting from the street.

No time to stage your home? No problem. Ask your Realtor® to recommend someone. She may have staging experience or work with someone who’s a pro! Good luck and have fun.

[Thanks to HGTV and Realtor.com for the inspiration for this post!]

 

10 Tips to Ensure a Smooth Home Move

Whether you are moving across town or across the country, you want to be sure you pack carefully and efficiently. Here are some great packing tips, compliments of Two Men and a Truck.

  1. 10 Tips for a Smooth Home MovePack items from the same room in the same set of boxes. For example, put all items from your master bedroom into one set of boxes. This will make it easier to unpack later.
  2. Label each box on the top and the side with the name of the room it goes in (e.g., living room, kitchen, master bath, etc.), and mark it FRAGILE for delicate and breakable items like glasses, picture frames and dishes. If it is something you’ll need fairly soon, mark it accordingly – NEED – so it makes its way to the designated spot.
  3. Use brand new boxes that are sturdy. Liquor stores are a great resource for small and medium boxes with dividers. Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club often have extra boxes too, and your local moving company will have boxes and other moving supplies available for purchase.
  4. Tape boxes with packing tape, not duct tape or masking tape.
  5. Do not use printed newspaper for wrapping fine china or crystal. Instead, use unprinted paper, available at your moving supply store.
  6. Pack heavier items in small boxes, like books and dishes.
  7. When packing dishes, pack the dishes facing upward. Wrap each piece individually with padding in between items. Ideally, use specialized, divided boxes available at your moving supply store.
  8. Pack boxes with moving essentials – soap, paper towel, cleaner, toilet paper, extra clothes, towels, snacks, bottled water – last. These items should go in your car or be the last on (and first off) the moving truck.
  9. Pack important documents like health records, insurance policies and passports in one box that you can keep with you or put with your moving essentials box. These documents can be difficult to replace, so make it easy on yourself by knowing where they are at all times.
  10. If you have to disassemble furniture or appliances to move them, keep all of the individual parts (screws, legs, etc.) together in a labeled, airtight bag. This is also helpful for curtain rods and tie-backs. Keep all the pieces together.

Financial Literacy: What is Private Mortgage Insurance?

This is our third blog post to celebrate National Financial Literacy Month and to help put (or keep) you on the road to financial success.

New Mortgage Disclosure Laws: What You Need To KnowWhen buying a home, some lenders require a down payment of 20% of the home’s purchase price. However, many lenders offer loans with less than 20% down, even as low as 5% on a conventional mortgage. There is a catch though. If you put less than 20% down on your new home, your lender will usually require you to purchase Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI.

So what exactly is PMI? I’m glad you asked! PMI is an additional amount you pay along with your monthly mortgage payment that guarantees to protect the lender if you fail to pay your mortgage. Typically, PMI will raise your monthly mortgage payment, unless you make a one-time upfront payment for the PMI at closing.

When shopping for a mortgage lender or broker (see last week’s post), be sure to ask what each lender requires for a minimum down payment, and ask what special home loan programs might be available to you, such as an FHA or VA loan. If your lender requires PMI for your situation, ask what the total cost of the insurance is and how much it will increase your monthly payment when the PMI is included or what a one-time premium would be.

Your Realtor® or lender should be able to answer any questions you might have, but here is a handy online resource, compliments of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that can also help.

 

Financial Literacy: Shopping for a Mortgage

This is our second blog post to celebrate National Financial Literacy Month and to help put (or keep) you on the road to financial success.

Shopping for a new home is such an exciting process – touring other homes, imagining yourself and your family living in them, having choices of different styles and vintages, etc. Shopping for a mortgage, however, isn’t as much fun, but it is important that you know what’s out there and what your rights are.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers these tips:

  1. Financial Literacy: Shopping for a MortgageCompare lenders and brokers. You can get a mortgage through a broker who represents multiple lenders or you can get a mortgage directly through a financial institution like a commercial bank, mortgage company or credit union. According to the FTC, some lenders are both lenders and brokers, and you want to know which you are dealing with because brokers usually get paid a fee for their services in addition to a loan origination fee and other fees. Compare several lenders and brokers and the various loan options and fees before choosing who you want to work with. Referrals from friends, family and your Realtor® are a good place to start.
  2. Get all relevant costs from your broker or lender, including
    • Current mortgage interest rates. Ask if the rates quoted are the lowest rates of the week.
    • Fixed or adjustable rates. If the rates are adjustable, ask about the terms of the loan, including the index the rate is tied to, how often the rate can be adjusted, and if there is a cap on how high it can go.
    • The loan’s annual percentage rate (APR). The APR factors in the interest rate, points, broker fees and other charges, expressed as a yearly rate.
    • Ask the lender or broker to quote current points as a dollar figure. Usually, the more points you pay, the lower your interest rate.
    • Ask the lender what fees you’ll have to pay including loan origination fees, underwriting, broker fees and closing costs.
    • Down payment and private mortgage insurance. Ask what percentage of a down payment is required and if you’ll be required to pay private mortgage insurance for down payments less than 20%.
  3. Negotiate the best deal. Mortgage lenders and brokers often have latitude in rates and fees, so you want to negotiate the best deal possible for your home loan. Ask each to provide you with a written quote, and once you’ve selected the best home loan for your situation, ask if you can lock in that deal, assuming you are in that stage of the home buying process. An experienced Realtor® can explain these steps to you if you have questions or need support.
  4. Fair Lending is required. The Equality Credit Opportunity Act prohibits lenders from discriminating against credit applications in any aspect of a credit transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, whether or all or part of the applicant’s income comes from a public assistance program, or whether the applicant has in good faith exercised a right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. In addition, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in residential real estate transactions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. A consumer cannot be refused a loan based on these characteristics, charged more for a loan, or offered less favorable terms based on such characteristics.
  5. Shop, Compare and Negotiate, even if you have credit problems. Even if you have minor credit problems or have extenuating circumstances, you are in a position to negotiate loan terms, including interest rate and fees. Explain your situation and any credit history problems up front. It is also a good idea to get a copy of your credit report before shopping for a home. You can get a free copy annually at AnnualCreditReport.com.

You can find more information about shopping for a mortgage, including a glossary of terms, on the FTC website.