Category Archives: Reporter

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.

 

Financial Literacy: Setting Financial Priorities

April is National Financial Literacy Month, so we’ll be posting information throughout the month on our blog and social media channels to help you make smart money decisions as you plan for your future.

How Credit Affects Your Home Buying AbilityLet’s start by talking about setting financial priorities. Whether you are just starting out or are an adult with a long-established credit history, it is important to set – and periodically review – your financial priorities. Money Management International recommends a three-tiered system of priorities:

  • First priority debts cover your basic needs and include your monthly rent or mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, auto loans, utilities and food.
  • Second priority debts include secured loans like a car loan.
  • Third priority debts are credit cards, medical bills and unsecured creditors.

Keep in mind that everyone’s financial priorities will be different, and that all financial priorities should be addressed, whether they are first or third priorities. For example, let’s say your hours at work have been reduced, so your income is temporarily lower than usual. You still need to pay your third priority debts, but perhaps you can contact your creditors to see if you can lower your payments until your income returns to normal. Being honest and working with your creditors is always better than ignoring them or waiting for things to get better.

To help you set your own financial priorities and to make smart financial choices, use this handy worksheet. Good luck!

 

5 Commonly Asked Questions from First Time-Homebuyers

5 Commonly Asked Questions from First Time-HomebuyersWith 11 years as a Realtor® and 30 years of related industry experience, I’ve heard just about every question you can imagine from first-time homebuyers. Here are some of the most common questions I get along with the answers. I hope you find them helpful.

Why should I buy a home instead of rent?

A home is a long-term investment that gives you secure long-term housing and financial security. When you pay rent, that money goes to pay your landlord’s mortgage. When you make a mortgage payment, however, you are putting money toward your future. You can deduct the cost of mortgage loan interest, as well as property taxes, from your federal income taxes and, in some states, from your state taxes. You’ll also have something that’s yours and that reflects you and your personal style.

How much do I need for a down payment on a home?

A down payment on a home is a percentage of the home’s purchase price that you pay up front. Ideally, you should plan on a down payment of 20%, but depending on a variety of factors, you may qualify for a loan with as little as 3% down. For a conventional loan, if you are putting less than 20% down, your lender may require private mortgage insurance (PMI) which will increase your mortgage payments. The more you put down, the less your monthly mortgage will be. Also, remember that your down payment is not the only amount of up-front cash you’ll need to buy a home. There will be other expenses including closing costs to budget for.

Can I qualify for a mortgage if I don’t have a lot of money for a down payment or closing costs or poor credit?

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers a variety of loan programs to help homebuyers with less-than-ideal circumstances. Learn more here. Click here for more information from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) including advice on buying a home and credit issues.

How do I find the right real estate agent?

I always recommend that prospective homebuyers work with a Realtor® rather than a real estate agent. While Realtors® and agents hold the same state licenses, a Realtor® adheres to the National Association of Realtor’s Code of Ethics and often has additional education. Read more about the differences between Realtors® and real estate agents here. To find the right Realtor®, ask friends and family for referrals and schedule an appointment with a couple of them to get to know them.

You’ll also want to visit their website, see what homes they’ve helped buy and sell recently, and what special qualifications they have, such as continuing education, special certifications or industry awards. Ask about their marketing plan, information about the current market where you plan to buy a home, and see if their communication style complements or conflicts with your own. When you’ve found a good fit, you’ll know!

How do I find a lender?

There are many entities that provide mortgage loans – traditional banks, credit unions, savings and loans, private mortgage companies and government-approved lenders. You can work directly with a lender, or work with a mortgage broker who will charge a fee to help you shop for the mortgage that best meets your needs. To choose the best option, I recommend you get referrals from family and friends and from your Realtor®. Then choose a few lenders to talk to. Ask what mortgage options they can offer, the price range of fees, time line to close, interest rates, etc.

In future posts, we’ll address other commonly asked questions.

 

Local Resources for Your Move to Kent, Washington

Welcome to Kent, WashingtonWhether you are moving from another county or across the country, you’ll need to know how to reach local schools, utilities and other city services.

Here is a handy list of resources you’ll find helpful during your move to Kent, Washington:

Schools

Kent School District

Green River Community College

Government

City of Kent, Washington

King County, Washington

Kent Police

Kent Fire Dept. Regional Fire Authority

Emergency Management

Utilities

City of Kent – Water, sewer and storm drainage

PSE – Electricity

Republic Services – Trash Removal and Recycling

Soos Creek Water & Sewer

Water District #111, King County

Xfinity – Cable and Interet

DISH Satellite TV

Transportation

King County Metro Transit

Link Light Rail and Sounder Train

Washington State Dept. of Transportation

Shopping, Entertainment, Sports & Recreation

Kent Station

Downtown Kent

ShoWare Center

Visit Kent

Kent Parks, Recreation and Community Services

Seattle Thunderbirds

Seattle Mist

Seattle Ravens

Tacoma Stars

Kent Valley Ice Centre

Media & News

Seattle Times

Kent Reporter

iLoveKent.net

KIRO7

KOMO4

KING5

Q13FOX

KentTV21

Miscellaneous

Moving – Two Men and a Truck

Cleaning – Diana’s Cleaning Service

Home Décor – Pugerudes

Home Maintenance & Repairs – All Phase Maintenance

House Painting – Coldfire Paint

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save Money at Home with These 10 DIY Home Hacks

Save Money with these 10 DIY Home HacksEveryone likes to save money, especially on expensive home-related projects. With these DIY home hacks, inspired by This Old House, you can save time, money and energy! Here are 10 of our favorite home hacks.

  1. Closing closet doors reduces the square footage your home must heat and cool. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $50 per year.
  2. Turn down the temperature on your hot water to 120 or 110 degrees. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $30 or more per year.
  3. Install a dimmer switch and use energy-efficient halogen bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. It will cost about $10 per switch and $5 per bulb. Approximate savings: about $20 per fixture over 3 years.
  4. Use a microwave to make meals instead of your stove. A microwave consumes about half the power of a stove. Cost: $0. Savings: $40 or more per year.
  5. Insulate hot-water lines using pre-formed foam tubes. Cost: $0.29 to $0.35 per foot of insulation. Approximate savings: $50 per year on your energy bill.
  6. Put your computer to sleep. When you aren’t using your computer, put it in sleep mode manually or adjust the setting on your computer to do it automatically after 10 minutes. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: up to $75 per year off your electric bill. (Bonus tip: laptops use less energy than a desktop PC.)
  7. Plant deciduous (leafy) trees on the south, west or east side of your home. When the tree matures, it will provide natural shade and cooling for your home. Cost: $25 to $70, depending on the species and age of the tree you purchase. Approximate savings: $120 per year on cooling costs once the tree reaches maturity.
  8. Install ceiling fans in living areas (e.g., bedroom, living room, family room, etc.) A ceiling fan can help keep your home cool in the summer, but running it at low speed and clockwise can also help keep your home warmer in the winter. Cost: $30 to $300 at Home Depot. Approximate savings: up to $100 a year.
  9. Buy home-related products in the office season to get the best prices: firewood in the spring, grill, lawn furniture and lawn equipment in the fall, etc. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.
  10. Perform annual maintenance on your furnace and air conditioning unit, including professional maintenance and DIY maintenance like replacing furnace filters on schedule. Routine upkeep can help you save energy and money. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.

Thanks to Josh Garskof of This Old House magazine for these great DIY home hacks. See the original article for more ideas to save time, money and energy at home.

5 Ways to Make Your Home Stand Out in the Spring Selling Season

tulips-141399_960_720Spring and summer tend to be the hottest times to buy and sell homes. Selling homes can be tricky when there are so many on the market. Here are 5 ways to make your home stand out in the spring selling season.

  1. Curb appeal, curb appeal, curb appeal. Buyers can decide what they think of a home in 60 seconds by just looking at the home’s exterior. Make sure you have your lawn trimmed, paint fixed, and the outside of your home is simple, neat and clean. Add a pop of color by planting spring blooms near the entrance. Tulips and daffodils are lovely this time of year!While landscaping is important, don’t overwhelm a potential buyer by making them think of all the work they’re going to have to do to maintain your lovely landscaping. For more tips on curb appeal, read our previous post.
  2. Spring cleaning. While we all want a clean, organized home, it’s particularly critical when you’re trying to sell a home. The messier a home is, the less you’re going to impress buyers. Rent a carpet cleaner for the weekend, wax your hardwood floors, clean your windows, and wipe down your walls with soap and water or a mild cleanser.
  3. Get a home inspection before the buyers do. Zillow notes how important it is to know about your home’s condition before you try to sell it. It’s easier to know about problems and address them beforehand, so you can adjust your home’s price accordingly, or ideally, fix them before you put your home on the market. You don’t want buyers to find something wrong with the house before the deal is sealed.
  4. Price it right. Land Title Guarantee Company tells us how important it is to look for pricing around your area, and see if you’re pricing accordingly. Find out what upgrades or features are being added to homes around you, and see if you want to upgrade something before you try to sell. An experienced Realtor® will help too by providing you with nearby “comps” to help you price your home right.
  5. Know the benefits of selling during the peak season. Realtor.com says that sellers will benefit the most from demand, and there are often more buyers between April and June than any other season. This will help benefit you, due to bidding wars, and potentially higher prices. You may also benefit from a quicker closing during the springtime.

Why FSBO Home Sales Fail Most of the Time

FSBOFor Sale by Owner home sales seem like a good idea to save home sellers a few bucks until you research the facts. According to Realtor.com, most people who sell their homes via the FSBO route, do so to avoid paying a Realtor® commission. Those sellers may not always get the best price for their homes if they forgo the assistance of an experienced Realtor®, a costly mistake.

Most sellers think that if they’re doing all the work by going the FSBO route, they’ll save money, but that’s actually incorrect. They could be missing out on a lot of money by trying to sell their homes on their own. Realtor.com also reports that in their 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, there was an average difference of $35,000 between the median FSBO sales price of $210,000 and $245,000 median sales price of all homes!

Realty Today notes that FSBO sellers have to screen candidates on their own, which can also be tricky. Because they don’t have access to all of a Realtor’s resources, FSBO homes may attract less serious buyers, and that may not end well if it’s too late. FSBO sellers also need to close home sales on their own, and that is a binding, legal contract. With a Realtor®, sellers are more likely to have fewer loopholes in the home’s closing, and a trained Realtor® will make sure the contract complies with all local regulations.

Upnest lists primary reasons of an FSBO sale failing as over or undervaluing the home, expecting the home to sell itself, and skimping on the details. Realtors® spend lots of time promoting their active home listings, where an FSBO seller may skip steps or not fully understand what needs to be done, causing costly errors or omissions.

Experienced Realtors® will treat a home seller ethically, and offer expert knowledge and full service with detailed explanations every step of the way. A Realtor can also help you prepare your home for sale, price it to sell and actively promote a home, quite possibly getting your home to sell faster than an FSBO seller. Still not convinced? Check out these additional resources:

Top 10 Reasons to Work with a Realtor

5 Reasons Not to Sell Your Own Home (FSBO)

We urge not to go it alone. In some rare instances, the sale may work to your advantage and all of the details might fall into place without a hitch, but are you willing to take that chance with the largest sell of your life? We hope not.

Thanks for reading,

Marti Reeder
John L. Scott, Kent-Covington

 

10 Easy Ways to Go Green at Home This Spring

Green BulbThinking of going green or stepping up your existing efforts this spring? We can help! We’ve got 10 easy ways for you to go green at home this spring:

  1. Cleaning: Make your own cleaning products at home from simple ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, lemon and soap. They’re a breeze to make and easy on the budget while improving your home’s air quality and protecting children and pets from harsh chemicals.
  2. Lighting: Switch to Energy Star-rated CFL bulbs which use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than standard bulbs. Yes, they are more expensive, but they will save electricity and lower your annual electric bill. Also, consider installing dimmer switches in living, dining and sleeping areas.
  3. Appliances and electronics: Save on electricity by unplugging appliances that aren’t currently in use (e.g., toaster oven, blender, etc.) or use a “smart” power strip that cuts power when energy isn’t actually being used.
  4. Heating and cooling: Use a programmable thermostat and change the settings seasonally to maximize your comfort while minimizing power usage. For example, lower your thermostat when you go to bed at night or when you’ll be gone during the workday.
  5. Water: Use a low-flow showerhead to save water and energy, or take shorter showers. Also, skip the bottled water which is expensive and produces a lot of waste.
  6. Commuting: You can reduce your gas usage by utilizing other options for your daily commute to and from work. Consider taking mass transit, carpooling with a co-worker, walking or biking if time and distance allow, or ask your boss if you can telecommute a few days a week. We know one couple where the wife takes the car Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and mass transit on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When she doesn’t have the car, hubby has it. Genius!
  7. Food: Reduce your meat intake by making meatless meals a few days a week, and consider buying fresh produce and dairy products from local farmers.
  8. Shopping: Remember to take your recyclable bags to the supermarket with you to cut back on plastic bag usage, and rather than buying books and movies, make use of your local library.
  9. Recycling: Consider composting food scraps rather than tossing them in the trash, and instead of putting unwanted electronics in the local landfill, recycle them after removing all personal information.
  10. Laundry: To reduce energy usage, wash loads in cold water whenever possible, and buy machine washable items rather than having items dry cleaned with harsh chemicals.

Thanks to American Home Warranty and Good Housekeeping for these great tips on adding more green to our daily routine!