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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20 Tips to Prepare Your House for Sale

Thinking about selling your home this summer? We’ve got 10 tips to help you improve your home’s curb appeal to draw in potential buyers, and 10 tips to make your house feel like home to lucky homebuyers. Have questions about selling? Let us know. Team Marti is here to help!

 

FTC: Protect Your Mortgage; Beware of Scammers

FTC: Beware of Mortgage ScammersDuring National Home Ownership Month (June), the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors issued a warning to homeowners, advising them to protect their mortgage closing from scammers. According to the FTC blog post, scammers sometimes use emails to steal closing costs and personal information from homebuyers.

Here’s an edited excerpt from the FTC:

Here’s how the scam works: Hackers break into the email accounts of homebuyers or real estate professionals to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. The hacker then sends an email to the homebuyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company. The bogus email says there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells the homebuyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it is the scammer’s account. If the homebuyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes.

If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information. Instead:

  • Contact the company through a number or email address you know is real. DON’T use phone numbers or links in the email.
  • Don’t open email attachments, even from someone you know, unless you’re expecting it. Opening attachments can put malware on your computer.

If you’ve already sent money to a scammer, act quickly.

  • If you wired money through your bank, ask them right away for a wire recall. If you used a money transfer company, like Western Union or MoneyGram, call their complaint lines immediately.
  • Report your experience to the FTC and to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Report as soon as you can and give as much information as you can. If your bank asks for a police report, give them a copy of your report to ic3.gov.

Learn more about protecting yourself from phishing and what to do if your email is hacked. If you gave your information to a scammer, visit IdentityTheft.gov.

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.

The 5 Greatest Benefits of Homeownership

5 Reasons to Own Your Own HomeRecently, Freddie Mac reported on the benefits of homeownership. According to their report, here are the five benefits that “should be at the top of everyone’s list.”

  1. Homeownership can help you build equity over time.
  2. Your monthly payments will remain stable. The landlord can’t raise your rent!
  3. You may have some tax benefits.
  4. You can take pride in ownership of your home.
  5. Homeownership improves your community.

Let’s expand on each of Freddie Mac’s points:

1.  Equity: Homeownership can help you build equity over time.

Every three years, the Federal Reserve conducts a Survey of Consumer Finances in which they collect data across all economic and social groups. The latest survey, which includes data from 2010-2013, reports that a homeowner’s net worth is 36 times greater than that of a renter ($194,500 vs. $5,400).

In a Forbes article, the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun reported that now the net worth gap is 45 times greater.

2.  Financial Stability: Your monthly payments will remain stable.

When you purchase a home with a fixed rate mortgage, the majority of the payment (principle and interest) remain constant. On the other hand, rents continue to skyrocket. Your housing expense is much more stable if you own instead of rent.

3.  Tax Savings: You may have some tax benefits.

According to the Tax Policy Center’s Briefing Book -“A citizen’s guide to the fascinating (though often complex) elements of the federal Tax System” – there are several tax advantages to homeownership.

Here are four items from the Briefing Book:

  • Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Property Tax Deduction
  • Imputed Rent
  • Profits from Home Sale

4.  Pride: You can take pride in ownership.

Most surveys show that a major factor in purchasing a home is the freedom you have to design the home the way you want. From paint colors to yard accessories, you don’t need a landlord’s permission to make the house feel like a home.

5.  Community: Homeownership improves your community.

The National Association of Realtors recently released a study titled ‘Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing.’ The study explained:

“Homeownership does create social capital and provide residents with a platform from which to connect and interact with neighbors…Owning a home means owning part of a neighborhood, and a homeowner’s feelings of commitment to the home can arouse feelings of commitment to the neighborhood, which, in turn, can produce interactions with neighbors.”

Bottom Line

There are many benefits to homeownership. That is why it is still a critical piece of the American Dream.

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.

Zillow Testimonial: “She’s a superstar!”

Thank you to “Twofish90” for this glowing five-star testimonial on Zillow. “Twofish90” sold a single-family home in Kent for approximately $350,000 in 2015.

Testimonial: Team Marti is amazing!We had signed on with another real estate company to sell our house in Kent, Washington. After a series of incidents with this realtor, we realized he was not competent to sell our home. We were at our ‘going away’ party telling some friends of our situation, and some friends told us of Marti Reeder, dialed her up, and handed us the phone. We told Marti our story of our current realtor.

We were able to get out of the contract and proceeded to list our home with Marti. She is so knowledgeable, professional, kind, prompt, honest and she gets the job done! Any time we had a question, either she or an assistant would get right back to us with an answer! We definitely recommend Marti and will gladly give her 5 stars in every category. She is a superstar!

Read this testimonial and others like it on Zillow.

Avoid These 8 Home Security Mistakes to Prevent Summer Burglaries

Avoid these 8 home security mistakes to prevent a summer burglary.According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice cited by Alarms.org, on average, burglary rates are the highest in the summer. Winter has the lowest burglary rate, with February having the lowest amount of burglaries.

Did you know that break-ins are 6% more likely to occur during the day between 6 AM and 6 PM while people are at work? According to the FBI, there were 1.9 million burglaries in the U.S. in 2013, or approximately one every 16 seconds. About a third of these occurred through an unlocked door or window, says Urban Survival.

There is good news though. There are easy ways for you to protect your home and your belongings by avoiding these home security mistakes.

  1. A full mailbox. This is a clue to a would-be burglar that no one is home. Make sure that your mail doesn’t accumulate when you go out of town, whether it is a day trip or a week’s vacation. Ask a neighbor to take in your mail, or have the U.S. Post Office hold your mail for up to 30 days.
  2. Hiding a spare key in an obvious place. Don’t hide a spare key where it is likely to be found, like in a flower pot by the door, under the welcome mat, or one of those fake rocks that we all know are for hiding keys. Better yet, instead of hiding one outside, give a spare key to a trusted neighbor in case you lock yourself out.
  3. Talking about your trips on social media. These days so many of us post photos and check-ins of our vacations and business trips on social media. This is an invitation to a burglar looking for an easy target. Wait until you get back to post the pix, and/or tighten your security settings on social media so only your friends can see your posts.
  4. Disabling your security alarm. Because more residential burglaries occur during the day, you should not disable the alarm when you’re home during the day. Leave it enabled to protect your home and your family from a daytime break-in.
  5. Leaving doors and windows unlocked. We get comfortable in our surroundings and assume that no one will try climbing in a window or letting themselves into your home through an unlocked door. Wrong. Upgrade to heavy-duty door and window locks, use dowel rods or similar devices to keep your windows from being able to easily slide open, or consider getting door and window alarms which go off when the door or window is opened.
  6. Leaving your garage door open and unlocked. Once upon a time, neighbors would leave their garage doors open, so they could easily go in and out of their homes on the weekends while their kids were playing outside or they were working in the yard. This creates an opportunity for a thief to get inside effortlessly. Err on the side of caution. Leave the door down and locked when not in use.
  7. Poor lighting. A poorly lit exterior can provide good cover for a burglar who wants to break into your home at night. Add exterior lighting or perhaps lights with a motion detector sensor.
  8. A ladder in the yard. Yes, taking your ladder in and out of the garage while you are working on an exterior project can be a pain, but leaving the ladder out is an easy way for a burglar to enter your home through the second story.

 

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.