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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Housing Activity: “not as bad as some think; not as good as some would like”

Not even the lowest interest rates in decades could entice wary house-hunters last month. Home sales around Western and Central Washington remained sluggish with pending sales lagging year-ago levels, but not all the numbers were down.

June’s pending sales (mutually accepted offers) outgained the total for May by 5.8 percent. Closed sales were up from both a year ago and the previous month. Brokers also applauded congressional approval of legislation to extend the tax credit deadline on contracts signed by the April 30 deadline. That measure, which President Obama signed on July 2, pushes the deadline to Sept. 30.

“In general consumers seem to be stuck in uncertainty surrounding the world’s economic concerns, our lack of jobs and the rollercoaster of the stock market. They seem to be hunkering down despite the lowest interest rates in years,” said NWMLS director Frank Wilson. On a more upbeat note, Wilson said the deadline extension for the tax credit is good news. “Congress has acknowledged the length of time it is taking banks to close a transaction by passing this extension,” he remarked. Without the extension, the National Association of Realtors estimates as many as 180,000 buyers wouldn’t have qualified for a tax credit of up to $8,000 because they couldn’t meet the June 30 deadline to close on their purchase.

The latest report from Northwest Multiple Listing Service shows mixed news across its 21-county market area, with arrows going in both directions.

“The current market is not as bad as some people think, and not as good as some people would like it to be,” observed NWMLS director Pat Grimm. He also said the combination of low interest rates and affordable prices are the best he’s seen in his 25 years of experience in real estate.

The MLS summary statistics for June show: Pending sales of single family homes and condominiums (combined) fell 28 percent from a year ago, but rose 5.8 percent from May. Year-to-date (through June), pending sales are up 12.4 percent compared to midyear 2009. Closed sales for June outgained the same month a year ago by 617 transactions (up 12 percent), and rose 8.9 percent from May’s total. The median price for last month’s completed transactions is down about 7 percent from twelve months ago. Four counties (Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Lewis and Pacific) reported price increases from a year ago, while eight other counties had declines of less than 5 percent.

NWMLS director Wilson surmised the drop in pending sales could be just a dip as kids get out of school “and we rush to embrace summer” or a “hangover from the tax credit,” but cautioned, “It’s too early to tell.”

“The economy is still recovering and that makes some consumers hesitant to buy,” Grimm stated, adding, “On the other hand, with prices down and mortgage rates at their lowest in 50 years, homes are more affordable now than they were before the tax credit went into effect.”

Grimm said the market has created its own incentive for buyers who missed out on the most recent tax credit. “Lower prices and lower interest rates more than offset the benefit of the tax credit. Homes are actually more affordable than they were three months ago, and that factors in the tax credit,” he emphasized. To illustrate his point, he said the purchaser of a $500,000 property this month with a $400,000 mortgage would save more than $250 per month as a result of the interest rate drop. “Do the math and you can see you are way ahead if you stay in the property for more than three years.”

House-hunters have plenty of choices. Brokers added 10,354 new listings to inventory last month, bringing the selection to 42,940 residences being offered for sale system-wide. That’s up about 4 percent from a year ago. Included in the current listings are 36,027 single family homes priced from $8,500 to $25 million, and 6,913 condominiums priced from $20,000 to $15.6 million.

Asked if now is the right time to buy, Grimm replied, “You can’t time the real estate market any more than you can time the stock market,” but added, “If you want to buy a home, and can afford it, I haven’t seen a better convergence of affordable prices and low interest rates in the 25 years I’ve been working in real estate.”
Last week’s benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.75 percent, according to the national survey of large lenders. That’s the lowest rate for the 30-year fixed in the nearly 25-year history of Bankrate's weekly survey. Freddie Mac reported an average of 4.58 percent, the lowest level in more than five decades.
Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, said economists at that California-based firm see a U-shaped recovery, similar to the 2000 recession, but with a longer, more pronounced bottom. Because of various factors at play, including the expiration of the tax incentives and various mortgage modification programs affecting distressed properties, he expects the real estate market to “sag through the summer and slower cooler months,” but believes it will eventually grow in line with economic and income growth “as we put the great recession further behind us.”
Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member brokers, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership includes more than 24,000 brokers and agents. The organization, based in Kirkland, currently serves 21 counties in Western and Central Washington.

Statistical Summary of Market Activity - June 2010
Single Fam. Homes + Condos in Thurston County
# Pending Sales = 303
# Closings = 296
Avg. Price = $252,888
Median Price = $235,000

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Renew Tabs Online & Save!

If customers who regularly use the Internet to renew their tabs sign up for email renewal, DOL would avoid printing 1 million notices over the next year. This would save 2,000 reams of paper and 2 million envelopes, as well as approximately $500,000 in printing and mailing costs.

To sign up for email renewal notices through the Department of Licensing (DOL) website at, when renewing tabs online, or at a neighborhood vehicle licensing office. Email renewal notices provide all of the information on a traditional paper renewal notice. They also have a direct link to DOL’s online vehicle tab renewal system.

Using the link to the online renewal system, you can have new tabs ordered and on their way within minutes of receiving the notice. As more and more people become accustomed to receiving bills and bank statements over the Internet, the agency is hoping people embrace email renewal notices.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tax Credits Expire in 4 Days!

If you are looking to purchase a home and take advantage of the Federal Home Buyer Tax Credit you only have a few days left. You must have a binding sales contract on or before April 30, 2010 to qualify.

Here are the rules for a First Time Buyer or Move Up Buyer.

$8,000 First-time Home Buyer Tax Credit at a Glance
~The $8,000 tax credit is for first-time home buyers only. For the tax credit program, the IRS defines a first-time home buyer as someone who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase.
~The tax credit does not have to be repaid unless the home is sold or ceases to be used as the buyer's principal residence within three years after the initial purchase.
~The tax credit is equal to 10 percent of the home's purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000.
~The tax credit applies only to homes priced at $800,000 or less.
~The tax credit now applies to sales occurring on or after January 1, 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010. However, in cases where a binding sales contract is signed by April 30, 2010, a home purchase completed by June 30, 2010 will qualify.
~For homes purchased on or after January 1, 2009 and on or before November 6, 2009, the income limits are $75,000 for single taxpayers and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly.
~For homes purchased after November 6, 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010, single taxpayers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000 qualify for the full tax credit.

The $6,500 Move-Up / Repeat Home Buyer Tax Credit at a Glance
~To be eligible to claim the tax credit, buyers must have owned and lived in their previous home for five consecutive years out of the last eight years.
~The tax credit does not have to be repaid unless the home is sold or ceases to be used as the buyer's principal residence within three years after the initial purchase.
~The tax credit is equal to 10 percent of the home's purchase price up to a maximum of $6,500.
~The tax credit applies only to homes priced at $800,000 or less.
~The credit is available for homes purchased after November 6, 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010. However, in cases where a binding sales contract is signed by April 30, 2010, the home purchase qualifies provided it is completed by June 30, 2010.
~Single taxpayers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000 qualify for the full tax credit.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010: 10 Things You Can Do To Celebrate Mother Earth

Today, the Earth celebrates its big day. And on this, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we are reminded of how far we've come - and how far we have to go.

What can you do for Earth Day? Anything that is meaningful to you and planet Earth.

You can start with simple changes in the home, in the garden and on the road. Take a look at these money savers for greening your home.

1. Fix faucet leaks — A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons a year.

2. Seal drafty windows and doors — A home can lose about 50 percent of its heat or cool air through drafty windows and doors.

3. Avoid running water — Turn water off while you brush your teeth.

4. Say no to plastic — According to data released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2001, about 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide annually, and it can take months to hundreds of years for these bags to break down. Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store.

5. Use energy-efficient appliances — The average household can save up to $400 annually by using energy-efficient appliances.

6. Replace light bulbs — One fluorescent bulb can save approximately $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in six months.

7. Start a compost pile — According to the EPA, 23 percent of U.S. waste materials sent to landfills, such as yard trimmings and leftover food, could be used as compost.

8. Slow it down — Sticking to the speed limit and keeping tires property inflated can help increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

9. Raise the thermostat — Households will save up to 3 percent per month in energy costs by raising the air conditioner thermostat for every degree above 72 degrees.

10. Think before wrapping — Be creative and use newspaper, take-out menus, old calendars and wallpaper to wrap gifts.

11. Make energy-efficient home improvements — The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 extends, expands and simplifies the federal income tax credits for homeowners who make energy efficiency home improvements. The law extends the consumer tax benefits through this year.

Happy Birthday Mother Earth!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kick-Off Blood Drive A Huge Success

This year more than 200,000 people in western Washington will donate blood at Puget Sound Blood Centers. Because of their generosity, PSBC is able to serve 70 hospitals and 21 clinics in western Washington. Every day, PSBC delivers more than 1000 units of lifesaving blood.

Earlier this year, I proposed to my local Realtor office, Thurston County REALTORS Association (TCRA), that we re-establish our affiliation with the Puget Sound Blood Center. My proposal explained that each month, a Broker Member Office would hold a mobile blood drive at their location.

With 100% support by the Board of Directors, I scheduled the first mobile blood drive to be held at my office, RE/MAX Parkside Affiliates and over a month's time, I secured the 20+ donors needed.

Today was our first mobile blood drive and it was a bloody success! We had 25 blood donors and 15 of them were first time donors! I am extremely grateful to those who took the 45 minutes out of their day to participate in this event.

Every day something remarkable happens. And every day Puget Sound Blood Center makes it possible.

Monday, April 19, 2010

2010 Procession of the Species

People celebrating community through nature... Olympia's 16th Procession of the Species will be on April 24th 2010 at 4:30pm!

Their mission: To empower communities to engage in cultural relationships with the natural world as a means of sustaining efforts of environmental protection and restoration.

We enjoy this event with our entire family each year. Don't miss it!

Friday, April 16, 2010

South Sound Green Tour

We are excited to announce a groundbreaking event for the whole community, a 1st for our local NW EcoBuildng Guild!

South Sound Green Tour
1st Annual Event
April 17 & 18, 2010
Olympia & Tumwater, WA
Inspiration – Education – Solutions


Thursday, April 15, 2010

This Saturday: A Busy One for Olympians

Are you looking for something to do this weekend? I have 3 great ideas:

1. TREES: The City of Lacey will hold its annual tree seedling giveaway from noon to 3 p.m., or until supplies run out, Saturday at Huntamer Park.

Species available this year include red leaf Japanese maple, golden raintree, Yoshino cherry, ginkgo biloba, and Colorado blue spruce. There is a limit of one seedling per person.

The city had recently been designated a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation for the 19th consecutive year. Lacey was one of the first cities in Washington receive this designation. The city has given out 22,000 free tree seedlings since the giveaway began in the early 1990s.

For more information, call Kathy Owens, recreation supervisor, at 360-491-0857.

2. FISH: Youth ages of 5-14 will have an opportunity to fish for free at Long's Pond on Saturday in Lacey.

The annual event is put on by the Lacey Parks and Recreation Department, The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and community volunteers. Jenny Wilson, a recreation supervisor for Lacey, said they expect around 600 participants.

The event starts at 8 a.m. at Long’s Pond in Woodland Creek Community Park, and participants need to pre-register with the Parks and Rec Department. For information call 360-491-0857.

Fishing poles are available for $5.

3. DOWNTOWN: The popular spring ArtsWalk celebration and accompanying Procession of the Species are rapidly approaching. That can mean only one thing: It's time to clean up downtown Olympia and get ready for the festivities.

Every spring and fall, volunteer crews assemble in the heart of the city to pick up trash, sweep the sidewalks, weed, trim, rake, paint over graffiti and, in general, give the downtown business district a good cleaning. Last year more than 300 volunteers, including a sizeable contingent from Joint Base Lewis McChord, helped with the project. This year fewer than 100 people are signed up, so it’s time to add to the volunteer list.

Operation Downtown Clean Up is set for 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday. Volunteers are needed for all or part of the day, and each volunteer will receive a free barbecue lunch. The deployment center is the alley entrance to the old Olympia Press Building on Capitol Way between Fourth Avenue and State Avenue.

To volunteer, call Vida Farler at the Olympia Downtown Association office at 360-357-8948 or e-mail

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Real Estate: The Investment of Choice

As the federal tax credits for home buying near the April 30 expiration, consumers are taking notice. The National Association of Realtors reported that its pending home sales index climbed 8.2% to 97.6 in February. The surge is similar to the one seen in October prior to the November 30 end date for the original homebuyer’s tax credit.

Will there be a third surge somewhere down the line? That's difficult to say, but the lobbying is on. NAR lead economist Lawrence Yun commented last week that another surge is needed to stabilize prices and reduce inventory, suggesting that extending the credits again wouldn't be the worst thing the federal government could do for housing.

Some remain unconvinced. Some think the credits have run their course, so any extension would have a marginal benefit at best. That's okay, though, because the market is close to taking over. According to a recent Fannie Mae survey, two out of three Americans think it's a good time to buy a home – a percentage that matches responses in a similar survey in 2003 – while 31% believe it's a very good time to buy. Seventy percent of the respondents said that buying a home continues to be one of the safest investments. To put that in context, 74% ranked a bank account as a safe investment while only 17% viewed the stock market as safe. Real estate remains the investment of choice.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sign the petition | Jamie's Food Revolution USA

STOP Increase on Real Estate Taxes

Please take a moment to contact Governor Gregoire as soon as possible today and stress the importance of not increasing taxes on Real Estate.

There are 3 ways to get a message to the Governor's office.

1: Go to and send a message.

2: Call the Communications Hotline at (360) 902-4136

3: Send a fax at (360) 753-4110

Please include the following points in your message:

- The new proposal to increase the Business and Occupation Tax (B&O) rate on real estate is unfair to our industry, which is suffering through 30% job losses and 50% income reductions in many parts of the state.

- It is critical to realize that the proposed expansion of the B&O small business tax credit provides no relief for individual real estate agents. Many real estate agents are below the tax credit cap, but do not qualify based on how B&O tax is calculated and paid by the real estate industry.

- The real estate industry is critical to economic recovery and job growth in our state. We are doing everything we can to stay in business and need your support.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Which comes first? The Realtor or the house?

Many times when talking to people about buying a home this question inevitably comes up. Why do I need a real estate agent if I don't have a house picked out? Or why can't I just use the one with the sign in the yard?

Most people tend to rank real estate agents right up there with lawyers and dentists. OK, maybe not that bad. Perhaps buyers feel they will be pushed into something by the realtor. Maybe they think there is a special incentive that the realtor gets by steering a buyer to certain properties. Most of the fears that buyers have about Realtors are just plan false. It could also be due to a lack of basic knowledge on how the process works.

When a property is listed for sale, most of the time the commission that the seller is willing to pay is set. The commission to sell the home is usually around 6% of the sales price. So if you are a buyer and walk into a house for sale without your own realtor, the realtor that put the sign in the yard is going to make the entire 6% commission of the sales price if you chose to buy it through them. Does he have an incentive to get you to pay the highest price possible? Sure, he works for the seller. The more you pay, the happier his client is.

If however, you hire your own real estate agent to help negotiate the transaction, then the 6% commission is generally split between the two real estate agents so each realtor makes 3%. The seller is still paying the same amount regardless of how many Realtors are involved. The big difference here is that your real estate agent's job is to represent your interest only. They want to get the deal done for you! If you are a happy client, you are likely to refer business to them for doing a good job.

Some people might feel that the real estate agent is pushing them to pay a higher price because then they get a higher commission. Rarely would this ever be the case. Let's say the difference in what you want to pay and what you agent is recommending is as much as $10,000. The commission on that increase is only $300. Many agents split that with their real estate broker so they get about $150. Would it be worth $150 in extra income to possibly lose a sale? Remember that the difference was $10,000. Most price differences are usually just a couple of thousand dollars apart.

If you want a real estate agent to work hard for you in finding the perfect home at the right price - you need to be loyal to them. No real estate agent wants to spend hours researching information for a buyer, only to have them go use another real estate agent. One way to show that you are serious about working with an agent is to sign a "Buyers Brokerage Agreement." This document basically states that you will work only with them in finding a house, and if you go off and use another agent without first getting out of the contract, then you owe the agent a commission. You will find that by using this contract you get more time and effort on your agent's part.

However, before you ever sign one of these contracts you want to make sure that this is the real estate agent and brokerage company that you want to work with. You should interview the agent. Ask questions about their typical deals, typical clients, experience, communication style, and anything else you feel is relevant. Remember you are hiring them to work for you.

Some questions that may be helpful to you are:

1. How long have you been an agent?
2. How many transactions did you close last year?
3. What was the average price of the homes that you were in involved in the sales process?
4. How many clients are you currently working with?
5. Can you provide me with references?
6. How will you update me on new properties?
7. Can I review documents that I will need to sign ahead of time?
8. Why should I hire you to help me find a home?
9. If I agree to sign a Buyers Brokerage Agreement and we find that we cannot work together, how is this handled?
10. What advanced designations do you currently hold?
11. What is the length of the agreement?
12. Do you have an objective policy for handling conflicts of interest?

Once you think that this is the right real estate agent to represent you, then you should definitely consider signing the Buyers Brokerage Agreement.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Awesome Mom

My friend emailed me this today and having read it many times before, I can't help but share. It couldn't be more true!

Before I was a Mom,
I never tripped over toys
or forgot words to a lullaby.
I didn't worry whether or not
my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom,
I had never been puked on.
Pooped on.
Chewed on.
Peed on.
I had complete control of my mind
and my thoughts.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom,
I never held down a screaming child
so doctors could do tests.
Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night
watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom,
I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn't want to put her down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn't stop the
I never knew that something so small
could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom,
I didn't know the feeling of
having my heart outside my body..
I didn't know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.
I didn't know that bond
between a mother and her child.
I didn't know that something so small
could make me feel so important and happy.

Before I was a Mom,
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make
sure all was okay.
I had never known the warmth,
the joy,
the love,
the heartache,
the wonderment
or the satisfaction of being a Mom.
I didn't know I was capable of feeling so much, before I was a Mom

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


With the powerful presence of more than 600 REALTORS® on our Hill Day in January, the message we carried to legislators in Olympia was heard-real estate is critical to the overall economic recovery. During a session where it seemed taxes were inevitable, where decisions were difficult and state funds were waning, no increase in the real estate excise tax or B&O tax passed, nor was there a sales tax on services imposed on real estate. The special session is not over but it seems that lawmakers agree that it we must protect the industry that will lead us to recovery.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mark Your Calendar: June 11, 2010

A new cell phone law (SB 6345) goes into effect June 11 where police can pull someone over for texting or talking without a headset and give them a $124 ticket.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rates Rising?

On Friday, the Obama administration announced a plan requiring lenders to temporarily slash or eliminate monthly mortgage payments for unemployed borrowers. The administration said costs would be shared between the private sector and the federal government. The intentions might be good, but if the plan is implemented, costs to lenders are likely to increase. Increased costs are invariably passed on to borrowers through higher rates or more stringent underwriting guidelines.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

3 Reasons To Buy NOW, Not Later

Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions an individual can make. So it’s understandable that one considering a home purchase may take their time to avoid rushing into such a large financial commitment. However, several factors might leave prospective home buyers who don’t purchase a property now wishing they had taken action sooner.

Current market conditions have created a perfect storm of sorts that has made it an ideal time to purchase for first-time and trade-up buyers alike. Those who have the means and the desire to buy now but don’t, aren’t likely to see such a great opportunity again anytime soon.

Specifically, here are three reasons why those who aren’t under contract to purchase a new home by April 30, 2010 might regret it.

1. They won’t receive a sizeable amount of money from Uncle Sam.

For the past two years, the federal government has offered a home buyer tax credit to help stimulate the economy. But that financial incentive is set to expire soon. First-time buyers who aren’t under contract to purchase a home by April 30, 2010 will leave the $8,000 that is available to them through the tax credit on the table. Meanwhile, repeat buyers will miss out on the opportunity to collect up to $6,500 from the government.

2. They might not lock-in on the historically-low interest rates.

Thanks to measures taken by the Federal Reserve including the purchasing of mortgage-backed securities, interest rates have remained historically-low for several years. With the economy beginning to show signs of recovery, it is widely believed that the government will soon put an end to these stimulus efforts.

If that happens, many economists believe we will begin to see a sharp increase in interest rates which could result in a much higher monthly payment for those who wait. For example, an interest rate increase of 1% on a 30-year fixed mortgage of $300,000 could cost a buyer $188 more a month or $67,000 more over the span of the entire loan.

3. They might miss out on record home price affordability.

Home price affordability is at its most optimal level in decades. As a result, those who wait to buy will likely pay more for the home they purchase than what that same home would cost right now. In fact, home prices have already begun to rise slightly in some markets. Instead of getting a better bargain, waiting to buy a home might net buyers a higher purchase price, less appreciation and less house for their buck.

If you are prone to saying ‘what if’ and wondering what could have been, you will thank yourself down the road for buying now.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Existing-Home Sales Down in January 2010 but Higher Than Year Ago | RISMedia

Existing-Home Sales Down in January 2010 but Higher Than Year Ago RISMedia: "Existing-home sales in the West declined 5.2% to an annual rate of 1.28 million in January but are 7.6% higher than January 2009. The median price in the West was $203,400, down 5.8% from a year ago."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Curb Appeal: Getting the Best Return

Improvements can be crucial when preparing to list your home for sale but it's the improvements that create the best curb appeal that will get the buyers in the door. One of the best bang's for your buck: Turning your drab yard into a magnificent lawn.

PAYBACK: Varies; a recent study shows that good landscaping adds 5% to 11% to a home's value

COST: Varies widely

WHEN IT MAKES SENSE: Your home isn't as landscaped as others in your neighborhood, or your yard looks unkempt or just uninteresting.

BEST WAY TO DO IT: Hire a landscaper that has an eye for design or landscape architects on staff ($$). For a small fee (less than you probably think), many will walk your property and recommend plantings and placement. (If you want a drawn plan, you'll pay $$.) Prefer to go it alone? At the garden center of your local home improvement store, resist the temptation to buy a little of everything. Be sure to know what your plan is and sketch your layout before entering the store.

CAVEAT: Don't tear all your existing plantings out. Keeping some mature ones will make your yard look more established.

COST-SAVING MOVE: Rather than buying new items, just prune the plants you have now and get rid of the dead stuff. Talk with friends, family, neighbors, and me as you never know who might be throwing out the Hosta or Day Lily's that they hate but would be a great addition to your landscaping.

I speak from experience: We hired a landscaper to drawn a design, recommend plantings and placement and on occasion, stop by to check on our progress. The best money spent!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

National Stats Account for Distressed Properties

"Activity should be picking up strongly in late spring as buyers take advantage of the tax credit, which is critical to absorb distressed properties reaching the market and to continually chip away at inventory,” Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist said. “With a downtrend in the number of homes on the market, especially in the lower price ranges, values are beginning to firm but with great variance around the country.”
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $164,700 in January, unchanged from a year earlier. Distressed homes, which accounted for 38% of sales last month, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they typically are discounted in comparison with traditional homes in the same area.

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 40% of homes in January, down from 43% in December. Investors accounted for 17% of transactions in January, up from 15% in December; the remaining sales were to repeat buyers. The survey also shows that buyer traffic increased 9.4% in January."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm Dreaming Of A New Lawn Mower

Mowing the lawn is tops on my list. It's the best chore as so much instant gratification can be derived from the event: the look of the newly mowed lawn, the smell of the freshly cut grass, the brief exercise I get while being outside in mediocre to good weather.

As fall arrived last year, our 6 year old lawn mower died. I admit it was probably time and was certain that deep down, my husband was secretly jubilant as he was more than ready to trade in the old push mower for a fancy riding model.

According to the E.P.A, almost 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. I won't have this problem until we purchase a new mower but a few easy ways to reduce spillage: don't top of tanks and use a no-spill gas can.

I'm open to suggestions if you have a fantastic mower that you think I'd enjoy. As the lawn mowing operator in this household so my vote is to continue pushing.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

P.I.T.I. - Real Estate Terminology

As REALTORS, we often use terminology that sometimes difficult for our clients to decipher. A common term during the financing contingency is "PITI": the sum of monthly principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.

Take the monthly loan amount (principal and interest) plus the monthly property tax payment, homeowners insurance premium, and, when applicable, mortgage insurance premium and homeowners association fee. Commonly included in your mortgage is the property tax payment and homeowners insurance premium, known as "escrow", PITI therefore is the monthly "bottom line" of what the homeowner calls their "mortgage payment".

Monday, February 15, 2010

Richard the Raccoon

The weather today was beautiful! February usually brings snow (as does March in the beautiful Pacific Northwest) but today truly felt like spring with the bulbs making their appearance, the buds cresting on shrubs and the temperature is nearing 60 degrees.

At 1:30 this afternoon, while nearing the end of a home inspection in the city limits of Olympia, my buyer shrieked with excitement 'there's a raccoon walking up the driveway'. What? Is she crazy? It's a beautiful sunny afternoon - no way is a raccoon walking up the driveway. As I launched out the front door in search of this so-called raccoon, I peered past the garbage bin and up the block wall, there it was: the fattest raccoon I've ever seen. It scampered along the wall and into the neighbors huge rhodendron bush, a clean arm's length from the bird feeder.
Now I am an animal lover, a huge animal lover. I love the birds, the deer, all critters. But, when it comes to my home, I prefer to keep the wild sort at bay. So, I sadly report to my fellow animal loving friends, you must be proactive in keeping wild animals and critters away from your structure to prevent any damage.

Those beautiful bird feeders go something like this: The bird eats the feed but some falls on the ground - what do you think happens to those extra pieces? The mice quickly come in, grab the food and head for shelter in your crawlspace. Partner that with any body of water, be it a bird bath, koi pond, water feature or dog dish, just a few sips of water for the mouse, his bits of bird feed and the warm covered shelter of your crawl space, before long the family of mice is movin' in!

So back to the raccoon (who my 5 year old son has named Richard after I reccanted the story), he was just on his way to that bird feeder next door. Why should he be living in the woods when he can get his lunch in the neighbors yard? And seriously, during broad daylight, Richard the raccoon has confidence and something tells me this isn't his first time eating at the neighbor's place.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Home is Where One Starts From" ~ T.S. Elliot

As with any profession, some aspects of my career are better than others. I especially enjoy helping first-time home buyers, the excitement of purchasing that first home is such a surreal experience. Listing a home and netting a seller more money than they ever imagined, also terrific. Working with clients whom have children, and knowing these children will associate their home with a lifetime of memories - that's pretty special.

As the Co-Chair of the Thurston County Realtors Association 3rd Grade Poster Contest, I enjoy reading the essays prepared by the youth of the Olympia area. We provide the materials to the schools, set a lengthy deadline (as we recognize how busy teacher's are) and the 3rd grade students complete a drawing of their home partnered with an essay they must finish "What My Home Means To Me".

The 2010 entries are in and they are absolutely exceptional! The boys and girls have creatively colored or painted beautiful images but it's the essays that are extraordinary. As I read each essay, I am overcome by the meaning of "Home" to each child.

Until Tuesday, February 16, the entries are on display at the Westfield Shopping Mall. Stop in, read a few, a vote for your favorite. Official judging will be in March followed by the awards.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I've Never Seen Smoke That Color

Just a short mile from my home lies the beautiful neighborhood of Countrywood. This afternoon, a home built in 2003 was the site of a raging inferno. My heart is heavy tonight thinking of the family that's been displaced due to this horrific nightmare.

I haven't a clue what the cause of the fire but according to the National Fire Protection Association, a residential fire occurred every 76 seconds in the U.S. during 2007. Prevent a common mishap from turning into a major disaster by following these basic steps:

Detect smoke and carbon monoxide by keeping an alarm in every room.

Maintain alarms by changing the batteries every six months and testing them weekly.

Replace smoke alarms every 10 years and carbon monoxide alarms every five years.

Keep fire extinguishers in trouble areas, such as the kitchen and garage.

Plan escape routes out of the house and practice using them with the whole family.

It's easy to think "oh, that'll never happen to me" but unfortunately, it can happen to anyone.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You Can't Time The Market

The age old question - when should I put my house on the market? Unfortunately, as REALTORS, we just can't time the market. While the winter months host the holidays, it might be cold outside and your yard isn't beautiful, you can rest assured that the buyers that are looking are serious, otherwise why would they be looking? Plus, you have less competition as many sellers wait until Spring to list.

With inventory of available homes down, interest rates are historically low, two federal tax credits are available - we see this as a great time to actively market your property for sale with a REALTOR. Foreclosures are increasing which means more competition in the near future so take advantage of today's market.

Don't wait for rates to increase. Don't wait for the tax credits to expire. Don't wait for the unknown. If you wait, you'll miss the boat.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

What makes a home a home?

After visiting our good friends home this morning, I quickly offered to my husband as we drove away "I love their home - it's such a home". You see, I truly believe there is a huge difference between a house and a home. I sell houses, not homes. A house is a structure but a home is the place that you make your own.

Their house is older, it's a true 'ranch style'. It's spacious, 2000 square feet approximately with perfect sized rooms, a gorgeous view of their pasture and set privately at the end of a road. Built in the late 60's, they paid more for the land than they did to build the house and over the years, they've raised their children in this home, added on to the home and remodeled the home.

Maybe I like their home because of them, because I like them so much? Maybe I like it because they are so inviting, opening their home to my growing family each time we stop by. I obviously don't know exactly what the answer is but one thing I do know - I'd love to have a home like theirs one day.