All posts by Jamie Flaxman

Appraisals Explained

Appraisals are one of the most confusing aspects of buying or selling real estate. When a buyer and seller agree on a sales price, it can be frustrating to hear that the appraisal came in with a value too low. It’s not enough for the buyer and seller to agree to the price, the appraisal is the lender’s way to ensure they are not loaning money over the actual market value of the property.

The appraised value is reached by a licensed professional who looks at the real estate market in which the target property is located. They start with the target property and then look for recent sales in the area of comparable properties. These comparable properties will be located within a short distance of the target home. They should also be of comparable size and often fall within the same housing development.

Once these homes are identified, the appraiser will adjust for the specific differences. For instance, does the target home have an upgraded kitchen or swimming pool? They add or subtract value based on such things as location, view, lot size, upgrades, additions, condition, and many other factors. They can then arrive at a valuation for the target home.

Once the appraisal has been completed, the lender is notified of the value. At this point, the loan amount is either confirmed or declined. If the appraisal comes in too low, the buyer and seller can choose to make up the difference in the sales price, lower the sales price, or cancel the transaction.

An experienced real estate broker will help you manage the appraisal process. By learning about recent sales in your area ahead of time, you can price your home appropriately up front; then the appraisal should come back as expected.

Seattle Q2 Market Update

Several things stand out when looking at market statistics for the 2nd quarter of 2019.

  • There are a lot more condos and single family homes for sale.
  • For both condos and single family homes, prices are still down from the peak of 2018.
  • Days on Market is down for condos and relatively stable for single family homes.

It is important to note that we hit the peak of the market in May/June 2018. We have had a market adjustment since then, primarily driven by increased inventory. However, for single family homes, we have around 2 months of inventory, meaning we are still in a market that favors the seller.

This increased inventory is great news for buyers who have more choice in finding a home. We have seen some return to multiple offers but not at the pace we saw over the past few years.

With condos, in June we had just over 3 months inventory. The condo market is being driven by more condo projects under construction and being announced, meaning that the inventory level for condos should continue to rise. The increase in the number of available condos is great for buyers and home affordability—condos usually allow for buyers to get into the market at a lower price than for single family homes. In fact, my first purchase of a residential property to live in was a condo as that was what I could afford back in 1995.

The best news for both buyers and sellers is that we’re at a 12 month low for interest rates which are under 4%.

For more information on buying or selling, please reach out to me at Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com or (206) 790-0081.

Farmers Markets

One of the things I love to do in the summer is to visit different farmers markets. From artisans hawking fresh eggs to those selling jewelry and dog sweaters, every farmers market offers a unique flair for the community it’s in.

This past Saturday I visited the Edmonds Farmers Market, one of my favorites, and learned that there are more types of cherries than just Bing and Rainier. Today I tried 2 types of cherries I’ve never seen before – a Stella and a Strawberry. I believe the vendor said the Stella is only grown on their farm.

You can go to this website to find all the local farmers markets and here are some of my favorites in King and Snohomish Counties:

  • Ballard Farmers Market – Sundays
  • Edmonds Farmers Market – Saturdays
  • Queen Anne Farmers Market – Thursdays
  • Phinney Farmers Market – Fridays
  • Columbia City Farmers Market – Wednesdays
  • Magnolia Farmers Market – Saturdays
  • University District Farmers Market – Saturdays
  • Wallingford Farmers Market – Wednesdays
  • Everett Farmers Market – Sundays

Have a great summer and get out to your local farmers market.

Why You Should Buy a House (or Condo) NOW!

I’m not a fan of Fox News, but this story sums up why you should buy NOW!

Mortgage rates have steadily declined with the 30-year fixed-rate bottoming out to 3.82 percent, its lowest level since September 2017, according to the latest figures from Freddie Mac.

Interest rates are about a one percentage point less than it was this time last year … that’s a 10 percent savings on a 30-year mortgage a month.

Lower interest rates, coupled with more inventory in the market, makes the time to buy NOW.

If you’re considering buying a property, let’s talk; give me a call at 206-790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

Market Update

The May housing market was hot. Not as hot as a year ago, but still at it’s strongest for 2019. In fact, in King County 70% of single-family homes sold in 15 days or less and 55% of single-family homes sold at or above list price.

With interest rates at the lowest they’ve been in over a year, at just under 4%, buyers are seeing that this is a great time to be in the market. One lender told me recently that she locked a client into a 30-year fixed loan at 3.75%.

You might have seen a news story recently that Tacoma is the hottest housing market in the Country. It’s not surprising that buyers are going further to find affordable properties – an analysis of NWMLS inventory at the end of May shows only 13.8% of the listings of single-family homes in King County had asking prices under $600,000. That compares to 25.6% in Snohomish County, 31.2% in Pierce County and 35.3% in Kitsap County.

King County prices for single-family homes show a 3.6% decline from a year ago, but are at the highest level ($699,998) since June 2018 when the median price was $715,000. Snohomish nearly matched last year, the highest for the year as well. 

For more information on the market or your particular city or neighborhood, please reach out to me at (206) 790-0081 or Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

Class: Tips to Sell Your Home

If you’re thinking of selling your home, I’ve got a class for you. I’ll be offering it twice in June.

Class description: Are you considering selling your home? If yes, this class will help you understand the current real estate market as well as learning what type of preparation is necessary and tips on downsizing. Jamie Flaxman is a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Bain and is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist.

Friday, June 7 at the Greenwood Senior Center, from 1:00-2:00. Call the Senior Center at (206) 297-0875 to reserve a spot, or contact me at (206) 790-0081 or jamie@jamieflaxman.com for more information.

Tuesday, June 18 at Aegis at Callahan House in Shoreline, from 12:00-1:00, lunch included. Contact Jason Baker at (206) 452-0285 to reserve a spot or contact me at (206) 790-0081 or jamie@jamieflaxman.com for more information.

Do you have a group where you’d like this class presented? Let me know. Or if you’re unable to attend either of these dates but would like to learn more about the selling process, give me a call/email to discuss your needs.

The Impact of Bedrooms on Price

In my experience I have found that most buyers are looking for a 3 or 4 bedroom home. They usually want 4 and often end up with 3. At the same time in working with sellers, I have found that a large proportion of the homes I list are 3 bedrooms. Does the number of bedrooms make a difference in the price you pay or receive?

YES!

I looked at sales of single family homes throughout the city of Seattle for the past 30 days and here’s what I found.

The 333 three-bedroom homes sold on average for $793,070 while the 192 four-bedroom homes sold for just over $1.1 million. I have to tell you while I expected there to be a difference, I did not expect to see a $300,000 difference.

For sellers, having or adding a 4th bedroom makes a huge difference. I listed a Phinney Ridge home last summer that was a 3 bedroom home. However, it had a fully finished room in the basement with large windows and heat. What it didn’t have was a closet. My clients spent a little money to create a closet, and now we had a 4 bedroom home. The room was staged as a guest room and looked great. (In most jurisdictions, the criteria to call a room a bedroom are: large window or exterior door for egress, a heat source, and a closet.)

If you’ve got a finished room that meets not all of the criteria for a bedroom, it might be worth a little money to make it a legal bedroom. Closets and heat are usually pretty easy to address. However, egress is not, so if there’s not a large window or the window is too high, this might not work for you.

For more information or to discuss the real estate market, give me a call at 206-790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

Downsizing Doesn’t Have to Be Daunting

This article comes from the materials I hand out and discuss at my “Tips for Selling Your Home Class.” If you’d like to learn more or attend a class, the next class is Friday, June 7th at the Greenwood Senior Center. Contact me for more information or to attend.

Need help with organizing and decluttering? A recommendation for a painter or a roofer? Most real estate brokers have a list of vendors who can help you with these activities. Additionally, some brokers, like myself, have taken classes in staging, and have materials that can help such as lists of places to donate or sell items. Just tell your broker what you need.​

Thinking of moving to a smaller space or even a tiny home? While it is true that by liberating ourselves of extra space can open the door to lower costs (mortgage, utilities, property taxes, and repairs), for many the thought of having to downsize their belongings in order to fit in more closed-quarters is prohibitive. If you have been thinking about downsizing, here are some ways you can get the ball rolling without it seeming overwhelming:​

Lifestyle Analysis – First review how your life is going to change after you downsize. If you are retiring, there may be many work-related items that no longer need to clutter your closet! Suits, jackets, shoes, purses, etc., that served you in a professional capacity may be the first to go into the donate or sell piles. If you are moving to a warmer climate, perhaps you should rethink your winter wardrobe. Moving to a condo and don’t plan on utilizing your green thumb? Consider your garden and lawn tools and supplies. Entire categories of things can be the first to go. ​

Space Analysis – Think about the space and functionality of the rooms you are moving to. If you don’t have a guestroom at your new place, then perhaps you don’t shouldn’t bring that entire room of items. If you are downsizing your kitchen to half of what you have now, then half of what you currently have will need to find another home. Think about your largest furniture pieces as well. Do you have room for a pool table? Also consider scale of furniture – sectionals and large dining room tables may be just too large proportionally for the rooms you will have. ​

Functionality Analysis – How many pans do you really cook with on a regular basis? How many mixing bowls do you really need at once? How many pairs of socks? So often we keep something around because we perceive that we need it, but you likely only use a few items in your home on a regular basis. When was the last time you made pasta from scratch or used all your towels? Downsizing means choosing, so choose wisely!​

Memorabilia Analysis – This is a tough one because it means choosing among things that are cherished. Yearbooks, photos, letters, keepsakes, children’s artwork, etc., all fall into this category. As we get older, this problem becomes more pronounced as we inherit and become stewards of other people’s items. One idea is to digitize items – as files on a computer you still have the items but they take up less physical space. ​

This category of items is just too painful for some people to have to go through and make choices for fear of making a mistake. If this sounds like you, then perhaps your best bet is to get a storage unit and put those items in there. I do recommend that you let someone else know about the unit in the event something happens to you so that these items stay in the family.  ​

Real Estate is a Long-Term Investment

Seattle 10 Year Appreciation

Home prices in the Puget Sound region have decreased over the past year. But I don’t see this as a cause for concern. There are more buyers in the market, interest rates are coming down, and we are seeing multiple offers again. I do expect that prices will rise this year, but not at the pace we’ve seen previously. Real estate is a long-term investment, so even if they’re down over the past year, in Seattle they are up 92% over the past 10 years.