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It’s the First Day of School

For those of us who live in Seattle, it’s the first day of school today. My son is now a high school sophomore, but as in years past, I reminisce today about that first day of kindergarten. We had bought our house six months earlier, so that we would be in the area of one of the best schools in the city. The school bus would pick Sam up just a couple blocks from our house – I remember meeting the bus “pros” at the bus stop, parents who had been doing this year after year. I remember the excitement I felt picking him up at school that first day, waiting to hear about all the wonderful things he learned at school and about all his new friends.

Jump forward to 10th grade. Sam drove to school today for the first time. No more school buses or Metro. He left the house 20 minutes earlier than he needed to, he was so excited to get to school, to get his schedule, to see his friends. I’m feeling similar excitement to that kindergarten day, wanting to know about his classes, his teachers, his friends.

Schools are one aspect of neighborhood and community. For those with children, it’s a critical component. As you choose a neighborhood to live in, many people are concerned about the schools. Is it a “good school?” How will my child get there? Are there after school activities or child care?

Today I’d like to answer the question, “is it a good school.” There are many different definitions of a good school. For many, they look at test scores or classroom size. Others look at on-line rankings such as those provided by Great Schools. But there are other factors to consider. Teacher retention rates? Principal longevity? Involved parent group? Welcoming atmosphere whenever you enter the building? Ability to work with students with different learning styles? Necessary support services or after school care?

As I’ve learned over the past years, there is no formula to determine a good school. If I had to pick the most important factor, I’d say community – the parent group, the welcoming atmosphere, the support services. Test scores are numbers, people make up community. Relationships with fellow parents, with teachers, and with administration is critical. Feeling welcome and respected is critical.

From our experience, the school with the best test scores was not the best fit for Sam. The best schools are the ones who create a community.

As my tagline says, “Building Community. One Home at a Time.” Let me help you find that right community.

Back to School

As Labor Day approaches, the kids are headed back to school. In some school districts, classes may have already started. In others, including Seattle, the first day of school is Wednesday, September 4th. Here’s my annual list of Back to School Tips and Resources. (All area codes are 206.)


Back to School Tips and Resources
1) Seattle Public Schools, first day of school, is Wednesday, September 4th. More info, www.seattleschools.org or 252-0010; transportation department number is 252-0900.
2) Looking for child care (ages 0-12) or preschool, check out Child Care Resources, www.childcare.org or 329-5544.
3) Support your local schools through volunteering or donations. Contact Seattle School district or your local school for more info.
4) If your child isn’t up to date on immunizations or needs a sports physical, schedule now, don’t wait for the start of school .
5) Need tutoring or homework help — contact Boys & Girls Clubs of King County (www.positiveplace.org), 826 Seattle (www.826seattle.org), or Seattle Public Library (www.spl.org).
7) Drive carefully, keeping an eye out for school buses and kids walking and crossing streets.

This Beautiful Area Called the Puget Sound

I have an almost 16 year old son, who has his learner’s permit to drive. He wants to practice drive all the time, so this summer we have been going on adventures. He also loves photography and nature, so we’ve been getting out of the city, exploring places we’ve either never been or haven’t been to in a long time, and have created some photo journals of our excursions.

These adventures have reminded me why I love Seattle and the Puget Sound. Trees, flowers, water, mountains, sand, boats – we’ve got it all. This summer has been gorgeous with lots of sun and fantastic warm days. We’ve been to Mt. Rainier, Camano Island, and the Hood Canal, as well as all over Seattle.

So this blog post is a photo montage from our day trips. Enjoy the Pacific Northwest.

Juniper Beach on Camano Island

Camano Island, west side

Ferry on it’s way into Seattle

Seattle waterfront

Hood Canal, facing the Olympic Mountains

Mount Ranier, while on the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds

Puget Sound, with Olympic Mountains in the back

Sunset from Sunset Hill in Seattle

Myrtle Edwards Park on the Seattle waterfront

Mt. Rainier

The gondola at Crystal Mountain

Mount Ranier from an Ansel Adams perspective

Mt. Adams from Crystal Mountain Resort

The Impact of Rising Interest Rates

Interest rates are on the increase – in the last month they’ve jumped somewhere around a quarter to half a percent. That may not sound like much, but it affects your buying power. With prices on rise and multiple offers the norm, that $500,000 budget you may have may instead now be $475,000.

Let me explain. You have $100,000 for a down payment. Your lender has approved you for up to a $500,000 home ($400,000 mortgage) at 3.75% interest, with a monthly payment of around $1,850 in principal and interest.

Interest rates are now 4.25%, a half percent increase. Your lender only approves you for the $1,850/month payment. You can now only afford a $475,000 (with the same $100,000 down payment). Your buying power has decreased $25,000 or 5%.

For every half a percent that interest rates increase, your buying power decreases by 5%. Your $800,000 buying power becomes $760,000. If interest rates continues on an upward trend, your buying power will continue to decrease.

I just heard a story of buyers who found their dream home. They planned to make an offer above asking price, knowing there would be multiple offers, but this put them at the top of their price range. They asked their lender for a new pre-approval letter with the higher price but the lender said no. Interest rates had increased since the last pre-approval, and they could no longer afford that amount.

Prices aren’t going down, they’re going up. Interest rates aren’t going down either, they’re going up too. Don’t wait any longer, the time to buy is NOW! Contact me today to discuss your buying needs.

May Sales Report

Hot. Sizzling. Stupendous. Pick your adjective to describe the month of May (as well as months before). In Seattle and King County, like many parts of the country now, it is a sellers’ market, with limited inventory and endless numbers of buyers driving prices up.

For example – average sales price in Seattle for May 2013 was $555,000, up nearly 8% from April and 21% from May 2012.

The best news from May, for both buyers and sellers, is that inventory is slowing creeping up. However, inventory continues to hover at just over a one month supply of homes. We’d like to see closer to five to six months for a more stable market.

Check out my May Seattle report here. Let me know if you’d like me to run a report for your neighborhood or city.

Charitable Giving, Real Estate Style

This is an update to a post I originally wrote last November.

 As you may know, before entering the real estate business, I worked in the non-profit arena for more than 25 years, as a clinical social worker, fundraiser, executive director, and most recently as a volunteer and board member. Most of my charitable work has been on behalf of children and families, with a more recent addition of a focus on healthcare, specifically cancer prevention and treatment. Since I made the career switch to real estate, I’ve continued to volunteer extensively, primarily with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network – Puget Sound Affiliate, FamilyWorks Food Bank & Family Resource Center, and my son’s school, Ingraham High School. I truly believe in the work of the non-profit sector. In addition, charitable giving is ingrained in me. I give donations to many organizations that I care deeply about.

Now, the connection to real estate. 

Coldwell Banker Bain established its Community Partnership program as a way for the company and its brokers to give back to the organizations that are committed to the welfare of our communities. Since the program was founded, Coldwell Banker Bain brokers have donated more than $1.36 million to organizations in the Puget Sound area. The average Community Partnership check is $1,175.Through the Community partnership program, Coldwell Banker Bain donates an amount equal to 10% of my commission to an organization with whom I have partnered. 

I have two partnerships, with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Wallingford Boys & Girls Club. All you have to do is let me know before we write up any agreements that you’d like me to contribute to one of these organizations.This costs you nothing, but the average donation to charity is $1,175.

And I’d love to support more non-profits through Coldwell Banker Bain’s Community Partnership program. I’d LOVE for every transaction to involve a charitable contribution. If you’re involved with a non-profit that would like to benefit from these donations, please contact me to discuss.

Spring Home Buying and Selling

It’s spring, traditionally the busiest time for residential real estate transactions. This year has been sort of an anomaly, as the year started off with tons of buyers but very few sellers. Inventory is definitely improving, and buyers are everywhere. However, buyers still seriously outnumber sellers, creating a seller’s market.

I spent yesterday afternoon helping out a colleague by taking clients of hers to see some homes. This family has been looking for a North Seattle home in the $500,000 range for sometime. They have submitted several offers, in multiple offer situations, but have not come out successful. Both husband and wife grew up in Bellevue, but much prefer to purchase a Seattle home. He works downtown.

Due to their frustration and the need to buy before their lease runs out on their rental, yesterday we moved to homes on the Eastside. We toured 4 homes in Issaquah and Bellevue. Not quite the area they’re looking for, but they realize they need to expand their search. Of the 4 homes we saw – 2 had others checking them out too and one had a pre-inspection going on.

In touring these homes, they realized they really want to be in Seattle, but they’re willing to go east if necessary. They recently submitted an offer on a For Sale by Owner in Bryant (Seattle), and are waiting anxiously with their fingers crossed. If they don’t get the Bryant home, there’s a Loyal Heights (Seattle) one they plan to submit an offer on.

In addition to considering the Eastside, they’re reconsidering their needs. They have 2 daughters, so they want a 3 bedroom; they’re realizing they may have to settle for a 2 bedroom where the girls share a room. Financially they’re pre-approved to the point they can go up to a higher price but they really don’t want to take out that much of a mortgage; well, if they have to, maybe they will.

Moral of the Story – There are a few lessons to be learned from this story. 1) There are more buyers than sellers and it’s very possible you won’t get the home you want. 2) Be willing to expand your list of needs. This includes geographically, requirements of the home, and price. 3) Use a Realtor who understands your market, is experienced in multiple offers, and who is available to you most any time. The right home may show up on a Sunday at 8pm.

I’d love to have your thoughts on the current market. Comment here are feel free to email or call me.