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Shopping for a Home? Check the Roof!

Replacing a roof can be one of the most expensive repairs a homeowner can face. However, most homeowners rarely traverse their own roofs, let alone know the warning signs for when a roof is in  trouble resulting in leaks which can affect the support structure, insulation, drywall, and even furnishings and finishes within the home itself. This is why it is crucial to have a home inspector do a thorough roof inspection before a home is purchased. Not only will you learn about the pros and cons about the particular type of roof you have, but you can also ask questions about the type of ongoing maintenance you should plan for.
Below are the most common types of roofs and the minimum recommended maintenance required which includes removing debris among other things. Of course, your particular roof may require additional maintenance depending on the type of material and your environment.  

Shake –these are usually rectangles of wood that overlap. The life expectancy of a shake roof is usually about 30 years and up depending on the materials. Homeowners should have leaves and debris removed every year and an anti-moss agent applied and then maintained every few years to wash off any built up moss or mildew and then re-oiling if recommended for the type of material.
Asphalt Shingles – This is most common type of roofing material in our country due to its high durability and low cost. This type of roof usually lasts between 20-30 years depending on the material. Should be maintained by removing debris and applying an anti-moss agent on a regular basis.   

Metal – Metal roofs can last up to 70 years depending on the materials. Debris should be removed on a regular basis and inspected every few years to make sure no repairs are required.

Slate – Depending on where the slate was quarried, a slate roof can last up to 200 years! As the slate naturally flakes, the roof deteriorates. Slate roofs should be inspected every few years or after heavy weather both on the outside as well as the inside for water leakage, and individual slate pieces which have deteriorated should be replaced.

Tile – Tile has been the roofing material of choice for Asia, Europe, and South America for hundreds of years and with regular maintenance, can last several hundred years. Inspect regularly, looking for chipped or cracked tiles and replace. Have a professional wash or brush once a year depending on where you live. Seal the roof every few years as recommended by your roof repair company.  


There are also a wide number of other materials available on the market today from interlocking composites to copper and more! And different types of roofing can impact resale value. 

Beware of Brokers Promising a High Sales Price

You know the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Homeowners, take heed!  This theory also applies to “pie in the sky” price ranges some real estate agents may recommend when discussing an impending home sale with a seller.
When it is time for a homeowner to sell their home, he or she may decide to interview several real estate agents to learn the different types of services they offer before making a hiring decision.  And although services such as photography and property marketing may be discussed, the seller often makes their decision based on where the agent recommends the property should be priced. This could be a monumental mistake. 
An agent may try to “buy” a seller’s listing by agreeing to an unrealistic price up front and hoping for an aggressive price reduction later. Alternatively, I often see situations in which the agent doesn’t know how to tell a seller that their home is not worth as much as the seller might think it is, not wanting to hurt their feelings. In either case, that is not the kind of agent you want representing you and your home. 
A good agent knows their numbers and they have a home selling system that they follow which gets results. An effective agent does not simply name a random price on the property that the seller gets excited but that can’t get the property sold. 
So remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Ultimately the home price should be in line with what other similar properties are on the market for so it will sell quickly and get top dollar.

Wondering where your home value stands in relation to the market? I would love to share that information with you. Just give me a call! 206-790-0081 or send me an email to jamieflaxman@cbbain.com and I will be happy to put together a report. 

Market Update

September Activity for the City of Seattle
September tested the housing market’s resilience around Western Washington with fluctuating mortgage rates, record-setting rains, and persistent inventory shortages in some areas. By month’s end, however, both pending and closed sales outgained the same period a year ago, according to the latest figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Prices also increased compared to 12 months ago, but fell slightly from the previous month. Year-to-date figures through nine months show prices for homes and condominiums that have sold in the 21 counties served by the MLS are up 12 percent from a year ago.
Northwest MLS director John Deely said the Seattle market shows no signs of slowing down and house-hunters seem undaunted by soggy weather. “Buyers continue to flood open houses and multiple offers rain down on competitively priced properties,” he commented.
Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, said one newly listed home had 25 potential buyers show up at a midweek brokers open house to get a first glimpse at it. “Multiple offers are still prevalent,” he said, citing an example of one appropriately priced listing receiving 11 offers, and ultimately drew a bid of more than 20 percent above list price. Other new listings in Seattle are experiencing similar activity, according to Deely. “Buyers with all cash have decreased and financed offers now outpace cash offers,” he stated. (Note to reader – The listing that John Deely is referring to is my listing on Queen Anne. John is my Principal Managing Broker.)
MLS figures show mixed activity across its service area:
  • September’s volume of new listings increased nearly 17 percent compared to a year ago, pushing the total number of active listings slightly ahead of 12 months ago (up 2.1 percent). However, of the 21 counties the MLS serves, 11 reported having fewer listings than a year ago.
  • Pending sales (mutually accepted offers) rose 4.6 percent area-wide; 14 counties had double-digit gains, while three counties reported declines.
  • Closed sales for September increased 21.2 percent year-over-year, rising from 5,536 to 6,711.
  • While selling prices area-wide are up 8.7 percent from a year ago, prices were below year-ago figures in five counties. Conversely, seven counties notched double-digit gains. The area-wide median price for last month’s closed sales was $278,000, up 8.7 percent from the year-ago figure of $255,745, but $5,000 less (down about 1.8 percent) from August.
  • Prices on closed sales of single family homes (excluding condos) rose 8.2 percent, while condo prices surged 12.3 percent.

“We are currently experiencing a mini power surge of sales activity, the third such event this year,” said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. He attributes the bursts to interest rates. “With interest rates suddenly coming off their peak for the year, we’re having another surge of activity, which is keeping the inventory at the shortage level in both King and Snohomish counties.”
MLS figures show King County has less than two months of supply (1.95 months). Snohomish County is slightly better at 2.32 months. System-wide, there is 3.32 months of supply, well below the level of 4-to-6-months that is generally accepted as an indication of a balanced market.
In Kitsap County, where there is a more balanced market (4.3 months of supply, up from 3.4 months in August), the pace of sales and price appreciation are both moderating. Well-priced properties are still drawing considerable activity.

“As is typical at this time of year, September’s pace slows a bit compared to August as families focus on back to school and all the activities that go along with that,” observed Frank Wilson, branch managing broker at John L. Scott in Poulsbo.

“We continue to see buyers who are negotiating against several other buyers on a house they like,” said Wilson, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors. He noted well priced homes are drawing offers in the first few weeks of being listed, while listings that are getting no showings most likely mean they’re at least 5 percent high on pricing. “Homes that are priced correctly will receive showings and offers,” he emphasized.
Northwest MLS director George Moorhead, the branch manager at Bentley Properties in Bothell, said market activity “waned just a bit” towards the end of August and during September, a pattern he said is normal with students going back to school and last-minute vacations. He expects interest rates will climb to 5 percent by summer 2014, and says the big message is “If you want to capitalize on the current lower interest rates, don’t delay any longer.”
City of Seattle, Median Home Prices

What Happened to the Curtains?

Do the curtains stay?

Whether you are a buyer or seller, there may come a time when you are either touring a home or about to sell one when you look around and wonder if that amenity should come with the house or not. For example, it may seem logical that items such as curtains which were specially made for the room and match the carpet, chandeliers, certain appliances, or even barstools that were custom made should stay with the house. However, it all comes down to what the buyer and seller specify in the purchase and sale agreement.

Listing agents need to point all of the ambiguous items out during the tour with the seller and determine which the seller is willing to part with or include in the listing. If a seller is willing to include all the high-end chandeliers, that can become a strong selling point – if the buyer wants them.

If a buyer doesn’t want certain items that the sellers intended to leave behind (such as outside play equipment, hot tubs, freezers, etc), then it is important to include in the contract that those items are to be removed by the seller – or else the buyer may be surprised at the walk-through if they thought they would travel with the seller.

However, fixtures that are attached, such as fountains that are cemented in, doors, etc are generally thought of as part of the home. But, if you see a stained glass window that is inset to a standard window, it is best to specify whether it is staying or going.

The key is to include everything in the contract – that the seller intends to leave and what the buyer wants. Negotiation can happen from there. Never assume that something is staying…or going.

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.