Category Archives: home ownership

The First Thing You Should Do When You Buy a New Home

You’ve signed the closing documents and taken possession of your new home. Your real estate broker hands you the keys and you’re excited to move on in. But there’s one thing you should do as soon as you get those keys, and it’s not moving in. 

The first thing you should do is have the locks rekeyed!

You don’t know who still has keys to the property. The seller might have extras, the neighbor might have had a key for an emergency. Former roommates or adult children who have moved away may still have keys too. Contractors may have had access to a key as well. There have been countless people through the house while it was on the market, and while unlikely, a key could have been misplaced, stolen, or copied.

Rekeying is inexpensive and the best thing you can do to protect your investment, your personal property, and yourself. Even if you purchase a condo, you should have the front door rekeyed. With condos, you might have to have permission of the Homeowners Association and they may have a vendor they want you to use.

In rekeying, a locksmith comes to your home and changes out the barrels in your locks. They work onsite and will make as many new keys as you like. I have found that in the Seattle area, rekeying typically costs $100-$150 and includes 4-6 locks and includes a couple of keys.

Be careful and take this simple step to protect your home and yourself. For more information, contact me at 206-790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

Increasing Net Worth Through Real Estate

The majority of American households own a primary residence, but did you know that homeowners have, in general, more net worth than their renter counterparts?

The National Association of REALTORS® tracks the relationship between renting, homeownership, and net worth. Every three years the Federal Reserve conducts their Survey of Consumer Finances to collect the data which is then analyzed.  In the most recent survey completed in 2016, the data showed that the median homeowners’ net worth ($231,000) was more than ti44mes that of the median renter ($5,200).

Equity in a home (the difference between what is owed on the mortgage and what the home may sell for in today’s market) is one of the biggest drivers of net worth.  When a renter pays rent, no equity is created for the renter – that goes straight to the landlord’s pocket! But when someone has purchased a home that monthly payment usually goes to paying down the loan, creating equity. The homeowner also receives the benefit of property appreciation – and if they don’t refinance, the principal and interest payment stays the same (assuming a fixed rate loan) whereas a renter may be faced with annual rent increases.

Of course, there are pros and cons to either renting or purchasing a home, and these should be considered before jumping into a home purchase. Appreciation and rental rates change from area to area and even neighborhood to neighborhood!

I would be happy to show you the possibilities. Please give me a call: (206) 790-0081 or send an email to Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

Is It Time to Move? 6 Telltale Signs

Most people dread the thought of moving, yet those same people love it when they move. Why? Most likely it’s emotional attachment and nostalgia for a beloved home. It’s understandable but yet a home that just doesn’t fit your needs any longer can make even the most loved home uncomfortable. Are you wondering if it’s time to move? Here are 6 telltale signs that you should consider putting the “for sale” sign up in your front yard.

1. Your Home is Too Small – One of the most common signs is that you’ve outgrown your home.

2. Your Home is Too Large – Life changes! Empty nesters often find the home too large and it’s maintenance too much when they finally have time to travel and relax.

3. Your Home is Too Expensive – Are you spending all your extra cash making repairs or do you want major upgrades to suit your lifestyle? Are property taxes getting too high?

4. The Neighborhood is Losing Value – Neighborhoods do change over time, if yours is declining consider a move.

5. Changing the Weather – Have you finally tired of shoveling snow? A move to a warmer state could be the right move.

6. Change is Good – The last great reason to move is to try something new. Different style or location, if the home isn’t making you happy any longer, time to move.

Give me a call at 206-790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com to discuss your real estate needs.

Help with Property Tax Bills

Homeowners in many Washington Counties, including King and Snohomish, will be receiving their property tax bills around Valentine’s Day. Your reaction may be, “Whoa, this is high, how am I ever going to pay this bill!”

If you are 60 years or older or are unable to work due to a disability and have a household income of less than $45,000/year, there are programs to help you reduce your property tax burden. For more information or to find out if you qualify, call the Property Tax Exemption Program for your county: King County: (206) 263-2324 Snohomish County: (425) 388-3540

Or perhaps you’ve been thinking that it might be time to move, whether to a new community, a smaller home or condo, or even assisted living. I am available to help you figure out what the next steps might be. I can help you understand what your home is worth, and if it would make sense for you financially to sell. I can also help you with the “where do I move to if I sell” concern.

For further information or to discuss your real estate needs, please give me a call/text at (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

How Much Is My Home Worth

While we may have seen some lower prices in 2018, the following chart shows that we have had significant appreciation in the housing market in Seattle, King County, and Snohomish County since 2006. In King County prices have appreciated approximately 70%, Seattle 80%, and Snohomish County 51%. If you’d like to know appreciation rates for your community or would like a market analysis of your home, please reach out to me at 206-790-0081 or Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

The Danger of Waiting

Affordability is one of the major factors driving our real estate market. We saw an increase in interest rates in 2018 from around 4.15% in January to a high of nearly 5% in November and with the year ending around 4.55%. We expect that interest rates could reach 5.75% in 2019. What does this mean if you are considering buying a home (or selling and buying a new home)?

As interest rates increase, your buying power decreases. Let’s say your lender has qualified you for a home purchase of $700,000 with 20% down. Today your monthly payment would be around $2,837 with a 4.5% interest rate. If rates rise as expected in 2019, the payment later this year at 5.5% would be $3,180, or $343/month more. Your lender may no longer qualify you to purchase a $700,000 home but instead more likely around $625,000 to keep your payment around the $2,837/month. If we see a 5% (being conservative) increase in prices this year, your $700,000 home would sell around $735,000 by year end. By waiting, you are likely to decrease the amount you can pay for a home.

If you’re considering buying a property this year, the time to move is now. Give me a call at (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com so we can talk about your plans and needs. (The chart above shows you various principal and interest payments at different interest rates. However, you should talk with a lender to verify the accuracy of these numbers. I have several wonderful lenders who would be happy to speak with you.)

Down Payments – How Much Do You Really Need?

Gone are the days when anyone could buy a home with just a promise and signature. No documentation loans allowed virtually anyone to buy a house with no money down with just a simple credit check. After the mortgage meltdown, this all changed. Lenders tightened guidelines and down payments were back.

But how much do you actually need? Must you always find 20% down? The answer might surprise you; there are many ways to buy a home with less than 20% down payment.

  • 0% Down – There are still two loan programs which allow one to buy a home for no-down payment; the VA loan and the USDA loan. The VA loan requires the borrower to be a qualified service person or veteran and the USDA loan is for certain areas under the Department of Agriculture.
  • 5% Down – Conventional loans with loan limits can allow one to buy a home with as little as 5% down. These loans do have PMI (Private mortgage insurance) which can be eliminated when the loan amount falls below the 20% threshold.
  • 3 ½ % Down – FHA offers first time home buyers a good home loan for only 3.5% downpayment. Again these loans have loan limits and PMI but offer a faster entry into the housing market. Buying a home doesn’t always mean 20% loan. If you’re considering buying a new home, talk to your lender about your options.

If you’re thinking of buying, give me a call at (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com. Let’s talk about your needs. I can also refer you to excellent local mortgage lenders.

King County Homeowners

If you own a property in King County, check out this website: http://localscape.property/#kingcountyassessor/.

It’s new from King County and you can find out so much information. Choose My Property, put in your address and then click on the blue button that says “View Proposed Taxes.” This will tell you how much any current tax levy on the ballot will affect you. Right now it’s showing info for August’s primary for Prop 1 – AFIS Property Tax Levy. For the several addresses I checked, the taxes will actually decrease from this one passing.

Let me know what you think of the site.

2017 in Review

The story of the Seattle real estate market in 2017 continued similar to the past few years. Low inventory drove our market, with the number of new listings down from 2016 and prices up significantly. While the median sales price for a single family home citywide increased 13.7% to $705,000, in many neighborhoods that increase was even higher. For the 23 counties in the MLS area overall, inventory shrunk 19% from the end of 2016 to the end of 2017. That’s the smallest selection for any month in the past decade.

December is traditionally a slower month, but that wasn’t the case this year. While the inventory was low, the number of buyers seemed to be high, with multiple offers the norm (I heard a story of 28 offers on a Queen Anne listing as well as multiple offers even during the week between Christmas and New Year’s) and packed open houses (100+ visitors at times). At year end, there were only 256 single family homes and 95 condos for sale in Seattle, a decrease of approximately 30% from 2016.

Until we see an increase in inventory, we can expect the market to be strong. We need property owners to list their homes at higher rates as well as an increase in new construction. See my predictions on the next page for more details.

Please give me a call/text at (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com if you have any questions or would like further information on the market or your specific area.

 

Is Summer Over Already?

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This is so true in Seattle. Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer and the official end is only two weeks ago. This summer raced by – both personally and in the real estate market. The market sizzled till mid-August when it slowed down, most likely due the fact that the weather was nice and Seattle-ites hit the road for vacation.

The end of summer triggers change.

Kids go back to (or start) school. I happen to know a lot of families with kids starting college this year. This morning I took a look at what it costs for a student to live in a dorm at the University of Washington. Excluding a meal plan, a dorm room can run you from $6,000 to nearly $12,000 for the academic year. For four years of college, that could run you up to $48,000. And if your student is going to live off-campus, rents are sky-high with many one bedroom apartments running at $1,500+/month and two bedrooms $2,000+/month.

Instead of paying the dorm fee or the rent for an off-campus apartment, have you thought about buying a condo, townhome, or single family home for your student? You’ll be investing in your child’s future as well as your own. The home will likely appreciate over time, meaning you may make money when you go to sell. If your child has roommates who pay some rent, you’ll have income to offset some of your ownership costs.

For more information on purchasing a home for your college-age student, see a post I wrote in 2014 or give me a call/text/email so we can talk.

Stay tuned – my next post will be about the August market and expectations for the fall market.