Tag Archives: buyers

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.

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.

Things Out of Your Control When Selling

Do you feel like things are out of control? If you’ve listed your home for sale, every day might feel this way. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. The truth is there really are things sellers can’t control. But don’t worry; even though you can’t control everything, there are ways to deal with these unknowns.

Buyers – Oh if only we could control buyers. They show up at odd times, they write crazy offers, they make odd repair requests and they can be difficult. One time a deal fell through because a Feng Shui Master didn’t like the color of the kitchen.

The Market – Market forces determine so many things; interest rates and sales prices. While you can’t change these forces, you can get all the information you can so you’re prepared for how this affects the sale.

Inspectors – You’ve loved and cared for your home, but even so there could be hidden issues that only a comprehensive, professional home inspection can uncover. One way to avoid unpleasant surprises is to put a listing home warranty in place to cover unexpected repairs. Another way is to your own inspection before listing your home.

Appraisers – Appraisers are just people. On occasion they make mistakes in value. Your lender and broker will help you navigate an unfavorable appraisal. There are ways to combat a poor appraisal.

Selling your home can bring unexpected issues. If you’ve done your due diligence and hired a good broker, you’ll be able to handle the unexpected issues which are out of your control. For more information, give me a call at 206-790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

5 Reasons to Get Pre-Approved

Mortgage rates have recently been at a 12-month low. Depending on your credit and financial situation, you might currently be able to get a mortgage at around 4%. Here are some reasons why it’s critical you get pre-approved for your mortgage. I have a list of wonderful mortgage lenders, please drop me an email and I’ll be happy to forward to you.

It’s a Great Time for Buyers

If you’re considering whether it’s the right time to buy a property, the answer is definitely yes! There is a lot of inventory on the market right now, so that means that there is less competition among buyers. And interest rates have dropped substantially and are the lowest they’ve been in around a year, meaning your money will go further.

Whether it’s a condo, townhome, or house you’re considering, let’s talk about your buying needs. You can reach me at (206) 790-0081 or Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

The Internet Can’t Replace Your Agent

We live in the information age; the Internet offers advice on every topic and real estate is no exception. With more and more home buyers starting their home search online, they are bombarded with advice and information – it can be easy to think that you can learn everything you need to know just by reading articles online.

The truth is your real estate agent does much more than answer your questions and open doors with a special key. A professional real estate agent will be there every step of the way. They have the experience necessary to navigate the complicated home buying process and solve common hiccups that present themselves in every real estate transactions.

Your real estate agent is a local professional. They will start by presenting themselves to the other agent as someone who will work with them to see the transaction through to a successful conclusion. They have a network of professionals who will work as a team to help you through the process. These include such professionals as: lenders, title reps, escrow officers, transaction coordinators, home inspectors, contractors, and handymen, among others.

Most importantly, your agent is your ally in the home buying process. They negotiate on your behalf – armed with experience and understanding of customary charges, costs, and terms. They will ensure that the price you pay for the home is fair for the condition and neighborhood. They will negotiate repairs, if needed and make sure you are protected with the proper contingencies.

The Internet offers lots of great information, but the most important step you can take when buying a new home is hiring a local professional real estate agent. Their knowledge and expertise can’t be found by reading an article or two online.

Contact me at Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com or 206-790-0081 to discuss how I can help you with the real estate transactions.

What’s Going on With the Market

The greater Seattle real estate market continues to show signs of a healthier, balanced market. While prices were down in January, we began to see the return of multiple offer situations. A lot of homes that were sitting on the market for a long period of time (60+ days) went pending, which is a good sign, but also shows why our Days on Market increased significantly in January. For example, in Seattle 364 single family homes sold in January for an average of 53 days on market. Of those 364, 110 sold in 0-14 days, 44 15-29 days, 66 in 30-59 days, and 144 in 60+ days. 

What this is telling us is that homes that have been priced properly are still selling quickly and that homes that have been sitting on the market have either had price reductions or sellers have accepted lower offers in order to get their homes sold. We see this when we look at sales to list price ratio, which at 98.1% for Seattle in January, means that sellers are taking lower offers. Additionally, with so much of the older inventory selling, we are seeing less homes available on the market, and with inventory low, the market still favors the seller.

Pricing properly is the key to getting your hold sold quickly and when you work with me, I will be analyzing the market daily to determine the best price at which to list your property.

For buyers, interest rates seem to have settled down, and even gone down a little. The Fed has said they don’t plan on raising interest rates again for awhile. This, coupled with lower sales prices, means it’s a great time for you to get in the market. 

For additional information or for a complimentary market analysis of your home, please call or text: (206) 790-0081 or send an email to 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.