Category Archives: Real Estate

“Bonjour La Maison”

 

If you have ever wandered through France and its Loire Valley countryside with its deep forests, laughing streams, charming historic villages and spectacular castles, this estate will remind you of these cherished peregrinations or simply make you dream.

Built above Puget Sound with endless views of the shimmering water, the Olympics snowy summits and the wild islands across the channel, this 1937 fairy tale estate will transport you in a different time and place.

Open the wrought-iron lion gate, follow the tree lined-driveway along lush gardens, espalier apple trees and discover this delightful manor surrounded by stone patios, fountains, courtyards & arbors.

Inside a feeling of warmth and refinement allied to modern comforts: venetian chandeliers, stately marble & stone fireplaces, curved railing & Provencal kitchen. The sunken living room soothes of elegance with its historic flavor. Four priceless oil murals speak of shepherds and pastures transporting you into the 18th Century Europe.

From every room, doorway and window, catch a glimpse of the incredible outside world and its natural beauty. Come visit this spectacular estate that will take your breath away only a short distance from Downtown Seattle, WA. $2,650,000.

Take a peek with this video.
Visit the detailed listing & photo gallery.

What to expect after a historical election?

Following the climate of uncertainty after this last election, buyers and sellers are questioning the future of our real estate market. Here is an interested article from Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist at Windermere Real Estate:

The Trump effect: How will it impact the US economy and housing?

“The American people have spoken, and they have elected Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States(…)

The election was a shock for many, especially on the West Coast where we have not been overly affected by the long-term loss in US manufacturing or stagnant wage growth of the past decade. But the votes are in, and a new era is ahead of us. So, what does this mean for the housing market?

First and foremost, I would say that we should all take a deep breath. In a similar fashion to the UK’s “Brexit”, there will be a “whiplash” effect, as was seen in overnight trading across the globe. However, at least in the US, equity markets have calmed as they start to take a closer look at what a Trump presidency will mean.

On a macro level, I would start by stating that political rhetoric and hyperbole do not necessarily translate into policy. That is the most important message that I want to get across. I consider it highly unlikely that many of the statements regarding trade protectionism will actually go into effect. It will be very important for President Trump to tone down his platform on renegotiating trade agreements and imposing tariffs in China. I also deem it highly unlikely that a 1,000-mile wall will actually get built.

It is crucial that some of the more inflammatory statements that President-Elect Trump has made be toned down or markets will react negatively. However, what is of greater concern to me is that neither candidate really approached questions regarding housing with any granularity. There was little-to-no-discussion regarding housing finance reform, so I will be watching this topic very closely over the coming months.

As far as the housing market is concerned, it is really too early to make any definitive comment. That said, Trump ran on a platform of deregulation, and this could actually bode well for real estate. It might allow banks the freedom to lend more, which in turn, could further energize the market as more buyers may qualify for home loans.

Concerns over rising interest rates may also be overstated. As history tells us, during times of uncertainty we tend to put more money into bonds. If this holds true, then we may see a longer-than-expected period of below-average rates. Today’s uptick in bond yields is likely just temporary.

Proposed infrastructure spending could boost employment and wages, which again, would be a positive for housing markets. Furthermore, easing land use regulations has the potential to begin addressing the problem of housing affordability across many of our nation’s housing markets – specifically on the West Coast.

Economies do not like uncertainty. In the near-term we may see a temporary lull in the US economy, as well as the housing market, as we analyze what a Trump presidency really means. But at the present time, I do not see any substantive cause for panic in the housing sector.

We are a resilient nation, and as long as we continue to have checks-and balances, I have confidence that we will endure any period of uncertainty and come out stronger.”

 

Seattle Cabin Fever Anyone?

Fever cabin anyone?

Looking to find space and views without having to take a ferry or driving for hours? Maybe Burien is your ideal location?

Within a short a 20-minute ride from Downtown Seattle, you will find convenience & country feel. Tall fir trees & striking Puget Sound views, beautiful public beach accesses & barking sea lions, and the imposing Mount Rainier silhouette as a dramatic backdrop.

 

 

When the market is crazy, travel South!

Interacting with many real estate brokers throughout the Greater Seattle-Bellevue area, I have heard so many horror stories from buyers searching for the perfect home:  30 to 40 offers for an average quality property in town, the sales price being escalated up to hundreds of thousands of dollars… buyers, exhausted from extensive home hunts, don’t know where to turn. Interest rates are still historically quite low and everyone looking to find his/her first home or upgrade to a view or waterfront property, is trying to take advantage of still affordable prices.

Front House
Recently, I have noticed a new trend among  urban buyers moving South, away from Seattle city limits. West Seattle being highly congested, they are pushing their original boundaries to the Burien, Normandy Park and Federal Way areas as they are realizing that they can purchase large homes, stunning views and even beach properties at discounted prices with less competition.

Living Room 2

When I search and compare local markets within the city, I am just amazed by how much farther, a below million dollar budget will go if one is willing to live 20 to 40 minutes away from the metropolitan areas. I discovered this well-kept secret that is the greater Burien area about 12 years ago while searching for a non-congested-affordable little corner of paradise. With the Thomas Guide on the lap, I remember getting lost in the city of Normandy Park, loving its name, its large lots, mature trees, spectacular water and mountain views and its friendly feel (dog walkers, pedestrians… were actually smiling or even waiving at me). I knew right then that this was home! I have since then sold homes in the Three Tree Point/Normandy Park communities and tried to make buyers aware of the treasure area that can be the South End.Cove View

 

Here is a taste of what you can buy in the lovely Three Tree Point  & Normandy Park communities. Check out these videos.

– Three Tree Point Modern  & Normandy Park Home

 

New York Times article on one of our waterfront listings

deck

DES MOINES, WASH.

WHAT: A waterfront house with four bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms

HOW MUCH: $1,725,000

SIZE: 2,730 square feet

PRICE PER SQUARE FOOT: $632

SETTING: Des Moines is a city on the eastern shore of Puget Sound, midway between Seattle and Tacoma and within a half-hour drive of both. This 1918 house is on the water in a gated community on and around Woodmont Beach. According to the listing agent, it is thought to have originally been a structure associated with a now-vanished pier. Most of the other houses in the community are summer cabins built in the 1950s and ’60s. In addition to waterfront parks, the city maintains several fishing piers, a boardwalk and a marina near the small downtown.

INDOORS: The two-story house was updated within the past year. Common areas are on a long, open floor plan. The living area has a white brick fireplace and a wall of picture windows facing west, with views of the sound, islands and the Olympic Mountains. The ceilings are coffered. Floors are light-colored hardwood. French doors at one end of the room open to a waterfront deck.

Living 2

A limestone breakfast bar separates the dining area from the kitchen, which has stainless-steel appliances and minimalist white cabinetry. Three bedrooms are on the first floor, two with en-suite bathrooms. Behind stairs leading to the master suite, there’s an office, also with westerly views. The master suite measures about 800 square feet, with a pitched ceiling and waterside balcony. Its bathroom has a jetted tub, as well as a shower partially enclosed by glass brick. All bathrooms are finished in either limestone or granite.

OUTDOOR SPACE: The lot is just over a third of an acre, with a yard sloping down to 120 feet of beachfront and a boat ramp.

beach club

TAXES: $20,559 a year

CONTACT: Véronique Hval and Jan Fairchild, Windermere Real Estate South, (206) 214-8499 / (206) 226-7610; belleresidence.com

How to write a bullet proof offer in the Greater Seattle area?

If you live in the Greater Seattle area, whether you are looking for an in-city condo, your first love’s nest, a view property or a stunning piece of waterfront, you will need a bullet-proof-offer to compete against other buyers. Not every offer has the same weight in the scale. As a buyer, it is pretty intimating to hear that the property you want to purchase has already 15 or more offers. You need to remember however that each one of these offers has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. The key in a multiple offer situation is to protect yourself while writing a very strong & “smooth” & enticing proposal. Here are the golden rules to help you in this process:

#1. Know your financial comfort zone & be prepared

One essential element in buying any type of hot property is to know one’s comfort zone and financing capabilities. And as such, the very first step is to talk to a trusted and experienced mortgage broker who will preapprove you. The lender will ask for your bank statements, income related information, and will pull your credit scores. If cash is an option, get your bank statements/proof of funds ready. Cash offers are more appealing to owners since closing will happen faster and without a bank appraisal.

In today’s fast market, being contingent on the sale of another property is not an option unless the micro market where you are buying is slow or the property in question has been on the market for a long period of time. As a general rule, waiting to find the rare gem to put your home on the market will not help you. Instead, find a rental place & put your home on the market. Armed with cash, you will be able to put a financially strong offer when you do find THE perfect place.

Another important fact: buying a home in a competing market is like buying an item at auction, you need to know where to stop the bidding. It is therefore wise to start looking at properties available at a lower price point than your preapproval letter maximum amount. Let’s say you are preapproved for $450,000, it may be wise to look for homes in the $380,000 to $400,000 price range. You will want to talk to a realtor expert in that area and specializing in the property type you are interested in to learn about that specific market. There is not one general market but many micro markets in any given area.

#2. Select the right agent for the task

You should select an agent specializing in one field and area: view home, waterfront, luxury, condo, targeted neighborhood…

You want the expert in the field not someone who is learning about a niche market or who is brand new in the business. Someone who knows (and preferably lives) in that geographical area. You will learn about properties ready to come on the market and all pitfalls or advantages about each one. It is not the time to select a friend who is just starting in the business or willing to drive 100 miles to get a sale (as you will need to see that home as soon as it comes on the market)! Get someone who will be a tough negotiator and will speak well on your behalf!

#3.  Detective work

Once hired, your broker will have to play the “nice detective”. He/she will call the listing agent (representing the seller) to know about the goals and motivations of the owners. If the broker is willing to share this information, you will be able to solidify your offer by adding terms that will benefit the sellers: closing date preference, rent back option (the owner needs to stay a week in the home after closing the sale)…

#4. Pre-inspection

It is always a good idea to have an inspection even when competing for a property. Have a pre-inspection with a home inspector before writing and submitting an offer.

#5. Offer Price

Once your agent will have determined the degree of “hotness” of the property & the local market and studied the % of asking price versus sold price for that property, I would suggest you start your offer at a higher level than the asking price. If other buyers write offers at the asking price and add an escalation clause your offer will look better from the get-go. Escalation clauses: they are used in competing situations. A buyer will offer to pay an upfront price and add increments of $… over any equal competing offers up to a maximum amount. For example: the house is for sale for $400,000. You are willing to pay up to $450,000 and so may want to start at $425,000 and add an escalation clause up to $450,000 in increments of $3,278. The listing broker will keep adding the $3,278 amount on any offer higher than the $425k and will stop at the $450,000.

While deciding on your price comfort zone, understand at which price point you are willing to lose the home where you won’t have remorse if your offer doesn’t get accepted.

#6.  Earnest Money

The earnest money is showing that you are a strong buyer. This money will be put in an escrow account and will be cashed once the sale is agreed upon. This is a guarantee for the seller. If the buyer were to change his/her mind at the last minute, he/she would most likely lose his/her earnest money. EM is used at closing and deducted from final closing costs.

The higher the earnest money, the best.They range from 1% to 3% of the purchase price. Selling price $400,000…. Earnest money $10,000 to $15,000

#7.  Escrow and Title

Select the escrow and title companies recommended by the listing broker. Generally title is chosen by the seller (since they pay for the insurance coverage guaranteeing a clear title) while escrow is by the buyer’s agent. In a multiple offer situation, you will want to pick the escrow recommended by the owner’s agent.

#8. Love letter

When touring a property, if the owners still live in the home, gather clues of the seller’s lifestyle. By playing detective, you may find out what you have in common with the owners. I would suggest you or your agent use these in a letter thanking agent and seller to review your offer and laying out the advantages of working with you, your agent. You need to show how smooth the process will go. Be careful however not to disclose some personal information that may not play to your advantage. Be careful with your words.

#9. Timelines

Each contingency (inspection, financing & title) are ways for you to get out of the transaction once your offer has been accepted. The sellers will want in his/her offer selection to pick the buyers with the shortest contingency period especially the inspection. Know that any timeline with 5 days or less don’t count weekends.

#10. Time is always “of the essence”

Be ready to initial or sign any changes quickly to make sure that another better offer doesn’t reach the seller before you have mutual acceptance.

#11. Be willing to do what it takes 

If you feel deep down that this is the right house for you, make sure to write the cleanest and best offer possible, you will have no regret later on.

Happy offer writing and best of luck or as the French would say “Bonne chance”!

A quick U.S real estate forecast for 2016

We are all curious about 2016 and what it will bring us especially for all of you thinking about buying your next home or selling your current residence. Here are some pointers gathered along real estate seminars and economist predictions.

seattle fog

Median Sold Prices – Home prices will continue to increase nationally by single digit numbers, between 5-6%. Urban metro areas in high demand by Millennials will see an increase in the double digits. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the third quarter national median price for existing single-family homes was $229,000, which represented a 5.5% increase over third quarter 2014. There are still areas of very high demand and low inventory, and this will continue until new home starts can catch up to the lack of supply.

Housing Inventory – The inventory shortage was caused by the cumulative impact of home builders not being in the market for well over five years. This severe shortage fueled the demand.  We are still not back to our level needed to sustain regular inventory rates.  This probably won’t happen until well into 2017. It is likely that more buyers will be entering the market for a home. Improved job markets bring more buyers into the market and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally the unemployment rate stands at 5.0% for November 2015 – the lowest it has been since April 2008.  We will continue to see inventory challenges until new construction picks up even further.

Homeownership Rate – The homeownership rate (the percentage of Americans who own their own home) is near the 20-year low of 63.7% in the third quarter of 2015, falling from the all-time high of 69.2% in 2004. The low was 63.4% reached during second quarter of this year. I predict this number will be even lower in 2016 due to the lack of inventory and increasing home prices due to the inventory shortages. The steady decline in the homeownership rate is partially the result of tight lending conditions and a historically low share of first-time buyers.

Housing Starts – The current pace of home construction is dangerously low at about 60% of the norm. New construction did not pick up enough in 2015 to address the housing inventory problem. Housing starts are well below the 50-year average of 1.5 million starts per year. Two big reasons for the slow recovery in new construction are the difficulty in obtaining construction loans and construction labor shortage. It is highly probable that housing starts to increase in 2016 as builders and investors are able to participate in the market because of the rise in house prices. New home starts should increase by at least 20% in 2016.

Interest rates – The improving economy is a sure sign that interest rates will increase in 2016. The new rates will balance job growth and higher inflation rates. The Federal Reserve increased interest rates a quarter of a percentage point at its December meeting.  The federal fund rate has a significant effect on mortgage rates. The federal funds rate had remained near zero since December 2008 and the Reserve had not raised rates in almost a decade.  The Federal Reserve will keep an eye on jobs, the economy, and inflation before determining action on additional rate hikes. However, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate are expected to reach 5.5% by the end of 2016.

Second Homes Market – Second home sales will continue to see a strong increase in 2016 due to the passing of wealth from the Silent Generation (those born 1925 – 1945) to Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) and due to Baby Boomers buying multi-generational homes and vacation homes.

Rental Market for Owners/Investors – Due to dropping homeownership rates, the total rental income for investors has more than tripled over the past seven years, growing by an astonishing 240% from 2007 to today. The Census Bureau reports that median asking rent has increased 30.6% comparing third quarter 2005 to third quarter 2015 (as more rental households bring more rent). As Millennials enter the job market and strike out from their parent’s homes on their own, renting is usually the first step. There is high demand for rentals in urban locations where there is appealing job activity for millennials. High demand areas will continue to see double digit increases in rent. I predict rental demand in urban centers will continue to be in high demand in 2016.