Category Archives: Recent Articles & Data

Soothing Elegance & Sanctuary Feeling

Bordering the “secret” side of Volunteer Park and anchored along one of the most celebrated streets on Capitol Hil, this striking Georgian Colonial was designed by Joseph Cote, known for many of Seattle’s landmarks. Built in 1921, the home was carefully restored & added on to blend with its original flavors while meeting with today’s needs and sensibilities.

Unassuming from Federal Avenue, the house unfolds unto spacious & light filled rooms: tall ceilings, walls of paned windows, extensive millworks and quarter sawn hardwood floors. It is easy to get distracted while touring the beautiful interior as one catches the intricate drawing welded in an antique light fixture or the unusual pattern in the superb woodwork. The sunroom is versatile in its use and fresh in its finishes: the perfect spot to sip tea or lemonade while enjoying the beautiful garden views.

The upstairs library, with its patinaed mahogany paneling, represents a cherished highlight of the home… a warm & sophisticated space where working becomes a real pleasure.

The kitchen, true heart of the home, was remodeled to blend with its historical elements while offering practicality. A favorite place for the entire family engaged in a multitude of activities: cooking, casual eating, TV watching, doing homework and lounging.

The bedrooms, all ensuites, are comfortable & charming each one with its own flavors. A main floor bedroom was added to allow for a no-stairs use and potential aging in place.

A particular attention to details and finishes, all exquisite and beautifully executed.

The lower and upper floors are ideal for relaxing and entertaining guests and friends: media room, workout area, project alcove, guest bedroom, and family room.

Step outside from the main level living through the numerous sets of French doors to enjoy a lush outdoor living, both private and welcoming. Towering Atlas cedar, blooming borders, quaint tree house, refreshing fountain and sprawling patios and lawn, all ideal for quiet moments or large gatherings.

A little urban enclave where life feels easy and natural, and one forgets that Downtown Seattle and Lake Union are minutes away.

Check out more details by clicking here.

The many faces of Staging

When I started selling real estate 12 years ago, homes were put or rather “slapped” on the market pretty much “as is”. One day, the owners would decide to sell their home, their agent would preview the property, assess its value, take pictures and not long after, the property would be “thrown into the market arena”. At that time, the very concept of staging was perceived, by owners and brokers, as a total waste of time and energy. My very first attempt at it was not perfect yet got my listing sold in record time and for top dollar (in a market where sales were sluggish and unpredictable). Staged properties sell faster and for higher prices because buyers feel at home, they can visualize their belongings in them and know that they will be able to move right in. If you were going to sell your car, would you take the time to vacuum the interior, wash and polish the exterior? Or just sell it dirty and full of stuff? Well, staging works the same way. Although superficial, its effects are paramount!

#1. The 3 Cs of staging    CLEAN    COLOR    CLUTTER

– The very first rule is to invest time in a general “Spring cleaning” both interior and exterior. Your property needs to smell fresh and inviting. Avoid air fresheners as much as possible, some buyers are allergic to them. Use diffusers instead, burn a natural and gently scented candle before a showing or bake cookies.

– The best colors are neutral ones such as off whites, cream or soft greys (very “in” right now) for the main living areas. If you are using some light colors for the bedrooms and bathrooms make sure to keep the ceilings & trims white. Working with neutral tones.

– Get rid of the clutter. Since you are going to move anyway, time to pack nick knacks, and extra decorations on shelves and furniture. Less is better. Clear your counters, make your closets not so packed with clothes (they will look larger).

#2. De-Personalize

Your home needs to be as neutral as possible, remove those family portraits (you want buyers to look at your home and not at its personal content) and put away any books on religion, and various controversial elements.

#3. Fix and repair

If you have been putting off a list of broken items or a to-do maintenance list, now is the time to tackle it. It goes from refreshing the paint on baseboards, walls and doors to fixing some broken windows and having your furnace serviced or your roof and gutters cleaned.

#4. Key pieces of furniture and fun accessories with a recurring theme & color

If your furniture is shabby or dated looking you may want to haul them away and rent a few key pieces that will make the living spaces fresh and relevant to a modern buyer. Using a professional stager might be a good way to go if you don’t know where to start. He or she will have the right inventory of furniture and accessories for your house and will direct you towards the right selection. It is better to avoid being too traditional or too modern to appeal to a wider range of age groups and tastes. Go for a more transitional style.

Do not block a passage way or a view towards the back of a sofa. Think of the best attributes of your home and rearrange your furniture accordingly. Showing your buyers where to put their electronics and TVs is important. If your market attracts a high level of International buyers, think of Feng Shui as an important extra step in your staging process.

#5. Larger & fewer pieces of artwork with a recurring color scheme

When it comes down to wall art, larger and fewer pieces will have a bigger impact. Once you have selected a color palette, you will want to bring a few recurring themes and colors to the throws, pillows and artwork present in the home. It will bring a sense of coherence and flow between the rooms. If you own a waterfront or a view home for example, think of using some blues and greys into your accessories. It will create a flow between the inside and the outside.

#6. Work on that curb appeal

Curb appeal is essential as this is the very first impression buyers will have of your home. If it doesn’t look kept up or inviting, they may not even take the time to go inside. Have your home pressure washed, refresh your paint, if necessary, add some potted plants and create an entrance that says “welcome”.

If you are thinking of selling your home in the near future, think “STAGING”, the end result will be worth it! 

Greater Seattle Area: a market on stereoids

Our Seattle real estate market has seen some historic appreciation over the last 2 years. 2022 is starting off very strongly for sellers.
For those who are jumping on the opportunity to cash in on their real estate investment, we are witnessing some incredible results with multiple offers, bidding wars and sales price escalating 30%+ over list price.  A recent sale in Bellevue made the news selling $1 million over asking… a true record.
Appreciation history

2022 Real Estate Forecast

From listening to Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, here are his top 10 predictions for this new year.

#1. Price will continue to rise

In 2021, Seattle’s appreciation was 16% and the pace will slow down to 6% due to affordability issues. We are testing affordability levels across the country even in unexpected areas such as Salem, Eugene, Boise, Bellingham and Tacoma.

#2. Spring will be busier than expected

The season may come earlier & be bigger. The work paradigm is real and is likely to increase. The rise of COVID variants forced companies to delay “going back to work” to this year. Workers are likely to find out how many times they will have to go to work per week and find homes better equipped for home offices.

#3. The rise of the suburbs

This is a follow up from the previous point. Work will still be conducted from home either partially or full time leading to the appeal of suburbs and or areas away from high density. Greater interest in secondary and tertiary markets which have previously been overlooked up to now. This will lead affordability issues for existing residents who were planning to buy when the time was right.

#4. New construction jumps

The cost of new construction is expected to go down a bit due to inflation. Material costs, which spiked with COVID, should go down and lead to increasing new construction starts close to numbers not seen since 2005: 1.2M to 1.3M.

#5. Zoning issues will be addressed

A big push is expected to address zoning issues limiting development. Significant changes should be a focal point this year.

#6. Climate change will impact where buyers live

Now that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and climate risk data is starting to be readily available, buyers will want to know about fire or flood risks and the associated costs on home insurance or mortgage rate.

#7. Urban markets will bounce back

While increased working-from-home can & will raise housing demand further away from city centers, it may not necessarily mean less demand for city living. In fact, some urban neighborhoods may even become highly desirable.

#8. A resurgence in foreign investors

Prospective buyers have been sitting on the sideline since the beginning of the pandemic and started to look again when the travel ban was lifted last November. All this has been put on pause again due the rise of the latest COVID variant. If borders do not close again, we are expected to see a resurgence in foreign investors.

#9. First-time buyers will be an even bigger factor

First-time home buyers will be an even bigger factor in 2022. 4.8M millennials will be turning 30 which is the median age for Americans to purchase their first home. An additional 9.4M will be celebrating their 28th and 29th, people who are likely to buy a home if they can buy further out at more affordable prices.

#10. Forbearance will come to an end

Forbearance will come to an end, and it will be okay. There used to be a thought that this would mean a wave of foreclosures which is not the case. The number is shrinking. Homeowners still have the opportunity to sell their homes if they cannot get back on their feet as they exit the program.

Iconic Three Tree Point Estate

Once in a while, one is lucky to come across a property where one can feel history vibrating through walls and floating in the air. The Sorensen’s estate is one of them. Located North of Three Tree Point, a quaint waterfront community a mere half hour drive to Downtown Seattle, the property fills visitors with a feeling of respect and contemplation as soon as they come down the wooded lane leading to the home; a tall and mysterious Mid-Century building surrounded by giant fir trees, mature rhododendron & azalea borders.

The property, once a 42-acre estate belonging to the Duffy-Blethen family (founders of the Seattle Times), was used as a summer place until 1955 when the current home was built becoming their main residence. At that time, the grounds were known as Kewn (a Gaelic word meaning “a still place in the forest where flowers bloom”). The gardens would open to the public and the proceeds were donated to the Red Cross. The beautifully designed gardens by Fred Cole, world-known for his renowned Butchart Gardens, were, at the time, maintained by 7 full-time gardeners until the 1960s.

The home was built on a promontory to take advantage of the spectacular views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Range and the neighboring islands. To give the family maximum privacy during the summer months when the gardens were open, the window areas facing the entrance driveway were limited and doorways carefully recessed. Large, glassed panels, on the other hand, were used on the West and South faces of the house, adding to the already spacious proportions of the living areas. Among the highlights of this spectacular home: a circular dining room, a stunning green rock fireplace, clear cedar paneling & colossal custom-made chandeliers.

The current owners have enhanced the home without altering its Mid-Century Modern spirit and by updating systems, uncovering beautiful hardwood floors under the original shaggy wall-to-wall carpeting, refreshing wall colors…  A tasteful facelift that took passion and time.  Welcome to this beautiful and inspiring property, true time capsule of a past era yet so relevant today.

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.”


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.

A Car Collector’s Dream

“Automotive memorabilia has been around as long as cars themselves. With America’s passion for these nostalgic items continuing to grow, Barrett-Jackson Automobilia Director Rory Brinkman believes lightning will strike twice in the same place in Scottsdale come January. The Ron Pratte Automobilia Collection helped make the Scottsdale 2015 automobilia auction the highest-grossing in history, shattering world records. Now, four stellar collections are combining for the Scottsdale 2016 automobilia auction, creating an offering Brinkman says is equal in importance to Pratte’s.

The collections of Gordon Apker, Art Redford, Jim MacKinnon and Richard LeRoy represent over 85 years of collecting and include more than 800 tin and porcelain signs, 40 restored pedal cars, over 100 neon signs, gas pump globes, service station displays, 35 restored gas pumps, soda collectibles, general store items and more. Incredibly, Apker and Redford are selling just a portion of their collections and have never sold any items from their automobilia collections before. “Collectors have been beating on their doors for years,” says Brinkman. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Apker, who also has an admirable car collection, says he started seriously collecting automobilia when he was in his mid-20s, although he was attracted to the motoring-related memorabilia even earlier, when he worked at a gas station. While he particularly likes automobile-themed toys, Apker has amassed a little bit of everything. He’ll be bringing some 20 pedal cars to Scottsdale, along with restored gas pumps, neon signs, station displays and more.

Apker is quick to point out that selling a portion of his collection doesn’t mean he’s stopping. “It’s hard to change my stripes,” he chuckles. “My favorite piece is probably the next one I’m going to try and find. I’ve always wanted an Aston Martin sign, but the factory takes them back and destroys them. I’ve never gotten one, and probably never will.” He says that over the years he simply bought what he liked, never thinking it would be “worth a darn dime,” but instead collecting things that reminded him of his past. “When I worked at the gas station, I had nothing,” he recalls. “I guess now I’ve gotten to the point where the American dream has been met. I like to go back and remember how it was. I don’t ever want to forget that.”

Excerpts taken from a post by Barrett-Jackson posted November 17th, 2015.