I love what I do and enjoy the opportunity to educate and guide buyers and sellers through the process (and sometimes stress) of buying or selling a home. If you worked with me this year, or bought or sold a home through Windermere Real Estate, you are part of the Windermere Foundation and you made a positive difference in the lives of our neighbors in need. With each buyer of seller we work with, Windermere brokers donate to the Windermere Foundation.
For the past 26 years the Windermere Foundation has donated a portion of each home sale toward supporting low-income and homeless families in our communities. Thank you for helping to raise over $20 million for those who need our help the most.
This is a busy time of year for everyone and hopefully you are planning on gathering with family and friends in your home. Windermere Foundation has made an effort to be sure many less fortunate families have that same opportunity.
Sweet joys are often found in simple places. Merry Christmas. Enjoy every moment of the New Year.
One of the advantages of a condo or townhouse lifestyle is the low maintenance. Homeowners aren't generally responsible for maintaining the exterior of the structure, roof, landscaping, garage doors, etc. However, owning a condo or townhouse isn't "maintenance free".
Home repairs often come without warning – the hot water tank or an appliance fails, the plumbing leaks, etc. With a condominium, its important to know what elements of the home are the responsibility of the owner to maintain and which fall under the responsibility of the homeowner association. (This information is disclosed in the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions – CC&RS – which are part of the resale certificate every buyer receives.) There are ways you can avoid maintenance surprises:
- Have a structural inspection. The inspector will provide information on whether a system or appliance is in good working order, is older and has a limited life span or is on its last legs. If an appliance, furnace, mechanical feature, etc. is not in working order, a buyer can request that the seller replace or repair the item prior to closing.
- Purchase a home warranty. The annual cost is $400+- and, like car insurance, there will be a deductible, but if a major appliance or system fails a warranty may cover a large percentage of the repair or replacement bill. Home warranties aren't just for new purchases. A warranty can be purchased at any time by an existing owner.
Purchasing a home is expensive. The costs for the down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, etc. add up quickly. The last thing a new owner needs is an unexpected repair bill. Be aware of the expected lifespan of all the elements in the home and, if purchasing a condominium, know what elements the homeowner and the homeowner association are responsible for maintaining/replacing. Its wise to set aside a budgeted amount monthly for emergency home repairs or purchase a home warranty. Emergency home repairs are never convenient and are always more expensive than expected. Be prepared.
First time buyers, and even homeowners who haven't purchased a home in quite some time, can be surprised when they learn there are closing costs in addition to their down payment required when purchasing a home. Early in the process, whether with your Realtor® or lender, closing costs should be discussed so those don't come as a surprise down the road. Closing costs may include, but aren't limited to:
- loan origination fee
- appraisal fee
- pre-paid homeowner insurance
- pre-paid condo HOA fees
- pro-rated real estate taxes
Typical closing costs can be estimated at about 3% of the purchase price. To the closing costs add the down payment for the total funds needed for your purchase.There are excellent loan programs available with as little as 3% down and down payment assistance programs, so its definitely worth the time to explore loan options early in the process.
If you plan to buy a home in 2016, now is the time to meet with your lender and Realtor® to start the home search and loan approval process. Locally the "spring" market swings into gear by late January. Stay ahead of the game (and other buyers) by having your loan approval finalized and start educating yourself on which communities best fit your budget, lifestyle, commute, etc.
Follow the link below to a five episode series produced by Realtor.com featuring Elizabeth Banks reminding everyone that searching for and purchasing a home requires patience and humor. With mounds of paperwork required to obtain financing, weeks or months spent searching for a home, multiple offers, waiting to see if your offer is accepted, packing, cleaning, moving . . . its easy to be overwhelmed by the process.
Smile, have a cup of tea or glass of wine and enjoy the videos. And remember . . . you going to love your new home.
After months of speculation, Whole Foods has announced it will be the urban grocer occupying the space in the former JC Penny store at Bellevue Square. The new 365 store concept, named after the company's house brand, is expected to offer less expensive items and less variety than the larger stores. Scheduled to open the second half of 2016, this will be the first of the small format stores to open in the Seattle area. Whole Foods plans to open other 365 stores in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Portland and Houston.
The company also plans to open a full size store in Kirkland at the former Totem Lake Mall. Scheduled to open mid 2017- it will be the first Whole Foods in Kirkland.
Condo insurance, what could be more boring. Did you know . . .
Most homeowner associations carry a master insurance policy which covers damage to a community's residential buildings and parking structures. The HOA may also carry additional earthquake insurance. As a homeowner you need to understand what coverage falls under the HOA's master policy and what coverage you are responsible for having.
- Mold is almost always excluded on the HOA general liability insurance policy. Other exclusions may include damage from water incidents, insects, animals, "acts of God" and vandalism.
- While some condo insurance policies may provide some amount of coverage for damage within a unit, the HOA's general liability insurance policy almost never covers an owner's personal property.
- Condo owners are strongly encouraged to obtain their own personal insurance policy to cover their personal property as well as provide coverage for items/circumstances not covered in the association's policy and deductibles. (Some HOAs may require owners to provide proof of insurance.)
- Definitions of unit boundaries for HOA policy insurance coverage vs. owner policy insurance coverage can be found in the association's Declarations (also called the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions or CC&Rs.)
- If a condo owner rents the condo, it is a good idea to require and obtain proof that the tenant has a renter's policy to insure the tenant's personal property.
If you are selling a condo, the HOA master insurance policy is one of the documents a seller must provide to the buyer. This document will be required by the buyer's lender and escrow as part of the buyer's loan approval and closing documents.
For more information about your condo's insurance coverage contact your association manager or your insurance agent.
It was pretty exciting in downtown Bellevue this weekend. The concrete pour at the Lincoln Square expansion site was the largest single construction project pour ever in the State of Washington. Pretty impressive . . . just an other example of the continuing growth in Bellevue's central business district. Lincoln Square is one of half a dozen major commercial or residential projects currently under construction downtown. While not everyone likes the changes to Bellevue in recent years, and I can appreciate and understand your opinion, it was inevitable downtown was going to change. Bellevue is a great place to live and the city's Comprehensive Plan, designed in the 1970s, laid the groundwork for what the city would become. That plan shaped what Bellevue is today and will continue to define how Bellevue will grow and change in the future. So on the weekend of an historic 24 hour concrete pour at the city's next mega mixed use project I come across this piece of history/nostalgia – a pay phone booth at Meydenbauer Bay marina. Seriously . . . I didn't think there were any pay phone booths left anywhere on the eastside. If you need a reminder of how things used to be before we were teathered to our smart phones, take a walking tour of the city and stop by the waterfront. It might even still work – what does a pay phone booth call cost these days?
Recent articles in Consumer Affairs, NPR and Fox/Business News focusing on the economy, employment, mortgage interest rates, rising rents, consumer confidence, home prices, etc. all agree that 2015 could be the best year to buy real estate. Its getting expensive to be a renter . . . with rising rents the cost of putting a roof over your head can be significantly less, and more predictable, if you own vs. rent. With the improving economy all indicators point to rising interest rates by summer. Even just a half percentage increase in mortgage rates can have a big impact on affordability. Great loan programs offering far less than 20% down (as low as 3%), combined with historically low interest rates make buying a first home a reality. There are even loan programs that offer help with down payment and closing costs for moderate income buyers. (Contact me or your lender for more information.)
Is now a good time to sell your condo or house? Buyers taking advantage of low interest rates and favorable loan probrams are in the market NOW. Inventory levels are low now but typically increase as spring approaches. With less competition now is a great time to market your home to those buyers who want to be moving my spring, not just starting their search.
Downtown Bellevue condo values have recovered and are back to within a percentage or two of the pre-recession peak market. The biggest difference is availability – while values increased the number of condos sold in 2014 was 50% below the number sold in 2013 and 2015 is showing signs of more of the same. No new construction condo inventory will be available in 2015, so the buyer focus will be on downtown's existing communities. Downtown Bellevue is the hottest market on the eastside. If you plan to sell a condominium in or around downtown Bellevue now is the time to maximize your return on investment.
This morning's Seattle Times featured a great piece about the changing face of downtown Bellevue. For so many reasons, downtown Bellevue has become the hottest address on the eastside. Its a great place to call home.