The past few weeks/days have created concern, uncertainty and chaos in everyone’s world. Like many people, I am working at home, keeping clients advised of what’s happening in the real estate market and in their neighborhoods (homes are continuing to come on the market and sell) and responding to questions, emails and phone calls.
We’ve had amazing weather this week. Since exercise and sunshine are both good for relieving stress, I’ve made it a point to take the dogs on a couple walks each day. They too enjoy getting outside to enjoy the fresh spring smells and roll in the grass (them, not me). It’s been a great reminder that we live in an incredibly beautiful place, that we should take advantage of this amazing weather (especially for March) and that sunshine and walking are good for your soul. When will things return to normal, I can’t predict, but I do know the rain will return and we will be forced to spend more time indoors. There’s a lot going on in the world right now that is confusing and scary and that we can’t control. Along with social distancing, using appropriate caution and staying in touch with family and friends, remember to step outside, take a deep breath, enjoy the sun, take a walk and clear your head.
Thursday is the first day of spring. Happy Spring!
Condos are often the choice of empty nesters downsizing, or right-sizing, into a new lifestyle offering less maintenance, luxury amenities and a carefree lock-and-walk lifestyle. It can be an adjustment living with neighbors closer, sharing common areas and learning to cope with smaller spaces. Give ample thought to your lifestyle and how you will adjust to your new space. Is a separate office a necessity or can you create an office nook or multi-use area that serves as guest/office space? Will the kitchen and dining areas provide adequate day-to-day work/storage space but offer flexibility to expand to accommodate entertaining and family gatherings? Will the family pet adjust to an elevator ride to walk or find the pet relief area? Plan for lifestyle adjustments when making the move from a house to a condo. The two regrets I hear most often from people who have moved from a house to a condo are that they downsized too much (into too small a space) and they moved too many large furniture pieces from their former home.
I moved from a house to a townhome in downtown Bellevue a dozen years ago. I love the lifestyle. There were adjustments (still have unpacked boxes in storage) but I’ve never regretted the move. I missed my garden the first summer and the privacy of a fenced yard (so did the dog). The next summer I found I enjoyed the creativity and freedom of container gardening. The courtyard is perfect for intimate dining and the dog has enough space to lounge on the patio. Inside spaces are perfect for everyday and expand just enough to accommodate larger gatherings. The year round access and walk-ability to EVERYTHING was the best discovery. Walking provides a connection to the city. I love the ease of walking to shopping, dining and events, watching the changes to the skyline, meeting neighbors for impromptu coffee, greeting other dog walkers and discovering new public courtyard spaces tucked throughout downtown. My fitness, and the dog’s, has improved and we now have a cute new wardrobe of functional wind and waterproof attire.
Make your everyday extraordinary. Find the home that fits your lifestyle and embrace your new urban lock-and-walk lifestyle.
The National Association of Realtors® recently published an article with data from a Redfin study addressing the impact walkability to neighborhood amenities has on home values. Homes within walking distance of workplaces, shopping, parks, schools, etc. rank high on buyer wish lists but will command higher prices.
Homes with in-city locations are often condominiums (stack flats) or attached townhomes. Buyers willing to consider moving to close-in but less walkable, more car dependent neighborhoods, may find more affordable options as well as more single family house choices.
West coast urban markets have seen the premium walkability has on home values. In 2019 the premium for walkability in the Seattle marketplace increased the average price by 15.7% or $86,331. In San Diego urban/walkable homes averaged 10.5% more or $60,225 and in Los Angeles the premium for walkability was 5.8% or $34,583.
This is the time of year when more homes are listed for sale. It’s rare to see a home on the market that doesn’t have professional photos. Quality photography is critical for on line marketing and could be the most important piece of the marketing plan your broker will (or should) commit to when listing your home for sale.
Not even professional photographs can hide flaws, clutter, dirt, etc. and sometimes those are more evident through the camera lens. There are easy steps to take to be sure your home is camera ready which will help the photo shoot go more quickly so you can return home sooner.
- Replace burned out bulbs (table lamps and ceiling fixtures)
- Clean and de-clutter all surfaces throughout the home. Remove personal items and photos from view (recommended for security reasons as well)
- Open all drapes and blinds
- Remove pets, bedding, bowls, toys, etc.
- Same goes for children – head to the park during the photo shoot
- Remove refrigerator magnets and artwork, paper towel holders, towels hanging on cabinet handles, sponge or soap holders/dispensers
- Make the beds and take a quick look from all sides to be sure covers are even all the way around. Fluff pillows and remove personal items from bedside tables.
- Clear bathroom counters, tub and shower ledges and remove toothbrushes, hair styling items, soap and shampoo bottles, etc.
- Decks, patios and courtyards – sweep all surfaces (power wash if needed), cover the bar-b-q, plant fresh flowers in the pots, remove broken pots or furniture
- Turn all lights before leaving
The photographer and your broker will appreciate your effort, the photo shoot will go more quickly and you will be able to return home sooner. It is, no doubt, inconvenient and stressful to have your home listed for sale. Your efforts to have it photo ready and prepared for open houses and showing appointments will go a long way toward having buyers take away a favorable impression and sell more quickly.
It’s that time of year when we start collecting receipts, mortgage interest and property tax statements, all in readiness to work on taxes or at least deliver your box of receipts and statements to your accountant.
Did you know . . . anyone 61 years or older who owns their own home may be eligible for Washington State’s senior property tax exemption. The maximum annual income for this program has been significantly increased to $58,423 which will allow many more people to be eligible for property tax relief.
For more information, to find out if you or a family member qualifies fore a reduction in property taxes, or to apply, visit the King County website at https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/tax relief/seniorexemptions .aspx or call 206-296-3920. Anyone who is eligible should take advantage of this tax exemption law.
This year I celebrate 30 years as a Realtor® and a decade with Windermere Real Estate. Locally owned, Windermere has deep roots in the community and a commitment to support the neighborhoods where we live and work. I’m proud to support the Windermere Foundation and its efforts to support organizations assisting low income and homeless families and individuals in our local communities.
With demolition complete, excavation has begun at the Avenue Bellevue site located at the northwest corner of Bellevue Way NE and NE 8th Street. (This is the former Cost Plus site, or if you’ve been around Bellevue for a while, the former Albertsons grocery store.) The mixed use project will include 85,000 square feet of retail, the Pacific Northwest’s first Intercontinental Hotel and 322 luxury condominiums positioned in two towers. Completion is projected for mid-to-late 2022.
You might be surprised to find there are many affordable housing options close to downtown Bellevue. Apartments in the city are expensive and it’s likely the rent will increase each time the lease renews. The average monthly rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in downtown Bellevue is $3,250 or more per month (plus utilities). That’s a lot of money for housing with no return on investment.
Last year more than 100 one and two bedroom condos in or near downtown Bellevue that sold with median sales prices* under $475,000 (98004 & 98005 zip codes). Some of these homes were in communities walk-able to downtown, others were less than a 10 minute drive to Bellevue’s workplaces, shopping, dining, arts and entertainment events, parks and sought after Bellevue schools.
With a budget of $550,000, a lot of money but considered affordable in the Eastside real estate marketplace, if you were buying a condo what could you expect to pay for your monthly housing expense?
- A 2 bedroom condo priced at $550,000 with a 5% down payment ($27,500) would have a monthly mortgage expense (PITI) of about $2,850/month
- There are great loan programs available with 3%, 5% and 10% down, but if the down payment is less than 20% the lender will require PMI which will could add $300-$400/month to your mortgage payment. (Consult your lender for more information.)
- Budget $395-$495/month for homeowner’s dues, but that will include the water/sewer utility, garbage/recycle service, master insurance policy and sometimes even basic cable.
With a 5% down payment on a $550,000 purchase the monthly PITI + PMI would be approximately $3,240 – about the same as renting a 2 bedroom apartment downtown, except you would get the benefit of a tax deduction for some of the closing costs and the deduction for mortgage interest and real estate taxes every year.
Before you renew your lease, talk with your lender and Realtor®. This might be the right time to purchase a home and avoid the next rent increase. You would own your home, shelter income and start building equity and wealth. You may even reduce your commute.
* median sales price – half the homes sold for more, half sold for less