Will Open Houses Become a Thing of the Past?

Earlier this month, as concern regarding the coronavirus grew, my company, Windermere Real Estate, followed by the NWMLS a few days later, made the decision to suspend all open houses in an effort to protect the health of buyers, sellers and brokers.

There will be little real estate business transacted during the State of Washington’s mandated “shelter-at-home” period. Escrow and title companies and lenders will continue to work, as much as legally permitted, to be sure sellers and buyers involved in transactions already under contract will close on time.

Even before the mandated “shelter-at-home”, many sellers requested no open houses and buyer traffic dropped significantly at homes (mostly vacant) where open houses were scheduled. What about open houses in the future? While I always include open houses in my marketing plan, at the seller’s option, it is one of the marketing activities that delivers the least return to, and honestly, most inconvenience to sellers. The majority of my real estate business focuses on condominiums, and its not unusual to find open houses restricted or prohibited by the HOA. Homeowners who purchase in a secure building do so because they want to live in a community offering safety and where public access is limited to owner controlled, owner invited guests. A public open house that allows dozens of strangers to access a building is an intrusion on the privacy and security of everyone who lives in the community.

With the advancement of technology, professional and drone photography, 3-D and 360 degree virtual tours, buyers can virtually walk through a property before scheduling a private appointment with their broker to see the home. Going forward we may see fewer open houses, especially in secure residential buildings. Open houses create a logistical challenge for the hosting broker, sellers, buyers and the concierge staff, and are an intrusion to the privacy of all homeowners in the building.

 

 

 

Posted on March 27, 2020 at 9:00 AM
Robin Myers | Category: buying a home, condominium speciaist, home safety, open house, real estate, selling a home, Windermere | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

February NWMLS Real Estate Market Snapshot

February statistics are in. Home prices, compared to February 2019, are up 9%. There’s less than a six week supply of available homes which is down 33% over the same time last year. Mortgage interest rates are historically low. Now is the time to maximize your home buying power. Open house traffic has been amazing. If you’re ready to sell, buyers are in the market and looking for homes. Amazon’s projected growth in downtown Bellevue over the next several years already has employees searching for homes in an effort to stay ahead of the competition.

Questions about the Eastside condo market? I’ve specialized in condos for most of my career. I have unique market knowledge, insight and experience to help you understand the market and help you meet your personal and financial goals.

Posted on March 11, 2020 at 9:30 AM
Robin Myers | Category: buying a home, condominium speciaist, condominiums, Downtown Bellevue, first time buyers, home property values, real estate, selling a home | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Wire Fraud – Use Caution When Wiring Funds

flickr/Ben Taylor

In every real estate transaction emails are sent between the buyer and their real estate broker, lender, escrow and title companies. Unfortunately these emails have created an opportunity for wire fraud scammers causing some real estate buyers to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Here’s how it works . . . scammers hack into the email account of the buyer, buyer’s real estate broker, lender, title or escrow officer. The scammer, who now has access to the email addresses of all parties involved in the transaction, creates a new email account almost identical to the lender, broker, escrow company, etc. It could be just one letter off, but unless you look very carefully the email could look official and carry the proper company logo and signature block. The scammer sends an email to the buyer, using the newly created fraudulent account, providing instructions to wire funds for the closing on an upcoming home purchase. The email looks authentic, and the buyer is expecting to receive instructions for wiring their funds, so there is little reason to doubt the authenticity of the email. The buyers contact their bank to arrange for the wire but can discover too late they may have responded to a fake email address and funds have been wired to an unidentified recipient’s account. The funds are often quickly routed two or three more times, making the path of the funds impossible to trace or retrieve.

Real estate buyers and sellers have become targets for wire fraud. Sadly this is a national and global problem and the Seattle area has not escaped this scam. Local authorities and the FBI have been involved in these investigations, but the success rate for locating the scammer or retrieving funds is low. Some escrow/title companies have gone “old school”, requesting clients deliver cashier’s checks to the office in person. Wire instructions are still used but instructions are now snail mailed to the buyer to eliminate the email piracy of their contact information. Buyers should always call their broker, lender, title or escrow before wire transferring funds to confirm the amount, account information and instructions. A buyer or seller can also designate that no wire transfers are permitted in the transaction, only a cashier’s check.

Unfortunately the real estate industry is one of those that has become a target for scammers. Sending funds via a wire transfer is quick and easy, and while physically obtaining and delivering a cashier’s check to escrow may be inconvenient, that extra few minutes of time can nearly guarantee another buyer won’t be out thousands and thousands of dollars when they should be celebrating the purchase of their new home.

 

 

 

Posted on March 3, 2020 at 9:00 AM
Robin Myers | Category: buying a home, condominium speciaist, real estate, wire fraud | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

What a Difference a Few Days of Sun Can Make

While showing condos recently I took a photo of one of the home’s incredible views. We are fortunate to live in an amazingly beautiful part of the country. It can be gray here in the early months of the year, and we’ll all agree that this February has been a tough month with record rain, wind and unusually long, dark days. All it takes is a few days of sun to help us get through the last weeks of winter.
Hang in there . . . spring is almost here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on February 28, 2020 at 10:30 AM
Robin Myers | Category: Bellevue, condominium speciaist, condominiums, Downtown Bellevue, lifestyle, real estate | Tagged , , , , , ,

Do You Need to Disclose a Video Security System When Your Home is Listed for Sale?

flickr/Jordan Hatcher

 

Today’s home security systems are plentiful, inexpensive and easy to install. While they can provide peace of mind, when you list your home for sale, are you required to disclose the operation of a home video or audio security system?

Washington State law makes it very clear  –  it is UNLAWFUL for anyone to record, by any device, the private conversation of others without their consent. (RCW 9.73.030). Disclosure of an audio monitoring system or device, warning of the monitoring system, is not sufficient. Giving warning is not the same as obtaining the consent of all involved in the conversation.

There is no law prohibiting a seller from having a video only system to record movement or physical actions inside the home; Washington State law prohibits only audio recording. The seller and listing broker should disclose in the MLS listing and inside the home that there is an active video security system and warn visitors they may be recorded while in the home.

Affordability and ease of installation has made home security systems more common. While many systems record only movement, some (including infant monitors) include audio listening devices. If a seller refuses to disable active audio surveillance, and records audio without gaining the consent of the speakers, seller will be in violation of state law. If a seller has additional questions or concerns relating to this issue, they should seek legal counsel.

 

 

 

 

Posted on February 27, 2020 at 9:30 AM
Robin Myers | Category: condominium speciaist, home technology, real estate, selling a home | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Walkability to Amenities May Command a Higher Home Price

flickr/Peter Blanchard

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on February 24, 2020 at 12:17 PM
Robin Myers | Category: condominium speciaist, condominiums, property values, real estate, urban living, walkability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Selling Your Home? Prepare for the Photo Shoot

 

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.

 

 

 

Posted on February 21, 2020 at 10:00 AM
Robin Myers | Category: condominium speciaist, condominiums, home safety, moving, real estate | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Excavation Started at Avenue Bellevue

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.

Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:08 PM
Robin Myers | Category: Bellevue, condominium speciaist, condominiums, Downtown Bellevue | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Affordable Housing in Bellevue?

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

Posted on January 28, 2020 at 2:45 PM
Robin Myers | Category: Bellevue, condo financing, condominiums, first time buyers, real estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Open House Etiquette

With real estate market activity picking up there will be more open houses to visit in the coming weeks. Are there rules of etiquette when visiting an open house? Common sense and courtesy should prevail, but it can be surprising what visitors think is acceptable when walking through someone else’s home.

So what is OK, and what isn’t when visiting an open house?

 

 

 

  • If requested, remove your shoes or slip on shoe covers.
  • It’s OK to open closet and kitchen or bath cabinets or take a peek at attic storage, but it’s not OK to open dresser or desk drawers. That’s private personal space and what’s inside has nothing to do with the features of the home.
  • Do not use the bathroom  –  take care of that before you leave your house.
  • If lights are on, leave them on.
  • If you unlock/open a door, close and lock it.
  • Never bring food or drink into a home.
  • If you are visiting with your children keep an eye on them, or better yet, hold their hand while in the home.    DO NOT let them wander freely through the home, run through the house, play with toys that are not theirs or turn on TVs or video games.

There’s no need to rush through an open house, but lounging on the family room sofa for 45 minutes to chat isn’t acceptable – move that conversation out to your car or your broker’s car. Be courteous when the end of an open house is approaching. The owners have vacated their home for several hours and they’re ready to come home. If you need more time have your broker schedule an appointment to see the home again.

The Golden Rule applies  –  try to put yourself in the shoes of the homeowner (you may be selling your own home soon). Think about how you’d feel if strangers went through your dresser drawers, pulled toys out or misplaced a TV remote.

 

Posted on January 22, 2020 at 4:52 PM
Robin Myers | Category: condominiums, first time buyers, moving, open house, real estate | Tagged , , , , ,