Tuesday, January 26, 2016

BUYING A HOME IN THE WINTER

Why you shouldn't waste the cold months dreaming of a Spring purchase.


Every winter the same thing happens to me; I meet someone new at a holiday gathering or a night out and when they learn I'm a real estate agent they say "Oh! We are actually planning on buying a home, but we're going to wait until the spring of course." My response is always the same, the best time for them to buy a home is NOW. 

You may be thinking "Of course you'd say that, agents always want you to buy a house NOW." But there are some huge benefits to buying in the winter that buyers miss out on in the spring and summer. 

Competition - Spring and summer is when everyone wants to move, the market explodes and agents lose their minds trying to keep up with demands. If you're a seller this is a great time of year, but if you're a buyer you're going to be struggling to keep your head above water in the sea of other buyers. In the real estate world everything comes down to supply and demand, and when the demand out numbers the supply things get hectic. Prices will soar and homes will get nabbed right out from under you, it's stressful and frustrating.

It's a common myth that people don't sell homes in the winter, but the truth is people are ALWAYS selling homes. Buying in the winter means you may not have as many choices, but you also don't have the competition. You can take your time, browse more leisurely, and worry less about multiple offers.

Negotiations - People who choose to sell in the winter often need to move quickly, maybe for a job relocation or family situation, and don't have the luxury of waiting for the spring. This means they will be much more open to negotiations and you could get a much better deal. 

Great Prices - In the winter the supply of homes will outweigh the demand for them, which means buyers get to be picky about what they'll pay. Unlike in the warmer months, when buyers often offer above asking price to beat out other offers, in the winter buyers can offer below asking price without any eyebrow raises. 

Better Inspections - The winter offers some great seasonal advantages when it comes to inspecting homes. Does the roof have any leaks? You'll sure know if it does in the winter (especially in the Pacific Northwest). Does the heater work properly? Are the windows and doors drafty? Are the fireplaces functional? All these things can be tested in the spring and summer, but any faults are much easier to notice in the winter, especially the leaks and drafts. 

Professional Help - Probably the best part of buying in the winter is the availability of professionals to help you out. This is a slow time of year for agents, inspectors, contractors, lenders, and anyone else you may need, and they'll all be more than happy to cater to your needs! 

So, if you're ready to buy a home but were planning on holding off for the spring, you may want to rethink your plan. Put on a warm coat and go get a great deal on your new home! 


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Creating a Dream Home Wish List


Are you itching to get into a new, or possibly first, home but you aren't quite ready to start looking? Maybe you have to bump that credit score up a few notches, maybe you don't want to move your kids in the middle of the school year, or maybe you just have a bit more down payment saving to do. Whatever the reason, you're like a kid counting down the days to the Disney vacation your parents have promised and you just HAVE to do something! I hear ya. 

I was probably the most impatient child in the world, and I'm not much better as an adult, so when I had to wait weeks or months for something I would spend the time basically making a really pretty list. In other words I would write down things I would need for the big day, or things I wanted to do, and I would decorate it with drawings, magazine clippings, I'd make a collage basically. 

OK, stay with me here, I'm not actually telling you to create a giant collage of how badly you want your new home (though I'm not telling you NOT to, either) but making a very detailed list is something that will benefit you later. 

When you finally meet with your agent one of the first things they'll ask you is "What are you looking for in your new home? What features and amenities do you need or want?" More often than not, when I ask this question to my buyers, I'm met with blank stares because all they've been thinking about is that they want a house, they didn't really consider what kind of house. My favorite answer I've gotten to this question was "Well, I want some bedrooms.. And DEFINITELY a kitchen!"

In order for your agent to find you the home you want they obviously need to know what you're looking for, and it can be harder than you think to create that list on the spot. Starting early and coming to that first meeting with a solid list of wants and needs will help find you a home quicker and with less frustration.

Features


First, come up with a basic list of features that you both want and need. Odds are you won't get everything on your list, but it never hurts to dream big. Don't refrain from writing something down because you think it won't exist in your price range or something. The point of the list is to give your agent as much info as possible, so even if they can't find the authentic zen garden you've always wanted, they can maybe come close. 

Here's a list to get you started.
  • Age: Do you prefer historic properties, or newer ones?
  • Style: Do you have a special preference for ranches, bungalows, or another style of construction?
  • Bedrooms: How many?
  • Bathrooms: How many? Are they updated?
  • Living and Dining Areas: A traditional, formal layout, or a more open, contemporary plan?
  • Stories: How many?
  • Square feet: How much space?
  • Ceilings: How high?
  • Kitchen: How big? Recently updated? Open to other living areas?
  • Storage: Big closets, a shed, an extra-large garage?
  • Parking: A garage or carport? Room for how many cars?
  • Extras: Attic or basement?

Amenities


The next thing to work on is the amenities you and your family will need. This list usually takes a bit more thought, and now a days neighborhood amenities seem to hold precedence over features for a lot of buyers. Can you live in a slightly smaller house if it means a shorter commute to work? Will you give up that two car garage for a better school district? Take your time thinking about what you want in a house vs what you want in a life style, what's best for you and your family?

Here are some things to consider.
  Home amenities and extras
  • Office
  • Play/exercise room
  • Security system
  • Sprinkler system
  • Workshop/Studio
  • In-law suite
  • Fireplace
  • Pool
  • Hot tub
  • Sidewalk
  • Wooded lot
  • Patio, deck, or porch
  • Laundry room
  Neighborhood amenities
  • Commute time: Specific time limit? The ability to walk or bike?
  • Restaurants
  • Parks and recreation
  • Distance from friends/family
  • School district
  • Shopping and grocery options
  • City or country
  • Foot traffic
  • Pet friendly
This is only a small amount of stuff to consider and a good agent will ask you about all of it, perhaps even more. So grab a pen (and maybe some magazines and glue sticks) and you'll be walking into that agent meeting, fully prepared, before you know it. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Shopping Local in Tacoma WA

Shopping Local in Tacoma, WA


I've always been a big advocate of shopping local, so I thought "Why not spotlight some of my favorite local shops for others to explore?" Well that's just what I'm going to do!

Why shop local?

There are many reasons to support local business. The top reasons that come to mind with most people are keeping money local, supporting their community, and getting a deeper understanding of where their products are coming from, especially if we're talking about food. My favorite reason for shopping local is the personal connections I make with local shop owners and farmers. I love learning about their businesses and why they do what they do, which is not an experience one normally gets at a big box store. We all need to make purchases, but knowing my purchases are making a difference in my community means a lot to me, so I encourage everyone to shop local as often as they can!


One of my favorite shops is the Pacific Northwest Shop in the Proctor district of Tacoma, WA. This family owned store was opened nearly 30 years ago and is dedicated to selling products made in the Pacific Northwest, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia. 

Why do I like this shop so much? The owners and their staff are always so friendly, they have an amazing knowledge of their products, and they have SO MUCH CHOCOLATE. Seriously, the huckleberry filled dark chocolates are to die for. 

They have an annual sale during the last week of January, so I recommend you try and make it down there. If you can't make their sale, try to stop in next month for some unique Valentine's day gifts! Aside from the obvious chocolate gift choice, they also feature Mt. St. Helens volcanic ash hand blown glass hearts. They're all one-of-a-kind and look so pretty hanging in front of windows.


If you have a favorite local shop you'd like me to spotlight please mention it in the comments!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

8 STEPS TO SELLING YOUR HOME

Step Eight - Close the Deal


"Closing" refers to transferring ownership of the house from you to the buyer. Traditionally everyone, the buyer and their agent, the seller and their agent, and the escrow officer would all come together to go over paperwork. Once everyone agreed with the numbers they would sign, the buyer would pay their closing costs, and the keys would be handed over. 

While that may still happen today, it can also go quite differently. New technology allows buyers and sellers to sign remotely or with Esignatures. Your agent can go over all final costs with you and once you're ready you can sign wherever is most convenient for you. 

To be helpful to the new buyer you can prepare a "to do" list for them which includes reminders to switch all utilities into their name. It's also a good idea to gather all warranties and maintenance manuals for the home appliances and leave them in an easy to find place. 

Before you leave your home for the last time gather all your house keys, including any copies, and leave them inside the house for the new owners. The buyer's agent will be able to let them in by removing the showing key from the keybox, which will also be given to them. 

Remember, this is just a couple of ways closing may happen. How your agent manages closing will depend on whether they prefer to do things the traditional way or with a more modern flair.