You Need More Than a Guide. You Need a Sherpa.

In a normal housing market, whether you’re buying or selling a home, you need an experienced guide to help you navigate the process. You need someone you can turn to who will tell you how to price your home correctly right from the start. You need someone who can help you determine what to offer on your dream home without paying too much or offending the seller with a low-ball offer.

We are, however, in anything but a “normal market” right now. The media is full of stories about an impending recession, a trade war with China, and constant political upheaval. Each of these potential situations could dramatically impact the real estate market. To successfully navigate the landscape today, you need more than an experienced guide. You need a ‘Real Estate Sherpa.’

A Sherpa is a “member of a Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, renowned for their skill in mountaineering.” Sherpas are skilled in leading their parties through the extreme altitudes of the peaks and passes in the region – some of the most treacherous trails in the world. They take pride in their hardiness, expertise, and experience at very high altitudes.

They are much more than just guides.

This is much more than a normal real estate market.

The average guide just won’t do. You need a ‘Sherpa.’ You need an expert who understands what is happening in the market and why it is happening. You need someone who can simply and effectively explain it to you and your family. You need an expert who will guarantee you make the right decision, even in these challenging times.

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.” 

Bottom Line

Hiring an agent who has a finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying or selling experience an educated one.

Posted on October 24, 2019 at 7:30 pm
Stephen Hicks | Category: Buying, Homebuyer, Homeowner, Selling | Tagged ,

Homeowners Are Happy! Renters? Not So Much.

When people talk about homeownership and the American Dream, much of the conversation revolves around the financial benefits of owning a home. However, two recent studies show that the non-financial benefits might be even more valuable.

In a recent survey, Bank of America asked homeowners: “Does owning a home make you happier than renting?” 93% of the respondents answered yes, while only 7% said no. The survey also revealed:

  • More than 80% said they wouldn’t go back to renting
  • 88% agreed that buying a home is the “best decision they have ever made
  • 79% believed owning a home has changed them for the better

Those surveyed talked about the “emotional equity” that is built through homeownership. The study says more than half of current homeowners define a home as a place to make memories, compared to 42% who view a home as a financial investment. Besides building wealth, the survey also showed that homeownership enhances quality of life:

  • 67% of current homeowners believed their relationships with family and loved ones have changed for the better since they bought a home
  • 78% are satisfied with the quality of their social life
  • 82% of homeowners said they were satisfied with the amount of time they spend on their hobbies and passions since purchasing a home
  • 75% of homeowners pursued new hobbies after buying a home

Homeowners seem to be very happy.

Renters Tell a Different Story…

According to the latest Zillow Housing Aspirations Report45% of renters regret renting rather than buying — more than five times the share of homeowners (8%) who regret buying instead of renting. Here are the four major reasons people regret renting, according to the report:

  • 52% regret not being able to build equity
  • 52% regret not being able to customize or improve their rentals
  • 50% regret that the rent is so high
  • 49% regret that they lack private outdoor space

These two studies prove that renting is just not the same as owning.

Bottom Line

There are both financial and non-financial benefits to homeownership. As good as the “financial equity” is, it doesn’t compare to the “emotional equity” gained through owning your own home.

Posted on October 15, 2019 at 7:49 pm
Stephen Hicks | Category: Buying, Homeowner | Tagged , , , , ,

Your Queen Anne Market Report for September

You probably have felt it in the air over the last 90 days-home prices are coming down. Ah the good old days when a home would come onto the market and be sold in less than a week with multiple offers. Not happening now. Our Windermere economist is indicating that, on average, home prices are down 7-10% over this time last year.

No need to panic, because mortgage rates are low and will probably fall a little more over the next month, so that keeps buyers in the market. There is no one reason for this transition in prices. Perhaps prices just got too high for buyers to qualify or feel comfortable with their monthly mortgage payment? Perhaps the bulk of buyers have already purchased and are not being replaced at the same crazy rate that they were over the preceding seven years? Perhaps there are so many new rental apartments now with managers offering major incentives to prospective tenants that that has lessened demand, not to mention that as rents become much less than mortgage payments, folks may decide to stay in their apartments. Perhaps they are locked into a one year lease with ten more months to go? And we cannot forget the unusually higher volume of homes that came on the market in late April and  continued through June which contributed to the price decline.

Despite the above, I am still very bullish on the future of Queen Anne popularity and pricing. If we follow the usual annual cycle, I expect this market to continue at basically this value level until next Spring when we will be off to the races again from March-June(or longer)!

Don’t forget: WS Excise taxes are going up starting January 2020 and really impact homes closing for $1.5M or more. Please see the attachment for details.

There were very few homes that sold over their list prices in August, but there was one standout: 1407 Bigelow was listed at $1.495M and sold for $1.7M.

And that’s the way Steve sees it…Click here to view report, and Click here to view the current Excise Tax rates.

Make it another great month!

 

 

Posted on September 12, 2019 at 10:14 pm
Stephen Hicks | Category: Buying, Market News | Tagged , , , , , ,

An Overview of Housing Decisions Seniors Face When Downsizing

The reasons for choosing to leave your current home may vary, but whatever they are, it means you now have to decide what you should do with the house you’re living in. Let’s discuss some of the things you should look at before making the move.

Where Are You Going?

You know you need to downsize, but you also have to establish where you’ll be living once you move. According to HelpGuide, seniors have the options of independent living facilities, assisted living facilities, nursing homes or aging in place. Independent living facilities are meant for seniors who are still capable of managing their day-to-day activities on their own, while assisted living facilities are able to provide help with certain things like laundry and cooking. Nursing homes are for seniors who have a certain amount of independence but need the 24-hour supervision of medical personnel. Seniors who would like to continue living in their own house choose the age in place option. Since you’ve already decided that your current home isn’t right for you, then you’ll need to find a smaller home that suits your age in place needs. You will also need to determine whether you’ll be buying or renting the new home. The decision to buy or rent must be made based on your affordability and your budget.

What Should You Do With Your Home?

You can either sell your home, turn it into a rental property or transfer ownership of it to a relative. All of these options have different processes and documentation involved with them so it’s important that you know what you’re getting into with each one.

This article from Senior Advisor gets into the pros and cons of selling or renting your home, especially if your aim is to use the funds to help with the cost of living in a senior-focused facility. While a rental property will generate much-needed income, you will also have a lot of responsibilities as a landlord. Selling the property requires short-term work, but the funds received are set and may run out depending on your recurring expenses. Transferring the ownership of your property to a relative comes with its own regulations, and it’s important to be aware of these to ensure the transfer is handled properly. Unlike the first two options, transferral will mean you’ll no longer be able to use the property for income generation.

Who Do You Need to Consult?

Whether you decide to rent, sell or transfer ownership, you’ll need to consult a lawyer to draw up the relevant paperwork. Real estate agents are essential for selling or renting your home as well as helping you find a new one. This article by the U.S. News offers suggestions on finding the best real estate agents for you as well as what services you can expect them to offer.

A real estate agent will also be able to help you find homes that will suit your age-in-place needs and fit your budget. Before engaging an agent, make sure the cost of the house you’d like is in line with what you can afford and that you have the necessary funds for a down payment. This is most important if you will be using the proceeds from selling your home to fund your new one. If you’ve decided to rent your home and will be unable to carry out activities such as property maintenance and emergency repairs, then it would be in your best interest to get in touch with a property manager. Bear in mind, however, that property managers charge a fee in order to manage rental properties for landlords.

Leaving your home can be an emotional experience, but it’s important to make decisions based on facts and data. It’s in your best interest to make sure you have all the information and have covered all the bases for whichever option you choose. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Posted on August 21, 2019 at 9:35 pm
Stephen Hicks | Category: Buying | Tagged , , , , ,

Your Queen Anne Market Report for August 2019

The only positive aspect of the current trade war that I can determine is that it is scaring investors into the bond market and consequently lowering yields and mortgage rates. The other “secure” investment, gold, has risen significantly and now has a market price of around $1500/ounce, up from $1250/ounce prior to about 90 days ago. Lower interest rates are always good for buyers and sellers of course. I expect mortgage rates to be at this level through the rest of the year.

Despite the low rates, home prices in King County have fallen 7% in the last year primarily due to rising inventory which has increased an average of 12%. This has also increased market times. Market times for QA homes have risen from 28 days to 39 days for the past 45 day period. Remember when our market time was about 6 days(or less)? Fortunately, homes on Queen Anne have continued their upward trend, although certainly more slowly than the preceding 6 years. I did a sampling of homes that sold in 2018 from 1/1/18-7/1/18 and we had 135 sales of single-family homes.

For the same period this year, that figure was 169, a 25% increase. Currently we have 38 homes for sale on the Hill as of today and 16 pending sales in the last 45 days which signals a 42% pendings/actives ratio(see attachment). That still indicates a seller’s market. Wages in Washington have risen 5.5% which if rates stay low, will help buyers purchase higher priced homes.

The home that sold for the most over list in the last 45 days was 2435 1st North, listed for $998,000 and selling for $1,050,000. Multiple offers are down in properties over $1.2M and when they occur, do not significantly raise purchase prices like they used to.

And that’s the way Steve sees it…Click here to view report.

Have a great month!

 

 

Posted on August 13, 2019 at 6:43 pm
Stephen Hicks | Category: Buying, Market News | Tagged , , , ,

How to Cover Unexpected Costs with a Personal Loan

By Jennifer Calonia

Owning a home comes with its rewards — it’s an investment, a cozy haven to kick-up your feet after a long day of work, and a welcoming place to bring family and friends together. Although all of this makes homeownership fulfilling, owning a home also opens the door for unexpected (but necessary) expenses.

If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost.

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.70% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years.

A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information.

How to find a personal loan

If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps.

1. Assess your budget

The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.)

Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily.

2. Know your credit score

Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate offer.

Check your credit score with the three credit bureaus to ensure there isn’t an error or suspicious activity that might inadvertently lower your credit score. For a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see where your credit stands before moving forward in the process.

3. Compare rates and terms

When you’ve confirmed that you have a good credit score that can get you competitive interest rates, it’s tempting to accept a loan from the first lender that approves you. But like other major purchases, it’s important to shop around.

Compare interest rates, annual percentage rates (APR), and term durations available, and read the fine print for any conditions or fees that might offset any benefits.

To start, try reaching out to your existing financial institution first to see what they can offer; sometimes credit unions, in particular, offer rate incentives for loyal members. Also, consider using a personal loan aggregator website to compare offers from multiple online lenders at once (just do your due diligence to ensure the site is legitimate).

4. Submit an application

If you’re ready to submit an application, you can either complete a form online or apply in-person, depending on your lender. Although all lenders require different information to process a loan application, some common information to prepare ahead of time include:

  • Personal information
  • Income
  • Employment information
  • Reason for the loan
  • Amount you want to borrow

To minimize any delays on your end, it’s helpful to prepare copies of verification documents, such as a driver’s license, proof of address like a utility statement, information about your home and pay stubs. Your prospective lender will likely reach out to you if they need any other information to make a decision.

Although it’s always best to have emergency savings set aside for a sudden home improvement project, turning to a personal loan is a useful option when you’re pressed for funds and time. As urgent as your project might feel, however, always take the time to do your research to ensure you’re making the right move for your situation.

Jennifer Calonia is a native Los Angeles-based writer for Upstart whose goal is to help readers get excited about improving their financial health and lifestyle. Her work has been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Business Insider, CNN Money, and Yahoo Finance. When she’s not wordsmithing, you can find her outdoors, exploring state and national parks.

Posted on February 27, 2019 at 12:37 am
Stephen Hicks | Category: Buying | Tagged , , , , , ,