Home Buyers

Why are home prices so high? Seattle has 2nd-lowest rate of homes for sale in U.S. | The Seattle Times

Great article on home prices here.  When I do a market analysis I look at two parts.  The objective data which is the perspective of the appraiser and then the subjective value of the property.  The objective perspective is a look in the rear view mirror to determine value based on what has happened in the past.  The subjective perspective is looking at what top dollar is based on many more factors not the least of which is competition in the market place.  When you are selling your home and you are "the only game in town" you can command a much higher price. 
Why is it so expensive to buy a house in Seattle right now? Everyone seems to have someone to blame: Amazon, priced-out Californians, foreign buyers, developers tearing down old homes to build huge new ones.

via www.seattletimes.com

We want to pick a real estate broker, but what kind of information will we need?

    It's always wise to be prepared with information that might be related to buying a home. But you'll be pleased to know that you won't be asked for a lot of facts and figures in your first meeting.

    Your goal at this point should be to determine whether you will be comfortable working with this broker, if you like the broker and whether they seem  to like you.

    But the broker will need to ask some pertinent questions. That's good for both of you. It can help you target your home-buying goals and time requirements. And it will give the broker an idea of how to best serve you. Here are some questions I ask during my first meeting with a buyer:

    "What got you thinking about moving to a new home?"

    It helps you both understand your motivation. It could show, for example, that you are more interested in a good, safe neighborhood you can call home. Or maybe that you're actually more interested in a shorter commute.

    “What kind of time frame are you looking at for making a move?"

    Is it something you're looking at over the next couple of months, later this year or maybe next year? 

    This gets to the heart of when you expect to move, which can make a difference in how your search is handled.

    "Besides yourself, who else might be affected by this move?"

    This is a good question because it gives the broker a feel as to who the actual decision makers are. For example, if parents are coming up with the down payment, it might be best to involve them sooner rather than later.

    I also ask you to create a “want to have and a must have” list.  This is helpful in identifying properties that can work and helping to understand priorities.

    The big thing here is finding a broker who is a good match for you, who really cares about your interests and takes the time not only to carefully listen to you but also educate you so you can make the best choices possible.  This is the first big step in the path to homeownership.

5 Property Tax Questions You Need to Ask

1. What is the assessed value of the property? Note that assessed value is generally less than
market value. Ask to see a recent copy of the seller’s tax bill to help you
determine this information.

2. How often are properties reassessed,
and when was the last reassessment done?
In general, taxes jump most
significantly when a property is reassessed.

3. Will the sale of the property trigger
a tax increase?
The assessed value of the property may increase based on
the amount you pay for the property. And in some areas, such as California, taxes may be
frozen until resale.

4. Is the amount of taxes paid
comparable to other properties in the area?
If not, it might be possible to
appeal the tax assessment and lower the rate.

5. Does the current tax bill reflect any
special exemptions that I might not qualify for?
For example, many tax
districts offer reductions to those 65 or over.

Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What You Can Do to Improve Your Credit

Credit scores, along with your overall income
and debt, are big factors in determining whether you’ll qualify for a loan and what
your loan terms will be. So, keep your credit score high by doing the

1. Check for and correct any errors
in your credit report. Mistakes happen, and you could be paying for someone
else’s poor financial management.

2. Pay down credit card bills. If
possible, pay off the entire balance every month. Transferring credit card debt
from one card to another could lower your score.

3. Don’t charge your credit cards to
the maximum limit.

4. Wait 12 months after credit
difficulties to apply for a mortgage. You’re penalized less for problems after
a year.

5. Don’t order items for your new
home on credit — such as appliances and furniture — until after the loan is
approved. The amounts will add to your debt.

6. Don’t open new credit card
accounts before applying for a mortgage. Too much available credit can lower
your score.

7. Shop for mortgage rates all at
once. Too many credit applications can lower your score, but multiple inquiries
from the same type of lender are counted as one inquiry if submitted over a
short period of time.

8. Avoid finance companies. Even if
you pay the loan on time, the interest is high and it will probably be
considered a sign of poor credit management.

This information is copyrighted by the Fannie Mae Foundation and is used
with permission of the Fannie Mae Foundation. To obtain a complete copy of the
Knowing and
Understanding Your Credit, visit www.homebuyingguide.org.

Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score

Credit scores range between 200 and 800, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:

1. Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time? If they were late, then how late? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.

2. How much you owe.  If youowe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it’s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.

3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer's oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.

4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.

5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit — installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com.

Lender Checklist: What You Need for a Mortgage

□         W-2 forms — or business tax return forms if you're self-employed — for the last two or three years for every

person signing the loan.


□         Copies of at least one pay stub for each person signing the loan.


□         Account numbers of all your credit cards and the amounts for any outstanding balances.


□         Copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements for both checking and savings



□         Lender, loan number, and amount owed on other installment loans, such as student loans and

car loans.

□         Addresses where you’ve lived for the last five to seven years, with names of landlords if



□         Copies of brokerage account statements for two to four months, as well as a list of any other major assets of

value, such as a boat, RV, or stocks or bonds not held in a brokerage account.


□         Copies of your most recent 401(k) or other retirement account statement.


□         Documentation to verify additional income, such as child support or a pension.


□         Copies of personal tax forms for the last two to three years.

5 Things to Know About Title Insurance

Title insurance protects the holder from any losses sustained from defects in the title. It’s required by most mortgage lenders. Here are five other things you should know about title insurance.

1. It protects your ownership right to your home, both from fraudulent claims against your ownership and from mistakes made in earlier sales, such as mistake in the spelling of a person’s name or an inaccurate description of the property.

2. It’s a one-time cost usually based on the price of the property.

3. It’s usually paid for by the sellers, although this can vary depending on your state and local customs.

4. There are both lender title policies, which protect the lender, and owner title policies, which protect you. The lender will probably require a lender policy.

5. Discounts on premiums are sometimes available if the home has been bought within only a few years since not as much work is required to check the title. Ask the title company if this discount is available.

Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

17 Tips for Packing Like a Pro

Moving to a new home can be stressful, to say the least. Make it easy on yourself by planning far in advance and making sure you’ve covered all the bases.

1. Plan ahead by organizing and budgeting. Develop a master “to do” list so you won’t forget something critical on moving day, and create an estimate of moving costs. (A moving calculator is available at REALTOR.com)

2. Sort and get rid of things you no longer want or need. Have a garage sale, donate to a charity, or recycle.

3. But don’t throw out everything. If your inclination is to just toss it, you're probably right. However, it's possible to go overboard in the heat of the moment. Ask yourself how frequently you use an item and how you’d feel if you no longer had it. That will eliminate regrets after the move.

4. Pack similar items together. Put toys with toys, kitchen utensils with kitchen utensils. It will make your life easier when it's time to unpack.

5. Decide what, if anything, you plan to move on your own. Precious items such as family photos, valuable breakables, or must-haves during the move should probably stay with you. Don't forget to keep a "necessities" bag with tissues, snacks, and other items you'll need that day.


6. Remember, most movers won’t take plants. If you don't want to leave them behind, you should plan on moving them yourself.

7. Use the right box for the item. Loose items are prone to breakage.


8. Put heavy items in small boxes so they’re easier to lift. Keep the weight of each box under 50 pounds, if possible.

9. Don’t over-pack boxes. It increases the likelihood that items inside the box will break.

10. Wrap every fragile item separately and pad bottom and sides of boxes. If necessary, purchase bubble-wrap or other packing materials from moving stores.

11. Label every box on all sides. You never know how they’ll be stacked and you don’t want to have to move other boxes aside to find out what’s there.

12. Use color-coded labels to indicate which room each item should go in. Color-code a floor plan for your new house to help movers.

13. Keep your moving documents together in a file. Include important phone numbers, driver’s name, and moving van number. Also keep your address book handy.


14. Print out a map and directions for movers. Make several copies, and highlight the route. Include your cell phone number on the map. You don’t want movers to get lost! Also make copies for friends or family who are lending a hand on moving day.

15. Back up your computer files before moving your computer. Keep the backup in a safe place, preferably at an off-site location.

16. Inspect each box and all furniture for damage as soon as it arrives.

17. Make arrangements for small children and pets. Moving can be stressful and emotional. Kids can help organize their things and pack boxes ahead of time, but, if possible, it might be best to spare them from the moving-day madness.

Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.