It's Time For Farmers Markets

Eastside Farmers Markets

It’s that time of year again to get out and enjoy the farmers markets.  Here is a list of Eastside Farmers Markets:  Click to go to their web page.

Bellevue Farmers Market                             Thursdays May through November

Bothell Farmers Market                               Fridays June to October 3rd

Crossroads Farmers Market                        Tuesdays May through October

Issaquah Farmers Market                            Saturdays April through October

Redmond Saturday Market                         Saturdays May through October

Sammamish Farmers Market                     Wednesdays May through

Kirkland Wednesday Market                      Wednesdays May through October

Mercer Island Farmers Market                  Sundays June through October

Juanita Farmers Market                              Fridays May through October

North Bend Farmers Market                       Thursdays June through September      

Woodinville Farmers Market                      Saturdays May through September



Crowd Staging

Yesterday I was delighted to receive a call from a stager friend of mine, Rebecca Henderson of Alabaster Staging..

Rebecca:  Brian, I have a problem.  I am teaching a staging class this afternoon and the house we were going to stage just canceled.

Brian:  Tell me more.

Rebecca:  I have twenty students and we need a home to stage.  We will go through the home room by room, stage the entire home.  No cost to you or your client.

Brian:  It's your lucky day.  I am listing a home this afternoon at 2:00 PM and I have the most delightful seller in the world.  Let me give them a call. 

Brian, Calling back:  See you at the home 2:30 PM.

So at 2:30 the coolest thing ever.  Rebecca and Brandi Cernohlavek with 20+ of their students show up and start going through the home room by room.  What a blast.


A group of students is assigned to each room..


They go through each room and apply what they learned..


The seller was thrilled, the outcome fantastic.

Kitchen before..


and after..

KI Now

Living room before...


and after..

LR Now

We could go on and on but bottom line is Rebecca and Brandi and the class of February 2014 did an absolutely FANTASTIC job so a big thank you to all from me and a very pleased seller.


By the way.. great new listing in Issaquah Highlands.  Three bedroom in the Outlook.  $245,000 call me for details.

Determining The Right Price to Offer

There are a number of things to consider in determining the right amount to offer on your new home. First of all let's assume that you've done your homework and have been looking at homes and getting educated to the market.  One of the biggest benefits of getting educated is you will have the ability to recognize the right home when you see it and understand value.  The more closely the home meets all of your housing needs the higher the value to you so here is your checklist:

1.  Get educated.  Spend time looking at homes so that you have a solid understanding of value. 

2.  Ask your broker to do market analysis.  Once you find a home that is a serious contender ask your broker to do a market analysis on it for you.  A good market analysis is detailed and to the point using comparables that are very similar to the subject property, very close geographically and very recent transactions.   I rarely go past 90 days in selecting comparables.  While we're on the topic of market analysis, understand that the theory here is that if a buyer is willing to pay a given amount for a home like the subject property and the seller is willing to accept that price and neither buyer or seller are under any undue pressure to buy or sell (this is called an arms length transaction) then the comparable property should reliably be an indicator of market value. We look at active listings to determine the competition, pending listings (sold but not yet closed) to get an idea of what is selling at a given list price and sold listings as the best indicator of value.  In this market there quite a few distressed properties.  It is best to only compare distressed to distressed and arm's-length to arm's-length. 

Like a good appraisal, a market analysis should contain only a few homes that are very good comparables to the subject property  Ideally look at one or two active listings,  one or two pending listings and at least two sold properties.  This will give you a very good idea of market value on the subject property

3.  Take a look at the tax assessment on the property.   In our market place, tax assessments are usually significantly lower than sales price but they can be a good indicator by looking at the percentage of sales price to assessment across the comparables that you are reviewing. 

4.  Ask your broker for an AVM on the property.  An AVM is an automated value model.  A good example of an AVM is a Zillow "Zestimate"  An AVM is more reliable in neighborhoods with many similar properties then for example rural properties.   Your broker should have access to other AVMs that may be helpful for you.

Once you have reviewed these four items you'll have a very good feel for market value. Right now my market place is a strong sellers market.  Take a look at the Market Action Index I've supplied below to give you an idea. What this means is that more likely than not, you will be competing with other buyers on most homes.  Price is only one of the considerations of your offer but it is a big one.  There are many things you can do to sweeten your offer but that is another post.


You will need to take into account other interested buyers.   Ask your broker to call the listing Broker and determine what competition you have.  I know this sounds simple but I will always call the listing broker and ask what it takes to get my buyer the house instead of it going to another buyer and they will frequently tell me exactly what I need to know.   Watch for a future blog concerning agency relationships and why the listing broker may or may not have done the right thing in providing this information.  In a seller's market there may not be a lot of latitude for negotiation of price but again, price is not the only consideration.  In a market where you are competing with other buyers you will have less room for negotiation but that doesn't mean that there may not be some room.

Once you take all these items into consideration you will be ready to decide on the price strategy that is right for you.  Remember the strongest negotiating position to be in is to always want to buy a house, never need to buy a house. One of the most important roles your broker will play is to help you stay objective in your decision-making process. Not that you shouldn't absolutely love the new home but it's important to maintain enough distance to be able to walk away from the transaction.

The last bit of advice that I would like like to offer is that you should choose a price such that if the seller accepts your offer you are excited about it, but if they don't you don't regret the amount that you offered.  This is a personal decision and usually involves quite a bit of discussion in order to be at peace with the offer you make. Remember you can't win if you don't play but the objective is to win.

By Brian Leavitt, Designated Broker, Northstone Real Estate Inc

Brian has been a Real Estate Broker for more than 30 years and has
helped hundreds of buyers achieve their dream of how ownership.

Top 10 Ways For Buyers to Find Homes In A Seller's Market

Last week I shared about our shift into a seller's market.  One of the things that has driven this shift is the surprisingly low inventory for this time of year.  An obvious problem this creates for buyers is the difficulty in finding homes to choose from. As the market action index below shows, we have moved into a seller's market.  How long this will be sustained nobody knows but in the meantime if you're looking for a home here are the top 10 ways you can find one.


1.  Set up an automated search of MLS listings so you will be notified as soon as new listings come on the market . Most real estate firm websites update MLS data continuously throughout the day so it is typically not necessary to set up more than one reliable search.  As an example Northstone  Real Estate Inc. features which gives buyers access to all listings on the MLS.

2. Find a broker that you can rely on that is well-connected to the marketplace.   An experienced and well-established broker will have relationships that will lead to information about homes before they come on the market.

3.  Ask your broker if they have "pocket listings."   A pocket listing is a  home the broker knows about that the owner would like to sell but is not ready to put on the MLS.

4.  Ask your broker if they are familiar with "for sale by owner" homes in the area you are interested in.  One of the concerns the broker may have is that some owners will not pay them a commission.  Be prepared to have an honest and open discussion concerning this. Often times a for sale by owner will pay your broker a commission for bringing you to them as a "ready, willing and able buyer."  In the event that the seller will not pay a commission it may be well worth it to pay them directly.

5.  Ask your broker to research expired and canceled listings to see if any of the sellers are still interested in selling.  Your broker can easily do this through the MLS to determine if there any of these homes that match your needs.

6.  Search foreclosures.  Again your broker can assist you with this process. There are numerous services available that will allow you to search upcoming auctions to determine if any of these homes might fit your needs.  You do not have to spend money to subscribe to a service to do this.  In most counties the notices of trustee sale are available online.

7.    Consider approaching homeowners in the neighborhood that you like best.  There are times in my career when I've gone door-to-door to talk to owners in a specific neighborhood  my client is interested in and on several occasions I have located homes for them to buy.   In some situations I've sent postcards and letters to owners to see if I can find someone interested in selling. 

8.      If you made an offer on a home and there were multiple offers and another offer won out, ask your broker to track that listing in case it comes back on the market. Even better  ask your broker to call the listing agent to check the progress of the other transaction.   If it looks like it is going to fail you will be in a better position to resubmit your offer.

9.  Submit a backup offer.  If there is a home you like that is a pending sale consider placing a  backup offer.  A backup offer is an agreement that in the event the first to sale fails you would then move into first position and be the buyer.

10.  Think outside the box.  If you've ever wanted to build your dream home perhaps now is the time.   There are numerous building lots available and it is possible even within a modest price range to build a new home.

 Some of these options may be out of the comfort zone for you or even some brokers.   As the saying goes "where there's a will there's a way."  In this market persistence pays off.  One last bit of advice, don't get caught up in a buying frenzy and over pay for your new home.  In a seller's market you may have to pay top dollar but make sure you know what top dollar is before you submit the offer .  Next I will discuss how you, the buyer, can determine the right price to offer .

By Brian Leavitt, Designated Broker, Northstone Real Estate Inc

Brian has been a Real Estate Broker for more than 30 years  and has
helped hundreds of buyers achieve their dream of how ownership.

Looks like a market shift is underway

With inventory low and buyer interest high I am seeing a surprising increase in the number of showings and offers on my listings.  Last Friday I listed a beautiful home in Lake Ridge in Klahanie and was stunned to see buyers literally lined up to the street.

People lined up at Klahanie listing

This is an indication of the pent up demand for quality housing in our market place.  With interest rates at record lows and prices remaining low demand is extremely high.  In 30+ years as a real estate broker I have never seen this kind of market frenzy.

Right now it is time to watch for a market shift with prices finally starting to rise.  As indicated in the Market Action index, we are moving into a sellers market.

The Market Action Index answers the question "How's the Market?" by measuring the current rate of sale versus the amount of the inventory. Index above 30 implies Seller's Market conditions. Below 30, conditions favor the buyer.

Buyers will be up against a long list of competitors to buy a home in today's market.  As evidenced by my new Klahanie listing where we had 12 offers in the very first weekend and sold substantially over the list price.

Next I will take a look at what to expect as a buyer and how to get your offer accepted.

By Brian Leavitt, Designated Broker, Northstone Real Estate Inc. 

Brian has been a Real Estate Broker for over 30 years and has
helped hundreds of buyers achieve their dream of how ownership.

September housing stats on the rise

Pending sales, closed sales and prices all increased in August compared to last year. Northwest Multiple Listing Service data shows that there continues to be a shortage of inventory. Last month pending transactions almost equaled July's 8416 sales and is the fifth consecutive month of at least 8000 pending sales. Closed sales, which reflect several months of pending sales, reached the highest volume thus far in 2012.  Brokers reported 6612 closings last month continuing a four-month streak of 6000+ closed sales.

For single-family homes not including condominiums, prices jumped nearly 6.7% from $247,000 to $263,500. In King County prices jumped to $378,000 for an August sales increase of 8% from a year ago median selling price of $350,000. 

Although these numbers are encouraging and appear to be indicative of rising consumer confidence I'm deeply concerned about the rising volume of shadow inventory.  As discussed in previous articles, these are homes that are either in the foreclosure process or already foreclosed upon and owned by banks but not yet available for sale.  Right now low inventory and record low interest rates  are driving much of the real estate activity.  If the banks start unloading the shadow inventory at too quick a pace it is possible the rise we are seeing in values will quickly be offset by excess inventory.

 On the positive side, we are seeing a steady increase in new construction and new development.  In the Sammamish Plateau area alone three new developments have begun in the last month. Issaquah inventory has been decreasing and the market action index has been moving upward.  Days on the market are increasing with current average days on market of 120.  Issaquah remains a buyer's market but we are trending towards more neutral market conditions.  The median list price in Issaquah is $494,990 for an average asking price of $220 per square foot. 

Sammamish inventory has also been decreasing and remains in a buyer's market.  Last week the median list price was $559,500 with an asking price of $211 per square foot and average days on market 128.

Now is still an excellent time to buy because interest rates remain under 4% on the 30 year fixed and under 3% on the 15 . Low rates and low home prices make this a very affordable time to buy.