Real Estate

Real Estate Titles Explained: Agent, Broker, REALTOR®

In my market which is served by the Seattle King County Association of Realtors, 46% of brokers are Realtors.  Interesting article explaining titles.
If you’re entering the real estate market for the first time, you may find real estate professionals’ various titles a little confusing. Sometimes consumers use these titles interchangeably, but there are some important differences between the roles of the various professionals, as well as different requirements for using particular titles.
Click here for full story..  via


King County septic fee goes down the drain

A King County proposal to adopt an annual fee on septic systems to fund an inspection and oversight program has been dropped after an outcry from rural King County residents.

Patty Hayes, director of Public Health – Seattle & King County, announced at a packed public meeting Tuesday night in Fall City that the department was tabling its effort to adopt a fee of up to $37 a year. The money would have funded a program to better manage on-site septic systems and identify sources of water contamination in the county.


Opinion: Condo regulations are extortion - Puget Sound Business Journal

Where I see this play out is in the re-sale condo market.  Once the lawsuits are filed lenders will not lend to the new buyer so sellers are often stuck being unable to sell until the suit is settled.  In the mean time rental restrictions often preclude owners from renting the units until the disposition of the law suit so they stay or pay. 
News reported in this paper that people were camping out in order to put a deposit on a condominium to be built two years hence is evidence that pent up demand exists in that market. That demand exists isn’t shocking – what's shocking is that someone has the temerity (or naivety) to build a condo anywhere in this state.


Seattle Best for..

NWREporter March 2015

Seattle Ranks Among Best Cities for ...

In the Downtown Seattle Association's 2015 State of Downtown Economic Report, Seattle appeared at or near the top of several lists:

Rank Description Source
#1 City in U.S. to find a job Wallet Hub, 2015
#1 Fastest-growing Big City in the U.S. U.S. Census Bureau
#1 Highest job growth for small businesses in the U.S. Paychex/IHS Small Business Jobs Index
#1 Most "cultural" city with one cultural attraction for every 354 people Property Shark
#1 Nation's most sustainable city STAR Communities
#1 Most independent coffee shops per capita Redfin
#2 Best city for recent college graduates NerdWallet
#2 Best city for high-tech growth Jones Lang LaSalle
#3 Best market in North America for hotel property investment in 2015 Urban Land Institute
#4 Best market in North America for office property investment in 2015 Urban Land Institute
#5 Best U.S. cities for tech startups






Source: DSA 2-15 State of Downtown Report

Flood Insurance Rates Going Up? Here’s What to Do

If you live in the Snoqualmie Valley this impacts you.. good article on the changes to flood insurance.

If you live where floods happen, you may see an increase on your next flood insurance bill. Here’s why rates are changing, plus tips to help you figure out if you’re affected. 

(On March 21, 2014, President Obama signed into law a bill to provide relief from high flood insurance rates. Read about it here.)

Why Are Rates Going Up?

Two reasons:

1. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is updating its flood maps to be more accurate, which could change your flood risk designation. If your risk is higher, your premiums will go up. If it’s lower, your premiums could go down.

2. Last year, a new law took effect that requires the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to phase out subsidies for some older properties to reflect the full risk of flooding. 

Phasing out the subsidized rates and discounts over the next five years will help the NFIP stay solvent. 

Some subsidies have been given in the form of “grandfathering.” A grandfathered rate is a discount given to homes built in compliance with then-existing standards in a flood-mapped community where the flood risk has since increased.

Congress and FEMA are reviewing these properties to determine whether to phase out these grandfathered rates. FEMA won’t make a decision on this until late 2014. By then, Congress could pass a law delaying the increase indefinitely.

Do You Have a Subsidized or Discounted Rate?

Only 20% of NFIP policies are subsidized. Most hom eowners already pay the full rate and won’t see an increase. 

If your property isn’t your principal residence, is in a special flood hazard area, and was built before the first flood insurance rate map was implemented for your community, you may be getting a subsidy for being what’s called Pre-FIRM (pre-flood-insurance-rate-map).

TIP: To find out if your home is Pre-FIRM, look up your area in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Community Book. 

1. Click your state.

2. Look for the date in the “Init FIRM Identified” column for your area. 

If your home was built before that date and it’s in a special hazard zone, you probably have subsidized flood insurance.

If Your Premiums Aren’t Subsidized or Discounted

It’s possible you still could see a change in your flood insurance premiums if your home is in a community that adopts a revised flood map after July 6, 2012. If that revised flood map puts you in a different zone, your rates could go up or down. 

When Will the Rate Changes Take Effect?

If your home is Pre-FIRM and it’s a second home (rental or vacation), you may already have seen your rates change. A 25% increase was implemented for policies renewing after Jan. 1, 2013. Increases will continue each year until they reach full-risk rates.

In October 2013, more subsidized homes will start seeing rate increases of 25% each year:

  • Severe repetitive loss properties
  • Business properties
  • Properties with previous flood claims for more than the market value of the property

If you have a Pre-FIRM home, and it’s your primary home, and it doesn’t fall into the above-mentioned categories, (lucky you!) you get to keep your subsidized rate until:

  • You sell your home. 
  • You let your policy lapse. 
  • You have severe, repeated flood losses.
  • You buy a new policy.

Can You Get a Better Rate?

You may be able to get a lower flood insurance rate by changing your home’s flood risk. Congress appropriated a large sum of money for property owners to raise their homes onto piers, posts, columns, or pilings. Check with your local community to see if grant money is available to help you do that. Talk to your insurance agent about how elevating your house will change your flood insurance premium.

There’s also a Community Rating System that could reduce flood insurance rates by up to 45%, depending on which flood plain management regulations your community adopts. 

Check with your local officials or insurance company to see if your community participates and if you can get a discount for that. If your community doesn’t participate, write a letter to local officials urging them to join the Community Rating System. 

Other things you can do to trim your flood insurance premiums:

  • Opt for a higher deductible on your excess insurance policy if you have one.
  • Convince local officials to put more money into community flood mitigation projects to lower your flood risk.

It won’t lower your premium, but having a flood cleanup kit on hand will make your life easier if you do have a flood.

By the way, NFIP is the best deal. Without it, you have to take your chances in a virtually nonexistent private market for flood insurance at rates only the wealthy can afford.

Some of the same companies that provide private flood coverage also sell “excess coverage” flood insurance. Excess coverage pays to rebuild homes valued at more than the NFIP limit of $250,000.

Mistakes in Flood Insurance Premiums

It’s possible the rate you’re quoted for flood insurance is wrong. If you disagree about whether your home is in a particular flood zone or the insurer didn’t take into account the pilings that raise your home 12 feet in the air, you can appeal your home’s flood zone determination.

An elevation certificate from a surveyor or engineer can lower your premium if it proves your home sits above the predicted flood level.

You’ll also want to correct insurer mistakes that lower your premium. For example, if your policy says your home doesn’t have an elevator or crawlspace and it does, tell your agent, even if your premium will rise when those are included. That ensures your property and possessions are fully covered and recoup what you’re owed. 

Think the FEMA map itself is wrong? Check with local zoning officials, your builder, prior owners, a local surveyor, and FEMA to see if anyone has filed a Letter of Map Amendment asking for a map review. 

If no one has filed, you can do your own appeal.

By: Dona DeZube        

Published: July 22, 2013

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Your Home IS your castle

“You see a million bricks that may crumble, a thousand gutters and pipes that may block and leak, and stone that will crack in the frost … I see my life’s work.”

Downton Abbey,  Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham

Owning your own home and land, is something so common that we tend to forget how special it is and, in the scope of history, how rare and privileged.  Your new house can be the beginning of your family’s dynasty, every bit as precious as the fictitious Earl of Grantham’s massive castle and how you think of it can make it so.


Architects and designers agree that a home is always a work in progress, growing to suit the homeowners’ wants and needs, to suit their personalities and families.

Renee Garrison and Tom Szumlic, authors of Sweet Beams, argue that you should name your home.  “A person’s name is their dearest possession,” they write.  In that way, you are always headed to a place that is yours, not only home, but a special place with a name and spirit. To name your house, think of the qualities that characterize it: kinds of flowers, materials in the house itself, the location, the first owner, future owner. You can even post a plaque above the doorbell:       The Smiths of Water house.

“Store shelves are lined with books on how to wallpaper your kitchen or tile your bathroom floor, but there’s nothing about how to turn the place you live into a personal refuge,” Garrison says.  One way is to tell the story of your home, the authors say.

“Pass on the meaning of your home to your children as if it were a beautiful legend, and it is,” Garrison writes. “The legend will echo in their future homes.”

Above all, make your home a place of refuge for your family and guests.  Think of your home as your castle where you go to let go of stress, worry, and all the concerns of modern life.  Then cherish your home as it is and as you will make it as time goes on.  

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 ( 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

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 ( with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What a Home Inspection Should Cover

Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase.

For more information, try the virtual home inspection at, the Web site of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.

Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.

  • Doors and windows
  • Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
  • Driveways/sidewalks
  • Attached porches, decks, and balconies

Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.

Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.

Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room. 

Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air Conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.

Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:

  • Walls, ceilings and floors
  • Steps, stairways, and railings
  • Countertops and cabinets
  • Garage doors and garage door systems


Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.  

Fireplaces: They’re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel burning appliances.

Source: American Society of Home Inspectors (

Does Moving Up Make Sense?

These questions will help you decide whether you’re ready for a home that’s larger or in a more desirable location. If you answer yes to most of the questions, it’s a sign that you may be ready to move.

1. Have you built substantial equity in your current home? Look at your annual mortgage statement or call your lender to find out. Usually, you don’t build up much equity in the first few years of your mortgage, as monthly payments are mostly interest, but if you’ve owned your home for five or more years, you may have significant, unrealized gains.

2. Has your income or financial situation improved? If you’re making more money, you may be able to afford higher mortgage payments and cover the costs of moving. 

3. Have you outgrown your neighborhood? The neighborhood you pick for your first home might not be the same neighborhood you want to settle down in for good. For example, you may have realized that you’d like to be closer to your job or live in a better school district. 

4. Are there reasons why you can’t remodel or add on? Sometimes you can create a bigger home by adding a new room or building up. But if your property isn’t large enough, your municipality doesn’t allow it, or you’re simply not interested in remodeling, then moving to a bigger home may be your best option.

5. Are you comfortable moving in the current housing market? If your market is hot, your home may sell quickly and for top dollar, but the home you buy also will be more expensive. If your market is slow, finding a buyer may take longer, but you’ll have more selection and better pricing as you seek your new home.

6. Are interest rates attractive? A low rate not only helps you buy a larger home, but also makes it easier to find a buyer.

Reprinted from REALTOR® magazine ( with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.