Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

July 6, 2020

How to Get the Best Photography for Your Listing


A lot of times I get questions about how to get the best photographs for your listing. We all know that photographs are the first things that buyers look at on the internet, and want to peruse so that they can see exactly what the home looks like before they go and visit it. And photographs are one of the most important things that you can do, or get correct, to draw in as many buyers as possible. So today I'm gonna talk to you about how to get the correct photographs for your listing.

So, first and foremost, before you do photographs, you need to set up the home appropriately. So you need to do things like if you have any stools, or kitchen chairs, you need to push those all in, or make them look really evenly distributed and correct in terms of spacing. So you wanna make sure that each chair or stool is the same amount of space from the other chairs so that it looks very orderly and aligned for your photographs. The next thing you wanna do is do the same thing to the blinds. You wanna make sure that all of the blinds are spaced evenly or put up as much as the other blinds next to them so there are no odd ball blinds sticking out. Our eyes are drawn to things that are different from the rest, so you want it to all look even, and look very similar. So make sure all the blinds are either at the same angle or pulled up to the same exact height across all of the windows.

The other thing you wanna do is if you have any exterior doors that show off outdoor space, or make the home feel larger than it might be, you wanna open those up. You probably wanna get photographs with the doors open, as well as closed, so you can show what both look like, but you definitely wanna have a shot of them open completely so you can show off those exterior spaces. If you have any pets or children, you wanna make sure you put away all of the toys as well as the pet feeding station. You wanna make sure all of that stuff is cleared away and out of the photographs. You never know who might be allergic to a pet, and that could be a turnoff to some buyers. The same typically goes with any sort of fur, or fake animal hide, or anything like that. You may want to exclude those from any photographs. And then, make sure that you are hiding any cords. So you wanna clear off your countertops as much as possible, and hide any cords as much as possible as well.

So when we get to the actual photos, one thing you wanna think about is you need to balance the amount of space that's shown on the ceiling, as well as on the floor. So you actually want your camera right around the middle height of your room. Sort of around your standing height, but a little bit lower so that you can balance how much ceiling and floor are in the photographs. And then you wanna get multiple angles of every single room. So make sure that you have multiple angles of each room, as well as head-on straight angles of some of the most interesting architectural features. So, I love to make sure that we have a squared photo of a kitchen island always, or of the front of the home.

And speaking of the front of the home, you wanna make sure that you get multiple angles of the front of the home. You wanna try not to include any cars, or street gutters, in the home. You wanna just start with the lawn, or start with the first part of the structure so that you're eliminating some of the clutter that could be at the bottom of the photo.

So, those are some of the best tips when you take your photographs for your listing. Make sure that they look bright, they look clean, and they look visually interesting, and that there are no odds and ends sticking out so the buyer is not distracted. That will help you get more buyers through your home, and more buyers through your home will mean a better offer for you as the seller. If you have any questions about how to prepare your home for photographs, or you want to ask me anything else, don't hesitate to reach out. You can call, text, or direct message me. Don't forget to give this video a thumbs up if you liked it, and share it with a friend, and please subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thanks for tuning in. We'll see you guys next week.

Posted in Home Selling
June 29, 2020

The Hidden Costs of Purchasing a Home

Today, we're gonna talk about the seven hidden costs that you might encounter as a home buyer. So a lot of people wonder when they're going into the process what is going to be hidden from me, or what are costs that I might not be prepared for? Well first and foremost, if you're working with the right Realtor, you shouldn't be unprepared for any costs that come up and you should learn about all of these at the beginning, but I wanna take you through seven things that you might not be aware of when you're going through the home purchasing process.

So number one is your home inspection. So you're going to pay for your home inspection at the time it's completed, and that's before closing. It's typically after you get into contract, and before your closing, and you're paying the home inspector directly. If you're purchasing a condo in the Seattle area, you're looking at about two to $300 for your home inspection. And for a single family home, you're looking at 450 or more, depending on the square footage of the home, and you pay that directly to the home inspector at the time that your home inspection takes place, so that is one up front cost that you need to be prepared for.

The other up front cost that you need to know isn't really a hidden cost, but it's something you pay before closing, which is your earnest money. Now, earnest money is typically between one to 5% of the purchase price, and it's applied towards your down payment, so it's a deposit on the down payment, but you pay this up front before closing, so you have to have this money ready to go when you first get into contract. It's due two business days after your contract is signed, so earnest money is that money that shows the seller that you're interested in the home, and if you back out for any reason your not legally protected by the contract, then the seller is awarded the earnest money. If you're protected by a contingency in the contract, which is a legal out, you can get your earnest money back, so let's say you're planning to put 10% down. If you put 3% earnest money in, you owe the remaining 7% of your down payment at closing. So that is one up front cost that you need to be aware of.

The third cost that you might need to be thinking about is a move-in fee. If you're moving into a condominium building, you're typically going to be charged one to $200, if not more, for the move-in fee by the HOA, so that's something you need to think about, which will probably be included in your closing costs.

The fourth cost is your appraisal. Now, the appraisal can be paid for at the time it's ordered, which is when you're in contract, or as part of the closing costs. In the Seattle area, you need to budget seven to $900 for your appraisal. Now, this is ordered by the lender that you work with, but you are the one responsible for paying for it, because you are the buyer. So you will have to pay for that either while you're in contract, or at the closing table.

The fifth one is the closing costs. So the closing costs include a couple different things. First, the closing costs include title insurance. So you have to get insurance on the title because you are the buyer to insure you for anything that has happened in the past on that title. So let's say a contractor did a bunch of work to the home and never got paid, and is owed money. Well, you would want title insurance if that ever came up to protect you so you wouldn't have to pay that contractor back if you were not the one who elicited their services.

The second type of closing costs and the sixth one on our list is property tax. So, property taxes in Seattle are paid twice a year, and you'll be prorated as the buyer for the remainder of that half of the year that needs to be paid from your closing date through when the next payment cycle is. So you do have to take into account that the seller has probably paid some of that already, but you'll be prorated for every single day that you own the home during that period of the half year to pay that at closing for your property taxes.

And last but not least, the seventh cost to you is your prepaid HOA fees. So, if you are moving into a condo, you need to be aware that you will probably have a transfer fee from the HOA. We already talked about the move-in fee, and you may be paying one to two months of the HOA dues at closing. These will all be part of your closing costs, but you need to be aware that these are some of the things that you might have to pay for. You should typically budget between one to 3% of the purchase price for your closing costs, and those are in addition to your down payment.

There you have it, those are seven hidden fees as a buyer that you may wanna be thinking about and learning about before you get into the process. If you have any questions about what these fees include or what they might be estimated at, don't hesitate to reach out. You can call, text, DM me, and don't forget to give this video a big thumbs-up if you liked it, and share it with someone who might find it helpful as well. And as always, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel. We'd love to have you come along. Thanks for tuning in, and we will see you next week.

Posted in Home Buying
June 15, 2020

Top 3 Easy Home Improvements for Your Home Sale


Today I'm gonna talk about three things you can do to net more money on your home sale. If you've thought about selling your home, you've probably thought, are there little things I can do that won't cost me a lot of money that will allow me to net more money on my sale? Well, the answer is yes, and today I'm bringing you three of those things.

So first and foremost, the biggest thing you can do before you sell your home is to repaint all of the walls. So painting is one of the biggest impacts that buyers can see when they walk into a space. If you have darker walls like I do, you might wanna paint them a lighter color, so that more light reflects off of them and it makes the space look bigger. If you have any scuffs or other marks on the walls, you wanna paint over those so that the buyers don't draw their attention to that specifically, because that's one thing that they think, oh, well I'm gonna have to fix this right when I move in. So you want it to be very pristine. Painting is one of the lowest cost ways to make your home look newer when a buyer is walking through it, so definitely get to painting.

Number two is flooring. Now, flooring is a little bit of a larger cost, but flooring also makes a huge impact. If you have darker floors, but you don't have as much natural light, you might wanna think about a lighter floor color. Now, if you don't have hardwood but you're thinking about installing something like hardwood, there are a lot of lower-cost products that look like hardwood that can be really great alternatives that help a buyer see the space better. So if you have the budget, I would definitely think about replacing your flooring or at least upgrading it or refinishing it before you put your home on the market. This, again, will help make your space look newer without doing a lot of work, and it will make the buyer feel better about purchasing something, because it's one less thing they might have to fix when they walk in.

Last but not least, number three is appliances. So if you have outdated appliances, one of the best ways to make your kitchen look newer is to actually upgrade your appliances. You can upgrade them to stainless steel, which is the most popular right now or something that blends in with the cabinetry color to make the kitchen look bigger. So this is another way that you can make the buyer feel like they're getting a little bit of an upgrade when they walk through your home, because you've already purchased the new appliances and installed them for them. This helps them think they're getting a newer kitchen than they might actually be.

So there are the three things that are maybe a little lower cost that you can do without actually remodeling your entire house before you put it on the market to net more money in your sale. If you have any questions or you wanna know a few other tips to net more money on your sale, don't hesitate to reach out. You can call, text, or DM me, and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thanks for tuning in. We'll see you next week.

Posted in Home Selling
June 8, 2020

Why Staging is So Important

So when you think about staging your home for sale, you might think, "Oh gosh, just another way "that I have to spend money", when in fact staging your home is actually a strategy that sellers use to sell their home quicker and for a higher price. 39% of home sellers that were polled by the National Association of Realtors believe that their home sold for anywhere from one to 10% higher because they actually staged their home. Now that's in addition to sellers reporting that their home sat on the market for less time when the home was staged.

Now, from my personal opinion, I see a lot of buyers that are willing to pay more for a staged home because they can visualize themselves in the home and how they would live in it, and it also is more appealing, like the homes on TV. So you have to imagine, as a buyer when you walk through a home, you're more likely going to imagine yourself living in a home if there's furniture there that you like and it's laid out in a way you like with the furniture, than you might be willing to pay for a home that is vacant or empty. So for sellers, it might seem like an extra cost, but actually in fact it's really important to stage your home if you want it to sell quickly and for a higher price.

Now you might be wondering, "Which rooms should I stage?" Well that's a great question. You don't necessarily have to stage every single room, although that is more recommended. But if you're thinking about stack ranking the rooms, the first thing you should think about is the heart of the home. So you should think about staging the living room, and the kitchen, and the master bedroom and bathroom. Those are the most important rooms to stage at first. Now if you don't wanna stage every single room, then stage those rooms to start with. The other rooms in rank of importance would be a children's room or a guest room, and then making sure that all of the bathrooms are staged as well. Now if the home has outdoor space and that's really an emphasis or a selling point, that would also be important to stage that area as well.

So hopefully that gives you a little more insight on why staging is so important. If you have any questions about your home or if it should be staged, don't hesitate to reach out, and you can always call, email, or text me, and we hope you'll subscribe to our channel. Thanks for tuning in, see you next week!

Posted in Home Selling
June 1, 2020

What is Seller Financing

Today we're going to be discussing what seller financing is. So you may have heard this term tossed around with real estate and not necessarily understood what it was or why it might be used. So today I wanted to tell you all about seller financing. So what does it mean for seller financing to take place? That basically means the seller of a property acts as the lender and gives the buyer the credit to purchase the property minus the down payment. So a buyer will come in, they'll still have to pay a down payment to the seller and then seller takes the remaining amount of the purchase price minus that down payment and they basically finance the purchase to the buyer. Meaning that the buyer then pays monthly mortgage payments, typically with interest, directly to the seller to start to pay off the remainder of the amount of the purchase price. Now this often works best if a seller has already paid off their entire mortgage, they've paid down the life of their own loan, because then they're basically recouping their money just in monthly installments from a buyer.

Now sometimes the reason that a seller might do this is because they don't need money right away, they wanna sell, or they're having trouble selling their home and this is another way to get a buyer to maybe commit who doesn't have as good of credit or needs some leniency with the loan. That said, a buyer would do this because maybe they can't qualify for a loan right now, maybe they're self-employed or maybe they're working on their credit and it's not as good or they don't have as big of a down payment as they would like. So typically it's still a 30-year loan.

Often times they'll put something that's called a balloon payment after the first five years which means that you pay the monthly installments for those first five years and at the end of that time you pay off the entire remaining amount of the loan or of the purchase price. And this typically means that the buyer is planning in those five years to either have the equity grow enough that they can pay it off or be able to refinance and get a loan from a traditional lender so that they can pay the seller at that time. So it's helpful for buyers who maybe don't have the right credit or are self-employed or can't qualify for a loan at the current time but can make the monthly payment, maybe their debt-to-income ratio won't allow them to qualify but they're able to still make those payments. And then it can be helpful for a seller if they're not pressed to sell right away and recoup all of the money or they've already paid off that property and don't have to worry about making their own mortgage payments.

So that's a little bit about seller financing and why it might be used in a market. So if you have any questions about seller financing or wanna know a little bit more don't hesitate to reach out, you can always call, text, email or DM me. And we hope you'll subscribe to this video on YouTube, subscribe to our channel for more updates like this. Thanks for reading, we'll see you guys again next week.

May 25, 2020

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Closing on Your Home

Today I wanna talk to you about the three mistakes that you need to avoid when you're closing on a home. Okay, so these can be applied to buyers and sellers in different ways, but when you're closing on your home, there are three things that you really need to avoid.

First and foremost, this is the most important thing, is do not become a victim of wire fraud. So wire fraud is really prevalent, especially in home sales. Hackers will get in, find your phone number, your email address, they will send emails that look like the title and escrow company, they'll text you and give you different wiring instructions. This is especially important for buyers, because they're wiring in their down payment and closing costs right before closing. So be sure, in Washington, we have buyers call the title and escrow company before they hit send on the final wire to make sure that it's confirmed. If you don't feel comfortable wiring money, typically you can give a cashier's check for your down payment, so that's another really safe option, but do not become a victim of wire fraud. That's number one.

Number two is don't go out and open new lines of credit right before closing. So you might walk into the store, West Home, Crate and Barrel, think that you need to furnish your new home that you just bought, or buy furniture for your next home if you're selling, and they offer you a no-interest line of credit for everything you're about to purchase in the store. Well, most lenders have unsolicited debt monitoring that they will see that you have opened a new line of credit, and if that line of credit puts your debt to income ratio over what you're able to afford with the new home, or your next home, then you will no longer qualify for the purchase that you're making, or the next purchase you're making, in your next home, if you're the seller. So do not open new lines of credit right before closing, or you may not be able to close on the transaction.

Last but not least, number three, is make sure that you bring your valid identification to closing, so when you sign your papers with escrow, you must have a valid identification. It seems super simple, but there are a lot of times that people have expired IDs, or forget to bring them, but escrow has to match up your name on the contract with your valid driver's license, so, or other form of ID, so be sure that you have that there, and that it's the correct identification, and that it's still valid.

So there you have it. Those are the three things, don't become a victim of wire fraud, don't open new lines of credit right before closing, and make sure to bring the proper identification to the closing table. If you have any other questions about mistakes to avoid in the transaction process, or right before closing, don't hesitate. You can reach out to me, you can call, text, email, or DM me, we hope you'll subscribe to our YouTube channel for more tips and interesting facts like this, and we'll see you next week. Thanks for tuning in!

May 18, 2020

How to get a great deal on a home during the pandemic


Hey everyone. Thanks for tuning in to The Clouse Corner. This week we are talking about, are there deals in the Seattle market during the pandemic? Now, I'm not going to speak about nationwide because the Seattle market is a little bit different than other areas in our country, just because we do have a lot of really strong tech industries in the city. But a lot of people are kind of wondering what sort of deals can I get during this pandemic?

Well, first and foremost, there are some sellers who are in need of selling and do need to sell quickly, and so those are the most likely people or homes that you will find discounted prices on. But what is a discounted price? To me, what I'm seeing is possibly anywhere between one to 5% below the list price, but I'm not really seeing deep, large discounts of 10 to 20%. Now, if a home has been sitting on the market for a long time, let's say for the past four months, even before the pandemic started, you would be getting a deal on that probably either way, whether or not we're in a shutdown or not, because it's been on the market for quite a long time and you have more negotiating room to make an offer on that property.

But for things that are just being listed, sellers are still holding to their prices quite a bit. It's not like they are reducing their prices very drastically every week unless they're really in a hurry to try to get the home sold and they need that money right away. What I am seeing a lot of is that buyers can make offers on homes that have been listed two, three, four weeks, and ask for some closing costs to be covered or some credit at closing, or they can ask for a slight discount on the purchase price. Now, that is not to say that they're getting 10 to 20% off the list price. It's to say they're getting more between one and 5% back, either in closing costs or in a little bit of a discount on the list price.

So right now, I just did the market report for Seattle and King County and there are about 220 homes that have had price reductions, but there are 585 new listings. So those price reductions are not the same as a new listing. And so you can assume the price reductions are a pretty small portion of listings that are currently on the market. Now, if something does sit because it was overpriced, then you'll see sellers also make price reductions on those homes. So it is possible that homes are and values are going to flat-line a little bit. But for those people looking for a really screaming deal, in Seattle, the deal that you're getting is really that you're not competing against as many buyers as you would before.

So during the pandemic, there have been a lot of buyers who have taken a step back and are deciding to wait and see what happens with the market and the economy. And that means less competition for some of the buyers that are currently out there and who do want to make offers.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that prices are going below the list price. There are still homes that are selling for the list price or above the list price with multiple offers. And again, it's the same story as before the pandemic. If a home is priced really competitively and also marketed very well, meaning they're staging, great photography, video, virtual tours, then it's more than likely going to get multiple offers. So keep that in mind as you're thinking about if you can get a deal during the pandemic. There are some variances in what sellers are doing and there are some prices coming down. It also depends on what price point you're searching in.

So if you have any questions about what's happening in the price or the market neighborhood that you're looking in, don't hesitate to reach out. We can always help you do a market analysis of what's going on. You can call, text, email, or DM, and we hope you'll subscribe to our YouTube channel so you get more videos and stay up-to date on Seattle real estate market. Thanks for tuning in. We'll see you guys next week.

Posted in Home Buying
May 11, 2020

Should You Buy a Fixer Upper?

A question I got recently, in one of our home buyer seminars is, how to get the most equity out of your first home purchase? And sometimes when people think about equity, they think they have to remodel and fix up a home, to gain a lot of equity. Now that is true, but there are other ways to get equity.

My personal opinion on buying a fixer upper, for your first home, is that unless you have a lot of experience fixing something up or want a big project, it's probably not the best option for your very first home. Now the reason I say that is because fixing up a home is sort of like a second job. If you're working full time, and you plan to do a lot of the work on your own, you're going to be doing that work every night and every weekend. And it's also not very fun to live through. I have done a little work myself, and lived through the dust and debris of trying to make renovations while you live there, and it is really not fun, it's not easy to do. You are constantly covered in drywall dust and other debris from construction, so it's not very fun to do.

The other reason is it's really actually very expensive. You can do a lot of stuff yourself. Now cosmetic stuff like painting, refinishing, like, cabinetries sometimes, like if you're repainting cabinets, if you're redoing floors. Some of that stuff you can do on your own, but anything more than that, you're probably gonna need to hire help to do it, and that gets really really expensive. So most first time buyers don't have a lot of money to put down in the first place and may not have enough money to invest, so it can become really costly.

Now if you're thinking about buying for the first time and you really want something where you can gain equity, one thing I would encourage you to do is look at a neighborhood in which you're buying, and see if you think that neighborhood is going to appreciate more rapidly than other neighborhoods. Especially places in Seattle where public transit is being expanded, and we have new amenities coming to different areas. It can be really beneficial to buy in an area that you think is going to become more populated, more accessible, and more desirable to live. And that will help increase the equity of your home, more rapidly than an already well established neighborhood. So that's just one way you can think about gaining equity. It's better once you move into your first home, and experience what it's like to fix up the home, to then go to your next home and you can work on a fixer upper for your second home, once you move up to that next one. Now, that's 'cause you'll have a little more experience.

So those are just my thoughts on if you should buy a fixer upper as your very first home. If you have any questions about the type of house projects that you might need to do in a fixer upper, or how much equity you can gain, don't hesitate to reach out. You can call, text, email, or DM me. Thanks for reading and we'll see you next week!

Posted in Home Buying
May 5, 2020

Supply & Demand

Over the past few weeks the one question I've been asked repeatedly is: What will happen to the real estate markets Post-lockdown? My answer has been consistently focused on one thing......the ONLY thing that really matters:  supply and demand.
The NAR recently reported that the median US home price rose 8% year-over-year to $280,600 in March. While buyer demand has softened and sales fell 8.5% in March compared to February, the supply of homes on the market contracted even faster. Many sellers have withdrawn their properties from the market in recent weeks and those who were planning to list have held back. This may result in a rush of new listings once the fear around the markets subsides and more clarity emerges.....or not. Some sellers may decide this is not the best time to sell, or simply change their mind about selling.
Pricing in all markets everywhere are mostly driven by supply and demand. Period. National averages are great for media headlines, but are useless to individual buyers and sellers. Valuation and inventory levels differ from neighborhood to neighborhood, property type, town, city and state. Never forget just how ultra-localized AND ultra-specialized real estate markets are. I have fought the concept of AVERAGES for years as I consider them to be akin to a bad joke. While some have professed the demise of retail space, for instance, I would bet there are pockets of retail that are extremely scarce......and even more valuable than ever.
Maybe we should be more focused on inventory supply than obsess about pricing? That usually automatically will answer most questions around valuation
Posted in Home Trends
May 4, 2020

What are Jumbo Loans?

So you may have heard a lotta talk about a term called jumbo loans and you might be wondering, "What does that mean?"


Especially during this pandemic, you might have been hearing about something called jumbo loans. Now what does a jumbo loan entail? So there are two common types of loans. One is a conventional loan, which basically means that the loan limit is a conventional size. So it is small enough that it can be sold on the secondary market to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Now when you cannot sell that loan, because it's too big, back to the secondary market to Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, that's when you get into the jumbo loan territory.

Now for most of Washington state, that loan limit size is $510,400. Now that is the size of the loan, not the actual size of the purchase. So if you're buying a $710,000 home but putting $200,000 dollars down, you could still be in a conventional loan if you're under that price. But the loan limits vary by county by county, and it depends on where you're at. So for most of Washington state, it's 510,400, but actually in King County, Pierce County, and Snohomish County, that limit is $741,750. Now these are higher limits because the cost of homes is higher in these counties, and these were actually just updated at the beginning of 2020. So these are new loan limits.

So if you're taking out a loan that's over that $741,750, then you are in a jumbo loan. Now you might also be wondering what comes with a jumbo loan. Well, there are a lot more requirements and restrictions on jumbo lending. So when you're working with a mortgage lender, you're probably going to be asked a lot more questions and asked to provide a lot more information about your employment history, about your taxes, about any money transfers you've done, than you might be if you're in a conventional loan. So a conventional loan in King County, specifically, is anything below that $741,750, that loan size. Now anything above that is a jumbo loan. So there you have it, that's a little bit about what a jumbo loan is. It's different by country, but here, it's $741,750, and in other counties across Washington state, it's $510,400.

So now you know a little bit about what the difference is between a jumbo and a conventional loan. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out. You can always direct message me, call, text, email, and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on social media. We'd love to see you back here every week for The Clouse Corner. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Home Buying