As I officially welcome in the new year and set about creating a plan for a successful 2015, I think it is key to look back over the last year and see where the real estate market is trending. The general feeling within our industry is one of optimism. And with reviewing the progress made from December 2014 to December 2015, I can understand why. Let me share this with you.
There are a number of key factors showing growth in our markets here in Whatcom County. When comparing this December with last December, the number of homes pending are up by 31% and the number of homes closed are up by 18.2%. During this same time frame, we have also seen a rise in price per square foot for homes sold – from $148 to $155. Then we are witnessing the decrease in our current inventory this year, from 5.7 months of inventory to only 4.6 months today. The graph below shows monthly inventory and monthly solds. All of these factors combined with historically low interest rates (30 year at 3.875%) help to create a great opportunity for sellers.
Buyers can also benefit from the current market by taking advantage of the low interest rates. Within the past few months, banks have loosened their “death” grip on the money they have to lend. As well, the Federal government has declared a substantial decrease in private mortgage insurance (required by all lenders for borrowers with less than 20% down) which gives you more buying power. Wonderful programs such as USDA & VA zero down loans and FHA 3.5% down loans are now available to qualified borrower.
Buying and selling real estate is a process. An educated buyer or seller is definitely a more satisfied client. Let my 23+ years of working with people just like you to find the perfect fit become your wealth of information. Call me to begin formulating your plan for success – 360-961-8052 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
As we ring in the new year, it is a great time to evaluate where your hard-earned dollars are going each month and whether there is a way to decrease the outflow. One such way is to take a look at your current water heating system and it's functionality. Does it need to be replaced? Should it be upgraded? The information below (provided by Jefferson Livingston owner of Pillar to Post in Bellingham) may be useful in helping you determine what is right for you.
WATER HEATING & ENERGY USE Given that as much as 25% of household energy costs are for water heating, it makes sense to evaluate various types of water heating systems with an eye toward saving both energy and money. Here we take a look at some of the options currently available for homeowners to consider.
Storage Water Heaters These are the most common type of water heater. In these systems, cold water flows into a tank where it is heated by gas or electric power. Once the water in the tank reaches the desired temperature, the heater will cycle on and off to maintain the temperature of the water. As hot water gets used, more cold water will enter the tank to be heated. Most of us know the phenomenon of running out of hot water after family members take one shower after another; this will occur if the tank's storage capacity is insufficient to meet the demand. At other times of the day when relatively little or even no hot water is being used, the heater must still fire on and off to keep the contents of the tank hot. Unfortunately, it is quite inefficient to keep a tank of water hot all day even when the water isn't needed. Adding an insulated water heater wrap can boost efficiency and energy savings – these are inexpensive and can be installed by the homeowner.
Tankless (Demand) Water Heaters Tankless or demand water heaters are just that. Water is not stored in a tank, but is rapidly heated by gas or electricity once the faucet is turned on. For many homes, a tankless heater can be located close to the sink or shower to heat water on the spot. Because it reaches the desired temperature so quickly, much less water is wasted while waiting for hot water to flow through the faucet. Tankless heaters powered by gas are usually much more efficient than electric heaters – in fact, electricity costs can sometimes negate much of the savings a tankless system might otherwise provide. Tankless systems normally cost more than a conventional storage water heater, so homeowners should research what type, size, and location makes the most sense for them.
Solar Water Heating The basic concept of solar water heating is that the sun's energy is used to pre-heat water for the home. The pre-heated water then flows into a solar tank that monitors temperature. Then it is piped into the regular hot water system, usually a storage water heater. If no water is turned on within a brief period of time, the water circulates through the system again, making it unnecessary to keep a large tank of water constantly hot. The pre-heating is done by one or two solar panels, usually installed on the roof. Solar water heating is becoming more and more popular as costs for the systems continue to decrease. By some accounts, including the California Energy Commission, a typical solar water heating system can pay for itself in as little as four to seven years.
No matter what type of water heating homeowners choose, it pays to do some research first to discover the ins and outs of various types for their specific situation. With efficiency and decreased energy use as a goal, the best choice of water heater depends on what pencils out in any given home.
Home ownership is a wonderful thing. To have the ability to invest your hard-earned dollars into something that potentially will pay you a premium in the future is fantastic. The tax advantages that homeownership has to offer are also amazing. We’ll save this for another time. But along with this terrific opportunity comes the massive responsibility of home maintenance.
Having been in real estate sales forever (over 24 years), there is one really solid piece of advice that I can give to you and every homeowner out there. Stay on top of your home maintenance. Here in the Pacific NW there are specific things that really should be done each year and the fall is the time to make sure these things get done so that winter doesn’t become a downer.
First and foremost, get your furnace serviced. This should be done each year without exception. It helps your heating system run much more efficiently and can cut down on your heating bills. Can you think of anything worse than having a snowy cold day outside and not having a furnace to heat your home inside? It happens every winter to people throughout Whatcom County and it’s a really uncomfortable place to be. Servicing a furnace usually runs around $100 and is well worth the investment. And while they are there, have the company service any gas fireplaces you have in your home. It can cost you much more if you wait until something goes wrong.
Get your roof treated. Yes, we north westerners always joke about us getting so much rain that moss grows on our heads. Maybe that’s not entirely true, but there is no doubt that it grows on our roofs and can cause major damage. If left untreated, as it grows the moss will edge roof shingles upward allowing for water intrusion and roof compromise. I am by no means promoting that you yourself get up on your roof and treat the roof yourself. Falling off of your roof can be extremely harmful – even deadly. Hire a licensed professional to come out and apply the necessary treatment. Again, maintenance is much cheaper than replacing a roof long before its advertised lifespan.
And lastly don’t forget to cover your exposed pipes, hose bibs and foundation vents. Avoid burst pipes and the damage that comes with them from those cold northeastern winds that we experience in Whatcom County each winter. Inexpensive foam piping sleeves and Styrofoam vent & hose bib covers can be purchased at your local home improvement stores. A burst pipe can cause thousands of dollars of damage if left unnoticed. Don’t make this mistake.
Staying on top of your home maintenance will make life easier while living in your home or when you get ready to sell your home. There is enough already to worry about when you are going to sell your home. And if you’re ready to sell, you know to who to call – ME!