This past weekend concluded the yearly Skagit Tulip Festival consisting of beautiful scenery and fun events. Hopefully you had a chance to enjoy the stunning beauty that is bestowed upon us each year. If not, set your calendar for next April so you won't miss out. Above are a few of my personal pictures from this season.
So you decided it's time to move for any number of reasons. Now it's time to find a real estate agent to help. As the average person know 9.2 real estate agents, how do you decide which one to choose? Coming from a seasoned agent, here are a couple of pointers.
First, use someone who has the Realtor designation. This person has opted to be a part of a nation-wide group called the National Board of Realtors, which holds its members to a higher standard of ethics then those who are not members. Don't you want to work with someone that excels in ethics? Of course you do.
Next, choose an agent that has chosen real estate as their career – where real estate is a full time job, not just a hobby. Shockingly, 73 percent of real estate agents have another job. These agents have limited knowledge and experience which may negatively affect the outcome of your transaction. They also don't have the time to devote to your situation. Would you go to a part time doctor for surgery or a part time lawyer for important legal advise? I don't think so. Why risk a horrible experience that can be financially damaging on your largest lifetime investment.
Experience is key. While there are many components in a real estate transaction that are constant (filling out paperwork, arranging photography, holding open houses), other areas need expertise. An agents experience really counts when it comes time for negotiating, which happens all throughout the transaction starting with the initial offer, then the inspection and right through to the closing. Coordinating the various steps of your transaction can be daunting, but not for an experienced agent. We've been doing this long enough to know how to get things done.
And lastly, what is the reputation of the Realtor you are considering? Do they come recommended or are you just taking a shot in the dark? Align yourself with someone you feel you can trust. This might come via a personal referral or maybe you read glowing recommendations on websites that are client driven such as Trulia or Zillow. You will be spending a lot of time with your agent and making some pretty big decisions with their help. Equally, you must trust them to make decisions on your behalf throughout the entire transaction. Are you satisfied with their capabilities?
In the end, what is personally important to you in your Realtor. Experience? Commitment? Designations? Recommendations? Probably a combination of all of these. It's best to interview a few candidates to see which one is most compatible with your needs. Ask tough questions and listen carefully to their answers. One thing for certain is that you should be looking for a trusted counselor to skillfully guide you through the entire process, not just a facilitator of paperwork. Take the time up front to work through this process and you are bound to enjoy a smooth real estate transaction.
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.
Just a quick post to share with you the most amazing banana muffin recipe I’ve come across ever. Loaded with flavor, the cranberries give a tanginess to the traditional banana taste that my family cannot get enough of. The added oats give huge texture, as well as doctor recommended fiber. Taken from food.com, I’ve added a few ingredients of my own. Enjoy!
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar or 1/2 cup agave syrup
1 3/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (5-6 bananas)
1/3 cup butter melted
1/4 pecan pieces
1 cup cranberries
Combine dry ingredients. Mix well. Beat together egg, bananas, syrup (if used instead of sugar) and melted butter until smooth. Add to dry ingredients. Stir to blend. Stir in pecans & cranberries until combined. Spoon batter into muffin tins sprayed with pan spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched.
Yes. You heard me correctly. New listings are needed now throughout Whatcom County! Contrary to the belief that real estate sales stop during the holidays, there are actually people out in search of their next home right now. I was with two different families yesterday and sadly, we were very limited in the number of homes we could view. And so our search continues…
What typically happens this time of year is that real estate is forgotten by most people while they turn their attentions to the holiday at hand – the Christmas season. The number of people putting their homes on the market drops by about 50 percent this time of year. However, the number of those homes selling during this same time only drops by 25 percent, creating an inventory void. Take a look at the chart below which illustrates this from our local Multiple Listing Service.
This void in housing choices for those looking to buy can create an opportune time for home sellers to list and sell their home. So if you are toying with the idea of listing your home for sale, you don’t need to wait until spring like everybody else. Give me a call today to move forward on listing your home now to take advantage of this inventory void. Let’s make it happen!
Now that Thanksgiving and Black Friday are firmly behind us, we can turn our attention to one of the most recognized and celebrated holidays of the year – Christmas! Although extended family is far away, we just love Christmas around our home. We never forget that Christmas is about baby Jesus, however we have established traditions within our immediate home that help us celebrate this time of year. Most importantly being the selection of the Christmas tree.
What type? Size? Where do we get it from – pre-cut at the store or chop it down ourselves? Our tradition has become to bundle up with the kids, jump in the SUV and head north to chop a tree. We don’t have to go very far – 3-5 miles takes us to tree country. After all we live in Washington state where trees grow out of the sides of rocks! Mom and pop tree farms abound in our county, so the variety is wonderful. Year after year, we have been drawn to the Balsam Fir tree which has branches that are spaced out to give an ample amount of room for my long ornaments. Once we get to the farm, we scour the lot for the perfect tree to host my wide selection of ornaments. And it must be tall. Oh yes. Taller than the house is usually the way we fly. Once in sight, watch out! The boys are laser focused on falling that tree for harvest. Now that they are older, it takes mere minutes to get the tree dropped. It’s another thing to get the tree from the forest to the top of our car. The tree is big and awkward, and stumps are everywhere that you can’t see so much stumbling is witnessed. And when we do finally make it to the car, there is always the wonderfully gracious owner to help you hoist the tree up onto the roof (make sure it is faced in the correct direction of travel) and tie it down for travel.
Like the shorts????
Once home, it’s all about sizing up the tree to fit our home. Undoubtedly the tree is taller than we can fit, so we’ll need to give it a trim. I’ve also learned that it is better to strap the tree to the wall rather than have someone pull the tree down once it is decorated. Yes, this has happened… We listen to Christmas music and have warm drinks while we take great pleasure in decorating the tree.
So now that you’ve heard our story, let me give you some advice from the experts on choosing a tree.
Decide where to place your tree – Avoid placing your tree by a heat source (sunny windows, radiators, heating vents, and fireplaces)
Measure twice – what will fit in your home and where
Take a Tape & Heavy Gloves – whether you are cutting the tree yourself or going to the local store, you’ll need to know what will fit in your home and have gloves to protect your hands to lift the tree up onto your vehicle
Select a fresh tree – obviously there is no need to worry about this when cutting your own tree, however, store-bought trees should have needles that look shiny, green, and fresh
Transporting the tree – if not within your vehicle, make sure it is securely attached to your car via rope or twine. Also if on the roof, make sure the trunk is at the windshield and the tip at the back. This will provide less wind resistance on your drive home
With all of this in mind, have a wonderful time choosing your tree and more importantly, a Merry Christmas.
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!
A local treasure nestled on the outskirts of Everson by the name of Stoney Ridge Farms closed for the fall harvest season this past weekend. We discovered this wonderful family focused destination ten years ago when a school field trip took the class of our older boy out to explore their great pumpkin patch. Since then, it has become our family tradition year after year.
So many things bring us back each year, but I feel that the main reason is the overall joy of being together as a family. When the boys were young, the mini animal farm amazed them with cuddly little creatures from lop-eared bunnies to baby goats. The resident donkey always brings a smile to their faces. The king of the show each year is the goat that walks along high rising planks to reach a platform overlooking the farm where patrons deliver yummy treats to him via a can/rope system. He will stand up on that small platform high in the sky for hours it seems, or at least as long as the snacks continue arriving.
Then as the boys got older it was for the tasty homemade treats that called to us – warm pumpkin donuts, piping hot apple pie and the flavorful apple cider. But at the end of the day, they really do have some terrific pumpkins and gourds to choose from. You can either stroll through the pumpkin fields yourself with a wheel barrel that is provided or stop in their market on the way out to pick out a polished pumpkin. Either way these pumpkins have been adorning our doorstep for the past ten years.
Although it is too late this season for the pumpkin patch, they do open again for the Christmas season. They offer Christmas trees, homemade wreaths, local crafts and again their famous pies. Watch their website for opening day and begin making this YOUR family tradition. http://stoneyridgefarm.com/index.html
One of the great highlights of our family's summer is heading out on Bellingham Bay in our boat. There are so many wonderful sights to see from the beautifully undisturbed scenery to the active marine life – dolphins, jellyfish, seabirds and jumping fish. But the best sight of all is that of the creature that dwells at the depths of the Bay – the NW Dungeness crab! We anxiously wait for the opening day of crabbing on July 1st and reluctantly say goodbye on September 30th. But not this year! After checking with the www.wdfw.wa.gov website, I see that Dungeness crab harvesting has been extended until the end of the year – December 31st – and is now seven days a week!
The crabbing ritual is quite a production. The first thing is to make sure that the weather, wind and waves are going to cooperate. I check the Bellingham Bay cam and weather station information on the internet multiple time while getting ready. As we have found out the hard way, Bellingham Bay can be very unpredictable and downright scary at times. While the husband is busy getting the boat and gear ready for our excursion, I am responsible for snacks (everyone's favorites must be on board), layers (make sure everyone has a jacket even if it is 80 degrees outside because you never know…), crab bait (do they want turkey legs this time or salmon chum) and crab transportation devices (what will we carry our bounty home in?). There is one last stop on our way to the marina launch – yes, there must be enough gas to get us to the hunting grounds and back. We stop at our favorite gas station to fill up. Now we're ready to go!
Time to launch. This can be a bit tense at times. I've mastered the backup technique by now, but still have a difficult time reading the minds of those also launching or coming back in. Patience is the key. Once in the water, it's time to head out to our favorite spot – Eliza Island. During the 17 minute ride out to the island, I am busy stuffing the bait boxes in the crab traps (got to make it irresistible) so that we are ready for action the minute we arrive. Upon arrival we drop the pots and pray for success.
What keeps our focus is the amazing taste of a fresh Dungeness crab that you yourself have caught that very day. Catch it at noon and dinner is served. Yummy! All summer long there is an on-going competition between ourselves and the commercial fisherman. Have they already harvested all of the crab? Can we max out on the daily quota? Seems like only the small ones are left… (Did you know that it takes 11 years for a Dungeness crab to reach it's adult harvesting size – we have more respect for these creatures now that we know this.) One more drop will surely put us over the top. If not, it's because the commercials have taken all of our beloved crab… Oh well. We'll still enjoy our day's spoils tonight.
The last day of crabbing, September 30, is always a sad day for us. It marks the end of summer and the end of our fun-filled excursions out onto the Bay. But not this year – we have more time. We aren't sure how many more times we will make it out for the remainder of this season, but it is great to know that if the day is a wonderful weather day we can head out and catch one of our beloved crabs for dinner which is really only earmarked for summer. Enjoy!