Sunday, December 30, 2007

Uncertainty? Anxiety? What's new?

I apologize for not addressing Sunday's Seattle Times/P-I headline article sooner. I confess that I let the holiday get in the way. Nevertheless, here is my take on the article. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/home/index.html

The gist of the article (it can't really be called a "story" since there is no event to report) seems to be that the housing market and the economy are uncertain, therefore anxiety is an appropriate reaction. My question is: When has the housing market and/or the economy EVER been certain? When will it be? And, does increasing our collective or individual feeling of anxiety benefit anyone?

Buying a home is a stressful event for most people simply because of the size of the investment. Whether you buy at the top of the market or at the bottom, it is a decision that affects many aspects of your life. Since no one can accurately predict the future, all we can do is trust our judgement to make the best possible decision given the information available to us at the time.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New investment analysis tool

Thinking about investing in a rental property and wondering if it would be profitable? Scroll down the page to find a new "widget" that will help you determine the answer. Keep in mind that this type of software is intended only as a starting point for analysis. Full analysis must take a variety of factors into consideration, including tax consequences. Give me a call if you'd like to discuss this further.

Current loan rates

If you haven't already discovered my list of "helpful websites" in the right-hand column, I want to call your attention to the link to Arboretum Mortgage. Click on the link to get a quick snapshot of current mortgage loan rates in an easy-to-read chart format, updated weekly. Thanks to senior loan officer, Troy Chambers, for providing this timely info. Here's the link again: http://media.reliancenetwork.com/dyna_images/clients/1974690/20072712164153.pdf

More good news!

Once again, the Seattle P-I has taken a mostly-positive news report concerning the real estate market in Seattle and made it sound grim. (Why DO they DO that???) http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/realestate/

Seattle was one of three cities that continued to post GAINS in home appreciation, but the article focuses on all the places that have seen declines. And without any persuasive argument, the writer concludes that Seattle is doomed to fall with the rest of the markets.

We all knew that the market could not sustain double-digit rates of appreciation forever. If it did, buyers would be priced out of the market entirely (some already have been), which doesn't benefit sellers anyway. There is a big difference between a market which is correcting itself -- seeing declines which take it back to a "normal" market -- and one which is crashing and burning.

Admittedly, the days of making a quick buck by investing in real estate are probably over for a while. Historically, however, real estate remains one of the best LONG-TERM investments available, both financially and emotionally.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? If you are currently a homeowner, are you glad you bought a home?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Need a last minute gift?

Okay, so maybe a new home won't fit under your tree, but the title will! And there's still time to make an offer on that perfect home you found online or in person, and have it accepted before Christmas morning! Is your agent out there working on your behalf today, or doing some last-minute shopping of his/her own?

Yes, I'll be working today, and, no, I don't work all the time. If you doubt me, ask Santa ... I had breakfast with him just yesterday!

Here's the house I'll be holding open today from noon - 3PM. It's a darling remodel with a separate MIL (mother-in-law) or guest apartment in the refinished basement. The address is 3753 SW Austin St, in the Gatewood area of West Seattle. Offered at $398,950. Please come by for a visit; I'd love to meet you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fear of foreclosure

If you read the headline in this morning's Seattle P-I, "More in county losing homes", you may have been left with the impression that foreclosures are a common thing in Seattle/King County. The lone statistic cited above the headline, "126.9%" increase, seems to solidify this "fact." You must read -- and read between the lines -- the entire article to get a true picture of what's happening.

For example, seven paragraphs into the story, you learn that only 1 of every 1,033 households in King County filed for foreclosure in November, as compared to a nationwide average of 1 for every 617 households! And it is not until the very last paragraph of the story -- buried inside on page A12 -- that the writer mentions that one home can account for several filings, and many filings DO NOT ultimately result in foreclosure.

Am I saying that fear of foreclosure is foolish? No. It's important to consider your financing options carefully and try to ensure that you do not get in over your head with a home loan. But the reality is that very few homeowners find themselves in a serious threat of foreclosure. In fact, it's generally easier/quicker to be evicted from an apartment/house for failing to pay the rent, than it is to be ousted from your home for failing to keep up your mortgage payments.

So once again, I urge you to resist the media's attempts to induce fear about the state of the housing market. There is really only one home and one loan that should concern you -- yours. And the way to avoid trouble is to do your research and work with professionals you trust and respect to help you find and purchase (or sell) a home.

What do you think? Should fear of foreclosure prevent you from buying a home?


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Congratulations Jennifer!

Jennifer J. is the happy & proud new owner of my listing at 4015 SW Thistle St.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This week's Open House

Here's where I will be this Saturday from 10A-1P and Sunday from 1P-4P. 1545 Sunset Ave SW, in North Admiral. This place has an incredible, unobstructible view from every room in the house! Bring your checkbook!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Saturday's Open House

Most weekends I host an Open House on Saturdays & Sundays. I'm foregoing an Open this Sunday as I will be helping my dad celebrate his 96th birthday! (Yes, his 96th birthday; that's not a typo.) But on Saturday I will be holding open a 4 bedroom, 1/75 bath rambler in Genesee. The address is 3820 48th Ave SW. Please drop by and say hello! (This is the place with the turquoise-colored kitchen appliances that I featured in a past posting.)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Title company fees

Today's Seattle Times/P-I Real Estate section carries a story by syndicated columnist Kenneth Harnery concerning the problem of title company kickbacks. This is another instance of an issue that is different in Washington State than in many other states.

While it never hurts to shop around for the lowest fees, title fees are closely regulated and limited by Washington State law, so you are not likely to find much of a difference between companies. The article fails to mention this because the author is writing for a generalized, national audience.

Even so, there are many other fees associated with a real estate purchase that can and do vary significantly depending upon which company you choose. Two such examples are escrow companies and lenders.

Traditionally, the seller in a transaction chooses the title company because it's a wise practice for their agent to "open title" at the time the property is listed. The buyer usually chooses the escrow company because they often deposit their earnest money with that company (although they may deposit it with their real estate agent's firm. In either case, the money must, by law, be deposited in a special bank account within one business day of receipt). It is not unusual for a seller to request that the potential buyer use the seller's choice of both title and escrow companies, especially if the seller is a developer selling new construction. Some developers steer their business to designated companies who agree to charge them lower fees, thereby reducing the developer's costs and increasing their profit. Nevertheless, the buyer can choose not to honor that request. If it is a seller's market at the time the offer is made (i.e. there may be multiple offers), it may be in the buyer's best interest to capitulate as a way of giving themselves an edge over other buyers.

My clients often depend upon me to advise them regarding which companies to use for title, escrow, etc. They rightfully expect that they can trust me to look out for their best interests in these and all other matters related to the transaction. I work hard to earn and keep that trust.

It is my practice to give my clients the names of at least three alternative providers for any service they request, whether it is for an inspection, title, escrow, lender or other service company. I base my recommendations not only on fees, but on my confidence and knowledge that they will do the job properly. Furthermore, I tell my clients what each provider has done to earn my recommendation.

What do you think? Do you trust your agent to sprun kickbacks?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday preview

Not much to see when previewing new listings yesterday (Thursday), but here's a cool shower stall and breakfast bar.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cool features I saw today

If you're new to this blog, these are photos of "cool features" from houses I previewed today. All are currently listed for sale in West Seattle. Give me a call if you'd like more details.

Perhaps it was the chilly weather, but I seemed to be captivated by fireplaces today.
The built-in eating nook and clawfoot tub looked pretty inviting as well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Today's preview

These are snapshots from some of the homes I previewed today.
The first photo goes to prove the old adage, "Good fences make good neighbors."
The second photo shows a kitchen that features not only granite counter tops, but a matching granite backsplash that extends halfway up the wall!
The last photo shows a common result when a home is "short-platted" to allow townhomes to be built on the back half of the lot.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Do you need a buyer's agent?

The inside page of today's Seattle Times/P-I Real Estate section has an article about using a buyer's agent to purchase a home. (Sorry, the story isn't published online, so I can't provide a link.) Here are a few thoughts I'd like to add.

Studies show that nearly 80% of new buyers search for homes online before ever contacting a real estate agent, even if they intend to use one. I believe this is a really positive trend. Everyone benefits from being informed about what is available in the current market. But once you find a property you like and/or want to see, who do you call?

Some people think they can negotiate a better price if they contact the listing agent directly, but that is not the case. Remember that the listing agent works for the Seller. You need a Buyer's agent, who works for YOU.

It's not that difficult to find a skilled agent, but to ensure a positive buying experience, look for a skilled agent whose personality and work style align well with your own. This might take a little more time and energy, but it will be worth it. That's why it's a good idea to begin interviewing agents early -- so you are prepared to act quickly when you find that perfect house.

Where can you find a good agent? As the Times article mentions, Open Houses are a good place to meet agents. They provide the opportunity to conduct stealth interviews, since many are hosted by buyer's agents rather than the listing agent.

Additionally, ask friends and relatives about agents they have used. But don't be satisfied with lukewarm recommendations; hold out for glowing reviews! Hint: if they can't remember the agent's name without looking it up, the agent obviously wasn't that impressive. You deserve excellent representation, so be choosy!

Please call me to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. I'd love an opportunity to interview with you. 206-708-9800. alice@alicekuder.com

A glut of townhomes?

Is there an oversupply of townhomes in West Seattle? It depends upon your point of view.

What constitutes an oversupply? Certainly, there are a large number of new construction condos and townhomes coming on the market. In the past several years, developers have been buying land in the less-expensive parts of town to build multi-family housing. These units tend to be more affordable than single-family homes, allowing many first-time buyers to own a home sooner than they might otherwise have been able. In essence, condos and townhomes have become the new "starter homes" for many people.

Unfortunately for the developers, the lag time between buying the land and finishing construction hasn't timed out as well as they would have liked. The result is that there is quite of bit of this inventory on the market, but not so many buyers at the moment.

On the positive side (for buyers), this means that buyers may be able to purchase brand new units for thousands of dollars less than just a few months ago. On the other hand, the rate of appreciation on the investment in a townhome may not be as great as for a single-family residence. Keep in mind, however, that real estate is meant to be a long-term investment, not a source for quick cash (that's why "flipping" is such a risky endeavor). AND the rate of appreciation for real estate in Seattle is still incredibly strong -- over 8% last year. So if you bought a townhome recently, or are considering buying one, you are still likely to realize a significant return on your investment if you plan to own it for several years. Another advantage to buying a townhome is that when you are ready to "move up" to something larger, you may be able to keep the townhome as a rental.

What do you think? Is a townhome a good investment right now?

The following link is to a related article in the Seattle P-I.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lies, or positive spin? Are they the same thing?

Apparently, Wednesday was a slow news day, because the front page of that morning's P-I featured a story about the vocabulary that real estate agents use to describe their listings. I couldn't help but feel a bit defensive as I read the story, because the implication is that we, as agents, are being deceitful when we write the advertisements. I suppose it depends upon your point of view.

Is it a lie to describe a small home as cozy? If you were the seller, which word would you rather have me use?

My job is to entice potential buyers in to view your home in order to sell it. I don't believe that lying benefits anyone. Lies don't sell a home. Even gross exaggeration can backfire. Putting a positive spin on potential drawbacks, however, is (in my opinion) different than lying or even exaggerating. No home is perfect, and what one buyer sees as a negative, another may see as a positive.

What are your thoughts about the descriptions you've seen for various homes on the market? What is the most outrageous exaggeration you've ever seen/heard? Any outright lies? If you search for homes online, are you more influenced by photos or words? Are there particular words that turn you off or hook you? Here's you chance to voice your opinions!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Use Open Houses to your advantage

If it seems as if there are "Open House" signs on nearly every street corner these days (especially on Sundays), you aren't imagining things. Although statistics show that the chances of actually selling a house DURING an Open House are quite low -- maybe one in a hundred -- the events still have a great deal of value.

First, an Open House creates buzz. Word-of-mouth advertising can be invaluable. Even if most of the people who come through the home (a large percentage are usually neighbors) aren't really interested in buying it themselves, they may know someone who is. That's why "lookie-loo's" are always welcome at my Open Houses.

Second, it gives "unagented" prospective buyers (you?) a great way to conduct stealth interviews of prospective agents. Of course you want to hire a Realtor who is skilled and knowledgeable, but beyond that, a good personality match will make the home buying process sooooooo much more pleasant for you.

If you'd like to meet me, while remaining incognito, come by my Open House today at 6325 SW 39th St., near Morgan Junction. I'll be there from 1-4PM. For a list of other Open Houses, see the list of links in the column on the right. (For some reason, this software isn't allowing me to add a link here at the moment.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Today's preview

Here's the view from a $965K listing I previewed today in Fauntleroy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cool features

Most Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings I preview new listings in the West Seattle market -- an average of 25 homes per week. This helps me know the market and gives me a good idea of what your housing dollar can buy. When I see homes with what I think are particularly cool features, I will share the photos with you here. Today I saw these retro turquoise kitchen appliances that the sellers bought off of eBay. (I'm not allowed to publish the address of the house, due to MLS rules.) Feel free to send me photos of anything cool you see.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Christmas Ship schedule

If you like to plan your holiday activities well in advance, you might want to make note of the dates and times that the Christmas Ships will make their annual pilgrimages to West Seattle. Saturday, Dec. 8, 5:15PM-5:35 Seacrest Marina, 8:50PM-9:10 Lowman Beach, and 9:40PM-10:00 Alki Beach. Sunday, Dec. 9 7:10PM-7:30 Don Armeni.

If you've heard about this annual event, but don't know what it's all about, visit the Argosy Cruise website: http://www.argosycruises.com/themecruises/xmasSchedule.cfm

Land Use Updates

The Alki News Beacon has begun publishing a list of land use updates for projects proposed in the Alki area of West Seattle. This is a nice service for residents who would like to stay up-to-date on such issues. After all, how many of us actually take the time to stop and read those big black and white signs erected at proposed building sites?

If you can't get your hands on a copy of the Beacon, you can also go to the City of Seattle website: http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/luib/Bulletins.aspx to get the information.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thumbs up for "Bat Boy The Musical"

Okay, so this is not actually real-estate-related (although I did hear about the play from another Realtor), but I feel compelled to put in a good word for Arts West's current production, Bat Boy The Musical. In a word, it is fantastic! Even after reading a favorable review in the Seattle Times, I wasn't confident that I would enjoy the show. Happily, my skepticism was unrewarded. I enjoyed everything about this production! One scene in particular -- which I will not attempt to describe -- made me laugh louder and longer than I remember laughing at any other play or movie I have ever seen.

Do yourself a favor, and GO SEE THIS PLAY!

Are housing prices going down?

As I stated in my earlier post (Is it time to buy?), the average home price in King County has declined slightly (approx. .003%) for each of the last two months. Here are the figures:

Average Sales Price of Homes in King County, 2007
March: $478,728 April: $483,814 May: $493,226 June: $496,258 July: $501,689 August: $504,036 September: $502,381 October: $500,800

You may have noticed a lot of homes with price reductions recently. Most of these reductions are on homes that have been on the market 90 days or more, indicating that they were overpriced from the get-go. Homes coming on the market now (i.e. in the last few weeks) are being listed at more moderate price points, forcing the older listings to reduce their prices in order to be competitive. What remains to be seen is whether or not the more recently listed homes eventually sell for close to their original list price, or end up reducing their prices as well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Is it time to buy?

"Home prices down again -- is it time to buy?" http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/338526_housing07.html is the headline on the front page of Wednesday morning's P-I. It's a fair question and the article does a good job of presenting lots of statistics There are, however, a couple of aspects of the article that I find to be potentially misleading.

First, is the practice of quoting statistics relating to median prices rather than average prices. I suspect that many people confuse these two terms. Median price, as you know, refers to the price point at which half of the homes on the market fall above and half fall below. Average price, on the other hand, is calculated by adding the sales prices of all the homes sold and then dividing that figure by the total number of homes sold (during a particular period). The average price is therefore closer to the amount the "average" consumer (i.e. the largest percentage) can expect to pay, which is why I think it is a more useful figure. The median sales price will typically be lower than the average sales price.

Related to this is the practice of comparing median prices from last year to median prices for this year. If more lower priced homes (e.g. townhomes and condos, which typically sell for less than single-family homes) are sold this year as compared to last year (and there were), the median price will necessarily go down. That is not the same as prices going down.

On the other hand, the average sales price in King County has declined slightly (approx. .003%)for each of the last two months. Here are the figures:

Average Sales Price of Homes in King County, 2007

March: $478,728 April: $483,814 May: $493,226 June: $496,258 July: $501,689 August: $504,036 September: $502,381 October: $500,800

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bad press for WAMU

The front page headline of Friday's P-I (11/2/7 - sorry, no link available) reads, "WaMu faulted on home loans." In the second paragraph of the story, the writer admits, "The suit filed ... doesn't name Seattle-based WaMu as a defendant." I guess they knew that the WaMu name would grab local attention. Whatever involvement WaMu does or doesn't have, the concern over inflated appraiser evaluations is a legitimate one.

When a typical potential buyer makes an offer on a home, it is usually conditioned upon their ability to obtain a home loan for the purchase price. In order to approve the loan, the buyer's lender requires an appraisal of value equal to or greater than the amount of the loan. This provides the lending institution with assurance that it can recoup the amount of the loan if the buyer should default. If the appraised value of the home is less than the price a buyer has offered, they are unlikely to get the loan and would have to find another source of funding, or reduce or rescind their offer.

Problems arise if the appraiser feels pressured to deliver an unrealistically high appraisal (estimate of value). This can happen if the institution paying the appraiser's fee benefits from an artificially high result. In the short run, the buyer might seem to benefit by getting their loan approved, but in the long run it causes the buyer to overpay for the home and the loan.

It will be interesting to see whether this story marks the tip of the iceberg or disappears in the mist.

Is the glass half full or half empty?

The front page of Wednesday's P-I (10/31/07) reads, "Mixed news on home prices:
Seattle increase leads U.S.; not all is positive." http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/337376_housing31.html The article notes that, "the area's annual increase (5.7%) was the lowest in four years and August was the 18th consecutive month of declining annual appreciation. Also, prices decreased nearly one-tenth of a percent from July." What they are describing is a very strong and vibrant market, but they have somehow managed to make it sound threatened. Prices decreased less than one-tenth of one percent??!! At that rate of decline it will take a dozen years to get back to a NORMAL market, let alone a slow market! And the 5.7% figure quoted (again, a very strong showing) conflicts with their own previously published estimated of over 8% for last year.

The bottom line? The sky is still not falling.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Back to Normal?

Is the real estate market up? down? sideways? After 10 or so years of favoring sellers, the Seattle market is leveling out so that both buyers and sellers can breathe a little easier. Appreciation is no longer in the double digits, but is still running a VERY healthy 8+ percent, which outperforms most any other investment you are likely to make. Inventory is up by almost 50% over last year at this time, giving buyers substantially more options than they have had in the recent past. Even so, sellers are able to command a fair price for their homes. Best of all, no one has to act at the breakneck speed that was required when immediate multiple offers were common. Appropriately-priced homes still sell quickly (though, perhaps not overnight) and over-priced homes still languish on the market. Visit the home page of my main website to see statistics about King County home sales. http://www.alicekuder.pnwrealty.com/

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Are foreclosure rates up?

Over the past several months you have probably heard and read numerous reports about the "sub-prime meltdown" and rising foreclosure rates. Rest assured that the sky is NOT falling -- especially not in Seattle/Washington. Here are some significant facts:

FACT: the foreclosure rates in Washington State today are the same as they were 10 years ago. Fewer than 1% (yes, ONE percent) of mortgages end in default in our state.

FACT: As of mid June, sub-prime, adjustable-rate loans represented 20% of loans nationally, but just 6% of home loans in Washington.

FACT: Home appreciation in Washington continues to out-perform the rest of the nation with year-to-year price increases every quarter since the spring of 1995. Home prices in Washington have increased an average of 8.1% since the same time last year.

CONCLUSION: The real estate market in Washington State, and Seattle in particular, is still VERY STRONG! There are many reputable lenders who can quickly and easily give you accurate information about your ability to obtain a home loan. If you need recommendations, just give me a call and I can give you several names from which to choose.

(Scroll down to the end of the page for an explanation of sub-prime loans.)

Life in South Park

A front-page story in today's P-I (Section B) focuses on the South Park neighborhood. If you don't know where it is, you are not alone. It lies east of Hwy 509 and south of Roxbury (roughly speaking). It is what I call a "developing" area -- lots of good people, but not a lot of money. Public perception of the area has not been particularly positive in the past, which is a shame because it's probably undeserved. On the bright side, it has kept property values in South Park lower than other areas of the city, making it a good investment. If you are disappointed by what your money can buy in the westerly neighborhoods of West Seattle, you may want to give South Park a look.

Make an offer!

That's the tune that every listing agent is singing right now. For the first time in perhaps a dozen years, buyers are more difficult to find than sellers in the Seattle market, giving them newly-found negotiating power. Buyers should not be afraid to make low offers. Other than a little time and emotional energy, it costs nothing to make an offer. The seller may not accept your offer outright, but they will probably at least give a counteroffer, rather than a flat "no." Remember the old adage, "It never hurts to ask." On the other hand, don't expect to see any fire sales. This is still a very strong market and sellers who price at market value most often achieve 98-100% of their asking price.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Too many condos for sale?

The front page story in this morning's P-I asks, "Will condo wave swamp the market?" http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/realestate/ (Must be a slow news day.) It's a valid question, but in my opinion, not one with many immediate consequences. The article focuses solely on condo construction projects in downtown Seattle. Ironically, that is probably the area of the city where demand is strongest so the "danger" is lowest. Neither does the article give any consideration concerning price points.

Here in West Seattle, both new construction of condos/townhomes (I'm using the terms interchangeably here), as well as condo conversions are happening at an incredible pace, with no signs of slowing. Delridge Way, from the West Seattle bridge, all the way into White Center, has seen particularly heavy development because the land was relatively cheap up until a couple of years ago. You can currently take your pick from literally dozens of brand new 2-3 bedroom condos along that corridor for around $270K. One reason that these will all eventually sell is because condos/townhomes are the new starter homes; they are a way to get into home ownership at a somewhat affordable price point in order to build equity for a future purchase of a larger home. Banks rarely finance the building of small homes any more.

So, are developers building too many condos in West Seattle? Possibly, but that's just one more bit of good news for buyers because the sellers are likely to accept below-list offers.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

New Homeowners!

Congratulations to my clients, Leah and Pierre, who just closed on their first home earlier this week!

When they first starting looking at properties, Leah and Pierre thought they would only be able to afford a townhome, but recent market shifts opened up some new doors -- literally! Realizing that home buyers have been steadily gaining clout in the Seattle market for the past few months, we expanded their search to include some older, smaller single-family homes. Sure enough, we found a beautifully remodeled 1924 bungalow on a 7000+ sq. ft. lot. They fell in love with the place, and once a professional home inspector gave it a clean bill of health, we negotiated a purchase that fit their budget as well as their dreams!

Congratulations again, and may you enjoy many happy years ahead in your new home!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Interest Rates for the Week of Oct. 11-18

30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate for the week of Oct. 11-18, 2007 = 6.40%, up 0.4% from last week when it averaged 6.37% Last year at this time, it averaged 6.37% as well.

Interest Rates for Week of Oct 4-11

30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate for the week of Oct. 4-11, 2007 = 6.37%, down .5% from last week when it averaged 6.42% One year ago, the rate was 6.36%.

Seattle P-I story

The front page headline of Tuesday's P-I (10/16) http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/realestate/ states, "Sellers trying it all to hook choosy buyers." It provides a pretty accurate description of what's happening in the market right now. Although many sellers are still in denial about the marekt shift in buyers' favor, savvy agents (and sellers) are recognizing that they need to offer incentives to attract the few buyers who are actively shopping. Of course, the incentive that inevitably works best is pricing below market value. Money always talks loudest.

What I've Seen

In order to keep abreast of the West Seattle market, I preview an average of 8-10 new listings a day, 2-3 days a week. This means I personally tour between 15-25 new homes each week as they come on the market. It's a great way to keep current on available inventory and see how sellers and agents are pricing homes.

Judging from the homes I previewed yesterday, it seems as if many new listings are still coming on the market overpriced from the get-go. It's hard to say whether this is the fault of the agents or the sellers. A good agent will do their homework and present the prospective seller with a well-researched Comparable Sales Analysis (aka a CMA), showing what similar homes are selling for. Even so, many sellers choose to ignore the evidence and insist on listing at a higher price. Until as recently as June of this year, seller's were sometimes getting away with that strategy. Now, however, inventory is high and buyer's are scarce, so overpricing is a foolish choice unless the seller doesn't mind having their home sit on the market for several months.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Choosing the right mortgage product

A brief article in the Oct. 14th edition of the Seattle Times (page D4) tells about an online "Mortgage Comparison Calculator" created by the Federal Reserve Board. The idea is to help you as a consumer compare a number of mortgage programs to see which is best for you. The website address is: www.federalreserve.gov/apps/mortcalc

Media headlines

I love the Sunday newspaper. Even so, as a Realtor, I always hold my breathe until I check out the headline in the Real Estate section, because if it's at all controversial, it's likely to be the topic of conversation among clients and colleagues for the coming week.

That's one purpose for this blog . . . to be able to comment on real estate related news stories as they occur.

I understand that journalists have to to draw readers in with sensational headlines in order to sell newspapers. But, for better or worse, public perception of the real estate market has tremendous power to actually change that market, and the real estate market is a major driving force in the financial health of our nation. That puts a significant responsibility on the shoulders of those who write those headlines.

For example, the October 6th editions of the Seattle Times and Post Intelligencer, stated that housing prices in Seattle dipped from last year. To justify the headline, they dug up some atypical and scewed statistics that showed a $50 difference -- yes, fifty dollars, not fifty thousand dollars -- between home prices in Sept. of 2006 versus Sept. of 2007. Well into the bowels of the article was information about how condominium sales may have artificially lowered that median price.

As a result of that story, many buyers were convinced that they should hold off on buying until prices go down more. Unfortunately, prices aren't really going down, and buyers who delay will actually experience a decrease in their purchasing power.

Consumer confidence is easily disrupted and "the power of the press" is very real. News reporters need to wield that power with care.