Attain Housing’s 6th Annual Fighting Homelessness Benefit Luncheon

Today marked Attain housing’s 6th Annual Luncheon Event to raise awareness and help fight homelessness in our community.  What a great event it turned out to be!  We nearly doubled our number from last year!!  We had the amazing Thach Nguyen – Philanthropist, Entrepreneur, and Author of “Dream Big” give an incredibly insightful and empowering speech.  Thach himself was homeless as a child, and has devoted much of his life to giving back and helping local communities.  We at Attain Housing  look forward to teaming up with Thach in future endeavors and continue to raise the awareness together!

For those who don’t know Attain Housing’s mission is bringing our community together to partner with homeless families by providing affordable housing and empowering them with practical case management and hope.  You can find out more about Attain Housing (formerly KITH) and how you can help from their website.  More photos from the event are below.

I-405 Toll!?

It is becoming more and more realistic that our beloved Interstate 405 will have a toll for drivers traveling between Bellevue and Lynnwood.  The Washington State Department of Transportation, or WSDOT, considers I-405 the most congested highway in the state, and feel that this will relieve some of the traffic.  The average toll rate would range between $.75 and $4 on an average day, but would spike to as high as $10 for drivers with a Good-to-Go Pass (an extra $2 for drivers who choose to pay by mail) during peak hours, which WSDOT considers between 5-9am and 3-7pm.  Motorcyclists and carpool lanes will be exempt at all times, but the WSDOT is considering upping the requirement for the carpool lane to 3 people, as opposed to the current 2.

“This is a really big step,” said Project Director Kim Henry. “This has taken us almost a dozen years to get to this point where we are today. This is really important because we need to provide congestion relief. I think people would like to see a reliable trip and this is a system that is going to help them get a reliable trip.”

How would this affect your daily commute?  Would you be content on paying these prices with the sole hope that it would relieve traffic?  You have the option to voice your opinion!  The commission is scheduled to adopt its toll rate proposal at a final meeting on March 18 at 6:30 p.m. in Kirkland City Hall.  A couple dozen people who regularly drive the 405 showed up to a recent City Hall meeting and shared their concerns:

“We are already paying a gas tax and all the other taxes that go along with living in King County,” said Michael Kranz.

“I don’t know if I have a problem with the tolls, but I have a problem with the three people,” said Peggy Russe.

Anne Haley, the chair of the Transportation Committee responsible for approving the toll rates called the proposal “reasonable.”

What is your take on the tolling situation?  Would you pay the toll or find other means of travel?  Last but not least, the question we all need an answer to…  Do you feel this toll will relieve the traffic situation on I-405 or is this just another way for the state to dip into our pockets?

A Day on the Hill – 2015 Legislative Day

Hill Day is an opportunity to learn about Washington Legislature priorities, meet with our representatives, and provide feedback regarding our recommendations and concerns in support of a healthy economy and access to home ownership.  We as Washington State Realtors are the only organized group who represent homeowners’ issues in the state legislative, therefore, our voices must be heard.  This year, we had the opportunity to attend and make a stand on the important matters and decisions facing us as Realtors, as well as our customers and clients, the homeowners.  400 Washington Realtors and affiliates from around Washington State gathered on January 22 to learn about the current state of local government and meet with their representatives to educate them on the potential impacts of their decisions regarding home ownership and the economy.  We were there to focus on four main concerns as we head into 2015, and we have taken a moment to outline them below.

Extend Current Funding for Washington Center for Real Estate Research: The Washington Center for Real Estate Research (WCRER), part of Washington’s Runstad School of Real Estate Studies, provides research services on a variety of housing and real estate issues.  We are already paying for this as Realtors, as it is funded through a $10 surcharge on all real estate licensees in Washington State.  The WCRER and its form of funding is something that needs to be renewed, and the surcharge as it currently sits, expires in September, 2015 and we were there to ensure it gets extended.

Reform Local and State School Levy Funding: The Supreme Court’s McCleary decision held that our state’s education funding system relies too heavily on local school district levies than state funding.  Realtors consistently support school property tax levies, and supported the constitutional amendment allowing school levies to be passed with 50% approval.  We also support revenue neutral reforms in the structure of state and local tax levies to comply with McCleary and to achieve a more balanced and predictable method of funding basic education for all school districts.

Do No Harm to Real Estate Transactions and Small Businesses: Washington’s real estate industry is stable, but still fragile – especially outside of King County.  Rates of ownership are at historically low levels and many homeowners have yet to recover home equity lost from the recession.  Washington’s tax code is regressive for small businesses like Realtors.  Realtors currently pay B&O tax at the highest regular rate in the state.  Additionally, Washington State already taxes real estate transactions more than almost every other state.  Tax increases on small businesses or capital gains on real estate will harm the real estate industry, homeowners, and the state’s economy.

Provide Transportation and Infrastructure Funding: Washington’s citizens and businesses continue to struggle with traffic conditions that hurt our economy and degrade our quality of life.  Realtors support a statewide transportation funding package that includes gas tax revenues dedicated to priority transportation projects as well as reforms to improve the use of transportation funds.  Basic infrastructure funding through the Public works Trust Fund must be provided for projects that will promote economic growth and public health.

I can’t say enough how much of an honor and privilege it was to be a part of such a historic day.  If you want to see the changes made and necessary steps taken to achieve these changes, you need to be a part of the solution.  This is what Hill Day was all about; our opportunity as Realtors to stand up for the issues concerning not only us as Realtors, but also our state and continued economic growth.

Listing Turn-Offs

First impressions are key, plain and simple.  This is not news to any of us, yet sometimes we allow ourselves as homeowners to look past the first impressions we are giving off and mislead those we are trying to appeal to.  Below is a list of some of the worst listing turn-offs from a home-buyers perspective; some good tips on if and when you are selling your home that you can take advantage of.

Bad Photos.  In the internet-driven society we live in today, your online presence is key, and your photos are the driving factor.  This is not the area to cut corners.  These photos are all over the internet and are your potential buyer’s portal to a first impression of your home.  We as a society are image-driven, so if you have bad photos online, you are really limiting the audience that will want to come see your home.  It is key to hire a professional to take sharp, high-resolution photos from multiple, flattering angles to ensure your home is represented to the best of its ability.

Social Media Presence, or lack thereof. If you are still thinking social media is simply just a trend, you are sadly mistaken; it is here to stay and will only continue to grow.  Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest, among many others, are growing daily.  Ask us for the links to your home, or simply go on Zillow or Trulia, grab the link to your home, and post away!  Your potential buyer could be someone in your own social network!

Staging. Yes, staging really does matter, it’s not just something we as agents tell you to make your home look nice.  To the point that your online presence is one of the major factors in selling your home, staging can obviously enhance your photos.  Another thing though, is it de-personalizes your home, and can really offer your home to the widest demographic of buyers.  You don’t want to sell your home the way you live in it, you want to sell it the way the next buyer will live in it, and professional staging is the best way to achieve that.

Messy, smelly presence. It is very important, if you plan to be living in the home during the listing period, that you keep your home clean and free of all odors.  Make sure the dishes are always done, carpets are kept clean, clothes put away…  Just remember, you are not selling the home the way you live in it, but how your buyers will live in it.  If you have animals, this can be difficult, so try getting some odor-eliminators to limit the smells as much as possible.  Try to stay away from air fresheners and scented candles, etc.  This tends to just act as a cover-up and can be a big turn-off.  Also, many people are allergic to specific scents, so it’s good to avoid these at all costs.

Overpricing. Yes, it is currently a seller’s market, but in this day and age with the online tools we have at our fingertips, many sellers think they can name their price.  Overpricing can lead to a long market time and, in many cases, getting less than market value for your home.  The longer a home sits on the market, the less likely you are to receive your desired price.  It is very important that you hit the market with a realistic, competitive price and that we as agents have comps to support your price.  If you feel your home has a higher value, ask us to take you around for a day to see homes that sold similar to yours, and homes that have had a long market time.  This will help you understand where we derived at your pricing.

Feel free to contact us for more tips on getting your home ready to sell!  Here’s to a great start to 2015! ;)

Get Off Your Butt and BUY A HOUSE

Our last blog had a lot of great New Year’s resolutions that were worth sticking to, goals that you would be able to achieve.  Many people currently renting right now have been putting ‘Buying a Home’ as their New Year’s resolution for years, but always end up finding reasons to put it off, thinking “now is not the right time” or “one more year renting and then we’ll buy.”  In 2015, let’s quit putting it off and set a goal that THIS YEAR is going to be the year you buy your new home!  Here are some quick tips on making this year the year that you finally hold yourself accountable.

Tell your friends and family.  What better way to keep yourself accountable than telling your friends and loved ones your plans on buying a new home.  They will not only be there to cheer you on, but help with the process and make you more obligated towards sticking to your goal.  Giving yourself a public deadline with your friends and family is also a great way to stay on it…  Tell everyone next year’s Christmas party will be at YOUR new home!

Another tip to start your home buying process is to seek referrals for the Real Estate Agent you will be working with on this ever-so-important home-buying experience.  Those around you and who care about you are great resources for putting you in touch with a great referral.  Ask your friends and family about their positive experiences with different agents they’ve worked with and set some appointments to meet with the agents to find who is right for you.  Ask them for references as well…  Every agent has references.  If they can’t provide you with a couple references from past clients, move on!

Getting your credit in line and applying for a mortgage are two things that will go hand in hand with each other.  Get your credit in line first, as this will play a factor when applying for a mortgage.  Most people think you can clean up your credit in a short matter of time – think again!  This should be the first thing you address, as it could take the longest if your credit is less than stellar.  Once your credit is in line, as you did with seeking out a Real Estate agent, ask your friends and family for referrals on lenders they’ve worked with.  Plenty of loved ones around you have either purchased or re-financed recently; ask them who they used and get some different quotes!  Having a pre-approval letter from your lender will give you a great advantage when it comes time to put an offer together for your dream home!

Last but not least, start getting visual and making lists of the different things you like and dislike.  Start ripping out articles from magazines, saving searches online, and having a library of pros and cons you can go back to once you start looking for homes.  What is most important to you?  A big back yard, close to schools, restaurants, night life, quiet streets?  Start making lists of your wants and needs, and prioritize them.  This will not only give you an idea of what you are looking for, it will help your Real Estate agent understand what is most important to you, as well as help you narrow down the home that is perfect for you!

Make your resolution a reality in 2015 by treating your home-seeking experience as seriously as any other goal.  Even one step each day is one more step towards achieving the ultimate goal!!

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2015!  Make this YOUR year! :)

Starting the New Year Right!

We all set out to start the New Year on the right foot every year.  We set goals, and occasionally stick to them, but usually within two months or so we are back to our old bad habits we set out to rid ourselves of.  Kicking off the New Year on the right foot starts with the goals you set in place, and the habits you plan to break.  This is your chance to start fresh and implement new life strategies that will boost your well being.  Sometimes these can be a difficult goals to set.  You want to make them attainable, but still a challenge. Here are a couple simple goals if you are struggling to come up with some on your own.

1)  Diet.  This sounds simple, but especially after getting through the holidays filled with lots of comfort foods, the New Year is a great time to step back and reassess your diet.  Make a goal to eat less processed foods and drink (a lot) more water.  Make more nutritious meals and stop settling for the ‘easy fix’ of fast foods or pre-made meals.  It’s also worth seeing a nutritionist to be tested for your metabolic type.  This will allow you to see what types of foods, etc. that your body is lacking and be able to feed it what it needs; thus resulting in a healthier, more energetic you.

2)  Quiet.  Allow your self and your body more quiet time.  We get so caught up in ‘go-go-go’ all the time and forget to give our bodies a break.  Giving our body some sort of rest each day is key to being able to give other aspects of our life such as work, family and friends, more of our devoted time.  Whether it be a meditation in the morning or reading a book at lunchtime, allow yourself 20-30 minutes a day for relaxation and personal quiet time.  Another suggestion here is to make a goal of going to sleep 30 minutes earlier every night to give yourself that extra bit of total rest.

3)  Active.  This is simple – be more active.  Yet, this is often the first goal we set that gets washed away because we “don’t have time” or it becomes less and less of a priority.  If you stop moving, you stop living.  We need to keep the blood pumping throughout the day in order to function properly, not only our bodies, but our minds as well.  Make a plan to exercise 30-60 minutes a day, and make a point to stick to it.  Write it in your schedule each week, and keep it up throughout the year.  Your mind, body, work, and self being will thank you for it.

4)  Happy.  Determine who you are and respect your core values.  The easiest way to be unhappy is to stray away from your core values, to make decisions that are not in line with who you are and what you believe in.  When you make poor decisions, it lead to much unneeded stress and anxiety, something most of us already have plenty of in our lives.  If you are struggling with this at all, start keeping a journal and write down when you feel as though you make a decision that is in line with your values, and when you make a decision you feel is out of line.  This will help you recognize when and how to make the right decision when the opportunity presents itself, thus keeping you in line with who you are and keeping up with your core values.

Hopefully these tips can help those struggling with New Years goals while still wanting to start the year off right!

Happy New Year everybody!! :)

Thinking ‘Green’ During the Holiday Season

See what I did there…? ;)

Holidays are a wonderful time, a time for family and friends…  A time for indulging in some of our favorite foods, basking in plenty of wine and forgetting about our diets for a week (or two).  It’s also a time to give our loved ones those gifts we have been excited for weeks for them to open!  Through all of this, it becomes very easy and simple to get wasteful.  Below are a couple simple ways to stay Green during this holiday season, while still enjoying yourself.

1)  Recycle and re-use wrapping paper.  Instead of being lazy and just throwing all of the presents’ paper scraps, including wrapping paper, bows and ribbons in one big bag and hauling it out into the garbage can, choose to recycle it.  It’s really very easy!  For most typical wrapping paper, you can just recycle it in your kitchen with the rest of your recyclables; even with a little tape on it is okay, just try to remove all of the big pieces.  You can also keep some of the re-usable paper, bows and ribbons for next year!

2)  When you are in the kitchen, slaving away to make that perfect holiday ham, or whatever it may be that tickles your family’s fancy, remember that you can recycle the cooking oils you’re using by storing it and taking it in to one of many cooking oil recycling locations all around King county.

3) If you decided to “go green” and replace your traditional Christmas lights with some that are a little more energy efficient such as LEDs, then you can go the extra mile by recycling your old lights at one of the stores listed here.

4)  Last but not least, we all know you were proud of that tree in your living room, but as opposed letting it die and tossing it aside, why not give it a new life as wood chips or compost by recycling it and giving it life after death.

Hope these quick tips allowed for an easier way to stay green during this holiday season!!

Happy Holidays

The holidays are a great time for reflection; a time to take a step back and realize what we are thankful for in our lives.  Whether that be your family, the roof over your head, the job you have, whatever it is that makes you happy in life.  Let’s avoid the negativity this holiday season and embrace those in our lives that make us who we are, and appreciate everything we have.  Let’s think of others and help those less fortunate.  Let’s take the opportunity with the new year to do that one thing we have been putting off; let’s challenge ourselves to be better people, to work smarter, and to love deeper.

Be giving, be kind, be thoughtful, be caring, be cheerful…  And if the opportunity arises to help someone less fortunate, let’s seize that opportunity!

Happy Holidays all!

Seattle Rental Prices Surging

Nationally, rental prices have increased by just under 15% over the last 5 years, compared with Seattle’s 21%.  There’s a strong demand for rental properties in our area for two main reasons: a) the younger generations are renting longer than our parents did, and b) many homeowners lost their homes during the housing crisis and are either still trying to recoup, or are still not ready to commit to home buying yet.  Either way, builders and developers are taking notice and are responding as fast as possible with more rental properties, but it takes time and the demand is still outweighing the supply, causing rent prices to soar.  ”Lots of people have this rule of thumb – you shouldn’t be spending more than 30 percent of income toward housing. In Seattle, we’ve hit that number,” said Skylar Olsen , a senior economist at Zillow.  It’s very hard for renters to stay below 30% of their monthly income when it comes to paying rent, and many are above it.  That number has increased 5% in the last 6 years!

Comparing the rental prices of right around 30% of your monthly income with the average mortgage pricing, including interest rates, of right around 15% of your monthly income, we could see a surge in home buying from the younger generations that have been ‘putting it off’.  Now, we all know interest rates won’t stay this low forever, but that said, it’s highly unlikely they will surge upwards of current rental prices.  This is why we see so many of the current properties on the market get snatched up by investors – they can make added income by renting these homes and condos for absurd amounts of money.

It is becoming increasingly more affordable to buy a home as opposed to renting, and with the holidays and winter being a slower time in the market, now is a great time to buy before the home prices and values increase in the springtime.

Food for thought…  Happy Holidays!

Your kitchen is no longer a workspace

With the holidays here, we find ourselves spending more time in our kitchens than any other place in the home.  It’s become much more than just a place to cook or your “workplace” – it is a prep room, an entertainment room, a service room, a wine room….  The list goes on.  If the added time and attention placed in your kitchen this holiday season has you thinking it’s finally time for that remodel, and you’re telling yourself “2015 is the year I’m going to tackle this project”, then here are some great ideas to grab your attention and inspire you.  I never recommend simply copying one’s design, but it’s always great to take tidbits from some ideas you like, and make them your own.

One approach that is being seen more and more, and is expected to be on the rise in 2015 is the furniture-style look in your kitchen.  This style works great with your cabinetry and other features, and make for a treasured space the whole family can enjoy, rather than just a functional area that’s used for food prep and cooking alone.  For a look at what I am referring to, click here.  Another way to change up the look of your kitchen and add some personal style is through the application of a more open and airy cabinetry setup.  This allows you to incorporate a sense of personality to your kitchen – your personality.  Obviously none of us want all of our items on display for others to see, so having a combination of both open and traditional cabinetry allows for a win-win for everyone.  For inspiration, see here.

Is wallpaper making a comeback in kitchens?  I know most of us are not fond of the idea of wallpaper, and feel it’s outdated and a pain to deal with, but it is a nice way to add a sense of character and wow factor to a room.  Wallpaper is a simple way to provide  a visual impact, regardless of size, and gives you control of complementing elements throughout the kitchen or adding a beautiful contrast to an otherwise simple color palette.  See here for inspiration to get you started.  Another simple way to add some character to your kitchen is by adding some sort of bronze, copper or gold features.  While silver, chrome and stainless steel are the 3 more commonly used metallics amongst kitchen designers, incorporating a warmer metal can add texture and a gleaming finish.  See here for more.

Last but not least, the one most of us are familiar with and are seeing become a bigger and bigger trend in most new, high-end homes – the modern, traditional style kitchen is an everlasting trend and is expected to be a integral part of the kitchen design for years to come.  More and more homeowners are going with the ultra-sleek, contemporary kitchens in favor of spaces that are warm, homey and reflect themselves.  A common element we are seeing in these kitchens is using a mixture of materials such as stainless steel with wood, and wood with marble.  For ideas on how to incorporate this, see here.

If the re-design and re-model of your kitchen is something you’ve been putting off for years, and have just been waiting for the right time to take action, well then maybe now is that time.  With all of the cooking, cleaning and entertaining we all do during the holiday season, having a kitchen you feel right and at home in is something to be proud of.  Hope these great ideas were a way to at least get the ball moving in the right direction.

Happy Holidays everybody!