The Urbanization of Downtown Bellevue

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When you hear of a city that is “something between an urban jungle and the classic picture of suburbia,” Bellevue may not be the first place that comes to mind. However, that’s exactly how one young couple describes downtown Bellevue in a recent article from The Seattle Times – and they aren’t the only ones.

When and how did downtown Bellevue transform into a dense, urban, mini-Seattle?

According to the article, downtown Bellevue is the fastest-growing neighborhood in the city, so much like the growth in Seattle it happened fairly quickly. Most of it has occurred over the past four years as developers have built more than a dozen new apartment projects in the neighborhood – and more are in the works. Permit data from the city shows that since the latest development cycle began in 2013, downtown has seen $800 million worth of new projects come up and $100 million more about to begin.

The current wave of projects is a little different than the last. This time the surge is mostly apartments, which are seen as a safer investment, but at least two companies are planning the city’s first new condos in a decade. Additionally, office construction in this current development cycle has added 1.5 million square feet of office space to downtown, most of which has already been leased.

Residents of downtown have been experiencing the effects of this growth and they are welcoming some changes more than others. Millennials are starting to think of downtown Bellevue as a lively, energetic, interesting neighborhood and residents and visitors have given the area high marks for safety and cleanliness. Less welcome changes include added gridlock on the roads and an increase in housing costs.

Luckily, our region is no stranger to adjusting to expansion so the future of Bellevue looks bright.

Read the full article from The Seattle Times.

How to Avoid the Most Common Buying and Selling Mistakes

There’s nothing more exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling than buying a home. However, it’s a complex transaction, and there are a number of steps along the path that can confuse, betwixt, and befuddle even the most seasoned buyers and sellers.

How can you avoid those potential pitfalls and common mistakes? Look to your real estate professional for advice and keep these guidelines in mind:

BUYERS:

#1 Review your credit reports ahead of time

Review your credit report a few months before you begin your house hunt, and you’ll have time to ensure the facts are correct, and be able to dispute mistakes before a mortgage lender checks your credit. Get a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Why all three? Because, if the scores differ, the bank will typically use the lowest one. Alert the credit bureaus if you see any mistakes, fix any problems you discover, and don’t apply for any new credit until after your home loan closes.

#2 Get pre-approved

Before getting serious about your hunt for a new house, you’ll want to choose a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just pre-qualified—which is a cursory review of your finances—but pre-approved for a loan of a specific amount). Pre-approval lets sellers know you’re serious. Most importantly, pre-approval will help you determine exactly how much you can comfortably afford to spend.

#3 Know what you want

You and your real estate agent should both be clear about the house you want to buy. Put it in writing. First, make a list of all the features and amenities you really want. Then, number each item and prioritize them. Now, divide the list into must-haves and really-wants. A good place to start is the “HUD Wish List,” which is available online for free at http://www.hud.gov/buying/wishlist.pdf

#4 Account for hidden costs

In addition to the purchase price of the home, there are additional costs you need to take into consideration, such as closing costs, appraisal fees, and escrow fees. Once you find a prospective home, you’ll want to:

  • Get estimates for any repairs or remodeling it may need.
  • Estimate how much it will cost to maintain (gas, electric, utilities, etc.).
  • Determine how much you’ll pay in taxes monthly and/or annually.
  • Learn whether there are any homeowner or development dues associated with the property.

#5 Get an inspection

Buying a home is emotionally charged—which can make it difficult for buyers to see the house for what it truly is. That’s why you need impartial third parties who can help you logically analyze the condition of the property. Your agent is there to advise you, but you also need a home inspector to assess any hidden flaws, structural damage or faulty systems.

#6 Evaluate the neighborhood and location

When house hunting, it’s easy to become overly focused on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the condition of the home and its amenities while overlooking the subtleties of the surrounding neighborhood. Take time to check crime reports, school options, churches and shopping. If schools are a key factor, do more than simply research the statistics; speak with the principal(s) and chat with the parents waiting outside.

SELLERS:

#1 Avoid becoming emotional or sentimental about the sale

Once you decide to sell your house, it’s time to strip out the emotion and look at it as a commodity in a business transaction. If you start reminiscing about all the good times you had and the hard work you invested, it will only make it that much harder to successfully price, prepare, and market the home.

#2 Fix problems (or price accordingly)

Homes with deferred maintenance and repair issues can take far longer to sell and can be subject to last-minute sale-cancellations. These homes also often sell for less than their legitimate market value. If you simply can’t afford to address critical issues, be prepared to work with your agent to price and market your home accordingly.

#3 Don’t overprice your home (and/or refuse to negotiate)

Getting top dollar is the dream of every seller. But it’s essential that you let the market dictate that price, not your emotions or financial situation. Allow your agent to research and prepare a market analysis that factors in the value of similar homes in the area, and trust those results.

#4 Use quality photos

The vast majority of prospective buyers today search for homes online first. In order to make a good first impression, you need a wealth of high-quality photos of your home and surrounding grounds. You may also need to consider professional staging in order to position your home in the best possible light for prospective buyers.

The process of buying or selling a home can have plenty of twists and turns, but with some smart decision making, you can avoid the most common mistakes and pitfalls.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Protecting Rights of Homeownership

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I am very happy to represent Seattle King County Realtors as a member of the board of directors and a state representative. This week I attended the 2017 Spring Business Conference at Suncadia Resort and Spa in gorgeous Cle Elum, WA.

Here’s an overview of the bases we covered during the Conference:

1. We took part in voting for new leaders and addressing issues facing our community.
2. A large part of our forum was affordable housing and the lack of inventory caused by factors such as a shortage of new condo projects.
3. We also focused on the Hirst Issue, which has made a huge impact on land owners needing wells and anyone who wants to put a new home on rural property and planned to use a well as their main water source. Visit FixHirst for more information.

I am proud to volunteer my time to protect the rights of homeownership through involvement in these conferences and in my day-to-day business. I always look forward to occasions when I can meet with fellow Realtors to make a positive difference in real estate.

Local Market Update – April 2017

While we finally saw an increase in new listings in March, there was an even greater jump in sales. Lack of supply continued to push prices to new record highs. For the fifth straight month, our region has experienced the sharpest home price increases of any major market in the country. While that may be tough news for buyers, here’s the other reality: rents in the city of Seattle have increased 57 percent in the last six years. Brokers are hoping that more sellers will jump into the market this spring to help meet buyer demand.

Eastside

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After setting a price record in February, the Eastside set yet another record in March. The median price for a single-family home sold in March jumped 18 percent to $870,000. The strong appreciation is reflected in this statistic: For the first three months of 2017, the number of homes sold priced at $1 million or more was up 60 percent compared to the same period a year ago. What was once considered a luxury price tag is now the new normal.

King County

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Home prices in King County are growing about twice as fast as the national average. The median price of a single-family home sold in March soared 13 percent over last year to $599,950, an all-time high. Even though new inventory was added, it was snapped up as soon as it came on the market. About 75 percent of homes sold within the first 30 days.

Seattle

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With just two weeks of inventory available, demand in Seattle remains as strong as ever. Packed open houses, multiple offers, and escalation clauses continue to be the norm. The pressure on inventory pushed prices here to yet another all-time high. The median price of a single-family home in the city increased 9 percent over a year ago to $700,000.

Snohomish County

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Snohomish County set a new price record for the second straight month, with the median price of a single-family home up 10 percent from a year ago to $425,000. Supply is very limited, with just over two weeks of available inventory. Buyers looking for some relief from King County’s hefty housing prices are adding to the competition for a limited supply of homes.

My Feature in the Women Who Give Series

15025285_1875156092714758_8491087674513718471_oI’m so honored to be included in the Women Who Give series, which celebrates women who are dedicated to serving their communities. Read about why and how I give back and one of my favorite moments from volunteering.

This article was published as part of #GivingTuesday’s #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who give back in their communities.

Lynn Sanborn is an Advisory Board Member at Attain Housing, based in Kirkland, Washington.  Read about what inspires Lynn to give back in the interview below.

Q1: How do you give back?

I give back to many charities. Besides having served as Board VP and now being on the Advisory Board at Attain Housing I’m a founding member of a giving group called The Butterfly Effect who gives of cash, needed items or time to many local charities on a monthly basis. I am committed to giving monthly of my time or money. The charities I support are Windermere Foundation, Attain Housing, Union Gospel Mission, Morelove, Planned Parenthood, Babies of Homelessness, Studio East, Friends of Youth, FSH, and many others.

Q2:  What inspired you to start giving?

I served many years on the Windermere Foundation Eastside Board and that started my real passion for giving back. I chaired some of the Windermere Foundation’s largest Eastside Fundraisers. I then was called to help Attain Housing in 2008 when they were really struggling. Over the years our events grew from $75K to over $300K+ a year. I love planning events and reaching out to the community for help.

Q3:  What does giving mean to you?  Why do you continue to give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?

I get way more than I give by knowing I make a small difference. I am rewarded daily by constantly seeing the generosity of people who want to help. I love knowing I set a good example for others and have had many people step up to help me. I have been blessed with a great life and feel it is my duty to help those less fortunate. Plus, I know I have earned my wings in heaven.

Q4: What would you tell others who are looking to start giving back?  Share a  piece of advice will help them get started.

Find something that you find really compelling, read about local charities and the work they do, volunteer some time and figure out how you can best contribute your talents.

Q5:  Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.

I could share so many stories, but the most recent one is this February our Butterfly Effect group decided to visit a senior center and have a party for them for Valentine’s Day. We made each resident an invitation, a handmade valentine, made lots of desserts, treat bags, made them each a flower arrangement and bought them all socks plus had two gals sing and one play piano. It was so much fun for all of us and the residents said it was the best party they had ever had. We left with full hearts.

This post originally appeared on Giving Tuesday.

Will Seattle Grow Up to Be a Futuristic City?

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Architects are often referred to as optimists. They envision a city’s future and plan for it. That kind of optimism is incredibly important for the Seattle area real estate market as the city works to accommodate widespread growth. According to New York architect Vishaan Chakrabarti, who recently spoke at the Downtown Seattle Association’s annual breakfast meeting, Seattle’s conditions are perfect for becoming a futuristic city.

What is a futuristic city?

Chakrabarti describes this type of city as dense, walkable, and mixed. It uses less land and has fewer old-school office parks. It encourages people to live in more compact circumstances and has a more dense way of living that is largely rail-based. It fosters relationships and innovation. It calls for massive investment in infrastructure to support cities via transportation nodes, safety, parks, cultural activities, and affordable housing.

Based on this description it seems as if Seattle is already well on its way to becoming a futuristic city. For example, an article from Curbed reported the Housing and Livability Agenda (HALA) will rezone Seattle neighborhoods to be taller near Light Rail stations and gradually return to conventional houses as the distance to the stations increases. This change is expected to affect the density of the entire region, including the Eastside.

However, considering the rate of growth in the region it has taken quite a while to get to this point. Other trends characteristic of a futuristic city, like compact housing (i.e. tiny houses), have been on Seattle’s radar for a while, but when they first appeared it seemed as if people sought them out due to preference or in the pursuit of personal fulfillment. Now we are looking to this city landscape with more urgency, and as a much-needed solution and way of sustaining our city.

Why does Seattle need to be a futuristic city?

According to Chakrabarti the answer to this question is the answer to most questions pertaining to Seattle’s rapid growth: Amazon.com. One year ago 245,000 people were employed in downtown Seattle. That number is now up to 265,000 and more than 25,000 of those people are Amazon employees. This is contributing to the reshaping of Seattle and surrounding areas in tangible ways – the record-number of cranes dotting our skyline, traffic congestion and longer commute times, and of course “razor thin” housing inventory.

What are the economic and social benefits?

Chakrabarti states, “As people live in denser circumstances, more innovation happens, more patent creation happens, and it is because people are running into each other, and there is serendipity as a consequence.” We are already the third most innovative state in the U.S. and third in patent activity so it would be interesting to discover how much more creation and innovation could result from a full transformation into a futuristic city.

There are also several social benefits to living in this type of urban development. Drinking and driving plummets, childhood obesity rates drop, and divorce rates go down as commute times are reduced.

There is no doubt that Seattle is growing up, and quickly. No matter what it becomes I will be happy to assist you with navigating the real estate market during the process.

New Bethlehem Project

Tuesday night meeting learning about NBP

Tuesday night meeting learning about NBP

One of the ways I give back to the community is by giving to charities that deal with homeless issues. I want all people to have a home and if I can’t sell them one or they can’t afford one, I am happy to be part of the community that reaches out to them to help them get back on their feet.

This month our Butterfly Effect group is working with one such charity in Kirkland called New Bethlehem Project. This is the first charity that serves homeless people during the day and gives them a safe place to work, play, and stay warm until the night shelter opens.

The center opened at the end of last year to provide homeless families with access to food, laundry, computers, and social services – all essential resources they may not usually have access to during the day. They also have long-term goals to alleviate the hardships homeless families face every day. New Bethlehem Project contributes towards extending operations of the overnight shelters on the Eastside and they want to build and operate a permanent, 24-hour a day, year round shelter.

Who does New Bethlehem Project serve? This is the best part. NBP serves all families without discrimination, as long as there are adults with children under 18 years old.

Read more about the amazing and important work this center does and reach out to me for information on how we can work together to continue helping homeless families in our area.

Local Market Update – March 2017

Home prices are growing faster in our region than anywhere else in the country. After a brief slowdown last month, home prices in February jumped to new record highs. The reason? The lowest number of homes for sale on record. The surge in prices came well ahead of the normal seasonal spring uptick, adding even greater urgency among buyers competing for already severely limited inventory. It remains to be seen if the predicted hike in interest rates will help moderate the market. For now, sellers are calling the shots.

Eastside

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The Eastside, always the most expensive area in King County, set a new price record in February. The median price for homes sold in February soared 12 percent to $832,000. That’s nearly $100,000 more than the same time last year. With less than one month of available inventory, this seller’s market is expected to continue for quite some time.

King County

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A recent trend of slowing price growth reversed itself in February. The number of homes for sale in King County was at its lowest point since 2000, when records first started being tracked. That is down 25 percent from a year ago. The deep shortage of inventory resulted in a sharp increase in prices. The median price of a single-family home was up 9 percent over last year to $560,000.

Seattle

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The median price of a single-family home in the city increased 5 percent over a year ago to $675,000, another all-time high. Prices here have nearly doubled over the last five years. While areas of King County outside of Seattle are more affordable, prices there are growing even faster. The median price of homes in North, Southwest and Southeast King County all increased by double-digits in February.

Snohomish County

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After a softening of price increases over the past few months, Snohomish County saw record high prices in February. The median price of a single-family home jumped 15 percent as compared to a year ago to $412,500. With less than one month of supply in the county, brokers expect prices to remain strong.

2016 Windermere Foundation Recipients

Every year, the Eastside Windermere Foundation, with representatives from each of the 12 Windermere Real Estate offices on the Eastside, comes together to select the grant recipients of the Eastside Windermere Foundation.

In 2016, we chose a record number of 19 organizations to receive grants created from the support of every Windermere Real Estate transaction from the Eastside. These grants will provide services and support for the community.

Below is a full list of the local organizations the Eastside Windermere Foundation was able to support this year.

Acres of Diamonds

Assistant League

Attain Housing

Backpack Meals

Bellevue LifeSpring

Birthday Dreams

Boys and Girls Clubs of Bellevue

Congregation for the Homeless/Valley Renewal Center

Eastside Academy

Eastside Baby Corner

Hopelink

Imagine Housing

Issaquah Community Services

Kindering

Lifewire

Mamma’s Hands

Royal Family Kids Camp

Treehouse

Youth Eastside Services

Valentine’s Day at the Gardens at Juanita Bay

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Last month I posted about my Butterfly Effect group, which focuses on making a positive impact on our community and the world through small but meaningful acts of kindness. This month our main project was a special Valentine’s Day visit to the Gardens at Juanita Bay retirement home that allowed us to gather to spread love and joy to its residents.

Prior to the party we created handmade invitations for the seniors so they knew we were coming. Once there we provided a wonderful dessert table, flowers, socks, and a specially made Valentine’s Day card for each resident. We also had a piano player with two singers who led the residents in song. It was delightful to see guests’ happy faces.

The 48+ residents and The Butterfly Effect group raved about the event, even saying it was the best party they have had. We all agreed it was a very sweet day for one and all.