Digital Trends in House Hunting

It should come as no surprise that online and mobile tools have become very valuable to people while they are in the process of buying and selling homes. According to a 2012 study by Google and the National Association of REALTORS® , 90% of home buyers used online search tools while looking for a home. In many ways, technology has improved the home buying process and provided sellers with more exposure to listings, while helping to decrease the overall sales cycle. Here’s a look at some helpful online tools that you can use during your next home purchase or sale.  

Online home search:

With access to more data, real estate companies like Windermere can provide you with many ways to find your dream home. Beyond price, square footage, bedrooms, and zip code, you can now refine your search even further. For example, you can search for a home listing based on specific criteria, such as your commute time, access to good schools, neighborhood walkability, and more.

myWindermere tools & social share:

Windermere offers a tool called myWindermere, which lets you create an account in which you can save favorite searches and homes, communicate with your real estate agent, and more. You can also share any of our online listings with your social networks, including Facebook, Pinterest, twitter and google+.

Mobile & Apps:

Studies suggest that more and more people are using mobile to search for homes with as many as 68 percent of buyers using mobile applications at some point in their search. As a result, many real estate companies have optimized their websites for mobile usage. In fact, 36 percent of people using mobile for home search are simultaneously multitasking, such as while watching television. 

Real-time search: If you are using a tablet for real-time searching while driving around, Zillow and Trulia both have comparable location based searches that might be helpful. But remember, Zillow and Trulia do not have access to the complete inventory of homes for sale, so you should also consult your favorite real estate company’s website along the way.

Note-taking: Keeping track of the details on multiple houses can get difficult. We recommend using a tool like Homing In to capture photos and notes of the places you have visited.

Interior design apps: If you are trying to visualize what a space would look like with you living in it, here’s a great app to use.

Mortgage Calculator: Get a realistic estimate of how much your monthly mortgage payments would be while searching for homes.

Sex offender tracker: Check the proximity of sex offenders to your potential home with this app.

Communities & Social Networks:

Community blogs: Before choosing a community, seek out more information through local blogs. Many neighborhoods now feature online news sources and local bloggers to talk about regional events, civic news, crime information, local shops, restaurants, and more.

Social Networks:  Once you have chosen a community, join a private social network like nextdoor.com to connect with neighbors, keep updated on your neighborhood news, and share and receive recommendations for local shops and restaurants.

Meet-up: Make new friends and try new things in real-time by using tools like meetup.com to get together with likeminded folks.

Comparative Market Analysis:

If you are selling your home, make sure your agent performs a comparative market analysis which compares your home to others that have sold in your area.

Online signature tools:

Once you have found your dream home, technology can make closing easier. Tools like Docusign allow you to sign your final contracts easily online or with mobile.

Insurance & moving:

Many insurance providers offer online and mobile tools that make taking your home inventory, scanning bar codes, uploading photos, and other important documentation easier. Taking inventory of your home will also help you pack for your move, plan where your possessions should go in your future home, and insure your items throughout the move process.

 

 

 

Simple Tips to Make Your Move Easier

Is 2014 the “Year of the Big Move”? Some experts are predicting so.  According to Real Estate Expert Charlie Young, certain real estate factors are in place that may compel more people to consider relocating to a different area of the country. Here are a few:

  1. Increase in mortgage rates

  2. Pay not keeping pace with home prices

  3. Long-term toll of the recession

  4. Increased home prices have helped homeowners move from underwater to positive equity

  5. US census data is showing an increase in migration

On average, Americans move every five to seven years, so it is likely at some point in your future you will experience another moving day. While moving can be challenging, there are resources to make it easier. If you are remaining in the area, your real estate agent can continue to be a valuable resource on communities, schools, utilities, transportation, recreational opportunities, and more.

If you are moving out of the area, your agent can help you with a referral to another reputable agent in your new community. Our agents are a part of a broader  network that connects them with agents all over the world. Many agents also have relationships with real estate-related service companies in their area whom they can call upon for information regarding title, escrow, mortgages, temporary housing, and moving services. They can also help guide you in your Internet search as you learn more about new communities and relocation services.

You’ve decided to move. Now what?

Once you have reached your decision, it’s time to gather information, start making decisions and get organized. Begin by creating a “move” file to keep track of your estimates, receipts, and other information. If you’re moving for a job, some expenses may be deductible, so you’ll want the paperwork when tax time comes.

If you are moving out of the area, start researching your new community and ask your agent for help in finding a referral agent in your new area. You’ll also want to determine whether you want to rent first or buy immediately. Your new agent should be able to help you with your decision. Once you know where you’re going, you’re also ready to get estimates from moving companies.

Reason’s people move:

Source: http://www.relocation.com/survey/022810_us_consumer_relocation.html

Closing one door, opening another

After you have chosen a moving date and either hired a moving company or reserved a rental truck, it’s time to wrap things up in your old neighborhood and start establishing relationships where your new home is located. This is particularly important if you are moving to a new town/city. You may want to ask your current doctors, dentists, etc. if they have any referrals on care providers in your new location. Be sure to check their recommendations on your insurance company’s online provider search list. Once you arrive, you may also want to ask new coworkers, friends or the school nurse for their recommendations.

Contact your children’s school and/or day care and arrange for their records to be sent to their new school district or day care. Call your insurance agent about coverage en route to your new home and also arrange for insurance in your new home. Remember to contact utility companies to disconnect, transfer or end service in your current home and turn on service in your new home.

You’ll want to file a change of address form with the U.S. Postal Service, either online or at your local office. If you don’t know your new address, have them hold your mail at the post office in your new locale. Don’t forget to cancel or transfer magazine and newspaper subscriptions as well.

If you belong to a health club or other association, contact them about ending or transferring your membership. Some clubs require written notice before cancellation. Finally, contact your bank or credit union to transfer or close accounts; if you have a safe-deposit box, don’t forget to clean it out before you leave.

Starting the countdown

With moving day in sight, it’s time to get organized. Here are a few items to check off your list before you start packing:

Tie up loose ends. Be sure to send out an email or change of address cards with your new contact information to family, friends, and associates. Return library books and any other borrowed items you may still have.

Triage your possessions. Determine what you are taking with you; what you are giving away to friends, family, or a favorite charity; and what is going to the dump or recycling center.  If you have time, you can hold a garage sale or post items on craigslist.org or ebay.com.

Clean up. Drain all gas and oil from your mower, other machinery, gas grills, kerosene stoves and lamps, etc., before loading them onto a moving truck. Empty, defrost, and clean your refrigerator at least 24 hours before your move, and prepare other appliances for moving as well.

Have your car serviced. This is especially important if you are driving to your new home.

Packing strategies

If you are doing your own packing, start collecting boxes and/or buy them from your movers. It may take a few days to do your packing, so be sure to pack non-essential items first and label them carefully. If you have any valuables, it’s recommended that you take them with you as opposed to packing them. You risk the chance of losing those items if they’re packed away in boxes. It’s also smart to take along a box of essentials, including items such as toilet paper, paper towels, tape, soap, scissors, pens, paper, and your toiletries. That way you won’t have to track these items down once you’ve arrived in your new home.

Managing Mold: How homeowners can avoid costly mold problems

Whether you are buying or selling a home, mold has become a hot issue. Health concerns and potential damage make mold a red flag for buyers. And even if you’re not planning to sell any time soon, taking care of mold problems now can prevent even larger problems in the future. Contrary to what some people think, mold is not a geographic problem—it can occur anywhere, no matter where you live. Here is some basic information about mold and how to deal with it.

What is mold?

Molds are microscopic organisms that are found virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. There are thousands of different kinds of mold. Their natural function is to help break down dead materials such as stumps and leaves so the nutrients can be used by the environment. For molds to grow, they need two things: an organic food source—such as leaves, wood, paper or dirt—and moisture.

Problems associated with mold

Mother Nature uses mold to decompose plant material. Unfortunately, when present indoors, it can be equally destructive. Mold growth can damage furnishings, such as carpets, sofas and cabinets. Left unchecked, it can also cause serious damage to walls and structural elements in your home.

Mold is present everywhere, and most people tolerate exposure with no adverse effects. If allowed to spread, however, it may cause problems. As molds grow, they release thousands of tiny spores that travel through the air. When inhaled in large enough amounts, these spores may increase the risk of adverse health effects in some people, particularly respiratory problems.  A less-common strain of mold called “black mold” can be particularly troublesome to those who are especially sensitive.

Common causes of mold problems

Don’t think that just because you live in a hot, dry climate, your home is not vulnerable to mold. There are many sources of mold problems, from faulty air conditioners to poorly positioned sprinkler systems. Federal standards for energy-efficient home building have even contributed to the problems. By making homes more airtight, construction techniques in newer homes can trap moisture inside.

Here are the most common sources of mold inside the home:

  • Flooding
  • Leaky roofs or damaged gutters
  • Heating or cooling system problems
  • Poor drainage next to foundation
  • Plumbing leaks from toilets, refrigerators and dishwashers
  • Damp basement or crawl space
  • Leaking windows or doors
  • Steam from shower or cooking
  • Indoor exhaust from clothes dryer

What to look for

If you can see or smell mold inside your home, it’s time to take measures. Any area that has sustained past or ongoing water damage should be thoroughly inspected—you may find hidden mold growth in water-damaged walls, floors or ceilings. Walls and floors that are warping or discolored can also indicated moisture problems, as can condensation on windows or walls.

Preventing mold in your home

Since mold is always present, there’ no way to eliminate it completely. You can control indoor mold growth, however, by controlling moisture.

  1. Remove the source of moisture by fixing nay leaks or other water problems.
  2. Make sure bathroom fans and dryers are properly vented to the outside. Always use the exhaust fan when cooking or showering.
  3. Use a dehumidifier or air-conditioning system. Make sure your AC system is well maintained and is the correct size for your home. A faulty AC system can cool the air without removing the water vapor, creating high humidity.
  4. Insulate your home well to prevent indoor condensation.
  5. Have your heating, ventilation and cooling systems professionally cleaned annually. Air-duct systems can easily become contaminated with mold.
  6. Regularly clean moist area such as the bathroom with products that treat mildew.
  7. Dry-clean, rather than wet-clean, your carpets.
  8. Avoid carpeting bathrooms and basements.
  9. Clean any moldy surfaces as soon as you notice them.

Mold clean-up

Mold is a manageable problem. Unless it is dealt with correctly, however, it will continue to come back. If your mold problem is severe or if you have extensive water damage, it’s best to call an experienced, professional contractor who specializes in mold removal. If you have a mold problem that is isolated to a small area, less than a square yard or so, you can try to resolve it yourself.

Porous items that are hard to clean, such as carpet and drapes, should be discarded. Moldy sheetrock and ceiling tiles can be removed and replaced.

Hard, nonabsorbent surfaces such as glass, plastic and metal can be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water. Allow to dry completely.

For solid items that are semi-porous, such as floors, cabinets and wood furniture, scrub with an ammonia-free cleaner and hot water to remove all mold. Rinse with water and dry thoroughly. After cleaning, apply a mildewcide to kill mold and spores.

When cleaning mold, remember to wear gloves, a mask and eye protection, and work in a well-ventilated area. Never mix cleaner containing bleach and ammonia; this can result in the release of a toxic gas. And be sure to throw away any sponges or rags that you use for cleaning. 

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act Expires: IRS "Insolvency Clause" Offers Tax-Saving Protection

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act expired December 31, 2013. The Act prevented homeowners who go through a short sale or foreclosure from being taxed on the amount of their mortgage debt that has been forgiven. (Normally, debt that has been forgiven by a lender counts as taxable income.) A short sale transaction would have had to close before Dec. 31, 2013 in order to take advantage of the Act's tax exemption. The good news is there is still a way to avoid paying income tax on forgiven debt.

IRS "Insolvency Clause" Offers Tax-Saving Alternative

Homeowners that are panicking about potentially hefty tax bills are probably not aware that they may still qualify for tax relief via the IRS "insolvency clause".  The clause states that a seller is exempt from paying tax on any forgiven debt to the extent that they are insolvent. In other words, if the seller's debts and liabilities exceed their assets by more than the amount of debt forgiven, they do not have to pay taxes on the forgiven debt.

Here's an example:

A seller has a home valued at $300,000, but the mortgage debt is $400,000. We short sell the property for $300K and the bank elects to forgive the debt on the $100,000 shortfall amount. Since debt that has been forgiven counts as taxable income, the IRS would treat the $100,000 of forgiven debt as income.

MORTGAGE DEBT       SALE PRICE          FORGIVEN DEBT

                                                                  (Taxable income)   

      $400,000          -         $300,000        =          $100,000                      

This is where the insolvency clause formula comes in. Begin by adding up all of your debts/liabilities in one column and all of your assets in another. For this formula, the IRS wants you to include the mortgage debt as a liability, and the fair market value of your house as an asset. Let’s say you have $600,000 in assets and $700,000 in debts/liabilities. You are insolvent by $100,000.

ASSETS                       LIABILITIES             INSOLVENCY

$600,000           -           $700,0000         =        [ $100,000 ]                                            

Since your insolvency amount of $100,000 equals the forgiven debt amount of $100,000, it’s a wash and you will not have to pay taxes on that forgiven debt. You are shielded dollar-for-dollar on the amount of forgiven debt up to your insolvency number. Let's say you were only insolvent by $80,000. In that case, you would still have to pay income tax on the remaining $20,000 of forgiven debt.

INSOLVENCY               FORIVEN DEBT            TAXABLE INCOME

[ $100,000 ]       -          $100,000           =                -0-

 

Richard Eastern is a Windermere broker in Bellevue, WA and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 1000 homeowners sell their homes. The company offers free attorney and CPA consultations as part of their service. A Bellevue native and a University of Washington grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or at www.washortsales.com.

 

75 home resolutions you can make for 2014

 

Add your home to your list of New Year’s resolutions with some of these helpful tips:

Buying:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the home-buying process
  2. Learn about the tax benefits that come along with your home purchase
  3. Check your credit ratings
  4. Increase your savings for down payment
  5. Decide how much you need for a down payment
  6. Get pre-approved for a mortgage
  7. Decide how much you can spend on a home
  8. Start your home search online
  9. Find an architectural style for your dream home
  10. Search for home with your commute in mind
  11. Consider downsizing to condo
  12. Learn the difference between a condo and a town home
  13. Consider purchasing an investment property
  14. Choose the right home for your family
  15. Consider a short sale
  16. Is a foreclosure right for you?
  17. Decide if you want an older home or new construction
  18. Create a moving plan
  19. Keep new home costs low
  20. Choose a mortgage
  21. Consider buying with cash?
  22. Ask your loan officer these important questions
  23. Avoid common mistakes
  24. Win a bidding war
  25. Perform a mini pre-inspection while touring homes

Selling:

  1. Decide if your should sell or remodel your home
  2. Make sure you are ready to sell your home
  3. Choose your next home with a shorter commute
  4. Learn more about what a seller’s market means for you
  5. Familiarize yourself with the home-selling process
  6. Avoid common mistakes
  7. Estimate your home’s value
  8. Make improvements to increase your home’s value
  9. More tips on adding value to your home
  10. Consider selling before spring
  11. Get your home ready for sale
  12. Find a selling agent you trust
  13. Schedule a home inspection
  14. Increase your home’s curb appeal
  15. Price your home to sell
  16. How to prepare your home for open houses
  17. Learn the home staging basics
  18. Where to store your stuff while showing your home
  19. Feng Shui tips for preparing your home to sell
  20. Protect your pets while showing your home
  21. Get professional photos for your home listing
  22. Buy your next home while selling your current home?
  23. In a hurry? Sell your home quickly
  24. Help your parents make transitional housing choices
  25. Relocating? Get help from a professional

Home improvements:

  1. Make your house a home
  2. Get the best return on your investment for your home renovations
  3. Access your home energy costs
  4. Improve energy efficiency (and reduce your energy bills)
  5. Inspect, repair and increase your home insulation
  6. Decorate with the new color of the year
  7. Choose the right paint color for your home
  8. Redecorate to fit your dream design style
  9. Paint an accent wall
  10. Create a healthier home environment for you and your family
  11. Make your fireplace and chimney safe for use
  12. Develop disaster preparedness plan & upgrade your emergency kit
  13. Rid your home of pests
  14. Upgrade your garden
  15. Cultivate an indoor garden
  16. Plant trees for better privacy and increased home value
  17. Check your home insurance policy
  18. Do a home inventory
  19. Protect your home from burglars
  20. Protect yourself from contractor scams
  21. Extend your entertaining outside
  22. If you have little ones, childproof your home!
  23. Hang some art on the walls
  24. Pre-pay your mortgage or refinance for extra savings?
  25. Refinance even if you have poor credit

Last minute holiday gifts (with added tax benefits)

The holidays are in full throttle and the year is quickly coming to an end. You have a few days left to get some last minute gifts/improvements for your home and reap the rewards of the tax benefits in your 2013 taxes. Some credits will be expiring at the end of the year, so you may not get the benefit if you wait. Here is a list of some of the home-related deductions and credits you may be able to take advantage of (be sure to check with your accountant if you have questions about eligibility for deductions and credits).

Home improvements:

Residential Energy Property Credit: 

The US government will reward certain home improvements that increase energy efficiency.  If you are willing to make major improvements to your primary residence, you can get credit for 10-30 percent on some improvements. Improvements include energy-efficient windows, roofs and doors, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and adding insulation, geothermal heat pumps, solar energy systems, small residential wind turbines, and residential fuel cells. 

Here is the complete list of qualifying EnergyStar improvements and their associated tax credits. 

Home Office Deduction:

Give yourself the gift of dedicated workspace! Homeowners and renters can deduct $3 per square foot, up to 500 square-feet of your home office. You must be able to prove that you use your office regularly and consistently and that it is your primary place of business. For more information about simplified and regular deductions go here.

Transportation:

Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Credit: 

Some new plug-in electric vehicles qualify for a credit of $2,500 to $7,500 depending on the battery capacity. 

Transit parity tax break:

If you commute, you may be able to put aside $245 per month tax-free for public transportation fees or parking. This tax break will be adjusted in 2014

Property Donations:

If you donate a portion of your property or an easement to a conservation agency you can receive an enhanced tax break. This break primarily benefits modest-income landowners and farmers, helping to ease rural development. More information is available here

For more information about 2013 taxes, deductions, breaks and credits and view forms go to www.IRS.gov, or consult with your trusted CPA. 

Oregon and Southwest Washington I 2013 Third Quarter Market Update

Windermere Real Estate is proud to partner with Gardner Economics on this analysis of the Oregon and Southwest Washington real estate market. This report is designed to offer insight into the realities of the housing market.

Numbers alone do not always give an accurate picture of local economic conditions; therefore our goal is to provide an explanation of what the statistics mean and how they impact the Oregon and Southwest Washington housing economy. We hope that this information may assist you with making an informed real estate decision. For further information about the real estate market in your area, please contact your Windermere agent.

Regional Economics:

This report is a little late as, along with many others, we were at the mercy of the Federal government shutdown in early October. This shutdown did not just delay our employment data, but September figures were not deemed important for the time being and, therefore, there was no count at all.

As such, we were forced to use August’s figures which, although certainly not perfect, still provide us with some indications as to the direction of our regional economy.

On an annualized basis (August 2012 vs. August 2013), the market added 23,196 jobs, representing a growth rate of 1.36 percent. This was a little shy of both the state growth rate of 1.7 percent and the U.S. rate of 1.65 percent.

When compared to August of 2012, employment growth was most pronounced in the Bend area (+2.5%). This was followed by Clark (+2.4%),

Washington (+2.2%), and Multnomah and Jackson Counties, both of which saw an increase of 2.1 percent. On an absolute basis, Multnomah County maintains its position as the driving force behind job growth with the addition of 9,200 positions over the past 12 months. This was again followed by Washington County (5,500) and Clark County where employment grew by 3,100 positions.

On the negative side, job losses totaled 1,994 spread across seven counties.

Losses were again most pronounced in Cowlitz County, with employment contracting by 1,000 jobs. The other county which shed a substantial number of jobs was Marion, where employment contracted by 682 positions. Losses in other counties were fairly modest and they came in more rural areas.

With regards to improving employment, we continue to see the divide between the growth of urban and rural counties. Larger, more metropolitan counties continue to recover, but less populous areas are lagging.

The unemployment rate continues to drop in every county that was analyzed, which is a trend that started over a year ago. This is positive and I was also pleased that the number of counties whose unemployment rate was above 10 percent has now shrunk from seven to three.

Of the counties that saw shrinking unemployment rates, the greatest improvement was seen in Clark County, where the unemployment rate dropped by 2.8 percent to 8.3 percent. This was followed by Klickitat (-2.4%) and Skamania (-1.9%) Counties.

To date, most counties considered in this report have seen a growth in employment, but the numbers suggest that growth going forward will be focused on denser, more populated markets.

I am maintaining the “C-” grade that I gave last quarter. I want to see more broad-based growth which is clearly not present at the moment.

Regional Real Estate

Regular readers of the Gardner Report will note that the third quarter report excludes three counties—Clatsop, Klamath and Tillamook—which are usually included. Data issues precluded us from gathering information on these counties, but we hope to resume inclusion of these markets in our next report. We would add that the absence of these counties does not fundamentally change our analysis.

In the third quarter of 2013, the region reported 11,064 home sales—a modest decline of six percent over the second quarter of the year, but still a 17 percent increase over the same period in 2012. Year to date, there have been over 30,000 home sales, an increase of close to 5,000 units when compared to the same period a year ago.

The greatest growth in home sales was again seen in Hood River County (+54%), and this was followed by Cowlitz (+47%), Klickitat (+44%), and Wasco (+41%) Counties. Of the counties that saw home sales increase, only one—Linn—did not see double-digit growth (+6%).

There was just one county that saw home sales drop when compared to 2012, and this was in the Medford market which contracted by six percent. Home sales in Lincoln County matched sales from a year ago.

When we look at home prices, 18 of the markets analyzed registered year-over-year price increases with three showing declines in values from a year ago. In aggregate, home sales appreciated by 13.2 percent over the same period in 2012. It’s worth noting that this is a very healthy rate of appreciation.

The greatest price growth was seen in Columbia County where prices jumped by 40.3 percent over the same period in 2012. Frenetic price movements are typical for smaller counties and this is certainly the case here. There were several other counties where price growth exceeded the total market. These were Yamhill (+33.2%), Klickitat (+28.4%), Skamania (+25%), and Hood River (+22%). There were just four counties that saw price increases below 10 percent.

There were three counties where prices saw declines. Coos County saw the greatest drop (-8.1%), but we again put this down to the fact that it is a fairly small market. The other markets where prices dropped were Wasco (-3.6%) and Benton (-0.7%) Counties, which are also fairly small markets.

In general, the market continues to recover relative to price, but it is becoming apparent that the rate of appreciation is starting to slow. The spread between list and sale prices in many counties became somewhat disconnected between the fall of 2012 and this summer. The market has reacted to this and, in many cases, we are starting to see the average list price contract as buyers become more selective. This is not a surprise as there is now greater choice in the market with higher levels of available inventory.

This phenomenon will lead to slowing price growth which, in and unto itself, is not a bad thing. The market is recovering and, as is seen in the price escalation chart, many counties are getting close to, or even exceeding, the prices that were achieved in 2008.

The rapid, albeit brief, jump in mortgage rates that was seen in third quarter may well have pulled some sales forward. It will be interesting to see what effect this may have on transactions in the fourth quarter of the year.

I am not yet ready to raise the grade for the real estate markets from the “C+” that I have given it for the past two quarters. Inventory levels are improving but the market appears to remain somewhat cautious.

Conclusions

Much like the rest of the nation, Oregon’s economy continues to improve with each passing month. Recent job growth in Oregon’s private sector has been faster than national private sector job growth, but the state rate of total growth matches that of the U.S., which is hardly aggressive.

In the markets covered by this report, employment growth has also not outperformed with a year-over-year growth rate of 1.4 percent. This can, in part, be attributed to contraction or lack of substantive growth in several more rural counties.

I still anticipate that the Oregon housing market will see modestly rising employment and that, by year’s end, we will see a growth rate of around 1.9 percent – essentially matching the country in percentage terms.

A positive for the employment picture is the ongoing recovery in the housing market. However, this is somewhat offset by continued reduction in government employment. I anticipate that the larger job centers within Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties will continue to take a disproportionate percentage of total growth while smaller counties continue to lag.

The housing market continues to improve; however, I would not be surprised to see the pace of improvement start to taper as we head into the winter months. I stated in my last report that I expected to see price growth moderate. And while annual appreciation in many counties remains substantial, I still anticipate this to be the case.

This should not be seen as a bad sign, but I will be keeping a close eye on how the market adapts to higher levels of inventory, as well as the specter of increasing interest rates that are sure to come in 2014.

About Matthew Gardner

Mr. Gardner is a land use economist and principal with Gardner Economics and is considered by many to be one of the foremost real estate analysts in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to managing his consulting practice, Mr. Gardner chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; sits on the Urban Land Institutes Technical Assistance Panel; is an Advisory Board Member for the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington; and is the Editor of the Washington State University’s Central Puget Sound Real Estate Research Report.

He is also the retained economist for the Master Builders Association of King & Snohomish Counties. He has twenty-five years of professional experience in the U.K. and U.S.

He has appeared on CNN, NBC and NPR news services to discuss real estate issues, and is regularly cited in the Wall Street Journal and all local media.

December Perspectives

When Windermere opened its doors in 1972, real estate was a very different business. Sales contracts were written on cocktail napkins and sealed with a handshake. There were no websites, iPhone apps or, in some cases, even yard signs, so you had to rely entirely on your agent to show you what was for sale. Back then, there was a lot of emphasis placed on competition and sales quotas. This created a proprietary culture that valued winning agent-of-the-month over building long-term relationships with clients – and it didn’t do our industry any favors in terms of credibility.

When our dad started Windermere, he set out to change this. His focus was to put relationships before sales quotas. Relationships that last not just for a transaction, but for a lifetime. It was an aggressive undertaking, but he eventually built an office – and an entire company – of like-minded professionals who understood the importance of truly great service.

Fast forward forty years and much has changed in real estate. The cocktail napkins have been replaced by digital contracts and the home search process has moved almost entirely online. We’ve also seen the rise of technology companies that offer real estate services of one kind or another. However, despite all the bells and whistles, most of these companies look at buyers and sellers as leads, not as people who are about to embark upon a major financial and emotional decision. We love what technology has done for real estate, but Windermere’s business lives and dies by the relationships we have with our clients and our community. It’s one of the only things that hasn’t changed over the last four decades.  

You’ve probably heard the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. We couldn’t agree more. It’s impossible for us to predict what the future holds for real estate, no more than our dad could have predicted where we’d be today back in 1972. But, it’s probably safe to say that technology will continue to change our industry in new and exciting ways – just as relationships will remain central to Windermere’s core values for generations to come.

Is Condo Ownership Right for You?

Condominium homes are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. This alternative to the traditional single-family home has unique issues to consider before buying, as well as unique benefits. Here’s some background information to help you decide whether purchasing a condo is a good match for you.

The popularity of condominiums with baby boomers and young professionals continues to surge. Condo sales are up 23 percent from 2013 with a medium price of $209,600 according to the National Association of Realtors. Many buyers are realizing that condominium homes can be a great way to enjoy the benefits of home ownership combined with extensive amenities and a low-maintenance lifestyle.

Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time homebuyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away on business.  If you are considering buying a condominium for a home, here are a few things you should know:

Condominium basics:

With condominiums, you own everything in your unit on your side of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the grounds, lobby, halls, parking areas and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscape, and grounds upkeep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.

The owners of the units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, who manage the operations and upkeep of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety and maintain the value of your investment. Examples include whether or not pets are allowed and the hours of use for condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms. Should a major expense occur, all owners are responsible for paying their fair share of the expense.

The pros and cons of condominium living:

The condominium lifestyle has many benefits, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Part of it depends on your lifestyle. Condominium living may not be optimum for large families with active kids. The other factor is personal style. By necessity, condominium associations have a number of standardized rules. You need to decide whether these regulations work for you or not. Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re considering condominium living.

Cost: Condominium homes typically cost less than houses, so they’re a great choice for fist-time buyers. However, because condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations, and sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.

Convenience: People who love living in condominiums always cite the convenience factor. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, upkeep, and security. Condominium homes are often located in urban areas where restaurants, groceries, and entertainment are just a short walk away.

Luxury amenities: May condominiums offer an array of amenities that the majority of homeowners couldn’t afford on their own, such as fitness centers, clubhouses, wine cellars, roof-top decks, and swimming pools. Lobbies of upscale condominiums can rival those of four-star hotels, making a great impression on residents.

Privacy: Since you share common walls and floors with other condominium owners, there is less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, you may still occasionally hear the sound of your neighbors.

Space: With the exception of very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well.

Autonomy: As a condominium owner, you are required to follow the laws of the associations. That means giving up a certain about of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. Laws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive. If you long to paint your front door red or decorate your deck with tiki lanterns, condominium living might not be for you.

Things to consider when you decide to buy:

Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask to determine which condominium is right for you.

How will you use it?

Will your condominium be your primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect beachfront getaway. Also consider how your lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If you are close to retirement, you may want to have the option of turning a vacation condominium into your permanent home.

Where would you like to live?

Some people love the excitement and sophistication of urban living. Others dream of skiing every weekend. Whether it’s the sound of the surf or the lure of the golf course, a condominium home affords you the ability to live a carefree lifestyle in virtually any setting.

What amenities are most important to you?

The variety of condominium amenities increases each year. Decide what you want, and you can be assured of finding it. Most urban and resort condominiums have an enticing array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.

What are your specific needs?

Do you have a pet? Some associations don’t allow them; others have limitations on their size. Parking can be a major issue, especially in dense, urban areas. How many spaces do you get per unit? Do you pay extra if you have more vehicles?

Finally, once you’ve found a property you like, examine the association’s declaration, rules, and bylaws to make sure they fit your needs. The association will provide you with an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.

Review the association board’s meeting minutes from the past year to get an idea of any issues the association is working on. An analysis of sales demand and property appreciation compared to like units may help ensure that you make the best possible investment.

 

Modern holiday decorations

Do you deck the halls of your home with cherished family holiday decorations or are you drawn to the sleek minimalist lines of contemporary holiday displays? For those of you who might be looking for ways to give life to old decorations or you simply need some inspiration to add to your current repertoire, we have added a Modern Holiday Décor board to our Pinterest page. You can find many more home ideas at www.Pinterest.com/WindermereRE

Hanukah

Hanukah came early this year so you may want to consider updating your menorah for next year. Here are some sleek modern designs: 

 

Holiday trees

 

 

Ornaments

Tree alternatives

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mid-century inspired trees

 

 

Tablescapes

Mantles 

Modern wreathes

Please share your holiday décor ideas and photos with us at www.Facebook.com/WindermereRealEstate. Happy Holidays from Windermere!