i turn REALTY into REALiTY

Mill Creek Home for Sale

I just listed a home in Mill Creek, WA for $570,000. If you watch the top slideshow in the righthand column, you can see photos of this home. Probably the nicest feature of this home is the backyard. It is not a large yard, but it abuts a Native Growth Protected Area (NGPA) which means that nobody can build directly behind you. The natural area is private and offers a glimpse of wildlife from time to time. Given that this area has been developing at a rapid pace over the last several years, it’s nice to actually have trees to look at outside your window!

The particulars:

5 Bedrooms / Den / 2.5 Baths plus the usual Family, Dining, Living rooms & kitchen.
3108 square feet, built in 2000

Check it out!


Market Dynamics from a different perspective

I saw a question posted on Trulia.com recently from a user wanting to know when the market would return to normal. My first thought was: What is a normal market?

Is “normal” what we experienced in the last several years, or do we go back further in time to gain a proper perspective? How far do we travel back in time to get to that “normal” market? 10 years? 20 years? In order to define normal, we first need to determine a baseline as to what constitutes that definition.

American Heritage Dictionary defines normal as:
Conforming with, adhering to, or constituting a norm, standard, pattern, level, or type; typical: normal room temperature; one’s normal weight; normal diplomatic relations.

hmm… Seems like a circular reference to me… Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Seller…


“My family and I would very much like to purchase your home. I am a single gay man with 2 adopted, handicapped children…”

Have you ever written a letter like this to present to a seller of a home? I’ve done this on behalf of my clients before (not this exact letter, but something similar). And with good success, I might add. The New York Times recently ran a piece that spoke about this tactic (however, the content differs dramatically from what I’ve seen and written in the past).

Letters like those written in the article are perfectly acceptable in my opinion. What should be mentioned from a cautionary standpoint, are words that could be misconstrued as discriminatory in nature as defined by HUD (Housing and Urban Development). Title VIII of the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against a variety of classes. So, even with the best of intentions in mind, a letter like the sample above could be a lawsuit in the making. I am thinking of using the letter from the NYT article though…

What are your thoughts?

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Is it my agent’s fault? (Part III)

So the house looks great, the information in the MLS and online is correct and attractive, the advertising is going strong, yet still only a handful of buyers have visited?

One myth that many sellers seem to believe is that real estate agents sell houses. We don’t. Okay, I’ve let the cat out of the bag. The wizard has come out from behind the curtain.

When I describe what I do to folks, I tell them that I help people buy and sell houses. The key word is “people”. Without “people”, I would just be looking at homes, and living on welfare (which may be soon if buyers don’t start buying). Sometimes, you can do everything right, and still have nobody come and look at your home. If there is nobody in your price range looking for a home with features that your offers, there is nothing that I nor any other real estate agent can do. I can’t wave a magic wand and have a buyer appear. Some agents might promote that they could do this, but they’d be lying.

How do you gain visibility for your home if there are no buyers? I can’t make buyers appear, but you as the seller can. How you ask?

You could lower the price (you’ve heard that before, haven’t you?).
You could offer different terms (carry back a 2nd mortgage on the property or pay closing costs).
You could offer buyer incentives (appliances, etc.)

Lastly (and this is the hardest option for sellers),
You can be patient. A buyer will materialize sooner or later. They always do. Just don’t kill the messenger. If your agent is doing what he/she should be doing to expose your home to the market, don’t blame him/her for there not being any buyers around.

Is it my agent’s fault? (Part II)

So, you’ve prepared your home, and it looks great! It’s priced appropriately for the market and the photos are perfect. What? you’re still not getting any showings?

The first step is to look at the MLS printout. Is there something that is missing in the marketing comments that might entice a buyer to see the home? Check to make sure that all the included information is correct too! I’ve seen many listings with the wrong number of beds and baths advertised. I’ve also seen listings where the price is incorrect ($250,000 home listed for $2,500,000), or the address is input incorrectly (hard to see a home if you can’t find it).

Next, review the marketing plan with your listing agent. What advertising has been done? Print advertising is not as dominant as it once was. According to a 2007 survey done by the National Association of Realtors, 84% of home buyers used the internet when looking for a home. Can you find your home online? Put your buyer hat on, and look at the major websites for your home. In the Pacific Northwest, all of the large real estate companies have a major web presence. In addition to Windermere’s, John L. Scott’s, Coldwell Banker’s websites, there are also Trulia, Craigslist and others. If you can’t find your home, its possible that nobody else can either. Make sure that your agent remedies this immediately.

Public and Broker Open Houses? Yes, these add to the exposure of your home, although they have diminished in importance with the advent of the internet. I hold Open Houses for all of my clients, because I don’t like to leave any stones unturned. The probability of obtaining a buyer for your home is low with Open Houses, but in this type of market, all facets need to be explored. I just held a Sunday Open House for a client and had nobody stop by. I sent out postcard mailers to the neighbors and potential move-up buyers, advertised the open house online and in the local newspaper with no success. I’m not deterred however, and plan to try it again next weekend.

(Read part III of this article here…)

Is it my agent’s fault? (Part I)

A question was asked on Trulia.com recently from a seller wondering about the lack of showings on his home. Was it the fault of the agent that only 6 people in 6 weeks had viewed his home? Isn’t the job of the real estate agent to get eyeballs on the property?

My answer was a qualified “YES”. I qualified my answer because when a seller signs an agreement with a real estate agent to list and eventually sell their home, they are entering into a partnership with that listing agent. What do I mean by partnership?
As a Listing Agent, I have the responsibility to represent my clients’ best interests by marketing, advertising, and eventually selling their home. However, I don’t have the authority to make certain decisions, and that’s where the partnership comes into play. For instance, I have the responsibility to take photos of the home and put them on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), and many other sites on the Internet where they will gain visibility by the general public. But, what if the photo looks like this?
This is where the partnership comes in. As a Listing Agent, I have no authority over the seller with regard to the property condition. The seller is responsible for making the home presentable. If this photo was on the Internet, would you want to go and see the home in person or would you immediately eliminate the property from your list? Sometimes, sellers view their homes differently than agents (and buyers). I always explain to my seller clients that how a person lives in their home is not how they market it to sell.
The photo to the left is what buyers want to see. This photo was taken from a client’s home just prior to putting it on the market for sale. This is a dream come true for many agents – a client who understands what is needed and takes appropriate action.
Now of course, not all sellers are at the extreme ends of the spectrum as noted here. Most are somewhere in-between. This is where my role as Listing Agent is to educate and advise the client on what should be done to make the home as marketable as possible. However, as noted above, the final responsibility (and authority) rests with the client.
Now, what if the client does what is asked, but the agent takes a photo that looks like this? Here is what appears to be a clean home, ready for showing, and yet the photo is poor, not only in exposure, but in drawing the buyer’s interest. This is clearly the fault of the Listing Agent (btw, I didn’t take this photo). If this photo were on the Internet, would it spark your interest? Maybe, maybe not. It could certainly be better though. As a seller, I would ask my agent to re-take the photo.
I had to do this recently when I listed a home. At the time I took the listing, the weather was overcast and had been all winter and spring. Here is what I had to initially use:

I didn’t really like the photo, but our MLS requires a photo of the front of a property when listing a home. At the very next opportunity I had, I replaced it with this:

A much more enticing photo, don’t you think?

Bottom Line: If you think your agent isn’t doing his/her job in marketing your home, first take a look at yourself. Are you following the advice that has been given (assuming you have a competent agent who is providing you with advice)? Marketing and selling a home is a partnership, and both partners need to carry their weight.

(Update) – Read part II of this article here

Cottage Lake (part II)

As promised in an earlier post about Cottage Lake, I wanted to provide additional information about the ropes course, officially known as the Odyssey Course. You can read more on how the partnership between King County Parks and the YMCA came about here.

According to Bill McKee, the Odyssey Program Director at the Northshore YMCA, the Y is about to launch a detailed website about the program, and where it is headed. The current pricing for community groups wanting to make use of the course is $40/person for groups of 16 or less, and $35/person for more than 16 participants. To find out more, you can contact Bill directly at odyssey@seattleymca.org

Great customer service!

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, I’ve ranted about some of the businesses that provided terrible customer service. This one however, is just the opposite. In a previous post, I described a home remodel that I had recently completed. In my remodel, I had purchased several appliances from my local appliance retailer, Frederick’s in Redmond WA. Eric Blakemore is the owner and he has been an acquaintance of mine for many years. I have purchased nearly all of my appliances for my personal residences and rentals from him (there were times he recommended that I go to Sears, because he couldn’t provide me with as good a deal).

Anyway, I purchased a Fisher Paykel Dishdrawer (3rd one, not because they fail, but because I keep moving!) and it stopped working yesterday. I called for repairs and the authorized service center told me it would be 10 days before they could come out to look at it. So, I called Eric. He knew exactly what the problem was (user error). And, he walked me through the very easy solution to resolve the problem. This isn’t the first time he’s solved a problem for me. Maybe that’s why I recommend him to all of my clients! If you live in the greater Seattle area and need appliances, stop by and see him.


A new way to look at homes?

Trulia just launched a new site called Trulia Snapshots that enables consumers to graphically view homes in any given area, sorted by price range, or market time. I’ve tried it out, and it looks pretty snazzy. At a quick glance, you can see all the homes within a price range (slider bar at the bottom of the screen), and just by moving the slider, the graphical representation of homes changes instantly!

I think this new tool will put pressure on sellers because now buyers have a quick way of seeing how long a home has been on the market, thus spotting over-priced homes. What do you think?

In Honor Of Woodinville…

Memorial Day this year, I decided to learn about the Woodinville Memorial Mead, aka Woodinville Cemetery located in downtown Woodinville. I drive by this location on a daily basis, but had never visited until today.

The land for the Memorial Mead was donated by the Woodin family, the family for whom the city is named. One of the interesting facts I learned today was that plots are still available in the Mead. I had always assumed this was a historical cemetery, and that it was filled with the Pioneers of the area.

I took a few photos of plot markers while there. If you get the chance to visit, it’s an interesting journey to our town’s past. Elmer Carlberg, a WWI veteran (see 2nd photo below) was a self-appointed caretaker of the Mead for many years, and built the huge monument for his parents, John & Julia, also on the grounds. The poem (last photo below) is from their monument. I don’t know who penned the poem, do you?

The Woodin Family plot
Elmer Carlberg, Veteran
Unknown Poem

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