i turn REALTY into REALiTY

License to Flip?

Last July, the Washington State Legislature enacted a new statute aimed directly at the Real Estate Industry.  While the laws are always changing, this new statute has a direct affect on Real Estate investors and occasional “Flippers”.  Read more about it here


Realty but NOT Reality

I was in the local video store recently and came across a movie titled “Closing Escrow” which focused on 3 couples searching for homes.  As much as I hate to admit it, I really enjoyed this movie.  I especially loved the dogs’ house.  Check it out and let me know what you think…


Woodinville home for sale

Okay, so this is just a self-serving post. I just listed a home in Woodinville near where I live. This is the 3rd home that I’ve listed in this particular neighborhood, and it’s a great place to call home. You can even walk to the local elementary school (East Ridge Elementary). It’s just a short drive to Redmond, Bellevue, or even Seattle. What’s really cool about this location, is that there are several golf courses within a 10 minute drive! Check out the slideshow on the right side of my Blog for photos of this great home. If you’d like to drive by the home for yourself, the address is 15049 225th Ave NE.

Some of the particulars:

Listed at $750,000
3678 Sqft on a horse acre lot
4 bedrooms / 2.5 baths / den / bonus room
3 car garage
Built in 1997
The master suite has a gas fireplace!
MLS# 28059231


My remodel

Last fall I threw myself into a major interior remodel project on a 30-year-old split-level home I just bought in Woodinville with a view of Cottage Lake.

With help from my girlfriend and kids, I first demolished the kitchen and bathrooms along with a couple of walls, scraped off the popcorn texture on the ceilings and then removed all the carpeting, kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures, lights, window coverings, doors and trim and other dated or damaged things.

Next, I got to work on the fun part of remodeling: buying and installing new stuff! My girlfriend, her dad and I did most of the remodel work ourselves. We raised the kitchen ceiling, framed in a closet in the main bath, hung new drywall and doors, installed new hardwood and tile floors, new bath fixtures and trim including a tub, shower, and toilets, new kitchen appliances, electrical outlets, smoke alarms, lighting, and more.

I called in the professionals to install new kitchen cabinets, bath vanities, granite countertops, to retexture the walls, and frame in a pocket door for the master bath. I probably could have done the work myself, but it would have taken much longer, and sometimes, you just need to let the pros do the work.

Along the way, we encountered the usual problems such as underestimating the cost of materials and labor and the amount of time needed to complete each project. For example, we remodeled the kitchen and a bathrooms and installed the wood floors in four months instead of two months as first planned. We encountered some other problems during both the demolition and remodel, too. We kept finding dead rats, mice, and ants in the walls, under the floors, and in the attic (yes, several fell on us). We also learned that “contractor time” is not linear. Some contractors (granite, drywall texture, plumbers) never showed up when they promised or showed up several hours late. I’ll spare them the embarrassment by not naming them here, but if you really want to know who they are, drop me a line…

Here are some of the BEFORE photos. Click on the photos to see the larger views.

Here are the AFTER photos:

After four months of intense remodeling, we moved into our new home. We still have lots of remodel projects planned including installing wood flooring on the stairway, laying tile in the entryway, replacing the front door, deck, roof, and windows, repainting the house exterior, re-landscaping the yard, and replacing the driveway and so on. I’ve learned quite a bit throughout this project, and gained much respect for those hard-working folks in the construction industry. I’ve taken many more photos of my remodel than I’ve shown here, but there isn’t enough space to post them all…

Many thanks to the following contractors who I would highly recommend:

CSI Kitchen & Bath Design – Located here in Woodinville. They installed my kitchen and bath cabinets. I also purchased all of my tile, faucets, bath and kitchen hardware from them. They were always on-time, always cleaned up after themselves, and were reasonably priced.

Ken Baltzell – General contractor / handyman. He helped me install my doors, and answered all of my remodel questions. In addition to helping me out from time to time, he has also performed great work for several of my clients. His phone# is 206-669-7708

Fredericks Appliances
– Located in Redmond, Eric Blakemore and his group have supplied all of the appliances in several of my homes over the years.

Lumber Liquidators – I installed 3/4″ solid, pre-finished Brazilian Walnut floors throughout the main level of the home (kitchen, dining, living room, hall, 3 bedrooms). This is the 2nd time I’ve purchased hardwood flooring from this company. I’ve been very happy with the quality of their hardwoods, and their service.


Weekly Sales Ratios from 3/5/08 – 4/16/08

Every week, my company (Windermere Real Estate) publishes a running tally of homes that are available in King & Snohomish counties. In this chart you can see what the average market time will be given a particular price range. I’ve posted the chart for the Woodinville area here. If you live in a different part of King or Snohomish county and would like the stats for your area, send me an email (or call me) and I’ll be happy to provide them for you.

Lost and (not!) Found

So, I used to post all of my Blogs to Blogger.com. Then, when I changed website hosting companies, I used their blogging system for my blog entries. After awhile I realized that their blogging platform stunk (didn’t do what I had hoped it would do), and now I’m back to my old site. Unfortunately, there was no way of merging the two sites into one where all of my posts would show up. If you look at the dates of my previous posts, it looks like I’ve been absent for a year, but that’s not the case. I’ve just got no way of showing my past blog entries here.

So now I’m kinda starting from scratch again. On my links page I mentioned my kitchen remodel, and how you can see some of the photos (before and after), but that’s no longer possible until I repost them again. I’ll try and do that this week.

Good Customer Service

Isn’t it sad that these days, bad customer service is more common that good customer service? In our society we’ve lowered our standards, and what should be considered average service now stands out amidst our daily experiences.

There are some exceptions to this and I’d like to sing the praises of a recent experience of mine. This past December, I was shopping for a new video camera for work (see my first video in a previous blog entry below). I searched online and in the local retail stores for the best camera at the best price (isn’t that what we all do?). To make a long story short, I ended up purchasing the new Sony SR1 digital video camera at Video Only in Bellevue. Their prices were comparable to other stores, but it was my experience with Russell Fuller the Sales Manager, through his exemplary service and can-do attitude that won my business. Interestingly enough, the camera was back-ordered for over a week at this store during the huge windstorm in early December. I could have purchased the camera elsewhere and gotten it sooner, but my experience with Russell, and his honesty and helpfulness made me determined to give him the sale. In this day and age where people are always shopping around to get the best deal or the lowest price, whether for a retail product or real estate services, I’d rather pay a bit more for the service. How about you?


Market Statistics for December 2006

Starting in 2007, I am going to try my best and provide market statistical data for viewers of this Blog. Some of the abbreviations and/or codes on the reports might need interpretation or clarification, and if so, please send me an email and I’ll be happy to clarify them for you.

Here is a chart that compares December 2006 sales with December 2005 (listed by neighborhoods). The key points on the chart are:

1. There were more homes for sale in December 2006 then in 2005 (increase in inventory).
2. The average home price increased from 2005 to 2006 (unless you’re Rip VanWinkle, this should come as no surprise to you).

Here is an interesting article from the Seattle P-I that also speaks to the housing slowdown in the Seattle area.

What are your thoughts about the current housing market?

3Ms continued

So what if you’re looking at a home, and you’re not sure whether it is a Mobile, Manufactured, or Modular home? What’s the next step if you’re interested in it, but need to know which one it is?

There are several things you can do to further investigate:

1. Take a walk around the entire home, looking for any tags that may be affixed on the exterior (usually near a corner of the home). If there is a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), it probably is a mobile or Manufactured home (note: See my previous blog entry for links to definitions).
2. Look inside the home. You may find a VIN tag inside a utility closet or someplace near where the utilities are located.
3. Call the Department of Licensing in Olympia. They can look in their records and tell you if there is a registered mobile home under the current owner’s name.
4. Visit the county’s Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES). In order to place a home on the property, the owner must have gotten a permit from the county. In the permit records, you may find information that specifies whether the home is a Mobile, Manufactured, or Modular. (note: don’t rely soley on the county records, as they can be wrong! I listed a home that was specified as a Mobile in the permit, but it was a Modular home).

If after all of the above steps you still don’t know, call the title company. They can send out a title inspector to the property who can make the determination. In fact, the title company is a critical factor in this process because if they state in the title report that it is a mobile home, your lender’s interest rates may be higher!

*It may seem redundant to state, but the above information applies mostly if you’re looking at a home on owned property, not in a “mobile home park”. By its very definition, a mobile home park will likely have mobile and manufactured homes located there.

**Another thing to be aware of, is that not all appraisers can spot the difference either! I’ve had a appraiser tell me that a home was a mobile (even though he couldn’t find a VIN), when it was a modular home.

Happy house hunting!

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Mobile vs. Manufactured vs. Modular

The 3 M’s of housing… Thanks to Hollywood, all three words used to conjure up the same visual in my mind. I thought of Jim Rockford of the The Rockford Files. This was my favorite show growing up. He used to live in a mobile home in a parking lot in Malibu, CA. I once won a radio show call-in contest for trivia about his Firebird. The question? What was Jim Rockford’s license plate number? The answer? 853 OKG. But alas, I digress… This is after all, a blog about real estate. Back to the 3 M’s.

Visually, the 3 homes may look alike. Structurally, they are built the same way (they are all built in factories and brought out to the lot in sections). But, that is where the similarities end.

Mobile and Manufactured homes are built to standards set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Modular homes are built to state and local building codes. When sold, Mobile and Manufactured homes are considered to be no different than a motor vehicle. On these structures, you’ll find a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) just like a car. And like a car, these structures are considered to be “Personal” property. Modular homes on the other hand, are considered to be “Real” property just like stick built homes (built on the property).

Financing a Mobile or Manufactured home is more difficult than financing a Modular home. In fact, unless the seller has taken steps to convert the home from personal property to real property in a process called “title elimination“, it can be nearly impossible to find a bank who will lend on a mobile or manufactured home. Financing a Modular home is much easier and no different than if the home were built on the lot. The revised codes of Washington (RCW) section 65.20.040 outline the process for title elimination.

Bottom line –

There are serious financial and legal differences between Mobile / Manufactured / Modular homes. Be educated. Know what you are buying. And if you get the chance to watch The Rockford Files, look for his license plate…

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