The Remote Worker’s Home Buying Process

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The pandemic’s influences on home life are far-ranging, prompting buyers to look at home ownership through a new lens. Remote work has created a paradigm shift in the wants and needs of homebuyers. Here’s what the remote worker should keep in mind when looking to buy.

Location

The location, location, location cliché has taken on new meaning for homebuyers who work from home. Because remote work gives us the opportunity to work from anywhere, home searches are expanding. Work commute times typically play a significant role in the home buying process; however, many buyers now have the option to view homes further away from their places of work.

Those who previously dreamed of the quiet life, but didn’t want the commute that came with it, are now able to make a move toward a more suburban environment. If you prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle of a downtown area but don’t want to feel isolated, search for properties in the suburbs with active town centers.

The proper space

When COVID-19 began sending workers home in the early months of 2020, homeowners worldwide discovered their varied level of preparedness for remote work. Some had spacious home offices and were able to make the transition easily. Others had to create makeshift workspaces out of living rooms or bedrooms. What we have learned is that a dedicated workspace is paramount to productive remote work, its importance emphasized by the unknown timeline of a return to working in-person in many parts of the country.

Before you buy: 
  • When searching for homes, understand that a home office situated in an open floor plan is more prone to distraction.
  • Look for features such as an additional bedroom, finished basement, or bonus room that offer ample space to create your remote work environment.
  • Having a designated space you can associate solely with work will not only drive your focus but helps to balance your home and work life. It allows you to wrap up the workday, leave your home office, and easily transition back into the goings on of your household.

 

After you buy: 
  • Light it up: You’ll want plenty of light in your home office to stay fresh throughout the work week. If you are next to a window, let in as much natural light as possible. Add in desk and floor lamps to brighten your space.
  • Work comfortably: While working at home, it’s easy to sit in one place for hours on end. Shop for comfortable desk chairs that provide proper lumbar support. Explore alternatives to desk chairs like yoga balls and standing desks.
  • Personalize: Adding personal touches will help to make your home office feel comfortable. Inspirational quotes, your favorite artwork, and pictures of loved ones are all types of décor that will keep you inspired in your remote work.

 

For all these considerations and more, talk with with me about how your remote work is shifting where you’re looking for a home and what you’re looking for when it’s time to move there.


Posted on October 22, 2020 at 10:29 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Homeowners | Tagged

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – OCTOBER 2020


Posted on October 14, 2020 at 10:34 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Regional Market Updates | Tagged

10 Steps to Selling Your Home

Image source: Shutterstock

 

Navigating everything involved with selling your home can seem intimidating. Breaking the process down step by step will keep you organized and ready to work towards a successful home sale.

1. Choose an agent

A lot goes into choosing the right agent. If you’re unsure where to start, get referrals from trusted friends, family, and neighbors. Although the ultimate goal is the sale, think about your compatibility outside of the transaction. Their ability to connect with you on a human level through the ups and downs of a home sale is just as important as their expertise and knowledge of the market.
2. Set a timeline 
Depending on your local housing market conditions, your timeline for selling your home may vary. However, a timeline is valuable in that it will keep you organized throughout the selling process and allows you to adjust if circumstances change. Your agent will work with you to build the ideal timeline.
3. What is your home worth? 
The key to selling quickly is correctly pricing your home from the first day it hits the market. In particular, overpricing can lead to serious complications in the selling process. Your agent can provide you with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to better determine the best price of your home. CMAs provide information on comparable home sales in your area, both pending and sold, within the past six months.
4. Repair & upgrade
Now it’s time to get to work on the house! This is the perfect time to tackle any and all outstanding projects or repairs. Create a list separating which repairs can be done yourself and which need professional attention. This is the time to consider a pre-sale home inspection to identify structural and mechanical problems before your home is on the market.
5. Make the best first impression
Making an impactful first impression goes a long way in the minds of buyers, so roll up your sleeves and prepare to check off that to-do-list. Start by cleaning up the garden and lawn, clearing out gutters, and adding color to your flower beds. Apply a fresh coat of paint anywhere you spot peeling or cracked paint. A great way to make an impact is by staging your home, with the goal of making each room feel as spacious and welcoming as possible.
6. Show your home 
Your local pandemic-era regulations will dictate the ability for agents to conduct in-person showings and open houses. Discuss virtual home tour options with your agent and other ways to generate maximum buyer interest. For in-person showings, it’s best that you leave the premises so the buyer can freely ask their agent questions and visualize the home as their own.
7. Offers & negotiation 
If you are in a seller’s market—defined by low inventory and high buyer competition—it is likely that you will receive offers at – or above – asking price. You can respond to an offer by a) accepting the offer, b) making a counteroffer, or c) rejecting the offer. Counteroffers should always be made in writing and provide a short window of time for the potential buyer to respond. If you are selling in a buyer’s market, you may have to be more open to negotiation. Discuss negotiation strategies with your agent to work toward a satisfying final price.
8. Prepare for closing costs
There are costs throughout the selling process, and as the close date approaches, that remains true. Be sure to budget for your real estate agent’s commission, and other common seller’s costs like title insurance, recording fees, and government transfer tax, among others.
9. Home inspection
Buyer offers are usually contingent upon a professional home inspection. Ask your agent for a home inspection checklist, so you know what the inspector is looking for ahead of time. They typically inspect the home’s foundation, structure, roof, plumbing and electrical systems, floors, windows, doors, and more for signs of damage and weathering.
10. Closing time
Congratulations! Your home is sold, but there are still some final steps before the deal is done. This is the time to ask the buyer to release any contingencies, sign the title, and close escrow before handing over the keys. Consult your real estate agent for any questions about legal documentation and settlement costs.

Posted on October 8, 2020 at 8:03 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Sellers | Tagged , , , ,

Buying a Fixer-Upper

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For some home buyers, a fixer-upper is their idea of a dream home. Preparing for the process comes down to creating a plan, knowing what to look for, and understanding what financing options are available.

 

Create a plan 

Fixer-uppers require a future-oriented mindset. Knowing the magnitude of the project you and your household are willing to take on will help dictate your budget and expectations as time goes on. Understand that in addition to the down payment and closing fees, the costs inherent in a fixer-upper purchase have the potential to go over-budget easily. Familiarize yourself with permitting in your area to understand how to navigate any legal roadblocks in the renovation process.

 

What to look for 

Location: Whether you are purchasing a fixer-upper with plans to sell it, rent it out, or live in it, consider its location before purchasing. If you’re planning on selling or renting, location is one of the most important factors to making a return on your investment. And if you’re planning to live in your fixer-upper, keep in mind that location will be a large part of your experience in the home.

Scope of renovation: If you are looking for a smaller scale renovation, look for fixer-uppers that require cosmetic projects like new interior and exterior paint, fresh carpeting and flooring, appliance upgrades, and basic landscaping maintenance. More expensive and involved projects include reroofing, replacing plumbing and sewer lines, replacing HVAC systems, and full-scale room remodels.

Inspections: Beyond a standard home inspection, which covers components of the home like its plumbing and foundation, consider specialized inspections for pests, roof certifications, and engineering reports. This will help differentiate between the property’s minor flaws and critical problems, further informing your decision when it comes time to prepare an offer.

 

Financing options

Renovation loans allow buyers to finance the home and the improvements to the home together. Extra consultations, inspections, and appraisals are often required in the loan process, but they help guide the work—and thereby, added value—of your fixer-upper. Talk with your lender about which option is best for you.

 

  • FHA 203(k): The Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) 203(k) loans can be used for most projects in the process of fixing up a home. In comparison to conventional mortgages, they accept lower incomes and credit scores.
  • VA renovation loan: With this loan, the cost of the improvement projects is combined into the loan amount for the home purchase. Contractors employed in any renovations must be VA-approved, and a construction fee may be charged by the lender.
  • HomeStyle Loan – Fannie Mae: The HomeStyle Renovation Loan can be used by home buyers purchasing a fixer-upper, or by homeowners refinancing their homes to cover the improvements. Funds are distributed directly to contractors via a separate escrow account. This loan also allows for luxury projects, such as pools and landscaping.
  • CHOICERenovation Loan – Freddie Mac: This renovation mortgage is guaranteed by Freddie Mac, allowing projects that bolster a home’s ability to withstand natural disasters.
If you’re interested in buying a fixer upper, talk to me anytime. I can help you to understand the process and discuss what makes the most sense for you.

Posted on September 29, 2020 at 6:36 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Buyers | Tagged , , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 2020

August saw the lowest number of homes for sale in more than 20 years and the lowest mortgage rates on record. Sparse inventory and high demand pushed home prices to new highs.

  • With pending sales outpacing new listings, inventory continues to shrink. King and Snohomish counties each have about a two-week supply of available homes.  Four to six months of inventory is considered a balanced market, favoring neither buyers nor sellers.
  • The region saw the second consecutive month of record-setting price growth with home prices experiencing double-digit increases as compared to a year ago.
  • Fierce competition among buyers has made multiple offers the norm. In King County, 46% of home sold for more than the list price. Last August that number was 24%. In Snohomish County, 58% of homes sold above list price as compared to just 28% the prior year.

The charts below provide a brief overview of market activity. If you are interested in more information, every Monday Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner provides an update regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and housing market. You can get Matthew’s latest update here.


Posted on September 17, 2020 at 1:36 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Regional Market Updates | Tagged , , , ,

Preparing for the School Year at Home

Image source: Shutterstock

 

For those whose children will be taking classes online or participating in remote learning this school year, keeping the following tips in mind will help create an at-home learning environment that prioritizes health and learning, while being able to adjust to this year’s unknowns.

A home cannot fully replace all that a formal school classroom has to offer. However, what it lacks in traditional classroom appeal it makes up for in comfort and familiarity. Prepping your home to take on this additional role will help set your child up for success during what will be a unique academic year for many.

 

Set the tone

One of the best ways to set your children up for success this school year is to get them excited. It is important to communicate that this school year, even with all its unknowns, is an exciting opportunity for new and creative ways to learn and grow. Helping your child understand the unique learning possibilities your home provides will get the school year off to an enthusiastic start.

 

Create a space 

Establishing a designated space for school at home is important for a child’s ability to focus and to associate a space with learning. How you create a classroom environment will depend on your home and your needs. If your child is most comfortable in their room, try incorporating their classroom setup there. Depending on your child’s age, it may help to have toys or familiar room objects nearby. However, if your child is distracted by their own room, it may be better to set up elsewhere to help them focus, such as a nook or office.

Allowing your child the freedom to make the space their own will help stimulate their imagination, which is vital to their learning and enjoyment of school.

Wherever the home classroom is, be sure that area has minimal distractions, maintains a strong internet connection, and is well-stocked with school supplies within reach at all times.

 

Back to school

To maintain a sense of normalcy, keep your family’s back-to-school traditions intact this year, such as picking out school supplies, back to school clothes shopping, and everyone’s favorite first day of school photo. These ceremonies of preparation for the school year will build excitement while bringing some familiarity to those final days of summer.

Establish a routine

Just as adults have discovered new routines to parallel the shift to remote work, children need a shift in their daily flow to mirror the change to remote learning. The rigor of their school schedule will determine how much flexibility you have in putting together a routine.

Stay active, incorporating movement breaks throughout the day to make up for the lack of physical activity. Plan out times away from their computer screens to differentiate between work and play time.  It’s recommended that children move at least 60 minutes a day, so prioritize exercise and movement, going outside when possible. This change of scenery is a helpful intermission for children. It gives their eyes a rest from their screens and returns them to their learning space feeling refreshed and revitalized.

 

Granted, your ability to facilitate your child/children’s preparedness and monitor their continued learning is based on various factors like your work schedule and what resources your school district is providing for at-home learning. No matter your household’s situation, taking these factors into consideration where possible will help set your student(s) up for success.


Posted on September 3, 2020 at 1:38 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

WINDERMERE INSIGHTS: SECOND HOME PURCHASES ON SOME BUYERS’ MINDS

With COVID-related economic stressors mounting for those in the local hospitality and tourism industries among other impacted sectors, many area residents are wondering about the sustainability of their current rent or mortgage. In conjunction with this, mortgage brokers are experiencing a deluge of refinance applications for homeowners looking to lower their monthly overhead and take advantage of the pandemic’s preposterously low interest rates.

“It’s an interesting environment, with uncertain times causing people to seek opportunities to save money,” said Michael Press, a loan officer with Penrith Home Loans based out of Windermere’s Ballard office. “Borrowers are being cautious overall,” he observed, “and they’re seeking the lowest possible monthly payment.” By refinancing at historic rates, Press said, “many people are going to improve their situations.”

One of the oddities of COVID-19 is that while it has put many on their heels, it also seems to have motivated some Seattle-area homeowners to consider purchasing a second home outside the city. As remote work and online schooling have been the new reality for many area residents, some are looking to set up shop away from the city while they can. This has led to a trend that has affected Seattle-area real estate professionals. We spoke to a few leaders within the Windermere network about what they’re seeing in the second home market.

“This has been an unusual summer for sure,” said Patrick Chinn, owner and principal broker of Windermere Midtown’s six in-city offices. “On the one hand we have this massive economic upheaval legitimately impacting the livelihoods of many people in our region,” he observed. “COVID has put them in a hard place and we are doing everything we can to help prevent more housing insecurity in our region.”

“At the same time,” Chinn continued, “about 30% of my brokers have received requests from their clients to talk about a second home purchase.” He noted that areas within an hour and a half to two hours from Seattle — such as Suncadia, Seabrook and the islands (Whidbey, Camano and the San Juans) — are in buyers’ sights right now. “Every week I’m handling agent referral requests in these areas,” Chinn said.

D’Ann Jackson, manager of Windermere’s Bellevue office, said her brokers are assisting buyers in the same Washington hot spots. She pointed to the current popularity of the second-home markets that Chinn spotlighted — Seabrook, Suncadia and Island County.

“With folks not traveling on planes this summer,” Jackson commented, “some want to have a vacation spot they can drive to, and these markets all fit that.” She added that low interest rates may also be encouraging “people with the means and motivation to look into buying a vacation home.”

Penrith’s Michael Press agrees. “We are definitely seeing an uptick in people looking for second homes,” he observed. “At the same time that many people are seeking space and solitude, record-low rates are helping to make second homes more affordable.”

Larry Johnson, general manager of Windermere’s West Seattle office, is seeing movement to both the beach and the mountains. “Buyers are pursuing areas that allow for more open space, scenic views and access to water,” he observed. “They’re looking in Long Beach, Ocean Shores, Hood Canal, the islands, Winthrop, Mazama, Leavenworth, Cle Elem and Lake Chelan, to name a few.”

Johnson noted that with the added interest from buyers, some of these markets are getting quite competitive. “They are starting to heat up and brokers are experiencing multiple offers,” he said. “I suspect that we will continue to see this type of activity for months to come.”

Exactly how long this trend will last is the question.

“Time will tell,” D’Ann Jackson commented. “Someday in the future we’ll be back to a little more normal,” she said. “But for now and the immediate future people are being affected in ways we’ve not seen before, and they’re exploring their options for living, space and location.”

Noting that it comes with some privilege, Jackson understands the logic of her brokers’ clients who are looking at vacation homes. “They’re probably thinking ‘If I have to work from home, I might as well be somewhere I really want to be,’” she said. “And some of them have the economic latitude to make that happen.”


Posted on August 26, 2020 at 8:35 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Buyers, Homeowners | Tagged , , , ,

Your Guide to Going Solar

Image Source: Canva

For homeowners looking to reduce their home’s carbon footprint, increase its sustainability, and add value to their property, going solar is an obvious choice. Understanding how solar works and how to maximize its benefits are key first steps in your journey to becoming a solar energy-producing household.

How does solar work?

The technology that turns your house into a solar energy-harnessing hub is called photovoltaics, more commonly known as PV. PV works by fielding direct sunlight and absorbing its photons into the solar panels’ cells, which then creates electricity that provides energy for your home. This energy reduces your home’s output of carbon and other pollutants, which translates to cleaner air and water.

With the sun as the power source, the majority of the power generation occurs during the middle of the day, making summer the highest producing season. But don’t worry, it all evens out in the end.

Rooftop panels work best when they are exposed to sunlight, free of shade or shadow from nearby trees or structures. Given the sun’s east-to-west path, south-facing roofs are best-suited for maximizing your solar power. To see if your roof is set up for success, consult a mapping service or solar calculator to establish your roof’s suitability. If your roof isn’t up to standard, there are options such as ground mount solar installations and community solar gardens that you can explore.

Components

  • Solar panels: Capture the sun’s energy
  • Inverter: Converts the sun’s energy to a form that powers devices
  • Racking: The foundation that holds your solar system in place
  • Batteries: To store the energy generated
  • Charge controller: To control how quickly the batteries charge

What are the benefits of solar power?

  • Sustainability: Having a renewable source of energy coursing through your home reduces your household’s carbon footprint and increases your eco-friendliness.
  • Savings: How much money you save by going solar depends largely on how much energy your household consumes and the energy output of your solar panels. The cost of going solar has continued to decrease every year, so you are more likely to save as time goes on. For information on state incentives and tax breaks, explore what options apply to your home by visiting DSIRE(Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency).
  • Utilities: Whether your utility company charges a flat rate for electricity or charges variable rates throughout the day based on electricity production—i.e. higher rates in the afternoon, lower rates at night—solar power offsets the price you are charged for electricity. It becomes even more valuable during those higher-rate periods or during seasonal fluctuations in utilities costs.
  • Sell it back: Homeowners can sell their solar energy back to utilities through “Net-metering” plans. When your power generation rate is greater than your household’s consumption rate, the end result on your electric bill is a net energy consumption. Refer to DSIRE for region-specific regulations and policies.
  • Home value: A recent study by The Appraisal Journal found that homes with solar PV systems increased their sale price by an average of 3.74%, equaling a premium of $14,329.

Although the right solar solution looks different for each household, what remains true across the board are the environmental benefits and increased home values that solar power brings. Taking all this information into your research will improve your home’s renewable energy and reduce your carbon footprint.


Posted on August 13, 2020 at 10:00 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Homeowners, Living | Tagged , , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – AUGUST 2020

While the pace of daily life may seem slow right now, the local real estate market has had an unusually busy summer. The number of new listings in July was up, sales increased, and home prices followed suit.

• While overall inventory is at historic lows, more sellers put their homes on
the market. New listings of single-family homes in King County jumped more than
25% from a year ago. Snohomish County saw a 7% increase in new listings.

• Pent-up buyer demand fueled sales activity in July.  The number of pending
sales was up 17% over a year ago in King County, and up 13% in Snohomish
County.

• With buyers snapping up new listings as soon as they hit the market, total
available inventory dropped to a 10-year low for the month.

• The lack of inventory is benefiting sellers, and multiple offers are now common
at every price point. As a result, single-family home prices rose 7% in King
County and 15% in Snohomish County.

The charts below provide a brief overview of market activity. If you are interested in more information, every Monday Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner provides an update regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and housing market. You can get Matthew’s latest update here.


Posted on August 13, 2020 at 9:59 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Regional Market Updates | Tagged , , , ,

Setting Up Your Home Gym

Image Source: Canva

 

As the stay-at-home hours add up, setting up a home gym is not only physically beneficial, but can bring some added mental wellness to the new normal many of us find ourselves in. In comparison to a gym membership, even with the up-front investment of purchasing equipment, an at-home gym can deliver savings in the long run. With far-ranging fitness gear options online, there are more ways to save than ever before.

 

Location, location, location

Before the lunges, pushups, and weightlifting, the first step in setting up your at-home gym is deciding where to build it. You’ll want plenty of room for the activities and workouts you have in mind. Rooms with low ceilings or narrow walls are not well-suited for a gym. They will limit your ability to perform any kinds of jumping exercises or workouts with wide ranging movements. This space is dedicated to physical activity and the environment should support that. If extra space is hard to come by in your home, consider taking your gym outdoors to a patio, multipurpose space, or other less commonly used area.

 

A space with level, hard flooring, like wood, laminate, or tile, is the best fit for your gym, especially if you plan on establishing a workout plan based around lifting or cardio. Having spatial awareness at all times is important while working out, so you’ll want plenty of light in your home gym. Mirrors are a common fixture in gyms, consider adding one to your wall to analyze your technique.

 

Gear up

  • Strength training: Simple workout tools like kettlebells and dumbbells allow you to perform a variety of workouts without taking up much space. Kettlebells are a great tool for incorporating cardio workouts with added weight. Dumbbells at a lower weight are better for toning exercises, while those at heavier weights are better for low-repetition, bulk exercises.
  • Cardio training: Smaller workout tools such as jump ropes, wrist and ankle weights will add intensity to your cardio workouts. Yoga mats provide proper support while performing core exercises or other body weight circuit workouts during your cardio sessions.
  • Large equipment: To get the most out of large workout equipment like treadmills, stair climbers, and bikes in your home gym, plan for them to be a significant part of your workouts.
  • Additional: Applying a layer of gym flooring will help prevent damage and provide added support. If you prefer music and/or video to accompany your workouts, add speakers and a TV to get the motivational juices flowing.

 

Establish a routine

Your home gym is no good if it gets no use. With zero commute time to account for, arrange a workout routine that suits your daily schedule. Even if you have 30 minutes, getting into a routine of working out is the key to building up your healthy lifestyle in this new normal of home life.

 

Once your home gym is set up, it can be either your individual fitness sanctuary or an opportunity to work out with others. Invite a friend to exercise via video chat and schedule times to feel the burn together. With more virtual fitness classes available now than ever, surf the web to find the classes that best fit your schedule and desired workout intensity.


Posted on July 23, 2020 at 10:17 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,