A History Lesson

One of the most common questions we hear from clients is “Where do you think interest rates are going?”

Virtually all of the experts we follow put rates above 5% going into next year and some see rates approaching 5.5% by the middle of 2019. What’s certain is that there are economic forces at work that are pushing rates higher.

So, how about a little history lesson? How do today’s 30- year mortgage rates compare to this same date in history going all the way back to 1990?

• Today = 4.85%
• 2017 = 3.94%
• 2015 = 3.82%
• 2010 = 4.27%
• 2005 = 5.98%
• 2000 = 7.84%
• 1995 = 7.75%
• 1990 = 10.22%

While today’s rates feel high only because they are higher than 2017, they are quite a bit lower than at many times in history.

Posted on March 28, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

When It Comes Time to Downsize

CondoSunset

When it comes time to decide if you want to downsize, there are many thoughts and emotions that go speeding through your mind.  Maybe you have already decided this is your home for the rest of your life.  Your home was the perfect place to meet your needs when you were in an earlier cycle of life, and will be the ideal home for all the events you see happening in your next.  If you are inclined to feel that the home you currently reside in may have out-lived its purpose, you may be struggling with some of the same thoughts and emotions my husband and I had when it came to the emotional and financially sensitive decision to downsize.

In our situation, we loved our home.  It provided everything we needed to raise our three children, plus nurture all the creative projects that identified who we are as a family as well as individuals.  Our children were just like anyone else’s; loved, individually different, all requiring unique activities and space to help them grow, using their special talents.  We loved our neighborhood and took an active part in making it an extension of our home.  Considering that it had been our home for decades, deciding to leave was emotionally difficult.

We spent several years before we knew we would leave our home, looking at all the smaller options.  We wondered, should we look for another single-family dwelling or check out other options like co-ops of condominiums?  My husband had spent the past twenty-five years mowing our lawn and was quite willing to remove this task from his plate. I, on the other hand, still loved to garden.  Was there a living environment that could satisfy both these expectations?  We looked at every condominium and every co-op in the Seattle area for five years, but nothing really fulfilled everything we needed.  We had a list of features including a garden spot, closets and efficient use of space, etc. I’m an Old World Charm lady, but guess what?  Back in the 20’s ladies only owned three dresses.  Let’s just say, I own a few more outfits than most pre-war closets were meant to hold.  So the search went on.

When our children finally reached their 20’s and my husband wanted to retire, we knew it was time to make our move.  Like I said, everyone loves their children, but not all the party time we now came to expect in our rec room every weekend.  We were ready to have a space of our own, and it was time for our kids to begin their next cycle in-life.  We also had too much of our finances tied up in a 3,000 square foot house, when in reality we needed less and could save more.  We had to leave the home we had dedicated to making our unique expression of who we were, and leave very soon.

If any of this sounds familiar, your task will be a little easier than it seems! Here is some practical advice for making your move:

Define your needs:  Narrow down your ideal needs. Start by deciding if you want a single-family versus multi-family dwelling. Consider your price range, and then space needs.

Downsize: We downsized a bit more than we should have, but we sure got rid of lots of items we collected over the past 25 years.  Some of them were special to me.  I’d purchased a beautiful wood serving tray at a yard sale with one of my dearest friends.  I had to borrow money from her to buy it.  I solved the problem by giving it to her when we moved, and I still see it when I visit her home.  My children took much of the furniture they had a special connection to, and my nephew, who spent nearly every Christmas sitting in his favorite red chair, can now enjoy it in his own home.

Let go: Leaving the neighborhood and all our lifelong friends was the most difficult process, I think, of all the decisions we had to make.  We still see them, but as I’m writing this my eyes are tearing up.  It’s hard to re-visit my old neighborhood and see my old home cared for in a different way than I had lovingly done for twenty-five years.  But it does give us plenty of things to talk about with old friends when we get together.

What did we end up doing?  We moved into a vintage 1930’s co-op in a walkable part of town.  I have just the right amount of gardening space that I share with other owners.  We have made wonderful friends with some of our neighbors and get together frequently for happy hour and spur-of-the-moment gatherings.  It’s a different lifestyle than we had before but, believe me, there are plus sides. In no way will any of our three wonderful, adored, adult children ever be able to move back home, since we now live in an 850-square-foot co-op with every space used on a daily basis.  There were times when I wouldn’t go in one of my rooms in our old home for several weeks.  This is not a problem now.  Yes, maybe it’s too small, but we can always move into a larger place if and when we feel it’s time.

What are your questions about downsizing your home? What features do you require to live in a smaller, more efficient dwelling?

Pat Eskenazi is a Windermere veteran, working in marketing for the past 12 years. She has lived in Seattle since 1952.  Her favorite place to walk is along Golden Gardens, and she especially loves to climb the stairs up to the Sunset Hill neighborhood where she lived with her 3 children and husband for 25 years.

Posted on March 27, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Moving Life Home

NewConstruction

Ipod and water bottle in hand, Dave strolls down a flower lined path toward his first destination of the morning, his gym. At the door to the gym, he is greeted by his wife, Janet. Janet takes a sip of her latte, gives Dave a kiss and tells him she’s off to the studio. While Dave is turning on some music and contemplating how many miles he’ll put on the treadmill today, Janet walks up a staircase to her studio.

The kiln in the corner warms the studio from the chill of the rainy night before.  Janet hangs her coat and inspects yesterday’s creations on the drying rack. In her mind, she’s sizing up what glaze and design she’ll use for each piece. Dave will head to his office on the other side of the building after his workout.

Depending upon where you live, you might have your own vision of this scene. Perhaps it’s a downtown building that has ground level shops, like a gym, and small spaces upstairs for rent, like a studio. Maybe an office park in the suburbs. Perhaps even a co-op village. For Dave and Janet, though, the gym and studio are in a part of their backyard that used to be home to a jungle gym, sandbox and 4-square court. When they became empty nesters, they decided to consolidate their life, cut commuting expenses, and take advantage of some unused space at home. They created a two story, backyard cottage that had a gym, bath and shower, and kitchenette on the ground floor, as well as side-by-side offices on the upper level. Dave, rather than a kiln and pottery supplies, has a desk and display of catalogues that he will use in presentations when clients visit him.

Backyard cottages have been gaining in popularity and attention lately. With the changes in the housing market making it impractical to sell some  homes, possibly gas prices making long commutes impractical, or maybe the desire to simplify a life that’s been too removed from home, its’ easy to see why someone might choose to build one. Many people build them to be guest quarters, mother-in-law apartments, a rental unit for additional monthly revenue, or temporary lodging for boomerang offspring who are trying to land that first job out of college. Some of these are as simply built as a miniature starter home, and yet others are elegantly equipped as a five-star hotel.

To maximize the value of these buildings, they should be planned by an architect so that they will work for your intended use. In the example, Janet’s kiln would be heavy and very hot, so several building precautions would be warranted. One short cut to avoid would be to do anything less than fully permitted and inspected, as failure there can cost far more than the property tax levy to take care of later. It’s advised that unless you have lots of experience, have the riskier tasks done by subcontractors.

These buildings will add value to the homeowner’s property over time, as if they are built properly, they’ll appreciate in conjunction with the value of the home. The reasons for having one are many and personal, but if you were to drive down many city streets, you will find one hiding under the trees in a corner of the backyard.

Can you see a point of your life, and a place on your property, in which a backyard cottage would make sense?

EricJohnsonHeadShotBy Eric Johnson, Director of Education

Johnson has several years experience as a real estate agent and real estate instructor, as well as experience in construction project management, digital media/publishing and insurance. He has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from University of Colorado.

Posted on March 26, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Top Five Words of Advice for a Buyer Today

Do you want to find your perfect home for a fair price and make your move in a reasonable amount of time? With inventory lower than it was four months ago and buyers coming out of the woodwork to take advantage of the tax credit before it ends, you may want to think about what you can do to prepare so you’re ready to take action when the time is right for you.

We asked a few of our Windermere agents what top five pieces of advice they would give to a buyer in today’s market.

Top five by Bruce McKinnon Windermere Mukilteo

    1. Get pre-approved with a “known” lender.

 

    1. Learn the market. Pay attention to price per square foot, be realistic on pricing and observe short sales and foreclosures.

 

    1. Understand “showing” protocol such as scheduling viewing appointments and a respect for privacy.

 

    1. Identify your location preference. Initially focus your search there for efficient time utilization. Think about your ideal community, neighborhood and school district.

 

    1. Mini buying process overview. For example, to minimize surprises, get a five minute explanation of offer, inspection, appraisal, closing, etc. by a professional or two.

Top five by Erin Mitchell Windermere Bellevue Commons

 

    1. Work with a great agent that specializes in the area that you want to live. Meet with them prior to looking at homes to make sure you ‘fit’ each other’s personalities, they really listen to your wants and needs and that they ask you questions about what is important to you.

 

    1. Ask your agent for a good referral to a great loan officer. Call them now and get pre-approved.

 

    1. Make a top 10 list of the most important things you want in a home. If you find one that has at least eight of them, strongly consider the home.

 

    1. When you find a home that fits, your agent will run a market analysis to determine appropriate value. Value is not always price related.

 

    1. Write a good offer that includes a fair price, good terms and is realistic. If you want the house, buy it. If there is more than one offer, use an escalation clause in the offer.

Get pre-approved with a “known” Lender

Learn the market (e.g., price / sq ft, be realistic on pricing; short sale and foreclosure observations)

Understand “showing” protocol (e.g., appointments, respect for privacy)

Identify location preference (e.g., to initially focus search for efficient time utilization — community, neighborhood and school district  – where possible)

Mini Buying process overview (e.g., 5 minutes – to minimize surprises — offer, inspection, appraisal, closing)

Posted on March 12, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Vegas Baby!

 

The results are in from FHFA.gov’s latest ranking of the top performing markets in the U.S.

Each quarter they track 245 cities across the country and rank their real estate markets by home price appreciation.

 

What’s the highest performing city the the U.S.

Vegas!  Their prices have gone up 17.63% in the last year.

 

How about the worst?

Bloomington, Illinois sits in dead last where prices went down 3.58%

 

Here’s how Colorado cities are ranked:

• #10 Colo. Springs = 11.41%
• #16 Greeley = 10.68%
• #59 Fort Collins = 8.29%
• #64 Denver = 8.15%
• #97 Boulder = 6.85%

Posted on March 11, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Better Off Paying Your Mortgage Earlier or Investing Your Money?

Posted in BuyingSelling, and Living by Guest Author 

Photo Credit: Rawpixel via Unsplash

Few topics cause more division among economists than the age-old debate of whether you’re better off paying off your mortgage earlier, or investing that money instead. And there’s a good reason why that debate continues; both sides make compelling arguments.

For many people, their mortgage is the largest expense they will ever incur in their lives. So if given the chance, it only makes logical sense you would want to pay it off as quickly as possible. On the other hand, a mortgage is also the cheapest money you will ever borrow, and it’s generally considered good debt. Any extra money you obtain could be definitely be put to good use elsewhere.

The reality is, however, a little less cut and clear. For some homeowners, paying off their mortgage earlier is the right answer. While for others, it would be far more advantageous to invest their money.

 

Advantages of paying off your mortgage earlier

  • You’ll pay less interest: Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion is dedicated towards interest, and another towards principal (we’ll ignore other costs for now). Interest is calculated monthly by taking your remaining balance, the length of your amortization period, and the interest rate agreed upon with your lending institution.

If you have a $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% fixed rate over 30 years, your monthly payment would be around $1,432.25. By the time you finish paying off your mortgage, you would have paid a total of $515,609, of which $215,609 were interest.

If you wanted to lower the total amount you pay on interest, you don’t need to make a large lump sum to make a difference. If you were to increase your monthly mortgage payment to $1,632.25 (a $200 a month increase), you would be saving $50,298 in interest, and you’ll pay off your mortgage 6 years and 3 months earlier.

Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how even a small increase in monthly payments makes a big difference in the long run.

  • Every additional dollar towards your principal has a guaranteed return on investment: Every additional payment you make towards your mortgage has a direct effect in lowering the amount you pay in interest. In fact, each additional payment is, in fact, an investment. And unlike stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, you are guaranteed to have a return on your investment.
  • Enforced discipline: It takes real commitment to invest your money wisely each month instead of spending it elsewhere.

 

Your monthly mortgage payments are a form of enforced discipline since you know you can’t afford to miss them. It’s far easier to set a higher monthly payment towards your mortgage and stick to it than making regular investments on your own.

Besides, once your home is completely paid off, you can dedicate a larger portion of your income towards investments, your children or grandchildren’s education, or simply cut down on your working hours.

 

Advantages of investing your money

  • A greater return on your investment: The biggest reason why you should invest your money instead comes down to a simple, green truth: there’s more money to be made in investments.

Suppose that instead of dedicating an additional $200 towards your monthly mortgage payment, you decide to invest it in a conservative index fund which tracks S&P 500’s index. You start your investment today with $200 and add an additional $200 each month for the next 30 years. By the end of the term, if the index fund had a modest yield of 5% per year, you will have earned $91,739 in interest, and the total value of your investment would be $163,939.

If you think that 5% per year is a little too optimistic, all we have to do is see the S&P 500 performance between December 2002 and December 2012, which averaged an annual yield of 7.10%.

  • A greater level of diversification: Real estate has historically been one of the safest vehicles of investment available, but it’s still subject to market forces and changes in government policies. The forces that affect the stock and bonds markets are not always the same that affect real estate, because the former are subject to their issuer’s economic performance, while property values could change due to local events.

By putting your extra money towards investments, you are diversifying your investment portfolio and spreading out your risk. If you are relying exclusively on the value of your home, you are in essence putting all your eggs in one basket.

  • Greater liquidity: Homes are a great investment, but it takes time to sell a home even in the best of circumstances. So if you need emergency funds now, it’s a lot easier to sell stocks and bonds than a home.

 

Misael Lizarraga is a real estate writer with a passion for teaching real estate concepts to first time buyers and investors. He runs realestatecontentguy.com and is a contributing writer for several leading real estate blogs in North America.

Posted on March 8, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,