Federal Way featured by Medena Keyian

Medena Keyian is a medical professional living in Federal Way with her husband, their 2-year-old son and two dogs. While she had found her work as a dialysis technician fulfilling in many ways, she still longed for a creative and artistic outlet. This is what led her to pursue photography as a side career. Continue reading “Federal Way featured by Medena Keyian”

Holli Margell presents the Delridge Neighborhood

Born and raised in West Seattle, Holli Margell is the woman behind the lens of Native Light Photography.  She aims to help local businesses shine through head shots, business portraits, and photographs that help them show their business story.

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Outdoor Features Buyers Love

As we are in full swing of spring, homeowners begin to dream about beautiful backyard retreats, bar-be-ques, and outdoor entertaining. Functioning – and fun! – outdoor spaces are also being sought out by homebuyers near and far. What are they looking for? Here are four of the top outdoor amenities that make buyers take notice:

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16 Important Considerations You Must Make When Investing in Real Estate

We are on an investment kick! Looking back on recent business, we noticed that a large portion of our clients are either selling their rental properties or looking for opportunities.

Investing in real estate can be one of the most lucrative investment vehicles available today. It can also turn into a financial nightmare if you do not do your investment homework first. Before you even think about investing in real estate you need to think about the following 16 points that I advise investors to follow. Real estate investing is a wonderful tool to achieve financial freedom. If you do your homework, invest wisely, take emotions out of your decisions and plan carefully, you will reap financial rewards. I hope the following points give you the confidence you need to take the leap into the lucrative world of real estate investing.

1. ZONING – Never purchase any investment property until you determine the zoning of your potential property and your neighbor’s property. Your property’s value is directly affected by the surrounding properties. When you check the zoning, be sure to check the surrounding properties as well.

2. AREA APPRECIATION – Check to make sure that the area where you are considering purchasing has had a steady and consistent appreciation growth of at least 7% per year for the last 5 years on average. You do not want to buy in an area that has already peaked.

3. POPULATION GROWTH – Is the area where you are considering purchasing an area where people are moving in? The easiest way to track this is to check population growth numbers. Where there is growth – there is opportunity.

4. DO BABY BOOMERS WANT TO LIVE HERE? The country has an incredible number of baby boomers; therefore invest in an area where baby boomers want to live. Baby boomers want a lot of recreational possibilities as well as easy access to good health care facilities.

5. OWNER OCCUPIED – Is the neighborhood where you are thinking of buying primarily owner occupied or tenant occupied? Homeowners, that live in their homes, invest more money to fix them up than do renters. Remember, your property’s value is also determined by its neighbors.

6. NEIGHBORHOOD APPRECIATION – Before you buy in any neighborhood make sure you research the sales in that neighborhood for the past 5 years. Check to see how that neighborhood has appreciated.

7. EMPLOYMENT STABILITY – Without question, one of the biggest factors that affect a local real estate market is the job market. You could be in the nicest recreational area in the world, but if there are no jobs, people leave because they have to find work. Check to make sure that employment in that area has been stable over time.

8. PROPERTY MANAGERS – Make sure that there is a property management company that can manage the property in the area where you are choosing to purchase. Many investors have gone on real estate shopping sprees only to find that there is not a property management company available in that area. This poses a huge problem for the out-of-area investor.

9. FLOORPLAN – Floorplan is more important that square footage. Of course it would be wonderful to find an investment that is both large in square footage and perfect in floorplan. However, this does not happen often. If you find a house that lacks a little in square footage but shines in floorplan, buy it. Renters look for properties by price and by bedrooms. They don’t search for square footage. Having the right numbers of bedrooms is more important than having the biggest bedrooms.

10. YARD – Often times people come with children and with pets and both of these need room to roam. Many investors that I have consulted have shared their horror stories about not being able to rent out the big beautiful house with no yard. Big beautiful houses are filled with children and pets. Even a small yard will help keep your property occupied year round.

11. INSPECTION/AGE OF THE HOUSE Never, ever, ever buy an investment property without having a thorough inspection of the house. Make sure the inspector gives you a good age range for the home and make sure you check the electrical wiring and plumbing thoroughly. Old pipes and wiring can be extremely expensive the replace. Make sure the mechanical side of your investment is not so old that you may be looking at a costly replacement in the near future.

12. THE 10% RULE – One of the easiest ways to make money on your investment is to do a cosmetic makeover. A good rule of thumb is “The 10% rule”. This means that if you purchase a house for $150,000, take 10% of that or $15,000 and you should be able to do a nice cosmetic makeover within that budget. If, however, you have to spend a good portion of that money on the mechanical side, not the cosmetic side then you may want to look at another property.

13. RENTAL STABILITY – Remember, if you buy a 1 bedroom condo you are definitely limiting the different segments of the rental market that can rent from you. If you purchase a 3 bedroom, 2 bath single family residence you have just expanded your rental possibilities. Just because the condo is $50,000 less does not mean it will be a better investment. In fact, you often have to go a little above your comfort zone to get a highly sought-after rental property. The stretch is well worth it!

14. COMPARING RENTAL RATES – It is imperative that you know what the rental market is like in your area. Before you buy a rental property, make sure that you know what similar properties are renting for and how long they are taking to rent. Call a property management company and ask if they do opinions of rental value. Many of them do in hopes of getting your business.

15. THE FINANCIAL SNAPSHOT – You must do a financial analysis of the property. What will your net operating income be? This is the total amount that you will receive from owning this property (rental payment). Also make sure you know what your total expenses will be. (Mortgage payments, principle, interest, taxes, insurance, utilities, neighborhood association dues, etc.) Your net income less your expenses equals your gross spendable income. This will tell you whether the property gives you a positive or a negative cash flow. Don’t be alarmed if it is a negative cash flow because your capital appreciation potential may be so great that having to financially feed the property for a few years would be OK.

16. SELLER FINANCING – Always, always, always ask for seller financing if you can get it. Why? Because you can often get better terms, better rates and save on loan origination fees. The best advice I can give a new investor is to put together a team of experts to help you.

 

You should be working with a good inspector, a good mortgage broker, a good contractor and most importantly a good real estate agent who truly understands investment real estate. (Do not just settle for a real estate agent that sells residential homes. If you are going to invest, you need an investment specialist). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and always, always do your investment homework.

Thinking of Real Estate Investing?

Over a beer and cider, we had the best conversation about the different ways to invest in this market. There are so many options, it’s hard to know where to begin. With real estate appreciating at record-high levels across the country, you might be thinking of getting in on the property investment bandwagon. There are a lot of ways to invest and it is important to tune into your investment style to determine the best investment for you.

Below are four general investment options along with an overview, the pros, and the cons.

Option Overview Pros Cons
Single Family Residence (house) There is potential for both cash flow as well as long-term appreciation. Need to make sure long-term rentals are allowed in the area you are buying in (check zoning, HOA, CC&Rs). You can either self-manage or hire a property-management company. In general, these appreciate faster than condos or townhomes. Maintaining the whole house, inside and outside as well as the property. Higher insurance and property tax costs also need to be considered.
Condo There is potential for both cash flow as well as long-term appreciation. Lenders may have stricter requirements for a condo purchase. The condo building may have a rental cap meaning you may not be able to rent it out. You can either self-manage or hire a property-management company. Not as much maintenance required. Usually outside is maintained. May be more secure than a stand-alone home. Condo dues can be high and usually go up over time. Rules around renting out the unit can change over time. Special assessments can be costly.
Vacation Rental There is potential for both cash flow as well as long-term appreciation. These might be homes or condos and are also known as short-term rentals. You can either self-manage or hire a property-management company. If you buy in an area you like to vacation, this could become a vacation home for you as well. If you do not live close-by, a property manager may be something you need to look into. Depending on how you are set-up tax wise, you may only use your property 14 days or less per year.
Land There is potential for long-term appreciation. With land becoming more difficult to find, it provides an excellent opportunity if you buy in the right area and focus on land that can be developed. Little or no maintenance usually required. If left undeveloped, rules around how the property can be developed may change over time.

 

And there are even more ways to invest including tax liens, auctions, and even storage facilities! You can evaluate the investment for short- or long-term gains, regular cash flow, and even projected appreciation. Some people invest strictly with their spouse while others are comfortable investing with a group or syndications. The key is to stay within your comfort zone, plan for the “what if”, and think about not only your now needs, but your future needs as well.

When you are ready to learn more, we would be happy to help as there are so many more details than those outlined here. We can talk you through the different options available, provide you with lenders who are equipped to handle the type of investment and financing you need. Are you ready to talk investments? Reach out!

Fixer-Upper – Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Making a house your own by remodeling, moving walls, opening things up is often a dreamy idea. But when you really think about it, what are the factors may impact your decision to delve in the world of Fixer Upper?

6337 38th Ave SW, Seattle | Sold | $470,000

Sometimes a home comes up for sale that is well-below market value for homes similar to it. However, sometimes these homes are priced low because they need a lot of work. It might be tempting to save money on a purchase and transform the home into exactly what you want, especially if the home is in a very desirable area. Before you make the leap, you should ask yourself if this type of project is right for you and the way you live:

What shape is this house really in? Years of neglect don’t always show up in dated wallpaper and stained linoleum. It can show up as a leaky roof, rot, and structural damage. We always recommend getting an inspection before purchasing a property, even if your plan is to gut it. If the initial inspection turns up problems that are concerning, calling in a structural engineer or other experts is a good use of your money so you get an idea as to how extensive problems are.

How much is this going to cost? Although builders and contractors with a lot of experience can look at a kitchen or bathroom and know that x will cost $20,000 and y will cost $30,000, those are very very rough ballpark figures. They don’t take into account a discreet vent pipe that may need to get relocated or a plumbing hidden in a wall that needs to get updated. A contractor may be able to give you a rough estimate in a few hours but ask for a detailed proposal so you both understand the scope of work. Make sure you include a 20% contingency budget to deal with unforeseen problems.

How are we going to deal with hidden problems? Even if you get the home inspected and bring in contractors to give you quotes for work to be done, that doesn’t mean more problems aren’t hidden behind the walls and under the floors. Although you should have a 20% contingency padding in your budget for such situations, what happens if the needed repairs exceed that?

How are we going to live while the repairs are being done? Are you planning on having all the work done before you move in? Or will you be tackling one project at a time? Are you okay with living with a certain amount of chaos, dust, and missing functional spaces? Can you function without a kitchen for weeks on end? Not all people can.

What if the bank won’t give us a loan for this property? Banks want to make sure the asset that is being used to secure the loan is sound. Therefore most banks will have criteria for what types of property they will lend on. Working around this may take some strategy and we may need to shop around to see what options you have.

Buying a home in disrepair and renovating can indeed be a strategic way to build equity or simply have a home you will love and enjoy for years to come. However, before taking the leap, make sure this is a fit for your situation and your personality. If you would like to learn more about this option, let’s talk! Give us a call, text or email any time.

 

Why you Need a Local Expert

Hi All! Sarah and Shelley here, with a friendly reminder that we specialize in the Greater Seattle area and south. From Downtown all the way to Federal Way, we understand what’s happening here.

 

When it comes to buying or selling what is likely your biggest asset, it pays to have a real estate agent who is not only a professional, but who also has the local expertise to help make sure you are investing your money wisely and that your investment will pay off when it is time to sell.

Photo Credit: kevinandamanda.com

Here are just some of the items that an agent with local expertise can provide you:

  • Information on possible zoning changes and how those might impact future value
  • Historical market appreciation or depreciation data
  • Data on local amenities and services
  • School information
  • Information on upcoming local improvements to streets and thoroughfares
  • Information on big housing or commercial developments on the horizon
  • Updates on businesses moving in or out of the area
  • Information on trends such as population growth
  • Data on regional economic trends as these can have a strong impact on the demand for housing
  • Market information such as listings, pendings, and sold properties
  • Up-to-date notifications of new listings and solds in the neighborhood, and how the updated sold information can affect the value of your property
  • What your neighbors are doing to remodel their homes and how those changes can help their bottom line when it comes time to sell
  • Information on how property taxes are assessed and the relationships between assessed value and sold values
  • Information on developed and undeveloped land in the neighborhood, and what may be built on those.
  • Traffic trends information

And so much more! A local expert truly understands the special nuances of the different neighborhoods – such as those special pockets of parks and trails, the historic homes or businesses and their significance, or important events that have occurred there. Check out our Videos to see this in action.

 

As much as people buy homes, they also buy areas. It is rare that one can buy a home and have it relocated, so it is important to have an appreciation for an area before one buys a home there. And when it comes time to sell, it pays to have an agent listing the home who can explain all the benefits of your home, not just what is behind your walls.

It is easy to hire a generalist in real estate, but remember, we hire medical specialists when we have a unique diagnosis and your asset should get the same specialist treatment. I would be more than happy to provide you with local information and how the changes I have seen affects your home value. Please let me know how we, YOUR local experts, can be of service. Contact us and let’s chat.

Making the most of your Outdoor Space in the Winter Market

What is one thing you can do during the winter to really maximize your listing dollars with the goal of getting the most buyers interested in your property? Really amp up the impact of your outdoor spaces! Here are some photos from our latest listing that really showcase how it’s done.

Regardless of whether a home is in the balmy south or the frigid north, there are things you can do to get the focus on your home’s outdoor potential and get the buyers thinking about the warm spring and summer ahead. What’s even better? Most other sellers don’t take these extra steps, allowing your home to stand out even more!

Below is our list of the top five things you can do in any climate to maximize your outdoor space:

  1. Really focus on the first impression and curb appeal. This means making sure the driveway and walkways are clear, clean, and nicely edged. It means the front door and garage doors look crisp and have impact. This means that all garden beds are raked out and the landscaping is trimmed up. When a home looks great and ready for spring when the potential buyers drive up, it makes a powerful first impression.
  2. Make sure all your windows are clean and streak-free. This way, when the sun is low in the sky, light streams through those flawless windows, illuminating the space and providing a gateway to peeking outside at what awaits them.
  3. Get some green. Include pots on walkways and in the outdoor living spaces that are brimming with evergreens such as boxwoods, evergreen azaleas, or other evergreens such as small cedars. As your climate allows, look for winter-blooming plants such as heathers, hellebores, and crocus to give your beds a punch of color.
  4. Set the stage. Don’t think that just because it is winter that all living should be done inside. If you have a firepit and some all-weather chairs or benches, clean up the area, and when you have a showing and as weather allows, put some throw pillows out there, a few small blankets with a cohesive punch of color to match the pillows, the fixings for s’mores and all of a sudden you have expanded your living space! If you have an external gas fireplace, and it is safe to do so, turning it on may be another great way to get buyers excited and ready to sit down in front of the fire.
  5. Lights, lights, lights! Outdoor hardwired landscape lighting that accents trees and the home really provides punch. So do white party lights, deck lighting, and battery-powered candles in lanterns and hurricane shades. Depending on locales, solar lighting may be hit or miss, but don’t let lack of outdoor hardwiring keep you from illuminating your outdoors!

The winter can really be an advantageous time to list your property and buy another with less competition if that is your plan. Get an edge over other listings by making your outdoor spaces positively shine! We can help you make a plan when it is time to list.

 

Your Home’s Memorable Features Could Mean Money in the Bank

Take a look around your home. What are the special things about it that give it character? What do people comment on? An antique stained-glass window? An amazing fireplace? A high-tech faucet? Memorable features like these give your home character and they are the things that make buyers fall in love with a home when it comes time to sell.

This garden shed could also be used as an Artist Studio

Did you know that a good rule of thumb is that for each 500 square feet of home, you should have one special, memorable feature? For example, a 2500 square foot home should include five special items that give the home character.

If you look around your home and can’t find enough special things for your square footage, here are some ideas to get the creative ball rolling:

  • Custom shelving around the fireplace
  • Upgraded laundry room with baskets and shelves
  • A chandelier that makes a statement
  • Kitchen backsplash with amazing tile
  • Backyard entertaining area with built-in BBQ or gas firepit
  • Art alcove
  • Antique built-ins such as a reclaimed pantry door
  • Pot fill faucet behind the stovetop
  • Built-in breakfast nook
  • A stone veneer wall or some other textural treatment such as shiplap or wood mosaic
  • Steam shower option in the master
  • Smart home features such as Ring or self-closing blinds
  • Outdoor accent lighting
  • Stamped concrete hardscapes
  • Epoxied garage floor
  • Garage storage solutions
  • Wine fridge
  • Wine cellar or storage
  • Hot tub
  • Laundry chute
  • Heated bathroom floor
  • Pull-out storage for stand mixer
  • Beamed ceiling
  • Secret storage such as a wall safe behind a painting
  • A big window strategically placed to let in light or take advantage of a view
Look at that yard! Huge fenced in property for you to do whatever you’d like!

This list includes both big dollar items but also small improvements you can make that really give your home character. We know you will appreciate the changes now but your buyers will also enjoy them when it is time to sell. We would like to talk with you more about your plan to add character and special features. Give us a call or text any time. shelleyg@cloudcityhomes.com or sarahgc@cloudcityhomes.com

The Holidays are a GREAT Time to Buy or Sell

Yep, we are right in the middle of it, but if you are waiting until after the holidays, it’s not a bad idea to sieze the moment. Here’s why….

Many sellers take their homes off the market for the holidays and buyers who have been out looking all year may take the rest of the year off. So why would it be a great time to buy or sell if there are fewer buyers and sellers in the market? For a lot of reasons:

Less competition for both buyers and sellers – Less competition benefits both buyers and sellers. Fewer homes on the market means homes that are listed will be noticed by buyers (which is great for sellers!). And with fewer buyers in the market, that means less competition for those homes (which is great for buyers!). Especially in markets with very high buyer demand coupled with multiple offers, a holiday lull may be just the break that buyers need to make an offer and get a house under contract.

Motivated buyers and sellers – People who buy or sell during the holidays have a different mindset. They aren’t looky-loos or sellers just trying to test the market. Buyers and sellers have a goal and are serious about the process. Take a look at it from both sides: if you are a seller, wouldn’t you want to work with a buyer who is pre-approved, knows what market price is and ready to buy? If you are a buyer, wouldn’t you prefer to work with a seller who has priced their home at market and is ready to negotiate?

Buyers are pressed for time – Searching for homes can take a lot of time! But competition for that time from other holiday activities means that home searches are usually much more efficient and buyers are ready to make a decision quicker. Both sides may be less willing to drag negotiations out for fear of interfering with holiday plans.

Getting your next move squared away before the end of the year – The looming New Year’s date is often a great motivator on both sides as people want to have their plan in place before the calendar changes to a new year.

Holiday décor – Some homes show best when all decked out for the holidays! Full of light and greenery, homes that exude coziness can really stand out to nostalgic and motivated homebuyers.

Everyone is motivated to close – From lenders, inspectors, closers and more, getting your transaction done by the end of the year (if possible and as per the purchase and sale agreement) is important to all involved! And, with fewer transactions competing for their time, the fewer hang-ups there may be!

However, buying or selling during the holidays does take strategy which needs to begin as soon as possible. Are you thinking about making a move? Let’s talk and make a plan! Contact us here. We will take a closer look at your market opportunities and outline a plan to achieve your goals and timeline.