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.

Staging: It Might Not Be a Radical Departure from Your Own Home Decor

Preparing a property to list isn’t always a complete re-do, staging wise.

There may be several elements that can be used to market the property. If you’ve recently had fresh paint or a few new accessories to brighten up a space, it may be more a case of “de-personalizing” a property into a marketable product.

This helps the prospective buyers of the property to better imagine themselves living in the home, rather than having a vivid image of how you live there.

Staging, after all, gives a bit of psychological distance for both buyers and sellers. For buyers, they can begin to see themselves there. For sellers, what was once “their home” begins to transition into “a property”.

It’s a subtle, but powerful distance.

That being said, it may not take much to stage a property in preparation for listing.

Note in the bedroom image below, most of the furnishings have been used in this room, but adjusted and straightened into a slightly less lived-in space.

Another bedroom image in the same listing. This room needed a bit more professional support in terms of furnishings and decor in order to show this space to its best advantage.

Your broker and their professional stager/s and photographer/s are serious allies who can transform a home into an appealing property, and then also market the hell out of it, no matter what the market is doing.

A few more Before and After photos for your review. See if you can note what’s been kept and used in staging in both the Before and the After, if anything.

We’d love to take your Seattle home to market for you!

Turning a Home Into a Property: Marketing Your Listing for Sale

A great return on a property investment in Seattle still requires a bit of work and effort before we create a listing and take a home to market.

This is where timing and staging come in…and this is also a sweet spot for us here at Cloud City Homes. We recommend that all of our listing properties do a bit of sprucing up, work with a staging service and have professional photos taken to capture and keep attention.

Most of the sellers do elect to go with our recommendations and experience smooth and abundant transitions of ownership.

Below are a few “Before & After” snaps for your review.

The Befores are taken prior to staging, and not by a professional photographer.

The After shots feature staged rooms and the work of a pro in lighting, angles. You’ll see the difference right away.

 

cloud city homes real estate, bedroom before & after

 

Lets Talk about Paint

 

For every listing we do, 9 times out of 10, freshening up of paint is essential. Our trusty Painter, Mario, is fantastic…we love him so. How would you refresh your paint situation?

Painting is one of the least expensive ways you can make a home feel refreshed and provide a stellar first impression. If painting is on your “to-do” list, whether it is to get a home ready for the market or just to spruce up a room or two, there are some things you should consider:

  1. Color – If you are going to be moving in the near future, consider colors that are will appeal to the widest pool of buyers – usually neutrals. Note, neutral doesn’t necessarily mean boring and doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stick to white, beige, or the newest option, greige. However, choosing a color that buyers feel they can live with for a year or two will pull potential buyers in so they can see the structure of the rooms and layout themselves and not be jarred by the palette. A little color can be used, but the key is to keep the intensity of the colors down.
  2. Tape, tape, tape! – Sometimes it seems that at least half the time it takes to paint is taken up by taping off all the surfaces you don’t want painted. This step is critical and can save you hours of detailed clean-up down the road. Also, finding the right tape for the job and making sure it adheres properly to the surface is essential.
  3. Dropcloth – Even the best painters use a dropcloth, especially if they are using a roller. Small droplets of paint can fly off when rolling and can hit the floor or your furniture. The mess may need an easy wipe-up with wood floors or vinyl, but carpet and furniture is a different issue.
  4. The Right Tools – Once you have your area taped off and your dropcloth down, make sure you have the right tools in the room with you. You should avoid having to step away from the project to find something or even worse, have to make a run to the store. Do you have the right brushes, rollers, paint tray, something to hold a small amount of paint if you are up on a ladder or stepstool, wet paper towels if you need a quick wipe up?
  5. Sheen matters – Eggshell, satin, gloss, semi-gloss…it can all be very confusing. Sheen basically refers to the amount of light the finish will reflect once it is dried. Flat paint (which is a term most brands use) is usually the least reflective and high gloss is usually the most Paints with a higher sheen are usually more durable and can be wiped down. However, instead of choosing a paint sheen based on future wall maintenance needs, take a look at the wall first. Is the drywall riddled with pockmarks and texture inconsistencies? Drip marks from past paint jobs? In that case, consider choosing something with less sheen – even flat. The greater the reflection the more visible the defects. Furthermore, many higher-end paints are easier to clean, even with a flat finish.

One of the best things about paint is if you don’t love it, it isn’t difficult to make a change. If you are selling, don’t underestimate the power of paint. Paint well and enjoy the results! We would be happy to discuss your paint options with you. Please reach out at sarahgc@cloudcityhomes.com or shelleyg@cloudcityhomes.com

Improving Your Home’s Curb Appeal in Seattle

Your end-of-summer spruce-up checklist if you’re considering putting your house on the market …or if you just want to retain the value of your home. 

Let’s take advantage of the long summer days we have left! The following are a  few suggestions we often make during the summer selling cycle.

The exterior of your home

Power washing makes a load of difference. A good solid spray session to remove dirt and grime…as well as the dirt that looks like it may be mold…will make your house POP, especially if it’s been awhile since your neighbors power washed their homes.

Please do not power wash the roof. Instead, sweep or gently remove the moss that’s grown on your roof, and definitely clean out the gutters.

If you’ve got chipped paint, go ahead and fill that in or repaint.

Rotted wood or siding? It’s time to start replacing those too.

Give your front door a fresh coat of paint.

Wash your windows, inside and out. This task is actually a bit of a secret weapon, you’ll be amazed in how much better it looks and feels when the windows are sparkly and clear.

Let’s talk landscaping

Tidying up your yard and any landscaping will keep the house looking inviting and fresh. Don’t make the mistake of thinking, “I’m selling, so I’ll just let the yard ‘go'”.

A word about fences

If you have fences or fencing and it’s not adding to the beauty of your home, we suggest you fix, replace or remove it.

Just this summer we’ve had two listings that had chain link fence around the yard. We suggested, in both cases, that it be removed in order to open up and showcase the properties to their best advantage.

If you’d like a custom walk-through of your property or some specific suggestions, we’d love to pay you a visit and share our suggestions with you.

What’s your PMI Status? Are you still paying? Is it necessary?

These days, down payments can vary from 50% down all the way down to 5%. When you get to the 20% or less, you would be required to pay PMI or Private Mortgage Insurance. As time goes by and the market continues to sizzle, this might be temporary and you can actually change your monthly payment for the better.

Private Mortgage Insurance (or PMI) is an extra charge that banks require when the amount of a loan someone takes out to purchase or refinance a home causes the loan to value ratio to exceed 80%. This means that the buyer or owner has less than 20% equity in the home. The bank requires PMI in the event the homeowner forecloses or the market shifts and the buyer has to do a short sale.

PMI can range anywhere from .3% to 1.5% of the original loan amount per year according to Bankrate.com. It is usually paid as a separate line item as part of the mortgage payment. The PMI rate can vary according to size of down payment, credit score, and insurer.

Here is an example of how PMI can be assessed (each situation may differ):

Purchase Price: $500,000
Down payment: $40,000
Loan Amount: $460,000 or 92% of the purchase price
Annual PMI Premium: $2,300 (.5% of original loan amount)
Monthly Premium: $191.66

If you have been paying an extra charge for PMI each month, this is likely a charge you would like to be rid of. The great news is that home values in Seattle have been on the rise. Since in a conventional loan, the PMI rate must be cancelled when the loan-to-value ratio (appraised value/loan amount) drops below 78%, the rise in home values should be helping your situation.

In our above example, let’s say the homeowner bought the home three years ago in Seattle. Median sales prices have increased 16.1% in that time and although an appraisal of some sort would be required to determine market value, let’s assume that market value for this property has indeed increased 16% since purchase. That would mean that three years of payments plus appreciation would cause the PMI to no longer be needed:

Loan Balance: $432,000
Appraised Value: $580,000
Loan-to-Value Ratio: 74.5%

In this case, the PMI may have already been cancelled. However, if you have been paying PMI, have been paying down your mortgage principal, and prices have increased to the point where you think you shouldn’t be paying PMI, it may be time to ask your bank to reassess the situation since banks may not be aware of what is happening in our local market.

FHA loans work a little bit differently—an entire refinance may be in order. However, rates are still low (but are expected to rise). You may have a narrow window in front of you where the benefits of refinancing may be worth the refinance!

If you would like to know how prices have appreciated in your area so you are ready to reach out to the bank, we would be happy to help. Please give us a call, text, or email: 206-762-0682 or sarahgc@cloudcityhomes.com and shelley@cloudcityhomes.com.  

On Buying a Home in Seattle: Summer, Fall & Winter

It’s not all-about-Spring when it comes to rushing for real estate in Seattle. There are homes to buy during Summer, Fall and Winter.

We’ll share about why the “alt seasons” are good ones to find your home in Seattle. Especially if you are experiencing “Buyer Fatigue.” Watch the video now.

Top Dollar for Your Seattle House All Year Round

Spring is a common “rush” time for real estate.

But the “alt seasons” of Summer, Fall and Winter can also bring top dollar for your listing. The Seattle market has been a “seller’s market” for awhile now. Watch the video and check out the reasons why Summer, Fall and Winter make for great times to list and sell your property here.

Attention Home Buyers: Advice From a First Time Home Buyer Who Landed in Seatac

You’ve met Dawn, Katie & Dylan in previous videos. These 3 friends, all now snug in their new homes had radically different experiences with the rollercoaster-ride of the Greater Seattle market.

In this video, Dawn (pictured in the video on the far left side) shares more about her story. She actually made 4 offers before landing in the perfect-for-her home in quiet Seatac.

If you’re “feeling thwarted”, as Dawn recalls feeling herself, give this video a watch and know that you’re not alone, it can be really tough out there….and, as she says, “If you really want to buy a house you just have to keep looking.”

Dawn definitely shares more great suggestions and even a bit of the truths that were tough to hear, but proved true in her own experience.

Big thanks to all 3 of these good friends: Dawn, Katie and Dylan, for sharing your stories and giving insights to others navigating this rough-and-tumble Seattle real estate market right now.

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Meet Shane, Julia & Lily too: New Home Owners in West Seattle, Part 1

Shane, Julia & Lily (their rescue pup) have a fun story…and not to spoil anything, but it does have a happy ending. A happy ending that begins their lives in a home they love.

As new owners here in Seattle. Here’s Part 1 in a series of 2:

Ready for Part 2? 
Shane and Julia share more of their story and also a few words of encouragement to those of you, or those you may know, who are looking for their first or next home.

And check out the Wendkoses’ story, if you haven’t already.

I’d love to make sure you have an awesome Buyer’s Story too.