Mapping Seattle Real Estate Developments

Shaping Seattle Map ExampleThere are several map-driven sites to help people and businesses get informed on current real estate developments in Seattle. And  the main information source (City of Seattle DPD) is making it easier to get the most accurate and detailed information available.

ShapingSeattle logoThe Seattle City Department of Planning and Development now has a website called “Shaping Seattle” that is a dynamic map of all the active developments – from Early Design Guidance, to Completed Construction, and all the steps in between in the Project Timeline.  You can link back to the original Design Proposal or See all the project documents if you wish, something that once used to take someone hours of time going to the Seattle DPD Office downtown. You can even get a link to share on a specific project with all this info together on a page.

SeattleinProgress logo
There is another well-designed dynamic web-based map called SeattleinProgress.com. They offer more analysis through their blog and have a calendar that shows events chronologically. (like Design Review Board meetings). I like there color-coding that lets you know at a glance if a project has been just Applied for, Approved, or Completed. They also offer a paid Pro version. Although they are currently targeting commercial brokerages and the finance side of the industry, not residential brokers like myself.

Both of these sites can be extremely helpful to someone like me, who wants to keep abreast of developments in neighborhoods and how they may impact or benefit my clients. It seems every day as I drive around I see new construction projects starting up that I didn’t know about. Now I can quickly pull over, whip out my iPad and set a detailed summary of what it is in a matter of seconds. I’m sure many other individuals and businesses and the same interest and desire to know what’s going on when they see a site suddenly turn into a hole with a crane in it!

When DISALLOW Means Risk!

NO PRE-INSPECTIONS ALLOWEDIt’s come to my attention through real estate colleagues and the “Agent Remarks” on the NWMLS that several brokers are not allowing pre-inspections on their listings before Buyers offers are being reviewed (presumably in multiple offer situations, and with their Seller’s consent). I find this to be an odd approach. Our duty is to encourage Buyers to investigate and gain knowledge of any defects, and to not obstruct that opportunity. That should lead brokers to encourage their sellers to allow any inspections (within reason), as long as they are not intrusive or potentially damage the property in the process.

In a hot market like Seattle’s is now, many Buyers will be tempted to remove the inspection contingency in order to improve their odds when competing with multiple offers. Most agents understand this and try to create time and space for a pre-inspection to happen before the offer is presented so that Buyer gets a chance to inspect the property before waiving this condition. And the Seller gets an opportunity to receive stronger offers with the inspection contingency removed, because it has already been performed to the satisfaction of the Buyer. To DISALLOW pre-inspections just doesn’t make sense – it’s a lose-lose proposition.

I spoke to a MLS attorney about this and he suggested that it may be a way for Sellers who are trying to conceal or obfuscate defects. But if it is being done at the Brokers suggestion, they may be complicit in attempting to create a “Buyer Beware” environment, such as the case of Douglas vs. Visser a few years back. In that case, the Sellers were Real Estate Agents who tried to conceal substantial mold and defects. The Buyer did an inspection before purchasing the home, and the inspector pointed some minor rot and mold issues that these were not structural problems but should be repaired. The Buyer did nothing further and the transaction closed. After closing the Buyers found out the extent of the damage was so severe that the house needed to be torn down. Investigations revealed that the Seller had knowingly concealed the mold and rotting wood.  The Buyer sued the Seller for fraudulent concealment and negligent misrepresentation (remember the Sellers WERE REAL ESTATE AGENTS!) Shockingly, the Buyers lost in Appeals Court because the court upheld that the Buyer has a common law duty to investigate. Once the original inspector had pointed it out, they should have asked more questions, requested more testing, or investigated it more thoroughly till they were satisfied, according to the court.

To me, especially when I am representing the Buyer, I want Sellers and Brokers to be even MORE transparent and encourage ANY and ALL investigations that can answer my Buyers concerns. And I am very suspicious when Sellers or Sellers agents hesitate or disallow it. I can only assume they are not experienced, or God forbid, the opposite – they are intentionally trying to conceal something.

BUYERS:  If you run up against this in a listing you are thinking of making an offer on you should discuss it with your Broker. Even though it may reduce your chances of getting the home, waiting to have the inspection until after gaining mutual acceptance is always less risky that waiving the inspection altogether and not doing one. Maybe your Broker can have a discussion with the Listing Agent and they might be more flexible.

SELLERS: If your Listing Broker recommends you do this, ask him why?! Since this is not the standard of practice, find out what advantage he/she thinks this gives you. And ask him/her about any liability this may create for you. If you are not satisfied, SPEAK TO A LAWYER!!

Let’s hope the Real Estate Division of the Department of Licensing addresses this soon and stops this bad behavior in its tracks! I’m hoping they will see this odd practice as I do – another step backwards for consumers! (less transparency, more buyer-beware environment) Just my two cents. I am not qualified to give legal advice. So do not misconstrue anything in this article as legal advice.

What shape is your Doggie in

These days they do surveys for about everything. And Hotpads likes to see what trends are going on in cities around the US. One recent survey they did in collaboration with Whistle, shows that Seattle pooches get an average of 76.6 minutes of exercise a day. That sounds pretty good until you see the chart that shows we are number 6 in the country. That’s right. We were beat out by our southern neighbors, Portland for the number one position, substantially! Portland doggies get over 90 minutes of exercise per day.

dog_exercise_inforgraph-540x415

 

Portland is also leading in the number of dog parks nationally, although Seattle comes in at number two. Maybe in the near future there will be a doggie sport rivalry as well – like our soccer teams the Sounders and the Timbers. We will see.

Using WalkScores and Other Scores Together

Walkscore logo
Many people have heard of Walkscore.com, and use it to tout the “Walk-ability” of a neighborhood. It’s a bit of a fine line for agents to talk about this. “Walking distance” to or from a property is prohibited in marketing materials by Federal Fair Housing Laws based on non-discrimination requirements about disability. But without being biased, people want to know how close homes are to major amenities. And this is one of the ways people express that. So agents use Walkscore.com to share the information because it is just a statistical reference, not a judgement of value.

WalkScore.com webpage
What a lot of people don’t realize is that there are some other great neighborhood statistics at the same site. You can find about crime rates, public transit options, and the “bike-ability” of a neighborhood, or even a specific address. I imagine this will expand to include even more information as Zillow continues to dominate the real estate web space. There is a site for ParkScores (ParkScores.org) but it just gives macro information about cities as a whole. They don’t give specific neighborhood data, but do offer city maps that give you a good idea where parks are located and where there is a lack of them.

The trend is to be want to be closer to major amenities and home values reflect that. A recent article in Better Cities & Towns compares the increase in values in areas of less urban density, and more urban density. It’s clear that inner-city home values are escalating faster rate than outlying locations. But outlying areas with close-by amenities doing pretty well too.

Upcoming Home Buyer Education Class (updated)

Homebuyer ClassRhonda Porter and I will be teaching a Home Buyers Education Class on Saturday, November 8th, 2014 at the Greenwood Public Library. This class is sponsored by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.

Those who attend will learn a lot about the home buying process and will receive a certificate at the end of the class making them eligible for down payment assistance programs and other mortgage programs, such as Home Advantage, House Key Opportunity (state bond) and Home Possible MCC (Mortgage Credit Certificate) tax credits.


Lunch is provided (usually something like pizza). If you have special dietary needs or concerns, please bring a sack lunch.

When: Saturday, November 8th, 2014 from 11:00 am till 4:00 pm.
Where: Greenwood Public Library at 8016 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
Cost: FREE

Space is limited so click here to RSVP today!

We had Anthony Vincent in our videos before he went viral!

Anthony VincentViral videos are almost always rags-to-riches type stories, and Anthony’s story is too. He was one of Fiverr’s top rated sellers for his 10 Second Songs that he would produce for (starting at) $5. He is a master at turning a simple jingle into quality music and voice. So I hired him to do the intro for our Seattle Home Buyer Seminar promotional video. It’s a good thing I hired him when I did. Because about a month ago he created a video showing 20 different styles to sing a Katy Perry song, “Dark Horse” – and it went viral on YouTube. Not just sorta popular, I mean VIRAL! He currently has over 6 MILLION views and 197 THOUSAND subscribers, all within about a month period. It’s made him famous overnight. He’s been interviewed and published on The Rolling Stone’s website, offered to tour with Boyz II Men, asked to be on “America’s Got Talent” TV show, featured in the Entertainment section of the Huffington Post,and the list goes on-and-on. I knew when I first saw his work that my videos would get a much wider audience if I could have him in them. And sure enough they have. I’ve been able to re-use his intro jingles for all our Seattle Home Buyer Seminars. Here’s the one for our upcoming Seattle Home Buyer Seminar in July:

Economics Group – Special Commentary

Housing Chartbook: February 2014

Several Mortgage Professionals with Wells Fargo have sent me this report over the last couple of days. It’s a very thoughtful analysis of the near-term housing outlook based on historical data and near-term predictions using a number of factors. They look at GDP, energy and material costs, demographics and changing family makeups, multifamily and single family homes, both in rentals and ownership. These economist come from all over (NAR, Case-Shiller, Corelogic, NAHB, US Dept of Commerce, and Wells Fargo) to put their heads together to help get a picture of where we are and where we are going. This is detailed thoughtful stuff!

Questions between figuresThe short news is that these predictions and models are showing that things will be slowing down for a bit. But we shouldn’t see massive increases in interest rates either. These are very macro-economic national predictions and may not be reflective of our local real estate market here in Seattle. But it is helpful information all the same. There are tons of charts for those of you who like this sort of thing. I’ve put a PDF link to the report so you can download it.

Seattle Median Sales Price – by Heat Map or Charts

Both Zillow and Trulia offer some great tools for consumers. And they are mostly accessible without needing to register and get on a mailing list that clutters up your inbox. The one I like the most from Trulia is their Local Info Heat Maps. These maps help someone get a visual and geographical representation of the numbers. This can be extremely helpful to those not intimately familiar with the neighborhood names. You have several points of data at your disposal and Home sales prices and rental prices are two of them.

Trulia Heat Map

Zillow has a great feature that can give you historical values or “Zestimations” (based on their own algorithms) . These can be quite handy when looking for trends or comparing between areas. Just go to their “Local Info area” and drill down to the cities you want to see and compare. And then you can refine it further by neighborhood. Remember, these are mostly median numbers and sometimes they are off a good bit. Your REALTOR can get you more accurate evaluations based on your specific criteria. But for just side-by-side comparisons this can be a great tool to gauge where a market has been, and where it is going, in general terms. There are lots of other variables and data points to play and make charts with as. If you are a statistics person you will love this stuff. Let me know if you need deeper or more specific information!
Zillow Chart 2

New 2014 Home Buyer Class Offered in Green Lake

Greenlake Home Buyer ClassAre you thinking about buying a home for the first time? Do you want to learn more about the home buying process?

Rhonda Porter from Mortgage Master Service and I will be teaching a free Home Buyers Class on Saturday, February 1st 2014 at the Green Lake Library. First-time home buyers are such a pleasure to work with because of their enthusiasm and desire to better their lives through home ownership. I am honored to assist in that process anyway I can.

This class is sponsored by the Washington State Housing Finance Committee. Class participants are eligible for the programs offered through the WSHFC, like Home Advantage. In fact, in order to qualify for the WSHFC down payment assistance programs, a home buyer education is required.

WSHFC requires that the class is at least five hours, so we will be starting at 11:00 am and trying our best to end at 4:00 pm.

When: February 1st, 2014
Starting promptly at 11:00AM, ending at 4:00PM
Where: Green Lake Library
7364 East Green Lake Dr. N.
Seattle, WA 98115
Cost: Free
(Pizza lunch and snacks included. However, please bring a sack lunch if you have dietary issues.)

Although the class if free, space is limited. All parties who will be on the loan for a WSHFC program must attend an approved class. You do not need to be a first time home buyer to attend the class or to qualify for the Home Advantage Program, which offers down payment assistance up to four percent at zero interest with deferred payments for 30 years.

To sign up, call 253-234-2228 or Home Buyer Seminar.

Please feel free to share this information with anyone you know who is considering buying a home.

Time to Prepare for Year-end Homeowner Tax Deductions

House Energy RatingHomeowner Tip: Time to start thinking about how you are going to end your tax year with regard to home deductions. Some purchases and repairs need to be finished by end of year, and others just need to be started. Think about those energy-saving systems like furnaces and solar systems. Puget Sound Energy has a whole list of appliances that qualify for rebates, at least till the end of the year. Check into the state or federal tax credits and timelines – some may disappear at the end of the year as well.

Washington State Energy Tax Credits

Federal Energy Tax Credits