Should I Move or Remodel? Now That is a Good Question!

 

There are a number of things that can trigger the decision to remodel or move to a new home. Perhaps you have outgrown your current space, you might be tired of struggling with ancient plumbing or wiring systems, or maybe your home just feels out of date. The question is: Should you stay or should you go? Choosing whether to remodel or move involves looking at a number of factors. Here are some things to consider when making your decision.

Five reasons to move:

1. Your current location just isn’t working.

Unruly neighbors, a miserable commute, or a less-than-desirable school district—these are factors you cannot change. If your current location is detracting from your overall quality of life, it’s time to consider moving. If you’re just ready for a change, that’s a good reason, too. Some people are simply tired of their old homes and want to move on.

2. Your home is already one of the nicest in the neighborhood.

Regardless of the improvements you might make, location largely limits the amount of money you can get for your home when you sell. A general rule of thumb for remodeling is to make sure that you don’t over-improve your home for the neighborhood. If your property is already the most valuable house on the block, additional upgrades usually won’t pay off in return on investment at selling time.

3. There is a good chance you will move soon anyway.

If your likelihood of moving in the next two years is high, remodeling probably isn’t your best choice. There’s no reason to go through the hassle and expense of remodeling and not be able to enjoy it. It may be better to move now to get the house you want.

4. You need to make too many improvements to meet your needs.

This is particularly an issue with growing families. What was cozy for a young couple may be totally inadequate when you add small children. Increasing the space to make your home workable may cost more than moving to another house. In addition, lot size, building codes, and neighborhood covenants may restrict what you can do. Once you’ve outlined the remodeling upgrades that you’d like, a real estate agent can help you determine what kind of home you could buy for the same investment.

5. You don’t like remodeling.

Remodeling is disruptive. It may be the inconvenience of loosing the use of a bathroom for a week, or it can mean moving out altogether for a couple of months. Remodeling also requires making a lot of decisions. You have to be able to visualize new walls and floor plans, decide how large you want windows to be, and where to situate doors. Then there is choosing from hundreds of flooring, countertop, and fixture options. Some people love this. If you’re not one of them, it is probably easier to buy a house that has the features you want already in place.

 

Five reasons to remodel:

1. You love your neighborhood.

You can walk to the park, you have lots of close friends nearby, and the guy at the espresso stand knows you by name. There are features of a neighborhood, whether it’s tree-lined streets or annual community celebrations, that you just can’t re-create somewhere else. If you love where you live, that’s a good reason to stay.

2. You like your current home’s floor plan.

The general layout of your home either works for you or it doesn’t. If you enjoy the configuration and overall feeling of your current home, there’s a good chance it can be turned into a dream home. The combination of special features you really value, such as morning sun or a special view, may be hard to replicate in a new home.

3. You’ve got a great yard.

Yards in older neighborhoods often have features you cannot find in newer developments, including large lots, mature trees, and established landscaping. Even if you find a new home with a large lot, it takes considerable time and expense to create a fully landscaped yard.

4. You can get exactly the home you want.

Remodeling allows you to create a home tailored exactly to your lifestyle. You have control over the look and feel of everything, from the color of the walls to the finish on the cabinets. Consider also that most people who buy a new home spend up to 30 percent of the value of their new house fixing it up the way they want.

5. It may make better financial sense.

In some cases, remodeling might be cheaper than selling. A contractor can give you an estimate of what it would cost to make the improvements you’re considering. A real estate agent can give you prices of comparable homes with those same features. But remember that while remodeling projects add to the value of your home, most don’t fully recover their costs when you sell.

 

Remodel or move checklist:

Here are some questions to ask when deciding whether to move or remodel.

1.      How much money can you afford to spend?

2.      How long do you plan to live in your current home?

3.      How do you feel about your current location?

4.      Do you like the general floor plan of your current house?

5.      Will the remodeling you’re considering offer a good return on investment?

6.      Can you get more house for the money in another location that you like?

7.      Are you willing to live in your house during a remodeling project?

8.      If not, do you have the resources to live elsewhere while you’re remodeling?

If you have questions about whether remodeling or selling is a wise investment, we can help you.  Feel free to contact us.

Posted on March 14, 2019 at 6:16 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Category: Helpful Information, Strategy

Freshen Up Your Home for Spring

Whether you hire an outside professional for help, or tackle the project yourself, now is a great time to get a jump on spring cleaning. Many people wait for warmer temps to start cleaning, but I think most everyone can agree that those weekends would be better spent outdoors, soaking up that sun. So, take some inspiration from the list below to get you started now on freshening up your home for spring.

 

It will only take a few hours to check everything off this list, and you’ll feel so much better enjoying the last few weeks of winter, knowing that when the warmer weather finally comes, you can get outside and really enjoy it!

 

Rotate your mattress. Most mattresses need to be rotated regularly in order to even out the overall wear and prolong the lifespan of your bed. However, keep in mind that Sleep Number and Tempur-Pedic mattresses typically should not be rotated. Always check with your manufacturer for their recommendations on your specific mattress. If you own an older mattress with no pillowtop, it should probably be flipped as well as rotated.

 

Clean your mattress. Strip the mattress of all linens and covers. Start by vacuuming the mattress with the upholstery attachment, paying close attention to crevices and seams. Next, sprinkle baking soda (up to a one-pound box) all over the surface of your mattress. Let this sit for at least an hour, but 24 hours is best. Then go back over your mattress with your vacuum’s upholstery attachment again. If you have a steam cleaner, break it out and go over your whole mattress. The steam will reach further into the mattress than your vacuum is able to, and kills dust mites. *It is generally not recommended to clean memory foam with a steam cleaner.

 

Organize & clean the laundry room. Clean the outside of your washer and dryer; scrape any dried detergent from crevices. Next, clean the inside of the washing machine. Most newer models have a self-cleaning cycle. If you have an older machine that does not have a self-cleaning cycle, run a cycle with hot water and a quart of white vinegar. After it is finished, clean the detergent dispensers, using a vinegar and water solution and a scrubber. If you have a front-loader, be sure to clean the rubber seal on the door. This area is prone to mold growth, so use an all-purpose cleaner or maybe even bleach to get under and around the seal.

Next, organize a bit. Throw away products you never use, replace damaged sorting bins, and don’t forget to clean out the dryer vent to prevent a fire.

 Deep clean the fridge. Twice a year (or more), you should give your fridge a front-to-back, top-down scrubbing. Start by taking everything out and throw away anything that has expired. Next, remove all the shelves and drawers. Put them to soak in a solution of two tablespoons baking soda and one-quart hot water. While they are soaking, wipe down the interior of the fridge with the same solution. Then scrub, rinse and dry the shelves and drawers.

Next, dry the drip pan. Remove the base grill, and pull out the drip pan. If it’s full of water, mop it with paper towels and wash the pan with soapy water. If your drop pan is fixed in place, wrap a cloth around the head of a long-handled brush and use to clean the pan.

Don’t forget the coils. In order to keep your refrigerator running efficiently, unplug it, pull it away from the wall, and use a coil brush or your vacuum’s crevice attachment to clean the condenser coils. This should be done at least twice a year, unless you have pets in the home, and then you should do this three to four times a year.

 Clean out spice cabinet. Throw away all expired spices and seasonings. Not only do these lose taste, they actually harbor mold and bacteria.

 Clean out expired medications & vitamins If you have unused medications, please take them to your local pharmacy for proper disposal.

 Vacuum, wash, or steam window curtains

 Wash window blinds

 Add color to your table. Treat yourself to fresh flowers while waiting for the spring blooms outside.

 

Posted on February 20, 2019 at 12:06 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Category: Helpful Information, Just for Fun

Is Student Loan Debt a Threat to Home Ownership?

Over the course of the last thirty years, a shift has happened. An entire generation has been raised to believe that a college education is their key to unlocking opportunities that were not available to their parent’s or grandparent’s generations.

Due to this, student loan debt has soared to $1.5 trillion and represents the largest category of debt, surpassing credit card and auto loan debt in 2010 and never looking back. As more and more Americans continue their education amongst rising tuition costs, this number will no doubt increase.

Many housing experts have blamed student loans for a drop in the homeownership rate for young families, and to an extent, they’ve been right. Increased debt at the time of graduation has no doubt limited young people from being able to afford a home at the same rate as their parents or grandparents did at the same age.

In a recent Forbes article, the author explained that “in just the class of 2017, the average student has about $40,000 in debt — almost enough for a 20% down payment on a median-priced home.”

The Federal Reserve set out to determine exactly how much impact student loan debt has had on the homeownership rate of those 18-34 (millennials). Their results found that,

Every $1,000 in student loan debt delays homeownership by about 2.5 months, but it doesn’t prevent homeownership entirely.

 In fact, by the time college grads reach their 30s, those with student loan debt have a homeownership rate nearly identical to those who didn’t take out loans.” (emphasis added)

In the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the Fed report, they found that recent graduates prioritize paying off their student loans over saving for a down payment, despite their desire to be a homeowner. Many with debt want to “get that monkey off (their) back (before they) make any new investments.”

This has just delayed the wave of young home buyers from hitting the market. But as Danielle Hale, the Chief Economist at realtor.com warns,

“2020 will be peak millennial, the year when the largest number of millennials will turn 30.”

 By age 30, those who attained a bachelor’s degree right after high school will be one or two years away from paying off their loans and will have been in their career long enough to earn a higher salary.

In the long run, research shows that attaining a bachelor’s degree or more actually increases the chances that someone will become a homeowner.

Bottom Line

If you are one of the many millennials who has prioritized paying down your student loans over saving for a down payment, you’re not alone. Even if you are a couple years away from paying off your loans, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you determine if waiting really is the best decision for you!

 

Posted on January 30, 2019 at 12:43 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Category: Helpful Information, Statistical Information

Tips for Moving Into a Smaller Home as a Senior

Are you a senior moving or downsizing?

A Great article written By Michael Longsdon

For many seniors, there comes a time when the expense and upkeep of a big home no longer seem realistic. All of your kids have moved out, and suddenly, your multi-bedroom house feels excessively large and empty. Plus, it may be difficult to keep up with mortgage payments if you’re expecting a lower income during retirement. Whether downsizing is a financial necessity or an emotional decision, here’s how to tackle the process without getting overwhelmed.

Do Online Research

Before you start looking at houses in person, narrow down your options by doing some research online. Search the local housing market on sites such as Redfin to get a feel for house prices in your desired area. For example, homes in Seattle, Washington have sold for an average of $685,000during the past month. Explore listings in your preferred size range and location so you can come up with a realistic budget for your new home.

Think far ahead as you look at homes, considering the possibility that the needs of you and your spouse may change over time. One-story homes can be much more accessible for you and your friends down the line. You should also take time to research the neighborhood and pay attention to the house’s proximity to grocery stores, leisure centers, and public transportation.

Plan for Your Storage Needs

If you’re moving to an apartment or condo, you may not have the attic, basement, or even the closet space that you’re used to. Look for a nearby for an affordable self-storage unit so you aren’t left crowding boxes and furniture into your new home. Some simple online research can help you find the best deals in your area. In the last 180 days, for instance, self-storage units in Seattle, Washington cost an average of $88.45 per month.

Go Through Your Possessions Methodically

One of the hardest parts about downsizing is getting rid of things you’ve had for decades. Apartment Guide recommends looking at pictures of clutter-free rooms in magazines for inspiration before starting your own purge. This will mentally prepare you for getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need cluttering up your new, smaller space.

As you declutter, go room by room and sort items into no more than five piles: keep, donate, sell, gift, and throw away. Don’t be afraid to let go of things that are useful but not particularly necessary in your own life. Likewise, don’t keep things out of obligation or feelings of guilt. While you’re cutting the clutter, keep a floor plan of your new home nearby so you can plan out your rooms and ensure your furniture will fit. If you’re worried about accurately measuring your space, you can hire a professional to help you out.

Pack Like a Pro

Protect your items during your move and make them easier to unpack later by trying out some expert packing tips. For example, socks make great padding for glasses and mugs, while oven mitts are perfect for transporting knives a little more safely. Secure entire desk drawers and kitchen storage trays with plastic wrap for much faster unpacking later. Also, keep your clothing on hangers and simply slip a garbage bag over them for protection. Remember to pack an essentials box of everything you need during your first day and night in your new house.

Follow a Moving Checklist

There is a lot to remember to do before moving day. For example, you need to update your mailing address with the post office, find a new doctor, and transfer your utilities. Follow a moving checklist (or hire a senior move manager for around $316 per day) to avoid forgetting important tasks. One of your moving tasks should involve researching moving companies at least two months before your move. This gives you plenty of time to find the help you need within your budget. Learn about how to spot rogue moving companies so you can avoid being scammed, especially if you’re moving long distance.

Moving is exhausting for anyone. But moving into a smaller home can be especially emotional as you say goodbye to personal objects that have surrounded you for much of your life. For this reason, it’s important to take things slow while you sort through your possessions and search for the perfect place to spend your golden years.

 

Mr. Longsdon provides advice to seniors on downsizing and aging in place and can discuss concerns like tackling home accessibility modifications, how to find a great contractor, the benefits of aging in place, and more.​

 

Posted on January 19, 2019 at 12:05 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Category: Helpful Information

Keeping Price Growth in Perspective

Opportunities Abound for both Buyers and Sellers

How’s the market?  This is a question we get all the time. It is a common segue in casual conversation over the neighbor’s fence, at a cocktail party or family gathering. Now more than ever, the answer to this question is critical, yet fascinating. You see, our market is experiencing a long-awaited correction, a tempering of price appreciation. This is providing great opportunities for both buyers and sellers.

For so long, inventory has been so limited that prices have had nowhere else to go but up, and up fast! In May, we saw the largest jump in new listings in a decade, which created a slowdown in month-over-month price appreciation. This was especially exacerbated due to the scarcity of inventory in the first quarter of the year when many jobs were being filled by big companies in the area, skyrocketing demand. The graphs above illustrate the price growth in both King and Snohomish Counties. If you average out the last 12 months and compare to the previous 12 months, prices are up 14% in King County and 13% in Snohomish County. Due to a large increase in inventory and other factors, we have seen prices start to balance out since May.

Additional factors that play into this healthy adjustment on the run-up of prices are interest rates, affordability, and Seattle summertime. First, interest rates have been dancing. They have climbed over a half a point from a year ago, which has been coupled with double-digit price growth, forcing many buyers to take a step back. Bear in mind that interest rates are still under 5% and well below the 30-year average of 6.61%. This must be taken to heart!

Affordability has been a huge factor that played into the reduction of absorption rate once the increase in new listings hit this Spring. This was especially true in King County. Prices peeked so far this year at $725,000 in April, whereas they peeked in Snohomish County at $510,000 in June. This is simple supply and demand, as buyers have had more selection. Further, many buyers turned their heads north to find a more affordable option while still sustaining a manageable commute.

The bottom line is that it just got too expensive for some to make King County their home, even Snohomish County for that matter. Combine that with an influx of selection, and you find the top of the market so far in 2018. This is not a bad thing! We must keep the double-digit, year-over-year price appreciation in perspective, and trust that the market factors which led to prices balancing out are healthy. A typical appreciation rate is 3-5%. Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, predicts that we will finish out 2018 with 7-8% appreciation over 2017, which is well above the norm of 3-5%. Sustainable growth is important to the overall health of our economy and culture; this provides opportunity.

Buyers take heed. As we come out of the Seattle summertime seasonal slowdown, we anticipate a little run on new listings in September and October. Note on the graph above that we seasonally see prices peek in the late spring and early summer, due to many folks taking time to enjoy the summer months traveling and relaxing a bit. If you have been a sidelined buyer or have been thinking about making a move, the remainder of 2018 may be your time to enjoy more selection, still-low interest rates, and the chance to secure the best home for your lifestyle.

Interest rates are still attractive (historically attractive) and are predicted to rise. Plus, selection has increased, making negotiations not as intense. Multiple offers are not always the norm these days, which provides some breathing room for luxuries like inspections and relying on the bank’s appraisal to confirm value. Also, if you are a buyer that needs to sell a home first in order to purchase, this environment is much more forgiving. Believe it or not, we have even started to see contingent offers make a comeback.

This was one reason why we saw such a limit on inventory, because folks were not able to make fluid moves, so they just uncomfortably stayed put. It was the many baby boomers who came to market this spring and summer who relocated out of the area that loosened this up, paving the way for the local first-time, move-up, or move-down buyer to have some opportunity to transition.

So what does all this mean for potential sellers? Well, a lot! The word of the day is perspective. You must keep a close connection to the double-digit, year-over-year price appreciation we have seen over the last three years, and come to terms with today’s balancing out. Great equity gains are behind every homeowner who has owned their home since 2012. If that equity has been cared for, there are large profits to turn, even though you might not get multiple offers. All it takes is one good buyer for a successful sale!

It is all about what is motivating you. If a move seems interesting or imminent, chances are you can take that equity and turn it into something that better matches your current lifestyle. This is where a detailed assessment of the features of your home, along with an analysis of market conditions can be developed into a winning strategy. This does not come easy and requires in-depth research, close attention to condition and comparable homes, and outstanding marketing and merchandising.

Where I have seen the most opportunity is when sellers partner up and listen to the professional assessment of all of these factors. It often leads to satisfying results with one buyer, or believe it or not, the occasional multiple offer. Our market is exciting, but it takes skill to set level expectations, which leads to positive results.

If you or someone you know is curious about “How’s the Market?”, please reach out. Education and explanation are key to awareness, which leads to clarity. I love what I do and look forward to the opportunity to serve during this changing time. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions.

Posted on October 1, 2018 at 9:13 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Category: Helpful Information, Uncategorized

Are You Ready For an Emergency? We can help!

Two Weeks Ready: Be Prepared. Build Kits. Help Each Other.

The first few days after a disaster are often the most critical. Government and essential services may not be available right away, depending on the circumstances. It is imperative to have a plan in place for such a time, and be ready to act on your own.

Washington’s biggest disaster threat is from earthquakes. Washington State’s Emergency Management Division advises that we take precautions to be on our own for at least 2 weeks. Take a look at their Two Week Ready Brochure (PDF) that outlines the basics necessary for your emergency kit. While it is important to get ready, don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. The list of necessities is long, so take a look at the agency’s year-long prep plan. You will also find information on pet preparedness, as well as the agency’s Drop, Cover, and Hold Earthquake Scenario map.

Emergency Preparedness 1.png

 

Posted on September 28, 2018 at 7:28 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Category: Helpful Information