Thursday, January 25, 2007

Q: My husband and I are trying to decide between two houses to buy.

The first one is small but it's an old cottage that we could fix up really cute. The other is a larger, newer house but it's just so plain and boring that I can't imagine living there. The first house is too small for our family, but it looks so sweet. The second house has room to spare but it's ugly. In our price range there really hasn't been anything else for a long while so we think that we should settle on one of these. Any ideas?

A: I support remodeling an older house as a way to save the resources required to build new and to make older housing stock more energy-efficient. But, particularly since you have a limited budget, I say go for the ugly, newer house! An older home may be "cute" but it probably needs major infrastructure repairs and upgrades. An older house can easily need new double-pane windows, more insulation, an upgraded furnace or water heater, roof or foundation work, and new appliances. All this will cost a lot without giving you the extra space you need.

Ugly is easier! Paint can go a surprisingly long way to making a house attractive. You can add decorative exterior trim, upgrade the interior finish work, add new appliances, and create a nicer landscape. You can do this over time as you can afford it. I've seen many an "ugly duckling" turned into a "swan" with a little imagination and some sweat equity.

Don't forget that a newer house will probably have decent insulation, double-pane windows, and other energy saving features to start with. I recommend that you do the work yourselves to get more "bang for your buck", and also, keep to a budget. When you are finished, you will not only make it a nicer home to live in for yourselves, but you will greatly increase the home's value.

Remember to look for "green" products to make your home more energy efficient and a safer environment. I have a list of resources for "green" building, so please don't hesitate to contact me for this information.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Q: We want to buy a home on Vashon this year.

We’ve been reading about all the foreclosures around the country and are looking forward to getting a real deal. Prices are really dropping everywhere so we think this is a great time to buy. Should we wait until mid-spring and see if prices really go down, or start looking now?
A: Since Vashon is a “boutique” market you may find that there will be no real “deals” here. The market has indeed “softened” and is adjusting to national economic realities. On Vashon that just means that prices are stabilizing rather than going up. Sellers can’t expect huge jumps in value the way we’ve seen it in the last couple of years. However, that doesn’t mean that prices will be going down.
As for foreclosures, those are rare here. Most people facing foreclosure put their house on the market prior to having the bank take it over. We have witnessed only a few foreclosures over the last 10 years and those resulted in the bank becoming the seller. Frankly, banks and lending institutions are often more difficult to deal with than the original owners, so it’s best if the current owners put their house on the market before there is a real possibility of foreclosure.
As for the best time to buy, that should be determined by your needs. It’s an active market now, even in the dead of winter. There will be more inventory in the spring but the main issue is finding a home that best fits your needs regardless of time of year. That can often take awhile since there is always a small selection of houses in each price range.
I would suggest that if you want to shop for a good deal, you begin shopping for the best financing package. That can ultimately mean more in terms of savings to you than a few thousand dollars difference in price. I’d be happy to make some recommendations of lenders I trust and have worked with in the past. Just give me a call at 463-4060.