Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Q: I’m so intrigued with the little cabins and cottages on the water that are listed on Vashon.

Some of them seem really cheap! I know it’s just sort of a dream in my price range to think I could afford waterfront but I wonder why some seem priced so low?

A:  Many people have that cute, small, waterfront cottage dream. In general, you need to be well over $400,000 to get something that has relatively few problems. In the lowest price ranges there are usually septic issues, landslide hazards, water problems, poor construction, poor condition, etc. It is often impossible to get a loan on these places.

If you can qualify for a rehab loan and can afford the cost of fixing it up as well as the purchase price, it might work for you. You also need to know that many of these less expensive places are walk ins. That’s the term we use when you can’t drive to the house. You park somewhere, often far from the house, and use a trail or path to get to the place. That can be fine for summer when there is sunlight until late in the evening, but it’s very hard during the rest of the year. A long, slippery, unlighted dirt trail that can wash out in bad weather isn’t ideal for year round living.

I know I sound negative. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to these little cabins and cottages. Historically, many where thrown together as a place to spend a month in the summer. They weren’t maintained or improved. No one considered that folks in the future might want to live there all year. We’ve had a few actually fall into Puget Sound. Several have been destroyed by landslides or flooding.

I’d recommend finding a structurally sound home not on waterfront and then save up for the day when you can afford to spend more on a waterfront home. Once you get into a higher price point you are generally looking at a more substantial house with fewer problems.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some Quick Tips To Get Ready For Winter!

(Many people have asked me to run this the first part of November every year)

1. Clean the gutters! Water can penetrate into your walls and roofing and cause serious mold problems. Frozen water creates a dam that will flood once it warms.

2. If you haven’t done it already, call the heating and cooling contractors and have your furnace serviced and cleaned for the year. This is critical if you use a fuel like oil, propane or natural gas. This makes your furnace safer, but also saves you big bucks by running more efficiently.

3. Be sure you’re ready for power outages. Battery powered or propane lamps are good, also a battery powered radio for weather news. Have extra blankets handy. Never use propane, gas or charcoal grills or other such devises in the house.

4. Clean decks and walkways now so the moss build-up won’t be too slippery. Consider putting non-skid strips or outdoor carpet on slick wood decks or stairs.

5. Look around your yard for objects that can get lost under a few inches of snow. You don’t want to lose the dog’s favorite ball and you sure don’t want to step on a rake you forgot was there!

6. Be sure your car is serviced and checked out for winter driving. Install new windshield wipers. Have ice scrapping tools in the car and keep water, a flashlight and a warm blanket in the trunk in case you get stranded.

7. Try not to use portable electric heaters in the house and if you must, unplug them when you leave home. They can cause fires. So can holiday lights and Christmas trees. Turn them off when you leave the house.

8. Clean dryer vents.

9. Have a supply of warm coats, hats and gloves for each member of the family. Also be sure to have a good supply of food and water for power outages.

10. Have the chimney cleaned if you use wood heat, even occasionally. Fireplaces and woodstoves are a major source of house fires.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Q: We were disappointed that you didn’t show us that little farm we saw on the Internet.

It sold fast, we know, but we would have liked to buy it. Is there some reason you didn’t want us to see it?

A: Like many very old houses on the Island, this one was in such poor shape that the value was totally in the land. The reason I didn’t call you to see it is that you would not have been able to get a loan to buy this place. It would have required a rehabilitation loan at least, and I’m not sure the structure would hold up to a rehab. It’s likely that the folks who bought it are going to build another house on the land.
Buyers often forget that it’s the bank that is really buying the house, in a manner of speaking. You get to live there but only as long as you make payments on that home loan. Because of that, lenders can refuse to loan on a house that’s in really poor shape. Especially if you’re making a small down payment, the lender will look more closely at the house.
Years ago it wasn’t as hard to buy a fixer, but it’s difficult now. Even if you qualified for a rehabilitation loan, you would have to qualify for the total financial package. That would include the cost of buying the property and adding the bids for fixing it up. Let’s say the house is $300,000 and you get bids to do the required major repair work of $85,000. The lender would loan you $385,000, so you would have to qualify for that much.
In your case, you are approved for just under $300,000 so we need to find you a home in as good a condition as possible for the money. That may mean you won’t get a lot of land. But in the end you will have a home of your own and I can promise you that any property on Vashon is big enough for a great garden and some chickens!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Q: My mom passed away a few months ago and I want to sell her home. I’ve spent endless hours clearing the place out and getting it cleaned up.

A neighbor stopped by to say how sorry he was that I lost my mom and told me that he had always wanted to buy the house. He explained that he and my mom had an unwritten agreement that he would have the first chance to buy it. He seemed really firm about his position and offered me a really low price to buy it. Do I have an obligation to sell to him?

A:  You will need an attorney to verify your position, but my guess is that without a written agreement you have no obligation to this neighbor. Verbal and handshake agreements are usually not enforceable, particularly when it comes to real estate. People have to learn that if they really want to agree to something, they need to put it in writing and record it with the County. In addition, even if he produces a “right of first refusal” agreement, he would still be expected to pay you what any “ready, willing and able” buyer would pay.

I suggest you consult an attorney, and also have an appraisal done on the property. That could save you time and trouble later. You should also do an inspection on the property. That way you can discover any major defects that would cause a buyer to ask for a price reduction, major repairs or even walk away from the sale. So then you’re ready to put it on the market and get it sold.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Q: We had a really great time looking at houses with you and we're excited about moving to Vashon.

I guess the only hesitation is that it really is an island. It feels like a big deal to have to take the ferry every time you want to go shopping. We work from home so we don’t really have to commute, but I’m used to taking the kids and going out to eat or to a park or to a mall. How do people adjust?

A:  First, you need to spend more time on the island. Most of us find everything we need right here on Vashon. Our local stores and shops offer pretty much everything we need or want. You don’t know that yet because you haven’t really shopped here. The Island is filled with wonderful parks, open space, trails, beaches and recreational opportunities so I wouldn’t worry about where to take the kids.

We have a small number of restaurants and cafes but they are diverse and good. Everybody has their favorite place to eat. It may take you awhile to go through “mall withdrawal” but it will be healthier for your family. After awhile you won’t miss the hype, the crowds, the mile wide parking lots or the impersonal atmosphere. We have a variety of stores here selling most of what you need. An occasional off Island shopping trip can be a fun adventure, especially when it is a special event once a month, not a daily activity.

  I rarely leave the Island. There just isn’t all that much reason to go. You need to spend some time shopping here and getting to know what we have to offer. Talk to local shopkeepers. If they don’t have what you want, most are happy to find it for you. Talking to folks around town is a good way to get to know our community and make some real connections. You’ll also want to check out the medical services, library, parks, and schools as well as shopping. I think you’ll be surprised!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I’m so confused. I’ve been looking for a house with you for a long time, and I feel bad about that.

I don’t want to waste your time. But just about the time I finally decide I like a place it either sells, or my friends talk me out of it. I know they’re just trying to help but everyone bombards me with advice. Resale value, location, condition of the house, color of the place, and even doing Tarot readings. How will I ever really find a home?

A:  The easy answer is that you need to make up your own mind. Part of the duty I personally accept when working with buyers, is to help them avoid real mistakes. I’ve always cautioned you about places that would be expensive to maintain, need too much work, have a really bad location for re-sale, or have what I call “fatal flaws”.

Beyond that, it’s really what makes you happy. You have to ask yourself things like: When you’re in the house and on the property does it feel like a good fit? Will the space work for your hobbies and interests? Can you entertain there easily, which I know you enjoy, and is it relatively simple to maintain? Since you live alone and work at a stressful job, you want somewhere that gives you peace and relaxation.

I had a client very much like you several years ago. He was being pulled in all directions by his friends and coworkers “good advice”. One weekend we looked at a place he really loved. It worked well for him in every way. This time he didn’t call any of his friends. He wrote up an offer and it was a done deal before he even mentioned to anyone. He’s still there, years later, and he still loves it. Since his friends didn’t have any influence in the matter, they accepted his choice and they all love it too. He always has his pals from the city staying here. Trust yourself and know that I’ll be there to help along the way.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Q: My husband told me not to write to you but I just have to say a few things.

We appreciated your time last weekend showing us houses, but the homes here are just not up to the standards we expected.  We are also looking on the Kitsap Peninsula and have seen several homes that are twice as nice as what you showed us.  We were also a little taken aback by the way you and the other Islanders we saw were dressed.  Casual is one thing but you were just not dressed for business and the community people we saw all looked like a bunch of hippies.  I thought you’d appreciate the feedback.

A:  The fact is that our prices are now and always have been higher than most of the Kitsap. I send folks over there when their budget just won’t stretch far enough to buy here. I’m not proud that our prices are higher, it’s just a fact. We have some lovely homes for sale right now; they are just out of your price range.
   As for my casual dress, I will agree that I am no “clothes horse”.  In fact in these warmer summer days, most of us are in short sleeve shirts and light weight pants.  If you expected all the realtors to be in  branded blazers and high heels you are definitely on the wrong island.  This is a casual place.  People move here so that they don’t have to wear suits and ties, dresses and heels.  In fact there are times of the year when I suspect that warm ups are almost a uniform here.

Vashon Island is a place where “hippies” can be comfortable and we are accepting of differences. Many of these “hippies” as you call them; have day jobs as lawyers, doctors, accountants, tech wizards, and famous artists. They live here so that they can be real and to be themselves.

I’m sure you’ll be very happy in one of the cities on the peninsula. There are several nice places where everybody dresses appropriately, and they cut their grass weekly.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Q: You just sent my mother to another agent to work with. What are you thinking?

I made it a point to introduce her to you and really wanted her to work with you. You did a great job for us when we moved here and we expected that you’d welcome working with our family. Mom is ready to make an offer and I can’t imagine why you would pass her on to someone else. I’m really disappointed and upset. 

A:   As I explained to your mother, I want to avoid the appearance of a serious conflict of interest in the case of the home she wants to buy. I’ve been on the Island over 25 years and know a lot of people. If the seller of a home on the market is a close friend I won’t usually represent a buyer for that home. I want to be fair to my buyer clients and negotiate in their best interests, but if the seller is a close friend of mine someone might suspect I am really looking out for the seller.

I sent your mom to another broker whom I trust and believe will do a good job representing her. This way there is no appearance of a conflict of interest. I often am acquainted with the sellers of property here, but I feel I can represent a buyer anyway. However, if the seller is a close friend, it could look like a conflict of interest.

In our state it’s totally legal for a real estate broker to represent both parties in a transaction. I simply don’t believe that you can represent both sides of a transaction fairly. That’s why I’ve chosen to only work with buyers all these years. Many states don’t allow duel agency and I agree with them. I don’t fault brokers who do it, that’s their right and their decision, but for me I’d rather pass up a sale than have anyone doubt my loyalty. Maybe I’m too self righteous, but it has to feel right to me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Q: I am really keen on adding solar panels to our house but my husband says they will not add value to the house when it’s time to sell. He says it takes years to get payback on solar energy.

I’m discouraged but I really love the idea of free energy from the sun. Any comments?

A:  First, let me say that solar panels do, indeed, add value to your home. Particularly in the Northwest and even more so on Vashon Island, buyers are aware of alternative energy sources and value solar power. Homes that have the panels are far more impressive and desirable to buyers, and they will pay more. According to recent studies by the National Bureau of Economic Research and another one by the University of California at Berkeley’s Lawrence National Laboratory, among others, solar panels have a “sizable” impact on the sale price of homes. People will pay more for homes equipped with solar panels.

We just had an energy fair here on the island a few weeks ago. If you had attended, you would have met many experts. You also would have had a chance to talk to some local folks about how much they are saving on their month to month energy bills with solar panels. Our local credit union offers special loans for installation of solar panels and several local businesses sell and install them. They can all help convince your husband that this is a good idea. You will also be doing your part to end our dependence on oil.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Q: We were told there were several other buyers interested in the house we recently bought, so we put in an offer for a bit more than asking price and waived the inspection contingency.

Now that we’ve moved in we’re finding all kinds of things wrong. My father-in-law was here from Ohio and told us we were fools for buying what he called a "pig in a poke". He also said that some of the repairs needed could be expensive. I’m just sick about it. We feel that our agent pressured us and we wonder if you think he would be responsible for paying for some of the repairs.

A:  To get a definitive answer to your question about your agent’s responsibilities you should consult an attorney. I don’t know the details of your transaction and I’m not a lawyer, but I know that it’s always tempting to find someone else to blame when we make a bad decision. I never advise someone to buy a home without an inspection. However, a pre-inspection can be a good compromise. That’s when you have a quick inspection before making your offer. That way you know what you’re getting and can drop the inspection contingency if you still want to buy the home.

For now, I would recommend you get an inspection so that you have a detailed list of work orders. Discuss these with the inspector and the contractor you choose. Prioritize the work to be done and get to it. My concerns are always the roof, crawl space or basement, and electrical. These are the most important, in my experience. If any of these need attention get that work done as soon as possible.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Q: We did as you suggestedand applied to a lender to get our pre-approval for a loan.

I can’t believe everything the lender wants from us! They asked for two years of tax returns, two months of our pay stubs, money to pay for a credit check, all of our bank statements for a couple of months and the latest reports of our IRA’s and any other savings or investments. Is that legal? Can they sell that information?
Is it safe? Do they all do that?

A:  All lenders will ask for this information. They need it to get a complete picture of you financially. Many of the stricter standards for lending are a result of the melt down we experienced that started the recession. Lenders were making shaky loans to people who really couldn’t afford to pay them back. The banks didn’t ask for sufficient documentation and we are all still paying the price for those mistakes.

There are privacy policy statements in the paperwork you probably received from the lender. Check through it and I’m sure you’ll discover that they are protecting your privacy. They won’t be selling the information and will share information only with those entities that need it to complete the application.

I think it’s a good idea for everyone to have their financial documents organized and easily accessible in one file. Part of the “hassle” of applying for a loan for most people is the process of having to dig through their stuff to find all the paperwork. If we all organized this information it would be easy to keep it updated and handy.

Getting pre-approved is such an important step to take before you even begin to look for a home. Once you are finished with that process you’ll have a better idea of what you can afford to spend on a home and what your monthly housing costs will be. Remember to add tax and insurance to the principal and interest payments to get a true picture of your mortgage payment

Monday, May 07, 2012

Q: We were out with you a week ago and saw several homes, but are very disappointed with the choices thus far.

So many homes are not well built.  When do you expect a few better places will become available?

A:  First, let me say that there is no way to really know what homes or how many will become available, or their price.  Also keep in mind that we sell only about 100 homes a year on Vashon so the selection will always be small.

  In addition, I think you may be getting confused about terminology.  Most homes are built to the code that was in effect when the homes was constructed.  Basically a 2 X 4 is a 2 X 4. In other words, basic construction is very similar from one house to the next. Of course the condition of each house reflects the care it’s been given over time. From your comments during our showings I would guess you are really talking about finish work. A floor that is carpeted is just as structurally sound as one with another types of flooring, it just looks different. If the flooring is bamboo or slate, tile or hardwood it’s a more expensive floor but not necessarily a better constructed floor.

Finish work often costs at least a third of the price of building a home. It’s common that people who are building don’t save back enough money for fine finish work so they settle for less expensive cabinets, floor coverings and fixtures. These are things that can be up graded later. The home is still a well built place to live.

The higher the price, in most cases, the better quality the finish work will be. But even in high end homes the taste of the current owners may not be to your taste at all. The house could have beautiful, expensive woodwork, trim and fixtures and you would still want to change them. I would recommend you get a home in as good a basic condition as you can afford and then add your special touches later

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Q: I am due to close on the sale of my house in a few weeks. I think that I've done everything that the buyers and agents have asked me to do.

Now they are telling me I have to install carbon monoxide alarms in the house.  I have a 100% electric house!  I don't have any gas appliances or anything.  So what's the big deal?

A:  Beginning April 1st of this year all homes sold will have to have CO,carbon monoxide alarms installed.  They are not expensive and everyone should have them in their home anyway.  It doesn't matter that your home is all electric.  Use of fossil fuel heating (oil, natural gas and propane) is common here and should be a priority for this alarm, which notifies residence that there is a leak of carbon monoxide in the house.  It doesn't smell and you can't see it so it really is a silent killer.

  Sadly, the main reason that even all electric homes have to install the alarm is due to people operating portable heaters in their homes when their power is off.  People die every year from CO poisoning mainly from propane or kerosene heaters being used inside the house or even gas barbeque's!  Once again we have to have a new law trying to protect us from our own ignorance.

  Over 4,000 people go to emergency rooms every year to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.  They're the lucky ones.  400 per year die.  I know it's an extra expense but it's worth it.  Spending a few dollars to save someones life is an investment worth making, don't you think?

  I should add that the smoke alarms have been mandatory in homes for a long time and yet, I still see homes without them.  Some of these homes even have small children living there.  These are simple things we can all do to protect our families.  Congratulations on your sale, by the way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Q: Last spring you told us that our house was worth about $415,000 to $420,000.

You gave us a list of things to do to get ready to go on the market this spring and now the listing agent we've chosen to work with is saying that number is too high.  She wants us to list it at $375,000.  We're really upset that you gave us a higher figure and with that number in mind we spent money fixing things up.  We're going to barely get what we owe on it if we sell at her lower price.

A:  There are several reasons why the listing broker would come up with a lower figure.  First, our market did take a drop of about 9% last year, particularly in the lower price ranges.  In addition, and this is far more important, the appraisers have to work from those comparable sales that have happened in the preceding six months.  If there have been few sales that are comparable, or if a couple of properties sold for a great deal less, it will bring down the appraisal on your property. 

  The reason the appraisal is so critical is that most buyers will be getting a mortgage.  The lender will do an appraisal and that's what they will loan.  Even if a buyer falls in love with your place and is willing to pay more, the lenders will not finance more.  Your listing broker was probably looking at the current comparable sales that an appraiser will find.  That helped her come up with a price that was reasonable given our current market.

  As for the work that you did on the place, you would be looking at an even lower asking price if those repairs had not been made.  Buyers are picky.  They don't want to buy a place and then be looking at thousands of dollars of repair work.  Cosmetic changes, like paint color or floor coverings are expected by most buyers, but fixing leaking plumbing, dealing with a flooding basement or putting on a new roof are not.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Q: We've really enjoyed going out to look at houses with you and you've had good answers for all of our questions.

However, you don't seem to be willing to talk about why the sellers are selling.  Is that some sort of confidential information you can't talk about?  How else can we find out?

A:  There are a couple of answers to your question.  the first is that unless I know the sellers, or the listing agent has shared the reasons for the sale, I wouldn't know the reasons for selling.  That is not information that the listing broker has to share with the other brokers.

  In addition, the reason for selling is really irrelevant, in my opinion.  We have a tiny number of sales here every year and most of them are due to death, divorce or job transfers.  There are no plans for new large developments or other undesirable changes that might make someone want to get away from Vashon Island.  The question of why they are selling might make sense in a situation where they know of a new shopping center going in next door, etc. but that's not happening here.  Our community plans and issues are very much in public view on the Internet and local newspapers.

  I prefer to concentrate on the buyer's needs and not the sellers.  that's my job as an exclusive buyer's broker.  Why the sellers are selling doesn't really matter much to me.  Often, knowing their sad story, if that's what it is, makes it harder for buyers to see themselves living there.  It's easy to feel compassion for the sellers that can translate into a less than enjoyable transaction.  I want buyers to be exited about their new home, not sad that the sellers are getting a divorce or whatever.

  A very few sales here are due to the sellers inability to stay in their home financially and those result in a short sale or foreclosure.  But in those cases, short sales or foreclosures are clearly disclosed in the listing information.  I hope that answers your question.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Q: We have been shown several Vashon houses by our Seattle realestate broker and I'm deeply disappointed to find that many of these houses are using what I think are deceptive photos.

One place we liked online had a photo of a huge yard with a beautiful big pond and it turns out to be about four feet across and filled with debris.  Another photo shows a beautiful swimming pool and it's blocks away from the house!  One more had a huge photo of Mt. Rainier and it clearly was taken with a telephoto lens.  The mountain was nowhere near that close or large once we saw the house.  Several waterfront places were not even that close to the water.  They were hanging off of cliffs!

A:  It is against the rules of the Board of Realtors and the multiple listing service to use "puffing" (which means exaggeration), or phony, photo shopped pictures on line.  However, it's also the listing agent's job to entice buyers to look at their listings.  I always tell my clients to take any real estate photos with a grain of salt.  Many homes actually look much better than the photos online.

  There's no substitute for looking at a house and property in person.  The photos online and the written descriptions are just a way for you to eliminate places that are totally unsuitable for you.  I can't tell you how often I have clients tell me that a house is so much nicer than what they expected from the Internet photos, so it can work both ways.

  One thing that could make your search easier is for your Seattle broker to partner with a local Vashon Realtor.  Only Vashon brokers know the whole story behind most of our local listings.  Your broker may be really experienced but he or she won't know many of the major issues that are important in buying on Vashon Island.  These include things like septic systems and their operation, issues with water and critical areas as well as slide hazard areas, and the history of neighborhoods and houses here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Q: As you suggested, my wife and I made the effort to get preapproved for a home loan before seriously looking at houses.

Unfortunately, our credit scores were not as good as we expected them to be.  The two loan people we talked with said we would have to bring up the scores before we could qualify.  Do you think we would be better off burying a home where the seller will carry the contract?

A:   The short answer is no.  It's far more important to get your credit score up.  That allows you to qualify for any home in your price range that might suit you, rather than a very small selection of homes that offer seller financing.  We all learned some lessons from the recession.  One of those is not to go into debt for more than you can handle.  If you have too much debt now, or have made payments late, or a number of other problems, it wouldn't be prudent to rush into buying a house.

  Another important thing to know is that very few sellers can, or will carry a contract.  Most folks need the money from the sale of their current home to buy another one somewhere else.  It's a rare seller these days, that can afford to wait for a large down payment.  In my experience they also want higher interest rates than standard lenders are offering.  Most contracts held by sellers require a pay off in just a few years.  Three to five years.  three to five years is the most common.

  I would advise that you work with a lender to find out how to improve your credit score.  There are even non-profits that will give you helpful credit counseling.  These days credit scores are the primary way lenders judge the risk of lending.  I know it's hard to wait but you will be so much better off if you do.  I would add that you should order your own credit report and be sure there are no mistakes. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Q: Can you recommend a more aggressive listing agent for me?

I've had the house on the market for over a year with no offers and very few showings.  My agent keeps telling me I have to drop the price and that just won't work for me.  I know what I need to get out of the place and I just need to find someone who can get it for me.

A:  I've addressed this in the past but this sort of question just keeps coming up.  There is nothing wrong with your listing broker.  It's all about price.  You have to keep in mind that virtually all buyers have to get a loan to buy a home and the lender will do an appraisal.  If your house doesn't appraise for what you're trying to sell it for, the buyer won't be able to buy it.  You will have to lower the price to match the appraisal.

  You can ask for a second appraisal and pay for it, but that may not result in a better outcome.  These days, more than ever before, the appraisers control the price.  If they can't find comparable sales that support that price you and the buyer are stuck. 

  Many brokers won't waste their time showing seriously over priced homes.  Particularly if they represent the buyer, they want to find that buyer a fair deal.  Over paying doesn't serve that purpose.  The price is never set by what the seller "needs" to get out of the sale.  It's set by what a "ready", willing and able "buyer" is willing to pay.  Add to that:  what an appraiser can support for the lender.

  This is never good news for sellers, but our market has continued to slip, particularly in the lowest price ranges, and you need to stay ahead of that, not a year behind it.  Ask your broker to give you the comparables that an appraiser would probably be using for your home.  It will be a real wake up call.  Then re-list with this hard working broker at a lower price.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Q: We've been looking for a home for some time now and haven't found anything that will work for us.

I think the problem is that my husband is stuck on having acreage for a garden and we both want a really nice, relatively new home.  All the homes that are nicer and newer that also have three to five acres are over our budget.  Do you think there will be something we can afford later in the spring that fits our requirements if we keep looking?

A:  We never know what houses or property will come on the market in the future.  I wish I could!  But all indications are, that we won't be seeing lower prices than what we have currently.  I think you should keep looking and I also think that what needs to change is your belief that you can't have a large garden except on acreage. 

  The Island is filled with fantastic gardens, many of them virtually feeding a family all year or even feeding several families.  Many of these gardens are found on a half acre or even smaller property.  If you read up on gardens a little more, you will find designs for gardens that can feed a family using raised beds, that cover a space no larger that a good sized garage.

  Many people buy acreage thinking they need more space for their hobbies and interests.  Often this means that after a few years of trying to keep up five acres they start looking for another property to buy that is smaller and less work.  It would be easier for you to start out on a smaller property and see how that goes. 

  We are fortunate to have many active and helpful Master Gardeners on Vashon as well as a Garden Club.  You can also ask advice from Vashon Island Growers Association.  I think they'll tell you that you can have all the garden you need and have time to take care of, on a smaller property.  Seek out these helpful folks.  They all love to talk about gardens!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Q: I'm getting ready to sell my house this coming spring and I want to have a better idea of who the potential buyers might be.

I don't want to spend a lot fixing up the place if an investor is going to buy it and just rent it out.  What kind of buyers are out there?

A:  I can only speak for my own business, but I can tell you what I saw in 2011.  Only 10% of my sales were to investors buying rental property.  I have many clients considering that type of purchase due to low interest rates and exceptionally low prices, but most of them are waiting to see how the market may change this year.

  35% of my sales were second home buyers, most from our local region.  Again, that was due to prices that they perceived as bargains.  That's a large percentage and one you should consider.  These buyers don't generally want to do a lot of work.  They want to just move in and enjoy their Island vacation home.  Clean, tidy and ready to live in is what they're looking for.  25% of my sales were folks on Vashon just moving around.  That always constitutes a fairly large part of our market here.  They may need a bigger house, or smaller house, or want to be closer to town or just want change.  Whatever the reason, they are always a significant part of the market.

  A full 20% of my sales in 2011 were first time buyers.  We thought we had seen the last of them when the tax credit went away, but the prices and interest rate kept them looking.  I expect to continue having a number of first time home buyers this year.  These buyers tend to be inexperienced and need to find a home that isn't a fixer.

  So my advice is to get your place as clean, tidy and fixed up as you can in order to attract the largest number of potential buyers.  You'll get a better price and a much faster sale.  Then, price it right!