Thursday, March 30, 2017

Q: We are getting discouraged about finding a place on the island that we really like and that totally fits our needs.

I know there will be more listings coming on this spring and summer but it’s hard to keep up our enthusiasm.  Any ideas?

A:  You may not like what I have to say, but basically you will need to stop being so picky.  I don’t mean to sound flippant, but we never have a large inventory of homes for sale here.  There are just over 10,000 people here and most of them are staying put.  We sell between 100 and 200 houses a year in all the price ranges, so there may be only five or six homes a year in your price range and with even some of your general requirements.

In addition to that limitation, we also have a lot of eager buyers.  It’s not unusual for a home to sell in a day or two with multiple offers, as well as sell for higher than asking price. That means you must be totally ready to make an offer.  That includes being approved for a loan with full approval through underwriting, or proof of cash to close for a cash sale. Believe me, as one who represents buyers exclusively, I am not happy with this accelerating sellers’ market, but I must do what I can to prepare my buyer clients to compete.

No one gets everything they want in a property on Vashon.  I would guess that no one gets everything they hope for even in Seattle and the surrounding area since the competition is even greater in the city.  You should pick the one or two things that are most important to you and stick to that.  My advice to buyers is to find the most structurally sound home you can afford and plan on doing the fix up, updating or remodeling later.  Waiting for the perfect house is not really going to work with our limitations. Being a part of our wonderful Vashon community is worth some sweat equity, believe me.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Q: I’m confused.

You talked me out of making an offer on what is called a “recreational” lot a few months ago, because you said I probably couldn’t build on it.  Now I see a couple of other such lots listed, very cheaply too, that are being marketed as a place to camp or build a cabin.  How can I find out more information to know the facts?

A:  There are a couple of things I would recommend.  If you can wade through the zoning code for King County, which is available online, you will find the regulations and rules governing camping.  Camping is only allowed in authorized King County camp grounds.  Sadly, we don’t have any.  The County does have a special permit that allows short term camping on your property when you have a house there.  So, if relatives show up for the Strawberry Festival in the summer, and you want to put them in a tent in the backyard, you’re supposed to get a special use permit. Most people don’t of course.

Another way to get this information is to visit the King County building across the street from the main fire station on Tuesdays, from 9:00 to noon when permit technicians are available from the county to answer questions. I always find these folks helpful.  Another part of the code says that you cannot build any structure on a property that doesn’t have a house on it.  So even though there are such things on Vashon, they are not actually legal. You’re just lucky if code enforcement doesn’t know about it.

Truly buildable lots on Vashon currently sell for $100,000 or more, so it should be obvious that a lot listed for $25,000 to $50,000 may not be buildable.  We have a lot of unbuildable properties so there are always a few for sale.  Keep in mind that you need a water share, a critical areas review, and an approved septic design to have a buildable property.  Without having those before you close on the sale of land you are taking a great risk.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Q: We are really discouraged after trying to buy a house on Vashon.

There were several offers on the house we wanted.  The place sold for over the asking price and now that we see what it sold for, we realize that we could have offered that much.  My parents said they would give us a gift to boost our down payment and that would have made the difference.  How can we keep that from happening next time we make an offer?

A:  There are two multiple listing forms you should consider using the next time you want to make an offer. The first is 35E, the Escalation Addendum.  In it you state that you’ll beat any other offer by a specified amount up to a final sales figure. Let’s say the price is $525,000.  You can say, via this form, that you will pay $1,000.00 over any other offer they have, up to a maximum of $575,000. You may be required to demonstrate that you have those funds available through your pre-approval letter or proof of funds letter from your financial advisor.

The other form, one that is new to the MLS, is 22AD.  This form states that if the bank appraisal for the home is lower than the agreed upon sale price, you may make up the difference in cash up to a maximum limit.  So, if the appraisal for your $525,000 house comes in at $510,000 you can agree to pay the additional $15,000 toward the purchase in cash. Again, you may be required to show that you have those funds available.

This is a great time to be selling a house, but as you’ve discovered, it’s a difficult time to buy.  At least in our area.  If you seriously want to buy, you need to use everything at your disposal to win the bid.  We still do see a few homes that don’t sell quickly or get multiple offers. There are often reasons why.  Maybe location, maybe other considerations. So, don’t shy away from something a little ugly.  Ugly can be fixed.  Good luck.