Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Q: This isn’t a question.

I just want to warn others.  My wife and I are dealing with my dad’s house, trying to get it ready to sell.  He died a few weeks ago and now we have the job of sorting through his stuff and trying to get rid of things. I can’t believe all the junk he accumulated. Even though we have an estate dealer taking the big stuff that’s sellable, we’re left with tons of useless things that no one wants.  Please, encourage people to get rid of their junk while they are still living. I loved my dad, but this is so stressful.

A:  I’ve had several people come in recently to talk about getting their parents home ready to sell.  The parents have passed away or are in an assisted living situation.  Every one of these adult children appeared stressed, confused and totally overwhelmed with the burden of dealing with their parent’s stuff.

There’s much talk these days about downsizing. Unfortunately, very few people really do this with their belongings. They may move into a smaller home or condo, but they often bring a lot of stuff that gets packed into the garage or a storage unit. We always think that there’ll be a time when we want to go back over old letters, photos, school yearbooks, etc. But I think it rarely happens. Many people keep family “heirlooms” for their children or grandchildren but most young people today don’t want the family china, grandad’s rocking chair or old photos. Not to mention dead cars, broken appliances or useless collectables.

It’s important to have a frank conversation with your elderly parents about what you may want to have after they die.  It’s equally important for your parents to understand that someday you’ll be stuck sorting through those boxes and shelves of stuff in their garage. It’s a painful conversation but if parents are willing to be realistic and understand the burden they are leaving for their children, it can save everyone so much stress and anxiety. Plus it will give you the time to simply grieve your loss.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Q: Mom passed away last year, and my brother and I have decided to keep her house and rent it for a few years.

Our kids are still young and it makes sense to sell the house when they reach college age and use that money for college tuition. We don’t know anything about renting and have heard horror stories about property being trashed or renters that don’t pay. Where do we start?

A: First, I would download the State of Washington landlord tenant law as well as the same information from King County. There are specific rules you must follow and certain responsibilities you have as a landlord. You can also share this list with any future tenant so that they understand their duties and responsibilities. Next, go through the house with a home inspector so that you know what needs repair or replacement and do that before putting the rental on the market. That could save you a great deal more expense if something goes wrong later. You will need to do a walk-through with any tenant so that you both know, in writing, where every scratch and dent or problem exists before they move in. That way when they leave you can be sure it’s in as good a shape as when they moved in, other than normal wear and tear.


You can hire a property manager to screen tenants for you or you can arrange to do that yourself. Be sure to get references from former landlords. Credit checks are important, but the most important thing is that they paid their rent in full and on time every month. You should also plan on doing a walk-through of the property from time to time, after giving the tenant proper notice of course, to make sure things are working well.


One hint I should add is that you should screen everyone, even friends or relatives of friends. The worst horror stories I’ve heard are from folks who let someone move in to “help out a friend” and didn’t really check them out. They regretted that later.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Q: Prices have just gone through the roof here on Vashon in the last year or two.

Is that just my imagination?  Do you think it's another bubble?  I'm worried that my son, who is currently serving in the Navy, won't be able to buy a home here by the time he gets ready.

A:  From all that the "experts" tell us, there is no bubble as far as Puget Sound real estate is concerned.  Perhaps if all the tech-related industries left at once, which seems highly unlikely, there could be a downturn.  In addition to our growing commercial sector, extreme weather in the rest of the country (fires, floods, hurricanes, etc.) is bringing "climate refugees" here.

You're correct that our prices have skyrocketed.  Looking at homes sold in 2017 that had sold even just a few years before, we see a price difference in many of them as high as 40 to 60% increase in just a couple of years.  Our  challenge on Vashon is that we have such a tiny inventory of homes for sale in any given time.  There are a sizable number of homes that have stayed in one family through three generations on Vashon.  The demand is very high, and the supply is very low.  that has driven our price increases even when it wasn't such a hot market.

As for buying a home here for your son, all I can recommend is that he save like mad, keep his credit score high, and stay in touch with what's happening in real estate.  I was thrilled to get a family into a lovely home just weeks ago using a VA loan.  For many years these have been scorned by the real estate community because they implied that the buyers couldn't really afford a house without down payment assistance and that the loan process would be harder and take twice as long as a normal transaction.  Happily, that's not true.  My clients were able to save their money for other expenses, the veteran was able to use his benefits and we closed in record time.