Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Q: I was excited to see that there are a couple of condos on the market.

They are so rare to find on Vashon, so I was happy to take a look at them.  One thing really bothers me though, and that’s the dues.  I’ve never lived anywhere that required me to pay dues and that amount, added to the mortgage and taxes, seems too high.  Maybe I should try to buy a house instead, although I really would rather have a condo that doesn’t require so much care so that I can travel.

A:  Many people do not understand the issue of dues required for a condo.  What you should understand is that you would be paying out these fees every month anyway if you owned a house.  The dues typically cover sewer, water, garbage pick up, parking lot maintenance and landscaping.  It also covers the insurance on the buildings.  The insurance you buy with a condo is relatively cheap because it only must cover the inside of your unit. Generally, that means your personal belongings. There is also usually a reserve set aside, like a savings account, to cover potential repairs.

These expenses will also be required if you own a single-family home. Your insurance, utilities, and maintenance on a home can easily run as high or higher than those collected on a condo.  You must add those fees into your budget, but the condo fee is the same every month so it’s easier to track. As an owner, you will be involved in any changes in that fee structure.

Most of the people I’ve sold condos to wanted to simplify their life.  Now they can travel anytime without worrying about having someone taking care of their home, and the landscaping will continue to be kept up even if they’re not here. Many of these condo associations also watch out for each other so people feel more secure. Before rejecting the idea of a condo, you should do the math. You would probably be putting that much money out every month in a single-family home anyway.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Q: We really enjoy your monthly newsletter and have appreciated viewing your website for current listings.

But we haven’t had the time to get out to Vashon to view any houses for some time now because they seem to sell so fast.  Years ago, when we started looking, things moved slower.  We might be out this summer for a week at a vacation rental and would love to stop in for a chat. 

A:  I’m always happy to chat with folks and answer their questions about the island, our community and the current inventory of homes and land for sale.  I should add, however, that with such a fast sellers’ market, it’s critical that you are able to move quickly.  Like many of the fine folks I call clients, you have been “window shopping” Vashon for more than a couple of years now.  It’s always good to be cautious, but until you’re fully committed to buying here and are ready to make an offer quickly, you will just stay window shoppers forever.

In looking back over the last few years, I’ve noticed a pattern with most buyers.  Those that come to me fully preapproved for their loan, have their down payment in the bank and are realistic in their search for a home usually buy within a few months or even weeks of starting their search.  Many others are looking for years.  They occasionally come by to see what’s available on the market, and often email or call regularly, but just can’t make a commitment.

In this kind of market folks like that can get left behind.  As they spend so much time trying to decide, our prices continue to climb, and our inventory continues to shrink.  I’d never recommend rushing into a purchase or getting caught up in the bidding frenzy unless you’re sure that the property and the island are right for you.  But if you really want to live here it’s time to make a real commitment of time to see what’s for sale and be prepared to make an offer quickly.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Q: We are getting ready to sell our home and things are looking pretty good.

The one thing that is slowing us down is the road to our house.  We are on a dirt and gravel road with six houses on it.  There is a road maintenance agreement, but no one wants to spend any money fixing up the road so it’s in really bad shape.  Our listing broker wants us to at least get the holes filled so that prospective buyers can drive to our place easily.  She also says that it doesn’t reflect well on our neighborhood that the road is such a mess.  Any ideas to make everyone chip in to fix the road?

A: I often say that road maintenance agreements are only as good as your willingness to sue your neighbors.  Driving all around the island I see private roads that are beautiful and easy to drive on and some that could cause major damage to most cars.  Some are hardly driveable. The sad truth is that you will probably have to pay for whatever is done to the road.  Your neighbors probably think that since you want to sell and leave the neighborhood the repairs should be paid for by you.  Your listing broker is right that this could lower the value of your home and discourage potential buyers, so it’s important that the work gets done. 

It’s far cheaper to maintain all our miles of private roadway on a regular basis than to pay for a major overhaul every five to ten years.  I’m always shocked at the condition of some of these roads and wonder how the folks who live there keep their cars in good shape. I recall one hole so large we got to calling it “the hole that ate Cleveland,” as a joke.  I helped pull another Realtor out of it when she thought it was just a puddle in the road and went in up to the top of her window. So, I’m afraid you will just have to spend the money on getting this work done.