The Benefits of Home Ownership

Posted on June 6, 2014 at 4:40 pm
Elly Smith | Posted in Everett News, Home Improvement, Personal Finance, Purchasing Real Estae, Real Estate, Real Estate Economics, Uncategorized |

How to Ease the Stress of Selling a Home

Yahoo Contributor Network Yahoo! Homes

As a layperson who has sold four primary residence homes in the last eight years, I know all too well how stressful the home selling process can be. If you're considering putting your home on the market, here are some tips that might help you dodge a few stress bullets along the way.

Choose the Right Realtor

I can't stress enough the importance of choosing the right realtor. Before you start the interview process, write down your expectations. Are you a detail-oriented person who wants to know every little thing that happens? If so, make sure your realtor knows that and agrees to it. (I had a realtor once who refused to update me on showings more frequently than once a week.) Whatever your expectations are, be specific with your realtor and get their buy-in before you sign the contract.

You Set the Rules

Make sure your realtor is letting you make the decisions and not just pushing their agenda on you. For instance, you will be able to set how much notice you need for a showing. The less notice that is required the better, but you also want to make sure the house is in tip-top shape for each showing. So if you require 24-hours' notice, don't let your realtor push you into agreeing to two hours.

Condense Your Living Quarters

While your home is on the market, it will be far less stressful if you confine your family to a smaller area within the house. For instance, have everyone use the same bathroom and maybe designate the front room as off limits. For me, one of the most stressful things when selling a house is trying to get it in perfect condition for each showing. Living in a smaller area of your house allows you to have a few rooms that remain untouched, and therefore don't have to be cleaned each time.

Insist on Docusign

Selling a house requires mounds of paperwork to be signed by all parties. Having to physically meet with your realtor for each of these signatures is a pain in the backside. Docusign is a digital (and legal) program that sends forms electronically to be signed by each party. What used to take hours and tanksful of gasoline can now be done literally in seconds while you sit at home.

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm
Elly Smith | Posted in Home Improvement, Personal Finance, Real Estate, Real Estate Economics |

A Home’s Cost vs. Price Explained


HomePercentageWe have often talked about the difference between COST and PRICE. As a seller, you will be most concerned about ‘short term price’ – where home values are headed over the next six months. As either a first time or repeat buyer, you must not be concerned about price but instead about the ‘long term cost’ of the home. Let us explain.

Recently, we reported that a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts and investment & market strategists projected that home values would appreciate by approximately 8% from now to the end of 2015.

Additionally, Freddie Mac’s most recent Economic Commentary & Projections Tablepredicts that the 30 year fixed mortgage rate will be 5.7% by the end of next year.

What Does This Mean to a Buyer?

Here is a simple demonstration of what impact these projected changes would have on the mortgage payment of a home selling for approximately $250,000 today:



Posted on April 7, 2014 at 3:18 pm
Elly Smith | Posted in Personal Finance, Real Estate, Real Estate Economics |

The Windermere Foundation is now accepting donations for the Oso, Washington Relief Fund.

We are deeply saddened by the events that have unfolded over the last week due to the landslide in Oso, Washington. We have heard from many of you who wish to support and provide emergency relief for those that have lost their homes and loved ones. 100% of the funds designated to the Windermere Foundation's Oso, Washington Relief Fund will go directly to the families affected by the slide, through the Darrington Emergency Task Force for immediate assistance.

You can donate online at The Windermere Foundation will match the first $5,000 donated.

A special thanks to the Windermere office in nearby Arlington, owned by Gene Bryson, for raising awareness and starting the fundraising effort.

Our hearts go out to all the families affected by this disaster.

Thank you for your support.

Christine Wood | Executive Director

5424 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

OFFICE (206) 527-3801
FAX (206) 393-3444

Posted on March 27, 2014 at 4:54 pm
Elly Smith | Posted in Everett News, Home Improvement, Personal Finance, Purchasing Real Estae, Real Estate, Real Estate Economics, Uncategorized |

2014 Real Estate and Economic Forum

I hope you can join me on Tuesday at the Everett Golf and Country Club for a talk with Everett's Mayor, Ray Stephanson and Economist Matthew Gardner.  If you would like to be there, please give me a call or email to RSVP.


Posted on January 31, 2014 at 4:15 pm
Elly Smith | Posted in Everett News, Personal Finance, Real Estate, Real Estate Economics |

Don’t Wait! Move Up to the Home You Always Wanted

Now that the housing market has stabilized, more and more homeowners are considering moving up to the home they have always dreamed of. Prices are still below those of a few years ago and interest rates are still below 5%.

However, sellers should realize that waiting to make the move while mortgage rates are increasing probably doesn’t make sense. As rates increase, the price of the house you can buy will decrease. Here is a chart detailing this point:

Posted on January 28, 2014 at 11:07 pm
Elly Smith | Posted in Home Improvement, Personal Finance, Purchasing Real Estae, Real Estate |

5 Ways Home Sellers Can Prepare for the Spring Market

spring real estate
Sell   |  Dec 23, 2013   | By:   |  on Realtor .com 

With spring being the busiest time for real estate, homeowners planning to put their homes on the market shouldn’t wait for flowers to bloom before getting ready to sell. Having a few months to prepare can make for a much smoother selling experience.

If you’re a prospective home seller, here are five things you can do now to get ready for a spring sale:

Start Packing

It may sound crazy to start packing months in advance of your move, but since you’ll eventually need to do this anyway, you might as well get organized now. We’re not suggesting you pack up your kitchen and eat off paper plates, but you can sort through your storage closets, attic, basement or garage to determine what you want to keep, what to give away and what to sell. Boxing up items will make your space look larger and neater when it’s time to show your home. You can also get an idea of whether you need to rent a storage facility while your home is on the market.

Clear Away the Clutter

If you visit model homes or open houses of homes that have been staged, you’ll never see a stack of unread magazines, children’s artwork loosely hanging on the refrigerator, or a cluster of unpaid bills on a table. While everyone has clutter, buyers want to see a fantasy version of your house, in which they can envision living. Once your home is on the market you’ll need to keep it as neat as possible. One way to make that easier is to reduce the amount of clutter you have on your shelves and surfaces. Put away items that are regularly on your kitchen sink and pack away the family photos that gather dust.

Improve Your Home

While you don’t necessarily want to do a major, expensive renovation project before you sell, you can make minor repairs and improvements that will make your home look fresher to buyers. Try things such as replacing the caulk and grout in your bathroom, updating old or rusted ceiling fans and light fixtures, and changing switch plates, doorknobs and other hardware for a clean and neat appearance. Consider painting your front door and trim even if your rooms don’t need new paint.

Interview REALTORS®

Your choice of a listing agent will make a big difference in how quickly your home sells and how much of a profit you’ll realize. Get recommendations from friends and interview several listing agents to see which ones have the right experience with similar homes in your price range and area. A REALTOR® with a great marketing plan and deep local knowledge is extremely important. Don’t just go with the one who tells you they can sell for the highest price; choose someone who can present you with a detailed market analysis.

Research Your Market

If you plan to buy another home, an important decision to make is whether to sell your home first or make an offer on a new home before putting yours on the market. A knowledgeable REALTOR® can help you evaluate how fast homes are selling in your market and help you estimate how long it will take you to find a home. This decision also depends on your financing, so you may want to consult with a lender to see how you can finance the transition from one home to another if you choose not to sell your home first.

If you spend the winter months preparing for spring, you’ll find yourself ready to move fast when buyers come out of hibernation.

Posted on December 31, 2013 at 6:33 pm
Elly Smith | Posted in Personal Finance, Real Estate, Real Estate Economics |

5 Resolutions for First-Time Home Buyers

BuyFinance   |  Dec 30, 2013   |  By:   |  on


first time home buyersIf you’ve promised yourself you’ll become a homeowner for the first time in 2014, we’ve got five, easy-to-accomplish resolutions to help get you there.

1. Boost Your Credit Score

Your credit score will play a key role in your mortgage approval and rates. At the beginning of the year, order your credit reports from, a free service authorized by federal law. Go over each report, dispute any errors, and pay off old debts.

In the meantime, avoid big-ticket items such as cars or furniture and don’t apply for new credit. Jon Sterling, a regional sales manager for real estate offices in Northern California, says, “An inquiry itself causes a credit score to temporarily drop, and acquiring more debt by buying something, or the capacity to acquire more debt by opening a new credit account, can have dramatic effects on [your] mortgage situation.”

2. Save Up to Put Down

According to Sterling, you’ll typically need a 20 percent to 30 percent down payment to qualify for the best mortgage rates. At the beginning of the year, try cutting optional expenses to save more. For example, cutting out an $85 cable bill will save you $1,020 in a year. Remember, every little bit helps you avoid higher interest rates or private mortgage insurance.

3. Find the Best Real Estate Agent

Finding a great real estate agent takes time but will pay off in the end. Sterling recommends you find a buyer’s agent who “can give you a few recent testimonials from happy buyer clients. Be sure to check those references to be sure they are legitimate.” To get started, ask friends and family for referrals or search®’s Find a REALTOR® database.

4. Get Pre-Approved

Knowing what you can afford, what you qualify for, and what type of loan you want can help you find the best deal when you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. To get started, research the differences between conventional and unconventional loans and use a mortgage term comparison calculator to get an idea of the cost. When you’re ready to shop for mortgages, use®’s Get a Mortgage Quote tool to see current rates and get quotes from lenders in your area.

5. Find Your Dream Home

Sterling says potential home buyers should be “reading and researching as much as they can” as soon as they can. Don’t wait until you’re ready to shop to start looking at homes. Start early by researching neighborhoods in your target city and viewing homes online to get an idea of pricing. Once you’re ready to shop, you’ll have a much better idea of what you want and what you can afford.


Posted on December 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm
Elly Smith | Posted in Personal Finance, Purchasing Real Estae, Real Estate |

Why you need a loan preapproval

By Michele Lerner,

Few experiences are more frustrating than falling in love with a home that's for sale and then discovering you can't afford to buy it. 

The majority of first-time buyers need to finance their home purchase, and a consultation with a mortgage lender is a crucial step in the homebuying process because you need to understand your purchasing power before you begin to look at homes.


Lenders offer borrowers a prequalification letter or a preapproval letter, but most real estate agents recommend that you get a preapproval before shopping for a home. A prequalification letter will state the amount a lender thinks you can borrow based on your income and your credit profile without any actual documentation. Mortgage-lending standards have tightened since the housing crisis, and all loans now require full documentation and verification of income and assets, so most sellers will only accept an offer from a buyer with a full preapproval letter that’s based on verified information.


Sellers aren't the only ones who benefit from you obtaining a loan preapproval, though. You're better off with a preapproval for two reasons:

  1. You'll have gone through the credit check and paperwork requirements for a mortgage, so you’ll have clarity about your ability to finalize a home purchase. If the lender finds a problem with your credit or an error on your credit report, you’ll have time to fix it before making an offer.
  2. Because your documentation will already be in place, a loan preapproval based on everything other than the actual value of the home you’ll purchase will speed up the process once you make an offer.

How to find a lender

Your real estate agent should be able to recommend a lender or two for you to interview, but you should also ask friends and colleagues for someone they trust. You can check for a loan officer's license and read reviews online to be sure you're working with someone reliable. As a first-time buyer, you should call a few lenders to find someone experienced with first-time buyer needs who can possibly help you identify special loan programs in your area that could help you get into a home.

What to expect from your lender

The best lenders take a collaborative approach with borrowers and explain all your loan options. When your lender checks your credit report, you should get feedback about ways to improve your credit profile and recommendations for how to handle your money between the time you apply for a loan and settlement day. Your lender should provide advice about when to lock in your loan rate and discuss the pros and cons of various loan programs.

What your lender expects from you

Your lender needs you to be honest about your finances and responsive to all requests for additional information, no matter how unimportant it may seem to you. The more cooperative you are with a lender, the easier the loan process will be. You should be prepared with tax returns, W-2s, bank statements, employer names and addresses and your current landlord's information.


Your lender will generate a loan approval based on your debt-to-income ratio and credit score, but you should also consider your budget and your own comfort level with a payment. There’s no need to borrow the maximum amount you qualify for, particularly if you know you plan to spend money on items that don’t show up on your credit report such as greens fees or ski trips. Your careful planning and preservation of your emergency fund are important for responsible, long-term homeownership.

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 7:47 pm
Elly Smith | Posted in Personal Finance, Real Estate Economics |