Archives for August 2013

Natural Meets Industrial in a Canal-Side Seattle Home

Canal StreetAs a Seattle couple approached retirement, they decided to create a brand-new environment for the transition. About two and a half hours from Seattle via ferry and driving, this beautiful spot along Washington’s Hood Canal serves as the setting for this next phase of their lives.

Kitchen ideas, bathroom ideas, and more ∨

When decorating or building a home, don’t forget about the walls.
For small bathroom ideas, browse photos of space-saving bathroom cabinetry and clever hidden mirrored medicine cabinets.

Lighting Up Your House

Lighting Up Your House

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

60s House Transformed with Timber Skin

Pitched roof

The shell of a pitched-roof 1960s home in the Italian Dolomites is dramatically altered by an angular, slatted timber skin in this unusual modern addition by Plasma Studio. While the front of the home still resembles its traditional neighbors, the back and sides are wrapped in a faceted structure that creates new dimensions, aids air circulation and gives the home a dynamic look.

Pitched roof2

Modern Timber Skin Renovation 2

Plasma Studio was charged with providing Residence Alma, a 1960s Tyrolean guest house with six holiday apartments, with a new central service core. Lead architect Ulla Hell, who was looking for a home for her own family, recognized an opportunity in the underutilized pitched roof. This unused space became the basis of a private residence built right into and on top of the existing structure, including an architectural office and reception space.

Modern Timber Skin Renovation 3

Modern Timber Skin Renovation 5

The building is set into the hillside, so the upper floors open onto garden space in the back, beneath the canopies created by the timber frame. The designers employed parametric modeling software to create the skin, opening it up in places to provide 360-degree views of the sky and surrounding mountains.

Modern Timber Skin Renovation 4

With Paramount Residence, Plasma Studio mimics an effect they already carried out just down the hill at the Strata Hotel. The slatted skin provides shade and visual interest, while paying tribute to the natural geometry of the landscape.

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How Energy Efficient Is Your Home?

The energy efficiency of homes is often measure using the Home Energy Rating Score (HERS Index), a measure of a home’s relative energy use that spans from 0-150.


5 Favorite Granites for Gorgeous Kitchen Countertops

CounterSelecting a countertop material for your kitchen remodel or new build is a big decision. I often encounter clients with a mental block when it comes to making a decision on the numerous considerations, like color and edge detail. Additionally, once the countertop hurdle is over, then there is cabinet selection.

I like granite and use it often for its durability and its earthy colors that add great texture to a kitchen. I have a few favorites that I have worked with over the years. These granite selections get my stamp of approval because of color, movement and their flexibility in complementing different cabinet styles. Take a look at these countertop selections and how they seamlessly blend with either painted or stain-grade cabinets to make winning combinations.

Kitchen ideas, bathroom ideas, and more ∨

From designer lounge chairs and writing desks to the perfect message board and credenza, create your dream home office.
Find shelving, customizable closet systems and stylish home furniture to whip your closet into shape.

What You Must Know About Home Appraisals

housing marketUnderstanding how appraisals work will help you achieve a quick and profitable refinance or sale.

1. An appraisal isn’t an exact science

When appraisers evaluate a home’s value, they’re giving their best opinion based on how the home’s features stack up against those of similar homes recently sold nearby. One appraiser may factor in a recent sale, but another may consider that sale too long ago, or the home too different, or too far away to be a fair comparison. The result can be differences in the values two separate appraisers set for your home.

2. Appraisals have different purposes

An appraisal being used to figure out how much to insure your home for or to determine your property taxes may rely on other factors and arrive at different values. For example, though an appraisal for a home loan evaluates today’s market value, an appraisal for insurance purposes calculates what it would cost to rebuild your home at today’s building material and labor rates, which can result in two different numbers.

Appraisals are also different from CMAs, or competitive market analyses. In a CMA, a real estate agent relies on market expertise to estimate how much your home will sell for in a specific time period. The price your home will sell for in 30 days may be different than the price your home will sell for in 120 days. Because real estate agents don’t follow the rules appraisers do, there can be variations between CMAs and appraisals on the same home.

3. An appraisal is a snapshot

Home prices shift, and appraised values will shift with those market changes. Your home may be appraised at $150,000 today, but in two months when you refinance or list it for sale, the appraised value could be lower or higher depending on how your market has performed.

4. Appraisals don’t factor in your personal issues

You may have a reason you must sell immediately, such as a job loss or transfer, which can affect the amount of money you’ll accept to complete the transaction in your time frame. An appraisal doesn’t consider those personal factors.

5. You can ask for a second opinion

If your home appraisal comes back at a value you believe is too low, you can request that a second appraisal be performed by a different appraiser. You, or potential buyers, if they’ve requested the appraisal, will have to pay for the second appraisal. But it may be worth it to keep the sale from collapsing from a faulty appraisal. On the other hand, the appraisal may be accurate, and it may be a sign that you need to adjust your pricing or the size of the loan you’re refinancing.

What’s Going On In Seattle Real Estate

RE MarketSeattle home prices zipping upward, but slowdown likely: The housing market in Seattle and other major U.S. cities has been racing ahead on full throttle in recent months, but experts say the price growth should soon slow to a more normal pace. The Greater Seattle market in May posted a 3.1 percent monthly gain, its largest since April 1990, according to data released Tuesday. The region’s 12-month increase was 11.9 percent — the biggest annual gain since December 2006. Seattle’s not alone: The widely watched S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home-price index rose 2.4 percent from April to May, and 12.2 percent over the year.

Source: The Seattle Times, July 30, 2013

King County median home price up 15 percent over year ago: A bump in interest rates in July didn’t derail the strongest home-buying stretch in the Seattle area since 2007, as the median price climbed year-over-year for the 16th consecutive month. The median price of single-family homes sold in King County last month jumped to $434,000, up 15 percent from a year ago and up 1.5 percent from June, according to figures from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. And the number of pending home sales — offers that have been accepted, but haven’t yet closed — remained above 3,000, the busiest July since 2005.

Source: The Seattle Times, August 6, 2013


Seattle homes selling faster than U.S. average: When it comes to selling homes fast (within one or two weeks), homes in Seattle continue to sell faster than the national average, with 42.5 percent of new listings under contract within two weeks, compared with the U.S. average of 30.5 percent. According to Seattle-based online real estate company Redfin, 29.9 percent of Seattle listings were under contract in one week, which compares with a national average of 19 percent. “There were eight offers on this Wedgewood home, and according to the listing agent, the winner paid big money and waived every contingency,” said one Redfin real estate agent. “The percentage of homes that went under contract within two weeks decreased from 31.9 percent nationwide in May to 30.5 percent in June as inventory growth continued to ease the pressure on buyers to act fast,” according to a Redfin statement.

Source: Puget Sound Business Journal, August 5, 2013

Market Reference Map

10 ways to improve your outdoor living space

Having an awesome outdoor retreat has become popular in the past few years , with more and more people improving these spaces with outdoor structures, pool areas, and additions. Homeowners invest $6.2 billion yearly for outdoor improvements. Here are the top 10 ways to improve your outdoor living space and add value to your home.


How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Home

market reportBefore you put your home up for sale, understand how the right comparable sales help you and your agent find the perfect price.

Knowing how much homes similar to yours, called comparable sales (or in real estate lingo, comps), sold for gives you the best idea of the current estimated value of your home. The trick is finding sales that closely match yours.

What makes a good comparable sale?

Your best comparable sale is the same model as your house in the same subdivision—and it closed escrow last week. If you can’t find that, here are other factors that count:

Location: The closer to your house the better, but don’t just use any comparable sale within a mile radius. A good comparable sale is a house in your neighborhood, your subdivision, on the same type of street as your house, and in your school district.

Home type: Try to find comparable sales that are like your home in style, construction material, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, basement (having one and whether it’s finished), finishes, and yard size.

Amenities and upgrades: Is the kitchen new? Does the comparable sale house have full A/C? Is there crown molding, a deck, or a pool? Does your community have the same amenities (pool, workout room, walking trails, etc.) and homeowners association fees?

Date of sale: You may want to use a comparable sale from two years ago when the market was high, but that won’t fly. Most buyers use government-guaranteed mortgages, and those lending programs say comparable sales can be no older than 90 days.

Sales sweeteners: Did the comparable-sale sellers give the buyers downpayment assistance, closing costs, or a free television? You have to reduce the value of any comparable sale to account for any deal sweeteners.

Agents can help adjust price based on insider insights

Even if you live in a subdivision, your home will always be different from your neighbors’. Evaluating those differences—like the fact that your home has one more bedroom than the comparables or a basement office—is one of the ways real estate agents add value.

An active agent has been inside a lot of homes in your neighborhood and knows all sorts of details about comparable sales. She has read the comments the selling agent put into the MLS, seen the ugly wallpaper, and heard what other REALTORS®, lenders, closing agents, and appraisers said about the comparable sale.

More ways to pick a home listing price

If you’re still having trouble picking out a listing price for your home, look at the current competition. Ask your real estate agent to be honest about your home and the other homes on the market (and then listen to her without taking the criticism personally).

Next, put your comparable sales into two piles: more expensive and less expensive. What makes your home more valuable than the cheaper comparable sales and less valuable than the pricier comparable sales?

Are foreclosures and short sales comparables?

If one or more of your comparable sales was a foreclosed home or a short sale (a home that sold for less money than the owners owed on the mortgage), ask your real estate agent how to treat those comps.

A foreclosed home is usually in poor condition because owners who can’t pay their mortgage can’t afford to pay for upkeep. Your home is in great shape, so the foreclosure should be priced lower than your home.

Short sales are typically in good condition, although they are still distressed sales. The owners usually have to sell because they’re divorcing, or their employer is moving them to Kansas.

How much short sales are discounted from their market value varies among local markets. The average short-sale home in Omaha in recent years was discounted by 8.5%, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha study. In suburban Washington, D.C., sellers typically discount short-sale homes by 3% to 5% to get them quickly sold, real estate agents report. In other markets, sellers price short sales the same as other homes in the neighborhood.

So you have to rely on your REALTOR’s® knowledge of the local market to use a short sale as a comparable sale.