Steps to buying a home in the USA versus Great Britain and Ireland.
Every country does things a little differently and that's definitely the case when it comes to purchasing a home in Dublin, Ohio versus Dublin, Ireland or Manchester, New Hampshire compared to Manchester in England.
So if you're going to be moving between the two regions and intend to buy a home when you get there, then this article us for you!
As an Irish ex-pat, having lived in London for 7 years after college and now that I've been a Seattle Realtor for over 10 years, I thought it might be interesting to compare the home purchase process on each side of the proverbial pond.
Side note: an apartment in the UK and Ireland is the equivalent of a condo (aka condominium) in the US. In the UK & Ireland, you buy/own an apartment but rent a flat, whereas in the US you buy/own a condo and rent an apartment. In America, a flat is a punctured tire, which is spelled tyre in the UK and Ireland.
I'm glad we got that one out of the way early!
Although there is some state to state variations in the steps to buying a home within the US and some differences between Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Nothern Ireland, the overall process is very similar for each geographical area. This article does not cover every little nuanced difference otherwise it would be the length of Moby Dick!
Since I'm a Seattle real estate agent, let's review the steps to buying a home in Washington State, which obviously is the greatest state in the whole of the USA! Whether you're thinking of ...
With the real estate market starting to show some signs of slowing down, some home sellers are starting to offer incentives to home buyers to encourage them to buy their homes.
First time home buyer incentives and home buyer incentives in general, can be tempting. However, buyers should be asking themselves.
- Why is the seller offering that incentive in the first place?
- What exactly IS the incentive and are there restrictions as to whether I get the incentive or not?
- If I accept the incentive, what might I be giving up instead?
Well, the answer is sometimes incentives really are a win-win for the buyer but sometimes it's just a distraction from something else.
Why do sellers offer homebuyer incentives?
The short answer is that sellers don't offer them when they know the home will sell quickly.
If the seller and their agent think that the home might struggle to sell, then they will consider the option of dangling some incentive in front of the buyers to make the purchase more enticing and grease the wheels of industry towards a closing.
Examples of homebuyer incentives.
The are lots of different home buyer incentives and the type of offer might depend on whether the home is a resale by a homeowner or if the home is brand new construction and the seller is a builder/developer.
Work with the builder's lender for a discount.
Many builders require that homebuyers get pre-approved by the builder's preferred lender, even if the buyer has been pre-approved with their own lender already. Also, some builder's lenders will offer some incentives like $3,000 paid towards the buyer's...
What will the Seattle real estate market do in 2019?
My guess is as good anyone else I suppose, so I might as well have a crack at it.
I'm only predicting what the median sale price will do over the course of 2019. And home prices are what homeowners, sellers, buyers (and Realtors) usually obsess over the most.
I will revisit my prediction every quarter to see if I end up being anywhere near what actually transpires over the year.
Few people foresaw the way the market turned on a dime last spring and I definitely wasn't one of them. So with that in mind...
Here's my 2019 prediction: The Seattle and Eastside median price will increase by 4 to 6% between now and spring / early summer and then drop back down to current levels by the end of the year.
Why I think Seattle home prices are going to go back up:
- Prices peaked in May at $802,000 and fell to $713,000 by January, a drop of 9%.
- This price drop is likely going to attract more buyers back into the market who gave up last spring when the market was in manic mode and buyers were constantly getting into bidding wars and forced to pay well over list price to get a home. Buyers got fed up being manipulated by the housing market and just stepped back en mass. Now they are seeing homes taking longer to sell, price drops and sales contingent on inspections.
- Prices have finally hit the Conor Trend Support Line drawn (manually) under the lower prices of the upward trend. I predict that prices will bounce back up off that support price.
- Prices will finally break BELOW the trend line by the end of 2019.
- We are coming out of the winter/holiday hibernation season and will soon...
Not every energy efficient upgrade or renovation is desirable and boosts home value when a sustainable home is listed for sale. Much depends on the local market, as well as how soon after a renovation is made that a homeowner decides to actively sell their home. That being said, there are green home upgrades that have become popular and that potential buyers are willing to pay more. What green home upgrades may be worth the investment when it comes time to sell?
Quality of a Home Renovation Project.
As one looks into various green home upgrades, the quality and energy-efficiency of a finished project is important to potential buyers. They may be interested in looking a homeowner’s bills in order to ascertain how much they may save by paying more for a sustainable home. A buyer may appreciate knowing that a structure has LEED Certification and was built according to specific sustainable practices that support the environment. This certification can involve projects for existing homes, the surrounding neighborhood and schools. Such certification can prove to be a significant attraction for the environmentally-conscious homebuyer and a way for an agent to differentiate a home from comps without such certification.
Get Additional Insight on Local Green Features.
Sellers need to know what features or upgrades are on trend when it comes to selling a sustainable home. Speaking with a reputable agent may provide more insight on recent comps in the area and what buyers may have been looking for when they were shopping for a home. Some popular green upgrades...
The real answer to "how much is my home worth" is by actually listing it for sale.
Everything else is just a guesstimate of varying degrees of accuracy and believability.
So, how much IS your home worth?
The short answer is that it's worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it.
The longer answer is that your home is worth...
What someone is willing to pay for it.
If listed for sale on the open market.
Will depend on how well your home has been prepared for market, the marketing exposure it gets and whether you selected a competent Realtor or not.
The prevailing market conditions at the time your list your home.
And potentially on whether it's an all-cash offer or not.
Pretty simple, huh?
Obviously, putting your home on the market just to determine it's current market value is a little extreme.
So, how can a homeowner find out how much their home is "worth"? And what are their limitations?
(1) Online home evaluations.
The granddaddy of these is the infamous Zestimate from Zillow.
Simply enter your address and within a few milliseconds, voila, up pops the current market value of your home. So easy and convenient, right?
Easy and convenient it might be but it's about as reliable as the Seattle Marines making the playoffs!
Zillow has never set foot in your home, has no idea if your kitchen is original, if your roof and furnace need replacing or if you remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms last year and...
And what's included in Ballard condo HOA dues?
The Ballard neighborhood Seattle has lots of different condo styles. From modern construction with the latest bells and whistles to funky older ones that Don Draper would feel right at home in, and from large units with expanisve views of the Puget Sound to small condos on busy roads.
But one thing they all have in common is that they ALL pay monthly Home Owner Association (HOA) dues.
Compared to buying a house, when buying a Ballard condo, or any condo for that matter, you need to do some additional research. Here's a post I previously wrote on The 9 Critical Questions to Ask When Buying a Condo. It's too late to ask after you've closed on the home!
And one of those questions is: "How much are the HOA dues and what do they cover?"
As you will see below, there's a lot of variation in what you might pay from one condo development to another. When looking at condos for sale in Ballard Seattle and calculating your potential monthly mortgage payments make sure to allow for HOA dues.
Here are some numbers on HOA dues for Ballard Seattle condos.
I looked at HOA dues for condos that were either currently for sale, pending or had sold over the past 2 months in the Ballard neighborhood as of the first week of October 2018. I looked at dues for both 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom condos.
For each, I calculated the average monthly HOA dues and the range (low and high). All data were obtained from the NWMLS. There were 28 one-bedroom and 24 two-bedrooms units.
What does licensed, bonded and insured mean?
Need a new roof, a plumber in a hurry or that peeling exterior paint needs to be repainted?
Many a homeowner will ask friends for a referral or be wooed by a "special discount" mailer and hire a contractor willy-nilly without ever checking them out fully.
'"Joyce next door just loved Bob the Builder. That's good enough for me and my home!"
Or you get 3 quotes for those crawl space repairs. Two of them are $4,000 but the 3rd one is only $2,500. Before you leap on #3, ask yourself why it's a lot lower than the other two.
Besides obviously that big fat dollar number on the quote (you did get a quote didn't you?), the most important things to do are (1) check out the company's reputation, ask for referrals and look for any current and past litigation against the company... and (2) determine whether the contractor or service provider is licensed, bonded and insured.
Sure, Bob the Builder seems like a nice guy and even has his own TV series...but is he licensed, bonded and insured?
What does licensed bonded and insured mean, and why are they important?
In this case, we will be focusing on contractors and service providers that you might end up hiring during your course of owning your home.
Let's start with the licensing requirements.
For certain services, each state will require someone who plies their trade in a particular field to get a business license before being able to practice their business. Even your hairdresser is required to have a license. Chemical scalp burn anyone. Same as your electrician, plumber, painter,...
The Ballard neighborhood Seattle is a popular choice for many home buyers and like much of Seattle has seen a strong seller's market since the market started heading upward in 2012.
However, over the past few months Ballard real estate, like the rest of Seattle, has started to show signs of slowing down.
So what's the current state of affairs?
If you are interested in Ballard Seattle homes for sale, this post provides you with an update on the most recent numbers and will give you a good idea of how the real estate market is doing in this Seattle neighborhood.
I looked at the sales of both Ballard single-family homes (houses and townhomes) and Ballard condos. For more reliable real estate statistics, it is always better to look at a larger area and longer-term trends than focusing in on any single month. All data was taken from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) and includes the latest data (August 2018).
Note: for the purposes of this post, I combined data for the neighborhoods shown in the map below. Yes, this is not just Ballard but if you look at just Ballard sales in isolation there would have been too few sales to generate reliable statistics. Plus, these adjacent neighborhoods would be expected to behave in a similar manner to Ballard home sales.
First, let's take a look at Ballard home prices.
The graph below shows how the monthly median sale price of both single family homes (houses and townhomes) and condos has varied over the past 10 years.
One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons is of two guys chatting at a cocktail party.
One guys says; "I'm writing a book".
The other guys says "Me neither!"
Personally, I love to write.
I often joke that I'm a writer trapped in a Realtor's body.
Unfortunately, being a full time Realtor in Ballard Seatle tends to get in the way of, well....writing, or more specifically, blogging about real estate.
But it shouldn't.
Blogging is a great way to promote yourself, your business and your own personal brand, no matter what line of business you are in, However, blogging is a beautiful fit for real estate agents. There's an endless number of topics that you can write about to make you stand out from the herd, share your knowledge and educated your buyers and sellers. And yes, get leads too.
Many Realtors are intimidated by the mere thought of starting blogging the first place. Plus many who actually do put finger tips to keyboard quickly give up. They were expecting miracle results and for their phone to start ringing off the hook after that fabulous 200 word post they wrote about their new listing.
I've been blogging consistently inconsistently, or is that inconsistently consistent for the past 2 years. And yes, I have struggled at times to find the time to blog and know I need to improve at certain aspects like promoting my posts. I'm at about a 6.2 out of 10 (10 being a Bill Gassett) of where I really want to be but I'm improving slowly but surely. There's always something new to learn.
And yes, I am making fun of myself with the graphics contained within this post....
As the current saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts!
No matter how tough you think you are or how good you think you are at hiding your emotions, buying or selling a home is an emotional affair. Even hard-nosed property investors will get at least a little miffed at missing out on a deal. When emotions take over, rational thinking can fly out the window….
Here are some examples of real estate irrational thinking:
- My Zesstimate must be right, it’s a computer and it’s higher than what my Realtor said my home is worth!
- That $25,000 kitchen remodel increased my home’s value by $50,000!
- I’m not giving my home away for nothing!
- I’ll never get to buy a home, everyone knows that EVERY home is selling way over asking with multiple offers!
- That home is way over-priced. I’ll offer $20,000 less than asking (this despite there being 5 other offers).
- And yes, even we Realtors are not immune to irrational thinking… “I’d be happy to list your way over-priced home!”
When buying or selling a home, it’s wise to get a grip on reality with real numbers.
Yes, dry and boring real estate statistics they might well be, but they will help you make rational and educated decisions. If you chose to ignore them, good luck relying on your gut or uncle Bob's insights, (he of the perpetual rental status). The same numbers work equally well for both buyers and sellers
Here’s are the real estate numbers to live by... or at least buy and sell by:
How does the current Ballard Seattle real estate market compare to the 2007 bubble market?
Around 10 years ago in 2007, the US real estate market began to implode and dragged Seattle along with it. The Seattle market was one of the last major cities to be affected and one of the first to emerge from the bottom of the market in 2012.
Today, the Ballard and Seattle real estate markets are booming, with Seattle consistently being at, or near, the top of US cities for home price increases.
Ballard Seattle is a sought after neighborhood by many home buyers. Ballard has it all! Just like all Seattle neighborhoods, Ballard Seattle homes for sale are attracting multiple offers and about 50% of Ballard homes selling for above list price.
So how does Ballard Seattle real estate in 2018 compare to the last price surge in 2007?
I looked at the following real estate statistics for between 2005 and 2017.
- Median sale price.
- Number of months of inventory.
- Ratio of the sale price to the list price.
- The number of homes for sale compared to the number of sold homes.
All data was taken from the North West Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS). Note that MLS data only goes back to 2005, no data is available for the years prior to that.
Ballard Seattle homes for sale price trend.
The graph below shows how the Ballard real estate market peaked in 2007 with a median sale price of $490,000 and subsequently dropped by 19% to $398,000 by early 2012.
People always overdo the matter when they attempt deception. Charles Dudley Warner.
Virtual staging and (real) home staging are similar but only in that they share the word "staging".
With improvements in virtual staging software, virtual staging has become a cheap “alternative” to hiring a professional company when staging a home.
Staging a home for sale: should you use virtual staging?
There are obvious pros and cons for each of these two options, the biggest one being cost. However, just because virtual home staging costs a lot less does not necessarily make it a good idea. It can be a case of being penny wise, pound foolish.
For the purposes of comparing virtual staging and hiring a professional staging company, I will be comparing the staging of vacant homes where the sellers haveto move out and the home is completely empty.
What is home staging?
In general terms, home staging means getting your home ready for market and making it look it’s absolute best….both the interior and exterior. Home staging includes doing all the nitty-gritty stuff like cleaning the home so it’s Q-tip clean, decluttering, doing any needed repairs, landscaping, painting and taking care of curb appeal... and the actual staging with furniture and accessories.
Professional home stagers can put together a home staging checklist for the sellers that includes all the nitty-gritty items that need to be completed. However, for Ballard Seattle real estate at least, the real estate agent usually provides the sellers with home staging tips and an action item list to make sure that the home is properly prepared...
How competitive is Ballard Seattle real estate for single Family homes and condos?
In the current strong sellers' real estate market in Seattle, home buyers are having to compete to buy a home. The housing inventory is, and has been for a few years, acutely low. Home buyers will probably feel like every home is getting multiple offers and selling for well above list price. Some buyers will give up trying to buy a home and feel like they will never get their foot in the home ownership door.
Are all homes for sale in Ballard Seattle WA really selling for above list price with multiple offers?
So, what is the reality of the current Ballard Seattle WA real estate market?
I looked at sale statistics for Ballard single family homes (houses and townhomes) and condos that sold over the 3 month period up to the middle of January 2018.
All data was pulled from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS). Data was combined for the area covering Ballard, Loyal Heights, Sunset Hill and Whittier Heights neighborhoods.
Note that is the middle of winter when the market is usually "slower" than the spring and summer months. In this market, slower is a relative term.
Ballard single family homes:
I looked at the sales of single family homes in 3 different price ranges:
- Less than $750,000
- Between $750,000 and $1,000,000
- Above $1,000,000
The percentage of homes that sold for above, below and for list price for the 3 different price ranges is shown below:
When you look at the ratio of the sale price to the list price for all single...
They say don't look a gift horse in the mouth. But when it's a Trojan horse, you do! - Eric Johnson
Usually, as part of the home buying process, the buyer hires a licensed home inspector to inspect the home so they know what they are purchasing. However, sometimes, the seller will pre-inspect the home before listing it for sale and share that home inspection report with interested buyers.
There are two specific uses of a seller home inspection:
- The sellers do a pre-listing inspection of their home for the purposes of finding and fixing any issues before putting the home on the market.
- The sellers do a pre-listing inspection their home for the purposes of finding and fixing any issues before putting the home on the market AND intend to provide a free copy of the home inspection report to potential home buyers as a marketing strategy.
The usual home purchase procedure is for the buyer to do a home inspection AFTER the seller has accepted their offer. The buyer then has about 10 days to complete the inspection and get their home inspection report. The buyer can then either accept the home as-is, request some repairs and/or a price drop, or just walk on the sale and get their earnest money back.
The inspection will include the (1) home itself and the property it sits on (2) the sewer line from the home to the main sewer line in the street (depending on the age of the home) or alternatively (3) the septic system if the home is not connected to the sewer system. Note that in WA State at least, septic inspections are done after mutual acceptance and is paid for by the sellers.
In a hot sellers' market, like the current Seattle real estate market, it is very common for buyers to...
Homes for sale in Ballard Seattle are a popular option with many home buyers. Ballard is a great, self-contained neighborhood with lots to keep you occupied but also a quick hop to downtown Seattle.
Home buyers often inquire as to how Ballard Seattle home prices vary in different parts of the neighborhood. The Ballard neighborhood Seattle, or let's say the "greater Ballard area" starts with Whittier Heights to the east and extends to the appropriately named Sunset Hill area to the west, with Loyal Heights in between.
do Ballard Seattle homes prices increase as you move closer to the water?
I looked at home sales in the following 4 sections of Ballard (see map below):
- Between 8th and 15th Ave NW (includes Whittier Heights area).
- Between 15th and 24th Ave NW and NW 85th Street.
- Between 24th and 32nd Ave NW (includes Loyal Heights homes).
- West of 32nd Ave NW (Sunset Hill area).
All section were bordered by NW 85th Street to the north and NW Market Street to the south. The 4 sections were chosen based on the main north-south arterial roads through the Ballard neighborhood Seattle.
I looked at the sale of all Ballard single family homes (houses and townhomes). The data does not include condos. I looked at homes that sold over the 6 month period from July through December 2017. All data were extracted from the NWMLS.
First time home buyer advice from me to me.
If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious sh**! - Doc, Back To The Future.
I bought my own home in 2003, 5 years before I became a Seattle Realtor.
Was my home purchase flawless, perfect and stress-free? Absolutely not!
Looking back, do I think that I could have done some things better? You betcha! I did some things well but could have done better on others.
When you do something for a living, day in day out, things become second nature. Things seem, well…obvious. Having said that, as a Realtor you are always learning and always need to be learning. But compared to when I was a first time home buyer I’m now a veritable professor of all things real estate.
When I look back with my current Realtor mindset at my home buying experience, there are definitely certain things that I could have done better.
I love my home. It wasn’t perfect when I bought it, it’s not perfect now and probably never will be. I bought a 3 bedroom red brick Tudor home in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle. It was dated and had been on the market for about 5 weeks even though it was a strong, and getting stronger, seller's market. The minute I walked in the front door it was a case of "THIS IS THE ONE! Where do I sign?"
And so, if I had a time machine I could visit my younger self and give myself some first time home buyer advice.......
Learn the questions that will protect you when buying a condo.
The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge - Thomas Berger.
Condos are a popular option with many first time home buyers mainly because they are more affordable. They are also a good fit for home owners looking to downsize and have someone else take care of all the maintenance hassles. Or if you want to be close to the hub of downtown life and stroll to bars, cafes an restaurants, then a condo is probably your only option.
There are pros and cons to buying a condo versus a house. However, buying a condo is not the same as buying a house. There's a whole other set of questions you need to ask when buying a condominium.
The answers to these questions will help you decide whether you should even make an offer in the first place or bail on the sale once you get all the facts.
Ideally, you want to get answers to as many of these questions BEFORE you make an offer. You want to avoid wasting your time (and the seller's) getting into a contract when there's a good chance you will bail once you have all the answers.
When it comes to buying a condominium, the problem is that it is not usually possible to get all the answers up front. You might have to make an offer first to get all the nitty-gritty details. This applies in particular to the infamous Resale Certificate, but more on that later.
Here's a list of the most important questions to ask when buying a condo. And make sure to ask ALL of them!...
Statistically speaking, many Realtor market updates should be recycled immediately!
Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable - Mark Twain.
Probably the most common question Realtors get is "how's the market doing?" Home buyers and home owners are always interested in knowing what direction the market is headed in their particular neighborhood. A Realtor's personal experience in the trenches and good old gut feeling are good, but solid real estate statistics are better at conveying what the real estate market is really doing.
Real estate agents have access to lots of real estate statistics either through their Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or through real estate statistics software like TrendGraphix. However, it's how they select and use that data that matters. Some Realtors produce excellent market upates. However, just as some real estate advertising can be misleading, some real estate statistics are best avoided.
Real estate market reports are everywhere and are probably the most common type of blog post that real estate agents write. The great thing is that you can use the same template as the previous month and just copy and paste the whole thing, remove September's numbers and replace them with Octobers stat's. Then hit the publish button and you're done.
Statistically speaking however, many of those monthly reports that Realtors stick in the mail or mail out to their clients are at best "for amusement purposes only". Some data...
Ballard real estate market update for houses: May through November 2017
Ballard Seattle is a popular choice for many home buyers and like much of Seattle, has seen a strong sellers market over the past few years. Obviously that's good news for sellers but it makes for a tough market for home buyers looking to get into the Ballard neighborhood.
If you are interetsed in Ballard Seattle homes for sale, or more specifically a Ballard house, here's an update on all the numbers you will need to give you a good idea idea of how the real esate market is doing in this Seattle neighborhood.
I looked at the sales of Ballard single family homes (houses only, excludes townhomes and condos) over the 6 month period covering May through October 2017. For reliable real estate statistics, it is always better to look at larger time periods rather than focusing in on any single month. All data was take form the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS).
This update specifically looks at houses only. Separate updates for Ballard condos and townhomes will follow in sepatate posts.
What's the average sale price of houses in Ballard?
I looked at the sale price of single family homes based on the number of bedrooms. Not unexpectedly, as the number of bedrooms increases, so does the average sale price. As shown below, prices averaged from $684,000 for 2-bedroom homes to $1,043,000 for Ballard houses with 4 or more bedrooms. Three bedroom single family homes sold for $816,000.
Beware of real estate advertizing with lots of astericks!
The first law of advertising is to avoid the concrete promise and cultivate the delightfully vague. John Crosby.
As with all advertising and advertisers' attempts to get you to buy their products and use their services, the real estate world is not immune to, let's say, over embellishing. In an ocean of advertising, you have to do something to stand out I suppose. They need to hook your attention and hook it quickly before your short attention span, advertising-jaded mind, stumbles to the next exciting, act now offer.
Some embellishment is fine in general, but we're talking about real estate here, not a pair of striped socks for $4.99 on Amazon! This is your home and potentially involves thousands of your dollars, or worse, if you make a bad judgement call.
Here are some common types of real estate advertising targeted mainly at home owners that could potentially lead you down the garden path (and not in a good way).
Ad #1: Increadible low interest rates, refinance today!
The little brightly colored ad in the sidebar on your online newspaper, proclaims it can get you a 30 year fixed rate mortgage of 3.25%.
Amazing, you think to yourself. My bank just quoted me 4.0%. I should check these guys out.
You call the 1-800 number and someone in a state 2,000 miles away answers and then the sale pitch begins..... "Thank you for calling Too Good To Be True Mortgages, my name is Mark. Looks like you saw our great interest rate offer..... yada, yada yada!"
Mark now starts attempting to ingratiate himself to you. Eventually, after pulling teeth for 20 mins with Mark, you realize that the 3.25% rate is never going...