Archives for November 2008

Sunday Drive to the Tri-Cities: Washington’s Wine Country

Cari_2Editors Note: This Sunday Drive is brought to you by Cari McGee who knows her way around Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and surrounding towns as a Realtor in the Tri-Cities for Windermere.  Cari is also the author of The Real Estate Blog by Cari McGee.

Now that gas prices are back at feasible levels, you should think about taking a drive over to the OTHER side of our fair state.  The Tri-Cities (3-4 hour trip by car, depending on how fast you drive and what the traffic on the Pass is like) is a great place to spend a peaceful Sunday afternoon.

Now, I’m not an outdoorsy type of girl.  When I have free time, I’m curled up on the sofa reading a novel that takes place near a town that ends in 'shire and where all the houses sport Aga ranges.  However, I realize that not everyone is like that.  In addition, one big reason anyone would come over here from Seattle is to enjoy the sunshine we see on more than 300 days in a year. So, the list of possible activities here include boating, fishing, golfing, shopping, and my new favorite – wine-tasting.

Carivines One sip of alcohol and I become flushed, my heart beats wildly and I feel light-headed.  Strangely, it’s not all alcohol that does it (or maybe it IS but because I love champagne and daiquiris so much I don’t notice it when I drink them!). Usually, though, one sip of wine begins the process and I can’t have more than three or four sips before I quietly set the glass down and go look for a diet Coke. So it was a great surprise to me to go winery-hopping through the Tri-Cities and have a GREAT time doing it because the whole flush thing didn’t happen!

Due to Eastern Washington’s location on the lee side of the Cascades, the entire areaCaribarnardgriffin  is sheltered from the more dramatic marine climate. A mix of light rainfall and irrigation from nearby rivers provides the ideal amount of water for growing grapes. The Tri-Cities is in the South Columbia Valley, which is part of the vast Columbia Valley Appellation.  Wines have been produced in the region only since the mid 1980’s, and yet the quality and reputation of the wines here is exceptional.

Three wineries are very close together along Tulip Lane in Richland; Barnard Griffin, Bookwalter and Tagaris.  One of them offersCaribookwalker  tastings for free, and the other two charge 5 or 6 dollars, but that is refunded if you buy a bottle of wine.  Breadsticks and crackers or chocolate chips provide a break for your palate in between selections and the atmosphere is laid back and relaxed.  The pourer will chat you up or let you and your group do all the talking, whichever option you wish.                                                       Caritagaris

Travel fifteen minutes away from those wineries (and the joke in the Tri-Cities is that everything is just fifteen minutes away from everything else) and you’ll find Badger Mountain/Powers Winery.  The vineyard at Badger Mountain is a certified organic winery, and so the wines made from grapes harvested there taste a bit differently than traditional wines.  There are no added sulfites as well, and even I, an inexperienced wine-drinker, noticed the difference.Caripowers

Further away than the famous fifteen minutes allows are Hogue Cellars (closer to Prosser), and Preston Wineries (out beyond Pasco).

Jump in the car some Sunday morning, zip across the state and enjoy some fantastic wine by mid-afternoon (or golf, or fish or shop!). There are all kinds of things to do here in the Tri-Cities, pick your fun and dive into it.  We’d love to have you!

Fannie and Freddie’s New Deal

The Federal Housing Finance Committee in a news release this morning, announced that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks will be assisting "at risk" borrowers with loan modifications.

"The program targets the highest risk borrower who has missed three payments or more, owns and occupies the property as a primary residence, and has not filed for bankruptcy.  To be considered for the program, a seriously delinquent borrower should contact his or her servicer and provide the requested income information."

Qualified home owners may have their mortgage payment (including any home owners association dues) modified to be no more than 38% of their gross monthly household income through "a mix of reducing the mortgage interest rate, extending the life of the loan or even deferring payment on part of the principal…the goal is to create a more affordable payment."

Borrowers will need to be able to certify that they have experienced a hardship or change in financial circumstances–this is not a "skip three mortgage payments and get rescued" deal.  According to what I’m reading in the news release, mortgage balances are not forgiven, they will be deferred (which I prefer).

If you are a home owner in trouble, you must start with contacting your mortgage servicer (where you make your mortgage payments).  This is a "new deal" so even if you’ve recently tried negotiating, you should try again.   Not everyone in distress will qualify for this program…but you won’t know until you try.

According to FHFA, Fannie and Freddie own (or guarantee) about 58% of all single family mortgages of which 20% are seriously delinquent.  Private label securities (non-prime) represent less than 20% of single family mortgages with 60% of those being seriously delinquent.

Veteran’s Day

Mortgage Master is closed today in observance of Veteran’s Day to honor those who serve our Country to protect our freedom.


This photo is of Lady Liberty at Alki in West Seattle. A gift from the Boy Scouts in 1952, she was recently restored to her original beauty.

How the 2009 FHA Loan Limits Impact Homeowners

I was so busy sulking about my neck of the woods having the FHA loan limit reduced by $61,500, that I didn’t realize that two Washington State counties (Chelan and Douglas) actually had their limits increased!  Kitsap county has been hit the hardest with a reduction to their FHA loan limit by $167,950. The following comparison is based on single family dwellings for FHA loans:

King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties

2009: $506,000 vs. 2008: $567,500 (reduced by $61,500)

San Juan County

2009: $483,000 vs. 2008: $593,750 (reduced by $110,750)

Clark and Skamania Counties

2009: $362,250 vs. 2008: $418,750 (reduced by $56,500)

Chelan and Douglas Counties

2009: $342,700 vs. 2008: 323,750 (increased by $18,950)

Jefferson County

2009: $322,000 vs. 2008: $437,500 (reduced by $115,500)

Island County

2009: $316,250 vs. 2008: $381,250 (reduced by $65,000)

Kitsap County

2009: $307,050 vs. 2008: $475,000 (reduced by $167,950)

Whatcom County

2009: $304,750 vs. 2008: $375,000 (reduced by $70,250)

Clallam County

2009: $296,700 vs. 2008: $383,750 (reduced by $87,050)

Skagit County

2009: $295,550 vs. 2008: $373,750 (reduced by $78,200)

Thurston County

2009: $293,250 vs. 2008: $361,250 (reduced by $68,000)

What does this mean to you?  Congrats if you’re in Chelan or Douglas counties–you now have more buying or refinancing power should you need an FHA mortgage.  But what if you’re in an area where the FHA loan limit has been decreased?  If you’re considering refinancing beyond 80% loan to value, you should check with your local Mortgage Professional ASAP and make sure they’re HUD approved.  FHA allows up to 95% loan to value for refinances (including cash out if you need to consolidate debt) and is more forgiving on credit scores than conventional.  Some homeowners are surprised to find out they need to use FHA for financing when their home doesn’t appraise as high as they had hoped, bringing their loan to value higher than estimated.   Appraised values used by mortgage companies are based on what other homes (3-4) similar to yours in your neighborhood have sold and closed for within the last 6-12 months.

Start early NOW.  Effective January 1, 2009, odds are in Washington State, you will not be able to finance as much (unless you live in Chelan or Douglas county) and there’s not much time left in 2008. 

2009 FHA Loan Limits for Washington State

King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties

1 Unit – $506,000

2 Unit – $647,750

3 Unit – $783,000

4 Unit – $973,100

San Juan County

1 Unit – $483,000

2 Unit – $618,300

3 Unit – $747,400

4 Unit – $928,850

Clark and Skamania Counties

1 Unit – $362,250

2 Unit – $463,750

3 Unit – $560,550

4 Unit – $696,650

Chelan and Douglas Counties

1 Unit – $342,700

2 Unit – $438,700

3 Unit – $530,300

4 Unit – $659,050

Jefferson County

1 Unit – $322,000

2 Unit – $412,200

3 Unit – $498,250

4 Unit – $619,250

Island County

1 Unit – $316,250

2 Unit – $404,850

3 Unit – $489,350

4 Unit – $619,250

Kitsap County

1 Unit – $307,050

2 Unit – $393,050

3 Unit – $475,150

4 Unit – $590,500

Whatcom County

1 Unit – $304,750

2 Unit – $390,100

3 Unit – $471,550

4 Unit – $586,050

Clallam County

1 Unit – $296,700

2 Unit – $379,800

3 Unit – $459,100

4 Unit – $570,550

Skagit County

1 Unit – $295,550

2 Unit – $378,350

3 Unit – $457,350

4 Unit – $568,350

Thurston County

1 Unit – $293,250

2 Unit – $375,400

3 Unit – $453,750

4 Unit – $563,950

Adams, Asotin, Benton, Columbia, Cowlitz, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Okanogan, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Wahkiakum, Whitman and Yakima Counties:

1 Unit – $271,050

2 Unit – $347,000

3 Unit – $419,425

4 Unit – $529,250

It’s Official: Conforming-Jumbo 2009 Loan Limits are Lower

With the passage of HR 3221, we knew that the calculation used to determine what the "economic stimulus loan limits" (aka "temporary jumbo limits") would be reduced from 125% to 115% of the median home price.  What we didn’t know, until this morning was what figure would be used for the median price.  The new conforming loan limits for 2009 are actually lower than what I roughly anticipated in an earlier post.

If you are considering a mortgage with a loan amount of $506,001 – $567,500 or if you’re in a county that will no longer qualify; you don’t have a lot of time to take advantage of conforming-jumbo rates.   Lenders may begin implementing the new loan limits before the end of the year so that once loans are delivered to Fannie or Freddie (this takes place after your loan is closed), the loan limit will fit the new guidelines.

2009 Conforming Limits are unchanged:

1-Unit  $417,000

2-Unit  $533,850

3-Unit $645,300

4-Unit  $801,950

2009 Conforming Jumbo Limits. 

King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties effective January 1, 2009

1-Unit $506,000 (reduced from $567,500)

2-Unit $647,750 

3-Unit $783,000 

4-Unit $973,100 

San Juan County

1-Unit $483,000 (reduced from $593,750)

2-Unit $618,300 

3-Unit $747,400

4-Unit $928,850

Only Washington State counties listed above benefit from conforming jumbo limits in 2009.

Don’t forget to Vote!


You can’t gripe about who ever’s in office if you don’t vote.  At least that’s how I feel about it.  Even if you feel hopeless, as if your vote won’t make a difference; voting is your one true right as an American. 

Estimating Your Property Taxes

Sometimes the information shown on tax records may not be what a person will actually pay for their property taxes.  This is common with new construction or if the property is currently qualified for an exemption, such as for a Senior Citizen. [Read more…]