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…]

Do You Pay Property Taxes On Your Own?

If you have elected to not have your property taxes included in your monthly mortgage payment (no reserve account), second half taxes are due for King County by October 31, 2008.   For more information, or to pay on line, click here.

If you have property taxes included in your mortgage payment, you shouldn’t need to do anything at all.  Just sit back and take it easy.

Adorable Ballard Bungalow


This charming bungalow in Ballard could be yours.  It’s offered at $530,000 and will be open this Sunday, April 20, 2008 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

I’m not a real estate agent…but I’m happy to help you with financing on this home! 

For more information on this home, please contact your real estate agent.  This home is listed with Windermere – MLS #28058060Dirkhome_3 

This listing is posted with the permission of the home owners.


Is the Seattle Area in a Recession?

Not according to this graph from USA Today.


The article reports that Washington State is a leader in exports, which is helping our State stave off recession.   Even though our State seems to be fairing well as compared to other economies, it’s important to keep in mind:

"Businesses and consumers not in areas most affected by the housing boom and bust are not escaping the effects of the housing slump entirely. That’s because in the fallout from the subprime mortgage mess, banks have tightened lending standards for a variety of loans, no matter where the borrower is."

Hat tip to Transparent Real Estate

Seattle-King County Third Quarter Foreclosures are Down

Property Shark reports that foreclosures in King County are down year over year and are down 24.85% from the previous quarter based on trustee sales.    New_trustee_sales_seattle_2 

Why have foreclosure numbers improved in our region?  Hopefully distressed home owners are contacting their lenders for help before it’s too late.  Banks do not want to own homes and many are willing to work with home owners who are facing difficulties with their mortgage and are possibly facing foreclosure.   Another possibility is that investors are seeking out and buying “pre-foreclosure” homes.

South King County is reporting the most foreclosures for the third quarter.


Don’t wait if you’re having difficulty with your mortgage payments.   The earlier you take action, the more options you may have. 

Feeling unappreciated? At least you’re not Stockton, California.

CNN just published an excellent report forecasting depreciation in top housing markets in the nation.

"According to an analysis conducted by Moody’s, declines will exceed 10 percent in 86 of the 379 largest housing markets. And 290 of the cities will experience price drops of 1 percent or more The survey attempted to identify the high and low points of housing prices in each of the markets, some of which started declining from their peak in the third quarter of 2005. All are median prices for single-family houses.

Nationally, Moody’s is projecting an average price decline of 7.7 percent. That’s a jump from the 6.6 percent total price drop that the company was forecasting in June and more than twice that of last October’s forecast of a 3.6 percent price decrease."

The major areas below are reported to be peaking the 3rd quarter of 2007 and to be "hitting bottom" (doesn’t that mean rebounding back?) by the 3rd quarter of 2008.   The amount of the changes in home values being predicted varies:

  • Seattle-Bellevue-Everett -2.9%
  • Tacoma -5.5%
  • Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton -7.2%.
  • Spokane -2.6%

Compared to Stockton and other parts of the country, we’re doing pretty darn good.

"The Stockton, Calif., metro area, where Moody’s predicts a 25 percent price drop, will be the hardest hit among the 100 most populated cities surveyed.

Prices in Stockton – in California’s Central Valley – rose quickly through 2005 as many would-be Bay Area buyers, frozen out of the expensive San Francisco area housing market, moved in. That influx drove up the median, single-family home price to about $375,000. Stockton prices peaked during the first quarter of 2006 and have gone downhill since. Prices likely won’t turn around until the end of next year."

Even though a 2.9% decrease in home value is not hugely significant, it can be if you’re looking at refinancing out of a high loan to value mortgage.   Especially when you factor in the tightened guidelines with loan to value and credit.   Please don’t delay contacting your Mortgage Professional if you have an adjustable rate mortgage that will be adjusting in the next two years or sooner.   

On a home valued at $500,000, this would be a reduction of approx. $14,500 based on the predicted Seattle depreciation rate.

If you read the entire report that features the top 100 cities…you’ll actually feel pretty good about how our local real estate seems to be fairing

Zipping the Scales

Obesityzipcode0912finalx_3I found this article by the Seattle PI very interesting.   Before moving to West Seattle (10-14% obesity zip code), I lived on North Lake in the West Hill neigh- borhood of Auburn (a more than 25% obesity zip code).   

Living at North Lake meant that I planned my groceries because it was a bit of a trek to make it to QFC (which is now gone).  The produce and meats were pretty good quality.   The neighborhood also had other low cost grocery stores.  I felt that QFC, at the time, offered the highest quality.   There was (is?) a Trader Joes, for some reason, I didn’t shop there.

Living in West Seattle, we currently have several grocery stores, including Metropolitan Market and PCC.   Whole Foods is coming soon (it’s rumored that Trader Joes will follow).    With so many stores, I find myself shopping for groceries every day for that nights meal.   The grocery store is an almost retreat like a pleasant break in my day.   Metropolitan Market has great samples of cheeses and the kiosk is always cooking up something great.   The produce and meats are very fresh.   (When I lived in Des Moines, I loved going to the local butcher, B&E Meats over the grocery store). 

Where my home was located in West Hill Auburn, we had a lot of Weyerhauser walkers (North Lake is next to Weyerhauser’s corporate headquarters)…admittedly, I was not one of them.   I do get out and walk more living in West Seattle.  In fact, this is a much more "active" neighborhood than my former.   You have to be mindful opening your car door or you just might nail a bicyclist.   Joggers, walkers and people with strollers cover the sidewalk.   

The study, which followed 9000 King County residents boils down to:

  • Access to fresh healthy foods.
  • Cost of fresh healthy foods and organics compared to canned and other processed foods.
  • Education about different types of food and reading labels.   One example in the article which surprised me, is that raisin bran was less healthy than frosted mini-wheats.
  • Walkable neighborhoods (sidewalks, safety, etc.)

To read the entire article, click here.

UPDATE:  Hat tip to Lisa Wallace-Baker who just told me about Walk Score which "grades" how walkable your neighborhood is.   My West Seattle neighorhood scored 32 out of 100 and my former Auburn scored a 15.

Washington homes still show appreciation, BUT…

We are lucky that Washington state is one of the few in the nation to still be reporting that our homes are appreciating.  BUT…please don’t let that allow you to have a false sense of security with the value and equity in your home.   These reports are based on information that lag month(s) behind what’s actually going on. 

Other reports show that we are at a 16 year high for unsold homes (listings).   With this much inventory and few buyers due to a reduction in available mortgage programs (subprime, alt-a are reduced if not nil and jumbos have higher rates than before August), we may very well see a change in the appreciation stats we have been benefiting from.     The Seattle/Bellevue area has a high rate of "jumbo" priced homes (jumbo mortgages are loan amounts higher than $417,000).

If you currently have an ARM or bought your home with 100% financing a few years ago, you need to check with your Mortgage Professional to see how your credit is and what actions you should take (if any) right now (even if your ARM is not adjusting for two years).

Consider how you would be impacted if:

  • Your home value does not appreciate and instead, the value stays the same (stagnant) or depreciates?
  • Your adjustable rate or balloon mortgage adjust and you cannot afford the new payment?
  • Your interest only feature on your mortgage is over and you now have to make a fully amortized payment?
  • Your home does not appraise high enough to have the loan to value required for a refinance (loan to value guidelines are more strict now.   FHA has one of the best programs allowing a 95% LTV.  However, loan limits apply).

I don’t want to sound like a "Chicken Little" or cause panic.  I do want to make sure that you’re prepared for worse case scenario and hopefully it doesn’t happen.  Maybe Seattle will get away with just getting bumped by the national housing bubble.    Who knows?

Appraised values are based on what other homes like yours in your neighborhood recently have sold and closed for — not trends and not what other homes in your area are listed for.   If homes are selling for less because there are fewer buyers, this will directly impact your loan to value should you need to refinance out of a non-fixed rate mortgage.

Many home owners with prime and subprime ARMs that will be adjusting over the next few years will see their payments increasing from 20-50%.   It is your responsibility as a home owner to know your mortgage and to be fiscal and credit wise.     Please do contact your Mortgage Professional today (I know I’m repeating myself…but it is that important) to develop your personal "Mortgage Exit Strategy".  The more time you have to prepare, the better off you should be.