How Safe is My Neighborhood?

We all want to make sure we are living or are going to be living in a safe area. It is important to think about, especially now that children are starting to go back to school. There are various resources you can use to scope out a potential neighborhood or learn more about your own. Here are some of the best resources available:

Crime Mapping Services

A crime mapping service is a great tool to be able to see what kind of crimes take place in a specific area. Two of the better ones I have found are SpotCrime and CrimeReports. This tool is great to scope out what types of crimes and what dates they’ve been committed. You are also able to compare neighborhoods to find one with the lowest crime rate.

National Sex Offender Public Website

The National Sex Offender website allows you to enter the address of your home, or a home you are potentially looking to buy or build and see how many sex offenders live in a up to 3-mile radius. You are able to see their names and locations on the map.

AreaVibes

AreaVibes allows you to search for what is important to you. You are able to enter an address, neighborhood, city or even state and it gives a score based on factors such as crime rate, amenities, livability and housing. It also allows you to compare different places and can help you decide which areas you will be comfortable living in and ones you may want to avoid.


Take a Tour

If you are thinking of buying a house in a specific neighborhood take a tour of the surrounding area. Are houses in good condition? What are the conditions like? Is there graffiti or a large number of homes unattended? While it is no guarantee that a neighborhood is safe it is a helpful indicator on what type of neighbors you will have.

Ask

If you are still uncertain about a neighborhood you can try asking some potential neighbors what they think of the area. Are they happy there? Have they had any problems with crime? Sometimes all it takes is a simple conversation.

While there are no absolute guarantees when it comes to your or your family’s safety these resources are invaluable to helping you make the best-informed decision you can.


Janet 
SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate


A Walk in The Seller’s Shoes

We all know buying a home is stressful. It is a huge purchase and incredibly time-consuming. And to top it all off you have sellers unwilling to compromise or asking a price that seems incredibly out of range for the market. However, instead of automatically making the seller into the bad guy, why not try and look at things from their perspective? This article is meant for buyers to help them see things from the seller’s point of view.

Frustrated Home SellerLocal Market Conditions

Can you imagine holding onto your house waiting for the right time to sell? Maybe putting off buying your dream home or retirement possibly for years until the market is right? The local market plays a huge role in whether or not the home will sell and for some sellers, the timing does not work in their favor. Along with the market not being the best time, there is also how long the home sits on the market to consider. As a seller, if you aren’t in the home you are still paying a mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc. and if you are in the home you are tasked with keeping all areas ready to view at all times.

Time of Year

Some sellers have a small window in which they’re able to put their home on the market. Whether it is for deployment and the family has to move immediately or the family has to wait until the end of the school year sometimes the seller is in a hurry and needs a quick sale. Waiting on buyers who are ill-prepared or people asking to see your house now but want to buy in 6 months to a year would be incredibly frustrating and would honestly feel like a waste of time.

It’s Emotional

As a buyer, you look at a house and think of what it could be. All the BBQ’s your family COULD have in the backyard. All the hours you COULD spend in the pool. When a seller is putting their house on the market, they have to think about all the hours they DID spend in the pool. Or all the family BBQ’s they DID have. It’s sometimes hard to let go of the tangible even when you still do have the memories. And while it is frustrating as a buyer to have a house be priced on sentimental value there is a reason for that. It’s because the seller is attached to their home.

Getting the Home Ready to Sell

Putting your home on the market isn’t an easy process. Repairs may need to be done; new coats of paint may have to be put on. The clutter has to go before the Realtor will want to take pictures. There is a lot going on behind the scenes and it’s a hard process. If you had spent every weekend trying to prepare your home for the market only to hear people complain about the finishings or paint color it would be annoying and feel like a waste of both time and money.

Barbecue in the Backyard of your new home with Family and FriendsUnrealistic Home Buyers

As a buyer, you always feel as though you are being realistic, however, that may not actually be the case. Many home buyers will offer well below market value, even to a point where it is insulting to the seller. As a seller when an offer was made way below what would be fair how would you respond? While the point of putting in an offer is opening up a negotiation, if a person’s offer is comically low it feels like there is no place really to start. From you, the buyer’s perspective, a low-ball offer is a way to get a great deal the seller sees it quite differently.

Unrealistic Home Buyers (Again)

Buyers aren’t only unrealistic when it comes to putting in offers, they are also unrealistic regarding the condition of the home. As a seller you probably have put a lot of work into your home getting it ready for market, however, there may be things you don’t feel need to be done, or you don’t have the budget to do and that is perfectly okay. The problem is when the buyer wants things done exactly suited to their tastes and is not willing to compromise. As a seller, you will be aware your home may need some upgrades and the price will reflect that however, a buyer will still put in an incredibly low offer with the excuse there are repairs to be done. As a seller, you’re now being penalized twice for needing repairs, you decrease asking price because of it and the buyer takes off even less because of repairs needed.

Closing the Deal

Just when you get to the finish line of selling your home is where it can easily all go wrong. There are many things a buyer can do to derail their loan and it is entirely out of the seller’s hands. Not only is this frustrating it is also damaging regarding how other buyers look at the home. As a seller, the loan falling through had nothing to do with you but now potential buyers see your home as having something wrong with it that caused the original buyers to back out.

While buying a home comes with its own distinct set of challenges it is helpful to realize that selling a home isn’t always easy either. Instead of feeling as though one side doesn’t understand the other, progress is made when each side agrees to look at it from a different perspective.


Janet 
SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate


Appliance Shopping Made Easy!

Shopping for AppliancesWe’ve all been there either the washer dies and no amount of resuscitation can fix it, or the freezer has suddenly turned your house into a pool. Or even a new house needing all new appliances, it is hard to know exactly where to start! How do you find the best brands at the best prices? It’s a daunting task just to get started but here are some tips to help.

Choose a Price Range

Without knowing what price you are willing to pay for each item you are going to have a harder time finding brands that will work for you. By narrowing down options that do not work for your price range you are saving time on your research.

Wish List Time

Next, make a list of things in two categories, one what you are not willing to compromise on and what is negotiable. For example, you may know that for your family requires a large washing machine by excluding sizes like 3.8 cu ft. you are quickly able to narrow down the list of possible brands that will work for you. Or if you are like me a refrigerator with an ice machine is at the top of the list, I am able to search for that and exclude options that do not fit my criteria.

Compare Brands

Comparison Shopping for AppliancesThis is the part most people tend to dread when it comes to appliance shopping. There are so many places to look at reviews, and in some ways, it feels like a guessing game when it comes to what to get. The first place I would look is the website where you plan to purchase your appliance or appliances from. Where I live that narrows your store down to one option, for others there could be multiple places. But with your criteria in hand, you are able to quickly sort through what will and won’t work for you. Once you have a short list of options, start looking over reviews, even if you don’t plan to buy from that specific store the reviews are an invaluable resource for you. Other options for reviews would be Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, or Consumer Affairs website are all great options for reviews as well.

Go to the Store

Now that you have 1-3 appliances you have narrowed the search down to your next step should be going to the store if possible. Even if you plan to buy online it is easier to make sure you can reach the bottom of the washer before it’s installed than after (I may be speaking from experience here). Or the buttons to the oven may have looked great online but in store, they feel cheap and likely to break. These are all things to take into consideration.

Shop the Sales

At this point, you should know exactly what you are looking for. Now is the time to shop for some sales. Using sites like Honey or Flipp you can easily browse sales papers. These sites allow you to easily find what options you may have; one store may be able to save you hundreds off the purchase price! Also, you should be aware most large appliance manufacturers release new models in the early Fall. So. shopping in September or October may work out well for you. As well as these dates there are Black Friday deals to be aware of as well.

With all of these tips in mind, we hope to make appliance shopping a little less of a hassle and a lot more fun!


Janet 
SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate


Tips for Getting Your Offer Accepted in a Hot Market

 

After all the time you have spent searching for your perfect home you are now ready to make an offer. Congratulations! That is a HUGE step toward getting your dream home. However, in a lot of situations even a full offer may not be enough to being accepted. When there are more buyers than sellers competition is high and so are the prices. Here are some great tips you can use to make sure your offer comes out on top.

  1. Work Fast – This one is kind of a no brainer. While you should never jump into a purchase as large as a home be sure to do your research and know what you are looking for as well as what you’ll be able to afford. Do not wait a week after you see a house you like online to contact your realtor, somebody could have already seen the home and put in an offer. If you decide you like it, ask to see it and make an offer as soon as you feel comfortable doing so.
  2. Make your offer simple – Remove any seller concessions or contingencies you have regarding a sale of another property. This simplifies it for the seller and gives them less to have to figure out.
  3. Don’t ask for Personal Property – Despite how much you love the curtains or that grill on the patio it weakens your offer to ask for personal property. If the seller has two similar offers, one asking for items and the other not they are much more likely to remember how much everything will cost to replace and be hesitant to go with an offer asking for items.
  4. Offer Above Asking – If you really love the house and know there is a potential for other offers ask above what the price is. Your offer may very well have to beat out other offers. Instead of putting in an offer either lower or at asking, think of how much you will realistically be willing to spend and ask your realtor for advice regarding comparable houses in the area. That may be able to give you a much better number than guessing.
  5. Write a Letter – Think of the nostalgia you feel when selling your home. They are feeling the same thing. While it may not work in every situation a letter to the seller can often persuade them to go with your offer, even if it is not the highest. Let them know who you are, your plans for the house, or even a photo. If you see your 2 kids playing in their huge back yard then include that, it may remind them of all the times their kids did the same.
  6. Offer All Cash – While I understand this may not be a realistic option for some people cash often persuades sellers to go with an offer. They know the buyer will be able to follow through and is much less risky for sellers.
  7. Close Faster – In many situations the faster the close the better it is for the seller. This is especially true if they have already moved and are paying two mortgages, utility bills, etc. on two houses. If you can shorten the closing date then in this case it is much more appealing.
  8. Include a Pre-Approval Letter – Be proactive and get a letter from your bank stating what you are able to have. While you are able to tell the seller you qualify them, reading it is more substantial of a statement.
  9. Pay the Sellers Closing Costs – This is an expensive part of selling a home, so if you are able this is something to consider doing.
  10. Offer Again – Just because your original offer was not accepted does not mean there isn’t a chance you will get the property. Be able to come back with a number and have your realtor submit another offer as soon as possible.

 

While buying a home is never an easy process by using some of these tips you are guaranteed to be more successful. With enough persistence, luck and know how you will be in your dream home before you know it.

 

 


Janet 
SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate


Is a Tiny Home Right For Me?

They look like the answer to all your problems don’t they? I know they do mine. If I could only get rid of all the clutter (okay, my husband’s clutter) and move into a tiny home all problems would be solved! With the ability to move anywhere and a simplistic design, where everything has a place I can completely understand the appeal of a tiny home. But are they right for everybody? Below are some things to consider before you start selling everything you own and scaling down to a tiny home.

Where Will You Put Your Home?

Sometimes finding a place to park your tiny home can be a problem. Tiny homes generally fall into two categories permanent and on wheels. If you have a permanent tiny home zoning code and other regulations (HOA for example) may have to be considered. If you choose to have a home on wheels, this requires hooks ups just like an RV would, thus RV parks are often your best bet, which of course requires a fee.

Wheels or No Wheels?

A traditional home (no matter how small) still has building codes it needs to stick to. A tiny home on wheels will have to conform to the standards of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association if you wish to have your home in an RV park. No matter which you choose it is important to find the right builder who will work with you and make sure everything in your tiny home is up to the code and the right regulations are observed. Also, another thing to consider in the wheels vs. no wheels debate: Do you have something to move your home with? The smallest of homes often require a diesel truck to haul and the larger homes on wheels require an even bigger truck and trailer.

Don’t Forget About Your Family or Lifestyle

While it may sound appealing to be able to move anywhere or stay in one place only so long the tiny house lifestyle is not necessarily for everybody. A 250 SF home may be able to hold two people comfortably but adding in children, pets, guests, etc. can cause some problems. In some instances there just simply is not enough room for everybody to live in a tiny home comfortably. And think about it, do you REALLY want your teenager sleeping in the loft across from yours? If you could handle it, that’s great, but I know many people who would pass on that idea. You also cannot forget about pets, will a great dane work as well as a chihuahua? What added space will they require? Do they need space to run or will they be content with a limited floor plan to move around in?

Give it A Shot….But Before You Buy

Trying it out is obviously going to be the best way for you to know if a tiny home is going to fit your family or your lifestyle. Come up with a list of tiny home styles you like and see what is available to rent in your area. If you rent a home for a week and by day 3 you’re ready to go insane it may be a sign you need to rethink how tiny of a home you want to go.

Consider Beyond the House

Are you a person who spends more time outdoors than in? With a tiny home it is important to take advantage of any additional square feet you possibly can. This may be as simple as having a few folding chairs and table, a built in porch, or a retractable awning. The possibilities are endless with a tiny home but have a huge impact when looking at the overall footprint of your home.

Utilities

While tiny homes are in general less expensive all around than regular homes there are some additional costs to keep in mind. Should you choose to stay in a RV park you will have to pay rent on the space you are in which generally covers electricity, water, and sewage. Some RV parks also have WiFi and other amenities you can take advantage of for an additional fee. Should you have a permanent tiny home you will have to be connected to a water source, electricity, sewer, internet, and any other services you need.

Don’t Forget Your Goals

If you are moving into a tiny home entirely to save money you may want to investigate other alternatives before moving into a tiny home. Given some areas renting or homeowner ship may be cheaper it is always best to do your research thoroughly. However, if you are making an informed decision that aligns with what you want to do in the long term and what your goals are a tiny home can be a fantastic choice to help you on your way.

 

 


Janet 
SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate


Reflecting on 2016

2016 is behind us now and we’re all looking forward to the New Year. I’ve always said “You can’t know where you’re going, until you know where you’ve been”, so let’s take a look back at the Real Estate market in Lewis County.

The Real Estate Market in Lewis County is looking up, with a total number of Single Family Residence (SFR) homes sold at 1086 this past year while 2015 only resulted in 1046 homes sold. This is an increase of nearly 4.5% in the number of sales and our average sales prices have steadily increased since 2014 as well. We closed 2016 with an average sales price of $170,000, just over an 11% increase.

July of 2016 was our hottest month with 179 homes “SOLD” per the NWMLS, while May through September remained strong. What really surprised me was the lack of decline in the number of sales even through the end of the year, look at the rise in the number of sales in November. The market stayed “Hot” through the end of the year.

Who knows what our future holds, but I’m the forever optimist. There has never been a better time to purchase a home than now. Interest rates remain relatively low, there are numerous loan programs available to qualified buyers and rental rates are sky rocketing so why wait.

We are so lucky to live here in Lewis County where our growth is slow & steady (remember the Turtle & the Hare story?), it always wins the race.

Now that we’ve peeked backwards, lets focus on what’s ahead.

Optimistically yours,
Janet

If you’re looking to buy or sell, I’m here to help.


Janet 
SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate


Fall is the new “Peak Season” to sell your home

leaves-in-fall-janet-simonsOctober is quickly becoming the most popular month for weddings, are these Autumn-loving newlyweds on to something?

Spring months have notoriously been the best time for buying real estate (as well as have a weddings), Fall is now becoming the “New” season to buy a home.

Let’s take a look at a few reasons this change is taking place:

There is less competition

Fall is a time many people consider to be the “Off-Season” in real estate so competition drops off. It provides buyers with new inventory and repositioned old inventory that didn’t sell during the summer months.

Qualified home buyers are in a great positon to negotiate aggressively. Many sellers are highly motivated to sell prior to the holidays. When possible, buyers can let sellers know they close before Thanksgiving or before the winter break is over.

Sellers are worn-down

Sellers who had their homes on the market during the prime selling season of Spring and Summer may have listed their homes above market price, resulting in an expired listing. After months of no action, these sellers are often ready to make a deal. Sellers who placed unrealistic prices on their homes earlier in the year may now be more willing to reduce the price come Fall. There are fewer buyers, fewer showings causing sellers to become frustrated and eager to sell. They are tired of maintaining a home in “Show Condition” and don’t want to wait another six months before selling their home.

Take advantage of those Tax breaks

Property tax and Mortgage interest are both deductions you can claim for the entire years’ worth of income, even if you close on your purchase in December. You can’t escape paying income tax, this can make a big difference in the amount you owe the government. This may amount to a significant savings, especially for “First time Homeowners”.

Fall is a safer

Did you know that July and August are the peak months for burglars? Waiting until Fall gives you the advantage to learn about your new home and neighborhood. You can get settled in your home and take precautions like installing a home security system.

Be the “Center of Attention”

Real estate agents are typically swamped during the Spring and Summer season. You might not get the attention from your agent that you deserve. Many other service providers that are related to the real estate industry such as Lenders and title companies also feel the heat during the summer.  Falls allows agents and related professionals the time to dedicate to their clients making YOU their priority.

The probability of experiencing delays and service issues from moving companies goes way down after the summer peak season too.

Save some $ with end of year sales

According to consumer reports, September offers sales on carpet & paint while October may be the best time to purchase lawn equipment. November brings sales on appliances and cookware. Fall home purchases coordinates well with sale items you may need for your new home. Often appliances are not included in the sale of a home or there are improvements you’ll want to make.

Not only does Fall bring a change in the season, it may bring you a change of homes. Please let me know how I can help you this Fall.  


Janet 
SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate


VA Financing Basics – Part 2 of my series on What Buyer & Sellers need to know about Financing

VA FinancingThis week I’m going to focus on what VA appraisers look for and the key elements to be considered. Every VA loan requires properties to undergo a VA appraisal & meet Minimum Property Requirements (MPRs).

This is to ensure the structural integrity, safety & soundness of properties being purchased.

If you’re considering purchasing a home using VA financing or as a Seller you want your property to be considered as a viable option to VA buyers, you’ll want to consider these major MPRs.

  1. VA Financed properties must be Residential: If any portion of the home is designed for non-residential purposes such as a home based business (hair salon, dog grooming, auto shop), that part cannot exceed 25% of the total floor area.
  2. Operating systems must be safe and have a reasonable useful life expectancy. Be sure there are GCIF outlets in the kitchen and bath, all electrical and plumbing systems are good operating condition.
  3. All properties must have adequate living areas that provide suitable living, sleeping, cooking and sanitary areas.
  4. Heating systems must be adequate and safe. In our area many homes rely on woodburning stoves as their primary source of heat, for VA they must also have a conventional heating system that can maintain a temperature of 50 degrees Farenheit. Also unvented methods of heating, such as a space heater must be inspected by a heating professional, have an oxygen sensor and meet all building codes.
  5. A domestic water supply that provides safe drinking water & safe way of sewage disposal. You must have domestic HOT water as well.
  6. Roof conditions cannot be defective or have more than 3 layers of shingles, if this is discovered all old shingles must be removed prior to replacement. Roofing must be adequate and provide reasonable useful life expectancy.
  7. Adequate access to the crawlspace along with adequate venting is required. Remove all debri , be sure a properly installed vapor barrier is in place. Standing water or excessive dampness must be corrected. Leaky basements and faulty foundations are expensive to repair often leading to a deal breaker.
  8. Independent Utility services for each living unit (multifamily properties), unless there are separate shutoffs for each unit.
  9. Safe Access from the street either a permanent recorded easement or private driveway.
  10. Health & Safety are top concerns when dealing with VA financing. All properties must be free of any hazard that adversely affect the property or it’s occupants.
  11. Safety, Structural or Sanitation. Appraisers watch for  defective construction, decay/wood rot,  defective craftsmanship and repairs, leaks, and  excessive dampness.
  12. Water must have proper drainage and be graded to ensure water flows away from the home. All down spouts must have drain pans, poor drainage can lead to foundation problems.
  13. Properties must be free of fungal growths (Mold), dry rot and wood destroying insects. Pest inspections are commonly required in our area, if termites are discovered property must be treated and re-evaluated to gain VA approval.
  14. Properties built prior to 1978 may contain lead based paint which has been determined to be a health hazard. Any surfaces with chipped or peeling paint must be scraped and repainted, covered with drywall, or totally removed.
  15. Smoke detectors and Carbon Monoxide detectors must be properly installed per manufacturers recommendations.

The best way to purchase or sell a property that qualifies for VA financing is to be well versed in VA’s MPRs.


Janet 
SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate