Archive for October, 2009

Sellers! Make Your Price Adjustments And Get In The Game

October 27, 2009


One of the most difficult things in my business today is to explain to my seller client the fact that our home values have fallen and unfortunately their home may not be worth what it used to be worth. I can go to my listing appointment with information in hand; facts from the MLS that show the recent sales of homes that are comparable to their home. It’s not an easy pill to swallow for anyone when looking at the facts. Let’s face it – our American Dollar isn’t worth what it USED to be worth either!


Let’s look at the Closed Residential Sales in the Everett area

In September of 2008 the average sales price was $375,000.
In September of 2009 the average sales price was $321,024
In September of 2008 the Median sales price was $349,500
In September of 2009 the Median sales price was $302,150
In September of 2008 the Average Days on market was 79 days
In September of 2009 the Average Days on market was 91 days

We can look at the picture and think doom and gloom but what we fail to see is the positive side which is this:
In September of 2008 there were 133 homes sold/closed
In September of 2009 there were 166 homes sold/closed.

Check out this link to see the average interest rates for September 2008 and 2009.
money house
Remember that our market as always goes in cycles. Sellers need to determine if now is the time to sell and if it is then they need to get in the game and price their homes competitively at today’s market prices. It isn’t going to do the seller any good to over- price the home (2008 prices) in today’s market and have it sit there not even looked at by market savvy buyers. Interest rates ARE low and homes ARE selling when priced correctly. Banks ARE giving loans and homes ARE closing.
The hard truth is: If you as the seller, cannot afford to sell at today’s market prices – then you shouldn’t.


How Many Pairs Of Shoes Do You Own?

October 24, 2009

Did you know that in the 1950’s the average woman in the U.S. had four pairs of shoes and today, it’s thirteen pairs? In 1970, the average size of a home was 1,400 sq ft. Today, it’s 2340 sq. ft. So, if more space and more clutter go hand in hand, even with that additional space, how can you get clutter under control?

Check out the following Tips

Pretend that you are moving. PH00487
It’s time to pare down. If you had to move, would you take it with you? Do you really need three hair dryers? Or what about all of those books; do you really need to keep all of them? Donate what you don’t need.

Keep only what you love.
Ask yourself, do you really have to keep it? If not, go ahead and get rid of it. Put more focus on using the things that bring you happiness.

The benefits of less.
Less stuff equals more time. With less stuff, there’s less to clean, organize and dust. With less stuff, your house looks uncluttered and cleaner. Let this motivate you.

Learn to love containers.
Containers instantly add order to chaos, and are the secret weapon of organizers everywhere. Put all the kids’ shoes in a tub, the newspapers in a bucket, fingernail polish in a basket, and so on.

Everything in its place.
Yes, this is something your mother always said, but she was right. When everything has a place on a shelf, in a cabinet or in a bin, you’ll avoid counter clutter and junk-filled drawers. PH00646

Remember the two-year rule.
If you haven’t used something for two years, chances are you won’t use it again. This particularly applies to clothes.

Don’t get buried under sentimentality.
Sure, it’s nice to keep possessions you cherish, but do you really need your high school prom dress? If you are keeping your wedding dress, have it professionally boxed at a dry cleaners and put it in storage. And your childrens collection of stuffed animals? Keep one to pass on to the next generation, then donate the rest.

One in and one out.
If something new comes in the house, something old has to go out. This rule is pivotal to maintaining the simple, clutter-free existence you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Maximize your storage.
There are all sorts of helpful items these days that help you make the most of small spaces. Ottomans with removable tops are the perfect place to store toys, board games or extra bedding. And under-bed baskets are great for storing large or awkward items.

Organize by bits.
It’s going to take awhile to go through your entire house – after all, it may have taken you up to twenty years to acquire all of your current clutter – so be easy on yourself and try not to attempt too much in one sitting. Start with one closet and give yourself a six hour limit.

What to do with your stuff

Donate to charity

Sell it online

Controlling The Paper Chase
If stacks of paper are overwhelming your kitchen counters, desktop and tabletops, here are a few quick ways to get them under control:
Have your recycle bin ready. When you bring in the mail, toss out the junk mail right away.

Read and route. When paperwork enters the house, read it and route it to the other appropriate family members.

Create in-baskets for everyone. Every family member gets one for signed permission slips, phone messages, bills, etc.

Keep a communal calendar. Post everyones schedule on one calendar, and keep all schedules and invites in a binder for backup.

Take bill paying online. You can receive and pay your bills on the Internet for a happy, paperless existence.

Make Yourself At Home.

Just moving in? Making yourself at home in your new surroundings is about more than unpacking. Below are a couple of organizational tips you can follow to make your new house your home.

Closet organizers. Before you put anything in your closets, if you have it in your budget, upgrade your closet systems.

Get a great garage. Once most people settle into their homes, its commonplace for their garages to become the catch-all storage area for anything and everything. Take the opportunity to establish a storage system in your garage right away, and in six months, you still might be able to park your car in there!

Safety first. Locate the closest police and fire stations as well as hospitals. Post emergency phone numbers near the phone. Make sure smoke alarms are installed and working. Is there a fire extinguisher? If not, purchase one and store it in an easily-accessed area.

Picture This

October 15, 2009


You’re sitting at the kitchen table, pouring over your budget and bills, when you open your credit card bill to discover a $1200 charge you’re certain you never authorized. Someone’s taken your name and used it for their own purposes. You’ve been a victim of a growing crime and you didn’t know it until now.

Recently, I was a victim of identity theft. I’ve been going through the trauma and drama of this for 4 months now. Once you are hit it’s a burden in your life to get it straightened out.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.

How To Avoid It?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. While it’s not always preventable, there are things you can do to help keep the odds in your favor.

Upon receiving your credit card and bank statements each month, take a close look to make sure that no unauthorized activities occurred.

Call your bank or credit card company if a statement is late. A missing bill could be an indication that identity theft has occurred or a thief has recently obtained your information. PH00770
Never give out personal information over email, the Internet or the phone unless you have initiated the contact. Identity thieves often pose as government officials, representative from the bank, credit card companies or Internet service providers in order to con you into revealing your personal information.

Use intricate passwords for your computer, email and Internet accounts. The best passwords use a combination of numbers, capital and lowercase letters. Never use something that can be easily guessed, like your maiden name, phone number or birth date, as a password.

Shred documents, like credit card receipts and insurance forms, that show your personal information before you dispose of them.
Don’t leave outgoing mail in your own mailbox. It’s incredibly easy for identity thieves to target mailboxes and pull bank numbers from checks, sensitive information from bills and a variety of other sensitive information. Instead, deposit mail directly into post office boxes.

Cancel credit cards that you don’t need or use. When canceling, tell the lender to make a note that the “card was canceled at the cardholder’s request.”

Keep your social Security card in a safe location – never keep it in your wallet or carry it around with you. Likewise, carry only the necessary ID and credit cards with you.

Only give out your Social Security number when it’s absolutely necessary. Ask if you can use a different form of identification instead.

How To Recognize Identity Theft

Your best defense is to be aware. When it comes to your financial information, stay alert and watch for these common signs of identity theft.

1. Bills arrive for a credit card account that you never opened. PH00414
2. Your credit card bills include charges you didn’t make
3. Be aware of late credit card statements that arrive after the payment due date.
4. Your bank statements contain unfamiliar transfers or withdrawls
5. You’ve ordered new checks, but they haven’t arrived at your house
6. Lenders deny your requests for credit despite previously having a good standing.

Preventative Measures

Here are several simple ways to combat the most common form of online identity theft:

Turn on the spam filters for your email inbox. This will help identify misleading emails attempting to “phish” for your password. Be suspicious of any email that asks you to respond with personal or account information.

Beware of scams by thieves posing as prominent companies. Double-check email addresses and website locations. Many times they have key words in them but otherwise appear unofficial.

Use PayPal when available. Companies like PayPal are strictly regulated and are accepted around the world, Utilize their services rather than credit cards to make purchases at web sites you are unsure of.

What Do I Do If I’m A Victim?

1. Report it
Contact the three major credit bureaus and ask them to pace a “fraud alert” on your file. Some services, such as Life Lock, will contact you ever time a new line of credit is requested to prevent unauthorized account activity. PH00360


2. Close accounts

Contact the security departments of the creditors or financial institutions that have been fraudulently accessed or opened.

3. Call the police

File a report with your local police and the police where the fraud took place. Get a copy of the police report so that you can submit it to your bank or credit card company if they request proof of the crime.

4. Provide details

File a complaint with the FTC. They maintain a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Your complaint will also help the FTC learn more about identity theft and the problems that victims experience, which will help them better assist people in the future.

After following the procedures above, keep an eye on your accounts to watch for future misuse. change your routines to eliminate the security leak.

You Have To Sell Your House To Me – You Have No Rights

October 14, 2009

cut money

I received an offer on a short sale listing for a client of mine. My client, the homeowner, purchased this property 8 years ago. At our listing appointment he and his wife gave me a tour of the home, showing me all the upgrades they had put into the home over the years. They had pulled out the family photo album sitting in the drawer of the china hutch to show me pictures of his retirement party they had celebrated in the backyard 3 years ago. The home is beautiful and it is apparent the love and care they have put into the home. This wasn’t just a house to these people, it was a home. As we leafed through the album there were pictures of annual Christmas get-togethers, Thanksgiving dinners and many other happy memories with family and friends that had taken place in this home. As he closed the album with shaky hands he raised his reading glasses to his forehead. He looked at me and explained the day that had changed his and his wife’s lives.
Past Due
The shaky hands were pretty much a constant through my visit with my clients but it wasn’t because of nervousness or anything you might think. He had been diagnosed with an illness soon after his retirement and now was in the failing stages of his life. Through the course of his medical care, insurance covered some but not all of his expenses. They had taken a second mortgage to help pay the remainder costs. They both had taken retiree type jobs to make ends meet in the past 2 years and now that his medical condition has worsened he’s not able to continue with the job. His wife still goes to work in the evenings and their daughter comes over during the day to help care for him. Behind on mortgage payments and unable to qualify for a loan modification the time has come to try to sell the home in a last effort to avoid foreclosure.

The home is aggressively priced for a short sale and after about 3 weeks an offer has come in. An unrealistic offer in my homeowners opinion. When asked for my opinion, I concur. My client counters the buyers offer and the exchange of opinions begin!

Since the time the short sale market has begun it has been a common misconception of many buyers and their agents and brokers that a seller does not have the right to NOT accept a buyers offer – no matter what that offer is! I received a phone call from the buyers agent and then another call from the agents broker informing me that my sellers by law had to present this buyers offer to the bank and that only the bank could decide if they would accept this offer. The agents broker decided it would be a good idea for his agent to call the bank and let the bank know that the seller was not presenting their offer.
I’m sure you can imagine how this made my homeowners feel. The key word in that last sentence being HOMEOWNERS. I can tell you that yes, this agent did call the bank and no, the bank would not even speak to the agent or the buyer, who also decided to call the bank.

So what is a short sale? question-mark

The borrower/homeowner has run into financial difficulties or a hardship. They are unable to make their mortgage payments and are facing a foreclosure in the near future. They still own their home at this point. They have in most cases defaulted on their mortgage payments and are unable to sell their property for the amount owed on their mortgage. They owe more than the current market will bear. In this case a borrower will list their home for sale at present market value and submit that offer to their lien holder and propose a short sale. The lien holder at that time will review the offer, the current market values in the area of the property along with other financial information and the borrowers hardship circumstances to determine if the they will accept the lower payoff of the mortgage. The lien holder, knowing that there is a high probability that they will be foreclosing on the property will determine if a short sale is in their best interest versus a foreclosure which in most cases will be more costly for the lien holder. Once the house has been foreclosed on – the lien holder is the seller. During a short sale – the borrower is the seller.

The concept of what a short sale is, is pretty simple. The actual process of a short sale is not so simple. You can learn more about short sales at Debbie Atwood Is Making A Splash In Snohomish County!

Where Do We Go After The Foreclosure?

October 12, 2009

Hanging Lizard

We don’t hear much in the news about what happens in life after foreclosure. But for many it is continued nights of unrest and concern. While going through the process homeowners are treated rudely and disrespected in many ways, yet many foreclosures are the result of some catostrophe that has taken place in the homeowners life. A death of a loved one, a major illness, unemployment or divorce. Add to this a difficult real estate market and you find these are common events that can lead to loss of a home.

For many the problems have just begun. In real life a foreclosure can cut the family out of the rental market because landlords are skeptical to rent to a family that has just gone through foreclosure. Many families have lost their homes because of unemployment and find that while applying for new employment employers will check credit. Foreclosure on a credit record can keep them out of the rankings for that particular job. The consequences are many and can be deep.

What should be done when faced with foreclosure
Beginning the process of rebuilding your credit should be started immediately. When you know that foreclosure is in your near future it is imperative that you begin to save as much money as possible. In many cases you are probably going to be faced with larger rent deposits and for the recently foreclosed cash on hand can be a problem. money ladder

Rent –Consider that you should not pay more than 25% -28% of your income on rent. Your rent should be the first thing you pay each month. Your payment history will be a huge factor when you do apply for a new home mortgage in the future.

Credit Cards- If you have credit card debt- work on reducing it. If you can afford to have a credit card then be sure to make these payments a priority and keep your balances paid off monthly. Financial advisers suggest to keep your charges below 30% of your credit limit. Make every effort to avoid balances. A common mistake consumers will make is to close their credit accounts in the attempt to raise their credit score. This attempt can actually make your score lower!

Other Credit– Pay on time. Finances may be tight but by paying your bills within 30 days your credit report will show a positive rating. Don’t let 30 days go by without paying your bill.

Payroll Taxes Be sure to review your deductions. If you are receiving a refund each year, change this. It doesn’t make sense to save money through the Government when you could be using it today to get back on your feet!

Savings– Begin a savings account and put something in it every month. Even small amounts will build up! Have a goal to save 3 months of expenses saved. Before you know it you will have a down payment saved for your future home. Your savings account is the beginning of accumulating your new assets and will be reviewed when you apply for that new home in the future.

New Credit– Begin new credit carefully and slowly. Eventually you will be offered new credit but determine if you really need those. Keeping up on the above items can build a very strong credit history without taking on additional responsibility that you probably don’t need.

There is a life after foreclosure and the future will look bright again!


Get Out Of My House! You Don’t Live Here Anymore

October 11, 2009


In Real Estate, possession is when you actually take control of the property. The question often comes up as to when that actually occurs. I have seen this issue to be more important than the price received or paid on a property! At closing of escrow the buyer is given the keys to the home and any other pertinent items belonging to the property; mailbox keys, garage door openers etc. At the close of escrow the buyer legally owns that property and is free to move in and begin to enjoy their new home. Maybe they will paint before moving in or renovate the property first. front door of house

This is true unless the buyer and seller have made special arrangements for the seller to stay in the property for a longer period of time or for the buyer to move in prior to closing. Neither of these are normally recommended nor are either customarily practiced but the question does come up in almost every transaction and occasionally it does occur.

There can be special circumstances that may appear to be legitimate reasons for one of these to occur. Perhaps the seller is building a new home and it won’t be finished for another 4 weeks. Or perhaps the buyers lease is up a week before the closing. Maybe the circumstances are understandable to both the buyer and seller and they work out a deal for this to happen as a matter of convenience for one another.
Framed roof
There are some things to consider in these situations that can have some painful consequences. I’m sure most of us have heard the saying; “Possession is 9/10th’s of the law.” To some extent that phrase is not all that far from the truth. Let’s say the buyers in all good faith really do need to move in early for some very legitimate reason and you the seller have a place already to move into. You pack up, move out and move into your own new home and pretty soon the closing date has come and there has at the last moment been a problem with the buyers financing or loan process. (Don’t roll your eyes, this happens) The buyers really can’t close on the property after all. Now what? They have moved in with nowhere to go. You the seller now have to put the home back on the market in the hopes of getting a new buyer as soon as possible. In the meantime the buyers are at a loss of where they are going to go and in no hurry to move their belongings out. It is possible that the buyers could have created damage to the property and you are going to have to repair this before putting the property back on the market. On top of having to put the home back on the market what is the likely hood that now you have two mortgages to pay? Ouch!

From a buyers point of view; the sellers need additional time to move for one reason or another. Again, something has come up and usually it does. The sellers are having difficulty getting moved out and the time is being extended and extended. Possibly the home they are building still isn’t ready for occupancy. How many times has this happened in the building of a new home? As a buyer and possibly of greater consequence, God forbid, your new home has caught fire while the previous homeowners are still occupying the home. Guess what? Your insurance company will most likely not cover your claim because your new home was not Owner Occupied! If you purchased your home as your primary residence, your mortgage company isn’t going to be too pleased to find out that you are not living there and legally they could call your note due! You haven’t even moved in yet!!

Given these possible consequences what is the best policy to follow? 1. Possession at closing with the Sellers moved out and the buyers ready to move in at closing. 2. If this just cannot happen, then postpone the closing until it can happen. j0431552

It’s not a perfect world and as I mentioned above occasionally there is going to be a seller that needs additional days to move, so how do you deal with this? Your attorney can put a contract into place for an extended seller possession and a common practice in this situation is to have a portion of the closing funds put into escrow and to be released to the sellers once they have vacated the property. Another common practice is to charge “rent” to the sellers which should include your expenses including your prorated monthly mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, homeowner dues and utilities that would be in your name as the new owner of the property. This can be prorated to a daily rate. Often it is recommended to build in a substantial increase in the rate if for some reason the sellers attempt to stay longer.

My Husband Recently Died – Foreclosure?

October 9, 2009

I recently received an email from a woman who lost her husband to Cancer. She asks; What is the best way to keep from foreclosure on my home?
My spouse died from cancer and unfortunately I will receive no life insurance or pension. It looks impossible to keep up with my payments. My sweet sister has brought my payments up to date, but I don’t see how I can keep them up and she definitely can’t do any more, nor would I want her to. I feel overwhelmed with grief and then have this issue on top of everything. I need advice and obviously, can not afford it. Please help. pulling frayed rope

As a Real Estate Agent I unfortunately hear stories like this way to often. Stories like this make it hard to keep your emotions out of it and after talking to so many people about short sales and foreclosures I have to admit it has gotten pretty much impossible to not get emotionally involved with my clients after awhile. Because of this I decided to post my response to her in the hopes that if there are others (which I know there are) that could use some hopeful advice, they just might find it and know that they too have options.

I’m truly sorry for your loss and the grief you are going through. I’m also sorry that you are going through the pain of financial problems. There isn’t anything I can say to make your loss feel any better. However, you do have some possible options regarding your home. If you have a job there is hope of keeping your home. If you are working you could apply for a loan modification. The key elements are that you are working and you have a hardship. The loss of your spouse is a qualifying hardship with many lenders. Contact Making Homes Affordable They are a government run entity that will work with you and your lender in modifying your current loan. They were put in place by the Obama Administration for people just like you. You DO NOT PAY ANYONE to modify your loan. They will do it for free. I do not recommend accepting help from anyone who is going to charge you up front. This is a free service. The modification in most circumstances reduces your interest rate.shortsale pic

If you do not want to stay in the home for lack of a job or any other reason; such as, you can’t afford it then you may be able to short sale the home. (For more information on Short Sales) Place it for sale with a reputable agent. In this case you will sell your home and if you cannot sell it for what is owed on the property then the bank takes a loss. This is a good way to avoid foreclosure. I don’t know how far behind you are so I would need more info on this. If it is too late to short sale your property and you are facing foreclosure then contact your bank and tell them you are interested in the “CASH FOR KEYS” program. Many banks have an option where they will pay you anywhere from $500 to $5000 for you to hand the keys over on a specified date. The money is meant to help you move. Feel free to contact me if you need further information at Debbie Atwood Is Making a Splash In Snohomish County!

I hope this helps a little bit. You do have options. Take Care and good luck.

Bank Owned Homes And Swiss Cheese?

October 9, 2009

thumbnailCAQQR4N8The word in the wind is that there will be a Tsunami of bank owned homes coming on the market. It’s not hard to believe when you look at the number of foreclosures happening each month. While out previewing homes in the Everett area a week ago for a client I am working for; we came across lots of short sales. Being very familiar with the short sale market it’s pretty reasonable to assume many of those short sales will be foreclosed on if they haven’t already. The Client put an offer on one, now we wait…

Finding the diamond in the rough

Finding the diamond in the rough

This week I accompanied another couple to tour bank owned homes in the Lake Stevens neighborhoods. The difference in the homes we saw from short sales to foreclosure homes was obvious! Bank owned homes had literally been stripped of everything! Appliances, cabinets, doors, sinks, gutters and flooring! One listing agent had in the description of the home; “upstairs walls look like swiss cheese.” I was curious what that meant until I saw it! There were holes in the walls that looked like someone had taken a bat to every wall.

It was sad to see but my clients looked at the homes as a perfect opportunity to build quick equity. Since he is in construction he was able to visualize the final product once it has been rehabbed. moving painter

Bank owned homes can be good opportunities for the cash buyer, investment buyer, consortium investor and construction company with the opportunity to buy now, rehabilitate and then resell for a profit. It is common to see the poor condition of bank owned homes my clients and I looked at this past week. Former homeowners in financial distress tend to neglect maintenance on the home when they know they are looking at foreclosure in the near future. Unfortunately, our economy has wreaked havoc on many homeowners causing financial distress and foreclosure. moving contractors on roof

A few home buyers will buy the homes and finance them through Rehab loans but most tend to look more towards the homes in need of minor cosmetic touch ups and upgrades because of the time needed to make the repairs and upgrades themselves. This contributes to a great opportunity for the investment buyer to make kitchen upgrades and exterior upgrades and repairs. moving man mowing lawn
Investors commonly can see a 20 to 25% return in their investment with the new home buyer ready to move in to the “new condition home
I recently heard this termed as “Recycled Real Estate”.

So with the upcoming wave of bank owned homes about to hit the market it may be a good time to take a look at the present housing market as the glass 1/2 full for investment buyers, home buyers and investment sellers. Family in Front of House

To see recent new listings of bank owned homes contact me at
Debbie Atwood Is Making A Splash In Snohomish County!
Great opportunities in Everett, Lake Stevens, Arlington, Mukilteo, Marysville, Lynnwood, Monroe, Granite Falls, Bothell and Mill Creek.

Pumpkin Patches

October 8, 2009

Visit one of the many popular pumpkin patches in Snohomish County and King County. Visit my favorites listed below in Snohomish, Everett, Arlington, Auburn, Carnation, Redmond and Kent!


The Farm
7301 Rivershore Rd
Snohomish, WA 425-334-4124

Bob’s Corn
10917 Eliot Rd
Snohomish, WA 360-668-2506

Craven Farms
13817 Short School Rd
Snohomish, WA 360-568-2601

Stocker Farms
10622 Airport Way
Snohomish, WA 360-568-7391

Foster’s Produce Farm
5818 State Route 530 NE
Arlington, WA 360-435-5095

Mosby Brothers Farms Inc
12754 SE Green Valley Rd
Auburn, WA 253-939-7666

Biringer Farm
4625 40th PL NE
Everett, WA

Serres Farm
20306 NE 50th ST
Redmond, WA 425-868-3017

South 47 Farm
20306 NE 50th ST
Redmond, WA 425-869-9777

Two Brother’s Pumpkin Patch At Game Haven Greenery
7110 310th AveNE
Carnation, WA 425-333-4313

Carpinito Brother’s Farm
1148 North Central
Kent, WA 253-854-5692

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