A personal Professional Development Week takes me to Anaheim April 30 – May 4

I will be traveling with Mountain To Sound Realty Broker Owner Linda McFarlane for a real estate conference in sunny SoCal this week. Besides trying to figure out what to pack and making sure I remember all of my gadget chargers, I have made sure all of my clients know where I am and how truly accessible I will be even if I am not down the street. With wi fi everywhere, not to mention Blackberries in hand (and I am toting my iPad, which I can’t live without), there is no problem too small or too big to not send an email or text if you need to reach me.

Have a wonderful week and be watching my Facebook page for pictures!
Wendy Hughes-Jelen on Facebook

It’s Nationwide Open House Weekend and I have a new “smart-not-stupid” listing!

Please drop in to say hi to Sophia and I at 7705 11th Avenue SW in West Seattle. Saturday 11 am – 3 pm and Sunday 1 pm to 4 pm.

Townhomes are tricky – there are a lot of really stupid floor plans out there with bedrooms too small to even get a queen size bed into. THIS particular townhome falls in the “smart-not-stupid” category, or I wouldn’t have even taken the listing. This is a smart place, perfect for 1-2 people – and pets.

See a photo tour here and a video with financing scenarios from The Mortgage Porter here.

2 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms
NWMLS #349459
Sun-drenched townhome on south end of triplex in super convenient West Seattle location. Modern features include marble entry, bamboo flooring, oak hardwoods, and top floor vaulted ceilings. The light and bright living room is spacious and the eat-in kitchen offers a large bay window. Posh powder room with slate tile will impress your guests. Two bedrooms and a full bath on the top floor have vaulted ceilings. Tucked behind the garage is a bonus flex space and laundry room that lets you expand your hobbies or set up an office while keeping out of the way. Bonus room leads to a good sized fenced back yard with brick patio and raised garden beds. Plant your victory garden and settle in to the great Highland Park community, close to visiting food truck pods, Westcrest Park with its off leash area for dogs, p-patch community garden under construction, and Westwood Village which has everything else. Super easy access to freeways, this home is a commuter’s dream!

The personal responsibility that comes with living in a Built Green Certified community

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a “green” community?

I live in a Built Green Certified neighborhood which means we get occasional reminders about what that means, personal-responsibility wise. Although I don’t have a yard myself (being in a condo and there is a professional service that takes care of what is in front of my townhouse), I would say this effects 3/4 of the homeowners in the community as well as the tenants when it comes to caring for their personal fenced back yards. Currently this would be about 12oo residents on 120 acres, which makes up 10% of the total land that is part of the Longfellow Creek watershed.

This email reminder came today:

Good afternoon High Point Residents!

Hasn’t the gorgeous weather of the last few days been a treat?! It’s wonderful to see blue sky, and all of the trees and daffodils in bloom really brings home the fact that Spring has arrived.

Many of you probably know that an extensive natural drainage system (NDS) underlies the entire High Point community. This NDS is designed to capture storm water run off from each roof, street and impermeable surface in the community and filter it into the bioswales. What isn’t absorbed into the ground eventually makes its way to the pond along Juneau/High Point Drive. The water is filtered further in the pond, and eventually is released downstream to Longfellow Creek.

Because of this natural drainage system, and in order to help protect the salmon and other wildlife downstream, High Point is a 100% organic community.

Pesticides and chemical fertilizers are prohibited, both in common areas and on private lots. That means chemicals like Round-Up may not be used to kill weeds, and “weed and feed” products may not be used on lawns. Instead, owners are encouraged to use natural or slow release fertilizers. Hand pulling is still a tried and true way to eliminate weeds, but vinegar and boiling water can be used as well. If you’re planning to use vinegar do some research online first, and use the same cautions you would when applying chemicals (dilution, gloves, eye cover, mask, etc.). Dandelions almost always need to be dug out (to get those pesky taproots so they don’t come back a few weeks later in the same spot).

Washing cars on streets and driveways is also very strongly discouraged. The chemicals and surfactants in soaps have the potential to be harmful to fish and marine wildlife. There are a number of environmentally friendly automatic car washes around the Seattle area, and a do-it-yourself car wash just across 35th near Graham.

Interested in Organic Vegetables? High Point has two “p-patches” where you can get a garden plot. If you’re interested, please contact Bunly Yun, Community Garden Coordinator with the Seattle P-Patch Progran for more information. His phone number is 206.684.8495 and his email address is: bunly.yun@seattle.gov.

There also is a Market Garden in High Point at Juneau and 32nd. During the summer you can buy organic vegetables at the farm stand, or you can sign up to have veggies delivered each week via Seattle Market Gardens: http://seattlemarketgardens.org/

Thanks, and have a great rest of the week,

High Point real estate sobering – no rainbow yet

Where is the rainbow in High Point real estate?

I’ve just pulled a report for my neighborhood, which has been a perfect micro-climate to observe the dark side of the recession and collapse in real estate in the Seattle area. We personally closed July 27, 2007 on our townhome on Raymond – the month and year considered the peak of the bubble.

I’ve been on the ground here for five years (we wrote up the contract in April 2007), literally since I am walking my dog twice a day (or often three times). High Point’s Built Green Certification has cushioned home values somewhat, but at this point there are too many people who have been hanging on too long. There is a plethora of short sale listings now, many of them in my condo association of Redwood High Point.

Out of 16 active listings on the NWMLS in High Point proper (the redeveloped area), 7 are short sales, 2 are bank owned (both Fannie Mae, already foreclosed on), 5 are Polygon Phase 2 listings, (which have been selling like hot cakes in our new reality – almost 80 homes sold in less than a year, they are at really good prices and are attractive since so many people want “new”, they are rated 300 point Built Green Certified), and 2 are Seller occupied and considered Market Rate listings (at $460k and $530k, but both have been on the market for months). 7 of the 16 listings are in Redwood High Point and all of them are distressed pricing.

I look around me and just get depressed. I have not seen this many listings,all at once, ever. Owners are dropping like flies. We’ve been trying to negotiate with our own lender for over three years and only recently engaged an attorney who is looking into the robo-signing issue (among others) that was prevalent at the time everyone in Phase 1 purchased. I only hope we don’t end up moving like so many others have.

As someone who has been in this community for so long, and watched it change and grow from one day to the next, I don’t want to leave. But a lot of people have been in extended financial distress and just need it to be over. Way over. A couple of my neighbors moved on two years ago and my porch-mate tried to sell for a year before giving up. We’re just stubborn fools, I guess, committed to our community and lifestyle here (my husband and I). We watched our home be built, we customized every square inch of it, and I feel safe walking my dog here most of the time. I might gripe about being sick of walking in circles in the rain for 6 months, but when I think of where else I could be living, from a safety standard High Point beats anywhere I have lived in 20 years.

My heart aches for those who moved here with such great dreams and high expectations, only to be disappointed by job loss or transfers, a bad turn in finances, and the gradual slipping away of the American Dream. Many criticize, saying people who are in trouble with their home now didn’t deserve to own that home in the first place. I try to not take it personally. Our household just happened to be comprised of careers in two industries really hit hard by this recession – and I have fought hard to stay in this business since I am passionate about solving people’s real estate problems. It’s not like there were a lot of jobs out there for me to go to even though I have extensive professional experience outside of real estate.

But this plethora of short sales is just one problem I can’t solve. I just hope I don’t end up as one myself.

To those who have given up, moved on and started over somewhere else – my thoughts are with you and your family. I hope there will come a time that you can look at your place in High Point in a positive way and not just some big black period in your life. And your contribution to our neighborhood will be sorely missed.

Regardless of my personal situation, I continue to be an Ambassador for High Point and I bring all of my buyer clients through my neighborhood to educate them. I am a believer in the community, the natural surroundings, the storm water management and watershed interface, and the Built Green Certification process. And I am an optimist. Things will get better. It is always a good time to buy – or sell – a home, depending on your personal circumstances. And as long as I am a resident of High Point you can always call on me for information about this unique, green community and the larger West Seattle area. We have lived in West Seattle almost 15 years and it is in our blood. They will have to drag me kicking and screaming out the door to get rid of me.

Don’t forget to LIKE the High Point Real Estate page on Facebook.

“Buyer Ready” Home Shoppers Have Edge as Brokers Report Rise in Multiple Offers

The following includes information and statistics compiled and reported by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

KIRKLAND, Wash. (April 5, 2012) –The housing market in the Puget Sound region is pointing toward a sustainable recovery, according to several brokers who commented on the March activity report from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

MLS Members reported 9,126 pending sales during March, a year-over-year increase of nearly 21 percent. That total surpassed the previous month by 1,503 transactions (up 19.7 percent). Coupled with shrinking inventory, attractive financing, and rising consumer confidence, the market is becoming more balanced, and even being described by some brokers as “frenzied.” Other brokers commented on the “remarkable opportunities for investing in the residential rental market.”

Brokers added 8,170 new listings last month — nearly 1,000 fewer than the number of pending sales, and about 1,100 fewer new listings than the same month a year ago. With those additions, the number of active listings at month end totaled 24,883 across the 21 counties in the Northwest MLS service area. Compared to a year ago, inventory is down 25.6 percent.

“Buyers are screaming for more inventory and they’re being more aggressive with presenting offers on homes,” reported MLS director George Moorhead, branch manager at Bentley Properties in Bothell. Home shoppers perceive the bottom is nearing, he noted, “and both buyers and sellers want to catch the historically low interest rates.” Area-wide, he said bank-owned home sales are increasing. “The lagging inventory is actually helping prices stabilize, which we hope will have a positive impact on the real estate market as the year progresses,” he added.

“Close to the job centers, 45 percent of new listings are selling within a single month. We are seeing a frenzied market in the Puget Sound region, especially in the more affordable and mid-price ranges, with an increase in sales activity in the high end,” remarked J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “Because of the shortage of homes for sale, combined with the sales surge being driven by job growth and historically low interest rates, if you are not ‘buyer ready’ you may not get a house in today’s market,” he added.

Northwest MLS brokers reported 5,044 closed sales last month, improving on the year-ago total by nearly 10 percent. The overall median price on last month’s completed transactions was $225,000, which reflects a decrease of 7.4 percent from the year-ago median sales price of $242,925.

Noting stabilizing prices are “forcing buyers to make offers that reflect a more balanced market,” Northwest MLS director Darin Stenvers said house-hunters have taken note of rising rents, fewer choices and increasing fuel costs. The trends are not universal, he acknowledged, but certainly reflect a higher buying confidence level and even a small uptick in new construction. “I’m seeing new home starts in areas that had been at a standstill for years,” reported Stenvers, the office managing broker at John L. Scott in Bellingham.

Multiple offers are occurring with regularity in some neighborhoods according to Northwest MLS directors. “The housing market in Seattle’s close-in neighborhoods began to show signs of buyer panic in February but reached a breaking point in March,” reported Mike Skahen, owner and designated broker of Lake & Co. Real Estate in Seattle. “I haven’t seen buyers this motivated since 2006 and in my opinion, prices on good houses have recovered at least 10 percent of their value since the low point a year ago,” he added.

Skahen said a small Ballard home listed for around $370,000 recently drew five offers and sold for considerably more than the list price. “It’s becoming common for multiple offers on most houses, especially those priced under $400,000 where the selection is very limited,” he observed.

“Now that buyers can track new listings online they are aware of how quickly most listings are selling and fear they’ve missed catching the bottom of the market. They realize continuing to wait would be a mistake,” Skahen commented.

Diedre Haines, another Northwest MLS director, said pending sales in Snohomish County, which jumped 21 percent, would have been “considerably greater were it not for the buyer competition due to the magnitude of multiple offer situations.” She said they are seeing the return of price escalator forms, pre- inspections, set dates for sellers to review offers and properties selling above list price,” according to Haines, the regional managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Lynnwood. “Prices are not increasing dramatically but those properties that are listed and priced correctly, especially in the $300,000 and below range, are selling within days of coming on market,” she noted.

Haines also said they are seeing multiple offer situations in the higher priced market “but not as many over list price sales.” She reported the demand ratio in Snohomish County, based on a recent analysis, “is at the highest levels we have experienced since 2006.” She also noted the report showed there are two buyers for every current home on market in Snohomish County.

A similar scenario exists in Kitsap County. “Inventory is down by 11 percent, buyers making offers are up almost 34 percent, multiple offer situations are on the rise, and more people are coming by our open houses,” reported Frank Wilson, branch managing director at John L. Scott’s office in Poulsbo. “While the median price in Kitsap is down by 5 percent it is only a matter of time before prices stabilize,” he believes.

The optimism comes with a cautionary note. “It is still extremely important for sellers to price their property correctly,” Haines emphasized. Even with high demand, homes that are priced above comparable properties are not receiving offers, she explained, adding, “We are seeing very positive signs of a continuing recovery but buyers are well educated regarding values and pricing. Sellers should not expect huge increases in values and need to price their properties accordingly and realistically.”

The uptick in activity is attracting not only first-time and move-up buyers, but also investors, according to industry experts.

“Rental demand is surging, interest rates are at historic lows, and recent economic activity has erased nearly a decade of appreciation,” reported MLS director OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate.. He believes the combination of these three factors has created “remarkable opportunities for investing in the residential rental market,” explain “The long-term financial benefits can be significant, but the first step is to closely analyze the details with your real estate agent.”

Another MLS director was equally upbeat. “The market in the Puget Sound region is showing optimistic signs of not only stabilization, but turning point towards a sustainable recovery,” said Joe Spencer, area director for Keller Williams Northwest Region. He suggested the cause is “simply the growing imbalance of supply and demand, which has resulted in the lowest inventory levels since 2006. This doesn’t mean that we’re out of the dark yet,” he acknowledged, adding, “However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see modest appreciation, especially close to job centers, in the latter half of 2012 or early 2013.”

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership includes more than 22,000 real estate brokers. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 21 counties in Washington state.

See Statistical Summary by Counties: Market Activity Summary – March 2012. Click through to NWMLS YTD March 2012 Stats. This report is comprised of information and statistics compiled and reported by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

“Go Small, Go Green, and Go Home” | The non-trend in new homes

Martha Rose (Martha Rose Construction) has a guest post on the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties Facebook page today, called “A New Normal in the Home Market”

Martha is a very creative home builder. I have toured several of her properties in the last 5 years. She loves educating people about what is going on “behind the walls” since that is where most of the energy efficient things happen. Home buyers often arrive on the scene too far along in the construction process to be able to see and fully appreciate all that went into making the home as efficient as possible.

If saving money is important to you, and you are in the market for a home, you will want to seek out “Environmentally Certified Homes” through the local Northwest Multiple listing Service. Large search sites often don’t allow you to use this as one of your search criteria but I made sure my brokerage’s search page does at Mountain To Sound Realty.

If you have any questions about green homes, let me know. It has been five years since my husband and I purchased a Built Green Certified home in a Built Green community and I have a lot to share.