Recoup your Home Improvements

Are you thinking about adding an outdoor room now that summer is almost here, but wondering if your investment will pay off? Whether you're planning to sell right away, or refinance, or entertain outdoors more often, a remodeling project that fits your budget can be a great investment. You not only add tremendous enjoyment, livability and use value to your home — it's likely that significant dollars will be added to its price tag when you put the for sale sign up! Major remodeling projects are said to increase home value up to 80-90 cents for every dollar you invest.

While a new paint job, updated interiors, and maintained landscaping certainly helps a sales price, improvements that increase the square footage of your house give it the most upward leverage. An additional bedroom or bathroom opens the door for an appraiser to make higher adjustments when determining your home's value against other comparable ones.

It's often advisable to hire a residential appraiser to measure a home's square footage — the service could pay for itself if it was measured incorrectly before. Sometimes a home's square footage will be higher than what your county assessor has recorded. So while the market is a factor in setting sale prices, homes still sell for dollars per square foot, and you want to make sure you have every one of them counted. You can even verify your home's square footage with a tape measure and some graph paper!

Posted on June 18, 2013 at 7:24 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged , ,

Green Grass Makes a Difference

When the first warm week hits in the Northwest, the rush is on to get our sprinkler systems up and running. Healthy, green grass not only makes our homes look more beautiful, it's documented to increase their market value. According to TruGreen's Lawn Lifestyles National Survey, the majority of homeowners (79%) reported “having a healthy, green lawn contributes to the overall value of a home”; and homeowners (56%) said “when buying a home, a good lawn would warrant a higher price.” In fact, more than half of Americans surveyed (53%) said “the quality of the homeowner’s lawn can tell you a lot about the quality of the home overall."

While these statistics certainly encourage us to get our lawn into shape, The National Association of Realtors goes one step further to report that 71% of homeowners do purchase a home with a healthy, green lawn, and 72% purchase a home with well-maintained landscaping.

Curb apeal makes a huge difference in getting the top dollar for your home. Read tips at HouseLogic.com about how to get your lawn off to a healthy start for the summer. It's also fun to read about how many guinea pigs it takes to mow your yard. The animal mow calculator also tallies a number for sheep, chicken and cows. Just put in your yard size!

Posted on June 4, 2013 at 7:59 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged , ,

Full Service from “For Sale” to “Sold!”

The Windermere blog posted a few days ago perfectly describes what I do to sell a home for the best possible price, in the shortest amount of time, and hassle-free! Selling Your Home, a Step-by-Step Approach starts when I research and prepare a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) to help you understand your home’s current market value and marketability. Through my work in our local neighborhoods every day, I’ve gotten to know them inside and out. This market knowledge helps me to “price it right,” as the blog explains, “which is key to a successful sale.”

Next comes preparing your house for the “For Sale” sign to go up. My services include giving tips to increase your home’s curb appeal, staging it for showings, and hiring a professional photographer to capture its beauty in pictures. Since most people start their home search online these days, there’s tremendous value in having professional photos taken and posted. The right light and angle can make a huge difference in showing off your home’s best features.

One of the most common “get ready to sell” things to do is usually the easiest, and definitely the cheapest – de-clutter. Removing items that you need to pack up anyway typically makes a room look bigger, and more attractive to potential buyers. De-personalizing your home is another tip to help it sell. It can be as simple as removing family photos that are a wonderful memory to you, but not to someone who imagines having their family memories made in the home.

My full services continue until your house closes and the sale is complete. Reviewing offers, negotiating terms, handling inspections, facilitating financing – the list goes on until every step has been successfully completed from “For Sale” to “Sold.”

If you have any questions about the selling or buying process, or are looking for an agent to help you assess your situation, I’d love to hear from you. I look forward to meeting you and helping you with your real estate needs!

Posted on May 14, 2013 at 10:35 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged , , ,

Commute Time Makes a Difference

Next to school ranking, one of the biggest factors people bring up to me when they’re looking to buy a home is their commute time to work – understandably so. Time is precious to us all, and nobody likes to sit in traffic.

As OB Jacobi, President of Windermere, explains in his recent blog at Windermere.com, “73 percent consider commute times a key factor when deciding where to live.” That’s why Windermere has just added a feature on its website that answers the question “How long will it take me to drive to and from work?” OB says, “You don’t have to guess at the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, year built, or school district, so why should your drive time be any different? It was this approach that led us to integrating actual drive time technology into Windermere.com.”

Called the INRIX Drive Time™ tool, this helpful resource goes beyond what you can learn from Google Maps or sites that simply provide distance to work in miles or travel times based on traveling the speed limit. Windermere’s new tool gives drive times based on real-traffic information sourced from actual drivers. OB explains, “It takes into account every traffic factor, including traffic congestion, road construction, accidents, holidays, weather, events, police activity, and historical traffic patterns. This information is updated every minute, then analyzed and compiled into a historical database that is updated every 90 days, ensuring home buyers have access to the most complete traffic data available.”

You really have to try it to see its accuracy. Go to Windermere.com, select a home you’d like to buy, and then find a picture of a little car in the box that says, “What’s the Drive Time to This Home?” on the house’s property detail page. Type in your work address, click the “Calculate” button, and immediately a graph showing drive times comes up, as well as a map that shows the route from which it was calculated.

Technology really does help make the home buying process easier.  A big thanks to Windermere for this new resource!

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 7:10 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged ,

Tax Savings Opportunities

Tax rules can be complicated for homeowners, and some of them have changed quite recently.  Are you up to date on the ones that affect your 2012 return?

I shared news about easy-to-miss homeowner tax savings in My Home Expert newsletter that I email monthly. It went out last week. If you didn’t receive it and would like to get next month’s issue, let me know at JulieBillett@windermere.com or on my Realtor business facebook page. I’d love to include you and the people you recommend.

The article shares information and helpful links about everything from reinstatement of the mortgage insurance premium deduction, to the latest details landlords need to know about handling rental property expenses.

Mortgage interest on a second home is another topic that’s had its share of changes. You might be aware that you can deduct mortgage interest on a second home in addition to your primary residence, but did you know that the definition of a second home is extremely broad?

There's quite a list of new tax rules for homeowners. I wish you the best in understanding them and maximizing your return, as we countdown to April 15. While I refer you to a tax expert for additional information on this subject, I welcome hearing from you to discuss your real estate needs, and how you can benefit from our exciting spring market.

Posted on March 21, 2013 at 11:26 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged ,

Take the Stress out of Moving

Research tells us that moving is the third most stressful event in life, following death and divorce — but it doesn’t have to be. One of my biggest goals in serving clients is to take the stress out of buying and selling a house. Clear communication, keeping the best interest of my clients first, and handling details in a professional and efficient manner significantly keep us from falling into this “stress” statistic.

One more way to take the stress out of moving is to connect with a resource called “Moving Link,” Windermere’s preferred moving consultant. Moving Link provides moving consultation and solutions – at no cost. It is a free service that pre-qualifies moving service providers, takes an inventory of your items, builds your moving plan, and gets competing estimates for you. They do all the research, so all you have to do is pick the moving company.

This service can be used for moving out of state, out of the country, or across the street. It’s proven incredibly useful to seniors, and to their kids who have their hands full helping with the move, perhaps from afar. Moving Link services also include figuring out any storage needs you have, whether or not they are precipitated by a move. The spring season may find you boxing up items, perhaps planning ahead for a move, and in need of economical storage space. Ask Moving Link!

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that about 36.5 million people moved last year, and that individuals move 11.7 times in their lifetime. We really can offer tips to help each other. Another moving fact is that 38,421 people moved from California to Washington last year, the ninth most common interstate move. Almost 60,000 people moved from New York to Florida, ranking it as the most common interstate move.

If you are ready to plan for a stress-free move, I'd love to help and welcome your call. Today's market has opened up lots of exciting opportunities.

Posted on March 7, 2013 at 6:45 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged ,

Crime Mapping Resource

Knowing is believing when it comes to assuring that you live in a safe neighborhood. That’s why I was interested to check out a resource – www.crimemapping.com — one of several websites that track crimes and when and where they're committed.

I breathed a sigh of relief after I typed in my home address and saw that 0 crimes had occurred within a .5-mile radius of it within the last week. One more click and I learned that the number remained at 0 for the past six months. When I widened the boundaries on the map, I saw it light up with specific crimes that were committed at specific places.

Our low crime rate is one more reason people are attracted to live in Woodinville and its surrounding communities. I credit neighbors who keep an eye out and homeowner associations that share current happenings for promoting our safe environment. Neighborhood Block Watch is an official program organized by the City of Woodinville that also increases our safety ranking.

Have you done all you can do to make your home safe? Answering these 20 Questions may give you some safety prevention measures you haven’t considered. For example, are your house numbers clearly visible to emergency response personnel from the street? Did you re-key all the locks in your house after you moved in? Do you have deadbolt locks on all of your exterior doors?

Thank you for keeping our community such a safe place to live!

 

Posted on February 8, 2013 at 7:35 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged ,

Kudos to the Northshore School District!

As our third child Nate gears up to graduate from Woodinville High School in June, our family is wrapping up a season of being actively involved in the Northshore School District. We are grateful for all it has offered our kids, and can attest to how it provides “a world-class education,” as its mission states, that “assures each graduate is career and college ready.”

Our positive experience reminds me about how school districts are high on the list of what’s most important to many homebuyers. It’s not uncommon for buyers to start their search based solely on the school district. Parents want their kids to go to the best school, and people without children desire living in an area where homes hold their value, which comes in large part from being located in a good school district.

I’ve seen over and over again how the Northshore School District is a top reason people choose Hollywood Hill and other Woodinville neighborhoods as the place to live. The most recent statistics report “Of the 1,498 Northshore School District graduates in 2010, 78% entered higher education directly from high school, compared to a statewide average of 62%. Over 80% of those college-bound students enrolled in a Washington state college or university with 37% entering a public 4-year institution, 6% entering a private 4-year institution, 38% attending a public 2-year institution, and 1% attending a private 2-year institution. The remaining 18% enrolled out-of-state, with the vast majority of those entering a public or private 4-year college or university.”

These numbers support one more reason why Woodinville is a choice place to live. Visit www.nsds.org to check out school locations relative to neighborhoods, or give me a call. I understand how the “location” in real estate also means “school district!"

Posted on February 5, 2013 at 7:15 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged , ,

Client Comes First

I almost thought I was looking at my job description when I read this article titled Help your Customers to Avoid Oversights. In real estate, it’s vital to follow a checklist and then a backup one to assure that there is never an oversight. At the same time real estate is a precise and detailed industry, selling and buying a home is often emotional. That’s why I’m committed to giving my clients immediate attention, important reminders and timely follow ups that not only prevent an oversight, but result in win-win real estate solutions without added stress.

As my mission says, my goal is to “provide my clients with the highest level of service possible: professional accountability and responsibility, providing ongoing communication and caring concern.” Communication and trust, as the article linked above explains, involves treating your client the way you would like to be treated. That’s another great way to describe my mission, and explains why I enjoy celebrating with my clients when the sold sign goes up and the closing papers are signed!

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 7:29 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged , ,

A Sunday Tradition

Whether you're looking for a new home or something fun to do on a Sunday afternoon, the Windermere Open House sign welcomes you to come in. I always enjoy hosting an open house — I can't tell you how many truly wonderful people I have met on Sunday afternoons!

As the Windermere article in last Sunday's paper said, the time-honored tradition of open houses hasn't changed. We can see house pictures and read descriptions on the internet, but there's nothing like seeing, touching, and even smelling what could be your next home. Open houses are also one of the best ways to get to know a neighborhood.

I've also learned how visiting open houses can be part of the buying process, for some people. Not everyone has a defined turnaround time to sell and move. It's common for prospective buyers to take up to a year to research the market and benefit from finding their dream home in this casual and relaxed way — one more reason that open houses remain a popular Sunday outing.

These "Five Tips for Approaching an Open House" are helpful to both the deadline-driven and prospective home buyer. It's never too early to define what your dream home looks, feels, and smells like!

Posted on September 29, 2012 at 9:40 am
Julie Billett | Category: Selling Homes | Tagged ,