Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Tukwila, at the crossroads of rivers, highways and railways, has been a hub of commerce since the 1860s, when boats on the Duwamish River ferried coal from local mines on a two-day journey to Seattle.
That trip now takes 37 minutes from the new Tukwila light-rail station near the airport.
That station (officially known as the Tukwila International Boulevard Station) has increased homebuyer interest in the neighborhood surrounding the towering structure.
"The last two homes I've sold were because of the light-rail station right up the street," says Windermere Real Estate agent Marilyn Ferris.
Housing in the neighborhood around the station is "eclectic and affordable," Ferris says. "There's a lot of diversity and multigenerational households," she says, citing the recent sale of a "really cute" 1,700 square-foot home to an extended family for $245,000.
"They don't drive and can walk to the bus, light-rail station and stores, and they're thrilled to be homeowners," Ferris says.
The neighborhood features some of the most affordable houses in the Seattle area. Recently a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,768-square-foot house three blocks from the station was listed for $159,999 while a new, custom-looking four-bedroom, 2,590-square-foot house with coffered ceilings sold for $366,000.
Prices across Tukwila are similarly affordable. The median price of 12 single-family houses sold in Tukwila during February was $285,000, according to figures compiled by Seattle-based Zillow.com. The median price of 11 condos sold during February in Tukwila was $132,000, according to Zillow. - Click Here to View Entire Article
Friday, April 23, 2010
New-home sales rose 26.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,000 last month, compared to an upwardly revised annual rate of 324,000 in February, the Census Bureau said. The gain snapped a four-month streak of declines.
A consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected March sales to rise to an annual rate of 330,000.
The March sales were the strongest since last July, and the percentage gain was the biggest on a month-over-month basis since a 31% gain in March 1963.
New-home sales spiked in every region of the United States. The South saw the biggest jump in new home sales, up 43.5%, while the Northeast region saw sales climb 35.7%. The West and Midwest regions both saw single-digit percentage growth, with the West up 6% and the Midwest up 4%.
The Census Bureau data followed a report from the National Association of Realtors on Thursday that showed existing home sales soared nearly 7% in March, as new homebuyers raced to buy up properties before a tax credit expires on April 30.
"It's obvious that homebuyers are rushing in to take advantage of the tax credit that's set to expire," said Robert Dye, senior economist for PNC Financial Services.
In November, the government extended and expanded an $8,000 tax credit, which also allows some repeat buyers to qualify for a $6,500 credit. Buyers have until April 30 to qualify.
Fewer homes to buy
Dye expects to see continued strength in April's data before "tailing off" through the summer as the group of buyers who rushed in are "all spent out."
The Census Bureau estimated that 228,000 new homes hit the market in March. At the current sales rate, it would take 6.7 months to sell through that inventory, down sharply from an estimated 9.2 months of inventory in February.
Although new-home sales in March exceeded analyst expectations, sales are still trending near record lows, and prices are still under pressure due to oversupply.
"It's a very good sign to see [the March inventory] number down," said Dye. "But this needs to tighten up more to see upward pressure on prices."
The average price of a new home was $258,600, according to the Census Bureau. That was virtually flat compared to a year earlier, and 12% below average prices in 2008.
A precarious jobs market continues to threaten the housing market. Dye expects the April unemployment rate to dip to a still-high 9.6% from March's 9.7% when data are announced May 7.
"Firming house prices and an improving jobs market will make recovery felt on Main Street as well as Wall Street," said Dye. "We're headed in the right direction."
Click Here - To view article on CNN
Thursday, April 22, 2010
environmental teach-in day to a conservation group in Seattle in September of 1969. Denis Hayes was the principal organizer of the first Earth Day, which took place a few months later in 1970. Over 20 million people participated that first year.
Visit the websites below to find out how to get involved in Earth Day:
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Wonderfully Updated Home in Crosswater Community!
Click Here for Complete Property Details
Another Short Sale Sold by The KEY Team
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
By Jennifer Liberto, senior writerApril 13, 2010: 4:06 AM ET
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- As the economy begins to mend, the cost of borrowing money for a big purchase could start to increase.
Mortgages, in particular, have flirted with record lows during the recession. Credit card rates have been bouncing upward and, while auto loan rates are expected to stay low for a little while longer, they can't stay low forever.
The Federal Reserve has played a key role in keeping the cost of borrowing so low, through the so-called fed funds rate, a benchmark that determines the interest paid by consumers and businesses on a wide variety of loans. That has been near 0% since December 2008, as the central bank worked to spur greater lending and economic activity.
But as the economy heals, that rate is sure to come up, as will the cost of a lot of loans - although economists assure that borrowing costs won't rise until the economy is ready for it.
"The important thing to remember the Federal Reserve has a mandate to maximize employment and keep inflation low, so interest rates may be going up, but it will be in the context of better job growth," said Zach Pandl, an economist at Nomura Securities.
Mortgages: Apart from what the Fed does on interest rates, economists and Fed officials have been predicting higher mortgage rates for several months, as the Fed winds down credit programs that artificially spurred cheaper loans.
The Fed had been buying up a lot of mortgage-backed securities, but they recently stopped, which has already started to impact mortgage rates.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reached an 8-month high last week, averaging 5.21%, according to Freddie Mac's weekly survey of conforming mortgage rates. Several times in 2009, mortgage rates dipped below 5%, considered to be record lows, thanks to the Federal Reserve's help.
"Throughout most of the last year we were right below or right above 5%, which really is an extremely low rate, historically," said Michael Fratantoni, Mortgage Bankers' Association vice president of research and economics.
MBA has been predicting mortgage rates would rise, maybe even reaching around 5.8% by the end of this year, Fratantoni said. And experts predict the rates will range around 6% in 2011.
Mortgage rates can really impact consumers by limiting what they can pay for a home.
Take the $165,000 median home price of existing homes sold in February. A buyer with a 20% down payment would pay just over $725 a month in mortgage payments for a 30-year fixed loan at today's rate.
Raise that rate by a half point, and the same buyer would only be able to afford a home worth $156,000 to keep payments near the $725 a month level.
Credit cards: Credit card interest rates have been on an upward march for nearly a year because of the overall increased risk that people can't make their payments in a recession.
The average credit card rate rose to 14.7% last week from 12.55% from six months ago, according to a survey of 95 of the most popular cards by Creditcards.com, a comparison site for card offers.
"It's going to keep edging upward a bit, because credit losses aren't going to improve for the banks until unemployment heads down," said Ben Woolsey, an analyst at Creditcards.com.
While new credit card laws passed by Congress in the past year make it more difficult for banks to raise interest rates in several ways, they won't touch hikes in rates based solely on a financial index. One common index used, the prime rate, is at a 3.25% low and is expected to increase.
The flip side is that if the financial index rises and then later falls, the interest rate on the variable credit card rises and falls, said Scott Talbott, senior lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable.
"By tying the interest rate to an index, it largely takes the decision (on changing rates) out of the credit card company's hands," Talbott said.
Auto loans: One borrowing bright spot could be auto loans, which have been at record lows, thanks in large part to a lot of 0% financing deals aimed at wooing customers.
In March, auto loans averaged 4.4%, much lower than the 7.3% average back in March 2007, according to Edmunds.com, an automotive Web site that tracks such information.
In the case of auto loans, experts predict the financing deals will last a while longer. For one thing, there's more money available for auto loans than the demand for the loans, according to Nomura's Pandl.
"It can't go on forever, but incentives have always been a part of the auto industry," said Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell, who predicts the low rates will last for some time to come. "I don't ever see them turning that off."
Monday, April 12, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
A new Obama administration get-tough policy on home-mortgage discrimination is drawing kudos from consumer advocates
WASHINGTON â€” A new Obama administration get-tough policy on home-mortgage discrimination is drawing kudos from consumer advocates, along with expressions of serious concern from lawyers who represent lenders and brokers.
In a settlement last month with two subsidiaries of ailing insurance giant American International Group, the Justice Department took aim at one of the most controversial practices of the housing-boom years: National subprime mortgage lenders originated billions of dollars in high-interest-rate loans through local brokers who sometimes hit African-American and other minority applicants with excessive loan charges.
Mortgages extended to African Americans often carried higher fees than those paid by white subprime applicants â€” even when the borrowers' credit profiles and other factors were roughly the same. But did these disparities in fees open those lenders who purchased the loans from local brokers to legal attack?
Weren't the higher fees solely the result of predatory pricing by individual brokers operating independently of their wholesale lenders? If a broker charged African Americans higher fees than whites, wasn't this violation of fair lending laws on the broker's shoulders?
The Obama administration gave a resounding answer to that question: No. The consent order requires AIG's subsidiaries to pay $6.1 million to roughly 2,500 African-American borrowers, or an average of $2,300 in cash restitution for overcharges per loan.
The companies are also required to spend at least $1 million on consumer financial education programs. None of the firms admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlement. AIG Federal Savings Bank and Wilmington Finance no longer are involved in the wholesale mortgage market. AIG took a $182 billion bailout from the federal government in 2008, and is in the process of reorganizing its business activities. No individual mortgage brokers were cited in the case.
The core message here, according to Justice Department officials: Lenders who use independent brokers to originate mortgages cannot ignore what those brokers are doing to their minority customers. They will be held responsible for civil-rights violations because they should have been monitoring their broker networks for signs of discriminatory pricing â€” which should be detectable by examining loan packages and performing statistical analyses.
Thomas Perez, an assistant attorney general, said, "Discriminatory practices by lenders, brokers and other players contributed to our nation's housing crisis and economic meltdown. Lenders who looked the other way and ignored the discriminatory practices of brokers must be held accountable."
Perez warned that many other lenders who use broker networks could also be vulnerable to legal actions.
Community groups and civil-rights advocates hailed the settlement as a huge step forward. "It's a new day for borrowers," said David Berenbaum, chief program officer for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. "Borrowers should see fewer backdoor pricing abuses" â€” especially the bloated fees, higher interest rates and unequal underwriting standards that were commonplace in the housing-boom years.
But some mortgage-industry groups and lawyers who specialize in financial issues disagree. They argue that holding giant wholesale lenders responsible for illegal acts they did not themselves directly commit not only is unfair but will do long-term harm to all borrowers.
Roy DeLoach, CEO of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, said, "We absolutely oppose discrimination in any form. But we think the government's target should be the persons who actually do the discriminating" â€” in this case, individual, local brokers â€” not the lenders who acquired the loans with no knowledge of the discriminatory fees.
DeLoach argues that the administration's approach will discourage some lenders from dealing with brokers in general, thereby reducing competition in the marketplace, especially areas with significant minority populations.
"There will be less choice for borrowers" with fewer brokers active in the market competing for business. "That inevitably means higher rates and worse terms," because just a handful of big banks will dominate the mortgage business, he said.
Paul F. Hancock, a partner with the law firm K&L Gates who served for 20 years in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and was a deputy attorney general in Florida, says the AIG settlement "is really stretching the law, maybe even going beyond the law" by holding lenders responsible for the actions of independent brokers.
Hancock, who specializes in advising financial institutions, adds that "there is no case law" supporting the administration's "aggressive" position. But it may prevail because "nobody wants to fight the government."
Bottom line for consumers: Look for more fair-lending settlements, more financial restitution, and much closer supervision of loan officers â€” whether they're on lenders' staffs or independent brokers â€” to ensure that every mortgage applicant gets equal treatment.
Click Here to View Article as Published in Seattle Times on 4/10
The bar couldn't have been lower. Still, an increase is an increase.
House prices in King County rose in March for the first time in more than two years, according to one closely watched measure.
The median price of single-family homes that sold last month was $367,250, up 0.9 percent from March 2009, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service said Monday.
While tiny, the year-over-year countywide increase was the first since January 2008.
The median price in March 2009 - $363,850 - was the lowest in years. And last month's number, while slightly higher, was the lowest since then.
Area home prices have shown signs of stabilizing for several months: The median price in Seattle rose year-over-year in January, then on the Eastside in February.
Sales are up, too: Buyers closed on 1,596 houses in King County in March, 65 percent more than in the same month last year.
House sales were up 73 percent in Snohomish County. King County condo sales rose 47 percent.
While it is a less reliable measure, the listing service reported more pending sales of houses in King County last month than in any month since May 2007.
All this has brokers and other observers of the real-estate scene talking about a resurgence in the local market and wondering how long it might last.
"Are we at the end of this [downturn]? I wish I knew," said Doug Davis, broker at Hallmark Realty in Kirkland.
He and others said some March buyers were motivated partly by record-low interest rates â€” and concern those rates could start climbing soon.
Others bought at least in part because of federal tax credits scheduled to expire soon: To qualify, buyers must have homes under contract by the end of this month.
The March statistics are "very encouraging," said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University.
But the market's future beyond the next few months hinges on several factors, he said, including job growth and the Federal Reserve's success in keeping interest rates low, as it has vowed, in the face of increasing pressure from buyers of government debt.
Crellin said the year-over-year increase in the median King County house price in March probably was due in part to a federal tax credit for repeat buyers that Congress approved late last year. It has brought some buyers into the market, he said, and they are "taking advantage of bargains they're finding in higher-priced properties."
But Omeed Salashoor, manager of MetLife Home Loans' Lake Union office, said he has seen little evidence the credit for repeat buyers is motivating many sales. An older tax credit for first-time buyers still seems to be having more impact, he said.
Loan applications at his branch rose 40 percent between February and March, Salashoor said.
The year-over-year jump in closed house sales in King County in March was the 10th consecutive monthly increase, and the 65 percent rise was second only to November's bump.
Sales were particularly strong on the Eastside, where closings were up 108 percent.
Davis, the Kirkland broker, said his office has a lot of walk-in traffic, and that it has increased significantly.
"I think there's been a lot of people waiting," he said. "Now, in 2010, they're actually saying, 'That's a pretty good buy.' "
Tim Ellis, who edits the real-estate blog Seattlebubble.com, said in an e-mail that he expects Seattle-area sales to continue to rise through May, then plateau and maybe drop in the summer and autumn after the tax credits expire.
Nationally, there also were indications the housing market is coming back from the winter doldrums.
The number of buyers who agreed to purchase previously occupied homes rose sharply in February, far exceeding expectations, a report said Monday.
The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index of sales agreements rose 8.2 percent from January to a February reading of 97.6. January's reading was revised slightly downward to 90.2.
The report "may signal the early stages of a second surge of home sales this spring," said Lawrence Yun, the trade group's chief economist.
Meanwhile, the federal government launched a new effort Monday to speed up the time-consuming, often-frustrating process that homeowners face when they want to sell â€” but owe more on their home than it's worth.
The Obama administration will give $3,000 for moving expenses to homeowners who complete such a sale known as a short sale or agree to turn over the deed to the lender. It's designed for homeowners who are in financial trouble but don't qualify for the administration's $75 billion mortgage-modification program.
Owners still will lose their homes, but a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure doesn't hurt a borrower's credit score for as long a time as a foreclosure does.
For lenders, a home usually fetches more money in a short sale than a foreclosure. And the bank avoids expensive legal bills, cleanup fees and maintenance costs that follow a foreclosure.
By Eric Pryne - Published 4/6/10
Seattle Times business reporter
View Complete Article - Click Here
Friday, April 9, 2010
The search is on! New clients from California are seeking that ideal home here that is within close proximity to Downtown Seattle. To always ensure I am showing homes that meet a client's criteria I preview.... I thought you might enjoy checking out what I viewed yesterday:
With one crucial factor I had to keep in mind for them was a great view...I really had an opportunity to be reminded why the Northwest is such a great place to live as I'd stand in a kitchen and look out to the sun resting on the Olympic Moutains or reflecting off Seattle skyline -- Wow!! Did I say I love my job?
Monday, April 5, 2010
Don't Miss this Great Opportunity!
For More Information - Click Here
For those of you hoping to qualify for the $8000 First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit or the Repeat Home Buyer Tax Credit -- You Must Be in Contract by April 30, 2010.
To View a FACT SHEET on the Tax Credit - Click Here
Thursday, April 1, 2010
29th Annual Tulip Pedal
Art in the Pickle Barn
Skagit Valley Gardens
Tulip Country Bike Tours
Choose tulips that are tightly closed, this means they are fresher.
Re-cut and re-water them daily.
Keep them away from direct sunlight and heat.
Place a penny in the bottom of the vase... it’s been said to work!