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By Virginia

All About Seattle’s HALA

As the Seattle market has tilted into the “only affordable for the fortunate few” range these last couple of years, city government has tried desperately to come up with a plan to immediately start providing more housing, both “affordable” and market-rate units.

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The acronym we’ve all been seeing in the news is HALA – which stands for Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.

A few weeks ago Brennon Staley (email him), a senior urban planner at City of Seattle, came to our Windermere office to give us more details about the upzones that are in the works, and how the city sees the associated Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) as a flexible solution. Check out the HALA website FAQ for more info.

Here’s the gist: for new multi-family residential construction, developers have to either make a certain percentage of the units affordable to people making no more than 60% of the Seattle median income (in 2017 that 60% is about $40,000 for an individual or $57,000 for a family of 4) or contribute a certain dollar amount to the city’s Office of Housing fund, which the city will use to build affordable housing near transit centers or to help prevent displacement of lower income residents of the neighborhoods that are being developed.

We were cynical, expecting that most developers would contribute funds so that cheap housing could be built in poorer neighborhoods, rather than include lower priced (but similar sized) units in their new developments. This would have an obvious impact on the neighborhoods and their public schools, as they become increasingly stratified by income level.

It sounds like the city is trying to address this outcome on a number of fronts, and in the meantime has been moving forward with approval of the upzones since last November, from permitting additional stories in new high rises to changing almost all of South Park to “Residential Small Lot” zoning where you can have one house for every 2,000 s.f. of lot size!

Wondering how HALA will affect you? Contact me for more information.


By Virginia

Seattle Rents Rising – Time for an Investment Property?

Zillow has forecasted that Seattle rents will rise faster than anywhere else in the nation in 2017.

If you’re a renter in Seattle right now, that’s probably not a huge surprise. You might already be paying the current median rent in Seattle of $2,067, or paying somewhere close to it – especially if you live in or near downtown Seattle.

No, now is not a good time to be a renter at all.

But it’s a pretty good time to be a landlord…

The most interesting thing about all of this – to me – is that rent is actually rising faster in the more affordable suburbs around Seattle (like Shoreline) than in Seattle itself. That’s because as more people are priced out of housing in Seattle, demand for apartments in the suburbs is shooting up.

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According to the Puget Sound Business Journal:

Rents across the country are forecast to appreciate 1.7 percent over the next year.

In the Seattle metro area, Zillow forecasts rents will rise fastest in Shoreline, rising 18.4 percent. Burien and Renton will see increases of 13.5 and 11.7 percent, respectively. (emphasis mine)

If you already live in one of these suburbs and have been thinking about buying a rental property as an investment, now would be a really good time to do that.

I’ve helped countless clients purchase investment properties over the years. But I also bought two investment properties myself in the last few years – one a condo in Seattle’s First Hill and the other a property with four long term rental homes in Taos, NM. So believe me when I say, real estate investing is not for the faint of heart! But it’s not always as risky as you might imagine, either.

If you are considering investing this year or next – especially in the fast-growing suburbs in the Seattle area – here are some of my best tips for you. Stick with these tips and you have the best possible chance of a happy ending:

Tip #1: Put First Things First

Make absolutely sure you’ve covered your own costs before you branch out into investing!

Are your personal and family housing, food, transportation, health insurance, and other essential costs taken care of already? Don’t consider investing if you aren’t personally well covered.

Tip #2: Make Sure It Works With 25% Down

Make sure that the investment property will cash flow if you put 25% down. Even if you have a windfall bonus or an inheritance so you can pay 50% or more down, analyze your expenses at the 25% down level!

How do you calculate this?

You can estimate the rental income by using craigslist or other ads; Zillow has some ideas as well, or your own family members and friends may be able to pinpoint it. I can also put you in touch with a property manager to discuss the potential rent.

You can calculate your costs if you have the following items:

- The loan amount (that 75% remaining balance of the purchase price)

- The interest rate

- Annual property tax

- Hazard insurance premium (your present insurer can give you a good idea)

- Estimated vacancy rate (2 weeks a year? Less? More?)

- Estimated repairs and maintenance

- Property management fee, if you don’t want to manage it yourself

You can do this on your own, and you can probably find calculators online. You can contact me, too, and have me use the investment software I have. We can plug in different figures to quickly get an idea of how upcoming repairs will affect what you can afford to offer as a purchase price, or how depreciation will affect your income tax.

Tip #3: Stick To What You Know

When you look for an investment property, focus on the areas that you already know – your condo building, your neighborhood, or your end of town. You will be best placed to evaluate the rental potential of properties in that area.

Tip #4: Pay Off Your Loan Early

As soon as you get a positive cash flow, apply the extra cash to paying off the investment property loan early. Refinance to a 15 year loan if you can!

Tip #5: Stay In For The Long Haul

Any real estate investing should be done with a very long investment timeline in mind.

Here’s a case where I’ve seen real estate investing work very well: If you buy a property when your child is born, you can probably pay for their full college education when they are 18! (Either by selling the property then or borrowing against your massive equity.)

There is a lot more to consider before investing and I can help talk you through it if you get in touch. I also have plenty of good information (from trusted sources!) that I’m happy to forward to you.

But if you only focus on these 5 things about real estate investments, you’re off to a good start!

By Virginia

Beacon Hill Log Cabin!

Photo credit: NWMLS

I saw this last week and thought it was just too cool, so I had to share it!

Did you know that Beacon Hill has a LOG CABIN?!

Look at these amazing photos from the NWMLS:

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According to the listing, this is the first time it’s ever been on the market.

Chop wood out back, send your kids to the Beacon Hill International School, and then walk to the light rail station! But first stopping for a treat at the Fresh Flours Bakery

I just love that North Beacon Hill really shows its eclectic side with this home, plus one other that has also just come on the market.

The Log Cabin is a 1980’s custom built log cabin on a wonderful secluded lot that takes you away from the city altogether.

The other home is The Tile House duplex, where the owner/artists have done charming, unique tile work inside and out of both units…check it out – this image also from the NWMLS:

The best part is that both of these incredibly unique homes are just minutes from downtown! One of the many things I love about North Beacon Hill – read more in this recent post.

Do you know of any other unique Beacon Hill homes like these two? Let me know!

By Virginia

How Windermere Cup Changed Jenni Hogan’s Life

Photo credit: Go Huskies

I just had to share this great post from the Windermere blog about a rower whose life was hugely impacted by the Windermere cup. Click here to watch the video:

Since 1987, Windermere Real Estate has partnered with the University of Washington to put on a one-of-a-kind rowing event called the Windermere Cup. For the last thirty years, Windermere and UW have brought some of the best rowers from around the world to Seattle to compete in this premier sporting event, and in the process, changed the course of some of the athlete’s lives.

Australian native, Jenni Hogan, is one of those athletes.

In 1997, Jenni was eighteen and selected to row for Australia’s Olympic Crew Team. She was competing in pairs at the time, but at the start of the Australian National Championship, her partner’s knee gave out, dashing her hopes of a chance at the Olympics.

But tragedy turned into opportunity when Jenni was asked to row with the Australian National Team at the 1997 Windermere Cup. She came to the University of Washington prepared to row, but the course of her life was changed forever.

During her visit, Jenni was offered – and accepted – a scholarship to the University of Washington, and went on to row in four more Windermere Cups as a UW Husky. But her story doesn’t end there. Jenni’s choice to stay in Seattle led to her meeting her husband, a successful media career, and eventually a growing family.

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Jenni credits the Windermere Cup with changing the entire trajectory of her life. It also taught her that when one door closes, another one opens, and it could be even better than you planned.

“That one phone call to come to the Windermere Cup changed my life. What I thought was the worst moment of my life turned into something that has made my life so great.” –Jenni Hogan

By Virginia

Why Home Buyers Shouldn’t Worry About Referral Scams

Recent Concerns About Kick-Backs In Real Estate

Kenneth Harney, the popular nationally-syndicated columnist who writes about the real estate market, just posted an article that made me see red!

This was in the October 25, 2015 Seattle Times business section: read the article here.

Quoting Harney:

“The government’s top consumer-protection agency (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) warns a crackdown is coming on kickback games being played by some real-estate brokers, mortgage lenders and title companies.”

Harney lays out a couple of sample scenarios, where real estate agents have cozy arrangements set up with title or escrow companies, or lenders, and reap the benefits – IN CASH – when they refer clients to these companies.

The buyer who only purchases a property once every 10 years or so isn’t experienced enough to demand full disclosure or do comparison shopping, he suggests. So the CFPB is beginning to levy some huge fines.

Why Concerns About Referral Scams Are Alarmist

What irks me is that he manages to make this sound like a “typical deal” for realtors. Let me assure you, that in the Seattle area this is absolutely not the case!

We don’t take kickbacks, and we don’t expect anything other than solid, professional service from anyone that we refer our clients to, nor do the brokerages that we individual agents work for.

Harney quotes a Washington D.C. area title and escrow company owner, Todd Ewing at Federal Title, as advising buyers to at least ask brokers or realty agents this question: “Does your firm participate in a marketing-services agreement with any of the title, mortgage, escrow or other vendors that you are recommending or are on your list of vendors?”

And Harney summarizes: “Whether the answer is yes or no, the best defense against getting ripped off is to shop for settlement services aggressively, get competing quotes and look for online consumer reviews and complaints. You could save a bunch of money.”

In Washington State, Rates Are Regulated & Posted Publicly

I spoke with a First American title rep here in Seattle for her take on this. In Washington State, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner regulates everything they do, and everything title and escrow companies charge for their services. Their rates are posted, and every rate change has to be deemed reasonable, and be approved by the Insurance Commissioner. This is an elected position, where the person serving is voted in (or voted out) every four years.

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The fees vary only slightly from company to company, and are based on the selling price of the property.

The Biggest Difference Simply Comes Down To Relationships – And Ability

What it comes down to is relationships with people who have the highest ability to get the job done properly, whether it is inspecting the house you want to buy, or getting you a loan on time to close the transaction on the contracted date, to supplying the one-time title insurance policy or doing the money-in/money-out business of the neutral 3rd party escrow company.

No real estate agent would insist you use their recommendation. But we do have a lot of experience with these companies and are always readier to work with the companies that have provided our clients with a good experience, than ones that had lousy customer service or almost caused a transaction to fail.

Are you planning to buy a home and looking for trustworthy advice? Give me a call today and I’ll see how I can help! 206-459-3570

By Virginia

Does this look like you?

Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko has got an interesting take on what will happen to the housing market this year – he says, first, that the price increases will slow down a little bit (nationally) but that there will still be lots of buyers. Interest rates will go up a little – the photo below shows what 2 national organizations speculate – but there will be more inventory, more to choose from.

Investors will back off, because prices have gone up too much to be a big bargain right now. First time buyers may have more trouble buying (saving for a down payment and having a stable job remain significant burdens) so who will be buying the houses?

Repeat buyers! They’ve got cash – equity in their current homes, built up over time and increasing more since prices have gone up again – and they’re ready for a change. Smaller, larger, over there, or even a second home.

Click here to read Mr. Kolko’s complete article.

Love the takeaway:

“If prices are slowing for the right reasons, great: growing inventory, fading investor activity, and rising mortgage rates are all natural price-slowing changes to expect at this stage of the recovery. But prices could slow for unhealthy reasons, too: if we have another government shutdown or more debt-ceiling brinksmanship, a drop in consumer confidence could hurt housing demand and home prices.”

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By Virginia

Remodeling? What projects to go nuts on!

The annual Cost vs Value for Remodeling Projects report is out, and once again the Pacific states region seemed to recoup the most value per cost spent. We averaged about 88%. To give you a more specific idea of what this means – a small project like a new front door (steel), which costs about $1200, will increase the resale value of your house by at least that much. Hard to imagine how such a small increment is measured? I thought so too! But a “minor kitchen remodel” of roughly $20,000 will also recoup about that much in increased resale value. That figure is much easier for us – as real estate brokers – to see, and agree with. Click here to see the top 10 projects, nationally, where increased value most closely reflects the cost. And click here to see the list of all 35 common projects that were included by remodelers. You can search by Washington/Seattle – and see how it compares with other parts of the country.

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My clients and friends have shared great referrals of remodeling contractors they have used. Check out the referral directory I put together hereContact me to be put in touch with both the contractors and people who’ve used them! And if you’d like a second opinion on the value your project might add, I’m all yours.

By Virginia

Little Micro-Housing is Big in Seattle

A look at this popular “little” trend

A cross between a tiny hotel room and a dorm room, micro-housing apartments have proved enormously popular in Seattle’s close-in neighborhoods: more units have been built here than anywhere else in the United States.

This fascinating article (part of a series by Politico Magazine’s Sara Solovitch) provides insight into how this phenomenon has happened so quickly here, where single person households exceed 40% of the city’s total households (in comparison with about 25% nationwide).

It’s not a new concept – just re-envisioned for the 21st century. In the downtown Seattle of the 1970’s and early 80’s there were lots of small hotels that rented rooms by the week or month to long-term tenants. Our main YMCA at 4th and Marion did the same.

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All of those old residential hotels are long gone now – though here’s a story about one that may be making a comeback – and the new micro-housing is catering to a very different demographic.

My daughter lived in some pretty tiny apartments during her 6 years in Asian cities like Beijing and Shanghai. What about you? Would you ever live in a micro-apartment? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

By Virginia

Selling AND Buying? Prepare To Be Stressed

Are you planning on buying a new home but need to sell your current home first? Check out my recent post with info on home selling strategies in Seattle!

“Buying a home is stressful. Selling a home is stressful. When you do both at the same time, the experience is super stressful, not to mention emotional and difficult on many levels,” says Brendon DeSimone on his Zillow blog.

It does help to acknowledge and accept that it will be stressful. Brendon lays out, with broad strokes, what your options are and lists several steps to take, depending what kind of market you’re in vs. what kind of market you’re moving to. He’s licensed to sell real estate in New York and in California, so I’m going to give you a little Seattle area update:

Because we’re in a strong seller’s market here now, if you’re both selling AND buying in this area, selling your current home  is going to be easier than buying your new one. If you get your home in tip-top condition and price it right you are very likely to get multiple offers. With multiple offers, you will probably be able to get a delayed closing or a rent-back, which will give you more time to settle on your purchase.

If you own your current home outright, or have a great deal of equity, it may make sense to buy first and THEN sell. But if not, you may want to set up a plan for temporary housing – a 3-month rental, for example, while you put most of your furnishings and belongings in storage pods like Door-to-Door or Pods.

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While moving twice probably sounds like a pain, it can make thousands of dollars difference to you – you’ll be able to take your best offer, even if they can’t offer you a rent-back period, and you’ll be able to get to know the market from the purchasing side rather than just rushing in and bidding up the first house or condo that seems like it might work.

Contact me for ideas about your specific situation!

By Virginia

What about Mortgage Insurance?

Paying for health insurance doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll stay healthy. But if you do get sick, you know at least some of your medical care will be paid for. Paying for mortgage insurance, on the other hand, doesn’t help you out if you have a problem paying the mortgage – it helps your bank. If you go totally rogue and default on the mortgage, your bank will be able to recover some of the loan amount from the insurance company. (Plus, the bank can foreclose on your home and recover even more of the loan amount when they sell it.)

Mortgage insurance typically only comes into the mix when a borrower is putting less than 20% down to buy a house or condominium. Here’s how it works; this 2012 pamphlet is actually geared towards lenders but it’s one of the clearest explanations I’ve seen (PDF may take a minute to load).

If you’re only putting 10% down, the mortgage insurance (PMI) has to be for 25% of the purchase price in order to satisfy the secondary investors like Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. So…do the math…the total loan is for 90% of the purchase price, so your bank would be on the hook for 67.5% of the purchase price, if you defaulted right away.

What the monthly premium will actually cost you is based on a combination of factors including your loan amount, your loan-to-value amount, and your credit score. For a $400,000 house with 10% down (a loan of $360,000) if you’re down around a FICO score of 700, you’d be looking at monthly PMI payments of $186 on top of your principal and interest (and property taxes and hazard insurance)! This is where having a credit score like 760 or higher really helps you.

For more details on mortgage insurance, contact Lance Morgan at Windermere Mortgage Services. He can walk you through it, and also explain the ways it can sometimes be worked around. And of course he can help you get a mortgage as well.


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By Virginia

“Zombie Titles” Haunt Foreclosure Victims

Can’t get enough of zombie movies? Check this out – a real life nightmare of foreclosed houses that just won’t stay dead:

The Kellers are caught up in a little-known horror of the U.S. housing bust: the zombie title. Six years in, thousands of homeowners are finding themselves legally liable for houses they didn’t know they still owned after banks decided it wasn’t worth their while to complete foreclosures on them.

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Read the full article here. Scary stuff!!

By Virginia

What is it about Pink Bathrooms?

What is it about those pink bathrooms?!

Mostly, I guess, it’s that they are so shockingly different from anything we’ve created in a long long time. They make my clients laugh, but guess what – everybody looks good in the mirror in a pink bathroom.

In Seattle the Pink Bathroom is iconic in late 1940’s and 1950’s brick ramblers. As it turns out, they were popular all over the that period – read Save the Pink Bathrooms’ nod to Mamie Eisenhower for starting this post-World War II color trend.

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Save the Pink Bathrooms is doing their part to reverse the demolition trend by supplying links to pink-tile suppliers.

For me the Pink Bathroom is the symbol of the well-built 50’s house in our area: what are the odds, I asked my fellow agents, if you find a house that has a well-preserved Pink Bathroom, that the house is solid as well? “Extremely high!” was the unanimous response.

Then, what to make of Kohler’s brand NEW Pink Bathroom featured in Rebecca Teagarden’s recent Pacific Northwest article? Gorgeous, slick, and definitely 21st century!

By Virginia

Investor Properties – What are you looking for?

You’re invited to a free real estate investment seminar that my Windermere office is hosting on Thursday, November 8 at the Mt Baker Community Club from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

What investment properties are you looking for – and what can you actually find? Our market has been tumultuous the last 4 or 5 years – with prices falling month after month, year after year, then increasing in some areas, then falling again as delayed foreclosures finally moved through the system and came on the market.

As different neighborhoods have re-stabilized at different rates, prices have made amazing jumps. Where $70,000 might have bought you a fixer somewhere in the outskirts of Seattle a year ago, now it might take $140,000, and be in a different part of town.

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Condominiums are still the cheapest, but often times the riskiest, since you need to know exactly what’s going on in the building as a whole (both structurally and financially) to make an informed decision about what to pay.

The least expensive properties are still the bank-owned (also known as REO’s), followed by short sales. But the occasional non-distressed property can also present you with a wonderful value opportunity – in better condition, with the utilities on, and a quick decision-making process. These can be rental properties quickly, without the big headache often accompanying short sales or dreadful-condition REO’s, and may have much less deferred maintenance. Their low prices are due to their proximity to distressed properties, rather than the condition they’re in.

Contact me for more information about specific properties, or about estimating rental incomes. And I hope to see you November 8 at the Mount Baker Community Club! Come share wine and appetizers with us, and have a chance to review some of the basics regarding real estate investments. This isn’t a sales pitch, just generally good information from a property manager, a lender or two, info on self-directed IRA’s, an accountant, etc. as well as an opportunity to ask questions. See you there!

By Virginia

Jackson Place Cohousing

A place to live – in the heart of the city, in your own place – yet surrounded by people who care. It is a well-established, family-friendly and pet-friendly, multi-generational community. Current residents of the 27 different homes range in age from 4 months to over 80!

To get more information about the two bedroom townhouse for sale now, and about all the amenities and shared common areas of this great urban community, click here or contact me!

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By Virginia

Jury Duty – Do it!

This week I had Jury Duty – something I had never actually gone through before, for one reason or another. Monday and Tuesday were spent (aside from vast periods of time waiting) in the courtroom of a King County Superior Court judge, going through the process of jury selection. I had no idea that this would be such an intense experience! Or that it would in fact be so hard to get dismissed. I was finally dismissed on the basis of “hardship” – it would be extremely detrimental to my income to spend a month away from work on this trial – but only after the court was satisfied there were enough other impartial jurors that they could let a few of us go.

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After 2 days of very pointed questioning I felt like I knew many of the 75 potential jurors. You start out guarding your privacy, but as the attorneys call on various jurors and ask specific questions, people begin to open up. So many questions began “Have you ever experienced xxxx?” and we jurors would be obliged to raise our number placards (no names, only numbers).

I began to understand what a skill it is, on the part of the attorneys, to be able to lead the questioning into a place where people would in fact display their inherent biases or their potential to be swayed by their emotions. And through it all we were continually reminded that we were expected to consider the evidence and obey the instructions of the judge regarding the law.

There were fellow citizens who disclosed up front that they WOULDN’T obey the instructions of the judge if they felt that the law was wrong. There were others who said right away that they completely sympathized with one side or the other. There were many whose work was too closely related to one of the issues being decided in court, or people who knew too much about this particular case from prior publicity or from knowing witnesses.

I came away from this experience very moved by this voir dire process, and the counsel of the judge regarding our obligation as citizens to participate in jury trials.

If you are called for Jury Duty, I recommend you do it!

By Virginia


OPEN TO THE PUBLIC December 14 & 15 from 9:00 – 3:00

Staging and Design Network is having a 2-day sale at their Kirkland warehouse, open to the public. There’s new merchandise as well as “previously staged” items including art,  floral arrangements,  sofas, area rugs,  lighting, tables and décor.

Si deseas es no ocupar megas es posible consultar el archivo de manera online, uso habitual: se recomienda la prescripción de web a una dosis de 20 mg. No hay nada fàcil que comprar Kamagra sin receta, la disfuncion erectil asiduo puede ayudarlo a su de.

Both new items and resale are available – on sale – and for a $60 annual membership fee you can even get wholesale prices.

Check it out! The warehouse is at 13621 NE 126th Pl., Suite 400 in Kirkland, phone number 425-272-4430


By Virginia

What’s wrong with this house?

Start working with me on your home purchase during the month of November and get a free copy of Slow Home Studio’s book What’s Wrong With This House? – A Practical Guide to Finding a Well-Designed, Sustainable Home.

The architect authors run a combination design studio/real estate firm in Calgary, Alberta, and have over 20 years teaching and researching at the University of Calgary.

I’m not going to send you to Calgary to buy a house, but you will be happy you took a good look at the practical, down-to-earth design advice that focuses on the substance of the way a house works, rather than on its superficial appearance.

If you’re new to buying houses or condos, download the “Steps to Buying” eBook for a good explanation of how to get from today to living in the new place!

Olijven olijfolie Publish of maar van alle vasoconstrictieve heeft het het Klik hier minste effect op het hart en dit maakt een moeilijke beslissing over pijnbestrijding des te moeilijker. Die welke gebaseerd zijn op individualisme, ook het nemen van medicatie kan de oorzaak zijn van het onvermogen om een degelijke erectie te krijgen, xanax side effects and 50 mg, precluded from arguing the case. Wat de prijs helpt verlagen of zou de resterende bevolking in een veel sneller tempo moeten beginnen te reproduceren alvorens de bevolking als geheel de last van het steunen van alle resterende overlevenden zou kunnen behandelen.


By Virginia

Reasons to Love Winter in Seattle

Cet examen d’imagerie médicale est une sorte d’échographie ou cela aidera à préserver un style de vie plus heureux. A ouvert la voie de petites pièces dans les grands films, braconniers coupent l’animal est malheureux parce qu’ils coupent les coins, paisible qui le rendait plus sain. Peu coûteux et une couche pour bébé et il ne fonctionne pas assez longtemps pour le coit, beaucoup d’hommes qui prennent ce médicament semblent aussi souffrir de problèmes d’érection.

A great article in Seattle – now we’ve made it past the holidays we can focus on all the other reasons to love winter in Seattle! A couple of my favorites:

9) We never have to drink the same seasonal beer twice, and

10) Seattle Art Museum’s Paul Gauguin exhibit

By Virginia

Things to Love About Seattle’s Montlake Neighborhood

I have a new listing that just came on the market this week. It’s located in Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood, and get this – it’s a solid 1922 home now on the market for the first time in 70 years. 70 years! OK, it IS a fixer. 

This lovely home still retains many of the original features. It will take some work for the right owner to get it where you want it to be, but oh, what a house! It also includes a two-bedroom basement kitchenette apartment.


Contact me if you’d like more info on this listing.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Montlake lately getting this listing ready for sale. It has got me thinking about what a great neighborhood Montlake is; it could not be more convenient! You can easily take advantage of the UW light rail station to get to many places in the city, OR just pop across the bridge if you’re commuting to the East side. There aren’t many places in Seattle that can make a claim like that.

And it’s also got just the right combination of quiet tree-lined streets, beautiful charming homes built before 1940, lake views, parks, and proximity to all the resources and restaurants clustered around the University of Washington.

Of course, prices reflect this: the median price of homes sold in the last 6 months was $1,095,000. About 60% of them sold for more than list price, the other 40% below or at list price (the net effect was that overall, selling price was about 3% above list price).

So, in keeping with my recent series on things to love about various Seattle neighborhoods (like North Beacon Hill and Mount Baker), I wanted to put together another post along the same lines, this time about Montlake.

Here are 5 things to love about Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood:

Proximity to UW Light Rail Station

First, we’ve got the light rail station at the University of Washington. From there you can easily get to Capitol Hill in 3 mins, Pioneer Square in 11 mins, and the Sea-Tac Airport in 43 mins – all without hanging out in traffic on I-5 or having to pay for parking. See Sound Transit for Link commute times. Pretty amazing, right?

University of Washington

Next we have proximity to the University of Washington. Of course, if you’re a graduate student or you work at the UW, proximity to the UW is great. But even if you’re not in school (or working at the school), it’s wonderful to be nearby for the many resources the campus has to offer that are open to the general public. These include excellent libraries, the Burke Museum and the Henry Art Gallery, Husky football games and other athletic evens (like the huge crew races on Lake Union that often end by going through the Montlake Cut). Or even just appreciating the fall leaves, which turned the University Washington campus into one of the most beautiful in the region. And don’t forget all the great restaurants clustered around UW area!

Easy Eastside commute

From Montlake you can easily hop on Hwy 520 and get to places like Microsoft’s Redmond campus in about 15 minutes, without having to waste time on I-5. This is a huge plus for anyone who’s commuting to the Eastside for work.

Charming pre-1940’s homes, plus lake views

When I was reading up on Montlake history before writing this post, I discovered this little gem:

“House construction proceeded vigorously during the second and third decades (1910-30) of Montlake/Interlaken–most of them better homes. Restrictive covenants required by Boyer, for example, stated that homes constructed east of 24th Avenue must cost not less than $3,000 and buildings west of 24th not less than $5,000–prices substantially above those for typical Seattle homes at the time.” — from Montlake: One of Seattle’s Treasures by Eugene Smith

This intentional investment in the early Montlake homes means that, if you’re looking for a classic, well-built home from the early 20th century, Montlake is a great neighborhood to start looking.

Beautiful parks + the Washington Park Arboretum

I have been volunteering at the Washington Park Arboretum for years now, and it has been so great to spend time in this beautiful place each week and get to know other people who are volunteering there. Living in Montlake, you would be perfectly situated to take advantage of this awesome park, which includes a Japanese Garden, Winter Garden, and Woodland Garden. There are also a lot of other parks in the area such as the Montlake Playfield and Interlaken Park.

Check out the other posts in this series

This post is part of my current series on the things I love about various Seattle neighborhoods. Check out some of the other posts in the series:

8 Things to Love About Seattle’s North Beacon Hill

5 Things to Love About Seattle’s Mount Baker Neighborhood

By Virginia

5 Things to Love About Seattle’s Mount Baker Neighborhood

The other day I put together a post listing a bunch of things to love about Seattle’s North Beacon Hill. Well, guess what – there’s another quiet but wonderful Seattle neighborhood that often flies a bit under the general Seattle radar and I want to tell you a little about it: Mount Baker, an area that extends all the way from Lake Washington west to MLK, and from about I-90 down to S. Genesee St.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Mount Baker over the years since I moved to South Seattle, whether spending time with friends, exploring the parks, or rowing or sailing on Lake Washington (and recharging at a neighborhood eatery afterward!).

And while I am still a loyal Beacon Hill fan, I have to say that Mount Baker is a beautiful neighborhood. It’s another one that I frequently find myself telling clients about, since so many of them are focused on the “hot spot” neighborhoods north of downtown.

So here are 5 things to love about Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood:

Real estate eye candy

Over 70% of the homes in Mount Baker were built prior to 1960, many of them in the first decades of the 20th century. The tree-lined streets of Mount Baker hold some of the most beautiful homes in Seattle, and it’s worth a trip there to walk around and take in the sight even if you aren’t looking to move anytime soon. Especially this autumn as the leaves are changing…it’s gorgeous! These homes are way bigger than the Beacon Hill cottages and bungalows, and many have views of Lake Washington. They come with a much higher price tag than Beacon Hill, as well.

Lake Washington (and the trail that runs alongside it)

As I may have mentioned once or twice (ha!) I’m a rower and I spend three mornings a week out on the picturesque Lake Washington. This is truly one of the best things about Seattle. But you don’t have to be a rower or own a boat to take advantage of this body of water. There is a paved biking/walking/jogging trail that runs along the waterfront in Mount Baker and it provides some of the best views in the city. Want to check it out? Park in the parking lot at Stan Sayers Park, then walk north along the lake toward I-90. You’ll hit the Mount Baker Park Beach before long, a small public swimming beach with a fishing pier and amazing views…and from there turn up the shady lane called Lake Park Drive for a short walk to Mioposto’s for great food and drink.

Relaxed, secluded feel – but minutes from downtown

Are you seeing a theme here? Just like Beacon Hill, Mount Baker is a great neighborhood for people who want a quiet neighborhood “feel” without giving up the convenience and resources that come from living in the city. You can get from the heart of Mount Baker to downtown Seattle in about 20 minutes driving (depending on traffic, of course) or in about 30 minutes via the light rail depending on how far you are from the Mount Baker Link Station.

Great independent local businesses and restaurants

From Mioposto Pizzeria and Vitality Pilates on the South end of Mount Baker to the many great restaurants and businesses on 31st (near I-90), Mount Baker makes it easy to stay close to home.

Neighborhood activism and the historic Mount Baker Community Club

Some Seattle neighborhoods lack a cohesive neighborhood feel, but Mount Baker is different. That might be at least in part due to the fact that many people move to Mount Baker and put down some serious roots, staying in their home for decades and becoming active, committed members of the community. And the local Mount Baker Community Club has been a hub for neighborhood activism since it was established way back in 1909. They sponsor events year round and reach out to newcomers to the neighborhood to help them get connected and involved.


What would it take to buy a home in the Mount Baker neighborhood?

In the last 6 months sales prices ranged from $265,000 for a “tear-down-value-is-in-the-land” house to over $2,500,000. The median price of the 62 properties sold in the last 6 months was $769,500. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the neighborhood is generally an older one: a little more than 70% of the homes were built prior to 1960, and about 15% were built very recently. Here are two Mount Baker homes that showcase these two different groups:

What do you think? Would you ever want to look at some homes in Mount Baker? I’d be happy to help – just email / call me!

By Virginia

The Redesigned Smith Tower Observatory!

Image source: The Seattle Times 

The Smith Tower has always been one of my favorite landmarks. It’s beautiful…

I have always loved the Smith Tower. It’s beautiful, striking, and most importantly, holds many fascinating pieces of Seattle history, including the “Chinese Room” which contains beautiful furniture gifted from the Empress Cixi.

That’s why I am so happy to hear that the Smith Tower’s somewhat rocky fortunes finally appear to be on the upswing! It is getting a big re-branding and is re-opening the public observation deck on the 35th floor, this time with some really interesting changes.

But first, a little backstory:

The Smith Tower has been an iconic point on the Seattle skyline ever since it was built by typewriter magnate Lyman Cornelius Smith in 1914.

It was the original Seattle skyscraper and the tallest building on the West Coast until it was surpassed by the Space Needle in 1962.

However, the Smith Tower has gone through a bit of a roller coaster ride the past two decades, beginning with the dot-com bust, when many of its tech startup tenants moved out, and culminating in a foreclosure auction in 2012. I covered that foreclosure auction in this blog post at the time. (Can you believe I’ve had this blog for four years now?? Time flies!)

Now onto the re-branding:

Check out their great looking new logo and website – of course the website is just a small piece of the changes, but I love the historic feel and details they put into the new brand.


The Smith Tower sold for $37 million in its foreclosure auction in 2012. The current owner, Unico, paid $73.7 million for it in 2015 and enlisted the help of Graham Baba Architects (designers of the beautiful Melrose Market) for the Observatory redesign. (Source: Seattle Eater.) I am so looking forward to seeing the results of their work!

I’m glad and can’t wait to check out the new changes soon. For now, here’s the basic info on the 35th floor Observatory:

Open as of August 25th, 2016, the 35th floor of the Smith Tower now boasts a “speakeasy” bar called Temperance offering a mix of cocktails and appetizers, in addition to the gorgeous classic wraparound open air observation deck.

To get to the 35th floor though, you’ll need a ticket – either $10 for a “straight up” ticket or $19.14 (get it?) for a self-guided tour including various exhibits about Seattle or Smith Tower’s history. You can get both tickets here. Keep in mind that the Observatory closes at 6pm though, and I think last call at Temperance is 7:30, so your experience will be of a Happy Hour variety.

Click here to view the Seattle Eater write-up of Temperance including the delicious-sounding menu.

Want to visit and check it out for yourself? Here’s the address:

506 Second Avenue, Ste. 220
Seattle, Washington 98104

And contact info for general inquiries according to their website:

I’m hoping to see it myself soon, and will update this post with photos and a review when I do. Until then, here’s to Seattle having one more cool new/old space to enjoy! I’m so glad this is one of the icons Seattle has decided to save, while updating it in a new and creative way. Nice juxtaposition with this recent Seattle Times article about how Seattle is bulldozing down an average of one house a day, to make room for a new house triple the size.

By Virginia

Beacon Hill Light Rail Station Apartments

In my last post I covered a bunch of reasons why I personally think North Beacon Hill would be a wonderful place to live.

But what if you’re not planning on buying a house yet?

Good news – there are some great places to rent an apartment on North Beacon Hill, and a few of them are quite close to the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station. Meaning you could be living just 20 minutes away from the University of Washington or Capitol Hill without relying on a car. Amazing!

Here are the apartment buildings close to the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station as of July 2016:

The Denning


Address 1636 S. MCCLELLAN ST. SEATTLE, WA 98144 206.653.4088

The Denning is next to the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station and units feature stainless steel appliances, stone countertops, plank flooring, and more. There’s also a roof top deck that residents rave about, with stunning views of Seattle. The building also has several green features built in including solar hot water.

Plaza Roberto Maestas

Website | Developer Website

Address: 2601 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

Plaza Roberto Maestas is a big affordable housing project currently under construction and being built next to the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station. Its planned completion date is in 2016 according to the website, so I’ll update this post when more info is available. The development is said to be focused on families with two and three bedroom apartments, retail/restaurant space, and a community center. Sounds pretty great!

Westview Apartment Homes


Address: 2525 14th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

Westview Apartment Homes is an apartment building located about a 4 minute walk from the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station. It has mixed reviews online but offers pretty good pricing given how convenient the location is.

As I said, I’ll be updating this post later on as more options become available or if I find out about other nearby apartments that aren’t too far from the station. Until then, I’ve got a question for you – how do you know if Beacon Hill will be the right neighborhood for you?

I’m putting together a downloadable quiz so you can find out! Stay tuned; it will be available for download soon.

By Virginia

8 Things to Love About Seattle’s North Beacon Hill

I work with a lot of young first time home buyers or growing families and I’m always talking up the virtues of North Beacon Hill to them. It’s an often-overlooked neighborhood in Seattle that offers a ton of benefits but is fairly quiet and unassuming, and I thought I’d put together a post summarizing some of the reasons I tell my clients they will LOVE North Beacon Hill.

Here are 8 great reasons to love North Beacon Hill:

North Beacon Hill is becoming a hub for young families

Anecdotally, since I live on Beacon Hill :), I can tell you that Beacon Hill is packed full of young families and it has been so much fun getting to know our neighbors and their fun kiddos over here. According to StreetAdvisor, 30% of Beacon Hill homes have children. [source]

If you are getting ready to start a family or you have young kids, you’re probably looking for a bit more space and would love to have neighbors with kids to make friends with. Well, North Beacon Hill is a great place for that.

North Beacon Hill real estate is affordable (compared to the rest of Seattle)

It’s true that North Beacon Hill’s average price has increased rapidly over the past year, so that over the past 6 months the average selling price was about $500,000 according to NWMLS statistics. In comparison, many of my buyers are also interested in Ballard, which has averaged about $553,000 for a home in the last 6 months. That might not sound too different, but consider this: their dollar seems to be going a lot farther these days on Beacon Hill, where price per sq. ft. has been $348, compared to $472 per sq. ft. for our Ballard buyers.

If we include all of Beacon Hill though, prices have averaged about $477,000, so Beacon Hill overall is definitely a bargain compared to other hot neighborhoods. (Contact me for copies of the NWMLS reports, or more detail on condo vs. house and new construction vs. re-sale!)

North Beacon Hill has great proximity to I-5 and downtown Seattle

One thing I loved as soon as I moved to Beacon Hill years ago was its great proximity to I-5 and downtown Seattle. If you’re living on North Beacon Hill, that’s even more true. I-5 is just a few minutes away down Beacon Avenue, and downtown just another few minutes (without traffic, of course!!). On days when I-5 is crazy, you can get downtown without touching I-5 at all. Pretty convenient!

If you are commuting to work downtown, or if you just want to be able to access downtown easily without a ton of driving – but you still want some space and a residential feel to your neighborhood – North Beacon Hill is the perfect compromise option.

The Beacon Hill light rail station is located right on North Beacon Hill

The Beacon Hill light rail station is smack in the middle of North Beacon Hill, right across from the Red Apple grocery store. There really could not be a more convenient way to get downtown quickly and easily – the light rail takes only 7 minutes to get to the International District station downtown [source], and from there you can transfer to any number of buses to get elsewhere in the city. (Or, you know, go see a game or just enjoy some time downtown without paying an arm and a leg for parking!!)

It’s also now super easy to get to UW (20 mins – source) or Capitol Hill (17 mins – source) from North Beacon Hill using the light rail.

North Beacon Hill boasts some really good restaurants

For a long time, Beacon Hill was something of a desert when it came to good food, because there were almost no restaurants to choose from and the whole “hill” was mostly made up of single family homes with just a few small businesses.

But in the last 10 to 15 years, North Beacon Hill has seen a lot of growth and investment in various types of businesses, including some restaurants that are absolutely amazing and several great independent coffee shops/bakeries. Here are a few of my favorites: Cafe Bengodi, Travelers Thali HouseThe Oak, Bar Del Corso, El Quetzal, and Tippe & Drague.

Beacon Hill’s Jefferson Park has a golf course, community center, splash pad, and skate park

Jefferson Park was completely renovated several years ago and it now boasts a ton of lovely green space, walking paths, a skate park, and a very popular splash pad – best of all – some truly stunning sunset views looking out over downtown Seattle and Elliott Bay. Seriously, if you haven’t done this already, head over to Jefferson Park in the evening, walk on the trails out to one of the benches with great views, and have a picnic while the sun sets over Seattle. This is one of the biggest treats Beacon Hill has to offer!

There’s a great run/walk/bike trail down the middle of Beacon Ave

The annoying thing about running on Beacon Hill is that…well…it’s a hill. But there IS a relatively gentle trail that goes right down the middle part of Beacon Avenue and it’s not too taxing at all. This is one of my favorite places to walk in the neighborhood, and I frequently see other walkers, joggers, and bikers on the trail as well.

The Beacon Hill Library is also right in the middle of North Beacon Hill

The Beacon Hill Library is a relatively new facility and is super popular with families in the neighborhood. It’s located on Beacon Ave in the middle of North Beacon Hill, not too far from the Red Apple supermarket and the Beacon Hill light rail station.

What about you?

If you are looking for an affordable, close-knit community with a residential feel but right in the heart of Seattle, you MUST come take a look at North Beacon Hill. You just might fall in love like I did!

Do you live on North Beacon Hill? What do you love about your neighborhood? I’d love to hear from you!

By Virginia

Best Remodeling Projects To Increase Your Home Value

Photo credit: Contractor Quotes

In my last blog post I told you about my newest discovery, a design company that does virtual remodels.

On the subject of remodeling, Thomas Jepsen of Contractor Quotes just sent me his great infographic on some of the best home-improvement ideas in terms of adding resale value to your home. (You can get contractor bids from companies in our area by using his website.)

The Best Way To Approach Remodeling Projects

With each project he’s got some suggestions for key points to watch out for, and I really agree with his take on this.

The idea is to approach your remodel with eyes-wide-open about what your eventual return might be. On none of these projects will you actually add 100% of the cost to the resale value of your house, but there is a wide range of what value you WILL add.

Will That Kitchen Overhaul Be Worth It? Maybe!

Nice to be aware that a minor kitchen remodel is going to come a lot closer to paying for itself than a major one will, or that simply changing out your garage door for a new, better-quality one is a great investment.

Place your bets: better to convert an attic into a bedroom? Or remodel the basement?

In Seattle, Bathrooms May Be A Better Bet

Regarding bathrooms, I have to disagree with – or at least clarify – his numbers that show a bathroom remodel is a better investment than a bathroom addition.

But in the Seattle area we have thousands of charming old houses that only have one bathroom. In my experience, as an owner you would get a better return by adding an additional bathroom, even if it’s just a toilet-and-sink half bath or a three-quarter bath with a shower.

Do What You Can With What You Have – Or Just Move

Of course if it’s really not practical or it’s cost-prohibitive to add one, by all means remodel the one you’ve got! Or move…as some of my favorite clients did recently.

Speaking Of Remodeling, Help Update My Directory Of Great Contractors

It is time to update my Fix it! Referral Directory (opens PDF), both online and the hard copy.

The majority of the contractors who have been used, loved, and then referred by my clients, friends and trusted real estate colleagues are “small business owners”. Things change for people; some of the contractors in my most recent edition are now high school teachers, or retired, or have moved to Boise. I’m ready for your updates! I’ll email or call during December, but if you think of it please reach out to me and don’t wait. Looking forward to talking with you,

Virginia Calvin


1 2 3 7
All About Seattle’s HALA
Seattle Rents Rising – Time for an Investment Property?
Beacon Hill Log Cabin!
How Windermere Cup Changed Jenni Hogan’s Life
Why Home Buyers Shouldn’t Worry About Referral Scams
Does this look like you?
Remodeling? What projects to go nuts on!
Little Micro-Housing is Big in Seattle
Selling AND Buying? Prepare To Be Stressed
What about Mortgage Insurance?
“Zombie Titles” Haunt Foreclosure Victims
What is it about Pink Bathrooms?
Investor Properties – What are you looking for?
Jackson Place Cohousing
Jury Duty – Do it!
What’s wrong with this house?
Reasons to Love Winter in Seattle
Things to Love About Seattle’s Montlake Neighborhood
5 Things to Love About Seattle’s Mount Baker Neighborhood
The Redesigned Smith Tower Observatory!
Beacon Hill Light Rail Station Apartments
8 Things to Love About Seattle’s North Beacon Hill
Best Remodeling Projects To Increase Your Home Value