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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.

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

Rent or Buy?

Renting makes total sense if you are here for a while, or want to check out the different neighborhoods before committing yourself. Buying in the Seattle area, according to the latest study by Zillow, makes sense if you are planning to stay in the home for at least 4 years.

Remember, when you sell your house or condo your total closing costs will usually be between 8% and 9% of the sales price. Closing costs include real estate commissions, excise tax (sales tax), title insurance for your buyer, and half of the cost of the escrow company that closes the transaction.

Let me know if you’d like a sample breakdown of what closing costs would be on your property.

By Virginia

Paid His Mortgage Off Early

Should you pay yours down faster? Yes! No!

The truth is, it really depends on a lot of different factors, so the answer is different for different people. The simple fact is that if you have an interest rate of 4.5%, paying off extra principal is like EARNING a guaranteed 4.5% on that amount of money, and these days it’s not easy to find a return like that on a small investment.

But then it gets complicated: should you set it up so that your lender draws half of the monthly total out of your account every 2 weeks instead of a full amount once a month? (That will get you one extra payment per year.) Should you do it yourself? Is it better to do this at the beginning of the loan, or in the later years? And what about the impact reducing the principal has on those income tax deductions you’re expecting to take every year for the foreseeable future?

Read this article by Jack Guttentag, finance professor emeritus at the Wharton School at UPenn, for his encouraging take on early payoffs.

And then, check out why Jonathan Fahey for Huffington Post says “Wait a minute!” It may not be in your best interest, ESPECIALLY if you have adequate income and the self-discipline to do something else with the extra money you might otherwise be tempted to give to your mortgage lender every month.

Another option that many of my clients, friends, and family members have wrestled with is whether to get a 15 year loan or a 30 year loan. If you’re considering that now, while we’re seeing advertised rates of as low as 2.75% for 15 year fixed-rate mortgages, I recommend going to Bankrate.com and filling out their form to generate their automated evaluation of your situation, and THEIR recommendation. It’s fun to talk to a machine (and it doesn’t require you to enter your email address or commit to anything), and it lets you be honest about what you have in savings, in retirement funds, what your cash flow is like, how soon you hope to retire, and a few other factors that will make a difference in the recommendation.

One couple I know who chose a 15-year mortgage is just getting ready to swap their paid off house for a fabulous house with grounds and a pool in a less expensive state. Another couple ended mortgage payments a while back and bought land outside of Santa Fe. Just for the record, though, the guy in the photo is not one of them!

By Virginia

The best thing about living in a house?

You can have a milkman! With crack of dawn delivery of milk, eggs, butter, coffee, cream, cheese, and now bread and bagels, who even needs to leave the house?! Just joking. Of course you want your vegetables, your fish, your nice juicy steaks.

But those days when you’re just too exhausted to contemplate stopping at the grocery on the way home – or going out to the grocery – it is nothing short of wonderful to step onto your front porch and find the Smith Brothers Dairy box filled with fresh, local supplies.

Smith Brothers has been saving the day at our house for over 15 years, and just keeps adding to their product line.  We started with milk – really, who wants to lug gallons of milk around along with all the bags of groceries? Then coffee, then eggs, butter….pepperjack cheese, Greek Gods honey yogurt, sour cream, whipping cream.

This time of year we sometimes add Cougar Mountain chocolate chip cookie dough to the delivery, or eggnog, or pumpkin bread.

Smith Brothers delivers all over the Puget Sound area – to some 45,000 homes weekly. They’re located in the Kent valley and have been delivering farm-fresh dairy products since 1920.

Milk comes from the farm to your fridge in 24 to 48 hours. “When it comes to milk, it’s all about freshness,” says Smith Brothers Farms’ Todd Behan, a fourth-generation family member who oversees operations.Coffee comes from Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, bread and muffins from Alki Bakery or the Bread Garden, bagels from Seattle Bagel Bakery, and cheese from Tillamook.

It’s easy to set up an account online, and then you can either have a regular order or you can email (getmilk@smithbrothersfarms.com) or phone in (1-877-milkman) a different order each week.

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!

 

By Virginia

Everybody Loves Bryant

But nobody can put an exact boundary on it! Located just north of the University Village shopping center, more or less between 25th Ave NE and 45th Ave NE, up to about NE 70th St, Bryant is an easy bike ride to the University of Washington – or even to downtown, for the intrepid. Good schools, good walkscore, and good donuts! 

In the last 6 months 56% of the sold homes have sold in less than a week, and the average time on the market was only 3 weeks. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when my October 24 listing – which I had intended to feature on this website – received 3 offers the day it came on the market! So I’m featuring Beth Dennis’s new listing instead, which is across the street:

Jason Viydo has 2 listings just a block or so away which also went immediately to “Pending” status. Bryant prices are escalating, but are still far below their 2007 peak.

By Virginia

Fix It Contractor Referrals eBook Now Available!

[button color=”#ffffff” background=”#e45192″ size=”medium” src=”http://virginiacalvin.com/?portfolio=fix-it-contractor-referrals-directory”]Get it here[/button]

Most of us hire a small business or even a one-person outfit when we need something done around the house. Sometimes we are very pleased with the result, but sometimes we’re not. This directory originated as a shared-resource of first-hand home repair and remodeling referrals from my clients and friends. All of the vendors included here they deemed reliable, honest, responsive, and definitely worth referring.

This is the third update and I am continually looking for more good people to add. If you know someone you’d like to refer, let me know!

I have compiled these word-of-mouth referrals into a downloadable ebook (rather than a hard copy) for the first time ever – enjoy! Enter your email address in the box at the top of this page to download it.

Have you hired one of these contractors for a home project? Please drop me a line and let me know how your experience was!

 

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.

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!

By Virginia

Best new waterfront feature!

We spotted Seattle’s best new waterfront feature under construction in early June from our vantage point on the schooner Adventuress, in Elliott Bay. Promised ourselves to check it out on opening day, but it turned out we couldn’t pass for reporters after all. We came back a couple of days later and had a truly amazing ride, with not much standing in line. The ticket house was still under construction and most people stood around looking stunned. Just what we need downtown! Comes with lots of street parking nearby. Mention this post to me by September 30 and get a ride for you and a friend FOR FREE!

 

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Little Micro-Housing is Big in Seattle
Rent or Buy?
Paid His Mortgage Off Early
The best thing about living in a house?
What’s wrong with this house?
Everybody Loves Bryant
Fix It Contractor Referrals eBook Now Available!
Investor Properties – What are you looking for?
Jackson Place Cohousing
Best new waterfront feature!