Virginia CalvinVirginia Calvin

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

206-459-3570

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

Steps to Buying for First Time Home Buyers

The Steps to Buying guide is now a downloadable ebook. Topics inclue a quick intro to short sales & foreclosure properties, Earnest Money, Making an Offer, and more.

This is a great intro to home buying for people who have never done it before and need some info to get started. Get it here and share it with your friends!

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 U.S.in that period – read Save the Pink Bathrooms’ nod to Mamie Eisenhower for starting this post-World War II color trend.

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

But what school would my kids go to?

If you’ve got young children, probably one of the most important criteria in your home search is “What school would my kids go to if we lived here?” And there are various websites where you can see how a particular school scores, relative to others in Washington state – for example School Digger – but often these websites can frustrate you as much as inform you. For example, of the “top 10 public elementary schools in the state” according to School Digger, only 2 are inSeattle, and those are in neighborhoods that many buyers with young children can’t afford.  Only 2 are inBellevue.

I’m a firm believer in getting out there yourself and checking out the school; meeting the principal, finding out what kids go to the school, what special programs there are, what challenges the school has. And one of the most important: understanding your child and knowing where he or she is most likely to thrive.

We have some first-rate private schools in our area, but we also have some wonderful public schools.

If you’ve seen a home online and want to check the public school assignment, click here for Seattle addresses, or here for Bellevue.

Please contact me if you have a school you want to rave about (or rant about): I would love to hear from you.

By Virginia

Who Pays For What?

 

CW Title recently put out a list summarizing closing costs on typical transactions. Some of the costs are more or less fixed, like the cost of the appraisal, but others are based on the purchase price. Check out their information here, and feel free to contact me for estimates of specific dollar amounts. We can choose a listing (and a hypothetical closing date) and use it as a sample to work up the numbers.


By Virginia

What will it cost me?

Sometimes it’s nice to know, even before you start actively looking at homes on the market, what the monthly payments would be like in different price ranges. You may find that your lender will pre-approve you for MORE than you actually want to spend on housing each month. Here’s how to get an idea…

By Virginia

Thinking of Selling?

I’ve helped sellers get top dollar for their houses, in widely varying economic times: from the markets of multiple offers or markets where the buyers are few and far between. Find out more about my background here.

Best Remodeling Projects To Increase Your Home Value
Paid His Mortgage Off Early
Steps to Buying for First Time Home Buyers
What is it about Pink Bathrooms?
But what school would my kids go to?
Who Pays For What?
What’s out there for me?
What will it cost me?
Thinking of Selling?