All posts by Kassi Simonsen

Are Interest Rates Expected to Rise Over the Next Year?

Are Interest Rates Expected to Rise Over the Next Year? | MyKCM

So far this year, mortgage rates continue to hover around 3%, encouraging many hopeful homebuyers to enter the housing market. However, there’s a good chance rates will increase later this year and going into 2022, ultimately making it more expensive to borrow money for a home loan. Here’s a look at what several experts have to say.

Danielle Hale, Chief Economistrealtor.com:

Our long-term view for mortgage rates in 2021 is higher. As the economic outlook strengthens, thanks to progress against coronavirus and vaccines plus a dose of stimulus from the government, this pushes up expectations for economic growth . . . .”

Lawrence Yun, Chief EconomistNational Association of Realtors (NAR):

In 2021, I think rates will be similar or modestly higher . . . mortgage rates will continue to be historically favorable.”

Freddie Mac:

We forecast that mortgage rates will continue to rise through the end of next year. We estimate the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will average 3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising to 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2022.”

Below are the most recent mortgage rate forecasts from four top authorities – Freddie MacFannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), and NAR:

Are Interest Rates Expected to Rise Over the Next Year? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

If you’re planning to buy a home, purchasing before mortgage interest rates rise may help you save significantly over the life of your home loan.

Early Spring Garden Prep Tips

After what feels like a long, cold winter it can seem intimidating to cleanup and start prepping for a spring garden but now is the time to get started if you haven’t already. Whether you are planning to plant annuals, perennials, trees or shrubs, or grow fruits, vegetables or herbs I recommend walking around your yard to plan before heading to the store. Take note of when and how much sun/shade each area receives to ensure you choose not only a product that looks appealing to you but something that will thrive in each particular location as well. Knowing these facts ahead of time will reduce your stress and overwhelm, plus allow the experts at the store to help you make decisions. 

​Other things to consider: how much time will you dedicate to upkeep? Be realistic and know your limits. There’s nothing worse than overcommitting and being stuck with an overgrown, unkept space shortly after. When in doubt, less is more. When it comes to edible plants such as fruits, vegetables and herbs, if your family doesn’t eat it or use it in any form, think again and see if it’s something you really want to add to your yard as you may want to dedicate your efforts elsewhere.

“The best thing for your garden is your shadow.” – unknown

You’ll want to prep the area before heading to the store so that you can get right to planting after purchasing your products. This entails picking up fallen leaves and branches, removing debris, and fixing any damaged fencing, edging, etc. If the project seems too overwhelming start by dedicating a bit of time, even 15 minutes, each day to cleanup or stick to focusing on one section at a time.

Click Here for our detailed Spring Yard Cleanup Checklist!

Another important step is to replace and/or ready your garden tools. The tools needed can vary based on the type of garden you choose (trees and bushes require different prep and upkeep than a vegetable garden) but some desired items include a watering can, weeding tool, gardening gloves, gardening knee pad, hose, rake, shovel, garden shears, hedge shears, loppers, wheelbarrow, heavy-duty hand pruners, hand rake and a hand trowel. If you will be growing a vegetable garden additional tools include a digging fork, spade, raised garden beds, and garden fencing.

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We recommend going to Van Wingerden’s Home and Garden located at 8210 Portal Way in Blaine, Washington, for all of your gardening needs. Their friendly staff can answer your questions and assist you in determining what is best for your space. Check out our fun giveaway with them HERE!

Van Wingerden’s Home and Garden is family owned and operated. In addition to your exterior garden needs you can find houseplants, home decor and more! We dropped by and spoke with Jen, manager, and she answered a few questions for us. Full video can be found HERE.

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Jerry: Okay, Jen, I’m ready to plant some plants on my patio. Am I better off with annuals or perennials? What’s the difference?
​Jen: For hanging baskets and planters you’re better off with annuals. They’re going to flower for you all season long. The trees, shrubs, perennials, those will come back every year but they usually have a shorter flowering season; they’re great for garden beds, etc.

Jerry: (Being at the end of April in PNW Washington) Is it too early to plant?
Jen: We’re right on that verge of being okay to put everything out but I would be cautious putting out stuff like your tomatoes, peppers, squash, things like that. Even a hanging basket, you don’t want it to get too cold. Usually around Mother’s Day is the perfect time to get all of that.

Jerry: Speaking of Mother’s Day, what do you have for Mother’s Day here?
​Jen: Hanging baskets are always the best seller for Mother’s Day. We also have planters, it’s always great to get Mom a really nice shrub like a hydrangea or rhododendron. We have lots of options for different ideas if you don’t want a hanging basket.

Jerry: Are there certain plants that thrive here better than others?
​Jen: I personally am not the expert on that but I have people here that can help you. What we carry here is usually really great for this region and we are sure to tell you in the case that it’s not.

​Van Wingerden’s Home and Garden is open Monday-Saturday from 9am-5pm with extended hours until 6pm currently for a short time. Don’t forget to check out our giveaway for TWO premium 12” hanging baskets from Van Wingerden Home and Garden HERE!

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Follow us on Instagram @blankersrealestate and Facebook Jerry Blankers-Muljat Group North

Post compiled by Haley Parker // haleyparkerstyle.com@haleyparkerstyle

This Isn’t a Bubble. It’s Simply Lack of Supply.

This Isn’t a Bubble. It’s Simply Lack of Supply. [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Some Highlights

  • In a recent article, Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), discussed the state of today’s housing market.
  • When addressing whether or not today’s high buyer competition and rising home prices are evidence of a housing bubble, Yun said that this “is not a bubble. It is simply lack of supply.”
  • Today’s housing market is healthy, and rising prices are driven by real buyer demand. Let’s connect to talk about the best ways to navigate such an energetic market.

93% of Americans Believe a Home is a Better Investment Than Stocks

93% of Americans Believe a Home Is a Better Investment Than Stocks

93% of Americans Believe a Home Is a Better Investment Than Stocks | MyKCM

A recent Survey of Consumer Finances study released by the Federal Reserve reveals the net worth of homeowners is forty times greater than that of renters. If you’re wondering if homeownership is a good investment, the study clearly answers that question, and the answer is yes.

Do Americans believe a home is a better investment than stocks?

In a post on the Liberty Street Economics blog, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York notes that 93.3% of Americans believe buying a home is definitely or probably a better investment than buying stocks.

93% of Americans Believe a Home Is a Better Investment Than Stocks | MyKCM

Here’s how the results break down: The survey also shows a wide range of reasons why Americans feel that way (respondents were able to pick more than one answer):

93% of Americans Believe a Home Is a Better Investment Than Stocks | MyKCM

Bottom Line

The data show how strongly Americans believe in homeownership as an investment. That belief is warranted. The Liberty Street Economics blog put it best by saying:

“Housing represents the largest asset owned by most households and is a major means of wealth accumulation, particularly for the middle class.”

Simple Steps to Spring Yard Cleanup

As spring and warmer weather begins, it’s hard to ignore the unkept flower beds and scruffy edges along the yard. April is usually the month that I start to notice and think about this aspect of homeownership again. It is weather dependent and can vary from year to year as well as region but I recommend waiting until the snow and freezing temperatures have passed to start your spring yard cleanup. One thing I’ve learned is that getting through the cleanup aspect of yard care at all is a task in itself, and an important one to complete prior to planting new flowers and bushes.

BEFORE Spring Yard Cleanup

Picture Picture Picture We moved into our home at the end of last summer and decided to wait until the following spring (now) to add plants or flowers to our flowerbeds. We topped the flowerbeds off with fresh bark last year but since laying it a good portion has blown away and it has become discolored; definitely not at its best. There are so many things to do when cleaning up your yard in the spring that I’ve created a simple checklist to help you get started.

Spring Yard Tasks
•REMOVE fallen branches, pine cones, dead grass.
​•RAKE leaves.
•DISCARD pet waste.
•TRIM. Cut back any overgrown trees or shrubs.
PRUNE. Remove and discard dead and damaged branches from trees and shrubs.
•PULL WEEDS. Try to pull out down to the root versus breaking.
•REFRESH. Gravel, bark, wood chips, etc.
​•STONEWORK: check for cracks and frost heaves
​•IRRIGATION. Check sprinkler system, drip lines and soakers.
•STRUCTURES. Inspect and clean arbors, outdoor heaters and fire pits, fences, sheds, decks, patios, etc. Repaint or stain if needed.
​•VEGETABLE GARDEN: remove vegetable remains from last season, add a new layer of compost, seed.
​•PULL any dead annuals.
​•REMOVE dead growth and divide perennials (wait until soil has thawed, but before they start their spring growth)
​•MULCH. Loosen bark mulch and plant matter to allow water and air to flow to the plant roots.
•EDGE along flowerbeds to keep grass from growing in them and refresh your lines.
•LAWN: seed bare spots, apply spring fertilizer
•OUTDOOR FURNITURE. Wash, touch up with paint, bring cushions back outdoors, etc.
•CLEAN GRILL. Check that everything is working on it. Get a new propane tank if needed.

**A few more exterior projects you may want to think of at this time include cleaning gutters of debris, sealing your driveway and replacing or cleaning doormats.

Handy Tools for Spring Cleaning Your Yard
•Garden shears
•Hedge shears
•Heavy-duty hand pruners
•Gardening gloves
​•Garden kneeling pad
•Loppers (for thick branches)
​•Watering can
​•Weeding tool
•Hand rake
•Hand trowel
•Rake
•Shovel Picture

AFTER Spring Yard Cleanup

Picture After weeding and adding new plants and bark mulch our flowerbeds are looking much better. I’ll be touching more on garden prep and garden tips later this month; stay tuned!

Post compiled by: Haley Parker // haleyparkerstyle.com // @haleyparkerstyle

Buyer Competition is Good News for Sellers

Buyer Competition Is Good News for Sellers [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Some Highlights

  • With so many buyers looking for homes to purchase and so few houses available today, there’s a substantial increase in bidding wars, and homes are selling fast.
  • According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), on average, houses are receiving over four offers from buyers and they’re selling in less than three weeks.
  • If you’re ready to make a move, let’s connect today so you can sell your house while the market is in your favor.

Organizing Tips from a Professional Organizer

This week we had the privilege of meeting with Lauren, owner of Organized at Last, to discuss all things home organization. Lauren grew up in Whatcom County, WA, then married and started her family while living in a 700 square foot cabin in Alaska. Living as a family of four in this small space challenged her to think creatively to make the most out of the space. We learned a lot while chatting with her as she went over how to get started organizing when you’re feeling overwhelmed, packing tips, and easy tips to create a home office.

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Organized at Last is a professional home organization company based in Bellingham, Washington. They specialize in helping you reduce clutter, simplify and minimize, and improve function by bringing life-changing order and organization to your home and/or office. Lauren and her team listen to your needs and find creative solutions without pressure or judgement. Real estate staging, helping you with moving and unpacking, and interior design and decorating services are also available. We wanted to hear more, and knew you would too, so we sat down with Lauren to discuss. We posted the full video on our Facebook and Instagram pages but summarized it here in writing as well.

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Q & A with Lauren:
Question (Jerry): Tell us a little bit about what you do.
Answer (Lauren): We do all kinds of organizing. Home organizing, office spaces, garage, anything to do with the home. We also do commercial office spaces, staging for real estate, interior design and decorating. Sometimes it all comes in together; sometimes I’ll do everything for one client. If somebody is moving we can pack them, leave the stuff they need for staging, then help get their house sold in that way, unpack them at the new house, set up…we’ve done that. The whole nine yards.

Q: Now when you’re moving, everyone just seems to have so much stuff. I’ve been here 25 years. I’m overwhelmed; where do I start?
A: With the moving I would say you start and you don’t hesitate. Just start collecting boxes, start collecting wrapping, and just room by room go through. Get the pictures off of the wall. Anything that you’re not going to need to live with. I would say start with a room so that way you don’t have to think about the whole house as one big project. Really just think of it as room by room if it really is starting to feel like that that big, huge, overwhelming project. And then when we pack for people what we really like to do is rather than when we pack a box writing a big paragraph of everything that’s on the box, if this is Box #1, we write 1. And say you’re packing your bathroom, write bathroom. So that all that’s written on the box is #1 bathroom. And then you have a sheet of paper and on that paper you have #1 bathroom and you write down everything that’s in that box. And then you have Box #2 and you have your paper so that when you go to your new home and ideally have moved all of the boxes that say bathroom #1 and bathroom #2 into the bathrooms that they need to be in…if you’re looking for one specific item, rather then looking through every box and trying to read every little paragraph you’re just looking at your sheet of paper and can see okay, that’s in #3. I just need to find #3. I think that’s a big thing when people move is that they can’t find any of their stuff anymore, it’s all misplaced. So starting early, trying to do it as methodical as possible and realize you’re doing yourself a huge favor by starting out that way, not just throwing everything in. Sometimes you want to do that. You want to just throw everything into a box and just get it done because it’s so much work. But really, then what you’re doing is creating even more of a headache for yourself on the unpacking side.

​Q & A continued below…

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Q and A continued…
Q: A lot of people are working remotely from home now. How do I organize my office at home so I don’t have all of the distractions that normally take part in a common home.
A: Most of us don’t have these homes with a whole extra room that we can take everything out of and now make it our home office. If you have that it’s great that you have that space and you have it set up but a lot of people don’t have that extra space to make an office…so I would say buy a room divider. A bifold, a trifold, you can get them at Target, they’re usually relatively cheap, and just putting up that wall helps. If you’re going to be in the living room, take a corner of your living room and put up that wall so you’re not looking at your kitchen, you’re not looking at your dishes, or thinking about your laundry or anything else. I think it really helps focus on the job at hand just to put up those blinders.

Thank you Lauren for sharing your tips and giving us a glimpse inside the life of a Professional Organizer! To follow along or contact Organized at Last:
Instagram: 
@organizedatlast
Facebook: Organized at Last
Website: www.organizedatlast.biz

Post compiled by: Haley Parker // haleyparkerstyle.com // @haleyparkerstyle

Why You Should Think About Listing Prices Like an Auction’s Reserve Price

Why You Should Think About Listing Prices Like an Auction’s Reserve Price | MyKCM

For generations, the homebuying process never really changed. The seller would try to estimate the market value of the home and tack on a little extra to give themselves some negotiating room. That figure would become the listing price of the house. Buyers would then try to determine how much less than the full price they could offer and still get the home. The asking price was generally the ceiling of the negotiation. The actual sales price would almost always be somewhat lower than the list price. It was unthinkable to pay more than what the seller was asking.

Today is different.

The record-low supply of homes for sale coupled with very strong buyer demand is leading to a rise in bidding wars on many homes. Because of this, homes today often sell for more than the list price. In some cases, they sell for a lot more.

According to the Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report just released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 45% of buyers paid full price or more.

You may need to change the way you look at the asking price of a home.

In this market, you likely can’t shop for a home with the old-school mentality of refusing to pay full price or more for a house.

Because of the shortage of inventory of houses for sale, many homes are actually being offered in an auction-like atmosphere in which the highest bidder wins the home. In an actual auction, the seller of an item agrees to take the highest bid, and many sellers set a reserve price on the item they’re selling. A reserve price is the minimum amount a seller will accept as the winning bid.

When navigating a competitive housing market, think of the list price of the house as the reserve price at an auction. It’s the minimum the seller will accept in many cases. Today, the asking price is often becoming the floor of the negotiation rather than the ceiling. Therefore, if you really love a home, know that it may ultimately sell for more than the sellers are asking. So, as you’re navigating the homebuying process, make sure you know your budget, know what you can afford, and work with a trusted advisor who can help you make all the right moves as you buy a home.

Bottom Line

Someone who’s more familiar with the housing market of the past than that of today may think offering more for a home than the listing price is foolish. However, frequent and competitive bidding wars are creating an auction-like atmosphere in many real estate transactions. Let’s connect so you have the best advice on how to make a competitive offer on a home in our local market.

How to Make a Winning Offer on a Home

How to Make a Winning Offer on a Home | MyKCM

Today’s homebuyers are faced with a strong sellers’ market, which means there are a lot of active buyers competing for a relatively low number of available homes. As a result, it’s essential to understand how to make a confident and competitive offer on your dream home. Here are five tips for success in this critical stage of the homebuying process.

1. Listen to Your Real Estate Advisor

An article from Freddie Mac gives direction on making an offer on a home. From the start, it emphasizes how trusted professionals can help you stay focused on the most important things, especially at times when this process can get emotional for buyers:

“Remember to let your homebuying team guide you on your journey, not your emotions. Their support and expertise will keep you from compromising on your must-haves and future financial stability.”

A real estate professional should be the expert guide you lean on for advice when you’re ready to make an offer.

2. Understand Your Finances

Having a complete understanding of your budget and how much house you can afford is essential. The best way to know this is to get pre-approved for a loan early in the homebuying process. Only 44% of today’s prospective homebuyers are planning to apply for pre-approval, so be sure to take this step so you stand out from the crowd. Doing so make it clear to sellers you’re a serious and qualified buyer, and it can give you a competitive edge in a bidding war.

3. Be Prepared to Move Quickly

According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average property sold today receives 3.7 offers and is on the market for just 21 days. These are both results of today’s competitive market, showing how important it is to stay agile and alert in your search. As soon as you find the right home for your needs, be prepared to submit an offer as quickly as possible.

4. Make a Fair Offer

It’s only natural to want the best deal you can get on a home. However, Freddie Mac also warns that submitting an offer that’s too low can lead sellers to doubt how serious you are as a buyer. Don’t make an offer that will be tossed out as soon as it’s received. The expertise your agent brings to this part of the process will help you stay competitive:

“Your agent will work with you to make an informed offer based on the market value of the home, the condition of the home and recent home sale prices in the area.”

5. Stay Flexible in Negotiations

After submitting an offer, the seller may accept it, reject it, or counter it with their own changes. In a competitive market, it’s important to stay nimble throughout the negotiation process. You can strengthen your position with an offer that includes flexible move-in dates, a higher price, or minimal contingencies (conditions you set that the seller must meet for the purchase to be finalized). Freddie Mac explains that there are, however, certain contingencies you don’t want to forego:

Resist the temptation to waive the inspection contingency, especially in a hot market or if the home is being sold ‘as-is’, which means the seller won’t pay for repairs. Without an inspection contingency, you could be stuck with a contract on a house you can’t afford to fix.”

Bottom Line

Today’s competitive market makes it more important than ever to make a strong offer on a home. Let’s connect to make sure you rise to the top along the way.

5 Steps to an Organized Pantry

When areas of your home are cluttered, messy and unorganized it takes longer to find items and to put them back. It can get frustrating and downright annoying having to go back and forth wondering where something went or if you even have it anymore. I’ve noticed that as I organize and de-clutter certain parts of my home, as silly as it sounds, it really helps with my mood and my efficiency in performing household tasks. If you know exactly where your cleaning supplies are, you can access them more quickly and efficiently. It also makes it easy to quickly know if you are running low on something or if it’s gone, etc instead of wondering if you just left it in a different spot this time. If you know where your extra pillowcases are, same thing. Today I’m focusing on one of my favorite areas to organize: the kitchen pantry.

If you don’t have a designated pantry in your home, I highly recommend choosing an area (certain cupboards, a small closet near the kitchen, possibly add open shelving, etc) to function as one. Having pantry staples located close together is incredibly helpful when it comes to cooking, baking, and even planning a grocery list.

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Step 1: PURGE

The first thing you’ll want to do is pull everything out of your pantry (or designated pantry area) and PURGE. Toss anything expired, put all of those random loose chip clips together, and reevaluate if any items that have sat and sat unused (but not expired) will get used by you soon or if you should consider donating them to a local food bank. 

Step 2: CLEAN

Wipe down all surfaces so that you will be starting fresh. Use disinfectant if/when necessary otherwise a damp washcloth will usually do the trick. Be sure to allow ample time to dry before you refill the area (step 4).

Step 3: STRATEGIZE

Does the way you had your pantry set up previously suit your needs well? Does it make sense to have the highly used salt on a shelf up high and the rarely used baking soda in arms reach? The strategy will differ for every household but take a few minutes to see what makes the most sense for you. Maybe you want to leave it how it was since you have gotten so used to that system but if it doesn’t function easily I highly recommend changing the layout.

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Step 4: ORGANIZE & FILL

Now that you’ve purged, cleaned, and strategized, it’s time to refill the pantry! I purchased these food storage containers last year and they have made such a difference for us; I love the sleek design. Using food storage containers makes keeping your pantry neat and tidy so much easier because you are dealing with stackable, uniform pieces instead of food bags and boxes of varying sizes. They are dishwasher safe and I have also noticed our food stays fresh much longer with the push-button airtight seal.

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Step 5: LABEL

If you want to take your pantry organization to the next level, label! You can label anything from spice jars to baking essentials and more. I purchased this spice jar set with labels from Amazon and it has made such a difference for us! It’s so easy to quickly see the spice I need and the labels do not come attached to the spice jar so you are able to decide which ones you need or don’t need and if you’d like the label on the side of the jar or on top of the lid, or both, dependent on what makes sense based on how you display your spices.

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There you have it! 5 easy steps to an organized pantry that will save you time and make cooking, baking, and grocery planning much easier! When you can easily see what you have you don’t accidentally overbuy leaving you to have to toss or overcrowd your pantry. Do you have an organized pantry or will you run and organize it now? I’d love to hear your feedback and tips as to what you have done to make your pantry more efficient.

Written by: Haley Parker // haleyparkerstyle.com // @haleyparkerstyle