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.

Picture Picture

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.

Picture Picture

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…

Picture Picture


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.

Picture

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.

Picture

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.

Picture
Picture

Picture

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.

Picture

Picture

Picture

Picture

Picture

Picture

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

Home Prices: What Happened in 2020? What Will Happen This Year?

Home Prices: What Happened in 2020? What Will Happen This Year? | MyKCM

The real estate market was on fire during the second half of 2020. Buyer demand was way up, and the supply of homes available for sale hit record lows. The price of anything is determined by the supply and demand ratio, so home prices skyrocketed last year. Dr. Lynn Fisher, Deputy Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Division of Research and Statisticsexplains:

“House prices nationwide recorded the largest annual and quarterly increase in the history of the FHFA Home Price Index. Low mortgage rates, pent up demand from homebuyers, and a limited housing supply propelled every region of the country to experience faster growth in 2020 compared to a year ago despite the pandemic.”

Here are the year-end home price appreciation numbers from the FHFA and two other prominent pricing indexes:

The past year was truly a remarkable time for homeowners as prices appreciated substantially. Lawrence Yun, Senior Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), reveals:

“A typical homeowner in 2020, just by being a homeowner, would have accumulated around $24,000 in housing wealth.”

What will happen with home prices this year?

Many experts believe buyer demand will soften somewhat as mortgage rates are poised to bump up slightly. Some also believe the inventory challenge will ease as more listings come to market this year.

Based on this, most forecasters anticipate we’ll see strong appreciation in 2021 – but not as strong as last year. Here are seven prominent groups and their projections:

Home Prices: What Happened in 2020? What Will Happen This Year? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

Home price appreciation will be strong this year, but it won’t reach the historic levels of 2020. Let’s connect if you’d like to find out what your house is currently worth in our local market.

It’s a Sellers’ Market

It’s a Sellers’ Market [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Some Highlights

  • Over the past year, homeowners have gained an unprecedented opportunity to sell with great success while buyer demand is soaring.
  • With homes selling twice as fast as they did last year at this time, getting multiple offers, and rising in price, homeowners are in the driver’s seat.
  • Let’s connect today if you’re ready to learn about the leverage you have as a seller in today’s housing market.

3 Ways Home Equity Can Have a Major Impact on Your Life

3 Ways Home Equity Can Have a Major Impact on Your Life | MyKCM

There have been a lot of headlines reporting on how homeowner equity (the difference between the current market value of your home and the amount you owe on your mortgage) has dramatically increased over the past few years. CoreLogic indicated that equity increased for the average homeowner by $17,000 in the last year alone. ATTOM Data Solutions, in their latest U.S. Home Equity Report, revealed that 30.2% of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States have at least 50% equity. That doesn’t even include the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear, meaning they don’t have a mortgage at all.

How can equity help a household?

Having equity in your home can dramatically impact your life. Equity is like a savings account you can tap into when you need cash. Like any other savings, you should be sensible in how you use it, though. Here are three good reasons to consider using your equity.

1. You’re experiencing financial hardship (job loss, medical expenses, etc.)

Equity gives you options during difficult financial times. With equity, you could refinance your house to get cash which may ease the burden. It also puts you in a better position to talk to the bank about restructuring your home loan until you can get back on your feet.

Today, there are 2.7 million Americans who are currently in a forbearance program because of the pandemic. Ninety percent of those in the program have at least 10% equity. That puts them in a better position to get a loan modification instead of facing foreclosure because many banks will see the equity as a form of collateral in a new deal. If you’re in this position, even if you can’t get a modification, the equity allows you the option to sell your house and walk away with your equity instead of losing the house and your investment in it.

2. You need money to start a new business

We’ve all heard the stories about how many great American companies started in the founder’s garage (i.e., Disney, Hewlett Packard, Apple, Yankee Candle, Keeping Current Matters). What we might not realize, however, is the garage (along with the rest of the home) supplied the start-up money for many of these companies in the form of a refinance.

If you’re passionate about an idea you have for a new product or service, the equity in your home may enable you to make that dream a reality.

3. You want to invest in a loved one’s future

It’s been a long-standing tradition in this country for many households to help pay college expenses for their children. Some have tapped into the equity in their homes to do that.

Additionally, George Ratiu, Senior Economist for realtor.comnotes:

52% of Americans who bought their first home in 2020 said they got help with their down payment from friends or family. The number one lender? Their parents.

It’s safe to assume a percentage of that down payment money likely came from home equity.

Bottom Line

Savings in any form is a good thing. The forced savings you can earn from making a mortgage payment enables you to build wealth through home equity. That equity can come in handy in both good and more challenging times.

3 Reasons We’re Definitely Not in a Housing Bubble

3 Reasons We’re Definitely Not in a Housing Bubble | MyKCM

Home values appreciated by about ten percent in 2020, and they’re forecast to appreciate by about five percent this year. This has some voicing concern that we may be in another housing bubble like the one we experienced a little over a decade ago. Here are three reasons why this market is totally different.

1. This time, housing supply is extremely limited

The price of any market item is determined by supply and demand. If supply is high and demand is low, prices normally decrease. If supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

In real estate, supply and demand are measured in “months’ supply of inventory,” which is based on the number of current homes for sale compared to the number of buyers in the market. The normal months’ supply of inventory for the market is about 6 months. Anything above that defines a buyers’ market, indicating prices will soften. Anything below that defines a sellers’ market in which prices normally appreciate.

Between 2006 and 2008, the months’ supply of inventory increased from just over 5 months to 11 months. The months’ supply was over 7 months in twenty-seven of those thirty-six months, yet home values continued to rise.

Months’ inventory has been under 5 months for the last 3 years, under 4 for thirteen of the last fourteen months, under 3 for the last six months, and currently stands at 1.9 months – a historic low.

Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

2. This time, housing demand is real

During the housing boom in the mid-2000s, there was what Robert Schiller, a fellow at the Yale School of Management’s International Center for Finance, called “irrational exuberance.” The definition of the term is, “unfounded market optimism that lacks a real foundation of fundamental valuation, but instead rests on psychological factors.” Without considering historic market trends, people got caught up in the frenzy and bought houses based on an unrealistic belief that housing values would continue to escalate.

The mortgage industry fed into this craziness by making mortgage money available to just about anyone, as shown in the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) published by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage; the lower the index, the more difficult it is to obtain one. Prior to the housing boom, the index stood just below 400. In 2006, the index hit an all-time high of over 868. Again, just about anyone could get a mortgage. Today, the index stands at 122.5, which is well below even the pre-boom level.

In the current real estate market, demand is real, not fabricated. Millennials, the largest generation in the country, have come of age to marry and have children, which are two major drivers for homeownership. The health crisis is also challenging every household to redefine the meaning of “home” and to re-evaluate whether their current home meets that new definition. This desire to own, coupled with historically low mortgage rates, makes purchasing a home today a strong, sound financial decision. Therefore, today’s demand is very real.

Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

3. This time, households have plenty of equity

Again, during the housing boom, it wasn’t just purchasers who got caught up in the frenzy. Existing homeowners started using their homes like ATM machines. There was a wave of cash-out refinances, which enabled homeowners to leverage the equity in their homes. From 2005 through 2007, Americans pulled out $824 billion dollars in equity. That left many homeowners with little or no equity in their homes at a critical time. As prices began to drop, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the mortgage was higher than the value of their home. Many defaulted on their payments, which led to an avalanche of foreclosures.

Today, the banks and the American people have shown they learned a valuable lesson from the housing crisis a little over a decade ago. Cash-out refinance volume over the last three years was less than a third of what it was compared to the 3 years leading up to the crash.

This conservative approach has created levels of equity never seen before. According to Census Bureau data, over 38% of owner-occupied housing units are owned ‘free and clear’ (without any mortgage). Also, ATTOM Data Solutions just released their fourth quarter 2020 U.S. Home Equity Report, which revealed:

“17.8 million residential properties in the United States were considered equity-rich, meaning that the combined estimated amount of loans secured by those properties was 50 percent or less of their estimated market value…The count of equity-rich properties in the fourth quarter of 2020 represented 30.2 percent, or about one in three, of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States.”

If we combine the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear with the 18.7% of all homes that have at least 50% equity (30.2% of the remaining 62% with a mortgage), we realize that 56.7% of all homes in this country have a minimum of 50% equity. That’s significantly better than the equity situation in 2008.

Bottom Line

This time, housing supply is at a historic low. Demand is real and rightly motivated. Even if there were to be a drop in prices, homeowners have enough equity to be able to weather a dip in home values. This is nothing like 2008. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.