Why it is crucial your Listing Agent understands and specializes in the TYPE of property you are trying to sell

I have a stark example today, and a story with a positive ending and a very happy client, about why it is CRUCIAL that home sellers hire the right agent for the job.

Any real estate agent can sell what I call a “conventional” property. But if you are going to be short selling your house, you should seek out a short sale expert. If you are selling a condo, or vacant land, again you should seek out an expert in these niches. Vacation property or secondary home? Same thing. Professional agents who have been in the business a long time have developed their skill sets over the course of their careers and have narrowed down their business to what they are most passionate and knowledgeable about.

I chose to specialize in green homes over five years ago. In the Seattle area, served by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, they are referred to as “Environmentally Certified” homes. First I bought a Built Green Certified Home. And then I earned four different specialty designations all requiring education and testing in this area of expertise over the next five years. It is important that the agent you choose to hire shows they are staying up with technology, products, and laws pertaining to their area of expertise. If someone is an expert in something, they can really “sell” it.

I am an expert in green homes, and I can really sell High Point because I live here, and literally walk the streets here 365 days a year with my dog. I know the good and the bad. And I am an honest agent, I will share what’s important with anyone considering moving here whether the law requires me to or not.

The marketing photo for the condominium discussed in this blog post. Redwood High Point in West Seattle.

In July I was contacted by a neighbor who I had never even met. They had purchased their Redwood High Point condominium in March of 2011 as a short sale. They unexpectedly found themselves needing to move out of state for employment. I advised them how to best prepare the home for market, which began with packing as much out of the closet contents as possible. I helped them find off-site storage so the home would look as big as it was (almost 1,000 sq ft). And I had trouble convincing them to list it for over $30,000 more than the agent who represented them as a buyer the year before told them to list it for.

The selling price in March 2011 as a short sale was $194,950. When it was new construction in 2007 the selling price was $306,000. I get sick to my stomach whenever I talk about prices in High Point because I too bought then, in July 2007, literally at the height of the market. (For an example, I paid $395 for my townhome, a year ago it was valued at $260k by the lender. A neighbor with the same floor plan has a pending short sale that went down to $209k before it got an offer. Final sales price we don’t know yet.)

When this neighbor contacted the agent who represented them when they bought it last year, the agent did a CMA (comparative market analysis) and recommended they list the property for $185,000. Yes, values are dragged down by all the bank owned and short sales around them. But it is not a distress sale. And maybe if this was just any old condo in West Seattle it would sell for $185k – but it’s not. This is an Environmentally Certified condo – and the entire neighborhood is also certified as Built Green. There are people who are looking for properties like this. If you market it right, it will sell for its true value.

I finally convinced them and we priced the property at $219,950 and received a full price offer within 24 hours. We went off market and went through the entire inspection process and were proceeding to closing when the buyer got cold feet and walked. The buyer gave up $3k earnest money to the seller. The seller loaded up their moving truck and drove away, trusting me that I would be able to do it again.

Two months went by. We finally started talking about a price reduction. Rather than a $5k drop, I suggested splitting it between the buyer and the buyer’s agent. We did a $3k price drop and a $2k commission bonus to the buyer’s agent if we received “an acceptable offer” (seller determines what is acceptable) within about 5 weeks.

Less than two weeks later we received another full price offer – at $216,950. And what was really hilarious about this was that the buyer was the same person who went to buy it in July. So three months later, tomorrow we close this sale. And I have a very happy client. And the buyer really did pay full price of $219,950, because she paid $3k of it two months ago when the first sale was closed.

In his own words, my client explained the financial side of this in a recent email.

“I went through our old docs from the purchase – I think once everything is included, we’ll end up $1,261.87 up from the money we put in 19 months ago. We got lucky! If we would have listened to our old Realtor and listed it at $185,000, we’d be down like $30,000!”

It’s not cheap to sell real estate. There are thousands upon thousands of dollars paid towards commissions, excise tax, and other closing costs, including title insurance and more. How would you feel if you got to live someplace FOR FREE for a year and a half?? If you bought low, it is possible to sell high – or at least today’s market rate adjusted “high”. But only if you hire the right real estate agent.

Posted in Green Homes, High Point, Sellers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How often does this happen?

Weeks, nay months, of work are culminating in TWO closings tomorrow – one a few days early and the other a few days late. Both bring me new neighbors in my Built Green Certified condominium in High Point (the big tan section to the right of B on this map, which is Viewpoint Park). Like, I can shout at them down the driveway close. I don’t think ever in my life will I have two sales close on the same day again. I think I really need to celebrate!!

2840 SW Raymond #102 as seen from High Point Drive.
I represented the seller.

2830 SW Raymond #202, as seen from my home office.
I represented the buyer.

Posted in Buyers, Green Homes, High Point, Sellers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A slice of heaven in the Cascade Mountains [VIDEO] and ideas on treading light on the Earth when living in a non-sustainably-built home

I just completed a video for the nicest property my brokerage has listed so far this year, a helicopter-logged Canadian Western Red Cedar custom built log home in Snoqualmie Pass. Not a lot “green” about that there statement, but it was built in 1998 and has the original owner in it, and this home could easily last for 100 years. It is surrounded by the forest, water, and wildlife. The driveway alone is eight tenths of a mile long and you can only access the house via snowmobile once the snows come (about Thanksgiving through April).

Even thought this home is not green, and the trees that made this home may or may not have come from a sustainably managed forest, I think you could tread a light footprint here if you were conscientious about your lifestyle, and if you became an advocate for the native flora (Washington Native Plant Society), fauna, or even volunteered with a group like the Washington Trails Association since the property is right on Gold Creek Pond, you could do some good.

Please share with anyone you think will appreciate the beauty of this environment or lifestyle.

NWMLS #412518
187 Snowshoe Lane
Snoqualmie Pass, WA 98068
Two bedrooms + Loft
1,808 sq ft, built in 1998.
Offered at $599,000.

Online flyer here

Beautiful custom log home built from Canadian Western Red Cedar (helicopter logged!) Only on a rare occasion does a property like this come on the market. Five acres of forested property offering total privacy, river frontage views, and adjacent to Gold Creek Park/Pond. The home offers a beautiful river rock fireplace, two bedrooms, an upper loft area, custom kitchen with custom Soapstone counters, French doors leading into the family room, hot tub, decks, skylights, and so much more. River access! Long private driveway (.80 mile) and not a single human soul in sight. Hear the elk call and the salmon splash. Access is by snowmobile during the winter months only.

Posted in Buyers, Homes Surrounded by Green, Real Estate For Sale | Leave a comment

Live…from the Built Green Conference 2012: Session 2, Double Down-Marketing Green and Universal Design (Aging In Place) | Dave Porter, PorterWorks

The Power of Synergy

Dave Porter of PorterWorks said we’ve all scared the crap out of each other enough. Take water for instance. Of all the water on the planet only 3% of it is potable, 2% of it is ice, and we are wasting so much of it.

What does green mean to you?
People spoke up with a lot of words –
Sustainable
Replenishable
Healthy
Future Proofing
Durability
Smart Design
Sustainable
Adaptable

Dave says a lot of green building is missing the mark. He has seen a lot of 4 and 5 star Built Green homes, but they are not designed to last.

Words for Universal Design
Accessible
Simple
Adaptable
Simple solution to a complex problem
Universal design
Appropriate
Proportional (too many homes are too large and just for two people)

We spent some time evaluating the room we were in.

Universal design is not a hospital or hotel room that is “accommodating”. They all look and smell like old nursing homes. He is talking about some spiffy places. European curbless shower. The tile does not have to scream hospital.

1 in 9 people have an issue with indoor air quality, lke asthma.

Why people buy green homes
Save money
Make money
Indoor air quality
They care a little bt about the world.
…in that order.

People are very interested in protecting their house. Indoor air quality and home security is something people will spend money on.
It is ridiculous that people will buy a green home to address indoor air quality issues but then bring in toxic furniture.

7,000 people become 65 every day.
2.7 million people in a wheelchair
6.8 million need some sort of mobility assistance
10 million blind or visually impaired, 1 million deaf and 10 million hard of hearing
NAHB has a program Certified Aging In Place. But Dave says it is about any age, there are 121,000 under the age of 15 in a wheelchair.

Someone you know is going to need Grace of the space

Intersection between green and universal design
A rambler – smaller home, no stairs
Floor coverings –
HVAC – ductless, remote control, accessible filter
Light switches – they should be lower
Outlets – should be higher
Windows – hand crank openings, good daylighting so no need to use lights
Materials – concrete floors, wood
Appliances – induction stoves since it inly heats metal and not people. Some people have sensory limitations. Central vacuum systems. Microwave drawer. Dish drawrs instead of front loaders. Front loading washing machine instead of top loader. Pull out shelves. More drawers.
Cabinets and hardware see above
Landscape and walkways – pervious concrete would offer traction on a ramp. Drip irrigation Biophylia. raised garden beds.

Seven Principles of UD

- Equity Use
- Flexibility in Use
- Simple and intuitive to use
-Perceptible Info
-Tolerance of errors
-Low physical effort
-Size and space for approach and use

UD and Green Checklist

-Think family
-Think ahead
-Think green
-Do not think disability, wheelchairs, or ramps
-Do not think ADA, Fair Housing Act or other accessibility guidelines

Now the room has been brokern into sections and we are putting on our “designer” hats to design a green and universally designed home.

Dave concluded with some photos of good universal design. Your job is to solve problems. Uncover problems then solve them.

This is a working post.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live…from the Built Green Conference 2012: Keynote Speaker Denis Hayes, President/CEO of Bullitt Foundation

Wow what a great lunch

King County Green Tools staff Patti Southard and Kinney (missed the other name) made introductory remarks for Mr. Hayes. First they gave us some statistics and diversion rates for construction materials. Newest edition of the Construction Recycling Directory just came out. He suggests that builders use 2 bins on sites so the sorting is done immediately because it is very time consuming to sort it later. He also mentioned the 20/20 Refit Challenge. Rehabilitating older homes to become healthy, comfortable, energy efficient homes is a lot more sustainable than deconstructing a structure and building something new It’s all about keeping materials out of the waste stream.

Patti thanks the staff at Built Green for creating such a great model that others in the country look to. Collaboration is key. She says every day we are working on making this a beter planet it is like writing a love letter to the Earth. She says we are lucky to have the kind of leadership we have in our area – with Denis Hayes, the founder of Earth Day, having joined our community. She shared her own memories of how Earth Day is a holiday not for religion or anything else, but for doing something for others and the plant.

Denis Hayes
Funny guy! Seems to be speaking extemporaneously. He said normally he gives a rousing motivational speech about becoming more green. But he doesn’t have to do that here, since everyone in the room is involved in the green building industry. He talked about how the Bullitt Foundation stat=started out in a hayloft, and since joining the organization the Board agreed to the construction of a green building. The piece of property the foundation owned called for something larger than an office for seven people, and now they have a 52,000 sq ft mixed use building. Billed as “The Greenest Building in the World” He said there are 26 geothermal wells that are 400 feet deep. ALL of the energy that will be used in this building will be generated by the building. Net Zero is not accomplished very often. Hayes talked about trying to meet the requirements of the Living Building Challenge. He spoke about sourcing materials for the building, finding contractors who would

Bullitt Center – Hard costs up through TI: 17% more expensive than regular Class A office space and found they can’t rent it for any more than regular Class A office space. If you are a tenant in their building and meet ll of your energy goals, you have no energy costs, it’s free. Society needs to start placing real value on things that endure. These major investments count for something. He talked a lot oabout the features that went into this new building. I missed the last tour a couple weeks ago! So I sent an email to find out when the next tour will be. Defnitely have to get it on it.

If I had to do it gain knwoing what I know now and this will sound ridiculous – this is the first time I have worked on a building, but it has given me a lot of humility. So he deerred t a lot of te experts, vendors, and contractors, for elements and aesthetics that if he woudl have won on if he had stuck to his guns. And he would hold out to have it his way next time.

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Green Homes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live…from the Built Green Conference 2012. Session 1

Coming to you live this morning from the Built Green Conference in gorgeous Mukilteo. We are at the Rosehill Community Center above the ferry terminal.

The structure this year is breakout sessions bookending a keynote speech at lunch. There also is an expo where we can meet vendors and other stakeholder sin energy efficiency and green homes. It is hard to decide which session to go to. I picked the one that best matches my personal interests and professional role as a real estate broker.

So I am in the Fowler Room in “Transforming Markets: Community Power Works, 20/20 Home Refit Challenge, and Community Energy Efficiency Programs.”
This is a panel of multiple perspectives, including building science, outreach, marketing, and workforce development.
Jason Lear (Batt+Lear)
Andrea Petzel (City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development)
Ruth Bell (Community Power Works)
Dan Wildenhaus (Senior Building Science Specialist for Fluid Market Strategies)

Topics this session
Community Energy Efficiency Program
Do Energy Efficiency Programs transform markets?
Have local programs transformed our market?
How do we know?
What’s next?

Interestingly enough, I was an early participant in the Community Power Works program, before it reached its current iteration of providing a $95 energy assessment. A volunteer came to my home and talked about energy efficiency and how to cut your personal energy use. Low hanging fruit (one of the easy. low cost things you can do) included replacing all of our existing light bulbs with CFL bulbs. This was about two years ago. I had not changed out the light bulbs from when we bought the townhome as new construction in 2007. It is a 3-Star Built Green Certified home in the Built Green Certified Community of High Point in West Seattle. Besides energy efficiency, changing to a lower usage bulb makes your home more comfortable. All of those incandescent bulbs put out a lot of heat.

There are a number of measuring tools that are being utilized to show the results of the Community Power Works retrofits. Over 500 homes have been completed, with over 240 in the pipeline now. The gal si to reduce energy use by at least 15%. Only one home has not met that goa, anf there are some “audacious” homes that are saving 50-60% in energy use on their utility bills.

Building science
Rather than write all new specs, they use Department of Commerce specifications for building performance.
Reducing air leakage in a home (insulation)- leaky recessed lighting fixtures increases heat loss/gain, and can cause ice dam problems.
Most often performed corrective action taken in homes in the program:
Air sealing
Attic insulation
Wall insulation
Floor insulation
uct sealing
Duct insulation

Measurement used to be in carbon savings. Most people couldn’t understand it so it was changed to energy savings. Quality assurance has to be evaluate frequently so course corrections can be made. Programs like this leverage current training to bolster both new and existing workers and create not just jobs but quality companies.

Who are the customers/
Income between $50-$150k. There is a significant drop off in the higher income brackets, perhaps these flks don’t consider government programs for tem. There also is a low number of households with people of color. Perhaps there is a language barrier or translation problem that needs to be increased. More outreach to lower income communities. There are cultural liasons speaking about 12 languages
33% of households have children in the home
Most homes were built before 1959.

Average cost of upgrade $14,500
Average CPW rebate: $2,600. (18%)
Average utility rebates: $700 (5%)
Customers with CPW loans: 25%

Washigton State University (WSU) is a big participant in the program, helping with surveys of homeowners after they have participated in the program.

Now what? (Jason Lear)
20/20 Home Refit Challenge: 20,000 ohomes with 20% energy savings
Program participants get: Special financing and the market value of a Buitl Green Certification + Energy Score
Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union (PSCCU) has developed a special home equity loan for homeowners who participate in the program.
“Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union understands the challenge in affording energy-efficient alternatives for your home. We’re here to help with our Energy Smart Loans. Our loan products cover everything from heating and cooling, hot water tanks, gas conversions, windows and even renewable energy like SOLAR! Need to do some prescriptive measures before you can make your home more efficient? We can usually help with that as well.”

What is the future of Community Power Works?
Under negotiations now withs stakeholders trying to get interest gauged from utilities and assessing market need. By Jan or Feb 2013 there may be an extension to the program (but no new money coming in).

This is a working blog post and will be updated as more information becomes available to flesh out the details of this session.

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Green Homes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Two Built Green condos going “pending” today; I am blogging LIVE from the Built Green Conference tomorrow; OOPS…biking in the woods in the dark

Big news today – two Built Green condominiums in Redwood High Point (where I actually live) are going “Pending” today. I represent one buyer, and a seller, in two different transactions. It’s a good week!

Also I will be blogging live from the Built Green Conference tomorrow. I have gone every year for the past 4 years on a press pass so I can share what I learn and also keep fresh with the most up-to-date information when it comes to green homes. You can tune in tomorrow right here for updates and information on the latest trends.

Photo for today is a picture I took at Rattlesnake Lake Monday night after biking with my husband 22 miles down the Iron Horse Trail from Hyak in Snoqualmie Pass. The trail starts at the pass with the Snoqualmie Tunnel, 2.75 miles of pitch black and cold. The trail unexpectedly ended at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center and clearly our timing was off as by that time it was dark (see photo, haha). We expected it to connect to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, which we have biked sections of before. (We would have found the entrance to the trail just down the road if it had not been dark!!) We biked another 8 miles down very steep roads (Cedar Falls Road, then over I-90 and into town), annoying traffic, to reach North Bend and my real estate office where we left one car. Total trip was 29.76 miles. Average speed was 12.6 mph, fastest (on my bike) was 25.6 (Steve probably had faster). It was a little scary going down a steep hill in the dark. Later looking at a map we determined we had taken a MUCH more direct route than if we had been on the Valley Trail, which winds all over. We had to drive back up to the pass to get the other car. We walked into an Applebee’s in Factoria for dinner at a quarter to 10, and didn’t get home until 11. A ride to remember!!

Posted in Green Homes, High Point, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Creative Two-Prong Approach To Getting a Property Sold

7705 11th Ave SW

7705 11th Ave SW (NWMLS 349459) just reduced the listing price $3k and offered a $2k bonus to the selling agent

It’s not always about a lower price, although it is nice. Sometimes it is about getting a real estate broker to even notice a property to get them to sell it. You can achieve this with a two-prong approach – a price reduction the benefits the buyer, and a commission bonus in addition to regular commission to the agent to ensure the property at least gets shown.

Agents have biases…and sometimes think they know everything. But if you sweeten the deal a bit, sometimes an agent can get out of their own way and show a property that is perfectly ideal for their buyer client if the agent would just stop thinking they always know best or know with 100% certainty if a property is going to work for their client or not.

Now, if the buyer says “NO TOWNHOMES” then fine, maybe don’t show them a townhome (although I always said no to condos and townhomes and then somehow bought a condominiumized townhome 5 years ago – which is why I have the attitude I do about this whole issue). But I actually had someone show one of my other listings yesterday that for the same price was a ground floor view condo with attached garage and the agent’s feedback was “They’re looking for a townhome…” You can bet that I sent her info and this video, stat!

So how does a two prong approach work? A price change is obvious – and the buyer saves money. But the additional strategy was to be sure to offer “Full Commission” (a % that many companies have an internal policy to sign listing agreements at), THEN offer even more if the agent could bring an acceptable offer by a certain date. This particular property? Currently the Selling Office Commission is $6,508.50. The typical agent is only getting a portion of that, depending on the company and what they negotiated when they joined the office. If it were I selling this home I would be getting a check close to $5,000 after the company’s portion plus some incidental expenses and insurance was deducted. The bonus? The property owner here has agreed to pay an additional $2,000 straight to the buyer’s agent at closing, and that’s not anything to shake a stick at. Suddenly my almost $5k went to almost $7k, and that’s going to pay my bills for a couple months.

If you have a tired listing, think about blending your approach and splitting the seller’s sacrifice between the buyer and the buyer’s agent. It’s a win-win-win, for the buyer, the seller, AND the agent. Who might not have ever looked at or shown the property if that $2,000 carrot wasn’t dangled out there in the first place.

Posted in Buyers, Real Estate For Sale, Sellers, Townhome, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I had no idea – paint made from plastic bottles

Something that came across my Facebook feed this weekend was a report from Earth911 about a paint made from PET bottles. I had no idea this existed, so of course I had to share it.

In 2011 Sherwin-Williams received an EPA green chemistry award for its paint formulation that contains recycled plastic bottles PET plastic bottles, in addition to acrylics and soybean oil. The paint combines the performance of alkyd, or oil-based, paints, with acrylic paint’s low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause respiratory irritation and damage to kidneys, lungs and nervous systems.

Look for ProClassic Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd, ProMar 200 Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd and ProIndustrial Waterborne Enamel.

Read the full story

Posted in Green Homes, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Built Green barrier free view condo open in West Seattle this Sunday, 1-4 PM

This Sunday 1-4 PM I am hosting an open house in West Seattle, while my broker hosts an open in Snoqualmie Pass.
Please pass the word about this FAB property and good price. Click on the CONDO tab for details on this and other Mountain To Sound Realty properties.

Enjoy our YouTube video tours of these properties!


NWMLS #380491 2840 SW Raymond Street, #102 | Seattle, WA 98126
Offered at $219,950 | City and Mountain Views
High Point is a Built Green Certified Community and this is a 3-Star Built Green Certified Home. Experience this secluded ground floor location in this award-winning neighborhood with pocket parks on every block, community gardens, and other environmental features. Great views of downtown and the Cascade Mountains. Nine foot ceilings, granite slab breakfast bar, stainless steel appliances, raised panel doors, crown molding and designer colors upgrade. Luxury living in a secure building. Move right in and don’t lift a finger! Turnkey!


For sale – four 2 bedroom condominium units above Summit Market. Located off Exit 52 of I-90. Faces Summit West. Vacation All Year Round Up At Snoqualmie Pass! Large rooms throughout and views of Snoqualmie West and Alpental. Two bedroom condo featuring a sauna in the 2 premium units, and all units feature jetted tub, heated tile floors, all new appliances, and come furnished. View, view, view. Sofa that unfolds into a bed, large TV, sleigh beds, armoire, table and chairs. Close proximity to stores, coffee shops, gas station and of course – the ski area just across the street

Posted in Buyers, Green Homes, High Point, Real Estate For Sale, Uncategorized | Leave a comment