Monthly Archives: September 2011

Mortgage rates hit new low – maybe it’s time to refinance (again)!

“The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage reached 4.01% for the week ending Sept. 29, the lowest ever recorded on the Freddie Mac survey,” writes Jon Prior on The 15-year averaged 3.28% for the week.

This gives buyers more purchasing power. At 4.5%, you can borrow $197,300 with a $1000 monthly payment; at 4.0%, it becomes $209,460.

Should I refinance (again)? Maybe. If you have  a $400,000 loan at 5%, your payment is about $2150 a month before taxes and insurance. Refinancing to 4% would knock it down to $1909 a month, a $241 savings. Every month. Even if your current loan is 4.5%, you’re going to save over $100 a month.

What if you don’t have enough equity in your home to refinance? Some people are finding that they can refinance, at a slightly higher rate that incorporates their closing costs.

What about that 15-year thing? If you’re feeling flush and in a hurry to pay off that mortgage, the 15-year at 3.25% would make your monthly payment on a $400,000 loan “just” $2811 a month, and you can schedule a mortgage-burning party for late 2026!

Will rates go down further? Maybe, who knows? If the 30-year rate drops to 3.5%, that would cut the monthly payment by $113, to $1796.

If these rates seem good to you, call your favorite lender now, or call and we’ll put you in touch with a great one. That’s how we roll!

Cynthia’s number is 206-276-8292 and Mack’s is 206-795-9271.

Have a great refinancing day!

Disclaimer: the numbers are for illustrative purposes only, we’re not in the mortgage business, and we’re not offering loans at any rate to any body or guaranteeing that our calculations are correct!


Seattle Home Values Hold Through July

Today’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index shows a small uptick for Seattle-area homes in July, from 137.46 to 137.57. This is the fifth consecutive month of gainers since February.

Nationwide, seventeen of the survey’s twenty markets showed gains. The official press release headline reads, “Home Prices Continue to Show Seasonal Strength,” which isn’t a bad thing.

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices are calculated monthly using a three-month moving average and published with a two month lag. New index levels are released at 9 am on the last Tuesday of every month.

Just Listed – Echo Lake Waterfront Home $400,000

We have just listed a lovely, secluded lakefront home in Echo Lake – two bedrooms, two baths, gorgeous soaring ceilings, beautiful fir beams and cedar paneling, massive stone fireplace . . . it’s like coming home to your own luxurious vacation getaway!

The Echo Lake Garden Tracts were developed in 1905 and advertised as having “a clay subsoil that produces fruits and berries of the very finest quality.” A half-century later, Echo Lake homes were advertised as having “Swimming and fishing at your front door.” Today, there are no berry farms, and we don’t know whether the fish are biting, but swimming and non-motorized boating are certainly on the recreation menu!

Open house Sunday, September 18, from 1 to 4! Click here to see photo album.

Happy Anniversary to the 42nd Street Condos!

It was ten years ago today that we had our first Sunday open house at the 42nd Street Condos.

This was a project that began when Cynthia Creasey & Brian Tschider of Cobalt Construction decided to buy a small house on the corner of Winslow Place N and N 42nd St with an eye toward building a small apartment house on the lot.

Greg Bjarko and Chris Serra of BjarkoSerra Architects came up with the design of having two full-floor units at the top and bottom, and two half-sized units on the middle floor.

The project took twenty-six months from the first permit application until the opening, and as you can imagine, we were incredibly excited to have the first formal open house!

Two days later, the Lake & Company office was scheduled to tour it after the weekly Tuesday morning meeting. Events of that day consumed any enthusiasm for the project.

There’s a saying in real estate, “Interest never sleeps,” and there was a construction loan to pay off, so we had to go about the process of getting the units sold.

Our photographer, Kristy Lindgren of Eucalyptus Photography, submitted photos of the project to Dwell Magazine. The editors got the idea to nominate us (it’s a community property state, so the spouses got credit, too!) as Nice Modernists, and we were feted at a ceremony at the Smithsonian / Cooper-Hewitt Museum in 2002!

Two of the original four owners are still there. One family who bought the top floor unit decided that a household with two children would be easier to manage in a single-family home, and another owner left to pursue a career opportunity out of area.

Although we haven’t undertaken another project like this, we know to never say “Never!”

Photo album on Facebook. While you’re there, please “Like” NiceSeattleHomes!

They’re planning to sell in March . . .

We have friends who are planning to sell their Ballard home, and it is beautiful. It wasn’t always that way; Mack remembers visiting them the first winter after they bought it, one of them working on a Ph.D. thesis in the kitchen, rainwater pouring down the inside wall. “We’re getting to it,” we were told.

Today, a second-story addition (designed by Chris Serra of BjarkoSerra Architects) has given them three bedrooms upstairs, two for the kids and a master with roughed-in bath, a full bath in the hallway, and it’s perfectly integrated into the original home, which no longer lets in rainwater! The new kitchen is to-die-for, and it’s turned into just a fabulous home.

But, it’s time to move on, and although the non-Ph.D. of the home is a carpenter who has done most of the work, there’s still a few unfinished projects, a few unstarted projects(!), and some buttoning-up to do. The exterior hasn’t been painted in this millennium, there’s trim details and touch-up paint needed on the inside, the deck has to be rebuilt, the basement is a mess, the new kitchen is gorgeous but the new fir floors suffered from a burst pipe, we’ve got some ideas to add this and that . . . how do we decide what’s worth doing over the next few months?

So, we walk around the house with them, and talk. After an hour or so, we start to bring things into focus.

We decide that the visuals are paramount, so the paint is a priority. The permits haven’t been signed off on the decks, so correcting the stairs and completing that project is a priority. Finishing off the master bath will return about ten times the cost, so that is a priority.

There are secondary, “nice to do if we have time” items. Finishing the basement may be cost-effective, but it’s not a priority. If there’s time and budget, creating a clean, light, and finished laundry area would be beneficial. Since it’s dry (so far!), we can use staging to help illustrate how the spaces can be used beyond that.

Of the two bedrooms on the main floor, one is currently used as an office (no more waterfalls), and it’s not necessary to take out the shelving and create a closet. The other “bedroom” is being used as a TV room and has a closet, so there’s nothing that needs to be done there.

The living and dining rooms are gorgeous Craftsman-era and look great as-is, the kitchen floor survived the pipe burst and while it no longer looks “new,” it looks better than any refinished fir floors from the 1920’s does!

A couple of days after we thought about things, and reported back to the owners, they replied, thanking us for helping them prioritize, and re-focus on the things they need to do that will help sell the home.

The point of this story is to remind our clients that it’s worthwhile to call us in well before you start doing things to get the home ready for the market. Our friends could have thrown thousands of dollars and weeks of time on projects that would have made the home better for them to live in, and maybe not had the time or money to finish the projects that would make a buyer want to live in it!

Six months is not too early, a year isn’t too early – heck, if you’re thinking of doing anything to your house at all, you probably want to know how it will enhance the value of your home, so why not have us over, even if it’s for something as “small” as a bathroom or kitchen remodel, or a deck or patio. Besides, we might have some ideas or resources that will help you achieve a better result while saving money!

BTW: please don’t “feel bad” about taking our time. We are easily bribed by a cup of coffee and a tasty snack!