Browsing Tag: real estate


    Real Estate Protip #2: New Construction & Neighborhoods

    April 3, 2012

    Our new house is part of a neighborhood that’s very much still in progress. There are empty lots on both sides of us — several, in fact, to the south of us.

    This is good in some ways: We got to build on our first-choice lot with the great view, there’s a lot of open space, not much vehicle traffic, etc.

    This is not good in other ways, mainly this: There’s a ton of new construction happening around us. As someone who works from home, I’m resigning myself to the fact that my daily soundtrack for the next several months will be the sound of hammers and heavy machinery. Ugh.

    In fact, just a couple days ago, I took these photos as I noticed that there were four lots being worked on within 100 yards of our house. Yikes!




    All of the construction also means a lot of nails on the road. On Monday I spent an hour at Les Schwab getting one of my tires repaired — it had two nails in it!

    So, the real estate protip: New neighborhoods have pros and cons.


    Real Estate Protip: Closing Date

    April 2, 2012

    cari-mcgee-sold-signFrom what I understand, a lot of real estate closings happen at the end of the month. I don’t know why that is … maybe a local real estate agent could explain if that’s true and why.

    Here’s a protip from a non-real estate agent: Set your closing date for early in the month.

    Why? It’ll be a nice money-saver when it comes to making mortgage payments.

    For starters, mortgage payments are due on the 1st of each month, but every lender I’ve ever had to pay allows you a 15-day grace period. So, it makes sense to make your mortgage payment on the 15th of the month. (Let that money collect interest in your bank account for 15 extra days before you send it to their bank account.)

    Second, when you buy a new house the first mortgage payment skips a month. You don’t start paying until the start of the second month after the purchase.

    Example: When we bought our new house, our closing date was March 5th. We had not yet made the March payment on the old house. On March 5th, that loan was paid off and our loan for the new house began. But the first payment on that loan isn’t due until May 1st!

    So, by closing in early March, we managed to avoid making a mortgage payment in both March and April. That’s pretty cool.

    I don’t think that would’ve been the case if we’d closed in late February. But perhaps my wife will correct me on that. (?)

    (Come to think of it … maybe I should’ve saved this for a guest article on her blog? Oh, well.)

    Featured, Miscellany

    How to Buy a House … in 4-5 Months

    November 7, 2011

    About 18 months ago, we came close to buying a new house about a half-mile from where we live now. But, after a crazy, seven-day period, that purchase fell apart when we got a much-bigger-than-expected bill from the tax man.

    Well … here we go again. Only this time, it’s a done deal. All signed. First check has been written. Plans are being made. It’s gonna happen. But not for several months, actually. All we have now is a piece of vacant land with an amazing view of the western skyline.


    That’s ours. And sometime around the end of February or beginning of March, we should have a very nice, fairly large, four-bedroom house on that piece of earth. Anytime you build from scratch, delays are possible. That’s especially true since this is scheduled to happen over the winter. We’ve been told, for example, that they can’t pour concrete if the temperature dips below 30 degrees.

    I’ll have a real office and not have to work in a cramped, former walk-in pantry like I do now. We’ll have a bigger kitchen and laundry room. Bigger bedrooms. More space. Nicer floors. A bigger back patio (with an outdoor fireplace, even).

    But do you want to know the main attraction for me? That amazing view. You see that mountain in the distance in the photo above? Here’s that same mountain when the sun is setting.

    Western Skyline

    Sigh…. I really can’t wait to sit on the patio with that as the backdrop all summer long.

    The new place is about two miles northwest of where we live now. I’m sure I’ll be driving over there all winter long to watch the house get built. And no doubt I’ll be posting some updates here, too. Just to give you a preview of what to expect when you come visit.


    How to Almost Buy a House in 7 Days

    February 28, 2010

    We’ve been casually looking at houses for probably 4-5 years now. That’s what you do when your wife is a real estate agent who has access to the MLS 24 hours/day, and when your “starter” home (that fit your three-person family just fine, but not so much your four-person family) gets too cramped.

    But in all our looking, the “right house” never showed up. Oh, we saw some amazing homes — but nothing that had the right combination of location, looks, amenities, and affordability.

    Until Saturday, February 20th.

    The whole family went out to the Home & Garden Expo and then, since we had nothing better to do, Cari suggested we go see a couple new homes that were just built about a half-mile west of where we live now. And thus began one of the craziest, most intense weeks of our lives.

    In the end, we’re not buying the house. But I’ve been writing a diary of the whole experience, and decided to post it even though things didn’t turn out how we hoped.

    Saturday, February 20
    After visiting the Home & Garden Expo in Pasco, we returned home and Cari took us to see three houses that are all less than a mile from our current home. We really liked House A, and only kinda liked Houses B & C. We went back to House A to look at it again and everyone agreed it was a great house. Not perfect, but the imperfections were certainly things we could live with. Here’s a shot of the front, which doesn’t really do it justice in my mind, but that’s okay.

    the house

    Sunday, February 21
    After church, we drove by The House again. Swooned again. Came home and talked more about it. I don’t remember what Cari said, but she convinced me we should at least see what it would take to make the move.

    We agreed that our current house would need a lot of work in order to sell at a good price. Cari made “The List” of home improvements that would be needed here. We talked about The List, made some changes, and resolved to get cracking on it the next day. We also sorted out other things to be taken care of: financing, school boundary questions, etc.

    I spent about three hours doing yardwork to make sure we’d have “curb appeal” on our side if we decide to move. Lawn cutting, trimming bushes, general cleanup.

    Monday, February 22
    Cari started contacting everyone on earth about home improvements to our current home: cleaning, painting, windows, new doors, etc. She made a a couple local visits to get info and names of people who could put down new carpeting. Appointments were made for the rest of the week.

    She also called contacts in the mortgage industry to get information on financing. Our problem was that banks don’t like to lend to people who are self-employed for less than two years. I’ve been self-employed for only about 18 months.

    Tuesday, February 23
    8:00 am: Our regular house cleaner arrived to begin work. Not the regular, bi-weekly cleaning, but a special job focusing on our cabinets (kitchen and bathrooom) and the shower in the master bath, which had years of hard water stains. She brought an assistant. They worked until almost noon, but didn’t finish.

    2:00 pm: Perfection Glass showed up to measure and look at our front door and our sliding glass door to the back yard. We talked about options for replacing both.

    4:00 pm: Envision Construction arrived to measure the house so they can put together an estimate for replacing all our carpets (which are 16 years old) and the vinyl flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms (also 16 years old).

    Having no luck with mortgage Plan A, Cari moved on to Plan B, a local credit union. Didn’t seem promising, but at least the door wasn’t shut on our self-employed faces. She contacted our accountant to let him know what’s going on and ask if he can expedite our tax returns because the bank needs our current income figures.

    Cari also went shopping at Home Depot and spent about $500 on new kitchen fixtures (faucet, cabinet knobs, etc.), new lighting for several rooms, and new fixtures (showerheads, spouts, faucets) for both bathrooms.

    While all this was going on, I followed the loan officer’s instructions and filled out their online mortgage application in the afternoon. I followed up with an email explaining my work situation, and that I’ve actually had my own clients — outside of my day job with previous companies — for a full two years. She called at about 5 pm for a quick, pleasant call. Unfortunately, she seemed to be saying that we’ll need to not claim any deductions on our tax return in order to qualify for a loan. Ugh.

    Envision emailed their estimate on carpeting/flooring work pretty late: about $1,500, not including the actual carpet and flooring.

    Wednesday, February 24
    8:45 am: The guys from CleanCraft arrived. They’re a contractor/handyman service. They spent about three hours installing the new lights and shower fixtures. Didn’t finish the faucets, so have to come back tomorrow.

    11:00 am: Guy named Gerald showed up to measure the house interior so he can give us a quote on painting. In our 11+ years, we’ve never done any interior painting, so this must be the original paint applied 16 years ago. Gerald calls back a couple hours later with an estimate of about $2,000. Only thing is … he’s a former contractor who’s no longer licensed and insured.

    The loan officer, meanwhile, is still experimenting with numbers. She knows we can’t NOT claim any tax deductions. We spoke again around Noon to get a few questions answered.

    Cari went back to Home Depot for some more odds and ends.

    Got our estimate from Perfection Glass on the doors: about $2,800 total for both, much more than we want to spend. Plus they’re booked into April, and we’d need something sooner.

    3:00 pm: Service guy from Garrison’s arrives to look at the oven we bought last year. One of the burner knobs is jammed. He used cardboard to make a temporary fix and said he’ll have to make some calls to find out why this one knob has a problem. (They’ve been out several times before for this same reason.)

    In the late afternoon, we got great news from the lender: We may be able to qualify even with our normal deductions. We agreed to wait to see the final tax return. Our accountant said he should have it done by the end of the week.

    Thursday, February 25
    9:00 am: Guys from CleanCraft return to finish the work started yesterday. Replacing faucets is apprently much more involved than lighting. They’re here until about Noon. I spent the next hour talking with them about more work we’d like done.

    4:00 pm: Window cleaning service arrived to do the exterior windows, which have years of hard water (from sprinklers) building up on them, not to mention general winter dirt.

    I checked the school district’s web site and confirmed what Cari had said earlier in the week: By moving, we’ll be pulling T into a different elementary school zone. Even though we’d only be moving about a half-mile, and even though the current school would be a mile from the new house, she’d be zoned to attend a school that’s more than three miles away. I emailed a district official to ask how we go about keeping her in the current school if we move.

    Friday, February 26
    No visits scheduled today, so we played a waiting game on our accountant. We have estimates for painting and carpet/floor upgrades, but can’t commit to spending thousands on that stuff until we know what our tax hit will be. Unfortunately, our accountant told Cari this morning that he won’t have anything done until sometime over the weekend.

    In the afternoon, we learned that someone else was interested in The House, so the mad dash was on. We decided to write an offer now even without knowing the financial side of things, but the offer will have a few contingencies in there that let us back out next week if we get bad news.

    Within an hour of submitting the offer, the builder made us a counter-offer. They changed the closing date — moved it up a couple weeks from what we want, which will give us almost no time to sell our house. We have until Sunday night to reply to the counter-offer, so hopefully we’ll hear from our accountant by then.

    Saturday, February 27
    11:01 am: Our accountant called with preliminary tax return numbers. Unfortunately, we owe more in taxes than we hoped to. It’s a nice problem to have — we both had a good year in terms of income, but now it’s time to pay the piper. Even though we pre-paid a lot of taxes during the year, we still owe enough that the deal is dead. Cari emailed the seller’s agent. I contacted the people who were waiting to hear if we needed the house painted.

    Kinda sad. We made a fundamental home-buying mistake: We fell in love with a house before we knew our full financial situation. We got emotionally attached to it. And now we’re letting it go.

    We’ll learn and make sure this doesn’t happen again.


    Mortgage Crisis Didn’t Happen Overnight

    December 22, 2008

    From the New York Times in 1999:

    Fannie Mae, the nation’s biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

    In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers.

    I think the problem actually goes back to the ’80s and the Reagan Administration, but have never seen any old articles referencing that.


    Real Estate on a Macbook?

    April 11, 2008

    My wife is a real estate agent. Real estate agents rely on the MLS system to look up house information for buyers and sellers. In the Tri-Cities, as in many areas, the MLS system runs only on Internet Explorer, and only on a PC. (So 1995….)

    Until now.

    Tools of the Trade

    This is what arrived at our house today, and it’s all in the name of making Cari what we think will be the first Mac-using Tri-Cities real estate agent. Here’s what we got:

    1. Macbook – the low-end Macbook, which I expect will offer more than enough speed and space to do the job. It’s a 2.1 ghz Intel processor and 120 mb hard drive. That oughtta work just fine.
    2. Brenthaven shoulder case – this is a copy of the case I use. These are pretty expensive, but worth every penny. They’re custom-sized specifically for the 13″ Macbook, and have all kinds of padding to keep the machine protected. And there’s plenty of storage space, too.
    3. Extra battery – just to be safe. She’ll be using the power adapter most of the time, but it’s good to have an extra battery in case of an emergency.
    4. Memory upgrade – two 1gb memory cards to replace the 256mb cards that are pre-installed. So we go from 512mb of RAM to 2gb. Gotta have the extra juice to run Nos. 5 and 6…..
    5. Parallels – the software that will let her run a full version of Windows on the Macbook. Easy to install, too!
    6. Windows XP – I wouldn’t go near Vista if you paid me. No way, no how. And last, but not least….
    7. Speck plastic case – another one that’s somewhat spendy compared to similar items, but worth every penny. It’s a tight-fitting plastic case to protect the Macbook from dings and scratches. It’s see-through, too, so you keep that Macbook “cool” factor going. I have a red one. Cari went with the blue, as you can see.

    I’m about halfway done all the setup to get her going. I’m sure it’ll work just fine because I bought my own copies of Parallels and Windows XP a couple weeks ago and used my laptop to make sure this’ll fly. Took a bit to get the MLS web site to work (Explorer really sucks), but eventually got there on my laptop. We’ll get there on hers and she’ll be an original of the species: the first Mac-using real estate agent in Tri-Cities, Washington.