Advice

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Seller won't release my earnest money - how can I get it back?

Answer

As simple as this sounds there are many more complexities involved.  First, I'd wonder what your broker is doing to advocate and guide you through the process... if they aren't being proactive in helping you through this then I would seriously question their commitment to service.Next, the others who've commented that both parties must agree on the release of earnest money are correct.  If they don't agree, then the EM goes to Interpleader where you'll will fight over the earnest money while racking up hourly attorney fees.  The 'good' news here is if you have a strong case and seller is just being stubborn, you may be able to get them to pay your attorney fees (no guarantees).It seems the nexus of the issue is the reason you used the financing contingency, and likely the letter your lender wrote providing a disapproval of the loan.  In our experience with failed loans, which is limited because we tend to be very proactive in working with buyers and their lenders to avoid such issues - when a buyer fails we work with the lender to clearly explain the nature of the failure, as well as how hard we worked to avoid the failure and the alternatives we've already looked at to try to keep things together (aka... "no stone left unturned").Keep in mind, if the failure of the loan was due to your actions such as not providing accurate data, timely documentation or willfully changing your financial circumstances after loan application or mutual acceptance, you'll want to proceed with caution and thoughtful strategy. In the end, if the failure was due to circumstances beyond your control and you can demonstrate you made the best efforts possible to finance the transaction, then provide a documented explanation of your efforts to the seller along with a notation of the 'attorneys fees' provision of the contract so they understand if they make you incur such fees to recover your earnest money then you'll ask to be reimbursed.Of course, if you haven't already received this advice from your broker... then I would either (a) ask to sit down with their designated broker to work through the issue or (b) talk to an attorney to get specific advice on your circumstances... since they aren't doing a professional job. 

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Lowering my property value

Answer

Thanks for the question Steve. As a Realtor and contributor here, I don't have any control over the algorithm Zillow uses to calculate and update values.  Chances are there were a few recent sales in your area at lower prices which pulled down your value for the short term.The biggest weakness of Zillow is the lack of ability to gauge the real condition of a home.  They can only go off of public data from the county, sales records, etc.  So often they are comparing apples to oranges when it comes to overall condition.Take a look at their self reported accuracy numbers, and you'll see that a Zestimate gets you in the ball park, but it's still a big ball park.  In Seattle, only 39% of their Zestimates are withing 5% + or - of the actual sales price.Bottomline, don't sweat it.  It's going to go up and going to go down at the whim of a bank of Zillow servers and the data feeding into it.  When it comes time to sell or refinance, get a professionals help as we have the real world experiences to not only compare apples to apples, but to compare a Granny Smith to Granny Smith, and a Honeycrisp to  a Honeycrisp.   For instance, right now looking at your home, the details you've given and the recent market $280k is pretty low - but that's hard to say until I actually look at the property in person and compare it to recent sales.Lastly, you may want to remove your email from the the post to avoid spam issues.

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zillow Estimate Never seems to change

Answer

Great question.  Homes with views or other unique features (positive or negative) are the biggest challenge for automated value modeling tools and systems like Zillow.  Presently there are no reliable ways for Zillow or any other tools out there to account for views, style, updates and many other criteria which may or may not be reporting in county records or MLS data.For understandable reasons, as MLS listings expand picture capacity brokers tend to rely less and less on completing the 'subjective' check boxes for views, and other criteria.One thing you may consider doing is modifying your home's Zillow profile, and checking as many boxes as are applicable with regard to the views or other special features of your home.  These changes are factored into the overall calculation of the Zestimate.Lastly, keep in mind, Zestimates have very little practical impact on your home or it's value.  It's a baseline for the market, but due to it's weaknesses cannot be relied upon for accurate pricing of a home.  When it is sometimes the losses can be huge... we ran into a client earlier this year who bought a condo private party and paid the Zestimate which was $50k-60k over the actual market value (which as very substantial given that they paid $250k).  Unfortunately, there just weren't enough similar condos in the area, so the Zestimate was influenced by larger townhomes and dissimilar homes.  For more on their statisical accurracy please review this page on Zillow.  Presently in the Seattle area, there's a Median error rate of 6.6% and only 39.7% are withing +/- 5% of the actual sales price.Bottomline, don't sweat it too much... and get a professional's advice when it comes time to buy, sell, refinance or do major improvements.

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How do I check the value of my home.

Answer

Thanks for your question.  The best and most cost effective  way to get a  a solid idea on value is to consult with an experienced Realtor in the area.  Depending on how precise you need, they can either do a basic online analysis based on their experience and a brief conversation.For a more precise estimate, they'll want to meet you at the home for a tour and a discussion on your needs.Like us, most Realtors provide this valuation as an introduction and a complimentary service in the hopes you'll work with them when the time is right to sell your property or purchase another.While tax records, Zestimates and other online tools will get you in the ballpark, please keep in mind they are based on general, unverified information and formulas.  They are often off by as much as 10% (+ or -) because they don't account for condition of the home, neighborhood and recent trends.

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Housing estimates greatly increasing around 167th & Ashworth in Shoreline.

Answer

Thanks for your question. This increase in values is a reflection of a trend in the overall market.  Inventory of available homes is at historically low levels, while demand from buyers is quite strong.Zillow's algorithms put a strong weight on recent sales and when you look at recent sales.  I ran a quick report on the neighborhood, and recent sales have been significantly higher than those of the past six months.    Average Home Price in Past Six Months: $357,945     Average Home Price in Past Two Months: $393,411 Looking at Pending sales, it looks like this upward trend is likely to continue but perhaps not quite as quickly.If you'd like more detail, please send us a message, and we'll be happy to provide more specific details.

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Should Refinance out of my FHA to a higher interest rate conventional?

Answer

All the advice before is great... one points I haven't seen raised yet.Assumability of the FHA Mortgage - should you choose to sell in the future, your buyer may be able to assume your mortgage at it's present interest rate (which is a wonderful rate).  If the market is more a buyer's market at that time, this could significantly set your home apart from others and make it easier to sell due to the lower holding costs for the new owner.While we all hope raise don't get back to 6-7%, they may in next 5 years and when they do having the first $200-250k of debt at 3.75% will look very attractive.

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Supply of Housing (Condo) in Edmonds.

Answer

Hello Kandy.  As others have mentioned, you're really asking two different questions.  The choice of where to buy will be more complex, as a good price for a home can be a bad deal if it's not really what you need or want.The inventory for condos in Edmonds is nearly as low as it is for houses.  Here's a link to a graph of the recent inventory of condos in Edmonds.However, it should be noted there are several very important considerations you should evaluate prior to purchasing a condo.  Many HOA's have been significantly compromised in the downturn and are unfunded which puts them at risk for special assessments, and inability for owners/buyers to obtain affordable financing.  Again, an inexpensive condo can become very expensive if the HOA has an issue or a large special assessment.As for affordable areas, as mentioned it depends on the definition of affordable as well as what you need and want from a home and neighborhood.  Your best bet is to connect with a professional broker and have a cup of coffee to discuss your questions, and get some broader advice.  Most pros will meet with you without obligation, and help you determine a direction for your search and goals.

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is there a way to find absorption rates on a particular area/zip code from your site.

Answer

Hello, Jeanette. Thank you for your question. I am unaware of a specific feature in Zillow which allows you to look at absorption rates for a particular ZIP Code in an on-demand fashion.However, if you have a specific area or ZIP Codes in mind, we have a statistic solution which will provide what you are looking for within most of the Puget Sound region. Feel free to give me a call or send me an email and I will be happy to provide a report for the area you are looking for.

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Realtor Mistake?

Answer

Just because you have more in the bank doesn't mean that you are willing to spend it.  The POF most likely strengthened your offer as the seller can be confident you truly have the funds available.   If the counter offer is above what you are willing to pay, then move on to the next property.I understand your frustration because it can feel like your broker has given them too much information, but as long as your broker is a good negotiator, this additional information doesn't change what you are willing to pay for the property.   This happens regularly with pre-approval letters on loans.  A buyer can be approved significantly higher than what they want/are willing to spend and all the letter does is show the seller that they are well qualified.Good luck to you!

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Are there realtors in the Seattle area that will do a complementary CMA?

Answer

Most all broker will provide a complimentary comparative market analysis and pricing recommendation.HOWEVER... you'll want to be careful about who's opinion you choose to rely on.  Even though there's very little inventory on the market, the right pricing strategy is still very important and can save you thousands.  Some brokers will just tell you what you want to hear, while others who are experienced and ethical will tell you truth even though it's difficult.  The truth will save you money, time and frustration.We're seeing more and more sellers overprice their properties thinking buyers will pay any price since there are few options.  However, buyers are smarter today due to better buyer's brokers and more available information on recent comparable sales - so they are aren't biting on overpriced properties like they used to.  The unfortunate reality for these overpriced sellers is that after only 14-21 days in today's market, buyers begin to ask 'what's wrong' with a property and this attitude leads to lower offer prices.A great broker will help you design a pricing and marketing strategy for your property which will optimize both purchase price and terms, while minimizing risk of give backs at inspection and/or appraisal stages - however you'll likely need to hire them to get it done - since they have to make money to put food on the table.Hope this helps.  Feel free to post follow up questions if you have them.

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