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Joe Klarman


Displaying blog entries 11-20 of 24

First Time Home Buyers

by Joe Klarman

Buying a home can be so nerve-wracking that a first timer might be tempted to give up and go back to renting. The learning curve is indeed very steep, but you can resolve most of the issues before they occur with a little preparation. Here are some tips to make your life easier as you go through the process of buying your first home:

  • Pay down Your Debt

    Get your old debt paid down before applying for a mortgage. This means any credit card or student loan debt. If you neglect this, you may not get your loan or you may get less than optimal terms. In many cases, the bulk of a first time homebuyer's debt is in the form of student loans. Be careful about making your payments on time or you may find yourself with a poor credit score and be unable to qualify for a home loan.

  • Build up Your Savings

    Do what you have to in order to save money. Consider steps such as moving back in with your parents or not taking vacations. As a first time homebuyer, you will need to embrace frugality in order to own a home.

  • Establish a Budget and Stick to It

    The first step is to determine the kind of home that you can really afford. The general rule is to opt for a home that costs about two and a half times your annual wages. Next, you will want to factor in all of your expenses. Keep your monthly bills in mind. For example, you will want to know how much you will be spending on utilities in your new home. Note that there will be maintenance expenses as it is only a matter of time before you will need to cover a costly repair or replacement. Once you think you have a budget, use it to practice. Before you get your mortgage, deposit payments into a savings account and leave the money there. This will give you an idea of whether you can really afford your mortgage or not.

  • Consider the Length of Your Home Loan

    Why is the length of your mortgage term important? Consider the fact that a 15-year mortgage will take half the time to pay off when compared to a 30-year mortgage loan. Also, remember that the monthly payments will be significantly more. They will not be double the amount of the 30-year ones since you will be paying less interest over a shorter period, but they will still be a lot higher.

  • Gather your Paperwork

    Lenders will likely want your wage and tax statements (your W2s) for the last two years. They will want yours and those of your spouse as well. Also, they will want to see federal tax returns for the last two years as well as two or three months worth of bank statements. If you own stocks, bonds or mutual funds, they will want to see asset statements. You will  need to provide a copy of your current driver's license along with everything else. Note that some lenders will request a credit report fee.

  • Think About Where You Want to Live

    Avoid casting too wide a net when considering places to live. Having too many options may make the decision difficult. Focus on a specific area. You should drive through your prospective neighborhood to get a feel for it before deciding on a property.

Final Walk Through Tips

by Joe Klarman

One of the most important steps in the home buying process is the final walkthrough. Many homebuyers don't pay enough attention to the final walkthrough because they are too excited about finally closing on a house especially if it's taken a while to find the right house for them. However, this is your chance to make sure that everything about the house is as it's supposed to be as it was agreed upon with the seller. You don't want to sign your name on the dotted line only to find that there are serious issues that have developed since the home inspection was done that are going to cost you an arm and a leg to fix. The following are some tips to help you do your final walkthrough:

When to Schedule the Final Walkthrough

Typically, you'll want to schedule your final walkthrough a day before the closing. This way, you reduce the odds of anything happening to the property between when the walkthrough occurs and when the closing occurs. However, it's often suggested that you do two walkthroughs. One should be done a week prior to the closing. This gives you time to find any problems and speak to the seller about them. The seller will then have some time to fix the problems, thereby not delaying the scheduled closing date. You'll then do the final walkthrough the day before the closing to see if those issues were fixed.

The Agreement

First of all, you should look for everything that you and the seller spoke about and agreed upon. You'll need to bring your contract, home inspection report and the disclosure form of the seller's property condition in order to make sure everything checks out as it is officially written. You'll also want to keep any verbal agreements in mind when doing the walkthrough. For example, if the seller told you that they would leave certain window treatments or light fixtures, such as a chandelier, then you'll want to make sure these items are present. Also be sure to note items that you don't want. Some sellers will leave things they don't want and hope that you'll just deal with them, or they'll simply forge them, whether it's a bookcase or cans of paint. It's the seller's responsibility to remove these things, so take note of them.

What to Look For

The following are some of the things that you should look for when going through the house and around the property:


  • Turn on all the lights in every room to make sure they work.
  • Check all of the appliances to ensure that they are functioning properly.
  • Turn on the heat and air conditioning to make sure they work.
  • Inspect the doors and windows to ensure they operate properly and aren't damaged.
  • Turn on all the faucets and make sure that there are no water leaks.
  • Flush all the toilets to ensure they operate properly.
  • Visually inspect the walls, floors and ceilings for potential damage or issues.
  • Turn on all the exhaust fans to make sure they are in working condition.
  • Check to see if the agreed upon repairs have been made.
  • Test the garage doors.
  • Do a visual inspection of the home's exterior. Make sure the siding is in good condition and that the roof isn't missing shingles especially if it's stormed recently.

If you do find any problems in the house, whether they are repairs that haven't been made or new issues that have popped up, have your agent speak with the seller's agent about a solution before the scheduled closing date.


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5 Green Upgrades for Your Home

by Joe Klarman

You can save money on energy with these five green upgrades for your home. The upgrades increase the value of your home and make it more marketable when you are ready to sell it.

Start by taking an inventory of your home to see how and where you can save energy. Evaluate the cost of new appliances, repairs and replacements that may be necessary. You may be able to make minor seasonal repairs yourself.

1. Doors and windows

Replace old doors and windows that allow air to leak in or out of your home. Wood window frames are now considered better than aluminum frames. Windows should fit tight with a good seal.

Windows can be opened in nice weather to allow air to circulate but you do not want cold air in the house when you are trying to heat it. Storm windows may be necessary on the side of your house that gets strong wind gusts, rain and snow.

Doors that are old and do not hang properly can allow cold air, rain and dirt to seep into the house. This makes your heating and air circulation system work harder. Doors need to be replaced and/or sealed with weather stripping if you live in an area that gets rain, wind and snow.

2. Seal cracks and leaks

Use caulk to seal all cracks in the base of your house where it meets the ground. This happens occasionally. Seal cracks in basements or garages. You may find cracks around doors and windows that can be easily sealed with commercial sealant found at home improvement stores.

Check your cooling and heating system ducts. Tape any leaks or replace the ductwork if necessary. You can be loosing hot or cooled air through leaking ducts. Consider replacing your HVAC system if it is old and not working well.

Do not seal off vents to rooms you don't want to heat or cool. That only makes the HVAC system work harder. A ceiling fan may circulate warm or cool air at a lower cost than your HVAC blower.

Install a programmable thermostat to control temperature in your home 24/7.

3. Update appliances

Energy Star appliances are the most efficient in saving energy and utility costs. This government program rates water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers and lighting fixtures based on their cost per electrical unit.

Modern on-demand electric hot water heaters may cost more but they on do not have a tank that must be kept at a constant temperature to supply hot water. New conventional gas and electric hot water heaters are now more energy-efficient.

4. Update lighting

LED (light emitting diode) lighting saves energy. LED fixtures can save up to 85 percent on lighting cost. LEDs can be used indoors and out. Change to LED lighting and energy-saving spiral bulbs gradually as you replace bulbs and fixtures. A 5-watt LED light can replace a 40-watt bulb. LEDs lights can last up to 25,000 hours in contrast to the average incandescent bulb with a 1,200-hour lifespan.

Pendant lights, task and area lighting are more economical than overhead lights in the average room. The light is focused where it's needed.

5. Insulate

Attic areas under roofs can be insulated with the material that holds in warmed or cooled air. This keeps air from leaking out through the roof. Insulating material can also be used in walls and basements.

Other energy-saving upgrades can include solar panels, energy recovery ventilator and geothermal systems where they are available. These upgrades are more costly but they save money over time and increase the value of any home.

Truths and Myths of Credit Scores

by Joe Klarman

Are you thinking about buying a home sometime soon? If you are, then odds are you’ll need to apply for a mortgage. Very few people are able to afford to pay for the full cost of a home out of their pockets. However, if you plan on applying for a mortgage, one thing that you’ll need to keep an eye on is your credit score. Your credit score can determine whether or not you qualify for good terms – or if you qualify for a mortgage at all. Unfortunately, there are a lot of credit score myths floating around that can be quite confusing. The following are a few credit score truths and myths to be aware of:

Credit score truths

The following are a few things you should know about credit scores that can help you maintain or improve yours:

  • Credit reports aren’t always accurate – Don’t assume that your credit report is 100 percent accurate. When you get your credit report, always go through it to make sure there aren’t any mistakes. You can report these mistakes to have them taken off your report, thereby helping improve your credit history and score.
  • Paying for everything in cash can help your credit rating – This is true to an extent. If you are working on paying down your credit card debt, then you should try to use cash for whatever you’re buying so that you don’t raise the balance of your credit cards. However, having credit cards with a zero balance over a long period can hurt as well.
  • You can pay for someone to fix your credit – This is also true to an extent. There are credit repair companies that will carefully go through your credit report in order to find any mistakes, then report them over and over gain to get them fixed. However, they aren’t going to make any blemishes simply disappear.
  • The amount of money in your bank affects your credit – While your score isn’t affected by how rich or poor you are, the amount of money you in your account have can affect your score. If you use your debit card or checks and overdraft because you don’t have enough money, that will damage your credit.
  • Having too many credit cards can hurt your score – Every time you apply for a new credit card, your credit score is hurt. Lenders looking at your credit report are going to be suspicious if you have a lot of credit cards as well.

Credit score myths

The following are a few credit score myths to avoid:

  • Paying off your credit cards will make your credit report spotless – Paying off your balance will help improve your score, but remember that your credit report is an overall credit history, not a snapshot of your present financial situation.
  • Canceling your credit cards will improve your credit score – Because you are lowering the total amount of credit you have, canceling credit cards can actually hurt your score.
  • Paying your bills on time means you don’t have to bother with your credit report – You still need to check your credit report for mistakes and know what your score is.
  • Checking your credit report will hurt your credit – You can check your credit as many times as you want without hurting your score.
  • Your three credit reports will be the same – They will usually be different from each other, but not by much.

These are some of the credit score truths and myths that you should know as you strive to improve your credit.

Top DIY Mistakes made by homeowners

by Joe Klarman

Many homeowners want to fix up their homes before putting them on the market for sale. They become involved in do-it-yourself projects and find they don't have the time or the skills required to complete the job.

There are several projects that homeowners can do by themselves but building extra rooms and installing flooring and appliances should be left to professionals. Electrical wiring and plumbing are other jobs that should be completed by licensed professionals.

A few of the mistakes DIY homeowners make include:

  • Not obtaining necessary permits for remodels and additions
  • Not budgeting correctly
  • Ignoring building codes
  • Not properly preparing walls and other areas for painting
  • Using the wrong tools or skimping on tools and materials
  • Installing flooring incorrectly
  • Planning beyond skill level

DIY home improvements may be more costly than you thought. It's important to shop and budget correctly before starting a project. You may find a professional service will work for the same price.

Painting and wallpaper

It's easy to paint interior rooms if you have the right type of paint, rollers, brushers, pans, drop cloths and masking tape. If you enjoy painting, this is a good project. Don't forget to paint closets and other recessed areas as well. Painting ceilings requires patience and the right equipment

People often become frustrated with the preparation and detailing. Furniture should be moved out of the room. Moldings should be removed at the floor and ceiling or covered with masking tape. Carpeting should be moved back from the walls and covered with a drop cloth.

Having enough paint for the project is also important. An inferior paint job with runs and drips will not help sell a house.

Walls must be cleaned and prepared for painting. A primer coat may be needed if you are painting a light color over a dark color. It is never a good idea to paint over wallpaper. The wallpaper should be removed first.

You can hang wallpaper on prepared walls with the old paper removed. Placing new paper over old paper is a common mistake of many DIY homeowners.

Flooring and counters

Installing new carpet over old carpet is another major mistake. There are dirt and air pockets between the two layers and the new carpet will not stay tight. Old carpeting and padding should be removed and the surface cleaned before the new floor covering is installed. Professional installers have the power stretchers necessary to fit new carpeting.

Square carpet or laminate tiles can be installed by homeowners who want to take the time to lay them out correctly and work with the messy glues. You can also install stone and porcelain tiles if you know how to use the grout and caulking materials. Many DIY installations leave ugly globs of caulk and grout. The tiles may not be installed evenly.

Carpet and tile not correctly installed can cause hazards and lower the value of your home. Professional installation is required for a finished look.

Plumbing and wiring

Good plumbing installation is very important. You may be able to replace a sink using the existing connections, but new lines should be installed by plumbers with the right tools. This is necessary to comply with codes when adding or remodeling a bathroom or kitchen.

Electrical mistakes can be dangerous. A new room or an older home should be wired with switch plates and outlets installed by an electrician. Your home has to pass inspection and meet wiring codes. A faulty DIY wiring job will be discovered with a home inspection.

Home improvements that look well planned and finished will help sell your home.

What's Involved in a Closing

by Joe Klarman

So after months of searching, you’ve finally found your dream home! Congratulations! However, it’s not over just yet – don’t expect to be able to just write a check and call it a day. There are still a lot of things to do before you can close on your dream home. The following are the steps that are involved with closing on a new house:

  • The offer – The first step is obviously to make an offer to the seller. Once you’ve decided on a house, it’s best if you move as quickly as possible. You don’t want another buyer to beat you to the punch. There’s no guarantee that the seller will accept your offer, but it’s usually a good rule of thumb to offer around 8 to 10 percent below what the seller is asking for. This will provide you with a little bit of negotiation room. Just don’t go over what you budgeted for, no matter how much you love the house!
  • The deposit – When you make an offer, you should provide a deposit of around 1 percent of the purchase price. The seller’s lawyer or real estate agent will hold that money until it is closed. If your offer isn’t accepted, the deposit will be returned. If it is, the deposit will go towards your down payment.
  • Meet the contingencies – The contract will typically have a number of contingencies that you will have to meet before you can close. These often include obtaining an acceptable house inspection as well as securing your financing. You’ll usually have 10 to 14 days from the time you accept the contract to get an inspection and 30 days to secure financing.
  • Get a home inspection – You’ll want a professional inspector to take a look at the mechanical and structural condition of the house. You don’t want to buy a house that might have a bunch of expensive issues, after all.
  • Signing the contract – The contract is a legally binding obligation to purchase the property as long as the contingencies are met. It contains the final selling price, the date of closing, the property's description, the possession date and any other contingencies that are applicable.
  • The settlement sheet – This document is required by the Department of Housing and Urban development and includes all the financial information concerning the purchase of the house. A copy of the settlement sheet must be given to both the buyer and the seller.
  • The closing documents – Once the contract and settlement sheet have been drawn up and signed, you’ll still need to complete some paperwork. This includes a title search, the title insurance and an application for your homeowner’s insurance, which is required for obtaining your mortgage.
  • Closing costs – Don’t forget that you’ll have to pay a number of closing costs, which include the appraisal fee, a loan origination fee, a inspection fee, a credit report fee, your mortgage broker's fee, the cost of your title insurance, taxes and the document preparation fee.​
  • The settlement – The settlement is the final step of the closing process. It describes how much you owe on the property after the down payment as well as the transfer of the title on the date agreed upon.

These are the steps that you’ll have to take in order to close on your dream home. Remember, you’ll also have to make some practical arrangements, such as setting up your utility service and making your first mortgage payment. Once all of this is done, you’ll finally be able to move into your new home!


Things Not to do When Buying a House

by Joe Klarman

Deciding to buy a house is a huge decision to make. Homeownership comes with a lot of responsibilities that you have to make sure that you are prepared for. The process of becoming a homeowner can be a long and sometimes difficult one as well, which means you’ll want to prepare yourself mentally for that possibility. There are a lot of steps to take when you first decide to buy a home. However, there are also a lot of mistakes that you can make during this period as well. The following are a few things that you should avoid doing when buying a house:

  • Over using your credit – Your credit score is very important in obtaining a mortgage with good terms. Bad credit can lead to lenders hiking up the interest rate or disqualifying you altogether – so stop using those credit cards and begin paying down your debt! Don’t even put small items on your credit cards if it’s possible not to as this can affect your debt-to-income ratio. If anything, you should begin paying down your credit card debt in order to help improve your score.
  • Pay your bills late – Late payments can really hurt your credit score. Paying one bill 30 or more days late can hurt your score by as much as 110 points! This may not be too big of a deal if you still have a score hovering around 800 – but if the late payment was on rent or a mortgage, the lender is going to think twice about qualifying you. If you can’t pay your rent on time, how do they know you’ll pay your new mortgage on time? And if you were late on a previous mortgage – well, that’s a huge red flag.
  • Moving money around – In addition to looking at your credit, lenders will also take a look at your bank statements. They want to make sure that you’ll be able to pay for a deposit. Some people will borrow money from family for the deposit and put it in their bank account. While this is perfectly fine, you should do this months in advance. Lenders will frown upon any major deposits or withdrawals – especially if you don’t have a paper trail to account for them.
  • Co-signing on a loan – Financial experts never recommend co-signing on a loan, no matter what the situation is. If you co-sign on a loan for a friend or family member, it could end up straining your relationship with them if things don’t work out. If the person you are co-signing for stops making payments on the loan, then you are responsible for that debt. Not only can that leave you in a poor financial situation, it could destroy your credit. Lenders will also consider that as another monthly obligation – even if the person you co-signed for is incredibly responsible and pays all of his or her payments on time. It’s going to hurt your debt-to-income ratio and assets no matter what.
  • Employment changes – When lenders look at your background, they want to see financial stability. If you’ve just lost your job or even if you are just starting your own business, they are more likely to disqualify you. In fact, if you get a promotion but a portion of your income gets shifted to a commission basis, it could hurt you!

These are a few things that you should avoid doing before buying a house. Be sure to obtain a credit report so that you know what your credit score and history are as well.


Displaying blog entries 11-20 of 24




Contact Information

Russell Jones Real Estate
536 Broadway East
Seattle WA 98102
Office: (206)323-0800
Direct: (206)683-5639
Fax: (206)323-9275