Monday, December 27, 2010

The rearview mirror

I always enjoy this time of year, it gives me a chance to reflect on the past year. By looking at the statistics and trends, researching the national and local markets and assessing my own success, I am able to summarize the year and then neatly file it away. This process also allows me to understand what may happen during the coming year, determine areas of change, set goals, and then welcome in the New Year with a smile!

So here is my brief, but researched, recap of 2010.

After a rough couple of years (2007-2010), it appears that the local and national economy is in the process of recovering.

The Stock Market climbed its way up over 2010-October 2009 the Dow Jones closed around 9,700 versus 11,200 in Oct 2010.

Unemployment is down nationally from 9.5 to 9.0 in Metropolitan Statistical Areas according to the Bureau of Labor. In the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue MSA the October 2009 unemployment rate was 9.0 compared to Oct 2010 at 8.8, down -0.2.

The national economy and real estate market is finally showing signs of recovery. The initial jobless claims continued to edge down in December 2010, falling 3,000 to 420,000. New claims still need to fall to the 400,000 level before the economy can sustainably create jobs. The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Dec. 11 were in Kentucky, California, Iowa, and Massachusetts, while the largest decreases were in New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Washington state, where the construction and manufacturing industries showed improvement.

A separate report on income and spending showed income growth of 0.3 percent in November after a 0.4 increase in October. The wages and salaries components were quite slow though, edging up only 0.1 percent. Consumer spending continued to rise due to the holiday season shopping (my husband and I contributed our share) and indicates that consumers are relatively more confident about the economy. Personal consumption expenditures increased 0.4 percent, following a 0.7 percent jump in October, suggesting healthy growth for the last quarter of 2010.

Finally, consumer sentiment and new housing sales reports, both released December 23, 2010, show improvement in the economy overall. New home sales increased 5.5 percent to a 290,000 unit annual rate. Regional data are still mixed, with the South showing the biggest increase of 5.8 percent. Prices were also up a solid 8 percent, while the supply fell to 8.2 months from 8.8 months but still above September's 7.9 months. Consumer sentiment increased slightly from October and is still at the best levels since the second quarter.

Locally, the real estate market appears to have stabilized. After seeing a decline in values the last half of 2008 and all of 2009, real estate values have stabilized 'in-city' and 'close-in' Seattle during 2010. This year the median sales price increased by 1.1 percent from a year ago to $637,000. And while 'first-time homes' and 'entry level/lower priced homes' recovered first, I am now seeing an increase in homes sales for properties priced $800,000 and above.  Just checking in on my neighborhood (Montlake, Arboretum, Roanoke Park, and Portage Bay) 10 homes over $800,000 sold in 2010 versus 5 in 2009. But while transaction levels have increased slightly, as have values, the length of time it takes to sell a home (Days on Market) has increased 46  to 61 days in 2010.

For the Seller, this market can be challenging but transactions are being executed for those who remain flexible and are listening to the market. For the Buyer, financing is at some of the lowest rates in history, and great opportunities exist with homes price corrected back to 2005, and before in some cases.

In looking back, it appears we may be somewhere near the bottom of the market. How long we stay here is unknown. My prediction is that we will be bouncing along the bottom for a few more years.

I hope this information has helped. If you would like more data or want/need a better understanding of your home's value, just let me know. As always, I am happy to help.

From my home to yours, I wish you a healthy, happy and secure 2011!

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hey Santa, lend me your ear

I am just recovering from hosting my annual Breakfast with Santa. This annual event is a big thank you to my clients and dear friends for being so wonderful and to let them know how much I appreciate them.

It's always fun. I rent a community building in my neighborhood which is perfect for the event. My husband flips the cakes and my parents manage the tables (I recognize how very luck I am to have such wonderful family!). Santa arrives and the kids are filled with sheer delight.
The Delucchi girls with Santa last year!
It is such a warm and wonderful way to say thank you and I probably have more fun than anyone. With lots of food and good cheer and the big man in the house it is impossible not to!

Watching the kids whisper in Santa's ear makes my holiday season. Here are photos of Chris and Mischelle's son, Jackson chatting it up with Santa this year!
Ahhhhh, precious!
As life quiets down, I find time to think about what I would ask Santa for this Christmas. It would go something like this.  

Dear Santa, please end our wars and bring our soldiers home, guide people to accept one another as they are, ease the burden of those in need, bring joy and comfort to all the children, hold the hands of moms and dads and let them know all will be well, heal wounds and let love prevail. 

A tall list I know, but Santa is Santa after all!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

our most basic needs

I was first introduced to Abraham Maslow's theory of the Hierarchy of Needs in High School and later studied his 1942 paper titled "A Theory of Human Motivation" at University. I was drawn to his thinking like a moth to light. This was not the norm for me...I slept through Econ I, II and beyond, needed a tutor for all math, and considered science to be the entire contents of my dorm room fridge.

But this pyramid and the underlying theory fascinated me, and still does. As you probably already know, the lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs, while the more complex needs are located at the top of the pyramid. Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep, and warmth (my personal favorites). The second level is the need for safety and security. This includes our need for feeling free from threat, free from pain, free from terror, and our need for steady employment, a safe neighborhood and shelter from the environment.  As each level is met the individual continues up the pyramid.

One very important reason why I love what I do is because I help people with a most basic human need. 

So when a client called me a few weeks ago to let me know they had a squatter in their now vacant/ now listed home, my heart went through the floor. The sadness and fear I heard in my clients voice was the motivation for me to work with diligence and determination to secure their very sweet and lovely home...a home they had put hours of work, as well as heart into. Their memories were precious and this @7%"*x$# guy was not going to get the best of them. 

Located five hours away, my clients couldn't be here. They had to rely on a friend/care taker, myself and their neighbors to first try to catch this trespasser and then secure the house to prevent future damage. The squatter took their washer, dryer, refrigerator, and dishwasher, along with light fixtures, leaving behind a trail of take-out boxes and other debris. The police said he (male clothing was left at the house and the neighbors witnessed a young male coming and going) would most likely keep coming back to strip the copper wiring from the walls and tear out the hard woods floors. He had seen homes stripped down to the studs.  

My clients reacted with speed. They set-up a neighborhood watch, telephone tree and email tree for notifying each other of any unauthorized activity, installed a web cam from a neighbor's home, installed a motion detection light, changed the locks and installed a security system.  

The City of Seattle Police have done what they can but a call on a vacant home is queued the same as a call for a parking infraction. Their advice was solid however and my clients heeded it. 

As I was staking out their home one night last week, craving a donut and cup of coffee, I thought back to Maslow's pyramid and was reminded during this holiday season that Ipods, Wii games, or a new pillow for my sofa are really unimportant if our most basic needs are not met. 

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur

In all my postings, my goal is to provide inspiration and insight into home ownership, real estate, and to provide valueable resources.

Home Security Companies

Neighborhood Programs


Monday, December 6, 2010

Dressed for the holidays

Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a wreath. There is something so wonderful about seeing a cheery wreath embellished and adorned with personality that makes me giddy with delight during the holidays! A true traditionalist, my two favorites are the classic evergreen with a simple yet lavish bow and trailing ribbon, or the most lovely boxwood simply tied with a gorgeous ribbon.

I am not keen on anything too over the top and I don't really like the over done faux wreaths with busy ribbon, big bows, and silk flowers. I think a wreath, by design, is so classic that it begs for simplicity. It is also the perfect form to be personalized.

While I tend to stay with the classic shapes year after year, my ribbons and embellishments change with my mood. It all depends on how I am feeling that season - some years it's all about the glitz, other years my mood is classic and holiday red with holly is perfect, and then there are years I yearn for a simpler, more natural look and I gravitate towards raffia, burlap, browns and whites.

I find it is fun and easy to take something off the shelf and dress it up to match my style. All it takes is a little creativity and a lot of glue sticks! Here are some ideas on how you can embellish a bare bones wreath found just about anywhere!

Embellished Stock Wreaths
Gold ball picks from Michael's and a wide satin ribbon in gold dress up this basic wreath.

Red holly berry sprigs and a wide satin ribbon in red are added to this classic Douglas fir wreath and topped with a dusting of faux snow.

This stock juniper berry wreath is dressed up with a peacock blue satin ribbon - simple and elegant.
One of my favorite 'go-to looks' is the boxwood wreath. This one gets some personality from the monogram letter in shimmering gold.

A colorful satin ribbon (left over from a present from last year) weaves through this inexpensive wreath. Add a large snowflake - viola!

Adding handwritten tags with holiday greetings and your family name is the perfect way to personalize this 'off the shelf' basic wreath.

Small branches spray painted white and snow berry picks have been added to this mixed green wreath. A black and white check ribbon plays off the black door. This theme is carried indoors.

Simple! Simply wrap this boxwood wreath with red ribbon and add a small, tight bow. This would make even that red plastic ribbon look good!

It took me a while to understand that not all wreaths have to be round (a MENSA card holder I am not). In fact ovals, squares, and other unique shapes make for a perfectly lovely wreath!

Red berry holly in a large oval is dressed with a very elegant moire ribbon.

Evergreen myrtle makes a beautiful square, as does boxwood and bay leaves.

These monogram wreaths can be found at Ballard Designs and are super fun for a newly married couple or baby!
The window makes a perfect frame for this star shaped wreath.

And of course, there is the swag - a wonderful alternative to the classic wreath.

Wreaths are not made with evergreen boughs only. They can me made out of just about any material. Fruit (dried or fresh), vegetables, spices, boxed presents, paper, and old ornaments make fun and festive wreaths that showcase your personality. These might take a little more time then simply adding a ribbon, but with a little creativity and a lot of hot glue you can create your own unique wreath for your front door!

Fruits and Vegetables
Thinly sliced and oven dried orange slices are glued to a form and embellished with fir,  few small ornaments. and ribbon.

I am not sure I even know what all these vegetables are, but I have to say, it's the artichokes. My mother would dry artichokes every year around this time and display them in a bowl....always ahead of her time my mom.

Faux (a much nicer word than fake) citrus are hot glued over a layer of fir sprigs on a wooden board.
Sweets and Treats
Seriously, how fun is this!
Large and mini marshmallows are glued to a form and tied with a silver ribbon - yum!

Grapevine, Cones, Spices and More

Grapevine wreath from Michael's is embellished with berries, leaves, birds and a pretty gold ribbon.
Pine cones are hot glued to a form, lightly sprayed with white paint, and then embellished with snips of sapphire blue ribbon, also lightly sprayed. The stunning reindeer commands attention and is the perfect addition. 

Cinnamon sticks hot glued to a flat board form is hung by a country ribbon.

Ornaments and other sentimental objects

A wonderful way to showcase your treasured vintage ornaments

Gather together toys, ribbon, or any special collection and combine them to make a purely personal wreath no one else will have
Pages from an old book are glued to a round wire and topped off with a sweet sentiment in the middle.

Small, medium and slightly larger boxes can be wrapped, hot glued to a base and tied with coordinating ribbon. Martha Stewart design
Colorful felt cut in circles are looped through a hanger and tied with a red felt bow.
Peacock feathers are tucked and glued into a foam base.

While wreaths make the perfect adornment for the front door, I love them used inside the home for classic holiday decorations. 

The black and white theme from one of our front door wreaths is carried in to this country kitchen

Preserved classic boxwood wreaths make decorating a breeze year after year.

You will hear Santa, and any eager ones before you see them with this silver bell wreath from Martha Stewart hanging on your door knob

A favorite way to dress up a table - tie small wreaths to the backs of dining chairs

My dear friend and neighbor makes her own cranberry wreath most years and it is lovely! Anne, Martha has nothing on you!
A small wreath dangling off a buffet cupboard keeps it simple, yet festive!

And of course, wreaths are not meant for the front door or the indoors alone. I find them charming just about anywhere!

Cheers up barn doors....
a property gate....

and even your car!
Don't forget gates and windows. 

So, whether you spend hours crafting a truly unique wreath or simply add a bow to an off the shelf evergreen, I hope your wreath makes you smile coming and going this holiday season.

In all my postings, my goal is to provide inspiration and insight into home ownership, real estate, and to provide valuable resources. 

Mail Order Wreaths

Craft Stores (forms, glue gun and glue sticks, flower and berry picks)

How to attach a wreath to your car:
Buy plastic ties at the Dollar Store. These are thin plastic strips that you fit one end into the other for a tight fit.  Attach the wreath on the grill using these ties - the wreath will not fall off. Simply cut the plastic ties after the holidays to remove the wreath.

Ribbon Sources

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur