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


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Every heart comes home for the holidays

Or do they?

Knowing I love all things French, a client and dear friend sent me this article (reproduced courtesy of the Telegraph Media Group).

Parisian flat containing a €2.1 million painting remained untouched for 70 years
Mrs. de Florian never returned to her Paris flat after the war and died at the age of 91
Behind the door, under a thick layer of dust lay a treasure trove of turn-of-the-century objects including a painting by the 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.

The woman who owned the flat had left for the South of France before the Second World War and never returned.

But when she died recently, experts were tasked with drawing up an inventory of her possessions in a flat in Paris....for the full article please click on - Parisian flat untouched for 70 years

I couldn't believe what I was reading. Of course the first question that came to mind was how could an apartment go untouched for 70 years without something going wrong with it? Was there never a plumbing leak? A  broken window? Birds nesting in the chimney? Pesky critters? I can't imagine 70 years of deferred maintenance on my own would truly be uninhabitable!

But then my mind wondered to the apartment and what an amazing sight it must have been. The mystery behind the occupant and the possessions within. I would love to know the full story - what would have possessed this lady of high society to leave and never come back, it's not like the South of France is all that far from Paris! There were children - why didn't they know about the apartment? What was she hiding? Maybe she wasn't! Like all good mysteries, I don't think we will ever know.

As a child I spent my days exploring the great outdoors of my home town, Lake Oswego. One summer I stumbled across an abandoned "cottage" on the other side of the railroad tracks. The cottage was buried under mile high blackberry bushes and was barely intact. I spent that summer wondering about that small house - who had lived there, when was it built, why and when was it abandoned? I made up stories about the hypothetical family who lived there. I even named the cottage, Blackburn, from my maiden name Black. I had so much fun!

The article on the Parisian flat brought me back to those memories. Merci Lisa!

Homes have a unique way of pulling us in and allowing us to weave a story so great in our heads that our hearts soar. Perhaps this is one more reason I love residential real estate!

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Set with style

Call me crazy, but I love to host my family's Thanksgiving feast every year. It is always changing-some years our crowd is small and intimate, other years we need to bring in a second table and rent chairs. But whatever the size and number of tables, I make sure that my guests know how much we appreciate them by investing thought in not only the menu but how the table looks.

This week, as I thought about the special touches I wanted to add to our table, my mind wondered to my clients and their beautiful, charming, retro, traditional, modern, or romantic homes. With so many different styles, I thought about what their tables might look like this year.

Formal                                Rustic                                A little bit Country?

Here are some tablescapes that reflect the varied styles of homes and their inhabitants. 

A contemporary look to a table is one that is not bound by traditional shape or design. It is usually simple and pared down, relying on carefully chosen pieces put together with care.

For some people it may be traditional, for others, rather modern - but there will always be a certain discipline in the way that the formal table is arranged and the food presented. Nothing is too over-the-top. Everything has its own beauty, which can be appreciated as long as each aspect of the whole is balanced out - the rich with the simple, the fragile with the sturdy. Even the old with the new.


Retro and Vintage
Difficult to define in strict terms, retro style is, in essence, a combination of things that have gone before as well as the new, mixed together in a manner that is both appealing and sometimes eccentric. 

Country style is not just confined to a rural setting. It is defined by an authenticity, a lack of excessive decoration and a concentration of color and simple design.

Global style is everywhere around us, and nowhere is it more evident nor more successful than when employed at the table. The treasures and colors of other cultures can all be used and enjoyed. 

Romantic style is a question of texture and tone; a romantic table is never hard or edgy, and will always have an aura of loveliness, sometimes understated, sometimes more overt. Plenty of flowers and pretty napkins are de rigueur

However you decide to bring together your table and chairs, linen, china, cutlery, glassware, lighting, and flowers, I know it will be spectacular and will reflect your personal style and that which is important to you. And as you sit down with friends and family this year, I wish you much joy and a very blessed Thanksgiving. 

If you would like to share your Thanksgiving table with me (I would love to see them), please send a photo or two to Until next week, here's to

la chasse au bonheur

photo credits: Bryan E. McCay, Annie Schlecter

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Papered over

I moved into my home in 1999 and I have been waiting to remodel my main floor bath ever since. Originally the only bath in the house, this dated room was outfitted with a plastic corner shower that made no sense whatsoever. Finally a broken sewer line (you heard it 'cha ching') created an opportunity to change the plumbing (more 'cha ching'). "No sense in stopping there", I said....walls were moved, eighties tile taken up, noisy fan disassembled. Finally, I had it! My blank canvas of a powder room.

My goal was to take this new found space and create a jewel box. A talented designer I work with suggested wallpaper. Now, I am with you-I thought the same thing. The first home I purchased in Seattle had wallpaper everywhere and when I say everywhere, I mean it....walls, ceilings, closets. Weeks of steaming, scraping, peeling and gallons of Dif turned me off to the idea of placing a glued piece of flowery paper on any wall. Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant to jump in to wallpapering any room in my home. But one look at some of the amazing designs on the market today (good bye chintz, hello gorgeous) and my head and heart turned right around.
Wallpaper on the ceiling, walls, even in the closets - a big no.
I chose a sunny botanical print that blended with the interior of my house, but pumped it up just a notch - lemon yellow and gold chrysanthemums floating in harmony with shiny gold leaves (sounds gaudy I know, but it's spectacular). This wallpaper transformed my small space into an oasis of happiness!

My sunny wallpaper...
...transforming my powder room
There is no question concerns making sure you choose the right design, or the headache of removing it down the road when your tastes change, and of course there is the expense of it all...good wallpaper is not cheap. This definitely gives one cause to pause.

But tackling a small space like a powder room is ideal for a wallpapering experiment, oh I mean project!

Powder rooms can be approached from a slightly different direction than other areas of the home. They present an opportunity to be more creative than in a larger, more prominent room. After selecting the wallpaper design unique lighting, mirrors, vanities, and hardware can build on its style to create a gorgeously layered and simply fabulous room.
I love the classic bold graphics of this paper.
It is difficult to see in the photo, but this grass paper has a lovely silvery shimmer to it. The mirror, sconces, and counter top (also with a bit of shimmer) build on the style.
Really, how sunny and sweet is this?

Oh how I love green and gold together, softened with cream and the Capiz light fixture, lovely!
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, or have a room that you wish to transform, wallpaper can be a great vehicle to get you there.

I love the wallpaper in this dining room by designer Thad Hayes
The pearlescence of this simple paper adds light to the dining room. Chairs were removed on one side and a banquette upholstered grey velvet added.
A ho hum guest room is transformed with this orange and white design paper.
I hope you enjoyed this week's blog posting. 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 valuable resources.

Paper Hanger (the best)
Elgie Gibson, Wallcovering
206-334-7632, or 425-485-3211

DIY wallpaper removal site

Monday, October 25, 2010

If life hands you rattlesnakes

My husband told me an interesting story the other day. It is the story of George End. George was a graduate of Columbia University in the 1930's. Due to the depression he could not find a job. With a wife and two sons to feed he started looking for any opportunity that would support his family. He heard of a citrus orchard for sale in Florida and bought it, sight unseen. They packed up and headed from Arcadia to a little farm on the Tampa Bay peninsula - fruit growers they were going to be.

What they didn't know was that eastern diamondback rattlesnakes were plentiful in the scrub and pine that blanketed Tampa's southern peninsula and that they were especially dense in MacDill Field - the orchard they just purchased.

He tried making a go of it with lemon and grapefruit trees, but for every two he planted, one would die the next season. "The rattlesnakes were more prolific than the crops I planted," he told the Tampa Tribune in 1940.

Failing at farming was not an option, and with a dense population of tasty rattlesnake he decided to farm them. George and his family set up a snake pit at the end of town, built a cannery (for packaging the smoked snake meat-a cross between chicken and veal I am told),  hired some of the more adventurous locals to harvest the snakes, and sold rattlesnake meat via mail order. He even established his own post office in 1939, the Rattlesnake Post Office, to ship his "snake snacks in supreme sauce" around the globe.
George End literally took lemons and made, well you know. Newspapers wrote of this newly discovered delicacy and overnight, George End's get rich dream put South Tampa on the map. Thousands flocked to see the largest venomous snake in North America. The town was renamed, Rattlesnake, Florida and the family business was profitable into the late 50's.

George End handling one of his diamondback rattlesnakes at his Rattlesnake, Fl canning plant.
I couldn't stop thinking about this story and how crazy it sounds in today's real estate market. I thought to myself: Were there no property disclosure statements back then?  How would the internet and the gorgeous property photos we spend hours ogling over have helped George see this was no citrus orchard!; Did he not have any contingencies, no remedy for misrepresentation? Who was responsible - the buyer for not doing his due diligence or the seller for not accurately representing the property? Were any agents involved?

But then I moved on to the inspiring part of the story. Here we have a hardworking, dedicated and educated family man who served in WWII, got an education, and wanted to provide for his family. When they drove up to the farm in a borrowed Model A and saw only acres of thicket, he didn't turn around. And after a few years of planting trees that never lasted longer than a season, he didn't give up. He never gave up his dream to make something of his life and of the land he bought. He realized "if I can't grow citrus, then I better take what the land is giving me and run with it". And run with it he did.

Good show George End, good show. So the next time life throws us lemons...let's make

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur