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