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Dec. 18, 2012 - Just Dance 4 & TV Wall Placement

Playing Just Dance 4 with my daughter Tina and grand daughter Xochitl and Zoe, plus the neighbor Jen and a rare apprearance by Tina's husband Mike, gave me a whole new outlook on Where Does the TV Go?

One of the more common issues in Real Estate has been the wall placement of a flat screen TV, and how some houses just don't accommodate what today's home buyer has in mind.

The idea that a TV should mount over a fireplace started in small condos or studio apartments where the floor plan was so condensed that using the space over the fireplace, usually a gas vs wood burning fireplace, seemed appropriate.

But today's TV is more for gaming with people "watching" shows more on their computers and using the TV as the game screen.

The placement of the TV in the photo above is what most builders have in mind. BUT time after time I have clients who complain tha this height on a TV gives them a neck ache, creates huge glare issues and makes it near impossible to play their games via Kinect Xbox, wii or PS3.

Back to Just Dance 4 or Just Dance 3...I can't seem to find the earlier versions, though I assume there was an original and then a Just Dance 2. The game either uses a hand held device or your entire body (Xbox Version) to "read" if you are scoring correctly when dancing.

This means you need the TV to be at a level that can read your body, and with the Kinect version you need to be a good enough distance back from the TV to read your body...and the bodies of other simultaneous players.

Not a full tutorial on playing the games or where to put the TV in order to play the games. Just a heads up that TV's are no longer simply about watching Leave It To Beaver with the entire family in the room staring at the screen. More and more people are "watching" on their laptops and "playing" on the big screen TV.

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Aug. 11, 2010 - Federal Truth-In-Lending Disclosure Statement - TIL

The Federal Truth-In-Lending Disclosure Statement is a scary but very important document you will receive when applying for a mortgage, either at time of purchase or when you refinance your mortgage. Here is a good Sample Form of a Federal Truth-In-Lending Disclosure Statement in pdf format.

The question I am asked most often (as a Real Estate Broker vs a Lender) is about the Interest Rate shown in the first block under "Annual Percentage Rate".  Most people are looking for the rate quoted by their lender on this form and are very surprised and alarmed to see a higher number in that first block at the top of the TIL. The primary purpose of that number is for comparison purposes, and to disclose what the ACTUAL rate is when you combine the up front costs with the stated mortgage rate. It is meant to be an easier way to compare total cost when shopping for a mortgage.

As example, if you are quoted a 4.5% interest rate by two different lenders, one with high up front costs and one with low up front costs, the APR will reflect which of the two mortgages is actually the better deal. The lower cost mortgage may show an APR of 4.883%, while the higher up front cost loan might show as 5.117%. BOTH are quoting you a rate of 4.5%, and in that regard are equal. BUT the APR will highlight the total cost scenario making it much clearer to you which is actually the better choice of the two mortgage offerings.

One might think that comparing the detail of the costs is a better way to compare, but that is not the case as most Lenders include costs of 3rd party venders like Title and Escrow costs, and a direct comparison of ONLY the loan costs as shown in the APR is a much better way to evaluate which is the best mortgage for you.

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Aug. 6, 2009 - Seattle Starter Homes

Starter Homes defined as $350,000 or less with at least 3 bedrooms and 1.5 baths.

BK = Bothell, Kenmore  

KBR = Kirkland, Bellevue and Redmond

03,14,15,25 = last two digits of zip codes in North Seattle

Because I am seeing more people coming out to buy a starter home for $350,000 or less, I thought it would be a good time to point out why the odds of getting one are greater...and where.

Worth noting, in the green and blue areas, townhomes are generally NOT included, in the orange area townhomes are generally included. That makes the liklihood of finding a true single family home with a yard in those areas of 98103, 98115, 98117, 98125 even smaller. So if you are on the Seattle side, heading up toward Shoreline or points south, will likely be necessary.

The good news is you are almost EIGHT times more likely to find one in Kirkland Bellevue and Redmond, than you were in 2007.

In Kenmore and Bothell, homes sold in 2009 for $350,000 or less, represented more than 1/3 of the total homes sold.


Required Disclosure - The data used in this post is not compiled, verified or posted by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Hand calculated by ARDELL.


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Jul. 19, 2009 - Condo Resale Certificate Review

Reviewing the Condo Resale Certificate - A Workshop Post

The "condo" development I am looking at today has slightly over 200 units, and those units are side by side townhomes. The townhomes were built between 1995 and 1997, and there is no clubhouse or pool. What I am looking for IN the Resale Certificate is governed by the major components of the total community. Reviewing a Resale Certificate without having seen the townhome complex as a whole, is not as good as knowing in advance what you are looking FOR vs. AT.

The packet is usually between 2" and 5" thick. Remember, this is a RESALE Certificate, so this is not how you conduct a condo new construction review.

I am the Agent for the Buyer. If I were the Agent for the Seller, I might look at a few things differently. WHO I represent when looking at something, influences what I am looking for. From a Buyer's point of view I am projecting forward, more than when I am looking at a Resale Certificate from a Seller's point of view. That goes without saying, I think, but just in case - worth mentioning.

1) The first thing I do is grab the small 5 page or so document that was especially prepared for this buyer shortly after the buyer and seller signed this specific Purchase and Sale Agreement. These numbers are as of NOW, for the most part, and so the most relevant.

For instance The Balance Sheet might seem most important, but it is as of 12/31/08. The information in the form titled "Washington State Condominium Resale Certificate" (in this case) has the most current and relevant info. The main reason you review this first is, if there is something there that strongly suggest you wouldn't want to buy in this complex, you are done. You cancel based on the Resale Certificate and go find a different condo in a different complex to buy. So to avoid wasting your time...start with the most current and relevant data.

A quick review shows me:

1) There are amazingly few delinquencies. Over 200 townhomes and less than 2 months of dues in arrears. That is beyond good. Looks like 1 person is 1 month behind, plus a penalty fee for being delinquent. In today's economic enviroment, that is astoundingly good and somewhat unexpected. Makes me wonder if Uncle Guido is their dues collection enforcer. THAT good :)

2) The document confirms that there are no Special Assessments. Don't rely on the property Listing Information in the mls in that regard. Always look for special assessments in the Resale Certificate. Big Red Flag here...determining if FUTURE Special Assessments might be an issue, is much more difficult, and not in this step #2 of the review of this form, but hugely important. In fact, likely the biggest mistake that condo buyers make is taking everything at "face value" in the Resale Certificate, and not adequately ascertaining if future Special Assessments are imminent, though not yet identified as such.

3) I skipped "current monthly dues" above, as most times you already know that before you make an offer to purchase the townhome. A quick glance so see that the regular monthly dues are "as expected" takes about two seconds. Important, but the instances where that is not the case are very small, particularly in July. Most times when they are higher in the Resale Certificate, it is due to a recent change since the property was listed for sale. Most increases happen on 1/1, so this will often happen if the property is listed in December. It can also be the case if the condo has been on market for many months, and a change happened during the term of the listing.

4) Amount in Reserves - This is probably the most important number, and yet the most difficult to determine as to sufficient or insufficient. In my opinion, no one who has not seen the complex can adequately advise regarding this all important aspect of The Resale Certificate. Hiring someone to Review the Resale Certificate for you, who has not seen the complex ever, is pretty much a waste of time and money. If they have the full and complete Reserve Study (not just the summary page) maybe...but rarely does a Resale Certificate have the Reserve Study, or even the relevant portions of the Reserve Study, as they are not required in WA to be in the Resale Certificate. There is a recent law compelling a complex to DO a Reserve Study, but not yet one requiring the Summary Page be IN the Resale Certificate, to the best of my knowledge. Even if you have the Summary Page or even full Reserve Study at your disposal, but have not been to the complex, that is only 80% OK. Reason being, the Reserve Study may have missed or misrepresented the cost of a Major Component of the complex (and that is often the case).

Parts of the package I do not review as the agent for the buyer, unless there is a reason for me to do so, are listed below. I expect the buyer to very carefully examine the House Rules. I only look at House Rules if my client had a parameter that included something that may be prohibited by the House Rules, such as pet issues. If I have no such issue to look for, then the buyer is to review the House Rules on their own, as I have no basis for judgment of which House Rules they may have a personal issue with. 

1) Condo Owner's Association Management Agreement

2) Condominium Declaration

3) By-laws

4) Full Master Insurance Policy

(I do look at what is called "The Dec Page" which is a brief declaration of basic coverage. In this one I see a $5,000 deductible, which is twice as good as I expected, so OK on that and I look at the Earthquake deductible of 10% which is 30% better than I expected, so OK. I expect a $10,000 deductible on general claims and a 15% or more deductible on Earthquake. So $5,000 and 10% is good.)

5) Big list of unit nos. and addresses

I do glance at the financial statements, and look more closely when I am not happy with the total amount held in reserves. All HOA dues break down into X dollars for Operating and X dollars for Replacement Reserves.

Operating tells me they have a surplus operating net income. So OK. I note that the largest single expense is landscaping and the second largest is insurance.  All OK

This is a particularly well run community with what appear to be adequate reserves. Since there is no Reserve Study, I will make an appointment with the management company to review the Reserve Study in detail. I also have a few questions regarding a current replacement project, and the information in the Resale Certificate does not match what the agent for the seller said and what the Form 17 said. That is reasonable, as most owners know "a story" that is either true or not true, when it comes to what repairs are being done in the complex. The facts need to be checked and the only info you can rely on is the info that comes from the Management Company, not the unit owner. I am making copies of a few things that I need to double check on next week. 

The unit owner needs to be accuarate as to what he owns singularly, and the Resale Certificate has to be accurate as to what the unit owner has an interest in with regard to common area and overal complex management, repair and maintenance.

I glance through the minutes for red flags, but expect the buyer to carefully read all of the minutes in the Resale Certificate and note any questions that they may have.

I now deliver the Resale Certificate to the buyer for his review. My review is complete except for a couple of questions I need to address with the management company regarding the Reserve Study and current repair project.

If this were a different buyer and or a different complex, I would likely have different steps, so I will try to do a workshop post each time I review a Resale Certificate, so people can see the various issues one might look for during their review.

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Jul. 9, 2009 - "Bad" Neighborhoods - Where NOT to buy

Where to live; where not to live...that is the question. Finding homes on the internet is great...but let's talk about how the internet can "hurt" you.

One of the reasons some neighborhoods appreciate more than others, is largely due to the fact that free information seems to stop short of "don't live THERE". Consequently word of mouth draws a large portion of homebuyers to the same neighborhoods, and those neighborhoods appreciate more than others as a result.

You can google thousands of real estate agent blogs and thousands of articles written by the real estate sections of area newspapers. But rarely will you see a list of "live here - don't live there".

The reality is:

1) You have to listen very closely to what is NOT being said.

It is no surprise (or shouldn't be) that you can get more home or a better home for your money in an area that is deemed to be inferior for some reason or another. Could be crime, could be inferior schools, could be lots of things no one is talking about out loud. Consequently when you spend too much time sorting homes via the internet, you may be targeting the worst areas and neighborhoods, as they will have the "too good to be true" values.

If you are getting too much for your money...there has to be a reason...right? Finding that REAL reason is easier said than done.

A real estate agent will not sit you down and give you the facts of life about where NOT to live. Reality is they often can't, for a lot of reasons we won't go into here. A good agent WILL point you in the right direction, but they will do that without harping on the reasons WHY where they are NOT going, is the "wrong" direction. In fact. if you ask them why, they likely can't answer. If you press the subject, they will bring you "there" against their better judgment". Don't pay high commissions, and then push an agent to give you bad advice by forcing them to go off their best judgement and best advice path.

Put your list of homes together. Then without showing the agent your list, simply ask the agent to come up with a list of the 5 best houses on market. They can't do that online, as in our mls there is a rule against openly discussing other agent's listings, even if you are saying good things about those homes. It is considered "advertising another agent's listing" and makes the agent subject to a $5,000 fine for EACH of the homes they talk about on the internet.

5 homes = $25,000 fine. So DON'T expect agents to be listing the 5 best homes on market on a blog or website. All they can give you is their own listings, or their friend agent's listings (with written permission from friend agent). So publicly available info is really just an ad "best home on market".

We're not allowed to tell you the REAL "best home on market", unless you are our client, and even then, we can't do it publicly. So if you see those words on the internet, it is obviously an "ad" vs. a true unbiased observation.


2) You have to choose an agent that you trust to represent your best interests, and then trust them to "DO" vs. "SAY".

When the agent gives you the list of the 5 best homes as noted in point 1) above, look for the homes on your list that match the homes in their list. Those are likely the best of the best. If there are no matches, go out to see your top 5 and the agent's top 5. Then after seeing them all, ask the agent to list THEIR top 3 before you give the agent YOUR top 3. Let them DO what they do best, without directing them to move away from their best advice. Often if you do it this way, why they picked theirs vs the ones you picked, will be somewhat obvious...sometimes not.

Most often when we finish, the top 2 or 3 houses come from my list vs. theirs. If you hire an agent to ONLY show houses that YOU pick vs. ones THEY pick, you are leaving lots of value on the table, and paying full commission for a lesser result.


3) You have to study the stats, and notice areas that sell well vs. those that don't sell well, and pretty much rely on "the crowd's opinion".

Since the items 1) and 2) above involve how to operate well when using the expertise of a good agent, I'm throwing in this third advice for people who don't want to use an agent at all, or who want to use an online agent who "shows homes" at a reduced agent cost vs. helping pick the ones they "should see" at a higher agent cost.

Google "Absorption Rate" as there are many sites that will give you this statistic for various neighborhoods.  You will see one area has a 2 month absorption rate and another has a one year absorption rate. Often this has to do with "price tier" vs. "neighborhood". But if you can get the absorption rate of all homes in the same price range in various neighborhoods, that would give you a better idea of which are the preferred neighborhoods and which sell much less easily OR have the most "issues".

Absorption Rate = the number of sellers trying to sell divided by the number of buyers buying "there". You may never be able to find the real WHY people are or aren't buying in various places, but simply knowing that is happening is of value, even if you never figure out exactly why.


42 people trying to sell "there" (Active Listings) in that price range; 3 people bought "there" in the last 6 months. 


12 people trying to sell "there"; 24 sold in the last six months

"The wisdom of the crowd" is a time honored principle. Yes, it would be great if "the crowd" would come out, and online, explaining all the whys of their behavior. But they really never do, so stop wishing so much for that.

It is much more likely that those having MORE trouble selling, will be speaking the loudest in places where you can see them, than the ones that have less trouble selling.  Think about that for a minute...and you may realize how very right I am on this.

The very, very best home on the internet...is more likely to be in the very, very worst location, making it appear to be the "Best Value", on a price per square foot basis.


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ARDELL DellaLoggia of Sound Realty on Seattle Real Estate process and market including Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Green Lake and most areas around the top of Lake Washington North of Downtown Seattle. Phone: 206-910-1000 - Mailto:ARDELLd@gmail.com

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