Friday, December 8, 2017

originally posted 10-21-2016

house in snow
Snow on ground at 850 feet, no snow in Vancouver on this day

Here in Clark County we have many neighborhoods scattered throughout the Cascade foothills. Some subdivisions have houses bumping right up against 2000 feet above sea level. In general once you get up above 1000 feet, winter weather is more... well... wintry. Sellers need to be aware that selling property in the foothills up higher than a 1000 feet is not going to produce many showings during the winter months. It is important to maximize the showings by following good showing tactics. Keep the home warm and bright and keep snow clear of the walkways and driveway. But capitalize on winter themes. Often buyers looking up in the mountains during the winter want to have real winter weather. Keep that fireplace stoked and feel free to build a snowman!

Down in the valleys of Vancouver and Portland snowfall is far less common than rain. Locally Vancouver averages about 6 inches a year at Pearson field. But averages are deceiving. There are years that have no snow at all and others that have heaping amounts. Meanwhile, up in the mountains things are more defined. Above a thousand feet it is not a case of if it snows, but rather, how much snow will there be.

Buyers should keep this in mind as well. Many people are looking for a rural home on some acreage. As one moves east generally things start to climb in elevation. Clark County's entire eastern flank is the Cascades with elevations rising up to about 4000 feet before spilling into Skamania County.

When seeking a home up at elevations in the 1000-2000 range which is about as high as you'll find a home in the county, there are a few things to consider. Most higher elevations above 2000 feet are part of the Washington State DNR or the Gifford Pinchot National Forest which do not contain developed neighborhoods.

East County Snow Routes
An important consideration is the property's location relative to primary and secondary snow clearing routes. There are two types of snow events that effect the entire region from sea level to the mountains. The fairly common light snow events in which 1-3 inches of snow accumulates in the valleys and 3-6 inches in the mountains. And then there is the 'snowzilla' events that happen about twice per decade and bring heavy snow across the entire region with days or weeks of cold weather.

Since those monster events are so rare, the county keeps a modest amount of equipment for winter snow removal. Usually most snow events are well handled by the county crews. Those 'snowzilla' events however, will leave the roads snow covered and dangerous. The primary and secondary routes are important if home buyers do not wish to traverse hard-packed, snow-covered roads on a regular basis. Clark County has a published chart showing the snow removal routes for rural areas.

Consider carefully properties that are more than a quarter to half a mile off one of these snow removal routes as travel can be perilous in the mountains when it snows. Remember it may be raining in Vancouver and snowing up in the foothills.

Additional families with school age children should consider school district rules for snow. Generally a wide spread snow event with even modest amounts of snow can trigger a school closure. For mountain dwellers however there will be many days in which schools remain open because it's raining in the valleys and snowing up high. On those days, school buses often run special "snow routes". These will keep buses off the steep terrain and require that parents get the kids to the snow route bus stop on their own. These are things to consider when buying a home above 1000 feet.

It should be noted that most of the time areas between 800-1200 feet don't get huge amounts of snow all at once unless it's during one of the every five years 'snowzilla' event. What happens up around 800-1200 feet is that there is simply more snowy days. 1-2 inches in Vancouver might equate to 3-5 inches at 1000 feet. But there will be 3 to 4 times as many snowy days and as the elevation rises so rises the number of times per year snow falls. Also up above 1000 feet the snow tends to stick around longer than it does down in the valleys.

I would like to note that none of Clark County's incorporated urban areas exceed 800 feet in elevation. The high spot is probably Prune Hill in Camas at just under 800 feet. It is the rural country areas in the Cascade foothills that can be up close to 2000 feet. Buyers worried about snow but looking at traditional suburban or urban neighborhoods need not worry about heavy snow outside of the rare events.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Agents and Clients Need to be Ready For the Routine

Sounds like a , "No Duh" kind of thing, right? Well, I don't know, because it never ceases to amaze me how often routine delays are taken like apocalyptic symptoms of the inevitable end of the transaction in a fiery ball of doom. And sometimes the panic is coming from an agent.

Real estate deals have one thing in common 99% of time, they will have a delay or some mild drama before they are closed. The sun will rise and set at the end of day, and real estate transactions will have someone, somewhere, somehow, need more time for an integral part of the deal. So we know it's coming, we are told in advance it will, yet... EEEEK!! The appraisal is late! Of course it is, it's nearly always late. OH NO! The lender needs some additional documentation! Yes the lender usually does.

Don't get mad, don't get even, just relax. It's all good. Better agents will tell their clients about the potential problems in a transaction and this helps keep the lid on the classic "freak out" when there is a typical bump in the road to closing. It is always good advice to expect the best but prepare for the worst.

A few things that buyers and sellers can do to protect themselves from these potential issues.

  • Do not try to perfectly time the closing of your current home and the closing of the new one. That is a 75% fail rate. Get the buyer of your current home to offer you an optional rent back for at least a week after expected close date.
  • Buyer's currently renting; don't give up your rental for at least two weeks after you "expect" to close. This will cost you half a month's rent but it will give you a nice cushion for unexpected delays in closing and will give you time to move without the pressure of the "gotta get out today" syndrome.
  • Buyers getting a mortgage; when the loan officer asks for paperwork or other documents no matter how mundane, do it, do it right NOW!
  • Buyer's using a loan; Do not move big chunks of money around between accounts. Park your cash in the account you gave the lender and leave it there until you get the keys to the new house.
  • Buyer's getting a mortgage; do not borrow money or buy any big ticket items on credit and don't even apply for credit till you get your new house keys. Yes even when the clerk at Macy's says, "if you apply for a Macy's card you get 25% off this whole purchase..." Make like Nancy Reagan and just say NO!  

Most real estate transactions will have bumps along the way, don't panic, it's got a 95% chance of being fine. Sometimes deal crushing bad news comes and that is just the way the ball bounces in life; but most of the time it is gonna be OK, so relax, take a deep breath, because you will be closed in no time.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wow, Holidays... again.

Well the Holidays are upon us and it's time to talk about selling and buying a house in the Holiday season. I have said it again and again, buyers are serious when they are looking at houses between Thanksgiving and the New Year. This is not an ideal time to be outside driving around in strange neighborhoods looking for houses. Yet every year there they are doing just that. Buyers that NEED to buy a house. Many sellers do postpone listing and this can be wise but it can also be a mistake.

Should a home received an acceptable offer during the month of December it is likely that house sale will close in late January or the middle of February. The seller now has an opportunity to look for a replacement house in January when fewer buyers are about and sellers are often motivated. It can be a win-win. Below is last year's comments on selling in the "season".

Originally posted, Friday, November 20th, 2016, by Rod Sager

Sellers often choose to forgo listing their home until after the holidays. It is understandable since most of us would like to take this time of year to spend with family and such. Having a home on the market can be most disruptive. But inventory remains tight, especially in the bottom half of the price range.

People that are out looking for homes during the holiday season are generally pretty darn serious buyers. Looky-loos and tire-kickers are doing the whole holiday thing. Having a home listed during the holidays can yield strong offers from serious buyers. Really, who is out in the rain and snow looking at houses when they could be inside hanging out with family and friends or at the company party? Real buyers, that's who!

I have offered up tips in the past about prepping a home for a holiday sale, you can look through the archives of Novembers and Decembers past to find useful information on the matter. In general, keep the clutter to a minimum, keep the leaves off the walkways, out of the rain gutters, and off the drive way. If it snows, be sure to keep snow and ice off the walkways and driveway.

Keep pet orders under control. Burn a scented candle with a holiday theme, bake some cookies, and if possible have a fire going during peak showing times. Some people are looking for a very specific house. If your house isn't it, then chances are no amount of warm and fuzzy presentation will sway them. But most buyers are less picky. If your house feels like home, they might just write it up!

I find buyers to be more focused and serious about their purchase during the holidays. Sellers are wise to keep that in mind when making the decision about whether to list now or wait till next year.

Happy holidays, may yours be warm and fuzzy all around.