Eleven 2013 Real Estate Miracles to be totally stoked about this Thanksgiving

It’s been some time since my last confession. Oh, I’ve sinned. But that’s not important right now…

My last blog entry is from June 19. The last day of spring. The next day was the summer solstice– the longest day of the year. Before I knew it, it was Thanksgiving.

It’s not as if nothing noteworthy happened all summer. But the weather was so fine that the creek needed swimming in. And swimming makes you hungry and you have to barbecue. Then all the festivals, and of course the World Series.

Bloggin’ aint easy…

But now I’m caught up, and all my pencils are sharpened. And I’ve been noticing lately in the blogiverse an alarming increase in the number of inane lists : 22 Things You Should Never Do Again After Age 50 or 9 Things Women Hate About Men’s Wardrobes or  5 Things Brian Griffin Taught Us.  So I’ve decided to compile my own inane list and get a jump on the holidays.

I give you: Eleven 2013 real estate miracles to be totally stoked about this Thanksgiving

1. Fleas cannot survive in temperatures of less than 37 degrees. I showed Judy and Andrew a house in Silver FleaBeach in July when it was considerably more than 37 degrees, and after only eight minutes in the house, my buyers and I had dozens of fleas partying all the way up to our knees. We discovered the stowaways while re-shoeing on the front porch, and Judy inparticular absolutely freaked out. Not wanting to bring the scourge home to their own parasiteless pets, she spent twenty minutes flicking & brushing fleas off her calves before throwing her socks away and banging her shoes on the rail like she was exorcising the very Devil out of them. It was pretty gross. Needless to say, they did not buy the house….

2. Values are up. After bouncing off the cruel bottom nearly a year ago, prices in Bellingham proper have seen steady increases throughout 2013. A dramatic spike in April shot the median price above $300k and for a minute it looked like the market might be moving a little faster than was prudent (see: 2004-2007). But the Fed action (or relative non-action, depending on who you ask) of the early summer cooled our collective jets, keeping things down to a comfortable simmer that saw a new high reached rather nonchalantly by summer’s end. 

3. Ghosts “don’t move well.”  Like old dogs and most cats, ghosts don’t like to move when a house sells. But what happens when the house itself moves?

house moving 4
Columbian Exchange: moving day for the Van Zandt House

In 2010, the historic Van Zandt House was moved from its original location at 1717 Eldridge Avenue to a 5,000sqft lot in the 2400 block of Utter Street, six blocks away. The property had just changed hands from only its third owner in a hundred years to its fourth, and the new masters were more interested in the home’s commanding presence on the bluff above the waterfront than in the 3,000sqft shingled marvel that Dr. Euclid Van Zandt commissioned in 1902. So they gave it to a man who loaded it on a truck and moved it across the neighborhood.

The spectacle of a moving mansion drew quite a crowd, including two of the adult children of Allen family, who had grown up in the house. “It was strange to look up and see my bedroom moving down Broadway,” said Kathy. Her brother Terry added the house was “definitely” haunted. Peter Roberts of John L. Scott, who represented the buyer on Utter Street– the fifth owner in one hundred years– declined to comment on whether there’d been any bumps in the night since the house sold again just two months ago.

4. It is not too late to close a transaction this year.  I don’t know that it’s necessarily a “miracle,” but a paperless system like we have slowly built over the last 10 years means you can accomplish in a matter of minutes what used to take a day. Thirty days might not seem like much time, especially with all the Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe and presents to pretty girls  going on. But if a buyer and a seller really wanted to get something closed before the corks started popping on New Year’s Eve– it would happen. I’d be happy to square you up with a lender, a home inspector and an escrow officer who could sneak us across the goal line for an endzone celebration both joyful and triumphant.

5. Moving van turn signals don’t turn off automatically. Most people have too much stuff to move in their cars. And few people (at least amongst my clients) can afford to hire Mayflower, either. So they end up renting a U-Haul and asking their friends to help. This is known in the real estate industry as “moving day.” Moving Day is a day all Realtors know to wear their best clothes and leave their own car motor running when they drop by with the pizzas. But once the truck is loaded and lurching between the shitty old rental and a buyer’s dream home, the blinkers don’t automatically click off once a turn is completed like they do in commuter cars. As a result, move-drunk people end up driving around with a blinker blinking quite frequently with no intention of making a turn. This makes moving vans very tricky to pass.

6. Money is still incredibly cheap.  My buyer David said to me in July that he was struggling with the notion of paying 4.5% for his new 30-year mortgage. And while it is true that 4.5 is more than the 3.5% he might have been able to get for one day six weeks earlier, it is still a ridiculously kind rate by historical standards. And you can still get it, in fact you can probably do a little bit better today. It seems like most of my 12 years in the business we’ve been saying “rates can’t stay this low too much longer” but at some point it has to be born out that rates can’t stay this low too much longer.

7. Bob & Dee Simmons are hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Referring to low interest rates and haunted photohouses as “miracles” is maybe a tad dramatic. But Bob & Dee Simmons cozy & rosy in their new home and expecting a full table on Thursday is nothing short of a stone Real Estate Miracle of the highest order. Check out the archives of this blog for their unabridged, unabashed story, but suffice it to say they are loving their new nest, quite busily slaying Irises, over-insulating the attic, and installing floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the study. Dear readers, you have no idea how many hours were spent building these bookshelves in our minds and populating them with the Simmons’ volumes while touring scores of homes from one side of Bellingham to the other. And now the bookshelves exist in three proper dimensions, in a mid-century charmer on Toledo Hill. It is a bloomin’ miracle…

8. Our civilization has already peaked and we are quite doomed. This is actually better news than it sounds at first. Look for an expanded explanation of this glib & misguided proclamation in a later entry, but in the images-5meantime it’s worth considering selling your home. Buyers are sensing the potential dusk of the free money referenced in miracle 6, and there is generally much demand for houses with windows, doors & roofs. Inventory levels are edging back up to six months, which is considered a balanced market. But the next month, known as “the holidays” and the month after that known as “January” aren’t probably going to see a ton of new listings. There is something to be said for standing tall or standing at all in a sparse market, where others have locked the keybox for the winter. Come the spring, we will see a rush of activity as sellers scramble to take advantage of the optimism that comes with that season. And spring 2014 could be brought on artificially early (regardless of the weather) by sellers wanting to beat each other to the punch. Why not beat them all to the worm and list your house for sale today? With me.

(bloggers note:  Alright, eight miracles then. Even if you were expecting eleven, eight is still a lot of miracles…) 

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