Seattle Real Estate Agents

Seattle is a great place to buy a home.  It’s got night life, the economy is booming, and the city is generally on the rise.  As a matter of fact, Seattle is now growing faster than the surrounding suburbs for the first time in 100 years, according to this article in the Seattle Times.

Here’s a little video guide to living in Seattle.

Seattle waterfrontSo you know you want to move here.   How do you find and choose Seattle real estate agents? First, find an agent who lives and works in the area you are considering.  Find someone who grew up here or has lived here for decades if you’re considering multiple areas so they really know each area.

Here are your options:

Windermere:  They are a good company, though a bit old school and are just local so you may have limitations if relocating.

ReMax Seattle: A good way to go as RE/MAX agents consistently rank #1 on JD Powers customer satisfaction surveys.  They are probably the best national or international option.

RedFin:  Not very good.  They offer discounts, but you get what you pay for with them.  All of their agents are junior and tend to move one to a better firm once they have enough experience.  They’re fine if you want to do all the work yourself and don’t mind a little risk.

Prudential:  They just became Berkshire Hathaway, so they’re under pressure now to produce profits.  They’re fine, nothing out of the ordinary with them.

Keller Williams:  They have a strange team culture where their agents bet bonuses by recruiting other agents.  It’s almost like Amway.

Century 21:  Not very big in the Seattle area, and do you really want those horribly ugly brown signs on your house?

Independent firms:  Some are good, some aren’t.  Just do your research ahead of time to make sure they’re reputable, as some such as Skyline Realty and Zip Realty are a bit sketchy.

But most important, with any firm you choose, find a good agent who will work directly with you.  A lot of ‘top agents’ won’t give you much time and will actually have one of their less experienced staff members work with you.  You’re best finding an agent who doesn’t do 100 homes a year, but a more realistic 10-20 homes a year.

The Truth About Buying Foreclosures, part 2

Continued from previous post.

The problem is that the auction business is filled with shady characters.  Vestus is probably the best of the bunch, and they won’t outright lie to you on hard facts, so that’s good. But they’ll totally exaggerate values and are a bit slimy.  They’ll give you advice to get you to bid since they want a commission and don’t really give a crap about you.  Never, ever believe their opinion, but do trust the facts such as title info and bid price.

Seattle real estate blogOK, so now you’ve got your list of 15 homes that you want to buy in a week.  The info usually comes out on Thursday night, so you’ve got just a few hours to check out the properties you want to buy.  You show up at the courthouse steps at 10:00, and then 5 different trustees start auctioning off properties simultaneously.  An aid car goes by with the sirens blasting, and 4 homeless guys start asking your for money.  All the while you’re about to pay non-refundable cash for one of the biggest purchases of your life.

Then you place a winning bid.  Two minutes later you hand over your cashier’s checks and you receive a ratty piece of paper, your only receipt for forking over $280,000 in cash.  Fun!  To be honest, it is very exciting and a total rush, especially the first few properties you buy.  It’s certainly more exciting than just using ReMax Seattle to buy a house.

The little secret though is the vast majority of “investors” lose money buying properties at auction.  You get outbid for six weeks in a row, start to get impatient, and then make a stupid decision.  The brokers such as Vestus are always egging you on to bid higher.  Then you buy a house with a broken sewer line and you’re out $15,000 more than expected, on a house where you’re trying to make $20,000 in profit.  Then you realize that the soft costs and fixup are each $10,000 more than you penciled, and bam!  You’ve lost $15,000.  That’s how it really goes down.  Happy bidding!

Oh, one more thing.  You now get to evict some sweet little old lady who got cancer and can’t pay her bills.  It’s just not worth it.  You’re much better off just deciding which are the best elementary schools in Seattle and using a normal agent like this or looking on Zillow to buy a house.

This is great, check it out, RE/MAX is whack!

The Truth About Buying Foreclosures, part 1

For several years I played the game of buying and flipping foreclosure homes. This isn’t exactly like trying to determine the best place to live in Seattle.  Wow, what an experience, but I sure don’t miss it.  To be honest, if you want a good deal you’re much better off just working with a broker and looking at real estate listings.  Here’s the real story of how it works.trashy house

The process is chaotic, and not for the faint of heart.  You show up either at the county admin building or some parking lot in the burbs (Factoria).  The bidding starts at 10 am, and the sales are announced by the last name of the person being foreclosed.

There will usually be a slate of 400 homes going to auction any given week (I’ve seen as low as 200 and has high as 1000).  The problem is that you have no idea until the last minute what the starting bid will be.  Most of the foreclosed homes are postponed until a later week, given a too-high starting bid, or cancelled.  In any given week between five and thirty homes will actually be purchased at auction.

The biggest risk is a messy title.  If you buy at auction and you end out buying a second position foreclosure, then you’re on the hook for paying off the first.  This can be a $500,000 mistake.  Ooops.

Ballard WA real estateSo how do you deal with this?  Well you have to run a title report on every single home you’re considering.  Since there are 400 homes and you don’t know which ones will have low starting bids, this can be an impossible task.  So the answer is to hire to use a foreclosure broker.  The biggest one in the Seattle area is a group called Vestus (yeah, great name).

These guys provide you a list of every single home that will be going to auction that week.  They run title and tell you which ones are clear to buy.  They have a website that is automatically updated with the latest bids and schedule info.  They charge 3% of the assessed value of the home as a commission, so they’re not cheap.

The summary of this story is that it’s better to buy investment properties through a real agent such as this guy, but stay tuned for more.

To be Continued…



The Joy of Buying a Home

Are you ready to party?  OK, let’s get the groove going and find you a house!  Since you’re a party animal we’ll find you a home with an entertaining kitchen, a wet bar, a man gave, and a huuuge walk in closet to keep all of your party shoes.

image of waterfront houseThe first step to finding a home is knowing where to search.  There are several options for you.   You can find a real estate agent.  This is self explanatory and what most people do.  Get a referral or find an agent who provides good customer service and really knows her stuff.

The other option is to look for homes online.  Here’s a couple tricks you need to know when doing that.

There are basically two kinds of websites where you can search for homes.  First is the sites of local agents, Realtors or brokers (different names fof the same person).  These are the best websites to use since they pull new house listings instantly from their local Multiple Listing Service.  They’re all the same info, so just find that you think is easy to use.  Examples are RE/MAX and Century 21.

The other category are businesses who aren’t brokers, but run websites to make money off of home listings.  The main ones are Zillow ( and Trulia.  These are good websites with plenty of good info, but be sure to understand that not all listings will show up, and the info can be old.  Do not use these sites to search for homes or you’ll miss out on some listings.

That should be enough to get you started, now join the party and go find yourself a house!

A Serious Party

We like to joke around and make life fun, but this party is serious business. We'll help you keep the fun in buying or selling a house, but you can smile knowing that you're in good hands and we'll give you the tools to make a smart decision. Party on!