Whidbey Island Real Estate Information

Updates, news and information about Whidbey Island Real Estate.

North Whidbey Island Real Estate Update

October 4th, 2011 at 2:21 pm by Rick Schutte
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Home prices are down, interest rates are down, and rental properties are becoming scarce.

I see homes everyday that are great investment values, that I would buy myself if I could.

  • 15 year fixed interest rates are at the lowest they have ever been! The fixed rate for 15
    year mortgages is as low as 3.35%. Other home mortgage rates are at historic lows as well.
  • Prices for single family homes are well below peak levels in most Whidbey Island neighborhoods, and many condominiums are priced the lowest they have been in ten years!
  • Home affordability in the first quarter of 2011 was at the best level in the 20 years it has been calculated, and remains close to that record level for the latest quarter.
  • Stock market volatility demonstrates that stocks are not the safest place to put all your savings. A diversified investment strategy that includes long term investment in real estate should be part of your financial strategy

Content provided by: Hal Hovey


September 19th, 2011 at 1:24 pm by Rick Schutte
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“To buy or to rent?” Recent graduates, young couples, relocating professionals and others have all asked themselves this question at one point or another. While each option has its benefits, the decision to purchase an apartment, condominium or house as opposed to renting, is complex and based on a number of factors. According to a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors, nearly eight out of 10 respondents believe buying a home today is a good financial decision. The question that remains is whether or not now is the right time to buy a home for you.
For most people, deciding to buy a home is the largest financial decision of their lifetime. Before making the jump into homeownership, potential home buyers should consider the “soft” lifestyle issues as well as the “hard” financial ones. The professionals at Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC have provided the following four financial and lifestyle questions to consider when determining if buying a home is the right decision for you:

1.     Do you have a steady income? At or near the top of every potential homebuyer’s mind is whether or not they can afford to buy a home right now. Buying a home remains a sound financial decision for those with documented income and a good credit history, and a steady income can provide a strong backbone for the initial down payment and future mortgage payments. Buy-versus-rent calculators available on websites such as coldwellbanker.com offer a good start, but there are numerous factors beyond straight economics that also need to be considered. Don’t hesitate to speak with a real estate professional even before you’re ready to buy a home. Along with a financial planner, a Coldwell Banker Koetje real estate professional can help you answer and uncover questions about the cost of homeownership.

  1. Do you plan to stay in a home for an extended period of time? With proper planning, a home purchase has historically proven to be one of the safest investments one can make. Along those lines, it’s imperative to understand that investing in a home is much different than investing in a stock portfolio. Homes typically appreciate in value over time while the owner builds his or her equity through monthly mortgage payments. If you anticipate staying in a home for only one or two years, it doesn’t necessarily mean buying is not for you, but you are less likely to see a significant financial return on your investment.
  1. Do you plan to sell a house in order to buy a house? A local real estate professional can help you understand current local market conditions and will help you make smart decisions when listing a home on the market. If you do not currently own a home that needs to be sold prior to purchasing a new one, now is a particularly smart time to buy. Even with lenders becoming increasingly more thorough in their approval process, mortgage financing is still widely available for those with a steady income and solid credit. High inventories and low interest rates give first-time homebuyers a tremendous amount of opportunity and flexibility in markets across the U.S.
  1. How do your other options compare? For renters, calculating month-to-month housing expenses is as easy as inquiring about the monthly rent and average utilities. The calculation gets a bit more complicated when considering the monthly cost of owning a home. A real estate professional can help you understand a range of financial considerations from annual property taxes to the tax incentives for owning a home.
Courtesy of: Coldwell Banker

Do You Need A Buyer’s Agent to Purchase A Home

September 1st, 2011 at 11:02 am by Rick Schutte
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In today’s real estate environment, buyer’s representation is an important aspect of your real estate transaction. A buyer’s agent is always representing your best interest and is obligated to inform you of options you may have that will impact your purchase. The buyer’s agent has been trained in negotiations and local market conditions to help you get the best buy possible.

If you are a senior, there are buyer’s agents that have been trained and certified to work specifically with seniors and to understand some of the unique challenges that are created due to down-sizing, financing, etc. These agents have the Senior Residential Specialist Designation issued by the National Association of Realtors. If you are a senior, I would recommend asking for a buyer’s agent with this designation.

Do you need a buyer’s agent to purchase a home?  Not necessarily, but in all honesty, it is one of the best things a home buyer can do to ensure a smooth transaction, best buy possible, and at the end of the day, peace of mind.

Most Americans Still Believe That Owning a Home is a Solid Financial Decision

August 22nd, 2011 at 4:38 pm by Rick Schutte
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Most Americans still believe that owning a home is a solid financial decision, and a majority of renters aspire to home ownership as a long-term goal. According to the 2011 National Housing Pulse Survey released today by the National Association of Realtors®, 72 percent of renters surveyed said owning a home is a top priority for their future, up from 63 percent in 2010. Visit us for Free Reports about Buying Homes with Zero Down or to How to Stop Paying Rent.

Seven in 10 Americans also agreed that buying a home is a good financial decision while almost two-thirds said now is a good time to purchase a home. The annual survey, which measures how affordable housing issues affect consumers, also found that more than three quarters of renters (77 percent) said they would be less likely to buy a home if they were required to put down a 20 percent down payment on the home, and a strong majority (71 percent) believe a 20 percent down payment requirement could have a negative impact on the housing market.

“Despite the economic setbacks Americans have experienced in today’s current climate, it is clear that a strong majority still believe in home ownership and aspire to own a home,” said NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “However, achieving the dream of home ownership will become increasingly difficult for buyers if they are required to make a 20 percent down payment, which may be a reality for many of tomorrow’s buyers if a proposed Qualified Residential Mortgage rule is adopted. That is why Realtors® are strongly urging regulators to go back to the drawing board on the proposed rule.”

Defining the QRM rule is important because it will determine the types of mortgages that will generally be available to borrowers in the future. As currently proposed, borrowers with less than 20 percent down will have to choose between higher fees and rates today — up to 3 percentage points more — or a 9-14 year delay while they save up the necessary down payment.

Over half — 51 percent — of self-described “working class” home owners as well as younger non-college graduates (51 percent), African Americans (57 percent) and Hispanics (50 percent) who currently own their homes reported that a 20 percent down payment would have prevented them from becoming home owners.

Pulse surveys for the past eight years have consistently reported that having enough money for a down payment and closing costs are top obstacles that make housing unaffordable for Americans. Eighty-two percent of respondents cited these as the top obstacle, followed by having confidence in one’s job security.

The survey also found respondents were adamantly against eliminating the mortgage interest deduction. Two-thirds of Americans oppose eliminating the tax benefit, while 73 percent believe eliminating the MID will have a negative impact on the housing market as well as the overall economy.

“The MID facilitates home ownership by reducing the carrying costs of owning a home, and it makes a real difference to hard-working American families,” said Phipps. “Home ownership offers not only social benefits, but also long-term value for families, communities and the nation’s economy. We need to make sure that any changes to current programs or incentives don’t jeopardize our collective futures.”

When asked why home ownership matters to them, respondents cited stability and safety as the top reason. Long-term economic reasons such as building equity followed closely behind. On a local level, respondents said neighbors falling behind on their mortgages and the drop in home values were top concerns. Foreclosures also continue to remain a large concern, with almost half of those surveyed citing the issue as a problem in their area.

If you are interested in Home Buying information, contact us at anytime at cbk@whidbeyrealestate.com or visit our website at www.WhidbeyRealEstate.com

Whidbey Island Home Selling Tips

July 20th, 2011 at 11:43 am by Rick Schutte
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This article will provide Whidbey Island Home Selling Tips and 5 Reasons to Hire a Pro to Sell Your Home. We are in a very different type of real estate market, a buyer’s market, and it is just to treacherous to go it alone. With these Home Selling Tips for Whidbey Island sellers, hopefully your experience with selling your home will be better and the outcome will be what you desire.

1. Employ an expert: A typical property owner does not have anywhere near the home-selling experience of a real estate agent. Agents can recommend relatively simple improvements—painting, making repairs, decluttering—that can help a home sell faster and for a better price. Your Realtor is the neighborhood expert. They can walk through a property and see right away what needs to be done to get the home sold. Independent sellers might not be aware of these tricks of the trade.

2. Use better tools: Homeowners using agents can get their property listed on Realtor.com, the most widely searched real estate website. Whidbey Island Home Sellers can get their homes listed on all of the local real estate company websites, including Coldwell Banker Koetje Real Estate website, which is one of the most comprehensive local real estate websites. Independent sellers do not have access to these services.  Another of our Whidbey Island Home Selling Tips is to ensure that your home listing is available for mobile viewing, ie. smartphones, Ipads, etc.

3. Sidestep lawsuits: Agents can also help protect sellers from potential litigation. There are all kinds of liability issues that a seller could potentially face when…dealing one on one with a buyer.  A homeowner could, for example  tell a potential buyer that hardwood floors extend to all corners of the house underneath the wall-to-wall carpeting. But if even one room has cement flooring, the homeowner could be sued. Agents, who have experience dealing with these liability issues, can help homeowners dodge such scenarios. Another Whidbey Island home selling tip to avoid lawsuits: provide a full home disclosure to the purchaser. This is required by law.

4. Duck the riffraff: Independent sellers might not have any idea whom they are letting into their homes during open houses. These potential buyers might not have the credit to make the purchase—and would therefore be wasting the homeowner’s time—or could even “try to rob them later on. Homeowners working with agents will have qualified buyers visiting their properties. The agent has developed a relationship with their client and knows their qualifications.

5. Avoid hardball tactics: It’s a buyer’s market out there. And with all the information available online, today’s well-informed buyers are tough negotiators, too. Real estate agents have been through the home-selling process before and are trained in negotiating tactics—giving them a potential edge in negotiating  a deal in the seller’s best interest.  Our last Whidbey Island home selling tip is to have a strong negotiator on your side. Using a professional is in your best interest.

Hopefully these Whidbey Island home selling tips have been a help to you. Please feel free to contact us at 360-675-5915 or email us at cbk@whidbeyrealestate.com at any time. We are here to be of service to you.

Content provided by: Luke Mullins: USNews.com

How Are Homes Priced to Market

July 7th, 2011 at 10:21 am by Rick Schutte
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One of the responsibilities we have is to help our homesellers establish a realistic market price for their home when they are preparing it for sale. Historically,  the sale price of recently sold comparable homes has been used as the basis for calculating a value for the current home for sale. Together with adjustments for the differences in homes and their amenities has produced a very reliable market value.

That was historically.  In today’s market enviornment, things have changed. Values have decreased from past sales and there are many other influencing factors involved in the calculations to achieve a realistic, marketable price for a home today. The amount of foreclosures and short sales has dramatically affected values.  The deflated price of  those sales affects the value of homes around them. Buyers then use those sales as the benchmark for value, offering to purchase at those deflated prices.

In today’s market, we must take a look at a home’s competition before setting a price to sell. If like homes are competing for the buyers attention, we must make sure the price is in line with, or lower than the competing homes that are for sale. Purchasers are shopping for value in the current  real estate market.

For information or help in preparing your home for sale, and in preparing the asking price, contact us at any time. We are here to help you with all of your housing needs.

How Interest Rates will Affect Waiting for Lower Priced Homes

June 20th, 2011 at 1:23 pm by Rick Schutte
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Gil Daigle, Coldwell Banker Koetje Real Estate

I’ve been saying that now is the time to buy if you’re in the market for a house. We’ve been in a buyer’s market for about 4 years, so you might ask, “What makes now the time to buy.”  The answer has a number of variables; the first is availability, how many houses are for sale. Let us assume a price range between $250,000 and $275,000 and a search area of North and Central Whidbey Island. Presently there are 30 houses for sale in this price range.

The next variable to consider is seller motivation. We gauge motivation by how long a property has been on the market. The average time on the market for these 30 homes is 158.7 days or just over 5 months. This is a long time, so these sellers should be motivated to sell. Motivation determines how willing sellers are to lower their price.

The last variable to consider is the home loan interest rate. Interest rates have been at all time lows. Even today, interest rates are very low at 4.25%. However, it is important to consider where the rates will go.

Traditionally interest rates rise as our national debt increases. Our national debt is at an all time high and continues to rise. You might ask if the debt is so high, “why are interest rates so low.” This is an excellent question. The rates are low because the government is holding them low. Low interest rates allow consumers to borrow money cheaply. The government hopes that Americans will borrow money and spend it on consumer products. The spending will boost both the local and national economies. Unfortunately the plan is not working. Because of their lack of confidence in the economy, Americans are saving, not spending. It is important to know that these rates cannot be kept this low indefinitely. They will rise, and this is the point of my letter.

I have observed that there are buyers wanting to buy property but resisting because of the continued declining market. It appears they are trying to time their purchase with the bottom of the market. On the surface, it seems to be a great idea. Buy low and sell high is the oldest investment adage. What I want to point out to all buyers is watch the interest rates. Interest rates have a tremendous impact on house payments. Let us look at an example. Assume you are interested in a house that costs $270,000. Suppose you can buy that house today at an interest rate of 4.5%, with a zero down VA loan your house payments will be $1,368 per month. Now let us assume you wait until the price drops to $250,000; but while you are waiting the interest rate increases to 5.5%. Your monthly payments will now be $1,419 per month, which equals a $51 per month increase in your house payment. A 1% rise in interest rates negates a $20,000 drop in price.

Stop by and see me. I have much more comparison data between prices and interest rates. It is something you must see before you wait too long.

Article contributed by: Gil Daigle, Coldwell Banker Koetje Real Estate

Home Seller Tips

May 23rd, 2011 at 8:01 am by Rick Schutte
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Recently I was reading an article regarding home seller tips  in Money Magazine.  I was so impressed by what the article had to say, I thought that I should share some of the highlights with our Whidbey News Times readers.

The essence of the article was that if you are a home seller in this market, you probably feel you can’t catch a break.  To help overcome that, you need a bit of razzle-dazzle to nab a buyer today.  The following attention-grabbing home seller tips will get prospects to your front door.

  • Slash Your Price, Bigtime

Many sellers give in to the temptation to list the property above fair market value to see what happens. Big mistake. About a quarter of sellers in the past year initially listed too high and were forced to knock the price lower, according to Trulia.com.  Think you can always drop the price if your home doesn’t sell.  Bigger mistake.  The first 30 days on the market are the most important. That’s when your home will receive the most attention and get the most showings. So get aggressive right out of the gate.

  • Hire a Stager

Veteran real estate brokers interviewed by Money Magazine say that proper staging can speed the sale and often increase the price too. The key is to get it done right.  Staging, increasingly popular with homeowners trying to sell mid-range houses, can extend from simply rearranging existing furniture to repainting, replacing fixtures, and bringing in new furnishings. The goal: to highlight the house’s best features while making it as easy as possible for buyers to imagine themselves living there.

  • Find the Right Hook

These days it’s going to take far more than a For Sale sign in the front yard and a spot on the multiple-listing service to get potential buyers in the door. That means getting the word out in a creative fashion-and finding a Realtor who is willing to do the same. “The more eyeballs that get on the listing, the better,” says Katie Curnutte of the real estate information website Zillow.com. To do that, you need a multi pronged marketing plan of attack.

To read the whole article in Money Magazine please click here.

To discuss these homes seller tips, plus many other ideas for getting your home sold, please feel free to contact us at anytime at Coldwell Banker Koetje Real Estate.


How’s The Oak Harbor Real Estate Market (Part 2)

April 11th, 2011 at 3:59 pm by Rick Schutte
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In my last post, I explained my answer to “How is the Market”. As part of that answer, we must consider what effect the distressed homes are causing on values.  Because of the economic conditions in our country over the past few years, homeowners are losing their homes through foreclosure because of loss of jobs, changing terms of mortgages, inability to sell, etc. Foreclosed homes then sell at a price that is usually less than comparable homes in the market, driving down the prices of homes. Other homeowners that need to sell are experiencing another difficulty. Their home is worth less now than when they purchased it and they must sell at a loss. If they don’t have the funds to make up the difference, then negotiations with the bank may allow them to sell short, or as is commonly called, a Short Sale. Short sales also have the result of causing prices to decline in the local area.  These are factors that have resulted in the way that I answer the question, How Is The Market. 

North Whidbey Island 2010 Statistics for evaluating the effect of Distressed Home Sales:

  •  Short Sales were 11.5% of the active listings and 5% of the sold listings.  Foreclosures were 9% of the active listings and 17.5% of the sold listings. 
  • The average listing price range of the overall market was $263,000.  The median sales price of non-distressed homes was $250,000, Short Sales was $220,000, and Foreclosures was $160,000.
  • The price per square foot for non-distressed sales was $150 per sq. ft., Short Sales was $124 per sq. ft., and Foreclosures was $112 per sq. ft.

Based on these statistics, it can be noted that a larger foreclosed home could be purchased for less money that a smaller non-distressed home. Also it can be noted that more Foreclosures were being purchased than Short Sales which will make the Short Sale homes probably result in Foreclosures.

With all of this being said, I do believe that prices have stabilized in our market. Over the next year, we will see some gyration of values but nothing like we have experienced in the last few years. It is still a great time to buy if you are a buyer, and if you are a seller that has owned your home for more than 5 years it is still a good time to sell. If you purchased your home within the last 5 years and don’t need to sell, then I would recommend holding on to it if you can. Call us about Property Management if you need to leave the area. If you are still living in your home and just need more space, than maybe a remodel would be best for you. We know of some outstanding contractors that we would be happy to recommend to you. Whatever the situation is, I can assure you that home ownership is still “The American Dream”.

How’s The Oak Harbor Real Estate Market (Part 1)

March 24th, 2011 at 3:31 pm by Rick Schutte
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I am often asked, “How’s The Real Estate Market in Oak Harbor?”  

I was recently asked to speak at the Rotary Luncheon about the state of the real estate market in Oak Harbor. My speaking engagement was postponed for a few weeks, but I thought I would share some of the information in this blog. I will continue with a second blog that will address another area that affects the real estate market, Short Sales and Bank Owned Properties.

 The first answer that I have after someone asks me about the real estate market is, “It depends”. Now I am not trying to be flippant with that statement, but my answer really does depend on if you are a buyer, a seller, when you bought your home, etc.

  •  If you are a buyer, the question is a no brainer. The Oak Harbor Real Estate Market is fantastic. In fact, I just helped my niece and her family make a purchase of a home. Interest rates are at all time lows (though they are starting to creep up). There is a large supply of inventory on the market for sale right now and sellers are being very generous in their negotiations.


  • If you are a seller and you have owned your home for at least 10 years, than it is a good market. As you can see from the chart, home prices have appreciated 3-4% average over the last 10 years. So if you need to sell, than from an investment perspective, you have made a good decision and the Real Estate Market is good. 


  • If you are a seller and you haven’t owned your home for more than 5 years, than the value of your home is probably equal to or less than your original purchase price and you might want to consider other alternatives to selling, such as rent, or not moving. If you are in this situation than the Oak Harbor Real Estate Market is not so good but is getting better.

A large component of the Oak Harbor Real Estate Market is Short Sales and Bank Owned Properties. In my next post, I will explain the statistics for these sales and how they are affecting our market.

 Contributed By: Rick Schutte

Owner/Designated Broker Coldwell Banker Koetje Real Estate

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About Rick Schutte

Rick is the owner/designated broker of Coldwell Banker Koetje Real Estate and Koetje Property Management. He has been involved with the real estate industry on Whidbey Island for over 32 years. He is a past president of the NWMLS as well as a current board member of the North Puget Sound Association of Realtors. He has been designated by the National Association of Realtors as a Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager as well as a Graduate of the Real Estate Institute. Rick can be reached at 360-675-5811 or cbk@WhidbeyRealEstate.com You can also check out his website at http://www.cbkoetje.com

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