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Older Alaskans Need More Ranch Homes

by Connie Yoshimura

Alaska’s senior population is growing.  According to Alaska Economic Trends, Alaska has an estimated 87,304 seniors, up from 54,938 eight years before and more are on the way.  Anchorage/Mat-Su added more than 17,000 seniors, representing over half the state’s overall increases.  The report goes on to identify many seniors as well-educated boomers who arrived in the 1980’s and have made Anchorage and Alaska their permanent home. Nearly one in four live alone and 57 percent of those are women.   Eighty-two percent of Alaska seniors live in owner-occupied homes compared to 64% of Alaskans.  Home ownership is an important part of their well-being and lifestyle. An interesting note is seven percent live with grandchildren and about two percent are responsible for their care.

 

The challenge for our housing market, however, is what type of housing is available for them to age in place.  Even the fifty plus year olds I meet at open houses worry about climbing stairs to bedrooms because of their hips and knees.  More buyers are asking about a two-story home with a first floor master, a hillside ranch or a smaller ranch home.  Large lots no longer interest them due to the time and expense of lawn care.  These buyers prefer new so that there is not the unexpected cost for roof, furnace, hot water heater replacement, et cetera. They also recognize the benefits and savings of Alaska’s five star energy rating for new homes because they most likely live in a four star home built in the 1980’s. 

 

In 2018, 2776 single family homes sold in Anchorage and Eagle River and l5% or 440 were single family ranches.  I found that number hard to believe but trust me, we double checked it.  The average price was $252,000.  But, here is the problem.  Today’s new construction ranch  home has a median price of $450,000.  The majority of them are located in the Eagle River/Chugiak area where land is more available and, thus, prices slightly lower lot costs. If Anchorage wants to keep its older population, we need to increase the maximum 40% lot coverage ratio that currently exists in Title 21.  Smaller lots with increased lot coverage ratio for single family ranch homes will bring the cost of home ownership down for Anchorage’s senior citizens. 

Do You Live in a Common Interest Community?

by Connie Yoshimura

According to the Community Associations Institute’s report published in 2016, 68 million Americans  or the equivalent of 21% of the U.S. population live in a common-interest community. Fifty-three percent are Homeowner Associations and forty-four are Condominium Associations. Three percent are Cooperatives. Although it is difficult to determine the exact number of associations in Alaska, a public search of state records identifies 480 condo associations; approximately 420 homeowners associations; and 980 owners associations for a total of 1,880. That’s a lot more than I expected to find! And with Anchorage’s diminishing availability of residential land, condo associations, in particular, will continue to increase as Anchorage is forced to become a higher density community. So far this year, 908 buyers have purchased a condo with an average sales price of $208,459.  Many of these buyers are first time homeowners and are unaware they are purchasing one of the most sophisticated and complicated types of property ownership.  

 

The recent 7.0 earthquake has brought to the many owner misunderstandings and issues related to who is responsible for repairs and damages. The answers are in the public offering or resale certificate but, frankly, most buyers don’t read the two or three inch statement they are given to approve prior to closing. But a lot more owners are reading them now as a result of earthquake sheetrock cracks, broken windows, damaged door jams, et cetera. And condo owners are finding out there are significant differences in the description of what they have purchased and what their owner’s insurance and the HOA insurance covers.  

 

Not all HOA insurance covers the building structure if it is a site condo which by definition the building is enveloped in a defined air space. However, if you are not purchasing a site condo, you can expect the HOA to cover the structure of the building which includes roof and foundation and any party wall in a two or more attached configuration. One area of potential disagreement is cracked or broken windows. If a neighbor’s kid throws a baseball through your window, you can expect to replace it yourself. However, if an earthquake cracks your window as a result of the movement of an exterior wall, you may have an insurance claim to submit to your HOA. But not always because unit boundaries differ per community. As you can see it gets complicated, and so the best thing you can do as a condo owner is read your offering statement, read your declaration, read your personal insurance policy and your HOA policy.  

 

However, the important thing you can do as a condo owner is discuss with your insurance agent the addition of loss assessment insurance to your policy which will help mitigate any special assessments from the association as a result of an earthquake or any other casualty. That’s what I’m doing as a condo owner.        

Got Drywall Cracks? Here’s What You Need to Do

by Connie Yoshimura

 

The November 30th earthquake  was a big one, creating thousands of drywall  cracks  in hundreds of homes. According to national building standards, drywall cracks greater than 1/16th of an inch should be repaired. So if you’ve got drywall cracks in your home as the result of the earthquake, the first thing you should do is hire a home inspector.  Most inspectors are not engineers but they will be able to advise you whether or not you should also hire a structural engineer. A home inspector’s fee is approximately $500 while a structural engineer can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000, depending on the time spent in the home to assess the degree of damage and write the report. Given the number of aftershocks we are still experiencing, you may want to wait another week or so before you call an inspector unless you feel that your home in structurally not safe. Aftershocks can create additional drywall cracks.  One general contractor told me that after the Friday quake, he had only one crack in a 2,800 square foot home but in a reinspection five days later there were an additional nineteen. All the cracks were cosmetic and at the seam which is where most cracks occur. Repair of drywall cracks vary, depending on the contractor and the painter. A little mud can hide a lot of cracks but some contractors will cut the drywall, mud, caulk and then paint. 


If you have your home listed for sale, we want to encourage you to get a home inspection and a structural engineer if the home inspector recommends it. Although buyers usually buy with their eyes and are not generally concerned about the number of tie downs, steel strappings around the garage opening, they are going to undoubtedly now want a third party opinion as to the integrity of the home. If you are in a buy/sell contract, you should reach out to your mortgage originator to see what their investor’s protocol is when dealing with a home that has experienced an earthquake.  Some credit union lenders are requiring a home inspection that they will pay for prior to closing in order to be assured of the home’s value.  Other lenders simply want a hold harmless agreement signed by the buyer and the seller. If the appraisal was done prior to the earthquake, most lenders are requiring a reinspection by the appraiser in order to re-establish the condition of the property which the seller is required to pay.     

 

If your home is a condo, and there is no earthquake insurance for the community, and your governing documents delineate your condo beginning at studs, and not sheetrock, you as an owner are responsible for any repairs. If you have substantial cracking or uneven floors, contact your management company immediately to report the damage. The HOA may be responsible for structural repairs. That would not be the case if it was a site condo.  


We have all been through a traumatic event. Congratulations to the Municipality of Anchorage for their disaster preparedness, fast and articulate communication and building code improvements since the 1964 quake which has obviously saved many lives. We thank you. 

Busy Summer for New Home Communities

by Connie Yoshimura

Finally, after two years from acquisition, the Huffman Timbers new home community is finally open this week with paving installed on Wednesday. Acquired in the summer of 2014, the eight acre plus site went through a rezone from R6 to R1 (single family lots with public water and sewer versus the R6 requirement for well and septic). The developers, of which I am one, also went through a wetlands mitigation process, along with negotiations with the Department of Transportation regarding an access off Huffman Road.  What has emerged is a forty-three lot single family, new home community of two cul-de-sacs with trails at each end leading to the bike path on Huffman Road.  But, after finally receiving the final go ahead to build from the MOA’s private development department last July we had 33 days of consecutive rain, creating cost overruns for dry fill to be put back in the open water/sewer trenches.  The MOA did allow us to work late into the year due to the warm late fall and winter weather which allowed us to complete our deep utilities before Christmas.

So it was a happy and sunny late afternoon last Wednesday, when McKenna’s turquoise trucks (the paving contractor that works like an army regiment) rolled in to pave this new home community in southeast Anchorage at the corner of Huffman Road and Lake Otis.  We’re officially open this Sunday so stop out and visit the three new homes under construction by Hultquist Homes and a new ranch plan by John Hagmeier Homes.  We have lots of new home activities planned in the coming months, so look for us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Gray Hawk, a new home community off East 80th and Sandy Place is looking good with driveways and landscaping now installed.  The new homes have been painted and this small cul-de-sac community is open this weekend as well as a public picnic planned for next Saturday with a bouncy house and free pork or beef quesadillas, potato salad and homemade banana pudding.  Gray Hawk is a people and pet friendly community so please join us next Saturday from 1 to 4 pm for this fun event.

This Sunday I will be doing a live Facebook walk through at H Street. Hultquist Homes has two luxury townhouse style condos for sale.  The curvilinear concrete sidewalks are in; so are the driveways off the paved alley and landscaping is under way.  Join me for a piece of the best chocolate cake from Fire Island Bakery in Anchorage and cold coffee; it’s the latest coffee craze.  Be sure and ask me about other ‘coming soon’ downtown properties, including those on the Park Strip.  South Addition is undergoing an exciting transformation.  And you won’t want to miss out on knowing more about what’s happening in South Addition, home to millennials, downsizers and old-timers.

Good News For Anchorage Home Buyers (September 21, 2015)

by Connie Yoshimura

      This past Thursday’s Federal Reserve announcement of no increase in interest rates will keep mortgage rates at 4% for at least the next month until the next Fed meeting in October. This good news coupled with tomorrow’s announcement of a record breaking PFD check of approximately $2,000 per person, give or take a handful of dollars, will make for an active fall home buying market. After all, what better investment for a family of four with $8,000 arriving in their checking account than a new home? For example, $8,000 will pay all your closing costs and prepaids on a $300,000 VA purchase of a home. For an FHA loan, with a minimum 3.5% down payment, the $8,000 will pay all but $400 of the down payment on a purchase price of $240,000 which is more than the current MLS average sales price of $211,313 for a condominium. And for a brand new condo, some builders are providing closing costs and prepaid reserves which would amount to $5,896.92. So, take your permanent fund family dividend, add $400 and ask your local builder or seller to contribute closing costs and pre-paids and you’ve bought yourself a new home for your family. And with today’s high rental rates of over $1,200 for a two bedroom apartment, it’s not unreasonable to say that owning now costs less than renting.

     The permanent fund dividend check comes only once a year but there is almost no doubt that between now and October 2016 the mortgage interest rate will creep up from 4%. An increase from 4 to 4.5% is the difference of approximately $100 per month on a $300,000 mortgage. That may not seem like a lot but it will take four times that amount in monthly income for a buyer to qualify for the same mortgage amount.

     Buyers can also consider using all or part of their dividend to pay down credit card debt which can improve your credit score or give you more buying power because you have less consumer debt. All this information comes from Aileen Dimmick from Residential Mortgage at 952-3860.

     So with oil prices low and the constant media reminder of Alaska’s deficient spending, is now a good time to buy a home rather than take that vacation to Hawaii? Despite the obsession with our deficit spending, Anchorage and Eagle River’s residential market is holding up remarkably well. So far this year, the condo market has shown an appreciation of 2.85%. Anchorage’s single family homes have appreciated 2.63 per cent year to date over last year’s annual appreciation rate of 3.23%. Taking into account all price ranges, last week’s inventory remained below 700 homes for sale. And homes are continuing to sell for 99% of the listed price. Our market has remained stable with low inventory and modest appreciation. Keeping interest rates at an almost historic low has contributed to that stability. Buyers should take advantage of this postponement of a rate increase.

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Dwell Realty
561 E. 36th Ave., Suite 200
Anchorage AK 99503
907-646-3600