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Connie Yoshimura

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Take This Real Estate Quiz

by Connie Yoshimura

1. MLS reports that sold volume, when compared to last year at this same time is

A. Up by 10%

B. Down by 13%

C. About the Same

 

2. Over the past five years has the 

average sales price

A. Increased by 8%

B. Decreased by 2%

C. Remained Unchanged

 

3. How many homes over $800,000 have sold in the last 16 months?

A. 28       B. 48       C. 68

 

4. MLS active inventory for the first four months of 2019 compared to 2018 has

A. Increased by 128

B. Decreased by 128

C. Stayed the same

 

5. For the same time frame, sales have 

A. Decreased by 77

B. Increased by 77

C. Stayed the Same

 

6. In the last six months, identify three events that have influenced the 

Anchorage housing market 

 

7. In the last six months, the final sales price is what percent when compared to original list price for single family?

 

8. How would you describe condo sales when compared to last year?

A. Stable     B. Declining     C. Increasing

 

9. Why are condos the best buy in today’s market?

 

10. What is the difference in value between a brand new 2,000 SF home and a resale built between 1975 & 1990?

 

11. What is the value of a brand new single family lot with public water/sewer and on a publicly dedicated municipality maintained road?

 

12. How many single family homes were built in 2018?

A. 193       B. 243       C. 293

 

13. How many housing units, including all housing types, does the MOA report they need built per year?

 

14. Name three new single family subdivisions

 

15. Name the top three home builders in Alaska

 

16. Should sellers remodel their kitchen and bathroom before putting their home on the market?

 

17. Identify the top real estate brokerages in Alaska


Answer Key: 1. B   2. C   3. B   4. B   5. A   6. Government Shutdown, Earthquake, State Fiscal Dilemna   7. 94.5%   8. A   9. Excellent Rentals, Valued Below Replacement Cost   10. $50,000 - $75,000   11. $140,000 - $180,000   12. A   13. 900   14. Braendel Creek, Mountain Meadows, Heather Wood   15. Owner Builder, Spinell Homes, Hultquist Homes   16. No   17.  Keller Williams, Re/Max, EXP, Jack White, Real Estate Brokers, Herrington and Company, Dwell Realty


A Mother’s Day Thank You

by Connie Yoshimura

This Mother’s Day has given me pause to thank all the mothers who work at Dwell Realty. I am not a mother except to two poodles, Hapa and Peaches. They require feeding, bathing, walking, grooming and playful attention. But, I’ve been free to work long hours without worrying about child care and missing teacher meetings, dance recitals or basketball games. I have great respect, if not always empathy, for the women in my office who succeed in balancing all of those family needs while still doing exemplary work that continues to make Dwell Realty a success. So on this Mother’s Day, THANK YOU Becky Baird, Carole Marvel, Janis Tolbert, Debbie Moore, Anna Sovitsky, Andrea Senn, Jennifer Bohannon, Katie Adkins, Maggie Gray, Rowena Pediangco, Shelly Vogel, Starr Marsett, Teri Hensel, Trina Kindred, Janet Daley, Ruth Barndt, Pat Robinson, Andrea Gribbin, Tammy Stewart, Elizabeth Heynen, Lindsey Johnson, Silvia Engeloch, Natalie Travers-Smyre, all women Dwell realtors who are mothers.


According to national statistics women make or influence between 85 to 92% of all home buying decisions so it’s a natural fit that more women are realtors than men. It also explains some of buyers wants and needs when it comes to making a home purchase.  Is it any wonder that on top of the wants and needs list is a big laundry room instead of a washer/dryer stuck in a hall closet? Women also want mud rooms with shelves and hooks. Forget the bi-fold doors because they just get in the way. A mother with children wants four bedrooms up when they are young but once they become teenagers, mothers start shopping for a basement or flex room above the garage.

 

For many, the type of plan takes precedence over quartz countertops in the master bathroom or the free standing tub. Women tend to focus more on the inside of the home and how the family can relate to one another. A good example is the open kitchen/great room concept and the big kitchen island where kids and parents gather for meal prep at the end of the day. Over the past five years that kitchen island has grown to over seven feet in length. I can remember when it was no bigger than a large cutting board!

 

More and more families are ‘blended’ and/or multi-generational which creates the need for flexible spaces and privacy corners. One area of the home which has actually shrunk is the master bedroom. Some of that space has changed into an open loft or a larger master bath with separate his and her vanities.

 

Women care more about how it feels inside rather than how it looks on the outside. I don’t know many women buyers who want a 1,000 square foot garage or a roof over the deck so that they can BBQ rain or snow. But more on men’s wants and needs on Father’s Day. So for now, Happy Mother’s Day to all women who fulfill the multi-faceted role of motherhood.

 

How to Avoid Higher Property Property Taxes in 2020

by Connie Yoshimura

In a recent ADN  article, city officials stated that without any continued  state assistance to help pay down school bond debt, single family property owners could expect an estimated $630 property tax increase on a $350,000  home.  Already that home has a $5,740 tax which is 1.64% of its estimated value. An increase of $630 will raise that to 1.82 percent. According to a Multiple Listing Service report dated April 4th, 2019, the average value of a single family has declined by 6.14 percent so far this year when compared to the 2018 average.  Adding an additional tax burden on residential property owners at this time is a sucker punch.

 

Buyers qualify for a mortgage based upon their ability to pay for a fixed mortgage amount including principal, interest, taxes and insurance. Depending on their debt ratio and credit, anywhere from 25 to 40% of their gross income can be calculated as qualifying for the mortgage. Six hundred and thirty dollars divided by twelve months is an additional $52.50 per month in taxes but a prospective buyer would need to make approximately $200 more a month to qualify for the same purchase price.   


Higher property taxes are a national trend, according to ATTOM data solutions which analyzes national property taxes, so Anchorage is not alone in its dilemma. U.S. property taxes levied on single family homes in 2018 increased four percent. But, the average property tax was only $3,498. New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, Vermont and Connecticut posted the highest property tax rates so we should be happy we live in Alaska. My favorite vacation spot, Hawaii, had one of the lowest and Honolulu had only a 0.36 percent increase.

 

However, the Municipality of Anchorage is unique because unlike most of the communities identified above, we have no sales tax, not even a seasonal one. All other Alaskan boroughs, with the exception of Fairbanks, have a sales tax which varies from 2.5% to 7%.  Is it any wonder then that our state legislature and administration wants to cut the MOA revenue stream?

 

Residential and commercial property owners share too much of the cost of Anchorage’s operating budget. The majority of the MOA’s revenue comes property taxes. When you travel to the lower 48, your destination is not determined by the amount of the local sales tax. Total visitor industry spending in 2017 was $2.2 billion in Alaska. Granted, that’s state wide and includes air and ferry travel. However, a 3% seasonal sales tax from May to October would help generate revenue to give all property owners some relief from their disproportionate  contribution to Anchorage’s $526 million operating budget.      

How to Buy a Home that Doesn’t Exist (Yet)

by Connie Yoshimura

Welcome to the Spring Preview of Homes! Dwell Realty is honored to have 12 of the 28 entries which makes us at the epicenter of knowledge for buying and selling new homes. Last year there were only 193 single family homes built in Anchorage and for the first quarter of this year only 26 homes have been permitted so enjoy the new trends and amenities when visiting these new homes and be sure to thank all the builders for their continued commitment to bring new homes to the Anchorage marketplace.

With such a limited number of homes being built, many new home buyers are exploring the idea of having a home built. The exciting part of buying a ‘to be built’ home is you get to select the lot, the floor plan and all of the interior amenities, including wall color, flooring, cabinets, appliances, lighting, et cetera.  

But for some, who have never been through the process, the idea is daunting so here is some information that will help you. Step one is to select your location. Many of Anchorage’s new subdivisions are ‘locked down’. In other words, they are owned by the builder or have a commitment from the developer that only certain builders can build in the subdivision. Anchorage has a severe shortage of residential lots and so this exclusivity will continue for the foreseeable future. It’s a common business arrangement in the lower 48 so local buyers need to take it in stride.

The most frequently asked buyer question is what is my financial responsibility. Probably 90% of all new homes built on a presale (when the builder has a buyer commitment as opposed to a speculative build) are financed by the builder. The buyer’s responsibility is to provide a 90% letter from a mortgage lender which states after a review of their credit score, income verification and debt to income ratio that the buyer is approved for the desired mortgage amount and has funds available to close. It will also state whether the loan approval is contingent upon the sale of the buyer’s current residence. Each builder reacts differently to an offer with a contingency. Some will want a larger notice to proceed amount; others will want the buyer to pay their interest, taxes and utilities until they are ready to close on the home. Notice to proceed funds vary from 2-10%, which depends on the price point and how comfortable the builder is with the plan and buyer selections. Notice to proceed funds are non-refundable and disbursed directly to the builder to be used for permit fees, plans, appraisals, et cetera. The buyer receives credit for the notice to proceed funds at closing as part of the down payment and/or closing costs.      

Almost always the builder takes out the construction loan. He has a line of credit with a local lender that covers the lot purchase and 75% of the cost of the home to be built based upon a construction appraisal. The other financing option which occurs most frequently in the one million dollar plus market is for the buyer to take out the construction loan and then the builder receives a negotiated percentage of costs on a monthly basis at the time of the construction draw is approved by the owner and the buyer’s lender. In either situation, a fixed bid with an approved plan and allowances needs to be part of the purchase and sale agreement. Then, extras and upgrades are paid for in cash prior to ordering and installing by the builder.

How to Buy a Lot

by Connie Yoshimura

Despite this spring snowstorm, welcome to spring and the time of year when buyers shop for lots to build a new home on. However, not all lots are created equally so here is some advice based upon my years of experience as a residential land developer. First and foremost, I do not recommend any buyer purchase a lot without first walking its perimeter with a land surveyor or home builder. Even after that walk about, there should be a minimum of a 45 day diligence period written into every land purchase agreement while you research some of the items discussed below.

The site might have everything you are looking for-- tall trees, southern exposure, even a view of the mountains and a peek-a-boo view of the inlet but does the current zoning allow for what you want to build on the property? Can you keep your motorhome year round? Can you have four dogs instead of the maximum three the MOA allows? How tall can your new home be? These questions and others need to be investigated by examining the zoning requirements and a careful reading of the covenants, codes and restrictions. You can find most of this information from the property manager of the homeowner’s association, assuming there is one. 

Land developers do not do soil tests on individual lots so that is part of the due diligence of the prospective buyer. However, soil tests for the road in front of the lot should be available from the developer or the MOA. These tests can give you a good idea of future excavation costs, including the haul off of bad soils and the haul in of gravel for your foundation. These extra costs do not add value to the vertical structure you are building. If the asking price of the lot appears to be below market value, there is usually a good reason for its reduced price so tread carefully and keep asking questions either of the seller or at the MOA.

Anchorage has a number of infill lots, particularly in older parts of Anchorage, including South Addition, Fair View, downtown and certain areas of east Anchorage. However, don’t assume that because the home next door is hooked up to water and sewer that there is adequate water/sewer to the lot you are contemplating purchasing. In older communities, water and sewer pigtails are not thru the right of way and so a buyer will need to tear up the street to connect to the water/sewer main. Even if by chance, the pigtails are extended through the right-of-way, they may not be the right size or material and will need to be replaced. Plus, there is always the cost of traffic control which on a busy street like Boniface can cost several thousand dollars. And none of these costs add value to the building you are wanting to construct.               

Other potential costs may be ‘off-site’ such as a requirement to pave the alley the property is adjacent to. This is a frequent occurrence in mid-town, South Addition and Mountain view where the land was development in a grid. On the hillside, is access to the property a long private or dedicated road? If private you may end up being part of a limited road service district with annual costs.

These are just a few of the due diligence items that need to be explored before proceeding with the sale. Take your time, explore all your options before committing to that lot purchase to build your dream home. A few weeks of due diligence can save you thousands of unexpected costs.  

How to Buy a Lot

by Connie Yoshimura

Despite this spring snowstorm, welcome to spring and the time of year when buyers shop for lots to build a new home on. However, not all lots are created equally so here is some advice based upon my years of experience as a residential land developer. First and foremost, I do not recommend any buyer purchase a lot without first walking its perimeter with a land surveyor or home builder. Even after that walk about, there should be a minimum of a 45 day diligence period written into every land purchase agreement while you research some of the items discussed below.

The site might have everything you are looking for-- tall trees, southern exposure, even a view of the mountains and a peek-a-boo view of the inlet but does the current zoning allow for what you want to build on the property? Can you keep your motorhome year round? Can you have four dogs instead of the maximum three the MOA allows? How tall can your new home be? These questions and others need to be investigated by examining the zoning requirements and a careful reading of the covenants, codes and restrictions. You can find most of this information from the property manager of the homeowner’s association, assuming there is one. 

Land developers do not do soil tests on individual lots so that is part of the due diligence of the prospective buyer. However, soil tests for the road in front of the lot should be available from the developer or the MOA. These tests can give you a good idea of future excavation costs, including the haul off of bad soils and the haul in of gravel for your foundation. These extra costs do not add value to the vertical structure you are building. If the asking price of the lot appears to be below market value, there is usually a good reason for its reduced price so tread carefully and keep asking questions either of the seller or at the MOA.

Anchorage has a number of infill lots, particularly in older parts of Anchorage, including South Addition, Fair View, downtown and certain areas of east Anchorage. However, don’t assume that because the home next door is hooked up to water and sewer that there is adequate water/sewer to the lot you are contemplating purchasing. In older communities, water and sewer pigtails are not thru the right of way and so a buyer will need to tear up the street to connect to the water/sewer main. Even if by chance, the pigtails are extended through the right-of-way, they may not be the right size or material and will need to be replaced. Plus, there is always the cost of traffic control which on a busy street like Boniface can cost several thousand dollars. And none of these costs add value to the building you are wanting to construct.               

Other potential costs may be ‘off-site’ such as a requirement to pave the alley the property is adjacent to. This is a frequent occurrence in mid-town, South Addition and Mountain view where the land was development in a grid. On the hillside, is access to the property a long private or dedicated road? If private you may end up being part of a limited road service district with annual costs.

These are just a few of the due diligence items that need to be explored before proceeding with the sale. Take your time, explore all your options before committing to that lot purchase to build your dream home. A few weeks of due diligence can save you thousands of unexpected costs.  

Is it a Buyer or Seller’s Market?

by Connie Yoshimura

As always, the answer to that question depends on the price range, location and condition of the property. But, there are some trends worth noting. New single family permits are down for the first quarter of this year, see accompanying chart. MLS listings are also down from 2018 by 95 listings. Low inventory would usually make for price increases but, unfortunately, the average sales price the first quarter of 2019 has dropped by 5.95% compared to the average sales price of 2018. The first quarter of 2019 also saw sales drop by 66 units compared to the same time as last year. For the first time since 2015, the average price of a condo sale has dropped below $200,000 to $199,514.  

 

Good news for buyers? Perhaps, but the shortage of inventory in all price points makes for a competitive market for a property that is well priced and in excellent condition. Multiple offers on the same property are not unusual. Older property owners are beginning to balk at requests for cosmetic fixes and countering back at health and safety items only on home inspection reports. Some properties are even being marketed ‘as is’.

 

Almost all MLS districts have seen a decline in average price compared to last year, even if the number of sales has increased. However, it is interesting to note that MLS has an average supply of only 2.87 properties for sale. Million dollar properties are down by over 30% with only an 8.21 month supply.  If you’re a buyer looking for an affordable home between $250,000 and $274,999 good luck. As of April 4th, there are only 30 homes for sale spread out through the entire MOA which equates to only a 1.31 month supply. It’s not much better from $275,000 to $400,000 with an average supply of only 2.5 months. It’s hard for first time homebuyers to take a leap of faith for a new home purchase even when there is twice the inventory as what we have today. But, better to buy today while rates are still low than wait for summer price increases, fueled by new construction costs.

 

Looking into the future of housing in Anchorage, if you can find a single family home on a 6,000+ square foot lot in reasonably good condition with a seller who will take care of any health and safety issues, now is probably a good time to buy, despite all the negative news about potential job losses.  I’ve lived here for almost forty years now and, frankly, I wish I had kept every single home I had ever owned.  Not only are there the personal benefits of home ownership but Alaskans, despite two significant recessions, have always benefitted from home ownership when taking the long view.        


Preparing Your Home for the Spring Market

by Connie Yoshimura

Anchorage has historically low inventory right now with only 463 single family homes for sale so if you’ve been contemplating selling your home, now is the time. PLUS, mortgage interest rates have just dropped to 4% for a 30 year fixed rate.    Low rates put more first time home buyers in the market which catapults move-up buyers into the market. So here are some helpful hints if you’re ready to put your home on the market. Let’s start at the front door with a new welcome mat.  In another week or two, you will be able to re-stain or paint your front steps and add a fresh coat of designer color  to the front door. It’s too soon to hang a flower basket but make sure your walk-way is free of any ice or dirt.  

Now for the inside. Get your windows washed inside and out, including any lint on the screens. Shampoo the carpets and send out your area rugs to be cleaned. If you have draperies, get them cleaned as well. This may sound silly but change out all your light bulbs to the highest wattage possible and leave them all on for a showing. If your carpet is more than ten years old, you may want to consider replacing it. A single carpet color throughout the house will make your home more spacious. The more flooring breaks in the home, the more disjointed and smaller the space  will appear. The same is true for wall color. Your favorite color may be blue but it may not be your potential buyer’s so paint it out.  

When preparing your home for sale, your goal is to create a neutral shell that any buyer can visualize living in with their existing furnishings. That includes taking down stuffed animal heads and in today’s world, political memorabilia. If you have pets, make sure you eliminate any bad odors by removing little boxes and doggie diapers and spray an air neutralizer, as well as opening windows for fresh air.

Many sellers are confused about whether to remodel the kitchen which is the most expensive room in the home. My answer to that is NO and it’s also a NO to the bathrooms. At best, spending thousands of dollars on those two remodels may only return fifty cents on the dollar if you are lucky. But, you are still second guessing what a future buyer’s vision may be for those rooms. Instead, add some new knobs and pulls.  Clean the garage and  consider putting a primer on the walls. It is also fairly inexpensive to paint the floor. Garages are important to buyers so don’t forget about them and also the homes’ closets. Take a lesson or two from Marie Kondo and only keep clothing that gives you joy and brings back fond memories. I tend to shop when I’m on vacation, despite my husband’s protests, so much of my clothing reminds me of the trips I’ve taken. At least that’s the justification for my over-stuffed closet. Nevertheless, I’m going to make a public promise to practice KonMari during my Easter break! 

There are also little things to do prior to a showing like closing the lid on the toilet, making the bed, doing the dishes and turning on all the lights. I crave fresh spring flowers and a vase full of flowers on the dining room table or kitchen island makes everyone feel like spring is really here, especially if they are yellow, the happy color. What buyers want most is to know that the home has been well-maintained and cared for by the seller and you’ve demonstrated that by doing all of the above. And best of all, you’ve added value to your home.     

A Snail’s Pace for the Real Estate Market in 2019?

by Connie Yoshimura

The Anchorage real estate market is off to a slow start in 2019. Active listings for Jan/Feb fell by 3.2% from the same time as last year. More importantly, closed sales declined by 15.60%. Whether that is because of continued lack of inventory or the current concern over potential job losses as a result of the Governor’s proposed budget cuts is hard to determine. However, combined, those two factors have resulted in a negative 5.95% decline in the average sales price year to date of $350,968 compared to the 2018 average of $373,180.

 

New construction single family permits have also declined. If we thought 21 new single family permits was a slow start in 2018, this year is off to an even slower start with only 13 single family permits for Jan/Feb. Five duplexes were permitted compared to only one last year but multi-family units are only 7 compared to 36 YTD last year. Including commercial and government alterations, total new construction is down 32.43% for the first two months of this year. It is still too early to tell the impact earthquake damage will have on new construction but most of that bump up should come in commercial alterations and residential remodeling increases. It won’t affect our declining single family permits dilemma as few homes have actually been slated for demolition and replacement.  

 

But the good news for housing is the Feds have announced interest rates will remain the same for 2019 with the 30 year fixed rate mortgage now stable at 4.125. Although most buyers purchase homes because of personal changes relating to marriage, birth, death, divorce and job change, a low interest rate allows buyers to have better and more choices, assuming, of course, there is adequate inventory in the market to select from. 


The lower forty-eight is continuing to experience a single family renaissance with national builders scooping up hundreds of lots in various secondary markets. Here in Anchorage, we’re not so lucky. Our lot available is in the Valley. Until last weekend, it had been over a year since I had been to the Valley and the commercial and residential activity was eye opening. If you haven’t been to the Valley in a while, take a spring drive up the Glenn. The traffic, commercial and retail enterprises popping up will renew your economic faith in Alaska.


The Municipality of Anchorage needs to recognize its economic competitor knocking on its backdoor and it starts with acknowledging the need for more home ownership opportunities. The solution to more Anchorage home building needs to be varied and thoughtful.  More downtown multi-family units (yes, the MOA has already incentivized that with a 12 year tax abatement) but what about the fact that over 65% of buyers prefer a single family home which is why so many are willing to make that hour long drive to and from the Valley? Let’s take another look at the Title 21 guidebook and see what can be created with smaller single family lots and less infill restrictions on lower density multi-family lots.


A Snail’s Pace for the Real Estate Market in 2019?

by Connie Yoshimura

The Anchorage real estate market is off to a slow start in 2019. Active listings for Jan/Feb fell by 3.2% from the same time as last year. More importantly, closed sales declined by 15.60%. Whether that is because of continued lack of inventory or the current concern over potential job losses as a result of the Governor’s proposed budget cuts is hard to determine. However, combined, those two factors have resulted in a negative 5.95% decline in the average sales price year to date of $350,968 compared to the 2018 average of $373,180.

 

New construction single family permits have also declined. If we thought 21 new single family permits was a slow start in 2018, this year is off to an even slower start with only 13 single family permits for Jan/Feb. Five duplexes were permitted compared to only one last year but multi-family units are only 7 compared to 36 YTD last year. Including commercial and government alterations, total new construction is down 32.43% for the first two months of this year. It is still too early to tell the impact earthquake damage will have on new construction but most of that bump up should come in commercial alterations and residential remodeling increases. It won’t affect our declining single family permits dilemma as few homes have actually been slated for demolition and replacement.  

 

But the good news for housing is the Feds have announced interest rates will remain the same for 2019 with the 30 year fixed rate mortgage now stable at 4.125. Although most buyers purchase homes because of personal changes relating to marriage, birth, death, divorce and job change, a low interest rate allows buyers to have better and more choices, assuming, of course, there is adequate inventory in the market to select from. 


The lower forty-eight is continuing to experience a single family renaissance with national builders scooping up hundreds of lots in various secondary markets. Here in Anchorage, we’re not so lucky. Our lot available is in the Valley. Until last weekend, it had been over a year since I had been to the Valley and the commercial and residential activity was eye opening. If you haven’t been to the Valley in a while, take a spring drive up the Glenn. The traffic, commercial and retail enterprises popping up will renew your economic faith in Alaska.


The Municipality of Anchorage needs to recognize its economic competitor knocking on its backdoor and it starts with acknowledging the need for more home ownership opportunities. The solution to more Anchorage home building needs to be varied and thoughtful.  More downtown multi-family units (yes, the MOA has already incentivized that with a 12 year tax abatement) but what about the fact that over 65% of buyers prefer a single family home which is why so many are willing to make that hour long drive to and from the Valley? Let’s take another look at the Title 21 guidebook and see what can be created with smaller single family lots and less infill restrictions on lower density multi-family lots.


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 229

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