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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. 

Coming Real Estate Trends in 2019

by Connie Yoshimura

Although we Alaskans  still like to think we’re different than our cousins in the lower 48, there are some housing trends and economic factors that will affect even us in Alaska as we move forward into 2019 from rising  mortgage interest rates to the color of bathroom fixtures in new homes. After almost forty years listing, selling and developing residential real estate in Anchorage, I’ve lived and worked through almost every imaginable trend both positive and negative.  Just imagine selling a home with a mortgage interest rate at 15.75 % in the early l980’s.  Yes, people do buy homes at that rate because people buy homes not because of the interest rate but because of personal factors like marriage, births, divorce, death and job change. Just imagine that Anchorage once built over 6,000 housing units in one year which was more than the city of Phoenix where I am writing this column from, visiting with my Japanese-American family for Thanksgiving dinner. Then, imagine when you could buy a Foxwood condo for $29,000 just by putting it on your credit card. Now, they are worth $132,000 and I sure wish I would have bought one then!  I know one builder who told me he wished he had kept every home he had ever built.  And I know another builder who did keep a percentage of them and did very well when he sold them off several years later.

So moving forward into 2019, you can expect to pay more for a mortgage.  Interest rates will push to 5% plus but hopefully will not hit 6%.  Home owners who bought or refinanced at 3.25% will be smug that they hit the market right. But who can really complain  when it’s three times less than 15.75%?  Labor shortages, rising material costs thanks to tariffs on soft wood from Canada and steel and sheetrock from China, will push new home costs up as well as rising regulatory costs—a national trend, not just a local one we all bemoan that no organization or elected official can seem to do anything about. And don’t forget about those rising interest rates.  Most speculative building and development rates have already hit 6% and will keep rising in 2019, another factor that will increase the cost of a new home.

Now, about the color of those bathroom fixtures.  Remember turquoise, gold and gray?  Yes, I said grey.  Regardless of how you spell it, grey is out  whether its on the walls or the stand alone tub.  If you have grey in your home and are fighting our dark winters, turn it into grayish by  adding some white pillow accents, painting a wall white, and increasing the wattage of your lighting.  Natural wood is back in 2019, whether it’s a fireplace mantle, a beam or cherry cabinets.  And that kitchen island which is at the center of all Thanksgiving dinners?  It’s big and bold with a quartz waterfall.  The stove top and sink returns to their rightful place along a wall.

Now, I’m off to enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner with my multi-generational/cultural American made family and I hope you have all had a Happy Thanksgiving Dinner with your family and friends.

How Dining Rooms and Kitchens Have Changed

by Connie Yoshimura

Thanksgiving is one of the few days in the year when homeowners actually use their dining rooms. For the rest of the time, most of us have become more casual and eat around the kitchen island. Gone, too, is the formal living room, replaced by the great room in contemporary plans.  But, in buyer surveys the dining room still emerges as one of the most desirable ‘must haves’, particularly for General X and Y families who hold on to their childhood memories of holiday meals. Even downsizing boomers and seniors hesitate to give up their dining room. How big that space needs to be usually depends on the size of the table and its’ shape. Popular round tables require a wider width. In today’s market a dining room that is 10 by 12 would be considered adequate for most holiday dinners. That’s a cozy ten or twelve seats around a rectangular table. You would be surprised how often a builder’s plan gets pushed and pulled to accommodate a family table, hutch and side board.  

However, the dining room isn’t the only room that gets more attention during the holidays.  For days before slicing that perfectly roasted turkey, it’s all about the kitchen and appliances. Most new ovens will accommodate a 20 lb turkey but you need more than one oven for the dressing, roasted brussel sprouts or that famous green bean side dish. Double ovens is probably the most asked for upgrade in a new home kitchen. There are now 32-36 inch stoves and stove tops with five burners so those big commercial Viking ranges aren’t nearly as necessary as in the past. But if there’s more than one cook, a 42 inch cook top alleviates a lot of bumping elbows. The MOA requires a minimum of thirty-six inches between counters and islands but what cooks really need is at least a forty-two inch space to maneuver around. If you’re planning a new home or a kitchen remodel, consult a kitchen designer. They are like occupational therapists. They can tract a cook’s movement and design around it in the most efficient way possible. The triangle concept between the kitchen, fridge and stove remains a good place to start the planning process. Even in million dollar homes, I’ve seen designs where when you open the dishwasher, you can’t stand in front of it because the island is in the way.  Walk in pantries are also a must have in any home over $500,000 and you should make sure the builder includes adequate lighting. 

Kitchen designs have changed significantly over the past thirty years. First, there was the galley kitchen. Then, it opened up to a U-shaped kitchen. Then, came the small center island in the middle of the U-shaped kitchen. Now, the most contemporary kitchens are wide open with a detached island that is all one height without an appliance in the middle. It is like the galley kitchen without the walls and usually even bigger. It’s where the family gathers at the end of a long work day except on Thanksgiving when we all sit down around the dining room table to give thanks that we are fortunate to have family, friends and a more than enough to eat.      

 

Number of New Housing Units Continues to Decline

by Connie Yoshimura

It seems like I have written this article again and again. The September building report for single family, duplex and multi-family permits clearly demonstrates the continued downward spiral of housing starts.  Through the third quarter of 2018, there have been ten fewer single family starts compared to 2017; twenty-six fewer duplex units started; and twelve fewer multi-family units permitted. The total number of housing starts through the third quarter was 404 in 2017 and 356 in 2018 which is a decline of 11.88% percent. Even with one quarter left, the residential construction season is basically over except for a few brave single family builders who are fighting the November chill and wind to put in a handful of foundations so that they can be ready for the spring market. The average permit value for a new single family home was $403,586 which does not include the cost of the lot.

But, that’s not all the bad news. The total value of ALL construction permits, including commercial alternations, change orders for residential, commercial and government plus any new commercial permits has declined by 8.15% percent. This year to date total is $327,445,809 compared to $356,491,103 in 2017. So does anyone wonder why subcontractors have left Alaska for the lower 48 where the market is better, wages are comparable or better and the climate is at least thirty degrees warmer and they can build 12 months a year? 

However, there is one statistic in these reports that continues to stand out and that’s the number of residential and commercial alterations or in lay man’s terms: remodeling. Just take a drive around mid-town and you can witness older buildings being remodeled with new paint, textures and contemporary facades and entries, the most prominent being the new REI anchor in the old Sears Mall. Residential remodeling is not quite so dramatic. The most common home remodel is the kitchen, followed by the bathrooms. Both require electrical and plumbing upgrades which need permits. Structural additions can include increasing the size of the garage, adding an artic entry or a family room at the back of the home or above the garage. 

Unless you are adding an auxiliary dwelling unit (ADU), which is now allowed with some restrictions in all R1 zones regardless of the square footage of the lot, remodeling doesn’t add housing units which is what our city needs in order to keep its millennial and boomer population. Anchorage has lost 3,000 residents over the past few years. Whether that loss was to our neighbors to the north, Boise Idaho, Tucson Arizona or Palm Springs, doesn’t matter. It has created a loss of circulating income and left a void in our civic and social activities that will be hard to replace without more affordable housing.               

So You Want to Buy a Piece of Land?

by Connie Yoshimura

It looks good.  Has tall trees.  Even a view of the mountains and a peek-a-boo view of the inlet.  But, what else do you need to know?  First, does the current zoning allow for what  you want to do with the property.  Whether it is a potential tract for a new subdivision or an already platted lot, there are zoning restrictions that run with the parcel.   You may want to build a triplex but the zoning only allows for a duplex.  To build the triplex, you would need to rezone the property which would require a rezone application  to the Planning and Zoning Commission for approval as well as to the assembly which has the final approval for all rezones.  That process can take anywhere from six  months to a year depending on the complexity of the rezone and the schedule of P and Z and the Anchorage Assembly. 

Soils may look good initially with natural vegetation but we all know looks are deceiving so the careful buyer will want to have some test holes dug and the sample soils evaluated by professional engineers.  Whether building a subdivision with roads/water/sewer or buying a lot to build a new home on, test holes can give you a good idea of the excavation costs and  costs for the haul off of bad soils and the haul in of dry gravel.  These extra costs do not add appraised value to the vertical structure you are planning on building.   Are the easements for gas and electric on the front or back of the lot?  Easements constrain placement of the structure. You also  want to make sure you have the appropriate square footage available for your footprint. No more than 30% of a lot can be utilized for a two-story home and no more than 40% for a ranch.  That lot coverage ratio includes porches and garages. 

There are a number of infill vacant lots in Anchorage, particularly in the older parts of Anchorage.  However, in most instances, 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 were extended through the right-of-way, they will most likely not be the right size or type material and will need to be replaced.  Another cost that does not add value.

Will there by ‘off-site’ costs that you will have to pay to develop the property?   Off-site costs can include a requirement to pave alleys which are common in older neighborhoods like South Addition and Mountain View.  A neighbor may have water/sewer to his property but that doesn’t necessarily mean the main has been extended to your lot line.  The same is true for gas and electric.  The access to the property may look like a road but it may, instead, be a drive-way that will need to be improved road standards before you are allowed to build on your lot. 

Finally, are there covenants, codes and restrictions on the property?  Even if they are forty years old and by all appearances have been violated numerous times over the years, read them carefully.  There is always a pesky neighbor who may not like you building on that vacant lot they’ve used as open space for several years.

So You Want To Buy a Piece of Land

by Connie Yoshimura

It looks good. Has tall trees. Even a view of the mountains and a peek-a-boo view of the inlet.  But, what else do you need to know? First, does the current zoning allow for what you want to do with the property.  Whether it is a potential tract for a new subdivision or an already platted lot, there are zoning restrictions that run with the parcel. You may want to build a triplex but the zoning only allows for a duplex. To build the triplex, you would need to rezone the property which would require a rezone application to the Planning and Zoning Commission for approval as well as to the assembly which has the final approval for all rezones. That process can take anywhere from six months to a year depending on the complexity of the rezone and the schedule of P and Z and the Anchorage Assembly. 

Soils may look good initially with natural vegetation but we all know looks are deceiving so the careful buyer will want to have some test holes dug and the sample soils evaluated by professional engineers. Whether building a subdivision with roads/water/sewer or buying a lot to build a new home on, test holes can give you a good idea of the excavation costs and costs for the haul off of bad soils and the haul in of dry gravel. These extra costs do not add appraised value to the vertical structure you are planning on building. Are the easements for gas and electric on the front or back of the lot? Easements constrain placement of the structure. You also  want to make sure you have the appropriate square footage available for your footprint. No more than 30% of a lot can be utilized for a two-story home and no more than 40% for a ranch. That lot coverage ratio includes porches and garages. 

There are a number of infill vacant lots in Anchorage, particularly in the older parts of Anchorage. However, in most instances, 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 were extended through the right-of-way, they will most likely not be the right size or type material and will need to be replaced. Another cost that does not add value. 

Will there by ‘off-site’ costs that you will have to pay to develop the property? Off-site costs can include a requirement to pave alleys which are common in older neighborhoods like South Addition and Mountain View. A neighbor may have water/sewer to his property but that doesn’t necessarily mean the main has been extended to your lot line. The same is true for gas and electric. The access to the property may look like a road but it may, instead, be a drive-way that will need to be improved road standards before you are allowed to build on your lot.  

Finally, are there covenants, codes and restrictions on the property? Even if they are forty years old and by all appearances have been violated numerous times over the years, read them carefully. There is always a pesky neighbor who may not like you building on that vacant lot they’ve used as open space for several years.

Live. Work. Play. In Downtown Anchorage.

by Connie Yoshimura

Is it a myth or reality that Anchorage citizens want to live downtown? According to the new housing report published this week by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation “millennials to seniors, want to live close to downtown and in smaller-scale housing.” The AEDC 2018 housing survey composed of 1,114 individuals with a slight over representation of seniors, with 15.7 percent of respondents being over the age of 65. Sixty-three percent of respondents were married or part of a domestic partnership while 18% of respondents said they lived alone. Seventy-three percent of respondents had a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and forty-five percent had a minimum income over $100,000

This survey is an excellent snap shot of downtown buyers—affluent, older and well-educated with a smattering of sophisticated millennial buyers who frequently have migrated north to Alaska from lower 48 urban areas. According to the survey, 83% of respondents preferred a one level single family home while 64% would prefer a single level multi-level home. Forty-eight percent said they would consider living in a townhouse or condo.    

Although Anchorage citizens overwhelming prefer to live in a single family home, a recent change to the Title 21 land use ordinance created accessory dwelling units in an R1 single family zone. According to a recent MOA official, only ten such permits have been issued since the ordinance took place and only 18% of respondents are interested in living in an ADU. Senior housing, apartment living and micro-housing also fell well below the 20% level of interest. Yet, Anchorage planning officials continue to press and encourage higher density development, including mixed-use development which is retail on the first floor with three or four stories of apartments above. Only 9% of residents want to live in an apartment complex with six or more units.

One builder in Anchorage, Hultquist Homes, has made a commitment to lower density development in downtown Anchorage. Since 2009, Hultquist Homes has built, is building or committed to building over 40 housing units, including townhouses, duplex flats, lofts, small single family condos and luxury one level units about to come out of the ground on Coastal Place, directly behind Petersen Towers. These new housing units begin as low as $350,000 upwards to $1 million plus. It’s a commitment to the redevelopment of downtown Anchorage and the Live. Work. Play initiative that I am proud to be a part of. These homes are being built without subsidies or tax abatements that are frequently provided to larger residential developments which according to its own AEDC report, less than 50% of respondents want to live in.  

For more information on downtown properties for sale, contact me at 907-229-2703. I look forward to hearing from you.

Live. Work. Play. In Downtown Anchorage.

by Connie Yoshimura

Is it a myth or reality that Anchorage citizens want to live downtown? According to the new housing report published this week by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation “millennials to seniors, want to live close to downtown and in smaller-scale housing.” The AEDC 2018 housing survey composed of 1,114 individuals with a slight over representation of seniors, with 15.7 percent of respondents being over the age of 65. Sixty-three percent of respondents were married or part of a domestic partnership while 18% of respondents said they lived alone. Seventy-three percent of respondents had a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and forty-five percent had a minimum income over $100,000

This survey is an excellent snap shot of downtown buyers—affluent, older and well-educated with a smattering of sophisticated millennial buyers who frequently have migrated north to Alaska from lower 48 urban areas. According to the survey, 83% of respondents preferred a one level single family home while 64% would prefer a single level multi-level home. Forty-eight percent said they would consider living in a townhouse or condo.

Although Anchorage citizens overwhelming prefer to live in a single family home, a recent change to the Title 21 land use ordinance created accessory dwelling units in an R1 single family zone. According to a recent MOA official, only ten such permits have been issued since the ordinance took place and only 18% of respondents are interested in living in an ADU. Senior housing, apartment living and micro-housing also fell well below the 20% level of interest. Yet, Anchorage planning officials continue to press and encourage higher density development, including mixed-use development which is retail on the first floor with three or four stories of apartments above. Only 9% of residents want to live in an apartment complex with six or more units.

One builder in Anchorage, Hultquist Homes, has made a commitment to lower density development in downtown Anchorage. Since 2009, Hultquist Homes has built, is building or committed to building over 40 housing units, including townhouses, duplex flats, lofts, small single family condos and luxury one level units about to come out of the ground on Coastal Place, directly behind Petersen Towers. These new housing units begin as low as $350,000 upwards to $1 million plus. It’s a commitment to the redevelopment of downtown Anchorage and the Live. Work. Play initiative that I am proud to be a part of. These homes are being built without subsidies or tax abatements that are frequently provided to larger residential developments which according to its own AEDC report, less than 50% of respondents want to live in.

For more information on downtown properties for sale, contact me at 907-229-2703. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Test Your Real Estate Knowledge!

by Connie Yoshimura

1. What is the average rent for a two 

bedroom apartment in Anchorage?

A.   $800     

B.   $1,000   

C.   $1,200

 

2. Does the landlord include utilities in 

the above rental amount?

 

3. What does a three bedroom single 

family home rent for in Anchorage?

A.   $1,849  

B.   $2,149     

C.   $2,349

 

4. What is Anchorage’s vacancy factor?

A.   6.2%       

B.   4.2%       

C.   7.75%

5. What is the vacancy factor in the Mat-Su Borough?

A.   7.3%           

B.   8.3%          

C.   4.6%

 

6. When my son or daughter grows up, I want them to earn a good living by becoming:

A.   Lawyer     

B.   Chef          

C.   Carpenter

 

 

7. Have Anchorage condos increased or decreased in value in 2018 and by how much?

A.   Increased by 3.2%     

B.   Decreased by 1.6%        

C.   Stayed the same


8. How many million dollar homes have sold in Eagle River in 2018?

A.   One     

B.   Three    

C.   None

 

9. How many have sold in Anchorage?

A.   Five         

B.   Eight          

C.   Twelve         

D.   Sixteen

 

10. Averages are only indicators.  Has the average sales price for single family homes increased or decreased recently?

 

11. What is the average sales price of a single family home in Anchorage?

 

12. How many single family building permits have been issued through August 2018?

 

13. What was the average price of a hillside lot that sold in 2018?

A.   $140,000      

B.   $185,000         

C.   $220,000

 

14. What is the largest issue facing the real estate market today?

A.   Lack of inventory         

B.   Affordability            

C.   Alaska’s aging inventory

 

Answer Key   1. C   2. Yes   3. B   4. A   5. A   6. C   7. B   8. C   9. D   10. Increased   11. $377,000   12. 114   13. B   14. All of the Above


Tell Us What is Special About the Place You Call Home

by Connie Yoshimura

Before I was a realtor, I was a writer.  Writing and reading has always been a part of my life.  Perhaps, it was because I had to learn the alphabet at a very young age in order to spell my name—Constance June Yoshimura. Over time, reading became a way of exploration new worlds as I read my way through the children’s section of the Andrew Carnegie Library in Wester City, Iowa. And, then, ultimately writing became a time for personal reflection and way of making sense of the world. 

 

As a young woman, the journey from Iowa to Alaska was awe inspiring. After all, Iowa didn’t have mountains, oceans or bears! My first home in Anchorage was an apartment on Barbara Street in Spenard. I’ve also lived on the hillside, east Anchorage, Petersen Towers and Campbell Lake. Each has provided many memories and offered an opportunity for personal reflection. Between everyone’s four walls there are always tears of joy and sadness. 

 

Today, I’m proud to announce Dwell Realty’s second annual creative writing contest for elementary school children with ‘Tell Us What Is Special About the Place You Call Home.” Last year, over 150 essays (some with hand drawn pictures) were submitted. I read every one. They were both heartwarming and heart breaking. If you know an elementary school student, please encourage them to submit an essay. The written word still remains one of the most influential tools of communication we have in our society.  

 

Eight winners and their teachers will each receive a $100 cash price presented at the Anchorage School Board meeting on October 22. I look forward to reading them all in the coming weeks.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 213

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