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This is the archive for March 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

Prescription Bottle
The Puyallup Real Estate landscape has exploded in recent years. It seems like there is a Wallgreens or Rite Aid on nearly every corner. But you know what? Sometimes it's the little guys that really win you over. One of those "little guys" is Kirk's Pharmacy at Sunrise. My wife turned me on to this little pharmacy that could about a year ago. I should have posted back then, but sometimes you forget the ones you love, so Kirk, I'm sorry. I'm trying to make it up to you now.

Located in the Sunrise Medical Campus (110th Avenue and Sunrise Blvd.) Kirk's Pharmacy at Sunrise reminds me of the days I used to go into Ludwig's pharmacy on South Tacoma Way with my grandmother. Ludwig (I think!?) used to greet my grandmother by name and toss me a roll of life savers every time we came in. I get the same feeling when I go into Kirk's.

I have a prescription that I need filled every month. I used to go to Wallgreens on the corner of 176th and Meridian. While Wallgreens was convenient because of their drive up window, Kirk's has them beat hands down in service. Sometimes Wallgreens would take days to fill my prescription even though they claimed it would be ready in an hour. There were always long lines to deal with both in the store and in the drive up. I'm almost scared to post how good Kirk's is for fear they'll become just as busy. I want to keep it all for myself. But they have a phone in service just like the other pharmacy. They usually say the prescription will be ready within 2 hours. There is almost NEVER a line when you go to pick up. And if you forget to call it in, they'll fill it there on the spot. Their hours aren't as long as the other place, but a little planning and you shouldn't have any hassles. They've taken my insurance just like the other place and I feel like they know my name. It's a wonderful experience to find a hometown store like this.

If you live out on South Hill, you owe it to yourself to get your prescriptions filled at Kirk's. You'll never go back to one of the big box stores.

Kirk's Pharmacy At Sunrise
11212 Sunrise Blvd E Ste 204
Puyallup, WA 98374
(253) 770-3408

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Programmable Thermostat
I have the very good fortune of living next door to my longest standing friend. Ken and I have been friends since our first day in Kindergarten. Last month we got into the discussion of heating bills. Our homes were both built by the same builder, using the same components. My house is about 200 square feet larger than Ken's, but for all intents and purposes, our homes are the same.

As we were discussing our energy bills, it turns out my bill was on average about $100 per month higher than his. Or about 50% higher. That's significant. So I called Puget Sound Energy to find out what the breakdown was. About 67% of my bill was my gas bill and 33% was Electric. The only difference between our two homes is that I have a gas stove, and his is electric. I can't imagine that our stove would contribute that much more to the bill, especially since he has two kids.

So I started examining the heating system. Again, same components. I had set my heat to 69 degrees when we're home and 66 degrees when we're asleep or gone. I had heard somewhere to keep your set points within about 3 or 4 degrees of each other for maximum efficiency. As I was working from home one day, I noticed that our heat would come on for about 10 mintues, then shut off for 10 minutes. This cycle was repeated all day. So I changed the setting to 64 degrees while we're gone and asleep, and 69 degrees while we're home.

Working from home later in the week, the house held steady at about 66 degrees. The heat didn't come on even once. I haven't gotten this month's bill, but I'm REALLY curious to see how that affected it.

Reading Handy magazine the other night, they said there should be an 8 degree spread between your set points. So today I did further research on it and came across Energy Star's website on Programmable thermostats. According to their usage guidelines, your set points should be 8 degrees apart in the Winter and 4 degrees apart in the Summer (if you have A/C). So I'd take their word for it. Hopefully this helps even one of you to save some money on your energy bill. I'll update you when I get our monthly bill as to how much I saved.

Here's the link to Energy Star's Website Once there, click on their "Proper Use Guidelines" and read the subtext below the article for the 8 and 4 degree separation.

UPDATE: I just got my Puget Sound Energy bill and it was a full $60.00 less than last month. AWESOME! Check your thermostats!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The house and senate have both recently passed the FHA modernization bill which is good news for the real estate economy in the United States. Buyers and Sellers will definitely benefit from this bill, but buyers are the target. With most of the subprime loans gone (whew!) we needed a safe alternative for buyers to purchase a home loan. A federally insured loan has traditionally been the vehicle of choice for those buyers.

In fact, when I purchased my first home in 1996, I used an FHA loan to do it. The requirements were that you only needed 3% down. When I bought that home it was only $90,000, so coming up with the requisite $2,700 wasn't too hard. (Thanks mom & dad!) However, as average prices have been on the increase and the average price of a residential home in Pierce County now over $300,000, coming up with 3% down ($9,000) is becoming more and more difficult for first time home buyers.

Also, FHA loan limits (the maximum you can borrow for an FHA loan) have recently lagged behind our tremendous price appreciation, so the FHA loans had fallen out of favor because they catered to less than 20% of the homes on the market. Enter the subprime loans. We all know where that got us!

So wit the new FHA Modernization bill, loan limits have receently been increased. In Pierce, King and Snohomish counties, that loan limit is now $567,500! This allows move up buyers now to purchase a home and not be subjected to Jumbo loan rates (traditionally 1% higher than non-jumbo loans). It also means that at least in Pierce County and FHA loan will be available for 83% of current inventory!

OK, but what about 1st time home buyers? Well here's where it gets really good! We need the first time home buyers to buy so the move up buyer can move up right? Well the 3% down payment requirement has been a sticking point with cash poor buyers. They have good credit, decent income and stable jobs, but no savings. The new bill, if passed (hopefully this week) would lower the FHA down payment requirements to 1.5% or on the $300,000 home, $4,500. A much more doable alternative for some people.

But wait, what if buyers have ZERO downpayment and no money to pay towards closing costs? Again, if they have good credit, stable jobs and decent income, we have options for them. Stable, secure options. The Neamiah program is still in effect and allows for the seller to contribute up to 6% towards a buyer's closing costs and down payment. With only needing 1.5% down, a buyer would normally only need up to 4.5% of the purchase price to buy a home. So YES, we can still do ZERO down!

So what are you waiting for! Call me today! Let's find you that home of your dreams!

Here's a link to the Money article about the Modernization bill:

Money Article on FHA Mordernization Bill

Friday, March 07, 2008

I know that a lot of people think that real estate agents simply stick a sign in the yard, get an offer on a home and collect a paycheck. Ha! If only it were that easy! There are so many little things that go into our career that it would take hundreds of blog posts to cover them all. I wanted to share just a small tidbit of what can happen and why it's good to have a professional on your side.

Today I sat down with one of my clients at the closing table. She was selling her home and we had received all the closing documents. As we were going through the HUD-1 settlement statement (see end of article for a definition), the escrow officer read off a number of the charges and credits. The seller had originally agreed to pay $6,000 of the buyer's closing costs. However, during the transaction, the buyer's lender would only allow about $4,600 to be paid by the seller. So the home price was adjusted downward by $1,400 as were the closing costs. However, as the escrow officer read off the sales price, it was correct, but they still had $6,000 listed as the seller paid contribution. The eagle eyed real estate agent (that's me) said "Wait a second, there was an addendum changing those closing costs to $4,600". The addendum was found, the correction made, and my seller was super happy that they had an additional $1,400 coming back to them.

Now, this error would have eventually been caught by either the buyer's lender or the escrow officer, so my seller was never really in danger of losing that $1,400. But it just goes to show you that having another set of eyes that has been through this hundreds of times is always beneficial to you.

Looking to buy or sell a home? Don't be left alone, call a Realtor! In Western Washington? Better yet! Call me!

NOTE: A HUD-1 Settlement statement is typically the first item you will see when you go to closing when either buying or selling a home. It outlines all the credits and debits between all parties, buyer, seller, lender, title, escrow, etc. and shows the buyer and seller how much they must bring in to close the transaction or what amount they will be receiving back at closing.

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