When people in the West Seattle community are in need, they’ve learned they can turn to Windermere broker Mary Ann Vandergriff. After a company backed out of providing turkeys for 40 elementary school families the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the school’s family support worker called Vandergriff in a panic. Just a few phone calls later, the big-hearted broker had rounded up 40 vouchers for 20-pound turkeys.
“I have all this stuff in my head… things that come to me,” she says. “I love a challenge; give me a complicated puzzle.”
Volunteering was a big part of Vandergriff ’s childhood, so it was only natural that she got involved with the Windermere Foundation soon after joining the company in the early 1990s. As a single mom of two, Vandergriff was especially drawn to the mission of the Windermere Foundation, which collects a portion of the proceeds from homes bought or sold through Windermere to donate to projects that benefit low-income and homeless families. “Giving kids a chance, that’s the most important thing to me,” she says.
As the Windermere Foundation representative for the West Seattle office, Vandergriff has worked with countless organizations over the years. Early on, she jumped into spearheading fundraising for Project Cool, a program from the King County Coalition on Homelessness that provides students with backpacks stuffed with school supplies.
More recently, her office has supported the West Seattle Helpline, which provides emergency assistance to neighbors in need. Last year the team spent a service day setting up Clothesline, West Seattle Helpline’s free clothing store. “We completely put that store together, from laying carpet to organizing clothes to organizing the hangers that were donated,” Vandergriff says. “When you have 40 of us brokers in a day, you can move mountains.”
Although it creates more administrative work, the West Seattle office spreads its giving budget—about $25,000—throughout the year so that they always have some seed money on hand to fulfill a need when asked. They’ve helped mothers with breast cancer pay their bills while going through treatment, outfitted children in new winter coats, purchased appliances for a food bank, provided computers for a school, and made sure families had enough to eat during holiday breaks.
The list of organizations they’ve helped only grows over the years, and Vandergriff wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You help one person at a time,” she says. “It may not be big, it may be small, but even changing the life of one or two children makes a difference.”
By Haley Shapley – Originally published in Windermere Living
Since 1989, the Windermere Foundation has donated more than $36 million to provide shelter, food, children’s programs, emergency assistance, and other services for our communities. Learn more at Windermere.com/Foundation.
What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.
The U.S. Economy
Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.
Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing. Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.
The U.S. Housing Market
Existing Home Sales
This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market. In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.
Existing Home Prices
We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017. In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.
New Home Sales
In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.
That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.
In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.
In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or levelling. We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.
I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.
There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating. In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.
That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.
Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.
Originally published on Inman News.
The winter holiday season is one of our favorites! It is also a busy time of the year for Windermere offices, as many are working with local non-profits to support families who need a little extra help during the holidays. From running clothing drives to hosting free photo events with Santa, our agents and offices are out in their communities helping those in need have a warm and merry holiday. Below are just a few examples of how Windermere is giving back this season.
The Windermere Metro Denver office participated in the Mr. Hugs gift drive hosted by Providence Network. In addition to collecting and donating gifts to the drive, agents also helped with wrapping everything. Providence Network provides transitional housing to people recovering from addiction, homelessness and abuse. This event served around 200 people and provided an opportunity for the residents to do some Christmas shopping for each other from the gifts that were donated.
Oregon and SW Washington
Offices throughout Oregon and SW Washington recently held their annual Share the Warmth Annual Coat & Blanket Drive, collecting new or gently used coats blankets. Launched in 2002 in the Portland area, this annual event has grown significantly to include 40 Windermere offices throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. Offices select the non-profit organization(s) in their communities to receive the donated items they’ve collected and to distribute them to those in need.
Windermere offices in Southern Oregon participated in the Newswatch 12 Coats for Kids drive. Eight Windermere offices (Ashland, Eagle Point, Grants Pass, Jacksonville, Klamath Falls, Medford, Rogue River, Shady Cove) teamed up with TV station KDRV to collect coats for local school children.
The Windermere Sand Point office is hosting a giving tree for the holidays. The tree was decorated with 33 ornaments, each listing a gift to be purchased for families in need from a local elementary school. As the wishes are fulfilled, the gifts are wrapped and put under the tree to be delivered for Christmas.
On December 1, the office also hosted its fourth annual photos with Santa event and fundraiser for the Windermere Foundation. Home-baked treats were served while children colored and waited to have a photo taken with Santa. Elves were on hand to help the children deliver their wish lists and to make sure a grand time was had by all.
Whidbey Island, Washington
In November, the Windermere Real Estate/South Whidbey offices in Freeland and Langley participated in a three-week Coats for Kids Drive benefitting Readiness To Learn. They collected coats, gloves/mittens, hats, scarves, warm pullovers, and socks for 75+ children. In addition to this, the offices also collected cold-weather gear for six homeless middle and high school students in their community.
Windermere would like to thank our offices and those in our communities that donate to the Windermere Foundation. Your generosity makes it possible for us to continue to support organizations that provide services to low-income and homeless families throughout the Western U.S.
If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please consider donating to the Windermere Foundation. Just click on the Donate button and select the Windermere office near you.
To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit WindermereFoundation.com.
Every holiday gift list has at least one person who is tough to shop for. Wavering between a risky guess at clothing that might not fit and just throwing in the towel and buying a gift card can be frustrating. But there’s one thing you can be sure of: everyone on your list probably loves to have their home looking stylish. If you’re hoping to score a big win with the pickiest of people of on your list, here are some of our favorite holiday gift ideas for the home.
Photo Credit: The White Company via Pinterest
Candles are a time-honored “safe” gift that usually deliver a positive response and are useful in any home. Take that one step further by gifting a stylish lantern to hold those candles. This gift is typically small, simple, and cost-effective, meaning that it’s pretty much the perfect gift idea for even the trickiest of people.
Photo Credit: Uncommon Goods
Maps and globes instill a home with a sense of adventure, and never have there been more décor options for those struck with a bit of wanderlust. One option is an interactive scratch-off map that allows tracking of travel. If wall space is limited, consider a cork globe with push pins that can be used to mark travel destinations.
Photo Credit: Target via Pinterest
Everyone has a guilty sugary pleasure of some sort, so why not encourage those desserts to be showcased with pride? A dessert display isn’t necessarily something you’d buy for yourself, but it’s a gift that is almost guaranteed to please. Glass is classic, but marble or wood-based displays can blend easily into just about any kitchen design while adding a little extra touch of style.
Keep It Simple, Keep It Smart
Photo Credit: CNet.com
If all else fails, you can be assured that everyone on your list this holiday season loves music, podcasts, audiobooks, or some other audio form of media. Thanks to the increasing prevalence and affordability of smart speakers, giving a versatile, high-tech gift has never been easier. For under $30 you can now choose between several options, including the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini.
Products that let you control every aspect of your home remotely are growing at a rapid rate. Smartphone-connected devices and appliances are increasingly common and deliver a stylish, effective design. You can pick and choose your favorite gadgets to assemble an affordable, intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.
While home automation is becoming more prevalent, naturally there are more and more products becoming available as “smart devices”. Here are a few types of devices we found that found the mark for function and style:
GE WiFi CONNECT WASHER AND DRYER
Photo Credit: GE Appliances
Check washer progress with an app that lets you monitor cycles and settings, extend drying times, monitor levels of Smart Dispense tanks, download custom specialty cycles and receive alerts when clothes haven’t been removed.
LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE, UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL
Photo Credit: Logitech
More than just a TV remote – the Logitech Harmony Elite offers all-in-one control of up to 15 home devices including your TV, satellite or cable box, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Blu-ray player, game consoles, plus connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors and more. There’s even a free app that turns your smartphone into an additional remote.
FRIGIDAIRE SMART WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER
Photo Credit: Frigidaire
A wifi connected air conditioner that you control through an app on your smartphone allows you to turn the unit on or off, change temperature, control modes and adapt fan speeds – especially handy if you want your home cooled off before you get home!
SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR
Photo Credit: Samsung
A few years ago, having a French door refrigerator with cameras, wifi, and a gigantic touchscreen would have been the stuff of dreams. Today it is a reality. This high-end fridge will let you peek inside it while grocery shopping, search for recipes on the 21.5-inch display, mirror your smart TV so you can keep watching your movie while you grab a drink, share calendars, photos and best of all – it even keeps your food cold.
The holiday season is here and for many of us, that means it’s time to deck the halls. If you’re looking for some inspiration and a place to start, here are some ideas that are certain to get everyone in the spirit.
A Tree of a Different Color
For many, there’s nothing more quintessential during the holidays than a Christmas tree decked out in ornaments. But acquiring a tree can be challenging and expensive. Moreover, housing a tree consumes time and space. That’s why we love the idea of an alternative tree. There are plenty of options you can buy online or create yourself using things you probably already have around the house. And if you miss the smell of a real tree, try a scented candle or essential oils.
The Season of Lights
Photo Credit: Amara
There’s something perpetually charming about twinkling lights. Whether you’re wrapping them around your front porch or adorning your fireplace mantle, extra lights deliver a warm glow during the holiday season. Getting creative and adding light to otherwise unexpected places, including bookcases, around headboards, or even in glassware, is a great way to keep everything looking merry and bright.
Photo Credit: Better Homes & Gardens
Not all holiday climates are built alike. If you’re expecting a white Christmas, you’re probably used to pine trees and winter brush, but for those of you located in regions where the mercury doesn’t drop, sprinkling in natural elements can transform your home into a wintery oasis. Holly and pine needles add a traditional touch, or consider a wreath of olive branches with some sleigh bells interspersed.
Bring it All Home at Dinner
Photo Credit: Amara
When decorating for the holidays, don’t forget the table! A sprig of holly adds a festive touch to your place settings. And instead of the traditional centerpiece, try placing candles in glass vases or mason jars to give your tablescape that added touch of holiday pizzazz.
Tis the season when we look back upon the year and give thanks for all that we have and count our blessings. At Windermere, we are thankful for all who generously donate to the Windermere Foundation, and we are grateful to have franchise owners and agents who go above and beyond to make a difference in the communities where they live and work. This year, Joan Tate Allen, co-owner and vice-president of Windermere Realty Trust, was recognized with the “Windermere Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award” at the company’s annual Owners Retreat. Joan is a visionary and one of those individuals who puts her whole being behind her commitment to helping others.
After joining Windermere in 1991, Joan became involved with the Windermere Foundation during its early years. She found inspiration in the unprecedented idea of all agents donating a small portion of each commission check because it provided an opportunity for regular people to make a big difference with a modest amount of money. The entire basis for the Windermere Foundation was built on the premise that these funds would accumulate over a period of time, as the agents pooled their resources.
Joan and her husband Brian eventually became the owners of several Windermere offices in Portland, Oregon — bringing on a change that would lead to Joan setting new standards for community service. In a short amount of time, she was able to spearhead entire fundraising events and challenge her agents to raise even more than their commission check donations. She created a friendly year-long contest called “Rise to the Challenge,” in which her offices compete to raise the most money for the Windermere Foundation. The total amount raised in 2017 as a result of those efforts was over $203,000.
Joan’s infectious enthusiasm has led to her company’s agents initiating their own fundraising events, such as a golf tournament organized by just one agent which has raised more than $40,000 each year.
Joan’s philanthropic work, however, does not end with the Windermere Foundation. She was highly involved with the founding of New Avenues for Youth and Bridge Meadows, and also serves on the Providence Portland Medical Center board.
Joan is constantly finding ways to engage her network to help the community through events such as organizing a day of serving meals, promoting clothing drives with Windermere agents, or giving underprivileged youth the opportunity to spend a few weeks learning to row in the summer. It is this type of leadership that has had meaningful impact and is why we honored Joan with the Windermere Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.
We are grateful to have owners like Joan who inspire others to help those in need and are thankful for all who continue to support the Windermere Foundation.
If you’d like to help support programs and services that help those in need in your community, please consider making a donation to the Windermere Foundation through a Windermere office near you. Just click on the Donate button.
To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit https://www.windermere.com/foundation.