Buyer Beware: Is That House For Sale Haunted?

Image Source: Canva

              A trope as old as horror movies: a family moves into a beautiful house that they bought for well under market value. They’ve put all their savings into the move, and they’re looking for a fresh start. When they meet the neighbors and other townsfolk, they quickly learn that there’s a history to the home that they weren’t aware of.  

              When they start to experience the abnormal, it’s easy to brush off as new home jitters. The children who hear noises in the closet, and a husband who starts sleepwalking, are chalked up to stress and anxiety from the move. It’s only when the experiences escalate beyond control that the family finally realizes the extent of the haunting.

              While sharing a home with the supernatural can be a selling point for some buyers, it’s quite the opposite for others. In fact, a 2017 survey by Realtor.com found that 33% of people were open to living in a haunted house, 25% would consider it, but 42% said it was a deal-breaker. So how do you make sure you’re fully informed about a home’s history? Knowing the right questions to ask is the first step:

 

 

Ask to see the seller disclosure form

              In the famous 1991 case Stambovsky v. Ackley, the new homeowner, Jeffrey Stambovsky, won a lawsuit against the previous owner for not disclosing the history of hauntings.

              In this case, the previous owner had published stories about the family’s experiences in Reader’s Digest and their local newspaper. In her writings, she explained several interactions with ghostly beings in the home, including finding that her children had been given rings, which would later disappear, bed shaking, and conversations with the floating specters.

              The court took this evidence and ruled the “defendant is estopped to deny [the ghost’s] existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” Setting a new standard, this case created a basis for future seller disclosers. In this instance, they found that the history of the home, and the seller’s experiences in the home, would have influenced the marketability, and therefore, omitting these facts was unfair to the buyer.

              Fast forward to 2019, there is not a specific section on seller disclosure forms for hauntings or ghostly sightings, but thanks to Stambovsky v. Ackley, sellers in many states are obligated by law to disclose things that affect a house’s marketability.

 

 

Ask Google about the history of the home

              In 1991 when Mr. Stambovsky bought his haunted house, search engines didn’t exist. Today,  we’re lucky enough to have things like Google which would have found the previous home owner’s stories in mere seconds. Search keywords like the address or town name, and words like “haunted” or “ghosts”, as well as “murder” or “news report” should help you start your dive into the history of the home.

 

 

Ask the neighbors and your agent  

              This is where nosey neighbors come in handy. When you find a place you’re serious about, contact the neighbors to see what they know about the home’s history. The same goes for your real estate agent; he or she can reach out to the listing agent to see if there is anything haunting you should know about prior to buying. While many states don’t require sellers to disclose paranormal activity or deaths in the home, if asked, all real estate agents must, by law, answer truthfully.

Windermere Foundation Has Raised Over $1.5 Million This Year!

 

Windermere offices throughout the Western U.S. have been busy raising money and making donations to non-profit organizations in their local communities that provide services to low-income and homeless families. And their efforts are paying off; so far this year we’ve raised over $1.5 million, bringing the total raised by the Windermere Foundation to $39.5 million since 1989.

 

Here are just a few examples of how our offices are giving back to their communities:

 

Fort Collins, Colorado

The Windermere Real Estate office in Fort Collins held its 5th Annual Windermere Foundation Tailgate Party on Friday, September 20. The family-friendly event featured food, drinks, a bouncy house obstacle course, corn hole, face painting, and live music. Over $1,800 was raised for the Windermere Foundation during this event. All proceeds from the tailgate “party with a purpose” benefitted Partners Mentoring Youth and Crossroads Safehouse.

 

Centralia, Washington

The Windermere office in Centralia, WA sponsored the “Down Home: A Toledo Shindig” event held at Bonanza BBQ on September 14 to benefit Toledo School District students in need. Local businesses and residents came together to donate auction items, food, and volunteer their time. Windermere owner Dan Gorton spearheaded the organization of the fundraising event, seeing a need in the community that was not being met. The Gortons provided the venue and the BBQ. Other sponsors provided additional food items, entertainment, and big-ticket items for the auction. The event raised $34,000 for a fund to help provide basic needs for students in the school district, things that low-income families couldn’t otherwise afford.  

 

Photo Courtesy of Josie Ray Photography

 

Spokane, Washington

The Windermere office in Spokane, WA held their annual Windermere Shoes and Socks Event at their local Big 5 sporting goods store on August 24. Windermere agents and family members volunteered their time to help 132 children select a pair of shoes and socks. An additional 250 pairs of socks were also donated by Liberty Lake Rotary. In total, the Windermere office donated over $5,400 to provide shoes and socks to local children in need.

 

Windermere offices are proud to host events in their communities, like the ones mentioned above. These generous donations to the Windermere Foundation further our mission to support low-income and homeless families in the areas where we live and work. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click the Donate button.

 

To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit WindermereFoundation.com.

Your Complete Guide to Home Appraisals

 

Appraisals are used as a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions, appraisals are an important part of the buying/selling process.

Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.

 

Appraised value vs. market value

The appraised value of a property is what the bank thinks it’s worth, and that amount is determined by a professional, third-party appraiser. The appraiser’s valuation is based on a combination of comparative market sales and inspection of the property.

Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. A home’s appraised value and its market value are typically not the same. In fact, sometimes the appraised value is very different.

If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show them comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give them a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.

 

What information goes into an appraisal?

Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals. 

They also conduct an inspection. Typically, an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:

  • The condition of the property and home, inside and out
  • The home’s layout and features
  • Home updates
  • The overall quality of construction
  • An estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately)
  • Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools)

After considering all such information, the appraiser arrives at three different dollar amounts – one for the value of the land, one for the value of the structure, and one for their combined value. In many cases, the land will be worth more than the structure.

One thing to bear in mind is that an appraisal is not a substitute for a home inspection. An appraiser does a cursory assessment of a house and property. For a more detailed inspection, consult with a home inspector and/or a specialist in the area of concern.

 

Who pays and how long does it take?

The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.

An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report is sent to your loan officer, real estate agent, and/or lender in about a week.

If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal if they request it. Typically, the requested appraisal is provided at closing.

 

What if the appraisal is too low?

A low appraisal can present a problem when there’s a large difference between what you’ve agreed to pay and the appraisal price.

Usually, the seller’s agents and the buyer’s agent will respond by looking for recent sold and pending listings of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can renegotiate the contract or cancel it. 

 

Where do you find a qualified appraiser?

Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.

 

Tips for hassle-free appraisals:

To ensure the appraisal process is smooth and efficient, provide your appraiser with the information and documents he or she needs to get the job done. The documents you will need include:

  • A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
  • The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
  • A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
  • If you have a mortgage, provide the information about your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have.
  • A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
  • Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency
  • Any personal property that is included in the sale, like appliances and other fixtures.
  • If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases
  • A copy of the original house plans and specifications
  • A list of recent improvements and their costs
  • Any other information you feel may be relevant

 

By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary delays.

Our Favorite Real Estate Podcasts

 

Podcasts are a growing medium as listeners search for new sources of entertainment and information. In 2018 there were about 550,000 podcasts, in 2019 there are more than 750,000. Listeners are growing too, an estimated 20 million more people in the U.S. are listening to podcasts this year as compared to2018. 

This growth in audio entertainment inspired us to pull together a few of our favorite real estate podcasts. Whether you’re interested in investing in real estate, looking to make a move to a new home, or just want to know what’s happening in the market, here are our recommendations:

 

For Investors:

The Millennial Real Estate Investor

Find your niches in Real Estate with Dan Mackin and Ben Welch, who host experts with stories about their investing successes and challenges. Learn from the experienced guests on this show the many ways to get into investing and succeed at it.

Listen to Millennial Real Estate Investor wherever you get your podcasts (Icon linked):

 

Cash Flow Connection

If you’re drawn to the commercial side of real estate, Cash Flow Connections with host, Hunter Thompson, is an informative podcast that interviews leading investors, sponsors and managers. Learn about all the aspects of commercial real estate from all viewpoints to find the right fit for you.

Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, was just interviewed about the state of the real estate market, and what to expect in the next recession (hint: it won’t be driven by housing). You can listen to that episode here.

Listen to Cash Flow Connection wherever you get your podcasts:

 

For Those About to Move

Windermere Home and Wealth

Host Brian Bushlach interviews business owners, local guides, and Windermere agents in each episode about different areas throughout the Western U.S. and what they have to offer to those who live or visit there. Learn about what’s attracting newcomers to the area, and what the local real estate market looks like. This podcast is sure to stir your wanderlust.

Listen to Windermere Home and Wealth wherever you get your podcasts:

 

Finding Home with 106.1 KISS FM

Join first-time home buyers, and radio personalities, Anthony and Carla Marie from 106.1 KISS FM, as they walk through the home buying journey with their Windermere agents. This podcast is both entertaining and informative as they ask the questions you’ve always wanted answers to. With their knowledgeable real estate agents by their sides, they’re taking you along as they get approved, look for houses, and even put an offer on a home.

Listen to Finding Home on iHeartRadio:

 

Stay Informed

Housing Developments

Hosted by National Association of Home Builders CEO Jerry Howard and Chief Lobbyist Jim Tobin, this podcast covers updates in the housing market and building industry across the nation. Learn from experts in the field about recent laws and the news of the industry.

Listen to Housing Developments wherever you get your podcasts:

 

Real Estate News with Kathy Fettke

This podcast is aimed at real estate investors who want to stay curren on the latest real estate news. Presented in bite sized episodes, listeners can learn about laws, regulations, and economic events that affect real estate and their local market. 

Listen wherever you get your podcasts:

 

Keeping Families Warm from Head to Toe

 

Windermere is in its fourth season of helping #TackleHomelessness with the Seattle Seahawks!

Each year, as part of that campaign, Windermere hosts a “We’ve Got You Covered” winter drive for a local non-profit. This year, we are collecting warm winter gear for our new non-profit partner, Mary’s Place, an organization that provides safe, inclusive shelter and services to women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness.

We are asking for donations of NEW hats, scarves, gloves/mittens, and warm socks for all genders and sizes.

From October 14 through November 8, you can drop off donations at our participating Windermere Real Estate and Property Management offices in King and Snohomish Counties**. Once the drive is over, our friends at Gentle Giant Moving Company — our winter drive partner for the past three years — will once again generously donate their time and trucks to pick up the donations collected by our offices, to deliver to Mary’s Place.

Since 1999, Mary’s Place has helped hundreds of women and families move out of homelessness into more stable situations. Across eight emergency family shelters in King County, they keep struggling families together, inside, and safe when they have no place else to go. But shelter capacity is limited and there are still hundreds of families sleeping outside in cars and tents each night. Please help them stay warm during the cold winter months by dropping off your donations to our participating offices. 

Feel free to contact your Windermere agent or local office for more information, or email justask@windermere.com.

 

    

 

**Windermere Winter Drive Drop-Off Locations

Bellevue

Bellevue Commons

Bellevue West

Federal Way

Federal Way-West Campus

Kent

Kirkland

Kirkland Yarrow Bay

Lynnwood

Maple Valley 4 Corners

Mercer Island

Property Management – Bellevue

Property Management – Everett

Property Management – Edmonds

Property Management – Seattle North

Property Management – South

Redmond

Seattle-Green Lake

Seattle-Greenwood

Seattle-Lakeview

Seattle-Madison Park

Seattle-Magnolia

Seattle-Mount Baker

Seattle-Northgate

Seattle-Northwest

Seattle-Queen Anne

Seattle-Sand Point

Seattle-Wall Street

Seattle-West Seattle

Services Company

Shoreline

Snohomish

Designing Your Rental To Feel Like Home

Stylizing your own home can be a daunting but rewarding challenge. When you own your living space, it’s easy to feel a sense of ownership over every piece of your design. But for renters, the challenge is a bit different. Despite limitations, it’s no less important to one’s well-being for a residence to convey a sense of ownership and self. To make a rental unit feel a bit more like home, we collected a few ways to imbue your abode with your own spirit, without risking your security deposit.

 

Storage – Let’s be honest, rentals often lack sufficient storage place, and since custom cabinetry isn’t usually an option for renters, investing in some added storage is key.

Add some simple, no-to-low damage shelves, bookshelves that stand on their own, baskets, or use under the bed storage. Search for furniture that doubles as storage, like an ottoman that opens up or a side table with a drawer or shelf. 

 

Blinds – Vertical blinds may be the ultimate decorating sin. No one likes feeling as if they’re living in a motel room.

We suggest you either take them down and save them somewhere so you remember to put them back when you leave. Another option is to hide them under curtains. Just don’t throw them out or you may not get all of your security deposit back! 

Before making changes like this, or adding hardware like curtain rods, be sure to ask your landlord for permission. 

 

Accessorize – A MUST when decorating your space are small items like pillows, throws, candles, books, and light fixtures… the only way to get a truly genuine space. These are easy ways to add your unique style that you can take with you from one place to the next. 

 

Wall Art – Hanging art with hooks and nails can damage the walls, which might keep you from hanging art or photos on your walls, but when it comes down to it at move out, they’ll only take a few minutes to patch up when it comes time to move out. This doesn’t mean you have to hang an entire art gallery, but hanging one statement piece and placing the rest of the photos on a mantel or shelf can be all you need.

Again, ask your landlord before you add any holes in the home. When you’re touring, ask the landlord to keep the existing holes in the walls so you can use them, or ask if you can get the paint color information so you can patch and touch-up yourself, upon move-out. 

 

Rugs – Last but not least, rugs: the peanut butter to your rental jelly. If there are scratched hardwood floors or stained carpets, you can cover those up easily with a throw rug, and prevent further damage as you live there.

Additionally, a rug is a great investment piece that will add your personal flavor to any space, plus they absorb noise and make a room feel comfy.

 

Do you have any great tips to decorating a rental? Let us know in the comments! 

Prepare Your Home for Winter

As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your home from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep you and your loved ones safe and warm throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple of weekend days should be more than enough to knock this out:

  

Cracks & Leaks

Examine your entire house for any cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards, to your basement and foundation. With unpredictable winter weather, these cracks and leaks are how the outside gets in, causing cold drafts and water damage.

Luckily, most cracks don’t require a professional to handle it. Depending on your house type and age, it’s likely you’ll be able to do it yourself with supplies from your local hardware store.

 

Windows & Doors: 

Gaps and breaks in windows and doors is another way to let the winter in your home, and they can let heat escape, raising your heat bill throughout the season.

Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Additionally, add weather-strips and or a door sweep to prevent drafts and keep the heat in.

 

Rain Gutters: 

Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, the buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak.

Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.

 

Pipes: 

Protecting your pipes from freezing should be your number one priority this winter. A burst pipe can quickly become a disaster in any home.

Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.

 

Heating System: 

Annual checks are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. Replace filters if you use a furnace and clear out any vents and ducts that carry heat through them. If you have baseboard heat, wipe them of dust and remove any debris that might catch fire.

 

Fireplace & Wood Burning Stoves: 

Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%, increasing your bill about $200.

 

Outside: 

Bring your patio furniture inside or cover it for the winter. Don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including the hose and planting pots. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks and holes in your home and foundation as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season.

If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any limbs that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.

 

Emergency Kit: 

Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up to date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids – especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.

For a more complete emergency preparedness guide, visit https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather.

5 Deal Breakers That Can Blindside Home Buyers

 

Purchasing a home can be a complex endeavor for even the most well-prepared home buyer.  You’ve diligently saved for your down payment, followed the market, researched agents and now you are ready to make an offer on your dream home.  Don’t let these 5 “Deal Breakers” come between you and your new home.


  1. Big Purchases on Credit. It is tempting to buy the furniture for your new home or a new car for the garage before the sale closes. Take care if you are making these purchases on credit. Large purchases on credit can have a major impact on your credit profile which effects your mortgage application. It’s a better plan to wait until after closing or pay cash for these transactions or you may be putting that furniture in a different living room than you originally picked them out for.

  2. Overpaying. Before your bank will approve your mortgage they will appraise the home you are purchasing.  If they feel you are overpaying they are likely to decline your mortgage application. If you find yourself in this situation consult with your agent on renegotiating your offer to be more in line with the bank’s appraised value.

  3. Purchasing too close to Foreclosure. If you are making an offer on a house which is facing foreclosure be sure to have a closing date set before the foreclosure date. Have your agent work with the lender to structure closing before the house goes back to the bank and into foreclosure.

  4. IRS liens. You’ve heard the old saying “Death and Taxes”.  Back taxes and liens can derail your attempts to get financing for a mortgage so be sure to have your books in order before filing your loan application.

  5. Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). CLUE is a database of insurance claims for both people and property.  Your home insurance rates are determined by the information about you and the property you plan to purchase which is contained in this report. Past claims for water damage, falling trees and even dog bites from present and past owners can multiply your insurance rates. Consult your agent about the CLUE report for your future home as soon as possible once your home purchase offer is accepted.


  6.  

When purchasing a home there will be challenges which you can plan for and the unexpected hurdles.  By educating yourself as a consumer and choosing a well trained real estate agent you can avoid many of the pitfalls of 21st century home ownership.

 

What about you? Tell us if you have had any “deal breaker” experiences.