Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Affordable Red Wine

I recently bought a bottle of wine somewhere, and Norris opened it on Monday night to serve with our dinner....

It was a 2005 Estancia Monterey Pinot Noir......and Yum! I enjoyed it so much (but I was worried that it wasn't one of my cheap every day bottles - the kind of wine I stockpile) and I couldn't wait to go out and find some more to see if I could afford to buy a bunch.

I checked at the Thriftway where I usually shop. Hmm. Not there. Not at Trader Joe's. Finally after scouring the aisles at Fred Meyer, I found it on sale for $16.49, minus 10% for the 6 bottles I bought - so about $15.

I hope you try it and I hope you like it. It tastes a lot more expensive than it is!

Other red wine suggestions from Gourmet for everyday drinking

  • DeLoach Pinot Noir 2005, California $12
  • Gallo Sonoma Reserve Pinot Noir 2004 Sonoma County $15
  • TwoTone Farm Merlot 2004, California, $10
  • Bulletin Place Merlot 2005, South Eastern Australia $8
  • The Magnificent Wine Company House Wine 2005 columbia Valley $10
  • Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2004, Lodi $15

  • Caparzo Sangiovese 2004, Tuscany $14

Some housing markets turn to gold, others go cold

Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain prices climbing
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

While home prices lulled in many regions across the country during the descent from a prolonged real estate Gold Rush, rapid appreciation has continued in major Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain markets.

The U.S. Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, a federal agency that monitors government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon had the steepest home-price appreciation in fourth-quarter 2006 compared to fourth-quarter 2005.

In fourth-quarter 2006, the top five metro areas for year-over-year price appreciation on OFHEO's list were in Oregon, Washington, Utah and Idaho, while the sharpest metro-area price declines were in Indiana, California and Michigan. OFHEO's first-quarter-index report is due out later this month.

Seattle and Portland were among the strongest markets in fourth-quarter 2006 for home-price appreciation among 20 U.S. markets featured in the monthly Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

While price growth has been slowing, it is still strong -- this year will be a good year, he said, though 2006 was not as strong as 2005, "and I think 2007 is not going to be as good as 2006." Single-family home sales fell 12 percent in 2006 compared to 2005, and affordability is a growing problem.

Nationwide, the median price of resale homes fell about 2.7 percent in fourth-quarter 2006 compared to fourth-quarter 2005, the National Association of Realtors reported, while the Census Bureau reported that the median new-home price dropped about 2 percent.

NAR reported that the Cumberland, Md.-W.V., metro area had the strongest price appreciation in the first quarter compared to first-quarter 2006, followed by Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas; Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss.; Salem, Ore.; and Bismarck, N.D. Other markets that were on the top-10 list for price appreciation were in New Mexico, Utah, Washington, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Salt Lake City and Salem, Ore., were in the top five for price appreciation in NAR's fourth-quarter report, and markets in New Jersey and Texas also topped the list.

Median year-over-year price change for fourth-quarter 2006
City Case-Shiller* NAR (existing homes) OFHEO Zindex (Zillow) DataQuick

National 0.4 -2.7 5.9 -0.48 N/A

Portland, 11.57 11.2 13.45 11.39 10.6
Seattle 13.05 11.3 14.5 12.87 11.3

*based on average monthly price change for 3 mos. of the quarter

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Seller Tips

Unclutter a Messy Room

The first step is to completely unclutter every room. To get top dollar, put half your possessions in storage. This means it might not be feasible to live in your home comfortably while it's on the market, but it's a worthy sacrifice. (PODS are a great way to only pack it once - and you unload it in your new house)

The Perfect (if Unrealistic) Closet

Put the bulk of your clothing in storage, and leave a lot of space between hangers. Leave a only a few select items of neatly-pressed clothing hanging. Keep one or two pairs of shoes in shoeboxes.

Keep the Bathroom Basic

In the bathroom, you should have some pretty towels and a bar of soap, and not much else. Remove everything from the countertops and empty the medicine cabinet. Put everything in storage except a couple rolls of toilet paper. Put candles around the bathtub and remove your razor, shaving cream and half-empty shampoo bottles.

Tend the Walls and Floors

A fresh coat of paint goes a long way toward making your home look fresh, clean and move-in ready. Clean the carpets. If they're stained or at all worn out, then replace them. After an exhausting move and a pricey purchase, a buyer doesn't want to envision their first tasks as busting out the paint and paying for new carpeting.

Remove Frightful Furnishings

Look at your furniture with a critical eye. If you've been flopping your tush into your easy chair every night for the last eight years, it's probably looking a little sad. Remove or toss anything old, ratty or dirty. If you have nice furniture, then leave the nicest pieces in the house. If not, then purchase a few inexpensive, sleek pieces

Home Improvements Count

Make a list of every single improvement you've made to the property since you've lived there, the timeframe the improvement was made and approximately how much it cost. Also make a list of everything you personally love about the home. Ask your Realtor to put this information in your listing, and include it on your flyer.

Show It Off

Make your home super easy to show for real estate agents. Use a lockbox. Your showing instructions should be "show anytime." If you prefer a call first, then the instructions should be, "Call first, leave a message and go." When a realtor calls, keep it brief and don't bother giving any extra information. It should already be in your flyer.

Scram, Get Lost and Make Yourself Scarce

Try to be out of the house before the buyer arrives. The majority of buyers will feel tense and intrusive snooping around and opening closets and cabinets when the seller is there. If the buyer arrives before you can get out of the house, then make them feel welcome and leave promptly.
Don't come back until they're gone.

Find a Sitter for Fido

It may not seem feasible or practical to have pets relocated while your house is on the market, but if you truly are seeking top dollar, you need to have a pet-free household. Many people are sensitive to odors and pet dander, so clean thoroughly once you find alternative living arrangements for your pet.

When Your Hard Work Pays Off?

Don't dare price your home high in this market. Be extremely careful to price your home very competitively from the beginning, when the largest number of buyers will see your listing. Then work with the offer when it comes in!

Seller Tips

1. Price It Right

It's stressful trying to sell your home when new home sales are slowing and prices are falling. Home prices across the nation fell nearly one percent in January from one year ago, according to the Standard & Poor's housing index. Growth hasn't been this slow since 1994. So setting the right price for your home is more important than ever. "If you really want to stimulate a sale, you should underprice your property by just a hair," says Susan Singer, a New York-based real estate broker with Corcoran. By shaving just a few thousand dollars you can generate more foot traffic and create a buzz.

2. Make It Inviting

There's no faster way to turn off a potential buyer than to overwhelm him with a home stuffed with kids' toys, family knickknacks and a stinky kitty litter. Even stodgy furniture can make a property more difficult to unload. That's why many high-end real estate agents employ professional "home stagers" when they want to guarantee a quick sale. Staged properties tend to sell faster and for more money than ones that aren't prepped in this fashion. For anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, these folks will do everything from remove clutter and rearrange furniture to rent all new furnishings. Fortunately, there are some inexpensive things homeowners can do on their own to attract a buyer. Whether you live in a cozy Cape Cod or a 4,000-square-foot McMansion, make your space feel as open and clean as possible. Get rid of clutter, organize the closets and remove all personal items that may make it more difficult for someone to imagine living in your house, says Michael Corbett, author of "Ready, Set, Sold!"

3. Minimize Surprises

A home that's in good working order will always sell faster than one that needs pricey repairs. That's why I recommend having your property inspected before you put it on the market. The benefits are twofold. First, it's always cheaper and faster to make your own repairs rather than have a buyer drag out the negotiating process to accommodate any necessary work. Second, you'll also avoid any nasty last-minute surprises that could derail a deal should the buyer's inspector discover you need, say, to replace the roof.

4. Get the Word Out

Make sure you have an eye-catching online listing. Some 80 percent of people start their real estate searches online, according to the National Association of Realtors. While it used to be enough to simply slap up one or two blurry photos, buyers now prefer a slew of pictures so that they don't waste their time touring a home that doesn't meet their requirements. What should your listing include? If you really want to stand out from the competition be sure your broker uses a professional photographer. Make sure to include a shot of the outside on a sunny day, and one of the kitchen, living room, dining room and a bedroom.

5. Throw In a Little Something Extra

As home sales have stalled, we are once again seeing motivated sellers offer traditional incentives, including paying for closing costs or points on a mortgage, says Walter Molony, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. Such tactics are especially attractive to first-time shoppers who can afford mortgage payments but struggle to come up with the down payment and closing fees. Here are a couple more ideas. If you installed a 40-inch plasma TV with a surround-sound stereo system in the living room, offer to include it with the house. Chances are you won't be able to take it with you anyway. If you're selling a second home on the water, throw in the Jet Ski and dock rights. If you pad the asking price by just a couple of thousand dollars, you'll still come out ahead!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Just returned from a visit where we met the newest family member - Lucy -

Isn't she cute? 3 mo. old...

Claire and TJ are grooving in to life with a puppy.