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16 Dec 2014
Today is December 16th, and I’m showing homes in Sequim. It’s 8:00 in the morning, and the temperature in Sequim is about 50 degrees. This is what a winter day feels like in Sequim. Not bad, and for buyers out looking at homes, it’s another day in Paradise. I’ll be driving my buyer around to look at half a dozen homes today, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. It always is, and we shall see if this buyer finds their ideal retirement home. Some homes in Sequim come with a nice shop building like the one in this photo.
It’s not easy to find the right property with a shop like this. I recommend using the number one Sequim MLS site to search for and filter properties. You’ll find the advanced search page at Homes in Sequim. This search page is perfect for searching the entire MLS in Sequim and Port Angeles. The data on this site is 100% accurate, because all the data comes directly from the source data, which is actual listings from all the local Realtors. This site is far more accurate than Zillow or Trulia, and when you are shopping for a home, you want to be sure you are looking at accurate data on all Sequim homes.
Summer, spring, fall, or winter is a good time to look at homes in Sequim. Buyers are coming throughout the year, even in December. Come and see Sequim and Port Angeles and have fun looking at homes in Sequim. You can use the button “Book Your Appt Online” in the right margin of this blog to schedule showings when you plan to be here.
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15 Dec 2014
What is good customer service in the real estate business? How would you define good customer service? I have some ideas on that subject, and I’ll share them here for your consideration. Customer service does not exist in a vacuum. It is a function of many factors that make up a business and the people. What are those factors?
Good customer service is built on a business model that puts clients first. This is huge. Some businesses are not focused on their customers. They have their own agendas. How they market, how they sell, and how they treat their customers is based on the almighty dollar. Granted, making money is what a business is supposed to do, but when money making becomes the dominant philosophy that rules all other decisions, you don’t have a system built on good customer service.
That kind of business model compromises customer service in a hundred little ways. Customers are generally happy as long as their transactions go smoothly without a hitch, but if there are difficult issues to work through, they often find out their agent is missing in action. However, a business model that is designed with the customer at the center of everything has a dramatically different approach to customer service. Every question is answered with the customer’s best interest in mind. Agents have the knowledge and experience to handle anything that comes up. They also have the courtesy and professionalism to give their clients the best customer service. In this model, not only is customer service consistently great, customers are often giddy about the customer service their agents give them.
Good customer service requires people who genuinely care about their clients. That care must be more than just talk. An agent who puts their clients at the center of the Universe will do everything with their client’s best interests in mind, even walking away from a commission if necessary. And the service is not limited by a strict set of rules. You would never hear an agent say, “No, that’s not in my job description.” These agents often talk about how they love their clients. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for their clients.
Good customer service is responsive to clients, pays attention to their needs, and helps them through every issue they need resolved. When a client makes a telephone call to their agent, their agent either answers the call or calls back fairly quickly. When a client emails their agent, they get a responsive email quickly. Their agent can answer all their questions thoroughly, because he is a real estate expert. Why would anyone hire a real estate agent who is not a real estate expert?
Because of experience, he knows the answer to nearly every question that comes up. If he doesn’t immediately know the answer to a unique or esoteric question, he finds out and gets back to his client right away. Not only does good customer service mean all a client’s questions get promptly and thoroughly answered, the client feel like the answers were complete and detailed, and their agent has left no stone unturned. They keep getting the feeling that their agent is really watching out for them, and they are very grateful, because they don’t normally get this quality of customer service anywhere else.
Read Part 2 of Customer Service.
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14 Dec 2014
This is the second part of an article about customer service in the real estate business. [Read part one of What is Good Customer Service in Real Estate?] When clients get great customer service by their agent throughout the entire relationship, they are not only happy with their agent, they are as pleased as they could possibly be. Anything less is just ordinary customer service.
Good customer service is a function of values. There are key values you would expect to be foundational for good customer service. Those values include honesty, integrity, hard work, perseverance, competence, professionalism, loyalty, and a passion to constantly improve one’s knowledge and abilities for the sake of his clients. Unfortunately, these values are not as common as one would like to think.
Good customer service depends on the company culture. A real estate brokerage has a culture just like any company does. That culture is created by the owner, and it filters throughout the company and influences everyone who works there. So the question becomes, what is the brokerage culture?
Is the owner kind, generous, devoted to the best interests of all their clients, and passionate about serving others more than putting money in her own pocket in ways that could compromise the clients? Does she bend over backwards to handle every detail for her clients? Will she work overtime to get her client’s work done? Is her commitment to honesty uncompromised? Does she treat everyone equally in the best way possible? Does she constantly seek to improve her real estate knowledge so she can give her clients the highest level of expertise? And does this broker/owner hold all her agents accountable to the highest standards?
All of this together creates a culture of customer service that speaks to the clients in a hundred ways, especially when it is most important. Whatever the culture created by the leadership, it becomes the culture of the brokerage. The thinking and behavior of the leader tends to permeate the entire brokerage, and the longer the same leader runs the company, the more entrenched that culture becomes.
It’s amazing, but brokerages tend to assemble agents with similar values and work habits that fit within the culture of the company. That’s either good news or bad news for consumers, depending on the culture of the brokerage. Do not take good customer service for granted, because it is not so common.
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12 Dec 2014
Real estate beats gold and stocks as a long term investment at this point in history. There have been other times when that was reversed, but I believe gold and stocks are far less secure and far more risky than real estate right now. Here’s an interesting picture. In August of 2011 Gold was $1,889 per ounce, and now in December of 2014 gold is about $1,200 per ounce. That’s a 36% loss. During this entire steady downturn in the price of gold over the last three years, the gold peddlers have not stopped pitching gold every day. “Buy, buy, buy,” they keep saying. Do they have any credibility left? I think not. I shared a version of this chart in 2011 arguing at the time that real estate beats gold and stocks. Wow! If you had shorted gold and bought real estate, you would have made a lot of money. In many areas around the country real estate has increased by 36%.
Whether real estate beats gold and stocks at any point in time depends on many variables, but in Sequim, Washington real estate prices have not increased significantly like they have in many parts of the country. Rural areas tend to lag behind the economy of larger metropolitan areas, and that is true with Sequim and Port Angeles. I believe real estate prices are poised to begin to increase in Sequim over the next year and will steadily appreciate beyond that at a slow rate.
Real estate as an investment, whether that is your retirement home or rental homes, is far more secure than gold and stocks. While the “experts” (or gold peddlers) have been telling you that you should buy gold while it continues to fall for the last three years, the stock market has been up and down like a roller coaster. The traditional “buy and hold” strategy for retirement planning has been a disaster for many over the past seven years, and for many periods of time throughout history.
The volatility of investing in gold and stocks is crazy. If you have money to invest, I recommend a solid and secure long term investment that can never go “poof” on you. I believe single family homes are a very good investment right now in the Sequim and Port Angeles area, far more secure than gold and stocks.
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8 Dec 2014
This is the Sequim real estate market report for November 2014. I love creating these real estate market reports on video. If you like them, let me know. Videos are easy to watch, and these are short and to the point.
The Sequim real estate market is doing okay for the middle of winter, although some stats are down from last year at this time. Active listings were up 1% from one year earlier and down 11% from last month. The median listing price was $307,000 compared to $292,000 last year. The average days on market before being sold was up 8% from last year. The number of homes sold decreased 30% year over year and decreased 30% month over month.
The winter season does slow down a little, but in this real estate market report we compare November of this year to November of last year, so we are doing an apples vs. apples comparison.
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6 Dec 2014
Sailing in Port Townsend is pretty popular, and on a nice day you can hardly count all the boats sailing in Port Townsend Bay and Puget Sound. It was late in the afternoon when I could not resist taking this photo of one of the most impressive little sailing boats I’ve seen in the Bay. Port Townsend is known for it’s maritime activities, and it’s the home of the Wooden Boat Foundation.
Nearby Port Hadlock is the home of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. [Read my earlier article on Wooden Boats.] If you have thought about sailing in Port Townsend, I recommend browsing the Wooden Boat Foundation. The annual Wooden Boat Festival attracts over 300 boats, a lot of festivities, good food, and music. Many of us who live in Sequim love to drive down to Port Townsend for a weekend day or an afternoon and just walk the docs, enjoy one of the quaint little restaurants (like Doc’s Marina Grill), or walk through town to watch people. Just do it, and you’ll see why it’s so entertaining.
Read more articles at Port Townsend. Whether you want to pursue sailing in Port Townsend or just enjoy this delightful waterfront community with a rich maritime history, come and visit soon. If I’m there, I’ll buy you a latte.
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4 Dec 2014
How would I compare Sequim with Port Angeles? People from around the country asked all the time how I would compare Sequim with Port Angeles or with Port Townsend. In a previous article, I compared Sequim with the San Juan Islands. Sequim and Port Angeles are dramatically different towns even though they are only 15 miles apart.
First, the weather is slightly different. Sequim is famous for its Blue Hole or Rain Shadow. Sequim only gets 16 inches of rain in a year, and the average temperature is 48.7 degrees F. Port Angeles gets 25 inches of rain per year, and the average temperature is 49.75 degrees F. But that’s probably where the two are most similar.
When I compare Sequim and Port Angeles demographics, there is a huge difference. Sequim is largely a retired population. The median age in Sequim is 56 compared to 42 in Port Angeles. This means there is a much larger working population and more families and children in Port Angeles. There is still a large family population in Sequim, and I raised my own children in Sequim. Both Sequim and Port Angeles have great school systems.
If you’re looking at homes, you will find great homes in both places, although homes are priced somewhat less in Port Angeles. If you want to live in the city, you can, but if you want to live out in the country, there are some incredible opportunities and low prices, especially outside of Port Angeles and west of Port Angeles.
There are great medical facilities in both Sequim and Port Angeles. Both have nice Marinas if you want to park a boat. Sequim is closer to Silverdale for shopping and SeaTac for traveling, but Port Angeles is closer to Victoria via a short ferry ride.
I recommend driving around both Sequim and Port Angeles. That is the best way to get familiar with both. I’ve lived in Port Angeles, and I live in Sequim now. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. Come and visit us and compare Sequim and Port Angeles yourself.
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1 Dec 2014
Let’s talk about good customer service. A youngster traveling alone had a stopover at Chicago O’Hara International. He was hungry, but he only had one dollar left in his pocket. Maybe he didn’t budget his eating money on his trip home, or maybe he had an unexpected expense. He called his father, and his father checked with several restaurants at the airport to see if they would take his credit card over the phone so his son could get a meal. None would do it. Until he called a Wolfgang Puck Express.
When the father reached Wolfgang Puck Express on the phone, the conversation went like this:
WPE: “So just send your boy in here and we’ll make sure he gets a good meal. My store manager and operations manager are both here, and we don’t want him to be sitting around hungry. You don’t have to worry about paying for it.”
Father: “Wha… you… no, please, I really insist you find a way for me to pay for this.”
WPE: “Just do something nice for someone else.”
This wasn’t just practicing the good customer service rule, “under promise and over deliver.” This was one of those pleasant surprises that you never forget. The father in this story is Michael Hess, entrepreneur and writer. [Read his story.]
In real estate good customer service of this kind is rare. It’s rare in every industry. Here’s food for thought. Good customer service in real estate would mean that your Realtor is very knowledgeable on the subject of real estate. More than that, he would be an expert. Why hire someone who is not? Expertness doesn’t cost any more. Good customer service would also mean that you are taken care of, that your Realtor places your interests above his own, that he is honest and loyal to you. It would also mean that all the important details of your transaction are handled in a timely fashion and that you are protected by your Realtor’s experience. And among other things, good customer service would mean you know your Realtor genuinely cares about you and takes care of you.
There’s a saying that common sense is not so common. I think most would concur with me if I said good customer service is not common either. So how would you define good customer service in real estate?
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30 Nov 2014
Sequim winter weather has descended upon us, and it is cold–below freezing! While that isn’t cold for many areas of the country, it is for Sequim. In the coldest Sequim winter weather we will see the temperature dip below freezing, but it doesn’t stay there long. Late last night and early this morning we had temps in the mid-20s, and during the day the temp will still be cold but above freezing.
Some buyers are still coming to Sequim to look at homes and some are buying even in December, but many others don’t want to drive around to look at homes when it is only 40 degrees in the afternoon. It’s a good time to come if you can, because there is less competition and seller’s are motivated, but if you’re planning to come in the spring, that’s a beautiful time of year to look at homes and see the area.
I love the way we can instantly look at Sequim winter weather on a smart phone, a tablet, or on a computer. You’ve gotta love the Internet for things like this. Talking about cold weather, we also had some snow in Sequim. Our snow doesn’t last long as it usually melts within a day or two, but we have some unusually cold weather, so we shall see. You can click on the image above to see Sequim winter weather. Stay tuned . . . to the Internet on the subject of Sequim winter weather.
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29 Nov 2014
What is the cost of living in Sequim? Can you live like a King on a retirement income in Sequim, Washington? The answer is yes, but it does take some planning and diligence. There are three major components to the cost of living in the Sequim and Port Angeles area–the cost of housing, the cost of transportation, and the cost of food. Let me share why you can live like a King in Sequim and Port Angeles area.
The cost of living in Sequim includes the cost of homes plus property taxes, maintenance, and electricity. Compared to many areas of the country, the price of a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,800 to 2,200 square foot home on a single level in a nice area is very reasonable. You can buy a very nice home in Sequim for $225,000 to $325,000. Many of my clients compare prices and tell me homes are 50% to 100% more where they are coming from (largely California).
Home maintenance costs in this area are also low compared to most areas of the country. Our climate is relatively mild, and that means less wear and tear on roofing, siding, and driveways. Sun and rain do wear wooden decks, but many people have been going with Trex decking, which needs very little maintenance. Property taxes are also reasonable and do not keep going up as they have in many parts of the country. For example, a $250,000 home may have annual property taxes of $2,100. All this helps keep the cost of living down by comparison.
Electricity is our major utility bill, and most people are using electric heat, such as electric forced air with a heat pump, or electric baseboard or electric wall heaters. Because we don’t have extreme temperatures, either cold or hot, our heating bills are very reasonable, and we don’t even need air conditioning in the summers. Most people use electric appliances, including cooktops, ovens, dryers and hot water heaters. A typical total electric bill in the coldest part of winter might be $225. Compared to California, this is a big help in keeping down the cost of living.
The cost of transportation is what you make it. For 20 years in the Sequim area I have been buying used cars from retirees who buy their vehicles brand new and keep the in perfect condition. Buying a car that is five or so years old with low mileage in show room condition is incredibly affordable. There are a lot of retirees in the Sequim area who sell cars that are like brand new for a fraction of the cost of a new one. Sequim and Port Angeles also has public transportation.
The cost of food is not high in Sequim, and we do have a Safeway, a QFC, a Costco, a Walmart Super Store, and family owned organic grocery stores. You can buy inexpensive organic products from farmers, and you can do what many people do. They either have a green house for their vegetable garden or they just build raised garden beds. With plenty of sunshine and rich soils, Sequim is the perfect place to have a garden or an orchard. This helps reduce the cost of living. Many retirees also enjoy fishing, and we have plenty of fishing on the Olympic Peninsula and out on the Strait. And there is deer hunting, too. Some with acreage like to raise a few cows for beef. There are many ways to live off the land here.
And if you want to keep your heating bill down, you can supplement your electric heat with a wood stove, if you are inclined to cut and split wood. Some do this for a while and then convert their fireplace or wood stove to propane. Overall, the cost of living in Sequim is very reasonable, and with some planning you can live like a King in Sequim.
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