Paul's Bellingham Blog

My thoughts on Bellingham, the Real Estate market, and more

Why I am still with John L Scott Real Estate after 12+ years

No Comments »

I am often asked why I don’t start my own Real Estate brokerage, or create a bigger team, or move to a larger company. I have stayed at the same office, with the same company, and kept just 1 office assistant for over 12 years. This is rare!

Most agents change companies at least once (if not multiple times). Then as they start to become highly productive, they will hire a sales team (buyers agents and/or multiple licensed assistants) or start their own real estate company. While I totally respect the agents who expand their business this way, there are several reasons I have stayed my course.

1) When you hire Paul you get Paul.
The idea of leveraging your time with a team or even a company does have its appeal. However for me I love having a direct relationship with my clients. I very much enjoy the skills involved in managing the inherent complexity of making a Real Estate choice. Buying or selling Real Estate is not a walk in the park, and I want to be there every step of the way for my clients.

2) My association with John L Scott enhances my brand, and my ability to deliver top-notch services to my clients. John L Scott Real Estate is a great company, with millions invested in marketing, the website, and even an awesome Real Estate android/iPhone app. Being a part of a large company gives me (and in turn my clients) access to the most innovative Real Estate tools available. Smaller companies cannot always provide and invest in this kind of technology.

2) My office: Not too big, not too small…
Our office in Bellingham is big enough to create a great team environment for networking, but small enough (about 40 agents) to have a boutique / big family feel. I get amazing support from the office staff and branch manager Darin, allowing me to again, focus my time on marketing & showing property.

So in sum, by not spending my time building a real estate team or a company of my own; by staying with a company like John L Scott; by not moving around to different offices looking for greener pastures; I have been able to focus ALL of my time and energy on simply working with my clients; focusing my time and talents at getting better at what I do; mastering the craft of being the best Realtor I can be for my clients.

It’s also helped me have a balanced life. Having some free time still with my family (we have 2 little kids 3 and 5!) and friends, is important to me.

This is not to say anything negative about agents who build teams or small companies. Some of the agents I have the most respect for have gone this route (even my Dad did!). It is just an explanation of why I personally choose to work the way I do.

Maybe one day I will be more interested in the building a Real Estate empire of my own. Right now I still love working with clients and helping people buy and sell houses. Keeping it simple.

Webcast about Bank Owned Homes and Short sales

No Comments »

I was just interviewed about foreclosures and short sales, here is the video below:

City of Bellingham will now require you to register all rental properties

No Comments »

The City of Bellingham has enacted into law a rental registration program. Fees will be $10 to register each rental unit for up to 20 units, $8 a unit for over 20 unites, and registration will begin July 1st. The city will be inspecting all rental properties every 3 years (that is the plan at least). And the registration will require landlords to post the registration in rental properties, and comply with a check list of safety and hazard compliance measures (things like carbon and smoke detectors install and no safety hazards).

It will be interesting to see how this works out. Some homes that are run down will have a hard time complying, and landlords will need to put money into these homes, and then ultimately raise rents to account for that. This should create some benefit in many cases for renters (to be renting a safer home that is to code and compliant)…But it may also create an even bigger shortage of affordable rentals in town. Many of the most affordable rentals are once where landlords have slacked on the maintenance, but kept rents low. As owners go in to make updates and comply, there is no question some rental rates will rise.

So like it or not, it’s happening. You can find more information at

Bellingham and Whatcom County Real Estate Market Update

No Comments »

Through August of 2014, home sales (up 4%) and home values are both up slightly from 2014. The market started out relatively hot this early spring, but through the summer the slight increase in home sales has been offset by a higher inventory and more homes for sales. See chart below for Whatcom County listings, and solds. You will see it is very similar to the 2013 summer months. Except in 2014 July/August, home sales are up (dark green) and more homes for sale (light green).

Unlike Seattle, where values have been sky rocketing and there is a severe lack of inventory, Bellingham and Whatcom County have been experiencing a more predictable, slow and steady housing rebound. I consider this a good thing, as home values seem to be rising at a pace that is sustainable right now.

Additionally, supply and demand in Bellingham and Whatcom county remains steady. A “hot” market would be definied by less then 3 months supply of inventory on the market. A “slow” market would be defined by 8+ months supply of inventory on the market. Whatcom county has had between 5 and 7 months supply of inventory available for the last 15 months, very consistently. See chart below:

For home owners and investors a like, this should be considered good news all around. Bellingham and Whatcom County continue to have a strong housing market, with much less volatility and much more predictability then many areas around the state and country.

Why You Should List Your Home Priced Right, Move-In Ready

No Comments »

Many sellers I meet with often want to list at a price slightly above market value, to leave negotiating room and see if they can make more money on there home sale. Other sellers have a hard time spending money on repairs and updates hoping to sell “as is”. This is not always a bad strategy, but the numbers provided by the NW Multiple Listing Service and recent research, indicate that the odds are against you if you list your home in below average condition, and/or overpriced.

For listings taken from January 1st, 2013 to February 28th, 2014 in NW Washington:

Homes Sold in first 30 days: 42%.  Sold in 31-60 days, 14%, Sold in 61-90 days:  7%, Sold in 91-120 days 5%.

You can see that if you do not get your home sold in the first 30 days on the market, your odds of getting an offer drop off significantly. That is a good reason to list your home priced competitively from the beginning.

For sellers who do not want to put money in to the home, research indicates the best return is ALWAYS getting the home in good condition prior to listing.

A recent survey by the PulteGroup revealed that 65% of home buyers prefer spending more money on a home that is move-in ready, compared to doing renovations. In addition, homes that are “staged” also have been shown to sell for as much as 8% higher then non-staged homes.

So getting your home in good condition and priced right pays off.  And you don’t need to do everything on your own. For sellers in Whatcom and North Skagit county, we have great resources to help you coordinate repairs/landscaping/cleaning/staging to prepare your home for sale.

We help you position the price right, but also help get it show ready to help you get top dollar. We know what repairs will give you a maximum return and what updates are not worth doing prior to listing.  Contact me today for more information.

(below is a staged home listed and sold in 2014 in Burlington)

2 Free Real Estate Apps for your Phone or Tablet

No Comments »

Here is 2 apps I recommend that you can find in the Android Play app store or Apple store.  Both apps are free!


HomeSnap is an innovative app that allows you to take a picture of a home when you drive by or arrive, and it will instantly provide you the listing detail information, or the tax information. It does this by taking the GPS coordinates that your camera provides, and locating the information on the home based on that. This can be extremely helpful to even just get the tax information on a home that off the market as well.  You can also add friends and family to your home search, so you can share pictures and listings with them easily. It also has categories to search, including “see expensive homes” or “see great investments”.

John L Scott Real Estate App

The John L Scott application shows ALL listings, from all Real Estate companies. And unlike Zillow, it has a direct feed from the lcal MLS, so you are getting accurate information updated multiple times a day, showing all available listings. It sounds bias coming from a John L Scott Realtor, but this application is a good one. John L Scott was the first local/regional company to come out with a Real Estate application for Washington state, almost 2 years ago.

The GPS tracking works perfect, so when driving around you see all homes for sale around you. You can also specify a search, and if your using a Realtor (like me hopefully) you can register with an account and link up with your Realtor as well.

A First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit that could save you over $10,000

No Comments »

The National First Time Home Buyer tax credit that was available a few years ago got a lot of press, but very few are aware of the tax credit available in Washington state to first time home buyers today. This credit is called the Mortgage Credit Certificate, and the savings can trump the savings in the Federal Tax Credit offered in 2010 of $8,000. I have had multiple clients in the last 2 years take advantage of this, but virtually none of the buyers are aware of it before I bring it up. Part of the reason for that is a lack of press about this credit. The other reason is that many banks and lenders do not participate in this program. You do need to use a lender or bank that participates, and those participating lenders can be found on the MCC website.

The only criteria is you need to use a participating bank, be a first time home buyer, and make less then $90,000 gross per year. The tax credit features a 20% tax credit on the interest you pay on the loan. On a $250,000 house purchase, the average tax credit is about $175 a month. Over a 5 year period, that ends up being $10,500 in tax credits! You can find out more by contacting me at or 360-920-5901, or go to the Washington State Housing Commission website at .

New USDA Maps for Whatcom County, Bellingham, Ferndale and Lynden Rural Housing Loan

No Comments »

USDA (The Rural Housing Loan) has been the most popular Zero down loan program on the market in recent years, and starting October 1st, the areas you can buy a home with USDA is going to be shrinking. What USDA will define as being “Rural” moving forward will not include the city of Ferndale as well as the city of Lynden, along with the city of Bellingham.

Attached I’ve included copies of the new boundaries for Bellingham, Lynden and Ferndale.


USDA MAP – Ferndale

USDA Map – LYNDEN ineligible area

You need to stay outside of these areas if you want to consider a Zero Down USDA loan after next month.

There is however a conventional loan program that is zero down that has arrived through the Washington State Housing Commission. Contact me for more details.