Winter is Coming! Game of Homes… Part 1


The Real Estate busy season has quickly past. It was a positive year for Real Estate and home owners are rejoicing as they see their home values increase finally after years of stagnation.

Are you ready for next year? This is the time to plan ahead. We would like to share some things we think the prudent homeowner should think about.

Basic Maintenance:

Maybe you need to take care of some basic maintenance? How’s your roof, gutters, deck and exterior paint?  Maybe your furnace is inefficient or your hot water tank looks like a relic from the 70’s. Get your bids in now and get scheduled before contractors get to busy. Do your due diligence we always recommend getting 3 bids from different contractors. Look for referrals from trusted friends and family and also look for yourself.


Remodeling Magazine puts together each year a cost vs. value (ROI) on home remodeling projects. If you are looking to improve the value of your home you should acquaint yourself with what improvements will give you the best return.

For 2016 for Seattle WA area we found 7 projects that have a positive ROI.

  • Attic insulation: 150.3%
  • Manufactured Stone Veneer: 142.8%
  • Garage Door Replacement: 136.9%
  • Entry Door replacement: 127.9%
  • Deck Addition (wood): 106.9%
  • Minor Kitchen Remodel: 104.3%
  • Siding Replacement: 103.2% (Remodeling Magazine)


From the above list you can see one theme pretty clearly, improving your curb appeal gives you the best bang for your buck.

Contractors are busy these days, often you’re looking at least 3 months before they can get to your project. So it’s prudent to get the conversation going now and be ready for the spring.

If you want to know the value of your home or what you could do to improve your value or you need a referral, please contact us, we’re always open.

Click the umbrella!


Real Estate Stats for Geeks

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We have made it through the 2016 peak in the Real Estate world it appears. Traditionally the peak being late spring early summer. It seems like a good time to review the year and look at how the market did. For this exercise we are comparing 2015 to 2016 and looked at Pierce County as a whole and at Gig Harbor excluding the Key Peninsula (sorry K.P.) Also to narrow the scope we excluded bank owned, short sales and REO sales. We also excluded waterfront homes and new construction. *If you include waterfront in Gig Harbor stats go through the roof.

We picked four categories to focus on average price of sales, average price per square foot, days on the market (DOM),  and lastly months of inventory. Lets get busy crunching numbers.

  • Average Sales Price

Pierce County:                                                            Gig Harbor

2015:            276K                                                                              288K

2016:            295K                                                                              305K

6.9% increase                                                              6% increase


  • Price Per Square Foot

2015:           $140                                                                               $140

2016:           $150                                                                               $156

7% increase                                                               11.4% increase

  • Days on the Market

2015:            56                                                                                     63

2016:            40                                                                                    45

29% decrease                                                          29% decease

  • Months of Inventory

2015:           2.4                                                                                     2.6

2016:           1.6                                                                                      1.8

33% decrease                                                             31% decrease

What did we gather from this info? It appears Gig Harbor is consistent with the rest of the county, the one stat that stood out was price per sq foot in Gig Harbor has gone up 11.4% over last year, which is considerably more than the rest of the county. Also interesting is that the Gig Harbor price per sq foot is steadily rising throughout the year. tgchartimage-2

Overall we see some consistency in the current market, at least less peaks and valleys. It is a seller’s market with low inventory and prices rising. The trends are also leaving buyers with less bargaining power. Fewer instances of closing costs being paid by seller and less demands by buyers being met by the sellers with inspection items.

More homes are getting listed than in 2016, which will help neutralize the market. Sales peaked in June/July but are holding steady especially in Gig Harbor.

Buyers are benefiting from low-interest rates and low down payment programs, especially first time home buyers.

That’s it for now let me know if you have any questions or if you want any specific information for your neighborhood.





Master Bath Remodel (before & after)

Just wrapped up a major updating/remodel of our master bath. Very happy with the way things turned out. Took longer than expected and there was a lot of details that came up that never crossed my mind we would have to make decisions on.

The before bathroom was as you can see mostly cedar tongue and groove and wallpaper on the walls. The bath was not very functional for a family with just one sink, a tub and a toilet. In the end we ended up with 2 sinks, a walk in shower, a stand alone tub and a separate water closet for the toilet.

We added a lot of custom touches. The tile and stone came out awesome, faux grey wood floor tile throughout the room with a very unique basket weave in the shower and we also did a mat with the basket weave in the middle of the room. In the shower there’s a stone bench that floats through the wall and provides a bench on the other side. With the water closet (not shown) we put in a window to provide natural light. Also added heated floors.

We did our best to stick to budget but we came out a little over, we did also decide that we just wanted it done how we wanted it done and didn’t worry about trying to cut costs. It was a pretty fun experience and we’re are happy after 10 years take showers in our master bath.


Staging 101: It’s all perspective.

When marketing your home to sell we have a simple philosophy: Expose your property in the best light to as many people as possible. Nothing breakthrough but how is that done? In today’s Real Estate world 85-92% of people begin their search online. Your online presence will be the key to generating interest. At Jones & Ritchie we cultivate interest by using professional photography and professional staging all at no additional charge to our clients.

Look at the difference in this home with some with and without staging shots.

More interest equals more offers which equals a stronger negotiation position.


How Zillow sells your information.

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As a realtor I often wonder why Zillow is so popular by non-realtors or shall we say consumers? My gut feeling is it allows for anonymity, but does it? Please read on if you’re interested in what Zillow is really about and how it works.

To answer these questions I have to go undercover and act like a consumer. I go into Zillow using chrome’s incognito option. Actually I often mess around with Zillow. It is a unique source for finding For Sale by Owner properties and I’m also amused by the “Make me Move” feature, which generally has owners listing their homes for exorbitant amounts of money. Interesting side note 2 of the FSBO’s that I look at are actually Realtors selling their own properties. Hmmm? As a consumer Zillow’s website is very user friendly, it’s pretty clean/minimal and easy to navigate. I do like that you can use a map to search properties, I’m a map guy though. What else is compelling about Zillow? The Zestimate? I plug in my own address to see how I’m doing. Uh oh still underwater from what I paid back in 2006. It’s actually pretty close even though its just an algorithm. I mess around a little more, I check out the “Home Design” tab which is basically their version of Pinterest or Houzz. I check out the blog “Zillow Porchlight” and I get sucked into an article. Well from a consumer perspective Zillow is fun and informative. Oh yeah and I almost forgot almost every page has a bunch of pics of realtors I can contact to get more information.

Ok I’m done playing the consumer/website experience role let’s really look at what’s all the fuss with Zillow. First off let’s Google “Who owns Zillow?” Wikipedia looks like the best source of information in this instance. Two former Microsoft executives that appear to be filthy rich. The first thing that strikes me on the wikipedia page is under Business Model:

”Zillow has stated that it is a media company that generates revenue by selling advertising on its web site.”

That’s interesting and that makes sense, they’re a media company and what do media companies do, they sell advertising. How do they sell advertising? By collecting information that they then sell. Who is buying this information? Realtors.

We’re you wondering how Zillow sells your information to Realtors. Zillow sells Realtors on being a “Premier Agent”. What does that mean? Are they like the best Realtors? The most knowledgeable? The best reviews? Not necessarily. To become a Premier agent you have to fork over bucks. All you need is a Real Estate license, a heartbeat and bucks and you could become a “Premier Agent”.  you might not need a hearbeat actually, read on. To become a Premier Agent you pay for a zip code, depending on how much you pay determines how much you pop up when somebody clicks a listing. I’m sure you all have seen on the right side generally 3 agent’s pop up on each listing. You can hit refresh and you might get a whole new selection of beautiful faces. Ok got it? Now let’s take an example zip code, I’ve talked to Zillow and looked into what it costs to be the “Premier Agent”.

For 98335 to have 45% market share (45% of the time your face pops up) it will cost you $2500 a month. Zillow says that you could expect 18 leads a month and if you use the national Zillow average of converting 4% of those leads and then use the median home value for that zip you could expect a return on your investment of $46800 over a 6 month period. For a measly $15,000 you could become top dog and net $31,800, not bad.

Why am I telling you this, well I think it’s important to understand how things work. In my research I also discovered that often an entire Brokerage (no heartbeat) is investing in zip codes and they get the call or email (lead) and then refer it out to an actual agent (heartbeat) that knows about the actual home. For instance I have a listing out on the Hood Canal in zip code 98588, probably not the most coveted or expensive zip code out there. A couple weeks back I received multiple calls/emails from a Realtor in Nevada who said they had a client who was interested in my listing. They asked me if I would contact their client and answer any of their questions and that they only required a 25% referral fee if I were to sell them the property.  A week later I get another email from the same agent saying they had another client interested. I thought that was weird, how is an agent in Nevada getting so many people interested in my listing? I called the number they gave me for the contact and after chatting with him for a while, he mentioned that he clicked on a button on Zillow that said “contact agent”, he filled out the info (Name, # and email).


He was contacted by someone and he realized right away that the lady that answered the phone had no idea about anything concerning the property. Things started making since to me once I heard this. I went incognito and I plugged in the zip code out on the Canal and sure enough up pops a brokerage based out of Nevada. There’s a picture of a guy who’s probably a model.  I’ll admit this bugs me. Basically I’m guessing that this zip costs very little to become a Premier Agent in and brokerages are buying up these low cost zips and trying to hand out referrals and collect 25%. Genius? Maybe for them, but I don’t see how this benefits the consumer.

If you made it this far congratulations. What is my point, why did I write this, to bash Zillow? Not really I just don’t like being duped, there’s some holes in how Zillow works and Zillow is duping people. Zillow invests a lot into their website but is it about the consumer?  They are about advertising, collecting personal information and selling that information. They are as Wikipedia states a “Media Company”.

Final thoughts if you’re using Zillow and you want worthwhile information click the listing agent of a property, make sure you click the box next to the agent or you could contact me. 😉 Note: if you do not check one of the boxes beside an agent it goes to a Premier Agent.

I think that people like Zillow because they think they can use it anonymously and that they have control over how they get information. Is that true? The website itself is pretty user friendly, but ultimately Zillow is trying to get your information plain and simple.

In all honesty real estate transactions are about relationships and you should work with somebody you either know, like or trust and that decision should be up to you. If nobody fits that bill for you then do some research pick 3 Realtors and interview them and find the right fit.

Thank you for reading.



Can’t find the right house in today’s market? Find a piece of land and build one.

Ever thought about just building your next home? You can have it how you want, it will be brand spanking new and you don’t have to worry about what you don’t know with an old house. Like what’s lurking behind the drywall? When the roof is going to fail?

One of the advantages of building a new home can be instant equity. Typically when you buy a resale home the value you paid for it becomes the new value. When building if you stay within your budget, it’s possible to have an appraised value higher than what it cost you to build.

Where we wanna help, is finding that perfect piece of property to build your dream home on.

Below is a brief outline simplifying the process of buying of land and making sure it is suitable for your needs. It can be intimidating process to build a home but we can help.

Land development flowchart - New Page