Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is First place good

According to the Washington Policy Center, Washington state consistently places in the top five states as far as the number of new business started. Then again, it also placed in the top 3 for business terminations during the same years.

It was noted that just because a business terminated does not mean that business failed. Businesses could have terminated because the Owners retired and closed the business or sold it to another company.

Business Starts and Closures
According to the latest data available, Washington ranks 3rd in business starts and 2nd in business terminations (2006).

Washington ranked 5th in business starts in 2005 and 3rd in 2004. The state ranked 1st in business closures in 2005 and 1st in 2004.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

DDES Pre-Submittal Service Will Reduce Permit Review Time

King County is taking the next step to reform customer service by improving the process of applying for mid-size permits at the Department of Development and Environmental Services – working up-front with customers who bring in permits too complex for over-the-counter service.

Starting April 25 customers with development permits too complex for over-the-counter service, but not complex enough to qualify for a pre-application meeting, will be entered into a new program called Pre-Submittal Services (PSS).

The PSS process will provide direct customer service to applicants before they submit the application by providing feedback to identify technical issues or red flags, and set expectations for the process ahead. This will allow staff at the Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) to immediately initiate or review the application as soon as it is submitted, rather than having to go back to the applicant to request clarity or more information.

“Our Department has been working purposefully and energetically over the last year to make permitting processes at King County less burdensome,” said DDES Director John Starbard. “I’m optimistic about this reform to our services. It should speed up review times, improve communication with our customers, and enable applicants to start their projects sooner.”

Incorrect and incomplete application submittals are a major factor that add to the cost and complexity of the permitting process.

PSS will assist with twelve types of mid-size permit applications:
􀂃New Dwellings
􀂃Additions/Remodels/Accessory Structures*
􀂃Agricultural Buildings
􀂃Tenant Improvements*
􀂃Small Commercial Buildings
􀂃Site Plan Resubmittal
􀂃Residential Revision
􀂃Boundary Line Adjustments
􀂃Separate Lot/Lot Mergers

*Some of these permit types may be covered already in the easy over-the-counter permit process

Beginning April 25, applicants who have a PSS qualifying project will pay $357 up front, which will be credited to the cost of the application once the final paperwork is submitted. The total processing time is expected to drop significantly, and each applicant will work with DDES staff to help ensure their paperwork is right the first time, and they can prevent delays associated with the need to stop processing and contact the applicant for more information or clarity.
PSS will be conducted during business days from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm (with a lunch break between 12:00 to 1:00 pm).

The PSS process builds on a series of reforms at DDES under the guidance of King County Executive Dow Constantine, and DDES Director John Starbard. Reforms include the introduction of a fixed-fee model to provide cost certainty for building permits, permit integration with other county agencies, over-the-counter permits, a revised permit intake process, and enhanced relationships with cities and stakeholders.

For hours and location of DDES, visit

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Buying after Bankruptcy, Short Sale or Foreclosure

I hear questions from time to time from people about the guidelines relating to buying a home after a bankruptcy, short sale or foreclosure. While the requirements are not universal, here is a matrix that was put together by Homefront Mortgage that I found quite useful.

Monday, April 18, 2011

County revamps some permit review

SEATTLE — King County said it is improving the application process for mid-size permits at the Department of Development and Environmental Services by working with customers who bring in permits that are too complex for over-the-counter service.

The new program is called Pre-Submittal Services. It starts April 25 and is for customers with permits that are too complex for over-the-counter service but not complex enough to qualify for a pre-application meeting.

The county said this will let the staff identify technical issues or red flags, set expectations for the process ahead and avoid having to go back to applicants for more information. Incomplete submittals add to the cost and complexity of permitting.

PSS will apply to a variety of project types including new dwellings, remodels, additions, small commercial buildings and boundary line adjustments.

Applicants with a qualifying project will pay $357 up front, which will be credited to the cost of the application. The county said processing time is expected to drop significantly.

Daily Journal of Commerce

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fannie Mae offers Buyers closing cost assistance until June 30th

Fannie Mae announced today that people purchasing a Fannie Mae-owned HomePath property will receive up to 3.5 percent in closing cost assistance. The initial offer must be submitted on or after April 11, 2011; and the sale must close on or before June 30, 2011 to be eligible for the incentive. Additionally, they'll pay a $1,000 bonus to buyers' agents in Washington State. One caveat, buyers must reside in the home as their primary residence (sales to investors are excluded).

"Attracting qualified buyers to the market and reducing the inventory of vacant homes remains essential to stabilizing neighborhoods and helping the market recover," said Terry Edwards, Executive Vice President of Credit Portfolio Management. "Since interest rates remain low, the incentive will go a long way toward helping even more families buy a new home so this is a great time for Fannie Mae to offer some assistance."

All Fannie Mae-owned HomePath properties are listed on and most listings include detailed property descriptions, photographs, community and school information, and more. In addition, many Fannie Mae-owned properties are eligible for special HomePath Mortgage and HomePath Renovation Mortgage financing, which offers homebuyers an opportunity to purchase with as little as 3 percent down.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Excuse me sir, would you like your new home facing the club house or sewage lagoon?

Saint Consulting interviewed 1,000 people to find out what they thought were the most undesirable projects to be built near them. Not too surprising, landfills, casinos, and gravel pits topped the list. Heck, even Walmart was on there.

Maybe it was just too obvious to identify but, how about a sewage plant? Well, a group of landowners in Washington State just learned that exact thing may be happening literally, right next to them. The development is approved for 120 new homes. Individuals bought lots with plans to build vacation homes. With designs for a clubhouse, equestrian center and gated entry, this new development was on its way to becoming one of the nicest in the county.

Not only will the new development be affected but also the existing farms and orchards that surround it. Local farmers and longtime residents strongly oppose the lagoon and have been busy writing letters.

The application was made by a company that hauls sewage. The property they selected for the lagoon includes critical slope areas on it. The applicant stated that their plan is to dump the raw sewage into an open lagoon. Then wait for the “liquids” to evaporate out. Then they’ll scoop up the “solids,” haul them away and repeat the cycle. This is a poorly thought out project. In one part of their application they said they anticipated no adverse impacts of smell to the surrounding residents.

The small site they selected also has a ravine on it. The ravine heads down a steep embankment towards dozens of farms and the river running through town. Since little to no evaporation will occur during the winter months, the rains and snow melt will add to the level of the pond and increase the chances of an overflow.

A week ago the County issued a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance for the sewage lagoon and opened it up for public comment.

This whole lagoon idea has left a bad taste in many people’s mouth.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How small of a home could you live in?

Mini Bungalows are coming to Seattle but could you live in a 300-sf home?

One of the first passive houses in Seattle will open for tours later this month. The project, called Mini-B, demonstrates super-efficient green building techniques.

Mini-B is short for mini-bungalow. The 300-square-foot prototype dwelling is designed to meet the city's requirements for a backyard cottage on a single-family lot. The unit has a bathroom, kitchenette and sleeping area, and is in the parking lot of the Phinney Neighborhood Center at 6532 Phinney Ave. N.

It will be open the weekend of Jan. 29 and each weekend after that for six months. Visits also can be arranged during the week by appointment.

Passive houses have been built for years in Germany and Sweden. They combine highly efficient enclosures with passive solar strategies to create comfortable spaces that cost little to heat.

Passive House Northwest, a local nonprofit, says passive houses use about 85 percent less energy to operate than comparable conventional buildings.

Joe Giampietro, director of housing at Johnson Braund Design Group, is a passive house consultant and developed Mini-B. He said he was inspired by a presentation put on by the Urbana, Ill.-based Passive House Institute about two years ago, and soon after became a passive house consultant. He said there are about 40 such consultants in the region and about 12 passive houses underway in Seattle, including one in Southwest Seattle that is just about complete.

Other green building certification programs target many elements of green construction, but passive houses are focused mostly on energy and an efficient envelope.

“A number of us in the Northwest... are convinced that this is the answer to many of our energy problems because buildings are still the largest users of energy and the most cost-efficient way to address that is through better building envelope,” Giampietro said.

But examples are needed to show that passive houses can work. Giampietro said the goal of the Mini-B project is to expose more people to passive house methods and generate public interest. “What I'm trying to do is to make some funds available to pursue passive house design,” he said.

Giampietro is especially interested in getting nonprofit housing developers to give passive a try. He said passive houses are an easy way to develop affordable housing that is energy efficient without adding photovoltaics or other sources of renewable energy. If a modular units were used, he said these projects could be made for less than $80,000 per unit.

The Mini-B module was built on the Georgetown campus of South Seattle Community College and trucked to the Phinney Neighborhood Center. Finishing touches are going on now.

After six months, Mini-B will be offered for sale as a backyard cottage or cabin. Giampietro said he hopes the sale will cover the development costs. Any profit would go to sponsors including the Phinney Neighborhood Association, Seattle Central Community College and probably a nonprofit housing organization.

For now, Mini-B is purely an exhibit. People can tour the space and it may be used for meetings but not for housing. To test the energy claims, Giampietro said the space will use power, heat and ventilation.

“It will be getting a workout because people will be coming and visiting it. It will be maintaining it's interior temperature and air quality the whole time.”

For more information, visit

Journal Staff Reporter