One of the most common questions I am asked by both buyers and sellers has to do with upgrades to a home.

Sellers want to know if the investment they make will pay off. And buyers are wondering if they are overpaying for someone else’s splurge.

Because everyone’s tastes are different, the value of upgrades is always somewhat objective. But here’s a list of upgrades I think are worth splurging for based on my years of experience in this industry.

Hardwood floors. Virtually every client I work with finds hardwood floors to be a beautiful upgrade to a home. They’re also pretty pricey, depending on where you live, what type of wood you select, and whether the installation is tricky in any way. Real wood floors can stand the test of time, as they can usually be refinished several times over their life, so over the long-haul hardwood floors may cost less than flooring which is initially less expensive.

Quality cabinets. Most of us put a lot of demand on cabinetry, especially cabinets in our kitchens and bathrooms. Upgrading from builder grade cabinets to semi-stock or semi-custom cabinets is money that is typically very well spent. And of course, if your budget is generous, fully custom cabinets are wonderful.

Solid surface countertops. Counters take a lot of abuse. Beautiful countertop products that can take what you and your family dish out include granite, marble, tile, and quartz. Of these, quartz continues to rise in popularity as it doesn’t require the periodic sealing many natural products require.

Top-notch paint. Have you looked at the price of paint lately? It runs the gamut from the very, very cheap ($10 per gallon) to the very expensive (more than $100 per gallon!). Like anything in life, you get what you pay for. Investing in a good quality paint – something in the $35 to $55 per gallon range) will likely require fewer coats during application and will hold up to scrubbing and fading for years.

Professional design. I’ve seen more cobbled-together additions than you can imagine! And lots of poor decisions when it comes to upgrades and layouts. If you’re upgrades are substantial in nature and involve removing or moving walls, or moving mechanical systems, it’s time to think about hiring an architect or at the very least a skilled general contractor. If you simply need help selecting fixtures and materials for your kitchen and bath, look for a certified designer.

We love to help our clients make the best possible choices when they want to upgrade their home – choices that will serve them well during their time in the home, and choices that will pay off when they’re ready to sell.

Luckily for us, one of our team members is a general contractor who ran a very successful business helping clients with just this issue. We’d love to use that knowledge to help you find the best upgrades for your unique situation.

p.s. Watch for my upcoming post on augmented reality apps. These tools can help you visualize home improvements before you spend a lot of time, money, and energy!

After many years of historically low interest rates, 2019 was supposed to be the year that rates began increasing.

While they have inched up a bit, the increase hasn’t been as dramatic as anticipated. It’s too early to know how this will play out during the year, but even if rates do increase it’s worth noting that won’t necessarily slow home purchases.

Contrary to what most people think, mortgage rate increases don’t automatically slow sales.


In 1984, 1994, and 1999, mortgage interest rates rose a whopping 2 percentage points each of those years, while home sales either stayed flat or increased.

(The exception to this was 2008, when higher rates created a huge number of poorly underwritten subprime loans to go south, and home sales dropped. Luckily, subprime mortgages are a thing of the past, and nearly everyone who had a subprime loan has refinanced into safe fixed-rate mortgages).

So, if rates don’t impact home sales in the way we might ordinarily think, what does?


In our greater Seattle area, declining affordability may slow sales far more than interest rate increases.

In many neighborhoods in Seattle and some of the close-in Eastside suburbs, many buyers are simply priced out of the kind of housing they are looking for. They want a 3- or 4-bedroom single-family home; what they can afford is a small condominium.

Some buyers are willing to settle for a less-than-ideal living situation in order to get started in the housing market, and they purchase what they can afford – knowing that it’s the first step up the property ladder.

Others choose to live with friends and family until their budget matches their wish list. Sadly, most potential buyers aren’t able to save at the same rate home prices are increasing in our area.


Luckily, I specialize in markets that still offer affordable housing – Covington, Kent, Maple Valley, and Renton. My team and I are able to help many people purchase in these areas when they might have thought that home ownership was out of the question for them, or that they would have to “settle”. And as a resident in the area, I can assure you that you won’t feel you have “settled”!

If you want to talk more about interest rates – or have other questions about the real estate market – just reach out. We are here to put our years of experience to work for you!

Marti Reeder, Realtor, Managing Broker