In Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties of the North Sound, the real estate industry has grown from a decade ago. No wonder, because people are moving here at a rate 
not seen since 2010, the last official census. The secret’s out: The North Sound is a great place to live. We’ve got nature in abundance, the coastline, fresh water, snow-capped peaks, islands, arts, recreation, and locally grown food.

In this feature, we give you a look at a day in the life of a realtor. Also, in this, a seller’s market, we offer ways to present your home in the best light. For buyers, beware red flags—a home inspector answers some common questions. Finally, you’ll hear from one family that’s moving out and another that’s moving in, a bittersweet time
for both. It might not quite qualify as
a boom time, but for those involved in real estate here, North Sound stock
is on the rise.

Selling to the Max: Curb Appeal Helps

It’s a seller’s market these days, but it’s still competitive out there. How do you sell your home for the price you want? We turned to certified realtor Shannon Neufeld, a 25-year resident of Bellingham who has been selling Whatcom County homes for more than 12 years, for advice on staging and maximizing your home’s curb appeal.—Meri-Jo Borzilleri

It is not an unusual story for us to step into a home for our first appointment and discover the house, while beautiful, is just not ready for the world to see. Although the owners are capable, they just don’t know where to start and where to focus their energies. Recently, I was preparing to list a family home where the three active young boys kept the family busy with everything but household organization. With a solid to-do list, some excellent direction, and a few days’ time, the home was in tip-top shape and ready to
get top dollar.

Grab them at the curb

Make potential buyers fall in love with your home from the street. A small investment of time and money can really make a difference. Adding a few spots of color in the garden, power- washing walkways and the driveway, cleaning gutters, weeding the garden, and mowing and edging the lawn enhance the look and feel of any home. It’s your first chance to make a good impression, so make it count.

Invite the buyers to a little “porch time”

The front entry, patio, or porch is not only a first impression to the home, it
is also a beautiful way to make a statement about the community. If you have room, place a chair or two with clean cushions to invite sitting. This makes a nice statement about safety and your neighborhood. Consider placing easy-to-read house numbers and help the potential buyers feel welcome by adding potted plants and flowers, replacing your old worn-out welcome mats, and sweeping any leaves and other debris from the front steps.

A home that shines is a home that sells

Make everything shine in a way that makes the buyer ask, “Does anyone live here?” Clean windows let the sunshine pour in. Spotless floors, steam-cleaned carpets, and freshly wiped baseboards send a welcome message to all guests. Dusting walls, ceilings, and all flat surfaces suggests this home is loved. And yes,
a home that is free of odors, or overly-fragrant deodorizers, is a must. If you feel overwhelmed by this task, hire a pro! The money or time invested will pay you back. “Shiny” is necessary!

Keep it neutral

Unless your home has current, well-received designer colors, neutralizing a flamboyant accent wall, for example, can eliminate strong reactions and allow buyers to envision their style superimposed on a “blank” slate. Though repainting is not always an advised expense, sometimes eliminating an objectionable area can widen the appeal of a home and help a sale.

De-clutter, Phase I

This is the first step of the moving-
out process. Embrace the challenge
as you simplify. You will thank yourself when you not only get top dollar but simplify your move. A home without
the stuff looks larger, allows the buyer to envision themselves living there,
and draws focus to more-important house elements. Clear toys and smaller appliances and furniture pieces.

De-clutter, Phase II

Clearing out open spaces is critical, but lots of hidden spaces need to
be jettisoned of small stuff. Don’t be surprised if the buyer wants to examine cupboards, storage rooms, and the garage. Make a plan to systematically clear out each space and organize it! Keep the essentials and again, remember you’ll be making the move easier for yourself too.

Freshen the kitchen and the rest of the home

The kitchen is the hub of most home activity and entertaining. If your kitchen says “Come on in and stay a while,” you will enhance your ability to sell. Making your kitchen fresh, clean, and inviting sets the stage. Counter tops and sinks should gleam, the refrigerator should

be clear of extraneous decor, and countertop appliances should be sparse. A bowl of fresh fruit, or a couple of wine glasses and a bottle of wine can give that well-lived-in feel without crowding out the guests. Finally, a nice addition might be some fancy hand soap and
a new tea towel by the sink.


A few family photos suggest a homey setting, while a wall of archival memories can crowd out a buyer’s notion of how to live in “your” home. We recommend that our sellers put their personal collections, awards, jewelry, and prescription medications out of sight; this enhances personal privacy and allows the would-be buyer to imagine themselves in the home.

Don’t forget the outdoors

Anything that speaks to the enjoyment of life on the property is a win. Hang your clean hammock, set up the BBQ pit, or arrange a bistro table and chairs with a fresh tablecloth and some charming seat cushions. Showing off the property’s outdoors, no matter how big or small, adds to the lifestyle most seek.

Set the dining/kitchen table

Use neutral colors and keep it simple. A few place-settings provide a lovely touch. A small vase of flowers, or carefully potted succulents in a clean pot, will positively enhance the look for a small cost.

Make the beds

Beds are an important spatial element to assist buyers with understanding the room’s functionality. If your bedroom is small, lean a full-length mirror against one wall to make the room feel larger. Most important: Make sure the beds are neatly made before each showing. If you don’t have crisp clean bed covers, it may be worth it to buy some, or borrow a set from a friend.

"The secret’s out: The North Sound is a great place to live."