Archives: December 2009

Fairhaven Creperie Open on Tenth Street

If you’ve ever had perfect crepes, you know they’re something VERY special — and something special has come to Whatcom County! Magdalena’s Creperie is treating its customers to daily delights in its beautiful, cozy space on Tenth Street in Fairhaven.

Magdalena’s is a perfect place to enjoy breakfast or lunch on a slow-going Pacific Northwest Saturday morning. Their staff is friendly and aim to please — from fresh french-pressed local coffee to the heavenly butter cookie placed along side your mug, there are all sorts of small extra touches that make for a memorable dining experience. And the crepes themselves — it’s hard to decide between sweet crepes and savory, everything sounds so appetizing.

Chocolate lovers, beware: the chocolate crepes are pretty much to die for.

Then there’s Magdalena herself — hard at work in the open kitchen, greeting customers with a quick smile, encouraging folks to sample an authentic Polish soup or pirogi. She’s a walking reminder of how extraordinarily warm and personal locally-owned restaurants can be.

Next time you’re in Fairhaven, drop on in and enjoy this gem for yourself! For hours and more information, please visit www.magdalenascreperie.com.

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(Photo courtesy Magdalena Theisen)

Jingle Bell Swim at the Bellingham Athletic Club!

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(L-R Bellingham Athletic Club owner Kathy Buckley, water aerobics instructor Jill Robertson, and Pacific Northwest Real Estate Agent Susan Stecher, decked out in their Jingle Bell finest!)

While many of you have probably heard about Whatcom County‘s annual Jingle Bell Run in Downtown Bellingham, what you may not know is that there was also a Jingle Bell Swim at the Bellingham Athletic Club raising funds for the Bellingham Arthritis Foundation!

Water aerobic classes and lap swim sessions are available at the Cordata Bellingham Athletic Club throughout the week, day and evenings, and the intensity levels vary. Kathy Buckley, owner of the BAC, is a swim expert who’s passionate about making sure our diverse Whatcom County community is served. Water aerobic classes are specifically designed so that folks of all ages and fitness levels can participate — the oldest participant is in her 90’s!

Jill Robertson has been coaching people to better health for over 29 years, and she regularly teaches classes each week at the BAC. She says it gives her “great joy” to watch her class participants achieve greater health. People who attend her classes are constantly grateful for her encouragement, her energy, and her enthusiasm!

Water aerobic classes are designed to make sure everyone feels comfortable participating — if you feel shy jumping into the pool in your swimsuit, clean t-shirts and shorts are also allowed. Some of the classes are specifically designed for arthritic exercise, and the Bellingham Arthritis Foundation has stepped in to help train the instructors at no cost. Everyone is welcome!

Classes begin with a brief warm up, followed by 30 minutes of workout, ending with a few minutes of stretching and water yoga. Hot tubs and saunas are also available to warm you up after your swim.

While the water aerobics classes are wonderful for your health, they are also GREAT for your mood! The music is fun and upbeat, ranging from the 70’s to the 90’s, and participants are known to don a costume or two during special holidays. Also, the Back-of-the-Pool Gang (see pictures below) is known to get a little rambunctious from time to time with a water fight or two, which always keeps things exciting!

If you want to make 2010 a healthier, happier year, water aerobics might just be exactly what you need to get on the path to fitness and health. If you’d like a free guest pass to the Bellingham Athletic Club, please call me (Susie) at (360) 319-4939 and I’ll get you set up! Please check the Bellingham Athletic Club for more details, or check their Pool Schedule for more information about classes.

And now, introducing the infamous Back-of-the-Pool Gang… are any of you very surprised that it includes yours truly?

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(L-R, Donna, me, and Smitty)

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Whatcom home sales continue their rise

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More than a few of us were surprised by all the Whatcom County real estate sales activity last month. Most expected some level of recovery on the Pacific Northwest housing market, especially as compared to this time last year, but home and condo sales were actually more than double than numbers from November 2008, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

235 homes and condos sold last month, much higher than November ’08’s severely low 117.  In fact, these numbers are the best since 2006.

As usual, one potential reason for the rise in activity is the first-time home buyer credit, which may have helped first-timers take the leap into home ownership.

While sales are up, median sales prices continue to fall.  In Whatcom County, the median price on homes and condos sold was $240,250, down from $250,900 two months ago.  Skagit County is also seeing some recovery, with 121 homes and condos sold last month (up from 51 November of last year).  However, their median sales prices have fallen more dramatically over the past year.

The tax credit really makes this a great time to purchase.  However, it’s not a great time to be out there on your own in the housing market.  If you’re looking for an trustworthy, personal Pacific Northwest real estate agent who can help you navigate these uncharted waters and make a Northwest home purchase that makes sense for you and your family, pick up the phone and give me a call, or feel free to browse my no-hassle free Pacific Northwest MLS search.

Whatcom County volunteers . . . Here’s how you can, too!

img_999771_primaryDuring the holidays, and all throughout the year, Whatcom County volunteers are out in our community, giving their time and talent to ensure a better way of life for everyone who lives here in our part of The Pacific Northwest.

In our area, we’re fortunate to have the Whatcom Volunteer Center. Each year, this organization connects more than 4,000 volunteers to 400 opportunities to serve in Bellingham, Fairhaven, Lynden, Ferndale, Blaine and beyond.

The Whatcom Volunteer Center also provides a portal for community agencies to access a wide variety of talented volunteers without increasing their expenses. WVC works with over 350 Whatcom County nonprofits, schools, government, and healthcare organizations.

From their Volunteer Chore Program, which takes care of senior Whatcom residents by providing yardwork, housework, and errands, to the House 2 Home Network, which helps connect household furniture donations to formerly homeless people who are transitioning into a home, the Whatcom Volunteer Center is a powerful force for good here in Whatcom County — both for those in need, and for those who need to give.

One way you can help: if you’re looking for a fun, fancy night out in Bellingham to celebrate New Year’s Eve, purchase your tickets now for First Night Bellingham: A Formal Affair. With live music, dancing, food & drink, and a midnight champagne toast at the Lakeway Inn, this event is a great way to ring in the New Year AND support our community.  Tickets are $49/single, $79/couple with an RSVP, or $59 per ticket at the door, and 100% of the proceeds go to the Whatcom Volunteer Center.

For more information on the fundraiser, visit: http://www.firstnightbellingham.com/, or to find great opportunities to give, visit http://www.whatcomvolunteer.org/.

Fewer Whatcom County Foreclosures in November

New Whatcom County Rates Reflecting National Foreclosure Trend

According to a new report from RealtyTrac, there was a decrease in Whatcom County home foreclosures last month — a trend that parallels what seems to be happening throughout the nation.

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November saw 71 foreclosure filings in Whatcom County, a significant drop from earlier in 2009. Earlier this year, especially during spring and summer, foreclosures averaged 120 homes a month or more.

What’s leading to the decrease in foreclosures?

Several factors are helping to lower the number of families facing foreclosure. RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio named loan modifications and other foreclosure prevention measures, as well as the extension and expansion of the homebuyer tax credit, as key players in keeping foreclosure numbers down. Still, he cautioned that the real estate industry is not out of the woods yet — until unemployment rates decrease and mortgage lending practices stabilize, foreclosures will remain a reality.

Whatcom County remains resilient

Despite challenges that we’ve seen in the housing market, we remain very fortunate in to live and work in Whatcom County — here’s how our foreclosure rates stack up against the rest of the country:

• Whatcom County: 1 household for every 1,219 received a foreclosure notice.
• Washington State: 1 household in foreclosure for every 835 homes.
• Nationwide: 1 household in foreclosure for every 417 homes.

If your home is at risk of foreclosure, don’t wait to get help!

If you’re at risk of foreclosure on your BellinghamFairhavenFerndaleSudden ValleyBlaineBirch BayAnacortes, or Mt. Vernon home, you need the expertise of a Pacific Northwest realtor you can trust.

My team and I can help you find the solution that’s right for you and your family. Don’t walk through this tough situation alone . . . there is assistance available! Go to my website for helpful foreclosure prevention resources, or simply give me a call at (360) 319-4939.

(photo credit: respres)

2010 Census: Keep your personal information safe!

3453643879_6cff4c72232010 will bring more than a new decade: it will also bring census takers to the doors of our Pacific Northwest homes.

While it’s important to be cooperative with census takers who come to your home, it is also wise to be cautious and make sure 1) you’re dealing with a person truly working for the 2010 Census; and 2) you’re only providing the information necessary.

Here’s some helpful information from the Better Business Bureau:

U.S. Census workers will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag (seen at right), and a confidentiality notice.  Ask to take a look at their I.D. and their badge before answering their questions.  Census worker or not, never invite someone you don’t know into your home.

Census workers are only verifying address information at this time.  Never give someone claiming to work for the census your Social Security Number, your credit card information, or any banking information.  Though census workers may ask for basic financial information such as salary range, anyone requesting more detailed information is not working for the census.  The only information you really need to provide for the U.S. Census is how many people live at your address.

While Census workers may eventually contact you via mail, telephone, or in person at your home, they will not contact you via email, so don’t give out your email address or open any emails claiming to be from the Census Bureau.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where scams and identity theft are a real challenge, and it can impact everything from buying a home to securing your retirement.  But with a bit of common-sense caution, you can protect yourself and your family!

(photo credit: seandreilenger)