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One of the best parts of living in Seattle is that every season brings new things to enjoy in the city, from outdoor activities to fun, festive seasonal events. Winterfest at the Seattle Center kicked off on November 25, 2022, and there's more than a full month of fun to follow. This is one event near Seattle homes for sale that you won't want to miss, with fun for the whole family. Our brokers have all of the details on what to look forward to when you celebrate the season at Winterfest.

The Event: Winterfest at the Seattle Center

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toys for tots kirklandSeventy-five years ago, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and his wife started Toys for Tots, a toy collection and distribution event for children who wouldn't otherwise get a visit from Santa. It became a national program, and, since that time, many organizations around the country have joined the fun. One of the most successful is the CB Bain Kirkland office's drive at 8525 120th Ave NE, Kirkland, under the leadership of CB Bain Broker Janet Francis.

Janet and her team of colleagues started collecting toys in the brokerage lobby in 2012. That year, they collected $1,700 and filled a 17-foot truck with toys donated by their clients. "That felt pretty good," says Janet and her event partner, Property Management Director Dorothy Ennes. "But it made us want more!"

As she watched the traffic flow at the nearby intersection of 122nd and 85th Avenues, Janet realized "…that is where we needed to be!" Since then, every year during CB Bain Kirkland's December event, people buy toys at the nearby Costco and swing into the CB Bain driveway to drop their donations. "Our goal is to make donating as easy as possible," says Principal Managing Broker, Dean Ulrich.  Every year they've improved the process and increased their take.

They were pleasantly surprised by people's generosity in 2020 – during the pandemic – when they raised over $17,000 and filled 58 boxes of toys. In 2021 they collected less money ($12,709) and filled 68 boxes with toys. This year's goal? "I'd love 100 boxes of toys and $20,000," says Janet. 

Each year they use the dollars they collect to buy more toys and deliver them by the truckload to the Marines' designated warehouse for the year. The Marines sort the toys by age and King County qualified non-profit groups pick them up for on-site distribution or bring parents to the warehouse for direct gifting.

As part of the program, organizations send requests to the Marines in charge of the program.  Janet recently learned from this year's Marine organizer, Gunnery Sgt.  Joseph Ortiz, that they've received a record 160,000 individual requests for toys. And they still run short, says Janet.  "There is a great need out there and a huge opportunity to expand the program."

At this point and in its 10th year, CBB Kirkland's event is well known.  An average of 500 to 800 people show up to donate every year. This year, the live donation will happen Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4 from 10am to 4pm in the CB Bain office driveway.  But the opportunity to give continues through December 14. "This year we've added a QR Code people can use to donate funds through Venmo and PayPal," says Dean, "and there are donation boxes throughout the Kirkland community that will remain open until the 14th."

"We partner with businesses throughout the community to expand collection sites, " says Janet, and they use the dollars they collect to buy toys from local businesses. "Then there are the businesses that support us the days of the event, providing coffee and snacks for the folks who stand outside in the cold all day to staff the event."

Why do they do it?  "It's just so much fun," says Dorothy.  "It's wonderful to see the Marines who join us.  It's rewarding to see a kid approach a Marine and hand them a toy they're donating. I think it's a wonderful life lesson for the kids." She enjoys standing at the end of the driveway waving and making faces at people in passing cars to attract attention. And it works.  They've also been joined since 2015 by Kirkland Firefighters who arrive in their trucks and leave their boots out to collect cash. 

Participating is heartwarming.  Janet recalls the little 7-year-old girl who drove up with her Dad one year, opened the trunk of their car and donated three of the presents she'd just received for her birthday.

Dean is the newest member of the CBB T4T team, and he remembers hearing about the Kirkland office program when he worked in Bellingham.  "I was shocked when the manager mentioned the huge volume of donations and the dollar amount collected at the Kirkland office." For the last three years, this team's event has been the second largest in King County, bested only by KIRO-TV News.

"It's like throwing a stone in the water and seeing the ripple effect that starts with a kid believing in Santa followed by the parent who feels satisfied that they've made their child's Christmas.  Then the ripples move out into the community to the volunteers, the high school kids who earn community service credits and the small businesses that join in," says Janet.

"This is just a wonderful thing to do," says Dorothy, "on all levels. Getting the $100 bill is exciting, but it's also exciting when a kid gives us a handful of change. It's all appreciated and it's so important right now."


Hawthorne District

Thanks to convenient walkability and a charmingly quirky vibe, the Hawthorne District adds an extra special touch to Portland homes for sale. Our brokers love to spend a day shopping until they drop at these incredible stores and restaurants in the Hawthorne District. 

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Pike Place Market Holidays

Pike Place Market is such an iconic part of the city's identity that it's earned the nickname "the soul of Seattle." Brighten your holidays and create family traditions with these heartwarming events that are happening just minutes from Seattle homes for sale

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portland light displays

During the holidays, Portland's already stunning surroundings become even more spectacular with the addition of lights. Take in the joy of the season when you tour these holiday light displays around Portland homes for sale.

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david angiulo"It's important for us as agents to focus on the current benefits of buying a home," says Seattle CB Bain Broker David Angiulo. The fact is that more opportunities are available now to first time home buyers than in the recent past. When the market velocity was so high it was harder for buyers who didn't have big down payments or much risk tolerance to compete with aggressive buyers who had more cash on hand.  But as David says, "We're getting closer to balance in the market," where first time home buyers have a greater likelihood of prevailing in competitive situations.

First time home buyers have more negotiating room now than they had during the last few years.  Sellers are more receptive to negotiating contingencies. Some are even willing to pay for a rate buy down at closing, a move that can lower the buyer's interest rate and make monthly payments more affordable. "We're starting to see the rate buy down negotiated more frequently now as interest rates creep up," says David. Even prices are negotiable.

In the recent past, mortgage rates were lower, and on paper that house cost less money.

But the buyer couldn't buy it, because someone else would present a stronger offer.  Now there's a higher likelihood that first time home buyers can enter the market. They can at least secure a property and refinance in the future when rates change.  It might cost more every month, but there's still the opportunity to buy.

When first time home buyers are seeking pre-approval to qualify for a loan, it's important to steer them toward reputable local lenders who can explain the financing process.  Some lenders can offer down payments as low as 3%. With lower down payments, a first time home buyer may be more likely to prevail in their offer these days. It's true that buyers who were on the fringe of qualifying in the past might not quality now for the same purchase price. Or if they do qualify, they may not be comfortable with the monthly payment. But they can likely qualify for a lower purchase price.

David says he's also seeing more opportunity in the types of available housing across the market.  For example, zoning changes are allowing new styles of property development in the Seattle metro area. Builders can now buy single family lots and add smaller attached and detached units on the same lot.  Those new configurations are being sold as smaller, more affordable condo units.

Home prices are drifting downward slightly as well, on a traditional seasonal basis. "Prices always go down over the course of a year, dropping slightly at summer's end to blip up in early fall then coast down until spring," he says. "It's not unusual for prices to drop this time of year."

David stresses that the agent's duty with first time home buyers is to educate them about the process, but otherwise it's not much different from serving any other client. David's most vigorous advice is "Don't be afraid to write the offer. Agents aren't used to including contingencies and writing offers below the asking price."  It's important to remember that it's an offer. If the seller refuses, it might cost some time, but it can start a dialogue that could eventually get the seller to a 'yes.' "And it's guaranteed there will be no dialogue if you don't write the offer."

There's no denying that buying a first home is harder than it used to be but "just as important," says David. "Working with a knowledgeable agent who can educate and empower the buyer to make informed decisions for their future and make sense of the information they're getting in the process must absolutely be beneficial. The buyer benefits in the end from working with a highly qualified professional who can empower them to make the best decisions as they navigate this shifting market."

He advocates communicating with colleagues every day to develop strong relationships and take advantage of resources provided by Coldwell Banker Bain. "We're in a unique position to help our clients. Sharing our collective knowledge means my client is getting the benefit of 100 different brains instead of just mine."


Washington Ferries

For a scenic, convenient way to travel to points of interest around Seattle homes for sale and far beyond, it's tough to top Washington State Ferries. In total, the fleet travels across the Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea. It's the largest operating ferry system in the United States, with destinations that range from Tacoma to British Columbia. Our brokers have all of the details on Washington State Ferries and how you can use them to travel all around the Seattle area.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Next Journey

If you're new to the Seattle area, then planning your first ferry ride may feel a little overwhelming, with so many routes, vessels, and destinations available. Here are some tips to help you learn the system.

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Vegan Portland Restaurants

Our brokers know that Portland is truly unique. There's more to this quirky and colorful city than you can possibly see in one visit. But if you're here to explore Portland homes for sale, one brilliant way to get acquainted is to start digging into the delectable dining scene.

It wasn't that long ago when vegan-friendly restaurants were tough to come by, and those actually specializing in vegan cuisine were all but unheard of. Portland was one of the very first places in the United States to host a true variety of vegan restaurants, and it continues to be a pioneer today.

There's a little bit of everything to be found in Portland's vegan roster, and it certainly doesn't stop with those mainstay salads and wraps. In fact, you'll find international and fusion cuisine that embraces just about every culinary tradition under the sun ... and some you won't find anywhere else.

Let's dive in and get familiar with just a handful of Portland's vegan restaurants:

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