Find an Island Getaway
Find an Island Getaway

About Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands

The Most Trusted, Productive Real Estate Firm
in the San Juan Islands Since 1960

Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands sales associates and management combined have the most knowledge about the local real estate market and related matters, giving both our buyers and sellers distinct advantages. We have the largest base of buyers and sellers, we're chosen as the listing agent more than any other brokerage and we generate the most buyers for those listings. We look after our customers before we look after ourselves. We know what things to be aware of and advise our customers accordingly. We have the most experience in every aspect of real estate in the San Juan Islands providing substantial benefit, advantages and protections for our customers.

The Buck Building San Juan Island WA

Why to Choose Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Inc.
To Serve You when Buying or Selling Real Estate

We Are The Most Trusted, Productive Real Estate Brokers in the San Juan Islands due to...

  1. LONGEVITY OF SUCCESS: Family owned and operated since 1960. 
  2. PROFESSIONALISM: 24 top-notch people serving our customers. 
  3. PRODUCTIVITY: The most productive team per agent on average in the San Juan Islands. 
  4. LOCATIONS: Our offices in Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor are in the best and most visible locations. Friday Harbor is the business, government and shopping core of San Juan County. Roche Harbor is the premier boating resort and village in the islands. 
  5. PROMPTNESS: In everything we do. 
  6. ADVERTISING. We have the most extensive advertising and marketing program in San Juan County. (Ask for details.) 
  7. COLDWELL BANKER STANDARDS: Coldwell Banker symbolizes the highest level of trust, professionalism and productivity amongst real estate brokerages nationwide and now even worldwide. We've been a Coldwell Banker Affiliate since 1984. 
  8. COLDWELL BANKER REFERRAL SYSTEM: There are over 84,000 Coldwell Banker Sales Associates in North America. In addition, there are Coldwell Banker Brokerages in 49 countries on 6 continents around the world including now over 300 in China. We refer customers to each other with confidence knowing that each Coldwell Banker office is a high quality real estate brokerage and that our customers will receive the best customer service. 
  9. FULL TIME PROFESSIONALS: Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands only retains full time real estate professionals who meet our ethical, educational and work standards. We've got a great, trustworthy, diverse and fun crew here. 
  10. FULL RANGE: We are community oriented. We are proud, capable and thankful to list and sell Real Estate in all price ranges.  
  11. $1,000,000+ HOMES: Year after year, Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands sells more $1,000,000 and up homes than any other broker locally. Nationwide, Coldwell Banker consistently sells over ½ of all $1,000,000+ homes. 
  12. REPUTATON: Our widely known, long standing reputation is that we make sure our customers are well taken care of. 
  13. KNOWLEDGE & EXPERIENCE: Our sales associates and management average over 20 years of experience at Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands. We have the most knowledge about the local real estate market, as well as how to do things the right way. This combination provides our customers with an important advantage. 
  14. OUR EXPERIENCED MANAGEMENT Our owner hires right, insures quality and provides the best tools for us to do our jobs the best for our customers. Our broker, the most knowledgeable and experienced in the County, oversees all transactions so our customers can trust that everything is done right. He also does not list or sell property so he's not competing with our sales associates. Our sales manager provides outstanding training and systems, giving us further advantages and helping us be more efficient and effective. 
  15. CUSTOMER BASE: Over many years, through all that we do, repeat business and customer referrals, we have the largest base of both purchasers and sellers. That information allows us to match more purchasers and sellers, giving us and our customers a distinct advantage. 
  16. LEADERSHIP: Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands has always remained the leader in marketing and service in San Juan County. 
  17. FOLLOW UP: We follow up after the sale, taking care of every detail, assuring customer satisfaction. 
  18. MARKET SHARE: Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands is consistently the listing agent, selling agent or both in approximately 45% - 55% of the sales of listed properties on San Juan Island and many of the outer islands. In addition, we consistently sell a large percentage of our own listings. 
  19. CONTRIBUTORS: For decades we have been giving back to our community to almost every needy organization and situation. Many within our company also serve through important local organizations and other good causes. 
  20. AWARD WINNER: Please come visit our office and see all the awards we have on display. Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands has won the Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporations "PRESIDENT'S AWARD OF HONOR" numerous times. This award is based upon exceptional productivity per agent and overall performance. Only a small percentage of the 3,000 + Coldwell Banker Brokerages are recipients. In fact, we're in the top 3% of the 440 Coldwell Banker Brokerages with 11-20 sales associates category in the United States. 
The Buck Building in 1906 - Friday Harbor WA

Company History

Sam Buck "the First" discovered the northwest after graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1906, coming out to attend the University Of Washington Law School and be the Frosh Football Coach. He had been Captain of the U.of N. football team and a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity House. (FIJI). He stayed at the local chapter while at the U.W.

Sam returned to Nebraska and then served our country in the Balloon Core during World War I. Afterwards, he moved back to Seattle with his new wife Faye. One of the jobs he had in Seattle was working for the March McLennan Insurance Agency as an adjuster. A house on Orcas Island had burnt down and he was assigned to go to Orcas to inspect and process the claim. He immediately fell in love with the islands and in 1918 moved to Orcas taking up an old homestead at Doe Bay with his wife and first son Robert. He worked at various jobs there including as a purser on the Standard, a passenger freight ship that came through the islands. He also grew strawberries and reaped the harvest of the Italian prune trees on his property.

Eventually a group of War Veterans from Friday Harbor learned that Sam had a law degree and said "If we run you for Prosecuting Attorney and you get elected would you take the job?" It paid $25 per month and came with an office and a secretary, and he could practice law on the side. There was very little money around back then, so a steady cash paying job was a rare opportunity. Faye, who was raised formally and had professionally sung for the Philadelphia Opera Company, looked at Sam and then Sam said yes. Sam was elected and in 1920 they moved to Friday Harbor along with Robert and their first daughter, Barbara, who was delivered by an Indian mid-wife in 1919. Can you imagine coming from a formal upbringing in Philadelphia, to living in a small village on a remote island and having your baby delivered by an Indian mid-wife? Sam Buck Jr. was born in 1927 in Friday Harbor, as was daughter Carolyn, born in 1931.

Sam the First was Prosecuting Attorney until he died in 1946. He also practiced law on the side and served two years in the Legislature. He was famous for the way he practiced law as more of an arbitrator. He was also famous for two other things: He believed the people who brought children into the world should take care of them until they were adults and not make them wards of the court under divorce as was the law then. The other was for his "3:30 service". When certain types of lesser crimes were committed he would bring the criminal before the Sheriff and say, "The Sheriff is going to serve you at 3:30 this afternoon. You understand the ferry leaves at 3:15, and if you aren't here, the Sheriff can't serve you." There were many who caught that 3:15 boat.

In subsequent years Robert graduated from the University Of Washington Law School, (Fiji), was San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney, practiced in Seattle, became head of the newly formed Small Business Administration under Dwight Eisenhower and held many important positions in the northwest. He was one of the first of a delegation sent to China to help China establish modern business relations with the United States.

Sam Buck Jr., after attending the University of Washington (also a Fiji), lived in Seattle with his young wife Barbara. They moved back to Friday Harbor to try and make a living there doing various jobs from 1953-57. Then they moved to California following a job opportunity.

After spending 9 hot days in a motel in Tucson, Arizona for the company he worked for, he decided he didn't want the traveling lifestyle, didn't want to raise his children in California and he was working 50 weeks a year so that he could spend two weeks a year in Friday Harbor.

So Sam thought of other ways he might be able to make a living in Friday Harbor and in that hot hotel room dreamed up an idea of starting a real estate company. As part of that process he thought about how Brown Island, at the entrance to Friday Harbor and owned by some close friends, Dick Franck and Jack Powell, could be divided up and sold. He then told his wife Barbara he wanted to try one more thing to see if he could make a go of it in Friday Harbor and she agreed to go along. So Sam put the Brown Island development idea together with his fraternity brothers, and named the development Friday Island Estates. At the same time he and Barbara started San Juan Properties to be the real estate company selling lots in Friday Island Estates. Friday Island was the first development in San Juan County that had self imposed environmental restrictions, including restrictions on the cutting of trees and no cars for personal use. At the time they put the deal together, Brown Island was only hours away from a contract to have it logged. Friday Island Estates was a success, selling many of the lots to other fraternity brothers. (Waterfront lots originally sold for about $5,000-$8,500). Following Friday Island came Cape San Juan, San Juan Ranchos, Hillside, Mitchell Point, Carefree and what would have been Limekiln Village. Sam and Barbara also did many other projects on San Juan and other islands.

Over the years San Juan Properties saw much growth. It was located where Griffin Bay Books is now in downtown Friday Harbor, and it had branches in Roche Harbor, on Orcas, in Anacortes and two in Seattle. Eventually the branches on Orcas and in Anacortes shut down and one of the Seattle branches was sold. Sam and Barbara had much personal growth too, raising four children, Sam III, Lori, Steve and Lynn.

In the late 1970's, bustling San Juan County Bank decided it needed new, larger and more secure facilities. Sam and Barbara offered to purchase the two story beautiful brick building on the corner of 1st and Spring the bank had been in since 1907. Sam and Barbara took over possession of the building in 1980. Then they remodeled most of the 1st floor, endeavoring to keep historic architectural appearance with contemporary functions.

In 1981, Steve Buck came home to help out his parents in the business "for a while", as his father was deathly ill with kidney problems. He had been in Europe trying to embark on a career in international business. Steve graduated from Washington State University, BA in Business, and also took courses at the University of Washington in International Business, which qualifies him to root for both the Cougs and the Huskies.

Steve started off working at both the Seattle and Friday Harbor locations, then the Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor locations. In Seattle, he had the pleasure of working with Bryce Lilly, one of only a few survivors of his troop during the Baton Death March during WWII. Eventually, the Seattle location, a very small but street side office on 5th and Pine, was lost when the building it was in was torn down and a new building was constructed.

In 1984, Henry Broderick, who owned the best real estate company in Seattle, told Sam he was selling out to Coldwell Banker, as he was ready to retire and thought they were the best real estate company in the United States to run his business. Henry told Sam Coldwell Banker was soon going to be offering residential franchises.

Sam thought that San Juan Properties, which was already well known in the Northwest, would benefit greatly by becoming a Coldwell Banker Independent Affiliate and that it made sense for the best real estate company in the San Juan Islands to join forces with the best real estate company in the nation. He foresaw how our market would expand dramatically with the Coldwell Banker name being recognized nationwide, that there would be quality real estate brokerages to receive customer referrals from and to refer customers to, and Coldwell Banker had a proven marketing system. So San Juan Properties, Inc. became Coldwell Banker San Juan Properties, Inc., which turned out to be a wise decision.

In 1986, Steve became vice president of Coldwell Banker San Juan Properties, Inc. and officially took over the daily operations he had already been doing for some time. Later that year he met Laurie Wagner, who came from North Platte, Nebraska. Steve and Laurie were married in 1987 and now have four children, Lindsey, Joshua, Tanner and Faith.

In 1988 Steve's brother Sam (III), called him and said the non-profit alternative health organization at Murietta Hot Springs Resort in California he had been a member of, and worked at, and passionate about for many years, was shutting down operations. Sam asked Steve if he thought he could do "O.K." in real estate in the islands, which Steve said, "absolutely", and so Sam came home with his wife Jane and son John. (Charlie was subsequently added to the family.) Within a short period of time, through his hard work, Sam became one of the top sales associates at Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, Inc. Sam's office is right where his grandfather's law office was at the back on the 1st floor of what was the San Juan County Bank building, now the Buck Building, and the location of Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, Inc.

In 1993, Steve and Laurie took over ownership of the real estate sales business forming San Juan Islands, Inc. and changing the name of the real estate company to Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, Inc. San Juan Properties, Inc. was split off as a development and consulting company. Over the years, Steve and Laurie have put much effort into continuing to build the company with the best sales associates, staff, technology, marketing tools and support systems. Many of our sales associates have been with the company since the 1980's and the whole crew averages 14 years. (See their biographies at Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Real Estate Experts.) Steve and Laurie have also worked hard at improving the building, completely remodeling the interior and restoring the exterior, enhancing its authentic architectural appearance while at the same time providing the most contemporary business capabilities, all helping keep Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, Inc. "The Most Trusted, Most Productive Real Estate Brokerage in the San Juan Islands, Since 1960".

San Juan Island Real Estate Newsletter

San Juan Islands Real Estate Services

2016 San Juan Island Second Quarter Market Summary

The second quarter results which complete the first half of the year for San Juan Island were very similar to 2015 as the real estate dollar volume reflected a decrease of 1% over the same period. The first half volume for 2016 was $56,700,175 as compared to $57,435,820 in 2015. The number of transactions was down with a 4% decrease. This is almost a mirror of the first half of 2015 as compared to 2014, same period, when the dollar volume was an increase of 2%.

San Juan Island Transaction Recap

Overall, San Juan County's volume of $109,335,541 for the first half was down 3.5% with 258 transactions in 2016 as compared to volume of $113,235,425 in 2015. The number of transactions in 2016 is down 11% for the County. Similar dollar volume with a decrease in transaction number is an indication of fewer but higher priced property sales.

If anything, our market has been extremely consistent since 2014 with higher priced properties being sold, which is partly due to the low inventory levels for homes listed below $400,000.

Sales in excess over $1 M total 17 year-to-date in the County with San Juan enjoying 9, Orcas with 4, and Lopez and Shaw with 2 each. As in the case of total dollar volume, the total of high-end sales is very similar to 2015 and 2014 for the same period. Currently 11 high-end sales are pending in the NWMLS for the County which is very similar to the number in 2015. Literally, we could have just reissued the June 30, 2015 real estate market update but we suspected as a reader, you may have noticed.

San Juan Island Historical Recap

As indicated by the chart above, inventory has been status quo in June of each of the last few years. The number of pending sales is also very similar and the ratio for the number of pending to number of listed properties has improved since 2014. This steady increase in pending activity will place absorption pressure on the current inventory. Based on all of the indicators, the closing volume should be primed to move upward.

As agents, we all have numerous buyers currently viewing properties and the amount of showings on each of our residential home listings is above normal. Based on the ratio of showings to contracts, it is still apparent that many buyers feel they have the luxury to wait longer for the "perfect" property.

Our advice to buyers is not to wait too much longer if you hope to purchase before prices start to increase. We generally feel that based on the statistical data, now is a good time to buy.
As I mentioned above, our agents are working with numerous buyers and our listings are very active with showings. We are fortunate as Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Inc. is enjoying a 21% increase in dollar volume year-to-date even though the San Juan Island real estate market dollar volume is very similar to last year same period.

San Juan Island Pendings Recap

Another indicator of recovery is the average percentage negotiated off list price at the time of sale is less and the result is sale prices are closer to full price. In 2014 the average percentage off list price for all types of property was 9%, in 2015 it was 6% and the first half of 2016 the percentage is less than 2015 in each price category. As an example, in 2015 the average percentage off list price for over $1 M properties was 14.56% and now it is 10.7%.

We are sure you have noticed the days on market is rather lengthy in some price range categories but that is an average which includes a number properties that were on the market for 5-7 years and have finally sold. Another sign of changing times.

Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands looks forward to a successful 2016. Be sure to contact your favorite Coldwell Banker San Juan Island agent if you have any questions regarding our real estate market.

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Our San Juan Island Team

San Juan Island Real Estate Video

My passion as a real estate agent is to share the beauty and vibrancy of the San Juan Island with you. My goal is to make you feel comfortable and confident that our partnership is the right fit for the both of us. After all, selecting a real estate agent is as personal as selecting a house.

A little about me: After sailing the oceans for nine years, I dropped anchor in Friday Harbor. Now nearly thirty years later, I still find new reasons to be thankful that I call this island my home. This is where my husband and I have raised our family, where we've built lifelong friendships, and where we've stayed active in our vibrant local community.

My real estate experience: I bring 22 years of real estate experience on San Juan Island to every client relationship, and every buying and selling transaction. One of the things I've learned during my career is that this market changes, sometimes unpredictably. Rest assured, there are still plenty of things that you can count on with me as your agent:

  • My dedication. I will guide you through the entire buying and selling process with the same dedication as I guide my own family.
  • My integrity. I present a professional demeanor under all circumstances.
  • My personable attitude. The business of real estate is based on relationships.
  • My astute negation skills. I keep transactions streamlined and simple.
  • My attention to detail. I worry about the details so you don't have to.

My career highlights:
When we work together, you can be assured that you are working with a certified real estate specialist. My credentials include:

  • Buyer Agent
  • Seller Agent
  • Certified Home Marketing Specialist
  • Coldwell Banker Previews Property Specialist

I am honored to have earned accolades from peers, clients, and the real estate industry during my career. As a Coldwell Banker Top Producer, I am part of several prestigious societies, including:

  • International Presidents Elite Society
  • International Diamond Society
  • International Sterling Society
Merri Ann San Juan Island Real Estate

Merri Ann Simonson

Managing Broker - Sales Manager

Merri Ann Simonson's story is similar to many of her clients; she was introduced to the islands in 1978 through boating when she began spending weekends fishing, diving and camping. She built a second home on Garrison Bay in 1989, and began commuting from the Seattle area most every weekend. In 1995 she relocated to San Juan Island permanently and joined Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands.

During her 19 years as a Agent, Merri Ann was named REALTOR of the Year in 2000, 2003, and 2011 and has been a member of the Coldwell Banker Diamond Society since 1998 and has served on the San Juan County Board of REALTORS since 1996. Merri Ann was the Designated Broker for Coldwell Banker for the last two years and now holds the position of Sales Manager/Managing Broker. Her experience as Designated Broker has further enhanced her abilities to serve her clients. Merri Ann says "I enjoy working in real estate and my 19 years experience in the banking industry helps me assist those who have the same goal as I did. The properties sell themselves so all I have to do is use my real estate expertise to insure the transactions are handled properly." And she does!

Jane Sawyer Roche Harbor Real Estate

Jane Sawyer


A long-time San Juan Island resident, Jane Sawyer is a respected broker with expertise garnered from 27 years of experience in the industry and is proud of her excellent reputation and ability to bring buyers and sellers together. Jane has a diverse and strong knowledge of the inventory and is dedicated to providing both buyers and sellers with a positive real estate experience and her clients continue to recommend her as their real estate agent of choice.

Jane spent summers sailing through the San Juan Islands as a child and worked at Roche Harbor Resort in the summers during college. She fell in love with the beauty of the islands and became deeply involved with the community and all the recreation the islands have to offer. She and her husband have raised three children, built homes, owned businesses and participated in numerous community organizations.

Jane's many accomplishments as a member of the Million Dollar Club, Diamond Society and Presidents Circle, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors for The San Juan County Association of Realtors. Her enthusiasm and integrity have made her one of our most successful agents.

MaryEllen Foster San Juan Island Real Estate

MaryEllen Foster


I came to San Juan Island in 1979 for one year. That year turned into 34 years. In 1985 I started my career with Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands. I have also commercial fished aboard a local Purse Seiner, spent a summer in Alaska on a fishing tender and owned a popular clothing store in Friday Harbor.

I have a diverse knowledge of the islands, am well respected and my 29 years in the real estate business on San Juan Island has given me the experience to provide both Buyers and Sellers the best service available. I know the island and feel fortunate to have called it home for many years.

In 2007 I was voted Realtor of the Year. Currently I serve as a Director on the San Juan County Association of Realtors. I just recently took up running. I have completed a few 5K's and a 10K. It is amazing to see the island from ground level....We live in such a beautiful place!

I look forward to working with you...

The Holm Team Friday Harbor WA

Judy & Denny Holm

360.472.1769 or 360.472.1765

Denny and Judy Holm, "The Holm Team", have been a successful husband/wife real estate partnership based on honesty, integrity and unsurpassed service to buyers and sellers since 1985. We fully understand the position of trust we are in when representing our clients. This is evidenced by the high level of repeat business and the personal referrals from our past customers, friends and other real estate professionals. Many of our professional relationships began on the golf course, tennis court or during our various musical activities. Our energy, commitment and dedication to our business and community has enhanced our working relationship with professionals in all facets of the listing and selling process.

The Holm Team

Everyone has a dream they hope to fulfill "someday". Our dream was to "someday" live and work in a quiet, peaceful setting surrounded by water and natural beauty, with a great quality of life and a temperate climate.. in short.. the beautiful San Juan Islands. What we love about our real estate career is that we are able to help others realize their dreams. Let us help you make your dreams of island living a reality.

Sam Buck San Juan Islands Real Estate Services

Sam Buck

Managing Broker

I am a 2nd generation Realtor on San Juan Island and I am a 3rd generation islander with my two grandchildren being 5th generation islanders.

I left in 1976 to experience life off the island and came back in 1987. For 30 years, my father had the largest and most successful real estate company in the San Juan Islands. My younger brother had taken over the business so, with "real estate in my blood", in August of 1988, I became a Realtor as it seemed like a natural move. I worked very hard and within a few years I quickly became one of the most successful Realtors in my office and have been a top broker since 1993.

My father was born here and he and my mother still live here on the island. My wife and I raised both of our sons here. I loved growing up here and feel very grateful for the gift of being able to raise my family here and now seeing our grandchildren grow up here.

My background is quite diverse including: small farming, heavy equipment operator, commercial fisherman, restaurant ownership, and resort restoration / operation. I was a full time holistic health practitioner with a non-profit organization for over 10 years and still enjoy keeping up with the current trends in that field.

Please allow me the privilege of providing you with the benefit of the knowledge gained over my 25 years as a Realtor on San Juan Island. I am a top Realtor only because people like their experience and recommend me to their friends and family.

You will experience me as a professional with an easy touch. Some people jump in with both feet right away and others may take years to get comfortable with the idea of owning property here. My job is to help you to know the pros and cons of the inventory that is relevant to you and I enjoy being in that role.

When I can be of further service to you, it will be my sincere pleasure to do so.

Steve Buck Friday Harbor Property

Steve Buck

Broker - Owner

Tim Gambrell San Juan Island

Tim Gambrell

Designated Managing Broker

Chuck Payne San Juan Islands

Chuck Payne


Chuck Payne partnered with Peter Wangoe II and together they form the Islands Team, selling tens of millions of dollars in real estate annually through the San Juan Islands and across the full range of property types. Extensive computer knowledge and utilization has contributed to their success as they employ industry leading computers, peripherals and software to assist in professional client management, productivity organization, desktop publishing and production of successful mailings to promote properties. The Islands Team is very committed to the community and the people who live here.

As your local Coldwell Banker Real Estate Professionals, they are also committed to providing the full benefit of their personal and professional skills. Whether you are buying or selling property, they can ensure that you have access to the best available programs, the most complete information and the highest professional services the Islands Team can deliver! Living and selling the Islands Lifestyle, please ask for the Islands Team!

Thane Bolger San Juan Island Real Estate Agent

Thane Bolger


Leasa Wangoe Friday Harbor Real Estate

Leasa Wangoe


Leasa is consistent in her professionalism and commitment which makes her an excellent Broker.

She loves golfing, boating, hiking, working, being social and seeing projects through to completion and has proven this over the last 8 years in the industry.

If you would like to work with a Broker who is very professional, personable, detail oriented and has a positive attitude, Leasa Wangoe is your REALTOR!

Jeanne McFarland San Juan Real Estate

Jeanne McFarland


In 1994 I moved with my mother and father to San Juan Island from Catalina; a small Island located off the coast of California. Following a childhood of Eagles Cove and riding horseback through San Juan Valley, I left the island and earned a bachelor's degree from Portland State University. After devoting some time to adventure and travel I could not imagine a more perfect place to return to. Five years ago, I moved back to the home I grew up in on Mount Dallas, to raise my own family as a part of this amazing community. Now, I'd love to help you find your own piece of this tranquil mossy rock to call home.

Vicki Telford Orcas Island Real Estate

Vicki Klein

Managing Broker

Within the first year of Vicki's real estate career she was awarded the coveted Rookie of the Year. The decade plus since she's built her successful business on tenacity, dedication, integrity and loyalty to her clients and to the details. Her clients' testimonials continually praise her as a 5-Star agent. When not working, Vicki, an avid sports fishing angler, can usually be found somewhere on the Salish Sea with her husband Kevin.

Bob Elford Lopez Island Real Estate

Bob Elford


Bob Elford began visiting the San Juans back in high school when he spent one unforgettable spring on Johns Island. After college, he taught high school in Alaska, but couldn't get the islands out of his thoughts. So he moved here in 1980, when he married his wife, Mary. Bob continued working as a teacher in Friday Harbor, but has also worked in other fields; as a ranger with the National Park Service, restaurants, construction and has been the resident manager of Mar Vista Resort for the past seven years.

Bob enjoys island living together with Mary and their 13 year old daughter Lola, where they spend their time sailing, skiing, beach combing, sports, traveling and potlucks. As a property owner, landlord and former tenant, Bob understands what it is like to live here from a variety of perspectives. He enjoys being part of the team at Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands and sharing the island living experience with his clients. Please contact Bob for your island real estate needs.

Michele Mayer San Juan Islands Real Estate

Michele Mayer

Managing Broker

Michele has been in the Real Estate industry in the San Juan Islands since 2000 and in 2013 was voted San Juan County Association of Realtors 'Realtor of the Year' by her peers!

Having been raised on the island and a having had a career in the strong education system in Friday Harbor, she wanted to expand her horizons and join a career that allowed her to help others find their happiness in the islands.

Michele is dedicated to providing professional and ethical service. Her goal is to help her clients achieve their real estate goals by making the best decisions for their particular situation. This requires listening to clients so she can understand what is important to them. She helps guide buyers and sellers through the real estate process by being communicative, responsive, and honest. Her longevity as an islander as well as her years in Association Management of nearly $20 million worth of condominium real estate affords her local connections and knowledge that will benefit those with whom she works.

Michele has a strong commitment to the community and devotes time and effort to many community activities. With a history of satisfied clients, Michele has proven to be an effective agent. Call or email Michele to talk about what you are looking for as your piece of perfection!

Paula Sundstrom Shaw Island Real Estate

Paula Sundstrom

Managing Broker

This fourth generation San Juan Islander has a love of the land and a keen sense of market value. With 17 years of professional experience at Coldwell Banker, Paula combines a lifetime of local knowledge with a commitment to hard work and integrity.

I am dedicated to providing the finest service available, combining proven real estate and Internet marketing techniques to meet your needs. The real estate industry grows more challenging every day. Your real estate professional must understand the industry and stay ahead of the competition.

I go the extra mile to help you realize your goals. I constantly monitor the market and property values so your home is always priced effectively. I also use innovative advertising and marketing techniques, making sure that every potential buyer knows about your property.

I've had the good fortune to live my island dream here on San Juan Island for over twenty years. I'm a Northwest native, and graduated from the University of Washington. Today my husband and I raise our daughters in this wonderful place, surrounded by its natural beauty and caring community.

After my children started school, I pursued a career in real estate, a field that has long interested me. Since 2005 I have worked full time as an agent, and continued to volunteer extensively with the schools (Board of Directors of San Juan Public Schools Foundation, 2002-2009, and several other school organizations), as well as volunteering my time to our local Board of Realtors (Board 2009-to date, and Treasurer 2011-to date).

My goal is always this: to provide the best service possible to my buyer and seller clients. One way I do that is to endeavor to continually expand my skills and knowledge of real estate through education; to that end I recently attained the Certified Negotiation Expert designation. Another way I achieve that goal is by attention to detail before, during, and after any transaction. I pride myself on my communication skills and ability to focus on your needs.

Let me introduce you to the islands I know and love. Whether you are dreaming of a beach cabin, luxury home, gentlemen's farm, or anything in between, I will work hard to help you find your place in these magical islands. Your Island Dream begins with your Island Home. Call, text, or email me to begin your journey…

Lanny Carver Stuart Island Real Estate

Lanny Carver


Lanny Carver feels privileged to turn a passion for real estate into a career in the field. With a 30 year background in the clothing and textile industry, he brought to real estate the same abilities that made his previous career so successful. He has always worked for his clients with creativity, product knowledge and follow through. These skills made the transition to his new career. "I love working with people, discussing their needs and helping them fulfill their dreams."

After cruising the San Juans for years, Lanny and his wife Pat invested in property in 1989 on the west side of San Juan Island and built their home in paradise. "Every day I am grateful to be living and working in this magnificent environment." Lanny enjoys golfing, boating and piloting his Cessna 172. He was on the board of the San Juan Pilots Association in 2004, a former Vice President and President of the San Juan County Board of REALTORS©. He and his wife are active in the community and strive to support numerous community events. Lanny is an active volunteer flying for the San Juan Eagles, transporting cancer patients to the mainland for treatment.

Lanny's knowledge of all the islands, his professional work ethic, as well as his willingness to "go that extra mile" and his experience in marketing make working with him a pleasure. Please call Lanny for any of your real estate needs.

Nancy Young Friday Harbor Real Estate

Nancy Young

Managing Broker

I am lucky enough to be living the Island dream!! I have been selling properties in San Juan County since 1983. My family and I enjoy the relaxed lifestyle, beauty, and friendliness of San Juan Island living! My hobbies include horses, hiking, and skiing.

Accomplishments include REALTOR© of the Year in 1997 and 2003, Community Service Award 1997 and membership in the Million Dollar Club, Diamond Society, President's Circle and Presidents Elite, the highest honor for productivity in the nation. Currently 2013 Chair of the San Juan Island Public School Foundation, Past Grants Committee Chair for San Juan Island Community Foundation, San Juan County Planning Commission member, and 4-H leader.

Nancy is a hardworking, professional REALTOR© who can help you through the process of buying or selling and have fun while doing it!

Peter Wangoe San Juan Island Real Estate

Peter Wangoe II

Managing Broker

Peter Wangoe partnered with Chuck Payne and together they form the Islands Team, selling tens of millions of dollars in real estate annually through the San Juan Islands and across the full range of property types. Extensive computer knowledge and utilization has contributed to their success as they employ industry leading computers, peripherals and software to assist in professional client management, productivity organization, desktop publishing and production of successful mailings to promote properties. The Islands Team is very committed to the community and the people who live here.

As your local Coldwell Banker Real Estate Professionals, they are also committed to providing the full benefit of their personal and professional skills. Whether you are buying or selling property, they can ensure that you have access to the best available programs, the most complete information and the highest professional services the Islands Team can deliver! Living and selling the Islands Lifestyle, please ask for the Islands Team!

Fishing in the San Juan Islands

Give Yourself the Advantage of Our Knowledge

As we have always said, the island's lifestyle is the primary reason in the purchasing decision process. It is what originally brings you to the islands and what keeps you wanting to be here. Our office has created an entertaining video that helps demonstrate our feelings about the island lifestyle and selling real estate. We hope you will take a moment to enjoy our YouTube Office Video.

Contact Us

Friday Harbor Office

San Juan Island Real Estate Office

Location105 Spring Street
Call UsP.O. Box 100
Call UsFriday Harbor WA 98250

Call Us360.378.2101 or 800.451.9054
Call Us360.378.4967 Fax


Roche Harbor Office

Roche Harbor Real Estate Office

LocationRoche Harbor Resort
Call UsRoche Harbor WA 98250
Roche HarborSeasonal Office open May thru September

Call Us360.378.0116 Direct
Call Us360.378.0111 Fax


Buyer & Seller Tools

San Juan Islands Real Estate Services

Buying Property in the San Juans

If you have already chosen us as your real estate agency, you have accomplished the first step in the process of buying property in the San Juans. You may; however, find the rest of the steps of interest.

Select an Agent to Represent You

As you may be aware, all of the brokerage firms on San Juan Island are members of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service; therefore, any of the agents can assist you with any of the properties listed with Coldwell Banker or other brokerage firms. One of the first steps in purchasing real estate on San Juan is to select an agent to represent you. Ideally you should select ONE agent that you feel will provide you with the level of customer service that you require. We believe an agent at Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands to be your best choice.

It is important for you to understand the Law of Real Estate Agency. Years back, Department of Licensing determined that most buyers felt that the agent represented them. However, the law at the time required all agents to be sub agents of the seller, thereby technically representing the seller. It was for this reason that State revised the agency laws to the current ones, which allow for three types of agency representation:

Determine Your Source of Funds

If you intend to finance your purchase, it is prudent to meet with your lender and determine the maximum loan amount you are qualified for. This amount, coupled with the cash you have allocated, will determine the maximum sales price. We have numerous lenders that are active with financing in the islands if you are interested.

Determine the Type of Property You Desire to Purchase

One of the best ways to do this is to develop a list of your desired property features, and a list that details how you intend to use the property. Then prioritize those lists. For example, when we are working with a waterfront purchaser, we obtain the following information:

The responses received may direct the agent to property in different locations on the island. However, it may be that until a buyer has an opportunity to view the various different types of properties, they may not be able to narrow down or develop their priorities.

Once determined, this information should be communicated to your agent in order for them to focus on the type of property that meets your needs, thus saving you time and confusion.

Educate yourself on the Market and Inventory

You need to become acquainted with our market and inventory level in the categories that hold your interest. Even if your purchase plans are sometime in the future, it is beneficial to take the time to view property with your agent because it will save you time in the long run. This process allows you to get acquainted, relate your preferences and develop your knowledge of the market. This will also help your agent to customize all future information sent to you. Buying property is a process of elimination. You will view many properties which you will determine are not suitable; then you will buy the one that is.

One way to monitor our market is to ask your agent to email you the Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Quarterly Real Estate Market Updates. You can also sign up for the service.

Monitor the Inventory

You need to stay in touch with the inventory and market trends until the right time or right property becomes available. If you have viewed property with your agent or communicated your preferences, your Coldwell Banker agent will establish an account for you in our IDX and all new listings that meet your criteria will be emailed to you upon their origination. Purchasing property in the Islands can be a one day or five year process - which is totally subject to your time frame.

Purchase and Sale Transaction

Once you have located the property you desire to purchase, we will structure a written offer to purchase containing the terms and conditions you have specified. The seller will either accept your offer as submitted or submit, through their agent, a counteroffer containing terms that are acceptable to them. Important elements that should be included in the Purchase Agreement under the feasibility study provision are listed below:

Archeological Sensitive Areas

You want to make sure that the property you are purchasing is not located in an archaeological sensitive area such as Indian Midden or near a cemetery. If the property does contain sensitive areas, you need to know where they are located. To confirm this information you need to contact Annie Matsumoto-Grah at San Juan County at 360-370-7585. She will look up the property on their maps and confirm the results. The maps are not of public record so you may not access the information yourself. If the property is located within an Archeological Sensitive Area, you will need to obtain a report from an Archeologist. The Archeologist will perform a site inspection and delineate the sensitive areas and their setbacks. Should you desire to dig in those designated areas for any reason, such as new construction, a remodel or landscaping, you must hire an Archeologist to standby and sort through the material while excavation is in process in order to protect any items with historic value. The reports are approximately $1500-$3000 and if excavation is needed in the sensitive areas, the monitoring is on an hourly rate. It can add thousands of dollars to the cost of your project.

Corner Stakes

Do you know what you are buying? Corner stakes can be located or re-staked by local surveyors. Full surveys may be required due to lack of original plat stakes. The cost of a full survey will vary, but for a four-corner parcel it is typically in the range of $2,000-$4,000; setting just replacement stakes can be much less. We have several surveying firms available on the island and we recommend: Bob Wilson 360-378-4300 or Bob Anderson 360-378-5072.

Feasibility Consultant

Some purchasers may want to commission a complete Feasibility Study that will respond to not only the existing conditions of a property, but also address the issues, if any, that may have to be satisfied to allow a proposed use of a property. Feasibility Studies can be one-stop reports; addressing conditions of the structures, septic and water questions. Further, a report on relevant land use codes that may impact the proposed use of the property can also be processed; i.e., a Vacation Rental Permit or Conditional Use Permit. Jack Cory from First Inspect Inc, 360-378-4900 or Cheryl Purnell Albritton 360-378-2066 offer package Feasibility Studies. The reports are in the range of $300-$5,000 subject to complexity.

Flood and Homeowners Insurance

If you are purchasing on the waterfront, chances are the Flood Zone Determination report will indicate that flood insurance is required. Not all properties need Flood insurance as the improvements are located above the Base Flood Elevation. For more information, please download our Flood Insurance Guide. Be sure to arrange for your standard homeowners insurance policy in the beginning of the process, don't wait until you are only a few days from closing as the process can take 7-10 days.

Internet and Cell Phone

The majority of the islanders use Century Link or our local firm, Rock Island for our internet connections. The DLS coverage will vary throughout the County. In some areas there isn't enough strength to stream movies from the Internet but Net Flick delivers. You should confirm that the service to the property you are considering meets your requirements.

The best cell service in the islands is Verizon. Many remote locations in the islands do not have cell service. The County is currently seeking options to expand and enhance our cell and internet services in the future.

Rock Island can be reached at 360-378-5884. I can't say enough about how great their service and sales departments are, I highly recommend both.


Was the home constructed under a permit and does it have a final certificate of occupancy? Was the home built under the "built by Owner" permit application and require a safety inspection prior to closing? You should obtain copies of the permits from the County Permit Center to confirm the permit status.

If the home was build prior to 1976 no permit may exist which was at no fault of the owner. Our Permit Department was not formed until the middle of the 1970s. These homes are considered grandfathered-in and non-conforming.

If you are contemplating new construction or a remodel, the current building codes and comprehensive plan can be accessed through the San Juan County web site. You can request a permit package or review the County's building requirements through their website.


If you are buying unimproved property then you should confirm the distance from power to the proposed building site. OPALCO will provide you with the distance and you can obtain a bid from a local contractor for the installation. Installing through rock can be costly.

Seller's Property Disclosure – Form 17

Pursuant to State statute, all property owners must provide a seller's disclosure to the buyer. There are some exemptions to the law for Estates or Trustees. The disclosure is not part of the contract and doesn't provide any representations or warranties. Buyers should share it with the Home Inspector so they may focus on any issues that the seller has disclosed. Ultimately, it is up to the buyer to process their due diligence and confirm if the property is suitable and the condition is acceptable. Buyers should not rely on the seller's disclosures other than for informational purposes.

Septic System

For existing systems, it is prudent to obtain a copy of the "as built" filed with the County. This will indicate the number of bedrooms the system was installed for and its approximate location, which is helpful for future improvements or repairs. If you are purchasing an unimproved parcel, you should obtain a perc test, design and permit approved by the County. The permits have a validity period of four years and the cost is around $1,250. The two most commonly used designers are Jack Cory 360-378-4900 and Rick Petro 360-376-2762. You can read more about septic systems via our Septic PDF

Septic Inspection

Per the Purchase and Sale contracts used on San Juan Island, the seller must comply with San Juan County Codes related to on-site Sewage Disposal systems (OSS). Seller is required to have the system inspected; pumped if needed, and install any required maintenance components required by the code. Typically, all costs for inspection, pump, and installation of maintenance components shall be the responsibility of the seller. Sellers typically pay $200 for the inspection, $600-800 to pump and maintenance components can run $300-$2,000. Generally, systems installed after 2000 are in compliance with maintenance components. We recommend Craig Starr 360-378-8060 or Ted at San Juan Septic 360-378-7255.

Setbacks and Buffers

You should review the Critical Areas Ordinance located on the County website. This ordinance will take effect in March 31, 2014 and will implements numerous setbacks that are actually restrictive "buffer areas" from wetlands, shorelines, and streams.

Storm Water Management Plans

As part of the permit process, you must create plan for during construction Storm Water Pollution Prevention which meets County requirements. Further, once the home is built, you must have on-going Storm Water Site Plan to address run off from the hard surfaces and the improvements. This process can be character building.

Structural, Pest and Dry Rot Inspections

It is highly recommended that all buyers obtain an inspection of the home prior to closing. The inspector physically examines all of the major components of the improvements and reports on their condition and recommends any repairs. For additional information regarding inspections and their benefits, you can contact one of our inspectors. The three most commonly used are Jack Cory 360-378-4900, Tim Hance 360-298-1163, or Darrol Scheffer 360-378-4969. The Home inspection fees are in the range $500-$600.

Title Report

Shortly after the seller accepts your offer, you will received a Preliminary Title report. It is imperative that you review that report for accuracy and question anything that is different from what was represented to you. You should review easements and encroachments directly with the Title Officer that examined the title and issued the report. The reports are complex and only the source is reliable.

Transaction Closing Process

Due to the number of remote purchasers and sellers, the majority of our closings are handled through email or the express mail systems. We have local escrow firms and title insurers. We regularly cooperate with off island escrow firms, lenders, and 1031 facilitators.

Water Source – Private Well or a Community System

Private and two party shared wells should be tested for quantity, bacteria and organic. A San Juan Short list is recommended. The cost for a bacteria and organic test will be approximately $300 including the sampling. Class A and B systems are community systems in which the quality and quantity are monitored on a regular basis as required by the County. These need not be tested, but their current "standing" should be confirmed through the County.

For more information regarding wells and water systems, you can contact one of the two commonly used well service providers: Denny Martel 360-378-2842 or Al Mauldin 360-378-6975. San Juan County Health Department can be reached at 360-378-4474. The County confirms that community wells are in "good standing" via email. In "good standing" is defined as current with satisfactory Bacteria and Nitrate reports and County inspections.

Wet Lands

You need to determine if the property you are purchasing contains any form of wetlands. Pursuant to the Critical Area Ordinance update, all wetlands have some sort of buffer that must be respected. There is no sure way to confirm the land contains wetlands without a professional wetlands expert.

You can start by viewing the County's wetland maps and note if the property is located within a designated area, but that is not a formal confirmation and not reliable. If you are suspect, you can request a site inspection from the County or hire a wetland expert. Once you determine that you have wetlands on your property, you need to have the area delineated and the wetlands typed and surveyed so that the required buffers, based on type, can be honored. The fee range for the survey and delineation is $1,000-$10,000 subject to terrain and site difficulty; most site fees run in the range of $2000-$4,000. We recommend Scott Rozenbaum from Rozewood Environmental 360-468-4448 as a wetland expert.


This article is for informational purposes and not meant to encompass the entire process. Hopefully the article doesn't make the purchase process sound intimidating but no worries as we will guide you through the steps and issues. Please direct any questions or comments to

San Juan Island Real Estate Services

Recommended Procedures for Sellers

One of the first steps we recommend in selling real estate in the San Juan Islands is to select an agent to represent you. Ideally you should select ONE agent that you feel will provide you with the level of customer service that you require. Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands has an agent who would make an ideal choice.

It is important for you to understand the Law of Real Estate Agency. Several years back, Congress interviewed hundreds of buyers to determine if they thought their agent represented them. In most cases, the buyer believed that the agent did represent them; however, the law at the time required all agents to be sub agents of the seller, thereby technically representing the seller. It was for this reason that Congress revised the agency laws to the current ones, which allow for three types of agency representation:

Download a copy of the Law of Agency Disclosure to become familiar with it.

Review Marketing Plan

Coldwell Banker San Juan Island's marketing program is extensive and provides full brokerage services. It offers several exclusive features including the Coldwell Banker International presence. As a member of the Coldwell Banker franchise we enjoy international brand recognition and agent tools including exclusive publications geared to market island properties. More than 3,300 offices nationwide means buyers know Coldwell Banker's reputation.

Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands leads our local market. Please see our "20 Reasons to Choose Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands" for more details. Your agent will prepare a complete marketing plan customized for your property. This will be presented to you at the same time your Competitive Market Analysis is reviewed. Review the Competitive Market Analysis

A competitive market analysis ("CMA") is an opinion of value produced by a Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Real Estate Expert. When considering selling, one of our professionals will prepare a CMA upon request to assist you with the valuation of your property. The Coldwell Banker Real Estate Expert will evaluate the property by reviewing all recent property sales and determining the market value of a typical sized property factoring in square footage, number of bedrooms, amount of land, size of view, waterfront, etc. Our islands can make this process a challenge as most of our properties were improved as owner designed construction and so made very custom; finding similar properties can be difficult.

In addition to reviewing recent sales, adjustment factors may need to be applied such as current and forecasted market demand, the appreciation calculation, the cost approach based on present value of each component, the amount of comparable properties currently available and the subject property's special features. Completing the CMA allows the Coldwell Banker Real Estate Expert to develop an opinion of the value; this is part science and part art. That is why it is imperative to select an agent such as one from Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, as we offer the experience and track record to support our conclusions of value.

Consumers should be cautious when using on-line home value estimators as they do not function very well in San Juan County. These systems assume that the properties are all similar, but as mentioned above, properties in our islands are very unique.

Pricing of the Property

Fair market value is the highest price an informed buyer will pay for a property offered for sale. A primary reason that sellers hire full service REALTORS® is for their experience and expertise which can result in obtaining the highest price for their property.

The purpose of our Competitive Market Analysis (CMA) is to assist you in determining the listing price. After reviewing current inventory and similar properties that have closed, you need to set the selling price you are most comfortable with based on your needs.

Some sellers choose to set their price ahead of the market. Due to their level of motivation, they understand and accept an extended marketing period. Here we explain why this is not the best decision: Qualified buyers will purchase the property that they perceive to be the most suitable and best priced from the selection available. It is for this reason that the list price should not be above market value. Properties priced properly typically sell within 30-60 days and for a higher percentage of the list price when compared to those properties that are on the market longer. This can be attributed to the level of activity when a property is first listed. Typically, agents notify their buyers as soon as a new listing originates. It is known that when properties first enter the market, sellers are less likely to negotiate on price. If the property is priced too high, buyers perceive that the seller will not be willing to negotiate down to a more appropriate market price and the result is lack of interest.

If the seller reduces the price at a later date, it may not bring back the buyer's interest. In fact, the buyer may be lured away from the higher priced property as its pricing convinces them to purchase a different property that they perceive as a better value.

Properties on the market too long may also become "shopworn". The first few questions that most buyers ask when considering a property are: Price? Days on market? And why is the seller selling? Today's buyer has a high level of sophistication that includes educating themselves on our market prior to their actual purchasing experience. This allows them to make an informed purchasing decision. It is unlikely that buyers will pay more for the property than they would have paid for a similar property. In the end, over priced properties tend to help sell the competition.

Net Proceeds Calculation

Review your net proceeds calculation based on the recommend price range given by your Coldwell Banker Real Estate Expert. This calculation will estimate your net funds after paying all costs of sale, but not paying off your indebtedness or real estate taxes if any. Remember, your personal net proceeds requirement does not dictate the market value for your property.

Your Decision

The decision of whom to list your property with should be based on local knowledge and experience. This includes marketing, negotiating, transaction management and closing & follow up, which should not be underestimated. This is really where Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands excels. We are able to obtain the highest sales price for our sellers because we have more experience in negotiating transactions than any other firm in our area and because we have maintained the largest market share of listings and closings for nearly 50 years. It is this experience during the transaction that can make the difference.

Real estate brokerage is a performance-based industry. Clearly, not all real estate companies are alike. Results will vary dramatically based on a variety of factors, including the experience and track records of the professional you select. Choosing representation based solely on discount, rebate or another cash back scheme may seem like a good idea at first glance, but that is not always the case when all is said and done at the closing table.

Pelindaba Lavender Farm San Juan Island Washington

Understanding the Valuation Process

The definition of "market value" is rather boring sounding when you take into consideration that you are addressing one of the highest value assets that a property owner may have or the most expensive item that a buyer may purchase in their lifetime. Emotions run high when it comes to the selling and buying of real estate. If we all could just buy low and sell high, life would be so much more rewarding.

Definition: Market Value is the price a property is most likely to command in a competitive and open market, with a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arms-length transaction, wherein the parties have each acted knowledgeably, prudently, and without compulsion and in their own best interest.

A competitive market analysis ("CMA") is an opinion of value produced by a real estate professional. Upon request, a real estate agent will process a CMA for the purpose of assisting a property owner with the valuation of their property when they are considering selling. A CMA may also be processed as a service for a buyer who is considering making an offer to purchase real estate. The real estate agent will evaluate the property by reviewing all recent property sales and determining what a typical sized property is selling for given such factors as square footage, number of bedrooms, amount of land, size of view, waterfront, etc. Our islands can make this process a challenge as most of our properties were improved as owner designed construction and so built very custom; finding similar properties can be difficult.

In addition to reviewing recent sales, adjustment factors may need to be applied such as current and forecasted market demand, the appreciation calculation, the cost approach based on present value of each component, the amount of comparable properties currently available, and the subject property's special features.

Comparison against current unsold inventory is something an agent can consider but an appraiser is unable to heavily consider in the process of formulating an opinion of value. This restriction on the appraisers insures that their approach to value is more conservative but may hinder their ability to report that the market is in transition. They are licensed to value here and now, not the market right around the corner; good or bad.

Completing the CMA allows the real estate agent to develop an opinion of the value; this is part science and part art. That is why it is imperative to select an agent such as one from Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, as we offer the experience and track record to support our conclusions of value.

Consumers should be cautious when using on-line home value estimators as they do not function very well in San Juan County. These sites rely upon the various County Assessor's information and valuations to process their own calculation. The on-line estimators do not have representatives that physically inspect and evaluate the homes nor do they have local market knowledge.

The assessor's office performs appraisals for the purposes of ad valorem taxation. This is part of the process for how we provide funding to all local government services. The assessor's appraisers only have access to the exterior of the improvements. They also use a "blanket" approach with comparable sales from the immediate neighborhoods, district or regions versus singular. The assessor's values assigned are for their tax purposes and are not used for lending or listing property for sale.

The website value estimators may be more reliable in Metropolitan areas where subdivisions of very similar homes are bought and sold on a regular basis. The website value estimators have historically performed poorly in small, low volume, custom construction markets such as San Juan County. Agents spend a lot of time explaining to buying clients why the website calculators are not reliable in our area. Below are two charts which evidence this fact. The accuracy tables for Seattle as well as San Juan County are only a 2 star.

Zestimates Valuation Seattle Zestimates Valuation County

Agents are not licensed appraisers and there is no regulation surrounding how they calculate a property's value; there is not a uniform calculation. However, it is an agent's duty as contained in the REALTOR Code of Ethics, to process an honest opinion and not to mislead the owner as to the market value of a property.

Further, requests for valuations for legal purposes such as divorce, estate planning, trust work, etc., are referred to local appraisers. A CMA is not an appraisal as defined in chapter 18.140 RCW but is prepared by a real estate licensee who is not state certified or licensed as a real estate appraiser. The two most active appraisers in our area and who we recommend are Mike Paredes 360.378.5474 and Mike Aikens 360.424.0331.

If you are seeking an appraisal for loan application purposes, then the lender is the one that selects which appraiser to use as the report is for their benefit.

Please direct any questions or comments to

San Juan Island Ferry Friday Harbor Washington

Flood Insurance

If you are considering purchasing a waterfront home in San Juan County or even nationally, you most likely will be introduced to the Flood Insurance process. As you may be aware, the majority of our waterfront properties are designated as being in the flood plain as determined by the current Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) maps. What you may not realize is that almost 90% of the homes and other structures in San Juan County, when further analysis is done, do not actually require flood insurance.

FEMA contracted with the Corps of Engineers to complete the mapping and determine the Base Flood Elevations (BFE) for our County. FEMA then adopted those maps for regulating the insurance. The Base Flood Elevation for most of the County is 12 to 15 feet. The maps are two dimensional and don't take into consideration individual property elevations, slopes and shoreline. They error on the side of consumer protection and use the "blanket approach". Bottom line, if you are buying or have waterfront property, it is designated as being in the flood zone by FEMA unless proven otherwise by a Professional Land Surveyor.

Whenever you are using a Federally Insured institution as your lender, a Flood Determination is required. If the FEMA maps indicate that the property is in a flood plain, flood insurance is required and must be obtained prior to loan closing. As of October 2013, a Flood Elevation Certificate is required by the insurance underwriters prior to issuance of a flood insurance policy. Most borrowers don't question whether the insurance is actually necessary. As a result of the passage of the Biggert-Waters Act in October 2013, flood insurance rates through the National Flood Insurance Program will be increasing. It will be more important than ever to determine whether the property you are buying or your existing property should have flood insurance coverage.

When purchasing a waterfront property, whether you are using a lender or not, the first step in determining whether you need the insurance is to obtain the Flood Determination Certificate. The lender will process one as part of the loan package but if you are a cash buyer, you may utilize one of the numerous services on the web for a nominal fee of $25.00. If this determination indicates the property is in a flood plain, you will want to hire a surveyor to apply to the Corps of Engineers for the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for your property. The fee charged by the Corps is in the range of $105-$350, subject to previous determinations in the immediate area and it typically takes 3-4 weeks. The insurance underwriters will require a BFE in order to issue coverage and if you are using a lender, they won't close until you have a policy in effect.

The BFE from the surveyor is also a key part of determining whether insurance is actually necessary. Once the BFE is obtained, the surveyor will then survey the property and determine the elevation of the lowest grade adjacent to the structure(s). This will confirm if the structures on the property should be insured or may be eligible to be removed from the flood zone. If the structures remain in the flood plain and you are using a lender, you must obtain flood insurance.

If you are a cash buyer, it is a personal decision. One might want to review the forecasted Tsunami path for the County to determine if the property could be flooded and verify with your insurance agent that your policy would cover such a disaster. Chances are flood insurance will not cover global warming and sea level rise until, and if, they actually occur, and then the government would need to mandate the coverage.

As in the case of your standard Hazard Homeowners Insurance, only the structures are insured, not the dirt. If the structures as surveyed are above the flood plain, then the improvements and a portion, or the entire parcel may be eligible for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). To obtain a LOMA, you should hire the surveyor again, as they process these on a regular basis and are familiar with the zillion forms required by FEMA. The surveyor will submit the application for a LOMA to FEMA and the process is 4-7 weeks. The total cost is approximately $1850 on average, which includes the BFE fee from the Corps of $105-$350. I believe this to be money well spent as the $1850 represents a large portion of the annual flood insurance premiums on a typical San Juan County waterfront home. The time frames to complete a BFE and a LOMA are typically not within the standard purchase contract term. I quote a total of 90+ days to my clients so it may be necessary for you to close on your purchase and your loan and then obtain the LOMA after closing.

If you currently own waterfront property and are paying for flood insurance, it may be beneficial for you to move forward with the BFE and possible LOMA so that you can avoid paying future premiums. It will also help expedite the sale of your property in the future as the LOMA runs with the land and can be used by a buyer.

Once you secure the LOMA, you will need to send that into your lender's loan servicing department which may take a few more weeks. They will issue you a Waiver of Flood Insurance Notice which is your invitation to cancel your flood insurance. As in the case of many government programs, when you cancel, they will not prorate back your premiums for any unused term, so don't count on a refund.

This article is for informational purposes only. As each property has unique characteristics, buyers and property owners should check with their licensed flood insurance agent to determine their options and the best solution regarding their flood insurance. We have numerous surveyors in the County that process the applications for Base Flood Elevations and Letter of Maps Amendments, I recommend the following: Bob Anderson at Star Surveying 350.378.5072 or Bob Wilson at San Juan Surveying 360.378.2300

Please direct any questions or comments to

Kayaking in the San Juan Islands

All About Wells

Unlike liquor, your water source in San Juan County is not guaranteed and must be acquired and cared for.

When you first consider purchasing an unimproved parcel of land you should condition your purchase upon a satisfactory water source. Due to the risk of closing before the water source is determined, the days of clients purchasing land without the source are long gone. If one hopes to use institutional financing, the lender will require that the water source be acceptable in quality and quantity; in addition to a valid septic system permit and access to a electrical power provider.

The majority of non-platted parcels in the San Juan Islands are serviced by individual wells. Most subdivisions offer access to a community water system, and some urban areas offer public systems.

Types of water sources in the islands include:

If purchaser is considering buying unimproved land, it is prudent to ask for the seller to drill the well, in a mutually agreed upon location, at seller's expense. Depending on the purchase contract, if the well is satisfactory to the purchaser, the seller may be reimbursed for all, part or none of the well drilling expense.

Well drilling runs about $15.50 per foot and the average depth of wells on the island is approximately 350 feet. Once you add the pump, pressure tank, water lines, power, holding tank, filters, and a modest well house, etc., the check is written in the range of $18,000- $22,000.

A purchase contract should also contain a provision for satisfactory quality and quantity testing. Those tests include a bacteria test for $35 plus $80 for the service call and a San Juan Short test for $142. The County requires a satisfactory San Juan Short list prior to the issuance of a building permit so it has become the standard test for new and existing wells. The San Juan Short is inorganic testing for arsenic, barium, fluorides, sodium, electric conductivity, chloride and nitrates. Both of these tests must be sent to laboratories for analysis. The San Juan Short takes up to 14 days.

The laboratory reports provide you with a notation regarding the actual levels for each of the 7 contaminants and whether they pass or fail is based on meeting acceptable levels set by State or EPA. As a REALTOR, I have personally been involved in several transactions on San Juan that failed the tests; several with barium and one with arsenic. The risk of saltwater intrusion for waterfront properties can also be too high to meet State standards, and this possibility is always on the minds of agents.

The good news is with today's technology, there are filter systems that can address the majority of the water contaminants. Just add more money to your budget and most problems can be fixed. Hard, soft and even "stinky" water can be remedied with various treatment systems. Salt water intrusion, however; remains as one of the most difficult problems to resolve.

We recommend the two firms listed below for drilling, water testing, and they also provide purveyor services for community systems. Mauldin's Well Service 360-378-6975.and Martel's Well Drilling 360-378-2842.

When the well is drilled, a well log will be generated that indicates the well depth and an air test that will indicate the quantity. This typically satisfies a buyer for evidence of quantity. For existing wells, if a well log is not available, a draw down test can be performed. The service provider will pump the well down to the bottom 20% of the well, hold it there for 4 hours, and then monitor the recovery. The cost associated with this test is around $500 and it provides the gallons per minute figure.

The County has a minimum quantity requirement in order to issue a building permit. Individual wells must produce at least 200 gallons per day. A shared well and a Class B system must produce 800 gallons per day per hook up.

The Town of Friday Harbor indicates that the typical household (4 persons) uses an average of 133 gallons per day. The National consumption average is 100-150 gallons per day. The requirement of 200 gallons per day for an individual well is a form of protection to buffer water use and not stress the wells.

Well Fracturing may increase production rates but it can also pose a risk to surrounding wells in the area. Well interference from drilling a new well or fracturing can be a problem and the rule is "first in time – first in right". In the event a well interferes with a prior neighboring well, the property owner of the well that interferes must take precautions to insure that the first well has the quantity they had prior to the second well being drilled. Those precautions could include pump depth relocation, holdings tanks, restrictor values and off-peak holding tank fills such as during the night time.

If you are purchasing an existing home, the water system should be tested or if it is a Class system, the status confirmed to be in "good standing". A telephone or email to the San Juan County Health department will provide you with the "good standing" confirmation or lack of. Again a Bacteria and a San Juan Short are the tests of choice for existing private or shared wells. It is best to locate a copy of the original well log to confirm quantity as processing a draw down test can create a risk for salt water intrusion. You can find a copy of the original well logs by visiting the Department of Ecology and searching by tax parcel number or well head ID number.

Alternative water sources can include a roof catchment system, although lenders frown on them, and the holding tank requirement is very large. Another option is hauling water into a holding tank, but again, financing the home would be a challenge. Costly desalinization water plants are an option for community subdivisions near the waterfront. Rumor has it, if you are using water from a D-sal plant, be sure to take your multi-vitamins as the process strips the water of elements we all need in our systems.

Permits are required and the well driller must coordinate with the septic designer to allow for adequate setbacks from each system. If you fell in love with a challenging lot and you have to factor in setbacks from the waterfront, Indian midden or wetlands into the equation, the entire process will become character building and more expensive than ever. The base Archeology study starts at $2,800 and wetland delineations start at $2,600 subject to the typing and amount of survey work required. A Residential Plan Application (RPA) which determines your setback from the waterfront starts at $1,000 (including the consultant) and is not binding so if the regulations change, the RPA may no longer be valid.

A homeowner should maintain their water systems regularly, similar to how we handle our septic systems. The bacteria tests should be processed annually and a San Juan Short every few years. Periodically, the well systems need to be flushed with a mild bleach solution. The holding tanks need to be monitored for tight seals; bugs can access the tank from the smallest openings. You should have an annual inspection for both the poly and concrete tanks and clean, as needed. Expect to replace a pump about every 10 years and filters as recommended by the manufacturer.

Water throughout the world is a precious commodity. It must be used wisely and maintained properly. Humans can't survive on liquor alone.

This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be all inclusive of everything you should know about water systems in the County.

Please direct any questions or comments to

Orca Whales in the San Juan Islands

Real Estate Market Tax Assessment

All of us Island property owners received our tax assessment notices from the County in November. As real estate agents we have been fielding many questions about the statements and new assessments. As you may recall, the State has mandated that our Assessor's office convert to an annual assessment update cycle versus the cyclical system we were on for years. The current values are for a one year period only and will be adjusted the next year. This process is much more stable and refined and will be a more accurate system than we have had in the past.

As agents, we have seen properties sell above their tax assessments the majority of the last 20 years with the exception of 2008-2012. Most of the variance was due to the lag time that accompanied the previous cyclical schedule our assessor used. During a few years of the recession, properties were selling at or below the assessor's values. For example, back in 2006, many of the same type properties sold in an average range of 125%-150% over their tax assessments. During the recession, many properties sold in an average range of 15%-30% below their tax assessed values. These average percentages varied based on the type of property but generally that was the trend. In 2014, due to market recovery, most homes are again selling slightly above their tax assessment. Due to annual re-valuations and the new assessor's appraisal method, we may not have as extreme variances in the future. Reviewing the tax assessment as compared to the actual sale price for high-end homes is not reliable as they are very difficult to appraise due to custom features.

Most of the confusion around the issuance of new tax assessments stems from the purpose and process of the tax assessment. The assessor is required to value properties for tax purposes at true and fair market value. The valuation assigned by a REALTOR for the purpose of marketing or the value assigned by an appraiser for the purpose of lending, estate planning or probate purposes, will most likely be a different amount. The process to the valuation is different for each therefore, the results will vary. Generally, the differences in the process are described below:

Appraiser and Agents:

Conducts an interior inspection then identifies at least 3 or more truly comparable sales that are recently closed that they either physically inspect or at minimum view via photographs in the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Ideally closed sales should be less than 90 days old. They spend much more time on the property determining the desirability based on the features and amenities. They also rely upon a cost approach but a depreciation figure is deducted based on the age of the home and its condition. They will analyze the income approach if applicable and base the value of docks at market.

Due to the size of our market, finding truly comparable property sales in our County has always been the challenge. A real estate agent even differs from an appraiser as we can actually use "Pending" transactions as comparable sales. We also consider the current level of similar inventory and absorption rate in the category to assist in pricing a property for the current market for our clients.

Assessor's Office:

The assessor's office performs appraisals for purposes of ad valorem taxation. This is part of the process for how we provide funding to all local government services, including schools, libraries, ports, fire districts, the hospital district, emergency medical services, cemeteries, state schools, parks, roads, sheriff and government Appraisers that work in the assessor's office generally use information gathered from site visits without the benefit of an interior inspection. The characteristics of the home and land are considered and compared on a "mass appraisal" basis to all other properties countywide, with statistical analysis of properties grouped by similar market influences and characteristics. The "mass appraisal" method provides more equal distribution of property taxes among property owners within the jurisdiction through standardization and improved consistency in the work of appraisers.

It is impossible with the size of our County, and the size of our assessor's staff to physically inspect every property on an annual basis. The properties will be valued every year and the assessor's appraiser will physically inspect one-sixth of the county properties each year. Since the Notices of Value mailed in November were based on a January 1, 2014 assessment date, our assessor's office utilized sales from 2013 to develop statistical data with which to update the value of all the properties in San Juan County. After reviewing and validating those sales, they use approved appraisal practices to determine the percentage of increase or decrease in value in neighborhoods of similar properties. 2014 sales will be used in the next cycle of the process.

As the assessor's office performs this process on an annual basis, the historic variances noted in the second paragraph of this article will not be as extreme. If properties are actually selling above or below assessed values, those sales will be the basis for a statistical update the following year.

The assessor's office is currently revising their method for valuing docks and will be using a more market based approach. This is a major valuation change for docks. The office is also valuing new construction, additions and remodels in a much more timely fashion.

The assessor's office is required to assess at market value but with the constraints of limited access cited above, the task is quite different as compared to an agent or appraiser. The assessor is not allowed to be a member of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service and use their database but they do use the various brokerage firm's real estate websites to view details and interior photographs which is allowed by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices.

The variance between the tax assessment and the values produced by appraisers and agents is expected as the process defines it. Appraisers do not rely upon the tax assessed value as an approach to their valuation at all. The uniform reports don't even request the appraiser to provide the assessment information. The appraisers never compare value conclusions with the assessor's office therefore they are not influenced by the assessments. Their assignment is to provide market value to the lender or client, not the tax assessed value. It is also important to note that appraisers can and do provide opinions of value as of any given date; the assessor's office is required to value property as of January 1 of each year so the aging of the assessor's information will always be an issue, especially in an active market.

Agents are not licensed appraisers and there is no regulation surrounding how they calculate a property's value; there is no uniform calculation. Some agents use the assessed values as a benchmark only. They recommend a list price to a client by applying a percentage to the property's current assessment that is derived from the average percentage of sales price to assessment of similar recent sales. Some agents don't rely on the tax assessed value at all and don't let it influence their recommendation for pricing because they know the assessor doesn't necessarily have access to the interior of the improvements. Regardless of what an agent recommends, the ultimate pricing decision is made by the seller.

REALTORs must, however, comply with Article 1- Duties to Clients and Customers of the REALTOR Code of Ethics which obligates REALTORs to provide an honest opinion of market value.

Buyers, of course, are looking for the best price possible and will use the tax assessments when it favors them. As agents, we are able to explain to the buyers the differences in the process and how the value amount may vary.

Websites such as Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia rely upon the various County Assessor's information and valuations to process their own calculation. Their values may be reliable in Metropolitan areas where subdivisions of very similar homes are bought and sold on a regular basis, but the website's calculation of value performs poorly in small, low volume, custom construction markets such as San Juan County. Again, as agents, we are able to explain to buyers that the website calculators are not reliable in our County. Bottom line, we should all be pleased that our assessor's office appraises as fairly as possible and uses the methods advised by the Department of Revenue and defined by statute. The tax assessment appeal process is straight forward which allows property owners to present their petitions themselves. Further we historically have had the lowest levy rate in the state.

If your value assessment is adjusted downward your tax statement may not have a correlated downward adjustment. Each tax district submits a budget for its expenses as constrained by state law. The total of the amount requested is divided by the total assessed value of each district. This results in a levy rate for each district. Your taxes are a composite of the levy rates for each district in which your property resides multiplied by your current assessed value, divided by 1,000.

If all properties increased or decreased by approximately the same percentage, you would likely see very little change in your tax statement regardless of the increase or decrease in your value. This complies with Washington State laws that were formed for the sole purpose of insuring that local government can rely upon a predictable amount of revenue each year so they could process a balanced budget. If the tax revenue had large fluctuations the result would be chaos for the local government services.

Another factor to keep in mind when considering your tax bill is the number of acres and percentage of total acres in San Juan County that are either exempt or pay a reduced amount due to being in a special use program. The taxes that would have been paid by these properties are shifted to the taxpayers based on public policy decisions by the State and County legislature.

Download a map showing exempt properties.

The San Juan Island Community

San Juan Island Ferry

Live Life in a Postcard.

Say farewell to worry and stress when you head to the San Juan Islands . . . and say hello to the mellow islands vibe, a temperate year-round climate, and long, lazy hours of doing just what you want. Count on temperatures around 70° in the summer and 40° in the winter. A happy confluence of weather systems also accounts for the high level of air quality you'll appreciate across the San Juans.

There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County, however the four ferry served Islands; San Juan Island (with the county seat Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island are the most populous and host the vast majority of lodging and dining options and tourism activities.

So breathe deep, get comfortable (casual is the rule on these islands, from clothes to the friendly greetings you'll receive.) Relax—you're on "island time" now.

Orcas Island Real Estate Services

Friday Harbor

The second largest island in the county at 55.3 square miles, San Juan Island is the economic, cultural and social center of the county. The county seat is Friday Harbor, with a population just over 2,000 people and is one of the last fishing villages in Puget Sound still looking very much like it did 100 years ago.

Sculpted by glaciers that formed the character of all the islands, San Juan is perhaps the most diversified in terrain and feeling. There is ranch and pasture land in three interior valleys, most featuring beautiful territorial views of wooded hills or lakes. Contrasting the expansive landscapes of the valleys are the peaks of Mt. Dallas and Young Hill to the north, and Mt. Finlayson in the south of the island, which is bordered by open grassy hillsides leading down to an open beach area.

San Juan's West Side is famous for whale watching, stunning views of Victoria, Vancouver Island, the Olympic Peninsula and marine traffic destined for Seattle, Vancouver or Alaska. Of the 6,176 real estate parcels on San Juan Island, 20% of some 1,268 parcels are on the waterfront. Properties currently listed range from a $119,500 condo to a $7,500,000 waterfront home.

There is a great deal of history in the San Juan Islands. Most notably on San Juan was the dispute between the British and the Americans over ownership of the San Juan Islands. The neat sweep of the 49th Parallel, accepted by Great Britain and the United States in 1846 as the U.S./Canadian border, did not fit the maze of the San Juan Archipelago. Predominantly occupied at the time by workers of a British trading company, American settlers, ignoring British claims, began to homestead the San Juans. When an American shot a boar belonging to the British that was rooting in his potato garden, tempers flared and sides were drawn. The British set up camp on the north end of San Juan Island, the Americans set up camp on the south end, and the Pig War began. Both camps are still there as National Historic Parks today, enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors annually.

Roche Harbor Real Estate Services

Roche Harbor Village

The quaint seaside village of Roche Harbor is on the National Register of Historical Sites. In 1881, two brothers bought Roche Harbor and started the islands' lime industry. Home to the famous Hotel de Haro, this lovely landmark was built in 1886 by John S. McMillan and named for Gonzales Lopez de Haro, an early Spanish explorer. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt stayed in room 2A while visiting McMillan, his long time friend and the hotel's owner. Roosevelt's room is one that to this day, you can still stay in and is called, appropriately, the Presidential Suite. In the Hotel Lobby is a register bearing the President's signature from a 1907 visit here. In 1975, when the road in front of the hotel was paved, the yellow pavers used are actually the fire bricks which lined kilns one through eight. Many more were recycled from a couple of rusty kilns dismantled in 2004 and are used in the paving of the village core parking. During many summer evenings, a crowd gathers at the flag pavilion to watch Roche Harbor's own Colors Ceremony, a tradition passed down since the 1950s from former owner, Reuben Tarte.

San Juan Island Real Estate Services

San Juan Island Real Estate Agent

If you are buying or selling outside of the San Juan Islands and need assistance let us help you arrange it. Contact us at: or give us a call at 360.378.2101.

Island Photos - Videos - Maps

San Juan Islands Real Estate Services

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San Juan Island Real Estate Office

Search for real estate in the San Juan Islands, the Northwest and the World with Coldwell Banker. Feel free to sign up for our Real Estate Retriever in order to receive email notifications as properties matching your search criteria hit the market, plus a Saved Properties feature to help organize your real estate hunt. If you have already signed up you can simply Login to access your account.

If you are buying or selling outside of the San Juan Islands and need assistance let us help you arrange it. Contact us at: or give us a call at 360.378.2101.

Join Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands

The Buck Building San Juan Island WA

Thinking of a career in real estate or already a real estate professional?

Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands is among the top real estate offices serving the San Juan Islands. We are currently looking for professional real estate associates with a desire to succeed. We provide industry leading and nationally recognized professional development as well as valuable resources and tools that will allow you to make great strides in achieving your professional goals and objectives.

Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands is growing. A career in real estate will afford you the freedom and flexibility not found in most 9 to 5 jobs. Real Estate provides many rewards from high job satisfaction to the opportunity to achieve great financial success. Your earnings are directly related to your effort and there is no limit to the money you can make. Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands provides outstanding training and our brokers focus on exceptional service. Our management team works with brokers and provides the help they need to build their business using the highest professional standards.

Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands provides exceptional marketing, support, professional development, sales tools, cutting edge technology, and online and print advertising. We are committed to the success of our real estate professionals.

New to the industry or highly experienced, Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands invites you to learn more about how we can help you achieve your real estate goals. Our Sales Associates enjoy significant support, all geared to help you focus on the business of real estate and improve your personal production.

We offer:

Contact Tim Gambrell at 360.378.2101 or send resume to and explore the opportunity to join our team.

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