Pat does a wonderful job outlining all the things we need to know to best assist our clients. Experienced agents understand that beyond all the whoplah about interest rates and prices………folks want to buy a home. They want more than just a house that is priced well.
If your agent hasn’t asked these questions, you need a new agent. There are still a few of us around that understand uncovering your needs and desires is much more important than verifying your bank balance.
Q: Dear Pat, we are new to the Washington area and are a little overwhelmed by the choices of where to live. Can you help us to narrow down the possibilities? Distraught in the District
A: Dear Distraught, where to live is probably the most important thing for newcomers to the area to decide when moving to the Washington, DC area. Your price range and basic life style preferences will help you decide. Here are some questions I ask relocating buyers if they are not familiar with the area:
- Where will you be working, and how much of a commute are you willing to live with?
- Are you planning to drive or will you rely on public transportation?
- Are schools a factor?
- Do you prefer new construction or older, historic homes?
- Do you prefer to be in the middle of the action, or would you rather have peace and quiet?
Answers to these questions, along with the number that you and your lender give me as the price, will help me to come up with possibilities.
In the meantime, there are some steps you can take on your own to narrow down your choices:
- If you have children in school, you can get a lot of information at greatschools.org. This might help you to focus in on parts of the region where the public schools are especially good. If you have children who are going to be college bound in a few years, graduates of DC schools are treated as “in state” for land grant schools around the country. Virginia has a wonderful system of public universities and the University of Maryland scores high marks in many departments.
- Ask friends and colleagues about the area. They can tell you the pluses and minuses of their own communities and make some suggestions.
- If you see properties on line that interest you, take some time to drive around the areas. Notice where the public transportation, shopping, libraries and other amenities are located – or not.
- If you are into new construction, there is very little in the District or the close-in suburbs. You really have to go pretty far out, probably outside the Beltway, to find new homes.
- As a rule of thumb, the closer in you are, the higher the prices are likely to be. Still, there are pockets of affordable homes inside the District and in parts of Maryland and Virginia.
- You can get a feel for a neighborhood by going online and looking at it’s web site, which most communities now have. They also may have Facebook pages. What are their issues? Do the people posting sound like lunatic ranters or people you’d like to have as a next door neighbor?
- Keep in mind that the DC Metro system isn’t all that well planned for commuting to work. The stops are far apart, and there are no express lines. The chances that you will work close enough to walk from a Metro stop to your office are not terrific, and you will likely have a long drive or bus ride to get from your home to Metro. The parking garages at the suburban stations are usually packed by six in the morning. It’s also expensive. This makes homes that are close to a Metro or other rail stop sell for a premium.
Many agents in the area, myself included, are licensed in DC and Maryland, something that is helpful if you are not yet sure where you want to be.