So close to the city, yet quiet as country

front of home

Welcome to the suburbs. Oh, no doubt you have either lived or heard of the traffic horror stories for people that work in Washington, DC.  If you are moving to the area from out of town, you may opt for a neighborhood that is close to the subway system (Metrorail). I do sell a lot of homes to people that have “close to public transportation” at or near the top of their wish list. Naturally, homes close to the metro system demand a bit more money. You won’t get more house or more yard, but you will be close to public transit.

There is another way. The Maryland suburbs have lots of great neighborhoods that at first blush appear off the beaten path. Well they are off the beaten path. You see, the DC area has more folks that have relocated from other parts of the country than just about any city in the USA.  The beaten path refers to the roads that lead directly into and out of the city. People move in, start driving the first route they are told and five years later, they are using the same roads. Those roads become the path and that path becomes beaten because all the new folks use the same roads.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, you will face a commute. We all do. You may learn some short cuts, but you will still be in the car (or subway car) for up to two hours each day. All bets are off if it rains, snows or gets a little foggy. That is a lot of time.

At the end of the day, wouldn’t you like to just sit back and relax. I have the spot for you. Let’s move past the fact that it is a spacious, well cared for 4 bedroom, 2 bath home. The completely remodeled kitchen is nice. Yes the heirloom fireplace mantle is priceless. The crafted doors are amazing. And yes, there is a one bedroom, one bath in-law/au pair suite complete with a kitchen downstairs. The garage is two bays, large and sufficient for the pickiest motor head. Oh, yes it is a pretty level 2 acre lot.

Let’s get past that. You have worked all day long.

Let’s just go out front and sit on the porch overlooking the parkland. Serene, green and private. Listen to the soft hoot of the distant owls. Watch the fireflies dance. Tomorrow soon becomes a distant destination. This is where you find peace….and quiet. If you are up for it, walk down the steps and take a leisurely stroll through your 2 acres of land. Let the stress go, stretch out those muscles cramped from work. Once the sun sets, go back up and watch the moonrise, let the kids go chase fireflies. You work hard and you deserve your own little oasis in the midst of the suburbs, just outside the city.

Everything the suburbs have to offer is a short distance away. The ICC is around the corner. DC, Bethesda, Rockville and Baltimore are all within 30 minutes driving. Or, you can just sit back and enjoy…home.

Video Tour

behind-the-curtain

Interested in that lifestyle… that home…that dream?  Call me. 301-509-5111.

 

 

Fair Housing … it’s the law, not a prescription for home buying hide and seek.

Fair Housing Act
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), as amended, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and disability.

HUD has played a lead role in administering the Fair Housing Act since its adoption in 1968. The 1988 amendments, however, have greatly increased the Department’s enforcement role. First, the newly protected classes have proven significant sources of new complaints. Second, HUD’s expanded enforcement role took the Department beyond investigation and conciliation into the area of mandatory enforcement.

Complaints filed with HUD are investigated by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). If the complaint is not successfully conciliated, FHEO determines whether reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred. Where reasonable cause is found , the parties to the complaint are notified by HUD’s issuance of a Determination, as well as a Charge of Discrimination, and a hearing is scheduled before a HUD administrative law judge. Either party – complainant or respondent – may cause the HUD-scheduled administrative proceeding to be terminated by electing instead to have the matter litigated in Federal court. Whenever a party has so elected, the Department of Justice takes over HUD’s role as counsel seeking resolution of the charge on behalf of aggrieved persons, and the matter proceeds as a civil action. Either form of action – the ALJ proceeding or the civil action in Federal court – is subject to review in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Significant Recent Changes

  1. The Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 (HOPA) makes several changes to the 55 and older exemption. Since the 1988 Amendments, the Fair Housing Act has exempted from its familial status provisions properties that satisfy the Act’s 55 and older housing condition.First, it eliminates the requirement that 55 and older housing have significant facilities and services designed for the elderly. Second, HOPA establishes a good faith reliance immunity from damages for persons who in good faith believe that the 55 and older exemption applies to a particular property, if they do not actually know that the property is not eligible for the exemption and if the property has formally stated in writing that it qualifies for the exemption.
    HOPA retains the requirement that senior housing must have one person who is 55 years of age or older living in at least 80 percent of its occupied units. It also still requires that senior housing publish and follow policies and procedures that demonstrate an intent to be housing for persons 55 and older.

    An exempt property will not violate the Fair Housing Act if it includes families with children, but it does not have to do so. Of course, the property must meet the Act’s requirements that at least 80 percent of its occupied units have at least one occupant who is 55 or older, and that it publish and follow policies and procedures that demonstrate an intent to be 55 and older housing.

    A Department of Housing and Urban Development rule published in the April 2, 1999, Federal Register implements the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995, and explains in detail those provisions of the Fair Housing Act that pertain to senior housing.

  2. Changes were made to enhance law enforcement, including making amendments to criminal penalties in section 901 of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 for violating the Fair Housing Act.
  3. Changes were made to provide incentives for self-testing by lenders for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. See Title II, subtitle D of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 1997, P.L. 104 – 208 (9/30/96).

What Housing Is Covered?

The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

What Is Prohibited?

In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Make housing unavailable
  • Deny a dwelling
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.

In Mortgage Lending: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap (disability):

  • Refuse to make a mortgage loan
  • Refuse to provide information regarding loans
  • Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
  • Discriminate in appraising property
  • Refuse to purchase a loan or
  • Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan.

In Addition: It is illegal for anyone to:

  • Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
  • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.

Additional Protection if You Have a Disability

If you or someone associated with you:

  • Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and mental retardation) that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • Have a record of such a disability or
  • Are regarded as having such a disability

your landlord may not:

  • Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.

Example: A building with a no pets policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.

Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near her apartment if necessary to assure that she can have access to her apartment.

However, housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs.

Requirements for New Buildings

In buildings that are ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, and have an elevator and four or more units:

  • Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
  • Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs
  • All units must have:
    • An accessible route into and through the unit
    • Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls
    • Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars and
    • Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.

If a building with four or more units has no elevator and will be ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units.

These requirements for new buildings do not replace any more stringent standards in State or local law.

Housing Opportunities for Families

Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, it may not discriminate based on familial status. That is, it may not discriminate against families in which one or more children under 18 live with:

  • A parent
  • A person who has legal custody of the child or children or
  • The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or custodian’s written permission.

Familial status protection also applies to pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.

Exemption: Housing for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against familial status discrimination if:

  • The HUD Secretary has determined that it is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a Federal, State or local government program or
  • It is occupied solely by persons who are 62 or older or
  • It houses at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house persons who are 55 or older.

A transition period permits residents on or before September 13, 1988, to continue living in the housing, regardless of their age, without interfering with the exemption.

This law is in place to guarantee that you can buy where you want to buy. It in no way suggests that the features of any home or neighborhood can dictate your ability to purchase.

Good Home Inspectors NEVER “pooch” a deal

see no evil hear no evil speak no evilThere are different views on home inspectors. Listing  and buyer’s agents apparently view them with disdain. According to Justin Pierce ( a Realtor and real estate investor based in Northern Virginia) “Just keep in mind that the role of the home inspector can be in opposition to the interest of the real estate agent. The home inspector’s job is to find problems, if the exist. Real estate agents by nature don’t like people who find problems with their deals.” 1. (Well, of course he may be referring to the way business is done on the other side of the river. I prefer the ethics practiced and laws followed on this side of the Potomac.)

Now, I have a problem with that statement. I think it is asinine to paint an industry with such a large brush. I have been involved in real estate transactions for the better part of the last two decades. I have managed an office for the largest broker in the Washington DC area. I have walked agents through transactions and reviewed hundreds upon hundreds of deals. As they say down in the country “that dog won’t hunt”.

Real estate agents don’t like people who look the other way when they are supposed to be protecting the agents clients. That statement holds true for lenders, home inspectors, title companies, service providers and anyone else serving on the periphery of a transaction. The entire industry crashed when people that were more motivated by greed than serving the consumer railroaded every deal that they could get their grubby fingers on.

Of course, some listing agents feel that some inspectors are more diligent than others. When the thorough inspector shows up, it is a blessing for the seller and the buyer. It guarantees that when settlement occurs, the buyer is getting exactly what they believe they are getting. The goal of both agents is to facilitate a smooth transaction, not to ram a damn “money pit” down some unsuspecting buyers throat. Perpetuating that image does nothing for the profession that I am proud to be a member.

Home inspectors work for the buyer. They are paid by the buyer. Their job is to protect and advise the buyer about the condition of the home. Staging is only beauty and as they say, beauty is only skin deep. A home inspector checks the home from top to bottom. If something is wrong they point it out. If something is old, they share the information. They make no recommendations about whether the buyer should move forward. They give the buyer a fair estimation of the condition of the home. Seems like a pretty good idea to me and most of the hundreds of thousands of Realtors across the country.

When any buyer enters a contract to purchase a home, they have the right to make sure they as much information as possible about the value and condition of the home. To suggest that any agent would prefer to have homes bought and sold in a “caveat emptor” manner is to impugn all of the efforts the industry has made to protect the consumer.

Lest anyone forget, Realtors have introduced and supported changes in this industry from fair housing to lead paint protection to home inspections. Good Home Inspectors never “pooch” a deal. They often prevent a mistake from being made and always walk away from a home knowing they have given a fair unbiased opinion of the home.

I agree completely with the FHA admonition – “For your protection, get a home inspection”

1. “A good home inspection can save the buyer a lot of money’ Washington Post 12/7/2013

USA, USA … no…USAA supporting our troops

USAA_EAGLE_FLAT_LU_BLU

Imagine. Just by using the USAA Movers Advantage program, you can actually receive money! No one can ever completely or totally repay you or  your family for the serving the USA. Regardless of where you choose to live, you will be surrounded by neighbors that enjoy all the freedoms of this great country, in part, because of your service.

THANK YOU

This is not just for the faint of heart, no, this program is for USAA members. You see, serving your country is not forgotten. USAA and Century 21 Redwood Realty have committed to making sure your move to the DC area is smooth and seamless. That’s our mission.

I am proud of my brokers affiliation with USAA. Century 21 Redwood Realty is a worldwide leader and they are my broker. If you are a member and are interested in learning about the program, call me and I will be sure that you get all the information. I can be reached on my cell phone at 301-509-5111

The chart below gives you a quick overview of part of the cash back program.

Purchase/Sale Price

Cash Back

Buying

Selling

$0 – $99,999

$350

$350

$100,000 – $149,999

$650

$650

$150,000 – $249,999

$950

$950

$250,000 – $399,999

$1,250

$1,250

$400,000 and more

$1,550

$1,550

Don’t waste time searching old data…accuracy in home searches

 

ipad photo

Click on the above photo, live up-to-date listings

If you have spent any time on line, searching for a new home, you may have discovered that many sites are not quite accurate. When homes are listed for sale, a process begins. The listing agent (unless otherwise instructed by the seller) has to submit the listing to the MRIS. The MRIS is the local firm that creates the Multiple Listing Service. One of the functions of the MLS is to allow cooperation among Brokers regarding the sharing of information and providing a system of distribution of the commission earned on the sale of the home. In layman’s terms, the MLS is the place where homes for sale are entered and buyer’s agents are informed of the compensation they will receive for representing a buyer.

The MLS used to be the private domain of the Brokers and the agents working for them. As the demand for information grew, Brokers realized they could monetize the date by selling it to other companies that offered home searches to the general public. Syndication was born. Now you can go on-line and use any one of the hundreds upon hundreds of websites offering listings.

Not so fast. You see, part of the problem with syndication to folks like Zillow and Trulia and most of the other sites is that the information is not always up-dated quickly. The biggest complaint voiced by agents all across the country is that buyers call them for help and ask to see a home that is already sold. The site they visited shows it as available, but it is NOT.

I decided that I would spend the time and money to have a direct link to my local MLS on my website. You can click the photo above and it will direct you to a search page. From there, you just enter your criteria and voila…you will see real time listings. It is not updated on any schedule. It is a view as accurate as it can be, it is NOW.  It may not be as fancy as all those sites that the bigger firms offer. It may take a bit to sort out. Sure, that may take a few minutes. It will save you hours of grief and eliminate lots of angst. You are looking for a home now and I think you should be able to see what is really available and not the drek created by “GIGO” aka garbage in – garbage out.

Enjoy

Home buying in DC area Fall 2013 … tips for buyers

humpty dumptyOld wives tales claim that home buying comes to a halt just before the holidays and then nothing happens until Spring. The economy that used to support that notion no longer exists. I am not sure it ever existed. Herd mentality regarding seasonal swings in real estate sales had more influence on the general public than any other reason. When reality was exposed via the internet, lots of suppositions fell by the wayside, crushed under the weight of exposed facts.

This is 2013. The buying public is no longer in the dark. The truth found in common sense is rising to the surface. People move when they have a need for more space or when they have to change locations. The life events that create the need for more space or the need to change locations are not written in stone.

This is not rocket science, this is the real world. All weddings do not occur in the Spring and Summer. For that matter, all decisions to live as one do not occur only in the Spring and Summer. Children are adopted and children are born in every month of the year. Hard times strike when they strike and the need to provide for a loved one can happen any day, any week in any month.

Relocation is a 365 day occurrence. New jobs are found. Transfers from one area to another happen every week. People are discharged from the military every day. Life changes daily. It does not wait because Thanksgiving is here or Christmas is coming. Life suffers winter weather, it does not stop.

Worried about homes to buy?  Home owners live in the same world you do. There is always a supply of homes for sale. Sure the quantity rises and falls with the needs of the sellers, but there always homes for sale.

The Fall 2013 tip for buyers? Make sure you follow the proper steps when entering the home buying market. Your first step is ALWAYS the same. Speak to a few lenders, to find out where you are and what you need to do to get where you want to go. An agent has no value until you have an a factual understanding of what you can afford to purchase.

Make sure that you keep your lender inquiries (one, two or three) within a 14 day period. Each inquiry reduces your credit score, but inquiries within the same industry that occur within the same 14 day period are treated as one inquiry.

The lender(s) will evaluate you based on your earnings, your savings, your debt and your credit history. You should approach the information with a range of monthly payment that is in your comfort zone. Do not believe anyone that tries to convince you that even if it is tight in the beginning, future raises will make it easier. That sort of advice is coming from a jackal. Immediately sever ties and seek counsel elsewhere.

After you talk with a lender, I would be glad to help you. Oh, just like damn near every other agent, I work pretty much 12 months of the year. I too can tell war stories about Christmas Eve ratifications, etc. I just happen to know that buying and selling goes on when buyers and sellers have a need. When it is right for you, I will be there to assist you.

Questions? Call me at 202-656-5710. Comments…….always welcome.

Home buying is simple … Not exactly ….

Wow… talk about a confusing process. You take an average person that decides…Now is the time to buy a home. This is not an easy decision. It is influenced by the “American Dream(?). This person wants information. They boot up and head out on the good old information super highway. A lot of them start at Google. One of the first places listed is HUD’s website. Seems like as good a place as any to start. HUD lists 9 steps to buying a home.

Nine steps to buying a home

  1. Figure out how much you can afford
  2. Know your rights
  3. Shop for a loan
  4. Learn about home buying programs
  5. Shop for a home
  6. Make an offer
  7. Get a home inspection
  8. Shop for homeowners insurance
  9. Sign papers

It lists all the steps. It gives direction. It really goes into great detail. In some cases it is accurate. For the first step, it does advise that you need to talk to a lender. The second step mentions fair housing and respa. As you can see the third step sends you to a lender and by step 4 you are advised to get a real estate agent.

Good advice ? … Not exactly.

Remember, even when you think you are doing what needs to be done, you may not be grasping the instructions. Sometimes words actually confuse the directions.

confused1

The same tool that potential buyers uses to get information usually gives incomplete or misleading information. We are all not alike. Everyone comes to this vast suppository of information with different backgrounds, education and beliefs. The information may seem relevant and pertinent, but is it saying what you are perceiving?

Not Exactly …

behind-the-curtain

Really? Here are some examples…

The price of the home listed on the website is the price I can pay to buy the home.

Not exactly. The price listed only represents what the agent entered into the multiple listing service. It is the price that the seller agreed to publicize. The final sale price can be more or less or the same as the listed price. If you offer the list price, your offer may not be accepted. They do not have to sell the home to you just because you offered list price. The seller has the right to review how you plan to pay and the seller has the right to accept another offer instead of yours. The competing offer does not have to be equal to or more than your offer. It just has to be a more acceptable offer. The seller makes that decision.

The amount of money someone paid for a home is a factor in what can be offered.

Not exactly. To begin with, it is a bit presumptuous to look at the price a person paid for a home and determine how much you think they deserve to profit on the sale. There usually is no way that a buyer or buyer’s agent can know how the home was financed, what equity lines may have been taken, etc. Further more, the price of the home should reflect market value and not what the buyer thinks the seller should “make” on the sale. I have never met anyone that uses this logic in determining an offer that would like the same logic used in dealing with them.

Properties labeled bank owned or REO will be handled in the same fashion as other types of sales.

Not exactly. Banks make use of every single loop hole they can find to avoid following State laws regarding the sale of property. They do not disclose any information and they do not ask the listing agent to determine if there is any information about the property they are selling. The sale of these types of property is usually “as-is where-is”. Laws regarding lead paint issues are ignored. Some lenders will correct problems identified by an appraiser. Most of these sales are handled by firms that represent several banks and they are over whelmed with listings. The best phrase regarding these sales is the old latin “caveat emptor” let the “buyer beware”.

These are but a few of the Not Exactly situations that function in the world of home buying. It is best to keep an open mind and a relationship with a real estate agent that is more concerned with you than his wallet. The truth may not be what you want to hear, but the truth is what you need to hear.

You see, a good agents does more than drive you around and open doors, the help you need and the answers you need to here is but a phone call away. Call John MacArthur at 301-509-5111. He will always listen and separate fact from fiction. All real estate agents are the same? Not Exactly. Call John and Experience the difference.