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.

 

 

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.

You are a buyer and found the ONE, now what

Happiness Heart

You can hardly believe it. Truth be told, it is not exactly what you thought it would be and then again “upon further review”, it is exactly what you hoped to find.

Sure, you started out with some general ideas. Maybe, things started coming into focus when you traveled around the area. At first, those “For Sale” signs were just multi-colored blurs on the periphery. The subliminal message was taking root in that tiny corner of your mind where dreams are born. Life changes doesn’t it. One day the apartment you’re in is sufficient, the banner flying high declaring your independence. It is the place where you learn the lessons of housekeeping, privacy and style.

No one can really pinpoint that moment when the walls began closing in. Maybe it was the morning you stubbed your toe, navigating through the apparently diminishing space between the bed and your dresser. It could have been that night you had friends over and the once spacious living room felt like phone booth. Then again, it could have been that moment, sharing a drink with someone special and suddenly two addresses just didn’t make sense anymore.

Today, you have been through the gauntlet and have found the place.  After what must feel like an impossible journey, you know where you want to call home. Your home. You have told your agent, this is IT!

Now what?

I can’t speak for every agent. I can only share a broad overview of the next steps taken if I were your agent. (note:that statement is tweetable)

While you have been visiting homes and tweaking your list (moving “must haves” to “like to haves” and adding new “must haves” to cover things you had not considered), your agent has been quietly keeping track of the market that includes for sale, sold, off the market, etc. Behind the scenes, data has been sorted, dissected and reviewed. Now that you are ready to move forward with an offer, the pieces will come together. While you share the good news with family and friends, the framework of the next step is being put together by your agent.

The first conversation will take place between your agent and the listing agent. On the surface, it may appear that the only thing being accomplished is gathering the necessary disclosures. Appearances are deceiving. Your agent is already beginning the negotiation process. Reviewing the listing agent’s history before the call has offered some insight but the conversation will season the statistical data and offer hints as to which direction the negotiation should take.

Your lender will also be contacted. A letter validating your ability to actually buy the home must be included with your offer to purchase. This is another conversation in which your agent will develop more information necessary for the ongoing negotiation. A discussion of how your offer will be prepared and what may be necessary for responding to any counter offer will take place.

Once all the necessary information has been gathered, your agent will go over the offer process with you. You will be asked to fill out a financial information sheet that will accompany your offer. This is basic information given to the seller so they will have a certain comfort level that you actually do have enough cash on hand to cover the amount of money you will have to bring to closing. The letter from the lender is but one piece of the puzzle. A seller will want to see the probable source of down payment, closing costs, etc. This is well within their rights. Money is not a “protected class” and if a seller is not comfortable with all the issues surrounding your financial ability to purchase the home, they can refuse to accept your offer.

Your actual offer will be prepared with the help of your agent. Forms that have been developed by the local real estate commission will be used. They include the basic contract of sale which outlines the terms necessary to make a legal purchase. In addition to the basic offer/contract, you will have addendum’s specific to the jurisdiction, others defining contingencies of the offer and even more that narrow the terms of the offer. You will also have disclosures about the property prepared by the seller that cover the condition of the home.

It may seem a bit overwhelming, but remember if it is not in writing, it does not exist. Your offer, once counter signed by the seller becomes the final contract of sale. It will provide the framework for the transaction.

Your agent will submit your offer.

You will discover that there are 60 long seconds in every minute. You will become aware that every passing hour has 60 plodding minutes. You will wait, and wait and probably wait some more. After all, the ball is in the seller’s court.

Attempting to determine the outcome based on the length of time you have to wait for a response is pure folly. Your agent can not possibly know all of the factors the seller is sorting through. You have come this far, now is not the time to bristle. You have done all that you can do. Until you receive a response, patience will be your sweetest ally.

what have i doneOf course, it is only natural for you to be filled with a little doubt.  Angst is doubts pain filled bedfellow. Cup of coffee or latte, maybe you do that every day. This is a major step. For most people, the biggest expense they have dealt with (other than college loans) has been an exotic vacation. This is all about the long term.  This is home.  Sure, it is not forever, but, it is today and this is a lot of tomorrows.

Anybody in your situation would be spending a few minutes here and there wondering about the decision.  Trust yourself, you have come this far based on desire and practical application.  You have followed the necessary steps to reach this point. The seller will respond and you will have the support and counsel of your agent to deal with any counter offer that might be made. If the offer is accepted, you will be shepherded through all the following steps in the process.

You have found the ONE. With the guidance of your agent, you can now proceed to see if the ONE is the ONE.

Just beginning? Fill out the form and get the support of a “REAL” Realtor

The DC housing market … why is it so hot

Every recent market report seems to add the caveat that DC is an anomaly. Most markets are still attempting to recover from the 2006 crash. DC took a bit of a dip, but is roaring back. How can this be happening?  The economy is certainly not much better today than it has been for several years. Federal workers haven’t seen a raise in pay for a few years. If all economic indicators remain uncertain, why are homes in DC costing more every month?

The answer is as plain as day.  DC has jobs.  Very few places across the country can make the same claim. DC is a small 10 square mile area. There are only so many homes that will fit. Engineers and builders and architects can do a lot of things …. they can not create more dirt. Space is limited in DC. Put those two factors together and you have recipe for rising home prices (regardless of the economy).

This little chart covers the phenomena.  At the top, the various places new residents come from are depicted.  People moving to DC come from Universities (college dorms or off campus shared housing), their parent’s home, homes they own in other parts of the country or homes they rent elsewhere.  They want to live in or near DC and begin a search. Almost every last one of them jumps on the internet and begins their search there.  After all, there are hundreds of thousands of websites that share available homes in DC.  The majority of the people searching do not understand that the accuracy of the data is often outdated or limited at best.  For every single home/town home/row home/condo listed there is just one property. How that property is displayed has more to do with syndication by agents and brokers than it has to do with the actual property. (A word to the wise: If you want to be more successful in your search, contact an agent in the area. Talk to someone that knows more about the area than can be revealed in wikipedia or some local towns site. Boots on the ground, an ability to listen and then share information is the best way to discover DC (or any other area for that matter).

housing flow chart

As always, DC has more people wanting to live here than there are places to live.  More buyers than available homes creates an imbalance and that old supply and demand process takes over.  Multiple bids appear, prices continue to rise and the market remains “hot”.  Regardless of promises that might be made by some, the truth is you may not find a home you are seeking for the price you are willing or able to pay.  I certainly would never guarantee that home prices will continue to rise, but I promise you that I can see nothing in the marketplace that will slow down the DC market in the near or distant future.

If you are considering a move to DC, you need factually based assistance.  You need to begin the process now, rather than later. You need to begin putting together a comprehensive home buying plan today.  Remember, a comprehensive plan begins with a discussion with a lender. Know what you can comfortably afford. Then, and only then, take the next step. Contact an agent that knows DC. Speak with someone that knows the difference between Adams Morgan and Madame’s Organ. Have a conversation with some one that understands the difference between Petworth and what is a pet worth, the difference between NOMA and no mas or the difference between the Capitol and Capitol Hill.  Subtle differences of a few blocks can add 30 minutes to an hour or more to your commute each day. A map of the subway (Metorail Line) does not include information regarding ease of use or ease of transfer.  A google map of DC will not reveal the walking score of a neighborhood.

DC is my town. I was born here. I know the neighborhoods. I know the Metro stops. I know the nightlife. This is a great place to live. Before you move here and decide on an address, don’t you think we might need to talk.  My phone number is 301-509-5111.

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It is no secret what a streamlined 203k can do

The condition of many of the homes for sale today is far from the rosey picture painted by agents in their on-line comments. Often agents put up pictures of the home before the place was destroyed.  Consumers, visiting any one of the 6 million websites that feature homes for sale, are routinely misled about the actual shape of the homes they select to view.

Let’s face it, this kitchen needs more than a little “TLC’ !  Buyers go on their house hunting mission and soon become dismayed at the “real condition” of the homes that are listed “need a little work”.  The first clue is the over grown yard. Abandoned homes often have been stripped of appliances, feature rooms with carpeting that carries suspicious stains, water damage and more. They are often “musty” (I know I am being kind) or down right foul smelling.  The power and water usually are turned off. Many are secured by a deadlock and access is obtained with a key secured in a combo lock box.

Don’t shoot me, I am only sharing the truth. As an industry, we are challenged to sell these properties.  Often, they are “bank owned” or they are in the limbo state where the owner has walked away and the bank is going through the foreclosure process. Some of them are listed as “short sales”, but they have been abandoned and left in a state of disrepair.  Their condition is reflected in their sales price.  The impact of the sale is felt by everyone in the neighborhood.

There is hope.  Many of these trashed properties are not that far removed from their past glory.  “TLC” implies a little elbow grease. These homes need more than can be accomplished on a free weekend.  Despite the visual appearance, there is a wonderful home beneath the rubble. Not only that, home buyers have access to loan programs that will do more that “put lipstick on a pig”.

Rehab a Home with a 203(k)

You might be surprised to learn what you can accomplish using a streamlined FHA 203k.  For starters, there is no minimum amount regarding repairs and you can borrow up to $35,000 for qualified improvements.  What are some of the things you can do?

You can repair or replace a roof !

You can install new windows !

You can install new floors !

You can upgrade the electrical system !

You can install a new HVAC system !

You can install new appliances !

You can remodel the kitchen !

You can change the back of your home from this

to this by adding a deck and patio !

It is no secret what a streamlined 203k can do!  This program allows you to change the old saying “what you see is what you get”.  You can now look beyond the condition of the home you visit and imagine what you can create using the 203k streamlined loan.

When considering what you might want to do and what may be possible, understand, there are limitations. $35,000 may sound like a lot of money (well, it is a lot of money), but home improvements vary in cost. In the DC area,  a new roof can cost about $300 per 100 square feet (that is a 10′ X 10′ area),  new windows will depend on the number of windows (there are several well know companies that will gladly give you an estimate), new flooring can cost about $7 to $11 per square foot, upgrading your electric can cost as much as $2,500, a new HVAC can run $8,000 and kitchen remodels can go from$15,000 and up. Just remember, you can do a lot with the loan.

Your local lender should be able to go over the loan with you. If they do not have someone that has actually done 203k loans, find another lender.  You don’t need the aggravation of having your lender stumble through the requirements at your expense. Use an experienced local lender.

Oh, if you need help finding the right house (in Washington DC  or the Maryland suburbs), well that is one of my services. I also listen to dreams, hold hands and support my clients from home search through settlement. I can be reached easily by calling 301-509-5111.

The #1 home search site in the DC area …

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         Sure, there is a lot of information here. If you take the time to scroll through that list over there on the right, you will find advice, neighborhood information, personal rants and some videos.  All of it is provided to educate.  It is  your dime.  Now if you just want to start looking at homes, use the link above. It is our personal little Multiple Listing Service rip-off. It has more information than most search engines. Try it, you’ll like it. If  you just want to read…go ahead, pick a link on the right and click it.

Home buying sealed with a KISS

K (eep) I (t) S (imple) S (weetheart)

          There are so many times that I can recall that a kiss was just what the doctor ordered.  A kiss for good luck, a kiss that bridges fantasy to reality, a kiss when wed, a New Year’s kiss and the infamous call when a ball is hit out of the park “kiss it goodbye” are kisses.  The right kiss can remove the stress of home buying.  K(eep) I(t) S(imple) S(weetheart).  Sure, the process can seem overwhelming.  Most people are not involved in the home buying process on a daily basis. I am. I know it may appear like a mystery to you, but I do this all of the time and I have to tell you, it is far less complicated for an experienced agent.  There is an orderly process to follow that will keep  you on track.

         To begin with, you don’t need any other people for your first step.  You have to move from the “I want to buy a house” status to the “I know I can buy a house” position. Now that sounds simple enough and actually it is. You want to be armed with information from the very beginning.  The most important pieces of information are your credit reports and  your FICO score. (Your FICO score stands for the Fair Issac Corp., which is the company that uses proprietary algorithms to reduce your financial history to three digit number that ranges between 450 and 850. The higher the number, the better your history and the better your chances are at getting a loan at favorable terms. If you number is too low, you won’t be able to qualify for a loan without an extraordinary amount of money down.) There are three major credit reporting agencies. They are pretty much the same, but not always exactly the same. I would avoid the free credit report sites. They have a lot of small print and tend to end up costing you an ongoing fee. Your best bet is to go to www.annualcreditreport.com. Follow the instructions and gather all three of your reports. You will notice they do not include your FICO score. You can purchase your FICO score online at www.myfico.com. Now, before you ask “Why do I need this if the lender will get it?”, let me just share that it is better to know how you look going in than it is to be blindsided sitting in a lenders office. You should be in control and getting the facts will give you that control.

         Once you have you credit reports and FICO score in hand, you are ready for the next step. Before you go looking on line, before you start wandering into open houses, before you even begin the home search, you have to KNOW how much home you can comfortably afford. You are now ready to sit down with a lender. My advice is to get in touch with an experienced, local mortgage lender. It is best to focus on a loan officer that is well know in the community. As alluring as the on site lenders may appear, they are often located quite some distance away and that fact may hinder you as the time to close the loan draws near. The lenders job will to be to provide you with a dollar amount for the home you can afford. One word of caution, make sure that the lender is working with today’s interest rate and a clear picture of what your monthly payment will be throughout the length of your loan.  With rare exception, you are a fool if you agree to a loan that has low payments today and the caveat that the payments will increase in the future. MAKE SURE YOUR LOAN QUALIFICATION IS BASED ON TODAY’S INCOME AND TODAY’S INTEREST RATES. The goal of this meeting is to get a informal commitment from the lender. The lender should be willing to provide you with a “pre-qualification” letter that will state that the lender has reviewed your credit, has verified you income and the cash you have available for a down payment. The letter should state that the only information needed for the loan is a contract on a home and a satisfactory appraisal of that home.

         It would be in your best interest not to get caught up in the slight variations in interest rates and fees.  The lenders job is to make sure your loan is funded within the time constraints outlined in the contract. The lender will have to provide you with a good faith estimate. You can use the good faith estimate to compare what is offered against other lenders. If you do not have a lender, check with your bank or credit union for a recommendation. If you have an accountant, they may know of a lender. You can also ask a real estate professional for the name of a good mortgage broker. (If the agent refers you to a lender that is tied to their broker BEWARE. A good mortgage lender does not have to affiliate with any real estate brokerage. Once an affiliation exists, the possibility (real or imagined) for violations of RESPA come into play.)

        I know you hear the NAR commercials suggesting that you need a Realtor. In Maryland, almost 10   Your next step is to select ONE full-time experienced real estate agent.0% of the practicing agents are Realtors. (You see, in Maryland, every agent has to work for a broker. If a broker wants to be a member of the Maryland Association of Realtors, something they have to do to be a member of the NAR, they must agree that all agents working for them will be members as well…ergo…almost 100% of the agents working in Maryland are Realtors).   Now, how do you find a good agent (hint: if you have read this far, you are already pretty close to a dog gone good agent, but I digress)? Some would say, ask a friend, ask a co-worker, ask a family member…ask somebody.  I would suggest that you can do your homework. Go on-line and find an agent that shares more than listings. Find an agent that has experience in the market and the area. Talk to the agent. Discern their style. Beyond knowledge, you will have to be comfortable and believe that the agent knows what they are doing.  I am not the only one that believes experience is a difference. Dave Stevens, the former head of the FHA agrees with me. Why full-time? Representing you is their job and you deserve the full-time attention of the agent. There is no reason you should receive part-time representation from a part-time agent that will be earning full time pay!

          Of course, you might think that you can go it alone. Every home worth considering is on-line. The listing agent can unlock the door for you. Why go through the hassle of working with one agent? Well, you are right. A monkey can find homes for sale randomly plunking a keyboard.  Beyond that, you enter murky waters when you choose to swim alone. Finding the right home is but the tip of the iceberg.  Doing it on your own will always leave that nagging doubt “would a real estate agent have found a better home?”  Once the home is discovered, do you really want to go on line and print out a contract and sign it? In Maryland there are over 50 pages in a real estate contract to purchase. The body of the document is 11 pages of terms and conditions. In addition to that there are local addendum’s, jurisdictional addendum’s, disclosures about the home, about lead paint, etc., and then you have to add various contingencies for inspections, appraisals and dozens of other potential requirements. You are done yet. If the home is governed by a home owner’s association, you will need to request and review their documentation. There is a sea of paperwork that flows between the front door of your dream and the settlement table where you will close the transaction.  The real estate agent is the captain of your ship of dreams and you better be sure he is sea worthy and able to get you into a safe harbor and closed on time.

         There is a lot to consider when you first begin to believe, “I want to buy a home”.  Rather than be intimidated by the challenge, keep it simple sweetheart, follow the easy steps. You don’t have to be a wall flower, the band is playing.  Is it your time to dance?

         I’d love to go over any of this with you. If you are seeking a captain, I’d welcome the opportunity to take the helm! Contact me.