Buying a home in Washington, DC

Buying a home in Washington, DC?  There are a few things you should know before beginning the process of buying a home in Washington, DC.  As with a home purchase anywhere, you need to know how much home you can afford to purchase.  If you have not had a conversation with a mortgage lender, now is the time to do so.

The mortgage lender will evaluate your financial situation.  Your credit score will be pulled and analyzed. Your credit report will be reviewed.  Your employment, salary records and available cash on hand will be part of the mix as well.  Lenders have specific guidelines to follow when determining how much money you can borrow.  When buying a home in Washington, DC the lender’s decision is just one piece in the puzzle.  While it is important, it is only a guideline for you.  You have to decide how much money you are comfortable spending for housing on a monthly basis.  It is quite possible that your lender will be ready to offer you a loan that is more expensive each month than you are prepared to pay. You don’t have to take out a loan for the lender’s maximum.

A word of advice when tallying up your monthly housing costs.  Be sure to factor in the amount you will have to pay for insurance, taxes, home owner’s association and/ or condo fees. Buying a home in Washington, DC may seem challenging, but I have helped many homeowners and I would love to help you.

Once you have a clear understanding of how much money you can spend on a new home, it is time to sit down and determine what type of home you want.  When buying a home in Washington, DC, you have many choices.  Your choices will be narrowed down by a combination of your “ must have list “and your “wish list”.

The “must have” list will include the things that you deem absolutely necessary in your new home. This list begins with the number of bedrooms and bathroom in the home.  It may also include parking,  distance from public transportation, a certain school district, the type of home (condo, town home or single family detached), a first floor bedroom and anything else that you “must have” in your new home.

The “wish list” may include just about anything your heart desires. Some people would prefer a brand new home while others really would like to have that “man cave” possibility. You are buying a home in Washington, DC. Let your imagination be free to dream.

The next step in buying a home in Washington, DC is to select a real estate agent.  The agent does not have to be the first one you meet, nor do you have to interview several. Choose an agent that is experienced and gives you a comfort level that they are more concerned with helping you than earning a commission on a sale.  Of course the agent will earn a commission, but that should occur because you’re needs are being fulfilled and not because they happen to be the one that writes your offer.

The agent you select should be familiar with the steps that must be taken when you are buying a home in Washington, DC.  They should always listen first and continue to streamline your search as your desires come into greater focus.  They should be able to communicate with you in a timely fashion using whatever means you are most comfortable.  Today, that might include texting, email or phone calls.

The agent has to be accessible for you.  This is the one person that will be involved with every facet of your purchase.  Agents have to fill the role of dream weaver, hand holder, reality checker and negotiator.  When buying a home in Washington, DC the agent is your key player.  Choose wisely.

Once you have found the home you wish to purchase, the process of making it yours begins.  An offer must be prepared and submitted.  The final terms of your contract to purchase must be negotiated. Once you have an offer and acceptance, the road to settlement is undertaken.  Clearing the conditions of your contract will begin.  Buying a home in Washington, DC may include an appraisal, a home inspection, a termite inspection or a survey to name a few items that must be dealt with before settlement can take place. Your agent will play a large role in coordinating each of these steps.  There is no substitute for experience here.  A smooth transaction is not always possible, but your agent has to know the lay of the land and what steps are necessary to guide you home.

Buying a home in Washington, DC may not be as easy as ordering dinner or planning a vacation. It can be the next step you take in your personal journey to fulfillment. If the time is right and you are in position to make the move, buying a home in Washington, DC can easily become a reality. No essay can answer every question. No short article can put you at ease.  Most people prefer a little give and take in the form of a conversation. Blogs don’t reveal body language or tone.  I know that buying a home in Washington, DC may seem challenging.  I would welcome the opportunity to discuss your dreams with you. You can call me at 301-509-5111 or text me at the same number.  I will make the time to sit down with you at your convenience a priority.  Take the next step in making your dreams come true.

If you are just beginning the process of buying a home in Washington, DC and just want to see what might be available, click on this highlighted link and search the available listings from the comfort of your computer …HOME SEARCH NOW

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. 

Closing help for families of three in DC..income up to $74,500…You bet!!!

Stand in the long line of dreamers

or

Tap into resources others fail to use

         So, the little one bedroom apartment is getting really crowded. Sure, when the market went crazy, it seemed like a good idea to wait.  The arrival of the baby only met rearranging living conditions for awhile.  That little bundle of joy is now heading towards the terrible twos and one bedroom living is no longer comfortable.

          You would consider buying but the new addition has crimped your savings. You would consider buying, but what do you do with little cash on hand?  You are not alone.  There is a long line of folks facing the same dilemma.  You can choose to stand in that line or you can tap into resources that others fail to use.  There is help available.

         Of course you weren’t aware of it. You have enough to worry about being a parent and a spouse. You have enough to deal with doing your job, earning an income and hopefully scratching out time for one “date night” every couple of weeks.  Not to worry.  I check this stuff out all the time. It is my job to dig around and find ways to get you from that cramped living to a comfortable home of your own. I do know the path that is available to you.

        So, if you are ready and want to find out if you qualify, click this link -> contact me

I C C – inter-county connector (a home selection game changer)

It has been planned for over 50 years. It has withstood protests and lawsuits.  Regardless or which side of the battle you were on, the battle is over and the ICC is a reality.  One small stretch between 270 and Georgia Avenue opened in early 2010 with a great deal of fan fare and very little traffic.  Apparently, not many folks in the Olney area had a need to be in Rockville and there were not many westbound travelers that needed to make their way to Georgia Avenue.

Right around Thanksgiving the dynamics changed. The portion from Georgia Avenue to Interstate 95 was opened and lives were changed.  Obviously, there are many folks travelling south on 270 or 95 that wish to make the trek from one side of the county to the other without using the capital beltway.  For those out-of-towners reading this, the capital beltway (also know as 495) is a fancy name for a bumper to bumper parking lot that circles around Washington DC.

This is a map of the ICC.  The important points are the interchanges. The ICC can be accessed via 270 by using the 370 exit. There are exits at Shady Grove Metro, Georgia Avenue, Layhill Road, New Hampshire Avenue, Colesville Road, Briggs Chaney Road and 95.  A final exit at Virginia Manor Road with access to Route 1 will open later.

Rather that reprint the information regarding the ICC and the need for an E Z Pass, let me just add the link to the official website here….  EZ Pass   The EZ Pass is also used on other toll roads in the region. The devil is not in the details regarding the ICC.  The ICC is a time saver and opens many communities that used to be local road traffic stymied.

This may look like mortar and stone

but

it is really a great big job magnet

          It is no secret that a great majority of people living in the Maryland suburbs work in Washington, DC.  Access to DC in the past was limited to the use of 270 and then to feeder roads. There were other roads available, but 270 became the main funnel from Montgomery County into Washington DC.  The Metro, more specifically, the Redline of the Metro was and remains another conduit into the Nation’s Capital.  This created a lot of development along the 270 corridor.

The ICC opens up the Eastern portion of the County

         Now,  those that choose to live in Olney, Ashton, Sandy Spring, Layhill, Norbeck, Spencerville, Cloverly, Burtonsville, Laurel and areas close to them have a smooth access to Bethesda, Rockville, the 270 corridor, the redline at Shady Grove or Glenmont and many other commuter routes.  The time spent getting from here to there has been reduced.

         Those moving to the area and feeling they had to only focus on the 270 corridor have more choices.  Those people that used to think they had to move to Clarksburg or Urbana because of the need to use 270 now have more neighborhoods to choose from when moving.

          The eastern portion of Montgomery County has wonderful neighborhoods, lots of green space and plenty of things to do.  The ICC has created the opportunity to not only live a little closer to town, it has ended the long days journey into night of commuting into town using Colesville Road or New Hampshire Avenue.

         If you would like to know more about the neighborhoods that have become more desirable because of the ICC, let me know.  I have lived and worked here all my life. I not only know the roads, I have driven them and I know where the potholes exist.  My phone number is 301-509-5111.

Home buying stress? You are not alone!

It is not easy being YOU

          It is another day in your quest to buy a home.  Depending on the length of your current journey, at times you are feeling like that tiny bit of dust caught between a very solid rock and hard spot.  You know all the things that are bothering you and nobody else seems to get it.  You are not alone.

          There is a very old saying “an apple does not fall far from the tree”.  You hear it when folks are describing how children seem to have many of the characteristics of their parents.  People chuckle and give a knowing nod and the moment passes. Most of us do have some characteristics that seem awfully similar to our parents.  Oh sure, we strive to be better.  We secretly fear that we are becoming our mother or father. We all want to be in individual, viewed on our own merits.  But still, we are all slaves to our up bringing and the world that formed us.

          You may be wondering, what does this have to do with your current stress level?  Everything.  You see, the world that you grew up in was as large as the universe you understood and as small as the invisible barriers you did not realize existed.  Your world was shaped at your dining room table.  Dining room table worlds are like snow flakes, no two of them are exactly alike.   Your experience and understanding are what you bring to the home buying process. It may be the biggest piece of the puzzle (after all, you are buying the home), but yours is just one piece that has to some how smoothly interact with all the other pieces.

        

They all apples and none of them are exactly alike.

          Your real estate agent, your lender, your home inspector, your appraiser, your spouse or co-buyer (if any) are all apples in their own right.  They all have fallen close to their own tree.  They bring their background, belief system and personal style to your journey.  Just like you, every single one of them believes what they are saying and doing is the right thing.  Often, they use language from their industry that is comfortable to them but entirely foreign to you. You have to add to the mix that they are interpreting every thing you say based on their understanding of the words and phrases you use.  In the effort  to make sure everyone is on the same page, at the same time, the process may seem to slow down or come to a screeching halt.  It is still moving forward, but it sure can feel like progress is not part of the equation.

          Your stress is a direct result of the difference between your expectations and your perception of the reality of the moment.  Whether anyone wants to accept it or not, perception is your reality.  How well your expectations are being managed will directly impact your stress level.  Something that may be overlooked is the fact that everyone else involved is dealing with perceptions, expectations and stress.  You are not alone.

How do you take all these apples and make the best pie?

          You can’t.  Individually, your agent, your lender, your home inspector, your appraiser, your spouse or co-buyer can not do it alone either.  This is one case where too many cooks can not spoil the broth.  Everyone has to work to understand where each person is in the process.  Even if everyone has an understanding, stress will exist.  You can lower your stress level if you calmly express your concerns and make sure that your concerns are understood. Once your concerns are expressed and understood, you can get answers. If the answer is not understood, ask the question again, and again and again until you hear and understand the answer.  Knowledge can help alleviate the stress.

          Sure, you will get answers that compound your problem at times, but if you know the problem, you can search for a solution.  Seeking a solution will bring stress, but it should be eustress.  Feeling out of the loop only generates distress.

          One thing you can be sure of in your situation.  You are not alone.  If I can be of any help in your home buying journey, I promise you that I will do my part of focus on you and do my best to make sure you understand the process. My direct phone number is 301-509-5111 (I can also be reached via text message at that number)

MacArthur receives J.D. Power Award!

John MacArthur receives J.D. Power Award for customer satisfaction

         RE/MAX Chairman and Co-Founder Dave Liniger offered congratulations saying “It truly reflects your professional excellence, your enthusiasm for education, your commitment to distressed sellers, your individual drive, and many other qualities that serve the interests of your clients. Your efforts change lives, and those people have spoken.”

         Home buyers and home sellers used a 1,000-point scale.  Consumers used the following categories:

  • Overall satisfaction
  • Agent/Salesperson professionalism
  • Variety of additional services
  • Real estate office
  • Real estate company marketing (seller survey only)
         MacArthur is licensed in the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland. His broker is Century 21 New Millennium located in Washington, DC.  Dave Stevens, the former Assistant Secretary – FHA Commissioner shared ” *“John is a true real estate professional who combines passion, integrity, and a deep knowledge of real estate to produce outstanding results”.
         If you are interested in having a JD Powers award winning agent represent you in your real estate transaction, you can contact John at 301-509-5111 or click CONTACT JOHN.

Same sex couples find refuge in DC

         Back in March, the District of Columbia began allowing same sex couples the opportunity to marry.  The usual suspects attempted to reverse this decision, but in July the courts upheld the original law.  DC already had a reputation for being “gay friendly” ( I personally think that the term should be “somewhat tolerant if you stay in limited areas and keep your fondness for one another private”).  Friendly is not the word that immediately comes to mind when considering the vitriol and animosity shared by the narrow minded neanderthalic and religious conservatives. To my way of thinking, the human race has bigger fish to fry than expending so much energy on trying to prevent basic human rights and considerations being afforded to EVERYONE.

          I do not live in a vacuum and I am perfectly content to accept that there is room on this mortal coil for people of all persuasions.  As long as one’s chosen lifestyle does not infringe on the right’s of another, they should have the opportunity to seek “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. ( If that sounds vaguely familiar, it is taken directly from the Declaration of Independence. A little document our founders put together without reference to marital relationships. It was directed to everyone, well almost everyone, it took the Civil Rights Act to increase the African American from 3/5th’s to a whole.)

          The DC law has ” leveled the playing field” for same sex couples. Concerns about the right to do something as basic as visiting a partner in the hospital or whom to list as an emergency contact are no longer an issue in the District of Columbia.  The law does not mean that those opposed will be silenced, it does mean that if you are in love and want to be married, DC will grant you that opportunity. It’s about time that the removal of stigmas associated with caring for a same sex partner were legislatively removed.  It’s about time we allowed couples to legally marry.

          I am sure that there will be those that decide to not do business with me because I support this basic human right.  Truth be told, I won’t miss them. I would prefer not to do business with people that have a warped sense of supremacy.  Business transactions are much smoother when you deal with people that are comfortable in their own skin.

         Had the law been passed sooner, I could have attended family members weddings (I was not able to travel to a past wedding that had to take place hundreds of miles away because two people in love happened to be of the same sex.)  I won’t drop that old ” I have lots of (gay,black,jewish, insert any group) friends” line.  Truth be told, everyone has friends from every walk of life and lifestyle (some of you just don’t know it!).

         You see, I don’t care what consenting adults do in their bedroom. Professionally, I want to be sure that they find the bedroom they want.  I don’t care who is relegated to cooking. Professionally, I want to be sure that the kitchen they find is suitable for their culinary skills.  I don’t care about the ethnic, racial, religious or sexual persuasion of the friends enjoying a backyard barbecue.  Professionally, I want to be sure that the backyard is the size they desire. My job is to help people find a place they can call home.  I like what I do.

          I am a Realtor. I am licensed in the District of Columbia.  I don’t believe that your personal comfort zone eliminates me from representing you.  I happen to believe that people want experienced assistance.  The experience may include people from all walks of life, but the common denominator is the ability to find a home, negotiate a transaction while protecting the client’s interests.  The practice of solid real estate is the basis of my business.  I love the challenge of finding the right home at the right price for my clients.  I think everyone deserves that sort of representation.

          I was born in Washington DC and I have seen it go through growing pains and metamorphis into the city it is today. I have watched it move from a sleepy southern town to vibrant metropolis.  I miss Griffith Stadium but love the new ballpark.  I still sneak a bowl of Chili at Bens now and then.  I know the traffic patterns.  I am happy that the P Street beach remains and still find spending an afternoon at Dupont Circle relaxing. I am glad the DC government seems to be functioning more smoothly and I share the angst of many with the foibles that are ongoing in the Mayor’s Office and City Council.  The city continues to improve despite their short comings.

         DC is a Capital City.  DC has taken a large step towards equality for all it’s residents.  DC is a great place to live. If you are interested in moving to the District of Columbia, I would welcome the opportunity to assist you.  I can be reached at 301-509-5111.  Isn’t it nice that same sex couples find refuge in DC?