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Is your home ready for a winter storm?

Are you prepared?

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Snowmageddon, snow, gay news, Washington Blade
Snowmageddon, snow, gay news, Washington Blade

Winter weather is coming. Are you prepared?(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

By JOSH BAKER

We all know the drill. When we catch wind of an approaching winter storm, we all head straight to the store to stock up on bread, milk and other common necessities. But how often do we think about whether our home is prepared to withstand the challenges brought about by severe weather? The structure of our home is one of the most crucial tools for safety during a winter storm and you should spend as much time readying it as you do your pantry shelves.

 

Have an Alternate Heat Source

Having an alternate, non-electric heat source is especially vital when the temperature drops and the power goes out. These sources can include a fireplace or wood stove, a kerosene heater or a backup generator. If you are using a fireplace, make sure it has been properly maintained and you have plenty of dry wood stored. If you have a tank where you store fuel for the system, such as propane or oil, don’t forget to stock up on supplies before the storm hits. If a severe storm does occur, your regular fuel carrier may not be able to reach your home for a few days because of demand or roadway conditions. Also, consider buying a camping stove to prepare meals and heat water in case of a power outage, but be sure to only use it in a well-ventilated area.

 

Caring for Your Home

Regular maintenance is essential in order to ensure your home is ready to withstand a strong winter storm. Keep the following checklist on hand as the winter months approach to help you stay on top of your home so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. Inside the home: replace smoke detector batteries; replace carbon monoxide batteries; check and clean fireplaces and chimneys; lock windows to keep them square.

Outside the home: clean debris from gutters and downspouts; shut off and drain hose bibs; check and clean septic system; caulk and retouch exterior paint; make sure drainage is heading away from the house.

 

HVAC

A “Fall Start Check,” consisting of the following, should be performed on each unit of the HVAC system.

  • Check and replace air filter.
  • Check combustion chamber.
  • Check charge on heat pumps.
  • Check humidifier operation and replaceable parts.
  • Clean away leaves and debris from outside units.
  • Adjust dampers to favor northern, not southern, rooms.

In addition to following the above winterizing checklist prior to the start of the season, there are a number of things you can do to help protect your home from inclement weather. For example, if a power outage causes you to lose heat, let your faucets drip slightly to help protect the pipes from freezing. Familiarize yourself with where your home’s main water shut-off valve is located in the event that a pipe does burst or you need it as a preventative measure. Keep your eye out for signs that your pipes may be freezing, such as reduced water pressure, and turn the water off immediately. If you do lose heat, you can put towels under doorways to help isolate the heat in one room, and cover the windows with blankets at night to prevent further heat loss. If you have an automatic icemaker, particularly one with an in-door dispenser, you may want to empty the ice compartment if you lose power. This will not only stop the melted water from dripping out onto the floor, but also prevent it from refreezing inside the dispenser once the power comes back on, which may cause it to break.

With a little bit of investment and planning, you’ll be able to weather any storm and enjoy the winter.

Josh Baker is the founder and co-chair of BOWA, an award-winning design and construction company specializing in luxury renovations, remodels and additions in the greater Washington, D.C. area. BOWA has more than 25 years of experience and has been honored with 160 local and national awards. Reach him at 703-734-9050 or visit www.bowa.com.

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Real Estate

Thinking of renting your place short-term in D.C.?

Here are some key factors to consider

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You’ll need a license if renting your place in D.C.

Summer is coming, and in D.C., many homeowners turn their attention to generating revenue from their primary D.C. residence while they are away for the summer. Due to the way some D.C. employers enable staff to work remotely and permit longer vacation schedules in the summer months, many owners can find extra income annually by considering short-term rentals. Here are a few key things you should know before getting started.  

In 2021 the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs announced it was “finally ready to start implementing and enforcing ” a law passed three years earlier for short-term rentals (AirBnB, VRBO, etc.). According to DCist, the agency started accepting license applications for short-term rentals on Jan. 10 last year and started enforcing the law’s provisions in April 2022.

According to Martin Austermuhle’s “D.C. to Start Restricting Airbnb and Other Short-Term Rentals” he wrote for DCist, “The law applies specifically to short-term rentals, those lasting less than 30 days at a time. Under the new law, any D.C. homeowner who wants to rent out a bedroom, basement, or entire home on Airbnb or any other platform has to get a short-term rental license from DCRA. (The two-year license costs $104.50.)”

Charlotte Perry, owner of LUXbnb, a property manager specializing in furnished short-term rentals in D.C. for more than 15 years, is a trusted partner to Columbia Property Management. She shared her expertise and guidance with me on short-term rentals. Her business, LUXbnb, punches above its weight in the D.C. area, bringing owners greater opportunity to realize the gains they hope to make. She brings deep insight into what you can expect if you were to go down this path with your property. 

Companies like hers function like any other property manager might. LUXbnb collects the rents, “hotel” taxes, security deposits, departure cleaning, and any other applicable feeds on behalf of the owner. They manage turnover between guests including cleaning and any needed repairs. And at the end of each month, they release the rental income earned less the management fee and any repair costs or new purchases.

In the District, if the owner resides at the house during the rental, s/he can host short-term renters all year long with no consequence. However, if, like many of Charlotte’s clients, the owner is renting their property while they are gone during the summer or while on assignment for, say, the World Bank, those owners can only do so for a total of 90 days for the entire year. Owners like these will want to consider that under the new law, you cannot rent out your second home as an Airbnb/VRBO short term rental, and so knowing the regulations can save you a lot of headaches.

Registration Requirements  

Did you know all short-term rental hosts in D.C. are required to obtain a Short-term Rental License? 

According to the Office of Short-term Rental Licensing, “In order to operate a short-term or vacation rental in the District, the property must be owned by an individual, and serve as a homeowner’s primary residence – with the owner being eligible to receive the Homestead Tax Deduction. ”

To be eligible for such a license the home must be your primary residence and owner-occupied.  You will need to provide DC’s Office of Short-term Rental Licensing (DLCP) the following:

Specify whether you currently have a Homestead Exemption on the property.

Proof of your liability insurance with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage. (See below for more details).

A Certificate of Clean Hands issued within the last 30 days in the property owners name must be obtained from the Office of Tax and Revenue.

The owner, or “host,” must attest to the habitability of the property.

If the rental is a co-op, condo, or if the property is in a community where there is a homeowners’ association, the owner must attest that the bylaws, house rules, or other governing documents of the homeowner/condo/ cooperative governing board or association allow short-term and/or vacation rentals, do not prohibit owners from operating short-term rentals and/or vacation rentals, or that they have received written permission from the association to operate a short-term and/or vacation rental at the address.

Once you have successfully registered with DLCP, you will be provided with a license. You will then upload this Short-term Rental License number into your property profile in both Airbnb and VRBO. Those sites will then provide bookings for “under-31-nights” on your property.  

By working with an experienced rental property manager specializing in furnished temporary stays, you can ensure that you’re operating your short-term rental legally and safely. Better yet, you can avoid any penalties or fines that could result from non-compliance with District regulations.

Some factors you might want to consider on your journey to short-term rental success:

Cleaning Fee and Preparation Service

Perhaps you’ll want to have a cleaning service at-the-ready in case your renters have a slight disaster while they’re there. Or maybe you’ll want a service to clean prior to arrivals and directly after departures, so you can quickly turnaround the property for further rental. 

Pets

Do you want pets in your home while you’re away? If so, you might want to add in an automatic post-stay pet cleaning fee to cover the expense of hair and other less pleasant odor removal.

Insurance/Accidental Damage

Charlotte’s company takes out a $3,000 accidental damage insurance policy on every stay in lieu of holding a damage deposit. The cost to the guest is $39 per rental. This insurance is a safe-guard for the guest, property owner and her company, of course. This insurance policy “allows for the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another – in this case the insurance company. It is a simple way for all parties involved to mitigate risk, and most importantly, provides peace-of-mind.”

Liability Insurance

As you saw above, the District requires all owners to possess a liability insurance policy with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage to gain a license in the District. A variety of companies can help, according to the Motley Fool’s “The Ascent” newsletter, but some do this faster and better than others. And they even recommend ones that are best for Airbnb and VRBO rental owners. The Ascent’s best homeowners insurance for short-term rentals include the following:

Allstate Insurance: Best for possessing a large network of agents

Proper Insurance: Best for Airbnb and VRBO owners

Nationwide Insurance : Best for bundling policies

Farmers Insurance : Best for vacation rentals

Steadily Insurance: Best for getting coverage quickly

Safely Insurance: Best for fast claims processing

Should you have further questions or seek to explore the option of short or mid-term rentals, do not hesitate to contact Charlotte Perry directly at 202-341-8799 or [email protected]

Scott Bloom is senior property manager and owner of Columbia Property Management. 

For more information and resources, visit ColumbiaPM.com.

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Real Estate

Multiple options for buying a beach house meant for rentals

Consider going in with friends, making use of the off season

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Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

As we near the summer season and you hear the beach calling and taste the orange crushes – let’s take a look at a few ways to make those dreams a reality. The real estate market across the U.S. is still very hot due to the lack of inventory and the higher interest rates. However, when looking at an investment property, it’s a little easier to stomach a higher interest rate when it is offset by rental income. Let’s take a look at a few of the options we have for rental styles.

The typical idea of a beach vacation is for a week right? While we wish it were longer (and it can be!) the usual summer beach vacation is a week long. In the Rehoboth and Delaware coast region – most homes rent for a week at a time in the summer season. While the idea here is to make the most you can in summer rentals – you as the owner, of course, can always block off weeks when you want to use the home for your personal use. Talk about the best of both worlds.

Short-term rentals are a great way to make some extra money. If you plan to use your beach house for most of the season but know you have a wedding weekend here and a week long vacation planned in the Bahamas – then put that on a short term rental site for those dates. This way you can make a little extra money. Most of the time, you can make as much or even more than a weekly rental scenario. Short-term rentals are great for the sporadic renter – if you want to use your home most of the time but you want to rent it out every other weekend and during the week all of August – you don’t have the need for the “my family rents this home the same week every week and has done so for three years now…” kind of dedicated renters. It is important to make sure that your community allows for short-term rentals or this option might not be possible for you.

If you know anything about the coastal regions in the Northeast – things in the winter are not like they are in the summer. In my humble opinion – they are better! But I digress. If you are looking at a rental pro-forma and wonder if it makes sense to winterize your beach house or to rent it out, I would say rent it. You can easily rent for long weekends in the “off season” and in most cases you can also rent to one person for the entire off season period as off-season rentals are hard to come by in most markets. In this case, you wouldn’t charge the same premium you do during the summer. 

I have mentioned this ownership option before. If you have a group of friends that love to kiki in Rehoboth then it might just be an option to get four together and buy a house. I would say this option is a risky one and one I would highly encourage you to speak to an attorney about. The idea here is that an arrangement would be formed to outline what party uses the home during which periods of time. Expenses would be split based on share of the home.

Oftentimes people forget that you can often provide your rental home to a charity event for example an item at a silent auction for your children’s school gala. A portion would be tax deductible and as such is a savings for you that year. Of course – speak with a CPA to ensure these items are true and correct for you.

The above options are all great ideas in black and white on paper — but what option will work best for you is based on what you want, where you want to be, and for the last option, how well you trust your friends who you might be interested in doing a group beach house option with. In this case I would highly recommend speaking with an attorney who can walk you through the pros and cons of a group purchase with multiple people on a deed and mortgage. 

Cheers to a happy, healthy, and fun 2023 summer season and hope you can make your beach house dream a reality – I’m here to help.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243,  [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.

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Real Estate

What makes for a successful real estate transaction?

There is no magic wand to make the process go smoothly

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Taking the time to explain any confusing concepts more than once can help put a buyer’s mind at ease.

A successful real estate transaction involves multiple parties all working toward the same goal. The goal is “purchase the house” or “get the house sold.” It is not a confusing or vague goal. One of the most satisfying aspects of being a real estate agent is to see a client reach their goals.  

What can really help a client to achieve their goal is to have a team of people seamlessly working together to help them reach the goal. The team can include, but is not limited to, a lender, a title company, a home inspector, the agents involved, and sometimes a spouse, a family member, a best friend, an estate attorney, or an appraiser. When all these parties involved are working together toward the goal, the goal can be easily achieved. “Working together” can mean:

Recognizing that time is of the essence – returning phone calls, emails, and texts in a timely fashion.

Blocking out time in their day to see properties, attend inspections, or finding a suitable stand in (family member or a friend) should work obligations get in the way.

Taking the time to explain any confusing concepts more than once, and sometimes to multiple people.

Ensuring that needed documentation and funds arrive at the desired location by the agreed upon time and date.  

Having a shared communication style that helps the others involved in the transaction to feel comfortable.

Paying close attention to the details specified in any addenda, disclosures, or wiring instructions, etc. 

There is no magic potion or wand to make a real estate transaction smooth and easy. But when many of these guidelines are followed by all parties involved in the transaction, any issues that do arise can usually be worked out. As in most exchanges in life, a little grace can go a long way. If you have more questions about achieving your real estate goals, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with the Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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