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Home loan service Apex

DiFrancesco’s commitment to clients places her at pinnacle of success

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Franckie DiFrancesco, gay news, Washington Blade
Franckie DiFrancesco, gay news, Washington Blade

Francki DiFrancesco (Photo courtesy of DiFrancesco)

Fresh from a Sirius/XM Radio appearance last Saturday, longtime community personality Francki DiFrancesco fast personifies the passion fueling her successful career. The knowledgeable local mortgage banker at Apex Home Loans had finished discussing new lending regulations and was eager to talk the trade.

Facts and figures, however, aren’t what propelled the 45-year-old Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist (CMPS) to the pinnacle of her profession. That came with dedication and an instinct for customer service first honed as a popular local bartender and women’s nightlife event producer.

“If you can’t trust your bartender,” she jokes, “whom can you trust?” Working “back-in-the-day” at former nightclub Tracks and prior restaurant-lounge Trumpets on Dupont Circle’s 17th Street taught the value of an attentive ear and art of personal confidences. “Mortgage lending is more than just loan rates,” she explains, “people need to feel comfortable along the way.”

“Assisting a client should feel like I’m sitting in their living room,” says DiFrancesco, adding that her “goal is to always bring information on how to best structure a purchase or refinance a loan.” “It’s one of life’s most important financial decisions,” DiFrancesco emphasizes, “and it should be with a trusted adviser who understands their situation and future financial goals.”

In her earliest days in the business, clients would pick up mortgage documents at her bar at Trumpets. “I was their friendly gay mortgage banker,” DiFrancesco recalls. “Back then, client couples didn’t want to explain their relationship to a stranger in order to acquire ‘joint on title’ status and develop survivor arrangements,” she explains. “I was one of the first to handle same-sex couple loans.”

DiFrancesco, now a long-established Senior Mortgage Banker at Apex Home Loans headquartered in Rockville, Md., is a top producer at the award-winning firm. Apex was recently named “Best Small Business of the Year” in Montgomery County following national recognition as among the “Top 100 Mortgage Companies in America.”

Last year she handled 133 home loans totaling more than $45 million, highest volume by other than firm principals. Mission success at Apex, however, isn’t calculated in dollars – it’s measured in customer satisfaction.

Her recently launched “Francki’s Rock Bottom Rates” Facebook page provides testimonials. While mortgage processing oftentimes ranks alongside undergoing a root canal, DiFrancesco’s client commendations prove it can be otherwise. Credited with making it “easier than buying a refrigerator,” plentiful praise reaps a steady stream of referral and repeat business. Both individual borrowers and real estate agents laud her attention to the details leading to inking final documents.

DiFrancesco services D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Rehoboth Beach – as a direct lender. That’s an important distinction, she points out, allowing for an expedited process and independent underwriting brokers can’t provide. “There aren’t many who can handle all the steps,” noting her additional certifications throughout Delaware and New Jersey, with Pennsylvania and Florida licensing pending.

“Many banks don’t do business with brokers,” she notes, “they prefer to deal with mortgage bankers. We understand the local market and know our clients. We provide personalized service, handle credit vetting and hold the initial note.” That level of “customer relationship speeds up the process, allows us to shop for better rates among banks and provides the best solution for borrowers.”

Having raised two children with a former partner, DiFrancesco will soon share her Gaithersburg, Md., home with Dr. Tammy Anderson, a University of Delaware sociology professor. They met several years ago at a Mautner Project benefit while DiFrancesco was relaxing at her house in Rehoboth.

“Home is the place we feel most secure, where memories are made,” DiFrancesco says. Her clients quickly discover she loves helping them acquire theirs.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at [email protected].

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Real Estate

Yes, there are other coastal Delaware towns besides Rehoboth

Explore Bethany, Ocean View, Milton for more affordable options

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World War II watch towers dot the Delaware coastal landscape outside of Rehoboth. (Photo by Ethan Bean)

Often when we Washingtonians think of Delaware we think of Rehoboth Beach only. Well, believe it or not, there are actually other coastal towns besides Rehoboth — even some that are being taken over by gay buyers. Although you won’t find anything quite like Rehoboth, there are other options out there when looking for something perhaps a bit more affordable than Rehoboth within close proximity to all that Rehoboth has to offer.

The first option would be to look a bit farther inland. There are great condo options a bit inland from Rehoboth that will afford you some more space and are more economically priced. These options are usually a closer commute to those of us heading to the beach from D.C. Think of those condos you pass along Route 1 near the outlets – still having a Rehoboth address, but not the asking price of in-town Rehoboth. 

Let’s take a look at coastal towns that are outside of Rehoboth. Let me preface this by saying that I am a Delawarian. Born and raised in a real estate centric family with deep roots in Delaware. My grandfather always said, “Buy as close to the water as they won’t make more of it.” Obviously he was kind of wrong, because they make these hideous man-made retention pond, but of course he was speaking about the ocean and bay. No matter what coastal town I speak about in this article, they will be costly. It is just a fact. There are some options, however, that are priced a bit better than others.

Bethany Beach, for example. I know, it’s a bit sleepy and considered “family friendly,” however it is also priced better than Rehoboth. I am biased because that’s where I hang my hat and it’s a quick drive or Uber to Rehoboth for a night out or day at Poodle Beach. I also enjoy the fact that I have oodles of friends who have boats and have easy access to the bay for kayaking and afternoons out on the boats for happy hours. There’s nothing better than watching the sunset on the bay in a boat with a glass of rosé, something easily done with the access points from the Bethany Beach area.

Another coastal town that is on the opposite side of the state is Broadkill Beach. If you have ever visited the Outer Banks, this is the Outer Banks of Delaware. Broadkill Beach is technically in Milton, Del., and is a smaller beach community with essentially one road in and out providing a very exclusive feel for residents. The beaches are not like those of Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany, or Fenwick. There is no boardwalk, no tourist attractions, little commercial development, etc. You literally go here for the beach, rest, and relaxation. Peace and quiet — the polar opposite from what Rehoboth provides.

Lastly, there are always quaint inland towns that offer respite from the beach but allow a quick drive to the sand. Some of my favorites are the town of Milton, which is a quick drive to Lewes beach. Milton provides a charming downtown area with shops, restaurants, coffeeshops, a lively arts district, and more. Truly a once upon a time sleepy town that in the past few years has woken up – it still retains its charm and character. Some of my favorite restaurants and shops are here. A quick drive takes you to the beaches of Lewes and also the town of Lewes, which is equally charming.

My next favorite coastal town – again – because I am biased – is Ocean View, which is a town outside of Bethany Beach. This town is more spread out, however it offers lots of restaurants, coffeeshops, Delaware State parks and this side of the Indian River Bridge, you gain easy access to the bay, which truly changes your way of life.

The next time you are at the beach, take time from kik’ing at Aqua or Poodle Beach and spend some time exploring the quaint town of Milton or drive along scenic Route 1 south to Bethany Beach to see what other coastal towns Delaware has to offer outside of Rehoboth that might be a more economical option in making your beach home a reality. I promise that a second home at the Delaware beaches is more within reach than you may think.

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 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

Summer means time for annual maintenance

‘Gonna turn this house around somehow’

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Spring and summer mean it’s time to freshen up your landscaping and curb appeal.

It’s almost summer! The last days of school are here, people are getting ready to wear their swimsuits again, and suddenly BBQ sauce is front and center on all the aisles at the grocery store. What does that mean for all the homeowners out there? It means a bit of yearly maintenance.  

Summer maintenance checklist:

  • Check gutters and clean downspouts. The summer storms can knock a lot of branches and leaves around.
  • Have the HVAC serviced if you haven’t already.  A good rule of thumb is after winter, and again after summer. 
  • It’s time to trim back bushes and trees away from power lines. 
  • Wash windows and replace the window screens.
  • Reverse the ceiling fans so that it pushes the cool air downward.  You want them to spin counter-clockwise.
  • Clean the garbage disposal and the dishwasher.  You can add a cup or two of vinegar to the dishwasher and run a low wash cycle.  
  • Clean baseboards.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – replace batteries as needed.
  • Check outdoor hoses and appliance hoses – refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. for any leaks or cracks.  
  • Freshen up your yard, porch or deck spaces. A quick trip to a hardware or a garden center can help you liven up any outdoor space and get it ready for entertaining.  Don’t forget the citronella candles and bug spray.
  • Power wash decks and driveways.
  • Clean and scrub any grills. Check any hoses and connections for gas grills.  
  • Get a dehumidifier for any musty basement spaces, clean it up and plug it in.
  • Check seals on washers and dryers, and wipe down with an all-purpose cleaner.

Spending a little time and energy on your home – one of the biggest investments you will make, can help you to improve its resale value and optimize the enjoyment of your purchase.  Spring and summer can also be time to tackle those larger projects such as cleaning out a garage, a closet, or a spare bedroom.  

As someone who just moved after 10 years in the same building last year, I can speak to the level of freedom one feels after taking old appliances to Goodwill, finally selling that table or those chairs online, and hauling out bags and bags of trash. Do yourself a favor and clean it all up. You will be so happy you did when it’s finally done, and it can give you a sense of new beginnings.  

How might you use that extra space after you clean it up? Who knows, there’s only one way to find out. Need a little motivation to get all these projects done?  Don’t forget to find your favorite summer playlist, or even put on a Gay Pride Playlist. You could even recreate your favorite scene from “Saltburn” and dance around naked in your newly cleaned home when you are done. 

Joseph Hudson is a referral agent with Metro Referrals. Reach him at [email protected] or 703-587-0597.

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Real Estate

What property should I purchase if I’m not sure how long I’ll be in D.C.?

Row homes, English basements and more options abound

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D.C. offers an array of properties no matter how long you plan to live here.

Great question! If you are looking at real estate as an investment – two great property types to look at would be a smaller row home and also a row home that has an English basement. Some property types that you might want to stay away from would be a condo or a co-op unit. Let’s take a look at why these properties would be good and bad:

Smaller Row Home

Row homes are a great investment for many reasons. You can often find smaller two-bedroom row homes in the same price point as those of a two-bedroom condo, which might be seen as a “condo alternative” and afford you much more freedom. There are no condo associations or home owner associations that you must belong to so this keeps your monthly carrying costs on the lower end and you are allowed to make more independent decisions. For example, if you wanted to paint the house purple – in most cases you would be allowed to. If you wanted to change the color of the front door or put shutters on the windows – you would be allowed to. This is usually not the case with condo or co-ops. 

When it comes to the rental market – similarly renters like the independence of privacy in a home and not being among many other people. The luxury of perhaps direct off-street parking, outdoor space or even just more space at the same rental amount that a two bedroom condo rent would be – this is more appealing for a renter and would likely rent faster than that of a condo or co-op. For this model – you would obviously need to move out before you could take advantage of the investment of this type of real estate.

A row home with an English basement 

With this type of real estate you can immediately begin receiving income after your purchase. You can occupy the upstairs of the row home, which is usually the larger portion of the home, or you could even occupy the basement, which is usually the 1-2 bedroom smaller portion of the home and receive rental income for the other half of the home. This can be in the way of a yearly traditional tenant or in the manner of short-term rentals (check with the most recent STR policies within the District). With this model, you stand to make even more of a return on your investment upon your move out of the home as you can rent the entire home or you can rent the top unit and basement unit independently to gross a larger amount of income. It is important to note that it is never advised to purchase a row home unless you can fully afford it WITHOUT the idea of accepting additional rental income to offset the mortgage cost.

These two options listed above are the most typical found within the District because they are fee simple, standalone pieces of real estate and are not within a condo association, HOA, or a co-op with governing documents that tell you what you can and cannot do which makes row homes an attractive type of real estate for a long-term hold.

When looking at types of properties that you might want to stay away from – condos and co-ops come to mind and I say this with a caveat. You can surely purchase these types of real estate but must first understand the in’s and out’s of their governing documents. Condos are bound by the governing condominium documents which will tell you for how long your lease must be, a minimum of lease days, you can only rent after you have lived in the residence for a number of years, likely will stipulate no transient housing – which means no short term rentals. It could also quite possibly say that you can only rent for a specific amount of time and lastly it will also stipulate that only a specific amount of people can rent at one time in order to stay below the regulated lending requirements set forth by Fannie and Freddie Mac. Similarly, Co-ops are even more strict – they can tell you that you are just not able to rent at all or if you can you can only do so for a specific number of years and then you are required to sell or return back to the unit as your primary residence. 

As you can see, when it comes to condos and co-ops there are more specific and stringent bylaws that owners must agree to and follow that limit or even outlaw your ability to rent your piece of real estate. When you purchase a row home – there are no regulations on what you can and cannot do regarding rentals (outside of the short-term regulations within the District).

When looking for a piece of real estate in the District it is important to think through how long you could possibly wish to hold onto this property and what the future holds. If you think this is a long-term hold then you might consider a row home option – again, you can find a smaller two-bedroom row home that amounts to that price similar to a two-bedroom condo and would afford you a more flexible lifestyle. It’s important to work with a real estate agent to ensure that they guide you in this process and help answer any questions you might have. It’s also always advised to speak directly to a short-term rental specialist should you wish to go down that route as they will truly understand the in’s and out’s of that marketplace.

All in all, there are specific property types that work for everyone and within the District we have a plethora of options for everyone.

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 provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243,  [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.

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