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Real Estate

Style vs. substance in your new home

Look beneath the surface for hidden problems when buying

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surface, gay news, Washington Blade, homebuyers

A beautifully staged home could be masking hidden problems like water damage and mold.

You walk into the lounge, anxious to spend the evening with the man you met on the latest dating app. Looking around nervously, you spy him leaning against the bar, sipping from a martini glass.

He’s tall and fit. He’s wearing the latest fashion from head to toe. He’s meticulously well-groomed, with whitened, evenly spaced teeth, hair stylishly tousled, and the stubble of a beard at just the right length.

As you approach, he flashes a brilliant smile, extends a perfectly manicured hand and says, “Good evening. I’m Francisco.”

He guides you to a table by the window where he has ordered the chef’s tasting menu with wine pairing. During dinner, he encourages you to talk about yourself and hangs on every word.  He makes you laugh and feel at ease.

In the morning you awaken Chez Francisco to find a slightly paunchy bedmate with grimy hair and bad breath. His elevator shoes are tossed in the corner, the shirt he wore is frayed around the cuffs and his pearly white teeth are in a glass of water on the bedside table. You rise and begin your walk of shame, wondering how Cinderfella from last night became a pumpkin by morning.

Now imagine Francisco is a house.

He is young, fresh and vibrant. His ceilings are vaulted, his roof is new and he’s built like an exposed brick wall. His kitchen has a steely, come-hither look and his lawn is beautifully manscaped.

But like the morning-after in our first scenario, you need to prepare yourself for what’s behind the façade before you invest in your future home and end up with only the lipstick and the pig.

Many homebuyers learned a valuable lesson in the early 2000s when self-appointed rehab investors flipped properties like pancakes, taking construction and design shortcuts along the way, so begin your due diligence by assembling a “househunting bag o’ tricks” to take with you when you visit potential suitors with your agent.

Your bag should include, at minimum, a 20’ tape measure, a pocket level, a marble and paper towels. These items will be helpful in looking for “things that make you go hmmm” in each home and the camera on your cell phone will help you remember specific information about each one after speed dating through several.

Upon entering the house, take a sniff.  Do you smell fresh paint, new carpet, mildew, pet urine or air freshener? Could a good smell be masking a bad one? Are your sinuses or allergies affected?

Look up and look down in each room. Initially your eye will be drawn to a lovely kitchen, a sunny window, or elegant staging and you may miss the water stain on the ceiling or the gap in the hardwood floors.

Count the number of electrical outlets in each room to avoid surprises later. Open and close windows and doors to see if a) they actually open and close, b) they lock securely and c) they’re not cracked or obstructed.

Measure doors, hallways and stairwells to be sure your furniture will fit. Place your marble on each hard surface floor; it should not roll significantly downhill. Use your pocket level to check other surfaces such as countertops and window sills.

Flush toilets to see how long their tanks take to refill. Run water in sinks to check for good pressure, slow-running drains, or plumbing leaks in the cabinets below; keep your paper towels handy.

Open the doors to the dishwasher, stove and refrigerator. Does one appliance obstruct the other? If the refrigerator is placed against a side wall, is there enough clearance to remove shelves and bins?

Don’t risk the safety of your future party guests. Walk on any porches and decks and move about normally to see if they feel sturdy and their handrails are secure.

Look at concrete walls and floors in the basement. They may have been recently painted to freshen up the home or the paint may be covering a more serious problem such as water intrusion or mold.

All good so far? Then have your agent assist you in making an offer and call a professional home inspector to conduct a thorough check-up.

But if you’re ready to run because your Francisco home is not who you thought he was, then perhaps Old Joe down the street is your perfect match. He’s a warm, solid, interesting man of character who, with just a little TLC, will stand by you for years as you form a long-term relationship. And he’s open next Sunday.

Valerie M. Blake can be reached at 202-246-8602 or [email protected]. Each Keller Williams Realty office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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Real Estate

How is the 2023 real estate market starting off? 

And what we can expect in the coming months

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The year is off to an encouraging start for the local housing market.

One interesting statistic is that there was a 25% increase in weekly mortgage applications two weeks ago, according to a CNBC story I read recently. Yes, mortgage applications are down from an entire year ago, but they are starting to rebound, as the interest rates have started to soften a little bit over the past few months.  

Another interesting statistic I heard is that in the last quarter of 2022, 42% of sellers were giving concessions to buyers at the closing table, a 10-year high, according to an article in Money magazine.  

No one has that proverbial crystal ball, but it does seem like I have heard, anecdotally, from many agents that the buyers are starting to come back out into the market. They are realizing that there might be concessions they can get from the seller, they can do the home inspection, and maybe even ask for repairs or credits, and not feel like they must walk blindfolded into the housing market without some sense of confidence.

Sellers are also getting creative with attracting buyers. Some sellers are trying to find lenders that will help the potential buyer find a competitive interest rate or will offer to pay part of the buyer’s cost to buy down the rate for the first few years of the loan. Some sellers are hiring home inspectors, prior to listing their homes on the market, to do an inspection of their home and then doing the needed repairs before it even hits the market, which should provide a cleaner and smoother contract period for the buyer AND the seller.

During 2022, D.C. raised the HPAP (Home Purchase Assistance Program) amounts.  Those who qualify to use the program for down payment assistance can get thousands of dollars more for their down payment, and the income limits were raised also, meaning more people qualify to use the program.

As we all know, a lot can change over a year, but Q1 2023 seems like it is starting off with a busier real estate market than the last quarter of 2022. Buyers seem to feel more confident to get back into the market, and many sellers are willing to work with all types of buyers to get their homes under contract, sold, and to move forward with their lives.

If you have any questions about these programs or thoughts about moving into the market in 2023, 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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Real Estate

Spring market readiness: buyer’s edition

Get ready for more inventory and faster sales

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The spring market technically gets underway next month.

Here in the D.C. metro area there are historically two cyclical “busy” times in the market. Spring market, which falls between February through June/July, and fall market, which is around August until about November. Honestly, the D.C. metro market is historically always pretty active, however the spring and fall markets are those times where we see an increase in inventory, open houses attendance, open house traffic and properties selling quicker. As we are heading into the spring market time (historically begins after the Super Bowl, aka the Rihanna concert for my non-sports folks that is Feb. 12) I wanted to go over a few tips to do NOW in order to make sure you are ready to go.

PICK A QUALIFIED REAL ESTATE AGENT

It is vital to work with a real estate agent that you can trust. I often tell my clients that we are about to get real intimate and basically start dating. The home buying process involves many late night phone calls, weekends spent driving around looking at properties and learning truly what a client wants. For this very reason you should feel comfortable with your agent. You need someone who will speak your language as well as speak the language of negotiating and get you into a home.

Where do you start looking for a real estate professional? For starters, I am sure you know one real estate agent in D.C., but if you don’t, look to friends and family. Ask if they know of a great Realtor and then go from there. It’s not always the agents that are plastered all over bus stops or grocery carts that you should gravitate to; do some homework and seek an agent who writes for the Washington Blade, was voted Best DC Realtor by the Washington Blade readers (aka me – and this is totally a joke – maybe).

PRE-APPROVAL

This is almost more important than selecting a real estate agent. Find a lender who will fight for you. One thing as a listing agent that I love to see is when a buyer’s lender calls me when a purchase offer is submitted to tell me how wonderfully well qualified their clients (aka you) are and that they will fight to keep the transaction on the estimated timeline. This illustrates that you have a team behind you that supports you and your goal of purchasing a home. When I get a call from a buyer’s agent that they have submitted an offer for their clients and this is why they are the most well-qualified buyers and love the home right before I get a call from a lender who speaks highly of their buyer clients and the buyer’s agent — chef’s kiss — it truly does make a difference.

Where do you start looking for a lender? Well once you meet an amazing real estate agent, ask who they would recommend. Please note that we as real estate professionals are not allowed to receive any kickbacks from lenders or service providers. I always provide a list of lenders that I have worked with in the past that have performed well – it’s your duty to research and speak to those lenders, and more, in order to select the one that is best suited for you.

UNDERSTAND YOUR CURRENT LEASE

This is one that is often overlooked. You should have a look over your current lease. Reviewing your lease will give you timeline info as to when you can start your search and what timeframes you are working with. For example, if you are on a month-to-month lease currently then you can begin your home search now. You will need to give your current landlord a 30-day notice that will likely line up with a 30-day closing period, which is pretty standard here in the D.C. metro market. If you have a lease with a few months left, it’s important to understand what a possible lease break would look like from a financial perspective or if you are not willing to break your lease then it will give you a timeframe of when you can start the home buying process.

DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE GOAL

This is super important. While the market has changed in the past few months, we are still not out of the water completely. The ripple effect of COVID and the constraints on the housing market will be seen for a while longer. While you might not have 15 offers on a home it’s likely you could still expect two or three. Even though we are heading into the spring market where there is historically an increase in inventory, we are in such a shortage currently that it’s even more vital now than ever before to ensure you are ready to rock and roll.

The home buying process can truly be a fun process. By following the steps above and ensuring that you are well equipped and positioned to start off the spring real estate market there is little doubt that you will meet your goal of becoming a homeowner this year.

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

Affordable home renovations for successful selling

From paint to floors, a few simple fixes to boost value

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Refreshing your home’s paint job can add instant value.

Without question, the 2023 housing market is off to a slow start, particularly in comparison to the red-hot market that existed during the pandemic. This can understandably be discouraging for those who need to sell their home and hope to obtain a favorable offer. The good news is that one constant truth about the housing market is that it will change – eventually. In the meantime, there are steps that hopeful sellers can take to increase the value of their homes and their chances of obtaining the offer that they want. 

One step that some sellers consider is making minor upgrades or renovations that will increase the sale value of their home. This leads to the question – what are some fairly easy upgrades a homeowner can make without breaking the bank that may be appealing to potential buyers? Let’s take a look at a few options together.

Refresh the paint: This is a simple and very cost-effective option for giving your home a new, fresh look. A quick coat of paint can truly work wonders. It helps the home look brighter, cleaner, and newer, and can be appealing to the eye of many potential buyers. When considering which colors to choose, it’s important to keep in mind that selecting more traditional, neutral colors is often advisable. After all, you don’t know what a potential buyer may like, so choosing colors that appeal to many and are more subdued may be a wise choice. You may want to also consider repainting the trim and the ceilings to complete the fresh new look.

Make some easy kitchen upgrades: Many have heard that upgrading the kitchen is one of the most popular renovations to a home and one with the best return on investment. As the kitchen is often the hub of the house, this is certainly true. The good news is that homeowners often need not do a complete and expensive kitchen renovation to get some bang for their buck. Some more simple tasks like upgrading older appliances to newer ones, changing out light fixtures, or repainting cabinets and adding new hardware may go a long way toward increasing your kitchen’s appeal to potential buyers.

Landscaping: Landscaping is the literal “curb appeal” that many homeowners need to give their house that extra sparkle to attract potential buyers. Upgrading your landscaping may sound intimidating at first, but it can truly be a cost-effective option for increasing the value of your home. It may be worthwhile to pay for a consultation with a landscaper regarding some steps you can take to increase your home’s appeal from the outside. Often these options can be very simple – things like removing debris, planting a few shrubs here and there, pruning trees, and other similar tasks. After all, the first step to getting a buyer to appreciate the inside of your home is to draw them in from the outside.

Refinish hardwood floors: While replacing your flooring entirely is an expensive and time-consuming process, the good news is that refinishing your floors is a fairly simple and cost-effective option for increasing your home’s appeal. It can add extra shine and a little bit of wow factor, without breaking the bank. 

These are only a few options of many for cost-effectively updating your home. Regardless of the market conditions, there are always steps that potential sellers can take to add to the appeal of their home and hopefully catch the eye of potentially interested buyers. Another important step that sellers can always take is consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent who knows their particular community and what attracts buyers in that community.  At GayRealEstate.com, we are here to help you find the perfect agent to achieve your real estate goals.

At GayRealEstate.com We’re Here for You

The current real estate market may seem intimidating to those hoping to sell their home for the best possible price – and that’s understandable. While it may be intimidating, however, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By marketing your home well, investing wisely in renovations and staging, and finding the right real estate agent, you can greatly increase your chances of obtaining a favorable offer, even in a difficult market. 

At GayRealEstate.com, we’re here to help you find that real estate agent. You need and deserve an agent who understands the unique needs of LGBTQ home buyers and sellers, and who understands the market in your local community. If you’re ready to get started, get in touch with us today. We look forward to learning how we can help. 

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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