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House hunting etiquette

The do’s and don’ts of looking for your next home

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house hunting etiquette, gay news, Washington Blade

Follow these common sense tips when house hunting.

It’s April, which means the spring real estate market is kicking into high gear. Lots of buyers and sellers wait until the spring to list their home or start their house hunting. With the market — and showings — at their peak in the next two months, we thought we’d share our top tips for house hunting etiquette.

We’ve learned over the years that following these basic rules of house hunting etiquette goes a long way in making sellers and their agents happy (and more inclined to accept YOUR offer). So here are our top DO’s and DON’Ts for house hunting etiquette this spring.

House hunting do’s

Know Your Budget. This one is essential. Take the time to get pre-approved for a mortgage before heading out. It does not help you to see homes you cannot afford. Stick to your budget.

Be On Time. This almost goes without saying but remember to be respectful of everyone’s time – your Realtor’s, the homeowners, the seller’s agent, as well as your own. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to set up showings and coordinate multiple schedules.

Leave the Kids at Home. When you get close to settling on “the” home, we will absolutely go back for a visit with the kids. However, when you are just starting out and touring homes and neighborhoods for the first time, line up a sitter. Doing so will allow you and your Realtor focus better and cover more ground.

Be Open to Going Shoeless. Most sellers won’t require you to take off your shoes, but be prepared. Leave the lace up shoes at home and wear slips ons.

Be Respectful of The Sellers’ Privacy. While opening closets and cabinets to check out the space is generally fine, avoid opening dresser drawers or examining family photos on the walls.

Mum’s The Word. As mom always said, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” This rule holds true when house hunting as well. The sellers may be within earshot (hello, nanny cams!) and you don’t want to offend them, especially if it’s a house you’re seriously considering. This goes the other way as well. If you love the house, play it cool. You wouldn’t want to tip your hand before the negotiations. Wait until you’re in the car with your Realtor to share your thoughts.

Take Lots of Notes. Be sure you take plenty of notes on the homes you are touring so you can debrief with your Realtor and any other decision-makers at the end of the day. Always ask permission (from one of the agents or the homeowner if they are present) if you want to take any photos of the home.

House hunting don’t’s

Look at Listings Above Your Budget. Doing so wastes everyone’s time and energy, from your agent to the sellers’ agent to the homeowners, who likely spend a fair amount a time preparing for each showing. Plus, seeing homes you cannot afford to purchase generally sets up unrealistic expectations in what you can purchase (and makes those you can seem like a let down).

Ask To Go Out Last Minute. 24 hours’ notice is typically best, especially when touring homes that are still occupied. We will always try to see what we can set up, but if you know you want to see a property, please give as much notice as possible to increase chances we can get in to see it.

Cancel at the Last Minute. On the flip side, don’t cancel on a whim. Your Realtor (and the seller) has done a great deal of legwork to set up your tour – coordinating the showings, mapping out a route. It takes more time to undo it all. So unless a true emergency, please don’t cancel on your agent at the 11th hour.

Block Access. This one is pretty common sense, don’t block the driveway or box in another car when parking at a house you are touring.

Bring Food or Drink into a Home You Are Touring. Again, it is common sense, but let’s avoid any risk of spilling a latte on the white carpet.

Bring an Entourage. Try to keep your group to no more than two or three. If your parents are coming to town and you want to go back to a property you are considering, we are always happy to accommodate. But try not to have visitors or casual friends tag along on your initial tours.

Go Solo. Once you have signed with a Realtor, do not tour any properties without your agent. It’s fine to attend Open Houses on your own, but always let the listing agent know you are working with a Realtor. Also, when in the home, stay with your Realtor while touring. Avoid wandering off on your own or letting your kids run around in the house.

Make Yourself at Home. This is not your home (yet). Please don’t stretch out on any sofas or beds or test out any recliners in homes you are touring. Likewise, please don’t let your kids grab items in the home or attempt to play the piano (we’ve seen it before!) or with toys around the house. This should also be an obvious one, but please don’t take anything from the home other than listing materials. You should also avoid using the home’s bathroom unless it’s a true emergency.

Don’t Stay TOO Long. Generally, unless a home is very large (or small), 30 minutes is plenty of time for a showing. Spending two hours there on an initial visit is not necessary and generally frowned upon by all. Also, avoid multiple visits without taking any action.

Show the Love. Do NOT tell the seller’s Realtor or the agent holding the open how much you love the home. You don’t want to tip your hand to the listing agent in any way.

The Bottom Line: Follow this basic house hunting etiquette to keep all parties happy. Follow the Golden Rule – treat others in the process as you would wish to be treated. Respect everyone’s time, privacy and requests. Trust us, agents prefer to work with other agents and homebuyers who are respectful and considerate.

If we can help you find our dream home this spring, please reach out. We are always happy to help.

The Goodhart Group is McEnearney Associates’ top-producing team. In 2016, they helped 120 clients achieve their real estate goals. Led by Sue & Allison Goodhart, they have been named a Top Agent by both Washingtonian and Northern Virginia magazines. The Goodhart Group can be reached at 703-362-3221 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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Real Estate

Condo rules for animals vary widely

ADA covers the right to service and assistance

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Condos often restrict the breed and size of dog allowed but rules for service animals are different.

When my clients are considering the purchase of a condominium or cooperative, they initially have three association guidelines on their minds: the rental policy, the renovation policy, and the pet policy.

Historically, Northern Virginia and Maryland condominiums have been more pet-friendly than those in the District. In D.C., many condos restrict the number of pets you can have, some limit the size of the pet or type of animal, and a few will not allow certain breeds of dogs.

But what of the person who needs a service dog or an emotional support animal? First, it’s important to make a distinction between three types of animals that provide assistance to people. 

A service animal (SA), usually a dog but in some cases, a miniature horse, is trained to work with people who have disabilities such as those outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA’s official definition of a disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” 

Common major life activities include seeing, hearing, walking, caring for oneself, and communicating. In addition, many medical issues are covered under the ADA, such as diabetes, epilepsy, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Service animals and Assistance animals (AA) are trained to perform tasks that relate to specific disabilities. Assistance Dogs International notes that it can take 180 to 260 hours of daily training over six months, depending on the medical or other special tasks needed, to obtain certification.

Most of us have seen a guide dog help someone who is blind to get where she is going safely. A dog might also be trained to wake a diabetic when his blood sugar drops during the night, to let a deaf person know someone is at the door, or to alert a person with a seizure disorder to take his medicine. 

An emotional support animal (ESA) is there to provide its owner with affection, comfort, and relief from anxiety or stress. ESAs can be dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, or any other type of animal with whom its owner can develop an emotional connection. Care should be taken, however, to match the type of animal with its intended environment.

There is no specific training required for an ESA. Standard dog training is normally enough to ensure that the animal has no behavioral problems in private or in public while still providing comfort to the owner. 

The definitions wouldn’t be complete without mentioning therapy animals. They can be dogs, cats, rabbits, or other animals that are easily transported. Their job is primarily to visit people in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and similar accommodations to encourage healing or reduce stress, where they can provide comfort to long and short-term residents, help with improving fine motor skills, and assist with physical or occupational therapy.

So, who decides whether Fido, Fluffy, Bugs, or miniature Mr. Ed can move into your condo? 

The laws and regulations outlined in the ADA cover the right to service and assistance animals in housing, restaurants, stores, and other public accommodations. The federal Fair Housing Act expands on the ADA to include emotional support animals, but only with respect to residences. 

Housing providers should familiarize themselves with the provisions of these laws to avoid unnecessary confrontation and potential legal action. Here are the most salient points; they apply to leasing as well as purchasing a home. 

Neither an SA/AA nor an ESA is legally considered a pet, so pet policies, including weight limits or breed restrictions, do not apply. 

You may be asked whether your animal is medically prescribed. For a service dog, only two questions are allowed: Is the dog a service dog that is required because of a disability, and what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? No other documentation is needed.

For an ESA, you should be prepared to submit a letter from your physician or therapist stating that you have a disability that benefits from such an animal. 

You cannot be asked for specific information about your disability or diagnosis for either type of animal.

While not specifically covered in the law, landlords and housing boards can reasonably request a copy of current vaccinations and state, county, or city registrations

Supplemental rents and deposits are prohibited; however, you will likely be responsible for any damage caused by the animal, so housebreaking is an important part of training.

And with housebreaking in mind, it’s time for me to relieve some stress by putting a leather, studded collar on my dog and walking him on leash around the neighborhood. Does anyone know where I can get one?

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate / @properties. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs

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