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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

Totally radical home buying

We should celebrate advancement of homeownership rights

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The phrase “totally radical” came of age in the 1980s and was defined as cool, wonderful, or awesome. Its synonym, wicked, can be found in nearly all Ben Affleck movies and a cry of “Excellent!” will bring back memories of an adventure had by Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) in 1989.

Although some people are not ready for cocooning yet, homeownership is still a cornerstone of financial strength and wealth building. For LGBTQ individuals, owning a home can provide a sense of economic security and a sanctuary where they can express their personalities freely and without fear of discrimination or harassment. 

Whether house, condominium, or cooperative apartment, owning a place to chill allows you to build a legacy and provide for future generations. It offers the stability needed to plan for the future, whether that involves raising a family, supporting aging parents, or ensuring a spouse’s or partner’s financial security.

Homeowners are also more likely to invest in their communities, fostering strong, inclusive, bitchin’ neighborhoods. For many LGBTQ people, a home is “In the District,” which prides itself on diversity. Homeownership allows individuals to create personal spaces that reflect their identities and values, contribute to the city’s rich cultural tapestry, support local businesses, and participate in community events and governance.

The journey toward homeownership for gay individuals has evolved over the years, reflecting broader societal changes and the struggle for LGBTQ rights. The stark contrast between the ’80s and now highlights the progress made, the challenges that still exist, and future uncertainties brought forth by the space cadets in our political system. 

In the 1980s, homeownership for gay people was bogus. The decade was marked by lame, pervasive discrimination and limited legal protections. The HIV/AIDS epidemic further stigmatized the gay community, intensifying societal prejudices. This climate of fear and hostility permeated various aspects of life, including the housing market.

Gay individuals faced overt discrimination from landlords, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders, even in the rental market. It was not uncommon for same-sex couples to be denied housing simply because of their sexual orientation. Even in the late ’90s I had clients looking for homes in Prince William County, Va., who had to hightail it out of an open house when told to take a hike. I kid you not!

Financial institutions were often unwilling to grant mortgages to same-sex couples or openly gay individuals. When they did, the terms were often less favorable than those offered to heterosexual couples. This made the dream of homeownership significantly harder to achieve, even though DINKs (dual income, no kids) tended to have more household income than so-called “traditional” families.

Additionally, the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships posed harsh challenges. Without the ability to marry, same-sex couples faced difficulties in co-owning property and ensuring that their partner had legal rights to the home. Estate planning was complicated, as inheritance laws did not recognize same-sex partners, potentially leading to the loss of a home upon a partner’s death.

The landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, was a fantabulous moment. This ruling provided same-sex couples with the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, including the ability to jointly own property and inherit without complication.

Anti-discrimination laws have also evolved. The definition of sex under the Federal Fair Housing Act has been expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as have protected classes in Maryland and Virginia. The District has taken that a step further; our protected classes also include gender expression and personal appearance. 

Organizations like the DC Center for the LGBT Community and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) offer resources and advocacy for LGBTQ+ homebuyers. These organizations provide educational workshops, networking opportunities, and support to navigate the housing market.

The advancement of homeownership rights for gay people is a testament to the righteous resilience and determination of the LGBTQ+ community. As society continues to strive for equality, it is essential to address the remaining challenges to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can achieve the goal of homeownership.

In 2024, the only limitations on owning a home are finding one and being able to afford it. Pride weekend is a great time to go to open houses. You’ll probably be walking right by several. 

But if you’re not ready yet and just feel like getting your ’80s jams on, grab your disco balls and check out the Totally Tubular Festival at The Anthem at The Wharf on July 14.I’ll be Desperately Seeking Susan and will, as they used to say in the ’70s, catch you on the flip flop.

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Real Estate

Decorating tips for Pride in D.C.

Perfect time to add a dash of creativity to your living space

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Hang your Pride flag and other LGBTQ-themed décor this Pride month. (Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

As the vibrant LGBTQ community in Washington, D.C., gears up for the much-anticipated Pride celebrations on June 8 and June 9, it’s the perfect time to add a splash of color and a dash of creativity to your living space. Normally, I know you’re used to reading more educational and serious articles in this space. In the spirit of D.C. Pride this year, I thought a bit of levity would be welcomed.

Whether you’re in a cozy condo, a spacious home, or a rental apartment, here are some fabulous ways to zhuzh up your indoors and outdoors with Pride-themed décor. 

Indoors: Celebrate with Style

1. Colorful Accents Everywhere

Transform your living area into a festive space by incorporating the colors of the rainbow. Here’s how:

• Throw Pillows and Blankets: Swap out your regular throw pillows and blankets for those in bright, rainbow colors. This simple change can make your space instantly feel more festive.

• Pride Flags: Hang LGBTQ Pride flags on your walls or in your windows. The traditional rainbow flag is a staple, but also consider including other flags like the bisexual, transgender, or pansexual flags to celebrate the diversity of our community.

• Art and Posters: Display Pride-themed art or inspirational quotes from LGBTQ+ icons. Local artists often have prints and posters that reflect the spirit of Pride.

2. Light It Up. Lighting can set the mood for any celebration:

• Fairy Lights: Drape rainbow-colored fairy lights around your living room or bedroom for a magical touch.

• LED Candles: Use multi-colored LED candles to safely add a warm glow to your space.

3. Tabletop Décor. Celebrate at every meal with:

• Tablecloths and Runners: A vibrant rainbow tablecloth or runner can turn every dining experience into a celebration.

• Centerpieces: Create centerpieces with flowers in hues of the rainbow, or use colorful glass bottles as vases.

4. DIY Pride Crafts. Get creative with DIY decorations:

• Rainbow Paper Chains: Make paper chains in rainbow colors and hang them across your rooms.

• Pride Mason Jars: Paint mason jars in rainbow stripes and use them to hold utensils or flowers.

Outdoors: A Festive Façade

1. Balcony or Patio Pride. If you have outdoor space, make it a part of the celebration:

• Rainbow Banners and Streamers: Decorate your balcony or patio railings with rainbow banners and streamers.

• Outdoor Flags: Fly a large Pride flag from your balcony or in your garden.

2. Welcoming Door Décor. Your front door can be a bold statement of support:

• Pride Wreath: Create or buy a wreath featuring rainbow colors or themed around different LGBTQ+ flags.

• Welcome Mats: Greet visitors with Pride-themed welcome mats.

3. Garden and Window Dressings. Let your garden or exterior windows echo your Pride:

• Window Decals: Use removable rainbow decals to decorate windows facing the street.

• Garden Flags: Place small rainbow or other LGBTQ+ flags throughout your garden or in plant pots on your porch.

4. Lighting the Night. Make your outdoor space shine:

• Solar Rainbow Lights: Use solar-powered lights in Pride colors to illuminate pathways or garden borders.

• Projection Lights: Project rainbow patterns or Pride flags onto your home’s exterior.

Community Engagement

1. Share the Spirit. Decorate your shared spaces if you’re in an apartment building:

• Bulletin Boards: Put up colorful notices or flyers announcing local Pride events.

• Community Areas: If possible, decorate communal areas with small flags or posters.

2. Local Pride. Support local LGBTQ businesses by buying decorations or craft supplies from them. This not only helps the community but also promotes local artists and crafters.

Safety and Considerations

• Check with your landlord or HOA: Before hanging decorations outside or in shared areas, make sure to check if there are any restrictions.

• Be Mindful of Neighbors: While celebrating Pride, ensure your decorations are respectful and mindful of your neighbors.

By decorating your home for Pride in Washington, D.C., you’re not just brightening up your living space; you’re showing your support and solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Let your Pride shine brightly, and make this year’s celebrations unforgettable!

Scott Bloom is owner and senior property manager, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, visit ColumbiaPM.com.

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Real Estate

Looking for vacation homes during Memorial Day weekend

A busy, strategic time in the housing market

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As summer arrives, more tourists begin thinking of buying in resort towns like Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Memorial Day weekend, a time to honor the sacrifices of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, also marks the unofficial start of summer. Beyond its significance as a day of remembrance, it has become a prime period for the real estate market. The long weekend provides a unique opportunity for home buyers and sellers, making it one of the busiest and most strategic times in the housing market.

Memorial Day weekend is often a time when people head to the beach, the country, or the mountains for relaxation and to join in the local festivities. This long weekend offers a break from routine, a chance to honor those who have served, and an opportunity to enjoy the beginning of warmer weather. 

For real estate agents, however, Memorial Day weekend can be a blend of work and leisure, especially in resort communities where the real estate market is particularly active during this time. 

The influx of visitors to these destinations often includes prospective buyers who are considering purchasing vacation homes or investment properties. As a result, real estate agents in these areas might find themselves balancing work commitments with personal downtime.

We are keenly aware that the long weekend brings a surge in potential clients. Agents joke among themselves about business being slow until they make plans to go out of town. Open houses and community home tours are often scheduled to coincide with the holiday, taking advantage of the increased foot traffic.

Due to constantly improving technology, real estate agents can effectively manage their time and resources even during busy holiday weekends. Virtual tours, online listings, and digital marketing campaigns enable agents to reach a broad audience without always being physically present. Technology also allows agents to stay connected with clients and respond to inquiries promptly, ensuring that the clients do not miss out on potential sales opportunities. 

Often, agents licensed in the DMV are expanding their territories by becoming licensed in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Writing offers while on vacation has become the norm. Social media accounts can highlight special listings and open house events, and agents can also post pictures and descriptions of amenities in the towns they are visiting, attracting interested buyers who are in the area for the weekend.

The vibrant atmosphere of vacation getaway towns during Memorial Day weekend also provides a unique opportunity for networking and relationship-building. Agents can meet potential clients in a casual setting, forging connections that might lead to new business opportunities. They can also form relationships with other agents and create partnerships to help current and future clients find leisure homes.

The appeal of owning a place by the water, for example, is often strongest during the summer months, when the weather is inviting and the potential for rental income is high. Real estate agents who serve beach towns such as Ocean City, Md., Virginia Beach, Va., or Rehoboth Beach, Del., often mix business with pleasure as they seek out new clients.

Alternatively, if the relaxed life in the country is more to your liking, places such as The Amish area of Lancaster County, Pa. may be for you. Charles Town, W.Va., and Ashland, Va. have a robust military history and may be what you’re looking to enjoy. If mountains and lakes are more your style, the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, the Appalachians of West Virginia, or Deep Creek Lake, Md., may fit the bill, so let’s look at a few properties on the market today.

In Ocean City, you can find an oceanfront, one-bedroom condominium with beach and sunset views in a short-term rental building for $439,900. As you can imagine, it already has four weeks booked for the summer.

The historic district of Charles Town, W.Va., offers a 3,000-square-foot Victorian home built in 1890. It has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, 10’ high ceilings, original pocket doors, inlaid floors, and central air conditioning for $159,900. What’s the catch? It requires a complete renovation, but what a wonderful project it could be for weekend warriors.

Stretch your budget a bit more and you can own a 4,000-square-foot chalet with mountain views on both sides in Front Royal, Va. For less than $700,000, you will get four bedrooms and three baths, nearly two acres of land, and low-maintenance siding.

While many people flock to nearby vacation spots purely for relaxation, real estate agents often find themselves working diligently to learn about different areas and capitalize on the increased interest in local properties. By doing so, they can help clients find their dream homes, whether for retirement, short getaways, or investment potential.

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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