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An exercise in compromise

When buying a home, make a wish list, then edit

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homeownership, gay news, Washington Blade

You may dream of a giant home in the ‘burbs, but what does your budget allow?

“I can’t afford much. Will you still work with me?”

When I hear this from potential buyer clients it makes me a little bit sad, knowing that they’re usually asking that question because another agent has said no.

Of course, not every agent can be all things to all buyers. Some agents will specialize in a neighborhood and others in a price range, a type of property, or a buyer category such as first-time, move-up, or luxury. There are also agents who choose to list homes and not work with buyers at all – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You just need to connect with the right one.

The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) reports that the median sales price in D.C. in August 2017 was $694,000 for a house and $455,000 for a condominium. If your budget is well below that, then you might believe homeownership is just not for you. But don’t dismiss it without investigating.

Like most urban dwellers of today, you probably want to be in an area where you can walk to shopping, dining and transportation. The reality is that it’s unlikely you will get everything on your wish list, but if you’re willing to compromise on property size, type, location, or amenities, then you may well succeed in securing a home that suits your lifestyle for a purse-pleasing price.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re a single person buying your typical first home in the DMV. In most cases, it will be a one-bedroom condominium of 550-650 square feet.

Based on GCAAR sales statistics from 2017, you can spend as little as $65,000 in Congress Heights, an area in Southeast D.C. that has a Metro stop on the green line. In Dupont Circle’s West End, however, that same condo can cost you as much as $525,000.

Go across the water to the City of Alexandria and you can spend a mere $110,000, but look out for high condo fees that may vastly increase your monthly payments. Farther west in Arlington, that same square footage will cost $115,000 on the south side and as much as $465,000 on the north side.

Prefer Maryland? You can sometimes find an older condo in Silver Spring or Gaithersburg for under $100,000 and if you’re lucky, you may end up with a renovated unit in Bladensburg for less than $50,000. Even in Bethesda on Woodmont Avenue surrounded by restaurants, you can cap your spending at $360,000 with a monthly fee less than $500.

When it’s time to move up to a townhouse (or rowhouse for the DC-ites among us), expect to shell out more for an additional 500-1000 square feet.

In the Randle Heights subdivision of Southeast D.C., a 1,300-square-foot, two-level end unit with two bedrooms and two baths sold this spring for $334,000, whereas a similar home in Georgetown garnered $950,000.

A three-bedroom, 1,200 square foot townhouse near Duke Street in Alexandria may cost as little as $360,000 and on the other side of the Beltway, new construction in Upper Marlboro can start as low as $300,000.

In Greenbelt, Md., you might add builder upgrades to a new townhouse with a garage and still pay less than $475,000, and if you’re OK commuting from Clarksburg or Germantown, you might pay $50,000 less.

And what if price is no object?

Well, for eight figures in Northwest D.C., you just missed a home with nine bedrooms and 11 baths for your live-in housekeeper to clean.

Alexandria offered an estate on two acres with 5 bedrooms, 5 baths and tennis courts for just over $3,000,000 this year and Arlington seemed almost budget-friendly with the sale of 8,000 square feet of splendiferous Craftsman architecture for a mere $2,500,000.

You could also have yodeled to your heart’s content in a 33,000-square-foot grand residence in Potomac, provided you had $6 million to buy it and had at least that much set aside to finish what the builder had failed to complete.

And for the best bang for your megabucks, a Bowie home featuring 15,000 square feet on nearly three acres, with a four-car garage, a pool, theater room, billiard room and every imaginable luxury could have been yours for – drumroll please – $1,325,000.

So, if you have been considering buying a home on a tight budget, go ahead and make your wish list, then choose an agent who can be your Tim Gunn mentor and help you edit it and make it work. Happy house hunting!

 

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and Director of Education & Mentorship at Real Living| At Home. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her at [email protected], or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs. 

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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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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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