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Why you should hire a good buyer’s agent

When purchasing a home, you need more than a door opener

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real estate agent, gay news, Washington Blade

A good buyer’s agent does much more than just take you on tours.

Here is a little secret, if you are hiring an agent just to help you find a home, to unlock doors, and schedule appointments, you are hiring the wrong one.

A good buyer’s agent does so much more than open lockboxes and point out which room is the kitchen. A good agent is your guide, advocate, sounding board, negotiator, project manager, resource provider, and more. A good buyer’s agent is the one person working for you at every step of the process. They help you bring the entire team together—lender, home inspector, title company, and potentially others—to get you to the closing table.

Today, technology brings homes to you—on your laptop, tablet, or phone. Search engines and apps like Homesnap put listed homes, their stats, and their photographs right in the palm of your hand. While there is no replacing an in-person visit to a house, you can “find” a home you like on your own. And, of course, a buyer’s agent should point out home and community features and their benefits as you tour. Sometimes your agent even can tell you specifics about a home you can’t find online, they may have insights to the neighborhood, and they may know of listings before they come on the market. So yes, touring with your agent is important. But that’s just a small part of their role.

A good buyer’s agent serves a different purpose. Navigating the home buying process can be daunting. There are contracts, addenda, negotiations, inspections, a mortgage to obtain, and settlement questions to be answered—just to name the basics. A buyer’s agent should serve as your trusted advisor through the entire process. You need one person who understands your situation, your desires in a new home, your motivations, your likes, and other factors that will impact your purchase.

The best way to set up that relationship is through a buyer consultation. A good agent will offer to host an in-person meeting with you to go over the entire process. Yes, it is more exciting to just head out on tours, but a good agent knows that an educated buyer is less stressed, more confident in their decision making, and has a better chance to present a winning offer.

With the consultation meeting complete, you will be ready to get started. One of the most important steps is being pre-approved or pre-qualified for a loan. In the D.C. market, where inventory is low and property can move quickly, being pre-approved, or pre-qualified, for a loan is a must, not a “nice-to-have.” Sellers will not even consider accepting an offer without a letter from a lender or proof of funds if you are paying with cash. A good agent can provide you with the names of several lenders so you can find the best match for your situation.

With pre-approval in hand, you find the house! Your agent will advise you on offer pricing strategies and other contract points to help you put together the best offer for your situation. Your agent will write up the offer, present it on your behalf, and negotiate the terms should a counter situation ensue.

Once under contract, your agent will help you locate all of the professionals who help you get to the closing table. From home inspectors, to a title company, a mover, and others, a good agent can give you resources to make the road to settlement smoother for you. Let’s talk about a few.

• Home Inspection: Your agent will help you find and schedule the inspector, attend the inspection with you both, and help you understand the inspector’s report. Should you find items during the inspection you want the seller to repair or compensate you for, your agent will present your position and again negotiate on your behalf working to get you the best terms possible.

• Title Company: Your agent will help you identify a title company to work with. A title company—in simplest terms—helps pull everything together for settlement—loan documents from your lender, title work to ensure the home can transfer from the current owner to you, property taxes from the jurisdiction, and your title insurance policy. A good agent will help you understand all of these pieces.

• Other professionals: If there are other services you need along the way— movers, contractors, utility companies—your agent can provide suggestions there too.

Yes, it’s a lot; and this is just a quick overview. Being a good buyer’s agent is so much more than scheduling tours, locating keys and unlocking doors—they navigate your entire process from consultation to close.

 

Sherri Anne Green is an award-winning Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, having earned the prestigious International Sterling Society Award. Focusing on custom, data-driven marketing and client service, she provides impeccable service tailored to her clients’ unique situations. Call or text her at 202-798-1288, email [email protected], find her on Facebook or on Instagram.

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Real Estate

Prepare your rental property for the back-to-school market

Strategic pricing is critical to standing out

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The rental market explodes in August and September as schools return to session.

As we approach August and September, the rental market in Washington, D.C. undergoes a significant transformation. The supercharged demand earlier in the year resulting from the influx of families wanting to move in before the new school year and higher ed students returning for their studies starts to wane. For landlords, this period is a crucial time to ensure their properties are appealing and priced competitively. A well-prepared rental property can make all the difference in securing a successful lease. Here are some tips to help you get your property ready for the back-to-school season.

Be Wise, Compromise: Navigating Pricing Strategies

The adage “Be Wise, Compromise” rings especially true as we head into August and September. It’s a period where strategic pricing becomes critical to stand out among a glut of rentals on the market and the tendency to “fire sale.” The rental market demand starts slowing down in August, but it is taking steep hits by September. If your property remains without a lease by the end of August, consider adjusting your rental price to attract tenants.

Lowering your price during August can be a smart move to avoid vacancies, but don’t wait too long. By September, you might face tougher competition as other landlords drop their prices too. Meeting the market demand head-on with a competitive price ensures you don’t miss out on securing a tenant before the academic year begins.

What Renters with School-Age Children Want

Families with school-age children have specific needs and preferences when searching for a rental property. Here are some key features to focus on:

  1. Proximity to Good Schools: If your property is within a highly regarded school district you are ahead of the game. Make sure the rental ad includes correct links and updated public information on school districts but be cautious from sounding like you are searching only for families with small children. That could run afoul of Fair Housing laws.  
  2. Functional Space: Families need ample space. If your rental property offers enough bedrooms, storage areas, and a functional layout that accommodates the needs of a family with children you might seriously consider that market segment as a desirable tenant.
  3. Outdoor Areas: An ample yard or nearby parks and play areas are big selling points. Outdoor spaces provide areas for children to play and families to enjoy.
  4. Community Amenities: Proximity to community centers, libraries, recreational facilities and splash parks can make your rental more attractive to families than others.

Timing is also critical. Families with school-aged children wish to move in before the school year starts, so aim to have your property ready and listed for rent early.  I recommend counting on 6-8 weeks before a move-in date.. This gives you a better chance of finding those tenants who are planning ahead and interested in signing a lease well before the targeted move-in date, settling in before the first school bell rings.

The D.C. Higher Education Hub

In addition to families with young children heading back to school on Aug. 26, the Washington, D.C., metro area boasts a remarkable concentration of higher education programs. According to a recent discussion on The1A.org, this region is home to an inordinately high number of prestigious educational institutions, including my alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, which has consolidated its graduate programs in D.C. into one location at the old Newseum location on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. All higher education institutions residing here bring a reliable and annual stream of new students in need of housing, particularly before the new academic year approaches.

Attracting Student Tenants: Essential Preparations

With a considerable student population in D.C., attracting this demographic requires understanding their unique needs.  Remember to refrain from sounding like you are searching only for students to avoid going against Fair Housing laws.  

  1. Affordability: Students are often budget-conscious. Offering flexible lease terms, such as 9-month leases that align with the academic year, can be very appealing.
  2. Proximity to Campuses: If the rental is located particularly close to a school, highlighting it in a list of what is nearby in the community can help those searching for rental housing off campus.  The convenience of a short commute is an important factor for students.
  3. Amenities and Furnishings: Students appreciate furnished or partially furnished rental homes, high-speed internet, and study-friendly environments. Ensuring your property has these amenities can give you a competitive edge, particularly if your rental is relatively close to a campus geographically.
  4. Roommate-Friendly Layouts: Properties with multiple bedrooms and shared common areas are ideal for student roommates. If the layout supports a co-living arrangement with a one bedroom to one bathroom ratio, all the better!
  5. Public Transportation Access: Easy access to public transportation is crucial for students who may not have their own vehicles. A short commute on public transportation or by using bike-friendly streets is also very desirable. 

Get Ready for Back to School

August is the perfect time to prepare your rental property for the back-to-school season. Here’s a checklist to ensure you’re ready:

  1. Conduct Maintenance Checks: Ensure all appliances, plumbing, and electrical systems are in top condition. Address any repairs or maintenance issues promptly.
  2. Enhance Curb Appeal: First impressions matter. Make sure the exterior of your property is well-maintained, with trimmed lawns, clean walkways, and fresh exterior paint if needed.
  3. Safety Upgrades: Install or upgrade smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and ensure a fire extinguisher is wall-mounted and readily accessible in the kitchen.
  4. Deep Cleaning: A thorough cleaning can make your property shine. Consider hiring professionals to ensure every corner is spotless including windows.
  5. Marketing and Listings: Update your property listings with attractive photos and detailed descriptions. 

The Rental Market Dynamics: August and September

Understanding the rental market dynamics during August and September can help you strategize effectively. August typically sees a slowdown, but September’s drop in demand means if rental properties have not yet closed the deal on a rental agreement, you will need a sense of urgency to price it right to rent.

Lowering your price slightly or with a stair-step approach every few weeks starting at the end of August can help attract those prospective tenants who are still looking and those making last-minute decisions on their housing needs. 

Preparing your rental property for the back-to-school season in Washington, D.C. involves a combination of strategic pricing, understanding tenant needs, and ensuring your property is in top condition. By focusing on strategic pricing you can navigate the market dynamics of August and September successfully. Remember, be wise and compromise where necessary to ensure your property stands out and attracts those tenants who reach the peak of their search in late summer, just in time for the academic year.

(This article was written with some assistance from AI.)

Scott Bloom is owner and Senior Property Manager, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, go to ColumbiaPM.com.

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Real Estate

Exploring LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods across the U.S.

Finding your safe haven, knowing your rights

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D.C.’s Dupont Circle remains one of the best-known LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods in the country. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Finding a safe and inclusive community is paramount for LGBTQ individuals seeking a place to call home. Throughout the United States, various neighborhoods have become havens for our LGBTQ community, offering not only welcoming environments but also rich cultural scenes, diverse housing options, and vital community resources. 

The evolution of LGBTQ neighborhoods in the U.S. is deeply intertwined with the history of LGBTQ rights and activism. From the Stonewall Uprising in New York City to the Harvey Milk era in San Francisco, these neighborhoods have been at the forefront of social change. They serve as cultural and historical landmarks, symbolizing the resilience and strength of the LGBTQ community.

Top LGBTQ-Friendly Neighborhoods Across the U.S.

San Francisco – The Castro: The Castro is renowned for its rich LGBTQ history and vibrant community. Known as one of the first gay neighborhoods in the U.S., it offers a variety of local businesses, annual events like the Castro Street Fair, and an inclusive atmosphere that attracts both residents and tourists.

New York City – Greenwich Village: Greenwich Village holds a special place in LGBTQ history, being the site of the Stonewall Inn. Today, it remains a cultural hub with numerous LGBTQ-friendly bars, cafes, and shops. The Village’s historic charm, combined with its progressive vibe, makes it a desirable location for many.

Chicago – Boystown: Boystown, officially known as Northalsted, is one of the most recognized LGBTQ neighborhoods in the Midwest. It boasts a lively nightlife, an array of LGBTQ events such as the annual Pride Parade, and a supportive community. The neighborhood’s diverse housing options cater to various preferences and budgets.

Atlanta  – Midtown: Midtown Atlanta is a thriving LGBTQ community with a robust cultural scene. It’s home to the iconic Atlanta Pride Festival and numerous LGBTQ-friendly establishments. The neighborhood’s blend of urban living and Southern charm attracts a diverse group of residents.

Seattle – Capitol Hill: Capitol Hill is Seattle’s epicenter of LGBTQ life, known for its inclusive atmosphere and vibrant nightlife. The neighborhood hosts events like Seattle Pride and offers a wide range of housing options, from historic homes to modern apartments. Capitol Hill’s progressive environment makes it a welcoming place for all.

Washington, D.C. – Dupont Circle: Dupont Circle is a historic and cultural hub for the LGBTQ community in D.C. Known for its vibrant nightlife, diverse dining options, and numerous LGBTQ-friendly businesses, Dupont Circle offers a welcoming atmosphere for residents and visitors alike. The neighborhood is also home to several LGBTQ organizations and events, making it a supportive and inclusive place to live.

Navigating the real estate market as an LGBTQ individual involves understanding both the market trends and the unique needs of the community. Here are some tips to consider:

Work with LGBTQ-Friendly Real Estate Agents: Finding an agent who understands the needs of LGBTQ clients can make the home-buying process smoother. The agents at GayRealEstate.com are often more knowledgeable about LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods and legal protections.

Understand Legal Protections: Ensure you are aware of local and state laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Fair Housing Act provides some protections, but it’s essential to understand additional state and local regulations.

Consider Community Resources: Look for neighborhoods with robust LGBTQ community centers, support groups, and events. These resources can provide invaluable support and help you integrate into the community.

Evaluate Housing Options: From historic neighborhoods to modern developments, evaluate the types of housing available in your desired area. Consider factors like proximity to LGBTQ+-friendly businesses, safety, and community vibe.

Resources and Support

Numerous organizations and resources support LGBTQ home buyers and renters nationwide:

  • GayRealEstate.com: Provides a network of LGBTQ and allied real estate professionals.
  • Lambda Legal: Offers legal assistance and information on LGBTQ housing rights.
  • Human Rights Campaign: Provides resources on LGBTQ equality and advocacy.

Finding a safe and welcoming community is essential for LGBTQ individuals seeking a new home. By exploring neighborhoods known for their inclusivity, working with knowledgeable real estate agents, and leveraging community resources, you can find a place where you truly belong. Whether you’re considering The Castro, Greenwich Village, Boystown, Midtown, Capitol Hill, or Dupont Circle each neighborhood offers unique opportunities and a supportive environment.

At GayRealEstate.com, we’re committed to helping you find your safe haven in cities throughout the United States and Internationally. Explore these neighborhoods and connect with resources to make your home-buying journey a positive and empowering experience. Together, we can create a future where everyone can live authentically and safely.

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

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Real Estate

Real Estate in 1776

A revolutionary transformation of land ownership laws began centuries ago

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In 1776, the United States was on the brink of a revolutionary transformation in terms of land ownership.

I have been interested in real estate most of my life. Even at age eight, during family vacations when we drove to Nana’s house via old, country roads, I would point to any wood frame house in disrepair and talk about fixing it up. 

It got to be a joke in our family. My father would join in, pointing to every dilapidated barn we passed and saying, “Here’s one you could fix up.”  Little did he know that my childhood interest in real estate would make up a big part of my future.

That’s but a small part of my real estate history, but since I was born on Independence Day, I thought I’d relay a few facts about the real estate world of nearly 250 years ago. Turns out, it’s remarkably similar to today.

In 1776, the United States was on the brink of a revolutionary transformation (as we may also be in 2024), not only politically but also in terms of land ownership and real estate. This era was characterized by a blend of colonial practices, evolving legal frameworks, and a growing sense of independence, having separated ourselves from British rule.

Land ownership then, as now, was a primary source of wealth and status. Its distribution was highly uneven. Most of the land in the Thirteen Colonies was controlled by a small elite class, including wealthy merchants, planters, and colonial governors. 

These large landowners acquired vast tracts of land through royal grants, purchases, and inheritance. Small farmers, artisans, and laborers either owned modest parcels of land, paid to work on rented property, or became indentured servants as immigrants. 

The legal framework governing real estate in 1776 was a combination of English common law, colonial statutes, and local customs. Property rights were well-established, with deeds, surveys, and title records playing crucial roles in documenting and securing land ownership. Colonial courts adjudicated land disputes, often referencing English legal precedents.

The doctrine of primogeniture mandated that a family’s land holdings be passed down to the eldest male heir. This practice ensured the preservation of large estates but also contributed to social stratification and limited opportunities for younger sons and women. However, the revolutionary ideas of liberty and equality began to challenge such entrenched norms, leading to gradual reforms in inheritance laws.

The late 18th century saw a surge in land speculation, driven by the promise of new opportunities in the vast western territories. Wealthy individuals and companies acquired large swaths of land with the intent of selling them to settlers and investors at a profit. This speculative fervor was fueled by the belief that westward expansion would continue unabated, opening new frontiers for agriculture, trade, and settlement.

Land speculation, however, was fraught with risks and controversies much as it remains today. Conflicts with Native American tribes, who rightfully resisted the encroachment on their ancestral lands, were a constant threat. Additionally, disputes over land claims and titles were common, as overlapping grants and fraudulent transactions complicated the already murky legal landscape. 

While rural land dominated the real estate market, urban properties in burgeoning colonial cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia also held significant value. These cities were centers of commerce, trade, and political activity, with thriving ports and markets. Real estate in urban areas included residential houses, commercial buildings, warehouses, and wharves.

The design and architecture of colonial urban real estate reflected both practical needs and social aspirations. Wealthy merchants and professionals built grand townhouses, often in the Georgian style, while more modest homes and tenements housed artisans, laborers, and the urban poor. The value of urban properties was closely tied to their location, with prime spots near markets, docks, and government buildings commanding higher prices. (Sound familiar?)

The Revolutionary War marked a pivotal point in American history and had profound implications for real estate. The war disrupted traditional land ownership patterns, as loyalists who sided with the British Crown often had their properties confiscated and redistributed. This period also saw the rise of the new concept of individual rights, which influenced land policies.

In the aftermath, the new nation faced the challenge of creating a fair and equitable system of land distribution. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, for instance, established a standardized system for surveying and selling western lands, promoting orderly settlement and expansion. 

As the United States embarked on its journey toward independence and nationhood, the evolving concepts of property rights and land distribution would continue to shape its development for years to come. Generational wealth for the masses, however, still has a long way to go.

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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