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Accentuating apartment spaces

Lessons from The Belgard

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Belgard, gay news, Washington Blade

With an expanded lobby, rooftop pool, and a ‘speakeasy’ styled bar, amenities abound at The Belgard.

Apartment buildings nationally have been expanding on their common spaces for residents, as amenities have begun taking an increased importance for potential residents over living space. D.C. metro area buildings have taken note of the trend and have been adding larger club rooms, fitness centers and differentiated lounging areas, and more to woo guests.

Nationally, many developers are creating smaller in-unit living spaces and expanding the common spaces in the building. The Belgard has created special settings for residents to escape their homes. In order to create special destinations onsite for residents, developers need to go beyond the traditional common spaces that most buildings have just to check the box – clichéd clubroom, standard rooftop pool and grilling areas, occasional piece of art scattered throughout.

NoMa’s The Belgard, developed by Wood Partners, has moved the goalposts for luxury living with thoughtful amenities meant to serve as an extension of the apartment space. Developers and designers, keep these in mind when crafting living spaces for your residents, whether they are first-time renters, young married couples, or an older couple just looking to have an extra place in the city.

Accentuating the lobby

For many years, the lobby was a grand opulence that buildings designed to make residents feel like they were walking home into luxury. However, those spaces were not always welcoming to residents The Belgard’s lobby space is meant to serve as an extended living room for residents. Whether they are looking for a place to get some work done, hang out with friends, or sneak away from their apartment to read a book, the lobby highlights the awe-inspiring 561-gallon exotic saltwater reef tank. The stunning high ceilings, modern industrial light fixtures, and plush seating options all revolve around showcasing this piece that residents are already flocking to. The lobby feels more like a larger, and cooler, version of everyone’s living room. Don’t think stodgy old gathering place, but more reminiscent of the Hudson Hotel.

Not every building needs to follow The Belgard’s lead in aquatic exploration to create a space that will encourage residents to spend more time in common areas. Choosing a centerpiece or focal point to spark conversation or engagement among your residents is the first step. When in doubt, a large conversation-provoking sculpture or art piece seems to do the trick.

Craft a space to entertain

With ever-rising drink costs in D.C., it’s always nice to have a cocktail before you go out on the town with friends – or one when you return from a night out. Whether you focus on creating communal areas by a rooftop pool, have a bar area near your game room, or even by just decorating a club room with nightlife-themed art or design pieces. Create a welcoming, inclusive environment that feels unique to your building.

The Belgard has built out a full “speakeasy”-styled bar for residents to entertain in, including a dual-tapped Kegerator, bar seating, and private liquor lockers for residents who want to store their entertaining stash for when they have guests.

This space is open at all hours, and residents can utilize it whether they’re looking to entertain a date by whipping up cocktails to take to the courtyard, or for having a nightcap after a long night out. Inclusive and unique amenity spaces like this make apartment buildings stand out from the glut of other buildings in the market and provides a blueprint on modern entertaining in apartment buildings.

Game night brought to a new level

Not every night in D.C. is a party – for those who are looking less for a pregame and more for a fun night in, it’s helpful to offer different common areas for residents to interact in. Creating an atmosphere of inclusion in a mature setting, many buildings are building out more robust game rooms – whether it’s for pool tables, shuffleboard, ping pong, or other activities, residents enjoy having these perks.

People don’t typically think of playing video games as the most social activity – however, when you supply your residents with a customized four-player arcade machine with classic games like Street Fighter, NBA Jam and NFL Blitz, friends may just start flocking over. The game room includes classic board games like a jumbo-sized Monopoly board, shuffleboard table, and for those who like to gamble – there’s a luxurious custom-made 60-inch poker table and chips available for residents to entertain.

With the trend continuing to shift toward accentuating the common areas, D.C.’s new buildings must continue to innovate and provide different experiences and destinations onsite for their residents.

The Belgard is located at 33 N Street NE, in Washington’s NoMa community. The building will feature 346 luxury residential apartments and ground floor retail, with leasing ongoing and move-ins beginning on July 1. The building offers micro-units, junior one-, one-, and two-bedroom residences. Those interested in scheduling a tour and learning more about the building can do so on the property website, thebelgarddc.com. (Courtesy The Belgard)

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Real Estate

Good news if you’re selling your home at the holidays

In D.C., if priced fairly, the house will move

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Selling this Christmas? Don’t worry if you’re in the D.C. market.

Historically in the real estate industry this is one of the worst times to sell your home. You will receive fewer guests at open houses, fewer showings, and more months on the market. However, like with most things in the world today, this is no longer the industry standard. During the pandemic we saw homes selling in 1-2 days with 15 offers well above asking price and throwing in your first-born and Gucci boots. While those days might be gone for a while, the inventory we usually see at this time of year is also gone. 

Typically I only talk about numbers when they have dollar signs in front, however I feel they are necessary to illustrate my point. Bear with me. If we look at numbers from last year – new listing inventory is down nearly 18%. While we know that home sales have also decreased, there is still a decline year over year for new inventory to hit the market, which is continuing the trend we have seen during the pandemic years of a substantial lack of inventory here in the DC Metro. 

What does this mean for sellers?

If you are hoping to sell your home and receive several offers and the price escalates well over asking, unfortunately you missed that boat. However, properties in D.C. are still selling for list price at nearly a 98% rate. This means as long as your real estate agent prices your property properly then it is likely to still sell for that very list price. The average day on market has only increased by four days, which means again, if the home is properly priced and marketed it will likely sell for list price within an average window. Furthermore, the median sold price has increased almost 5% since last month. If you are worried that buyers might be affected by high interest rates, they are, however in D.C. we are hyper insulated from other trends throughout the U.S., with a consistent trend of shortage in inventory.

What does this mean for buyers?

I know what you’re thinking. “Wow Justin, we thought you had our back but clearly all you care about is ensuring sellers get the most money for their listing.” Although that may be true if I am working for a seller, I shift my mindset of value for my buyer clients too. You might not get a steal of a deal this holiday season on your home, but you will have protections that buyers before you could only dream of. I am talking about — contingencies, baby!

Regardless if you are a first-time homebuyer or you’ve been around the block a few times, you know who you are. Real estate is an investment and as such should be vetted properly to ensure its valued and sound. Homebuyers can expect to have home inspections, termite inspections, appraisals and the list goes on. If you want small credits here and there with an extended closing period you can likely receive those items. While interest rates have increased, your protection (which I would say is more important) has hugely increased.

If your goal is to “new year new home” now is truly a wonderful time to start the process and plan for a fresh start as we head into 2023.

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

What homeowners are grateful for this year

Where you live should be something to appreciate

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Since you’re reading this over Thanksgiving weekend, I wanted to write about gratitude as it pertains to real estate, so I started by Googling “gratitude, house.” 

Unsurprisingly, page after page of results were links to recovery centers and residences.  Sandwiched in between was a now defunct coffeeshop and yoga studio in Bandra, Mumbai. Although I applaud people who are in recovery and I like yoga, none of that hit the target of what I was looking for, so here are some of my thoughts and suggestions.

Can you be grateful for things inside, outside, and around your home? Of course you can! It might not feel as profound as expressing thanks for the people you love, or good health, or your chosen faith, but as a homeowner, you’re making memories and experiencing ups and downs that you’re going to reflect on years down the road.

Think about the purchase of your home and the steps you went through to seal the deal. Did you find it quickly? Did you compete with other buyers and win? Did you pay a fair price? Did you get a great interest rate? Did the loan process and settlement go smoothly? If so, be grateful.

Where you live can also be something to appreciate. Some people want a bustling urban environment with nearby amenities, such as shopping, dining, transportation, or multiple ways to exercise. Others want the quiet and solitude of a cabin in the mountains or on a lake, with acreage, wildlife and beautiful views of all Mother Nature has to offer. Still others want a larger, more reasonably priced home in the suburbs outside the Beltway, where they can hop on a train and get lost in a novel en route to the office. 

So, is your home situated in the neighborhood or environment you wanted? Did the schools, if important to you, meet your expectations? Is it close to (or if you prefer, far from) family members? Is your commute to work or school manageable? If you answered yes to any of these questions, be grateful.

If you work from home, is the space pleasant and the atmosphere conducive to ensuring productivity? Is the color scheme energizing? Peaceful? Would your décor get at least an 8 out of 10 from Room Rater when you have a conference call on Zoom? 

Is your home big enough to expand into as your family grows? Small enough for downsizing? Does the layout still meet your needs or have your needs changed? 

Is what you own your dream house or condo? Could it be? If you need to make some modifications, be thankful for HGTV, the DIY channel, YouTube how-to videos, Thumbtack, and Yelp reviews.

Living through a renovation can bring out the worst in people. Weeks or months of doing dishes in the bathtub or showering at the gym can cause friction in even the most committed relationship. Once your renovation is completed, however, be grateful that your sanity withstood the trauma of living through it. 

Be thankful for the things you don’t notice or think of often. Do you love the way the dining room chandelier casts light on the ceiling at night or how the sun streams in through the skylight in the early morning? 

Perhaps the feature wall you added makes you smile when you come in the front door or a favorite piece of art that reflects your personality catches your eye. Maybe you have pleasant memories of family gatherings in front of the fireplace or choruses of “Score” as you and your friends watch the World Cup on your 65” TV.

If you’re like me, you’re thankful that your boiler made it through last winter, that you didn’t have to patch the roof again this year, or that you found that hole in the fence and repaired it before your dog got out. 

During the year, we can lose sight of the things we are grateful for, so as Elle Woods suggested in “Legally Blonde 2,” I highly recommend keeping a gratitude jar. 

Use it to keep track of what you’re grateful for by writing things down and dropping those notes in the jar. Then, when you have a home anniversary or are stressed out about a renovation, when out-of-town company stays too long or when the kids draw on the walls with a Sharpie, pull out a note from the jar and read it aloud like a mantra. 

Unlike the sisters of Delta Nu, however, you don’t really have to snap your fingers after reading it.

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

Tips for holiday home sales

Buyers at this time of year are more serious

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Tasteful holiday decorations can improve the look of your home if you’re selling at the holidays.

The holiday season is often considered a difficult time to sell a home – but sometimes it’s necessary. For whatever reason, you may need to make a move quickly, and selling during the holiday months from November through January is your best option. If you find yourself in this situation, you should know that selling during the holiday season does have certain advantages. 

Often, more than during any other time of the year, buyers are in the same situation as sellers – they are buying for a reason. It may be a relocation for work, it could be a move to be closer to an older family member, or any number of other reasons that require a move quickly. As a result, holiday buyers are more serious, and make more competitive offers, not to mention the fact that there is often less competition from other sellers because fewer homes are on the market.

If you find yourself needing to sell your home during the holidays, focusing on the advantages can be helpful, along with a few other tips, including:

• Add some holiday cheer to your home: Often, holiday decorations can add an extra spark of seasonal flair and can be quite helpful to sellers – provided that the decorations aren’t overboard. Decorations that are too large or flashy may distract buyers and make your home feel crowded or cluttered. The right decorations, however, can be cheerful and bright and add some holiday spirit to your home that buyers enjoy. 

• Create some curb appeal: The holiday season is a wonderful time to enhance your home’s curb appeal with tasteful lights and other décor. It’s also important if you live in an area where leaves fall from the trees to be certain to rake and maintain your yard and surrounding landscaping. Certainly, if it is icy or snowy, you should shovel your driveway and sidewalks and make sure your home is safe for potential buyers to visit. Additionally, bare trees often draw more attention to the exterior of a home, so ensuring that your paint is touched up, gutters are cleaned, and other exterior features are in good condition is important. 

• Choose the right price point: Regardless of the time of year, pricing your home competitively will help to increase your chances of selling it quickly. Often, homes priced too high will linger on the market. The longer a home stays on the market, the more skittish some buyers become, and the lower the price may eventually have to go to ultimately sell it. Pricing your home competitively from the beginning can be very helpful.

• Remain accessible: The holidays can be a busy time, with many obligations and activities. As a result, it can often be more difficult than usual for real estate agents to arrange and schedule showings. Clearing your schedule as much as possible to accommodate agents and potential buyers can help to ensure that you get as many showings as possible, which will ultimately increase the chances of a quick and successful sale.

• Find the right real estate agent: The importance of this last tip can’t be overstated. Finding an agent who knows and loves the community will help you to market your home effectively, highlight all of its selling points, and connect with the right buyer. At GayRealEstate.com, buyers and sellers across the country are paired up with LGBTQ-friendly agents who can help them achieve their real estate goals, and this can make all the difference between a smooth and successful selling experience, and a stressful one.

While these tips are intended to be helpful, it’s also extremely important to consult with an agent who knows your unique market and can give you tips for your particular home. At GayRealEstate.com, we’d love to connect you with that agent today. Get in touch with us soon – we look forward to helping you reach your real estate goals.

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

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