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Real Estate

What to do when you’re ready to buy

Tips for entering the market and finding a home

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buying a home, gay news, Washington Blade

If you go to an open house that you really love, wait until you’re out of earshot of the host agent to shout, ‘I want it! I want it!’

You enter your luxury high-rise apartment, toss your keys on the kitchen counter, kick off your shoes, and pour an adult beverage. With your drink in one hand, you sit down on the sofa and begin to sort through the bundle of mail in your other hand into two stacks.

Stack one includes a medical bill, a bank statement, and a PEPCO invoice.

Stack two contains a sheaf of grocery store advertisements, a request for a political donation, and an invitation to spend three nights and two days in sunny Florida if you’ll only listen to a short presentation when you get there.

And then you see it — the note from the management company reminding you that your lease will be up at the end of the year. You scan the letter and there in paragraph three is the amount your rent will rise if you sign another lease.

“That’s outrageous,” you say as you pick up the phone and call a few friends to get recommendations for real estate agents. Interview a few of those agents to ascertain which one is a good match. It’s sort of like swiping left or right but face-to-face.

You’ll want to discuss each agent’s background and area expertise. You’ll also need to talk about how the two of you will communicate. This is your opportunity to ask questions and really get to know him, so you can rely on his counsel throughout the process.

Next, you’ll need to determine your purchasing power by speaking with a mortgage loan officer. She will provide you with options, see if there are any special loans or grants you may be eligible for, and pre-approve you for a mortgage based on your income, debt load and credit score.

Spend your money wisely. Look at purchase price, interest rates and monthly payment (including principal, interest, property tax, and insurance) to determine how much you are comfortable paying for housing. In addition to funds for your down payment and closing costs, set aside some money for any one-time charges such as move-in fees, deposits for setting up utility services, and the cost to transport your household goods to the new location.

Scout neighborhoods on your own. You may have heard of Capitol Hill, Georgetown and Dupont Circle, but can you find Hillcrest, Deanwood, or Kent? D.C. has many neighborhoods and your agent may know of a few that you might not have considered. As part of the culling process, visit each neighborhood at night and on weekends, talk with neighbors, check out the local dining and shopping scene, and test your commute in real time.

Create a wish list to share with your agent. Attend open houses to get a sense of what your money can buy in each neighborhood you like. Be realistic and keep an open mind when viewing homes. Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect house. Give your agent honest feedback about what you liked and disliked about each home you visit, to help him understand your preferences and select homes that may be more to your liking.

Keep emotions under control. Buying a home is a very stressful process so let your agent be the intermediary with a cool head. If she accompanies you to an open house that you really love, wait until you’re out of earshot of the host agent to shout, “I want it! I want it!” If a seller doesn’t respond to your offer as you anticipated, don’t feel hurt or angry. Trust that your agent will be working diligently on your behalf to negotiate the best possible deal and will consult with you whenever a decision is required.

Get a home inspection and pay special attention to items that the inspector says are costly or unsafe. Your contract may allow you to ask the seller to make repairs or provide a monetary credit at settlement, so you can take care of the items yourself. You might also be able to void the contract and run for the hills if you’re unhappy with the inspection results.

Once you complete settlement and get the keys to your new home, take a few safety precautions. Change the locks on entrance doors and investigate installing one of today’s telephone-linked security systems. And if you feel the need for additional security, I’ll send you an MP3 of the sound my dogs make when UPS delivers a package. That’ll scare any burglar away.

 

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 via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs

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Real Estate

Make the most of the market and keep a positive perspective

Home sales are slowing and interest rates are rising

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Home sales are slowing as interest rates rise, but there are silver linings.

Over the course of the last year, what was once a red-hot housing market has experienced a cool-down. Home sales have been slowing, and interest rates are rising as the Federal Reserve continues to try and tame inflation and soaring prices. Rates are currently sitting at their highest point since late 2008, and are more than double their level a year ago. 

Any time interest rates rise and the market slows down, concern is understandable – but there are always silver linings, and viewing the market from a broader historical perspective is important. A few of those silver linings include:

• Interest rates remain historically low: Since the end of 2021, mortgage interest rates have jumped by more than 2 percentage points, climbing above 6% as of September 2022. As a result, mortgage payment amounts have also risen. It’s easy to look at rising interest rates and higher mortgage payments and worry – but when viewed in perspective over the course of the last several decades, rates are still very low. According to Freddie Mac, over the past half-century, rates have averaged nearly 8 percent, and in the early 1980s, even reached as high as 18 percent. When considered in that context, today’s housing market is still far healthier than at other points in recent history.

• Inventory is up: Another benefit of the current market is that inventory is up. For those interested in purchasing a home, this means that there is a wider variety to choose from, and time can be devoted to truly finding a home that checks all of the boxes, rather than simply rushing to make an offer on one of the few that are available.

• Offers are more likely to be accepted: The fact that more inventory exists in the current market allows buyers to potentially place a reasonable offer on a home and have it accepted. This is a stark contrast to the situation of a year ago, where buyers frequently had to rather worry about engaging in an ongoing bidding war where prices became inflated and offers were less likely to be accepted. 

Ultimately, conditions are much better in the real estate market now, even with slightly rising interest rates, than they were the last time the housing market went through a major correction. In fact, following the subprime mortgage crash of 2007 and the subsequent recession, home values dropped by nearly half in some markets. Millions of borrowers found themselves underwater on their mortgages, and many buyers were hesitant to make purchases in such a difficult and unpredictable market.  Currently, many expect that while home appreciation may decline slightly, it will likely remain above the historical average.

While the market may not be as robust as it was a year ago, there are still plenty of positives. A key aspect of making the most of any market is finding a real estate agent who can guide you through the process and help you reach your goals. This can make all the difference between a smooth and successful experience, and a stressful one. At GayRealEstate.com, we’re here to help you find the perfect agent for your needs.

At GayRealEstate.com – We’re Here for You

One thing is certain about the real estate market – over time, it will change and fluctuate. There will be ups and downs. At times it may be ideal for sellers, at other times, more ideal for buyers. Regardless of how the market shifts, however, one thing is constant – at GayRealEstate.com, we’re here for you. It is our passion to connect LGBTQ home buyers and sellers across the country with excellent and experienced LGBTQ-friendly realtors who know and love their communities. We are committed to helping you achieve your real estate goals, whatever they may be. If we can help you, visit us at GayRealEstate.com today to get connected and get started. 

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

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Real Estate

Standing on both feet in the current real estate market

Interest rates are up and contingencies are back

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Buyers have more power than they’ve had in recent years.

Gone are the days of a home receiving 25 offers and going well over asking price by more than $250,000. One would think…

The housing market in our immediate area as well as most of the United States has changed from what we’ve seen during the earlier pandemic days. Here in the nation’s capital, we have seen a market that is more in keeping with what we have historically seen. The fall market this year has brought on a substantial amount of new inventory to the market, which is consistent with earlier market trends. We have seen the prices reduce a bit and we have seen days on market linger a bit. But what exactly is going on here?

RISING MORTGAGE RATES

For two years we saw a wild real estate market that was fueled by the need for more space, new space, fresh space, and insanely low interest rates. The lack of inventory in the market also assisted in allowing sellers to get substantial amounts of money over their asking price and left buyers giving everything away. Since then the landscape has changed. Due to higher than the “old normal” interest rates, the market has begun to correct itself a bit. I would like to point out that the interest rates are NOT the only reason for the market correcting itself, this is also due to the influx of inventory coming to the market. Buyers now have so many options to look at, things to consider, and time is truly back on their side in order to make a more sound and informed decision when it comes to home ownership.

Please don’t get it twisted — if a home is well photographed, well marketed, and well priced in addition to having a brilliantly charming Realtor at the open house — it will surely sell with several offers and over asking. That is just no longer the norm.

TIT-FOR-TAT NEGOTIATIONS 

Although we no longer live in a world where sellers can expect to receive $250,000 above asking, we also don’t live in a world where buyers can expect to offer 30-50 percent less than asking and expect for the results to be positive. Similar to dating – we are back to a more intimate handholding experience when it comes to both the home buying and selling experience. As a seller it is important to ensure that your home is in tip-top shape while pricing it properly. As a buyer you should ensure that you have a great pre-approval, provide an appropriate EMD and realize that now you can include CONTINGENCIES! Yes! Once again, you can actually have a home inspection, financing contingency and even a radon test if you are feeling frisky. Those are the most valuable changes in the market for buyers.

INFLATION OR INFLATEGATE?

While turning on the news might be grim these days between inflation, the stock market, and interest rates – home prices are still over 6 percent more expensive than this time last year. If you look at the job market for example, unemployment is at an all-time low. You are still getting paid every week and if your manager makes you angry enough you have the flexibility to quit one job and find another relatively quickly. This mindset combined with an increase in active home listings and decrease in demand – you will likely still say: “Let’s go buy a home.”

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 you get for the money in D.C.

Plenty of options from $200,000 to $10 million

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Looking to buy in D.C.? There are plenty of options at all price points.

As I write this, the national average 30-year, fixed-mortgage rate is 6.33%, with VA and FHA loans hovering around 5.7%. These rates can fluctuate based on the amount of your down payment, your assets and liabilities, your credit score, and the type of home you purchase. 

A $400,000 mortgage that cost $1,686 per month in 2021 at 3% will now increase your monthly payment by an additional $798. Sadly, this may eliminate a portion of the buyer pool or necessitate postponing a purchase, particularly for the first-time buyer.

On the other hand, we are beginning to see an increase in inventory, longer marketing time, periodic price reductions, and even offers of closing help and repairs to items found in a home inspection. So where are these homes and what do you get for your money?

First, let’s define the term “home.” 

There are two types of fee simple structures: a detached house and a rowhouse (a.k.a. townhouse in the suburbs). With a fee simple purchase, you own the land and the structure(s) on it.

Another type of home is a condominium, where you own the unit and a corresponding percentage of the land beneath the building and the common areas within it. 

In a cooperative apartment, instead of owning the unit and peripheral areas, you own shares of stock in the corporation that holds those things. 

Believe it or not, you can still buy property in D.C. for less than $250,000. It will most assuredly be a condo or co-op. It will probably be a studio or one-bedroom, although there are a few two-bedroom units and even four three-bedroom units currently available to choose from. If you’re looking under $100,000, however, you’ll be sleeping in your very own parking space.

Where are these inexpensive homes hiding? You can find many of them in Adams Morgan, Cleveland Park and Petworth and quite a few east of the river in Congress Heights, Deanwood, Hillcrest, and Randall Heights. 

River Park, a popular co-op along the Southwest Waterfront, features a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit for only $189,000, if your budget can withstand a monthly fee of nearly $1,400, including property taxes and utilities.

If you raise your purchase price to $500,000, then you can select from 538 available homes, including dozens of rowhouses in Anacostia, Congress Heights, Deanwood, and Lily Ponds just west of the Anacostia Freeway.

One-bedroom condos and co-ops abound in this price range as well, so check out those in Brightwood, Brookland, Capitol Hill, and even Friendship Heights and Georgetown. For the brand-conscious, there’s even a 1,000-square-foot one-bedroom co-op available at the Watergate for only $425,000, reduced from $570,000. Who says you can’t get a bargain in D.C.?

In the $500,000 to $750,000 range, you can live pretty much wherever you want by selecting from a rowhouse or detached home in the Brookland-Woodridge-Michigan Park-Riggs Park enclave or an assortment of two-bedroom condos in Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, and even three-bedroom units in Shaw. Why not? There are 471 homes to choose from.

Inching up further to $1 million, there are 330 homes on the market: beautifully renovated houses in Park View, Petworth, 16th Street Heights, Brookland, Brightwood and Capitol Hill, as well as condos in Georgetown and co-ops in Foggy Bottom.

If you can afford the next price band of $1 million to $1.5 million, 197 homes await. There are some lovely three- and four-story rowhouses available in Bloomingdale, Capitol Hill near the H Street Corridor, and Columbia Heights. You’ll also find condos in West End, in the Central Business District, and along the U Street Corridor.

There are 83 homes available in the $1.5 million to $2 million range. Select from fee simple properties in Upper NW, Capitol Hill, Chevy Chase, and Georgetown, or splurge and choose one of two two-bedroom, 2.5-bath condos at the Ritz-Carlton. You’ll only pay a “small” monthly fee of about $3,100. 

For those lucky people for whom price is no object, there are 142 homes currently listed from $2 million to $10 million. They are scattered throughout Georgetown, Forest Hills, Logan Circle, Dupont, Kalorama, Wesley Heights, and the Embassy Row area of Massachusetts Avenue.

Unlike New York or Los Angeles, you won’t find anything in the tens of millions, but there are four homes listed between $10 million and $12 million in Wesley Heights and Massachusetts Avenue Heights, as well as one 11-bedroom beauty in Forest Hills, with an estimated 17,000 finished square feet on four levels – just perfect for you and 10-20 of your closest friends.

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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