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.
Helpful tips for homebuyers in seller’s market
2021 has been a great year for home sales
Without question, 2021 was a great year for home sales. Sellers across the country, in many cases, found themselves listing their homes and quickly having not just one, but multiple offers, many of which were at asking price or above. With limited inventory and high demand, it has been an ideal year to sell—and conversely, often a difficult year to buy. Buyers who are interested in a particular home, or even in a specific neighborhood, often find themselves facing stiff competition to have offers accepted.
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that many buyers haven’t had successful and rewarding home buying experiences—just that doing so often means making an extra effort and taking helpful steps to make an offer the most competitive that it can be. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few helpful tips for buyers in a seller’s market:
- Plan ahead with mortgage pre-approval: While there are certainly a wide variety of strategies that real estate agents and financial advisors may recommend, and while those strategies might vary depending upon the buyer and the circumstances of a particular market, one thing almost all experts agree on is that obtaining a mortgage preapproval is a smart decision. A mortgage preapproval is an ideal way to reassure sellers that a reputable lender has verified your credit and approved your buying power up to a certain limit. If you’re caught in a bidding war with another potential buyer, having preapproval establishing that you are ready, willing, and able to buy just might give you the advantage you need in a competitive market.
- Be willing to look under budget so you can bid higher: In this highly competitive market, many home buyers find themselves in a situation where they are in a bidding war with another—or even several other—buyers. In that situation, you may find yourself having to make an offer at, or even in many cases, above, the asking price. This means that you may want to adjust your budget—and bidding—accordingly. Choosing to make an offer on a home that has an asking price that is already at the top of your budget may mean that you simply don’t have much wiggle room when it comes to making an offer over that price. Choosing a home slightly under the top of your budget means you’ll have more flexibility to make a bid that is more competitive and likely to be accepted.
- Consider offering non-price-oriented incentives: Without question, making a highly competitive offer is going to be the key to increasing your chances of having that offer accepted. It’s important to remember that there is more to an offer than just price, however. Buyers may want to consider increasing the appeal of an offer by supplementing it with other incentives beyond just the dollar amount itself. Examples of such incentives might include things like foregoing the seller-paid home warranty that is often offered as part of the process, offering a shorter closing period, not making the purchase contingent upon the sale of a currently-owned home, or other such incentives. Doing so may give you the edge you need to have your offer selected over other competitive bids.
- Retain the right real estate agent: Often, for LGBTQ buyers, especially in a competitive market, this piece of the puzzle is particularly important. In many, although certainly not all, cases LGBTQ buyers are drawn to specific areas of a city or community where other LGBTQ individuals live. That means that in a market where inventory is already limited and going quickly, there can be even fewer homes available upon which to bid. When that is the case, you will need a real estate agent who knows the community that you’re interested in, and who can quickly help you identify and take action toward making offers on homes that fit your needs. Having the right agent can make all the difference between a smooth and successful home-buying experience, and a stressful one
Help, I’m under contract! They accepted my offer?!
Buyer and seller need to work as a team
What are the most common questions real estate agents, title companies and lenders get once a client is under contract? Well, luckily on my team we send out a next steps letter to all of our clients once an offer has been accepted and this helps them to know what to do the first week, the second week, and in any subsequent weeks before the settlement.
For example, the letter will go out and say, “Make sure to get your EMD check to the title company in the agreed upon amount of time.” The EMD is your earnest money deposit, and most contracts have a buyer write a check for several thousands of dollars that will go the title company as sort of a “security deposit” on a contract that later gets applied to the buyers’ closing costs.
The letter will also instruct a buyer to contact their lender and confirm with them that they are under contract and to get the contract over to the lender so they can start preparing the loan and order the appraisal. The letter also states that later in the process the buyer will get the wiring instructions from the title company where settlement will be held for the down payment money. If there is to be a home inspection, we will also get that scheduled, usually in the first week after going under contract also.
If selling, the letter is a different one with information about moving companies and getting any staging out of the listing. Both parties will receive instructions on how to change the utilities from the seller to the buyer the week of settlement. The title company will also follow up with the buyers and sellers to get any needed info. They will ask any questions necessary to possibly help the buyer to get any deductions or credits they might qualify for that could lower their closing costs. A good lender will do this also.
What each buyer and seller needs is good teamwork to make the dream work whenever a house is changing hands and a large transaction is going to be handled. For more information, you can contact me to attend my next Homebuyer’s Seminar on Oct. 12 in the evening, which will be on Zoom.
Joseph Hudson is a Realtor at the Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or at [email protected].
Jenn Smira Team fighting to make world a better place
Join us in the fight against cancer
At The Jenn Smira Team, we don’t just talk about making the world a better place, we fight to make it happen — literally. Case in point: this fall, Elvin Merlo (one of our very own agents) has been selected to fight in the Haymakers for Hope Beltway Brawl. What does that mean, exactly? On Nov. 4, Elvin will compete in a three-round amateur boxing match to raise money for cancer research. Read on to learn more about Elvin’s fight and the cause that compelled him to step into the ring.
A little bit about H4H: Haymakers for Hope is a 501(c)(3) charity organization that gives all of us the opportunity to fight back against cancer. The organization helps others like Elvin train for — and compete in — a sanctioned charity boxing event to raise funds for cancer research, care, awareness, and survivorship. To prepare for each event, they combine the efforts of local boxing gyms and volunteers, and match each contestant up with someone of a similar experience level (even if that experience level is “none”).
The H4H History: In 2009, H4H founders Andrew Myerson and Julie Anne Kelly participated in the New York City Golden Gloves, one of the most highly regarded amateur boxing tournaments in the U.S. After the lights went down, they realized that something was missing, and decided then and there to channel their fighting spirit to raise money for cancer research instead. This planted the seeds for Haymakers for Hope. Today, H4H gives people just like you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in their first-ever sanctioned boxing event while supporting a worthy cause at the same time. The experience is impactful, challenging, and life changing, and the march toward a cure continues long after the last match of the night.
Why Elvin Fights: Elvin fights for David Black, his dear friend who recently passed away after a nearly seven-year battle with brain cancer. He was only 33 years old and left behind his wife, Jen, and two beautiful children.
While it’s nearly impossible to capture John in just a few words, the ones that might do it best are perhaps: “I want to be like John when I grow up.” It’s a phrase that his father, John Sr., could often be overheard saying and a sentiment the rest of his family would all be quick to echo.
John was a force. He loved his family and friends above all else and radiated a quiet resolve that comforted those around him. He faced adversity with unflappable courage and never missed an opportunity to elicit a smile with his wry sense of humor, no matter the hardship he faced.
John truly embodied the warrior spirit, which is why Elvin knew there was only one way to honor him: to fight. That’s why on Nov. 4, he’ll step into the boxing ring and join 27 other fighters for a three-round sanctioned boxing event while raising money for cancer research, care, awareness, and survivorship.
Fundraising Specifics: Elvin is raising money for Dr. John Laterra’s research at John’s Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Dr. Laterra oversaw John’s treatment, and is internationally recognized for his clinical expertise and research on the mechanisms of brain tumor malignancy.
Compass Cares empowers agents and employees alike to support meaningful causes right where it counts most: at home. Compass has already pledged $15,000 to support Elvin in his fight against cancer.
Will you join the fight? Visit haymakersforhope.org to make your donation today.
Jenn Smira is a Realtor and executive vice president at the Jenn Smira Team. Reach her at 202-340-7675 or via jennsmira.com.
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