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2019 home ownership is Mission: Possible

Get started with these three key steps

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home ownership, gay news, Washington Blade

You can be well on your way to accomplishing the goal of home ownership in 2019 by following three steps.

If you haven’t gotten on the first rung of the property ladder yet, the holidays are a perfect time to make a game plan for buying in the New Year. After all the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, parties and family time starts to wind down, sit down with your laptop and a cup of hot chocolate and start strategizing to get the process started.

STEP 1: BUDGET AND FINANCE CHECKUP. Take a close look at your monthly income and spending, and evaluate what your true comfort level is with a monthly housing payment. Remember, your first home should be as much of an investment as a place to live, so try to reach for the property with the best chance of appreciation in the coming years. Be realistic about your spending, but also try to reign in unnecessary expenses by cutting out some restaurant visits, weekday drinking and subscriptions to services like Hulu or Prime, if you’re not using them much or can share with a housemate. And speaking of housemates, factor a possible housemate into your housing budget—you’ll actually save money by buying a two-bedroom condo that allows you to charge a roommate rent. Also, remember that when you buy, you’ll enjoy some tax deductions that will cut the bite of the mortgage down a bit, so make sure you discuss these possibilities with an accountant to understand all the benefits available to you. Finally, if you have any credit issues, get those resolved. Pay off any outstanding obligations if you can, and get an account with a credit repair service like LexingtonLaw.com to remove blemishes on your report, even if they weren’t there by mistake.

STEP 2: TALK TO A LOCAL LENDER. Most buyers think that if they work with the bank that has their checking account, they’ll get a better deal. That’s usually not true; in fact, the “big box” lenders often dangle a low rate to you but then cause so many problems during the process that you may not even be able to close on your property on time, which could cost you thousands. Instead, talk to a local lender like some of our favorites: Brooke Lowry at Atlantic Coast Mortgage (NMLS ID #1061722, cell: 202-803-6733) or Tina Del Casale at Sandy Spring Bank (NMLS # 191852, cell: 301-523-1893). They are able to get the best rates, but also to close your deal on time, with as little hassle as possible. And since they’re local, they know all the programs available to you so you can budget accordingly and not leave a penny on the table. There are some amazing programs in D.C. for first-time homebuyers, especially those with “lower” incomes, so it pays to talk with them even if you think you should wait on a big raise before starting the process—sometimes that big raise might actually cost you $20,000 or more in savings. For example, the D.C. Tax Abatement Program for single buyers who earn $65,000 or less, and who buy a property less than $464,000, benefit with a net 2.2% benefit at settlement, and then don’t pay property taxes at all for five years. That’s about $25,000 in savings!

STEP 3: GET A STRATEGIC PARTNER WITH AN EXPERIENCED AGENT. Choosing a Realtor is one of the most important parts of the buying process, yet so many buyers don’t think carefully about the agent with whom they align before it happens. Just as you wouldn’t marry the first person you dated, you shouldn’t commit to an agent before you know they have the skill, experience and support structure to provide you with the best service and results.

A great agent should be accessible night and day, knowledgeable of local neighborhoods, changes occurring in legislation and the market, and creative enough to find solutions for you that you and lesser agents could not come up with.

Agents who work solo are fine, but agents on a team are usually steeped in education and have more accountability, so they are usually a better choice. Teams also give agents an inside look at more properties before they hit the market, so you may have a better chance of getting a deal before it’s listed when you work with an agent on a strong team.

A buyer seminar is a great way to learn about the market and get insight on a potential agent partner with no commitment. You’d be surprised how few agents actually do hold them, so you know you’re working with a strong team when seminars are offered often. In a buyer seminar, you’ll learn with other newer buyers in a classroom setting, often with refreshments provided too. We hold our seminars monthly and even offer Champagne, and we’re proud to have our lenders there as well, so our guests can learn about the process on both the lending and the agency side of things.

Once you’re ready to commit to working with an agent, you should set a game plan with him or her so you understand the timeline and know what to expect. Most of our clients find their home within the first three outings, but it can take longer, especially if there is competition on the ones they like. We’re happy to show as many homes as our clients want to see, and to advise on every aspect of the contract so they have the highest likelihood of winning, and it shows in our results—we win in multiple offer situations more than 50% of the time, often beating out five or six other offers. And just like most buyers’ agents, our team offers all these services without charging commission; the seller pays the entire commission for both sides.

With this three-step process, you should be well on your way to accomplishing the goal of home ownership in 2019. And since it’s such a good investment to do so, your future self will thank you for accepting the challenge.

 

David Bediz is a 14-year veteran Realtor and has served on the boards of directors of both local Realtor associations. He has a top-producing team of agents called Bediz Group, LLC at KW Capital Properties. Reach him at 202-642-1616, bediz.com or through the main office number at 202-243-7700.

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Real Estate

My Best Of’s in D.C. real estate

Favorites in buyer programs, paint colors, and more

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Forget shiplap, wallpaper is back!

As I congratulate my colleagues and friends who have received the coveted Best of Gay DC awards, I thought it appropriate to share with you my own, subjective “Best of” list. 

Best Housing to Buy. With 233 of them on the market in D.C., the one-bedroom, one-bath condominium under $400,000 may be the best option for a personal residence or investment. Given a median price of $320,000 and 49 days on the market, there are deals to be made. You have your choice of areas around the city and of buildings large and small.

Best First-time Buyer Program. D.C.’s Housing Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) is by far the best option to use if you are eligible. This program is based on household income and size and can provide up to $84,000 toward the purchase of a D.C. personal residence. For example, to receive the full amount, the income of a party of two is limited to a total of $51,600, 50% of the median family income for D.C. Other requirements may apply.

Best Tax Reduction Program. If you qualify, you may be able to take advantage of the DC Tax Abatement Program. Using the example of our party of two working adults buying a personal residence for less than $516,800, the income limit is $79,020 or $113,500 in designated Economic Development Zones.

Approval for the program exempts buyers from paying property taxes for up to five years and reduces the closing costs for the purchase by eliminating the buyer-paid recordation taxes and distributing the seller-paid transfer taxes to the buyer instead of to the DC tax office. For the buyer of that $516,800 personal residence, that can mean a savings of nearly $15,000 in closing costs.

Best Neutral Paint Color. First it was Builder Beige, then Gray was OK, then they blended into Good Grief Greige. While neutrals can be bland and boring, these days, expect to see a variety of off-whites gracing the walls of homes for sale. Sherman Williams 7008, Alabaster, did the trick for my most recent sellers. 

Best Wall Décor. Sponge paint and other effects are long gone. Forget shiplap unless you live in a house at the beach or on an actual ship. Distressed wood may still be suitable for a cabin in the woods, but in a modern, urban setting, wallpaper is back, baby! 

This is not your grandmother’s wallpaper. No chickens, tiny prints, borders, or faux grass cloth are in sight. Today’s wallpapers are bold, geometric, or a throwback to mid-century modern and are primarily used on an accent wall so they’re not overwhelming. Love vs. Design (lovevsdesign.com) can create custom wallpaper to match your color scheme in a peel and stick application that eschews the mess of wallpaper paste.

Best Indoor Plant. For us plant growing novices, the award goes to The Easy Care Bundle at The Sill (thesill.com). For only $45, you get two potted succulents that are very hard to kill, a Snake Plant and a ZZ Plant. 

You can also set yourself up on a subscription. $60 plus a $10 shipping charge buys a medium sized plant-of-the-month with a black or cream-colored planter. Choose classic plants or select pet-friendly, non-toxic plants for only $5 more with a 3-month minimum subscription. You can even purchase these as gifts.

Best Balcony Plant. For homes with a balcony or a deck, the winner is a potted Winter Gem Boxwood. It’s an evergreen that will turn a golden shade in the winter then green again in the spring. It also grows in both full and partial shade – almost a set it and forget it type of shrub – needing water only once a week or twice in hotter climates. Cut it as a topiary à la Edward Scissorhands for a little architectural interest.

Best Freestanding Refrigerator. I would be remiss if I didn’t include a best appliance category.An upscale fridge with see-through doors and built-in versions of computers, televisions and smart home elements holds a certain appeal until one of the glitzy attractions breaks and you spend as much for a new motherboard as you would for a whole new refrigerator. 

The winner of this category, therefore, is Samsung’s model RF28R7351SR. This bad boy is available in both standard and counter depth and features a French door top with external water and ice, a pull-out freezer with dual baskets, and a middle drawer that can be set to one of four temperatures to accommodate food or wine.

There you have it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to judge the Best of Blake Miniature Schnauzers category. I’m thinking a 4-way tie is in order.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. 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

Helpful tips for homebuyers in seller’s market

2021 has been a great year for home sales

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COVID-19 housing market, gay news, Washington Blade

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

Jeff Hammerberg (he/him/his) is the Founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526, [email protected] or GayRealEstate.com

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Real Estate

Help, I’m under contract!  They accepted my offer?!

Buyer and seller need to work as a team

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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].

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