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New Year, more of the same D.C. housing trends

Sales remain robust in first quarter of 2019

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homeownership, gay news, Washington Blade
Sellers are optimistic that Amazon will bring a boost to the D.C.-area market.

New year, hot market! After a weaker than usual fall market of 2018, the 2019 market came in with a bang. Sales are robust, buyers are entering the market at a rapid pace (more on this later), days on market are short, and off-market activity has increased. So will this fast pace of the market continue throughout the year? What else do we anticipate for real estate in 2019? As I reviewed my 2018 real estate market predictions, I realized that although much has changed since early 2018, much more has stayed the same. So without further ado, here are my predictions for the 2019 real estate market.

AMAZON – HOW REAL IS THE HYPE?

Everyone is asking how much impact Amazon’s HQ2 will have on our area. While it is too early to tell exactly what the HQ2 future holds, we can tell you what we’ve seen so far. A few Amazon executives have already relocated to our area. We are working and have worked with several buyers from Seattle and have seen a couple of others bring offers on our listings. However, this first round of relocations has been limited and hasn’t impacted the market on a large scale.

We have also seen the Amazon effect in two other areas. First, renters (mostly millennials living in D.C., Arlington, and Alexandria) have decided they want to buy before the large relocations begin, causing a buyer influx in the market. The second effect is a significant increase in consumer confidence locally. While the political climate (which we will talk about later) is a bit more unpredictable with furloughs and unstable interest rates, the news of Amazon’s HQ2 has given both buyers and sellers confidence about our local real estate market — always a good thing. With the news of the New York location possibly being reconsidered, this means only good things for our area. You can read more about our predictions for Amazon’s HQ2 at thegoodhartgroup.com. 

FEBRUARY 2019 UPDATE  

This week, Amazon announced it’s halting plans for its other HQ2 site in Queens, N.Y., due to a lack of support from local government officials and the community. Amazon officials insist that pulling out of the Long Island City location does NOT mean they’re searching for a new HQ2 site. Its expansion plans will proceed focused on the National Landing site outside D.C. and Nashville hub locations. Amazon’s 17 other hubs will absorb the remaining jobs. However, local officials are not ruling out the possibility of more jobs at Amazon’s Crystal City location. Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said the state’s package was structured to allow for the possibility of up to 37,500 local Amazon jobs, an additional 50% on top of the planned 25,000. Of course, more area jobs means only good news for home values in our region.

MILLENNIALS: HIGH EXPECTATIONS

This resurgence of high-end millennial buyers who entered the market in 2018 also created demand for new construction and renovated homes. Why are these younger luxury buyers so interested in newer renovated properties, especially in our historic town? Many are dual-income families who do not have the time, vision, or cash to update an older home. But, these buyers still want their home to look good. We millennials have come of age in a visual society (thank you, Instagram and Pinterest) where we expect everything to look good, all the time.

This desire for new and improved homes has meant intense competition over the few available lots and small homes on lots over 5,000 square feet that could be expanded and renovated.

Unfortunately for many buyers looking for starter homes in our market, most single-family homes in close-in neighborhoods listed under $800,000 were scooped up in multiple offer situations by builders making all cash, no contingencies offers. As a result, many first and second time buyers were edged out of the running.

THE POLITICAL CLIMATE: IT’S ALL ABOUT POTRUXI

So, what in the heck is PoTruXi? ProTruXi is an abbreviation for the three people who will shape the course of the national economy this year.

Po = Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve. What the Fed does over the next year will matter, big time. Interest rates have been especially volatile and quite a bit higher than they were at this time last year. It’s been predicted that rates would continue to rise throughout 2019, but we have seen the Fed pump the brakes a bit on their plans to raise rates. Rising interest rates play a huge role in the health of the real estate market as they can dramatically impact affordability. We anticipate rates to rise only subtly this year – versus the expectation at the end of 2018 that they would continue to rise aggressively. This is good news!

Tru = President Trump – and actually, Congress too. What happens here in D.C. has major ramifications for our economy and our real estate market, both nationally and locally. With a Democratic House of Representatives and a Republican Senate, the balance of power could provide to be a positive for the market. Why? Often it means that extremist policy on either side of the aisle is unlikely to be passed which improves consumer confidence. The big unknown locally is how we will weather another possible government shutdown. The January shutdown didn’t have a large impact on our market as a whole. However, if Trump and Congress continue their stalemate, it may cause more of a problem in the future.

Xi = China’s President Xi. The ability to strike a trade deal between the U.S. and China will also matter. The current turbulence around trade is fueling a lack of confidence and stock market volatility. Many U.S. companies are reliant on growth in China and tariffs on construction materials have made both renovating and building less affordable. We already have a chronic shortage of housing, especially affordable housing, so I would anticipate trade becoming more of a hot button issue as we get closer to elections.

THE FUTURE OF TECHNOLOGY 

Last year, I predicted biometrics and artificial intelligence would make their appearance as new trends in the industry. Biometrics has become more mainstream in our everyday world as consumers embraced the iPhone X and Clear security at the airport. However, we still haven’t seen it become mainstream in the real estate world but the whispers continue that it is coming.

I also predicted artificial intelligence would become a part of the real estate space and there were significant strides in this arena in 2018, both inside and outside of real estate. On the real estate front, last year I referenced a futuristic sign that could interact with consumers that was “teased” at a conference I attended. In 2018, this sign was unveiled by Compass! In fact, the moment Robert Reffkin, the CEO of Compass, introduced the idea of the sign, a spark of interest about this growing company was ignited for our team. Of course, in June of 2018, we officially joined Compass and are so proud to be a part of a company that is advancing the world of real estate forward. With the hiring of Microsoft’s former Chief of Technology, Compass is also rolling out an artificial intelligence program that will improve both the consumer and agent experiences.

THE REAL STORY OF 2019

While all of these factors will play a role, the real story of 2019 market in the DC Metro areais historically low inventory which is impacting buyers and sellers of all agents in all price points. While our market has experienced low inventory for the last two or three years, we are seeing even more fierce competition and bidding wars already in 2019. After being strategically staged and marketed with a coming soon campaign, one of our listings in Rosemont recently had 13 offers and sold well over asking with no contingencies. This is great news for sellers and not-so-great news for buyers. It will be critical for buyers to work with an agent plugged into the market.

Because of this low inventory, we are seeing more off-market activity, with fewer homes going on the active market.

As a result, most active buyers aren’t even hearing about available homes until they are already under contract.

THE BOTTOM LINE – OUR MARKET IS STRONG

So, what does all of this mean when taken together? More buyers in the market and fewer sellers mean that we are likely going to be in a sellers’ market in 2019. That being said, sellers still need to stage and price their homes appropriately to generate interest in today’s highly visual world. When they do, they are being rewarded with excellent contracts. Sellers can capitalize on the stalemated interest rates and excitement over Amazon. Buyers can lock in still low rates before they rise.

All in all, the first half of 2019 is shaping up to be a strong market. We will be closely watching the political climate and the plans for Amazon’s expansion to see how things look for the second half of the year. In the meantime, if we can help you with your real estate goals in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are always here to help!

Allison Goodhart DuShuttle is with Compass Real Estate. Led by Sue & Allison Goodhart, they have been named a Top Agent by both Washingtonian and Northern Virginia magazines. Allison can be reached at 703-362-3221 or [email protected]

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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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