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Housing in the time of COVID-19

Realtors are adapting to the times as spring market arrives

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spring real estate market, gay news, Washington Blade
The spring real estate market is the busiest of the year but coronavirus is changing that in 2020.

There are lots of questions out there now for buyers AND sellers or people who were thinking about getting into the market and are now wondering if that’s a good idea. There are also lots of buyers wondering what happened to a good chunk of their investments in the last month, and lots of sellers wondering “Is anyone going to buy my house this year?” Simultaneously we have the following happening:

Low interest rates. Some of the lowest we have seen.

A huge stock market crash. One of the largest in the shortest amount of time in our lifetimes. Then a large rally.

Reduced ability to leave our homes, go to open houses, look at houses, fear of looking at a house that is inhabited, and fear of the unknown.

The spring market – traditionally the busiest time of year for real estate as the days grow longer, and the weather gets better – more buyers AND more sellers.

Basically, to paraphrase FDR who helped us through another tough time in our nation’s history, is “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Not to minimize the real risks of the economy crashing, not following the advice of the epidemiologists and public health professionals around us, and all the domino effects that are potentially going to happen. Our mental health is also at stake here too. Isolating ourselves to prevent spread of the coronavirus is hard! Many of my friends and colleagues are in some ways relishing some of the down time, but also missing their friends, missing being able to sit on patios and rooftops and go out for dinners.  This week I watched an Instagram post by Ellen DeGeneres where she calls Michelle Obama, and they mention that one of the (few) positives going on is that people are getting back in touch with themselves and their loved ones. We all aren’t rushing from one event to another.

What can we do in these times? Well, if you are a buyer, you are positioned like at no other time in history to have a virtual tour, a Facetime or video sent to you of the property you are considering. We have the technology now that makes showings easily and quickly coordinated. Most of the documents can be e-signed. If you are a seller, the same applies; we can take videos of your home, the yard, the views, the walk-in closets, the countertops, the two-car garage, the HOA amenities, the new carpet. We can transmit SO MUCH information about your home.  “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

We also have new language provided to the Realtors and the title companies and lenders involved from the various Realtor associations in the area that state there are protections for both the buyer and seller if one party gets the coronavirus or can’t leave their house to perform settlement. Delays can be agreed upon or voiding the contract is possible. There is now language that basically states that the contracts being written today address the possibility that a transaction could be affected by the coronavirus at no fault to either party involved in the transaction.  

Title companies are also exploring their options to e-notarize documents as legally allowed, and to have minimal crowds gathering for settlement. They are pledging to sanitize meeting spaces and let people keep the pen they used. As always, industries adapt to the environments they are in, and we are once again in an adaptation moment. Best of luck to you all, and please stay healthy and well. 

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with The Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 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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Real Estate

When does it make sense to pay for mortgage points?

It depends on how long you plan to stay in the house

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If you’re buying this fall, consider how long you plan to live in the home before deciding on buying mortgage points.

Sometimes when you hear people talking about mortgages you might hear the term “mortgage points.” In case you are wondering what that means, here’s the definition: Mortgage “points” are the fees a borrower pays in order to lower the interest rate on their loan. Sometimes referred to as “discount points” – since it discounts your rate (but increases your closing costs).

According to lender Brooke Lowry with Atlantic Coast Mortgage, the decision to use points relates to timeframe. She says, “The clear advantage of paying points is that it lowers your monthly payment. The clear disadvantage is that is increases the amount of cash due at closing. So, how do you decide if paying points makes sense or not? It really comes down to timeframe. Let’s say you pay $2,500 in points to lower your monthly payment by $50 per month. You would recapture the cost of paying points ($2,500 in this example) in 50 months. And after that is when you would start realizing the benefit of the points you paid several years earlier.”

So, if you plan on staying in your home for a longer period, and don’t plan on refinancing anytime soon, you might want to buy down your rate with points. As Brooke says, “The bottom line is that if you plan to have the same mortgage for a long period of time, then paying points can make sense since you give yourself a long enough runway to recapture the upfront cost and then benefit from the continued monthly savings. If you think you’ll refinance your loan, or potentially sell the house, then many times minimizing the amount of points you pay, or avoiding them altogether, can benefit you in the long run. The hard part is, none of us know when rates will fall so it’s hard to decide which option makes the most sense.”

For some people having the extra cash on hand to put toward the closing costs, a bathroom renovation once they move in, or just for moving costs and various other needs is more important. For others, having the lower rate and keeping the monthly payment down for as long as possible is more important. As one of my college professors used to say, “Context is everything.” 

Joseph Hudson is with the Rutstein Group of Compass and can be reached at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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