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COVID real estate — the new normal

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COVID real estate
Masks, sanitizers, and other precautions have enabled real estate business to continue and to thrive in the D.C. market.

Despite the circumstances of this year, the D.C. Metro area real estate market has felt like it is our busiest in recent memory.

It seems that we are now in what we expected our spring market to be (delayed due to the virus shutdown), and July’s numbers prove this to be true. Typically, July is slower than June, but this year, sales increased 17% month over month, 20% in D.C. alone. July area home sales were at a 10-year best for the month. Median home prices in the area were up 13% compared to July 2019, and days on market (8) were at the lowest July level in 10 years, also the second shortest number of days on market overall in 10 years.

This market is great for both buyers and sellers, although for different reasons.

It is a great time to sell, with chronic low inventory and many people figuring out some new “must-haves” for their extended time at home. We’ve found that many sellers with second homes went to those homes early on in the shutdown, and have decided to stay there, rather than return to the city (whether that’s D.C., New York, or elsewhere). While moving during a pandemic didn’t seem possible at first, everyone has figured out how to safely manage the process. The current market is proving to also be a great time to buy, with historically low mortgage interest rates. Buyers are flocking to homes with more outdoor space, larger office areas, and to locations with proximity to outdoor access, including local parks.

Buyers, sellers, and agents have all figured out how to safely function (masks, gloves, sanitizers, and distancing are all mandatory) in our “new normal.” We continue to show property, hold open houses, and work diligently for our clients, it just looks different than it used to. Virtual showings, while initially employed more for health safety, are continuing to be used as a convenient tool for out-of-town buyers. These Facetime or Zoom showings allow buyers to preview property and get a sense of the area before taking time out of their busy schedules to go see it.

With title companies and lenders now allowing many virtual options, the teamwork that goes into a smooth real estate transaction is stronger than ever. As we continue to work and move forward, we also understand and acknowledge that safety is the first and foremost priority for everyone.

The entire Hagen-Bergstrom team wears masks throughout the day, and we provide gloves, sanitizer, and keep our distance while meeting our clients in person. This allows us to ensure safety while still maintaining that personal relationship that is crucial to a successful real estate transaction. We strive to make sure all our clients, and anyone else with whom we interact, feel safe in this new environment. Luckily, we have experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and other leading medical specialists, to guide us through this global pandemic.

Sylvia Bergstrom has been a top-producing agent since launching her real estate career and Marin Hagen joined her mother’s successful practice in 2007. Their business is nearly 100% repeat and referral, a testament to their high ethical standards, strong negotiating skills, energy, and discretion. Sylvia and Marin consistently rank among Coldwell Banker’s top three Mid-Atlantic teams out of more than 2,000 agents.

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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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