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How and when to inspect a home

Skipping it improves your offer but comes with risk

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property inspections, gay news, Washington Blade
Some jurisdictions specifically add chimneys and environmental hazards to the list of possible inspections.

Property inspections have long been a part of the real estate buying process. Traditionally, a buyer would make an offer subject to a satisfactory home inspection. If something were found to be functioning poorly or not at all, the buyer would request that the seller make repairs and that request would be negotiated between the parties until they agreed on what was to be done.

As with everything else, there have been changes to the process over the years. There are now options for radon and lead paint inspections, and inspection of wells and septic systems that are more commonly found in outlying areas. Some jurisdictions specifically add mold, chimneys and environmental hazards to the list of possible inspections.

Now, when preparing an offer for a buyer, an agent will discuss how, when, which, or if inspections should be conducted, in what manner the process may differ in each jurisdiction, and how a buyer’s market or a seller’s market can affect the process. She will also caution the buyer to focus on systems that are malfunctioning and safety concerns rather than on cosmetic issues.

Sometimes a listing agent will advise a seller to have a home inspection before putting the house on the market to identify items in need of repair upfront. The seller can then make the repairs and provide the report and invoices for the work to the buyer. If no repairs will be made, the information about the condition of the home can be used to set its price or market it “as is.”

In D.C. and Montgomery County, for example, there are two types of home inspections, one where a buyer can choose between the ability to negotiate repairs with the seller and the opportunity to cancel the contract for any reason he is dissatisfied with the inspection, or both.

A general inspection in D.C. need not be conducted by a certified home inspector but can be carried out by the buyer’s brother-in-law, best friend, or anyone else the buyer chooses. An inspector in Maryland as well as in Virginia must be licensed and insured. Radon, lead and well/septic inspections are required to be conducted by professionals who specialize in those areas.

At this time, we are still experiencing a seller’s market in many portions of the metropolitan area, although condominium sales are slowing, with 1,160 of them available just in D.C. and nearly 300 of those on the market for more than 60 days.

That means that houses in sought-after areas in pristine condition will still command multiple offers. When that is the case, a seller is looking for an offer with as few contingencies as possible. A home inspection contingency of 7 to 10 days leaves the seller in limbo, holding her breath to see if the transaction will continue or the buyer will opt out, so you can understand why she would look more favorably on an offer that has no such contingency.

One of the ways around this is by doing a pre-offer inspection, also referred to as a “walk and talk.” With the seller’s permission, you go to the home with your inspector prior to making your offer to determine whether you want the house and how much you are willing to pay for it based on its condition.

A walk and talk inspection is often less invasive and less expensive than a traditional inspection. You will either get an abbreviated report or none at all, so it’s important to take notes and photographs while you’re there with your inspector. Having this type of inspection allows you to write an offer without an inspection contingency, increasing the value of your offer to the seller.

While I don’t recommend it, sometimes a buyer will opt to bypass an inspection altogether. For example, in new construction a buyer meets with the builder’s representative prior to settlement to check the physical condition of the property and make sure systems and appliances are working properly. Items of note are entered on a punch list for repair by the builder.

Other examples may include a condominium, where the roof, basement, and some of the major systems are the responsibility of management, and a cooperative, which often requires an inspection by the building manager. Items identified must be repaired by the seller prior to transferring ownership.

And a word of caution about quick flips: During sellers’ markets, everyone with a hammer and a screwdriver becomes a renovation expert. There may be a pig hiding behind that lipstick.

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

Building dream homes with confidence

The pros, cons, and LGBTQ insights of new construction

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One key advantage of buying a newly constructed home is the ability to customize its finishings.

Buying a new construction home offers a unique set of advantages and challenges compared to purchasing a pre-owned property. Understanding these can help potential homeowners make informed decisions. Here’s an exploration of the pros and cons of buying a new construction home and the importance of professional real estate assistance.

Advantages of Buying a New Construction Home

Customization: One of the primary benefits of buying a new construction home is the ability to customize it according to your preferences. Buyers often have the option to select floor plans, finishes, and fixtures, making the home truly their own.

Modern Features: New homes are built with the latest technologies and materials, offering more energy-efficient windows, appliances, HVAC systems, and construction methods. This can lead to significant savings on utility bills and a smaller carbon footprint.

Less Maintenance: Since everything from the appliances to the roof is brand new, homeowners typically face fewer maintenance issues in the first few years compared to older homes where systems might be nearing the end of their lifespan.

Warranties: New construction homes usually come with warranties that cover the structure and sometimes appliances and systems for a certain period, providing peace of mind to the buyer.

Disadvantages of Buying a New Construction Home

Higher Costs: Often, new construction homes come at a premium price compared to older homes. Customizations and upgrades can also add up quickly, further increasing the overall cost.

Delays: Construction timelines can be unpredictable due to weather, supply chain issues, or labor shortages. This can lead to delays in the move-in date, which can be problematic for buyers with specific timing needs.

Immature Landscaping: Newly developed areas may lack mature trees and landscaping, which can affect the property’s aesthetic appeal and privacy. It may take years for new plantings to grow fully.

Community Development: In new subdivisions, construction can continue for months or years after you move in, leading to ongoing noise, dust, and traffic.

Importance of Connecting with a GayRealEstate.com Realtor

Expert Guidance: A Realtor familiar with new construction can provide invaluable advice on the quality of different builders, potential future developments in the area, and the negotiation of upgrades and closing costs.

Representation: Builders have their own sales agents or representatives looking out for their interests. Having your own real estate agent ensures someone is advocating for your best interests, helping to navigate contracts and warranties.

Market Knowledge: Realtors have a deep understanding of the local real estate market, which can help in evaluating the new construction home’s quality and price against current market conditions.

LGBTQ Friendly: For LGBTQ individuals and families, finding a welcoming and supportive community is crucial. Realtors from GayRealEstate.com specialize in understanding the unique needs and concerns of the LGBTQ community, ensuring a smooth and respectful home-buying experience.

Before visiting a new home community, connecting with a Realtor from GayRealEstate.com can provide you with a competitive advantage. Their expertise, advocacy, and personalized support can help navigate the complexities of buying a new construction home, making the process less stressful and more rewarding. Whether it’s negotiating the price, understanding the fine print of your contract, or choosing the right community, a professional real estate agent is an invaluable asset in your home-buying journey.

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Real Estate

Moving in together: What’s yours, mine, and ours?

Combining homes requires patience, communication, compromise

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Moving in together? There are some key factors to consider first.

As we approach Valentine’s Day, imagine you’re sitting with your significant other at a table for two in a quiet corner of a fabulous restaurant. You have just had a sumptuous meal, along with cocktails, wine, and a flaming dessert, when your partner leans in and whispers the words of Christopher Marlowe: “come live with me and be my love.”

In the journey of love and companionship, combining living spaces is a sizable milestone. Whether it’s moving in together, getting married, or simply sharing a home, commingling the living areas of two individuals requires careful consideration, compromise, and creativity. This process involves merging not only physical belongings but also lifestyles and preferences. 

Unless either of you is still living Chez Mom and Dad, you’ll need to decide whose home will be your new nesting place. Are you currently renting and constrained by a lease? Does one of you own property? Do you both? Whose home is most convenient or closest to the size you need? 

In any personal, business, or familial relationship, communication is key. Open and honest discussions about expectations, preferences, and boundaries lay the foundation for a successful integration of living areas, even if you’re only roommates. Each person should feel heard and respected, and compromises should be made where necessary.

Whether you intend to move into one or the other’s existing residence or decide to sell “yours and mine” and buy “ours,” understanding each other’s needs, desires, and budgets will help you pinpoint a location, size, and type of home that will work best.

 For example, someone who works at home may find location to be less important than it is for a DMV commuter. Perhaps access to dining and shopping nearby is important to you. 

Is it just the two of you or will you be a Brady Bunch blended family? Do you anticipate caring for elderly relatives now or in the future? Do you need dual office spaces or an exercise area?

Will it be a condominium, townhouse, or detached home? Colonial, mid-century modern, contemporary, or one-story rambler? Also, if you clarify how your budgets will mesh up front, you may save yourself from arguing about money later. 

Once you have decided on where, what, and how much, considering each person’s habits, routines, and design tastes can help to create a space that reflects both individuals’ personalities while fostering warmth and harmony.

Practicality plays a crucial role in merging living spaces. Assessing the available space, storage needs, and functionality of each item is essential. Bring out your inner Marie Kondo. Duplicate or unnecessary items can be minimized through decluttering and organizing sessions. Deciding together which items to keep, donate, or repurpose ensures that the space remains clutter-free and functional for both individuals.

Attaining a cohesive design aesthetic can be a fun and rewarding aspect of creating new living spaces. Finding common ground in terms of color schemes, furniture styles, and decorative elements helps in achieving a cohesive look. Mixing and matching pieces from each person’s collection can add character and uniqueness to the space while maintaining a sense of balance.

Flexibility is key when it comes to compromise. Both individuals may have attachments to certain belongings or design elements, and finding middle ground is essential. Being open to trying out new arrangements or incorporating elements from different styles can lead to surprising and delightful outcomes.

Personalization is important in making the shared space feel like home for both individuals. Incorporating meaningful objects, photographs, and artwork can add a personal touch and foster a sense of belonging. Creating designated areas or corners where each person can display their interests or hobbies allows for individual expression within the shared space.

Respect for each other’s privacy and personal space is paramount in a shared living arrangement. Designating separate areas or zones where each person can retreat and have some alone time ensures that both individuals feel comfortable and respected. Clear communication about boundaries and expectations regarding personal space helps in avoiding conflicts down the road.

Flexibility and adaptability are essential qualities to navigate the challenges of turning two homes into one. As individuals grow and evolve, so do their preferences and needs. Regular discussions about how the shared space is working for both individuals allow for adjustments to be made as needed.

Most of all, combining the living areas of two individuals is a process that requires patience, communication, and compromise. By approaching the task with an open mind and a willingness to collaborate, it is possible to create a harmonious and functional living space that reflects the personalities and preferences of both parties and truly makes it your own. 

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

Pros and cons of selling a home ‘as-is’

Take the time to fill out a disclosure form — it’ll pay off

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Selling your home as-is suggests you haven’t kept up with the maintenance.

When selling your home, be it a single family home, condo, co-op, tiny home, birdcage etc., you are provided a document, in most jurisdictions, called a Sellers Disclosure, which you are to fill out. Each jurisdiction is different with how to do so – but for this discussion, let’s assume that all things are equal and as such, when handed that seller’s disclosure document, you are to fill it out in its entirety. 

This document goes over the home from top to bottom. I am talking about roof. How old is the roof? How many layers of shingles? What type of shingle? Do you know of any issues with the roof? If so, what kind of issues? Were any repairs made to the roof? If so, what and when? Now, let’s move on to the HVAC system. What kind of heating system are we looking at? How old is the system? How is the system fueled? Are there current issues with the system? Have there ever been any issues with the system? Etc. etc. You get the picture, right? 

This Seller’s Disclosure document goes on, again, from the roof, the walls, the electrical, the plumbing, the windows, the foundation, drainage, underground storage tanks, pools, driveway cracks, sidewalk cracks, wells, septic tanks, public sewer, easements, arial rights, and on and on depending on your jurisdiction there could be even more items added. When speaking to an attorney the best rule of thumb when it comes to Sellers Disclosures is Disclose, Disclose, Disclose. I know what you’re saying to yourself: This seems like an awful headache and I only like getting headaches from cheap Champagne from bottomless mimosas at brunch. While I disagree with you on that — I do believe that filling out these disclosures are, indeed, a headache, however I also believe that the alternative of an “as-is” sale is also a nightmare. Let me explain.

If you forgo filling out a Sellers Disclosure you can sell your home in “as-is” state and by doing so you warrant nothing in your home. That means you are claiming you know nothing about this home. By doing so that means that you aren’t letting the buyer know that you just spent $15,000 on the brand new roof two years ago and that it comes with a 25-year transferable warranty, that you just replaced the dishwasher last year, that you have a brand new sump pump in the basement and French drain system to mitigate drainage issues that occurred when you purchased the home five years ago. Instead – by you simply staying silent – you are essentially inferring that your home is not lovingly cared for and as a result you could receive lower than market offers on your home, which has in fact been lovingly cared for and tended to by you and your significant other – because let’s face it – queer folk tend to over improve their homes — that’s just a fact. 

There are no easy ways out in real estate here folks, especially when speaking about Sellers Disclosures forms. Be as specific as possible and disclose, disclose, disclose. The best time to do an “as-is” sale is when an estate sale is involved and you literally know nothing about the property – however when you have lived in the home and know everything there is to know about the home – it is always best, even in states in which you have the ability to disclaim, take the time to properly fill out a disclosure form on your home to educate the next recipient of your lovingly cared for piece of real estate – so that they are ready to keep the legacy of those memories alive for generations to come.

If you ever have any questions about real estate specific forms or how a possible transaction might look – be sure to ask a well qualified Realtor such as myself.

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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