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Spring means time to think about curb appeal

Landscaping, repairing fences and walkways, and more

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curb appeal, gay news, Washington Blade
It’s spring, so time to plant flowers and trim trees.

If this week was any indication, it seems that spring is finally on the way. With it comes people wanting to sell their homes who need landscape art for some curb appeal or to spruce up their yards. Although I am not selling my house, I had a taste of landscape art this week.

At 9 a.m. on Monday, there was a knock at the door (or I assume there was, because I couldn’t hear it over the sound of barking dogs). It was D.C. Water asking me to move my car so they could make some repairs to the sidewalk that had been torn up when the neighborhood water pipes were replaced.

I parked on the street about three houses down and went back to working, delighted that I would be getting a new sidewalk, but at the end of the day, I looked outside and found that I was being held hostage by wet cement. I couldn’t leave my house, get to my car, or receive any mail, so my plans for three days had to be adjusted, all for a little (and free) curb appeal.

There is a plethora of retaining walls in the District. Whether they are made of brick, stone, or concrete block, some maintenance (or even replacement) is often warranted. Likewise, the decorative brick and basketweave on turn of the century homes is stunning but may need attention. I have found people with ornamental masonry skills to be in short supply, so it’s best to get on someone’s schedule soon if you need this type of work done.

In addition, I get frequent requests from clients for an ironworker to repair loose railings, failing steps, and wrought iron gates or fences. In fact, it will soon be time for me to install an iron railing that will mimic the Art Deco design of my garage gate for my 20 front steps. (Silly me. Who would have thought that in buying a one-story home, I would have to climb 20 stairs to get to the front door?)

I think I’ll throw in some tree trimming on my landscape art list this year. There’s nothing so disappointing as having a large piece of nature’s art fall on your roof.

Weeding is critical at the moment too, since I still have dead English Ivy covering my bushes and parts of my lawn. During the first spring weeding in my yard five years ago, I uncovered a lovely, brick pathway among some rose bushes in my back yard. Who knows what I could find next? Maybe Jimmy Hoffa.

I know nothing about flowers, but I love the color they add to a yard. Keeping up with their care, however, can be a daunting task, especially for those of us who are allergic. That’s where I bring in the big guns – the landscape architects – to design a plan and teach me how to keep the flowers from dying.

Having a gazebo or even an intimate seating area can add architectural interest to your yard. Me, I have a plastic shed and no, I didn’t put it there. It came with the house. Thankfully, I also have a lovely patio covered by a grape arbor. (Lucille Ball could have stomped grapes here.) Decks can be works of art, too.

In the past, when you took a drive in the country you would often pass a roadside statue store. You could buy a pair of concrete lions (I had two guarding the end of my pool in Florida ca. 1990), a bird feeder, a gargoyle, or a mini-Virgin Mary or other religious icon.

Nowadays, you can buy statuary online at Wayfair, Amazon, through the Frontline catalogue, and in person at your favorite big box home store.

And for those of you who live in apartments, condos, and cooperatives, fear not! You can still have flowers and plants in your home and, with Board approval, a planter or a gnome on your balcony.

If not, you can always find lots of Bob Ross art techniques on YouTube, paint your own landscape, and hang it over the fireplace.

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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Real Estate

Jenn Smira Team fighting to make world a better place

Join us in the fight against cancer

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Elvin Merlo is boxing on behalf of a friend who died of brain cancer.

At The Jenn Smira Team, we don’t just talk about making the world a better place, we fight to make it happen — literally. Case in point: this fall, Elvin Merlo (one of our very own agents) has been selected to fight in the Haymakers for Hope Beltway Brawl. What does that mean, exactly? On Nov. 4, Elvin will compete in a three-round amateur boxing match to raise money for cancer research. Read on to learn more about Elvin’s fight and the cause that compelled him to step into the ring.

A little bit about H4H: Haymakers for Hope is a 501(c)(3) charity organization that gives all of us the opportunity to fight back against cancer. The organization helps others like Elvin train for — and compete in — a sanctioned charity boxing event to raise funds for cancer research, care, awareness, and survivorship. To prepare for each event, they combine the efforts of local boxing gyms and volunteers, and match each contestant up with someone of a similar experience level (even if that experience level is “none”).

The H4H History: In 2009, H4H founders Andrew Myerson and Julie Anne Kelly participated in the New York City Golden Gloves, one of the most highly regarded amateur boxing tournaments in the U.S. After the lights went down, they realized that something was missing, and decided then and there to channel their fighting spirit to raise money for cancer research instead. This planted the seeds for Haymakers for Hope. Today, H4H gives people just like you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in their first-ever sanctioned boxing event while supporting a worthy cause at the same time. The experience is impactful, challenging, and life changing, and the march toward a cure continues long after the last match of the night.

Why Elvin Fights: Elvin fights for David Black, his dear friend who recently passed away after a nearly seven-year battle with brain cancer. He was only 33 years old and left behind his wife, Jen, and two beautiful children.

While it’s nearly impossible to capture John in just a few words, the ones that might do it best are perhaps: “I want to be like John when I grow up.” It’s a phrase that his father, John Sr., could often be overheard saying and a sentiment the rest of his family would all be quick to echo.

John was a force. He loved his family and friends above all else and radiated a quiet resolve that comforted those around him. He faced adversity with unflappable courage and never missed an opportunity to elicit a smile with his wry sense of humor, no matter the hardship he faced.

John truly embodied the warrior spirit, which is why Elvin knew there was only one way to honor him: to fight. That’s why on Nov. 4, he’ll step into the boxing ring and join 27 other fighters for a three-round sanctioned boxing event while raising money for cancer research, care, awareness, and survivorship.

Fundraising Specifics: Elvin is raising money for Dr. John Laterra’s research at John’s Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Dr. Laterra oversaw John’s treatment, and is internationally recognized for his clinical expertise and research on the mechanisms of brain tumor malignancy.

Compass Cares empowers agents and employees alike to support meaningful causes right where it counts most: at home. Compass has already pledged $15,000 to support Elvin in his fight against cancer. 

Will you join the fight? Visit haymakersforhope.org to make your donation today.

Jenn Smira is a Realtor and executive vice president at the Jenn Smira Team. Reach her at 202-340-7675 or via jennsmira.com.

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