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When the A/C dies in the middle of a heat wave

Sweating it out while coping with unresponsive repair companies



D.C. is sweltering in a heat wave, putting a strain on air conditioners.

When I sat down last Saturday to write this article, I had an entirely different topic in mind. I had planned to write something that connected houses and the Fourth of July, since buying my first house was my own Independence Day, when I no longer had to rely on others for a place to stay and could exercise my decorating skills unfettered by a landlord.

I was happily reminiscing when my air conditioning compressor let out its last breath and the fan slowed, then stopped, just like in the movie โ€œTotal Recallโ€ (the original one, with Arnold).

Now, this isnโ€™t the first time the unit has malfunctioned. For the past two summers, itโ€™s been teasing me by allowing the thermostat to ignore my settings and letting the temperature in the house rise until several hours later, when the compressor will kick back on again.

Not this time.

It was still early enough in the afternoon that I tried to reach my home warranty company. I went on their website where, despite everywhere I looked, there was no direct way to make a claim. The instructions were to call them or request service through their cell phone app. 

I downloaded the app, only to find that I couldnโ€™t log in because they had no record of me in the system. (Iโ€™ve been in their system for more than three years.) At that point, I gave up on technology and placed a call to the service number, where a nice lady took down my information and noted the problem. 

She asked if I would prefer an appointment on Saturday (the same day), the following Monday, or the Tuesday thereafter. I replied that I would be available any of those days. She then said I would receive an email with the appointment day and time.

Saturday wore on until it was evident that nobody was going to provide same-day service or send a scheduling email. As usual, their contractors didnโ€™t work on Sundays, but I had expected that, so over the weekend, I turned on my ceiling fans, began cutting the sleeves out of old T-shirts to make tank tops, and froze every gel pack I could find.

On Monday morning, I received an email confirming an appointment for Tuesday from 2-12. Yes, you read that right, 2-12. 

I emailed back, โ€œI think something is wrong here. Shouldnโ€™t this be 12-2? Or perhaps you meant 2 am to 12 noon or 2 pm to midnight?โ€ Shortly thereafter, I received a reschedule notice indicating the appointment time was now 12-4 p.m.

As with many D.C. homes, my air conditioning unit is installed in the attic, with the compressor located outdoors adjacent to the house. My attic access hatch is 18×20 inches and is accessible only through an 18-inch door in the hall closet. The closet shelves, when empty, resemble a staircase with steps of varying depths that lead to the hatch. 

On Tuesday, I prepared for the appointment by removing everything from the hall closet. I piled sheets, towels, pillows, toiletries, and a laundry basket onto my bed, then I spent the afternoon in the backyard with the dogs, spraying them from the hose and dousing myself like a wet T-shirt contest. It was 89 degrees in the house and only 82 degrees outside.

By 3 p.m., I began to suspect the repair person was not coming. Gingerly, I picked up the phone and dialed the warranty company. After a minute or two of listing to the sincere recording tell me that my call was very important to them, a woman came on the phone and asked how she could help me.

I told her my address and asked if she could find out where my house was on the roster of repairs for the day. She offered to call the dispatcher, promised to call me back if we got disconnected, and put me on hold. She never returned.

Twenty-two minutes later, I gave up and ended the call, only to find another reschedule notice in my email, this time for two days later, Thursday, July 1, between 8-10 a. m. I went back outside and sprayed myself (and the dogs) with cold water again, which I expect Iโ€™ll be doing for several more days. 

Does anyone have a Slip N Slide I can borrow?

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, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Real Estate

Finding your footing in fall housing market

Act quickly before winter arrives when selling



Fall can be a good time to sell, but act fast before winter sets in.

Though it may not feel quite like fall weather quite yet in some parts of the country, as students return to school, we know that it means fall is right around the corner. Without question, fall is usually a wonderful season – it is the perfect time to enjoy beautiful weather, and plenty of festivals and fun. The return to school also means, for many, a return to routine โ€“ to getting organized and beginning again to check things off the to-do list after the lazy days of summer are over. 

You may have heard that housing inventory and activity is often lower in the fall than in the popular spring and summer seasons โ€“ and this is true. On the other side of the coin, however, fall buyers are often more serious about buying. They may be eager to buy quickly to get children enrolled in school, because of a job relocation, or due to a change in their family situation. Often, fall buyers are eager to find a home they love quickly, and to take action once they find it.

The good news is that if you plan to list your home for sale in the fall, there are a few tips and things you can add to your to-do list that will help you market your home in the best way possible and maximize your chances of a quick and successful sale. These include:

Act quickly: Depending upon the area of the country that you live in, beautiful, crisp, colorful fall weather might quickly give way to less desirable winter weather. Itโ€™s often far easier to sell a home in the fall than it is to sell in December, January, or February when bad weather might make traveling difficult, and potential buyers less likely to want to leave their homes. Once youโ€™ve decided youโ€™re ready to sell, itโ€™s best to make every effort to list your home quickly to take advantage of good weather and buyers on the market.

Photograph the property as soon as possible: In many parts of the country, fall is a truly beautiful season of the year. Fall typically also offers plenty of beautiful, natural light. Take advantage of those ideal conditions by taking pictures of your property early. Donโ€™t wait until the leaves begin to fall and the skies turn gray. Get your pictures early and use them to attract potential buyers to the unique beauty, both indoors and out, that can be enjoyed in your home.

Feature some fall curb appeal: You may not have spring flowers in the fall, but thereโ€™s abundant natural beauty to enjoy nevertheless. If you have falling leaves, make sure to regularly rake and bag them. Mow the lawn, perhaps add some new mulch, or consider adding some fall flowers. These steps donโ€™t take long or cost much money, but they can go a long way toward catching the eye of potential buyers. 

Leave the lights on: In fall, the sun begins to set early. As a result, it’s important to keep your home as bright and inviting as possible. Clean your windows, open the curtains or blinds, and encourage as much natural light to come in as possible. If you have very dark paint colors, consider having a few rooms repainted to lighter shades. This will maximize light, and make your home appear more open and airy. Finally, if the showing is later in the day, be sure to leave plenty of lights on within the home. This will not only increase your curb appeal as potential buyers approach the home by making it look warm and inviting โ€“ it will also help buyers feel more comfortable inside your home as they envision themselves in that space. 

While these tips are intended to be helpful, itโ€™s important to remember that one of the best steps you can take to truly increase your chances of a successful home sale is to hire a real estate agent who knows and loves the community and can help you truly tailor the marketing and pricing of your home to potential buyers in your area. Finding and connecting with an agent that can help you do exactly that is essential. At, weโ€™re here to help.ย 

At, we arenโ€™t just passionate about real estate. Weโ€™re passionate about real estate with a purpose. Our mission is to connect LGBTQ home buyers and sellers all over the country with knowledgeable, talented, and experienced LGBTQ-friendly realtors who know their communities well and are dedicated to helping clients every step of the way. Wherever you are in the real estate process, and whatever your goals, weโ€™re here for you, and weโ€™re ready to help. If youโ€™re ready to get started, connect with us today.ย 

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 orย [email protected].

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Real Estate

5 tips for novice house flippers

Hire an architect, budget for overruns, and more



Do your homework before entering the home flipping market.

If you still use Facebook, you know that there is a group for everything, from different breeds of dogs and cats to silly games that lead to data mining of your information for business or nefarious purposes, to groups that offer advice on certain medical issues, to everything real estate.

One of the Facebook groups in which I participate allows users to share do-it-yourself home improvement tips. Itโ€™s a bit like HGTV or the DIY network, with a dose of reality thrown in.

Simple topics might include improving curb appeal, selecting paint colors, installing flooring, replacing an electrical fixture, or changing a toilet. 

Sometimes contractors weigh in on more complicated work and even give an idea of how long a project might take and how much it might cost in a particular area of the country. 

It constantly surprises me how little people know about how their home works. I fault the sellerโ€™s market over the past years, where inspections are either short or non-existent, for much of that.

It used to be that an inspector would spend several hours with a buyer, going through the condition and operation of a homeโ€™s systems and fixtures, providing a written report, and even including a binder that outlined how to fix simple items or when to conduct general maintenance. 

The advent of the โ€œwalk and talkโ€ inspection, conducted prior to making an offer, shortened that process. A buyer would have to take his own notes while the inspector was talking and pointing things out. Often, the buyer would go home with information in cryptic shorthand that made no sense a few weeks down the road.

Some people still fancy themselves as house flippers, intent on making a massive profit by making a few choice renovations and reselling a home. My Facebook group often brings out those who have the desire but lack the skills or funding. 

One person recently posted photographs of a house he was interested in renovating for profit. His first question was whether he could remove all the mold himself or whether he should hire a professional mold remediation company.

I looked at the photos and immediately thought of Tyvec suits, respirators, and those movies where CDC warns of a toxic environment that must be contained and the toxins eradicated โ€” not my idea of a DIY project.

Another unrealistic aspect of this renovation was his cost estimate โ€” $100,000 to cover mold remediation, a new roof, central air conditioning and heating and, of course, new electrical, plumbing, drywall, fixtures, cabinets, and appliances. Even with a price of $175,000 for the house and a potential value of $400,000 after renovations, the professional flippers told him he was living in La-La-Land.

Amateur flippers in the DMV have seen their options dry up in the past five years, as even distressed properties left in disrepair can sell for half a million dollars or more. Even the professionals are knocking on doors, sending postcards in desired neighborhoods, and calling or texting owners and real estate agents, looking for properties to fix and flip.

Still, if you are inclined to try rehabbing, even for your own home, here are my top five things to consider before diving in.

โ€ข Get to know what permits you will need and the process and timeline for obtaining them, or else you may face the dreaded orange Stop Work Order slapped on the homeโ€™s window.

โ€ข Find an architect and/or engineer to help with planning the layout. Remember, not every wall can come down to make an open concept floorplan without shoring it up in another approved manner.

โ€ข Learn about โ€œhard money.โ€ Unlike traditional home loans that are based on income, assets, and credit, these high-interest, short-term loans rely on the difference between what you pay for the house (โ€œas isโ€ value) and what the โ€œas renovatedโ€ value is estimated to be upon resale.

โ€ข Consult with a real estate agent about popular features and finishes to help you sell the house quickly and get the highest price. Purchase those items locally to avoid supply chain delays.

โ€ข Budget for unexpected cost overruns of 10-15%. Even with an interest-only loan with no payments due until resale, you will still owe taxes and insurance and make periodic payments for materials and labor. Donโ€™t forget to add commissions and closing fees on the purchase and sale.

Your first project may not result in the profit you anticipated, but it will give you a sense of whether itโ€™s worth trying again or leaving renovations to the professionals.

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, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.ย 

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Real Estate

Mortgage rates continue to drop while rent skyrockets

Start living for yourself and not your landlord



Remember you can always refinance a high interest rate down the road.

There are several sayings that I keep in my โ€œRealtor tool kit,โ€ aside from those catty, snarky comments, I hold two true and use them on a daily basis: โ€œDate the rate – marry the homeโ€ and โ€œYouโ€™re paying a 100% interest rate when you rent.โ€

Itโ€™s pretty simple. As we have seen rates fluctuate as much as some of our waistlines โ€” mine included. Let’s look at the housing market in terms that we all know and understand: DATING! 

Itโ€™s important to realize that we are NOT marrying the interest rate we purchase our home with, instead we are merely dating โ€” for however long or short it may be. Here in D.C. itโ€™s often short; can I get an amen? But in all seriousness, we see rates come and go up and down. We were spoiled with the unsustainably low rates for the past several years below 4% and now that rates are, frankly, where they should be, we are claiming the victim role. Today is still a great time to buy. The rates we are seeing today are still historically low when you think about it. We are lucky to live in an area such as the D.C. metro where demand is always strong and a change in party means more than a recession in regards to the housing market. Rates have continued to drop in the past few weeks. 

Aside from the current rate that you are paying, itโ€™s important to realize that you are marrying the house and just simply dating the rate. You can refinance your interest rate whenever you want. Trade that baby in for a new model with a lower rate. You are, however, married to the home that you decide to purchase. If you are currently in the market and see a home that you absolutely love โ€” or in my case is like 80% okay because we all know that you are the arm candy here and hold up the relationship โ€” or I mean the house has a dishwasher and central AC, then buy it. You can always refinance later to a lower rate.

Looking at the second saying in my bedazzled sparkling Realtor tool kit we have the saying โ€œYouโ€™re paying a 100% interest rate when you rent,โ€ which is for sure factual. You are paying someone else’s mortgage and as such that interest rate is 100%. Donโ€™t get me wrong, when I first moved to D.C. from quaint Bethany Beach, Del., I rented as I was unsure of what neighborhood I wanted to call home. But once I got my bearings I stopped paying 100% interest and helping pad the landlordโ€™s pockets and started living for myself, my future, and married the house. I would encourage everyone that is reading this and who is currently in a rental to speak to a mortgage broker – see what you can afford and if it makes sense for you to buy โ€” I bet it will. In most cases, it is less expensive to buy than it is to rent in cities, including in D.C. Not only is it less expensive, but there are several grant and down payment assistance programs available to district residents to help with making homeownership a reality for you.

Start living for yourself, not your landlord, and always remember to date the rate and marry the home.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sothebyโ€™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

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