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Property taxes explained

D.C. website can help make sense of what you owe

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Check the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue website for details on what you owe.

Sometime during the past week, D.C. homeowners received their current property tax bills and their tax assessments for the coming year. 

To check on what you owe now and, in the future, go to D.C.’s Office of Tax and Revenue online search website (https://otr.cfo.dc.gov/page/real-property-tax-database-search). If prompted, create a free MyTax.DC.gov account to get in. Click on Real Property Assessments and you’ll be able to enter your square and lot or your address, click Search, then click on the column marked SSL to access information about your property taxes and upcoming assessments. 

Since property taxes in D.C. are paid in arrears in half-year increments, we currently owe for the first half of 2022, which began on Oct. 1, 2021. The amount in the Balance column is what you or your mortgage company must pay by March 31, 2022, to avoid late fees. 

If the balance is zero, then your tax has been paid. If you want to review the actual bill, click on the Billing History tab.

If you have adjoining land, a parking space, or a storage unit that has a separate lot and square, you should receive a separate tax bill for your home and for each additional parcel, so be sure to check this for each lot and square you own. 

Last year my loan was sold to a different servicing company. When that happens, as it frequently does sometime during the life of your loan, you should receive a letter in the mail from your old mortgage company saying your account is being transferred, followed by a letter from the new company welcoming you to the family.

The problem with my transfer was that I have an adjacent lot that wasn’t picked up by the new company. As a result, that bill wasn’t paid on time and, although it was only a $25 late fee, I had to pay the entire bill myself or it would still be outstanding, racking up penalties until paid. 

To complicate things further, that resulted in an overage in my escrow account, which the company refunded to me. Moreover, my monthly payment was adjusted downward and now, as I argue with them to make sure they pay both bills, my escrow account will be short and need replenishing before the second half of my taxes are due on Sept. 15, 2022.

To avoid such surprises and while still on the website, click on the Assessment tab to see your proposed assessment for tax year 2023, which begins on Oct. 1, 2022. Start by looking at the figure in the Assessment Value column.

To the right, you will also see a column called Tax Relief, which will list the tax reductions you have been granted. The items listed there will be among those that will reduce your tax assessment from that shown in the Assessment Value column to the amount shown in the Total Taxable column. Most are applied for using Form ASD-100, which can be filed online.

The Tax Relief column will typically show Homestead indicating the property is your primary residence and your assessment is reduced by $78,700, saving you nearly $670 each year. With a homestead exemption, your assessment cannot rise more than 10% above what it was the previous year, so if your assessment has indeed gone up more, you may see Cap Credit, indicating that any excess value will be removed from your tax obligation. 

Two other common tax relief categories are Senior and Disabled, which cut your taxes in half. If you are at least 65 or disabled, own at least 50% of the property, and have a total household income within the guidelines (under $139,900 in 2020 for tax year 2022), you may be eligible to receive this benefit.

If you think your Assessment Value for 2023 is too high, then you have until April 1, 2022, to appeal it. It’s a short window, but you can apply online for a First Level Assessment Review, which can then be conducted in writing, by phone, or by video conference. 

You may need a copy of your most recent appraisal or assistance from your real estate agent to find comparable properties that support your position. If denied, you can further appeal to the Real Property Tax Appeals Commission and finally to the DC Superior Court, within the timelines set by each entity. 

And don’t forget. If you sold your principal residence or turned it into rental property, you must file for cancellation of your homestead exemption, eliminating both Homestead and Cap Credit tax savings; otherwise, like the Iceman, the Taxman may cometh to collect.

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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