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June 14, 2018

Real Estate Relocation Guide: 7 Steps to a Seamless Move

Whatever your reasons are for relocating to a new area, the process can feel overwhelming. 

Whether you’re moving across across town or across the country, you’ll be changing more than your address. Besides a new house, you may also be searching for new jobs, schools, doctors, restaurants, stores, service providers and more.

Of course you’ll need to pack, make moving arrangements, and possibly sell your old home. With so much to do, you may be wondering: Where do I start?

In this guide, we outline seven steps to help you get prepared, get organized, and get settled in your new community. Our hope is to alleviate the hassle of relocating—so you can focus on the exciting adventure ahead!

1. Gather Information

If you’re unfamiliar with your new area, start by doing some research. Look for data on average housing prices, demographics, school rankings and crime statistics. Search for maps that illustrate local geography, landmarks, public transportation routes and major interstates. If you’re moving across the country, research climate and seasonal weather patterns.

Check out local newspapers and blogs for information on political issues and developments that could impact your new community. You may also want to search for online forums and Facebook Groups relevant to your new area. These can be a great place to find information, ask questions and just observe local attitudes and outlooks.

If you’re relocating for a job, find out if your new employer offers any relocation assistance. Many large corporations have a designated human resources professional to assist employees with relocation efforts, while others may contract this service out to a third party. Some employers will also cover all or a portion of your relocation and moving costs.

By gathering this information up front, you’ll be better prepared to make informed decisions down the road.

Let us know if you’d like assistance with your information gathering process. We have a wealth of knowledge about this area, and we keep a number of reports and statistics on file in our office. We would be happy to share information and answer any questions you may have.

2. Identify Your Ideal Neighborhoods

Once you’ve sufficiently researched your new area, you can start to identify your ideal neighborhoods.

The first step is to prioritize your “needs” and “wants.” Consider factors such as budget; commute time; quality of schools; crime rate; walkability; access to public transportation; proximity to restaurants, shopping, and place of worship; and neighborhood vibe. 

If possible, visit the area in person to get a feel for the community. If you’re comfortable, strike up conversations with local residents and ask about their experiences living in the area.

Still not sure which neighborhood is the best fit for you and your family? Contact a local real estate agent for expert assistance. It’s usually the most efficient and effective way to narrow down your options.

We provide neighborhood assessments and advice as a free service if you’re relocating to our area. Or, if you’re moving out of town, we can refer you to a local agent who can help.

3. Find Your New Home (and Sell Your Old One)

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of preferred neighborhoods, it’s time to start looking for a home. If you haven’t already contacted a real estate agent, now is the time. They can search for current property listings that meet your needs, typically at no cost to you.

Create another list of “needs” and “wants,” but this time for your new home. Include your basic requirements for square footage, bedrooms and bathrooms, but also think about what other factors are important to you and your family. An updated kitchen? A large backyard? Double sinks in the master bathroom? 

Narrow your list down to your top 10 and prioritize them in order of importance. This will give you a good starting point to begin your home search. Unless you have an unlimited budget, don’t expect to find a home with everything on your list. But having a prioritized list can help you (and your agent) understand which home features are the most important, and which ones you may be willing to sacrifice.

If you already own a home, you’ll also need to start the process of selling it or renting it out. A real estate agent can help you evaluate your options based on current market conditions. He or she can also give you an idea of how much equity you have in your current home so you know how much you can afford to spend on your new one.

Your agent can also advise you on how to time your sale and purchase. While some buyers are able to qualify for and cover the costs of two concurrent mortgages, many are not. There are a number of options available, and a skilled agent can help you determine the best course given your circumstances.

We would love to assist you if you have plans to buy or sell a home in our area. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your unique needs and devise a custom plan to make your relocation as seamless as possible. If you’re relocating outside of our area, we can help you find a trusted agent in your new city.

4. Prepare for Your Departure

While everyone considers packing a fundamental part of moving, we often overlook the emotional preparation that needs to take place. If you have children, this can be especially important. Communicate the move in an age-appropriate way, and if possible take them on a tour of your new home and neighborhood. This can alleviate some of the mystery and apprehension around the move.

Allow yourself plenty of time to pack up your belongings. Before you start, gather supplies, including boxes, tape, tissue paper and bubble wrap. Begin with non-essentials—such as off-season clothes or holiday decorations—and sort items into four categories: take, trash, sell and donate/give away.

To make the unpacking process easier, be sure to label the top and sides of boxes with helpful information, including contents, room, and any special instructions. Keep a master inventory list so you can refer back to it if something goes missing.

If you will be using a moving company, start researching and pricing your options. To ensure an accurate estimate of your final cost, it’s best to have them conduct an in-person walkthrough. Make sure you’re working with a reputable company, and avoid paying a large deposit before your belongings are delivered.

If you plan to drive to your new home, map out the route. And, if necessary, make arrangements for overnight accommodations along the way. If driving is not a good option, you may need to have your vehicles transported and make travel arrangements for you, your family and your pets.

Lastly, if you will be leaving friends or family behind, schedule final get-togethers before your departure. The last days before moving can be incredibly hectic, so make sure you block off some time in advance for proper goodbyes.

Looking for a reputable moving company? We are happy to provide referrals, as well as recommendations on where to procure packing supplies in our area.

5. Prepare for Your Arrival

To make your transition go smoothly, prepare for your arrival well before moving day. Depending on how long your belongings will take to arrive, you may need to arrange for temporary hotel accommodations. If you plan to move in directly, pack an “essentials box” with everything you’ll need for the first couple of nights in your new home, such as toiletries, toilet paper, towels, linens, pajamas, cell phone chargers, snacks, pet food and a change of clothes. This will keep you from searching through boxes after an exhausting day of moving.

Arrange in advance for your utilities to be turned on, especially essentials like water, electricity and gas. (And while you’re at it, schedule a shut-off date for your current utilities.) Update your address on all accounts and subscriptions and arrange to have your mail forwarded through the postal service. If you have children, register them for their new school or daycare and arrange for the transfer of any necessary records.

You may want to have the house professionally cleaned before moving in. And if you plan to remodel, paint or install new flooring, it’s easier to have it done before you bring in all of your belongings. However, it’s not always feasible without someone you trust locally who can supervise. Another option is to keep a portion of your things in storage while you complete some of these projects.  

If there are no window treatments, you may need to install some (or at least put up temporary privacy film), especially in bedrooms and bathrooms. And if appliances are missing, consider purchasing them ahead of time and arranging for delivery and installation shortly after you arrive. Just be sure to check measurements and installation instructions carefully so you aren’t stuck with an appliance that doesn’t fit or that requires costly modifications to your new home.

If you own a car, check the requirements for a driver’s license and vehicle registration in your new area and contact your insurance company to update your policy. If you will rely on public transportation, research options and schedules.

If you’re relocating to our area, we can help! We offer “VIP Relocation Assistance” to all of our buyer clients. Contact us for a list of preferred hotels, utility providers, housekeepers, contractors and more!

6. Get Settled In Your New Home

While staring at an endless pile of boxes can feel daunting, you should take advantage of this opportunity to make a fresh start. By creating a plan ahead of time, you can ensure your new house is thoughtfully laid out and well organized.

If you followed our suggestion to pack an “essentials box” (see Step 5), you should have easy access to everything you’ll need to get you through the first couple of nights in your new home. This will allow you some breathing room to unpack your remaining items in a deliberate manner, instead of rushing through the process.

If you have young children, consider unpacking their rooms first. Seeing their familiar items can help them establish a sense of comfort and normalcy during a confusing time. Then move on to any items you use on a daily basis.

Pets can also get overwhelmed by a new, unfamiliar space. Let them adjust to a single room first, which should include their favorite toys, treats, food and water bowl, and a litter box for cats. Once they seem comfortable, you can gradually introduce them to other rooms in the home.

As you unpack, make a list of items that need to be purchased so you’re not making multiple trips to the store. Also, start a list of needed repairs and installations. If you have a home warranty, find out what’s covered and the process for filing a service order.

Although you may be eager to get everything unpacked, it’s important to take occasional breaks. Have some fun, relax and explore your new hometown!

Need help with unpacking, organizing or decorating your new home? Contact us for a list of recommended professionals in our area. And when you’re ready to start exploring local “hot spots,” we’d love to fill you in on our favorite restaurants, stores, parks and other attractions!

7. Get Involved In Your New Community

Studies show that moving can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. People who have recently moved tend to be isolated socially, more stressed, and less likely to participate in exercise and hobbies. However, there are ways to combat these negative effects.

First, get out and explore. In a 2016 study, recent movers were shown to spend less time on physical activities and more time on their computers, which has been proven to lead to feelings of depression and loneliness. Instead, get out of your house and investigate your new area. And if you travel by foot, you’ll gain the advantages of fresh air and exercise.

Combat feelings of isolation by making an effort to meet people in your new community. Find a local interest group, take a class, join a place of worship or volunteer for a cause. Don’t wait for friends to come knocking on your door. Instead, go out and find them.

Finally, be a good neighbor. Make an effort to introduce yourself to your new neighbors, invite them over for coffee or dinner, and offer assistance when they need it. Once you’ve developed friendships and a support system within your new neighborhood, it will truly start to feel like home.

Want more ideas on how to get involved in your community? Contact us for a free copy of our report, “Welcome Home: 10 Tips to Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Hometown Haven.”

LET’S GET MOVING

While moving is never easy, these seven steps offer an action plan to get you started on your new adventure. To avoid getting overwhelmed, focus on one step at a time. And don’t hesitate to ask for help!

In a 2015 study, 61 percent of participants ranked moving at the top of their stress list, above divorce and starting a new job. But with a little preparation—and the right team of professionals to assist you—it is possible to have a positive relocation experience.

We specialize in assisting home buyers and sellers with a seamless and “less-stress” relocation. Along with our referral network of movers, handymen, housekeepers, decorators, contractors and other service providers, we can help take the hassle and headache out of your upcoming move. Give us a call or message us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!

Posted in Housing Tips
May 7, 2018

10 Staging Secrets From the Pros for a Quick Home Sale at Top Dollar

According to the National Association of Realtors, staging a home prior to listing it can result in a faster and more profitable sale. In fact, the Real Estate Staging Association estimates that professionally staged properties spend 73 percent less time on the market, receive more foot traffic, and typically sell for more money. 

Source: National Association of Realtors

Following are 10 tips you can use to get your home “show ready” prior to hitting the market. These easy and cost-effective ideas will help your house look its best—and help buyers visualize themselves living there. Even if you’re not currently in the market to sell, you can use these tactics to breathe new life into your existing home decor. 

To get a plan customized for your particular property, give us a call to schedule a free consultation. We’d be happy to share our insider knowledge of the buyer preferences in your neighborhood … so you’ll know where to focus your time, money and energy to maximize your results.

 

1. REMOVE CLUTTER

Decluttering is typically the first thing we tell clients to do to prepare their home for sale. And according to the National Association of Realtors, a whopping 93 percent of agents agree. Decluttering is the act of removing excess “stuff” from your home to make it appear clean and spacious. 

Overflowing closets and cluttered countertops can make your house feel small and cramped.

In contrast, sparsely-filled closets and clear countertops will make your home appear larger and assure buyers that there will be plenty of room to store their belongings.

Don’t neglect drawers, cupboards and even your refrigerator in your decluttering efforts. Serious buyers will check out every nook and cranny of your home, so pack up anything you don’t use on a daily basis and store it off site. The same goes for jewelry, sensitive documents, prescription medication, firearms and other items of value. Store them in a locked safe or storage unit before opening your property to buyers. 

Make sure any items that remain are clean, tidy and well organized. The good news is, when it comes time to move, a large portion of your packing will be done!

2. DEEP CLEAN AND DEODORIZE

From carpets to bathrooms to appliances, having a clean home is a MUST. If you’ve ever checked into a dirty hotel room, you can imagine how buyers can be turned off by a home that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned. 

If you have a large home, or are short on time, you may want to invest in a professional cleaning service. And if you have carpet, we generally recommend you rent a steam cleaner or hire a company to clean your carpets for you. 

In addition to cleaning, it’s equally important to neutralize odors in your home that can be off-putting to buyers, especially pet smells and cigarette smoke. If the weather allows, open your windows and let in fresh air. Empty the trash frequently, and especially before a showing. Avoid cooking any strong-smelling food such as fish or heavy spices. You may need to clean (or remove) drapes and upholstery if odors are particularly strong.

Try to keep your home in clean, show-ready condition while it’s on the market. You never know when a potential buyer will want to drop by for a viewing.

3. DEPERSONALIZE 

Your family photos and personal mementos are often your most treasured possessions. For many of us, they are what make a house a home. However, buyers will have a hard time envisioning themselves living in a place if it feels like YOUR home. 

Pack up any items that are personal to you and your family, such as photos, books, children’s artwork, travel souvenirs and religious items. Collectibles and excessive knickknacks can be distracting to buyers. Instead, keep your decor items minimal and generic to appeal to the largest number of buyers. 

4. NEUTRALIZE YOUR COLOR PALETTE 

Along those same lines, bold color choices may not appeal to all buyers. By incorporating a neutral color palette throughout your home, buyers can better visualize the addition of their own furniture and decor, which may contrast with your current color scheme. 

But don’t limit yourself to white and beige. Incorporating earth tones and midtone neutrals—like mocha and “greige” (grey-beige)—can add a touch of modern sophistication to your decor.

One of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to neutralize your home’s decor is with paint. Walls painted in dark, bold or bright colors can turn off buyers. A fresh coat of paint in a neutral color like greige (try Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter) or warm white (such as Kelly-Moore’s Rotunda White) offers a clean palette upon which buyers can visualize adding their own personal touches. 
If your sofa is worn, stained or has a bold pattern, consider purchasing a neutral-colored slipcover. Dated or overly busy window coverings should be taken down or replaced. Instead, bring in tasteful pops of color with throw pillows and accessories. 

5. INCREASE YOUR CURB APPEAL 

You only get one chance to make a first impression. According to a 2017 report by the National Association of Realtors, 44 percent of home buyers drove by a property after viewing it online but did NOT go inside for a walkthrough. That means if your curb appeal is lacking, buyers may never make it through the door. 

Walk around your home and look for any neglected areas that might seem like “red flags” to buyers, such as missing roof shingles or rotted siding. Trim trees and shrubs if needed, and make sure your lawn and flower beds are well maintained. Add some colorful flowers to your front beds and/or flower boxes to brighten up your landscaping. 

Make sure the exterior of your home is as clean as the interior. This can often be accomplished with a simple garden hose. But if your siding, walkway, or driveway are stained or dingy, you may want to rent a pressure washer. 

Thoroughly wash windows and screens, and remove and store dark solar screens if you have them. Open shutters, curtains and blinds, which will not only make your house look more inviting from the outside, it will brighten the inside. 

Consider a fresh coat of paint on your front door, trim and shutters. And small, cosmetic improvements like new house numbers, a colorful wreath and a clean front doormat can have a big impact. 

6. FRESHEN KITCHENS AND BATHS 

Kitchens and bathrooms will show better and appear larger if all items are cleared from the countertops, except for one or two decorative pieces. You should have already packed up non-essentials during your decluttering process, and the remaining items should be neatly stored in pantries and cupboards.

If your cabinets are dingy or outdated, adding a fresh coat of paint and new hardware is an easy and inexpensive way to make them modern and bright. Consider purchasing new shower curtains, bath mats and towels for the bathrooms and new dish towels for the kitchen. 

Before each showing, make sure kitchens and baths are spotless and trash cans are empty and out of sight. To add a comforting aroma, try baking cookies, or in the fall, simmer some cinnamon sticks and cloves in a pot of water before you leave the house. In the spring, try a vase of fresh cut lilacs. 

7. SET THE TABLE

Buyers often imagine hosting family gatherings in their new home, and the dining room plays a large role in that vision. If your dining room chairs are stained or outdated, you may want to recover them or use slipcovers. In most cases, an imperfect table can be camouflaged with a neutral and stylish tablecloth. 

Be sure the table is centered underneath the chandelier and on the area rug if you’re using one. If your dining room is small, remove all other furniture and leave only four chairs. 

Dress up the table using nice tableware and cloth napkins or a table runner and centerpiece. For a long table, try lining up a series of small vessels down the middle.

8. REARRANGE FURNITURE

Start in your living room and think about what you want to emphasize (and de-emphasize) about the space. For example, do you have a beautiful fireplace or a stunning view? If so, arrange the furniture with that focal point in mind. Use a symmetrical seating arrangement to create a cozy conversation area adjacent to the focal point. 

If the room is small, consider removing some of the furniture to make it feel larger, especially oversized pieces. That includes oversized television sets, unless it’s a designated media room. Pulling furniture away from the wall can make the room feel more spacious, and placing your largest furniture piece in the far-left corner (as opposed to near the entry) can create the illusion of a larger space. 

For small bedrooms, remove all the furniture except the bed, bedside tables and a dresser. If it’s a large room, add one or two chairs and a table to create a seating area. Place lamps on the bedside tables and seating area if you have one.

Make sure each space in your home has a clearly defined purpose. For example, if you’ve been using an extra bedroom as a catch-all storage space, stage it as a guest room or office instead. Turn an awkward alcove into a workstation or a reading corner. Help buyers imagine how they could use the space themselves. 

9. LIGHTEN UP 

Lighting can have a drastic impact on the look and feel of a home. Few buyers seek out a dark house; most prefer one that’s light and bright. Make sure windows are clean, and open curtains and blinds to let in the maximum amount of daylight. 

Each room should have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (such as a reading lamp or under-cabinet light), and accent (such as a floor or table lamp). Aim for a goal of 100 total watts per 50 square feet.11 If your mounted light fixtures are dated, replacing them with something more modern is an easy and inexpensive upgrade that can have a big impact.

Strategically placed landscape lighting can add a dramatic effect to your home’s exterior. Welcome evening visitors with a lighted walkway, or use a spotlight to accentuate trees or other landscaping features. Solar lights require no wiring; simply place them in a sunny spot and they will turn on automatically at dusk. 

10. HIGHLIGHT YOUR BACKYARD’S BEST FEATURES 

While your home’s interior often takes center stage, don’t forget about staging your home’s outdoor areas to help buyers imagine how they could utilize the space.

Even a small patio can become a selling feature with the addition of a cafe table and chairs. Add a tray of plates and coffee cups to help buyers envision a peaceful breakfast on the back porch. Place chairs and wine glasses around an outdoor firepit or hang a hammock with a book in your favorite shady spot. These small, simple additions can help buyers visualize the possibilities your backyard has to offer.

BEFORE YOU GET STARTED 

If you’re in the market to sell your home, this list provides a great starting point for your preparations. But nothing beats the trained eye and expertise of a real estate agent. Before you do any work, we recommend consulting a professional for advice about your particular property. 

We offer free, no-commitment seller consultations and will walk through your home with you to help you assess which projects and upgrades are worth your time and money, and which ones you can skip. 

As local market experts, we are intimately familiar with buyer preferences in your area. We’ll run a comparative market analysis to find out how your home compares to others currently on the market, as well as those that have recently sold. Then we’ll tailor a custom plan to suit your particular property, budget and needs.

Please call or email us today with questions or to schedule a free consultation!

Posted in Staging
April 6, 2018

HOUSE CARE CALENDAR: A Seasonal Guide to Maintaining Your Home

From summer vacations to winter holidays, it seems each season offers the perfect excuse to put off our to-do list. But be careful, homeowners: neglecting your home’s maintenance could put your personal safety—and one of your largest financial investments—at serious risk.

 In no time at all, small problems can lead to extensive and expensive repairs. And even if you avoid a catastrophe, those minor issues can still have a big impact. Properties that are not well maintained can lose 10 percent (or more) of their appraised value.

The good news is, by dedicating a few hours each season to properly maintaining your home, you can ensure a safe living environment for you and your family ... and actually increase the value of your home by one percent annually! You just need to know where and how to spend your time.

Use the following checklist as a guide to maintaining your home and lawn throughout the year. It's applicable for all climates, so please share it with friends and family members who you think could benefit, no matter where their home is located.
 

Spring 

After a long, cold winter, many of us look forward to a fresh start in the spring. Wash away the winter grime, open the windows, and prepare your home for warmer weather and backyard barbecues. 

Inside 

  • Conduct Annual Spring Cleaning
    Be sure to tackle those areas that may have gone neglected—such as your blinds, baseboards and fan blades—as well as appliances, including your refrigerator, dishwasher, oven and range hood. Clear out clutter and clothes you no longer wear, and toss old and expired food and medications.
     
  • Shut Down Heating System
    Depending on the type of heating system you have, you may need to shut your system down when not in use. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper procedures.
     
  • Tune Up A/C
    If your home has central air conditioning, schedule an annual tune-up with your HVAC technician. If you have a portable or window unit, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance.
     
  • Check Plumbing
    It’s a good idea to periodically check your plumbing to spot any leaks or maintenance issues. Look for evidence of leaks—such as water stains on the ceiling—and check for dripping faucets or running toilets that need to be addressed. Inspect your hot water heater for sediment build up. Check your sump pump (if you have one) to ensure it’s working properly.
     

  • Inspect Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so change them now and again in the fall. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Outside

  • Inspect Perimeter of Home
    Walk around your house and look for any signs of damage or wear and tear that should be addressed. Are there cracks in the foundation? Peeling paint? Loose or missing roof shingles? Make a plan to make needed repairs yourself or hire a contractor.
     
  • Clean Home’s Exterior
    Wash windows and clean and replace screens if they were removed during the winter months. For the home’s facade, it’s generally advisable to use the gentlest method that is effective. A simple garden hose will work in most cases.
     
  • Clean Gutters and Downspouts
    Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned at least twice a year. Neglected gutters can cause water damage to a home, so make sure yours are clean and free of debris. If your gutters have screens, you may be able to decrease the frequency of cleanings, but they should still be checked periodically.
     
  • Rake Leaves
    Gently rake your lawn to remove leaves and debris. Too many leaves can cause an excessive layer of thatch, which can damage the roots of your lawn. They can also harbor disease-causing organisms and insects.7 However, take care because overly vigorous raking can damage new grass shoots.

  • Seed or Sod Lawn
    If you have bare spots, spring is a good time to seed or lay new sod so you can enjoy a beautiful lawn throughout the remainder of the year. The peak summer heat can be too harsh for a new lawn. If you miss this window, early fall is another good time to plant.
     
  • Apply a Pre-Emergent Herbicide
    While a healthy lawn is the best deterrent for weeds, some homeowners choose to use a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to minimize weeds. When applied at the right time, it can be effective in preventing weeds from germinating. However, a pre-emergent herbicide will also prevent grass seeds from germinating, so only use it if you don’t plan to seed or sod in the spring.
     
  • Plant Flowers
    After a long winter, planting annuals and spring perennials is a great way to brighten up your garden. It’s also a good time to prune existing flowers and shrubs and remove and compost any dead plants.

  • Mulch Beds
    A layer of fresh mulch helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. However, be sure to strip away old mulch at least every three years to prevent excessive buildup.9

  • Fertilize Lawn
    Depending on your grass type, an application of fertilizer in the spring may help promote new leaf and root growth, keep your lawn healthy, and reduce weeds.
     
  • Tune Up Lawn Mower
    Send your lawn mower out for a professional tune-up and to have the blades sharpened before the mowing season starts.

  • Inspect Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, check that it’s working properly and make repairs as needed.
     
  • Check the Deck
    If you have a deck or patio, inspect it for signs of damage or deterioration that may have occurred over the winter. Then clean it thoroughly and apply a fresh coat of stain if needed.
     
  • Prepare Pool
    If you own a pool, warmer weather signals the start of pool season. Be sure to follow best practices for your particular pool to ensure proper maintenance and safety.

Summer 

Summer is generally the time to relax and enjoy your home, but a little time devoted to maintenance will help ensure it looks great and runs efficiently throughout the season. 

Inside 

  • Adjust Ceiling Fans
    Make sure they are set to run counter-clockwise in the summer to push air down and create a cooling breeze. Utilizing fans instead of your air conditioner, when possible, will help minimize your utility bills.
     
  • Clean A/C Filters
    Be sure to clean or replace your filters monthly, particularly if you’re running your air conditioner often.
     
  • Clear Dryer Vent
    Help cut down on summer utility bills by cleaning your laundry dryer vent at least once a year. Not only will it help cut down on drying times, a neglected dryer poses a serious fire hazard.
     
  • Check Weather Stripping
    If you’re running your air conditioner in the summer, you’ll want to keep the cold air inside and hot air outside. Check weather stripping around doors and windows to ensure a good seal.
     

Outside 

  • Mow Lawn Regularly
    Your lawn will probably need regular mowing in the summer. Adjust your mower height to the highest setting, as taller grass helps shade the soil to prevent drought and weeds.
     
  • Water Early in the Morning
    Ensure your lawn and garden get plenty of water during the hot summer months. Experts generally recommend watering in the early morning to minimize evaporation, but be mindful of any watering restrictions in your area, which may limit the time and/or days you are allowed to water.
     
  • Weed Weekly
    To prevent weeds from taking over your garden and ruining your home’s valuable curb appeal, make a habit of pulling weeds at least once per week.
     
  • Exterminate Pests
    Remove any standing water and piles of leaves and debris. Inspect your lawn and perimeter of your home for signs of an invasion. If necessary, call a professional exterminator for assistance.
     

Fall 

Fall ushers in another busy season of home maintenance as you prepare your home for the winter weather ahead. 

Inside 

  • Have Heater Serviced
    To ensure safety and efficiency, it’s a good idea to have your heating system serviced and inspected before you run it for the first time.
     
  • Shut Down A/C for the Winter
    If you have central air conditioning, you can have it serviced at the same time as your furnace. If you have a portable or window unit, ensure it’s properly sealed or remove it and store it for the winter.
     
  • Inspect Chimney
    Fire safety experts recommend that you have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned periodically. Complete this task before you start using your fireplace or furnace. 
  • Seal Windows and Doors
    Check windows and doors for drafts and caulk or add weatherstripping where necessary.
     
  • Check Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    If you checked your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the spring, they are due for another inspection. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so it’s time to replace them again. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.
     

Outside

  • Plant Fall Flowers, Grass and Shrubs
    Fall is a great time to plant perennials, trees, shrubs, cool-season vegetables and bulbs that will bloom in the spring. It’s also a good time to reseed or sod your lawn. 
  • Rake or Mow Leaves
    Once the leaves start falling, it’s time to pull out your rake. A thick layer of leaves left on your grass can lead to an unhealthy lawn. Or, rather than raking, use a mulching mower to create a natural fertilizer for your lawn.
     
  • Apply Fall Fertilizer
    If you choose not to use a mulching mower, a fall fertilizer is usually recommended. For best results, aerate your lawn before applying the fertilizer.
     
  • Inspect Gutters and Roof
    Inspect your gutters and downspouts and make needed repairs. Check the roof for any broken or loose tiles. Remove fallen leaves and debris.
     
  • Shut Down Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, drain any remaining water and shut it down to prevent damage from freezing temperatures over the winter.
     
  • Close Pool
    If you have a pool, it’s time to clean and close it up before the winter.
     

Winter 

While it can be tempting to ignore home maintenance issues in the winter, snow and freezing temperatures can do major damage if left untreated. Follow these steps to ensure your house survives the winter months. 

Inside

  • Maintain Heating System
    Check and change filters on your heating system, per the manufacturer's instructions. If you have a boiler, monitor the water level.
     
  • Tune Up Generator
    If you own a portable generator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance. Make sure it’s working before you need it, and stock up on supplies like fuel, oil and filters.
     
  • Prevent Frozen Pipes
    Make sure pipes are well insulated, and keep your heat set to a minimum of 55 degrees when you’re away. If pipes are prone to freezing, leave faucets dripping slightly overnight or when away from home. You may also want to open cabinet doors beneath sinks to let in heat.
     

Outside 

  • Drain and Shut Off Outdoor Faucets
    Before the first freeze, drain and shut off outdoor faucets. Place an insulated cover over exposed faucets, and store hoses for the winter.
     
  • Remove Window Screens
    Removing screens from your windows allows more light in to brighten and warm your home during the dark, cold winter months. Snow can also get trapped between screens and windows, causing damage to window frames and sills.
     
  • Service Snowblower
    Don’t wait until the first snowstorm of the season to make sure your snowblower is in good working order. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance or have it serviced by a professional.
     
  • Stock Up on Ice Melt
    Keep plenty of ice melt, or rock salt, on hand in preparation for winter weather. Look for brands that will keep kids and pets safe without doing damage to your walkway or yard.
     
  • Watch Out for Ice Dams
    Ice dams are thick ridges of solid ice that can build up along the eaves of your house. They can do major damage to gutters, shingles and siding. Heated cables installed prior to the first winter storm can help.
     
  • Check for Snow Buildup on Trees
    Snow can cause tree limbs to break, which can be especially dangerous if they are near your home. Use a broom to periodically remove excess snow.
     

While this checklist should not be considered a complete list of your home’s maintenance needs, it can serve as a general seasonal guide. Systems, structures and fixtures will need to be repaired and replaced from time-to-time, as well. The good news is, the investment you make in maintaining your home now will pay off dividends over time. 

Keep a record of all your maintenance, repairs and upgrades for future reference, along with receipts. Not only will it help jog your memory, it can make a big impact on buyers when it comes time to sell your home … and potentially result in a higher selling price.  

Are you looking for help with home maintenance or repairs? We have an extensive network of trusted contractors and service providers and are happy to provide referrals! Call or email us, and we can connect you with one of our preferred vendors.

Posted in Housing Tips
Aug. 12, 2016

DC Real Estate Market | August 2016

DC Real Estate & Homes for SaleThe real estate market in D.C. has been growing only slowly in 2016, and that pace is expected to continue. Thus far this year, the average home price in the District is just about 1.4% over 2015. While this is on par with the national average pace of growth, it’s nothing compared to the total growth witnessed in 2015, when the average sales price grew by 3.6 percent, or the two previous years of 5.6% in 2014 and 6.7% in 2013.

From an historical standpoint, the real estate market nationwide seems to tend to operate on an 18-year cycle, which incorporates the four phases of recovery, expansion, hyper supply and recession.

During the recovery phase, slow growth overflows from the previous cycle. The expansion phase is represented by rapid increase in average home prices and signs of market stabilization. The third phase, hyper supply, sees the market flooded as homeowners race to sell in order to take advantage of the higher-priced home sales. This leads to a downturn in home prices as homeowners price cut in competition with neighbors. The ending cycle of recession is the lowest point of the cycle and of the market, after which the cycle repeats. Almost without fail, this predictable cycle has repeated itself about every 18 years in the national market.

Since just about 2009, the market in D.C. has gone through both a recovery phase and a boom phase. While the rest of the nation went through the effects of the housing bubble, D.C. recovery was speedy and proved promising for D.C. homeowners. Consequently, the District has risen to become one of the strongest real estate markets in the entire U.S. on several fronts.

More recent data indicates that the cycle may be reaching its high in D.C., however. The average pace of home sales is slowing down. The dog days of sales over listing price will soon be over for good, and the market is expected to experience a downturn.

Factors regarding local real estate conditions heavily affect the cycle and add to its complexities. One of the biggest factors has to do with the inherently limited supply of housing within the D.C. area. Compared to the rest of the nation, D.C. lacks the supply of residential property on the market at any one time. This fact may have contributed to the fast recovery in D.C. post-2009. The District real estate market stayed a seller’s market simply because of the inherent lack of inventory.

Links to DC Real Estate

Northwest DC Homes for Sale

Northeast DC Homes for Sale

Southwest DC Homes for Sale

Southeast DC Homes for Sale

With this said, homeowners in D.C. who are looking to sell their property should price conservatively to avoid overpricing. Recent year’s house sale prices don’t necessarily predict what a homeowner will be able to get for similar residential property in 2016. This doesn’t mean a recession is on the horizon, but it does mean to exercise caution and pay attention to the natural trends in the local market. Buyers should beware that they likely won’t be able to get huge deals on homes in D.C.

To sum up, the cycle of the real estate market is still to be considered theoretical in nature. D.C. has always been a strong market, and there’s no reason to predict that will change. With continued slow growth during the remainder of 2016, the real estate market in the District will hold its own.

Posted in Market Reports
July 2, 2016

Best Choices for New Construction

DC Area New Construction HomesNew home sales in the United States jumped to 619,000 for April, 2016, a 16.6 percent increase. That’s much higher than expectations, and the increase is the biggest gain since 1992. If you’re considering the purchase of a new construction home, here’s the information you need to start your home search.

How to Make the Best Choices for Your New Construction Home

1. Pick the right neighborhood – There are lots of new communities being built in the Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia areas. Make sure you choose the community that will fit your lifestyle best.

2. Understand the details before you make a final decision. Most new communities will have a home owners’ association that will take over managing the community after the builder has finished construction. Associations can have vastly different fees and rules. Make sure you understand everything that will impact what you can do with your home, and the home owners’ association fees that you’ll pay.

3. Negotiate with the builder from a position of strength. Make sure you understand when a builder has room to negotiate. While you want to establish a good working relationship with your builder, don’t let that relationship deprive you of getting a good deal.

The best way to accomplish the three things listed above is to have your own representation when you’re buying a home in a new community. Here’s why:

1. There is no cost to you. The REALTOR® who assists you in your sale is compensated as part of the closing costs on the home. The builder has already factored that into their pricing, so if you don’t have your own representation, the builder will simply retain that fee.

2. You can work with one person to evaluate all your options. The builder’s representative that you meet at the model homes in a new community work for the builder. It’s not possible for that person to suggest a different community, even if they believe it’s a better fit for you. When you hire a REALTOR® to represent you, you’ll get unbiased information about all your alternatives.

3. You’ll improve your negotiating position. A REALTOR® who works with new home buyers should have an in-depth understanding of where a builder will have room to negotiate. That person can also advise you as to which options will have the best opportunity for appreciation when you decide to sell your home.

DC, VA & MD New Home Communities

There are a growing number of new home communities in the greater Washington, D.C. area.  The communities discussed below only give you a few examples of the types of lifestyles and homes you can choose from.

Washington, D.C New Home Communities

Banneker Ridge by Ryan Homes: The luxury brownstones in this community will give you an excellent view from the rooftop terrace.  These are four and five level homes that offer delightful downtown living with easy access to commuter routes. Home prices start in the low $700s.

The Willard plan offers the convenience of a townhome with the feel of a single family home.  Over 3000 square feet of living space gives you quite a lot of room to roam.  The kitchen is a chef’s dream with a huge island and upscale finishes. 

The kitchen is open to a large formal dining room perfect for entertaining family and friends.  At the opposite end of the kitchen, you’ll have access to a great room.  You can entertain while you cook, and enjoy an after-dinner retreat.

The lower level can be used as a recreation room, or if you have guests or members of your extended family living with you, it can be made into a living room/bedroom/bath for privacy.

Parkside by K Hovnanian Homes:  If you’re looking for a new townhome in a close-in location, Parkside is a community you’ll want to visit.  You’ll enjoy the community park and the Anacostia River Trail network.  You’ll also have easy access to stylish boutiques, the Arts District, the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station and I-295.

All the townhomes in this community have three bedrooms and two and one-half baths in three stories, and a one- or two-car garage.  Homes start in the upper $300s. Features include large family rooms, spacious kitchens with designer cabinets, GE appliances and rich granite countertops.  You’ll find 9’ ceilings that provide a roomy atmosphere, and lovely hardwood floors. The homes utilize 90 percent efficiency gas heat with programmable thermostats.

Leesburg, Virginia, New Home Communities

Shenstone Reserve by Toll Brothers:  This community consists of luxury estate homes nestled on three or more acres of land.  Located just a few minutes from downtown Leesburg, living at Shenstone Reserve provides easy access to shopping, dining and entertainment.  However, you’ll feel like you’re in the country since the homes are surrounded by mature trees, rolling hills and babbling brooks.

Toll Brothers is offering six different two-story home designs, ranging in size from 3420 to 4780 square feet.  Home prices start in the mid-$800s.  You can personalize your home’s design to meet your needs, including adding a multi-generational suite that provides privacy for members of your extended family and much more.

Crescent Place by Ryan Homes:  If you enjoy the convenience of living in a walkable neighborhood, you’ll love living in downtown Leesburg.  Crescent Place is a small enclave of luxury townhomes and two-level luxury condos, with prices starting in the mid-$300s. 

You’ll be able to walk to all of the shopping, dining and entertainment that Leesburg is known for.  You’ll also have easy access to major highways that can take you to work or play in Reston, Arlington and Washington D.C. 

Four models are available, ranging in size from 1606 to 2440 square feet and up.  You can customize the layout of your home to suit your needs.  Some plans even offer a large finished attic space with a bath to be used as a retreat for a teenager, a man cave or an activity room for the whole family.

Maryland New Home Communities

If you prefer to live in the counties of Montgomery, Howard or Prince George’s in Maryland, you’ll have many new home communities to choose from.

Clarksburg Village by Ryan Homes:  Ryan Homes has created a lifestyle with its homes in Clarksburg Village.  It’s a 775 acre master planned community in Montgomery County that offers 55 miles of trails for bicycles and pedestrians, a clubhouse with two swimming pools, several parks, dining and more.  It’s a self-contained retreat that provides lots of opportunity to spend quality time with your family and friends.

Three types of homes are being built in this community, townhomes, classic neo-traditional homes and neo-traditional homes.  Home prices start in the upper $450s to the low $570s.

The Strauss townhomes in the community offer convenience while providing lots of space (just over 2000 square feet) and customization options.  The open floorplan on the main level reinforces the feeling of spaciousness and the country kitchen has an optional island for additional prep space.  Upstairs you’ll find three bedrooms, including a master suite.  The lower level provides lots of storage space with the option of including a rec room, a fourth bedroom or study.

Oak Creek by Toll Brothers:  Prince George’s County is home to this luxury gated community.  Oak Creek is an easy commute, being Just 20 minutes from downtown D.C.  When you come home, however, you’ll be treated to resort-style amenities that will make you think you’re far from the city. Six home designs range from approximately 3000 to over 4000 square feet.  Home prices start at $625.

As you can see, the Washington D.C. metro area has lots to offer.  A professional and experienced REALTOR® can help you make the best choices and avoid situations that can be both frustrating and costly.

When you’re ready to make a move, call/text me at 301 660-6272 x 700 or send an email to get the professional guidance that will make your next real estate transaction a rousing success.

Posted in New Construction
July 1, 2016

Financing for First-Time Home Buyers

Home Buying Assistance Raising money for a down payment, particularly in Washington D.C. and the surrounding area, is expensive.  This is especially true in metropolitan areas where home prices tend to be more expensive.  Finding money for a down payment is the single biggest obstacle for first time home buyers when looking to purchase a home.

Not to fear.  There are nationwide and local financing programs available for first-time buyers that make purchasing a home more affordable, including those which require little or no down payment.

NATIONWIDE LOAN PROGRAMS

FHA Loans

These loans are offered by the Federal Housing Association.  The credit requirements for those seeking FHA loans are not as stringent as those for conventional loans.  Also, the prospective homeowner can expect to pay as little as 3.5% of the contract price of the home as a down payment.

VA Loans

For eligible active duty personnel, veterans, and eligible spouses, VA loans are a viable alternative.  These VA-insured loans require no down payment.  Loans are not subject to mortgage insurance paid with other loan products where the down payment is less than 20%.

RHS Loans

For those who live in a government approved rural area the Rural Housing Service backs a mortgage that offers no down payment.

In addition to these nationwide programs, there are other mortgage options for those local to Washington D.C. and the surrounding area.

WASHINGTON D.C. AND SURROUNDING AREAS

Virginia Loan Programs

FHA Plus Loan

For borrowers who need additional down payment assistance, the FHA Plus Loan is another option.  Depending on creditworthiness, the borrower can qualify for a second mortgage of between 3 and 3.5% of the contract price to cover the down payment and closing costs.  It is important to note that the combined mortgages may not exceed the FHA purchase price limitations.

VHDA Down Payment Grant

For Northern Virginia residents meeting credit worthiness and maximum income standards, VHDA offers down payment grants equivalent to 3 to 3.5% of the home’s purchase price. 

VHDA Mortgage Tax Certificate

Homeowners who qualify for VHDA’s loan programs and who meet the income and eligibility requirements of the FHA Plus program will receive a gift from Uncle Sam at tax time.  The VHDA offers a mortgage credit certificate which allows for a 20% tax credit for the mortgage interest paid on their loan for the duration of the loan.

Maryland Loan Programs

Mortgage Credit Certificate

This program is similar to its Virginia counterpart but is limited to a total credit of $2,000.

Maryland Mortgage Program

This program offers a 30-year fixed rate loan at 0 percent interest.  This loan allows perspective buyers to cover up to 5 percent of the purchase price for down payment and closing costs.  The loan does not require repayment until the end of the 30-year term unless the home is sold or refinanced.

The mortgage covering the remaining purchase price of the home is subject to both income restrictions as well as limitations on the purchase price of the home. 

WASHINGTON D.C. LOAN PROGRAMS

Mortgage Credit Certificate

Similar to the Virginia and Maryland programs, D.C. homeowners may take a credit of 20% of the mortgage paid on their loan for the duration of the loan.

Home Purchase Assistance Program

First time home buyers who are DC residents may be eligible for assistance of between $10,000 and $50,000 of the purchase price of their homes, subject to income limitations and credit worthiness.  An additional $4,000 in closing cost assistance is also available. 

The payments on the 40-year loan are deferred for five years to reduce the burden the loan may have on the home buyer.

DC Open Doors  

For those looking for a home in Washington D.C., regardless of current residency, the DC Open Doors Program offers down payment assistance to applicants who meet the minimum credit requirements and do not exceed income limitations outlined by the program.

The DCHFA (DC Housing Finance Agency) will pay the down payment of 3 to 3.5% of the home purchase price.  The 0% loan is forgiven over a five-year period at a rate of 20% annually.  The loan becomes repayable in instances where the home is refinanced or sold during the five-year term.

First time home buyers have numerous options when it comes to financing a new home. To see if you qualify for home buying assistance and to check out more D.C. area downpayment and home buying assistance options visit our Buyers Assistance page. Keller Williams can assist you in find the appropriate program for your circumstance. Feel free to contact the Tania Ivey Home Selling Team for more information. (703) 661-9410. 

Posted in Mortgage
June 2, 2016

55+ Living in Virginia

Benefits of Independent Living

Virginia 55+ LivingThe kids are grown and starting families of their own and the family home seems much too large now. After years of working and caring for your home and family, you are still an active adult. You don't want to have to spend all your time caring for a large home when you could be enjoying your time now. It has been proven that staying active goes a long way to keeping you healthy.

SEE VIRGINIA 55+ COMMUNITIES

As you start to consider downsizing your possessions, it is time to think about where you would like to go next. Hopefully, it will be someplace where you can socialize with others at your stage of life who have many of the same interests and enjoy the same activities. Maybe it is time to look into one of those innovative senior living communities you've heard people talking about.

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Posted in 55+ Communities, Buy
June 1, 2016

Owners Renting Condos at The Fitz May Not be Getting the Value They Seek

The Fitz | 501 Hungerford Drive | Rockville MD 20850

The Fitz | Rockville MDMany condo owners at The Fitz in Rockville, MD are choosing to rent out their luxury condo units rather than selling them, hoping that the prices will go up. However, in the short term, renting may not be providing those owners with the value they need, and doing so may not be smart from a tax or financial standpoint. 

THE FITZ HOUSING MARKET REPORT

Renting is not a new concept for this building or the community; prior to being condo units, The Fitz was a luxury apartment rental community with monthly rents ranging from $1,309 for a 682 square foot one-bedroom unit to more than $2,100 for a 1,309 square foot two-bedroom plus loft unit. 

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Posted in Market Reports
May 27, 2016

Real Housewives of Potomac Recap Episode 9 2016

Real Housewives of Potomac Episode 9 2016 RecapLet’s run through all the piddly, stupid stuff before Charrisse Jordan’s party of the century.

Ashley Darby wants to take care of her mother. Her mother has never wanted to be a burden. She’s been hit hard financially, and tearfully accepts Ashley’s offer to buy her a home. Katie Rost should stay lip locked with Andrew, and keep herself out of hot water. Instead, she bitched about Karen’s podunk cocktail party/O’Gala. Then she turned her tongue on Gizelle being a “genuinely good person with a spiritual heart, but dresses like a prostitute and can be a little bitchy.” This was (hands down) tonight’s LOL moment.

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Posted in RHOP
May 27, 2016

Real Housewives of Potomac Episode 8 2016 Recap

Real Housewives of Potomac Episode 8 Recap

Most of tonight’s episode focused on two things: Gizelle’s desire to create a new makeup line for women of color, and Karen’s gala for Alzheimer’s Awareness. Since so much time was spent checking their looks in the mirror, let’s call this episode “MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL.” It’ll be fun, so just roll with it. “Mirror, Mirror on the wall…who’s the grudge-holdingest one of all?” (Swirly, Swirly, Smoky Swirly—-that’s the mirror searching for answers…) “I see many who cannot let go…but for TWO I see it is TRULY so…And their names are Karen Huger and Katie Rost!”

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Posted in RHOP