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by PoP Sponsor January 18, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

In part 2 of my “Buying a home in 2018” series, I will discuss financing — How to explore your loan options and why this is an important preliminary step of the homebuying process. If you missed part 1 of this series where I went over defining home purchase objectives, you can find it here.

Unless you are planning to purchase a home without financing, a nice luxury that many of us don’t have, then you are likely planning to get a mortgage. Figuring out how you plan to pay for the house that you want to buy is equally as important as figuring out which house you want to buy.

It is important that the loan option you choose is a good fit for your financial objectives. With interest rates expected to rise, refinancing isn’t likely to be an advantageous option and a mortgage will be a long term commitment to a payment plan. Exploring the full range of mortgage options will help to ensure that the payment plan you go with is the best fit for your personal financial situation.

Now you might be thinking that by exploring financing options I mean shopping around for the lowest interest rate, but this is not the case. Interest rates are just one factor and, in my opinion, by far not the most important factor in choosing a loan and lender for most buyers. For more on this topic, check out my column from last year on choosing a lender.

Step 1: Research lender recommendations. Ask friends or neighbors who they used as their lender and if they would highly recommend them. Ask your trusted real estate professional for their recommendations based on the type of loans you are considering. There are a lot of lenders out there, only consider those with raving fans. I strongly recommend using a direct local lender who will serve as your knowledgeable financing guide on your journey to homeownership. Here is my list of questions to ask when interviewing lenders. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor January 11, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This column is written by Metro DC Houses, a local real estate team serving DC, MD, VA made up of Colin Johnson, the current President for the D.C. Association of Realtors and Christopher Suranna, the President Elect for D.C. Association of Realtors.

Hello PoPville, we would like wish everyone a wonderful Happy New Years. We wanted to warm everyone’s heart with a story that broke in December. We had the pleasure to meet Robin McKenney, who recently went from homelessness to homeownership.

Her story started when her subsidized home became uninhabitable which lead to a series of bureaucratic issues with her and her family ending up in one of the local hotels that stand in as temporary shelters for some of DC’s neediest residents. It was along that path that Robin was inspired to make a decision; the best way she could prevent this from happening again is to have ownership of her own property or as she says, “I now have the key to the city.”

We sat down with her to learn about her journey and what experiences she had with what the city has to offer for individuals looking to own. So how did she do it?

All of the below resources and descriptions are brief explanations and each of these programs have different requirements and limitations.

Robin had talked a lot about the support she received from LaRuby May, so we thought to reach out to her and hear her side of Robin’s journey. When speaking with former council member LaRuby May, who now owns The May Firm Pllc. Ms. May was an architect several years ago with an initiative called Move To Work Designation, which allows subsidized voucher recipients to use some of that money to assist in the payment of homes they own. In addition, there are several non-profit organizations that Robin was also able to coordinate with in order to facilitate with down payment assistance, credit repair and general education on homeownership responsibilities. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor January 4, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

Whether you are planning to buy a house in 2018 or 5 years from now, it’s never too early to start planning. I’m sure that I sound like a broken record when I say that buying any kind of real estate is one of the biggest financial investments you will ever make, and that careful planning and preparation will help to ensure that your investment fits your objectives.

Knowing where to start when you are thinking about buying a home can be more than a little overwhelming, but let’s take it one step at a time. Like many aspects of buying a home, I can’t promise that it will be fun, but I can promise that it will be worthwhile.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing with you my recommendations on each step of the home buying process, from planning and figuring out how you will pay for the house to the actual search.

Step 1: Define your objectives

I know that those email alerts that you get from Zillow or Redfin are super tempting, but I would caution that until you have a clear outline of your objectives it’s really easy to get off track and distracted before you ever even begin your search (If you’ve already done this, thats OK too, we can always work backwards if you’ve gotten ahead of yourself).

It’s completely natural to be excited and want to jump right into a home search, but I can’t caution strongly enough that in order to have a successful experience and outcome, planning is needed. (note: for the purposes of this post, and all of my posts, a house or home is not defined by a specific type of physical structure, whether its a condo, tiny house, McMansion or anything in-between).

The number one mistake that I see buyers make is getting ahead of themselves, finding a home that they think they want to buy before they have clearly defined their objectives. I definitely understand that the charm and character are irresistible, or the location is amazing, and that you will feel like you have found a once in a lifetime opportunity. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor December 21, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

This weekly column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

For the first time in a long time, buying a home in DC has gotten less expensive! While it may not offset rising prices, every little bit helps. In October 2017 a new benefit to first time homebuyers in DC went into effect, reducing the recordation tax that eligible buyers pay when they purchase their first home in DC.

The reduction is between 1-1.3% depending on the sales price, which is not a small amount of money with DC prices being what they are. In my research, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of information available on this subject, so I wanted to share with you the specifics.

What is recordation tax?

Recordation tax is a one time tax that is paid at settlement on the purchase or sale of a property. This goes by different names and is a different amount in different areas, but in all cases it is essentially a tax on the sale that goes to the state, county or other jurisdiction that is calculated as a percentage of the sales price. This is different from property taxes which are paid annually or semi-annually. Recordation tax is one of the closing costs of purchasing real estate.

In DC, it is customary for a seller to pay the transfer tax and a buyer to pay the recordation tax. Before the first time home buyer (FTHB) recordation tax reduction, the amount paid for the transfer and recordation taxes were equal.

What is the new recordation tax amount?

How to Qualify

This gift doesn’t come without restrictions and is not automatically applied, rather buyers need to apply and qualify for the reduced recordation tax. The application with additional details can be found here. The main requirements include:

  • First-Time District Homebuyer
    • Either a current DC resident or plan to immediately become a DC resident after purchasing
    • Has not owned a residential property in DC
  • Income Restrictions
    • Calculated by the combined federal adjusted gross income for anyone who will live in the home
    • Maximum income limits based on number of people in household
      • 1: $139,140, 2: $158,940, 3: 178,740, 4: $198,540
  • Eligible Property
    • Property purchase price must be $625,000 or less
    • Houses, condos and co-ops are all eligible
  • Homestead Deduction Application must be included in application
    • Applicants must simultaneously apply for and qualify for the Homestead Exemption
    • Verifies that the property will be used as a primary residence and owner occupied

(more…)

by PoP Sponsor December 14, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

This column is written by Metro DC Houses, a local real estate team serving DC, MD, VA made up of Colin Johnson, the current President for the D.C. Association of Realtors and Christopher Suranna, the President Elect for D.C. Association of Realtors.

Hello PoPville, this is the beginning of a series of articles where we tackle neighborhoods of DC and interesting real estate related questions. With the news of I-66 charging $40 dollars for solo drivers on Tuesday December 5 at peak times we began to ask the question; what is the cost of a commute and how might that impact real estate values?

Theory: It costs a lot less to live further out, but commute costs are higher.

Now we know there are a lot of wonky people in DC so don’t blow us up because this isn’t a study. We’ll focus on the orange line because that follows I-66, and we will also look at a variety of neighborhoods along the route until the last stop in DC on the same line.

*All times listed in minutes 9 a.m. departure time
**50 weeks a year 5 days a week
***Household within .25 miles metro

There are a lot of variable issues, property types vary, neighborhoods vary and no one actually lives right on top of metro stations. Thus actual commute times will vary. Please note in our professional opinion a 45 plus minute commute changes peoples’ perspective on a home and there are lots of studies on negative health effects on long commutes. In essence, driving 100 minutes from Vienna would make most people rethink their commute. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor December 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

This weekly column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

2017 has been quite a year in DC real estate world. I’ve had the honor of helping many buyers on their homeownership journey and through the process I’ve had the opportunity to observe both the challenges and triumphs that come with purchasing a home. With that I’d like to share the most common mistakes that I see buyers make and some tips on avoiding them:

  1. Not getting fully pre-approved before looking at homes

Putting some numbers into an online calculator is not going to cut it. Figuring out how you are going to pay for a house is equally as important as what house you are going to buy. Would you go shopping for anything else without knowing how much money you have to spend? It’s VERY hard to reduce your budget and price range mid-search and be happy with the new options.

  1. Deciding exactly what you want after online research alone.

There are things that you can’t see or feel online. These things may make a difference in the direction of your home search. Your search may confirm that what you think you want, is actually what you want, but I find more often than not that this may change as you explore different options. Stay open minded.

  1. Attempting to buy the house that you think that you will need or want in 5 years rather than what makes sense today. (Exception — if you are getting to the age where you think you may be buying your last home, this does not apply!)

DC is expensive, and it’s hard enough to afford a home that meets your needs today, much less your future needs and the needs of your unborn children. As a young-ish adult, a lot can change in a few years. Buying in a good school area before you have children may cost you a lot in the long run if you miss out on a chance to build equity in a faster appreciating area. Having 3 bedrooms when you only need 1 means you’re paying a lot every month for space that you may not really need.

  1. Your family, friends, co-workers are great people who mean well, but they are not real estate professionals, and they may not be giving you advice that is actually helpful.

Real estate is a hot topic in D.C. and everyone wants to share their advice and experiences. As a real estate professional, I know that everyone’s search is different with different objectives, priorities and preferences, and my job is to help buyers reach the best possible outcome using my knowledge and experience. Your parents will always be advising that you proceed with caution, because they don’t want you to make a mistake or purchase that you will regret. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor November 30, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

This weekly column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

A good real estate property description should be detailed and compelling, and give the reader a good idea of whether a property is something that they might be interested in. I often find descriptions and listing remarks filled with the same ambiguous phrases and vague euphemisms that lead to more questions than answers. The MLS listing remarks are limited to a short 400 characters, so it’s sometimes necessary to read between the lines and consider both what is included and what isn’t.  Below I’m sharing some insight into what these overused statements really mean.

Cozy = I hope you don’t like a lot of space or have a lot of stuff. Potentially too small for normal sized furniture.

Charming = Sometimes a synonym for old or “vintage.” Most often, not recently updated.

So much potential = Be prepared to spend time and money realizing that potential.

Solid bones = Usually used when there isn’t anything positive to say about the rest of the house.

Perfect for entertaining = Is any house not perfect for entertaining? I haven’t yet figured this one out.

Possible mold or water damage = There’s definitely mold and water damage, enter at your own risk.

Possible off street parking = Depends if you have a smart car or SUV, or, once you remove a concrete wall and regrade the yard you may be able to park there.

Lots of development in the area = The neighborhood might not look like much right now, but just wait! Maybe a good idea to do some research on the area first.

Close to commuter routes = Not walkable, but if you have a car, you can get anywhere, even to work. May also indicate traffic noise or volume. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor November 22, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

This weekly column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

Question: I’m thinking that I’m going to be ready to sell my condo and move in a year or two, and I’ve set aside some money for improvements. I’d like to try to make improvements that result in a higher sales price or at least get back the money I spent on them. What do you recommend?

This is a great question and is a common discussion that I have with prospective sellers when they are preparing to sell their home. I strongly recommend starting this process as much as a year in advance (or more), and it’s always a good idea to consider the resale value of any money that you invest in your home. That imported Italian tile may be the most beautiful that you’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t mean the buyer who buys your home is going to be willing to pay any more for it.

To start with, I’m going to assume that all of the major systems and appliances of your condo are in normal working order. By major systems, I mean the HVAC, water heater, electric panel and wiring, plumbing — all the big ticket expenses. If they aren’t, you should start there.

It may seem obvious, but if your furnace is 30 years old, the chances of it coming up as a buyer objection when you go to sell are pretty good. Unfortunately, replacing mechanical systems doesn’t make your home LOOK any better, but I recommend saving receipts and creating a list of improvements (with the amount spent) so that buyers can better visualize the value of that new air conditioner. It’s not a bad idea to keep a running spreadsheet so that you have this info ready to go without having to dig through your records.  (more…)

by PoP Sponsor November 16, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

This weekly column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

This week, we had a special “Development News You Can Use” request for information about the St. Elizabeths Hospital East Campus redevelopment. It’s no secret that there are many development projects under construction in wards 7 and 8 right now (21 to be exact), but this is one of the ones that hasn’t gotten as much recent publicity.

History: St. Elizabeths was established in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane. In 1916 the name was changed to St. Elizabeths Hospital. There are 2 campuses on 176 acres, and approximately 70 buildings — to put this in perspective, the national mall is 146 acres. The West Campus is owned by the federal government and under the control of GSA (the award winning U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters are located there). The East Campus is owned by the District of Columbia, this is the redevelopment project that we will explore in this column. While the buildings are vacant and disrepair, there is something both eerie and beautiful about them at the same time.

Location: St. Elizabeths is located in Congress Heights, the east campus is bordered by Martin Luther King Jr Ave to the west, Alabama Ave SE to the south and the Congress Heights Metro Station adjoins the south east corner of the property.

Development Summary: The redevelopment of Saint Elizabeths East is a multiphase project. Progress has been slow but steady since the release of the new Master Plan in 2012.  Phase 1 will include the 15 acres nearest the Congress Heights Metro station and the highly anticipated 4,200 seat arena that would host Wizards practice, Washington Mystics home games and other entertainment. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor November 9, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

This weekly column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

In this fast paced and competitive DC housing market, buying is a challenge in itself without adding in the extra variable of selling a home at the same time. Sure, in an ideal world, you would be able to keep both your old home and buy a new one, but the DC real estate market strikes again and for many this is not financially feasible (or maybe you don’t want to experience the joys of being a landlord).

When selling and buying, timing is everything and advance planning is your best bet for a successful move, without having to move more than once. There is no one size fits all solution to this challenge but there are a few options to consider:

Option 1: Sell first, then buy. This usually includes an extended settlement date or rent back on the sale, to allow time to purchase.

Pros: you will have any proceeds from your sale to apply to your purchase. You won’t be stuck with 2 housing payments at the same time if it takes longer than expected to sell your home.

Cons: You will have a limited amount of time to find the home that you want to buy and ratify a contract (usually 2-4 weeks). There is a risk of not finding a home, or not ratifying a contract, in which case you may find yourself making sacrifices that you didn’t intend to make, or opting for a plan B of a temporary housing arrangement. (more…)

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