Decorative Window Bars and Grilles

Secure Your Home With Attractive Window Bars and Window Gates 

maninstallingwindowgatechloe.jpg

 

There are thousands of condominiums in Washington D.C. and we have seen plenty of them! We've toured 550 square foot condo's and 2000 square foot condo's with one and two levels. So many different buildings and styles, there is no generic condo style or building in Washington D.C. 

Condo's and Co-op's offer housing for home buyers who want to live where they work, in Washington D.C. 

Our super cool clients have discerning taste and we finally found their dream condo! We were pleasantly surprised to find a condo with a brand new kitchen, two full new bathrooms and a beautiful master bedroom and bonus room to use as an office. 

It is the most beautiful basement condo we've ever seen in the District

Large windows in the living room and master bedroom allow ample natural light to stream into the living space. 

insideviewchloe.jpg

~Final Detail~

decorative window bars, grilles & gates 

Our creative homebuyers went through Pinterest and Google images of window bars and window gates.   

They drew up their own design,

NorthEast Ironworks Inc

openwindowgatechloe.jpg

 

constructed the window bars, door gates and grilles. Outstanding work! NorthEast Ironworks slogan, Dedicated to creating works of Art  and for 60 years, they have worked to create beautiful window bars and grilles in Washington D.C. and the surrounding metro area. 

 When we started our search for attractive bars, all we saw were ugly prison style window bars. When our homebuyers suggested designing window bars, we were not sure we would find a company that would take on our project-but NorthEast Ironworkscame through! 

Moral of the Window Bar, Grille & Gate Story 

Persevere-Go the extra mile-Create your own design-Believe in your dream...

&

Find a really good ironworks company that does excellent work 

give them an easy template to follow

and see your design become a reality

The window bars designed by our homebuyers are simple and attractive. The design allows easy open and close features. The window bars are open during the day when our clients are home and locked and closed when our clients are away at work or on vacation. 

If you are buying a home in Washington D.C. and need window bars and grilles, consider creating your own design. Contact professional ironworkers and get estimates. For more details about window bars, grilles and door gates-use the links below. With a little planning, you can create a beautiful design that will enhance the beauty of your home.

We wish you much success in your window bar and grille design efforts

 

NorthEast Ironworks

Mickeys Ironworks

Buyer's Edge

HomesBuyHendersons

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents 

Water is Your Worst Enemy

How To Check a House For Water Problems

water on stairs and building.jpg

 

Earlier this summer, I was with my client on a home inspection. The home was a Baltimore rowhouse on Federal Hill, built in 1900. After discovering that three of the four walls of the house were wet and there was mold in the crawlspace under the kitchen, my client voided the contract. 

The sellers said they were not aware of water issues in the basement and offered a home warranty to the buyer.

However, no home warranty could fix this problem. The moisture in the basement walls had been there long enough to buckle the drywall. The linoleum flooring was peeling up in the corners. And where there was wall-to-wall carpeting, it felt damp to the touch.

We used the walk away option in the home inspection addendum and the home inspector did not charge my clients.

I hope the sellers used the information in the home inspection report to address the serious water issues but we will never know for sure. I did notice the house was back on the market just a few days after we voided our contract. This is one of the main reasons why we, almost always advise our clients to use a home inspection addendum in their offer. In rare occasions, when there is competition for a good condition condominium, we will recommend waiving the home inspection contingency but we still recommend having one for informational purposes.

We will never know if they corrected the water intrusion problem because we walked away from the deal. 

On a home inspection this week, the inspector used a moisture meter on the back wall of the house. The meter turned yellow indicating that some moisture was present. We walked outside to check the grading against the back wall and sure enough, it wasn't done properly. With this property, my client decided to stay in the deal. He plans to properly grade the yard and caulk around the windows to keep moisture out of the home. 

What should you look for while touring houses?

low area next to house.jpg
  • Look at the soil around the base of the house. 

  • You want to see grading that moves water away, not toward the exterior walls.

  • Are there low areas next to the exterior walls like in the picture above? If so, the area needs to be filled with dirt and graded so it slopes away from the house.

  • Are the downspouts directing water away from the home? 

  • If there is a patio or concrete walkway next to an exterior wall, is the seam properly caulked? Anywhere there is a crack or open area between concrete and an exterior wall, there is an opportunity for water intrusion. 

  • Look at the roof. Are the shingles curled? If so, the roof may be old and near the end of its useful life. 

  • Is there a sump pump in the basement? This is good since the pump works to move water from under the house to the outside. 

  • Check under the stairs in the basement. Look for any original or older wood to see if water has wicked up from the floor. 

  • How does the house smell? Moisture has a distinct smell so pay close attention to what your nose is telling you! 

  • Look up! Check the ceilings in every room to see if there are water stains or recent patching.

Beware of flipped properties!

The bad flips always update the kitchen and bathrooms and ignore the HVAC, roof, water heater and electrical panel.

In other words, some flippers focus on what catches a buyers eye. They’ll install granite countertops in the kitchen, subway tile in the bathroom and leave the old HVAC, roof and water heater. In many older homes, flippers will leave the old 100 amp electrical system and opt to save money not installing a heavy up for the house. A heavy up increases the amperage coming into the house at the service panel or electrical box. This means the electrical system in the house can handle the needs of current homeowners today.

Buyer Agent Advice on How to Sell A Home

What Do Buyer Agents Know About Selling Homes

 Photo by  Jason Leung  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

 

Turns out-quite a lot!  As Exclusive Buyer Agents with Buyer's Edge, we tour lots and lots of houses. We walk to Metro with our clients to understand their daily commute. We visit farmers markets and local restaurants to get the feel of the community. And we tell our home buyers to write a Needs & Wants List .  On Monday, we took new clients to fourteen houses. We saw colonials, raised ramblers, ranch style ramblers and contemporary style homes. Since we are Exclusive Buyer Agents, we evaluate homes and property with our clients.

In our humble, yet well traveled opinion, we have advice for home sellers. 

  • Clean Your House-We understand you live in the house you're selling but try to make the bed, flush the toilet and put the dishes away before buyers take a tour

  • Tone Down the Colors-Lime green living room walls may brighten your mood but it's a big turn off to most Home Buyers. Consider painting walls in neutral colors. If you leave the walls as-is, consider touching up colors so they have neat edges along the ceiling and trim.

  • Continuity in Style-We toured a house that looked like the circus had come to town! The kitchen had two different style & color wood cabinets with another wood for flooring. The dining room had yellow wall to wall carpet with gray and yellow walls.  The adjoining family room had orange carpet and beige/brown walls. This "theme" went on and on throughout the house. 

  • Clear Out the Excess-I mean pictures & papers on the refrigerator, tooth & hair brushes on the sink counter and shoes piled in heaps around doorways. If you are moving anyway, why not clear out now?

Some home buyers want a fixer upper home. They do not mind painting, changing cabinets and fixtures and sanding floors. However this is not the typical attitude of home buyers in the Washington DC area.  

Home Buyers Want to Fall in Love with a Home

If you are selling your home, why not make it easy for them? 

5 Things to Know When Buying a Home from the Owner

We recently worked with a buyer who purchased a house for sale by owner. The owner was actually a flipper who had hired a listing brokerage to put the property into the Multiple Listing Service. The owner was the point of contact and handled all the negotiations. 

smiling woman.jpg


Top 5 things to know to protect your best interest when buying a FSBO

  1. THE SELLER DOESN'T KNOW WHAT SHE DOESN'T KNOW - Every jurisdiction has addendum and requirements which become part of the contract. Several of these addendum are provided by the seller. For example, in Montgomery County Maryland, it's mandatory for the seller to perform a radon test and provide the results to the buyer. The seller is not required to pay for remediation but the test has to be done. If the FISBO hasn't done their homework, they could miss important documents & requirements which are in place to protect the buyer. A good buyer's agent will make sure all required documents are included in the contract.

  2. CONTINGENCIES IN THE CONTRACT ARE THERE TO PROTECT THE BUYER - If you are buying a for sale by owner house, be sure your buyer's agent includes inspection, financing and appraisal contingencies. The home inspection should include the right to negotiate and the right to walk away from the deal. There will be a time period written into the contract that allows the buyer to hire a home inspector and complete the inspection. The inspector writes a detailed report and based on this information, the buyer decides to negotiate repairs and credits or walk away from the deal. The financing contingency is in place to protect the buyer should they not be able to purchase the property through no fault of their own. And if the appraiser determines that the value of the property is less than what the buyer is offering, the appraisal contingency gives the buyer the right to negotiate the price and get out of the deal if they can't come to an agreement with the seller. 

  3. THE SELLER IS NOT BOUND BY A CODE OF ETHICS - Real estate agents are supposed to follow the rules and the code of ethics. This includes not misleading buyers, responding as quickly as possible to offers & counter offers and disclosure of pertinent facts and latent defects about the property. If real estate agents break any of the rules they could be fined and/or lose their license. A seller has not agreed to a code of ethics or standard of practice. This leaves room for dishonest people to not disclose all the important details of a property. 

  4. SELLER MAY OVERVALUE THEIR PROPERTY - It's not uncommon for a homeowner to overvalue their property. I remember a conversation I had with a FISBO who listed the cost of the back deck and bathroom renovations he had done 10 years prior. He was expecting to be compensated for the expense! Review the comparables provided by your buyer agent.  These will show what similar houses sold for over the past 6 months to a year. Look closely at the condition of the other houses. Using this information, you can determine what you want to offer for the house. Keep in mind that you may also be negotiating repairs and/or credit for items found during the home inspection.

  5. GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING - Did the seller say they would take the junk out of the backyard? Get it in writing! Everything you have either verbally or via email agreed on, write up an addendum that spells it out and is signed by both parties. If it's not in writing, it's not enforceable. 

Why You Need a Pre-Drywall Inspection

Buying a brand new home?

Consider having a pre-drywall home inspection 

radon pipe picture.jpg

 

At this stage of the home building process, the Builder or Site Manager walks through the home with the homeowners. The framing, heating and air ducts, electrical wiring, plumbing and possibly tubs and shower pans will be in place. 


Before the drywall is installed, it's easier to make changes to the electrical outlets, lighting, plumbing and/or framing.

 What To Look For in a Pre Drywall Walk Through

  • Take pictures of electrical wiring, plumbing, and air ducts. Our home buyers plan to hang large flat screens on the wall in several rooms. They asked the builder to add extra support to the framing. We saw the extra wood/support and our buyers checked that off their to-do list!

  • Check placement for electrical boxes in each room. Before the pre-drywall walkthrough, the Builder and home buyer meet for a design meeting.  This is when you decide the location of electrical outlets, ceiling fan wiring and cable lines for your home. During the walkthrough, make sure these items are in the proper location. Now is the time to make changes to things that will soon be covered by walls and ceilings.

  • Be sure the air registers are placed properly in each room. All the rooms in the house should have registers. The ductwork connecting the registers shouldn't be dented or blocked in any way.

  • Your washing machine should have a washing pan.  If the pan is not in place, make sure it's on the Builder's checklist. The pan catches overflows if the washing machine leaks or overflows.

  • Are the doors, windows and garage doors the style & design you've chosen?  During our pre-drywall walkthrough, we noted that several doors still needed to be hung. We went to the garage where the crew had stored the doors and made sure they matched.

  • Ask the Builder to show you the location of the clean outs for the plumbing. Sometime in the future, you, or a plumber, will need to access the cleanout. Take notes during the walkthrough so you remember where clean outs are located. In the picture above, you can see all the plumbing for the master bathroom shower. Having pictures of what's behind the walls will come in handy if/when there is a leak or other issue.

Finally, we recommend hiring a licensed independent home inspector.

This will be an additional cost, but it's well worth the expense. Home inspectors evaluate the foundation, floor, walls, framing, electrical, plumbing, roof structure, windows, doors and rough-in components. The home inspector will answer all your questions and provide a detailed report. Consider having a radon inspection. Radon is an odorless colorless naturally occurring gas which is the product of decaying radium. In Montgomery County Md, the sellers are required to do a radon test and provide the results to the home buyer. Radon exposure has been linked to lung cancer. So again, consider having a licensed home inspector test your new home for radon.

 

This inspection would be in addition to, not instead of, the Builder's walkthrough and home inspection.  

Here are more sources for you if you are buying new construction. 

American Society of Home Inspectors

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents

National Association of Home Builders

Residential Performance Construction Guidelines

plumbing behind the walls.jpg

Thinking About Buying a Fixer-Upper?

very old speaker system for a house.jpg

Here are a few major points to consider before you buy a fixer-upper.

Time had stopped in a house we toured last week.

The in-house speaker system was original and installed in 1958. All the bathrooms had original tile, sinks, and tubs. The kitchen had original cabinets and only the refrigerator had been replaced. The basement had asbestos tiles on the floor and a swingin' Rat Pack style bar that took up an entire wall. 

How much do you think it would cost to fix this place up? 

Many home buyers love the character, craftsmanship, and detail found in an older home.  But before you buy a fixer-upper, seriously consider the following questions.

  • What projects can you do yourself? Is the house built prior to 1978? Do it yourself projects can quickly grow and take up more time than you planned. If the house is built prior to 1978, it's likely lead-based paint is on the walls, window trim, and doors. If you're removing walls or making any major changes on an older home, you'll need to hire professionals to do the work. Lead paint and asbestos removal is not cheap!According to Home Advisor, it can cost between $200 and $700 to hire professionals to do this type of work. 

  • Will the house need an electrical heavy up and updating for outlets & switches? Most houses today include a 200 amp electrical service. This allows homeowners to run as many circuits as needed. Older homes may have only 100 amp service which is often not enough electricity for homeowners needs today. A licensed electrician should be hired to do a heavy up which usually costs between $1500-$2500. If you're handy, you may be able to replace old outlets with GFI protected outlets but this work takes skill and you'll want to be sure to turn off the main power before doing any electrical work. 

  • What is the condition of the roof, structure & foundation? Depending on the size and condition, roof replacement can be expensive. If the roof is near the end of it's useful life, adjust your offer to reflect the cost of replacement. If there are foundation issues, seriously consider walking away! To avoid buying a house with foundation problems, spend time examining the exterior and interior walls.  Last spring, we found large, jagged cracks along the brick foundation of an older home. In the basement of the home, the wall bulged from the cracks in the wall. This is an expensive problem! If you have any questions about the foundation of a property, hire a structural engineer. 

  • Give serious consideration before you waive a home inspection. With the exception of an almost new condominium, we have never advised our buyers to waive a home inspection. We have, in competitive situations, done a pre-offer home inspection. This is done when there are multiple offers on a property and you want to write a contract offer that is not contingent on the home inspection. 

Remember, hire professionals to thoroughly evaluate a home. If the house is on well & septic or has a pool, these should be inspected by a professional. The more you can learn about your investment, the more confident you can be in moving ahead with the purchase. 

Hang Up Your Phone and Live Your Life

Hearing a baby in distress is upsetting.

baby with cat face paint.jpg

I was standing in line at the grocery store and I heard a baby's muffled cry. I did a quick scan of the area and didn't see the baby.

Then she cried again and I saw her. She was scrunched onto one side of the baby seat of the grocery cart. Her head was hanging over the side of the cart and her feet had slipped onto the seat. She was in trouble! The baby's mother was standing right in front of her but her back was turned and she was typing furiously into her cellphone. 

Just then, an older man tapped the mother on the shoulder and said, "Hey now, you're baby needs you!" The young mother turned around, picked up her daughter and looked around the store like she was seeing it for the first time. 

We really need to take a break from our phones!

According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Research, when parents are on their cell phones they have fewer conversations and interactions with their children. This seems obvious but cell phones are so appealing that it's hard to look away. A local daycare center in Bethesda Maryland has a sign posted at the front door where parents pick up and drop off their children. It reads,

Parents, please hang up your phone. Your child wants to talk to you. 

I believe that people don't want to ignore their children or family members or friends. It's just that cell phones give us access to everything we desire, instantly.

I was watching a morning news show this week and a singer was performing in front of a live audience. Most of the people in the crowd had their cell phones in their hands, recording the singer. Some of the people were actually watching the performance through their cell phones. It was really weird to see!

Would the performance be better when they watched it later? How about enjoying the moment and the live performance?

 I'm guilty of spending too much time on my cell phone and I'm working on balancing phone time and free time. In real estate, a cell phone is a tool of the trade. Here are a few ways I've been managing my cell phone/screen time.

I hope these suggestions work for you!

  • The phone goes off at 9 pm and on at 7 am - unless I am in the middle of a negotiation, I limit my phone time to these hours. Keep the phone on vibrate in the evening and morning. This way, a phone call, text or email is less disruptive. 
  • The phone is off during meals and any social time with friends and family - This makes socializing easy and there are no interruptions.
  • Hiking in the woods or walking in the city with friends and family? -turn off the phone and look around. Pick up a map and use it instead of the navigation on the cell phone.
  • Feel the need to check your phone? Ask yourself why? I will mindlessly check my phone for nothing specific. At that moment, I am looking for a distraction from the moment. I've started to question why. 

I Don't Like Real Estate Agents

In the movie,  Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaire children's Aunt Josephine has an irrational fear of Realtors. But is it so irrational?

woman reaching for help.jpg

I met a young lady today who started our conversation with, "Don't take this the wrong way but I don't like real estate agents!" And then she tells me why and I completely get it.

 

People get burned by bad real estate agents and it's very hard for them to come back from that experience. After all, 

a home buyer is making the biggest financial purchase of their life. They need to know they can trust and count on their Realtor to be advocating on their behalf every step of the way!

To be clear, this young lady had not done her homework.

She saw a house she liked and called the listing agent who had a sign in the front yard. She asked the listing agent for a tour and while they toured the house, she told the listing agent how much she loved the house. 

 She said, "The listing agent wasn't answering my questions about the condition of the house. I felt like I couldn't trust her!" What she didn't know is the listing agent is representing the seller and has a fiduciary duty to his client. These fiduciary duties include; loyalty, confidentiality, disclosure, obedience, accounting and reasonable care and diligence. 

Buying a home for the first time?

Here are a few things to consider before going to an Open House or calling a real estate agent.

Buying your second or third home? The rules have changed. Know your rights as a home buyer. 

  • You have the right to full and uncompromised representation - Research your options as a home buyer. There are buyer agents and exclusive buyer agents. Buyer agents work with Brokerages that list properties for sale.Exclusive Buyer Agents work with Brokerages that only represent home buyers. Their Brokerage does not list homes for sale. You will never sign a dual agency agreement with an Exclusive Buyer Agent. 
  •  Interview your real estate agent - Check their reviews and see how quickly they respond to emails, texts, and phone calls. You want a responsive agent who will go see a property as soon as it comes on the market. 
  • Do not call a listing agent - If you want to have full representation, don't contact the listing agent. This person, as I've mentioned earlier, has signed an agreement with the seller to represent their best interest. You need someone to be on your side 100%.
  • Don't disclose your interest in a property at the Open House - The agent at the Open House works for the Brokerage representing the seller. While this person will answer your questions about the property, remember that they work for the seller. You want to work with a real estate agent who will advocate on your behalf. Someone who will negotiate the sales price, negotiate the repairs and credits found in the home inspection and be looking out for you during the entire home buying process. 
  • Learn the commute & the neighborhoods that work for you - In Washington DC and Baltimore, the commute times can be brutal. Consider your drive times and talk to your spouse about what makes the most sense for both of you. Drive the neighborhoods of interest and check out what the communities have to offer. 

Buying a home is challenging but it can be fun. Do your homework and interview agents to be sure you have an advocate on your side!

Recording Potential Home Buyers

We were videotaped while touring a home for sale!

video recorder in family room.jpg

I was interviewed by a USA Today reporter about being recorded with my clients while touring a home for sale. 

A green blinking light caught my eye as I was checking out the kitchen cabinets. As you can see in the picture, this video recorder was plugged into an outlet. My clients thought it was funny but it did feel weird.

And then we found another camera, this time in the family room. Again, my clients took it in stride but we wondered why the sellers would make such an effort. The house was completely vacant, so it's not like the cameras were used to keep an eye on personal belongings. At the end of the house tour, my buyers decided the house was not for them. The layout was odd so they made that statement directly to the camera and we left the house.

The lessons learned from this experience;  If you really love a house, don't say so while you are inside. Save that conversation for the backyard or even in the car. Some takeaways from this experience -

In a 2014 Realtor magazine, there's a list of the specific audio & video recording rules for each State. If you are working with a seller, make sure they understand the recording rules. If you are working with buyers, assume that you are being recorded. It's better to play it safe since this type of recording could be difficult to prove in a court of law. 

#1 Way Real Estate Agents Get Sued

Real Estate Agents are required to take continuing education classes to keep their licenses active. 

At the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors otherwise known as GCAAR, we have an ethics instructor who is a lawyer. He's acted as general legal counsel for the Maryland Association of Realtors since 1984. 

real estate agent.jpg

 Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

 

The stories he shares come from real life experiences and they are scary! 

  • The #1 way real estate agents get into trouble is failing to disclose material facts. If the seller chooses to disclaim instead of disclose, they still need to disclose a latent defect.  (that's a fault with the property that couldn't be discovered by a thorough inspection prior to the sale.) 

  • Listing agents and buyer agents need to be careful how they describe a property. Is the house really in excellent condition? Is the roof/HVAC new? Has the kitchen been updated? These vague descriptions have been the subject of lawsuits filed against real estate agents. Provide dates instead of saying something is "new or updated". And don't say "excellent condition" in a description unless it's 100% true. Here's an example: A house listed as "in excellent condition" was purchased by a buyer. The buyer had a home inspection and several items, one major, were discovered by the inspector. The buyer said, "How can this home be excellent with all these repair items?" So the buyer asked the listing agent to reimburse him for the cost of the home inspection. The listing agent said no. Many months and thousands of dollars later, the buyer won a lawsuit! All because the listing agent wrote "excellent condition" as a description of the property. 

  • Your real estate agent will never say which neighborhood is right for you. Certain details of a neighborhood could violate the Fair Housing Act which was enacted in 1968 to eliminate housing discrimination. A real estate agent can and will provide a home buyer with tools and resources so they can make an informed decision regarding neighborhoods. 

  • Real estate agents should be careful to present a true (honest) picture when advertising. Apparently, this is another common issue when agents get into trouble. All advertisements should disclose the Broker's name and/or company name with the office telephone number. In other words, it should take no longer than 15 seconds for someone to know an agents Brokerage. This includes all correspondence, anything that's mailed, business cards and newsletters. 

 

Continuing education classes give us the opportunity to check ourselves. Are we acting ethically every day with every client? Are we staying in the scope of our expertise? Are we acting solely in the best interest of our client/principal? 

How Important is a Survey When Buying a Home?

When buying a single family home, you don't want any surprises. 

Many of our new home buyers have asked us if they really need to pay the extra money to get a property survey.

After all, the backyard is already fenced, isn’t that enough?
— Home buyer in Washington D.C.
suburban yard and house.jpg

 

Buying a home is the most expensive purchase most of us make in a lifetime.

And you are not just buying the house, you are buying the parcel of land that the house sits on. So the short answer to the question above is, "Yes! You should seriously consider paying for a survey when you are buying a home."

A land survey is a map showing the legal boundaries of a property. The surveyor measures the property and identifies buildings on a property.

In some cases, like when we had our property surveyed in Maryland, the surveyor drove flagged metal stakes into the ground to identify the boundaries. Sometimes surveyors put concrete markers into the ground when the house is built. We found one of these when our surveyor came out to determine the line between our neighbors' property and our property line. 

 

A house location drawing is not a boundary survey. 

A house location drawing is fairly accurate and indicates where the house sits on the property. 

It does not, show the property lines. To have a true understanding of your property size, we recommend paying for the boundary survey. Depending on the lot size and location, a boundary survey can cost between $500 to over $1000. 

  • You will save yourself a lot of trouble if you get a boundary survey. In our case, we paid for a survey and erected a privacy fence. Our neighbor, who was an original buyer from 1961 complained that we had built the fence on his land. However, he was mistaken. He had long thought our side yard was his yard. The fence set the record straight and we were glad to regain the use of our land. 

  • Keep a copy of your boundary survey. If you want to build a shed or plant trees or bushes near your property line, you may need to provide the survey to your County or other local officials. 

Your settlement attorney or title company should answer all your questions about boundary surveys. Remember, you are not just buying the house, you are buying the property. You will want to know what land is yours. Someday, if you decide to sell your house, a buyer will want answers to these questions. If there are any issues with easements or encroachments, you will have a problem. 

 

Happy House Hunting! 

Exclusive buyer agents with Buyer's Edge

HomesBuyHendersons.com

What Does Love Have To Do With Buying A Home?

"True love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky, I love that." Miracle Max

The Princess Bride.jpg

 

The 1987 movie Princess Bride is a beautiful story about true love.

Princess Buttercup and Wesley encounter serious obstacles (the entire movie) but eventually end up together and live happily ever after.

True Love Prevails!

This true love story is a lot like buying a home. There is no such thing as the perfect house for everyone! Every home buyer has unique expectations and dreams regarding their home. So if you are planning to buy a home this Spring, consider why love matters!  

  • Love your Neighborhood - You can remodel and fix up a house but you can't do much to change your neighborhood. You need to love your location first and then focus on the house. To love your neighborhood, you'll want to write a list of what's important to you and your partner. How long is your daily commute? Have you actually driven the route and determined you can live with it? Is there an HOA? Do you think you can abide by rules? Loving your location is imperative if you really want to enjoy your daily life.
  • Love the bones of the house - My grandfather had a great expression, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear." Keep this in mind when buying a home. If it's poorly constructed with cheap aluminum siding with sagging garage door headers-don't buy it. You will regret the purchase even if you do all the right upgrades on the house. 
  • Love the flow - I've seen hundreds of galley kitchens in the Washington & Baltimore area.These kitchen designs were popular back in the day when the wife cooked and then served family and guests in the dining room. Thankfully, those days are gone! If a house you love has a galley kitchen, consider taking down a wall and opening up the space.Galley kitchens are one of the biggest drawbacks for home buyers who are touring older homes. 
  • Love the outdoors - Even if you don't spend lots of time in a yard, it's important to consider who your neighbors will be. Do they have tidy yards? Is there any privacy? If not, is there room for a few trees or a privacy fence? The biggest gray area when buying a home is who lives next door. If you are considering buying a home, drive by in the evening and on the weekend and try to meet a few neighbors. This could help you move ahead with writing a contract or run! 

Love Matters in Real Estate

Best wishes for a happy & successful house hunting adventure this Spring!

 

The Psychology in Real Estate

The decision-making process is more complex than you may think

blue door red door of houses.jpg

Buying a home is a big deal. It takes focus and dedication to the process to get it right. You will make a list of what you want & need in a home.

You and your partner will choose a neighborhood after considering your daily commute and other important factors.

And even when you've checked off all the "must-haves" on your list, you could be missing an important piece of the process. 

There are subtle details that can drive your decision-making process

Understanding what drives your choices will help you make a more informed decision. 

First, have a heart to heart conversation with your partner about what you see yourself doing in your home and neighborhood. For example, when I was a first time home buyer, I didn't tell Marshall that I could see us reading to our children in a family room with a fireplace. I never mentioned this because I didn't recognize how important it was to me. 

When we started touring houses and seeing homes with and without fireplaces, I realized it was time to share my dream with my husband.

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider if you are planning to buy a home. 

  • Is your real estate agent working for you 100% - Some real estate agents work for a Brokerage that encourages agents to sell their in-house listings or inventory. We've had several clients tell us nightmare stories of agents showing them houses that don't meet their needs or criteria. Remember, you have the right to be fully represented 100% of the time by your agent. After all, you are bringing the money that will finance much the transaction. Choose your agent very carefully!

  • Carefully review HOA & Condo documents - HOA documents will govern what you plant in your yard and how you paint and decorate your home. Condo documents have rules regarding the care and maintenance of the common shared areas of your building. If you have a problem with the rules, you should not purchase a condo or home. You will have a period of review, in Virginia its 3 days for condo and HOA documents. In the District its 3 business days for condo and HOA documents and in Maryland, you have 7 days to review condo documents and 5 days to review HOA documents with a few minor exceptions.

  • Don't buy a house that is at the top of your budget - You want to have enough money to make your house feel like a home. Make sure you are not stretching yourself too thin financially. Again, here's where your real estate agent can work with you to stay within your budget.

  • Have an honest discussion with your partner about your expectations & fears - This should probably be #1 on the list of things to do. What scares you about owning a home? What steps can you take to avoid manifesting those fears? What do you expect from your new home? If you're buying a used home, like most of us do, are you being realistic about the maintenance responsibilities?

If you are don't know anything about home repair, ask your buyers agent for a list of people they recommend. Your buyer agent should be a good source of information even after you purchase your home. 

Have You Read the Consent for Dual Agency Agreement?

When Dual Agency May Occur

https://unsplash.com/@brock_olee

The possibility of dual agency arises when a home buyer is working with a real estate agent who's Brokerage is also listing the property they want to purchase. This means the real estate Broker/Brokerage who has agreed to list a property for a seller is now working with the buyer of that same property. Remember, the Broker already has a fiduciary agreement with the seller of the home.

As a home buyer, you can choose not to sign a Consent for Dual Agency Agreement.

 

You can work with an Exclusive Buyers Agent who is an advocate for you, the home buyer. Exclusive buyer agents are members of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents. (naeba.org) Exclusive Buyer Agents are Realtors who work for Brokerages that do not list homes for sale so there is no dual agency agreement. 

When both the buyer and seller have agents working for the same Brokerage, both clients are being represented by the same Brokerage. This creates a potential conflict of interest, particularly for the home buyer. In addition, the Brokerage collects double the commission creating a situation where one Brokerage can list & sell a property. As the home buyer, do you see how this could work against your best interests?

  • Is your agent showing you all the available properties that meet your criteria or are they pushing their Brokerage's in house inventory?
  • Is your agent providing the best guidance on how much to offer for a home particularly if their Brokerage is listing the property?
  • Is your agent sharing insights and strategies that will be an advantage to you, the home buyer?
  • Is your agent looking for the best price and terms for you? How likely is this to happen if the Brokerage already has an agreement with the home seller to work for their best interests?
  • Is your agent protecting your contractual contingencies and always keeping your best interests in mind? 

An Exclusive Buyer Agent offers a level of protection and dedication not available under other types of real estate agency.

By the virtue of their fiduciary relationship with the home buyer, Exclusive Buyer Agents will disclose information to the buyer that materially affects a buyer’s best interests, even if that information is detrimental to the seller! The listing agent cannot make such disclosures and must remain loyal to the seller. This is why buying a home from the local "neighborhood specialist" may not be in your best interest.

Remember, your best interest are not being considered if you consent to a straight dual agency agreement. This is when the agent representing the seller agrees to "work" with you to buy the listing. This type of dual agency is illegal in every other profession.

Can you imagine a lawyer coming into a courtroom with the plaintiff and turning to the defendant and saying, "Hey, I can represent you in this case too!" Of course not, this is absurd!  

Exclusive Buyer Agents will work as your advocate, offering advice so you can make an informed decision. Exclusive Buyer Agents have no "in-house" listings to push and no reason to talk you into buying any particular home. Call us so we can discuss your needs and where you want to live in the Greater Washington D.C. or Baltimore areas. We love what we do and look forward to making your home buying experience as smooth as possible. 

Cellphone 301.922.1677 Work phone 301.657.1475 or Email: Victoria@buyersagent.com

Here’s the rub...a dual agent does not exclusively represent either the seller or buyer; there may be a conflict of interest because the interest of the seller and buyer may be different or adverse. As a dual agent, the real estate broker does not owe undivided loyalty to either the seller or buyer.
— http://www.mdrealtor.org/Legal/Legal-Hotline/Frequently-Asked-Questions/PostId/17

Should I Test My Home for Radon?

yellow smoke surrounds a man.jpg

Unlike the picture above, radon gas is colorless and odorless. Radon occurs naturally. It is the decay of the elements radium, thorium and uranium in rocks and soil. Radon seeps up through the ground and into the air. In some cases, radon dissolves into groundwater and is released when water is used (when you turn on the shower or faucet).

Radon becomes a serious health risk when it's trapped in areas without adequate ventilation.  In fact, any home that is tightly sealed with insulation and new windows is a home that should be tested for radon. 

How should you test for radon gas? Radon levels can change when doors and windows are opened so a long-term test may be the better way to test for radon. In fact, the EPA has a consumers guide to radon reduction.

Once you have tested your home, you will receive results which are measured by picocuries per liter. This is a measurement of the radioactive decay of radon. While there is no acceptable level of radon exposure, the EPA recommends mitigation if the level is 4 pCi/L or higher. 

Mitigation of radon gas is accomplished through ventilation. A pipe is placed under the concrete slab of the home and a small fan is inserted to draw the radon gas through and out of the pipe which vents outside of the home. The installers place a gauge on the pipe so homeowners can see if the pipe is working. The cost of mitigation varies but is usually in the range of $500-$1500. 

  • Test your home for radon
  • If the test results show 4 pCi/L or higher, contact a radon mitigation company
  • Be wary of companies that are significantly cheaper than the rest! You get what you pay for and you want to get this right
  • Do check for references and the Better Business Bureau
  • The work should take about a day or less
  • The fan/motor has a low humming sound similar to the sound you hear from a dryer vent when it is in use.

New Smoke Detector Law in Maryland takes effect January 1st 2018

Maryland Residents are required to replace the 9-volt battery operated smoke detectors that are 10 years old with new smoke detectors. 

Video is from MDFRS Media

Maryland's Smoke Alarm Law applies to both hardwired and battery operated smoke alarms. The date will be on the back of the smoke detector. If you don't see a date then the smoke detector is probably over ten years old. 

The new law emphasizes the use of sealed smoke alarms with long-life batteries and silence buttons. Below is an outline of requirements.

  • In existing homes, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires a smoke alarm outside of bedrooms and one on each level of the home. However, it also recommends that existing homes be equipped with at least the same number of smoke alarms required in new homes which includes smoke alarms present inside all sleeping rooms.
  • For new construction, Maryland’s Smoke Alarm Law has been updated to match with the International Residential Code and National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. An AC powered, battery back-up smoke alarm is required in every bedroom, in the common area outside of the bedrooms and on every other level of the dwelling unit, with all of the required smoke alarms being interconnected. The requirements for smoke alarms vary depending on when the residence was constructed. 

This new law is meant to protect people from house fires. Since the battery operated smoke detectors are easy to dismantle, many homeowners would take batteries out if they were triggered by cooking. The homeowners would then forget or neglect to replace the batteries. This has resulted in house fires where firefighters find no batteries in the smoke detectors. The new smoke detectors have a hush feature that allows you to temporarily turn off the smoke detector while cooking. 

For more information about Maryland's Smoke Alarm Law, read this article from the Baltimore Sun

Condos in Downtown Bethesda

brick rowhouse with roses

 

Bethesda Maryland is northwest of Washington D.C. and one of the most popular places to dine and shop in the Greater Washington D.C. area. Home of  Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda Maryland has just over 60,000 residents.  

Condos in Bethesda

Condominiums in Bethesda Maryland are central to more than 200 restaurants, art galleries, theaters, and parks. The Capital Crescent Trail  is an off-road path from Georgetown in Washington D.C. to Silver Spring Maryland. It's a beautiful pathway and popular with walkers, joggers, and bikers. 

  • The Darcy - self-described boutique condominiums with 24/7 concierge service. The Darcy features a rooftop lounge area for residents, a "state of the art" fitness center and two hospitality suites for guests. One bedroom condominiums start at $690,000. Two bedroom condominiums range from $840,000 to $1,830,000. Here's a floorplan for one of the two bedrooms two bathroom condos. 
  • The Lauren - has some of the largest condominiums in Bethesda. Lauren Floorplans for three bedroom condominium have over 3700 square feet. Lauren condominiums have direct access elevators. These are so cool! You step into the elevator in the lobby and the doors open into the condominium! The condos feature Wolf ovens and microwaves and other top name appliances and home automation systems. The Lauren has 24/7 concierge with a highly personalized level of service. The concierge service handles dog sitting, restaurant reservations, book travel arrangements, drop off and pick up dry cleaning just to name a few things. According to their website, "no request is too big or small and will always be carried out with strict confidentiality". Prices range from $1.5M to $4.5M with a $10.5M 7300 square foot penthouse. 
  • Hampden Row - is a block away from Lauren Residences. Hampden Row has 24-hour front desk staff, a landscaped rooftop terrace, and a rooftop fitness center. The largest condo at Hampden Row has two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. The floorplan shows the condo is a duplex with the lower level featuring a garden patio. All of the condos have custom white cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms. Kitchen appliances include Gaggenao, Thermador, and Bosch. Prices for Hampden Row condos range from the upper 400's to $4M. 
  • Lionsgate Condominium - is a 12 story condominium building. One bedroom condos in Lionsgate range in price from the low $500's to $600's. A penthouse condo is on the market for $1,897,000. The condo features two bedrooms two full bathrooms and a half bathroom. Lionsgate was built in 2008. There's a red-capped doorman who stands ready at the door but no full-service concierge in the building. 

Bethesda Maryland is a short drive to the Capital Beltway/I495. Bethesda is adjacent to NW Washington D.C. and on Metro's red line.

Bethesda is an exciting place to live!

What to Know for a Pre-Drywall Inspection

A Pre Drywall Walk Through Is One of The Most Important Steps

Of Buying a Brand New Home

Pre drywall home inspection.jpg

At this stage of the home building process, the Builder or Site Manager walks through the home with the homeowners. The framing, heating and air ducts, electrical wiring, plumbing and possibly tubs and shower pans will be in place. 

Before the drywall is installed, it's easier to make changes to the electrical outlets, lighting, plumbing and/or framing.

 What To Look For in a Pre Drywall Walk Through

  • Take pictures of electrical wiring, plumbing, and air ducts. On a recent pre-drywall walk through with our clients, we asked the Builder to move two recessed lights and an electrical box for a ceiling fan. He agreed. Our client took pictures showing the current location of the lights and electrical box.  The pictures document the conversation.
  • Check placement for electrical boxes in each room. Before the pre-drywall walkthrough, the Builder and home buyer meet for a design meeting.  This is when you decide the location of electrical outlets, ceiling fan wiring and cable lines for your home. During the walkthrough, make sure these items are in the proper location. Now is the time to make changes to things that will soon be covered by walls and ceilings. 
  •  Be sure the air registers are placed properly in each room. All the rooms of the house should have registers. The ductwork connecting the registers shouldn't be dented or blocked in any way. 
  • Your washing machine should have a washing pan.  If the pan is not in place, make sure it's on the Builder's checklist. The pan catches overflows if the washing machine leaks or overflows. 
  • Are the doors, windows and garage doors the style & design you've chosen?  During our pre-drywall walk through with clients last week, we discovered that the Builder installed the wrong patio doors. He agreed to make the correction and we took pictures to document. 
  • Ask the Builder to show you the location of the cleanouts for the plumbing. Sometime in the future, you, or a plumber, will need to access the cleanout. Take notes during the walkthrough so you remember where clean outs are located. 

 

Finally, we recommend hiring a licensed independent home inspector.

This will be an additional cost, but it's well worth the expense. Home inspectors evaluate the foundation, floor, walls, framing, electrical, plumbing, roof structure, windows, doors and rough-in components. The home inspector will answer all your questions and provide a detailed report. 

This inspection would be in addition to, not instead of, the Builder's walkthrough and home inspection.  

Here are more sources for you if you are buying new construction. 

 

American Society of Home Inspectors

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents

National Association of Home Builders

Residential Performance Construction Guidelines

Completely Remodeled Home - What Does That Mean?

There's an expectation when you see the phrase "completely remodeled" in a home listed for sale.  

Remodel, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary means to change the structure, shape or appearance of something. 

When the phrase "completely remodeled" is used in the description of a listing, many homebuyers expect the entire house to be updated. 

But in reality, a house advertised as "completely remodeled"  could have a number of big-ticket items that are either original or close to the end of their use. In fact, we find this to be true more often than not. So with that in mind...

remodeled house.jpg

 

Here's what you need to look for when you see the phrase "completely remodeled" in the description of a home.


  • Electrical upgrades- The standard for household power used to be 60 amps. Today modern homes need as much as 200 amps to run all the electrical needs. High definition televisions, computers, air conditioners and home automation devices require lots of power to run. Have a home inspector check the entry cable coming into the house and the electrical panel. If the house has original or outdated wiring, consider upgrading for safety and function purposes. 
  • Roof - Depending on the size of a house and the style of shingles, a new roof can cost between $8000 and $40,000 dollars. The age of a roof is a very important consideration when buying a house. While you are touring the house with your buyer agent, check the roof to see if any shingles are curling. See if there are any cracked or missing shingles. Finally, look for bald spots or areas of the roof where the granules are gone. These are all signs of an older roof. If you move ahead with the purchase of the home, make sure your home inspector gives you an estimate on the age of the roof.
  • Outlets - This falls under the electrical upgrade category but it's important to pay close attention to the electrical outlets in a home. We still see the old-fashioned 2 prong outlets in houses in the Greater Washington DC area. These older outlets do not have the ground wires to protect people and electrical devices in case of a fault. Today's modern houses should have the 3 prong outlets for safety and function purposes. If you're like me and you don't know how to change out these outlets, hire an electrician. 
  • Water Heater & HVAC - Most water heaters have an 8 to 12-year lifespan. If the heater is an A&O Smith or another higher quality water heater, it may last longer. Take a picture of the HVAC label and google it to determine the age. If the unit has been well maintained, there will be a label from an HVAC company with service dates. Again, this can be done when you are touring a home. If you decide to purchase a house and schedule a home inspection, the inspector will determine the age and condition of the HVAC unit and water heater. 
  • Plumbing -  Plumbing problems can be very expensive. When you are touring a house that you like, turn on the faucets to check pressure. Look under sinks for signs of water issues. Look up at the ceiling to see if there are any stains. You can't always see a plumbing problem but it's a good idea to ask the seller if they have a record of plumbing maintenance. 
  • Foundation - Check the basement walls for large cracks or bulges. Look at the house exterior for signs of moisture or cracks. Examine the landscaping to see how well the yard is graded. Water should be moving away from the house, not toward the foundation. Again, this advice is for homebuyers as they tour a property of interest. Once you have a ratified contract and hire a home inspector, he/she should be able to offer excellent advice on the condition of a home. 
Madee and Cliff Henderson copy.jpg

What to Know for a Pre-DryWall Inspection

What to Know for a Pre-DryWall Inspection

Buying new construction? There is much to learn in the pre-drywall home inspection! This inspection gives the home buyer an opportunity to see the electrical, plumbing and framing before the dry wall is installed. 

Read More