Exclusive Buyer Agents in Takoma Park

When you are buying a home in Maryland, Washington D.C. or Virginia, you hope to buy a home in a vibrant community.

Victoria Ray Henderson best buyers agent



Takoma Park Maryland and Takoma Park Washington DC residents are passionate about their town. For one thing, Takoma Park has counter culture roots. Back in the 60's, Takoma Park looked like a mini version of Haight Street in San Francisco. Funky shops lined the Carroll Avenue, the main street through town. In addition, the Seventh Day Adventist Church had headquarters in Takoma Park for several decades. The Adventist’s vegetarian based diet influenced the town’s restaurants. While the headquarters are no longer in Takoma Park, veggie and vegan style food can be found in the Co-op, restaurants and at the farmer’s markets and the annual Takoma Park Street Festival.

Today, the city still has a grass roots vibe which is evident when you listen to the new radio station, WOWD 94.3. The tree lined streets with Victorians and stately old homes are updated and home prices are on the rise. You can still find some bargains, old homes that need lots of love & work, but many of the older homes are listed in the upper 900's to a million. 

Marshall and I had dinner at Buysboys & Poets, a restaurant and bookstore where local poets and musicians perform on a small stage. It's wonderful to see Takoma Park's positive growth as the community maintains its activist roots. I am very fond of Takoma Park. I went to high school here and my children were born at the Washington Adventist hospital on Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park. It's a great place to raise a family and an easy commute to downtown Washington DC. 

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Completely remodeled home, what does that mean?

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

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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... 

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. 

  • Completely Remodeled is a red flag phrase for buyer agents. The first thing we do is go into the basement to check the HVAC system. We look for signs of water intrusion. Outside, we walk the perimeter of the house looking for low spots near the foundation. Any place that is not sealed is a place where water can get into the home and compromise the basement and/or foundation. We are not home inspectors! We are simply advocates for home buyers. We always look for what’s wrong and what’s right with a property.

HomesBuyHendersons

Buyer's Edge

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents

Top Five Communication Skills Buyer Agents Need

If You Are Buying A Home, Consider Working With An Advocate. Exclusive Buyer Agents naeba.org

VictoriaRayHenderson best buyer agent

Exclusive Buyer Agents-members of NAEBA are dedicated to serving home buyers. 100% of the time and in every real estate transaction.

1. More Listening, Less Talking-as experienced Realtors, we have important information to convey to our Buyer clients. We want to share the good and bad things we discover on a house tour. Since this is what we do and where we shine, it's easy to keep talking and talking. However, keep in mind, clients are processing information too. If we talk more than listen, they may feel oversaturated and begin to tune us out. If we want to make a point, we should, but follow up by asking for their opinion. 

2.  Have Clients Write a Wish List-this is extremely important! Buying a home is an emotional experience. Most of us dream about our "perfect" home. We imagine our families gathering around the fireplace or entertaining friends in spacious surroundings. The best way to make this happen is to write it down! It's so easy to get distracted on house tours. Maintain clarity and focus by checking your wish list again and again. 

3. Pay attention to the Relative/Friend Your Client Brings Along-we may not want to answer questions or listen to the opinion of our clients friend or relatives but remember, they do. That is why they invited them! I am not suggesting we agree with everything someone says but we should treat this person with respect. Be patient as they talk and make their points. If they are dead wrong, we can respectively give our opinion on the matter and let it go. There is no need to move the conversation in an awkward direction just to make our point. 

4. Ask lots of Questions-Do you think this home has curb appeal? Does the kitchen space serve your needs? Do you mind walking up and down 2 flights of stairs to do laundry? You get the idea. What our client thinks-matters. By identifying what they want, we save time and facilitate the home buying process.

5.  Follow Up that Evening or the next Day-After a long day of house hunting, write down the highlights and send your client an email. Let them know what you liked and ask them if they want to make changes to their home search. Try to do this while it is fresh in your mind. Again, this will save you valuable time and validate opinions and concerns your clients made during the home tour. 

These five points can be effectively used in personal relationships too!

Beautiful Houses and Bad Neighbors

It's the single biggest disappointment-to find a house...

next to a very messy neighbor

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My client and I stood in the backyard of a large brick colonial style house near a Metro station. He checked off three major items from his "What My House Must Have" list. 

1. large beautiful backyard backing to trees

2. brick colonial home-classic style, built in the 40's with crown molding, arched doorways and hardwood oak floors

3. walking distance to Metro-everyone in the DC area knows the value of an easy commute.

 

So there we were, loving the yard, house and commute and staring at piles of blue plastic containers that looked like small beer kegs.

There were dozens of them-strewn around the neighbors back yard. In one corner of the neighbors yard, the blue containers were stacked to create a makeshift table covered with piles of paint cans and heavy black plastic. And then we saw the back porch-piled with wet paper boxes. The porch was packed! There was no way to open the back screen door and no space to walk inside. 

I pointed out every container and pile of trash in the neighbors yard. While we were upstairs admiring the master bedroom, I showed my Buyer how much more trash we could see in the neighbors yard from the bedroom window. Finally, he said, "let's go".

It's not easy walking away from a great house with an awesome backyard. It's especially difficult to walk away when the only problem is the house or yard next door! Just consider this-

A neighbors yard is an expression of who they are, it's a display of their passion-a reflection of their true personality 

Still think neighbors don't really matter? Read The Best Bad Neighbors of 2015 these true stories will scare you into the reality that you cannot change your neighbors.

Moral of the story-

When you want to buy a home, research neighborhoods & communities, review the master plan from the county and always evaluate the homes and yards adjacent to a house you are touring. 

Consider the Not So Perfect House

When we were looking for our home, I had a vivid mental picture of what it would look.

My dream home did not include shag carpet and a kitchen with formica countertops. 

Pig at Maryland State Fair with best buyers agent



House after house, I kept looking for my perfect dream home. Working with our exclusive buyer agent, we determined that a well constructed home was our top priority. We did not want a “McMansion” with low quality materials and craftsmanship. We focused on older homes in established neighborhoods where homes were built with brick with hardwood floors on every level.

The first day I saw our house, I walked out saying, "Nope!" The second time, my exclusive buyers agent pointed out all the positives-

brick construction

hardwood floors throughout

backyard backs to woods & looks like a private park

on a cul-de-sac in an established neighborhood with trees 

fireplace

3 full bathrooms

I walked out of my house again but this time, my husband and I discussed the possibilities. We loved the brick construction, hardwood floors and beautiful backyard and neighborhood. 

I couldn't see past the ugly chandeliers, shag carpet and dingy older windows.

The house was stuck in the 70's with a real "Brady Bunch" vibe.

After lots of talking and lamenting about "the perfect house" we bought our home. We've lived here for 22 years-and absolutely love it! Why? Because our house has good bones. We replaced the original casement windows with larger Anderson windows. In the family room, we removed the old sliding glass door and louvered windows. My husband, Marshall installed french doors with beautiful floor to ceiling windows on either side.

The floors were refinished and the entire house was painted. We replaced the old chandeliers with beautiful Pottery Barn style lighting.

Photo by  rawkkim  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawkkim on Unsplash

Consider the "not so perfect house" when you find a house that meets your criteria that cannot change. This would include things like;

 Is the neighborhood a good fit for you and your family?

Does the daily commute work for you? Is the home built well with solid construction? 

If a homes needs paint and updated kitchen and bathrooms but is otherwise perfect-give it consideration. My personal home buying experience is no different from many home buyers today. We've all watched way too much HGTV and want, what we want, right now! But if a house has true potential, and needs mostly cosmetic updates, it could become your dream home. 

My grandfather used to say;  "You Can't Make a Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear"

 In regard to home construction, this phrase means if something is not built well with solid materials and skilled craftsmanship, it’s not going to be a quality home. We see poorly constructed homes all over the Greater DC area. Many times, these homes will have new granite counter tops, wall -to wall carpet and maybe updated bathrooms.

But the truth is, if the bones of a house are no good-it's a sow's ear! 

HomesBuyHendersons

Buyer's Edge

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents

U.S Department of Housing



Hang Up Your Phone and Live Your Life

Hearing a baby in distress is upsetting.

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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. 

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

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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!