Best Way To Evaluate a Property

When you are making one of the biggest purchases of your life, you need to know how to properly evaluate the home. 


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When buying a home, it's important to know the steps in determining the value of a property.  There are several "big ticket" items that should be evaluated to help you decide your offer. These include the condition of the roof, the age of the HVAC, water heater, well & septic systems, chimney and overall maintenance of a property. 


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The website, Building Intelligence Center is a handy website. Take a picture of the serial number on the HVAC and quickly look up the age of the system. This site also has a lookup for the age of water heaters and for recalled units. This is the way to go if the home is being sold "as-is" and/or the sellers are not providing information regarding the major systems in the home.

  • Lot and location-This is the very first step in evaluating a property. Is the house on a busy, double yellow lined street? Is the lot desirable? Since you cannot change the lot and location of a property, this needs to be the very first thing you consider when buying a home. The double yellow lined street means the road carries a lot of traffic. If you are at all sensitive to noise and traffic volume, a house on a busy road may not be a good choice for you! 

  • Messy neighbors-This is step two in evaluating a property. Sure, neighbors may move but if you're buying a house, make sure the next door neighbors and people living across the street maintain their properties up to your standards. If they don't, and sadly, I know this firsthand, it really impacts your life. If you buy into a neighborhood with an HOA, then your neighbors have to agree to a level of upkeep with their yard and homes. If you are not buying into an HOA, you are on your own and this could mean living next door to a yard full of gazing balls and quirky lawn ornaments (sigh....welcome to my world)

  • Roof & exterior of the home- You and your buyer agent are not home inspectors but you should be able to determine if a roof is really old. Look for missing shingles, waves in the roof and/or curling shingles. Is there moss growing on the roof? Are the gutters clear or packed with sticks & leaves? Again, you are not expected to do the work of a home inspector but before you make an offer on a house, have a general idea of the age of the roof. When evaluating the exterior of a house, look for cracks, bulges in bricks and any signs of moisture. Where there is a crack, there is an opportunity for water to get in so you'll want to make sure that cracks are sealed and the foundation is straight. Also, check for low areas in the yard where water may pool. As a general rule, dirt should be higher next to the house and sloped in such a way as to direct water away from the foundation. 

  • HVAC, water heater & appliances - How old are all the systems in the house? If the seller isn't providing this information in the disclosures, take pictures of serial numbers and look them up. If there are new appliances and systems, be sure to get the paperwork from the seller so you can take advantage of the warranty. 

  • Porches & Decks- I'm fortunate to have learned so much from excellent home inspectorsin the Washington DC area! I've taken videos of some of our home inspections and learned it's important to ask lots of questions! One inspector says deck posts should be built on cement foundations, not in the dirt. They should be securely fastened to the house to avoid deck failure. A qualified licensed home inspector will provide the best evaluation of the condition of a deck. Porches should be properly sealed. 

  • Chimney evaluation - Take a good look at the condition of the chimney cap and screen. If you can see cracks, these will need to be filled by a licensed contractor. You may also consider having a chimney evaluated by a chimney sweep company. Most of the companies will recommend lining the chimney and should provide a video of the inside of the chimney. 

  • Choose to find your home with a true buyers agent - You need an advocate on your sideas you navigate the home buying process. Consider all your options so you can move confidently ahead as you find your home!



Make a Resolution to be a Better Person

Being a better person is #5 on the list of New Year's resolutions for 2019.

That’s according to a new Marist poll which also finds that most Americans are optimistic about the future.

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The resolution, to "be a better person" seems easy but can be a challenge if you don't have a plan. According to Psychology Today, 40% of Americans will make a New Year's resolution. Many of us will slip in the first month but it's the planning and your attitude that determine success. 

I've had the most success with New Year's resolutions when I keep them simple. In fact, setting realistic resolution goals is a sure way to guarantee success.

I write down my resolutions and review them throughout the month of January. Through the years I've had some success keeping my resolutions.

In fact, several New Year's resolutions are now habits. They are so simple and after years of practice, they've created positive change in my life. 

Take a look and see if any of these resolutions resonate with you. I wish you a happy and successful New Year! 

  • Say Thank You - My husband is a great cook. He makes homemade pizza, all our holiday pies, Indian curries and great tacos! I am so grateful and amazed by his talent that I say thank you! As it turns out, this just encourages him to make more good food! So saying thank you, in this case, has served me well. Consider saying thank you to the grocery store checker, the waiter/waitress, the person collecting money for the Salvation Army. Every chance you have to say Thank you creates a habit of gratitude. 

  • Create a Daily Positive Mantra - Louise Hay was a motivational author who created the Hay House publishing company. I listened to her podcasts for years and practice the following mantra she created; I am open and accepting to the abundance and good the universe has to offer and I thank you life. 

  • Respond instead of React - Responding to a person or an event keeps me in control. Reacting to a person or event gives my power away. There are times when you have to react, like a flight/fight situation. But most of the time, it's a good idea to take a breath and give a measured response to a situation. 

  • Practice Yoga & Meditation -   Yoga and meditation go hand in hand. Even if you're someone who says, "I'm not flexible" or "I can't keep my mind quiet for meditation" just give it a try. When I first tried yoga, I couldn't do one chaturanga ( a yoga move where you slowly lower your body from a plank position to the ground) My first meditation lasted 3 minutes! If you want to try a free guided meditation, Oprah & Deepak Chopra offer online guided meditations several times a year. This is a great kick-start to a meditation practice. There are also plenty of free meditation apps. Find what works for you! 

    Looking for a home in the new year? We are here to help! Exclusive Buyer Agents advocate for home buyers in every real estate transaction. Learn more about us-NAEBA.org

How To Never Have a Bad Day

Some days start off bad and get worse 

You wake up at 4:15 because the wind triggered your neighbors car alarm. Or maybe you wake up to a pounding headache or hip ache. Sometimes it's just a feeling, left over from a weird dream or drama from the previous day. Whatever it is-some days feel like a struggle.

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Like many people, I tend to heap stuff together.  The worries, drama and insecurities loop around and around in my head. In fact, my husband jokes that I am the "designated worrier".

He says there's no need for him to worry about anything-I have it covered! Without question, there are life events that are bad. Read the front page of the Washington Post  to witness world and local tragedies and bad news. But most of the time, in day to day life events, having a bad day is not necessary. 

The truth is-having a "bad day" is really a bad habit.

I believe that giving up on an entire day is an incredibly bad idea. I've worked hard at breaking this habit. Here are a few tips I can share if you want to break your "Bad Day" habit too. 

  • Try not to wallow in bad feelings-okay, sometimes life is challenging and difficult. This is absolutely true. People get sick, fired or hurt and when this happens, it takes time to work through it. However, once the event, situation or feeling passes, let it go. The situation doesn't have to define who you are.

  • Feelings are not always accurate-heard the expression, "worried sick"? Hanging onto negative emotions like hate, jealousy, fear and worry can make you feel sick. Why choose to feel bad? If you are replaying something in your head that isn't making you feel good-notice it and then let it go. If it comes back up again, acknowledge that it's there and let it go again.

The practice of acknowledging and letting go will take the power out of a feeling.

With enough practice, you will create a new habit; giving you the freedom to choose how you feel. 

  • Be grateful-for every little beautiful part of your life. I have a friend who keeps a gratitude jar. On little strips of paper, she writes down everything she is grateful for-honey crisp apples, soft sheets, good health etc. Sure it sounds weird at first but with practice, it makes perfect sense.

  • Don't compare yourself to anyone else-there is only one You. No one is exactly like you with the same talents, opportunities, personality-why compare? I think about my daughter and her wonderful friends. They are similar but not exactly alike. Each young woman is bursting with personality & power-expressing unique talents and interests that will positively affect our world. 

 Yoga Journal on Meditation

Tara Brach

Insight Meditation Community of Washington


Ramblers & Ranchers Home Styles for Families

Ahh-the beauty of the rambler!

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Rambler style homes dot the suburban landscape in the Greater Washington DC area.  According to Webster’s dictionary, Rambler means gadabout, roamer, wanderer and one who likes to ramble; a perfect description for a home style that flows from room to room.   

Because of the rectangular and square shapes of the Rambler style home, it’s easy to alter the original footprint. Bumping out the back of a rambler or adding a second floor are both common and attractive ways to have the rambler grow with your family. The Ramblers in my Silver Spring neighborhood have walk out basements. With two levels, this Rambler design allows natural light into the lower level of the home so it doesn’t feel like you are in a basement. 

The Ramblers built after WWII are small; usually three bedrooms and one bathroom. In the 60’s and 70’s, builders showed creativity building walk out basements, double garages and large screened porches. Since the footprint of the Rambler is so simple, the options to expand seem endless. 

Is the Rambler home style the right choice for you?

This is one of many questions to consider as you search for a home. Make a list of what you want in your new home. Include things like;

 Must have a working fireplace, the backyard has to be private, I have to have a gas range (this could be added later), a master bathroom is essential, must have a workshop and lots of natural light.

You get the idea. Some home buyers don’t know what they want until they get out and house hunt-that’s fine too. If you are house hunting with a significant other, talk about what you expect to have in your new home. Ramblers are great, I live in one but you may find split levels, colonials or another home design works best for you. In the Greater Washington D.C. area, many of the original home styles have large additions that alter the footprint dramatically.

Decorative Window Bars and Grilles

Secure Your Home With Attractive Window Bars and Window Gates 

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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. 

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~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

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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 

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. 

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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 

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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

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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?

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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!

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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. 

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 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? 

Should I Test My Home for Radon?

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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

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

Mortgage Rates Have Dropped to the Lowest Rate in 10 months

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Graph from Urban Turf

Is buying a home a good idea for you, right now?

With mortgage rates at the lowest rate in 10 months, it may be time for you to stop renting and consider buying your own home. As Exclusive Buyer Agents with Buyer's Edge, we specialize in the home buying process. With us, you never sign a  dual agency agreement. We advocate for you from the home search to the settlement! Since we are an Exclusive Buyer Brokerage, we do not have listings to sell. We have access to every home for sale, listed by a real estate brokerage and also homes for sale by owner. 


Freddie Mac reported 3.78% as the average for a 30-year mortage

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We help home buyers in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. Since the market is competitive for condos and single family homes in the District, we suggest meeting with us to develop a clear home tour strategy. This frequently means not waiting to see homes until the weekend. Marshall and I have had success for our buyers by being the first ones into a home when it comes on the market. Being pre-approved, by a local lender, is part of the winning strategy.  For home buyers in Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs, the housing market is a little less competitive. Generally, the closer you are to Washington D.C., the more competition for condos and single family homes. 

Search for a home using the search engine at Buyer's Edge. 

Fall is an excellent time to find a home in the Washington & Baltimore area. If you have questions or would like to meet with us to talk about your specific needs, email me at Victoria@buyersagent.com or call 301-922-1677.  We look forward to meeting you!

 

It's Important to be Kind but you don't have to be Nice

Our daughter just completed her first year of college. 

 

She is double majoring in Political Science and International Relations so we've spent hours talking about world events and Washington DC politics. But a recent conversation, sparked by a psychology class, fascinated me; the difference between being nice and being kind.

According to Merriam-Webster's online definitions- Kindness is the quality of state of being gentle and considerate. Nice means being pleasant and agreeable. 

victoriaray.com
Kindness is a noble trait like honesty, courage, patience and compassion, kindness is a quality admired in others. Practicing kindness can be challenging like when...

 

  • a coworker aggressively expresses his/her political opinions
  • your daughter or son yells that you never listen and you don't understand
  • your dog chews your expensive leather shoes
  • your friend drinks too much at a party, makes a fool of himself and you have to get him home

Practicing kindness, especially when it's a challenge, strengthens the habit. A kind person is loving and giving and acting out of the goodness of their heart. 

Being nice is good at times but if you're too nice, it could be a sign of insecurity or needing approval from others. 

Have you ever been around someone who was nice but you just felt like you couldn't quite trust them?

Whereas when someone is kind it feels genuine and honest.

Trust your gut and remember the golden rule!

Buying a Home in the Washington D.C. Area

The Greater Washington DC area includes Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia

View of National Harbor in Maryland from the Virginia shoreline

View of National Harbor in Maryland from the Virginia shoreline

 

We work with many families who are moving to the area for the first time. If this is you-here is what you need to know before buying a row house, town house, condo, co-op or single family home. 

  • Washington DC is Expensive-you need to make $108,092 a year to live comfortably in DC. That's according to a recent report in theWashington PostA report from Cheat Sheet shows DC ranks third in the nation with households earning $150,000 or more a year. San Francisco and San Diego ranked first and second in the report. 
  • Washington DC is Green-newcomers are surprised at how much green space is in the Greater Washington DC area. Rock Creek Park, is a large green space in the NW section of the District. It was created by an act of Congress in 1890 so there are old trees and undeveloped forest areas. The creek winds from upper Montgomery county to the Potomac River with walking paths and trails alongside the water. Dumbarton Oaks is one of the greatest historic home and gardens in the city. Many locals are pleased to discover this beautiful estate with gardens and walkways in the upper part of Georgetown. My favorite green space in Washington DC is a....

Franciscan Monastery in N.E. Washington DC

Construction of the monastery began in 1856. The monks visited the Holy Land and took measurements of the sites they would reproduce on the grounds. Today, there are beautiful gardens surrounding this historical landmark. If you love green space and awesome architecture-you have to visit this monastery!

  • Washington DC is Cool-despite the stuffy members of Congress and all the blah blah of politics, Forbes magazine ranked DC at the top of America's Coolest Cities in 2014

I know, I was a little surprised too but I'll take it! After all, the city has excellent dining, entertainment and shopping. For the outdoorsy types, there is kayaking and boating on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay and hiking and camping nearby in Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive and Cunningham Falls! 

In short, we've got it going on! 

Relocating to Washington DC or moving across town? We can help. We are exclusive buyer agents with Buyer's Edge, serving Home Buyers in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC.

Dual Agency & Exclusive Buyer Agents

Exclusive Buyer Agents represent buyers 100% of the time

never sellers

Kiplinger magazine reports: Unlike traditional agents, EBA’s don’t work for listing brokers, so they avoid the risk of dual agency - when one broker represents both parties. EBAs are still paid by the seller, but they can promise to represent your interests exclusively throughout the transaction and help you negotiate the lowest price.
— https://goo.gl/R78ois

 

Exclusive Buyer Agents are fiduciaries of home buyers with no conflicts of interest and loyalty to the home buyer in every real estate transaction.

Buyer agency is a real estate business model dedicated to buyer representation. Buyer Brokerages never take listings and never work for sellers. 

Learn more about Exclusive Buyer Brokerages

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents

Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate

in the Washington D.C. area

HomesBuyHendersons.com

Last November, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a listing agent who participated in a 2007 sale of a Los Angeles home owed fiduciary responsibilities to the buyer as well as the seller because both the buyer & seller were represented by the same brokerage. Realtor magazine says the case could have widespread implications for the real estate industry when it comes to dual agency. 
 

Buyers & Sellers need to understand real estate laws and regulations in their state before they enter into an agreement with a real estate professional. 

Feng Shui

Feng Shui your Home

for happiness, health & prosperity

 

Last Thursday evening, Buyer's Edge hosted a feng shui party. Our guest, Jayme Barrett, author of the book, feng shui your life came from Santa Monica California to offer advice on how to improve our home environment.  

Most people have heard of feng shui, pronounced fung shway, but may not know what it is or how it can improve your life. So first, a definition:

feng shui:  translates as wind & water in English. It is a Chinese philosophical order that harmonizes people with their surrounding environment. Feng shui is linked to Taoism and dates back 3500 years before the invention of the magnetic compass. Feng shui relied on astronomy to find a correlation between humans and the universe. Feng shui involves Qi, pronounced chee, the positive and negative life forces and the orientation of structures & objects.

Jayme Barrett is a popular speaker in Los Angeles and around the world. She spoke about feng shui on the Today Show with Campbell Brown and is a contributor to HGTV.  We were pleased and honored to have her come to our Bethesda Maryland office

Feng Shui Basics from Jayme Barrett

  • Declutter your space - This is where you start. In order to add feng shui elements to your home or office, you need an organized space. Start small, like with the surface areas in your kitchen. Are there piles of papers and various items on your counters? Find a "home" for everything.

For example, I have a large hook that is attached to one of my kitchen cabinets. This hook is for everyone's keys. When guests come to visit overnight or longer, their keys go on the hook too. This is a simple way to avoid the frantic search for car keys when you are leaving the house.

  • Bring nature indoors - Feng shui is about balancing the energy in your space. By bringing plants indoors, you energize your living space. Plants uplift and harmonize the energy in a living space. When you need more energy in your workplace or home, add a plant. Look for plants like peace lilies, ficus trees, bamboo, and philodendrons to energize your space. 
  • Add wind chimes and/or music - Sound vibration is very powerful. Wind chimes offer a calming sound effect and soft music can do the same. 
  • Add a water feature - Feng shui literally translate to wind-water. Consider adding a pond or small water feature in your home. Water fountains invite nature indoors and create a sense of well-being and ease. Adding an aquarium to your home is suggested to increase your wealth and good luck. This explains why you see aquariums in many Chinese restaurants. 
  • Crystals - Crystals refract light and move energy. Crystals will stimulate stagnant corners, where negative energy can collect. Crystals also soften sharp edges in a room defusing any negative energy that may linger in a home or work space.
  •  Scented candles - Adding scented candles boost energy in a room and provide relaxation. Be sure to choose soy candles since these will provide clean non-toxic scents into a room. 

Bring light into every room - This is obvious but light, particularly sunlight, will increase positive energy and lifts the overall energy of a room. Light inspires ideas and improves your mood.  When buying light bulbs, be sure to purchase the full spectrum type of bulb. Full spectrum bulbs simulate sunlight. 

The feng shui points I've highlighted are easy first steps in feng shui. Consider reading more about feng shui and how it can improve the quality of your life. You can purchase Jayme Barrett's book here or learn more about feng shui from other authors

Is That Flipped House a Flop House?

The Market is Hot and Investors are Flipping Houses

Buyer Beware.png

 

Flipped houses can be great IF the flippers hired licensed contractors to do the structural, electrical, plumbing and the major changes in a home. If you're checking out a flipped property, ask to see the permits for work completed. If the workers didn't pull the proper permits, consider turning around and walking away. 

Steve Carpenter-Israel, Broker & Owner of Buyer's Edge was quoted in a  CNBC interview about a flipped house that was a flop. Steve said, " It's literally putting lipstick on a pig. "They're just doing cosmetic stuff and actually covering up problems, and that's scary because it's very difficult to figure it out."

Steve Carpenter-Israel, Marshall Henderson & Stephen Mercer are members of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (naeba.org)

Last month, NAEBA warned about the dangers of buying a flipped house.

At a recent home inspection of a flipped property in Baltimore, our inspector turned on all the water to check the pressure. I followed him into the living room as he continued with his inspection. As he turned an infrared camera to the ceiling, he yelled,  "Oh (expletive)" and I looked up to see water stains forming along the crown molding of the living room ceiling!

Buyer Beware!

  • If you are buying a flipped property, ask if the flipper used licensed contractors to do the major work
  • Work with an experienced real estate agent. Your buyer's agent will be looking for what is wrong with a house as much as what is right with a house. 
  • Hire an excellent home inspector. An inspector will evaluate electrical, plumbing and the structural elements of a home. If there are major issues, a good inspector will find them.
  • If you have a chance to talk to the neighbors, do so! One day I was checking out the backyard of a home for sale. I chatted with a neighbor who told me how the previous owner (the owner who sold the house to a flipper) struggled for years with a wet basement. Once inside the home, I saw the flippers had installed not one but two sumps pumps. They had also installed an interior french drain .  My client moved ahead with the home inspection and the inspector determined the work was done well and the basement would stay dry. 

For more information on Flipped houses, townhouses & condos

CNBC-Why your flipped house may be a flop

5 Mistakes that make house flipping a flop

 4 Keys to Buying a Flipped House