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!


The Psychology in Real Estate

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

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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. 

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

Condos in Downtown Bethesda

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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

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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. 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...

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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. 
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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!


Do You Live in a Historic District in the Nations Capital?


Capitol Hill, Blagden Alley, Naylor Court, Fourteenth Street, LeDroit Park, Mount Pleasant, Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon Square, Mount Vernon Triangle, Shaw, Strivers Section, U Street and Takoma Park

Do you know someone who needs help with home maintenance issues? Here's a great way to help! 

The Historic Preservation Office is accepting applications for their Historic Homeowner Grant Program until the 5th of July. The program grants $25,000 to homeowners in the districts mentioned above and $35,000 to homeowners in the Anacostia District. 

The Historic Homeowner Grant Program was developed for families that need help keeping up their property. If you are a neighbor or community leader who knows someone or some family that needs help pass along this opportunity! 

Here's the link to learn more about the program

and here's a link to the Homeowner's Application


The program encourages neighbors to help neighbors and keeps the community engaged in a positive way. Check out Property Quest to learn more about historic districts, landmarks and more. 

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. 

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


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

The Zillow Zestimate and Home Values

The Zillow Zestimate and Home Values

When you are buying a home, Zillow is a great place to see properties. Everything displays in the first page of a search. The school ratings, the house history, tax information and even a list of lenders and real estate agents who can help you buy the home.


The question is, how accurate is the information on Zillow? Who are the real estate agents and lenders next to the picture of the house? 

According to Wikipedia, Zillow has stated that they are a media company that generates money by selling advertising on their website. 

As an Exclusive Buyer Agent,  we frequently work with home buyers who love gathering information from home search sites.

As a home buyer, it's good to use Zillow or other home search sites in addition to working with a Realtor. A Realtor will have access to the Multiple Listing Service which is the source of listing information.  By cross-referencing houses of interest with the MLS information, you can determine if a house is actually for sale. 

The Zillow Zestimate is only an estimate. It does not accurately determine the value of a home. Why? 

  1. A computer algorithm with automated valuation models has no real way to take the condition of the inside of the property into consideration

  2. Pricing algorithms generate a range or prices, not a specific sales price. Zillow's sampling error is + or - 7.5% 

  3. To ovecome, the Zestimate, show your seller other AVM's and the prices they generate. Inman News suggests HomeSnap. You take a picture of a home, using GPS on your phone, and HomeSnap generates a price

  4. CoreLogics ePropertyWatch is a service you sign up for to generate a home price. You must verify you are the owner of a property. You will then get foreclosure and auction information, via email, about properties in your neighborhood. 

  5. Finally, Moveup.com lets you see the properties being considered as comps. You can adjust their algorithm's to allow changes for property condition and other value conditions. 

Inman News offers an excellent example of how the Zestimate works. The author selected a house in a neighborhood where she used to live. The Zestimate of that house $443.000. EProperty Watch gave the value $332,000 and HomeSnap $422,000. Moveup put the price of $494,000 on the property. 

That's a $162,000 difference for the value of a specific home!

You can have success by doing your research and working with an experienced Exclusive Buyer Agent. Exclusive Buyer Agents work for Brokerages that do not list homes for sale. This means there is no "in-house" inventory to "sell you". Exclusive Buyer Agents will show you all the houses of interest with no incentive or reason to push you toward one house or another. If you are in the Greater Washington D.C. area, we can help you find your home. If you are elsewhere in the country, go to NAEBA.org to find an Exclusive Buyer Agent near you. 

Enjoy your house hunting adventure this Spring!

Is That Flipped House a Flop House?

The Market is Hot and Investors are Flipping Houses

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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


How To Buy A Home in a Competitive Market

House Hunting in the Spring Market? Get ready for the competition.

The Spring market came early to the Greater Washington DC area. In fact, throughout the winter in the District, there has been competition for condos and single family homes.

We competed against 8 other buyers for a 900 square foot condo in N.W. Washington in December. One of our colleagues competed with 11 buyers for a single family home in Arlington Virginia. Both of us were successful and our buyers are very happy with their new homes. 

Success in a competitive market is part luck, part strategy & part timing. 

With this in mind, here are some tried and true strategies for... 

How to buy a home in a competitive market

  • Find an excellent real estate agent who responds to your emails, texts & phone calls

It takes a team to buy a home. You, the home buyer, are the team captain. Your real estate agent, lender, and settlement attorney are on Team (your name) I am always surprised to meet new clients who tell me their previous agent didn't call them back. What? A real estate agents business is service and if you are chasing them down, don't bother! Your agent should always respond in a timely fashion. How are you going to be competitive if you can't get into a house? 

Inventory in the Greater Washington DC & Baltimore area continues to be low. According to the Washington Post, January was the 9th consecutive month of declines in year-over-year inventory levels in the DC area. What's a home buyer to do? 

  • Check the Multiple Listing Updates every day.

Do not rely on real estate advertising sites for current information. These sites are not required to keep their information accurate and up to date.

The MLS is a repository for all homes for sale listed by real estate brokerages. This is the "mother ship" and all other real estate sites get their information from the MLS. 

  • Be pre-approved for a home loan & work with a local lender

Why a local lender? Because they understand the local market and work with local real estate agents. Short story:  We had a buyer who wanted to use her cousin as her lender. Her cousin was a lender in another state almost 300 miles away. The out-of-state lender had never written a home loan for a house on well & septic. It was a VA loan and the lender did not contact the proper people in Virginia so-the loan was not approved by the underwriters. Fortunately, we had a relationship with a local lender who literally saved the day! He took over the loan process and had our buyers in their new home within 20 days! This is nothing short of a miracle considering most loans take at least 30 days. 

Moral of the story: Use a local lender when buying a home. 

  • Write down your "can't live without" list. 

This is one of the most important lists you will write in your life. I'm not kidding. Your "can't live without" list includes the dreams you've had about home ownership. My list included a fireplace because I pictured my children's stockings hanging there at Christmas and warm nights with my family reading books by the fire. This is a serious list!  And most important, it's personal. There's no right or wrong with what is on this list but you have to write it or you may miss an important part of your dream. 

  • Drive and walk the neighborhoods where you may want to live. 

The people you see may soon be part of your life and your children's lives too. How does the community feel? Do people take care of their yards and houses? This is a chance to feel the vibe of a place. Does it feel right to you? 

  • Gather information about the local schools. 

GreatSchools.org is an excellent place to start but do more than that if you are weighing what neighborhood and school will fit your needs. Call the school and ask if you could set up a tour. Go to a local community or civic organization meeting. This is where you will hear what's happening in a community.

  • Finally and most important, make sure your credit and finances are in good shape. 

A good local lender will check your credit and discuss what loan options are best for you. Once again, this lender, your real estate agent and the settlement attorney all work on your behalf. They are Team (you)! Providing quality service should be their highest priority.

Remember, you, the buyer, are financing this transaction. You deserve 100% protection and loyalty throughout the entire process.

And by the way, it should be fun. Of course, it's a little scary but most things worthwhile are at first. 


More information on How to Buy a Home

Suze Orman Four expensive home buying mistakes

Warren Buffett thinks you should buy a home

Buying a home in 2017? Here's what to expect


Maryland Ranks in Top of Best States to Live in Nation

According to U.S. News & World Report

Maryland is ranked 8th best state to live in the Nation





The "Best State" ranking looks at major elements like the economy, healthcare, education, crime and government. Maryland State Governor, Larry Hogan, is a former real estate agent. He looked happy and proud when he told a crowd,

"This should be good for Maryland real estate."

Here's a video of Governor Larry Hogan making the announcement at a meeting with commercial real estate women. This is shared from his FaceBook page.

Governor Larry Hogan's Facebook Page

Maryland is #5 in U.S. News rankings for education and opportunity. 45% of Marylanders are college educated. 

Maryland is home to the Chesapeake Bay & the Baltimore Orioles.  

Francis Scott Key wrote 'The Star Spangled Banner" in Baltimore's Inner Harbor during the War of 1812. 

Maryland is one of the original 13 colonies, named a state back in 1788.  If you have the chance to visit downtown Annapolis, Maryland's capital, you'll see Colonial-era architecture. St. John's College, founded in 1696, is the oldest college in Annapolis. It's next door to the Naval Academyfounded October 1845.  

Marylanders have a unique state flag! Founded as an English colony in 1634, the black and gold represent the Calvert family. The red and white design is associated with the Crossland family.  

Marylanders love to wear the state flag! You can buy Maryland flag pants, shirts, scarves, gloves even underwear! 

Of course, we have to give a shout out to our neighbors to the north. They did, after all, rank a little higher on the U.S. News & World Report "Best States" rankings. 


Congratulations to our New England neighbors.

 New Hampshire came in second place and Massachusetts #1 in overall rankings. 


Visiting Maryland


U.S. Naval Academy

Historic Annapolis

Baltimore's Inner Harbor

National Aquarium in Baltimore


Baltimore Ravens

Maryland Outdoors

The Best Time to Schedule a Home Inspection

Best Time for a Home Inspection is when it's Raining

Exclusive Buyer Agents schedule home inspections when it rains


When rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast it's time to schedule your home inspection. In fact, day two or three of heavy downpours are the very best time to get into a home and specifically, into the basement. 

When it rains, we tour! There is so much to learn about a house when it's wet! 

In Washington D.C., many of the row houses, town houses, and single family homes are over 100 years old.  

Most of these old homes have stone or brick foundations with no waterproofing materials below ground. Back in the day, a basement was a cellar or storage area. Many of the lower level family rooms, created over the last few decades, are damp with old paneling and dropped ceilings. Even with a sump pump or french drain system, basements can retain moisture behind drywall or paneling. 

The beauty and charm of an older home is in the detailed architecture, not in the basements. 

Touring a House on a Rainy Day?  Check For -

  • A musty or damp smell is a sign that there is moisture in a home. Look for signs of mildew and moisture. If walls are paneled, look for signs of water wicking at the bottom of paneling or drywall. Using a flashlight, check for water wicking around the staircase. 
  • Look for original materials; wood, brick, cinderblock. If there are signs of water wicking, the house has a history of water issues. 
  • If the home has been flipped or remodeled, ask if they used a mold and mildew resistant drywall. In a basement, is there a subfloor? This would allow an air gap or moisture barrier between the new floor and the original basement floor. 
  • Look around the electrical panel for signs of rust or moisture. Remember-never put your hands near the wiring around panels or electrical boxes! 
  • In addition to water issues, radon can be a problem. Ask for a radon test, if you are buying a home. Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly. Learn more about Radon on the EPA's website 

Links for more resources:


This Old House


Buyer's Edge

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents

An exclusive buyer agent, a member of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents, follows ethical standards that surpass legal and industry standards

Not just buyer agents, exclusive buyer agents. There's a difference. Learn why financial consultants and experts, like Suze Orman, recommend home buyers work with a member of NAEBA. 


Does Crown Molding add Value to a Home

Home Buyers Love Crown Moulding

In neighborhoods in and around Washington DC, you will find a wide variety of house styles. Some are historic and charming and others could use some updates like new kitchens, bathrooms and crown moulding!

Crown moulding is a strip of wood along the wall and ceiling. It's the finishing touch in beautiful homes. Since I am a little crazy for crown moulding, I always look for it when I am going on house tours. It's easy to spot in Georgetown and established neighborhoods in Washington DC but less common in homes, like mine, built in the early 60's. Less common until today, when my husband and son bonded over a mitre saw and cut and fit crown moulding in our living & dining area, hallway and entry hall.

CliffMarshall install crown molding.jpg

I am incredibly happy!

What a difference a strip of wood makes! Crown moulding brings rooms together in an understated way. It's an inexpensive way (especially when your husband & son do the labor) to add elegance to your home. 

If you are updating your home to sell or looking to buy a home, updates make a difference! Realtor.com recently surveyed home buyers and found most want updated kitchens with new appliances and granite counter tops. Last summer, we gutted our bathrooms and ditched our 60's green tub. Today we love our white tiles, white tub and freshly painted blue walls. (we used Benjamin Moore Fiji-awesome

As Exclusive Buyer Agents with Buyers Edge, we evaluate properties with buyer clients. Licensed Realtors in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC and members of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents, we are advocates for home buyers.