Archive for June 2016

Top 10 Negotiating Tips You Need to Know

Once you’ve found the condo of your choice and secured financing, you’re ready to place an offer on the unit. But before you do that, go through the checklist below.

  1. Look at the unit’s sales history
    Research the building’s sales history and pricing information on similar units that have been sold prior. This will help justify the price stated in your offer letter.
  2. Find out why the unit is being sold
    Is the seller under any pressure to sell as soon as possible? If so, it’s the kind of information you can use to your benefit at the opportune time.
  3. Ask if other buyers have made offers
    If there are other bidders, you’ll have to make an offer that’s close to the listing price. However, you should still withhold your true level of interest to retain the upper hand.
  4. Keep your finances confidential
    Avoid talking about financial information in the presence of selling agents. This might give them the impression that you can afford more, or that you’re not qualified as a buyer.
  5. Don’t make lowball offers
    Making a really low offer could offend the seller and dissuade them from doing any business with you. Consult with your Realtor to make an informed offer.
  6. Set a ceiling
    Determine how much you’re willing to pay for a unit. This will guide your decisions, and will let you know when to walk away from negotiations.
  7. Avoid seeming too eager
    Remain neutral during talks with the seller. This keeps the other party from thinking that they can appeal to your emotions when negotiating.
  8. Don’t give your best offer right away
    Putting everything on the table at once will make the seller think that you’re hoping to get more than you can expect. Proceed with your offer and concessions gradually.
  9. Discuss the counteroffer with your Realtor
    The amount of the counteroffer is an indication of how low the seller is willing to go. Talk to your Realtor and come up with a price you think is fair.
  10. Don’t ask for additional concessions
    If the seller agrees to lower the price, don’t push your luck by asking for more concessions. Arrive at a compromise in order to close the deal.

To learn more, check out our comprehensive Buyers’ Guide. You can also call 410.371.0581 and 202.483.6300 or email andy@LNF.com.

7 Things You Need to Do Before You Hire a Real Estate Agent

Make the process of selling or buying a home easier by laying down the groundwork. Here’s what you need to do before hiring a real estate agent.

  1. Familiarize yourself with home values in the area
    You probably have an idea of how much your home should sell for, but check comparable home values. Market conditions may have changed since you last bought property. Research will help you and the agent come up with a workable plan.
  2. Check your mortgage
    Go through your loan documents and look at how much you still owe on the mortgage. Knowing the precise amount will help the Realtor formulate the right selling strategy. It will also help you determine if you should list your home or wait it out, depending on how much you still owe versus market value.
  3. Pinpoint liens and disputes
    Identify any disputes with neighbors and contractors, as well as tax issues that can make a creditor put a lien on your home. If you’re selling a deceased family member’s home, make sure that the property has a clean title.
  4. Increase your home’s curb appeal
    Make sure you home is in good condition by keeping it clean and doing a few touch ups on the paint. If the Realtor has a good impression of your home, they might be persuaded to give it a good price.
  5. Put off home improvements
    Don’t make any costly home improvements until you’ve met with a Realtor. You might end up paying for upgrades that current buyers don’t care for in the first place.
  6. Make a list of upgrades you’ve made to the home
    Did you build an extra room? Remodel your kitchen? List them all down. This will help the agent price your home accordingly.
  7. Check your schedule
    Be ready to adjust your schedule during the listing process. The agent will recommend the best showing times depending on market conditions, and you should be able to tweak your routine.

To learn more about the selling process, check out our comprehensive Sellers’ Guide. You can also call 410.371.0581 and 202.483.6300 or email andy@LNF.com.

Top 10 Free Things to Do in D.C.

From tours and music festivals to cherry blossoms and monuments, D.C. has an array of captivating sights and sounds for anyone who steps foot in the nation’s capital.

  1. Visit the National Zoo
    3001 Connecticut Ave NW
    The zoo’s most popular residents include the giant pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, along with their cubs Bao Bao and Bei Bei.
  2. Take the DC by Foot tour
    1740 18th St Northwest #304
    DC by Foot has no upfront costs. Their signature tour is the National Mall Tour, which covers most of the major monuments and memorials in D.C.
  3. Go to Luce Unplugged
    8th and F St NW
    Hosted by the Luce Foundation Center for American Art, Luce Unplugged is a monthly concert series that features local talent.
  4. Drop by the National Building Museum
    401 F St NW
    Come to the National Building Museum to admire and explore its architectural design. Tours of the Great Hall and the building are free.
  5. Visit the Renwick Gallery
    Pennsylvania Ave at 17th St NW
    Get your fill of art and culture by visiting the newly renovated Renwick Gallery. Housed in a historic building, it features decorative arts and crafts from the 19th century onwards.
  6. Go for a walk at the Tidal Basin
    1501 Maine Ave SW
    This artificial inlet is lined with cherry blossom trees that the mayor of Tokyo gifted to D.C. in 1912. The trees bloom in March and April, making the Tidal Basin a sight to behold. There are also three memorials to see in the area.
  7. Visit the Washington Monument
    2 15th St NW
    Built in honor of George Washington, the monument can either be admired from the ground or from the observation deck, which is 500 feet up via an elevator.
  8. Take a tour of the White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
    Take a tour of the public rooms of the White House or come to the Visitor Center for interactive exhibits and a 14-minute film. A gift shop sells souvenirs, book, and other trinkets.
  9. Watch a performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage
    2700 F St NW
    Live performances that range from opera, children’s choirs, poetry readings, and classical quartets to comedy shows are staged on a daily basis. No reservations required.
  10. Browse through some books at Politics & Prose
    1025 5th St NW
    Attend an author’s reading and book signing in this venue, where locals and writers congregate. Enjoy discussions on politics, literature, and everything else in between.

Is Condo Living Right for You?

Condo living has its pros and cons. Before you start talking to a real estate agent, here are some things to consider.

  1. Maintenance and repairs
    The great thing about condo living is that you have fewer responsibilities when it comes to maintenance and repairs. Building management takes over. However, you might not get to decide when these repairs will be made.
  2. Amenities
    Condo living gives you access to a pool, gym, or sauna that you might not be able to afford otherwise. If you use these amenities regularly, you’ll get more value for your fees. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying for a perk you have no use for – and that’s money down the drain.
  3. Security
    Living in a condo lets you enjoy the building’s security features like controlled access and video surveillance. Aside from this, you can go out of town knowing that neighbors are within close proximity of your unit and can alert management if anything suspicious occurs.
  4. Restrictions
    Since you’ll be sharing a building with a lot of neighbors, there will be restrictions on noise levels, pets, smoking, and even interior and exterior décor. The same applies to any remodeling work you want to have made to your unit.
  5. Privacy
    Having just a wall separate you from your neighbor may turn out to be a privacy issue. If you can hear their comings and goings, chances are they can hear yours. You’ll also bump into them frequently in the corridors and shared areas – which is fine if you’re the friendly sort, but uncomfortable if you’re a little more reserved.
  6. Space
    You’ll have to make do with less space when living in a condo. This means being very selective when it comes to buying stuff for your home, and minimizing clutter as much as possible.
  7. Neighbors
    Condominium buildings attract individuals with all kinds of personalities and lifestyles. You might not necessarily get along with all of them. On the bright side, you can look forward to community-organized social events and recreational activities.

If you think that condo living is for you, check our listings. You can also call 410.371.0581 and 202.483.6300 or email andy@LNF.com.

Home Selling Tips: Why You Need Great Photos

No matter how wonderful your home is, it could in the market for weeks or months if you don’t have excellent marketing material. Homebuyers make snap judgments as they browse through online listings. Uploading well-photographed, high-quality images of your home creates a good first impression of your property before homebuyers even drop by for a showing.

Having great photos also help you maximize your home’s market potential. They showcase your home’s best features while downplaying its flaws. On the flipside, bad photos can make your home seem less attractive than it really is.

Home sellers know the importance of curb appeal, as you will see on our Sellers page. However, pix appeal is just as important. Here’s how to get it.

  1. Hire a professional photographer
    This is the easiest thing to do. A real estate photographer can take care of everything, from proper lighting to angles. If you’re concerned about cost, shop around for a professional whose fee fits right in with your budget.
  2. Know the basics of photography
    If hiring a professional is out of the question, you can always take the photos yourself. YouTube tutorials, how-to blog posts, and forums are great online resources for basic photography skills.
  3. Use a good camera
    High-resolution photos look better on computer and mobile screens, so use a good camera. If you don’t have an SLR, you can use a digital camera or a camera phone with higher megapixels.
  4. Stage your home
    Before you shoot, arrange your furniture in such a way that it opens up the space. Clear away clutter, such as toys and knickknacks. Draw the curtains back to let in as much natural light as possible.
  5. Take plenty of photos
    Take as many photos as you can at various angles and lighting conditions. This gives you more options to choose the most flattering photos for your online listing.

For more information on selling your home, check out our comprehensive Sellers’ Guide. You can also call 410.371.0581 and 202.483.6300 or email andy@LNF.com.

Your Guide to Buying Your First Condo in D.C.

You’ve finally decided that you’re tired of renting and hauling your belongings from one unit to another. Now that you’re ready to commit to a mortgage, here’s what you need to know about buying a condo in D.C.

Buying guide

Condo Buying Trends

  1. Small is in

    The tiny condo movement is gaining traction in downtown D.C., and developers are marketing the units to millennials. A tiny studio, for instance, affords 300 square feet of livable space. What makes it attractive is the price point – a unit sells for about $275,000, or half the median price for a typical home in the area.

  2. First-time buyers can get tax credit

    First-time home buyers may be eligible for a tax credit of up to $5,000 as long as they meet set requirements. To qualify, you should have purchased your home within the current tax year, and you mustn’t have owned a home in D.C. the previous year. Moreover, the tax credit gets phased out depending on your adjusted gross income.

  3. The FHA has made purchasing easier for first-time buyers

    The Federal Housing Administration, which helps first-time buyers get mortgages, lowered their fees in 2015. Fees were again cut in 2016 as the FHA’s financial situation gets better. Getting an FHA-approved condo in D.C. is also helpful because the agency will insure your loan, which mitigates risks and minimizes costs for the lender. You’ll also be required to give a down payment of only 3.5%.

  4. Condo living in D.C. is synonymous with lower maintenance and better lifestyle choices

    Condos are easier to maintain than single-family homes and townhouses. Their affordability also lets you live in the city and gives you access to cafes, shops, restaurants, and events. Condo living also allows you to enjoy the walkability of the city, which either minimizes or completely does away with your commute.

Neighborhood Guide

Still wondering which area in D.C. is for you? Here’s a quick rundown of local neighborhoods.

  • Woodley Park, Kalorama, and Chevy Chase are affluent neighborhoods. Here’s you’ll find good restaurants, ethnic eateries, and cafes.
  • Kalorama residents prefer to keep the area’s noise level down, which makes it perfect for retiring homebuyers.
  • Petworth is a close-knit community, with a mix of long-time residents and creative types who have just started moving to town.
  • Shaw is known for U St., where residents go for food, drinks, and retail. Currently in the midst of a renaissance, the area is one to look out for over the coming years.
  • Along with Shaw, Ivy City and Southwest Waterfront are considered to be up-and-coming neighborhoods. Condos are still affordable and yet are expected to gain value in the next few years.
  • Columbia Heights is known as one of D.C.’s grittier areas, but an influx of retailers and increasing entertainment options serve to gradually change its reputation.
  • As the name suggests, Mount Pleasant has a small-town vibe that active community members want the neighborhood to retain. There’s a crop of independent businesses worth checking out and supporting.

Sorting through Your Options

As a first-time buyer, you have a lot of options when it comes to condo units, amenities, and location. When choosing a condo, find a building and a neighborhood that will match your budget and complement your lifestyle.

Buyers also tend to look for condos that they can rent out when they feel ready to move up to townhomes or single-family homes. If this is something you plan to do, then you have to find a unit that’s likely to attract tenants, and which will grow in value over time.

Get started by checking out our Condo page to look for the unit you need in the area you’re interested in. You can also call 410.371.0581 and 202.483.6300 or email andy@LNF.com.

Overpriced Homes and How to Identify Them

First-time homebuyers should be wary of overpriced homes. Lenders think twice about approving a mortgage if the appraisal is lower than a home’s sale price, forcing buyers to pull more of their resources to reach a deal.

Here are some indicators that a home is overpriced.

  1. The home has been in the market for several months
    Overpriced homes tend to languish in the market for a good many months. Also called a “stale listing,” these homes leave buyers cold. Homes that are priced correctly usually get offers within weeks.
  2. It’s priced higher than its neighboring properties
    A quick survey of homes within the neighborhood will give you an idea if a piece of property is overpriced. Check listings within the community or ask around to make sure the home you’re eyeing isn’t worth less than its asking price.
  3. It’s priced higher than comparables
    A comparable property is one that’s similar in size, features, condition, and neighborhood to the property you’re interested in. Their list price should be roughly the same.
  4. It’s the last home standing in a hot neighborhood
    Take it as a red flag: a home that remains unsold even as buyers are making offers on, and purchasing, other properties in the same neighborhood.
  5. It’s priced for custom amenities that don’t have wide appeal
    Indoor basketball courts or special purpose rooms that are difficult to convert are custom amenities that can unnecessarily drive up the price of the home. Few buyers may find such novelties useful or worth paying for. The same goes for expensive upgrades.
  6. Few show up during open houses
    Once a home is on the market, there’s usually a lot of activity associated with it within the first few weeks. However, if open houses aren’t bringing in traffic and offers, then it’s a sign that the home is overpriced.

To learn more, check out our comprehensive Buyers’ Guide.You can also call 410.371.0581 and 202.483.6300 or email andy@LNF.com.

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Andrew Pariser, Realtor®
Licensed in DC, MD, & VA
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    2300 Calvert Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20008
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