Real estate agents helping with rental clients

A common misconception I find is that many people do not realize that real estate agents can help clients not only when they’re looking to buy or sell a property, but when they’re looking to rent, as well. Not all agents will work with rentals, but I do!

How does a real estate agent help when working with renters?

The process is similar to buying a home, except for the financing factor and the length of time the transaction takes. First, I learn what my clients are looking for in a home and set up a search in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that will send them listings that meet their criteria as soon as they hit the market. This is a great advantage, as the MLS is what feeds out to third-party sites, such as RedFin, Zillow and Trulia, but is updated in real time. Often, clients will come to me with properties they’ve found, but when I search for them in the MLS, it turns out they were rented months prior. So the MLS gives clients the most accurate listings of properties available at that moment.

Next, my clients let me know which listings they’re interested, I set up appointments for us to view the properties and then off we go! Once they find one they’d like to apply for, I help with the application process, lease negotiation and the initial walk-thru. The walk-thru allows us to document the state of the home upon move-in so that they aren’t found at fault for any damage to the home that was already there.

The cost of doing this?

Nothing to my clients if they select a home from the MLS, in which the company offering the home for rent pays my company. If my clients find something outside of the MLS — either something rented by an individual or from a development that has its own leasing office — then they are responsible for my compensation, which is a percentage of one month’s rent.

Why don’t all agents help renters?

The payout from rental properties is usually in the hundreds of dollars, compared to the sale or purchase of a home, which offer commissions in the thousands. For me, it wasn’t long ago that I was a renter, so I remember what it’s like moving to a new city and not know much about the area. Additionally, working with renters is a business decision for me; having not grown up in the metro D.C. area and, therefore, not having a large local network, renters present me an opportunity to grow my network and to see a large volume of properties in a short period of time. Also, renters become buyers eventually, and clients remember that you helped them when they needed your guidance the most.

A quick story: When Smowmaggendon hit the metro D.C. area in early 2016, I took a young couple out to view properties. We spent two days walking though the piles of snow in D.C., sliding on the sidewalks, etc. They ended up finding a place to rent on their own without my help. BUT! About a year later, I received an email, asking me to help them purchase a home. We closed on their new place a little more than two weeks ago.

And that’s why I help renters.

If you or someone you know is looking for a rental property in Washington, D.C. or Virginia, I would be delighted to serve them. Get in touch with me here

When’s the best time to buy or sell a home?

MCE for sale signWhen consumers start thinking of buying or selling a home, the first that pops into most everyone’s mind is spring market — the time of year when the most inventory comes on and when competition is at its fiercest. However, with 90 percent of homebuyers today starting their search online, along with the masses of information available online before ever engaging with a real estate agent or mortgage lender, the traditional guiding principles seem to be something of the past.

“A real estate article of faith once had it that mid- to late-February, the start of the so-called spring season, was the best time to list a property. … September was another good option, as long as sellers took care to wait until after Labor Day.” —Real Estate: The right time to sell is anytime, New York Times

A home that shows well and is priced right will sell quickly, regardless of the time of year it hits the market, especially with the constant ebb and flow of consumers in the metro D.C. area due to the seat of the federal government, State Department and members of the military.

In fact, the popular times of the year to sell — the spring and fall — might make an argument for when not to sell. The dead of winter and summer means there’s less inventory available, making a seller’s home one of maybe a handful on the market and will face less competition — which is great if your home isn’t the shiniest one on the block. A house that might not get much interest in the competitive spring market may draw a crowd when there’s nothing else to choose from.

Additionally, buying in a slower time of the year means buyers could face less competition. A home that might receive a half dozen offers during the spring (some of which might be all cash), might only receive one or two during other times of the year.

For my husband and me, we bought a week or so before Thanksgiving and closed in mid-December. There wasn’t much to choose from, but nevertheless, we needed a house then and there. In addition, we were the only offer; we were “traditional” buyers with a mortgage and didn’t have to face competition from all-cash buyers or use an escalation clause to be the top offer — which was great to us.

Truth be told, you can buy or sell a home anytime of the year. There will always be something to buy, and there will always be someone looking to buy.

5 Most Expensive Homes Sold in Reston in 2016

Here are the five residential transactions that closed for the highest dollar amount in 2016:

  1. 11990 Market St. #2101 sold for its full asking price of $1.6M. The 1BR/3BA, 2,075 sqft penthouse-level unit carries a condo fee of $1,165.42/month.
  2. 1830 Fountain Drive #1505 sold for $1.525M (listed at $1,549,900) received a contract after 234 days on the market. The 3BR/3.5BA penthouse in The Paramount boasts 3,000 sqft and a $1,178/month condo fee.
  3. 1484 Waterfront Road, $1,347,500 (5BR/3.5BA)
  4. 2637 Fox Mill Road, $1.335M (5BR/5FBA/2HBA)
  5. 11570 Lake Newport Road, $1.3M (5BR/3.5BA)

Comparatively, in 2015, here are the five residential transactions that closed for the highest dollar amount:

  1. 11308 Stoneledge Court, $2.3M (8BR/11FBA/2HBA)
  2. 11990 Market St. #2104 closed at full asking price of $1.7M. The 2BR/2.5BA penthouse unit of 1,986 sqft has a $1,041.78/month condo fee.
  3. 11310 Stoneledge Ct., $1.6M (5BR/7BA)
  4. 1203 Bishopsgate Way, $1.5M (7BR/6.5BA)
  5. 11569 Lake Newport Road, $1.5M (4BR/3.5BA)

As of Jan. 1, 2017, there are 157 properties on the market in Reston for sale, ranging from $129,990 for a 1BR/1BA in Thoreau Place (a 55+ community) to $1,299,900 for a 5BR/4.5BA single family home in the Estates at Wyndham Hills.

2017 Real Estate Predictions for Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.

offer_for_houseA new administration, rising interest rates and a housing market that continues to be competitive will make 2017 an interesting year for real estate. Here’s what I’ve seen on the ground this year in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. and predict for the year ahead.

  • Northern Virginia and D.C. will continue to be a seller’s market, with all-cash buyers and those with the fewest contingencies having the greatest advantage. 

What I’ve experienced here in the metro D.C. market is that even if you have well-qualified buyers with realistic expectations, that doesn’t make them an automatic shoe-in for the home they put an offer on.

In the popular neighborhoods, we’re often competing against half a dozen other offers, and it’s likely that half of those are all-cash buyers, which means that if you’re coming to the table with a mortgage, you’re likely out of luck.

Sellers usually take an all-cash buyer over those with a mortgage because they can close very quickly and likely do not have any contingencies, which are opportunities for the buyers to walk away and get out of the contract if something comes back unexpected or they don’t like. Additionally, in these competitive areas, the list price is merely a starting point. And then it’s just a matter of how high can we go price-wise to get the home.

It’s honestly very surprising how many people in this area can come to the table with $400K or more in cash to buy a home. And that’s leaving the “average” buyer who is putting 20 percent down at a disadvantage.

  • Living closer in to D.C. is better than commuting and paying tolls.

About 10 years ago, the market was seeing a ton of buyers who had had enough of paying a lot of money for little house move out to Ashburn. Buyers aren’t flooding there anymore. Yes, you still can get a greater bang for your buck, but that’s often coming at a longer commute, paying the Dulles Greenway toll ($6.35/way during rush hour), etc. Now, we’re seeing an emphasis on what we’ve always known to be the No. 1 factor in choosing a home: location, location, location. McLean, Vienna, Tysons, Falls Church — they’re all hot markets and show no sign on slowing down. People realize that time is money, and they’re willing to pay more, for less space in exchange for a shorter commute.

  • Millennials will increasing become first-time homebuyers

“A huge wave of Generation Y-ers, who have delayed home buying, are emerging into their key buying years. They are predicted to keep home sales and condo sales strong well into 2020, according to economists.” — National Association of REALTORS Daily News blog, “Predictions Roll In: 2017 Housing Forecast”

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun explained the potential rebound in a statement: “Young adults are settling down and deciding to buy a home after what was likely a turbulent beginning to their adult life and career following the Great Recession,” he said.

  • Interest rates will continue to rise.

Mortgage interest rates spiked considerably in November, rising to 4.08% by the end of the month. That is an increase of more than a half percent from the Nov. 1 rate of 3.47%. There’s no doubt that’s a big one-month jump and it is highly likely that 3.5% rates are forever in the rear-view mirror. Nonetheless, expect rates to remain fairly stable during the next several months, reaching no higher than 4.5% by mid-2017 and 5.0% by the end of 2017. “Market in a Minute: Northern Virginia,” McEnearney Associates, Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President David Howell

Additionally, Fannie and Freddie raised conforming loan limits for the first time in 10 years — they’re increasing from $625,500 to $636,150, which will give buyers more room on their conventional loan to account for the rise in prices.

What do you think 2017 will bring for the real estate market?

Achieving the American Dream: What I actually do as a real estate agent

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Lauren Budik

How did you get started in the real estate industry?

My background is in journalism, and I used to work as a newspaper reporter. As my husband and I were planning to move back to the States after serving two years overseas with the State Dept., a colleague suggested to me that I’d be great in real estate. I looked into what it would take to get a license. I ended up taking the licensure classes and sat for the national, Virginia and D.C. exams when we got back. And that was almost two years ago!

What do you do as a real-estate agent?

My business is a combination of helping buyers, sellers and renters, which means I’m trying to facilitate transactions between property owners who want to sell their property and purchasers/renters who need housing.

It’s honestly very surprising how many people in this area can come to the table with $400K or more in cash to buy a home. And that’s leaving the “traditional” buyer who is putting 20 percent down with a mortgage at a disadvantage.

What is an average day like for you?

Every day is different. I’m on the road a lot, whether it’s off to meet clients and talk with them about the home buying process, showing property to current clients or previewing listings that have just come on the market to increase my area knowledge. I often work in the evenings and on the weekends since that’s when people are available and have time after their own jobs.

I also spend a lot of time meeting with other small business owners, like myself, and working to build a list of trusted contacts and vendors. I want to be a one-stop-shop for my clients beyond buying a home, not only with the mortgage lender, title insurance company and home inspector, but I also interview insurance agents, electricians, painters, handymen, you name it. I only want to work with the best in every field, and creating this list of vendors is something I take very seriously.

No two days are alike, and that’s one of the things I love about my work.

It can often take viewing dozens of houses to find the right fit when looking to buy a house. What are some of the challenges of facilitating those transactions?

What I’ve experienced here in the metro D.C. market is that even if you have well-qualified buyers with realistic expectations, that doesn’t make them an automatic shoe-in for the home they submit an offer on.

In the popular neighborhoods, we’re often competing against half a dozen other offers, and it’s likely that half of those are all-cash buyers, which means that if you’re coming to the table with a mortgage, you’re likely out of luck.

Why? Sellers usually take an all-cash buyer over those with a mortgage because they can close very quickly and likely do not have any contingencies, which are opportunities for the buyers to walk away and get out of the contract if something comes back unexpected or they don’t like. Additionally, in these competitive areas, the list price is merely a starting point. And then it’s just a matter of how high can we go price-wise to get the home.

It’s honestly very surprising how many people in this area can come to the table with $400K or more in cash to buy a home. And that’s leaving the “traditional” buyer who is putting 20 percent down with a mortgage at a disadvantage.

How do you find somebody the perfect home?

If you’re interested in buying a home, the first thing we want to do is to get you pre-approved by a well-known local lender so we know exactly what you can (or can’t) afford. After that, I set up an automated search in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) based on my clients’ criteria, which will send them new listings as soon as they hit the market. I help my clients to decipher all of the real estate jargon in the MLS so they can better understand what they’re reading, make appointments for us to see everything they’re interested in and off we go to preview property!

When my clients find the property they want to make an offer on, we sit down and go through all of the recent sales that are comparable to the listing they’re interested in and figure out what will be a competitive offer and what contingencies they want as a part of their offer. Whether it’s a home inspection, appraisal or financing contingency (or all three), it’s my job to make sure I represent my clients’ best interests. Sometimes, however, in a competitive market — as we’ve seen here in D.C. and Northern Virginia — our offer often cannot have all of these contingencies if we want to be the winning offer, so we take into account how much cash they have on hand and how much risk they can stomach or afford to take on.

Once selected, we negotiate back and forth with the sellers and get them under contract. After that, there’s typically a home inspection, and if the buyers are using a mortgage to purchase the property, an appraiser will be sent out so the lender can be comfortable with the amount of money they’re lending the buyers. Based on how these two reports come back, we can go back and negotiate with the sellers for either repairs, a credit or renegotiation of the purchase price (if these contingencies were indeed made a part of the offer).

What is your relationship with the people who you’re helping find a home?

I love helping people. I have an outgoing and bubbly personality, and there’s no greater sense of satisfaction than handing over the keys at the end of a transaction. Up to that point, there’s so much energy that goes into finding the right home, conducting inspections, getting finances in order all based on various deadlines and then — it’s over … there’s this calm. I get involved with my clients’ lives on an intimate level, which develops a very deep trust among us; I also get to know my clients as people outside of the transaction, their work situations, kids, pets, etc., and I find myself becoming friends with them because of how much time we spend together and how much we know about each other.

It is my hope that even when a transaction is completed, our friendship continues for years to come.

Inspired by CityLab’s “Brokering the American Dream”

As interest rates tick up, buyers’ purchasing power decreases

For months, interest rates have been at historic lows. Borrowers looking to buy a home today were able to get lower rates than those who purchased more than two years ago. But all of that has changed within the last few weeks, as interest rates climbed to their highest point since October 2014. Prior to that, rates hit an all-time low on Nov. 22, 2012, at 3.31%.

Since Donald Trump was elected president, rates have been steadily increasing, and in the first week of December, long-term rates hit their highest average in two years. Freddie Mac reported 4.13 percent with an average 0.5 point as the average for a 30-year mortgage.

“The 30-year mortgage rate rose another 5 basis points to 4.13 percent, starting [December] 18 basis points higher than this time last year,” Freddie Mac’s Sean Becketti said.

What does that mean in a practical sense? As mortgage rates rise, purchasing power falls. It will take buyers more money today to buy the same home that was on the market two months ago. A 1 percent rise in rates can reduce a borrower’s purchasing power by more than 10 percent.

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Information provided by Tony Balestrieri, Sr. Loan Officer (NMLS ID #771858) Intercoastal Mortgage, 4100 Monument Corner Drive, Suite 220, Fairfax, Virginia 22030 | Office 703-890-1805 | Cell 703-200-8878 | Fax: 703-653-8735 www.icmtg.com | tonyb@icmtg.com

Check out the chart above: If you wanted to buy a home for $600,000 when interest rates were at 3.5%, your monthly mortgage payment (principal and interest payments) would be $2,694/month. Today, at 4.125%, that same home would have a payment of $2,908 — a difference of $214 per month or $2,568 per year.

My advice to buyers or investors who are thinking of purchasing a home this spring is to get out in the market now and see if there’s anything that meets your needs. Interest rates are indicating that they’re only going to go up, and therefore, you’re not going to be able to buy the same amount of house you were a few months ago without spending more.

As a result, we’re also predicting an early spring market, meaning buyers aren’t going to wait until April — they’ll be out looking and buying starting in February. And if you thought last year was competitive — expect this year to be even more so.

The rates reported by Freddie Mac for 30-year mortgages are usually the best rates that the most qualified borrowers can get, so borrowers or those considering refinancing should not necessarily read this news and think that they can go out and get a loan with the quoted interest rate so borrowers or those considering refinancing should not necessarily read this news and think that they can go out and get a loan with the quoted interest rate.

Trying to sell your home during the holidays?

Beautiful Christmas wreath with garland on door
Image credit McEnearney Associates

Worried about selling your home during the holidays? Follow these tips from Lisa Groover of McEnearney Associates in Alexandria.

There are pros and cons to listing your home for sale during the holidays; however, buyers looking during this time tend to be more serious and may be under a deadline to move. There is also less competition in the market. If you are prepared to modify your holiday plans to accommodate showings and the selling process, then here are some tips for preparing your home for sale:

Continue reading “Trying to sell your home during the holidays?”