Market Watch & Musings

March 15, 2023

Can you Trust Zestimates?

Everyone loves going on Zillow and getting a Zestimate for their home. But can you trust it?

According to Money Magazine, Zestimates are usually off by 8% to 10%. And that percentage could work against you or for you. It could be 10% more than it is actually worth, or 10% less than it is actually worth.

But one thing we can tell you, is that if we look at your home, we can tell you if that Zillow number is right and what your home is actually worth.

Zestimates can sometimes work when you live in a tract home neighborhood or a condo. But it really doesn’t work if you have made improvements to your property or you live in a neighborhood where each street is different.

Zestimates don’t take into account basements, interior and outdoor improvements. Let’s say your basement was renovated and is great additional space for a family room, home office or bedroom. How does Zillow know that?

It also doesn’t take into consideration the hardscaping and landscaping improvements you made. It just looks at the acreage, square footage of the property, number of bedrooms and baths.

With interest rates rising, and the market slowing down, homeowners want to know if their property is holding its value. Best way to figure that out is to call an agent, like us. We can talk to you about your improvements, look at what happened in the neighborhood and provide two forms of analysis on the value of your house.

First, we get the Realtor Property Resource which gives us a range of the value of your homes, based on information provided by the MLS. We then search through MLS and the tax records (for non-market sales) to see what has happened in your neighborhood over the last six months. Based on that information we can find a accurately price your home.

Let us know how we can work with you to determine the sales price of your home. We are not here to push you to sell but to give you advise and a peace of mind.

March 9, 2023

Want a 2.9% interest rate in your mortgage….. well, there is a way!

Interest rates have increased and that pushed away potential buyers from the real estate market.  A year ago, you could purchase a home with a 2.9% interest rate on the money you were borrowing.  However, inflation forced the mortgage rates to go up as high as 6%. This caused monthly mortgage payments to increase by several hundred of dollars.  

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t purchase a house with a 2.9% interest rate.  There is a way!  It’s called an Assumable Loan!  

Sellers who used a VA (Veterans Affairs) loan, can have the loan assumed by a buyer of their property.  There are requirements, and if a buyer can meet those requirements the loans is assumed!  

But it’s not easy…. The requirements can vary, and generally require the following: 

1. The buyer must apply for the existing loan and be qualified by the lender. 

2. The buyer must agree to all the terms of the existing loan such as the existing balance, existing interest rate and repayment agreement. 

3. The buyer may also assume any other liabilities associated with the mortgage. 

There are some pros and cons for both buyers and sellers with assumable loans.  

The pros for buyers include the opportunity to hold on to a lower interest rates than the ones that are currently available in the market. For sellers, having trouble selling their homes, marketing your VA loans to be assumed by a potential buyer is a great incentive.  

The cons for buyers is that if the seller has a sizeable amount in equity, then you have to bring that amount as a down payment.  There are few banks offering a second mortgage to buyers looking to assume a loan.  For sellers, the VA loan entitlement will be waived, meaning that you can’t get a VA loan for another purchase when your VA loan is assumed by another buyer.  

Finally, the big issue for many homebuyers and sellers is that assumable loans are a new thing for mortgage banks.  Therefore, a four-week close may not happen.  You have to be flexible until the banks work out the kinks. 

If you want more information on how this work, reach out to us and we can help find you a property with an assumable loan!

March 7, 2023

We are always looking for some good podcasts and sometimes we hit the jackpot and find some pretty, amazing ones.  We wanted to share with you our favorites, so that you will share with us your favorites!  

Melissa’s Favorites 

48 Hours – This is less than an hour summary of the best true-crime stories out there.   I love a good true-crime story and I’m done in usually 45 minutes.  And I like true crime because I’m weird that way. 

This American Life – This is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed podcasts on personal stories of every day Americans.  I love cute little stories about people’s life and they are always feel good stories.  

Kyle Brandt’s Basement – It explores the ins and outs of the NFL with guest interviews and interactive audience segment.  He loves the Bills, so I love him. 

Ana’s Favorites

WSJ What’s News – It’s a summary of everyday news with a feature story in the end.  It’s offered by the Wall Street Journal both in the morning and evening.  I like this because it’s straight reporting no opinion gets the job done.  I feel informed in 15 minutes in the AM and PM.  Then if I want to pursue the story in more detail I just read the story.  

Beyond the Blinds – It’s filled with scandal, intrigue and gossip surrounding our favorite celebrities (young and old).  My daughter told me about this one and I am forever grateful.  I have my whole gym addicted to this podcast because it is darn good gossip about young and old celebrities, royals and newscasters and athletes. You need to watch the first episode to understand what a “blind” and after that, you will be addicted if this is your thing. 

Modern Love – New York Times column that gives us a glimpse into the complicated love lives of ordinary people.  It puts me right to sleep every night. The voice is always a soothing one and I know no one is going to die a horrific death or kill someone.  

March 3, 2023

Yes… it’s that time of year when you re-think your outdoor space.  Making your backyard feel like a part of your indoor living space has been the trend in the last few years.  Our landscaping architects have seen increased requests for designed outdoor spaces that give homeowners more room for enjoyment and entertainment.  Here are just a few examples, of what our clients have done in their homes. 

A patio with an outdoor kitchen is great for barbeques and cookouts.  The one we feature also includes a pizza kitchen! Their family tradition of Brazilian churrascos and pizza making, made it an important necessity for their home.  The outdoor cooking area is adjacent to the indoor one, which makes for a seamless flow from one cooking station to another. 

Fireplaces are also a great addition to a backyard.  It keeps you warm in the fall and winter and keeps the bugs away in the summer.  It really is a nice focal point and aesthetic feature for a backyard.  These owners have sat many times in front of that fireplace, sipping mojitos and cooking up s’mores with the kids.

An outdoor patio is almost like an additional room to the home.  It allows for owners to decorate with cozy patio furniture with lush cushions that almost looks like indoor sitting area.  This one also includes a TV, stereo and a refrigerator as well, since the equipment are not exposed to the elements.  The other one we featured has a complete outdoor kitchen.  Covered patios really work well with a pool.   

And in more urban areas, rooftop decks are becoming a very popular setting for lounging and entertaining.  Many builders often include a fireplace in their design, however, to create warmth and make the space more enticing, some of our owners have added pergolas, tree canopies and flower beds.  You don’t even feel like you’re in a roof, unless you look down.

We have worked with some wonderful landscape architects and we are here to provide you some great names.  Just let us know when you are ready for your project! 

March 2, 2023

Long gone are the days that we had all our windows laden with heavy drapes and vertical aluminum blinds.  Most of us evolved to appreciate the beauty of open windows to bring in the natural sunlight.  However, blinds, curtains, and drapery serve a purpose and provide great interior design elements to a home.  

Annie Elliot, a great interior designer in the DC area, is coming out with a book to discuss different options that can help guide you in the decision making.   You should follow her on social media – she is clever and informative.  She makes us laugh out loud when she goes to Home Goods or Target and points out some “not so great” items to purchase.  Check her out @annieelliottdesign on Instagram.  

Martha Stewart asked the same question and this is the answer she got from the experts : 

Blinds – select blinds if you need light control or privacy.  For example this is good for a bedroom, bathroom or family room. Casual coverage that serves a purpose.  Least expensive option are roller blinds followed by Roman shades, and cellular shades.  

Curtains – select curtains to block light or at least obscure sun days.  And you can pair it with blind to provide for different light coverage.  Curtains tend be lighter material and may not provide the light block you want.  Really nice for kitchens, children’s rooms and other informal rooms of the house.  Curtains can be cheaper than blinds but it depends on the materials you use.  

Drapes – select drapes when you want more light coverage.  The material is heavier.  Drapes also provide a room more elegance and provides a sophisticated look. They also protect a room from drastic temperature changes.  Great for living rooms and bedrooms. Drapes are often custom made and the most expensive. 

Best Resources for Window Treatments in DMV? 




Or just call Annie Elliott!!!!!!

February 27, 2023

Jake, a friend’s son called us for some real estate advice.  He was moving to Los Angeles for a six month internship and needed to find a short term rental.  He found a great efficiency apartment in Santa Monica for $1500 on Facebook Marketplace.  He just needed to send the landlord a $500 security deposit.  It sounded “too good to be true”, but he was really hoping it was true.  

We don’t know the LA market, but we do have colleagues who do.  We called our contact and they shouted, “SCAM” as soon as we finished our first sentence. She connected with Jake, and found him a great place to call home for the next six months.

Just a week later, we got another phone call.  This time on a property we listed for sale just a couple of days earlier.  A young woman called and asked if we had a two bedroom condo listed for rent.  She told us the address and sent us the pictures.  It was our listing and it was NOT for rent!!   She found it on Craigs List.  Again, the price was “too good to be true”, the first red flag.  The “agent” asked her to wire the security deposit to his account to secure the property. That was the second red flag.  She got suspicious, searched the address on the internet and found our listing and called us.  It diverted her from losing a couple thousand dollars to a scammer.  

Be careful out there!  This is happening to a lot of folks.  If you find yourself in a questionable real estate predicament.  Call us and we will help figure it out.  These scammers are crafty and they are out there looking for a way to make a buck from honest people.  

February 27, 2023

Remember bowling leagues?  You may have not joined in the fun, but might recall grandpa talking about it back in the day and still playing in his 70’s.  Well, we think pickleball is here to replace the bowling league days.  It’s fun, easy and pretty harmless.  All ages can enjoy playing.  

If you haven’t tried it, you may be missing out on one of America’s greatest sports of all times.  We kid you not.  

Everywhere around the country, we hear of friends, both young and old picking up a paddle, beating the wiffle ball, and staying out of the kitchen (it’s a rule, that only pickleball officionados understand).  

It’s appeal, is that every age can participate with no minimal pain and a lot of gain.  We are tennis players, but you don’t have to have a background in racquet sport to catch the fever.  You just need to like having fun, running around just a little and going for it.  

Around the DMV, pickleball playing opportunities are all over the city and suburbs.  Many communities have converted their old and abandoned tennis courts into courts and have organized playing times that only require you to sign up, and show up.  

And now, the Kraken Bar in DC is opening their doors to indoor pickleball that includes 16 indoor courts.  It also includes 1 40 + foot bar and pickleball cabanas.  So get a ton of friends and go play some pickleball.  

Someone just recently asked us, “where can I get some lessons?”  Well check out the Global Pickleball Network, they provide all that information you are looking for.

And here is the information for Kraken!  

February 27, 2023

Right now, in the DC, Maryland and Virginia Metropolitan area, it is hard to find a rental property that is under $1500.  Most one bedroom units are renting for $1700 or more.  In Alexandria, we just rented a one-bedroom basement apartment for $2000 and it didn’t include any parking. Parking is usually an additional $150 a month in Old Town, Alexandria.   A three bedroom, 1500 square feet single family home is usually north of $3200.  It’s expensive to rent in the DMV but it still ranks in the 20th most expensive area in the country.  

According to Apartment List, the median rent in the DC area is $1,749 for a one-bedroom, and $1,728 for a 2 bedroom.  Luxury apartment communities are popping up throughout Arlington County and City of Alexandria to meet the demand.  These are fetching over $2000 per unit, because of the great walkability to restaurants shops and the Metro.  These luxury complexes offer young professionals amenities that provide amazing creature comforts not only for themselves but for their furry friends.  Also, many of these apartment communities offer scenic roof top features that draw professionals from all demographics looking for the best urban living there is.  

As for single family homes, this is usually north of $3500 when it is close to the DC metro area.  These are usually three bedrooms homes that also include a nice backyard for a pet.  Townhomes can be found for just under $3000 but it depends on the size of the property.  The newer and bigger townhomes can be just as expensive as a single family home.  

However, it is still less than the highest rent districts in other parts of the country.  According to the New York Times, and, the northeast and California have the highest rental prices in the country.  

Check out the top 7 and let us know what you think?  

1 – Jersey City, NJ ($5,500)

2 – Boston, MA ($4,878)

3 – Palo Alto, CA ($4,672)

4 – Glendale, CA ($4,472)

5 – Coral Gables, FL ($4,310)

6 – Hoboken, NJ ($4,264)

7 – Redmond, WA ($4,222)

If you are moving to the DC area and need help navigating the rental market, give us a call.  We are here to help! 

February 10, 2023

A few years ago, I sold a house to a young man looking to buy in Arlington.  He could afford the townhouse, with the down payment he saved over the 5 years out of college, but he didn’t want to be strapped.  He still wanted to take great trips, enjoy good restaurants, and not feel house poor.   So, with our help he came up with the perfect solution.  He would buy a townhouse, rent the bedrooms on the top floor to high school and college friends, and turn the walk-out basement into his own little pad.  In the end of the day, his three roommates paid his mortgage and he lived his best life. 

In urban areas like DC, future homeowners need to find creative ways to purchase.  We are here to help you figure it out.  With our assistance and the help from our lender colleagues, we can find creative ways to purchase and making the American dream real.

February 7, 2023

How Much Does It Cost to Build A House in Northern Virginia, Maryland and DC?

The last few years, we sold various new builds in the Washington area.  They are particularly popular in Arlington, Mclean, Great Falls, Falls Church and Vienna. In Maryland the new builds can be found in Potomac, Bethesda, Kensington and Rockville.  In DC, they are a bit more scare, but you can find completely renovated rowhouses and condominiums.  The trick is to find either a builder that already purchased the land and can customize the home to your liking or find the land, then hire an architect and builder to create the home of your dreams. 

But how much will this cost you?  This great article featured in Home Builder Digest, breaks it down for in one of the most sought after cities in Northern Virginia, Arlington. 

Click on link -

If you are looking to build, let us know.  We have worked with some of the best and we can recommend two or three Design and Build groups that will make your dream come true!


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