Things to Consider When Buying a Townhome

If you’re buying a home but are not interested in keeping up with maintenance, you’re probably looking at buying a condo or townhouse. And while condos can feel very much like living in an apartment, a townhouse gives you a space of your own. While townhomes typically do share a wall with another home (or homes) in the development, buying a townhouse is also buying the little plot of land it sits on, which means getting an outdoor space you’re not likely to find in a condo.

You won’t find townhomes offering as much space as single family detached homes, but by offering more space than a typical condo they can have a lot of appeal for families—or anyone who needs more room than an apartment or condo, without the hassles of owning a single-family home.

But a townhouse isn’t the perfect solution for everyone. Let’s walk through what you should consider before deciding on a townhouse.

You’ll have to deal with a homeowner’s association

If you buy a single-family detached home, the repair and maintenance of it will be on you—but for townhomes, much of the repair and maintenance will be handled by an HOA. Though these services are not free, you’ll pay monthly dues in addition to your mortgage. An HOA will help you avoid unexpected costs (like the need to fix a damaged roof) and they’ll save you time on maintenance tasks by managing the yard and even shoveling the snow. Though this can increase your monthly expenses, it may also be a good way to make your monthly expenses more predictable, since surprise homeownership costs will be few and far between.

If low maintenance homeownership appeals to you, a townhouse could be an ideal fit. However, you should still take a close look at the HOA and what it offers you, because the precise repairs and maintenance they’ll do will vary from association to association.

Still, that association can come with snags if you want to customize your house. For example, you may not be allowed to change the exterior colors or plant whatever you’d like in your front yard. If that’s important to you, check the HOA’s rules (CC&Rs) to see what they allow. If they won’t let you use the property to your liking, you might consider a single family detached home instead.

You may be able to find a townhouse with better amenities

Though what you’ll find in your area will vary, because more townhomes can be built in a smaller space than single family homes, you’re more likely to find them in urban areas—possibly locations where it’s hard or prohibitively expensive to buy a single-family home. For this same reason, it can also be easier to find newly constructed townhomes, which can make it easier to find modern, updated amenities that you might not come by in an older single-family home.

In addition to these extras, buying a townhouse also means you’re buying into a community, and most such communities will also have shared amenities, like a gym, pool, tennis court, or laundry room. Different developments will offer different perks, so if there’s something in particular you have your heart set on, investigate the development to make sure it has just what you want.

It may cost less up-front

Because you’re sharing your home’s walls and foundation with your neighbors, construction costs for a townhouse are often lower than construction costs for a single-family home—which means you’ll pay less to buy one. Even considering the HOA fees (which you should carefully weigh against maintenance and repair costs if you’re trying to decide whether to buy a townhouse or a single-family home), you may be able to get more home for less money by buying a townhouse.

You’ll share a wall with a neighbor

However, there’s a downside to that lower cost—and it’s the fact that you share one or more walls with your neighbors and don’t have a lot of space to get some distance from your fellow community members. Because of this, townhomes can be nosier and offer less privacy than a detached home (though they’ll be quiet to those used to living in a condo or apartment).

In the end, how loud it is really comes down to your neighbors and your own tolerance for living in (relatively) close quarters.

Reprinted with permission from PenFed Credit Union Blog. ©2017. All rights reserved.

PenFed Foundaton Helps Veteran in Need

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PenFed Foundation and Humble Design Help a Veteran In Need

Humble Design and PenFed Foundation recently teamed up to furnish a home for a family in need. “No American—particularly one who has served in uniform—should have to go without a place to call home,” said PenFed Foundation President and CEO James Schenck. “There are plenty of organizations such as Humble Design that want to help, and PenFed Foundation is playing a key role by bringing them together to ensure more veterans are able to secure their finances and find safe places to live.”

Click the image above, or watch the video here:

Reprinted with permission from The PenFed Foundation. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Market News: Home Prices Rise in First Quarter

Market News: Home Prices Rose in Q1

Home prices rose 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI). The HPI year-over-year— based on prices for homes with Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages— was up 6.0 percent.

“The steep, multi-year rise in U.S. home prices continued in the first quarter,” said Andrew Leventis, deputy chief economist for the FHFA, in a statement. “Mortgage rates during the quarter remained slightly elevated relative to most of last year, but demand for homes remained very strong. With housing inventories still languishing at extremely low levels, the strong demand led to another exceptionally large quarterly price increase.”

Per the Index, quarterly home price changes ranged from 1.0 percent in the Middle Atlantic Census division to 2.0 percent in the Pacific Census division.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

How many people can I let live here?

Every two years when I renew my DC broker’s license I always come across little nuggets of information that I consider “good to know”. Others I shake my head and ask “how can that be?” Washington, DC’s regulations on housing capacity is one of the latter.

Housing Capacity

There are occupancy requirements recognized in D.C. According to D.C.M.R. § 14-402, each unit must have the minimum amount of floor area in order to comply with these requirements. In addition to unit size, there is also a minimum size for each bedroom or “sleeping area” as they like to call it. Here are the requirements:

Floor Area:

  1. At least 130 square feet of floor area in habitable rooms for the first occupant
  2. At least 90 square feet of additional floor area in habitable rooms for each additional occupant up to a total of 7 occupants
  3. At least 75 square feet of additional floor area in habitable rooms for each additional occupant if the unit is occupied by more than 7 people

Sleeping Area (specific to rooms used for sleeping):

  1. At least 70 square feet of habitable room area for not more than one occupant
  2. At least 50 square feet of habitable room area for each occupant when used by two or more occupants

So basically, if you are renting an apartment and three of you are sharing a bedroom, you need at least 220 square feet in the apartment to accommodate two people or 310 square feet for three people. For three of you to share a bedroom, you need at least 150 square feet in the room. If there are only two of you sharing a room, you only need a 100 square foot space in the room.

To put in in perspective for you, according to a November 2015 article on Road Warrior Voices, the average size of hotel rooms is about 330 square feet. A queen room at The Algonquin in Manhattan, a city famous for small hotel rooms, is 240 square feet. So your entire apartment must be about the same size of a small NYC hotel room for two people to share or a room at the Hampton Inn for three to share.

Your bedroom, or “sleeping area” as they like to define it, must be about the size of a walk-in closet to call it a ‘sleeping area’ for one or a 10 x 10 room for two people to call it a bedroom.

What is a sleeping area you ask? Well that is a curious term that we will cover in another blog post on another day.

Hopefully for those of you looking for a place to live in the District of Columbia this summer, this will help you decide how many of you can share an apartment and still fall within the requirements of the District’s regulations.

Quick Tips for Easy Spring Cleaning

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The snow has melted, the days are longer, and all of a sudden everything seems in need of a nice freshening up.  If spring cleaning is on you mind but you are overwhelmed at the task ahead, check out these tips from MaxSold.com.

Decide what you are keeping

Heard of the KonMari decluttering method? Keep an item if it brings you joy and if you have room for it – if not, set it aside. Start with a post-its to speed up the process as you go along – bite the bullet and blaze through it in a day, or tackle one room at a time.

Don’t take it to the dump

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure – it’s amazing how much money you can recover for your unwanted things. Instead of filling up landfill, fill up your wallet. Barry Gordon, the founder of MaxSold, an online selling platform, says “A chair that the owner was going to leave out in the side of the curb sold for over $2000, and a box of extension cords that would have gone to the dump sold for $40.”

Don’t prematurely sell off high value items

Ever post an ad online and get a response in an instant? This will leave you wondering if you grossly underpriced the item. The opposite is also true – if no one responds to your ad for weeks, maybe you overpriced it, and lowering the price over days for 100s of items is inefficient. Use an auction platform like MaxSold to sell everything where multiple people compete for the goods. Things that are better will engage more people and foster competition for not only items in demand, but for everything you are clearing out.

Don’t put stuff in storage

So many people are focused on “What’s my dining room going to bring?” The hard truth is that no one is going to give you a lot of money for your dining room. It’s going to be heartbreaking. It’s going to be awful. If you’ve got someone to give it to in the family, then that’s a good idea. But most people do not. And since they have nowhere else to go with it, they decide to put it into storage. Unfortunately, they end up paying thousands of dollars in storage cost each year, only to have the items further depreciate in value.

10 Tips for Homebuyers and Sellers

Spring is here, and so is spring home-buying and -selling. Buyers and sellers preparing to take action this season should put those plans into play now—according to Zillow Group’s Report on Consumer Housing Trends, the No. 1 regret for both buyers and sellers is “not starting their home search or prepping their home to sell soon enough.”

“This spring, both buyers and sellers should be prepared for fast-moving sales, intense negotiations, and even bidding wars,” says Jeremy Wacksman, CMO at Zillow Group. “Home shoppers and sellers are motivated to become more strategic and knowledgeable about what’s happening in their neighborhood. Understanding whether you are in a buyer’s or a seller’s environment will help you manage your expectations and will give you insight into what you’re going to need to bring to the table in order to close the deal.”

For buyers, that means:

Keep your options open. More than half (52 percent) of homebuyers surveyed in the report said they also considered renting, and more than one-third (37 percent) of first-time buyers seriously considered continuing to rent. Savvy shoppers should have a Plan B in place, hoping to buy if it works out, but willing to sign a lease for a home if they don’t make a deal by the time they need to move.

Be realistic with your budget. Once you set it, stick to it. First-time home buyers are more likely to exceed their budget than repeat buyers (39 percent versus 26 percent), according to the report. Before you meet with a lender to determine how much mortgage you’ll be approved for, take a good look at your individual finances and spending preferences to determine the monthly payment range that you feel you can comfortably afford.

Get your financing squared away early. Plan to meet a few lenders four to six months ahead of when you’re planning to buy to ensure you can make a competitive offer quickly when you find your dream home. The majority (82 percent) of buyers get pre-approved, with 77 percent getting pre-approval from a lender before finding a home on which they are interested in placing an offer.

Find an agent with a winning track record. Take the time to find an agent who has expertise in fast negotiation, leveraging escalation clauses, and winning bidding wars. Only 46 percent of buyers got the first home on which they made an offer, according to the report, demonstrating that competition is now part of the process. Choose an agent based on sales and listing activity, area of expertise and reputation.

Communication is key. Make sure your preferred method—and frequency—of communication matches that of your agent. One-third (33 percent) of all buyers surveyed in the report preferred phone calls with their agent over emailing (21 percent) or texting (15 percent). Buyers can use the agent reviews on Zillow to learn more about prospective agents and their clients’ experiences.

And for sellers:

Start early and be strategic. Sellers consider putting their home on the market for five months before they list it—but the top seller regret is that they wished they spent more time prepping for the sale. Many cities have a magic window in the spring when homes have a higher likelihood of selling quickly for more money.

Work with an agent from the start. The vast majority (90 percent) of sellers surveyed in the report who sold quickly and for more than list price worked with an agent, and two out of three (58 percent) began working with an agent at the very beginning of their selling journey.

Pay attention to your online curb appeal. The majority of buyers begin their search online. Sellers who sold their home for more than list price made imagery and home information available online: 48 percent had professional photos taken of the home; 30 percent shot video footage; and 21 percent shot drone footage. Zillow’s video walk-throughs give sellers an easy way to show home features that are hard to capture in photos.

Home improvements can be a worthwhile investment. Sellers who fetched above list price tackled home improvements before listing their home, being 50 percent more likely to take on a large project like modifying an existing home plan and 20 percent more likely to renovate a kitchen than the average seller.

Don’t be afraid to try again. In many markets, nearly half of listing views occur in the first week the home is on the market. Twenty-six percent of those who sold above list price took their home off the market once to adjust the sales price, opting to start anew, rather than letting the home languish on the market with minimal activity.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Prepare for a Real Estate Rush This Spring

Everywhere you turn you hear real estate agents talking about the “Spring Market”, the “real estate rush”, the “Spring buyer frenzy”.  While a much larger number of people do tend to move between March and June, the hype really is just that… hype.  The 2017 Spring Real Estate Market, however, appears to be the real deal.  RISMedia tends to agree.

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Homebuyers this spring will meet out-of-this-world prices and unsparing competition—a real estate rush.

According to Clear Capital’s recently released Home Data Index (HDI) Market Report, the national median days on market is 43 days, down from an 85-day stretch seen in January 2012. Days on market in Denver, Colo., Lincoln, Neb., and Raleigh, N.C., are coming in under two weeks, while days on market in Fresno, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., and Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash., are finishing in under three weeks.

“Along with an increase in temperatures, the spring season also brings out the buyers and an increase in demand to the housing market, which most often translates to faster price growth and a decrease in marketing times,” says Alex Villacorta, vice president of Research and Analytics at Clear Capital. “But what’s great news for homeowners—particularly those looking to get out of negative equity or sell outright—is unfortunately bad news for prospective buyers. This springtime uptick in demand is likely to put buyers in a major time pinch in areas where marketing time is already lightning fast.”

Home price growth in the first quarter of 2017 was 0.9 percent, according to the report, with quarterly growth across regions between 0.8 percent and 1 percent. Prices grew 1.8 percent quarterly in San Antonio, Texas, making it the fastest growing metropolitan market, while quarterly prices in San Jose, Calif., remained at a standstill, posting no growth.

“This situation, coupled with the already precarious affordability situation for buyers, can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts for the market as a whole, one where buyers rush to purchase homes at or above asking price in fear of waiting too long and losing out—pushing prices up and pulling marketing times even lower,” Villacorta says. “Buyers will need to remain vigilant this spring and constantly keep their eyes peeled for new supply entering the market, and, most importantly, be wary of rushing to purchase at sky-high prices.”

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.