Author Archives: MMM

About MMM

Maxine is a South Carolina expatriate living in the Washington, DC Metro area. Her husband Russ is from Seattle, WA. We celebrated the birth of our first child in August 2009.

BEWARE: Wire Fraud is on the Rise

In June 2017, cybercriminals stole more than $14 million from unsuspecting people. Real estate transactions are especially vulnerable to these wily larcenists.

Real estate purchases routinely involve sending large sums of money by wire. This method is convenient, fast, and generally secure. Still, sophisticated criminals have been able to exploit people’s lack of familiarity with the real estate and escrow process.

One of the most common scams has been to convince an unwary buyer that the instructions for wiring funds have changed at the last minute “for security reasons.” The email, which appears to come from the title company or other settlement service provider, asks the buyer to wire their funds to a different link than previously agreed. The unsuspecting buyer who falls for this deception will discover, too late, that their money has been diverted to the scammer’s offshore account and is gone forever, along with the scammer.

The obvious advice is to avoid getting taken in by this kind of chicanery. Never wire funds without personally verifying with the title company or real estate closing lawyer that any change is genuine. For those unfortunates who may fall prey to the scam, there are some immediate actions that may offer a slim chance to recover the misdirected funds.

  • Contact the bank or other financial institution the funds were sent from. They may be able to stop the transfer.
  • Contact all parties involved in the real estate transaction, including the title and escrow people, the seller and the agents.
  • Inform the FBI immediately. You can file a complaint at www.ic3.gov. This should be done as quickly as possible. Even waiting just 72 hours could be too late for any recovery.

There are few experiences in life that are more stressful, emotional and confusing as buying a home. Criminals are well aware of this and will do their utmost to leverage those aspects to separate unsuspecting people from their money.

Knowledge is key.

Source: Everyone’s favorite mortgage guy, Jason Banks and TBWS

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Buy ME, Build Equity, and Walk to the Metro!

You hear time and again how you can ‘own for less than rent’ and so often I hear tenants in apartments saying over and over that it is impossible to live in a 1-bedroom condo near a metro or in a walkable neighborhood.  Guess what!  We have a perfect case study in one of our new listings:

Hillwood Condominiums, Alexandria, VA
List price: $240,000
Annual Taxes $2,444
Annual Insurance (Estimated): $480
HOA Association Fee (Monthly): $205

With as little as 5% down you could own this condo and have a monthly payment as low as $1550 – the same price as your rent would be! Check out the below scenarios.

We especially love the 5-5 ARM program for its great rate and the fact you could be able to get 1.5% of the loan amount* paid towards your closing costs at settlement. Be sure to read the fine print at the bottom of this post for more on the closing cost promotion.

If you have some money saved up and you would like to make a larger upfront investment you can get your total monthly payment even lower than rent! Interested in learning more? Email me at Maxine (at) PenFedRealty.com and we will get in touch with you with the full scoop on this property and others that may meet your needs.

Either way, this is a great deal! Hillwood is located just across the street from the Trade Center with terrific shops, restaurants, and a spa. Then just a few blocks away you can grab a coffee at Starbucks, do your grocery shopping, drop the BMW off for service, or hop the Metro into the city.

The unit is right next to the community’s clubhouse and swimming pool. It has been newly updated with fresh paint, new floors, brand new appliances, Pella glass door, and more! Oh, and it has a terrific patio too!

In short, you can save money, build wealth, and help the environment by using the Metro instead of your car for the daily commute!

Check out the photos below or visit www.AHouseToSee.com for more information!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Print: Rates Generated on: 10/9/2017. Payments are estimates. Actual Payments may be greater. See page 2 for additional Minimum/Maximum Payment information. APR= Annual Percentage Rate. ARM Rates may increase after consummation. *Terms of Monthly Repayment: 30 Yr Fx (with MI): 103 payments of $1,184 at 3.875% and 257 payments of $1,072 at 3.875% (4.385% APR) 5/5 ARM (with MI): 60 payments of $1,102 at 3.000% and 300 payments between $1,142 to $1,001 at 3.375% (3.716% APR) 15/15 ARM (with MI): 180 payments between $1,213 to $1,072 at 3.875% and 180 payments of $1,027 at 3.250% (4.270% APR) Rates as of: 10/6/2017 Program, rates, terms & conditions subject to change without prior notice. Pricing adjustments may be required based on down payment, credit and other factors. This is not an advertisement to extend consumer credit as defined by Reg Z 226.2. All loans subject to credit and property approval. Acutal rates my vary based upon factors like credit rating, down payment and the intended use of the property. 5/5 ARM adjust once every 5 yrs. after initial fixed 5 yr. term. Caps 2/2/5, Margin 2.0, and Index based on the 5 yr. Treasury. 95% LTV available for owner occupied purchase loans at or below $424,100 with MI. High Balance fixed available to $636,150 in certain areas – call MLO. Max LTV for condos in DC Metro area is 80%, 70% elsewhere. Loans over $750,000 require two appraisals. Down payment requirements may vary. Products displaying a rate of 9.99% are not available. For a limited time, PenFed will pay buyer closing costs* on the 5/5 ARM and 15/15 ARM when a BHHS PenFed Realtor and our preferred settlement provider is used.*Visit Mortgage Center at penfed.org for details.

We are #1 among repeat home sellers!

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Ranked #1 by J.D. Power, again!

Did you see the news?  J.D. Powers ranked Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices #1 in overall satisfaction among repeat sellers! The study, now in its 10th year, measures customer satisfaction with the nation’s largest real estate companies.

“The Berkshire Hathaway brand is recognized and respected worldwide,” said Kevin Wiles, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty. “The fact that we’re #1 in satisfaction among repeat sellers is a testament to our dedication to consistently exceeding our clients’ expectations during every stage of the transaction.”

Among repeat sellers, the company also scored the highest when it came to satisfaction with their agent/salesperson, marketing, and the closing process.

 

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.