Planning a Pool Party this Summer? Check out these Tips First!

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Who doesn’t love a good summer pool party? Family and friends cooling off from the summer heat by the pool is good fun for all! If you are planning a pool party this summer, be sure to check out these tips:


1. Food:

A 7-Course meal is great for small gatherings, but isn’t reasonable for a poolside event. Stick with easy foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs or other finger foods. 

 

2. Safety:

If there will be children or pets at your gathering, make sure everyone understands the pool rules for safety. And remember, children should always be supervised by an adult around water. 

 

3. Clean Up:

Stick with disposable plates, cups and silverware for your shindig. Place garbage cans or bags in easily accessible areas so your guests can take care of their own dishes. You will be glad you did once everyone leaves and you don’t have to take care of loads of dishes.

 

Enjoy the rest of the summer

Top 3 Reasons Buyers and Sellers Should Ignore Some Online Info

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As a consumer, especially a real estate buyer or seller, you’re empowered with massive amounts of information online.  You have access to thousands of articles, MRIS data, and Q&A from “experts” all around the country.  All that information makes you feel empowered and informed.  Guess what?  You’re not.

Much of the information you read online falls into three categories; platitudes, regional articles, and falsehoods.  The problem is that as a consumer you don’t know how all that compares to the information that is, in fact, real and useful.  How do you tell one “expert” from another?  Good question but here are a few reasons to ignore a good part of what you read online.

#1 PLATITUDES – GENERIC ADVICE WHICH DOESN’T GO INTO ENOUGH DETAIL TO BE USEFUL

You see these all the time on the major consumer websites.  They look good with great fonts and well organized to look like useful information.  Unfortunately they leave out a lot of detail because they’re written for home buyers in all 50 states.  The result is an article which gives you enough information to be dangerous.  Instead of platitudes, talk to a local agent you can trust.  They’re far more likely to give you accurate insight into local rules, regulations, laws, customs, and the market than some generic article.

#2 REGIONAL ARTICLES – INFORMATION ABOUT A LARGE REGION THAT GIVE FALSE IMPRESSIONS OF THE LOCAL MARKETS

This is REALLY dangerous because it seems like such a credible source.  For example, you might read an article in the Washington Post are real estate sales in Washington, DC.  They say the market is up, slightly, and tough to find a home in. That’s true, but totally misses how intense the Ashburn, VA market is or Clarksburg, MD market is – which is far more competitive than Washington, DC.  As a consumer, you think you’ve got the inside scoop on the market – without talking to a REALTOR® – when in fact you’ve been duped by a generality.  Talk to an agent who works in that market and you’ll get the REAL story.

#3 FALSEHOODS – Articles written by people who know less than you do

Reporters are hired to write on all sorts of things in this industry from lending practices to buyer strategy.  Now, in all fairness, they do their research to find out what is correct and accurate.  However, they also tend to write for a wide audience.  So, you’ll read an article online from a writer in Texas that talks to real estate issues and dynamics that do not apply in…say…California.  They’ll quote laws and rules that are completely false…for where you are.  It’s not intentionally misleading, but it is. 

BOTTOM LINE:  If you need good, relevant advice, talk to us. If you’re not in DC, MD or VA, we’ll find you the best REALTOR® serving your area, who knows the laws and market dynamics for the specific areas you’re living or looking in.

http://www.DCMetroHomes.com                                                (202) DC METRO

Difference Between Expert Advice and Perfect Advice

Remember:

  • · An expert doesn’t mean you’re going to give perfect advice.
  • · An expert means you’re going to give excellent advice.

Here’s the difference:

If you go to a doctor with a serious illness, she can’t tell you how it’s all going to wind up in the end. She can’t know for sure. Therefore, she can’t offer perfect advice.

However, your doctor can only give you excellent advice. She can tell you about your illness and your options, whether it be surgery or medications. She can also explain what she believes to be the best option for you based on your history, symptoms, and overall health. Ultimately, though, you’re going to make the final decision of whether you go through with the treatment plan.

Once you make that decision, your doctor will take you by the hand and walk you down the road to recovery. She will explain to you that there might be adjustments that need to be made to the treatment plan, because no one can know for certain how things will turn out.

She might have to adjust your medications or increase or decrease your treatment schedule. But every step of the way, she’s there with you, helping you get to your ultimate goal. This is called excellent advice. (By the way, does this sound like what we do with our clients?)

Similarly, if you went to an attorney, he can’t tell you how the case is going to end up or how the judge or jury will rule. That would be perfect advice. What an expert attorney can do is explain your options. He might pick one or two he believes to be the best ones to pursue. He will then leave you to make the decision on which option you want to take. Once you decide, he will help put a plan together based on the facts at hand. He will help you get to the best possible resolution of the case. And along the way, he’ll make whatever changes are needed. This is excellent advice. (Again, does it sound similar to how we help our clients?)

Our role as a real estate professionals is similar to the role of the doctor and lawyer. We can’t give buyers or sellers perfect advice because we don’t know what’s going to happen— we can’t know the future. However, we can give excellent advice based on the information and situation at hand. We can guide you through the process and help you make the necessary changes along the way. And that’s exactly what you want…and deserve!

A for Accessible

When purchasing a home there are many considerations – space requirements, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, location, proximity to work and services. Additionally, there are the aesthetics, the style of the home, its condition, and price. However, there are other important considerations that many people overlook – and these fall into the realm of Accessibility.

The term Accessibility is often used in relation to public buildings and public transportation, and we know about it largely because of a piece of important legislation called “The Americans with Disabilities Act”, or ADA. The ADA provides the framework that ensures that public structures are able to be used by a wide population, including people in wheelchairs and those who have other physical challenges, to ensure their success in a wide range of “major life activities”.

If you have ever tried to go somewhere or reach something that was essential to your well-being, but beyond your grasp, you know the frustration and helplessness that this can evoke. Imagine facing this time and again, in your own home. Whether you are facing a physical challenge due to an accident, or aging and can no longer move and achieve as you used to, your home should be a place where you can live, work and play in a way that is easy for you. Sometimes this means that issues of “accessibility” are at play.

Accessibility can also come into focus when you have a visitor to your home that uses a wheelchair or walker, is blind, or cannot use stairs for some reason. Aged or injured guests benefit from a home that is thoughtfully designed with accessibility as a focus.

While it is possible to retrofit or remodel a home to make it more accessible, this can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Some of the principles of accessibility to consider when purchasing a home include:

  • Can everyone, of all ages and abilities, use the home equally well?
  • Are the rooms “flexible” – can they be used for a variety of activities?
  • Are items in the house simple and intuitive to use?
  • Is it easy to see where you are in the house?
  • Do the entrances make sense?
  • Is storage easy to find and use? Are closets in the right places?
  • Is it a safe place?
  • Are there railings and places to hold on to, at heights good for all ages?
  • Do stairs, windows, and hallways make sense? Are bathrooms where you expect them to be?
  • How much physical effort is required for day-to-day activities?
  • Has effort been made to make it easy to see and get to all features?

When a home is designed and built, it should meet the needs of people despite their age or ability. The ability for it to be flexible and adaptable is an important factor, so that as needs change the home does not create obstacles for the inhabitants or guests. Modern architecture began following the adage, “Form follows function” early in the 20th century, and home buyers are advised to evaluate homes in light of functionality as well as style.

Difficulties arise when homes present barriers to the people who live in or visit them. If the owner ages significantly and loses abilities that made living in the home possible, then something must change. If babies or children enter the scene who might be hurt by stairs or other hazards, those dangers must be addressed. Accidents or other medical issues can result in sudden changes in mobility or self-sufficiency requiring adjustments to improve accessibility. In short, it might be prudent to consider accessibility when buying, building, or remodeling a home.

Looking at a building’s “bones” enables you to understand right away where barriers might occur. Pay attention to hallways, doorways and stairs – even when there are just one or two steps, as each of these elements can be an obstacle to someone who has mobility or sight issues. While doorways can be widened, hallways are more difficult to modify. Additionally, hallways can be dark areas and “wasted” space. Is there a good place for a lift-chair or elevator should someone in a wheel chair have to go up stairs? How easy will it be to control the light, reach counters and cabinets, enjoy the grounds, live daily life?

Cabinets, doors, faucets and switches can be difficult to operate, but easy if you think clearly while choosing these options. As you move around your home, look at these features and how it would feel to use each of these should your hands become stiff or painful. Traditional doorknobs can be replaced by lever-style “knobs” that could even be operated with an elbow or chin in an emergency. Faucets that operate with levers are also useful, as are switch-plates that operate with a simple touch – but beware that they are intuitive to use.

When you are buying a home that might require “adjustments” to afford the accessibility that you desire, consider the spaces and structure of the home. Is there enough property to create ramps to the entrance? Is it feasible to enjoy the best areas of the home and property if mobility is impaired? Are there steep inclines on the property or is the property exposed to extreme weather conditions that could increase hazards seasonally? Look at the approach to the property and how close you might bring a car to the entrance. Are the walkways easy to traverse?

Understanding the more challenging issues around a home or property might not rule it out, but will give you insight into the cost of overcoming these potential obstacles. Pay close attention to bathrooms and stairwells to ensure that you would have the space you need to adjust bathtubs and showers, or to install lifts. Is there a bedroom or office on a lower floor? In the event that it is needed, having an option to create single-level living arrangements could be a boon to your family.

Homes are designed to shelter people and their possessions, provide space for cooking and eating, hygiene, and sleeping. Entertaining in your home is a luxury for some, and a necessity for others. In each function, age and physical ability must come into play, and so architects and builders who consider accessibility up front will usually build more adaptable homes. If you believe that accessibility could be an issue for you or members of your family, consider taking the time to have an expert evaluate a property that you would like to buy. There is a list of professionals in the area of accessibility through the National Council on Aging In Place (NAICP.org). Going in with your eyes open will result in long-term satisfaction and a plan for the house and people alike.

8 Kitchen Trends to Watch in 2013

Modern style:

Kitchens are getting more modern in style, boasting simplified lines and offering up big, open spaces perfect for entertaining.

 

Tucked-away appliances:

Appliances designed to blend in with the rest of the kitchen, like with the same wood of the cabinets, are becoming more popular. Also, some appliances, like undercounter or mini refrigerators or trash compactors, are being tucked away into a kitchen island.

 

Lots of lights:

Great lighting in the kitchen is becoming more important, with lighting being layered with a mixture of task lighting and ambient lighting. Under-cabinet LED lights are becoming more commonplace.

 

Supersized kitchen islands: 

“2013 kitchen design trends are moving away from dining rooms and toward eating, drinking, and interacting in the kitchen itself, and a large kitchen island complete with bar stools is the perfect way to make this happen,” according to HomeThangs.com. this helps to create “a nice open-air feeling – especially if one can be used to bridge kitchen and living areas, another major 2013 kitchen design trend.”

 

Neutral color schemes: 

The use of neutral colors in the kitchen is on the rise, particularly in shades of grays and greens and a variety of wood tones. Bright colors are being reserved for only small accents in the kitchen.

 

Fancy appliances:

Professional gas ranges and induction cooktops are popular kitchen appliances for making a more gourmet kitchen.

 

Decorative range hoods:

Trends are moving away from a conventional stainless steel trapezoid-shaped hood to more decorative range hoods. These hoods may have built-in LED lights and are even serving almost like a decorative chandelier for a kitchen island.

 

Glass backsplashes: 

High gloss is “in” for cabinets, appliances, and backsplashes. A single-sheet, back-painted glass blacksplash is growing in popularity, which are also known for being easy to clean. These glass backsplashes are also reflective, adding a polished decorative touch to kitchens. Glass mosaic tile sheets are also increasing in popularity.

Understanding FHA Loans

Here’s what you need to know about the government program

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans often confuse people because the FHA does not make loans. Instead, it insures the loans made by lenders it has approved. This means if the borrower defaults, the FHA, which is a government program, will cover the losses.
Historically, the FHA allows some of the most liberal lending standards in the market and is often a good fit for first-time buyers, those with small down payments and those with less-than-perfect credit. But anyone is eligible to apply.
The FHA is also not a product for everyone and not all lenders offer FHA loans. But many do and you can find FHA lenders at its
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of FHA insured loans:Pros

  • Down payment. The minimum down payment is 3 percent and the FHA allows the money to come from a family member, charitable organization or even an employer. Most conventional loans require the borrower to prove he has the down payment amount.
  • Interest rate. FHA loans usually offer a lower interest rate because it allows a smaller down payment and lower credit scores. Lenders of conventional loans see more risk in a comparable loan and, so, have a higher interest rate.
  • Weak credit: Those with credit problems, even a bankruptcy, may be able to qualify for an FHA loan. The FHA puts more emphasis on income, length of employment and job security than do lenders of conventional loans.
  • Higher ratios. The FHA allows a ratio of 29 percent — of mortgage payment to income (divide the mortgage payment by gross monthly income.) –- or 41 percent -– of all monthly debt to income (divide all your monthly debt such as auto loans and credit card payments by gross monthly income.) Conventional loans usually only allow 28 percent and 36 percent, respectively.
  • No prepayment penalty. The FHA does not allow prepayment penalties, which some conventional loans require if you pay off the loan early. This penalty is charged because lenders are trying to keep people from habitually refinancing. Usually, lenders waive the penalty if the home is sold.
  • Loans for multi-unit properties. FHA loans are not just for single-family homes and condos. They are also available for 2- to 4-unit multi-family complexes. There is also a special loan program for buying a fixer (203k) that includes amounts to make the needed repairs.
  • Closing costs. The FHA allows closing costs to be included in the loan as long as the borrower qualifies for the higher amount. Most conventional loans require that closing costs be paid for at the close of escrow and not be part of the amount loaned.
  • Canceling MIP. The FHA has specific requirements that when met will allow you to cancel you Mortgage Insurance Premium. It is usually more difficult to cancel the Private Mortgage Insurance that is charged under conventional loans with a less than 20 percent down payment.

Cons

  • Higher mortgage insurance. FHA loans require a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP), which is similar to the Private Mortgage Insurance charged in conventional loans with less than a 20 percent down payment. The FHA MIP requires paying 1.5 percent of the loan amount up front and .50 percent of the amount owed annually, but paid monthly. (i.e.: A $100,000 loan balance will cost $500 the first year or $41.67 per month). PMI on conventional loans is usually less expensive.
  • Loan limits. The FHA has limits on the amount that can be borrowed because the program is designed for low- to moderate-income buyers. These limits are based on where the house is located. These limits can be changed at any time, so it’s best to check the FHA Web site for the latest information on your area.
  • Must be owner-occupied. An FHA loan requires the home, or one unit in a multi-family complex, be occupied by an owner. So, this program is not for investors looking to buy property to rent out.
  • Limits lender fees. The FHA sets limits it will allow lenders to charge. If the lender charges more, the seller has to agree to pay the additional costs. This can make a prospective buyer with an FHA loan less attractive.
  • Takes more time. FHA loans require more time to complete. In hot markets or in the case of multiple offers, an offer from a buyer wanting an FHA loan may not be considered as strong as an offer from a buyer with a conventional loan.

The Power of Assumability

One of the rarely touted advantages of people taking FHA mortgages today is the fact that they are assumable. What that means is, when the FHA home buyer of today is looking to sell his home, a qualified purchaser can “take over” their loan.

Most people believe that interest rates will return to a “normal” range (around 7%) in a couple of years. When you assume a mortgage, the terms remain the same. This means that a buyer five years from now can enjoy a 3.5% mortgage by assumption rather than the 7% mortgage they would get without it. Since most people buy homes based on how the monthly payment fits into their personal monthly budget, this is extremely impactful.

As an example, a $500,000 loan at 3.5% today carries with it a $2,250.00 mortgage payment on a 30 year fixed mortgage. If offered for sale in five years, the purchaser could assume the $448,485.36 balance with the same $2,250.00 payment and remaining term of 25 years. The total payments over the 25 years would be $675,000.

Compare that to a new $450,000 loan at 7% for 25 years, which would carry a monthly payment of $2997.00 (over $750 more a month than the assumption and more than $225,000 more over the 25 year term).

At 7% for 25 years, to wind up with the same payment as the assumed mortgage, our borrowers would only be getting $338,000…$162,000 LESS!

The point here is that, when rates go up, homes with assumable mortgages will have more value and will sell at higher prices because they are more affordable. As an additional bonus, the closing costs on assumable mortgages are significantly less.

The borrowers must be credit-worthy of course (have good credit, qualifying income,  & necessary assets to close), but they would have to be credit-worthy to get a new mortgage too!

Besides the multiple other reasons to obtain an FHA mortgage (low down payment requirements, extended income ratios, lower credit scores, and easier sourcing of funds), there is another perk. In the future, there is a good chance that you may be able to sell your home for more money because of the FHA loan’s assumability.