Thursday, January 22, 2009

Free First Time Home Buyer Class in Washington, DC

UPDATE> Classes are ongoing (even though this post is old.) You can always see the most current calendar of classes posted at

The first classes of the year are now scheduled at Martin Luther King Library. As with our other classes, there is absolutely no cost or obligation to attend this one hour educational session where we will recap the current market conditions, discuss the future outlook, and provide an overview of the home purchase process. We'll also discuss the impact of the banking system collapse and bailout, the home purchase process and common pitfalls, financing basics and a how to get started checklist.

Simply contact us to register (enter seminar and the date in the comments) so that we may have materials available for you. Space is limited.

Friday, January 16, 2009

What Should I Be Doing Now To Sell My Home This Spring?

Spring is going to come early to the DC area.

No, not the weather (well, I hope so, but we'll see.) I mean the Spring real estate market. Buyers are out there, even now. Low prices, low rates, and the imminent expiration of the $7500 first time home buyer credit have them circling and looking for the right property, in the right condition, for the right price. And for those properties that are positioned and marketed properly, this could be your best shot at a smooth and quick transaction.

But putting your home on the market takes a significant amount of preparation. The first 30 days your home is on the market is absolutely critical, because those buyers who are circling will come look—once—and if your property is not exactly right then they will just continue their circling, and likely will never return to your property. You will anxiously watch the days on market tick up, and the price tick down. Buyers ARE buying, but they expect a property to be in pristine condition right out of the gate.

To catch the biggest buyer waves, typically you should plan on putting your home on the market in March or April. This year, however, I think there’s a strong argument to go out early for the reasons outlined above—buyers ARE out there. However, you can’t just throw your home into the MLS and expect the buyers to pounce. Your first chance is your best chance.

Here’s a short list of things you should be doing now to get your home ready:
  • De-clutter. I can’t stress this enough. If it’s not something you use every day, get it out of sight. Put away out of season clothing. No collections of knick-knacks, no personal photos, no college degrees or awards. You want the buyer to be able to imagine themselves in the property, and trust me, buyers are easily distracted by your personal items. Don’t pile things into closets and cabinets—buyers look there too, and if everything is crowded they thing there won't be enough room for their things. Get things out of the property and into storage if you have to. Same for extra furniture pieces. Less is more. Doing this right takes weeks (or for some people, months). Start now!
  • Paint & Clean. A fresh coat of paint does wonders, and is cheap. And clean like you’ve never cleaned before, especially the kitchen and bath.
  • Make all minor repairs. The buyer is going to make you do them anyway and it will be cheaper for you to do it now.
  • Start monitoring the market, both broadly and in your specific neighborhood. Pricing is absolutely critical, and you need to be realistic. Don’t get stuck chasing the market down. Work with an agent to start getting property updates now.

When you’re ready to put your home on the market:
  • Consult a stager. I hire both an interior stager and an exterior landscape consultant for all of my listings. They look at your property with fresh eyes and have extensive training in how to create a neutral, yet welcoming canvas for buyers.
  • Photos, photos, photos. Buyers start their search on the internet, and if you don’t have photos they will skip your house completely. Use professional photographers, or at a minimum, a wide-angle lens if you (or your agent) insist on taking them personally. If you have photos of the exterior of the home during Spring or Summer, consider using them to show your yard in its greenest state.
  • If your home has unique features, consider how to best market them. For example, if the house has an unusual floorplan or is bigger than it looks, consider including professionally drawn floorplans in with the photos. (I do this for some of my listings.) Using an agent that has worked with a lot of buyers might help in this area--they know what buyers want and how they react. (That's not to say that you should use an agent that engages in dual agency, that is, where they will represent both the buyer and the seller in a same transaction. I feel VERY strongly that using a dual agent is a TERRIBLE idea, but that's a subject for another post.)

If you’re interested in hearing more about how to get your home ready, or want to learn more about the home selling process, register for my free home seller class, or just contact me for an appointment. The market is still very volatile, and the story complex. Contact me if you're interested in an in-depth view of market conditions in your neighborhood.

Read More: Seller Resources

Read More: Working with Katie as Your Listing Agent

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

DC Neighborhoods

Ever see a listing for "Old City #1" and wonder where it is? Do you know the difference between Penn Quarter and Chinatown? Do you know where, exactly "16th Street Heights" is?

I'm working on a DC neighborhood boundary and home search map (click link to see it in progress) for you, home buyers. It's a work in progress, so bear with me while I work to complete it. On it you'll see I've outlined the approximate boundaries of many neighborhoods, and if you click on each one you'll see (for most) a link to read more about the neighborhood, and also a quick search link to see listings.

I'm not sure I'll ever cover the entire map, but I've tried to hit some of the more common areas I get asked about: Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Foggy Bottom, West End, Dupont Circle, Columbia Heights, Petworth, Eckington, Logan Circle, Shaw, LeDroit Park, Old City (H Street), U Street, Penn Quarter/Chinatown, Takoma, and Tenleytown. I'm still working on a few more.

My hope is that it will help illuminate some alternatives for a buyer who finds any particular neighborhood too expensive...just move a block or two to the east or west and you may find yourself in a whole new range of affordability. It also might help find 'hidden' listings...for example many buyers lump "West End" in with Dupont, so if you're only searching Dupont you might miss that enclave.

(NB: The listings link has some caveats to it...not all neighborhoods are available on my data feed, and if listing agents don't enter the data exactly right it won't show up. Agents have also been known to take some creative liberties when putting some properties into certain neighborhood boundaries for purposes of the MLS. For a complete list of homes in a given neighborhood, you can always contact me directly to set up a very detailed and accurate search.)

Have a link that's relevant for a particular neighborhood? Email me and I'll add it! I may eventually overlay the metro lines on the map as well, but am trying not to clutter it up too much. If you zoom in to a detailed view, though, you can see where the stations are.

My hope is that this map will give buyers a bird's-eye view of some neighborhoods and the chance to get an idea of what homes in each neighborhood sell for. Over time, I'll be adding in real estate statistics so that a user can see, at a glance, what the current state of the market is in one neighborhood versus another.

And remember, if you want to search the MLS using your own parameters, you can use the search feature at my website - this map view allows you to draw a box around the area in which you want to search, and the filters at the bottom allow you to narrow the search.

Read More: DC Real Estate Market Stats

Read More: Buyer Resources

Read More: Blog Posts for Buyers

Saturday, January 10, 2009

December 2008 Market Stats Available

MRIS (the consortium that owns our regional multiple listing service) has published the December 2008 stats, and I've updated graphs at my website (click on links below).

Arlington Market Stats - Arlington continues to post strong numbers. Only 4.91 months of inventory available, and of the homes that sold in December, an amazing 40% sold in under 1 month! Days on market held steady at 70, and average price increased slightly from the prior month.

Northern Virginia Market Stats - Of note here is the 37% increase in sales in December vs November, and an 8% decline in inventory, bringing the months of inventory down to 5.09 (6 months is considered a balanced market.) December 2007 was a 7.3 months inventory level.

DC Market Stats - Average price dropped significantly from prior month and prior year, which perhaps contributed to the amazing 34% increase in sales in December over November. And when it's good, it's good...almost 40% of the homes that sold in December had contracts in under one month.

Montgomery County Market Stats - MoCo continues to be a strong buyer's market, with the average price almost 20% below the same month in 2007. And the buyers responded--sales increased 22% over the prior month.

The big picture: Still a buyer's market in terms of price and selection, but drops in inventory and huge increases in contracts means the buyers are out there, circling, and ready to jump on good properties quickly if necessary.

If you're thinking about listing your home for sale, contact me to discuss how we can make your home one of those that sells in 30 days. Or sign up for a free Selling Your Home class.

If you're a buyer, give me a ring to talk about the stats in the specific neighborhoods you're looking. Or sign up for a free first time home buyer class.

Search the MLS

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First Time Home Buyer Class - Scheduled in Arlington

Note> For the most recent schedule of dates, please visit the First Time Home Buyer class page at my website. Classes will be held in Montgomery County, DC, Arlington, and elsewhere in Northern Virginia.

The first classes of 2009 are now scheduled at Arlington County Library. As in the past, there is absolutely no cost or obligation to attend this one hour educational session where we will recap the current market conditions (including stats like days on market, inventory levels, and average sales prices), discuss the future outlook, and provide an overview of the home purchase process, including common pitfalls and financing basics. Simply contact us to register (enter seminar and the date in the comments) so that we may have materials available for you. Space is limited. Details are as follows:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
7:15 pm - 8:30 pm
registration required


Arlington Central Library, 2nd floor meeting room
1015 N. Quincy St
Arlington, VA
Metro: Orange Line/Ballston

Cost: There is no obligation, and the session is FREE, but registration is required by emailing me at Seating is limited.

Related Link: Search the MLS

Read More: Working with Katie as Your Buyer's Agent

Read More: Buyer's Resources

Read More: $7500 Home Buyer Credit

Announcing My Move to Keller Williams McLean!

I'm pleased to announce that I have moved my real estate practice to Keller Williams' McLean office!

Keller Williams is an international company with over 650 offices nationwide, and is the 4th largest real estate company in the US. After researching many brokers in our area, I realized that Keller Williams "gets it" and is the right fit for me and my clients. I'm excited about the upcoming year!

My contact information remains the same: and (703) 655-7672. My website got a makeover, though, so check out when you have a moment and let me know your thoughts.

Do you someone who is thinking of getting into real estate? I approach my business a bit different than most agents, and am looking for the right people to join my team. Real estate experience is not required, but the job is not for everyone. You can read more here, and feel free to contact me about a career in real estate or a switch to Keller Williams.