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Question: I’ve submitted two offers on home this year and both times lost to multiple offers. Is this normal or is the market more competitive this year?

Answer: 2018 has been a good year for sellers and a frustrating one for buyers already. Generally, I don’t start seeing multiple offer deals until late February/early March, when it starts to warm up and days get longer.

However, about 80% of the listing and purchase deals I’ve been on this year have ended up with multiple offers. I even had a listing that had been on market for three months receive three offers in one weekend. My colleagues who work in new construction and generally have the best pulse on market pace have also been surprised by the amount of activity this early.

Here are some numbers in Arlington from January to back up the anecdotal evidence of a hot market:

  • Supply Down, Demand Up: Monthly of supply measures how long it would take to sell all existing inventory at the current market pace (supply and demand) is down 21% YoY and at its lowest levels (1.31 months of supply) since March 2013 (1.22 months of supply)
  • More Homes Under Contract: Over 200 homes went under contract in January (215) for the first time since 2012 (219)
  • Homes Under Contract Faster: Of the 119 homes that were listed and went under contract in January 2018, 69% went under contract within one week. Over the last five years, 49% of homes listed and under contract in January went under contract within one week.
  • Average Number Of New Listings: The amount of new homes listed on market in January 2018 (234) is about average for what we’ve seen over the last decade

Advice For Buyers

Periods of low inventory and high demand can be frustrating for buyers, so here are a few tips for buyers to create leverage for themselves without simply paying more:

  • Quality Of Lender: Have a pre-approval letter from a strong local lender who has review all relevant documents, not just somebody who checks credit score and asks for basic financial information. A strong lender letter gives the seller confidence you will close on the home on time, without complications.
  • Contingencies: Consider giving up your right to request repairs and credits after the home inspection and using a Pass/Fail contingency instead. This shows that you’re not interested in nickel and diming a seller, but just want to make sure there are no major issues. You can also offer to cover up to a certain dollar amount in the event of a low appraisal, if you are offering to pay above the asking price.
  • Close Faster: Most homeowners want to close as quickly as possible. A good lender can have you ready to close in 20 days vs the more common 30-40 day close.
  • Don’t Play Games: We all want to negotiate a great deal, but oftentimes a great deal is actually having your offer accepted not saving a few thousand dollars. When a seller has multiple similar offers, they often put more weight in who they think is most likely to close with the least complications. In that scenario it pays off to make it clear how much you love/want the home instead of acting like you could take it or leave in an attempt to negotiate a lower price.
  • Days On Market: The number of days a property has been on market should dictate how you approach an offer. You won’t have much leverage in the first few weeks or after a major price reduction.

The spring market can be a great time for buyers who are prepared for competition because you’ll see a significant increase in inventory, so that illusive 2 bedroom + den or half acre yard with a deck is more likely to materialize.

If you’re not prepared to make a strong offer, the spring can be frustrating and defeating because you may watch your dream home(s) go to other buyers who have made smarter, but not necessarily higher offers.

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Question: A big reason I chose to live in North Arlington and pay the premium that comes with it is because most of the neighborhoods were full of large, mature trees.

I’ve watched over the last 5-10 years as so many beautiful trees have been removed to make room for large new homes, only to be replaced by small trees that don’t survive or aren’t fit for this area. What can we do to educate homeowners about the value trees have in the community and on home values?

Answer: Thank you so much for this question, especially on the heals of a terrific study on Arlington’s tree canopy. It’s one that I don’t think gets nearly enough attention from homeowners, my colleagues in the real estate industry and local government.

The loss of our tree canopy resulting from reckless tree removal by builders who are more concerned with maximizing profit on a single lot than promoting long-term growth of our communities is a major problem for Arlington. In 2017, I wrote an article highlighting the financial benefits to developers who actively work to keep the existing mature trees on a lot so if we can show both short-term and long-term benefits to builders and developers, what do we do?

Don’t Wait On Local Government

For starters, we can’t rely on government policy, but need to work within our communities at a Civic Association level to promote education and understanding. Not every homeowner is concerned about the tree canopy, but everybody is concerned about the long-term value of their home, so we need to educate everybody that the two are not mutually exclusive.

We are never going to stop the replacement of old homes with new ones, but we can support builders who take steps towards tree preservation and discourage residents from working with builders who have no regard for our neighborhoods.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve worked with some fantastic Civic Associations (residents of Williamsburg should be proud of their community leaders!) and the Arlingtonians For A Clean Environment to brainstorm ways to protect our tree canopy and I encourage anybody who has an interest to get involved.

An Education For Homeowners and Builders

I will continue this discussion through my column on ARLnow until we see progress. I hope that readers with an interest in getting involved can share ideas and connect via the comments section.

To kick things off, I want to introduce Heath Baumann, an ISA Certified Arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts, to provide education for homeowners and builders on tree preservation, tree replacement and tree care. Take it away Heath…

Preface

One of the most overlooked assets on a property is often the trees.

Trees not only improve quality of life with shade and beauty, mature trees can affect property value. As Northern Virginia continues to infill and urbanize, trees will face greater amounts of environmental stresses. Larger homes, less permeable surface area, soil compaction and heat island effects can stress both new and mature trees in your landscape.

Your home is comprised of multiple systems such as HVAC, plumbing and electrical. It helps to think of trees in the same manner. Routine maintenance performed by a licensed professional is affordable and extends the life of your trees.

Tree Preservation During Construction

Constructions projects can severely affect the health of trees. Physical stability, water and nutrient collection are vital functions of the root system. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to preserving trees during construction projects:

Do’s

  • Develop a Tree Preservation Plan. Contractors and Consulting Arborists can develop this during the planning phase of your project.
  • Avoid intrusion into the critical root zone. Create a physical barrier with construction fencing to reduce soil compaction and physical damage to the tree by heavy equipment.
  • Have a licensed tree care provider perform any required root pruning.
  • Develop a tree care plan for affected trees. Certified Arborists can help the tree compensate for root loss and stress from construction activities.

Don’ts

  • Do not use heavy equipment to cut roots. Heavy equipment will cause extensive damage and compact the soil.
  • Do not allow construction materials, debris or chemicals to be stored around trees. Tree preservation zones are enticing areas for temporary storage. Soil compaction, chemical runoff and physical damage are all possible.
  • Do not use construction tools to perform pruning. Arborists’ tools are designed to make proper cuts reducing the impact on trees.

Replacing or Planting New Trees After Construction

Planting a tree is a wonderful feeling. A relatively simple activity can turn into a lifetime of enjoyment and an investment for future generations. The best part about planting trees is that nearly everyone is capable of doing it. It generally only requires a few tools that are available at your local hardware store or garden center. A few basic guidelines will help improve our success when replacing removed trees or adding to your landscape.

Do’s

  • Purchase your trees from a respected nursery or garden center. These businesses offer warranties, have higher quality nursery stock and have knowledgeable staff that can help you make the right selection.
  • Select the right tree for the location. Height, spread, shade tolerance and growth rate are all things to consider. A full sun tree will not thrive in an already shady landscape and vice versa.
  • Have your soil tested. The soil’s pH affects the nutrient availability for a tree. The Virginia Tech extension service and certified tree care companies can perform soil tests for a nominal fee. Use this information to select the tree or to build a soil care program with your tree care company.
  • Dig the correct hole. The hole for your tree should be 3 times as wide as the root ball. If possible, rototill an area 5 times the root ball to help root production. The bottom of the hole should remain intact.
  • Have your trees structurally pruned. Some tree species have growth tendencies that can lead to structural failure or root issues. An ISA Certified Arborist can show you how a few well-place structural pruning cuts can help your tree develop its ideal form.

Don’ts

  • Do not plant trees too deep. This is the most common mistake I see on landscapes. Ideally, the transition zone between the trunk and the roots should be slightly above soil grade.
  • Do not mound mulch. Mulch mounds, along with deep planting, can cause the roots to encircle the trunk of the tree forming a tourniquet that strangles the tree.
  • Do not leave the tree in the container. If the tree is in plastic container, remove the tree and loosen the soil and roots before planting. If the tree is in a wire encased burlap bundle, cut away the wire basket and remove the burlap from the sides of the root ball after placing it in the hole.
  • Do not overwater your tree. Infrequent, slow saturations with a soaker hose will help good root development. Frequent shallow watering will develop shallow, unstable roots. Constant soil saturation will lead to root diseases. If the soil at finger depth (4 inches) is dry, it is time to water.

Tree Care Basics

The majority of my clients are established homeowners who are concerned about the health of their trees. Sometimes it is a large, prominent oak or a bright, flowering ornamental tree. Here a few simple Do’s and Don’ts that home owners can follow to help their trees:

Do’s

  • Keep a mulch ring around the tree. This aides in temperature and moisture regulation while adding organic matter to the soil.
  • When watering use a soaker hose for infrequent, heavy saturations. This will ensure adequate soil moisture and help in root development.
  • Routinely look at your trees. The earlier an issue is caught, the better the odds of helping the tree.
  • Consult a professional. Certified arborists can work with you to develop a tree care plan based on your needs and budget.

Don’ts

  • Do not allow mulch to mound up at the base of the tree. Mulch can hold moisture against the trunk that can cause decay, increase stress and invite pests.
  • Avoid heavy application of lime or other lawn products. Lime and other lawn produces can affect the soil, making it unsuitable for trees.
  • Do not park or drive your vehicle over the root zone. This can lead to soil compaction.
  • Avoid damaging the tree with mowers and string trimmers.
  • Avoid employing a non-certified person or company to perform tree care. Improper pruning can lead to tree mortality and expose you to risks.

Even in ideal conditions, pests and diseases can attack trees. Fortunately, treatments exist for many of the common maladies in our area. If you are concerned about a tree, always contact an ISA Certified Arborist for a consultation.

Heath Baumann is an ISA Certified Arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts. If you wish to schedule a consultation with a Bartlett Arborist Representative, please call (703)550-6900.

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Question: My property taxes didn’t change much this year, but the County announced that residential home prices increased 3.9%. Are the County’s tax assessments a good way of determining the market value of my home?

Answer: Tax assessments are not a good way of establishing the market value of your home. In fact, if Arlington homeowners used their tax assessment to determine their asking price, on average they’d be undervaluing their home by 10%!

Also, just because the County saw appreciation of 3-4% this year doesn’t mean that will be applied to all homes. Tax assessments are adjusted on a much more localized level based on neighborhood, number of bedrooms, square footage and other factors specific to your home. I would also advise that just because your tax assessment did not increase, doesn’t mean the market value of your home did not increase (and vice versa).

Market Values Higher Than Assessed Values

The following table compares the average sold price (market value) with the average 2017 tax assessment for all homes sold in 2017. I cleaned up the data a bit by removing Co-op sales (River Place), Ballston’s Senior Living Community, new construction (new tax assessments may take a year to catch-up) and a handful of sales that didn’t have a tax assessment available.

Notable Findings:

  • The average Arlington home has a market value 10% higher than its tax assessment
  • Only 14% of homes sold in 2017 sold for less than their 2017 tax assessment
  • The County struggles the most assessing the value of detached homes in Arlington, likely because of how difficult it is to assess land value with due to the proliferation of tear-downs being bought for land only
  • The most under-assessed zip codes were 22213, 22205 and 22204 with homes selling for 12% or more above the assessed value
  • The most accurately assessed zip code was 22201, with assessments coming in within 7.4% of the average market prices

 

 

Appealing Your Assessment

For the 2017 tax year, Arlingtonians will pay .996% of their assessed value in real estate taxes, up from .991% in 2016. Every year you have an opportunity to appeal your assessment and yes, it has worked, but the burden of proof is on the homeowner, not the County. Arlington provides an informative website on the appeal process.

Quick hits on the appeal process:

  • You should have received your 2017 tax assessment in the mail some time this month
  • Your first appeal with the Dept of Real Estate Assessments must be filed by March 1, 2018
  • Step 1: Call (703)228-3920 for information on how your assessment was determined
  • Step 2: File your appeal online here (First Level)
  • Step 3: An assessor will visit your home and you can provide relevant info to make your case
  • Step 4: If you’re not satisfied with the decision or have not received written notice by April 1, file your second appeal with the Board of Equalization online here (Second Level) by April 15
  • Step 5: If you’re not satisfied with the decision, your final option for appeal is with the Circuit Court, which will likely require you to hire an attorney

If you’re considering appealing your tax assessment, feel free to reach out to me to discuss building a case. I have access to micro and macro market data that can help you determine if your property is over-assessed and can help you create a clear report supporting your appeal.

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Question: I’m planning to do some remodeling this year and wondering what sort of colors and design trends you’re expecting in 2018.

Answer: If you’ve been inside a new home or professional flip the last few years, the preference towards white and grey is clear in today’s market. When using neutral colors like this, there’s a fine line between a clean, modern look and being too sterile so I was excited that in 2017 market leaders like Houzz and Sherwin Williams started pushing for warmer tones to offset the cool greys that have become so prevalent.

 

If you’re remodeling with plans to sell in a few years, you’ll want to put more weight into current buyer trends. So visit some open houses for new construction homes to see what finishes builders are using and balance these with your personal preferences.

If you don’t plan to sell in the near or mid term, focus your decisions on personal preferences and don’t be afraid to go against the grain of the consumer market. There’s a good chance design trends will change anyway by the time you’re ready to sell so don’t compromise your style just because it’s not currently in demand with buyers.

Let’s take a look at what the experts are projecting for design and color trends in 2018:

Color

My favorite primary wall paint colors are this light grey or this taupe (each pictured below) from Sherwin Williams. Depending on the color of your floors, cabinets and counters, I think they offer a clean and calming effect that lends nicely to more aggressive accent colors.

 

Every year paint companies introduce their “color of the year” recommendations and 2018 is definitely a year for the bold. I was not a fan of Pantone’s 2017 selection of Greenery but love their 2018 choice, Ultra Violet (pictured below).

In 2017, Sherwin Williams kept it conservative with Poised Taupe, which I liked a lot and was happy to introduce to clients, but they did a 180 this year and made Oceanside(pictured below) their 2018 color. It makes sense for your beach house, but I don’t see it working well in the DC Metro.

 

Design Trends

Every year Houzz publishes their design trends and it’s always an interesting read. I pulled out some highlights from their 2018 Design Trends below:

  • Matte Black Finishes: We’ve seen the matte finish trend pick-up in appliances over the last year and it’s now carrying over to faucets, lighting and other smaller fixtures. I like the matte finish, especially on large appliances, because you eliminate the fingerprint smudging you get with stainless steel.
  • More Color In Kitchens: You may have heard white kitchens are out, but fear not recent home buyers, white kitchens are still the favorite, the growth is just slowing a bit from the surge we’ve experienced over the last few years. Try to accent your white kitchens with some warmer tones or take a shot at using one of the colors of the year noted above.
  • Concrete Accents: I’ve always enjoyed this look and am curious to see whether it catches on in our market. I’ve yet to see it used beyond an accent piece (e.g. coffee table) around here.
  • Bold-Colored Sofas: Just be careful because you could be one plastic wrap away from recreating Grandma’s house.
  • Defining Kitchens In Open Floor Plans: We’ve seen such an extreme trend towards tearing down all barriers between the kitchen and living spaces that South Park did an episode on it last year! I wouldn’t be surprised to see some movement back towards a more defined kitchen space with things like casual seating or storage being used to delineate spaces.
  • Dedicated Broom Closet: Nothing beats functional design! Just like putting a sliding spice rack into a narrow space, the idea is to take a few inches next to the refrigerator or pantry to install a tall, narrow sliding closet where you can hang a broom or mop to keep it out of your coat closet or pantry.

Are there any design trends you wish would return to popularity? Which current trends or colors would you like done away with?

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Question: How did the Arlington real estate market do in 2017?

Answer: In July I wrote that the Arlington market was picking up momentum and after two years of light growth in Arlington, we saw our first year of growth over 2% since 2014 (3.1%). Over 3,100 homes were sold in 2017 compared to approximately 2,900 in 2016 and total sales volume was nearly $2.1B compared to last year’s total of just under $1.9B.

In addition to solid price growth, other momentum indicators improved (if you’re a homeowner/seller) with homes selling nearly one week faster and for ½ percent closer to the original asking price than last year. Price growth and demand were driven almost entirely by South Arlington with 22202, 22204 and 22206 seeing some of the greatest improvement.

Top Sales

  • Once again, the most expensive sale in Arlington was a Rosslyn condo at Waterview with 3,800+ sq. ft. and unobstructed views of the Potomac. It sold for $3,258,000 and took just over a year to sell.
  • The most expensive single family home sold in Arlington was once again in Country Club Hills with nearly one acre for $2,950,000
  • The most expensive townhouse sold in Arlington was also located in Country Club Hills with over 8,000 sq. ft. located on Washington Golf & Country Club and sold for $2,825,000
  • The least expensive home sold in Arlington, not at auction, is a studio condo in The Carlton off Four Mile Run for $115,000

Price Growth: The average price of homes in Arlington has increased every year since 2010, but was slow the last two years. The 22201 and 22203 zip codes continued a steady decline, while 22205 surged forward with an incredible 6.9% YoY increase. Overall, Arlington continues to deliver as promised to most homeowners and investors… steady and stable growth.

 

Demand Growth: Outside of price growth, my two favorite indicators of demand are days on market (time from listing to ratified contract) and the ratio of sold price to original asking price (100% = buyer paid full ask). Both indicators saw their biggest improvement since 2013 with homes selling faster and for closer to their asking price in seven of nine zip codes. While changes weren’t extreme, they’re enough to say the Arlington market has officially picked up steam heading into 2018.

 

New Construction: 2017 was big year for new construction. We saw the release of two large condo projects – Trafalgar Flats and Key & Nash – as well as strong sales for the final phase of the luxury condos at Gaslight Square in Rosslyn. 2017 also brought the start and close-out of the highly successful Carver Place townhouse project off Columbia Pike by Craftmark, as well as the introduction of a luxury townhouse project, 1100 Block, a few blocks north of the Ballston metro.

Single family new home construction continues to impress with 130 new homes sold in 2017 for an average sale price of a whopping $1,540,000. Note that the below statistics do not include all sales of new homes, just those entered into MRIS (system of record), which is likely about 80% of total new single-family home sales.

 

Looking Ahead To 2018+: Arlington residential real estate growth will continue to hinge on our office vacancy rates. With Nestle committing to Rosslyn in 2017 and arriving in 2018, the door is open to attracting big business not directly associated with the Federal Government. There’s no doubt that their decision will generate interest from other companies who otherwise would not have considered Arlington. If we make it to the second round of Amazon’s HQ2, we should have an exciting decade ahead.

Beyond vacancy rates, growth will depend on addressing crowded schools, balancing infrastructure investment across the entire county, business improvement along Columbia Pike and Lee Highway and ensuring that the natural beauty of our neighborhoods (trees and green space) isn’t destroyed by irresponsible development. With regard to the impact the new tax plan will have, expect a full column on this in the coming weeks.

I’ll close with a recent quote by Paul T. McDermott, President and CEO of Washington REIT, who recently sold their position in a major DC building to move assets into Arlington.

“We are strategically allocating capital out of 2445 M Street and into Arlington Tower to improve our long-term growth prospects in a resurging Rosslyn…Our research indicates that Rosslyn is at an inflection point with rising rents and declining vacancy as it transitions from a 9 to 5 Federal Government and contractor hub into a 24-hour urban destination with the demographics, amenities and infrastructure to attract top-tier corporations.”

If you’re considering buying, selling, or investing within the Arlington market in 2018, I’d be happy to schedule some time to meet. You can reach me any time by email at Eli@EliResidential.com or phone at (703) 539-2529.

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I hope everybody had a great Christmas holiday and is enjoying some time off with family and friends this week! Instead of answering a specific question today, I’d like to offer something of a PSA to anybody buying a home right now or planning to in the near future.

There is a lot of wire fraud going on right now brought about by scammers who request wires using email addresses that look like they come from your agent, title company or lender. They hack the email servers of one of the parties to the transaction, identify where a buyer is in the settlement process, and send a technically accurate email with wiring instructions for an Earnest Money Deposit or down payment.

Oftentimes they use a Gmail address, but mask the name so that it says the name of somebody the home buyer recognizes, but in more advanced scams, they use a domain that closely resembles a real one. For example, they may use Eli@ElliResidential.com (two “L” in Eli) instead of Eli@EliResidential.com. It seems like most of the people carrying out the scams are familiar with the real estate settlement process because they’re able to communicate with a level of expertise that doesn’t raise any red flags.

Once you wire funds, the money is gone, so if you send a wire to a fraudulent account there’s no getting it back. Your first choice should be to use physical checks for deposits and final payments, but if you have to send a wire, but sure to contact your agent to make sure that the timing of the request is correct and call the receiving party at a known number (e.g. from their website) to confirm the accuracy of the wiring instructions.

Please share this notice with anybody you know in the home buying process. I’ve heard stories of too many people losing large amounts of money this year from these scams and hope this post helps avoid further loss. Until next year friends!

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Question: Are there certain considerations to be aware of when re-listing your home in the spring/summer market if you listed and then pulled it during the fall/winter market? Are there things that you would need to fix up in a slow winter market that you could let slide in a hotter market?

Answer: You’ve been on the market for months, had a few interested buyers, but nothing has stuck. Now you’re in the midst of the holidays during the coldest and darkest days of the year so you’re asking yourself what every seller is asking… should you pull your listing and wait for the market to heat back up in the spring?

There are three scenarios that I’ll consider advising sellers to take their home off the market during the winter:

  1. You are living in the home, are under no pressure to sell, have been on the market for more than 60 days without an acceptable offer and have exhausted conversations with any buyers who have shown interest.
  2. You have received feedback from agents and potential buyers that the home needs work and you will take time over the winter to make the necessary improvements, providing that the cost of those improvements will net you better terms than an immediate price reduction and avoiding additional carry cost.
  3. A key selling point of your home is landscaping and/or a view that is difficult to recognize during the winter.

Pros & Cons Of Re-Listing

  • Pro: More Buyers… The number of homes that go under contract drops substantially from November-January and picks up quickly in February. On average, the number of new purchase contracts more than doubles by March compared to December and January.

 

  • Pro: Faster Sales… The increase is buyer activity (demand) results in homes selling a lot faster in the spring/summer

 

  • Con: Not Necessarily Higher Prices… The increased buyer activity impacts days on market a lot more than it does pricing. The amount somebody is willing to pay or qualified to pay for a home often does not change based on the season, rather larger economic factors.

 

 

  • Con: If you decide to re-list in the spring, you are probably planning to do so at a higher price. Be careful with this decision because agents and buyers have easy access to previous asking prices and if you have not made any substantial capital investments to your home to justify the increase, most buyers will base their negotiations on your previous asking price, not the new/higher one.
  • Pro: If you’re off-market for three months or more, your days on market count officially resets to zero when you re-list. This is a system rule for MRIS/BRIGHT (the database of record for agents), although most buyers use sites that show the full listing history and can easily see that something was withdrawn and re-listed.

The Spring Isn’t Easier

Don’t ease up on the marketing of your home in the spring just because there are more active buyers than the winter. You will be competing against 2-3 times more homes for sale so you could make a case that you need to do even more to stand out in the spring, not less. However, if you’re on a budget, you may want to allocate your repair, improvement and staging funds differently based on the season such as the warmth of the family room in the winter vs outdoor dining in the spring.

Happy holidays everybody!

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Question: Is it true that two-bedroom condos are a better investment than one-bedroom condos?

Answer: If you’re asking this question strictly as an investor, the answer is purely based on the numbers. If you’re buying for yourself, you’ll want to consider appreciation as well as what makes the most sense for your lifestyle. For example, do not spend an extra $150,000 because a two-bedroom will appreciate faster, if you’ll end up using the second room for storage and an occasional guest.

Two-Bedroom Condos Appreciate More than One-Bedrooms Condos

Below is a graph showing appreciation of one and two bedroom condos in Arlington since 2010. To maintain consistency, the data set uses condos built from 2000-2008 limited to one bedroom units with 600-800 sq. ft. and two-bedroom units with 900-1,400 sq. ft.

 

The average one-bedroom sold for $364,000 in 2010 and is selling for $409,000 in 2017 while the average two-bedroom sold for $529,000 in 2010 and is selling for $638,000 today. If you bought the average one-bedroom in January 2010 with 20% down, you’d have approximately $172,000 in equity today. If you bought the average two-bedroom in January 2010 with 20% down, you’d have approximately $294,000 in equity today by putting an extra ~$33,000 down in 2010.

If You’re An Investor

If you’re an investor, you’re looking at rental income, in addition to appreciation. As I wrote this spring, rental rates have been pretty flat in Arlington, especially along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, due to a lot of new rental buildings being built the last 5-10 years.

 

Based on the average 2010 purchase prices, rental income and a 25% down payment (most common % down for an investor), the average investor along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor has no cash flow from their investment. The table below does not include maintenance or property management fees and assumes average condo fees, taxes and insurance.

 

So Why Invest?

Considering that the above monthly cash flow summary does not include maintenance costs, property management fees or vacancy periods where is the value in owning an investment property?

  • Equity Build-Up: For a one-bedroom, your tenants would have contributed an average of $460/mon over the last 8 years ($44,000) to your equity balance and for a two-bedroom, your tenants contributed an average of $680/mon over the last 8 years ($65,000)
  • Tax Benefits: Another major benefit of investing are the tax benefits. Being able to deduct expenses like condo fees, tax payments and repairs. As well as depreciate the value of the condo and provide a huge annual financial benefit to off-set the weak monthly cash flow. A one-bedroom investor may be able to deduct about $20,000 per year and a two-bedroom investor about $30,000. Of course, you’ll want to discuss any deductions with your tax professional first.

 

If you’ve invested in property in other areas of the country, you may be shocked by how little monthly cash flow a condo along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor produces. A major reason for the lower ROI is the lower risk that comes with investing in Arlington condos. Your downside risk during an economic dip is much lower and the rental market is consistently strong with a large pool of well-qualified renters. It follows the basic economic tenets of risk and return.

If you’re considering buying an investment property, feel free to send me an email at Eli@EliResidential.com to set-up a meeting to go through your investment goals and options.

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Question: Can you provide insight into how much a tear-down home costs in Arlington and how lot size effects sale price of a single-family home?

Answer: Breaking News… land is very hard to come by in Arlington. Only 11 homes sold in the last ten years had one or more acres, and it’s going to cost you over $1M to buy one. The average lot size of a single-family home in Arlington is about 8,400 sq. ft. or .19 acres with about 70% of homes on 6,000-10,000 sq. ft. lots.

Here’s a look at the impact of lot size on sold prices of single family homes over the last three years broken out by zip code:

Cost Of Arlington Homes By Lot Size

 

The data above takes homes of all sizes and condition into account so it doesn’t do a great job of isolating the actual market price of the land or how much people pay for tear-down lots in Arlington.

To summarize that data, I pulled out the cheapest 15% of sales in each zip code over the last three years. I felt that the cheapest 15% of sales in each zip code were probably good bets for homes being bought for the land/location with the intention of tear-down or major renovations. Note: 22209 didn’t have enough sales to include in this table.

Cost Of Land In Arlington

 

If you’re thinking of buying a tear-down and building new, a good way to estimate how much your home will cost is to add the following:

  • Land acquisition (see above table for estimated land cost by zip code)
  • $75,000-$100,000 for demolition, preparing the lot for construction, and permits
  • $400,000-$800,000 on construction
  • Carrying costs of the loan and taxes during construction of the new home

Earlier this year I wrote about the variance in County tax assessments and market data. How do the market prices for land compare to the County’s tax assessments, which are broken out by land assessments and improvement assessments (assessed value of the home)? Let’s take a look at how the County has assessed land values on homes sold over the last three years and compare that to the market assessment of land values above.

The County Values Land Less Than The Market

 

Based on this data, the County values land at about 72% of the market value for land on the open market.

Once you’ve had some time to digest the cost of land in Arlington, let me know if you’d like to meet to discuss the process of buying a tear-down lot and building your own home! Email me at Eli@EliResidential.com to schedule an appointment.

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Question: Are there good loan options available if I don’t have 20% or more to put down?

Answer: There are an abundance of loan products on the market that cater to different professions, down payments and financial circumstances that you should be aware of. “Rate shopping” is easy and moderately effective, but “product shopping” can be much more valuable and something an informed Agent can assist you with. Here are some of my favorite loan programs and the lenders I work with who provide them:

Doctors: Doctor Loan Program from SunTrust: CJ Kemp (cj.kemp@suntrust.com, (301) 651-4189)

The Doctor Loan Program is a residential mortgage loan specifically created for licensed medical professionals to make obtaining mortgage financing easier and more hassle-free. It recognizes the financial toll of medical school and strong, stable future income post-graduation. The rates on these loans are also fantastic.

Eligible Doctors include:

  • Licensed residents/interns/fellows in MD and DO programs
  • Medical doctors
  • Doctors of osteopathy
  • Doctors of dental medicine/surgeons/orthodontics/general dentists (DMD/DDS)
  • Psychiatrist licensed as a medical doctor

Available financing terms include fixed and adjustable rate mortgages for purchases and rate/term & cash out refinances.

  • 0% down up to $750,000 loan amount
  • 5% down up to a $1M loan amount
  • 10% down up to a $1.5M loan amount
  • No mortgage insurance required

Homeowners Buying And Selling: Second Trust/HELOC Program from First Home Mortgage: Jake Ryon (jryon@firsthome.com, (202) 448-0873)

This is a great program for current homeowners who will be buying and selling simultaneously. It allows you to use the future proceeds from your home sale to make a large down payment on your new home, before even putting your current home on the market.

They partner with local banks and credit unions to provide you with a second trust that allows you to put as little 5% down up to nearly a $1,000,000 loan amount. The second trust finances the remaining amount of your down payment (e.g. 15% if you put down 5%).

The HELOC/second trust payment is interest-only, can be paid off any time and can be used like a bridge loan to allow you to purchase a new home without a home-sale contingency and to sell your existing home unrestricted.

Low Down Payment: Mortgage Insurance Payment Eliminator from McLean Mortgage: Troy Toureau (ttoureau@mcleanmortgage.com, (301) 440-4261)

This program enables you to put as little as 3% to 5% down using conventional financing (not FHA) and eliminate the monthly mortgage insurance payment by making a one-time more affordable payment.  This provides multiple benefits including a potential increase in buying power by reducing the Debt-to-Income ratio (lower monthly payment), allowing you to negotiate for the seller to make this payment by rolling it into closing costs, and ensuring that the entire payment is tax deductible (confirm with your tax advisor).

Large Loan Amounts: Non-Confirming Jumbo Loan Program from Wells Fargo: Email me for contact info at Eli@EliResidential.com

It’s not just the Doctors who can find low down payment options without mortgage insurance for high-value (jumbo) loans. Wells Fargo’s “Professionals” Program lets you put 10.01% down on loans from $424,100 up to $1,000,000 without any mortgage insurance and the rates are incredible. They have options for fixed and adjustable mortgages as well. A high credit score and strong income are key factors for qualifying. It’s referred to as the “Professionals” Program because it’s popular amongst high earning, non-medical professionals like lawyers and consultants.

Make The Right Choice

Choosing the right lender is a combination of selecting the program that’s right for you, getting the best market rates, and working with somebody who provides a high level of service. Earlier this year I wrote an article with additional tips for selecting and comparing lenders. If you have any questions about the programs I summarized above, other lending programs like construction and rehab loans, or would like an introduction to one of my preferred lenders please reach out to me at Eli@EliResidential.com.

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