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It’s a game changer on August 1. Be prepared. New laws affect home buying and selling.


It’s a game changer in August 1. Be prepared. New laws affect home buying and selling. One of the biggest changes in the real estate industry in a long time is coming in less than a month. This will be challenging and there will be hiccups. The landscape of home buying and selling is changing dramatically. This has been very little reported yet.

For home loans originated on or after August 1, 2015, the home purchase for the buyer and the sale for the seller will be affected – causing a potential doubling in time from the point of going under contract to sitting down at the settlement table.

happy house

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), enacted in 2010, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB issued its TILA-RESPA Rule in November 2013. This becomes effective August 1, 2015. The Integrated Mortgage Disclosures under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (Regulation X) and the Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z) are in put into place at that time.

There are strictly defined timeframes for disclosure of information to the buyer. This change is meant to make the language of the terms of the loan more clear to the consumer. Secondly, the forms provide more information than in the past. This is designed to help buyers determine that they can actually afford a given loan.

There are two new forms Dodd-Frank is requiring:

1. The Loan Estimate. It includes material/information that has already been available on the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and the initial Truth-in-Lending disclosure. The Loan Estimate form was designed to provide information to consumers to help them understand the features, costs and risks of signing for the credit they are applying for. Important to note is that for all loan applications filed after August 1, 2015, the Loan Estimate must be provided no later than the third business day after the buyer submits the loan application to the lender.

2.The Closing Disclosure, which combines the HUD-1 (settlement statement) and final Truth-in-Lending disclosure. This form must be provided to consumers at least three business days before closing.

Here’s what Buyers and Sellers will want to know – what this means for you, bottom line.

1. Expect 45-60 days from contract ratification to settlement. In the DC area, 30 day settlements have been the most common. Bottom line: closings will be 50% longer to twice as long as in the past, in general. Big difference in planning.
2. There is the strong likelihood of lender and seller delays, especially at first as the bugs are worked out in the new process.
3. Back to back and coinciding settlements may very well be problematic, and not advisable.
4. There will not be any more last minute changes to the settlement statement. Plan ahead to get inspections done early, repairs done well in advance of closing and do the final walk-thru, instead of 1 day or same day before closing as is most normal in our area, at least seven days before. You will want to know that the buyer and seller are in agreement as to the condition that the home conveys in.

1. To get the best possible negotiating advantage as a buyer, pre-approved for a loan prior to August 1, 2015. Buyers who did not get approved prior to August 1, and are competing for homes in our low-inventory market, will have to show a good hand against your faster closing date!
As a seller, you will have to be prepared to weigh the advantages of a quicker sale against other strong terms if you are comparing contracts in a multiple contract situation. This is trickier than weighing more apples to apples currently.
Being ready and ahead of the crowd of fall shoppers who are not approved will win buyers the homes they want in a shorter time – and even possibly at a better price, if negotiating is done expertly.
And for sellers, having input on the complex process from a real estate consultant will be a strong advantage, so that items and eccentricities are not missed that could cost the seller time and money.
2. Buyer and sellers need to plan more time to make the whole process happen, and will need to have more patience as the bugs are sorted out of the system. An agent to represent you who is knowledgeable in the changes and is patient will be a huge asset to get you what you want in your purchase or sale.

I hope this is helpful. Please contact me with questions or for a free buying or selling consultation. I can refer you to a great lender also.


What to do when a buyer voids a contract?

What to do when a buyer voids a contract?


It’s not an exciting day when the buyer changes his or her mind. It’s definitely part of the risk of selling a home and getting under contract that a buyer may decide for any reason to want out of a contract. As a seller working with a skilled listing agent, one can do a lot prior to going on the market, while accepting contracts and during the contract to close phase to help avoid a buyer backing out of a contract.

Save money. Have a strategy.

Save money. Have a strategy.

Even so, sometimes buyers do. This could be for a reason they find in a home inspection, for an unexpected health or family reason, loss of a job or any number of reasons. They might state their reason and ask out or they might void the contract during the home contingency phase, for example (As a side note, this is one reason to have a strategy to eliminate contingencies being in the contract in the first place. Like doing your own pre-listing inspection and making corrections, and then advising the buyer that this has been done.).

When the buyer wants out, and can do so contracturally, or you as a seller simply agree to let them out of the contract, what then?
Some options:
1) Put your home back on the market immediately with no changes whatsoever to the home or listing information available to the agents and the public.
2) Put your home back on the market after strategizing, having learned from one buyer / one part of a possible sale, making adjustments to the information.
3) Put back on the market after strategizing, having learned from one buyer / one part of a possible sale, making adjustments to the home itself and the information.

My experience is the 3rd option is usually the best approach.

First, without exception, it is always important to assess where the market has changed since the home went on the market and since the contract was ratified. Markets are always moving in one direction or the other, and can be very local (I refer to it as hyper-local.), very specific to the neighborhood, even. Take a strong look at “What is the market of the moment?” In order to be in sync, timely, with decision makings in formulating a strategy.

Selling Your Home Without Having It Returned to You

Selling Your Home Without Having It Returned to You

Then, if due to a home inspection, what was the reason for the back out? Did the buyers say they were anxious or unhappy about any items on it? If so, it would it behoove you as a seller to listen to what the buyers found and said about it, make corrections if it makes sense, and note any big ticket items as “replaced, new or improved” to buyers?

Another reason the buyer might back out is for a more desirable home down the street that has come on the market since the buyer went under contract with you. If so, would it be a great idea to take a very strong look at that home and how it compares to yours? What about it is more likable to buyers – price, condition, exact location? You may want to or need to adjust your pricing strategy if that home or any others help you to see the market of the moment in a clearer sense.

I hope this was helpful. With a great strategy going into selling a home – choosing an experienced, skilled listing agent, completely preparing your home for sale, having a smart pricing strategy, and creatively and strongly marketing your property, you will be a long way to a hedge against a buyer wanting to void a contract. An once of prevention…. “an investment of $100 could save you $1,000.”


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Selling Your Arlington Home in Spring 2015 – Statistics

Selling Your Arlington Home in Spring 2015 – Statistics

Hi! Arlington homeowners are asking me: “What is the chance of selling my home this Spring?”

I will share here Arlington’s current inventory of homes and you will quickly see why it is a Seller’s Market.

Total of all homes, any type (detached, condo, etc.) at all prices: 462
(The estimated 2014 population of Arlington County, VA, by the US Census Bureau was 224,906)

Average price of all: $734,397

Seller's Market

Seller’s Market

Number of homes available by price bracket / range
$1,000 – 299,000 106
300,000 – 399,000 61
400,000 – 499,000 44
500,000 – 599,000 31
600,000 – 699,000 37
700,000 – 799,000 27
800,000 – 899,000 20
900,000 – 999,000 14
1,000,000 – 1,099,000 4
1,100,000 – 1,199,000 10
1,200,000 – 1,299,000 9
1,300,000 – 1,399,000 9
1,400,000 – 1,499,000 14
1,500,000 – 3,750,000 58
(If you would like a further breakout of the last bracket / range, please comment on the post and ask. Thanks.)
Source: MRIS, March 9, 2015

With this very small number of homes on the market, sellers have much more ability to ask for a price they want (it still needs to be reasonable, as always) and get it, and with the best terms possible. Having the stronger market position as compared to buyers gives home seller’s the better negotiating position. More strength.

If you would like more information or a free market valuation of your home, please contact us. We can do it within 24 hours. Have a great day!


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The 4 Keys to Selling Your Home Fast in Arlington Va, and Elsewhere

The 4 Keys to Selling Your Home Fast in Arlington Va, and Elsewhere

Hi! I hope you are staying safe on the ice in the DC area today.

The 4 Keys to Selling Your Home Fast

The 4 Keys to Selling Your Home Fast

What are your guesses of the 4 most important items to focus on to sell your home fast?
Here are my top 4.
1. Price it right. Use a pricing strategy; don’t simply pick a price you would ultimately like for it and put it on the house as a price sticker, like a product in the supermarket. Real estate is much more complex than that and your home sale is very important! A pricing strategy positions your home in the current market to get the best price.

Immediately before you go on the market, look at recent sales, home under contract and any new listings that just came on. Additionally, if your agent is very connected to the market where your home is located, he or she might know of other properties coming on the market soon that are relevant to consider in your pricing.

Remember, it’s a pricing strategy that one needs to strategically put into place to get the highest offer.

Our recent sale. 3 contracts, sold in 3 days for $40K over asking price.

Our recent sale. 3 contracts, sold in 3 days for almost $40K over asking price.

2. Show it right. Have an incredible stager and an agent that knows the value of staging and how to best present a home. Does your agent have a great sense of style, especially as it pertains to the local home scene? Having worked in the design and architecture field for many years before opening my real estate business, I am constantly considering how homes are presented. I see many approaches to presentation here. Just like in any profession, each agent is different, in this case, in their skills and also how they choose to have their clients’ homes presented for sale.

3. Show it easily and often. Make your home as accessible as possible for buyers to see – this holds true both virtually and in-person. Using a great photographer and posting online as many photos as the MLS allows (currently, 30), gives the on-line shopper (which is now almost 90% of buyers, before they go to look in person) the drive to want to see the home in person. Additionally, I recommend having a floorplan online. I have floorplans drawn for all of my listings. Additionally, the system I use allows buyers to see where a photo was taken at the particular place in the room and also to virtually place furniture in the room! Yes, this adds to the marketing cost and takes more effort. It is well worth the extra work and expense.

4. Choose a great, successful Realtor. Like any profession, skills and talents vary greatly. Real estate is a complex business. For instance, in a recent study, one item that was rated less highly in terms of what the public is looking for in an agent is negotiating skills. Little perceived, it must be, how important that is to many, many steps in marketing and selling a home, and in working to buy a home for the best price and terms, especially in such a competitive market at Arlington, and DC, in general. One recommendation – ask your agent how they will defend your price if you are selling, (and if buying, ask them what is the highest number of contracts that they have negotiated against and won a purchase on for their clients).

I hope you found this helpful! Questions? Comments?


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The 5 Top Upgrades to Sell Your Home

Hi! I hope you are keeping warm in our arctic chill and bracing yourself for our snow tonight. A shout out to my two families, clients, who are moving into rentals right now. Be careful and stay warm.

Westover's Captivating Colonial The 5 Top Upgrades to Sell Your Home

So, you are thinking of selling your home and are wondering what the top items are to do to get it looking best and to get it SOLD. Here is my list, culled in my work of over a decade in Arlington.

1. De-Clutter and De-Personalize. We all have items that we need to take “out of the picture” so that prospective buyers can see the bones of the home and think about how they would live there. Too much and too personal = distraction to buyers = not as likely to make an offer on your home.

2. Paint. Inside and Out. Fresh sells – enough said!

3. Stage your home. Have it showing so that it doesn’t look like you live there – instead, so that it looks like the prospective buyers who are looking at it COULD live there!

4. Kitchens sell the house. Do some minor upgrades if you have not done them in 5-10 years. Such as new nobs on the cabinets, or painting or using wood polish on them. New counters, perhaps?!

5. Have your home’s front entrance be warm and inviting. Paint the door – red or black – two top choices. Put a coordinating wreath on the door. A flower pot, if you have an outside entrance (not as in many condos), with sprightly flowers in it, to one side of the door, is cheery. Something to look at for the buyer while their agent opens the door.

I hope this is helpful! Please call on me for more items or post any of yours here! Stay warm!


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