In the Mortgage lending world, “Everyone is equally scrutinized regardless of age, wealth or background” says Jody Kern, a Private Mortgage Banker at Wells Fargo in Minneapolis.* Kern shared some insights from her part of the process, advising buyers looking for loans with low-interest rates to start preparing now, before you begin the home buying process.
Lately sellers are receiving multiple offers, forcing buyers to make offers quickly. Those who are prepared in advance are not intimidated by the speed which this market requires aggressive action. Also buyers may have to escalate their offers, sometimes well above the list price. According to Urban Turf, neighborhoods like Shaw, Adam’s Morgan, Logan Circle, and parts of Capitol Hill and U street Corridor are now extremely competitive markets. Sellers will favor the ideal buyer who can meet or exceed their price with the best financing (ideal is all cash).
Just as an agent and client must cooperate as partners, so must the client and the loan officer. Kern says all too often buyers don’t “realize that they have to participate as partners.” As there is so much behind the scenes fact checking and asset review that goes into underwriting a loan.
It’s hard to be organized in every aspect of life, but it pays to be meticulous with your personal finances. Having pay stubs, tax records, bank statements is the first step, but it’s even better have a way to access them ready to go, before you start meeting with loan officers. Organization almost always expedites your home buying process; and you can read my blog on Green Living when you want to really be super organized.
Finally, your credit score is a vital asset. Credit scores need time and good practice to get a number over 750 (850 is the top score). Apply for a credit card, use it sparingly, and pay your monthly rent and your utilities all on time (and in full) to build a good score. Kern says, “the bottom line for lenders is that every dollar a client has must be accounted for.” The easier it is for her to do that due diligence, the quicker and cheaper your loan will be.
* Jody Kern is one of my go-to bankers and has some wonderful products my clients have used. (call me for a list).
Green industries are no longer defined by the content of their work. Finance, technology, fashion, and even real estate can be “green jobs” to those who have a concern for the planet and a way to reduce their carbon footprint. The Internet has vastly reduced the amount of driving a realtor must do. But there still is a mountain of paper. Historically real estate offices are filled with papers, brochures and filing cabinets. This past January I read a few blogs on having a paperless life. I have been plagued all of my life as being a Piler not a filer. The idea of going paperless, yet having access to everything I need, was both scary and thrilling. David Sparks wrote a book called Paperless that jump-started my paperless journey. He said you needed the equipment, a process, and a way to access information once it was scanned.
Cameras, scanners, smart phones, fax machines, and laptops make living a paperless life not only attainable, but actually enjoyable. One of the first things I did was upgrade my technology. The tools I chose to make my life paperless took a bit of research and a lot of hands-on learning, but it’s been well worth the investment. I have a Canon camera, a Fujitsu scanner, a Doxie portable scanner, an iPad, an iPhone, and my mac. I also investigated various apps and programs to help me organize electronic documents, making the move from paper to digital as seamless as possible. Some of my favorites are Hazel, SnapManager, Evernote, Neat, and Alfred. When using these programs, make sure you don’t leave anything floating in cyberspace, but that you name and file documents as you would for papers. The idea is to use these apps as you scan documents, naming each paper in a systematic method so that you can search using a date or a few keywords, and locate anything you need.
My move to a paperless life has been a process with challenges and frustrations. But I’m getting the hang of it now, and with a few small changes in daily habits, I am transitioning to a sleeker, more efficient and lighter professional life.
Physical fitness has become a top priority in my life. Until last year, I was among millions of people who all too often let the day go by without getting in some cardio, yoga, or strength training. A year ago I took a trip to Rancho La Puerta that inspired me to change my exercise routine. They say it takes 21-30 days for humans to develop a new habit; every morning we hiked at dawn, and I found it so refreshing and invigorating that I continued the routine of early morning workouts when I returned home. Overtime I managed to make early morning exercise my new normal.
A surprise outcome was that I earned more money in 2012 in fewer hours. My mental clarity, my energy, my attitude, and my patience have all improved over the past year. 2012 was my most successful year, and I attribute that to the benefits of exercise.
I carve out 9-12 hours a week for fitness. At first, I thought this was disproportionate to the amount I work, and I feared it would take away from other areas of my life. However, I noticed I had more energy and subsequently I was more productive and efficient during my workday. Clearing of the mind allows for better decisions to be made quickly. In real estate, deals happen beyond the 9-5 workday, and the time spent exercising enables me to approach business with focus and intensity. I better utilize the 24 hours in a day and I’m far happier for it.
Home inspections are one of the few major contingencies that can make or break the purchase of a new home. Whether you are a first time home buyer or a seasoned homeowner, the inspection is something to take seriously. When the inventory is low, sometimes buyers leave out home inspections for a more attractive offer. However, doing a pre-inspection is a smart way to do both.
Houses have so many systems and utilities that require maintenance, and the last thing a buyer wants is for something to need immediate replacement. Focus on all the major systems, checking that each is in good condition and operating correctly. Noteworthy and expensive items on your list should be the heating and cooling system, the roof, the electrical and plumbing, and, if you are buying a condo, the structure and systems of the building.
Another important issue is water intrusion. Water damage creates problems from paint peeling to holes and cracks, and will be your biggest enemy. Make sure there are no obvious signs of damage, and check for any previous issues to assure problems were fixed.
The most important reasons for having a home inspection? Awareness and education. Buying a home comes with a lot of responsibility, especially if you are a first-time home buyer. A house is like a living, breathing organism, and it needs some TLC just like your car and pets. Maintenance and understanding go a long way preserving your assets.
The Washington Post”s writer Amanda Abrams called me on a story she was writing about my neighborhood of Kent, which is an historic enclave in Northwest Washington DC. She included some of my comments and research on property sales.
She wrote” These days, the farmhouses are all gone, but the area retains an unconventional atmosphere that’s heavily influenced by its architectural variety and the presence of the wooded Battery Kemble Park, which is a haven for sledders in the winter.” She did not include that the highest price home currently on the market is across the street from my mid century modern home at $19,500,000 for six acres. (see above)
“It’s a very highly desired family neighborhood,” says Connie Carter, a real estate agent with Washington Fine Properties and a longtime resident.
You can follow the whole story here “Kent, a historic enclave in Northwest Washington DC,
Amanda Abrams – Kent has two personalities — 1930s and ’40s center-hall Colonials, above, on the west side, and in some cases, modern houses to the east.
Here are some facts about Kent, Washington DC.
ZIP CODE: 20016
BOUNDARIES: Loughboro Road to the north, Battery Kemble Park to the east and MacArthur Boulevard to the west.
HOME SALES: According to Connie Carter, a real estate agent with Washington Fine Properties, 31 homes have sold in Kent over the past year at an average sales price of $1.7 million. Eleven homes are currently on the market or under contract.
SCHOOLS: Key Elementary, Hardy Middle and Wilson High.
TRANSIT: The closest Metro station is Tenleytown on the Red Line, more than a mile away. Buses serving MacArthur Boulevard run to Georgetown and Dupont Circle.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Battery Kemble Park, MacArthur Boulevard shops, C&O Canal, Potomac River, Sibley Memorial Hospital, Little Falls Park, American University.
WITHIN 15 MINUTES BY CAR: Georgetown University, Tenleytown, Cleveland Park, Spring Valley Shopping Center, Friendship Heights, Glen Echo Park, Clarendon.
If you’re planning to buy or sell your home in Washington DC don’t hesitate to give me a call.