Category Archives: Tips for Home Buyers

Home Buying 101

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Home Buying 101

Home Buying 101

Basic guidelines for the first time home buyer and the home buying process, simplified- Home Buying 101.

by Tracy Tkac 
Making an offer to purchase a house can be intimidating and scary, it’s a big commitment that will require a chunk of your financial resources. It’s also exciting and wonderful! You will be building equity and getting tax breaks for mortgage payments, but importantly , you will have a place of your own to do with what you wish.  Most of all, your home will be the place where you will make memories and entertain friends and family. You will make your house into your lovely home. Below are the basic guidelines and the home buying process simplified or Home Buying 101.

 Making an offer

Even though it’s early in the buying process, you still must sign a legally binding contract. With your signature, you’re committing to moving ahead with the seller. Keep in mind you can add contingencies to many real estate contracts. For example, most real estate buying offers will be contingent on a property inspection, radon inspection, loan approval, appraisal and sometimes other matters. Such contingencies enable buyers to opt out of the contract if unexpected problems or concerns pop up.

 Disclosures

In most states, sellers are legally required to provide buyers with disclosure documents including any know defects, lead based paint information, real tax bills from the current year and the estimated property tax bill for the next year. In addition, sellers must disclose any known issues that might affect the property’s value or habitability. Usually, in a transfer disclosure statement, sellers must answer a series of “yes” or “no” questions about the property, and provide the neighborhood homeowners association/ or condo information. If there have been leaky windows,  work done without permits or plans for a major nearby development, the seller must disclose them. You will have the opportunity to view the areas master plan and the will be provided with a list of nearby airports. The disclosures will need to be signed by the purchaser and will become part of the offer to purchase and then after all terms are agreed to, they will be part of the contract.

The appraisal

Most buyers put a certain amount of money down toward the purchase price. The balance will come in the form of a bank loan (usually). But a bank isn’t going to hand over that money without due diligence. An appraisal is the financial institution’s way of making sure the contract price is the right price. So the lender sends out a third-party appraiser, which the buyer pays for, to confirm that the contract price is in line with the neighborhood’s comparable sales. If it’s not, the bank can deny the loan or change the terms.If a property does not appraise, the contract price can be renegotiated or contract voided.

Inspections

As part of the real estate contract, you have the right to a property inspection One of the most common, is a “specific” property inspection, in which the inspector checks the home from the foundation to the roof and investigates all major systems and components. As the buyer, you should follow along with the inspector to learn more about the property. For example, you’ll want to know about the components (such as the water heater) and have a plan in place for maintenance.

After the property inspection, the inspector may suggest having a specialist come out. This could be a roofer, electrician, HVAC specialist or even an engineer. Listen to the inspector and have any recommended follow-up inspections. Remember: This is your one chance to approve the property from top to bottom. If issues arise, you may be able to negotiate repair or a buyer credit.  If something major arises and it’s not what you signed up for, you can void the contract via your inspection contingency.

Loan approval or commitment

In addition to making certain the property appraises at no less than the contract price, the bank will want to fully approve your credit, debt and income history. The bank will also want to approve the property’s preliminary title report to make sure there are no liens recorded against the property that might affect its value. The bank can take up to 45 days to complete its review, which should result in a loan commitment or full loan approval. Once that’s completed to the bank’s satisfaction, you’re guaranteed a loan, and you’re one step closer to closing. How much money do you need?

Final walk-through

Before closing, you will do a final walk through in the property to make sure it’s in the condition it is supposed to be in, if you have negotiated for repairs, check the receipts and repairs to make certain they were done correctly. Make sure the seller didn’t remove any fixtures, make modifications or leave behind garbage or debris. Check the plumbing, air or heat and that everything that is supposed to remain at the property is there- this your your last chance to make sure all is as it should be!

 

Settlement

Depending on the market, the closing may happen at an attorney’s office or at a title company. In some situations, the buyer and seller don’t ever meet. Each goes in to sign their closing papers separately. In others, the buyers and sellers sign the closing documents together. Regardless of how a closing happens, if you’re a buyer and getting a loan, plan on signing dozens of documents at closing. You’ll need to show photo ID, as your signature will be notarized. Prior to the closing, your lender will work with the settlement attorney and send you a closing disclosure statement to review at least 3 days previous to the settlement. The statement details your final closing costs and the money you need to bring to the closing. The funds can be wired in or paid with a cashier’s check on closing day.

 

Enjoy your new home

Don’t be afraid to call your realtor and ask questions, for direction or help. She is a great resource  for the big and  little things that come up when owning your own home.

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.
Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

 

 

Ready to Buy a Home?

Ready to Buy a Home?

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Ready to Buy a Home?
Are you ready to buy a home this year? It’s time to get moving!

Laying the foundation by taking the steps to prepare will ensure a seamless transition from just dreaming about it to actually being ready to buy a home.

 Step #1

Speak with a lender.  Call or email your Realtor and ask who she recommends, Realtors work with many different lenders and will likely know who will be the best fit for your situation. A lender will talk with you about your income, debt, and credit situations and will be able to give you a price range of the homes in which you should be looking, and also tell you approximately what your monthly payment will be, including taxes. Don’t be shy, you are not obligated to anything at all. If you are not ready to speak with a lender, you can check your own credit first by following the steps below.

Make sure your credit is good and if it isn’t – fix it by paying on time and disputing any erroneous information. Every person is entitled to one free credit report annually from all three credit reporting agencies;

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • TransUnion

Be ready to print the report or convert to PDF and save, you will only have one chance to get this information free.  https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

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Step #2

Save money for downpayment and closing costs. If you are applying for  a conventional mortgage and put down 20% or more of the purchase price, you won’t have PMI (private mortgage insurance). There are other types of financing such as an FHA loan which only requires 3.5% down payment but very likely has a slightly higher interest rate than conventional loans. VA loans are available to those who have served and do not require private mortgage insurance like FHA and less than 20% conventional loans. Closing costs are approximately 3% of the purchase price. Learn more about types of loans and the requirements of loans below.

http://www.realtor.com/advice/finance/20-percent-down-payment-for-a-home/

Your Realtor can help you with a offer strategy if you need to ask the seller for a credit at closing to ensure you have the funds needed for closing costs. Asking for closing costs may work in the right circumstances.

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Ready to Buy A Home?

 

Step #3

Contact your Realtor. If you don’t have one,  get a referral or look on line, most home and agent searches now start at the computer or smart phone. You can research what Realtors service the area in which you would like to live. Read the reviews, pick up the phone and talk with a real estate agent to make certain the agent seems to know what they are talking about and you have a comfort level with her. Use a professional, not someone that sells 2 or 3 houses a year, but an agent that is working hard and is a career professional, and is up to date on the area and has a great track record. http://www.zillow.com/profile/Tracy-Tkac/ Ask your agent to set up an automatic email of home listings so every morning you will be emailed new home listings and not miss anything when you are ready to buy a home.

You will be ready to buy a home- chose the one that makes you happy!

 

by Tracy Tkac

Evers & Co. Real Estate

cell    301-437-8722

office 202-364-1700

tracy@eversco.com

www.WashingtonHG.com

Licensed in Maryland, Virginia and the District of ColumbiaYour referrals are warmly welcomed and appreciated!

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

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Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

 

It is time to do the Fall Home Maintenance Checklist necessary to get your home ready for winter. Be certain to turn off your hose bibs and perform the other household chores listed below around Halloween time, enjoy the treat of a nice smooth transition into  winter rather than the trick to dealing with clogged downspouts and frozen pipes when the weather gets colder.

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

  1. Turn off your house bibs.  Locate the outside hose spigot and the corresponding inside area where the pipe comes into the house, most of the time that will be in the basement. Follow the pipe and turn the water supply off by turning the knob to the left or if the turn- off is a lever- pulling the lever to be perpendicular (across it) to the pipe.  Then go outside and turn on the hose spigot, water will drain out of the pipe. Go back inside and armed with a cup- loosen the small metal nut next to the turn off handle, water will dribble out into the cup and replace the nut. Repeat with other hose bibs, and you have winterized your outside plumbing!
  2. Clear out your gutters. You can get a ladder and do it yourself or hire a handyman. Cleaning the gutters will prevent ice blockages and water seeping into the house or pulling the gutters off and causing other damage.
  3. Change your furnace filter. This should be done monthly or quarterly depending on the type of filter you install. Also consider having the HVAC system annually services at this time.
  4. Rake the leaves on the yard and mulch. You and your neighbors will appreciate a tidy lawn even when the landscape is barren.
  5. Replace outside lightbulbs. No one wants to get on a ladder in freezing temperatures and winter brings shorter days, you will thank yourself for the exterior lighting when you really need it.
  6. Change the battery in your smoke detectors. Winter is a time of fireplaces, candles and light decorations, take precautions.
  7. Plant the last bulbs in your yard. You will be delighted by the fresh colors and beauty in the spring for the work you did in the fall.

by Tracy Tkac, Realtor

Tracy Tkac

Evers & Co. Real Estate

cell    301-437-8722

office 202-364-1700

tracy@eversco.com

www.WashingtonHG.com

Licensed in Maryland, Virginia and the District of ColumbiaYour referrals are warmly welcomed and appreciated!

 

Home-Buying Fears

It’s natural to feel a little apprehensive when making a major purchase, but home buying shouldn’t scare you out of your wits.

Buyers’ biggest real estate fears sometimes hold them back from buying — not just around Halloween, but throughout the year. The scary thing is, these fears are sometimes well-founded.

Here are some of the issues that commonly keep home buyers awake at night, and what you can do about them.

“The house has a cracked foundation, dry rot, or a leaky roof”

Renovating, fixing and repairing are on few buyers’ wish lists. When faced with the home of their dreams, they fear the inspection. What if there is dry rot, or a roof or foundation issue?

Most homes will need routine maintenance, and a good inspector will point this out. But it’s important not to let your fears get the best of you. Much of what the inspector comes up with during the inspection is for informational purposes only. Every problem does not need to be repaired right away.

The inspector’s job is to point out every issue he sees in the house. Ask him to explain how bad the issue is, and how long it can go before needing replacement or repair.

If an issue arises that needs immediate attention, go back to the seller and see if they will repair or credit you back to repair after you close.

“I’ll lose my deposit”

Buyers typically put in an earnest money deposit with a signed contract. Typically, this is 3 percent of the purchase price. The seller does not cash the check. Instead, the money sits in an escrow account and can’t be released without both parties’ signatures.

It’s nearly impossible for a buyer to lose their deposit. If you have an inspection, disclosure review or loan contingencies, work closely with your real estate agent to mark those timeframes.

If you need to remove these contingencies in writing, plan to firm things up a day in advance. If you are in negotiations around a contingency date, be sure to extend the contingency date to keep yourself under contract.

“I’ll lose the house”

If you find the home of your dreams, you may have to move fast. Particularly in competitive markets, many homes sell before the first open house to quick acting and super-motivated buyers.

If you see a new listing hit the market, be sure to let your agent know right away. Try to make an appointment to see the home as soon as possible.

Also, find out immediately how the seller’s agent plans to handle any offers received. Sometimes they will take the first offer, especially if it’s a good one. More often than not, the seller and the agent will have an offer date to review offers or ask for best and final offers by a certain day.

If you are travelling or busy with work, be sure not to miss out on your dream home. Be in constant contact with your agent, and flag potential homes that look like a great fit.

“My agent doesn’t have my best interest in mind”

Great agents are always on the prowl for new properties, checking out the market and protecting your best interest at all times.

Some buyers fear that their agent might have different motivations, or that they aren’t on the same page. If you have doubts, change agents. Never settle or take any random agent that comes along as your buyer’s agent.

You and your agent should be committed to each other. Sit down before you begin the process and speak to your agent, much like a job interview. And if you have any doubts about your agent’s abilities or motivations, find another agent.

“We’ll never find a house in time for…”

A real estate purchase should never be rushed. If you have a firm deadline creeping up, make a plan B.

For example, many buyers face an expiring lease or a school application deadline. If you are three months out from a deadline and you haven’t found a house, take the pressure off by putting an alternate plan in place.

Home buying is an expensive and complicated transaction. You don’t want to rush into a purchase and make a mistake. It’s much easier and safer to get another rental or find a temporary address or try some out-of-the-box idea. It may be a little inconvenient, but you can handle it.

If something scares you about a home, the buying process, or a third-party involved in the sale, voice your concerns. Listen to your voice of reason, and stick with your gut.

Many home buyers’ initial fears will fall by the wayside as the buyer gets into the market. Take it slow, and don’t be afraid to take a step back to allow time and space to think things through. It’s better to take your time than to let buying your dream home become a nightmare.

BY BRENDON DESIMONE

Tracy Tkac

Evers & Co. Real Estate

cell    301-437-8722

office 202-364-1700

tracy@eversco.com

www.WashingtonHG.com

Licensed in Maryland, Virginia and the District of ColumbiaYour referrals are warmly welcomed and appreciated!

Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Owning a home can be a big expense, but the good news is some of your expenses are actually tax deductible. Read on to see how you can maximize homeownership write-offs on your tax return. (Note that this information is valid for tax year 2015 only.)

Mortgage interest

You can deduct all of the mortgage interest (not principal) payments you make on your home, up to a $1-million loan for a couple filing jointly. This applies to your home equity line of credit (on a loan up $100,000) and second mortgage as well.

If you own a second home, such as a vacation cottage or mobile home, you can deduct the mortgage interest for it as well, so long as you reside there for the longer of 14 days per year or 10 percent of the time it is rented out.

Mortgage points and insurance

In addition to the mortgage interest, you can also deduct the points you pay on your mortgage for your main home in the year you pay them, as well as points paid for a home equity loan. Points paid for refinancing your home mortgage generally have to be amortized over the length of the loan.

You can also deduct any premiums paid for private mortgage insurance (PMI) on your loan if you earned less than $109,000 in 2015 and the policy was taken out after 2006.

Property taxes

As strange as it sounds, you can deduct taxes on your taxes! Your property taxes are a deductible expense. Keep your property tax bills and proof of payment.

Home office

If you have some sort of home-based business, you may be entitled to a home office deduction on your taxes. There are several hoops to jump through to qualify for the deduction, the two biggest being that your home must be your primary place of business, and that you use the office space only for work. (The IRS spells out the rules for claiming the home office deduction in Publication 587.)

There are two ways to calculate your deduction. Under the simplified option, you can deduct $5 per square foot of your home office’s area, up to a maximum 300 square feet.

The more complex (but often more advantageous) option involves dividing the square footage of your office by the total square footage of your home; this yields the “business percentage” of your home. You then multiply allowable home costs — namely mortgage interest and utilities — by the business percentage to arrive at the deductible amounts.

Energy credits

If you implemented energy-efficient improvements to your home, you can get a credit of up to 10 percent of the cost of those improvements, to a maximum of $500. This covers expenses like new windows and doors, insulation, and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. You could also get a credit for 30 percent of the cost of renewable energy systems, like solar power.

There could also be state tax credits for these items as well which you can stack on top of your federal credit.

Medical home improvements

If you have a medical condition that necessitates home improvements, such as adding a stair lift because you have arthritis or an air filter because your spouse suffers from allergies, you may be able to write off some of these costs as part of your medical deduction.

However, you can deduct only that portion of your medical costs that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (7.5 percent if you are 65 or older).

And in most cases, you can deduct only the difference between the cost of the equipment and the increase in value to the home from this improvement. Some improvements (such widening doorways to accommodate a wheelchair) add no marketable value to the home but are fully deductible if you meet certain income requirements.

Home sales

If you sold your home in the last year, you could be eligible for some tax savings resulting from that transaction. The costs of your real estate agent’s fees, advertising, and title insurance are deductible expenses. You can also deduct improvements you made to the home in order to sell it, but only if you have a taxable capital gain from the sale.

Home damages

If your home was damaged by weather, fire, theft, or another disaster, you’ve suffered a casualty loss, a portion of which may be deductible. If your loss was greater than 10 percent of your income and was not covered by insurance, you can deduct the loss. You’ll need to be able to document the value of what was lost, however.

by Brette Sember

 

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.

Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

Buyers Final Walk-Through

Buyers Final Walk-Through

The buyers final walk-through in real estate was designed so that the buyer can confirm the home is in the same condition as when they made their offer and had the home inspected. Its also an opportunity to make sure the seller has actually vacated.

From time to time, a buyer and seller will have negotiated any number of fixes during escrow. The walk-through gives the buyer a chance to make sure all the agreed-upon work has been done to specifications, and that everything is in working order.

Sometimes, buyers are so excited to close that they quickly whisk through the walk-through without taking time to inspect the property. This can lead to small issues once the buyers take ownership. On the other hand, the final walk-through can raise both positive and negative emotions during this final part of the sale process.

It’s smart to take the buyers final walk-through seriously. Don’t see it as simply checking a box.  You should run all the faucets and check for leaks. Flush the toilet bowls, open every window and close it and make sure the appliances work.

Here are some tips for buyers to help complete a smooth and effective walk-through.

Don’t do the walk-through the day of closing

A walk-through can uncover repairs that need to be made, but that you didn’t know about before. If you do the walk-through the same day as the closing, there may not be time to get problems remedied.

It’s not uncommon for two walk-throughs to happen. The first identifies some issues for the buyer, and the second makes sure those issues were addressed.

The alternative is to push the closing back to address the issues.  The problem here is that your lender may not have approved a delayed closing. It’s better to hammer out any issues in advance.

Use your mobile phone to check the outlets

Plug a phone into all of the outlets to make sure the electricity works. You want to avoid moving in all your stuff, only to realize some outlets don’t work, and you lack light in a bedroom.

Bring your phone and charger to the walk-through and test all the outlets. It’s quick and easy.

Be on the lookout for the sellers’ leftover belongings

Sellers are notorious for leaving junk behind, so take the time to check the garage and attic, and under the deck. The sellers may just assume you want their old paint cans or a propane tank for a future grill.

In fact, they should leave the place completely empty. Some left-behind items, such as the paint, can be toxic or require special provisions for disposal. For example, one seller left behind all kinds of used oil that needed to go to a certain, state-approved car repair shop to be disposed of properly. These unwanted items become yours after you close.

Be emotionally prepared for a surprise

Buyers often fall in love with a home that’s full of furniture, art and belongings. They see it as a home, and remember a warm feeling.

Fast-forward to the close of escrow and you’re faced with an empty home, which can feel cold, sterile or hollow.

Buyers are often surprised by how they feel entering an empty home. Not only is it absent any furniture and “stuff,” but sometimes an empty home shows its imperfections, too.

The sun may have slightly bleached floors, showing the outline of a rug. There may be carpet stains or holes in the wall from a flat-screen TV or paintings. An empty home tends to show poorly, so prepare yourself before the walk-through.

The journey toward homeownership is often a long one, filled with lots of excitement and ups and downs. The final walk-through is one of the very last steps of what could be a multiple-year process.

Consider the walk-through in advance and prepare for it mentally, emotionally and physically. Know what you want to look for, have a checklist, and keep your emotions and feelings in check. Doing so will make for a smooth ride to the close of escrow.

BY BRENDON DESIMONE – Zillow

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.

Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

Relocating to an Unfamiliar Area

Relocating to an Unfamiliar Area? Here’s How to Get Your Bearings

Navigating the new digs.

kasto80 / iStock

Choosing a home in an unfamiliar neighborhood can be nerve-racking, but it’s almost inevitable when moving to a new city—or even across town. There’s a lot at stake: The wrong decision can cost you money and peace of mind.

Here are some tips to guide you in your search.

Mission: Neighborhood reconnaissance

As with any house hunt, you should first figure out your budget and what you would need, want, and like to have in a house and in a neighborhood. But if you’re relocating across the country, your biggest challenge will be doing long-distance recon on your new hometown.

While you can’t gain access to private social networks such as Nextdoor until you verify you have an address in a neighborhood, a little cybersleuthing will reveal insights on day-to-day life and concerns in areas you’re scouting.

Once you know the general area in which you’d like to live, websites such as City-Datacan collect and analyze data from numerous sources to create detailed profiles of U.S. cities, including information from crime rates to weather patterns. Homefacts includes similar information, then drills down further, listing neighborhood statistics such as median home price, homes for sale, and foreclosures.

AreaVibes can help you narrow down a search; after you type a ZIP code or city in which you’d like to live, you can adjust metrics such as amenities, crime, cost of living, and housing prices to compile a list of neighborhoods that match your “livability” needs.

In addition, many regional newspapers or magazines routinely publish online rankings of their best neighborhoods. Listly has lists of five-star New York real estate communitiesand blue chip Massachusetts real estate communities, so it may be worth a search to see whether there is a similar list for an area in which you’re interested.

Speaking of lists, Livability regularly develops city rankings for a range of topics, including small towns, college towns, and overall best places to live.

The Chamber of Commerce in many towns will also provide a guide for people who are relocating. Also, look for news on property taxes in recent years—falling property taxes likely mean that communities have had to cut back on public services.

If you have children, you’ll want to read up on local public schools on GreatSchools.org, as well as determine what day care and after-school activities are nearby. Even if you don’t have children, good schools are a major factor in determining home values in a neighborhood.

No neighborhood is perfectly tranquil, but check CrimeReports.com for crime reports and maps to get a sense of where an area falls on the spectrum. You should also visit theNational Sex Offender registry and FamilyWatchdog.us, which will identify registered sex offenders living in the area. NeighborhoodScout.com will consolidate crime, school, and real estate data in one report, as well as compile lists on safe cities and neighborhoods with good schools.

Draw on a professional’s expertise

If there is one time above all when you’d really benefit from working with a real estate agent with deep knowledge of an area, it’s when moving to a new town.

A knowledgable professional should be able to provide recommendations and compile background information on neighborhoods and homes that fit your needs and price range. Come prepared with a neighborhood or neighborhoods you like, and he or she can give you more information or suggest similar alternatives.

Get down with the locals

monkeybusinessimages / iStock

Once you’ve done the research and found a neighborhood you like, drive by several times during the day and at night. Look for the following:

  • Are there many “for sale” signs on lawns?
  • Are there any abandoned or boarded-up houses in the vicinity?
  • Is there a lot of trash on the sidewalks?
  • Is the neighborhood close to a shopping or business area?
  • How well are neighborhood parks maintained?
  • Is street parking restricted after school and during rush hour?

Also try to attend a few open houses in your neighborhood of choice. It’s a good way to get a feel for local property values, and to walk around the area. If you see residents out and about, try to talk to them to get their perspective on the community.

If you have time, try to get a drink in a local bar or a cafe and talk to people there. Apps like Meetup and AroundMe will help you connect with people in a town that have similar interests, as well as help you find the nearest hot spot.

These will be your potential neighbors, so they will provide valuable impressions on whether you’ll be pleased with where you eventually live.

Updated from an earlier version by Herbert J. Cohen

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.

Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

The Hot (and Not) List of Home Features

The Hot (and Not) List of Home Features

fireplace2

DianaLundin/iStock

The Hot (and Not) List of Home Features

The things we consider to be must-have home features are constantly changing—less than a half-century ago, plush, “can’t see my feet” shag carpeting (in bold colors such as gold, orange, and purple) was all the rage, and kitchen appliances came in coordinating hues. A quarter-century ago there was no HGTV to tell us to knock down a wall to open up the kitchen or swap out bathroom vanities. And just a few years back, tiny homes were just, well, really small homes.

We wondered what home qualities are must-haves right now, what the up-and-comers are, and what’s heading straight for the dustbin of home features history. To find out, our data team dug deep into our millions of listings and sifted out the most commonly used phrases for home features, going back five years.

Voila!  Here are the 20 features that are most often touted in our listings. These are the stuff that home dreams are made of—a mixture of classic favorites and rising stars.

At first glance, the results aren’t too surprising. After all, who doesn’t love fireplaces and wood floors? (Well, other than those who prefer carpet, which is No. 3.)

“Rather than a barometer of trends, those are really adoption cycles,” says Javier Vivas, data analyst at realtor.com®. “It’s more about how long it takes a particular new feature to become prevalent. It’s like car technology: First you see the cutting-edge stuff in luxury cars, then it spreads into the mainstream.”

Listings have gotten ever-more detailed and adorned in recent years, and certain features appear more and more often as selling points. So popularity among listing descriptions is kind of like being listed on the S&P 500—it shows that a feature is no passing trend. For example, granite countertops, once a splurge, are now a go-to feature—they’ve shot up from being mentioned in 8% of listings in 2011 to 13% today.

Got it? Good. Let’s go home shopping! Don’t forget to bring your checkbook.

Fireplace (No. 1)

On a chilly night, nothing competes with snuggling up near a crackling fire—or maybe it’s the hissing, considering that the leading type of fireplace mentioned in 3.2% of our listings is gas. After all, it’s easy to clean and maintain and comes in some cool modern designs. Still, there’s nothing like the charm of a wood-burning fireplace, and its popularity is picking up fast.

And in total, fireplaces—wood-burning, gas, brick, stone, or kiva—are the stars of 23.8% of our listings.

Flooring: Wood (No. 2), carpet (No. 3), and tile (No. 11)

Always popular, the classic elegance of a wood floor continues to gain ground, particularly since last year. Not surprisingly, carpeting’s popularity seems to rise and fall in opposition to wood. It’s made a comeback before, but wood seems to be pulling ahead. In 2015, wood floors appeared in 15% of listing descriptions, 2 percentage points ahead of carpet.

Meanwhile, the tile floor—though never a major contender for the top spot—has slipped from No. 4 in 2011 (when it beat out walk-in closet and open floor plan) to today’s No.10. Still, it will probably hold onto its niche in humid, warm climates such as that of Florida.

Granite counter

realtor.com

Granite countertop

Granite counter (No. 4)

Once a rare luxury, granite has become more affordable and is now practically standard for anyone who gives a hoot about kitchen design. It shot to fame quickly over the past five years, making its slick presence felt in 13% of all listings. For those who think all this trendy granite craziness is on the wane, reports of its death, as Mark Twain might (or might not!) have said, are greatly exaggerated—at least according to our listings data.

Stainless-steel appliances (No. 5)

With their elegant and modern appearance fitting into almost any kitchen design, stainless-steel appliances have made their way into more and more households since the 1990s. “Stainless” is now mentioned in 9% of all listings, almost double its share of five years ago.

Open floor plan (No. 6) vs. formal dining room (No. 8)

A house divided? Not these days. Separate living rooms, dining areas, and kitchens have been edged out by the open floor plan, which knocks down or eliminates walls to create a sense of spaciousness and light.

The open floor plan has seen a rapid increase in popularity, and in 2014 it surpassed the formal dining room for the first time. In 2015, an open floor plan is the fifth most popular feature, representing 8% of listings. The much-debated open kitchen, which encompasses the dining as well as the cooking area, also made it onto the list at No. 9.

Walk-in closet

realtor.com

Walk-in closet

Walk-in closet (No. 7)

In a time of over-the-top “glam rooms” dedicated to, um, getting ready, the walk-in closet is another feature that has seemingly gone from luxe to a near necessity. Stashing all your clothes in a shallow closet with hangers crammed together and no shelves? How primitive! It’s no wonder 7% of home listings mention walk-in closets as a big selling point.

Chef’s kitchen

realtor.com

Gourmet kitchen

Chef’s kitchen (No. 16) vs. open kitchen (No. 10)

The kitchen used to be all business—a place to churn out meals, nothing more. Again, we’ll point the finger at TV—not just HGTV, but also the Food Network—for fueling homeowners’ desire for a kitchen worthy of a chef, featuring a center island, a large stove/oven with hood, and granite or marble counters (see No. 3).

And it’s not just for cooking, but also for hanging out while you prepare the meal—especially if you have an open kitchen, touted in 5.7% of listings. We’ll also point out that five of the top 20 home features are kitchen-related.

Garden tub

realtor.com

Mesa, AZ

Garden tub (No. 20)

No, a garden tub is not set amid the lovely and fragrant rose beds so you can bathe in the open air (and get bitten by insects). The term generally refers to a wider and deeper bathtub that usually has steps but no jets. Nice! Providing a relaxing soaking experience with less cost and cleaning difficulty, the garden tub has gained popularity over the years, but it’s still a niche feature.

———

We’ve talked about features that have made their way into the mainstream, but we also saw a couple that are clearly on their way out:

House with vinyl siding

realtor.com

House with vinyl siding

Vinyl siding

Vinyl siding was once one of the most popular cladding choices, because it’s affordable, long-lasting, and virtually maintenance-free. But over the years it’s become something of a gauche punch line in some quarters. It’s no wonder its lead has slipped substantially in recent years, while fiber cement is gaining ground, according to PlasticsNews.com.

Oak and cherry cabinets

The last time honey oak cabinets were trending, Monica-gate was a thing, Will Smith was the prince of Bel-Air, and Y2K loomed as the biggest threat the world faced. Yes, the ’90s were particularly friendly to oak cabinetry and cherry wasn’t far behind, popularitywise, but those days are long past. Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find either in listings or in new home construction. But maple cabinets? Welcome to the future!

By
Yuqing Pan, Realtor.com

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.

Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

The Right Kitchen Island

The Right Kitchen Island

There are few better workhorses than the right kitchen island. It’s beautiful, simple, and full of storage possibilities. Offering features from scratchproof counters for chopping to hooks, rods, and bins for stowing, the kitchen island is an invaluable addition to any home.

Best of all, there’s an island option for every style and budget. Here are a few of the best.

Sink space

If you’re looking for a creative sink solution, consider installing it in the kitchen island. This setup provides a central spot to wash your hands, drain pasta, scrub dishes or rinse produce.

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Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Tucked away

Kitchen islands usually evoke visions of huge, solid, and largely immobile countertops reserved for spacious kitchens. However, tiny islands are slowly gaining momentum and becoming popular for their mobility, slim size, and ease of access.

Take a look at islands on casters, which can be positioned where they’re most needed, then tucked in a corner or underneath a counter when not in use.

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Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Sit and stay

Kitchen islands are great for creating an extra sitting area, especially if your kitchen or dining room lacks the space for an actual table.

Choose an extra-long kitchen island with overhang to allow for a few bar stools or tall chairs. Add some festive placemats and a few dining accessories to create a unique tablescape, and clear it all away when you need some extra workspace.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Careful cubbies

One of the best ways kitchen islands add to a space is by providing unique storage options. In a room so full of doors and hardware, adding small baskets, hooks, and rods can be a fun way to stow your utensils, linens, or knickknacks. Even better, you can switch out the textures and finishes to match your favorite seasonal decor.

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Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

While kitchen islands are most often used as giant cutting boards, they’ve come full circle in design and function, and have proven to be a great way to add substance and style to any kitchen design. Take a look at your space, define your personal style, and determine your needs to find your perfect island oasis.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

BY KERRIE KELLY

http://www.zillow.com/blog/how-to-pick-the-right-kitchen-island-187598/

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.

Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

4 reasons 2016 is the year to buy a home

Georgetown row houses

4 reasons 2016 is the year to buy a home

by CNN Money

If you’ve been on the fence about buying a home, 2016 is the year to take the plunge. Mortgage rates have been bouncing around record lows for a while now. But even though they’re likely to start going up, you haven’t missed your chance to get a deal on a house. A number of factors are coming together, making next year a good time to buy, 4 reasons 2016 is the year to buy a home;
1. Home prices will finally calm down
Real estate values have been on the rise for a while, but are likely to slow their pace next year. Prices are expected to rise 3.5%, according to Zillow’s Chief Economist Svenja Gudell.
Buyers who’ve been stuck behind the wave of rising prices may finally get the chance to jump in.
And that could lead to a flood of buyers, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Realtor.com.
“We have the potential for about six million home sales just through the months of April through September; that is basically impossible to do,” he said.
Related: These are the most expensive housing markets
But not everyone will be in a position to take advantage.
Despite the slowdown, Zillow still expects home values to outpace wage growth, which can make it tough to afford a home, especially for lower-income buyers.
Plus, prices in the country’s hottest markets — like San Francisco, Boston and New York City — aren’t expected to pull back as much next year.
2. More homes will hit the market
The slowdown in home prices will prompt more owners to list their homes, Smoke said, giving buyers more choice.
“Because of the price appreciation they have experienced, you will have more sellers put homes on the market next year,” he said.
Related: How to buy a home without a 20% down payment
The new home market is also expected to grow in the coming year with builders focusing more on starter and middle-range homes, which will also boost inventory and make it easier for buyers.
With more homes on the market, bidding wars will become less common and prices could ease even more.
3. Dirt cheap mortgages could disappear
The Federal Reserve is widely expected to begin increasing interest rates soon, which means the window for record low mortgage rates is closing.
While rates are expected to go up gradually, higher rates push up borrowing costs and monthly mortgage payments.
“You are likely to get the best rate you will possibly see, perhaps in your lifetimes through the majority of next year, but certainly, the earlier the better,” said Smoke.
4. Rents will still hurt
Rent prices are expected to continue to climb in the new year, which means in most cities, buying will be cheaper than renting.
Even though mortgages could get more expensive, buying might still be the better deal.
Interest rates would need to rise to around 6.5% for the cost of buying to equal that of renting on a national level, according to Ralph McLaughlin, housing economist at Trulia.

CNN Money

Tracy Tkac
301-437-8722
Evers & Co.

Tracy@eversco.com
www.WashingtonHG.com

 

301-437-8722/ 202-364-1700 Real Estate Professional Licensed in Maryland, Virginia & Washington, DC