Friday, December 31, 2010

If I were a rich girl..

In the immortal words of Gwen Stefani:  "if I was a rich girl...I wouldn't have just one hood...a [DC] mansion if I could".

This grandiose house is located at 4714 Foxhall Cresent, NW.  It's listed for $2,450,000.  For the size of the house, the price is excellent for DC.  It's less than $500 a square foot.  I personally could do without the pink Master bedroom and the wallpaper in the kitchen.  (Click here for pictures.)  Other than those two glaring design faux pas, the house is seriously impressive.  There aren't many free standing houses in DC with this sort of grandeur.  Enjoy and Happy New Year!!

*photo courtesy of Matrix.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Deja vu: The Roots

Just like last year, I attended the Roots show at the 9:30 Club.  They played two nights this week and I caught the second night.  They blew it out!  I was expecting a lot of new songs from their latest album with John Legend.  Instead, they belted out a series of great tunes that spanned their career.  Since they've become the house band for Jimmy Fallon, I feel like these two shows have a distinct "I just got out of school" vibe.  It was joyous and sweaty with great guest spots by Skillz and Wale.  I didn't dance as much as the guys next to me (one was doing his Flashdance impression..at the Roots.  You know.  That guy.) but I still had a ball. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snowy Sunday

Today, I was supposed to visit with my husband's family.  Instead, we woke up to six inches of snow.  I've enjoyed a lovely day in front of the fire.  I've watched it snow, read a book, napped and relaxed.  

I'm on the road tomorrow.  I have two closings next week and they're already on my mind.  They *should* go well but I haven't seen HUD1's for either.  Back to real life.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Mantel Madness

In thirty minutes, our annual Christmas Eve party starts. The house is full of my crazy Italian relatives and it's been festive.  Fish has been fried, frittae's made, and the bar stocked.  Per our tradition, I decorated the mantel for the party.  I combined an idea from In Style and Martha Stewart and walaaaa....mixed metals. 

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

1307 Corcoran sold for 200K over list price

This is the ultimate HOLY SHMOLY.  200K over list???  That's amazing.  As I discussed in my previous post about the house, this was a hot property.  I speculated that it would go for well over list price but I didn't expect 200K.   WOW.  I bet it's a developer.  I'll keep my eye on it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

5K First Time Home Buyers DC Tax Credit Is BACK!

I was catching up on my reading when I saw the post about the tax credit on We Love DCThis is excellent news because it's retroactive in 2010 (HURAH!) and for all of 2011.  I'm assuming the 5K tax credit will only apply to purchasers AFTER the national tax credit expired April 30th.  That's generally how it works but I'm not 100% certain.  As I find out more info, I'll post details.

Update:  Rep. Elenore Holmes posted this update on her website on 12/14/10:

With Home Prices Low and Unemployment High, Norton Gets Her D.C. Tax Incentives to President for Signature

December 17, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that the tax relief and unemployment package passed by the House late yesterday, includes a two-year extension of Norton's popular tax incentives which uniquely apply to D.C. residents and businesses. The D.C. tax incentives include Norton's popular $5,000 homebuyer tax credit, and business incentives, including a $3,000 wage credit for each D.C. resident hired by, or already employed at, many D.C. businesses.  The incentives will be retroactive for 2010 and will continue through 2011.  The bill, which passed the Senate earlier this week, is being signed by the President today.

"We got our D.C. tax incentives approved by both houses earlier in the year but needed a vehicle to get them out," Norton said.  "Last night's bill was our last chance to get it done, and it worked."

The Congresswoman put special priority on her D.C. tax incentives this year because they can give a lift to businesses, residents, and the D.C. economy alike.  Residents who purchased homes this year or buy next year will find that home prices are lower than usual, making it a good time to buy homes.  The bill also contains a number of helpful incentives for D.C. businesses.  The wage credit not only helps businesses but offers them a break if they hire or retain D.C. residents.

"The wage credit is particularly helpful today.  Any hiring being done in D.C. needs to focus on residents, and considering competition from applicants from the region, the tax credit is essentially a bonus for hiring D.C. residents a deterrent to laying them off."

Other business tax incentives include a zero percent capital gains rate on the sale or exchange of certain business stock, partnership interests and business property held for more than five years; and certain tax-exempt bonds.

Norton also got to vote in the Committee of the Whole on an amendment to the bill to provide two years of estate tax relief at 2009 levels.  Norton joined most of her Democratic colleagues in voting to remove the egregious estate tax provisions in the bill that benefited the wealthiest Americans.  This bill gave way too many benefits to the rich, and the amendment was an opportunity to make the bill more equitable.  However, the bill did contain many important benefits for the middle class and unemployed workers, including a year-long extension of unemployment benefits, a two-year extension of the Bush-era middle-class tax cuts, and an expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, which is the only reason it passed.

The Congresswoman is seeking to retain her Committee of the Whole vote in the rules for the next Congress to be written by the new Republican majority.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Grand 'ole dame

1808 24th St, NW hit the market today and it's impressive.  4 bedrooms, 3 full baths and 2 half baths with an elevator.  It's also expensive:  $3,795,000.  It is over 4,000 sf but wow!  These grand dames are rarely for sale in this condition.  It's been updated but still has many original details.  I'm in love with the back yard and it's elegant flagstone terrace.  For the virtual tour, click here.  A girl can dream, can't she?

*photo courtesy of Matrix.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

American Ice Company part 2

Back in September, I did some speculatin' about the new restaurant/bar American Ice Co.  It's officially opening tonight tomorrow, 12/16.  (It was supposed to open tonight but I'm seeing reports that the opening has been bumped to tomorrow.  Damn.)   I can't wait to see the results for myself.  POP wrote a great preview about the place in November with a lot of pics and details.  The outside wall is a now a loden green and the fare isn't tacos, it's BBQ.  (I've been doing a lot of walk by's to check the progress.)

Last Friday was the soft opening.  The aromas wafting from the smoker were amazing.  I ran into a friend that attended the soft opening and he had good things to say.  I'm pumped.  Another new place in the 'hood for us to congregate.  We're never going to leave our four block radius at this rate.  At this point, why should we?

Postscript:  I finally gave American Ice Co. a whirl on 12/18.  We went early..so early that they were like "um..we're not open yet."  I know.  I should have blue hair.  When they did open at 5:30, we sat in a booth.  We ordered a pork platter and a turkey platter.  Unfortunately, they didn't have smoked turkey or the potato salad that day.  They did have a lot of beers and a great wine list.  They also have a fully stocked bar, which I sampled.  The pork bbq was wonderful.  The platters arrived with slaw and the bean salad.  We had a helpful, attentive server.  I have two complaints:  paper plates and BAD rock n' roll.  I'm hoping both will change as the place finds it's rhythm.  But if they don't, oh well.  It's a cool space and I can get over myself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ho ho holidays

In between home inspections, holiday cards and home improvement, I was able to sneak away for a lunch date with a friend.  I know the Proof $12 lunch deal is old news but I never get to lunch.  It was new to me, yummy and a lot of fun.  I also completed some holiday shopping at the Penn Quarter Holiday Mart.  I attended the Mart last year as well.  Once again, the stands were adorable.  My friend bought several gifts and so did I.  If you can stand the weather, this is a great way to support local business.


Then I made some spectacular cookies.  These are chocolate dipped hazelnut caramel squares from the December issue of Bon Appetit.  Yes.  They were difficult.  I made candied orange peel because the grocery didn't carry it.  It was worth the effort because they are FANTASTIC.  Happy holidays!   

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Drum roll please...

After a frenzied evening and half of stapling, the chairs are finished.  First, a look back at the original fabric.  I've loved this fabric for 11 years and one part of me is sad to see it go.  Ciao baby..you've been good to me.
As I mentioned in the last post, I chose two fabrics for the chairs.  A geometric and a floral print.  They both look good with the blond wood and I love them.  The fabric is a cotton velvet.  I'm already dreaming of what I'm going to buy next year for the two chairs in my bedroom.  Updating is fun! 


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Score

On Saturday, I woke up at the crack of dawn and embarked on a journey to Philly.  My mission:  to score cool stuff at the Galbraith & Paul sample sale. 

What is Galbraith & Paul?  A textile company that focuses on hand blocked designs that's located in Philly.  They make lighting, rugs, and fabrics.   They exclusively sell their lighting through Room and Board.   I fell in love with their products while touring the store on 14th St.  My cousin in law, Kara, is an interior designer in Philly.  She has blog, KO Angotti, about sustainable materials and local artisans  She featured the G&P on her blog in October and clued me in about the sample sale.  

I'm always on the look out for interesting fabric and cool pillows at reasonable prices.  Road trip+shopping+hanging out with cousins?  Sounds like fun to me. 

I convinced one of my friends to make the trip with me.  She has an excellent eye for colors and patterns.  We arrived at 10am, when the warehouse opened.  My strategy was to get there first thing, make a mad dash before all the good stuff was gone and get out.  This proved to be a good idea since it was PACKED and we got there at 10:05am.

It was like a rugby scrum except with politely murmured "excuse me's".  People were grabbing pillows and fabric willy nilly.  I was caught up in the excitement and shoved a few pillows at my cousin while I rummaged in the huge pile.  (see above.)  It was glorious!

In the back room, there was a large table of fabric scraps that were $10 a pound.  This proved to be a bonanza.  I grabbed a handful of different fabrics and then narrowed it down to two.  I decided to use the fabric to recover the chairs in my dining room set.  My friend convinced me to go with two different patterns (pictured below with a pillow for the couch) which is radical stuff for me. 

My entire haul (3 pillows and 7 lbs. of fabric) was $300.  The fabric retails for $165 a yard and the pillows retail for $119.  I saved over $500.  Major score.  Stay tuned to see my newly recovered chairs.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holy schmoly..3 bedroom/2 full bath HOUSE for 289K. In DC!

I was shocked when I saw this listing...a house with 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths for 289K in DC??  In NW??  It's also really cute?  This is going to be snatched up with multiple offers but the end of next week.  It's not a huge house.  It's only 1581 square feet.  At $182 a square foot, that's a heck of a deal! Let the bidding wars begin.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not so hunky dory

Sorry for the lack of posts but the last week and half has been nuts.  I went home to NC to see my people which was hectic.  I visited a lot of family and managed to remain healthy although my folks were sick.  I celebrated my birfday and received some kick ass gifts like the new Jonathan Adler books and a really cool digital Harinezumi camera/recorder.
Work has been crazy which is unusual for this time of year...but welcome!  My listing on 11th St. is closing today (fingers crossed as the lender package STILL isn't there and we're supposed to close at 3) so work is good.

I also got a shot to the spine today.  Remember my post about my bad back?  Unfortunately, it's persisted.  Today, I went to a "pain management" clinic.  Let's just say this hasn't been the best day and yea..I'm not so hunky dory.  Hopefully in the next couple of days, I'll rebound and have more positive things to report. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Holy Shmoly! 3 Bedroom Condo for $549,900

2827 15th St, NW #210 is a steal for a 3 bedroom in DC.  It's 1524 square feet  (ginormous by DC standards) and has parking.  It's also a 5 minute walk from the Columbia Heights Metro, Target and multiple restaurants.  For $361 a square foot, a smart buyer will grab this one asap.  Click here for the rest of the details and pictures.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Before and After

I see dated kitchens, like the one pictured above, all the time.  I spend a lot of time telling potential buyers "well..it's not exactly what you want but it does have potential.  Kitchen renovations can cost $5,000 or $50,000.  It depends on what you want and how you do it."

I was reading one of my favorite blogs Nothing but Bonfires and came upon a great example of "Before and After."

I am constantly amazed what a little elbow grease and a lot of white paint can do for a bad kitchen.  Check out their amazing results. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another DC "Mid Century" Modern??

It's described as a "mid century modern" but it's really a rambler with some wonderful period details.   This is 4432 Sedgwich Dr., NW.  It's 2 bedroom with a possible 3rd if you throw in an armoire and 2 full baths.  It's 779K.  I love the original sunburst lighting fixtures in the entry and dining room.

I also love the Haywood Wakefield Eames furniture they have in the dining room.  Of course I'm partial since it's *just like mine!*  

Happy Friday!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hubba Hubba

This is house porn at it's finest.  1300 Fairmont St, NW has 5 bedrooms and 6.5 baths.  It's listed for $1,599,000.  It's 5000 square feet and has 3 parking spots.  Yes, it's expensive but look at the pictures!!  This is the finest restoration/updated house I've seen in a long time.  I love the mix of original details and modern features.  Will it sell for this much in Columbia Heights?  I doubt it but it's going to be fun to watch.

PS-apparently everyone in the blogosphere is excited about this one.  See posts here and here.  Clearly I should have completed my daily reading before I wrote my post.  *sigh*

Friday, November 5, 2010

6 Ways to Help Your Property Sell

Last week, I wrote about one strategy that sells your house quickly:  price low.

Unfortunately, a lot of sellers in today's market don't have that luxury.  Here's a few tips that work in this tough market.

1. De-Clutter.  I know you love your collection of _____ (insert any collection) and think it's an interesting feature.  It isn't.  Box it up and utilize that space in a way that's appealing to buyers.  Take your appliances and knick knacks off the kitchen counters.  Put away your beauty products in the bathroom.  Take down the magnets and photos on your refrigerator.

2. Re-paint in neutral colors.  Red kitchens and dining rooms are so 2000.  Don't date your decor with bold colors.  Buyers are pickier than ever and one terrible paint color can make them delete your property from their search.  A tan/beige neutral is the top choice for most buyers.  Boring but tried and true.

3.  Clean extensively.  Nothing is worse than a grimy bathroom or kitchen when you're viewing property.  Hire a cleaning service if necessary.  Your property should sparkle.  Also keep your place tidy while it's on the market.  Make your bed.  Put away your soiled clothing and clean laundry. Hang up your coat and put away your shoes.

4.  Rearrange/Remove your furniture.  Most sellers have too much furniture in their space.  If you have belongings in every single corner, get rid of them.  If it's over sized and making your space look small, store it for your next place.  Rearrange your furniture to make the space open and inviting.  Open your blinds/curtains to show the view and the sunlight.

5.  Make sure it smells good.  That old man/sock smell is not making your place more attractive to a buyer.  On the other hand, you don't want to go over board.  Strong, floral plug-ins can make buyers suspicious.  The most appealing scents are cinnamon/apple, vanilla or citrus scents.

6.  Take good photos.  Use a professional photographer for photos of your property.  "Homes with professional photographs were found, on average, to be viewed 61 percent more online than others in that price range shot with a lower-end camera. The listings that used digital SLR cameras also commanded a 47 percent higher asking price per square foot, according to the Redfin analysis."  The stats speak for themselves.

A little prep work goes a long way when you're putting your place on the market.  Good luck!

Quote in #6 from "The Better the Property Photos, the Higher the Sale Price."



Sunday, October 31, 2010

Credit Scores Make or Break Your Mortgage

I often tell my buyers the hardest part of buying real estate today is getting through the loan process.  Your credit score, assets and debt to income ratio are more important than ever.  As anyone can tell you that's purchased recently, it's almost like being reviewed for a CIA job.  You must be able to provide extensive documentation for every iota of your finances.  If you receive a "gift" to help you with the down payment, the person giving you the "gift" will have to write a letter and provide account documentation to the lender.  Perhaps this is the way lenders did business before the financial crisis.  Since I started in the real estate field in 2005, these practices are a major shift from the way business was conducted.

In today's Washington Post, there's a great article that focuses on how lenders have changed their practices in light of the financial crisis.  As the economy and the real estate industry continues to evolve and heal, it's imperative that buyers and sellers keep up with the constant revisions in the lending world.  Otherwise, your real estate transaction is going to be a bumpy ride.  

On a less serious note, Happy Halloween!!!  My "guidette" costume was a success and I had a ball at a Halloween party last night.  Unfortunately, no one had a camera so it wasn't recorded for posterity.



Friday, October 29, 2010

Profile in the Washington Times!

I was profiled in The Washington Times today!  As you can tell by the number of exclamation points, I'm excited. 

Don't you love my "professional" picture?  I wonder what would happen if I'd sent a photo of myself in my "guidette" costume for Halloween?  That would be pure entertainment.

I digress.  Check it out. 

Secret to Sucess: Price Low

Have you ever noticed the common denominator in all the listings that have multiple offers?  They're priced low to sell fast.

The latest hot listing is 1307 Corcoran St, NW.   (Sorry the picture is so small.  There was no photo with the listing and Google Map can only do so much!)   It was priced at 550KMost homes in this area sell from $750,000 to $1,500,000.  One of my agent friends was submitting an offer for clients and it had ELEVEN  THIRTEEN offers.  It still isn't ratified.  I'm so curious to see the final price.

(I heard it went for between 600-650K and needs about 500K of renovations and updates.  Considering it'll probably be worth over $1,000,000, that's still a good investment!)

Note to all sellers:  if you have the ability to price low, this is a tried and true method to multiple offers in desirable DC neighborhoods.

Monday, October 25, 2010

NYC Retrospective

NYC was a much needed respite.  Most people would think: hectic city crawling with people?  Refreshing?  To a city lover like myself, yes.  It was absolutely lovely.

My friend's apartment is in Nolita.  I knew *in theory* what this meant but when we arrived it became clear.  It was a kick ass location.  Shops and restaurants galore within blocks of the apartment.  This was going to be fun!

By the time the we arrived, picked up keys and located the apartment, it was about 3pm.  I had a couple of shops I wanted to check out so off we went.  I've been reading about Uniqlo on the fashion blogs for years. It's the first place we stopped.  It's described as a Japanese H&M and it was mobbed with people.  They've partnered with Jill Sander in 2010 and are putting out an incredible collaboration called +J.  It has beautiful, clean lines but all of it was teeny tiny.  It's made for the small, petite people of the world.  I might be petite but I'm certainly not small.  After petting all the +J clothes and checking out a few other shops, we realized it was time to get moving for our dinner reservation at 15 East.

15 East  topped our expectations.  My husband, who is a notorious nit picker when it comes to restaurant reviewing, had "the best sushi experience of his life."  Considering the amount of sushi he's eaten in his life, that's high praise.

Our next stop was Milk Bar which is the dessert arm of Momofuku.  My husband is obsessed with all things Momofuku and it's infamous chef David Chang.  We shared a piece of crack pie.  There's a reason it's called crack pie.  You want eat MORE even though it's really rich and making you slightly sick to your stomach.  After the crack pie, we wandered down the street to Bar Veloce for some wine and then headed back to the apartment.

The next day, we got up at the crack and ambled uptown to Eataly, a 50,000 square foot store of Italian goodies.  Pictured below is the fresh pasta counter.  That was a small portion of the options.  It was incredible, mouth watering experience.  We wandered the store, drank coffee and wished for one in DC.


On the way back downtown, we stopped at ABC Home and Carpet.  This is another store I've been reading about for years in design magazines.  It blew my mind.  I found a rug I first glimpsed in Lonny Magazine and a million other things I wanted.  It's fun to dream!

Then we hiked back to Nolita for our reservation at Lupa.  After walking over two miles, we were both hungry and Lupa didn't disappoint.  After a leisurely lunch that included wine and lemoncello (hello..I was on vacation!!), I was done.  It was nap time.

Refreshed by my nap, I continued to meander the streets of Nolita pretending I was a New Yorker.  I had a drink at DBGB, checked out more shops and canceled the reservation at 'inoteca.  After seeing the hubbub at Milk Bar, which is connected to the Ssam Bar, we decided to check out Ssam Bar instead.  It too lived up to the hype.  Although Korean food does not agree with me and that curtailed the rest of our evening, I still enjoyed the experience.  It's not everyday you see bunches of people gnawing on duck necks and hoovering pork buns. This is the best pork bun I've ever eaten and it's not to be missed.  (Last bite of the pork bun about to be devoured by my husband pictured below)

Overall, the weekend was a roaring success.  I only thought about real estate once.  When we were trekking back to Nolita for lunch, we passed a real estate office.  I had to stop and check out the listings.  Professional curiosity.  This is what I found: 
No wonder New Yorkers never blink at DC prices.  A 600 square foot studio for 825K????? That's insane!

It's good to be back in DC.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm out...


The last couple of weeks have been no fun.  My deals had multiple problems and I've had it.  I'm taking some R&R with my husband and we're heading to NYC for the weekend. We're doing an apartment swap with a friend and I can't wait!

Since it's a well know fact we are obsessed with all things restaurant, most of our plans revolve around where we're eating.  We're checking out 15 East, which according to Eater NY is one of the "12 Epic New York Meals To Try Before You Die".  My husband is obsessed with sushi so he's pretty excited.  We're having lunch at Lupa, an old favorite, and dinner at 'inoteca.  It's a good thing we're going to do a lot of walking or you'd need to roll me back to DC.

In between all that dining, we're going to see some friends, hit MOMA, shop and stroll.  I will not be thinking about real estate.  Unless somehow I manage to score a viewing of this $34,500,000 condo in Millinium Tower.  Ha.  In my dreams.  I think those NY brokers would take one look at my shoes and dismiss me instantly.  Oh well. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Buyer Beware

Foreclosures have been a hot topic for the past three years.  At first, I was afraid of them.  They were an unknown product and I wasn't sure how to navigate a successful sale.  As they became more mainstream and I gained more experience, they became less alarming.  Foreclosures were part of the market that was here to stay.  They were excellent deals.  In a city where good property is often really expensive, it was an attractive method for a lot of buyers to break into the market.  Now, foreclosures are a floundering mess.  National banks stopped foreclosures in recent weeks due to faulty paperwork.  Agents who have made careers on foreclosures are watching their business wither as banks sort out the mess.

I work with a lot of first time home buyers and we often start our search with foreclosures.  After viewing four or five abandoned, decrepit properties, they're over it.  Frequently, the amount of work to make a foreclosure livable is beyond their comfort level.  Not all foreclosures are bad.  I know plenty of people who've purchased a foreclosure and have had a good result.  

After reading this article in the NY Times, I'm glad I don't have any foreclosure deals on the books.  I think everyone should follow their advice:  Avoid foreclosures until the dust settles.  Otherwise, they're a risky proposition.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mid Century Modern

In my perfect world, I own a mid century modern house.  These types of houses are few and far between in DC proper.  This week one hit the market on Sudbury Place, NW and I'm in love.  Yes, I know the exterior resembles a space ship.  It's the inside that I love.  Check out the photos here

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Skull wallpaper

 
As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm interested in redoing my guest bathroom.  I stumbled across this spectacular skull wallpaper (it's disposable!) by Barbara Hulanicki and I'm in love.  It'd be perfect for my guest bathroom.  I'd paper one wall and paint the rest dark gray.  My bathroom vanity is gray and black granite. (pictured below).  It's very Alexander McQueen.  I think it'd look amazing.  Click here to see what it looks like in various rooms. 
 


Of course there's been a variety of opinions on the direction of my redo.  My husband thinks it's totally strange.  One friend thinks it'd be bad ass.  What do you think?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Food Truck Furor

Food trucks are generating a lot of press these days.  The Post wrote about them last week.  The blogsphere has busily noted every new arrival.   Hot dogs were the only street food choice in DC for years.  The variety of food trucks is a welcome (but controversial) addition to the DC food scene.

One of my friends is running Fry Captain which has led to a lot of entertaining stories.  (Click here for the history.)  Today, I went to the 2010 Curbside Cookout to support him.  I was excited to check out the twenty food trucks and of course, eat some duck fat fries and have a milk shake. 

I went with a friend and my husband.  We arrived at 11:45ish and it was already complete chaos.  My friend and I went directly to the Fry Captain line.  My husband got in line for TaKorean, a Korean BBQ taco truck.  At 12:40, we got our fries and shakes and went to find my husband.  He was STILL in line for the tacos!  I had an appt at 1:30 so we ditched the line and ate our fries and shakes.  It was a yummy, rich treat. 

As I mentioned, the fries are cooked in duck fat.  You have three choices of what to put on the fries: sea salt, garlic sea salt or Old Bay.  We went the classic route and chose sea salt.  There's a variety of dipping sauces.  We tried the truffled ketchup, the sirracha mayo and the chimichurri mayo.  We also had a vanilla shake and a mocha shake.  You really can't go wrong with any of these choices.  It was some good eating.  

I was disappointed that we didn't get to try any of the other trucks because of the crazy lines.  The cook off is going on tomorrow as well.  I suggest you get there early.  Fry Captain sold out of fries by 3pm. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Insurance

Insurance is a boring but a necessary subject when you own property.  When you use a loan to buy a property, banks insist you buy a policy to cover your house or condo.  Whether you like it or not, insurance is part of the home buying process. 

My insurance is with Traveler's because my car insurance is with Geico.  There's many insurance options available to prospective buyers.  I recommend googling "house insurance" and discovering who will give you the best price.  In addition to your regular policy, I just came across two types of insurance that are helpful in the DC Metro area. 

First is special assessment insurance.  This will come in handy for condo owners.  Every owner in a condo building pays condo fees.  Condo fees generally cover common area maintenance, sewer and water service, snow and trash removal, management, and reserves.  Sometimes condo fees cover a utility like gas or electricity.  A special assessment is an additional fee levied on the owners when something is needed by the building that the reserves don't cover.  For example, the Cairo on Q St., NW had a special assessment for repointing the building's brick facade.  Special assessments can cost thousands of dollars.  This type of insurance can help defray the costs.

Second is sewer back up insurance.  DC used to be a swamp.  When we have heavy rains in the area, inevitably there is flooding.  The DC sewer system also doesn't have separate sewers for waste and rain.  This leads to sewer back ups in the city.  Although DC Water has advice on how to prevent sewer back ups, you can't control Mother Nature.  Buying sewer back up insurance is a wise investment in this area.

Insurance is a handy resource for damage but it's most effective if you have good records.  I recently came across free software called "What You Own Home Inventory".  It's a great program that allows you to document everything you own for insurance purposes.  You never know when your property will be damaged by water, fire or theft.  Good records and pictures are helpful in those stressful situations.  

Friday, October 1, 2010

Decorating Inspirations

I've recently been looking for decorating inspiration because I'd like to repaint my guest bedroom and bath.  Although this isn't the best photo in the world, you see the setup. 

When we moved into our place three years ago, I picked this sage green with grey undertones.  The granite in our kitchen and baths is grey.  The pendant lamps in the kitchen are blue.  My over all color for the main rooms is a light grey with blue undertones.  All paint colors had grey undertones so they'd meld with the rest of the condo.  I still like the paint in the rest of our condo but I am OVER the green in the guest rooms.

This presents a conundrum because I am not a tan or beige type of person.  I like color and lots of it.  So what do I paint these rooms?  Or should I wallpaper?  I've learned many, many interesting things in the last several weeks.

One go-to source for inspiring decor is Lonny.  I've discussed my love for Lonny in a previous post.  They just launched a website and a blog.  I am love with half the bedrooms on their decorate page but I must be realistic.  I'm going to sell this place at some point so it can't be too crazy.

Another wonderful resource I found is Young House LoveIt's a great source for DIY projects and ideas.  The authors, a husband and wife blogger team, have done amazing stuff to their house in Richmond.  I'm obsessed with their half bath redo.  Ideas are percolating.

Another source of inspiration for me is Apartment Therapy.   I read this post  which led to this link and I discovered REMOVABLE WALL PAPER.  I've seen some incredible spaces (touring houses and in magazines) that have utilized wallpaper in a stylish manner.  I'd been reluctant to go there because once again, I've got to sell this place at some point.  Buyers are extremely picky these days and one little thing can sour them on your place.  The advent of removable wall paper opens up a lot of possibilities.

I also love coco+kelley. The mix of fashion, decorating and food is right up my alley.  In my perfect life, I'd only attend to those three categories and spend my days dressing impeccably, decorating to my hearts content and cooking masterpieces.  In my real life, it's all about work and comfortable shoes.  *sigh*

On the local side of things, here are two inspiring designers:  Lindsay Hair and Lori Graham.  Both are friends of friends and I have a passing acquaintance.  I love what they do.  You will too!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Volt

Last Saturday, I left my normal four block radius on U St. and traveled to Fredrick, MD to eat at Volt's Table 21.  For those of you who aren't food geeks and Top Chef fans, Volt is Bryan Voltaggio's restaurant that focuses on local, seasonal menus.  Table 21 is the chef's table in the kitchen.  A friend of mine procured the reservation in November 2009.  That's right...she made the reservation LAST YEAR and the wait continues to be close to a year for Table 21.   It seems Table 21 has achieved the enviable reservation status of "almost impossible."  

I was excited about going to Volt.  My folks owned several restaurants while I was growing up in NC and food has always played a key role in our dynamic.  This has translated into a fierce fascination with good food, unusual dining experiences and new restaurants.  To top it off, my husband is an instinctive cook and is always making something yummy.  Needless to say, discussions about food, wine, and restaurants dominates a lot of conversations.

Let me preempt my commentary by explaining we've also eaten at minibar.  It's very, very hard to top a minibar experience.  Jose Andres pioneered the concept and he's mastered it.  I had a lot of moments where I was thinking "hmm...Volt vs. minibar" and minibar was winning.  I'm not saying Volt isn't good.  In fact, it was excellent and I'm thrilled I was able to experience it.  I'm saying I'm jaded.

Back to Volt.  We had 21 courses!  I'm only going to highlight a few of the courses for the sake of brevity.  21 courses takes a lot of stamina even when the courses are small.  I'm also exceptionally picky and I don't like a million things.  I know.  I'm a pain in the ass.  I'm not Anthony Bourdain, people. This doesn't diminish the experience for me.  I try everything and my husband is the clean up crew.  It's the best of both worlds. 

This is the Neil Dundee*, the beverage director, making our first course called the "john daly".  It involved lots of liquid nitrogen (notice the "steam" coming off the top of the glasses), hanger one buddha hand citron, orange and sweet tea foam.  It was a dramatic presentation which we loved.  I'm a sucker for great presentation.


To the right, is Volt's take on the Caprese salad.  The precision in each of the dishes was impressive.  In this course, each tomato was perfect.  The mozzarella was a tiny bubble. The basil was presented as frozen pellets.  All the elements melted in your mouth to make an incredible bite. 

The course to the left was lobster, butter, fennel and carrots.  All of the course were cooked perfectly.  I felt one or two of the meat courses were over salted.  Otherwise, it was phenomenal.  I didn't love a few of the courses but as I mentioned, I'm picky.  The rest of my crew thought almost everything was good.  The courses with the least amount of gimmick were our favorites.  The consensus was the regular menu must rock.

The service was exceptional.  It was top tier and thoughtful.  We received muffins for breakfast as we exited.  Ours were lemon poppy seed and they were devoured Sunday morning.

Overall, I enjoyed myself immensely. For a food geek like me, it was a perfect Saturday evening.  For the entire menu, see below.

-"john daly" hanger one buddha hand citron, orange, sweet tea foam
 -proscuitto chip & dip
- beet macaroon with foie gras (I really enjoyed this although I generally despise beets)
- yellowfin tuna tartare cilantro,jasmine rice wrapper, soy, yuzu, avocado
-chilled yellow corn crab salad, coconut
-"chicken parmesan" parmesan noodles, parsley
-cherry glen farm ravioli porcini mushroom, goat cheese (my favorite!)
-lobster butter, fennel
-sturgeon sour cream and onion potatoes, red onion confiture
-artic char maroon carrots, matsutake mushrooms
-barramundi cauliflower, verjus, chickpea
-sweetbreads fennel, kalamata olive, caper, lemon
-turscarora farm beets arugula, goat cheese, balsamic
-pork belly mostarda, cannellini beans, orange
-border springs farm lamb licorice, curry, farro, cauliflower
-pineland farm strip loin lobster mushroom, applewood smoked bacon
-point reyes blue cheese apple, balsamic
-goat cheesecake raspberry sorbet, morcona almonds, caramel powder
-gala apple walnut crumb, dulce de leche
-textures of chocolate caramel, chocolate ice cream
-chocolate, candies and macaroons

*sorry for the fuzzy photos.  All photos were from our phones. 








Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shout out on Urban Turf

Although I'd love to claim the shout out on Urban Turf was about me, it was about my new listing.  It was featured this week on Comp and Circumstance: The Battle of the Two Bedrooms.  The comments on the post are about half and half (excluding my comment that favors the U St. condo.  Come on...of course I'm going to advocate for the U St. property.  It's my listing and in my neighborhood.  Everyone already knows about my love affair with my 'hood.)  We're having another Open this Sunday 9/26 from 1-4 if you want to make a decision for yourself.

So far, we've had a lot of interest in the unit.  A couple of agents have asked for disclosures but no registered offers.  (yet!) 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sellers that are DB's

For the last week, I've been wrangling an offer on behalf of one of my buyers.  The sellers are DB's (use your imagination) and they think it's 2004 not 2010.

Our offer came in 10K below the last sold comp.  Yes, we knew it was low but it wasn't a low ball offer or 10% off list.  It was 35K off list.  It was risky tactic but we assumed the seller would counter with a reasonable number based on the sold comps in the area.

There were no other offers.  We were the first and it had been on the market for 14 days.  It was priced well but it wasn't exactly right or there would have been multiple offers.  A recent post on Urban Turf indicated the highest amount of the interest a listing receives is in the first four/fives days it's on the market.  I was hopeful we'd be able to come to an agreement quickly.

Instead, the sellers scoffed and countered with the list price.  You read that correctly.  THEY REFUSED TO NEGOTIATE AT ALL.  I was flabbergasted. 

My client was annoyed but the place is appealing.  We came up 30K.  THE SELLERS STILL DIDN'T ACCEPT IT.  We're still negotiating.  

I'm gobsmacked.  I know nothing should surprise me anymore because real estate is a crazy world.  Yet I'm astonished by this situation.  It would be different if it was a short sale and the sellers HAD to sell it for list price or they would default on the loan.  Except this isn't a short sale.  It's a regular sale.  I don't understand why a person would try to sell a property in this market and not be willing to negotiate.  This is a business transaction, people.  Negotiating is part of it.  Get a clue.

What I really need is an intervention from Mike Aubrey from the HGTV show "Real Estate Intervention."  He'd kick some seller ass and all would be well.  Isn't my imaginary world interesting? 

Meanwhile, in the real world, I'm waiting to hear from the listing agent to see if our last counter was accepted. 




 

Friday, September 17, 2010

American Ice Co.


Great update on POP about the new bar from the ESL guys that's around the corner from our place.  My husband and I were talking about this place last week as we had happy hour on our roof.  I think it's going to be the 6th thing I love about my 'hood.  Or maybe it'll move to #1.  I guess it depends on how the tacos taste.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New listing! Open Sunday from 1-4pm.

I have a new listing!  It's 2004 11th St, NW #239 and it's $409,000.  It's a bright 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo with garage parking on lively U St. Corridor. Open floor plan, maple hardwood floors, gas fireplace, 2 bedrooms en suite and a wonderful balcony overlooking 11th St. Amenities include fitness center, rooftop deck, courtyard, party room, front desk person. FHA approved. 2 blks to U St. Metro, 4 blocks to Yes! Organic Market, minutes to numerous restaurants and shops.  Click here to see the virtual tour.  I'll be holding an Open House on Sunday from 1:00-4pm.  Please stop by if you're in the neighborhood.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dumb stuff Realtors do

Realtors do a lot of things to make a transaction happen.  We clean.  We put away stuff.  We walk dogs.  We travel at all hours to get paper work signed.  We stage units.  We arrange cleaners, painters, handy men and contractors. We set up home inspections.  We show 60 properties in one week to buyers who are only in the country for a short amount of time.  We do a lot of things to facilitate a deal.

Today, I think I hit a new level of "dumb stuff I do".  Today, I had to clean off a bathroom counter and put away someones XL Magnum condoms.  Yep.  Really.  Many, many things went through my mind as I performed this action.  Most of them I can't print.  The one thought that's stuck with me all day:  I can't believe the things I do for my job!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bad back=cranky realtor

As I type this post, I'm sitting with an ice pack on my lower back.   It's being held in place an ace bandage that's tied around my waist.  Hilarious mental image, isn't it?  I've managed to "break my back."  Not really but it sounds amusing.  Something is inflamed and it's pressing on my sciatic nerve.  It's amazingly painful.

I've always been pretty lucky in the injury department.  I started playing soccer when I was five years old and only had two injuries:  broken elbow (when I was thirteen) and a broken foot (three years ago).  Not bad in the scheme of things.  I have a very high tolerance for pain.  Most aches and pains I can ignore but this one has my complete attention.

I've taken measures to make it better.  I went to the doctor, got a shot and some muscle relaxers.  That didn't help.  The muscle relaxers kept me up all night and my back got worse.  This week, I visited with a chiropractor recommended by a friend and I'm making progress.  I can now walk without pain shooting down my leg.  YEA!    

The most interesting side effect of my broken back is I'm more irascible than usual.  I don't have a lot of patience when I'm 100% healthy.  Now, I have none.  Thankfully, my husband hasn't been a target.  Everyone else should watch out.  

For example, I just sent an unpleasant email to an incompetent listing agent.  Do I care?  Yes and no.  Part of me feels guilty that I wasn't friendlier in the email.  In my defense, I had already sent three emails asking the same question with no direct response.  Now my closing date is in jeopardy.  The other part of me thinks "whatever."  Do your job and do it well.  Then I wouldn't have to send irate emails.  Would this be normal if my back wasn't broken?  Probably not.  The email would have been more amiable.

I'm hoping the future weeks will bring me some relief and increase my tolerance.  Meanwhile, I'll keep showing property and try to keep my peevishness to a minimum.  I better up my dosage of ibuprofen.

  

Monday, August 30, 2010

Who said the housing market has hit the skids?

In the last several days, several of my buyers have discussed their concerns about the market.  The news about the drop in sales in July freaked one out.  Another client took the opposite approach.  The drop in sales meant it was an opportune time to enter the market since less people would probably be searching.  Except this is the DC market. 

Take 1411 Monroe St, NW, pictured above.  One of my clients wanted to see it.  It's been on the market 11 days and it's listed for 449K.  It's a fixer upper in a great location.  In the notes section of the listing, it said "contact agent by 8/26 if you want to make an offer."  Today is the 30th so I called the agent.  I was told that they're one initial from ratifying a contract.  Because I'm the curious sort, I asked how many offers he received.  Although I've been involved in many multiple offer situations in the last two years, I was still shocked by his answer of ELEVEN offers.  wow.

After I congratulated him, I hung up the phone and thought about the implications.  Clearly the housing market isn't going down the tubes in DC.  I think it's easy to assume the worst if you're following the national news. It does raise some interesting questions.  Should you be following the news?  Or should you be following your intuition?  It's a tricky road.

My advice?  Do a little of both.  Follow the local real estate news vs. the national news.  An accurate picture of what's happening in your chosen neighborhood will help your decision.  For example, we bought on the edge of U St. Corridor because I knew a lot of development was coming in the next five years.  We will definitely see appreciation.  It might not be a lot of appreciation..maybe 4%.  I think 4% appreciation over five years is better than 0% appreciation if  you're not an owner.  Maybe I'm biased since I'm in the business but I think a lot of people would agree with me.   


  

Saturday, August 28, 2010

5 things I love about my 'hood

1.  Produce from the farmer's market at 14th and U.  Every Saturday from May 1-Nov. 20th fruits, veggies, baked goods and more are available on the corner of 14th and U St.  It's seasonal, fresh and  locally produced.  This was today's haul.  Yum!

2.  The Green/Yellow Metro stop that's two blocks from our house.  I know people poo-poo everything but the Red line but I love it.  I can hop on the Metro and get to Target in one stop.  It's three stops to the Verizon Center and four stops to the National Mall.  We went to Jazz in the Sculpture Garden yesterday and it took 10 minutes to get there. 

3.  The 9:30 Club.  I don't fully take advantage of living across the street from the 9:30 Club but I'm trying.  The Gabriela y Rodrigo show was one of the best performances I've ever seen. 

4.  Solly's patio.  Sitting outside of Solly's for happy hour and $3.00 Miller Lites makes me smile.  When the weather is beautiful, there's nothing better than having a beer and people watching.

5.  The ESL guys think my 'hood is cool too.   Marvin, The Gibson and Patty Boom Boom were their first forays.  They've been successful from day one.  I can't wait for the bakery, the British pub and the beer garden to open.  All of these amazing places (and how could they suck?  It's the ESL guys and they have the golden touch) are within five blocks of my house.  Hell yea!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Buying your kid a condo for college?

A shocking post title?  Not really...buying your kid a condo vs. dorm life in college is a common occurrence in Foggy Bottom.  In fact, I'd say 75% of the business that The Murphy Team does in Foggy Bottom is helping parents and their children find a place to live.  That's why I was fascinated to read the article in the Post real estate section that discusses the practice.  ("Consider buying a home instead of dorm rent")

George Washington University (GWU) is the most expensive university in the US.  If parents can afford to send their kid to be educated at GWU, it's likely they can afford an investment property.   $840 a month for part of dorm room is cheap vs. renting a studio or 1 bedroom in DC.  A studio in Foggy Bottom can rent from $1300 to $1900 a month.  A one bedroom can rent from $1300 to $4000.  For most parents coming from other (cheaper) states, there is a lot of sticker shock.  Buying becomes a more attractive prospect once they see the rental prices.

What the article doesn't address is the current market in Foggy Bottom.  A lot of the buildings in Foggy Bottom have a number of investor owners (owners that don't live in the unit).  Lenders don't like investor buildings.  Refer to the recent mortgage crisis.  In fact, you pretty much have to buy with cash in Foggy Bottom unless you have a creative lender.  Loans are usually sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by whatever lender that finances the condo.  Fannie and Freddie are currently no longer purchasing any loans in a building that has over a 50% investor ratio unless the purchaser is living in the unit.  Since most of these units are being purchased by parents for kids, this poses a problem.  The kid can't get a loan.  He/She doesn't have a job therefore they have no income.  It's proving to be quite a dilemma.  In fact, this is the number one topic of conversation at most of our staff meetings.

Thankfully for the current owners, this snafu doesn't seem to be impacting prices dramatically.  Studios continue to sell for 175K-250K in Foggy Bottom.  Hopefully, this trend will continue and buying a condo for your kid will continue to be an option.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August doldrums? No siree...

DC revolves around the Federal Government and the city is D-E-A-D in August.  Congress is on vacation. The hoi polloi usually go on vacation too.  Even the First Lady went on vacation!  Traffic is non existent, reservations are easy to book and parking is a breeze.  Usually, you can count on real estate being dead too.  Except this August, it isn't.  I'm baffled by the business cycle this year!

January was frantic.  February was slow to due to Snowmageddon.  March was decent.  April and May were insane.  In June, none of my buyers wanted to work on Saturdays.  For the first time in years, I had four Saturdays off in row.  Conveniently, it was also World Cup.  For once, it was good timing.  July was busy but two out of my three deals blew up.  It was beyond depressing.  I'm bouncing back in August and have my fingers crossed for the rest of the year.

Real estate is the strangest business!  You work evenings, weekends, and holidays.  You get frantic before every vacation.  Inevitably, you work on vacation.

There is a part of me that wishes I could turn off my phone sometimes.  Occasionally, I miss having a daily slog into an office.  (I do have an office but I prefer to work from home.)   Then I remember that I do horribly in offices and I hate office politics.  There's a reason I'm in real estate and work from home. 

I just finished a home inspection in a home where the electricity was off due to the thunder storms.  The whole block had been electricity free since 7:30am.  Clearly we have to reschedule.  We completed the outdoor portion.  It took 3 hours.  With no AC and about 8000 mosquitoes.  I now have mosquito bites on my feet, on my fingers and lots of other places I won't discuss.  Although I'm an itchy and sweaty mess, I'm still happy to do it. 

Hopefully, the busy trend shall continue into the Fall.  As I've noted many times this year, inventory is LOW.  Once again, I have clients that want to buy and I have nothing to show them.  As August begins to slide towards September, I hope we'll see an uptick in listings and more people purchasing a home.  If interest rates continue to hover at 4.3% (isn't that insane?), I think the market is going to heat up.  We shall see!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Changes to the DC Homestead Tax Deduction

For those of you not in the "know", the DC Homestead Tax Deduction is for DC residents whose home is their principal residence.  If you reside in your property, the Homestead Deduction reduces your assessed tax value by $67,500.   This is a substantial amount of money and one of the perks of purchasing in DC. 

Before April 1st 2010, the title company where you completed your closing filed the Homestead Tax application.  After April 1, 2010, the new owner will have to do it themselves.  DC has changed the requirements. (Sneaky sons of a guns...they're trying to rake in every bit of revenue possible!)  You'll need to provide your drivers license or government ID, your vehicle registration (if you own a car) and your voting registration.  ALL three have to show your new address.

If your title company filed your application for you after April 1, 2010, it's not going to be accepted.  You'll need to refile it with DC Gov with the evidence I mentioned.  You can register online to vote.  The rest you'll have to complete at the lovely DMV.

DC Gov is also looking for people that no longer qualify for the Homestead Tax and haven't canceled their exemption.  If they discover that you know longer qualify, owners have been charged with penalties, interest and the additional tax they owe.  Word to the wise:  take care of this or it could get ugly.  DC is not messin' around when it comes to it's revenue generating operations!

I'd like to give a shout out to Ricki, my broker, who wrote us an email detailing these changes.  Thank you!

If you have questions or need links to the application for the Homestead Deduction or the cancellation form, email me or post a comment.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

FHA changes

FHA loans are widely used in the DC housing market.  In the last two years, half of my clients have utilized the lending program.  Before 2009, I never had a client use FHA.  Before 2009 there was also 0% down loans.  Oh how the lending landscape has changed!

An article in the Post's real estate section does a good job of recapping the recent changes.  I've written about some of these changes like the up front insurance premium.  It was 1.75% but earlier this year it was raised to 2.25%.  The article also includes a summary of upcoming changes.  If you're going to use an FHA loan to finance a purchase, this is a must read.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What the..???

This is 1318 Randolph St, NE which is located in the hot, hot neighborhood of Brookland.  It had SEVEN offers! One of them mine.  It was listed for 254K and it is in very good shape.   Yes, the kitchen and bath needed updated but at 254K, that's doable. 

Our offer came in #3 out of the 7.  I should be satisfied but I'm not.  We lost.  Our offer (20% down, conventional loan, almost 40K over list) was strong but my clients have limits.  The winning contract was for over 300K...probably well over 300K.  I suspect it went for 330-350K.  That's 750-100K above the list price.  I could say I'm shocked.  I'm not.  Finding a house in DC in the 250K range is similar to the Nationals having a winning season... almost impossible.  What's been encouraging in the last several weeks is the number of decent houses in this price range.  What's been discouraging is there's always multiple offers. 

For me, the most competitive price ranges in the 2010 DC market have been the single family homes between 250-350K and 750-850K.  It fascinating that the most competitive price ranges are on opposite ends of the spectrum but the circumstances are the same.  There isn't a lot of inventory that's good.  When it's good, there's multiple offers.   I missed the height of the market in 2002-2005 when people sometimes made 4-6 offers before they got a contract ratified.  It's frustrating but exhilarating.  I really hate to lose!  I think the Fall selling season is going to be very interesting.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Buying in DC

Purchasing property can be a crazy process.  There's a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary.  You have to become well educated in the language of lending.  I created a cheat sheet for my buyers to help them with the procedures.  So how does one go about the buying a property in DC?  


1.  Talk to a lender.  This is the most important part of buying a property.  Financing can be the most difficult step in a purchase.  Your credit has to be good.  You debt to income ratio has to be just right.  It's VERY important it is to know your limits BEFORE you search.  Once you've spoken to a lender and they have all the info they need (bank statements, payment stubs, financial records, your credit, etc.) you’re pre-qualified and ready to start searching.
 2.  Find a property.  Discovering real estate that you want to purchase involves looking at listings online and visiting houses/condos/coops.  Sometimes a picture can only convey so much.  It’s wise to visit as many properties as possible to determine what appeals to you.  That can take a day or several months.
 3.  Make an offer.   Once you find a property you love, you make an offer.  In DC, we use a Regional Contract and lots of addendums.  The contract, addendums and paper work are 30-40 pages.  It’s very important to review all of the paper work.
4.  Execute the paperwork.  After you offer has been reviewed and ratified, the contract is sent to the lender and the title company.  The title company starts to review the title work.  Their job is to make sure the property is delivered with a clear title.  The lender starts processing your loan.  Meanwhile, you conduct the home inspection and the lender sends out the  appraiser.
5.  Fufill the contingencies.  If the home inspection, appraisal, and financing go smoothly, you go to closing.
6.  Execute final reviews.  Before closing, you do a final walk through to see if the property is still in good shape.  This is also when you check the items that were repaired from the home inspection.  (If any repairs were needed).  You also review the HUD1 (the closing statement) to make sure all your fees are correct.  If everything is in order, you sign the documents.
7.  Complete the documents.  Once all the documents are signed, you're a proud homeowner.  Congratulations!

The entire process of making an offer; its acceptance, ratification, expiration of contingencies to closing the deal usually takes 30 days.  The 30 days starts the day you submit the offer to the listing agent.  The closing date is usually 30 days from the date the contract is written.  If you need a longer period of time for closing, 45 days from the date the contract is written is also acceptable.  If it’s a short sale or a foreclosure, the closing date period will be 45-60 days at a minimum. 
A few definitions:  Ratification means when all parties (the seller and buyer) agree to the terms of the contract.  For example, let’s say a house was listed for 499K.  You decide to make an offer for 450K.  The seller thinks that price is too low so they counter offer (make another offer) at 475K.  475K is an acceptable price to you and to the sellers.  Everyone agrees to the price of 475K and signs the offer.  The contract is ratified.  There are lots of variables to an offer.  All terms stated in the contract are negotiable points:  the price, the closing date, how many days you have for your home inspection, financing contingency and appraisal contingencies.  Once ALL the negotiating points have been agreed upon, the contract is ratified. 
Contingencies are a fulfillment of a condition.  I like to use 3 contingencies in my contracts because they protect the buyer:  the home inspection, financing and appraisal contingencies.  All 3 of these contingencies have to be met before you can close on a property.  There are different reasons to have these contingencies but in essence they protect you from losing your earnest money deposit.
An earnest money deposit (EMD) is the deposit that the brokerage or title company holds in an escrow account.  It goes towards your closing costs.  The earnest money deposit is usually 3-5% of the offer price.  It’s not deposited into escrow account UNTIL the contract is ratified.  If the contract is not ratified, the EMD check is returned to you. 
Closing costs in DC run about 3% of the purchase price.  The two biggest costs covered by the 3% is the title insurance and the recordation tax that goes to DC Gov.  This tax is 1.45% of the purchase price over 400K and 1.1% of the purchase price under 400K.  If you’re using an FHA loan, costs are slightly different.   Since the FHA guarantees the loan, you pay a big chunk of the MIP costs (mortgage insurance premium) upfront.  It’s 2.25% of the purchase price and it's included in the loan amount.  
 As you can see, it's a complicated operation. That's why you need a cheat sheet!