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 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!