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Ron Sitrin's Washington DC Real Estate Blog

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Worried About Being Priced Out of the DC Housing Market?

by Ron Sitrin

The cost of buying a home keeps creeping up. For those buyers in the DC housing market, there are legitimate reasons to worry:

 1. The cost of homes keeps getting more expensive.

Buyers are forced to increase how much they are willing to spend, or to adjust their expectations downward to match the current market's offerings.  For most buyers, increasing how much you can spend is not an option, so as the prices go up they see themselves losing purchasing power. This is especially pronounced in markets where multiple offers are quite common. 

2. There is an accompanying interest-rate creep.

Although the rates are rising slowly, with each additional rate hike the cost of borrowing money goes up.  

What's most alarming to homebuyers, especially for first-time buyers, is the combination of prices going up along with the increase in the cost of borrowing money. It's this one-two punch that creates the fear of being priced out of the market. Many first-time homebuyers have told me this is their number one fear.   

3. Buying a home in this market may feel like a rushed decision.

It's a long-term commitment that should be made at the appropriate time in one's life! For those wondering if they should enter the market now or wait just a bit longer, it's a tough decision because the consequences of waiting can be expensive. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons with the help of a real estate team.

The question buyers must answer is: “How do I balance the right time to buy, versus potentially being priced out of the market?"

There are several questions one can ask to help resolve this.  Here are just a few:

- Is my salary likely to increase quickly or over a long period of time?

- Do I intend to stay in this area for at least 5 to 7 years?

- If I bought today, how much would my monthly cost increase over my current rent payment?  

- How much more will it cost per month if I waited and both home prices and mortgage rates increased?

The Ron Sitrin Team has helped hundreds of people answer these questions.  

We know how to get you an edge in the homebuying process and how to make sure your move counts! If you'd like to learn more about how our home buyer services and our Home Buyer's Roadmap can help you, give Ron a call: 202-321-4677

Your Real Estate Agent’s Responsibility to You

by Ron Sitrin

Ron Sitrin untangles the Realtor's fiduciary responsibility for you.

When you hire a real estate agent, whether in the Washington DC area or across the country, you create a fiduciary relationship.  That means that the real estate agent has a legal obligation to represent your best interests.

Your fiduciary relationship officially begins when you sign an agency agreement with your Realtor.  This can be either a listing agreement to sell your house, or a buyer-broker agreement to help you buy a new home. This agreement spells out the terms to which both parties agree.

To help you understand this, I’ve explained the six primary duties your agent agrees to:

Confidentiality: your real estate agent must always maintain your privacy.

Obedience: they must follow your instructions.

Loyalty: they must put your interest ahead of theirs.

Due diligence: an in-depth investigation will be completed.

Accounting: your agent must make sure the dollars add up.

Disclosure: they are responsible to disclose to you any material information they discover.

Ultimately, you hire a Realtor to represent your interests when buying or selling a home.

You should expect above all else that your interests are always first – no exceptions! This means an agent or real estate team should be advocating to help get the best terms and conditions for you.  

I, along with the entire Ron Sitrin Team, believe that it’s the combination of performing as a fiduciary, providing guidance, and delivering excellent customer service that are at the core of what we must do to ensure a positive experience for our clients.  The combination of these three attributes are what give added value to the relationship.

If you are interviewing realtors for the job of representing your best interest, here are four probing questions to ask: 

1. How do you plan to fill your fiduciary responsibilities?

2. What things do you do differently that go beyond just being a fiduciary?

3. What guidance and leadership role will you provide?

4. What services do you offer to provide an exceptional real estate experience?  

As you listen to the answers of the four questions above, each answer should build your confidence in the agent you intend to hire. Ultimately, you should feel that the agent you hire is looking out to protect your best interests and giving you an edge in this competitive DC Real Estate market, as well. 

The Ron Sitrin Team serves the entire Washington, DC real estate market, specializing in the District of Columbia, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Rockville, Potomac, Kensington, Silver Spring and Takoma Park.  Whether you are considering buying a home, selling a home or both, we know this area inside and out.  If you’re interviewing realtors, make sure to give us a call!  Reach Ron Sitrin directly at 202-321-4677.

Make the Move: Stress-free Packing Tips from the Pros

by Ron Sitrin

Moving in the Washington D.C. area is no small task!


The Ron Sitrin Team, with over 20 years of real estate experience in District of Columbia and Maryland, has put together some packing tips to make sure your move is as easy as can be.

Whether you are moving to a larger home or downsizing to a townhome or apartment, you’re going to want to make sure your belongings arrive at their destination in the same condition as you packed them. 

Take a look at the useful moving tips our team has put together for you:

1. Get rid of most of your stuff.

Even if you’re moving into a larger home, consider your move the chance to purge yourself of unnecessary belongings -  the backup wok, the dog’s television. If you’re moving into a smaller space, think of this as an opportunity to start fresh. You’ll undoubtedly find that living with less at your new place (no matter how big it is) helps you feel calmer and more at peace.

A company we recommend for junk removal is 123Junk.  Mention Ron Sitrin and you will receive a 10% discount.  Plan to spend around $700 for the removal of the cubic volume equivalent of 9 refrigerators. In addition to removing and disposing of junk, they will deliver items that still have value to charities, and provide you with the receipt so you can take the charitable tax deduction. 

2. Decide how you will move your remaining belongings.  

 Most people within the District of Columbia move to another neighborhood in the District itself, or just a few miles away in Maryland or Virginia. Even so, hiring a professional moving firm can make a big difference.  The weight of all your belongings can be deceiving.  I bet you could measure it in tons, not pounds, and someone must lift it all.  I see a lot of do-it-your-self movers with very stiff backs the next day.  The average move can cost between $2,500 to $5000 and for most people, it’s worth it.

If you are hiring a moving company, make sure they have good reviews.  Things happen during moves, even when hiring the best of movers.  You want to make sure you are working with a company that will stand behind their promises.  Here are a few movers that our clients have used in the past and have had good experiences:

3. Make a master moving list and put all the tasks on a calendar.

Moving entails lots of small details:  find enough boxes, make needed repairs, enroll children in new schools, and so on. Some things need to be done before others can even get started and so you’ll need to plan your tasks. Here’s a great “what to and when” list to help you plan your move.

4. Purchase or borrow extra packing supplies.

You can never have enough boxes, bags, tape, scissors, box cutters, and markers. Trust me on this.  Round up more than you think you will need, then double that amount.  

Check out www.freecycle.com  or the “free” section of Craigslist to see if you can find some free boxes.  Most people only need the boxes for a few days. Once they’ve unpacked, they would be delighted if someone would come and take moving boxes off their hands. 

One thing that caught me by surprise was books.  Books need to go in lots of small boxes.  If you put too many in one box, it very quickly becomes too heavy to lift.

5. Start packing. Today.

Sure, you’re not moving for two months, but packing takes time. Whether its clothes or bric-a-brac, take some time each day to pack some things. You’ll be glad you did. 

Just so you know, your movers can pack everything for you.  Typically, I find the older you are, the more likely you are to opt for this - and often it's worth it!

6. Photograph your electronics before you disconnect.

A picture of the back of your TV and other equipment can be invaluable when you are ready to reconnect things on the other end of your move.

7. Pack a 'First Night Kit.'

Moving day can be long and exhausting.  The last thing you want to do is to open lots of different boxes to find a few essentials.  So, do yourself a favor and pack a 'First Night Kit.'  Include things like a roll of toilet paper, a first-aid kit, basic cleaning supplies, a flashlight, batteries, chargers, scissors, duct tape, a small tool kit, a pen and pad of paper.  Also remember something for your creature comforts like sheets and a pillow, a shower curtain, a change of clothes, a towel, basic toiletries, a few plates and utensils, and maybe some snacks.  You’ll be very glad to have these all collected in one, easy-to-find place.

Your kit should be extremely well-marked.  You could even pack it in a piece of luggage so that it is easily recognizable and not lost amongst the sea of boxes.  Be sure this is the last thing put on the truck and the first thing to come off at your new home.

8. Label boxes - well.

This is critical. Even though you think you can remember where you packed what, I promise in the chaos of the move, you will forget.  Especially if it’s a long-distance move, as you may not see your boxes for weeks.  Label boxes by category and/or by room. You may even want to purchase different colored tape or labels (red for kitchen; blue for your son’s bedroom) to help you and the movers identify which box goes in which room.

9. Plan parking and moving day schedules.

As you well know, parking in DC can be a big issue.  Most movers will pre-arrange a restricted area where they can park so the moving van is near the home. 

If you are moving into a condo, always make sure to pre-arrange with management as most have restricted move-in/move-out times and will want to protect their floors and elevators in advance.  Don’t be surprised if they require a security deposit, as well. 

10. Arrive safely and start unpacking!

Believe us: all this work will be worth it once you’re settled in your new home.  Still have questions? Contact the Ron Sitrin Team and we will help you solve your D.C. area moving problem or help you find the perfect new home to move into.

Why Work with a Real Estate Team?

by The Ron Sitrin Team

A dedicated team of pros, focused on you, will always outperform a solo agent. Here’s why.

It is true that you can use a solo agent to help you buy or sell your next home, but the real estate market is becoming increasingly more complicated and competitive. Here, in the DC area's hot housing market, things are heating up even more! That is why we are seeing the emergence of ​real estate teams​ to better serve you.

Real estate teams consist of agents who work together to help their buyers and sellers achieve a far more enjoyable and profitable real estate experience. Teams do this by taking a collaborative approach, where each team member contributes based on his or her skillset and expertise.

A successful real estate team, with its combined expertise, is able to juggle all of the moving parts. This provides clients with a smoother, more efficient, and less stressful transactional experience.

So why should you work with a real estate team rather than going with a solo agent?

1. It’s faster and easier for you.

Buying and selling real estate comes with an incredible amount of research, planning, footwork, and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork... and all of these take a lot of time. In addition, someone must arrange for marketing, negotiations, comparative market analyses, modifications to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), numerous telephone and e-mail requests, and much more.

A solo agent just runs out of hours in the day!

The team approach​ allows its members to leverage each other’s talents and focus on what they do best. While the outside agents are running from house to house, the in-office agents are keeping all the critical background tasks moving forward smoothly.

All of this means a quicker sale and more hands-on attention for you.

2. Efforts on your behalf expand exponentially.

Work with DC real estate experts such as The​ ​Ron Sitrin Team and you will enjoy the benefits of considerable real estate knowledge many times over:

  • ●  Someone is always available to take your call or answer your email question.

  • ●  You benefit by having access to the team’s larger pool of buyers and sellers.

  • ●  Many eyes mean attention to detail.

  • ●  For buyers, one member of the team can be showing you your new home while another is helping to prepare the paperwork. In other words, work on your behalf can happen in multiple places, at once.

● For sellers, coordinating showing appointments is not dependent on just one person’s schedule.

3. All this attention and effort, yet no extra fees.

Real estate teams work for the same percentage fee as does a solo realtor. The difference is that you receive much more ‘bang for the buck.’  Ron Sitrin of the Ron Sitrin Team loves this team strategy; he has put together a coordinated team of agents that exemplifies the real estate team mentality:

“We have the perfect talent for each task we do! Our buyer-agents are specifically geared to work with the time-intensive needs of buyers. For sellers, we have one person who coordinates any necessary repairs to get homes ready for market. Our marketing expert utilizes the latest technology to maximize each home’s market exposure. I specialize in the pricing, negotiations, and providing in-depth market knowledge. And our Client Care Coordinator processes mountains of paperwork and arranges everybody’s schedules. By staffing this way, I find my clients are getting a superior experience compared to when I was trying to be everywhere and doing everything myself. Now we each focus on our strengths and the clients love the results."

 

This combination of skills is rarely found in one person.

Ron Sitrin Team photo Washington DC and MD real estate

The​ ​Ron Sitrin Team​ has been helping sellers and buyers in the Washington DC area for over 20 years. To learn more about how one of Long and Foster’s top real estate teams can make a difference for you,​ ​contact us​ today. 

Is now the right time to sell?

by Ron Sitrin

Spring cherry blossoms

If ever there was a season to sell, this is it!  Spring has arrived early to the DC real estate market.   The market has been hot this year, even before spring flowers started to bloom. 

The housing inventory of available properties in the DC area remains historically low, averaging a 1.7-month supply.  So, this is clearly to the seller’s advantage.  Additionally, mortgage rates are still low at around 4.25%, which is important to buyers. 

As a result, competition has been intense with buyers clamoring to purchase their next home.  Homes are selling quickly.  In fact, I’ve already had listings that received as many as 8 or 9 offers on a single property.  I’ve witnessed this trend in DC over the past year.  Now that same intensity is spreading to Montgomery County, as well.

Due to the long period of low inventory, we’re experiencing great pent-up demand.  We expect the competition to get even hotter in the coming months. If you're thinking of buying or selling a property this year, call me now and let's create a plan to help you make your best move!

February 2017 Market Update

by Ron Sitrin

I have already seen a number of homes receive multiple offers and it's only mid-February. There are two factors leading to this. First, the threat of rising interest rates has motivated many buyers to jump into the housing market sooner.

Second, sellers typically wait until Spring to begin putting their homes on the market. This year, buyers are entering the market ahead of the typical supply of new Spring listings. This imbalance is creating pent-up demand for new listings.

Because supply is not currently keeping pace with buyer demand, those sellers ready to put their homes on the market will be pleasantly rewarded by the high level of interest their property receives.

For those buyers thinking of waiting, you may want to consider starting your search sooner. The reason is I expect prices to increase during the Spring market."

Why December is a Great Time to Buy

by Ron Sitrin

Experts are predicting that the Spring of 2017 will be dominated by first-time homebuyers. If you are thinking of entering the market in the Spring, you may want to consider speeding up your search. December happens to be a great month to buy for several reasons.

First, December is one of the softest months in the real estate market, giving homebuyers an edge over homesellers.  This can be the best time for buyers to negotiate a good deal.  
 
Second, home prices tend to take a big jump in the Spring market. By locking in your price now you get all the benefits of the upcoming market appreciation typical of every Spring. There are also some tax benefits if you're able to close by the end of the year because your mortgage interest and real estate taxes paid at settlement will be a deduction on your 2016 tax return.

Viewing homes in the winter makes a difference, as well.  Homes do not show as nicely as they do when everything is in bloom. This gives you a chance to see the home as it truly exists. In addition, when the trees have lost their leaves, one gets a much better sense of the actual view from the houses than you would see in the summer months. This way you know that there are no unsightly views.

Lastly, sellers of homes listed in December tend to be very motivated. As a buyer that may be your best chance to negotiate a better deal than at any other time of the year.

If you're curious about what's on the market in your neighborhood, click on the link below to see all the homes for sale:

2017 Predictions for First-time Homebuyers

by Ron Sitrin

First-time Homebuyer MillennialsIf you’re thinking of buying your first home in 2017, you may want to consider moving your purchase date up to avoid the Spring rush. 

Realtor.com recently conducted a study of consumers intending to purchase a home during the next peak season.  As Realtor Magazine identifies in their latest article,  Big Expectations That’ll Drive Housing in 2017 , this Spring is predicted to be a tight market for buyers.  Additionally, more than half of next year’s homebuyers are expected to be first-time homebuyers, competing for affordable starter homes.  They cited interest in finding a home that provides safety, more living space and a larger yard.

According to the study, Millennials will comprise 61% of first-time buyers.  This means that most prospective buyers will be under age 35.  The main homeownership drivers mentioned by Millennials include getting married or moving in with a partner, getting tired of their current living space, or planning to increase their family size.  The suburbs are cited as the most popular location.

In 2016, Millennials found low inventory and skyrocketing prices to be their biggest challenges.  The biggest anticipated barriers for 2017 are mortgage qualification issues (such as down payments and credit scores) and affordability.

One thing the article does not mention is that home prices tend to take a seasonal dip in the late fall / early winter market.  We’re seeing signs of that already. 

Typically, most families wait until the Spring to buy so they can move into their home prior to the start of the new school year.  As a result, there is a current window of opportunity for first-time buyers to purchase now, while they have less competition.

So, if you’re trying to time the market, now is a wonderful time to buy low, in advance of the anticipated seasonal price jump that happens every Spring.

Should I sell my home in the Fall or wait for Spring?

by Ron Sitrin

Residential Neighborhood in AutumnMany sellers in DC, Bethesda and other close-in Maryland suburbs ask me “should I wait until the Spring to list my home?”.  My typical advice is to not let the season determine when you sell your home. The purpose of owning a home is to make your life better. Therefore, when it's the right time in your life to sell, so be it.  Homes sell every day of the year, regardless of the season.

I recognize there are always people who want to time the market.  I hope the following discussion helps you understand the cyclical nature of the market.

Typically, the Fall market ends around Thanksgiving and fewer new listings hit the market.  This causes the inventory of homes for sale to dwindle in December, January and February. The lower inventory levels in these months creates pent-up buyer demand as the Spring market approaches.

When Spring arrives, with its beautiful weather and blooming flowers, buyers seem to turn out in droves.   Since very few new listings come on the market during the winter months, the early-Spring inventory tends to be very low.    As buyers enter the housing market at a time of limited supply, the initial homes that come available tend to sell fast and, in some areas, even bid up to cause price appreciation. As the Spring market runs its course, prices generally increase through June.

By the time schools let out, homes are still coming on the market, but much of the pent-up buyer demand has been satisfied.  We usually see prices peak for the year in the June/July timeframe.  August is the most interesting month of the year.  This is when many of the listings that went Under Contract in June or July finally go to settlement.  So we see the new high water mark for those prior sales.  At the same time, new buyer activity tends to cool off at a time when plenty of inventory is still on the market.  August is the turning point in the market, with the slowest sales.

As the Fall market begins, the supply of homes for sale tends to be higher than the buyer demand.  It’s not unusual to see a little bit of a price correction at this point.

The seller in the Fall market may have a very different experience than the seller in the Spring market.  The Fall market seller may actually sell their home for more money than the Spring market seller did and here's why.  As the market peaks in mid-summer and then begins to soften in the Fall, prices may give back a little bit, but still tend to be higher than they were in the Spring. 

As an example, the person who sold in the prior Spring may have listed their home for $500K, received multiple offers which bid up to $515K, sold in three days and been delighted. The person who sold in the fall may have listed their house at $525K, negotiated down to $520K and taken 30 days to sell. So who did better?

When people are thinking about waiting until the next spring to “time the market”, they ideally should wait until late spring or early summer to try to catch prices at their peak.  This means waiting almost 8 to 9 more months to sell.  So you need to decide if you want to wait for the next spring market and to, hopefully, catch the next wave.

Just keep in mind that as you enter the winter market, the pricing may even give back a little more before the Spring market begins.  At the end of the day, the net proceeds to you may not be materially better, depending upon your cost to carry the house.

Ultimately, it is the cumulative appreciation over a long period of time that creates the long term profits from holding real estate.  Hopefully, when the timing is right for you to sell, you will have owned your home long enough to have substantial profits, so that trying to time a six-month swing won’t matter to you one way or the other.

Are Millennials and Baby Boomers competing for the same homes?

by Ron Sitrin

Millennials with moving boxesA Bethesda client of mine, a baby boomer with millennial children, wanted my thoughts on the following Washington Post article: 

         Millennials Aren't Buying Homes - Good for Them

The article does a good job of discussing why the rate of homeownership among millennials is down versus previous generations.  While it's true that, as a percentage, millennial home ownership rates are lower than previous generations, here are my thoughts on how this generation will affect housing in the future.  

Millennials are the single largest generation (larger than the baby boomers) and the majority have not purchased a home yet.  Virtually every poll indicates that 93% of them aspire to purchase a home.  In our metro DC area, it’s quite uncommon to purchase a home before turning 25 years old and the vast the majority of millennials are still under 25.  In fact, the oldest millennials are now 35.  This group graduated college during the Great Recession.  As a consequence, their home buying cycle was stalled.  

Here is what I predict.  The oldest millennials, who were originally sidelined from the home buying process due the recession, will now begin entering the market in droves.  The greatest number of millennials, now ages 24 to 25, are still too young to make the commitment to a home/mortgage.  However, they are only 2 to 4 years away from hitting that point.  Combine the delayed purchase demand of the older millennials with the up-and-coming purchase demand of the 24 to 25-year-old millennials and I think we are going to have tremendous upward demands on housing.  Keep in mind that millennials are more interested in walkable communities than big suburban houses.  At the same time, many of the baby boomers are becoming more and more interested in selling their larger suburban houses for smaller urban locations. 

I predict the demand for urban areas is only going to soar as a result of the largest generation, Millennials, and the second largest generation, Baby Boomers, all chasing housing units in the same urban locations.  We are already seeing the early impact of this on prices in the walkable locations.  The rising prices in high demand, walkable areas are affecting both baby boomers and millennials in different ways.  

Baby boomers looking to downsize may be disappointed to find their suburban homes values are not keeping up with the surging prices in the urban locations.  Many boomers experience sticker shock when they consider the price per square foot of what they are selling compared to the price of what they want to buy.  Any boomer wanting to make this lifestyle change would be well-served to meet with a knowledgeable Realtor who can clearly articulate how demographic changes are impacting home-pricing trends.  Understanding this prior to making a move will make the entire transition much easier.  There is plenty of documentation that shows that the longer you wait the less purchasing power you will have.

When boomers make this lifestyle change, they have one huge advantage over millennials.  That is cash reserves.  Boomers typically own a house that has appreciated nicely for years.  Upon selling it, they can either make a large down payment or all-cash payment for their next purchase.  For the boomer, the hardest decision is the tradeoff between walkability and amount of space they've become accustomed to.  My advice, if you are thinking of selling in a suburban location and buying in an urban one, is to try to do it well ahead of the unprecedented demand for urban living that I expect to see over the next several years.  

Millennials not living with their parents are probably already living in a walkable location.  As this group follows the sales trends online, visits open houses, and watches their friends buy, they quickly become attuned to how fast prices are rising.  These potential buyers almost always need a large mortgage to make a purchase, so any indication of interest rate increases is also a cause for anxiety.  The one-two punch of rising prices combined potential interest rate hikes fuels fear in this generation of being priced out of the market. 

When asked, many millennials have no idea how much money is needed for a down payment. They just assume it's more than they have.  The reality is that, with good credit, they can buy with as little down as either 3% or 5%. Most renters are also aware of the tax benefits of buying but have trouble figuring out what the impact will be for them.  Here is a general rule-of-thumb.  Take the rent you currently pay and divide it by 77%.  The resulting number is the approximate monthly mortgage payment you can make that will leave you with the same after-tax dollars as your lower rental payment. 

Lots of excitement surrounds a first-home purchase, however, getting a handle on the most ideal home to buy can be a bit tricky.  Is a one-bedroom condo in a great location being too short-sighted?  If having kids is in the foreseeable future, how much space will you really need?  Is the reality that giving up walkability for a larger house in the ‘burbs going to be the best choice for your future family? 

Just remember that the purpose of buying a home is to make life better. My advice for millennials is to never rush a buying decision.  A mortgage is a commitment that can keep you tied down geographically (unless you are willing become a landlord).  Carefully think through what your life might be like five years from now.  Will you need to make tradeoffs in location for more space? 

Once you've weighed your options, if it does make sense to buy, your timing could be perfect.  I strongly believe that those who purchase while interest rates are low and ahead of the expected price gains will have provided themselves with a huge future financial advantage over their contemporaries in two ways.  First, their monthly payments will be lower.  Second, they will have had the benefit of accumulated appreciation that comes with purchasing ahead of the 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 19

Contact Information

Photo of The Ron Sitrin Team Real Estate
The Ron Sitrin Team
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.
4400 Jenifer Street NW
Washington DC 20015
Direct: 202-321-4677
Office: 202-364-5200 ext. 2922