Northern Virginia Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Nov. 14, 2018

3 Home Improvement Projects That Buyers Will Love

To increase your odds of selling in this market, you might want to look at completing a few home improvement projects. These are the three that we recommend.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


As we slowly shift to a buyer's market, it’s time to make some adjustments. For one thing, it's worth looking at some simple home improvement projects that can help ensure you sell your home quickly and at a top price. 

The thing is, when it comes to selling your home, not all home improvements are created equal. That's why I've collected the three top home improvement projects that homebuyers love, according to a report by the National Association of Home Builders:

1. A laundry room. More than anything, homebuyers currently want a separate room for washing, folding, and ironing clothes so they can keep the mess out of their living space. If you have an unused basement, it makes a lot of sense to put the laundry room there because all of the utility lines will be accessible and you probably won't have to demolish anything. A new laundry room could cost as little as $1,000 and could contribute a lot more than that when you look to sell your home.    


"90% of buyers want energy-efficient windows in their home."


2. Exterior lighting. Exterior lighting is the most desired outdoor feature by homebuyers, appearing on 92% of wish lists. Your options for exterior lighting include spotlights, walkway lights, and pendant lights. Fixtures range in price between $65 to $132. Exterior lighting will present your home in the best possible light, impressing these potential buyers and increasing overall interest in your home. 

3. Energy-efficient windows. Most homebuyers today care about energy efficiency. Specifically, 90% of them want energy-efficient windows in their new home. A set of energy-efficient windows will drive down the costs for your utilities, improve comfort inside your home, and increase your home's curb appeal.

That's why, whether you are planning on staying in your home for a while or are looking to sell quickly, energy efficient windows are worth considering. In fact, that's true for all of the above projects. If you have any questions about any of these projects or what else you can do to add value to your home before selling, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Nov. 14, 2018

An Update on Our Fall 2018 Real Estate Market

As we head into fall, we wanted to bring you a closer look at the real estate market. Here’s what you need to know.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


If you've been thinking of selling your home, you'll want to keep listening. Today I’ll show you how to get a significant advantage over a lot of other home sellers in the market today.

First, let me give you a bit of background on the current conditions in the (area) housing market:

1. Mortgage rates have hit a 7-year high. Several weeks ago, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate broke through the 4.6%-mark—the highest level since May 2011. This is part of an ongoing upward trend in mortgage rates, which started over a year ago. In spite of the rate increase, mortgage applications spiked in September. This is a signal that buyers expect rates to go up even more in the near future.

2. Affordability is dropping, and demand might soon follow. For the past several years, home prices have increased at twice the speed of inflation. For a while, this didn't have too much of an effect on the market because there was so much pent-up demand. Affordability is suffering—an estimate from early summer put current home affordability levels at a 10-year low.    


"If you’ve been thinking about selling, the time to act is now."


3. More home sellers are reducing prices. Not surprisingly, the combination of sustained high prices, increasing mortgage rates, and a drop in demand is finally starting to have an impact on the real estate market. More than a quarter of homes listed as of September 16 had a price drop. 

What does this all mean for you? In short, if you've been thinking of selling your home, then the time to act is now. In spite of the easing of demand, there are still many hungry buyers on the market and prices remain near all-time highs. This means you can sell your home quickly and for top dollar.

However, all of the reasons I listed earlier mean this situation might not hold very long. Demand might slack off even more and many more homeowners might decide to enter the market, driving down prices and really ushering in a buyer's market. That's why it can make a lot of sense to move early—before this kind of awareness reaches the majority of homeowners. 

If you want specific information about the current Northern Virginia real estate market, or you're mulling over the idea of buying or selling a home, please give me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Nov. 14, 2018

How Mortgage Rates Are Affecting the Market

The average mortgage rate is at a seven-year high. Is this what’s behind the shift we’re seeing in the market?

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


The 30-year fixed mortgage rate currently stands at around 4.77%. That's near a seven-year high, and almost 1% higher than just a year ago. This is the result of a steady rise starting last September and ending this May.


What impact is this having on the real estate market? It's certainly true that affordability is down. In fact, one estimate from June found that home affordability is at a 10-year low. This is translating into fewer home sales, fewer viewings, and fewer mortgage applications.

However, I don't believe that the shifts in the mortgage rate is the primary mover of the changes we're seeing in the real estate market. In fact, even at its current level, the mortgage rate is still historically low.

Instead, the big reason for the changes in the real estate market is the ongoing growth in prices. Over the past several years, home prices have gone up at close to twice the rate of inflation, and have far outstripped the growth of incomes.   


"Over the past several years, home prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation."


The price increases, in turn, have been caused by a lack of inventory, which has been shrinking for the past three years. In my opinion, it’s this lack of inventory (and the resulting hike in prices) that explains most of the effects on the real estate market that I listed above.

If you're looking to sell, you should still have no trouble doing so. Demand continues to outstrip supply, and even with dropping affordability, it's very likely that you would find a buyer quickly and at a top price.

If you're looking to buy, the picture is more complex, because it's so hard to predict what the mortgage rate might do in the near term. One thing we do know is that the severe lack of inventory is unlikely to change any time soon.

If you want specific information about the current Northern Virginia real estate market, or you're mulling over the idea of buying or selling a home, please give me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Nov. 14, 2018

Is Northern Virginia Entering a Buyer’s Market?

After being in a seller’s market for quite some time now, it looks like a shift is on the horizon. Here’s what you can expect.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


After several years of continuous price gains, the real estate market seems to be reaching its price cap. In June, the last month for which we have complete numbers, 14% of all listings saw a price cut. That's up from a low of 11.7% at the end of 2016.

In the same month, housing demand fell 9.6%, the largest decline in over two years. Mortgage applications to purchase a home have decreased as well. 

A few things are at play here. One is rising mortgage rates, which have been steadily climbing for much of this year. Another is an overall decrease in affordability, resulting from a combination of the growth in home prices and mortgage rates. 

If this is the start of a buyer's market, it's unlikely to be just a momentary blip. One sign of this is that homebuilder sentiment has recently fallen to the lowest point in almost a year. In other words, homebuilders are losing confidence in their business due to the aforementioned affordability concerns.   


"This is certainly good news if you're looking to buy a home."


So what does this mean for you?

Well, it's certainly good news if you're looking to buy, because it means you will have more choice at more affordable prices.

On the other hand, if you've been thinking of selling, this might mean that it’s time to act. Listing your home now would give you the best odds of achieving a top price before the change in the market occurs. 
Remember that all real estate is local. There are big differences even within the Northern Virginia area, and prices can change from block to block.

If you want specific information about the current Northern Virginia real estate market, or you're mulling over the idea of buying or selling a home, please give me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

 

Nov. 14, 2018

Does Investing in a Starter Home Make Sense?

Investing in a starter home isn’t the right move for every homebuyer. However, this is how many can benefit from one.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


Should you invest in a starter home? Or, is it a better idea to wait and save up for your "forever" home?

First off, let's make sure we are talking about the same thing. Economists often define a "starter home" as being in the lower third of a market's valuation (as opposed to trade-up homes and luxury homes). For many homeowners, however, a starter home is not about price. Instead, it is about how long they plan to stay there.

This is where the dilemma really lies. This is because buying and selling a home, as well as moving in and out, each carry specific expenses. Also, since the bulk of the mortgage payments for those first years go to interest, you are unlikely to build up much equity if you only own the home for a short while.

In fact, according to one estimate, the break-even point for a starter home is somewhere between five to seven years. In other words, if you're planning to stay in the home for just a few years, it might not make sense to buy it in the first place. 

Am I telling you not to buy a starter home? No. There are definitely situations in which a starter home makes perfect sense.   


"A starter home can help you save money and build equity."


For example, if you’re planning on staying put for five or more years, a starter home will save you money on rent and help you build up equity. Purchasing a starter home also makes sense if the home has the potential to become your forever home with the right renovations or additions.

If you are open to keeping the home and renting it out later in case plans change, buying a starter home may be a wise choice in this case, as well.

Ultimately, this will be a decision that is based on your own unique preferences and places. 

When you weigh all of that in, if you do decide that a starter home might make sense for you, then here's something important you should know: The best time to buy a starter home is coming up soon. Fall is the season when starter home inventory peaks and listing prices drop, according to the real estate portal Trulia. This means you will have the most choice, at the most affordable prices.

If you have any questions about the current Northern Virginia real estate market, including whether a starter home is right for your unique circumstances, don't hesitate giving me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Posted in Real Estate
Nov. 14, 2018

3 Reasons to Consider Selling This Fall

Fall is an underrated time for home sellers. Here are a few reasons why.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


Sometimes it pays to go against the crowd. The real estate market is definitely at a peak during the spring and summer, but going against this trend and listing your home in the fall can have some great benefits:


1. Buyers are more serious. During the spring and summer, many buyers are more curious than actually committed to purchasing a property. On the other hand, buyers in the fall tend to be more serious. Many have been searching throughout the summer and have not found their perfect home yet. Others are simply forced to look for a new home because of a new job, a work relocation, or because they want to complete their move ahead of the holidays. In other words, fall buyers make up in dedication for what they might lack in numbers.   


"Fall is a great time to make a move up."


2. There's less competition. It's no secret that most homes are listed in the spring and summer. However, homes that are not sold by the end of the summer are often delisted. Otherwise, they start to draw less interest because of the time they have spent on the market. If you list in the fall, you have the benefit of standing out, as well as facing less competition than during the "hotter" seasons.

3. It's easier to move up. If you're looking to buy a new home and also sell your current one, then the fall market may offer the best opportunity to do so. You will enter the market with confidence and without stress, while many sellers who have been unsuccessful in selling their homes during the summer will be more eager to sell during this time. This can lead to very flexible negotiations that will work in your favor.

If you have any questions about why the fall is such an opportune time for you to sell or about the home selling process in general, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Nov. 14, 2018

How to Keep Your Home Cool Without Cranking Up the A/C

Want to keep your home cool this summer without having to pay an arm and a leg in utility costs? Here are three alternative ways to cool your home.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


Temperatures are rising and so are your utility bills, courtesy of that big power hog: your air conditioner. If you want to cut down your cooling costs without having to crank up the A/C, here are three tricks you can try instead:

1. Fans and ice. You can easily make a DIY air conditioner, with nothing more than a box fan and some ice. Simply put the ice into a bowl and place it in front of the running fan. As the ice melts, it cools the air around it. The fan will then disperse that wonderfully cool air all around your home. 

Fans can do more than that, though. Another cooling trick is to run your ceiling fans counterclockwise—this will pull up the hot air, leaving you sitting in a cooler space. And installing a whole-house fan can literally pull out all the hot air from your home and siphon it up and out at minimal cost. 

2. Green cooling. Plants do a wonderful job absorbing sunshine and reducing the summer heat. If you're planning to stay in your home for a while, it might make sense to plant several deciduous trees on the south side of your home.  


"Some of these will actually boost your home’s value."


Another option is several potted sunflowers, which grow quickly but have large leaves. Climbing vines or foliage on a trellis can keep the front of your home cool, while a green roof will both increase your comfort and reduce your energy bills year-round. 

3. A summertime schedule. For this natural trick, simply open up the windows in the early morning and shut them before you go to work. This will allow you to suck in some cool air and to keep out the hot air later in the day. For even better results, draw the shades during the day and consider getting heat-blocking blackout curtains.

These kinds of simple heat-busting tricks can be effective at reducing the heat during the summer months and lowering your energy bills by 30% to 50%.

Plus, small investments like planting a tree or installing a whole-house fan can also boost the value of your home. I bring this up because the summer is also when the real estate market gets hot. 

If you are ever in need of a trustworthy real estate agent, my doors are always open. If you have any questions or you are interested in buying or selling a home, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I would be happy to help you.

Posted in Real Estate
Nov. 14, 2018

3 Real Estate Scams You Need to Know About

There are three real estate scams I’ve become aware of recently that you need to know how to protect yourself against.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


It can be a scary world out there. While the majority of people are good and honest, a few bad apples always try to take advantage of others.

Unfortunately, the real estate market is no different. Today I wanted to let you know about some real estate scams I've become aware of recently:

1. The mortgage closing scam. This scam is spreading across the country. It has become so prevalent that the FBI estimates it has led to over $1 billion in stolen or diverted funds in 2017 alone. It starts when hackers gain access to a real estate agent's email account. Then, when it's time to close a deal, the hackers, posing as the real estate agent, send instructions to the homebuyer on where to wire the money.

Of course, it is only after the buyer has sent thousands of dollars to an unknown bank account that the truth comes out—the real estate agent wasn't actually the one reaching out, and the buyer has been scammed.

2. Fake real estate lawyers. This scam is similar to the first one, in that the scammers will impersonate somebody legitimately involved with a deal. In this case, the hackers will impersonate a real estate lawyer who is associated with a particular home sale.  


"Find a real estate agent you trust to represent your best interests."


3. The bait-and-switch. Unlike the first two scams, this scam targets sellers. It also doesn't require any hacking or impersonation—just a dishonest buyer. Here's how it works: A buyer makes an offer that's well above the listed price, the seller happily agrees, and the contract is signed.

But then, the buyer starts procrastinating, making excuses, and dragging out the process for months or even a year. In the meantime, the seller continues to pay costs for the home, and is getting more and more emotionally worn out. In the end, the unscrupulous buyer flatly says they can only buy the home at a lower price, usually under the listed price. And the seller, desperate by now, frequently agrees.

So, how can you protect yourself against these and other scams?

For one thing, avoid sending account information over email. Confirm everything over a phone call (to a number that you already know to be valid)—or even better, in person. And ultimately, find a real estate agent you trust to represent your best interests. 

If you are ever in need of a trustworthy real estate agent, my doors are always open. If you have any other questions or you are interested in buying or selling a home, don’t hesitate to give me a call at 703-328-3434 or email me at Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I would be happy to help you.

Nov. 14, 2018

3 Questions to Ask Any Agent Before You Hire Them

Before hiring a real estate agent, you need to do some vetting. Here are the questions that we recommend you ask.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


Buying or selling a home is a major project. Having a trustworthy agent to guide you through that project can be an invaluable asset. But how can you vet potential real estate agents to see who would be a good fit for you? Here are three important questions you should ask to get started: 

1. "How many homes have you sold in the last 12 months?" Many real estate agents will tell you the number of years they have in the business. That's useful, but their recent activity can be more relevant than their total experience. Asking this question can tell you how well they know the market, as well as how successful you can expect them to be in your case.

Bonus Question: You will probably want to ask whether the agent works primarily with buyers or sellers, because many agents specialize to some extent in one or the other.

2. "Can I have the contact info for your last three deals?" Anybody can say they are a marvelously effective real estate agent. But talking to actual past clients can help you decide whether this is true or a bunch of hot air. When you do talk to a real estate agent's previous clients, you don't need to get too fancy to get useful information. Simply ask them to share their experience.  


"You want to get a sense that this agent is somebody you can trust."


3. "What is your strategy for my specific needs?" As a buyer, you will want the agent to explain how they will search for your new home, how many homes you can expect to see, and how the agent handles multiple offers. As a seller, you will want to know how and where the agent will advertise your home. 

So what kinds of answers should you look for to these questions?

Ideally, you will want to get a sense that this agent is somebody you can trust and that you feel comfortable working with.

At the same time, you will want them to be experienced and diligent, as evidenced by recent successful deals and a concrete plan of action for your situation. 

If you ever want to know how I measure up on these questions, you can always give me a call at 703-328-3434 or send an email to Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. I'd love to hear what your specific situation is and whether I would be a good match to help you in the current Northern Virginia real estate market.

Nov. 14, 2018

3 Things to Know About the Spring Real Estate Market

Here are a few things to know about the real estate market as we head into spring. It should be a great season.

Selling your Greater Washington DC area home?
Buying an Greater Washington DC area home?


Each year, spring is the hottest season for real estate. However, spring 2018 looks to be an especially important time for anyone looking to sell a home. Here are a few facts to get you thinking:

1. Demand continues to outstrip supply. The number of homes on the market is near an all-time low, and listings of existing homes have plunged 8.1% over the past year. While this means that the total number of sold homes has actually decreased, demand continues to be strong.

2. Home prices are still surging. Home prices are up 6.3% year over year in the last quarter for which we have data. It's not just Northern Virginia that's doing well — areas around the country keep posting record highs for home values. 

3. Mortgage rates are finally rising. The Fed increased its benchmark rate several times over the past year, but this did not translate to an immediate increase in mortgage rates. However, mortgage rates do seem to be finally responding, and the 30-year fixed rate is now hovering around 4.5.%. While this is a four-year high, it is still near historical lows, and makes mortgages affordable to would-be buyers.  


"It’s not clear how long this favorable situation will last."


Put together, what do these facts mean if you are considering selling your home?

First off, they mean that right now is a very good time to sell. That's because of the strong demand and the high level of current prices. In other words, if you were to put your home on the market right now, you could get top dollar, and you would be able to sell quickly and without hassle.

Second, it's not clear how long this favorable situation will last. As I mentioned, mortgage rates are on the rise. Currently, that is not enough to dampen demand. But if rates continue to rise, it might drive more buyers out of the market, eventually driving down prices and making it more difficult to sell your home. 

Another thing to consider is the effect of the new tax plan. It's not entirely clear how it will affect the real estate market, but odds are good it will make home buying more expensive. That's because of a new cap on state and local tax deductions, which could combine with higher mortgage rates to push more buyers out of the market. 

To sum up, if you have been considering selling your home, consider selling now. The current moment is very favorable, but it won’t last forever. If you have any questions for me about how to get started buying or selling a home, don’t hesitate to reach out and give us a call at 703-328-3434 or send us an email to Janet@TheGreshGroup.com. We look forward to hearing from you soon.