A Trump Bump? True or False?

Roads To The White HouseWill real estate activity pick up significantly with the new Trump administration? Seems I can’t make it through a holiday party, dog walk, or even a trip to Safeway without being asked. The answer? Not so much. Truth be told, a lot of the folks that will join the new administration are already here. Most others who come will rent. A few will buy. But that’s only a few (someone took a count during the new Obama administration back in 2008, and those that bought numbered around 50). And, let’s face it – the close in DC market is expensive. Unless one is coming from the pricier edges of the country (LA, Boston, New York), Bethesda/Chevy Chase might not be in the budget. And in spite of the fact that Mike Pence recently rented a home in Chevy Chase, before moving into the big house on Observatory Circle, a lot of Republicans feel more at home in Virginia. Furthermore, not everyone who will serve in the new White House will arrive in late January. It’ll take a couple of years for the administration to fill out.

Another local rumor dashed. Alas, there will be no Trump bump. Perhaps a blip?

What’s a Free CMA?

“CMA” stands for Comparative Market Analysis-

-a term frequently bandied about in the real estate world. In the simplest of terms, it’s an agent’s opinion of the price of your home. If you are planning a sale any time soon, this can come in handy. You see this term used often in advertisements- “Get Your Free CMA Today- no obligation!” What these advertisements fail to mention is that all CMAs are free.  I’ve never known an agent to charge for this service, so the “free” part is a bit misleading. And of course, there is no obligation to list your house with the agent who gives you this information… but that’s what they are hoping.

While preparing a CMA, I take a look at recent sales in the area closest to your home.  No two homes are alike, except in housing developments, and even these can change over the years as owners renovate baths, move walls, or finish off the garage.  It’s part art and part science. Experienced agents tend to have more to draw upon (hopefully having seen the actual comparable properties), while greener agents will rely on the listing histories and photos.

CMAs are not to be confused with appraisals, which are used for bank loans and estate evaluations. You pay for an appraisal.  In the close-in DC suburbs, bank appraisals run @$450, while estate appraisals can run double that.

Our friends at Zillow have a lousy reputation for figuring out housing values. Steer clear of these and don’t get your hopes up.

If you want to figure out how much your close-in DC house is worth I’d be happy to come take a look. You don’t even have to be moving. You might just be curious. And that’s o.k.

Pantone Color of the Year 2015

Pantone color of the year 2015AND THE WINNER IS…


Every year the Pantone folks choose a color.  And without fail this color seems to show up in the shops- in clothing, home accessories, furniture, etc.  Most people won’t even register the change… heck, most don’t even know about the color of the year.  But if you are aware of it, you will begin to notice trends.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we recommend that you wholly embrace the newly anointed “color”.  Quite the opposite.  As real estate agents, we strongly suggest a neutral palette. If one is so inclined, the color of the year can be a perfect “accessory” color (think pillows, bedspreads, candle sticks, dish towels, etc). But best not to go overboard and paint all the walls Marsala (see recent “colors of the year” below and you’ll see why).

pantone color of the year


Pantone has a pretty cool website.  You can find all sorts of complementary colors that work well with the color of the year.  In it one is bound to find a good Read more

East Bethesda 2014 Sales Stats

East BethesdaReal estate analysis for 2014 home sales in East Bethesda is here!

Prices were up by just over 5%, though the number of home sales was down roughly 20% from 2013.

Competition for homes remains fierce.  The average number of “days on market” for 2014 was 32, down from 45 in 2013. The median in 2014 was 7 days. That’s fast.

For a more detailed look at 2014 stats, click here:  East Bethesda Real Estate Report 2014

And if you’re considering a move this year, let us know! We would be happy to help you with your purchase or sale.

-Marcie & Cati

Hey, Big Spender

Found money!All money is not the same.  In real estate, a lot of times local money is king.

When I’m listing a property, and we get two offers, and one of them has financing through a capable local lender and the other offer is financed through a 1-800 number… three out of four times I’m going to recommend that our sellers go with the local lender... even if the other offer is for more money.

For a variety of reasons this makes sense:

  1. Ownership.  When I’m talking to a bank, I want to talk to one person who will track the loan from start to finish.  I don’t want to speak with someone in the phone bank, who really has no idea about who the client is or what is needed from them, only to be passed along to a new person the next time I have a question. In real estate, you need answers fast. Have you ever had problems with your cable/television/phone? While I won’t mention names, getting an answer or a remedy quickly is a lark.  That’s just not acceptable when dealing with real estate.
  2. Accountability. If a local lender screws up, you can be sure that most of the real estate community knows about it. Get a 1-800 loan, and there is no one on the other end of the line who cares. There is no local reputation to protect. As a seller, you can always tell the buyer that you’ll take their offer, but only if they switch lenders. Sometimes they’ll even listen to you!

Read more

Stuff* Happens

Sad senior businessman on a green meadow with downpour over himMurphy’s Law. Bad Luck.  Crappy Timing.  There’s a lot of stuff that can happen to your home as you prepare to list it for sale.

And it’s understandable. As (most of) you begin the long slog of de-cluttering, primping and getting ready for photos, some problems are revealed.  Could be a wall that needs painting (once the bookshelf is removed).  Pitch that aging and ugly recliner and suddenly a stain in the carpeting is revealed. Or, as one client recently experienced, a difficult to replace shower slider broke just days before settlement, having worked perfectly for all the years they lived in the house. But of course!

Sometimes the momentum is such that it’s impossible to repair/fix/replace the item before the house goes on the market. One can let prospective buyers know that the item will be tended to prior to settlement. Or, in some extreme cases, the item can be “disclosed” as faulty and the buyer can decide themselves if it will prevent them from making an offer.

If your house is under contract and the dishwasher blows, unfortunately, it’s up to you (Seller) to replace it.  Even if your house is being sold “as-is”, if the darned thing was working when you signed the paperwork, Read more

The Good, the Bad, and Just Plain Ugly

picture of an old instant camera in a tripod with a retro effectWhen you list your house for sale, you want your house to look good, right?

Buyer beware.  Not all photography is equal.

We recently had an opportunity to compete for a listing. We didn’t get it (damn it).  The most frustrating thing was that when it did list the photography really stunk.  It was a good looking house, but you wouldn’t have known it from the pictures posted on-line. It looked like someone had come through and snapped a few shots with their phone.  The lighting was poor. The angles were all wrong. The furniture looked oversized and crowded. It just looked ugly. Using my buyer eyes, I might have found it all a bit underwhelming.  Mr. & Mrs. Seller-  this is exactly the opposite of what you want.

As an agent, it’s my job to get as many qualified buyers into your house as I possibly can. Good photography can do this.  Sure, one can accuse us of over-using the wide angle at times, but at least we make the room look inviting. I work with a professional photographer. We know how to find the best angle to show off a room, and if we can’t get the look we want Read more

Holding Out For A Better Offer

Best Offer No matter what the “temperature” of the market, sellers always wonder whether or not they should work with the first offer that comes in or wait for something better to come along. In real estate, sometimes that 2nd offer doesn’t come around for a long, loooong time. Quite often the first offer is the best offer a house will receive, so we almost always advise our sellers to try and work with the “bird in hand.”

If your home is on the market, and an offer comes your way, even if it is a lousy offer, make an effort to review the terms and send back a counter offer.  Sometimes buyers are testing the waters, not actually believing that their offer will be accepted as presented.  A low-ball offer doesn’t always signal a lack of interest, capability, or flexibility on the part of the buyer. If you take offense and don’t respond, you’ll never know just how willing the buyer would have/could have been.

In 2013 the average number of “days on market” was 48 (for Bethesda zip code 20814).  So far this year in 2014 that number is 59.  Despite the lack of inventory, not all houses receive offers within the first few days.

Sell Directly to a Builder? Pros & Cons “2”

CarelessPAY NO COMMISSION! Heard that one before?

Sounds attractive, right?  For a $700,000 home most sellers pay a commission around $40,000. It’s a lot of money. Is it worth it? I like to think so. My services extend well beyond merely finding a buyer for your home. Sure, I’ll see to it that you comply with all local regulations, and I’ll monitor the transaction to make certain that nothing falls through the cracks. My most important responsibility, however, is to make sure that your interests are promoted AND protected.  Commission pays for a lot of things, including advertising, marketing, signs, open houses, a healthy internet presence… items necessary to generate the most exposure for your property, which should generate the largest number of offers. When you deal directly with a builder, there’s only one offer out there.

Builders ARE buying properties on the open market (the multiple listing service). Given the competition for buildable lots in the area, they have to! They are also appealing directly to homeowners through flyers or door-to-door campaigns.  It’s a way to cut out the competition (multiple bids… the new norm).

A lot of properties in the area have a pretty clear set price dependent upon a variety of factors, including location, condition, lot size, additions, renovations, etc. Builders tend to focus in on the grading and lot size. Us realtors place more emphasis on condition and updates. Often the two sides don’t share the same price opinion.
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Sell Directly to a Builder? Pros and Cons

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been seeing an up-tick in mailings from builders lately.


So… what does it all mean to a seller?  Is it really the good deal that it purports to be? The answer is a mixed bag. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Let’s break it down by category. (I’ll start off talking about the first item on the list… subsequent posts will address the rest):


If you own a house that is in horrid disrepair, this can be a life-saver. As agents, our job is to get you what you want. Sometimes it’s top dollar. Sometimes it’s speed. And sometimes it’s keeping things easy (i.e, no taxing renovations). If you fall into this last category, selling your house “as is” can be the way to go. Keep in mind, builders aren’t the only ones out there who buy “as-is” homes.  Given the recent Read more