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May 6, 2017

How Much Do You Know About Real Estate Commissions?

Most people know that using a real estate agent to buy or sell a house involves a commission, but many buyers and sellers don’t know how much the commission is, who pays it, or when it’s paid. Here’s a quick and easy overview of the way real estate commissions work in many (though not all) residential housing sales: What Is A Real Estate Commission, And When Is It Paid? A commission is the fee a real estate agent agent earns for assisting a buyer or a seller (or both) with the purchase and sale of a home. Although the commission is sometimes owed (and must be paid) if the sale doesn’t close, in most cases the commission is due at closing and paid to the real estate agent(s) directly by the escrow company that handles the escrow in the sale of the home. (When houses sell without an escrow, alternative arrangements must be made if commissions are involved.) How Much Is A Real Estate Commission? Commissions are normally based on a percentage of the sale price of the home, and can vary substantially, either due to the custom in the geographic location where the home is located or as a result of negotiations between the seller and his or her listing agent. The commission amount is customarily fixed in the listing contract between the seller and the listing agent; however, in cases where there is no listing contract, the commission may be fixed by the purchase and sale contract between the buyer and the seller, or in another document altogether. Who Pays The Commission? The seller customarily pays the commission for both the listing agent and the buyers’ agent (if any), because the commission is taken out of the purchase price of the home. Although the buyer pays the purchase price (often partially through a purchase money loan), the amount the seller receives is reduced by the seller’s share of closing costs, any credits given back to the buyer, and the amount of the real estate commissions. Real estate agents work hard to sell their listings, and to find their buyer clients the perfect home. However, if you need to sell your house quickly, and don’t want to wait on an agent, make repairs, or pay commissions, consider selling your home to 4 Brothers Buy Houses instead. We buy “as-is,” with no loan or inspection contingencies, and normally close the sale in just a few days. Click here for more information or to obtain a no-obligation quote from 4 Brothers Buy Houses today.
April 18, 2017

Modifications to Consider Based on Your Loved Ones Needs By Paul Denikin

Photo By: Pixabay

As your loved ones age, remaining in their home may be their desire, but there are certain modifications that will need to be made to ensure their home is safe, accessible, and meets their changing needs. Evaluate the Home and Surroundings An environment that doesn’t meet the changing needs of your aging loved one can prevent successful aging in place, but modifications can make it easier for your loved one to navigate through and live in their home. Modifications can range in size and cost, from a few dollars for a brighter light bulb to thousands for installing a stair lift or walk-in shower. To start the process of adapting a home to age in place, evaluate the home for potential necessary modifications. Cover all the bases by looking at stairs, light, doors and doorways, hallways, flooring, bathrooms, kitchens, and the home exterior. After evaluating the home, take a look at the surrounding area to make sure your loved one is in an area with access to essentials such as healthcare, hospitals, transportation, shopping, entertainment, and senior agencies. Don’t forget about the safety of the area, too. Local police and neighbors will be able to provide insight into the crime rate and degree of safety in the area, as well as what measures, if any, are being taken to increase safety. Target Specific Needs One of the biggest challenges in modifying a home is identifying safety issues or concerns that are unique to your loved one based on their age or condition. To simplify the process, look for modifications that will solve a particular need or issue and then identify a solution, such as:
  • Balance/Coordination Problems – rounded counter edges; grab bars in the bathroom; stairway handrails on both sides; handrails that extend beyond the top and bottom of the stairs; elimination of stairs to bathroom and bedroom, if possible
  • Poor/Limited Vision – increase wattage of light bulbs; lights in all closets; well-lit stairs; stove controls (clearly marked, easy to see, big numbers, uses different colors to tell which parts are hot); outside walkways and entrances well-lit
  • Hearing Impairment – increased volume on phones; smoke detectors and alarm systems with strobe lights; quiet dishwasher to reduce background noise
  • Wheelchair/Motorized Scooter – floors are slip-resistant; knee space under sinks and stove; no rugs; ramp to front door with hand rails on both sides; wide doorways and hallways; roll-in shower; threshold on door is ¼ inch or less
Keep in mind that some modifications can be made yourself, while others will require the help of a contractor or professional. Consider leaving work that requires plumbing or electrical work to a pro, and handle small DIY projects yourself such as installing grab bars or placing non-slip tape in showers and bathtubs. Additionally, if your loved one ever relocates to a new home, consider calling in professional movers; they’ll ensure that any modification items you’re moving (like portable ramps or removable light fixtures) will arrive in one piece. Be sure to research movers before you decide on any particular company. Remember the Exterior The exterior of your loved one’s home can pose a safety hazard and make aging in place difficult, so don’t forget to asses the outside too. Steps and sidewalks can cause a falling hazard, so reduce the risk by removing steps or adding a low-step entry to make the transition easier going from outside to inside. Depending on the ground elevation, alternative doors may have to be considered to avoid steps. If steps are necessary, make sure they are textured and have hand railings. As for the sidewalk, make sure it is wide and free of tripping hazards such as overgrown shrubs or bushes. Just like adequate lighting is important inside the home, it is important outside, too. Install lighting to illuminate walkways. Make sure there is a light by the entrance door, with preference to those that come on automatically. As your loved ones ages, don’t forget about the challenges associated with outdoor maintenance. Low maintenance landscaping is key, as it reduces the amount of time required by your loved one and reduces the expense should they hire professional help. Suggestions for low maintenance options are shrubs and plants that don’t require watering, or synthetic grass to save the trouble of maintaining a lawn. Modifying your loved one’s home to meet their needs is a process, and as their needs change, you may have to find other ways to help them adapt. Bring in a professional if necessary, and keep the lines of communication open with your loved one to ensure their home remains a happy and comfortable place to live.
April 15, 2017

5 Key Tips for Selling a House in Spring

As winter snow gives way to warmer temperatures, the housing market in Washington D.C. and the surrounding area also springs to life. Buyers take advantage of the better weather to start their search for a home; smart sellers use these helpful tips to make spring sales listings more attractive:
  • Clear The Yard And Plant Spring Flowers. Curb appeal helps sell a house at any time of year, but fresh spring flowers and a manicured landscape give your listing a special boost in spring, when many yards are still recovering from winter’s chill.
  • Brighten The Home’s Interior With Spring Colors. When staging a house in springtime, use light colors and fresh pastels to give your home a clean, fresh feel. Replace the bathroom and kitchen towels and entry mats with fresh, springtime colors that complement your home’s décor and add an attractive splash of spring to your home’s interior spaces.
  • Clean Windows And Install Spring Window Coverings. Windows get dirty during the winter, when storms and dust build up inside and out. Sparkling-clean windows and lightweight window treatments let in light and give your home an inviting feel that buyers appreciate.
  • Decorate With Flowers Or Balloons. Decorate your home before showings or open houses with a welcoming vase of flowers or a bouquet of colorful balloons. Colorful, welcoming decorations make buyers feel welcome and draw attention to your open house.
  • Price Your Home to Sell. No matter what the season, well-priced houses sell faster, and with less hassle, than overpriced ones. Pay attention to the market and set your listing price at a level the house’s location, size, and condition will support.
If you need to sell fast, and don’t want to wait on the housing market, consider selling your home to 4 Brothers Buy Houses instead. As investors, we buy “as-is,” with no loan or inspection contingencies, and normally close your sale in days instead of the weeks or months most sellers wait for a traditional sale. Click here for more information or to obtain a no-obligation quote from 4 Brothers Buy Houses today.
April 3, 2017

February 2017 Housing Sales and Market Update For Washington, D.C. & Surrounding Area

*Market information courtesy of RBIntel.com

In February 2017,Overall Median Housing Prices Rose, Achieving a Ten-Year High For The Month of February. The February 2017 median home sale price in the greater Washington D.C. area was $390,700– a minor increase over January’s median prices and the highest median sales price for February in a decade.This increase was seen in all property types, with condos showing the highest overall increase (10.3%). Sales volume also increased, with closed sales above both the 5 and ten-year averages for February. Properties sold, on average, at slightly more than 97% of the listing price.Overall, these numbers suggest a healthy housing market in the greater Washington D.C. area. Once again, Falls Church City remained the region’s “most expensive”location (measured by average prices), with February median sales prices of $615,000; as in January, Prince George’s County remained the most affordable, with median sales prices of $265,000.Individual home prices and neighborhood values vary, but the average numbers demonstrate an improvement over both the five and ten-year averages for February sales. Pending Sales and New Listings Increased in February 2017. According to figures published by RBIntel.com: The number of new listings in the Washington D.C. area increased in February, with 22.4% more new listings coming on the market this February than in January of 2017.All property types showed an increase in new listings, with the largest increase occurring in townhome listings, though single-family and condo units also saw an increase in new listings. Pending sales at the end of February increased by 2.7% over 2016’s February numbers, and by almost 18% over pending sales reported at the end of last month. Average “Days on Market” For Listed Properties Remained Unchanged. The median days-on-market for listed properties in Washington D.C. and the surrounding counties in February 2017 was 28 days,six days shorter than the DOM for January 2017 and sixteen days less than the average days-on-market in February of 2016. Since lower days on market averages suggest a faster moving market, this is good news for the area housing market. Falls Church City was the fastest regional market last month (median days-on-market: 6), while Fairfax City was the slowest-moving regional market, with a median DOM of 55 (though even that is still four days slower than the average DOM in February 2016). Sales numbers vary from county to county, and even among neighborhoods. The speed and success of a housing sale is dependent on many factors, from listing price to home condition and comparable listings in the area. Your personal experience may vary, but knowing the average numbers is still helpful when making plans to sell your home, either through a realtor or to an investor.
March 26, 2017

5 Early Warning Signs of Electrical Problems in Your Home

Electrical problems cause almost50,000 house fires every year in the United States, making wiring and electrical issues among the leading causes of residential fires and fire damage. Recognizing these early warning signs of electrical problems can help protect your family, prevent hazardous malfunctions, and decrease the risk of fires in your home:
  • Burning Smells From Outlets or Appliances. “Hot,” smoky, or burning smells emanating from outlets or appliances are a sign of serious and immediate danger. Exposed or damaged wiring, overloaded circuits, and fire hazards inside the electrical outlet, box, or system can all cause fires, often preceded by noticeable smells. If you notice a burning smell, or see smoke, emanating from outlets or appliances, shut off the power and call an electrician.
  • Unexplained Electrical Shocks. Occasional minor shocks that occur after walking over carpets may result from harmless static discharge. However, if you experience any significant (or regular/recurring) shocks when touching switchplates, outlets, or appliances, the cause may be a hazardous ground fault or other wiring issue. Contact a professional immediately if this occurs.
  • Sparking Outlets.Age, exposure to water, or faulty wiring can all cause outlets to spark and create a serious risk of fire or electrocution injuries. Although some less-dangerous causes can also result in sparks – for example, the rapid draw on power created by plugging in certain kinds of appliances – sparking outlets should never be ignored, especially if sparks are accompanied by electrical shocks or occur on a regular basis.
  • Circuit Breaker Problems. If the circuit breakers in your home switch off frequently, requiring resets (or replacements, in the case of older fuse-style boxes), call an electrician promptly. Tripping breakers may be a sign of electrical overload, faulty wiring, or other dangerous conditions in need of immediate repair.
  • Flickering or Dimming Lights. Not every lighting flicker represents cause for concern, but lighting irregularities caused by turning on other appliances or for which no immediate cause is apparent are often signs of more serious wiring or electrical problems. After making sure the light bulbs in your home aren’t loose, or designed to flicker, call a licensed electrician to inspect the systems and correct the problem before a fire starts.
Don’t ignore these, or any other warning signs. Have your home inspected by a licensed professional electrician immediately at the first signs of faulty or malfunctioning wiring or electrical systems. Electrical burns, shocks, and fires create a serious hazard and should never be ignored.
March 11, 2017

January 2017 Housing Sales and Market Update For Washington, D.C. & Surrounding Area

*Market information courtesy of RBIntel.com

In January 2017,Median Housing Prices Dropped Compared With December 2016, But Remained At Ten-Year Highs For The Month of January. The January 2017 median home sale price in the greater Washington D.C. area was $390,000– an decrease from December’s median prices but still the median sales price for January in the last ten years.Sales volume also increased by 19.5% over January 2016 numbers. More than 11% more home sales closed in January 2017 than during the first month of 2016, and the properties sold, on average, at 97% of the listing price.Overall, the January market numbers suggest a healthy housing market in the greater Washington D.C. area. Falls Church City remained the region’s “most expensive”location (measured by average prices), with January median sales prices of $610,000; Prince George’s County remained the most affordable, with January median sales pricesof $260,000 – very close to December’s average of $265,000.Individual home prices and neighborhood values vary, but the average numbers in January demonstrate an increase over both the five and ten-year averages. Pending Sales and New Listings Increased in January 2017. According to figures published by RBIntel.com: The number of new listings in the Washington D.C. area increased in January, with almost 13% more new listings coming on the market this January than were listed for sale in January of 2015 and 47% more listings in January than in December 2016. Every part of the D.C. Metro area showed an increase in new listings, though the largest increase in new properties on the market occurred in Falls Church City, while Fairfax County showed the smallest increase. Pending sales at the end of January increased by almost 16% over January 2016 numbers, and by almost 12% over December 2016.This January growth applied across all housing types, with condos, townhouses, and single family homes all showing increases in pending sales. Average “Days on Market” For Listed Properties Remained Unchanged. The median days-on-market for listed properties in Washington D.C. and the surrounding counties in January 2017 was 34 days,five days longer than the DOM for December 2016 but ten days less than the average days-on-market in January of 2016. Falls Church City was the slowest regional market last month (median days-on-market: 60), while Washington D.C. remained the fastest-moving market, with a median DOM of 23 (up two days from December 2016’s median DOM of 21). Sales numbers vary from county to county, and even among neighborhoods. The speed and success of a housing sale is dependent on many factors, from listing price to home condition and comparable listings in the area. Your personal experience may vary, but knowing the average numbers is still helpful when making plans to sell your home, either through a realtor or to an investor.
February 27, 2017

Understanding the Home Appraisal Process

Appraisals are an important part of the home sale process, but many people don’t understand what an appraisal involves or why it’s such a critical part of buying or selling a home. Today, let’s look at some common questions—and answers—about the home appraisal process. What is an appraisal and who creates it? An appraisal is a written estimate of the value of a home, created by an unbiased, third-partyappraiser – a person with experience establishing the value of houses, who has no connection to the buyer or the seller. Most appraisals are conducted by licensed appraisers familiar with the area and market in which the house is located. Why is an appraisal needed? Lenders use appraisals to evaluate the amount of the loan they are willing to make, either as purchase money for a home or in refinancing. The appraisal serves as proof of the house’s value, which impacts the amount of money a bank or other financial institution is willing to lend, and at what price. How does the appraiser determine the value of a home? Appraisers consider numerous factors when evaluating a home. They look at the house itself, including its age, condition, curb appeal, and other relevant details. They don’t care about moveable things like furniture and art on the walls, but do pay attention to fixtures like sinks and toilets, especially if those fixtures need repair. Appraisers also review recent home sales in the neighborhood, paying special attention to the ones most comparable to the house they are appraising. Homes in better condition appraise for higher values than those that look run down, ill-maintained, or in need of significant repairs. Who pays for the appraisal? In the case of appraisals associated with mortgages or purchase money loans, the buyer often pays the appraisal fee as part of the closing costs. When the appraisal relates to a refinance, the person obtaining the loan (usually, a homeowner) is responsible for the fee. However, like many other parts of real estate transactions, the cost of the appraisal may be shifted to another party, depending on the terms the parties negotiate among themselves. Appraisals are an important part of buying, selling or refinancing a home. They help establish the value of the property and the amount of the loan a lender is willing to offer. In addition, buyers can sometimes insert language into the purchase contract requiring re-evaluation of the purchase price if the home does not appraise for at least the value the buyer and seller agreed upon. Although appraisals are a common part of the purchase and sale process, not every sale is contingent upon the house appraising for a certain value. Selling a home to investors is a shorter, less complicated option that may not even involve a formal appraisal. To find out more, click here and get a free, no-obligation quote from 4 Brothers Buy Houses today.
February 18, 2017

Preventing Slip & Fall Injuries At Winter Open Houses

Open houses offer prospective buyers a chance to view, and consider making an offer on, your home – but slip and fall injuries can ruin a buyer’s impression of even the loveliest homes, and may even land the seller in litigation. Here are some tips to help prevent slip and fall injuries during a winter open house:
  • Shovel, Salt, & Sand All Paths & Driveways. Clear away snow and ice from driveways, sidewalks, and paths around your home—and remember to clear the sides and back of the house as well as the front approach. Put down salt or sand to increase foot traction and help prevent unwanted slips and falls. Visitors often want to walk around the outside of a house and tour the backyard area, so make sure to clear and prepare a path where buyers and real estate agents can walk safely.
  • Place Absorbent, Non-Slip Mats Near Entrances. Winter snow and ice can melt into slippery puddles in the entrance, creating hazardous conditions for visitors to an open house. Protect your guests by offering absorbent, non-slip mats near entrances—both front and back—to help prevent mud and puddles from accumulating.
  • Post Warning Signs in Steep or Slippery Areas. Warn visitors of hazardous, steep, or slippery surfaces, especially slopes and stairs. Post warning signs, especially when a surface is steeper or more slippery than it seems.
  • Clean Up Puddles Promptly. Melting snow and ice become slippery puddles in entryways, and other parts of the home as well. Don’t wait until after the open house ends to clean them up. Keep cleaning supplies on hand, and mop up water, mud, and slippery tracks as soon as possible to keep your visitors safe.
  • The Brighter, the Better. Well-lit, welcoming homes sell better in any season, but bright lighting also helps prevent injuries during winter open houses. Use strategic lighting to illuminate your home’s best qualities . . . and also to keep potential buyers safe!
All of the other safety tips for open houses are important during the winter too: clear away clutter, have at least two people monitoring the open house whenever possible, and put jewelry and other valuables in safes (or remove them from the property altogether). A little common sense and preparation can help keep your home, and your visitors, safe and reduce the risk of slip and fall injuries during your open house.
February 10, 2017

What is Foreclosure?

“Foreclosure” is the legal term for the process lenders use to recover the unpaid amount of a loan from a borrower after the borrower violates the terms of a loan agreement. What Kind of Borrower Violations Trigger a Foreclosure? Normally, the borrower’s “violation” takes the form of non-payment, meaning the borrower has stopped making payments on the loan or fails to make payments in the amounts or at the times required by the loan agreement. While many lenders will negotiate with borrowers, in hopes of getting payments back on track, if the negotiation fails—or if the borrower misses additional payments—the lender may decide to foreclose on the loan. Where the loan is secured by a mortgage or a deed of trust on the lender’s home, the lender pursues foreclosure proceedings in an attempt to recover the loan by forcing a sale of the collateral used to secure the loan – in this case, the borrower’s house. What Happens Once Foreclosure Proceedings Start? The exact foreclosure process lenders must use is controlled by a number of laws and regulations, some of which vary from state to state. However, most foreclosure proceedings involve four different phases:
  • Pre-Foreclosure/Notice of Default. This phase begins when the borrower misses payments. The lender will send the borrower notices about the missed payments and indicating that the borrower is in default (or in danger of a default) under the loan agreement. The lender may also file notices with the county recorder or post a notice on the door of the borrower’s home, to make sure the borrower knows that (s)he is in danger of a foreclosure suit.
  • The Redemption Period. After receiving a notice of default, a borrower has a period of time – normally 1-3 months – to pay off the overdue amount of the loan, to sell the home, or otherwise to bring the property out of default. While lenders will sometimes negotiate arrangements with borrowers during this period, it’s dangerous for homeowners to let a loan go this far into default.
  • Sale by Auction. If the homeowner fails to cure the default or sell the home before the end of the redemption period, the lender arranges an auction (either directly with the county assessor or, where necessary, after appropriate legal proceedings) and the house is sold, normally to the highest bidder – who then becomes the new owner of the home.
  • Right of Redemption. In some states, the law gives borrowers who default on a loan a certain period of time to “redeem” the property—even after the auction sale—by paying back the entire remaining amount of the loan, plus the lender’s costs and interest. The redemption period varies by location, as do the terms the borrower must comply with to redeem the home.
  • Eviction (if Necessary). After a house is sold in a foreclosure auction, the lender will give the borrower another notice, stating how long the borrower has to vacate the home. If the borrower fails to comply, the local sheriff will evict anyone remaining in the house after the stated date.
Foreclosure proceedings are stressful, and can be scary, especially if you find yourself in a position where the loan is due and you lack the funds to pay. If you need to sell a home quickly—either to avoid foreclosure or for any other reason—consider selling direct to an investor, to avoid the hassle and delay of open houses, long escrow times, and requests for repairs. To learn more, click here for a free, no obligation quote from 4 Brothers Buy Houses. This article is for information purposes only; itis not and should not be taken as legal advice. If you are facing foreclosure, contact a legal specialist in your area for a consultation about your legal rights.
January 28, 2017

December2016 Housing Sales and Market Update For Washington, D.C. & Surrounding Area

*Market information courtesy of RBIntel.com

4 Brothers Buy Houses is proud to share this update on current Washington D.C. area housing sales and market conditions.* In December 2016,Median Housing Prices Reached the Highest December Level On Record. In December 2016,the median home sale price in the Washington D.C. area was $410,000 – an increase over November’s median prices and also the highest-ever median sales price for the area during the month of December.This is true even though sales volume decreased slightly (though still less than 1%) from the numbers we saw in December of 2015. The total number of home sales that closed in December was also 4.2% lower than last year’s December numbers.Overall, the year-to-date median sales prices of homes in the Washington D.C. area is up by 3.8% compared with last year and almost 1% higher than last month. Falls Church Citywas the region’s “most expensive”location (measured by average prices), with December median sales prices of $678,750; Prince George’s County remains the most affordable, with December median sales pricesof $265,000. The prices of individual homes and neighborhoods may vary, but the average numbers in December show an increase that suggests the continuance of a strong sales market in the greater Washington D.C. area. Pending Sales Increased, But New Listings Declined in December 2016. According to figures published by RBIntel.com: Pending sales at the end of December were up by almost 2% compared with December of 2015, and down by almost 15% from last month’s numbers – but decreases in month-to-month pending sales are fairly normal at this time of year, due to the winter weather and holiday season. The number of new listings in the Washington D.C. area decreased in December, with only 3.089 new residential listings coming on the market. Condos showed an increase in listings, with 3.8% more units coming on the market in December than in the previous month, but the number of new listings for single-family detached homes and townhouses were both lower than the total of new listings that came on the market in November. On-sale housing inventory decreased in December, with almost 14% fewer houses on the market last month than were listed for sale in December 2015, and 18.5% fewer listings available than at the end of November 2016. Average “Days on Market” For Listed Properties Remained Unchanged. The median days-on-market for listed properties in Washington D.C. and the surrounding counties in December2016 was 29 days,six days longer than the DOM for November but five days less than the average days-on-market for houses listed in December of 2015. FairfaxCity remained the slowest regional market in December (median days-on-market: 56), while Washington D.C. was the fastest-moving market, with amedian DOM of 21. Sales numbers vary from county to county, and even among neighborhoods. The speed and success of a housing sale is dependent on many factors, from listing price to home condition and comparable listings in the area. Your personal experience may vary, but knowing the average numbers is still helpful when making plans to sell your home, either through a realtor or to an investor.