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Ask Adam: Top 7 Ways to Win a Bidding War

by ARLnow.com | April 15, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 334 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. My wife and I are in the North Arlington market for a single family home and have dealt with the frustrations of losing out on competitive situations. We have lost a few homes recently while bidding 3-4 percent above ask, waiving all contingencies, writing a heartfelt letter, putting down a large EMD along with 20 percent down payment, yet we were still not even the top three contenders with our offer.

Have you noticed an uptick in demand this spring market compared to the last spring market? I know it really depends on what the seller is looking for, but it is not often realistic (nor possible) for us to offer 10 percent above ask on every offer to get our home. Do you have any suggestions for a winning strategy while still exercising at least one contingency to protect us? Additionally, could you rank the contingencies from best to worst in terms of making a competitive offer? Thank you.

A. It sounds like you are competing in a market segment that is in very high demand, which can be highly frustrating. There are certain segments of the Arlington market where demand seems to continuously outpace supply, creating the type of bidding wars you are experiencing.  That said, I have not noticed an uptick in demand this spring over last.

I wrote an article last year that provides a points-based list of strategies that you can use to strengthen your offer. It’s still highly relevant, but I like your idea of putting these strategies in order. In my professional opinion, these are the top seven ways you can become more competitive.

  1. Price. Assuming that you feel the current market value of this home is higher than the asking price and you expect competition — I recommend offering the full list price.
  2. Escalation. 
    1. Decide what the highest price is that you feel comfortable paying for this home. Said differently, if someone is willing to pay $1 more than this price, are you OK with them getting the home?
    2. Most buyers are going to escalate in increments of $1,000. I recommend picking a more aggressive number — perhaps $5,000 or $10,000. This will help make up for any deficiencies in your offer.
  3. Appraisal. If you can afford to do so, waive the appraisal contingency. Putting yourself in the seller’s shoes — it’s great to have a high contract price, but if they are running the risk of it not appraising, they could find themselves re-negotiating the price after the appraisal. Many sellers will put a lot of value in being able to avoid this situation.
  4. Home Inspection. Home inspectors are paid to find problems in a home. Even for the most well maintained homes, they are going to find something. Sellers would prefer to avoid the possibility of the home inspection turning into additional expenses for themselves. If you are not comfortable waiving the right to a home inspection, you may want to consider waiving your ability to request repairs. Done properly, you can maintain the ability to cancel the contract if something is found that you are not comfortable with.
  5. Closing Date. Find out when the seller would like to close and match this closing date in your contract. If they are in the process of buying another home, they may also prefer a rent back. You can win some major points by offering a free rent-back for the sellers.
  6. Financial Contingency. This is the hardest contingency to exercise so sellers are not typically as worried about the financial contingency. The listing agent can usually determine by the strength of your pre-approval letter and a conversation with the lender, how big of a risk you pose of being turned down for financing at a later point. We work with some lenders that can fully approve you prior to writing a contract, which make the financial contingency unnecessary.
  7. Earnest Money Deposit (EMD). Assuming you don’t default on your obligations, this a free way to strengthen your contract. The minimum EMD amount we usually see is 1 percent of the purchase price. I recommend an EMD of 3 to 5 percent in a competitive situation.

Please consult with your Realtor about how each of these strategies can affect your level of risk before moving forward. Best of luck out there!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: Should I Buy Title Insurance?

by ARLnow.com | April 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 812 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. I just purchased my first home in Arlington, one that had only one owner over the life of the home. The home was also owned outright. When going over closing costs, I was told that the owner’s title insurance is optional. Given that this expense is upwards of $800, what is your take on buyers opting out of this?

A. The house may have had just one owner, but what about the land itself?  It has had several owners over the last 200 years. There could be any number of title defects that affect the land.

If there are any title defects, a buyer can certainly pursue a claim against the seller under the covenants in the deed; however, will the seller have the assets to satisfy the buyer’s claim? Will the buyer even be able to find the seller years after closing?

That is the benefit of owner’s title insurance. A buyer is safe in purchasing realty because if there are any title claims, the title insurance carrier will be there to compensate any loss.

Not getting title insurance is like not getting auto insurance. Sure if you get into an accident and it’s someone else’s fault, you can sue them. But if they are without insurance and judgment proof, unless you have insurance, you have to absorb the loss yourself.

The response to this question was provided by Helen Krause and Nicholas Vlissides of NewWorld Title.  I recommend contacting Helen at NewWorld Title for any of your settlement and title needs: helen@newworldtitle.com.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: Should We Fire Our Realtor?

by ARLnow.com | April 1, 2014 at 3:15 pm | 1,744 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. We have been working with a Realtor for almost two years and we have been unable to find a house in North Arlington that is suitable for us. At this point we are wondering if it is time to find a new agent, but at the same time, we wonder if a new agent would do any better for us because there is such low inventory in North Arlington and the market is so competitive.

We are having second thoughts about our agent because he is not proactive. We receive a daily automated email from him with the MRIS listings, however, after reviewing the daily list, we must tell the agent which houses we would like to see. He has never once said to us “this house is coming on the market” or “this house came on the market today, let’s go and see it.” We feel like we are doing all the work and the agent is just “opening doors.” Yes, we know once the time comes to put in a contract the agent will be working hard for us, but at this point it is frustrating.

We have not signed any kind of agreement with our agent, but after almost two years we feel a little guilty about finding someone new, especially since he is expecting to sell our condo. What is the best way to handle a situation like this? Could we have him sell our condo and work with another agent to find our home, or should we just separate ways?

A. There are plenty of people critical of my profession and I totally get it. Many of those critics have had an experience like the one you are describing. You are hoping this agent adds value once you find the right home, but he has not demonstrated the ability to do so thus far. If he is just going through the motions now, I would expect the same when it comes to advising you on the value of the home, negotiating your offer and marketing your condo. You deserve a lot more than this!

There isn’t any excuse for not being able to find a home after two years. I know that housing inventory is lower than buyers would like, but after two years it is not low anymore. It is just normal. In February alone, 183 other people were able to find homes in Arlington.

There needs to be continuous dialogue between you and your agent so that he is advising you on what needs to be done to help you meet your goals. Maybe your expectations are a little unrealistic, but that is not your fault. It’s his job to be a market expert and to help you understand what it will cost to get what you want in today’s market. Rarely should a week go by without at least one proactive suggestion from your agent. If he is unable to do this, then he is either not trying hard enough, too busy for you or not well enough ingrained in the North Arlington market.

The buyer agents on my team and I try to establish realistic expectations at the initial consultation. Sometimes, we even review active listings in this first meeting. It does not make sense for someone to think they are going to find something that doesn’t exist.  Especially in a market where prices are increasing.   (more…)

Ask Adam: Cost Per Square Foot Near a Metro?

by ARLnow.com | March 25, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,779 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. Have you done any analysis on the average sale price per square foot by Metro area in Arlington? I’m looking to buy in the Clarendon/Courthouse area and that along with HOA fees are two of the key components I am examining.

A. I have created a report for you that follows the Metro stations along the Orange Line from East Falls Church to Rosslyn. You mentioned in a subsequent email that you are looking at newer condos, so I am going to limit my analysis to condos built more recently than 1999. I’m using data from the MLS so it will not includes some of the new construction sales at Gaslight Square and the growing number of sales that take place outside of the MLS.

East Falls Church

The only newer condo currently located near East Falls Church metro is Westlee. The average cost per square foot (CPSF) is $454 with a range of $442-$476.

Condo listings near East Falls Church metro

Ballston

Ballston includes a larger number of condo options, such as Liberty Center, Continental and Berkeley. You will also start to pay a premium for being within the Ballston to Rosslyn corridor. I did not include condo conversions like Eastview & Westview because they were not actually built after 1999 (despite how they are listed in the MLS). The average CPSF is $555 with a range of $450-$624.

Condo listings near Ballston metro

Virginia Square

Virginia Square often gets lumped in with Ballston, but I decided to break them up. I included Hawthorn, Lexington Square, Monroe and Ballston 880. The average CPSF is $544 with a range of $463-$600.

Condo listings near Virginia Square metro

Clarendon

Clarendon is consistently in the most demand when it comes to condo buyers like yourself.  I included Hartford, Lyon Pointe, Clarendon 1021, Phoenix, Station Square and Clarendon 3131. The average CPSF jumped to $589 with a range of $518-$724.

Condo listings near Clarendon metro

Courthouse

Condos in Courthouse include Vista, Odyssey, Park, 1800 Wilson, Dakota, Gaslight Square and Wooster & Mercer Lofts. Courthouse is typically a little less expensive than Clarendon but the average cost per square foot is going to be skewed slightly higher because of the luxury Abdo buildings. The average CPSF is $569 with a range of $443-$744.

Condo listings near Courthouse metro

Rosslyn

The numbers in Rosslyn are off the chart because Rosslyn includes the ultra-luxury condo buildings: Turnberry Towers, Waterview and Memorial Overlook. Even though the average CPSF I’m reporting is higher in Rosslyn, I think it is safe to assume that if you built the exact same condo building in Rosslyn and Clarendon, the one in Clarendon would be able to demand a higher cost per square foot. The average CPSF is $815 with a range of $532-$1102.

Condo listings near Rosslyn metro

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: What’s the Value of a Garage?

by ARLnow.com | March 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 1,574 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. We’re considering building a new house on our existing lot in Arlington. We are trying to decide whether or not to include a garage in our plans. We live about half a mile from a Metro stop, and our current home lacks a garage (though we do have off-street parking). We have never really worried about the lack of a garage for ourselves, but we don’t want to hurt the resale value of the home. Because our lot is small, building a garage will come at the cost of some of the interior space of the home. We are trying to determine whether or not the garage is worth sacrificing living space, or whether a larger living area without a garage will have better resale value.

A. When it comes to buying newer homes, a garage is often on the “must-have” list for Arlington home buyers. There are people like yourselves who could live without one, but the pool of potential buyers is going to be much smaller if you forgo a garage with your home.

I don’t think it matters terribly if the garage is attached or detached. Some people prefer one or the other, but most don’t care. You’ll find that homes with a detached garage gain an incentive “bonus” when calculating maximum lot coverage in Arlington County.

If you do go with a detached garage, I recommend looking into creating usable space above the garage. I’ve seen people use this space as a home office, workshop, clubhouse, hobby room or even just for storage. It creates a lot of possibilities that are certain to add value to your home.

I looked at the statistics for Arlington fee simple homes that were built in 2013:

  • 7 homes did not have a garage
  • 13 homes had a 1-car garage
  • 62 homes had a 2-car garage

This means that 91 percent of homes built in Arlington last year had a garage.

You may also want to assess what segment of the market you want to attract with your home when it is time to sell. It’s my casual observation that homebuyers looking to spend around $1.3 million and up, tend to expect a 2-car garage.

Your home is located near the Metro and includes off-street parking so you may benefit from some market leniency, but I think the safe bet is to include a garage in your plans.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: How Do I Reduce Outside Noise In My Home?

by ARLnow.com | March 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm | 1,078 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. How can I soundproof our home near the road/in the city for a peaceful night’s rest and increased attractiveness to buyers and renters?

A. Exterior sound is something that a lot of us deal with in Arlington. Without rebuilding your home to completely soundproof it, but there are some things you can do to make it more difficult for sound waves to penetrate your home and disturb your rest.

Here are some ideas you can try:

  • Seal any cracks or holes with caulk or plaster.
  • Use weather stripping around windows and doors.
  • Windows are often a path of least resistance for noise, so if you have older single pane windows, you may want to consider upgrading to double pane windows with a higher level of insulation. Windows have a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. The higher the rating, the greater the noise insulation. I’ve read that you should look for windows that will provide at least a 5 to 6 decibel improvement.
  • Ensure that the walls and roof of your home are properly insulated. If you add or improve insulation, be meticulous about eliminating gaps.
  • Consider heavy curtains and thick carpet or rugs to dampen sound vibration.
  • Install a solid core door.
  • Replace open turbine roof vents with low profile baffled vents.
  • Add a solid exterior fence or dense vegetation.
  • This one sounds extreme, but some contractors advise adding another layer of drywall.

You may also want to think about adding an indoor water feature to drown outdoor noise with something more soothing. You can do the same outdoors if road noise is disturbing you while you are trying to enjoy time outside.

Depending on how dire your situation is, it may be worth hiring an acoustic expert to provide specific solutions for your noise concerns.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: Do I Save Money if I Don’t Use an Agent?

by ARLnow.com | March 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 1,380 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. Can I save money on the purchase price in lieu of paying a commission to a buyer’s agent when purchasing a home? 

A. I’m glad you asked, because there are a lot of misconceptions about how this works. Potential homebuyers often think that they can show up to any property without agent representation and they will be automatically granted a discount equal to whatever commission is being advertised to buyers’ agents. That is not the case.

The listing agreement negotiated between the listing broker and seller will allocate a certain commission rate for the listing. A portion of the commission is designated for the buyer’s agent. If a buyer’s agent does not exist, then the total commission defaults to the listing agent. Of course there are exceptions where the seller and listing broker add language to the listing agreement to specify a different protocol if a buyer is unrepresented, but in this case the discount may default to the seller rather than the buyer.

Even if you submit a written offer that includes a provision to lower the commission to the listing broker, your offer does not have the power to modify the listing agreement or commission structure that is already in place. In a situation where a property is having trouble selling, you may find that the listing broker and seller are willing to consider a reasonable proposal, especially if you are able to demonstrate the ability competently represent yourself. If it is a well priced property that is likely to sell quickly, you will probably have a hard time convincing them to make a special exception for you.

When buying new construction, the price is often non-negotiable whether you have a buyer’s agent or not, so it makes sense to have an expert representing your interests.  In cases where the price is negotiable, I’ve always found that I’m able negotiate a better deal for my clients than unrepresented buyers.

You can target for-sale-by-owners. They are tough to find and your pool of options is going to be limited in Arlington, but they do exist. The major question is going to be whether they are willing to provide you a discount or not. They are often trying to save money themselves so you will have to evaluate the situation to decide whether you are actually getting a deal or not.

Though I am happy to answer your question as best I can, I am in no way an advocate of attempting to purchase a home without expert guidance.  I feel that the risk far outweighs the potential reward. You may want to check out a past article I wrote about Avoiding Homebuyer Pitfalls.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: Being a Proactive Homeowner

by ARLnow.com | February 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 884 views | No Comments

Ask Adam header This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. What can we do keep in mind as new homeowners to maintain the value of the property? Are there things we should be thinking about twice? I’m just trying to be proactive now rather than looking back and wishing I had done XYZ, if you know what I mean?

Maintenance is the No. 1 thing that comes to mind. As a homeowner, you are tasked with a myriad of new responsibilities. Keeping up with these tasks will extend the useful life of systems and materials in your home. It will also help you avoid expensive surprises.  Below are the Top 10 maintenance items I often see get neglected:

  1. Once or twice yearly servicing of heating and air-conditioning systems
  2. Replacing HVAC filters as directed by the filter manufactures
  3. Cleaning and staining of deck
  4. Regular painting of all exterior trim
  5. Regular painting or staining of wood exterior doors and wood garage doors
  6. Sealing of granite or other natural stone countertops
  7. Winterization of outdoor hose bibs
  8. As-needed cleaning of gutters
  9. As-needed trimming of trees and shrubs around the home
  10. Maintaining proper water diversion away from home and retaining walls

Be sure to keep all your receipts so you can show potential homebuyers how well you have maintained the home. If you decide to make improvements to your home, I highly recommend working with contractors licensed to do the work you need them to perform.

You’ll also want to make sure that they are pulling and completing any permits required by Arlington County. Again, keep all of the paperwork for your records. If you are thinking about upgrading your home, I recommend doing so in time for you to enjoy it.  Not just to sell the home.  Even though the return on investment may justify the cost to upgrade, part of the value is your ability to enjoy it.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: Inaccurate Details on Zillow

by ARLnow.com | February 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 1,633 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Q. I bought a two-bedroom, two-bath house in Arlington in 2000. I see on Zillow that it’s listed as having one bath. Should I be concerned about whether the county has accurate records? Will this be a problem when I sell?

The information found on Zillow is far from perfect, but the good news is that you can update the details about your home. If you look up your home in Zillow there should be a summary of details in the upper left corner of the screen. Below that is a button labeled “Claim This Home.” Once you claim the home, you will be allowed to correct your home’s data so that there isn’t any confusion when you go to sell the home one day.

For some reason the Arlington County Real Estate Assessment webpage does not include the number of bedrooms and baths listed for the home. You can call the Department of Real Estate Assessment at 703-228-3920 to find what information they have on record. You can also have your Realtor look it up for you in the tax record portion of the MLS. If there is an inaccuracy, I recommend getting it cleared up prior to putting your home on the market.

Note: adding a bedroom or bathroom may cause your assessed value to go up, which will increase your county taxes.

Ask Adam: Coming Soon?

by ARLnow.com | February 11, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 952 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Q. What’s going on with these “Coming Soon” signs? In my neighborhood, there’s one that has been saying that for more than a month, another that said that for about two weeks before saying “For Sale,” and another that was “Under Contract” in less than a week without going to “For Sale.” Is this some new marketing gambit? I assume you don’t use my name or email if you answer on ARLnow?

I want to assure you and anyone else that sends me a question… I will not use your name or any other identifying information in my articles.

In order to explain the “coming soon” phenomena, I need to discuss days on market (DOM). Once your listing goes live in the multiple listing service (MLS), it starts collecting DOM. As this number increases, it decreases the perceived value of the home. Potential buyers start to assume it is overpriced and/or something is wrong with it. Instead of being a hot new property that buyers will clamor and compete for, it starts to attract low-ball offers. Leverage in the negotiation essentially shifts from the seller to the buyer.

By marketing a home as coming soon, the agent can generate interest in the property and maybe even a contract, prior to gaining a single DOM in the MLS. Agents generate interest with a coming soon sign in the front yard and grassroots marketing through their website and personal network.

This strategy is particularly prevalent this time of year. A homeowner may have interest in selling as soon as possible, but does not want to risk exposing the home to more days on market during the slower real estate season. There is a house in my neighborhood that has been coming soon since November. My expectation is that it will go active some time this month as real estate activity kicks into a higher gear.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: Is Spring Really the Best Time to Sell a Home?

by ARLnow.com | February 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 701 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question: I’ve heard that spring is the best time to sell a home, but I am having a hard time finding any way to substantiate this claim. Can you show me numbers that indicate when the most homes are going under contract?  

Ask Adam real estate seasons graphYou have likely found that most of the sales data available online is limited to when homes have sold. For your analysis it is more important to understand when homes are going under contract. I’ve been tracking this data and have put under contract sales for 2012 and 2013 in the following chart for you to review.

In both years the Arlington real estate market peaked in March, April and May.  As probably expected, the slowest months were January, February, November and December. That said, there were still 100 or more sales taking place during each of these slower months.  And, the sellers probably had fewer listings to compete with than if they had put their home on the market in prime selling season.

An argument can be made for selling during just about any given time of year if you are looking at things from a macro level. I suggest considering the trends for your neighborhood or condo building. For example, maybe your particular neighborhood sees the bulk of its sales as soon as yards come back in bloom or when schools let out for the summer.  If you own a townhouse in Ballston or Clarendon, you may find that sales are strong all 12 months of the year.

You’ll also want to take into consideration any current events that may affect your sale. For example, last year the government shutdown slowed homebuyer activity in the last quarter of the year. The coast appears clear at the moment, but you’ll want to keep abreast of local and national news.

There are some very knowledgeable realtors in Arlington that are engrossed in the real estate market 365 days a year. I recommend establishing a realtor relationship early in the decision making process. They can lend their expertise in helping you determine when and how to sell your home in order to maximize your return.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: What’s Up With Walk Scores?

by ARLnow.com | January 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 841 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question: I’ve been noticing “walk scores” listed in the description of homes for sale lately.  Can you tell me what that is?

Walk Score assigns a numeric grade between 0 and 100 to measure how walkable a given location is. Points are awarded based on the proximity to amenities such as restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, parks, schools, shopping and entertainment.

The scores earned are described as follows:

  • 90-100 = Walkers Paradise (daily errands do not require a car)
  • 70-89 = Very Walkable (most errands can be accomplished on foot)
  • 50-69 = Somewhat Walkable (some errands can be accomplished on foot)
  • 0-49 = Car Dependent (most errands require a car)

We can use the Arbour Realty office address in Ballston as an example (875 N. Randolph Street). It earns a Walk Score of 94. According to Walk Score, the nearest restaurant is .06 miles, the nearest grocery store is .03 miles, the nearest park is .2 miles, etc..

Home buyers are generally willing to pay more to live within a walkable community. That is one of the reasons why homes along the Orange Line in Arlington have a higher average cost per square foot than anywhere in Northern Virginia. If consumers are paying for the convenience of living in a walkable community, it makes sense to show off your Walk Score when it comes time to sell.

You can input your address here to find out what your Walk Score is:  http://www.walkscore.com/

As a convenience to buyers, we include a home’s Walk Score in every MLS listing on our website:  http://arbourrealty.com/northern-virginia-home-search/

According to Walk Score, Washington D.C. is the seventh most walkable city in the U.S. Arlington was not included in the rankings, but with its average Walk Score of 67 it would have made the top 10:

  1. New York – Walk Score: 87.6
  2. San Francisco – Walk Score: 83.9
  3. Boston – Walk Score: 79.5
  4. Philadelphia – Walk Score: 76.5
  5. Miami – Walk Score: 75.6
  6. Chicago – Walk Score: 74.8
  7. Washington DC – Walk Score: 74.1
  8. Seattle – Walk Score: 70.8
  9. Oakland – Walk Score: 66.2
  10. Baltimore – Walk Score: 66.2

(more…)

Ask Adam: Sprucing Up Your Home

by ARLnow.com | January 21, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 489 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question: Do you have any last minute advice you can give us to spruce up our house before we put it on the market? 

It’s time to get your Martha Stewart on! The closer you can get your home looking like a model home, the greater your chance for creating emotional appeal and therefore maximizing the sales price. Below are three items I recommend for any home that is not being sold as a fixer upper or tear down.

Spic and span — Whether you are going to do it yourself or hire professionals, make sure you deep clean your house. This includes cleaning windows, dusting trim, bleaching grout & caulk, dusting blinds & ventilation grills, cleaning the oven & microwave, sweeping the garage… basically the ultimate spring cleaning. While you’re at it, replace old shower curtains and decorative towels. They will look crisp and smell new.

Schedule additional cleanings on a weekly basis until the home is under contract.

Declutter -- The object is no longer about function so put away all the small kitchen appliances and miscellaneous items on your kitchen countertops. You want them to feel as spacious as possible. Do the same for bathroom counters. Box up any unnecessary knick knacks and personal photos. Organize your closets and box up anything not being used for this season. Walk through each room in your house and collect anything that may be considered clutter. If necessary, rent a storage pod for items you do not have room for.

Walls and Floors – In case you were wondering… it is almost always better to paint and address the floors than to offer a credit. If you are selling your home as move-in ready, potential buyers want to see the full potential. A credit sounds nice, but it is not as powerful as a well presented home. Paint the walls if necessary. You can get away with touch-up paint or use a magic eraser if there are just a few minor scuffs. If the carpet is just lightly soiled then try a good steam clean first.  If the carpet is worn down, then it needs to be replaced. If the hardwood floors are scratched or worn, then sand & refinish them.

This may be more work than you were hoping for, but I guarantee it will be worth the return on investment. If you are on a tight budget, most of these items can be done yourself.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: Why You Should Research Renovations Before Buying

by ARLnow.com | January 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm | 759 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question: In Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax a large portion of the residential single-family home market is comprised of older homes that have been renovated. If one is interested in buying one of these homes, is there any way to check whether the work was approved by the local government? If the renovation work is listed in the tax assessment (ex. added bathroom) can it be assumed to be permitted? What are the risks of buying a home without knowing this information? Can the local government come after you once you own the home to obtain the necessary permits or are there grandfather clauses that can protect you?

Virginia is a caveat emptor state, so the buyer needs to take responsibility for researching a renovated home he or she is considering for purchase.

Zoning permits for a particular address may be found at http://permits.arlingtonva.us/ or by calling Arlington County Inspection Services at 703-228-3800.

I’ve been told by a zoning official of Fairfax County (and I think you can safely assume the same for Arlington County) that the tax record is not always accurate when it comes to the actual number of legal bedrooms and bathrooms. It is a good idea to contact the zoning office in the county that the property resides.

The homeowner inherits and is responsible for any work that was done without a permit. However, the county does work with homeowners on resolving issues and obtaining permits that may arise from work that is not permitted.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: 2014 Real Estate Predictions

by ARLnow.com | January 7, 2014 at 11:20 am | 853 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled Q&A column is sponsored by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit follow-up questions in the via email.

Question: We’ll be selling our home and buying a new one in Arlington this year. What do you see on the horizon in 2014.

As I did at the beginning of 2013, I’ll provide you with 5 predictions and we can see how they unfold over the next 12 months.

1. Boost to luxury market – In 2013, buyer demand was greater than housing supply in many segments of the Arlington market. Competition for homes placed upward pressure on home prices.

I expect that rising prices will start to make it more attractive for current homeowners like yourself to consider selling this year. The trickle up effect should spur additional sales in the upper price brackets.

*Free tool for evaluating what your home is worth: http://Ask-Adam.SmartHomePrice.com/

2. More competition for the jumbo market – As the real estate market improves across the country, I am expecting more investors and banks to offer “jumbo” financing, or loans over the Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac loan limit (currently $625k). As more companies offer this financing, greater competition is expected, most likely translating to such consumer benefits as better rates, more frequent approvals and improved customer service. This will be especially important if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac decide to reduce the loan limit of conventional loans back to $417k.

With the average sales price in Arlington currently at $564,541, keeping jumbo loans affordable is highly important for the ongoing health of our local real estate market.

3. Continued investment purchasing – Contrary to a prediction made by Trulia, I don’t expect investor activity to slow down in Arlington in 2014. Prices are certainly no longer at the bottom of the market, which would be the ideal time to purchase an investment property, but I don’t expect that to hold back investors who are forecasting continued growth. Just as investors purchase stocks at all phases of the market.

4. At least one condo conversion – You probably remember in 2006 when would-be-condos like Joule, IO Piazza, Zoso, Vista and Palatine all converted to rental apartments. As large investors take notice of demand outpacing supply for condos in Arlington, I expect at least one rental apartment building in Arlington to convert to a condo in 2014.  If this happens, others are likely to follow.

5. South Arlington sales take off – There are two new townhouse developments and a condo building on Columbia Pike that are getting ready to begin sales. I expect both of these developments to sell as quickly as they are willing to release homes to the market. Not to mention growing demand for neighborhoods like Penrose that are becoming a hot alternative for buyers who want a house, but can only afford a condo along the Orange Line. Could the volume of sales in the 22204 zip code outpace popular North Arlington zip codes like 22207, 22201, 22203, 22209? I think so.

I wish you all a wonderful 2014! You can look forward to my articles on a weekly basis this year so please keep the questions coming. Email is always the best way to send them to me.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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