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by ARLnow.com Sponsor October 31, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m the Treasurer at [redacted Condo Association] and we’re working on the 2018 budget. What’s a good way for us to save money in the budget without compromising the health and maintenance of the building?

Answer: As a former Condo Board Treasurer, I feel the pain that this time of year brings, so I’m happy to offer some advice that helped me finding savings while I oversaw the budget and has helped other Associations do the same… review your Master Insurance Policy. I know, it’s not the most exciting answer, but your insurance policy is likely a top three expense on your balance sheet every year and if you haven’t reviewed it lately, there’s a good chance you can cut the cost by 5% or more and probably improve your coverage at the same time.

I’m not an expert in insurance so, I asked Andrew Schlaffer, Vice President at USI Insurance Service’s Community Association Practice (www.USI.com) to provide some details on what Board’s should look for when they do a review of their Master Policy. If you’d like to discuss a review with Andrew directly, you can reach him at 703.205.8764 or [email protected]. Take it away Andrew…

Pillars Of Insurance Reviews

Condo insurance reviews require a holistic approach, so it’s important to break the cost into a few distinct categories: insurance premium, deductible expense and out-of-pocket costs. To effectively accomplish long-term savings, all three of these categories need to be considered and addressed with a qualified insurance professional.

Adjust Coverage Responsibly To Save On Premium

Premium is certainly a factor to consider during the insurance selection process; however, available insurance products differ significantly. Coverages and services should be very carefully analyzed and compared. While omitting various coverages will save premium dollars, it might also result in substantially increased costs to the Association for out-of-pocket expenses related to uncovered claims.

It is critical to work with a professional who understands local insurance needs and can adjust your insurance program in a way that maximizes premium savings while maintaining adequate insurance coverage. Some coverages may be required by statute and/or Association documents, so cutting required coverage exposes the board to unwanted risk.

Deductibles Based On Loss History

Associations with strong financials often choose to increase their property deductibles which can provide immediate savings of 2-5%. Deductibles range from $2,500 to $25,000+. When considering deductibles, it is important for the Association to review their loss history and the loss history of comparable buildings in an effort to obtain an accurate estimate for deductible expenses.

Rate Shopping

The most common strategy employed by Associations seeking lower insurance costs is to shop their carrier. An Association can accomplish this in several ways but generally their appointed broker can offer alternative carriers in an effort to obtain the most competitive rates possible. Make sure your broker has access to all of the competitive markets in order to maximize the likelihood of finding savings. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor October 24, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I came across an article you wrote about how buyers and sellers can avoid the most common problems encountered in a real estate transaction and it made me wonder what some of the most common mistakes are that home owners make when selling that have the biggest impact on their bottom line.

Answer: The biggest mistake a home owner can make when selling their home is not calling me first… kidding (but not really). Below are a handful of the biggest mistakes I see home owners make when selling their home, that have the most impact on their net bottom line. This is not exclusive to homes sold without an agent either. Unfortunately, I see many of the same mistakes on For Sale By Owner (FSBO) homes as I do on listings owners are paying an agent to manage.

Over-Investing In Updates

Choosing the right combination of updates to invest in (or not) to prepare your home for sale has the biggest impact on your net bottom line of any decision you’ll make. I cannot stress the importance of getting this decision right early in the process.

You should only invest in updates that will result in an ROI of greater than 100% or it’s a waste of money and time. Of course you will be able to sell your home for more money if you redo the kitchen and master bathroom, but in most cases, you’ll only get a fraction of your money back, generating a huge net loss for you.

Similarly, don’t spend $10,000 replacing floors, but ignore painting and leave your old brass doorknobs. Selecting the right “package” of updates that will generate the highest ROI is specific to your sub-market, budget, priorities and time of year.

Working with an agent on these decisions who works with both sellers and buyers is critical because they have a strong understanding of how buyers interact with homes during showings and the impact certain updates have on their buying decisions.

Stop Using Amateur Photography

My photographers are some of the most valuable assets I have because the quality of photos can make the difference between drawing heavy traffic and being passed over… Traffic = offers and heavy traffic = multiple offers. Buyers and agents are combing through a lot of homes to decide what is worth seeing in person and the quality of your photos influences that decision more than anything else. Do not take pictures with your cell phone. Do not use an amateur photographer. Do not use a photographer without real estate experience.

Listing On The Wrong Day

It’s Sunday evening… you’ve taken pictures, selected your asking price and spent all weekend cleaning so you’re finally ready to put your beautiful home on the market, make yourself a drink and watch the offers roll in. STOP. There is one day of the week that you should put your home on the market to maximize exposure while minimizing days on market (and two acceptable alternatives), but Sunday evening is not one of them. Feel free to email me to find out which day you should list your property and why.

Stage It… Vacant Or Not

I discussed this in detail earlier this year. It hasn’t changed. Yes, you should hire a staging professional. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor October 17, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We are planning to buy a home in the next 12 months and wondering what the real estate market is like during the winter. We’ve heard it’s a bad time to sell, but does that mean we won’t be able to find anything we like?

Answer: I love working with buyers in the winter because we have more opportunity to negotiate (a nice reward for fumbling with keys in the dark when it’s 30 degrees) and the probability of finding a seller ready to negotiate increases substantially. In Northern Virginia, the winter market generally runs from late November through late February/early March (Thanksgiving to March Madness) and is defined by increased buyer leverage, less contract activity and fewer new listings. While many buyers can benefit from winter shopping, it’s not the right time for everybody.

Buy In The Winter If…

  • You’re a bargain hunter
  • What you like is priced just outside of your budget
  • There is a regular supply of homes you like
  • You can accept having a few offers rejected

Wait For The Spring If…

  • You have specific, hard-to-find criteria
  • You value the perfect home over a great deal
  • Your purchase is contingent on selling your current home (requires additional conversation)

That’s not to say you can’t negotiate a great deal in the spring or find a unique property in the winter, but if you’re playing the odds, the above is a good set of guidelines for deciding the best seasons to focus on a purchase.

I’ll let you review the trends in Northern Virginia for yourself:

Buyer Leverage Increases In The Winter

In the winter, buyers pay about 2% less, relative to original asking price, than they do in the spring. On a $500,000 purchase, that’s $10,000 in savings.

New Contracts To Purchase Drop By Half In The Winter

Buyers have more leverage in the winter because there are fewer of them actively searching the market.

It’s Harder To Find What You Want

The probability of the home you want hitting the market in the winter drops substantially, making it difficult on selective buyers. This is also why fewer homes go under contract in the winter.  

If you’re on the fence about buying this winter or not sure if you have time to prepare yourself to make a purchase, send me an email at [email protected] or give me a call at (703) 539-2529 to discuss your options and put a strategy in place.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor October 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Today marks my 100th Ask Eli column, combining for nearly 60,000 words written about our local real estate market. How am I doing? What topics and statistics would you like to see more of?

One thing I’d like to do more of is use this space to help organize the community around ideas most residents care deeply about, but have little information on, like eliminating smoking from condos and saving/growing the tree canopy.

I appreciate everybody who has reached out with feedback, both positive and negative, and thoughtful questions that keep these columns relevant and organic. I also appreciate our active commenters who keep me on my toes and challenge me to back-up my opinions.

A special thank you to Scott Brodbeck and his team for providing us Arlingtonians a valuable source of hyper-local news coverage and a platform to discuss our opinions. Did you know that ARLnow is run from a small office with just a few people, not a newsrooms of fact-checkers, reporters, and writers? I was shocked by how much they accomplish with so few people. Kudos to Scott and his dedicated team.

Thank you for your support and I look forward to providing you with more honest, statistically-driven real estate discussion in my next 100 columns!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781

by ARLnow.com Sponsor October 3, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How old are most of the homes in Arlington and where are the newer homes located?

Answer: I thought I’d balance last week’s column on schools with something a bit less controversial… the age of our housing stock. The majority of housing units in Arlington were built from the 1930s through the 1950s.

With limited land available to build new communities, the majority of single family homes built in the 21st century are one-off projects replacing older homes instead of larger new communities you see elsewhere in the country.

I pulled data on all sales in Arlington since Jan 1, 2010 and broke it down by the decade. Each housing unit was built to provide some insight into the age of our market and where you’re likely to find the most homes for sale built in the 21st century. Note that this is not a dataset of all Arlington housing units, just those sold since 2010.

Data Highlights

  • About 40% of Arlington’s condo inventory was built in the 2000s and caters to our huge population of wealthy millennials
  • The fastest selling (highest demand) sub-market is for 1940s townhomes in Fairlington, a popular destination for young families due to affordability, convenience and walkability to Shirlington Village
  • Despite the average family size in the US decreasing by about one person since the mid 1900s, the average single family home built in the 21st century has 1.5 more bedrooms, 2 more bathrooms and is over twice the size (they also take the longest to sell)
  • The oldest home sold since 2010 was built in 1836 and located in the Alcova Heights neighborhood (off Glebe Rd, between Rt 50 and Columbia Pike) and sold for $950,000
  • Nearly half of single family homes built in the 21st century are located in the 22207 zip code
  • Housing built in the 1940s (4,647) and 2000s (4,218) make up 40% of the housing units sold since 2010
  • Single family homes built in the 1940s sell fastest among all single family homes, likely due to demand for homes to be torn down or expanded and renovated

(more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 26, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How do Arlington County school systems impact the market price of homes in Arlington? Which districts offer the most value based on quality of education and the cost of buying a home?

Answer: For most families, finding the right home in Northern Virginia is a delicate balance of budget, schools and commute, with the latter two having the biggest impact on market price. If you’ve chosen to put down roots in Arlington, I’ve put together some data on Arlington County Public School districts for middle school and high school that will help you understand how your school district selection will impact your budget.

The Data

Please note that the data below is not based on all homes sold within a given school district. It is a sampling of homes within a specific sub-market in an attempt to present an apples-to-apples comparison of the premium/discount buyers can expect when searching within each district, that can be applied to other sub-markets. For example, the average sold price for homes in the Jefferson+Wakefield district is far less than $1M, but within the chosen sub-market, it is just over $1M.

In order to compare homes within a relatively similar and popular sub-market, I have chosen to use sales dating back to Jan 1, 2014 for detached homes built within the last 20 years with at least four bedrooms, excluding distressed sales. This prevents sales of tear-downs/full renovation homes from throwing off the data and gives us a pretty clear picture of the relative cost differential by school district. Not every home listing is populated with school districts (I estimate that 5-10% is missing at least one school), so those sales are excluded from the data. That is why the total sales for just middle school and just high school data are slightly higher than middle and high school combined data, because some listings just had one of the two fields populated.

School Rankings

GS Rating = GreatSchools.org rating for each school. I thought this would be an interesting, objective way to compare relative value based on a 3rd party rating, which has a huge influence on buyers’ decisions. You may also want to check out Niche.com for some different rankings of our publics schools and where Arlington County is ranked as the #1 school district in the DC area and in Virginia or US News and World Report for national rankings of our high schools.

Data Summary

For those of you familiar with the Arlington County Public School system and its impact on home prices, most of this data falls in line with expectations. Here are some comments on the findings:

  • Williamsburg+Yorktown is the highest rated school district combination in Arlington and, unsurprisingly, the most expensive to buy into.
  • Kenmore+Wakefield is the lowest rated school district combination in Arlington, but the second least expensive to buy into. However, due to the relatively low number of sales in this sub-market, the data here is slightly misleading because 2/3 of the sales are new construction which have a substantial impact on average sold price. The low number of total sales is due to the limited number of homes sold that are built in the last 20 years, not the a reflection on the total number of homes sold.
  • The best bang for your buck is the Swanson+Yorktown combination, offering the lowest cost per rating point (GreatSchools)
  • Despite having the fourth highest combined rating score (GreatSchools), Jefferson+Washington Lee is the second most expensive district to buy into. Why? It serves the popular and expensive Lyon Park community.
  • For reference, here are the Arlington County Middle School and High School boundary maps.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 19, 2017 at 12:45 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Where is it?

Douglas Park is a large neighborhood in South Arlington bordered by Columbia Pike to the north, S. Four Mile Run Drive to the west, S. Walter Reed Drive to the east, and ends at the intersection of each of those roads to the south.

It hosts multiple parks and Randolph Elementary School, although households in the southern portion of the neighborhood go to Hoffman-Boston Elementary and students in the northwestern corner are districted to Barcroft Elementary School. The majority of households are districted to Jefferson Middle School, but the Barcroft Elementary households in the northwest corner end up at Kenmore Middle School. Every household in Douglas Park ends up at Wakefield High School.

Douglas Park is a blended neighborhood of mostly residential housing, ranging from affordable multi-family buildings for rent or purchase along the northern and eastern borders, a few pockets of town homes built in the 1960s and again in the 2000s, but mostly single family homes build in the early/mid-1900s many of which are cape cods and bungalows that are popular targets for renovations and expansions.

About the interviewee:

Anne and her husband, Horacio, met in Colombia (the country) and moved to Shirlington in early 2015 before buying their home, where they’re raising two young children. They weren’t in a hurry to move, but found a home with potential on a street they loved, and bought their Douglas Park Cape Cod in late 2015.

They spent about three months renovating the kitchen, refinishing floors, and giving the house new life while trying to maintain the original charm as much as possible. Just after moving in, they dealt with some pipe issues that required them to tear up a lot of their front yard, but turned a bad situation into a positive by introducing some beautiful landscaping and hardscaping out front.

What do you love about Douglas Park?

We’re part of an incredible community here. Being a bi-lingual family, we love living in a bi-lingual neighborhood. An added plus that we hadn’t thought to be so important before experiencing it, is the cross-generational interaction. The young families who just moved in hang out with neighbors who have lived here for decades.

It’s also very front-yard focused, so in the evenings and weekends, you’ll see most of the neighborhood out front, spending time together, not tucked away privately in their backyards (note: this was highlighted in the Claremont Neighborhood Spotlight and a trend in many South Arlington neighborhoods). It’s a beautiful, engaged, diverse community.

We also have great access to public transportation, despite not being near a Metro station. Whenever I can, I take the bus to work in Courthouse. Also, despite not having sidewalks, the streets are wide enough for kids to safely ride bikes and walk without being in danger.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We installed an in-ground pool when we bought our house and now that we’re considering selling it, we’re wondering if it’s better to improve the condition of the pool or fill it in and replace it with more usable space.

Answer:

You Will Lose A Lot Of Buyers…

You will lose the majority of your buyer pool (pun intended) by offering your home for sale with a pool. With limited months of the year warm enough to use a pool, limited yard space, and high maintenance costs, most Arlington home buyers consider an in-ground pool a deal-breaker. You’ll see from the Fairfax County data that this is true for Northern Virginia, not just Arlington.

…But It May Not Matter In Arlington

This does not mean you should spends tens of thousands filling your pool in and covering it with new landscaping. Arlington has so few homes for sale with a pool that despite losing a large percentage of your potential buyers, you’re likely to benefit from the pool because it’s such a unique feature. Remember, it only takes one person/family to buy your home.

Arlington & Fairfax County Data

Since January 1 2012, only 29 detached homes have sold in Arlington with an in-ground pool, while during that same period, 1,548 homes in Fairfax County sold with an in-ground pool.

Arlington sellers with a pool fared well with an average of only 29.3 days on market, compared to about 50 days on market for all other detached homes. 18 of the 29 sales sold in 10 days or less.

On average, those 29 sales were 3 percent lower than the original asking price, with a county average during that period closer to 2.5 percent, but not everybody sold at a discount because 11 of the 29 sales sold for at or above the asking price.

Arlington has so few homes with in-ground pools, that we have to look to Fairfax County to gather some meaningful data:

During this time, detached homes spent an average of about 60 days on market and sold for about 97.5 percent of their original asking price.

As you can see from the table above, it took nearly 40 percent longer to sell a home with an in-ground pool and buyers negotiated an average of 3 percent more off of the original asking price. This supports the idea that most buyers in Northern Virginia don’t want a pool, but the lack of available inventory in Arlington offsets that and can be turned into a positive for sellers.

Take Notes From Fairfax, Timing Matters

The above table for Fairfax County also highlights that if you’re going to sell a home with a pool, you should do so within the spring market so your buyer has the immediate satisfaction of using it for a full season after they purchase.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 5, 2017 at 12:45 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I live in a building with above average condo fees and am wondering what impact the condo fees will have when I decide to sell?

Answer:

On Average

The average condo fee for a one bedroom apartment in Arlington is $397/month and $530/month for a two bedroom unit. On average, owners pay 50 cents per square foot they own. Looking at my favorite sales indicators, days on market and sold price to original ask ratio, there is a direct correlation between higher condo fees and the number of days on market, as well as between higher condo fees and greater buyer discounts from the original asking price (see first and second data tables below).

Pricing Around Fees

When pricing your condo, you must factor in the monthly fees compared to condos in similar communities.  Since buyers manage their total monthly payment, along with the total sale price, consider that on a 30 year mortgage with a 4 percent interest rate, increasing the mortgage by $21,000 increasing the monthly payment by $100. Thus, as a simple rule of thumb, for every $100/month difference in condo fees on a comparable unit, there should be an adjustment of about $20,000 in market value.

Data Summaries

There’s a lot of important information hidden behind data on condo fees like building services/amenities and the inclusion or exclusion of utilities and/or cable and internet, but the data on condo fees in Arlington is valuable nonetheless.

The following data summary represents apartment-style condo sales in Arlington over the last four years, broken down by condo fee ranges. Of note is that as the fee and fee per square foot increases, so does the time it takes to sell and percentage discount buyers negotiate of the asking price.

Note that of the $1,000+ fee sales, one third are from Turnberry Tower, Arlington’s premier luxury building, and another 15 percent are from Crystal Gateway, a building with expansive floor plans and the largest amenity package of any community in Arlington.

The following table is a cross section of the above data set, limited to sales that closed from $250,000 to $500,000, thus presenting the data within a more comparable sub-market.

How much does a building’s age impact the condo fees?

Most people would say that older buildings have higher condo fees because they have higher maintenance and replacement costs. Let’s take a look at the data for one and two bedrooms sales, by the decade it the community was built.

Of note is that the buildings from the 1950s and earlier have the most limited (or non-existent) amenities and there seems to be a jump in fees per square foot in buildings as they reach the 20 year mark, but leveling off after that, in-line with my expectations because most major systems require expensive repairs or replacement around the 20-30 year mark.

In order to truly understand the impact of condo fees on your condo, it’s necessary to drill down a few more levels within your specific sub-market(s). If you’re interested in exploring condo fee data for your unit, feel free to email me at [email protected] and I’d be happy to provide you with a more customized data summary.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 29, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: This is in response to recent comments on my columns about what it means to sell “as-is.”

Answer: Selling a property “as-is” in Northern Virginia carries a technical definition as stated in the contract and an intended purpose that should be discussed between the buyer and seller.

Technical/Contractual Definition

In Northern Virginia’s Contingencies/Clauses Addendum you’ll find a section for selling “as-is” which contains the following terms that can be individually selected for the contract:

  • Seller will not clean or remove debris. The standard is for the property to be free of trash/debris and broom clean.
  • The seller is not responsible for addressing any wood destroying insect/termite issues. The standard agreement requires the seller to pay for any damage from wood destroying insects.
  • The seller is not required to fix any Homeowners Association violations related to the physical condition of the property.
  • The seller is not responsible for providing working smoke detectors.
  • The seller is not responsible for compliance with notices of violation from local authorities.

Implied Definition

When you market a property as-is, you are implying that you will not negotiate with the buyer to fix anything and the buyer should be prepared to take on the full risk of the property in its current condition. Generally, this means a buyer will agree to take the property in the condition it is in at the time of offer and that the contract is not contingent on a home inspection (buyer withdraws the right to negotiate or void based on home inspection results).

However, you may consider accepting a short pass/fail inspection contingency whereby the buyer does not have a right to negotiate credits or fixes, but does have the right to void the contract if they find any major problems with the home during the inspection.

Who Uses As-Is?

It is common to see estate sales and homes that will be the targeted by investors (tear downs or flips) being sold as-is. In the case of many estate sales, the family member(s) who inherited the property may not live nearby, know anything about the condition of its systems, or want to be bothered by negotiations after a deal has been made. It doesn’t necessarily mean the property has problems.

Understand Your Choice

As a seller, you want to make sure you understand the message you’re sending and buyers you’re targeting when you market a home as-is. You also need to be realistic about how this will impact the sale price (discounted). As a buyer, you want to make sure you understand why a home is being sold as-is, what the seller’s contractual and implied expectations are, and be prepared to handle the risks associated with buying as-is.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529. 

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 22, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Where is it? Most people would consider Aurora Highlands to be Crystal City and Pentagon City because to the north, it contains the Pentagon City mall, borders S. Eads Street to the east, Virginia Highlands Park/S. Joyce Street to the west, and the southern tip of Arlington along S. Glebe Road to the south.

It’s a diverse neighborhood with everything from large apartment buildings to residential streets lined with cape cods and brand new Craftsman homes, mixed in with the mall, office space, dining and retail.

Unlike most neighborhoods with single family homes, Aurora Highlands has easy access to two Metro stations and you can’t live closer to Reagan National Airport! Students living in Aurora Highlands attend Oakridge Elementary, Gunston Middle and Wakefield High Schools.

About the interviewee: Lisa Curtin moved from the Chicago suburbs to her apartment at Crystal House in 2015 when she was relocated for her career in Student Tourism. Shortly after the move, she became the COO of an Accounting firm in Bethesda, but loves the neighborhood so much that she’d rather commute every day to Bethesda than move closer to work.

She picked Crystal House because she’d never lived in a city before, loved the larger, renovated apartments, and was located close to the Crystal City Underground. Lisa is strongly considering buying nearby once she’s done renting.

What do you love about Aurora Highlands?

Where do I start? The accessibility to the Metro and major roads for commuting and going out couldn’t be better; we’re a few quick stops to downtown D.C. Within a few blocks there are parks, family-owned bars and restaurants, shopping and trails.

Where do you shop, eat, and hang out?

I love Tortoise & Hare (have to try the loaded tater tots), Crystal City Sports Pub and Freddie’s Beach Bar. I do most of my grocery shopping at the Harris Teeter or Aldi and work out at the new Orange Theory.

I also walk on the Four Mile Run and Mount Vernon Trails, and hang out at Long Branch Park when the weather is nice. I suggest everybody check out Fridays at the Foundation (pictured), if they haven’t already.

Do you have any experience with the school system?

I don’t personally, but my neighbors considered sending their kids to private school and decided to stick with the local public schools and are very happy with their experience at Oakridge Elementary School. They intend for their kids to use the public school system serving our neighborhood through high school!

What sort of identity does Aurora Highlands have?

I don’t think most people understand that Aurora Highlands is its own neighborhood, adjacent to Crystal City and Pentagon City, so we’re doing a lot to identify ourselves with new signage and a strong Civic Association. It’s such a unique pocket of Arlington because it has traditional single family neighborhoods alongside condos, apartments, office space and retail.

It gives the neighborhood a vibrancy that’s hard to match and there’s a great mood walking around because people take care of themselves and the community. You get all of these city-like benefits but at a much more affordable price than other parts of Arlington and D.C.

Thank you so much for your interview Lisa! I’m sure this will help people considering a move into or within Arlington who are looking for the type of community you described.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m a bit nervous about moving into a condo and we’re expecting to receive the condominium disclosure documents (resale package) soon. I’ve heard these are pretty large packages. What sort of information can we expect to get and what should we pay the most attention to?

Answer: Fear of condos is real! Last week I had a client tell me he’d been warned against buying a condo because the Board can raise fees whenever and however much they want. First, keep in mind that the Board is made up of your neighbors who also have a vested interest in keeping payments low and the community in good health. Second, this is why the condo document review period is a critical step in the purchase process.

Your Rights As A Buyer

You have a non-negotiable right in Virginia (also in D.C. and Maryland) to receive a Condominium or Property Owners’ Association Disclosure Package (aka Condo Docs or Resale Package) if you are purchasing property that’s part of an Association such as condo ownership or Homeowners’ Association.

These documents can be provided to you as soon as you go under contract (ratification). You’ll want to start your review ASAP because you have three days from receipt to void the contract for any reason, without risking your Earnest Money Deposit.

What You’ll Get

The official list of required documents and statements in a condo resale package can be found here. It includes critical information like the by-laws, budget, rules & regulations, monthly or special assessments, reserve study, proof of insurance, pending lawsuits, unit violations, rental caps and much more.

What To Review

Your purchase binds you to every rule, penalty, and fee detailed in the condo docs so you should take the time to read everything. Is Fido 70 lbs and your new building restricts pets over 25 lbs? Brutal. Spent $1,500 on a fancy new grill in a community that restricts open flames? Craigslist will take it for $400. If reading 300 pages isn’t your thing, here are some of the most important things to check:

  • Monthly/Special Assessments: Confirm they’re as marketed
  • Budget: Make sure expenses seem reasonable and look for any debt payments (ask questions if you find them)
  • Reserve Study: Condos should be inspected every five years with a resulting report (Reserve Study) of projected replacement and maintenance costs compared to projected/recommended reserve fund balances over the next 30 years. Find the financial summary to see if there are any projected shortfalls and cross-reference the current reserve fund balance with the projected and/or recommended reserve fund balance.
  • By-laws/Rules: If you have a pet, plan to rent, or anything else important to you, verify the by-laws and rules meet expectations
  • Meeting Minutes: Review the latest meeting minutes for any discussion of major expenditures/issues

Sellers should try to produce the resale package as quickly as possible because of the Buyer’s ability to void the contract within three days of receipt. As a Seller, the last thing you want is to delay the delivery of the package for weeks and watch your Buyer walk away close to the settlement date. In Virginia, Associations have 14 days to deliver the resale package from the date of request, although most turn it around in a few days.

Have a question about something you found in your condo or HOA disclosure package? Feel free to send me an email ([email protected]) or give me a call (703-539-2529) for help!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 8, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We are ready to move into a house we’ll raise our family in and are set on Arlington. We want a newer home, but are not sure if it’s better to buy new construction or resale; our decision will ultimately be a financial one.

Can you put together numbers that show how the sale prices of new construction compare to resale?

Answer: Of course I can! When weighing the financial decision of new construction vs. resale, you’ll also want to consider the replacement cost of major systems like HVAC, windows, roof, water heater, appliances, etc. that carry life cycles of 10-30 years (appliances being on the early side, roof/windows coming later) as well as higher efficiency factors of new homes that significantly reduce utility costs. Many new homes also come with extended “bumper-to-bumper” warranties that you won’t get in resale.

As expected, there’s a clear premium to be paid for new construction and buyers tend to negotiate a deeper discount from the original asking price on homes being resold. The dataset is based on sales since January 1, 2014 for detached homes built since 2000 with 4-6 bedrooms, 3-5 bathrooms, and 3-4 levels.

Are these numbers in-line with what you expect to see on the difference in sold price between new construction and resale? Are the prices about what you assumed for new/newish homes by zip code?

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 1, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Where is it? Clarendon is probably the most recognizable, well-known neighborhood in Arlington. Those outside of Arlington often refer to the entire Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as Clarendon.

Technically it is bound by Wilson Blvd to the north, 10th St N. to the south, Washington Blvd to the west, and N. Danville Street to the east (eastern border is based on the boundaries of the Clarendon Sector Plan).

Clarendon is known for its lively dining and retail scene, along with being host to a popular chains like an Apple Store and Whole Foods, where the parking line regularly overflows into the street.

From rooftop bars, numerous restaurants and high-end retail, Clarendon attracts people of all ages to its massive condo and apartment complexes, as well as droves of patrons from outside the neighborhood. Depending on your preference for entertainment, it’s either the place to be or the place to avoid on Saturday nights. The neighborhood is built around the Clarendon Metro station, which is located on the Orange and Silver lines.

About the interviewee: Tim Donaldson moved to Clarendon in 2014 after spending eight years in Los Angeles, and chose the area because it provides the walkability of a city, but he can hop in his truck any time and quickly be on the highway, which he can’t do from D.C.

He started as a renter in The Phoenix, a popular condo building at 1020 N. Highland Street, and loved it enough to buy a two-bedroom condo after one year. He loves the amenities, and chose to buy because of how well run it is due to the long tenure of its staff.

What do you love about Clarendon?

I love the balance of being able to walk to everything, but not having to fight through city traffic to get to a highway, which I do often for work and to fish. It’s a big city lifestyle, but more laid back. You also have the convenience and familiarity of successful chains like Whole Foods, Starbucks, Cheesecake Factory and Lululemon, but also some great non-chain places for music and craft beer/wine. I’m sad the record store closed!

Where do you shop, eat, and hang out?

My wife and I have a long list of favorites all within a few blocks. Green Pig Bistro is our date night spot, we’re regulars at Lyon Hall, I go to Fireworks for their great beer menu, Galaxy Hut for awesome music, Ambar’s all-you-can-eat is the best deal around, Texas Jacks BBQ is second to none (I agree), love the classics like Liberty Tavern and Bonchon, and the new Spirit of 76 is a cool, cozy bar! We love being able to walk to Whole Foods or Trader Joes for groceries.

Do you take advantage of nearby parks and trails?

I take weekly walks at Potomac Overlook and Zachary Taylor parks and love biking the WO&D, Four Mile Run, and Mount Vernon trails. I know there are parks closer by, but I love hiking and biking those areas.

How has your overall experience been in Clarendon?

Very positive! I’d love to be able to buy a single-family home in Lyon Park (adjacent neighborhood) so I can stay close to Clarendon. People mostly associate Clarendon with weekend partying, but it’s an incredible community with an art show, crafts fair, and bike race during the year. Most of the businesses put out water bowls for dogs in the summer and there’s always families out pushing kids in strollers, which gives the whole neighborhood a feel of closeness that I love being part of.

Thank you so much for your interview Tim! I’m sure this will help people considering a move into or within Arlington who are looking for a vibrant, walkable community like you described.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How accurate and reliable are online home value estimates like Zestimates (Zillow) and Redfin Estimates? My neighbor used his Zestimate to determine the asking price of his home. Can I trust that number?

Answer: Online estimates, like Zestimates and Redfin Estimates, are similar to doing a Rough Order of Magnitude estimate on a project, meaning it’s a good way to quickly determine approximate value. I suggest that clients only trust Zestimates/Redfin Estimates within +/- 10 percent of the value it provides.

In fact, I think that it’s irresponsible for Zestimates and other online estimates to be listed so prominently on their respective sites without an obvious disclaimer (readers must click for a short disclaimer). The fact that it’s a single number, down to the dollar, not a range or rounded falsely suggests it is highly accurate.

Why It’s Wrong

Zestimates, Redfin Estimates and other online estimates rely on public information like square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms, year built, tax appraisal (inaccurate), etc. and past sales in the area, but have no way of knowing details that drive true market value like quality of lot, natural light exposure, curb appeal, and age of major systems like appliances, roof and windows.

These details are critical to determining the actual market value and cannot be priced in without a full inspection of the home and understanding of their influence on local sales. In fact, there’s currently a lawsuit filed against Zillow for inaccurate Zestimates.

Zillow Admits Inaccuracies, Worse In Arlington

Zillow itself acknowledges that its Zestimates are inaccurate, stating that it has a median error rate of 5 percent (I’m sure the average error rate is much higher), only 53.9 percent of estimates are within 5 percent of the sale price, and only 75.6 percent are within 10 percent of the sale price. These last two stats are probably median error rates, with even worse error rates if you look at averages.

Further, because they’re national stats, they benefit from the large number of communities around the country that are full of nearly identical homes. When housing inventory is homogenous and there’s little variation in pricing by neighborhood (common in much of the country, not in Arlington), it’s much easier for online estimates to be accurate. I’m sure that the margin of error in Arlington and Northern Virginia is worse than the national numbers.

Comparing Popular Online Estimates

Industry spends a lot of money developing these estimate tools, so let’s take a look at how some of the most popular sites for estimates compare to each other. I’ve chosen to compare estimates on a few randomly selected properties in different sub-markets from Zillow, Redfin, and REALTORS Property Resource (RPR, created by the National Association of REALTORS for agents).

Note: there’s less variation between estimates on properties recently sold (recent sale price factors heavily) and listed properties (asking price factors into estimate formulas). Estimates below are rounded to nearest $1,000.

Listed Properties:

  • Crystal City, condo: Zillow ($376,000), Redfin ($418,000), RPR ($395,000)
  • Fairlington/Shirlington, condo: Zillow ($384,000), Redfin ($429,000), RPR ($231,000)
  • Rosslyn-area, townhouse: Zillow ($957,000), Redfin ($818,000), RPR (unavailable)
  • Donaldson Run, single family home: Zillow ($1,063,000), Redfin ($1,175,000), RPR ($1,125,000)

Unlisted Property (no recent sale):

  • Lyon Village, single family home: Zillow ($3,465,000), Redfin ($1,821,000), RPR ($2,751,000)

How To Price Your Home

With unreliable estimates from online tools and limited or no access to data on sales from 12+ months, it’s difficult for homeowners or anybody without access to your home and historical data to accurately determine the market value of your home. I frequently start with sales dating back 5 years when I price a home in order to capture true market data and trends, as 6-12 months simply isn’t enough in most cases.

If you want historical data on comparable or neighborhood sales for your home or would like an opinion on the market value of your home, shoot me an email at [email protected] or give me a call at (703) 539-2529 and I’ll be happy to help.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

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