Arlington, VA

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: I currently own a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo that was built in the late 1990’s and I’m thinking about selling it to upgrade to a larger space. Some of my appliances are from the early 2000’s and the water heater is original. Should I pay the money to update the appliances before I sell?

A: This is a great question with a few factors to consider before moving forward. When it comes to adding updates to a property prior to selling costs are a big factor. Ask yourself: “Am I going to get a return on investment for the updates I am making?”

Depending on the kind of updates you’re considering you try can estimate the return. For example, if I spend $15,000 on all new appliances and I want to sell my place for top dollar, but the other similarly updated condos in the building are going for much less than my target price it’s probably not a good idea. However, if you’ve budgeted $5000 for new repairs it might make sense to offer it as a credit to a potential buyer so they can select the appliances based on their preferences. You can also get creative by giving the buyer options for updates they could purchase after closing along with the pricing.

Another question I often hear is: “Do I paint before I sell?” If you decide to paint prior to selling make sure to pick neutral colors. It’s also a good idea to stay on the lighter side for small spaces, like a one bedroom. The same goes for new carpet. Depending on the condition, like appliances, it might be a good idea to offer a credit to the buyer for new carpet, as well as paint and other updates.

To everyone in the ARLnow community — it’s been a true pleasure writing and connecting with you over these last few months. As I move into a new role in the real estate industry, I am passing this column along to my colleague and friend, Eli Tucker, who will continue to answer your questions and add a fresh voice and perspective.

I’m hoping some readers can share any additional advice they have in comments.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please send your questions to Eli at [email protected].

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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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: When I purchase a home should I get a home warranty? What does it cover?

A: Often, a buyer will elect to purchase a home warranty when they close on a home. A standard warranty covers appliances and home systems, such as the HVAC and water heater. Usually, the warranty coverage last for a year after purchase and often can be renewed. Additionally, many providers offer extended coverage on more expensive home systems, such as a swimming pool, at an added cost.

If you’re selling a home you may want to consider offering a home warranty, particularly if you have older appliances. It can give a potential homebuyer comfort to know there is added protection if any of the home systems fail soon after purchase.

Homeowners can purchase a standard home warranty at any time regardless of whether you are planning to sell. Before buying the home warranty you will want to take the time to understand what’s already covered as part of any manufacturers’ warranties. And when selecting the policy be on the lookout for any added fees to the home warranty, such as an additional cost for service calls. Some companies also require an inspection of your home systems before you can qualify for the warranty.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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Ask Will banner

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: I’m in the market for a new home and have started researching the costs. I know I need title insurance. How do I decide the type of insurance and find the right insurance provider?

A: Buying a home is often the single biggest investment a person makes in their lifetime. Selecting your type of coverage and provider are few of many important decisions you’ll make when going through the process. And, if you’re financing the purchase, you may need more than one kind of insurance. In addition to title insurance, you’ll most likely purchase homeowner’s insurance to protect your property and mortgage insurance if required by the lender.

What is title insurance?

In short, title insurance protects a real estate owner against fraudulent activity regarding documentation, including unknown wills or other claims that may arise from prior owners that were not discovered during a title search. Title insurance will typically cover you up to the sales price of the home.

You can also elect for an enhanced policy that can provide coverage 150 percent beyond the standard policy, which includes mechanic liens, forgeries and any other issue that may affect the title after the policy is issued.

In some cases, a purchaser may elect not to get title insurance altogether. Although it might not be recommended, you do have the option.

To explore your options, I recommend asking a local title company. Ask these companies for a breakdown of your options and costs before making a decision.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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Ask Will banner

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: I’m in the market for an apartment in the Arlington area and have never rented before. I’ve talked with leasing associates at a few apartment buildings. Almost every building has different terms from move-in fees to standardized rent increases. What’s the easiest way to find the perfect place for the right price (and without all these extra fees)?

A: When looking for an apartment you will want to look closely at a few variables that can make it easier for you to make a decision.

Decide on a Lease Term

How long you plan on staying in the apartment? Most property managers will ask you to sign a lease for a minimum of one year, but other options are available. If you are looking to stay for 6 months or less, plan to pay more. If you’re willing to agree to a two-year lease, it’s possible to negotiate a lower rent.

Understand the Leasing Agreement

Do not overlook this step! Leasing representatives often do not represent the best interest of a renter, as they are working for the rental company. Their goal is to fill the empty units. When reviewing the lease be on the lookout for:

  • Early termination fees
  • Move-out fees
  • Rent increase (usually a percentage/year)
  • Other fees you are (or could be) responsible for
  • Method for return of your security deposit
  • Sublease terms (if available)

Negotiate & Ask About Incentives 

Don’t let the process intimidate you. Many of the contract terms are negotiable, specifically those outlined above. Often there are additional incentives available, but you have to ask. For example, free parking for a few months, $200 off the first month’s rent, or other options. Just ask!

I’m hoping some readers can share any additional advice they have in comments.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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Ask Will banner

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: I’m interested in selling my home and have heard that “coming soon” listings can be a good pre-market strategy. How can this benefit my sale?

A:  A coming soon listing allows the seller to reach buyer agents early so they can review the property details before it hits the market. Generally, an agent can list a property under coming soon status on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) up to 21 days before it becomes active.

Posting a listing under coming soon status is only available to be viewed and shared by MLS subscribers, who are typically real estate agents and brokers, unless a listing agent proactively adds it separately to another public-facing site. Unlike active listings, it does not automatically pull through from the MLS to other these other sites.

This early listing can benefit sellers who are still prepping the property for sale because it allows buyer agents to share information on a listing with clients before it hits the market. It can spark the conversation early for potential buyers and allow them to plan their offer if the property meets their preferences.

Further, the listing does not show days on market until the property changes to active status, which can help avoid the potential negative perception that the property has been sitting on the market with no activity.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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Ask Will banner

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: I’m in the process of applying for a loan and heard there will be changes coming to the process in the next few weeks. What is the TRID and how will it impact me as a buyer?

A: TRID, known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) Rule or Integrated Mortgage Disclosure Rule, goes into effect Oct. 1, 2015, and will apply to all new loan applications. This new rule will benefit the buyer when closing by allowing them more time to review their closing documents and make sure everything is correct and up to date. If you currently have a closing date on a home, the new rule will not change anything for your transaction. However, if you are just starting the buying process the new rule will apply to you.

So, how will the new rules change the process for buyers just entering the market? Under TRID, a home purchase will no longer include the HUD form — it will now be called Closing Disclosures (CD), which is a completely different format and clearly lays out all the fees and loan information. The new rule also gives the buyer at least three days to review the closing documents prior to closing, compared to the current one day or, in some cases, just a few hours before closing.

Additionally, the lender will now be responsible for drafting and delivering the CD rather than the title company. By taking on this responsibility, the lender may be held liable for not delivering documents on time or issuing incorrect fees. This part of the new rule is a major change to the process for real estate professionals and will directly affect the lending and settlement process. As some roles are shifted from the title company to the lender there may be some growing pains.

Given the new guidelines, here are a few tips for buyers:

Lock your interest rate.

Make sure you are locked into your interest rate for a longer period of time, if at all possible. Because of the new rules, closings could be delayed at least initially, so make sure to speak with your lender about the best way to protect yourself from delays with a locked rate.

Build in more time for back-to-back closings.

If you are planning to sell a home and purchase a new one successively, keep in mind things may take longer on both sides. Work in a few extra days on both ends to be sure you have enough time to iron out any situations that may arise.

Consider the 3-day rule.

With the new rule, processing any changes to the following will require additional days to close:

  1. Changing the loan amount
  2. Any special credits paid outside of closing
  3. Changes to the property type

 

In short, while the new rule may help buyers better understand the loan documents, shifting the loan paperwork to the lender is a major change in the process, which means it could take longer to close.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: I’m a first-time homebuyer in Virginia getting ready to begin the house hunt. Does the seller pick a title company or can I?

A: That’s a great question. In Virginia, the purchaser can choose any title company or real estate attorney to handle their side of the closing. RESPA, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, is a federal law that prohibits a seller from requiring a buyer to purchase title insurance from any particular title company. A purchaser can designate his or her own closing agent from either a title company or attorney. At the same time, a seller can elect a different attorney to handle their side of the transaction if they choose. This is often referred to as a split closing.

If the seller elects to go with a separate title company than the purchaser, it shouldn’t have an impact on the fees. In Virginia, each party is responsible for their own fees, taxes and payoffs, unless otherwise agreed to in writing. In some cases, a seller can transfer their current title insurance policy to the purchaser, which can save money at closing. It’s important to ask if this is an option early in the process.

Now that you know you know a bit more about who selects the title company, here are a few things you should consider before making your decision.

Is the company located nearby?

Look for a company that’s in a convenient location or has the ability to meet you nearby for closing is important. Proximity is key in moving the process along, both for you and the title company.

Do they have a good reputation for closing on time?

You’ll want to select a partner with a strong track record of closing on time. While meeting the closing deadline isn’t solely in the title company’s hands, they can contribute to a smooth closing or cause it to derail. Your agent should be able to give you at least three recommendations to explore. Don’t be afraid to ask friends for recommendations and consult online reviews, as well.

What are the fees?

Buyer or seller, I recommend all of my clients get an estimated HUD-1 (i.e., document that outlines all of the closing fees) from at least two title companies before making a decision. Even if the fees are the same, everyone has a different personality and business manner. This process will help you get a better sense for the company you’ll be the most comfortable working with throughout the deal.

Are they skilled managers?

One of the key responsibilities for a title company is to keep things on track. Your agent will consistently communicate with the title company and lender to ensure they are updated on any new information that is needed to close the deal. Below are just a few of the areas a title company oversees during a standard transaction:

  • Title examination
  • Survey of the property
  • Obtain figures for payoff(s)
  • Document preparation
  • Notarization documents
  • Work with lender and agent to insure a smooth transaction

Your choice of title company may be one of the most important for facilitating a smooth and timely real estate transaction.

I’m hoping readers will share any additional advice in comments.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: My girlfriend and I are thinking about buying a home. We both have steady jobs and have watched the market closely. We think a condo would be best, but are unclear about owning a place together because we aren’t married. What are our options?

A: If you’re purchasing a property in Virginia you have a few options for holding a title together. Make sure to review and identify the option that works best for all parties involved.

Tenancy in common is a form of ownership most common when a property purchase involves more than one person. It is possible to involve more than two people in this agreement, as well, and either share equal ownership or divide it up in a way agreed upon by all parties. Additionally, in most cases under tenancy in common, an individual can sell their interest without the approval from the other owners. Should an owner pass away, the property can be transferred to someone else through a will or heirs.

Joint Tenancy is when two or more people have equal interest in and possession of the property. If a property is owned under “joint tenancy with the right of survivorship,” then in the event one person passes away the other will automatically gain ownership of the premises. An owner can also seller their interest to a third party.

Tenancy by the entirety is a special form of joint tenancy reserved for a couple that is married and considers them as a whole. Both parties have equal ownership of the property and a right of survivorship. Neither party can sell their interest without the other.

It’s important to review the different types of ownership before closing on a property and understand that each type has options. If anyone would like additionally information on other types of ownership or would like to be connected to a title company that can assist them, please reach out to me.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: If a buyer can’t close on a property what happens to the buyer’s earnest money deposit?

A: An earnest money deposit (EMD) is an amount collected from the buyer as a show of good faith when submitting an offer. Often representing one to three percent of the agreed sale price, the amount is normally the buyer’s own cash (not a loan) and must be deposited within five business days after a contract is ratified — unless all parties agree in writing otherwise. Normally, a third party, such as an attorney, title company or real estate company will hold the deposit until the sale moves to closing. At closing, the EMD is given back to the buyer in the form of a credit applied toward the sale or closing cost.

Typically, if the buyer walks away from the deal or can’t close, the seller can go after the EMD. However, it is not guaranteed and not automatically released to the seller. The EMD can only be released to either the buyer or seller if all parties agree in writing or through a court order. In many cases, the buyer and seller will try to work through the issue so the transaction can still close.

Experienced buyer agents will also include addendums or contingencies in the contract that allow the buyer to void the contract in certain situations, without forgoing the EMD. In Virginia, these addendums often allow the buyer to walk away if the property does not appraise at or above the sale price, and/or if something of concern is found during the inspection. Additionally, almost all title attorneys can answer any legal questions you might have regarding the risks of losing the EMD prior to submitting an offer.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected] This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: What does the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Statement do and whom does it protect?

A: If you’re selling a home in Virginia you are required to provide a signed “Residential Property Disclosure Statement” to the buyer. As noted in an online attachment to the form (not written out in the disclosure itself), the statement notifies the buyer that the seller is not in a position to disclose or speak to any of the conditions of the property. By doing this, the statement essentially puts the responsibility of exploring and understanding the condition of the property in the buyer’s hands.

The signed disclosure form must be provided to the buyer before any contract terms can take effect. If the seller does not provide the statement, the buyer may void the contract.

Buyers Beware

Virginia is referred to as a “buyer beware” state, which means a seller does not have to proactively disclose any problems with the home. This leaves it up to the buyer to find any issues during inspection. Clearly, as a buyer, it’s important to do your due diligence. When choosing your agent, ask him or her about prior experience with qualified home inspectors in the area. A good agent can connect you with a seasoned inspector and offer an extra eye for anything that may cause immediate concern (even prior to inspection).

As a side note, a seller cannot knowingly lie or attempt to hide or cover up a problem. For example, covering a crack in the foundation with rug or putting a large piece of furniture in front of a hole in the wall. In many cases, if a seller does this they could be subject to legal action even after the property closes and deed is transferred.

Some Exceptions

There are some exceptions where the disclosure statement typically is not required. For example, it may not apply in sales between co-owners or between relatives, or in certain tax, bankruptcy, trust and foreclosure sales.

Also, a builder selling new construction is not required to complete the disclosure form. However, the builder/seller does need to provide a written disclosure of any known defects that are in violation of the building code.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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Ask Will banner

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: I’m starting a new company and want to know about the steps to take to lease commercial space?

There are many layers to the commercial real estate market. Knowing where to start can be confusing, particularly if this is your first time hunting for the perfect business location and lease. Here are a few things to think about to get you started.

Define what type of property are you looking for. When renting commercial space you’ll need a strong understanding of your ideal space, size and location requirements. Are you heading up an accounting firm and looking for a standard office space with a conference room and private offices? Or are you running a shipping company where you’ll need industrial space with a loading dock? Or are you opening a wine shop and looking for storefront retail in a high-traffic location? Each business type has its own needs. Make sure to think through these specifications and bring them to the table from the very beginning. You may also want to consider whether you are open to exploring a shared space or an incubator. If you’re a small company or start-up, this kind of space can give you the ability to grow with lower overhead than managing a lease on your own.

Ensure your finances are in order. Similar to renting a residential space, an assessment of your finances and income will be conducted by a potential landlord to ensure your financial situation is fit for tenancy. This can help them better gauge your ability to pay on time and stay in the space throughout the term. Many landlords will ask to see a financial statement for your business as part of the initial process. In more competitive markets, a landlord may not consider your company for a space because of a lack of financial history or because your company business model doesn’t fit the space or there are other companies in the same location from the same industry.

Think about your ideal lease term. On average, a commercial lease can be three-to-five years in a lower density market and 10 years or more in a higher density market. In some cases, a tenant can sublet space for a shorter period of time if they take over an existing lease. However, lease terms for a sublet are handled on a case-by-case basis and the types of property can vary greatly.

Discuss your options for rent abatement. Many businesses entering into new lease agreements for commercial space plan to undergo property updates to maximize the use of the space. Rent abatement (i.e., free rent) is often negotiated as a part of these contracts when the business owner plans to make these updates. If you are planning updates, make sure to ask about rent abatement for tenant improvements during your negotiations often listed in a Letter of Intent (LOI). In some cases, a landlord will give a tenant a few months of rent abatement to build out the space or make capital improvements.

Investing the time upfront to define your property preferences and requirements can help you maximize efficiency throughout the process. Finding the right space can be challenging and in some cases it takes months before the right property comes on the market.

I’m hoping some readers will share any additional advice they have in comments.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

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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