Just Listed: 3025 Ontario Rd. NW #303 Washington, DC 20009

• Spacious one bedroom, one bath unit with lots of natural light!
• Open living and dining area with parquet hardwoods floors and built in book cases.
• Relaxing master bedroom with ceiling fan and two closets.
• Newly renovated bathroom with oversized soaking tub, quartz vanity top, marble floor and subway tile.
• Building features secured entry and rooftop deck with cathedral, park and city views.
• Grilling area in courtyard, additional 3 x 3 storage available for fee and community laundry.
• Low monthly fee includes electric, gas heat, water and taxes. No underlying mortgage.
• Ideal location, just minutes to restaurants and retail in Adams Morgan, the National Zoo and more.
• Conveniently between two metros: Woodley Park (Red Line) and Columbia Heights (Yellow/Green Lines).
• Pets allowed.
• Gorgeous unit, in an unbeatable neighborhood!

Sales in this building have ranged, but typically units have sold for $300-$355K+. The units on the higher end had nicely updated kitchen and bathrooms. Our unit has a nicely updated kitchen and is listed for $315K.

If you are interested in a private showing, please contact us!

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Just Listed: 3039 Macomb St, NW #18 Washington, DC 20008

Cleveland Park Coop
2BR/1BA unit at the desirable Cleveland Cooperative!
Rarely available Unit features: hardwood floors, 750 sq ft, 10+ ft ceilings, and lots of natural light.
Needs renovations, but lots of potential.
Unbeatable location with nearby restaurants, shops & entertainment. Just mins to Cleveland Park, National Zoo, Uptown Theater & Cleveland Park Metro
Charming building, cat friendly & low coop fee.
No underlying Mortgage
Offers with loans MUST use PNC Mortgage; NCB, F.S.B.; JP Morgan Chase Mortgage; and H.S.B.C.

Units in this building rarely come on the market. Sales have ranged from $380K up to $430K for beautifully renovated 2 bedroom units. This unit is listed for $359K, and has lots of potential for upgrades. If you are interested in seeing this unit, contact us today.

Email Katie@wethmangroup.com for more information or to set up a showing.

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Just Listed: 1021 Arlington Blvd #1131

Check out these views! We just listed this stunning penthouse in Arlington with unbelievable river and monument views.

This one bedroom/one bath unit is located at 1021 Arlington Blvd, in River Place East and boasts 716 square feet of living space. The lovely unit offers a open and inviting floor plan with fresh, modern paint in the living/dining area. Gourmet kitchen with granite counters, maple cabinets and stainless steel appliances. Spacious master bedroom with large closet. Updated bathroom with newer vanity and counter top, complete with shower/tub combo. Relaxing balcony off living room.

River Place is a Cooperative Community (Co-op), and offers very attractive amenities to residents which include: resort style outdoor pool, fitness room, billiards room, convenience store, dry cleaning valet, front desk in each building, 24 hour security, and outdoor picnic areas. The condo fee includes access to these amenities, and also covers all utilities.

Sales in this building are traditional lower than comparable units, in traditional condo buildings. Since January 2014, prices of one bedrooms with comparable living space have sold from $240K up to $293K. Average days on market is around 55.

This unit is listed for $249,990 and included a reserved garage parking spot.

This is an unbeatable location: 2 blocks from Rosslyn Metro, minutes to 50/66/395 and quick commute to The Pentagon, downtown DC, Georgetown, Arlington and Alexandria.

To learn more about the differences, visit this link on our website: Condos vs Coop

Contact us today for a private showing.

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I Got My Condo Docs – Now What??

In Virginia, buyers of condominiums and properties within a homeowner’s association have a three (calendar) day review period to review the “resale package” or “condo docs” following a ratified contract.  In the District buyers have three business days.   (Typically these are not available in advance because associations charge a fee, and most sellers are reluctant to incur that fee before receiving an offer.   Several items in the package are also time-sensitive, so if the package is too old then sellers will need to pay for an updated package, so most sellers choose to wait until the offer is received before ordering.)

Sometimes the documents are electronic or online, or often they come in a big binder for your reading pleasure.   Some of the items that are supposed to be included* the resale package are:

–          Bylaws, rules, and regulations of the community (e.g., pet, noise, and rental policies)

–          The annual association budget

–          Two months of Board minutes

–          A statement from the property manager about whether the unit is currently in compliance with rules (do NOT assume that if there is a violation the seller will remedy it prior to settlement!)

–          Master insurance policy

*Unfortunately sometimes items are missing from the resale package.  You can ask for the missing items, but it does NOT extend your three day window for rescission.

There will be a lot of information to read through in a short amount of time, so I recommend buyers first prioritize these three items:

–          Review the rules and regulations to make sure you can live with them.  Even if you’ve verbally been told otherwise (e.g., “oh, no one actually carpets over the hardwoods and it’s never a problem” or “there are lots of owners with dogs even though the policy says no pets”,  or “of course you can install a washer/dryer.”  These are the rules and you should be prepared to have them enforced.  There are no guarantees that a lax Board will always remain lax.

–          Look at the percentage of units that are more than 30 days past due on fees.  Could it be indicative of a financially strapped community with short sales and foreclosures to come?

–          Compare the reserve balance to the engineering study, which is a study that estimates the remaining useful life and cost to replace or repair for community items such as parking lots, roofs, and common areas.  Engineering studies are typically performed every five years.

–          Is there a move in fee or capital contribution required at settlement?  This is becoming a big trend for condos to assess buyers a fee to help fund their reserves, sometimes it can run into the thousands of dollars.

The three day period can be a stressful one, because it’s difficult to get more details if needed in such a short amount of time.  Property managers are often restricted from giving information to non-owners, further complicating the ability to get details related to a buyer’s concerns.  The remedy is to negotiate with the seller for an extension of the period, or to void the contract, so it’s best to read the documents immediately upon receipt to identify any potential issues early.

More resources:

Search the MLS for properties

Contact us to discuss your home search

Attend a free First Time Buyer Seminar

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Why are these condo fees so high?

I’m often told by buyers “I won’t look at anything with high condo fees.”  Often this can be a mistake.  We need to look at what condo fees cover, and why some buildings may be higher (or lower) than others.

What’s included in condo fees varies—sometimes widely—from building to building.  First you need to be sure that you’re looking at a condominium, rather than a co-operative.  While they may appear similar, in legal terms that are very different (see my page on condos vs co-ops here.)  When it comes to fees, co-ops appear much higher because they include property tax and occasionally an underlying mortgage, which results in fees that look much higher on paper, but when a buyer calculates their all-in housing expense, can actually be a bargain compared to condos.

Condo fees generally include a master insurance policy for the dwelling.  You will need to have an HO-6 (aka “condo rider” or “walls-in”) policy, but this is much cheaper than the policy you would need to purchase for a townhouse or single family home.

Units in older buildings generally are not individually metered, meaning that certain utilities are often included in the condo fee.  Heating and air conditioning bills can add up!

Are there expensive amenities like an indoor pool or a staffed front desk?  These drive up fees quickly.

Is the building new construction and still being managed by the builder?  Builders are notorious for underestimating fees (and often not adequately funding reserves.)

Finally, a buyer needs to look at reserves.  There is no right or wrong answer on funding reserves.  Condo boards make decisions annually about the amount they need for their annual operating expenses, and the amount they want to put aside for future capital repairs and improvements (new roofs, new windows, redecorating common areas, etc.)  Board members are owners that are elected by other owners.   Just like some owners save for a rainy day, so do some Boards.  And just like some owners live paycheck-to-paycheck and pray that nothing breaks, so do some Boards.  So having fees that are too low could indicate that a building is not properly funding its reserves, which could lead to future special assessments.

More Resources:

Search the MLS for properties

Contact us to discuss your home search

Attend a free First Time Buyer Seminar

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Proposed Elimination of Fannie, Freddie May Boost Interest Rates; FHA Insurance Premium Set to Increase

The administration has released a white paper saying it intends to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and severely cut back FHA’s role in mortgage funding.  Though the plan could take up to seven years to execute, it would mean a dramatically privatized mortgage market and very likely higher rates.  The report offers three options, including creating a new government agency that would continue to insure mortgages or a new agency that would step in only during times of crisis.  The most drastic option would end government backing for home loans beyond the FHA.  This could prove to be disastrous for condo financing, which has long been problematic when it comes to FHA.  (Read more about how changes in condo financing impacted sales in this post.)

This report comes on the heels of another direct hit on buyers: FHA’s recently announced increase in the monthly mortgage insurance premium of .25% beginning with case numbers assigned on or after April 18, 2011. FHA Commissioner David Stevens said “After careful consideration and analysis, we determined it was necessary to increase the annual mortgage insurance premium at this time in order to bolster the FHA’s capital reserves and help private capital return to the housing market,” said Stevens. “This quarter point increase in the annual MIP is a responsible step towards meeting the Congressionally mandated two percent reserve threshold, while allowing FHA to remain the most cost effective mortgage insurance option for borrowers with lower incomes and lower down payments.”  This means that FHA buyers who have a ratified contract AFTER that date will have a higher monthly payment, so plan accordingly and get those offers in during EARLY April!  On a $400,000 loan it translates into an extra $83 in your monthly payment.

Interest rates have a huge impact on affordability, especially for first time buyers who typically have lower down payments than 2nd or 3rd time buyers who are rolling equity over from a previous home.

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Why Are Condos at the Jefferson in Ballston So Cheap?

Two words: Retirement Community.

The Jefferson is a Sunrise Senior Living Community.  It consists of two high-rise condominium towers within a block of the Ballston Commons Mall and Ballston metro, and as such they get plenty of hits from buyers looking for affordable options along the Orange Line in North Arlington.

So why are these condos so cheap? First, you must be 55 or older to purchase there, and all units come with not only a condo fee (about $100-150/month for a 1BR), but a hefty Service Fee which is mandatory for all residents.  Service Fees start at approximately $1925/month for a 1BR and can go up to over $3700 for a 2BR/den and even more for larger units.

But the Service Fees, while high, sure make life more comfortable for the Jefferson’s senior residents: it covers one meal a day in the restaurant-style dining room, weekly housekeeping and linen service, scheduled transportation, lifestyle and leisure activities, exercise and wellness programs, an indoor pool, spa and fitness center, and a host of other items.

Condos are available for sale or for rent (from private owners).  There are plenty of units available.  At the time of this writing, there were 32 units available, ranging from $115,000 (1br/1 ba)  to $649,000 (3br/3ba).  Be warned though: financing one of these units for purchase is very tricky.  And given the amount of inventory available, selling them in certain markets can be quite tricky as well.

Not a senior but still looking for an affordable option along the orange line?

That’s a tall order, but try Colonial Village, Taft Towers, Adams House, the Circle, Cardinal House, or the Chatham.

For more options, drop me an email or give me a call.  I’d be happy to talk to you about pricing and options on condos along the orange line, where I live.

If you’re looking to buy a unit at the Jefferson, contact me.  I visited this and many other local communities while searching for a home for my own Mom recently and would be happy to share what I learned on my tours.

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Update: Housing Bill Credits for First Time Buyers

Congress continues to work on resolving conflicting versions of the housing bill first discussed back in April. Word is that they’re close to a deal. Here’s the latest scuttlebutt as to what is planned (remember, though, that this is NOT YET FINAL):

– The credit (yes, that’s a CREDIT, which is much more valuable than a simple deduction) will be $7500 .

– Eligible properties will include condos, co-ops, and single family residences.

– The credit is available to those with an AGI of less than $70K ($140 for joint returns), and is phased out above that limit.

– Credit is available only to first time buyers, defined as those who have now owned in the previous 3 years and who purchase between April 8, 2008 and June 30, 2009.

– A portion is to be repaid each year for 15 years, so it’s not exactly free money, but rather will operate more like a ‘loan.’ However, it is a ‘refundable credit’, which means that even if you owe absolutely nothing in taxes, you can get this money refunded to you when you file. If you sell the property before the 15 years are up, then you will be required to repay the balance of the credit. Clearly Congress is trying to gear this opportunity towards those who intend to stay in their residences for the long term.

Though this isn’t as generous as first planned, this nonetheless is a great way for first time buyers to get an up-front $7,500 to help with down payments and closing costs, enabling them to take advantage of this buyer’s market sooner.

As I’ve commented in this blog many times, I find it takes first time buyers a minimum of 3 months to find a home they want at a price they’re comfortable with, so this deadline of June 2009 gives buyers about 9 months to get started, in my estimation. However, real estate prices often fall sharply in the Fall and Winter, so you may want to get started sooner than later, so you can maximize how far that $7,500 goes!

Stay tuned as this bill makes its way through committee.

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Co-ops: The Surprising Numbers

I’ve posted here before that I am not a big fan of co-ops, and that’s still true. HOWEVER, I do want to share some data that surprised me, and after I have a chance to do a little more digging, I may reverse my position after all.

I have a client who is very interested in co-ops, so I wanted to try to get some facts to support the potential resale issues; broadly speaking, my impression of co-ops was that they were cheap to get into, but very tough to get out of when it’s time to sell.

I was surprised to find that for the most recent six month period, MLS data showed that in zip code 20009..
Statistic: Condos / Co-ops
Units sold: 156 / 33
Days on Market: 60 / 53
Avg Sold Price: $366,574 / $304,321
Source: Metropolitan Regional Information System

Now, I already knew that the average price of co-ops was much less, and the number of units sold would be much lower, after all, there are many more condos than co-ops in Washington, DC. But, I was certainly surprised by the Days on Market total–turns out co-ops sell just as quickly, if not more quickly, than condos. My guess is that this is because of the low price point–an entry level buyer, and $52K is quite a difference for someone trying to get into their first place. Not to mention that co-ops, often in older buildings, are frequently much larger units than today’s condos.

My point? Perhaps just that I may have been too hasty to condemn co-ops. And there are still major pitfalls for a buyer to be aware of: Board Approval, possibly higher required downpayments, limited options for financing, the potential inability to rent the unit. But for the right purchaser, co-ops could be a great opportunity, and the topic deserves more study and I’ll post again soon.

And now for my legal disclaimer: Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Do not rely on this information without verification.

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Condos versus Co-ops

For my first discussion, I want to talk a little bit about co-ops vs. condos. Co-ops are a very ,misunderstood piece of the real estate market. The basic difference is this: Co-ops are corporations in which you buy shares, in exchange for which you are given the right to occupy a unit. Condos are units that you buy, along with an undivided interest interest in the common elements (like hallways, courtyards, pools, and other amenities.) Though it may seem like a small difference, the implications are actually huge. You can see a further discussion of the differences on my web site here.

 

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