Potomac Yard | Del Ray | Old Town Alexandria Real Estate News

Nov. 30, 2021

Buying a Home in Alexandria VA | Home Is Where the Heart Is More than Ever This Year

Buying a Home in Alexandria VA | Home Is Where the Heart Is More than Ever This Year

Home Is Where the Heart Is More than Ever This Year | MyKCM

There’s no denying the financial benefits of homeownership, but what’s often overlooked are the feelings of gratitude, security, pride, and comfort we get from owning a home. This year, those emotions are stronger than ever. From a statewide shutdown, to schools gradually reopening, we’ve lived through a time that has truly changed our needs and who we are, and as a result, homeownership has a whole new meaning for many of us.

According to the 2021 State of the American Homeowner report by Unison:

“Last year, staying home became a necessity and that caused many homeowners to have renewed gratitude for the roof over their head.”

As a nation, we continue to work through the challenges of a pandemic that’s pushed us all to new limits. Over the past year and a half, we’ve spent more time than ever at home: working, eating, schooling, exercising, and more. The world around us changed almost overnight, and our homes were redefined. Our needs shifted, and our shelters became a place that protected us on a whole new level. The same study from Unison notes:

  • 91% of homeowners say they feel secure, stable, or successful owning a home
  • 64% of American homeowners say living through a pandemic has made their home more important to them than ever
  • 83% of homeowners say their home has kept them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s no surprise this study also reveals that homeowners are now more emotionally attached to their homes as well:Home Is Where the Heart Is More than Ever This Year | MyKCMAs we’ve learned throughout this health crisis, homeownership can provide the safety and security we crave in a time of uncertainty. That sense of connection and emotional stability genuinely reaches beyond just the financial aspect of owning a home. As JD Esajian, President of CT Homes, LLCsays:

“Aside from the financial factors, there are several social benefits of homeownership and stable housing to consider. It has long been thought that buying a home contributes to a sense of accomplishment. Still, most individuals fail to realize that homeownership can benefit your mental health and the community around you.”

Whether you’re thinking of buying your first home, moving up to your dream home, or downsizing to something that better fits your changing lifestyle, take a moment to reflect on what Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

“Buying a home is not just a financial decision. It's also a lifestyle decision.”

Bottom Line

If you’re considering buying a home, it’s not entirely about the dollars and cents. Don’t forget to weigh the non-financial benefits that may truly change your life when you need them most.

Posted in Homeowners
Nov. 2, 2021

The Choice of New vs Resale | Which is Right?

Alexandria VA homebuyers are facing a huge dilemma right now... there simply aren’t enough homes for sale.1

Nationwide, there were 1.27 million active listings in September, down 13% from the previous year. According to the National Association of Realtors, that’s about 2.4 months of inventory, which is far less than the six months that is generally needed to strike a healthy balance between supply and demand.2

Here in Alexandria VA, you can see that compared to the national numbers, we've never even made it over two months of inventory over the past 12 months:

 

Given the limited number of available properties, if you’re a buyer in today’s market, you may need to expand your search to include both new construction and resale homes. But it can feel a little like comparing apples to oranges.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors you should take into account when choosing between a new build or an existing home.

TIMEFRAME

How quickly do you want (or need) to move into your next home? Your timeframe can be a determining factor when it comes to choosing between a new build or resale.

New Build
If you opt for new construction, you may be surprised by how long you have to wait to get the keys to your new digs. Currently, many home builders are dealing with unique challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including rising costs, labor and material shortages, and shipping delays. While historically it took around five to six months to build a home, many builders are now reporting construction timelines closer to a year or more.3

These issues have led some builders to cancel contracts or raise the price on unsuspecting homebuyers long after agreements were signed. Unfortunately, this scenario can throw a major wrench in your moving plans and significantly delay your timeline.

To minimize these types of surprises, it’s crucial to have a real estate agent represent you in a new home purchase. We can help negotiate better contract terms and advise you about the potential risks involved.

Existing Home
If you’re in a hurry to move into your next residence, then you may want to stick to shopping for an existing home.

You can typically move into a resale home as soon as you’ve closed the deal (unless a post-settlement occupancy, or rent-back, is part of the transaction). The average time it takes to close a home purchase is around 30-45 days, but it can vary based on loan type and market activity.4

If you need to move even sooner, it’s sometimes possible to close faster, especially if you’re a cash buyer. In fact, many sellers prefer a quick closing, so it can give you an advantage in a competitive market.

LOCATION

From commute to construction to amenities, there’s a lot to consider when choosing your next neighborhood.

New Build
With a brand-new home, you’re more likely to move into a neighborhood that’s located on the edge of town and is still undergoing development.5 This could mean a longer commute and ongoing construction for some time.

However, new developments can also offer a lot of amenities that appeal to modern homebuyers. Water features, hike-and-bike trails, tot lots, and dog parks are just a few of the enhancements we’re seeing pop up in master-planned communities across the country. And some feature new schools and their own urban-like centers with restaurants, retail, and office space.6

Existing Home
An existing home is more likely to be located close to town in a neighborhood with mature trees, established schools, and a deeply-rooted community. As a result, you may find the neighborhood’s trajectory to be more predictable than an up-and-coming area.

But the amenities may be lacking and the infrastructure dated when compared to newer communities. And while some homebuyers love the charm and eclectic feel of an older neighborhood, others prefer the sleek and cohesive look of a newer development.

MAINTENANCE

Are you a DIY enthusiast, or do you prefer a low-maintenance lifestyle? Set realistic expectations about how much time, effort, and money you want to devote to maintaining your next home.

New Build
When you build a home, everything is brand new. Therefore, in the first few years at least, you can expect less required maintenance and repairs. A 2019 survey found that millennials’ homebuying regrets often came down to maintenance issues, rather than other concerns.7 So if you would rather spend your weekends exploring your new neighborhood than fixing a leaky faucet, you may be happier buying a turnkey build.

That doesn’t mean, though, that a new home will be entirely maintenance-free. In fact, depending on the builder, you could find yourself repairing more than you expected. Some home builders have reputations for shoddy construction and subpar materials, so it’s important to choose one with a solid reputation. We can help you identify the quality builders in our area.

Existing Home
No matter how good a deal you got when you purchased it, you could come to regret buying an older home if it costs you heavily in unexpected maintenance and repairs. According to HomeAdvisor’s yearly True Cost report, home renovations have grown more expensive in recent years. For example, installing a new HVAC system could cost you $5,371 on average. And you can expect to pay nearly double that amount ($9,375) for a new roof.8

Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for these large expenditures. We always recommend that our buyers hire a certified home inspector, whether they buy a new or existing home. Once we have the inspector’s report, we can negotiate with the seller on your behalf for reasonable repairs or concessions.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

On a quest for greener living? If so, there are several factors to consider when deciding on your next home.

New Build
There’s a growing demand for energy-efficient housing, and many builders are rising to the challenge. Nearly 1 in 4 homes built in 2020 received a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index Rating by the Residential Energy Services Network. A HERS rating provides an index score that compares the newly-built home to those that were standard in 2006. The more energy-efficient the home is, the lower the score it receives.11

The average home rated in 2020 was 42% more efficient than those built in 2006 and 72% more efficient than a typical home built in the 1970s.11 So if energy efficiency is a top priority, a new home with a low HERS rating may be a good choice. You can also look for one that’s ENERGY STAR Certified, which means it meets a series of strict efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2020, only 7.9% of homes built in the U.S. received this designation.12

Existing Home
Of course, a basic tenant of sustainable living is: reduce, reuse, recycle. And since a resale home already exists, it automatically comes with a lower carbon footprint. Research has also shown that remodeling or retrofitting an older home is often greener than building one from scratch.13

With some energy-conservation effort and strategic upgrades, environmentally-conscious consumers can feel good about buying an existing home, as well.

DESIGN

Open floor plan? Kitchen island? High ceilings? Must-have design features could drive your decision to build or buy resale.

New Build
With a new home, you can bet that everything will look shiny and perfect when you move in. Builders tend to put a lot of emphasis on visual details and follow the latest design trends. For example, newly-built homes are likely to feature an open floor plan, central kitchen island, and 9+ foot ceilings, which are must-haves for many modern buyers. They are also unlikely to feature carpet on the main level or laminate countertops, both of which have lost mass appeal.14

However, some buyers complain of the cookie-cutter feel of new homes since they are often built with a similar aesthetic. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t incorporate your own style. We can help you negotiate custom features and upgrades to personalize the space and make it feel like your own.

Existing Home
In some of the most coveted neighborhoods, an older home with classic styling and character can be highly sought after. But unless the previous homeowners have invested in tasteful updates, an existing home is also more likely to look dated.

While some buyers prefer the traditional look and character of an older home, others crave something more modern. If that’s the case, we can help you find a resale home that leaves enough room in your budget to renovate it to your liking.

WHICHEVER PATH YOU CHOOSE, WE CAN HELP

When it comes to choosing between a new build or an existing home, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. There are numerous factors to consider, and you may have to make some compromises along the way. But the homebuying process doesn’t have to feel overwhelming.

We’re here to help.

Some new-construction homebuyers make the mistake of visiting a builder’s sales office or even purchasing a home without their own real estate representative. But keep in mind, the builder’s agent or “sales consultant” has their best interests in mind—not yours.

We are knowledgeable about both the new construction and resale home options in our Alexandria, Lorton, and Woodbridge, and we can help you make an informed decision, negotiate a fair price, and avoid mistakes that can cost you time and money. So message us today or schedule a free, no-obligation virtual consultation—and let’s start searching for your next home!

     

 

Posted in Buyers
July 19, 2021

How to Bridge the Appraisal Gap in the Alexandria VA Real Estate Market

If you’re searching for drama, don’t limit yourself to Netflix. Instead, tune in to the real estate market, where the competition among buyers has never been fiercer. And with homes selling for record highs,1 the appraisal process—historically a standard part of a home purchase—is receiving more attention than ever.

That’s because some sellers are finding out the hard way that a strong offer can fizzle quickly when an appraisal comes in below the contract price. Traditionally, the sale of a home is contingent on a satisfactory valuation. But in a rapidly appreciating market, it can be difficult for appraisals to keep pace with rising prices.

Thus, many sellers in today’s market favor buyers who are willing to guarantee their full offer price—even if the property appraises for less. For the buyer, that could require a financial leap of faith that the home is a solid investment. It also means they may need to come up with additional cash at closing to cover the gap.

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, it’s never been more important to understand the appraisal process and how it can be impacted by a quickly appreciating and highly competitive housing market. It’s also crucial to work with a skilled real estate agent who can guide you to a successful closing without overpaying (if you’re a buyer) or overcompensating (if you’re a seller). Find out how appraisals work—and in some cases, don’t work—in today’s unique real estate environment.

 

APPRAISAL REQUIREMENTS

An appraisal is an objective assessment of a property’s market value performed by an independent authorized appraiser. Mortgage lenders require an appraisal to lower their risk of loss in the event a buyer defaults on their loan. It provides assurance that the home’s value meets or exceeds the amount being lent for its purchase.

In most cases, a licensed appraiser will analyze the property’s condition and review the value of comparable properties that have recently sold. Mortgage borrowers are usually expected to pay the cost of an appraisal. These fees are often due upfront and non-refundable.2

Appraisal requirements can vary by lender and loan type, and in today’s market in-person appraisal waivers have become much more common. Analysis of the property, the local market, and the buyer’s qualifications will determine whether the appraisal will be waived. Not all properties or buyers will qualify, and not all mortgage lenders will utilize this system.3 If you’re applying for a mortgage, be sure to ask your lender about their specific terms.  

If you’re a cash buyer, you may choose—but are not obligated—to order an appraisal.

 

APPRAISALS IN A RAPIDLY SHIFTING MARKET

An appraisal contingency is a standard inclusion in a home purchase offer. It enables the buyer to make the closing of the transaction dependent on a satisfactory appraisal wherein the value of the property is at or near the purchase price. This helps to reassure the buyer (and their lender) that they are paying fair market value for the home and allows them to cancel the contract if the appraisal is lower than expected.

Low appraisals are not common, but they are more likely to happen in a rapidly appreciating market, like the one we’re experiencing now.4 That’s because appraisers must use comparable sales (commonly referred to as comps) to determine a property’s value. These could include homes that went under contract weeks or even months ago. With home prices rising so quickly,5 today’s comps may be lagging behind the market’s current reality. Thus, the appraiser could be basing their assessment on stale data, resulting in a low valuation.

 

HOW ARE BUYERS AND SELLERS IMPACTED BY A LOW APPRAISAL?

When a property appraises for less than the contract price, you end up with an appraisal gap. In a more balanced market, that could be cause for a renegotiation. In today’s market, however, sellers often hold the upper hand.

That’s why some buyers are using the potential for an appraisal gap as a way to strengthen their bids. They’re proposing to take on some or all of the risk of a low appraisal by adding gap coverage or a contingency waiver to their offer.

 

Appraisal Gap Coverage

Buyers with some extra cash on hand may opt to add an appraisal gap coverage clause to their offer. It provides an added level of reassurance to the sellers that, in the event of a low appraisal, the buyer is willing and able to cover the gap up to a certain amount.6

For example, let’s say a home is listed for $200,000 and the buyers offer $220,000 with $10,000 in appraisal gap coverage. Now, let’s say the property appraises for $205,000. The new purchase price would be $215,000. The buyers would be responsible for paying $10,000 of that in cash directly to the seller because, in most cases, mortgage companies won’t include appraisal gap coverage in a home loan.6

 

Waiving The Appraisal Contingency

 

Some buyers with a higher risk tolerance—and the financial means—may be willing to waive the appraisal contingency altogether. However, this strategy isn’t for everyone and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

It’s important to remember that waiving an appraisal contingency can leave a buyer vulnerable if the appraisal comes back much lower than the contract price. Without an appraisal contingency, a buyer will be obligated to cover the difference or be forced to walk away from the transaction and relinquish their earnest money deposit to the sellers.7

It’s vital that both buyers and sellers understand the benefits and risks involved with these and other competitive tactics that are becoming more commonplace in today’s market. We can help you chart the best course of action given your individual circumstances.

 

DON’T WAIVE YOUR RIGHT TO THE BEST REPRESENTATION

 

There’s never been a market quite like this one before. That’s why you need a master negotiator on your side who has the skills, instincts, and experience to get the deal done...no matter what surprises may pop up along the way. If you’re a buyer, we can help you compete in this unprecedented market—without getting steamrolled. And if you’re a seller, we know how to get top dollar for your home while minimizing hassle and stress. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation.

 

Sources:

 

1.     Wall Street Journal -
https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-home-prices-push-to-record-high-slowing-pace-of-purchases-11621605953

2.     US News & World Report - https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/what-is-a-home-appraisal-and-who-pays-for-it

3.     Rocket Mortgage –
https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/appraisal-waiver 

4.     Money -
https://money.com/coronavirus-low-home-appraisal/

5.     S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price NSA Index - https://www.spglobal.com/spdji/en/indices/indicators/sp-corelogic-case-shiller-20-city-composite-home-price-nsa-index/#overview

6.     Bigger Pockets -
https://www.biggerpockets.com/blog/appraisal-gap-coverage

 

7.     Washington Post -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/realestate/competitive-buyers-waive-contingencies-to-score-homes-in-tight-market/2021/06/02/d335b050-af2c-11eb-b476-c3b287e52a01_story.html

 

Posted in News
May 24, 2021

3 Things To Prioritize When Selling Your House

3 Things To Prioritize When Selling Your  House in Alexandria VA

 

3 Things To Prioritize When Selling Your House

3 Things To Prioritize When Selling Your House | MyKCM

The housing market in Alexandria VA is full of unprecedented opportunities. High buyer demand paired with record-low housing inventory is creating the ultimate sellers’ market, which means it’s a fantastic time to sell your house. However, that doesn’t mean sellers are guaranteed success no matter what. There are still some key things to know so you can avoid costly mistakes and win big when you make a move.

1. Price Your House Right

When inventory is low, like it is in the current market, it’s common to think buyers will pay whatever we ask when setting a listing price. Believe it or not, that’s not always true. Even in a sellers’ market, listing your house for the right price will maximize the number of buyers that see your house. This creates the best environment for bidding wars, which in turn are more likely to increase the final sale price. A real estate professional is the best person to help you set the best price for your house so you can achieve your financial goals.

2. Keep Your Emotions in Check

Today, homeowners are living in their houses for a longer period of time. Since 1985, the average time a homeowner owned their home, or their tenure, has increased from 5 to 10 years (See graph below):3 Things To Prioritize When Selling Your House | MyKCMThis is several years longer than what used to be the historical norm. The side effect, however, is when you stay in one place for so long, you may get even more emotionally attached to your space. If it’s the first home you purchased or the house where your children grew up, it very likely means something extra special to you. Every room has memories, and it’s hard to detach from that sentimental value.

For some homeowners, that connection makes it even harder to separate the emotional value of the house from the fair market price. That’s why you need a real estate professional to help you with the negotiations along the way.

3. Stage Your House Properly

We’re generally quite proud of our décor and how we’ve customized our houses to make them our own unique homes. However, not all buyers will feel the same way about your design and personal touches. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you stage your house with the buyer in mind.

Buyers want to envision themselves in the space so it truly feels like it could be their own. They need to see themselves inside with their furniture and keepsakes – not your pictures and decorations. Stage, clean, and declutter so they can visualize their own dreams as they walk through each room. A real estate professional can help you with tips to get your home ready to stage and sell.

Bottom Line

Today’s sellers’ market might be your best chance to make a move. If you’re considering selling your house in Alexandria VA, let’s connect today so you have the expert guidance you need to navigate through the process and prioritize these key elements.

             

 

Posted in Sellers
May 3, 2021

Finding a New Home for Your Next Stage of Life in Alexandria VA

Imagine the first place you lived as a young adult. Now imagine trying to fit your life today into that space. Not pretty, right? 

For most of us, our housing needs are cyclical.1 A newly independent adult can find freedom and flexibility in even a tiny apartment. That same space, to a growing family, would feel stifling. For empty nesters, a large home with several unused bedrooms can become impractical to heat and clean. It’s no surprise that life transitions often trigger a home purchase. 

While your home-buying journey may not look like your neighbor’s or friend’s, broad trends can help you understand what to keep in mind as you house hunt. No one wants to regret their home purchase, and taking the time now to think about exactly what you need can save a lot of heartache later.

 

The Newly Married or Partnered Couple

The financial and legal commitment of marriage has provided a springboard to homeownership for centuries, though these days more couples are buying homes without exchanging rings. In the last few decades, changing demographics have shifted the median age of first marriage and buying a first home into the late 20s and early 30s, planting most newly married or partnered buyers firmly in the millennial generation.2,3 But no matter your age, there are some key factors that you should consider as you enter into your first home purchase together.

Affordability is Key

There’s no doubt about it—with high student loan debt and two recessions in the rearview mirror, many millennial feel that the deck is stacked against them when it comes to homeownership. And it’s not just millennials—Americans of all ages are facing both financial challenges and a tough housing market. But stepping onto the property ladder can be more doable than many realize, especially in today’s low mortgage rate environment. 

While many buyers are holding out for their dream home, embracing the concept of a starter home can open a lot of doors.4 In fact, that’s the route that most first-time homebuyers take—the average home purchase for a 20-something is about 1,600 square feet. While the average size increases to around 1,900 square feet for buyers in their 30s, it’s not until buyers reach their 40s that the average size passes 2,000 square feet.5

Chosen carefully, a starter home can be a great investment as well as a launchpad for your life together. If you focus on buying a home you can afford now with strong potential for appreciation, you can build equity alongside your savings, positioning you to trade up to a larger home in the future if your needs change.6

Taking Advantage of Low Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates are historically low, making now the perfect time to purchase your first home together. A lower interest rate can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan, which can significantly increase the quality of home you can get for your money. 

But what if both halves of a couple don’t have good credit? You may still have options. First, boosting a credit score can be easier than you think—simply paying your credit cards down below 30% of your limit can go a long way. But if that’s not enough to boost your score, you might consider taking out the mortgage in only the better-scoring partner’s name. The downside is that applying for a mortgage with only one income will reduce your qualification amount. And if you take that route, make sure you understand the legal and financial implications for both parties should the relationship end.

Commute and Lifestyle Considerations

Whether you’ve lived in a rental together for years or are sharing a home for the first time, you know that living together involves some compromises. But there are certain home features that can make life easier in the future if you identify them now. The number of bathrooms, availability of closet space, and even things like kitchen layout can make a big difference in your day-to-day life and relationship. 

Your home’s location will also have a significant impact on your quality of life, so consider it carefully. What will commuting look like for each of you? And if you have different interests or hobbies—say, museums vs. hiking—you’ll need to find a community that meets both your needs. Need some help identifying the ideal location that fits within your budget? We can match you with some great neighborhoods that offer the perfect mix of amenities and affordability.

 

The Growing Family

Having kids changes things—fast. With a couple of rowdy preteens and maybe some pets in the mix, that 1,600 square foot home that felt palatial to two adults suddenly becomes a lot more cramped. Whether you’ve just had your first child or are getting to the point where your kids can’t comfortably share a bedroom any longer, there’s plenty to consider when you’re ready to size up to a home that will fit your growing family. 

The Importance of School Districts

For many parents, the desire to give their kids the best education—especially once they are in middle and high school— surpasses even their desire for more breathing room. In fact, 53% of buyers with children under 18 say that school districts are a major factor in their home buying decisions.7 Of course, better funded (and often higher ranking) schools correspond to higher home prices. However, when push comes to shove, many buyers with kids prefer to sacrifice a bit of space to find a home in their desired location.

But when you’re moving to a new community, it can be tough to figure out what the local schools are actually like—and online ratings leave a lot to be desired. That’s why talking to a local real estate agent can be a gamechanger. We don’t just work in this community; we know it inside and out. We’ll be happy to share our first-hand knowledge of the local schools and which neighborhoods are most welcoming to families.

Lifestyle Considerations

For many families, living space is a key priority. Once you have teenagers who want space to hang out with their friends, a finished basement or a rec room can be a huge bonus (and can help you protect some quieter living space for yourself). 

A good layout can also make family life a lot easier. For example, an open plan is invaluable if you want to cook dinner while keeping an eye on your young kids playing in the living room. And if you think that you might expand your family further in the future, be sure that the home you purchase has enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate that comfortably. 

Functionality

Try to think about how each room will fit into your day-to-day. Are you anticipating keeping the house stocked to feed hungry teenagers? A pantry might rise to the top of the list. Dreading the loads of laundry that come with both infants and older kids (especially if they play sports)? The task can be much more bearable in a well-designed laundry room. Imagine a typical day or week of chores in the house to identify which features will have the biggest impact.

Chances are, you won’t find every nice-to-have in one home, which is why identifying the must-haves can be such a boon to the decision-making process. We can help you assess your options and give you a sense of what is realistic within your budget.

 

The Empty Nesters 

When we talk about empty nesters, we usually think about downsizing. With kids out of the house, extra bedrooms and living space can quickly become more trouble than they’re worth. While the average buyer under 55 trades up to a larger home, buyers over 55 are more likely to purchase a smaller or similarly sized but less expensive home. Even in the highest age groups, the majority of home purchases fall in the single-family category. According to research by the National Association of Realtors, by the time buyers reach their 70s, the median home size drops to 1,750 square feet.5 But there’s plenty for empty nesters to think about besides square footage.

Maintenance and Livability

What factors are driving your decision to move? Identifying those early in the process can help you narrow down your search. For example, do you want to have space for a garden, or would you prefer to avoid dealing with lawn care altogether? What about home maintenance? In many cases, a newer home will require less maintenance than an older one and a smaller one will take less time to clean. You may also want to consider townhomes, condos, or other living situations that don’t require quite as much upkeep. 

Lifestyle Considerations

Many empty nesters have retired or are nearing retirement age. This could be your chance to finally pursue hobbies and passions that were just too hard to squeeze into a 9-5. If you’re ready to move, consider how you’d like to spend your days and seek out a home that will help make that dream a reality. For some, that might mean living near a golf course or a beach. For others, being able to walk downtown for a nice dinner out is the priority. And with more time to spend as you wish, proximity to a supportive community of friends and family is priceless. 

Ability to Age in Place

Let’s face it—we can’t escape aging. If you’re looking for a home to retire in, accessibility should be front-of-mind.8 This may mean a single-story home or simply having adequate spaces on the first floor to rearrange as needed. While buying a home that you plan to renovate from the start is a viable option, being forced into renovations (because of the realities of aging) a few years down the road could seriously dig into your nest egg. Location matters, too—if your family will be providing support, are they close by? Can you easily reach necessities like grocery stores and healthcare? While it’s tempting to put it out of our minds, a few careful considerations now can make staying in your home long-term much more feasible.

 

Finding the Right Home for Right Now

One thing is for sure—life never stands still. And your housing needs won’t, either. In the United States, the median duration of homeownership hovers around 13 years.9 That means many of us will cycle through a few very different homes as we move through different life stages. At each milestone, a careful assessment of your housing options will ensure that you are well-positioned to embrace all the changes to come.

Whatever stage you’re embarking on next, we’re here to help. Our insight into local neighborhoods, prices, and housing stock will help you hone in on exactly where you want to live and what kind of home is right for you. We’ve worked with home buyers in every stage of life, so we know exactly what questions you need to ask. Buying a home—whether it’s your first or your fifth—is a big decision, but we’re here to support you every step of the way.

 

              

 

Sources:

  1. Freddie Mac -
    http://www.freddiemac.com/blog/homeownership/20190104_homebuying_lifecycle.page 
  2. PRB -
    https://www.prb.org/usdata/indicator/marriage-age-women/snapshot/ 
  3. Experian -
    https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/research/average-age-to-buy-a-house/#:~:text=Buying%20a%20first%20home%20will,by%20real%20estate%20marketplace%20Zillow
  4. Nerdwallet -
    https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/mortgages/starter-home-forever-home 
  5. NAR 2020 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report -
    https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2020-generational-trends-report-03-05-2020.pdf 
  6. Investopedia -
    https://www.investopedia.com/personal-finance/what-look-starter-home/
  7. NAR 2019 Moving With Kids
    https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/moving-with-kids
  8. Kaiser Health News -
    https://khn.org/news/baby-boomers-aging-aging-in-place-retrofit-homes/
  9. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/how-long-do-homeowners-stay-in-their-homes#:~:text=As%20of%202018%2C%20the%20median,varies%20from%20area%20to%20area
Posted in Alexandria VA
Feb. 22, 2021

Where Have All the Houses Gone in Alexandria VA?

Where Have All the Houses Gone in Alexandria VA?
Local Area Housing Shortage Continues

Where Have All the Houses Gone? | MyKCM

Across the Northern Virginia region, we've seen the median days on market remain below 10 for the past 12 months.  In Alexandria, buyers saw a little bit of relief in the last quarter of 2020, with median days on market breaking at 12, 16, and 18 days respectively in October, November, and December. Locally and nationwide, it seems harder than ever to find a home to buy.

Before the health crisis hit us a year ago, there was already a shortage of homes for sale. When many homeowners delayed their plans to sell at the same time that more buyers aimed to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates and purchase a home, housing inventory dropped even further. Experts consider this to be the biggest challenge facing an otherwise hot market while buyers continue to compete for homes. As Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.comexplains:

“With buyers active in the market and seller participation lagging, homes are selling quickly and the total number available for sale at any point in time continues to drop lower. In January as a whole, the number of for sale homes dropped below 600,000.”

Every month, realtor.com releases new data showing the year-over-year change in inventory of existing homes for sale. As you can see in the map below, nationwide, inventory is 42.6% lower than it was at this time last year:Where Have All the Houses Gone? | MyKCM

Alexandria VA Housing Inventory Compared to Last Year

When we compare what's been happening locally, we can see from the interactive chart above, that the volume of listings in Alexandria, when compared to the previous year, was in the negative from January through June.  We didn't see positive gains until July.  Even looking at fourth quarter, more listings came on the market that the previous year, during a time when seasonally, we see fewer listings.

Does this mean houses aren’t being put on the market for sale?

Not exactly. While there are fewer existing homes being listed right now, many homes are simply selling faster than they’re being counted as current inventory. The market is that competitive! It’s like when everyone was trying to find toilet paper to buy last spring and it was flying off the shelves faster than it could be stocked in the stores. That’s what’s happening in the housing market: homes are being listed for sale, but not at a rate that can keep up with heavy demand from competitive buyers.

In the same realtor.com report, Hale explains:

Time on the market was 10 days faster than last year meaning that buyers still have to make decisions quickly in order to be successful. Today’s buyers have many tools to help them do that, including the ability to be notified as soon as homes meeting their search criteria hit the market. By tailoring search and notifications to the homes that are a solid match, buyers can act quickly and compete successfully in this faster-paced housing market.”

The Good News for Homeowners

The health crisis has been a major reason why potential sellers have held off this long, but as vaccines become more widely available, homeowners will start making their moves. Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zondaconfirms:

“Some people will feel comfortable listing their home during the first half of 2021. Others will want to wait until the vaccines are widely distributed.”

With more homeowners getting ready to sell later this year, putting your house on the market sooner rather than later is the best way to make sure your listing shines brighter than the rest.

When you’re ready to sell your Alexandria VA house, you’ll likely want it to sell as quickly as possible, for the best price, and with little to no hassle. If you’re looking for these selling conditions, you’ll find them in today’s market. When demand is high and inventory is low, sellers have the ability to create optimal terms and timelines for the sale, making now an exceptional time to move.

Bottom Line

Today’s housing market is a big win for sellers, but these conditions won’t last forever. If you’re in a position to sell your house now, you may not want to wait for your neighbors to do the same. Let’s connect today to discuss how to sell your house safely so you’re able to benefit from today’s high demand and low inventory.

                       

Posted in Buyers, Sellers
Feb. 3, 2021

Do I Really Need a 20% Down Payment to Buy a Home In Alexandria VA?

Do I Really Need a 20% Down Payment to Buy a Home In Alexandria VA?

Do I Really Need a 20% Down Payment to Buy a Home? | MyKCM

Is the idea of saving for a down payment holding you back from buying a home in Alexandria VA right now? You may be eager to take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates, but the thought of needing a large down payment might make you want to pump the brakes. Today, there’s still a common myth that you have to come up with 20% of the total sale price for your down payment. This means people who could buy a home may be putting their plans on hold because they don’t have that much saved yet. The reality is, whether you’re looking for your first home or you’ve purchased one before, you most likely don’t need to put 20% down. Here’s why.

According to Freddie Mac:

“The most damaging down payment myth—since it stops the homebuying process before it can start—is the belief that 20% is necessary.”

If saving that much money sounds daunting, potential homebuyers might give up on the dream of homeownership before they even begin – but they don’t have to.

Data in the 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) indicates that the median down payment actually hasn’t been over 20% since 2005, and even then, that was for repeat buyers, not first-time homebuyers. As the image below shows, today’s median down payment is clearly less than 20%.Do I Really Need a 20% Down Payment to Buy a Home? | MyKCM

What does this mean for potential homebuyers?

As we can see, the median down payment was lowest for first-time buyers with the 2020 percentage coming in at 7%. If you’re a first-time buyer and putting down 7% still seems high, understand that there are programs that allow qualified buyers to purchase a home with a down payment as low as 3.5%. There are even options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

It’s important for potential homebuyers (whether they’re repeat or first-time buyers) to know they likely don’t need to put down 20% of the purchase price, but they do need to do their homework to understand the options available. Be sure to work with trusted professionals from the start to learn what you may qualify for in the homebuying process.

Bottom Line

Don’t let down payment myths keep you from hitting your homeownership goals. If you’re hoping to buy a home this year, let’s connect today to review your options.

               

 

                   

Posted in Buyers
Jan. 27, 2021

Buy A Home Alexandria VA | What’s the Difference between an Appraisal and a Home Inspection?

What’s the Difference between an Appraisal and a Home Inspection?

What’s the Difference between an Appraisal and a Home Inspection? | MyKCM

If you’re planning to buy a home in Alexandria VA, an appraisal is an important step in the process. It’s a professional evaluation of the market value of the home you’d like to buy. In most cases, an appraisal is ordered by the lender to confirm or verify the value of the home prior to lending a buyer money for the purchase. It’s also a different step in the process from a home inspection, which assesses the condition of the home before you finalize the transaction. Here’s the breakdown of each one and why they’re both important when buying a home.

Home Appraisal

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) explains:

“A home purchase is typically the largest investment someone will make. Protect yourself by getting your investment appraised! An appraiser will observe the property, analyze the data, and report their findings to their client. For the typical home purchase transaction, the lender usually orders the appraisal to assist in the lender’s decision to provide funds for a mortgage.”

When you apply for a mortgage, an unbiased appraisal (which is required by the lender) is the best way to confirm the value of the home based on the sale price. Regardless of what you’re willing to pay for a house, if you’ll be using a mortgage to fund your purchase, the appraisal will help make sure the bank doesn’t loan you more than what the home is worth.

This is especially critical in today’s sellers’ market where low inventory is driving an increase in bidding wars, which can push home prices upward. When sellers are in a strong position like this, they tend to believe they can set whatever price they want for their house under the assumption that competing buyers will be willing to pay more.

(Take a look at home pricing trends in Alexandria over the past five years:)

 

However, the lender will only allow the buyer to borrow based on the value of the home. This is what helps keep home prices in check. If there’s ever any confusion or discrepancy between the appraisal and the sale price, your trusted real estate professional will help you navigate any additional negotiations in the buying process.

Home Inspection

Here’s the key difference between an appraisal and an inspection. MSN explains:

In simplest terms, a home appraisal determines the value of a home, while a home inspection determines the condition of a home.”

The home inspection is a way to determine the current state, safety, and condition of the home before you finalize the sale. If anything is questionable in the inspection process – like the age of the roof, the state of the HVAC system, or just about anything else – you as a buyer have the option to discuss and negotiate any potential issues or repairs with the seller before the transaction is final. Your real estate agent is a key expert to help you through this part of the process.

Bottom Line

The appraisal and the inspection are critical steps when buying a home, and you don’t need to manage them by yourself. Let’s connect today so you have the expert guidance you need to navigate through the entire homebuying process.

                                     

 

Posted in Buyers
Jan. 19, 2021

Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates Before Buying A Home in Alexandria VA

Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates
Before Buying a Home in Alexandria VA?

Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates? | MyKCM

Historically low mortgage rates are a big motivator for homebuyers right now. In 2020 alone, rates hit new record-lows 16 times, and the trend continued into the early part of this year. Many hopeful homebuyers are now wondering if they should put their plans on hold and wait for the lowest rates imaginable. However, the reality is, acting sooner rather than later may be the actual win if you’re ready to buy a home.

According to Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst for Bankrate:

“As vaccines become more widely available and a return to normal starts to come into view, we’ll see mortgage rates bounce off the record lows.”

While only a slight increase in mortgage rates is projected for 2021, some experts believe they will start to rise. Over the past week, for example, the average mortgage rate ticked up slightly, reaching 2.79%. This is still incredibly low compared to the trends we’ve seen over time. According to Freddie Mac:

“Borrowers are smart to take advantage of these low rates now and will certainly benefit as a result.”

Here’s why.

As mortgage rates rise, the increase impacts the overall cost of purchasing a home. The higher the rate, the higher your monthly mortgage payment, especially as home prices rise too. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Macsays:

“The forces behind the drop in rates have been shifting over the last few months and rates are poised to rise modestly this year. The combination of rising mortgage rates and increasing home prices will accelerate the decline in affordability and further squeeze potential homebuyers during the spring home sales season.”

Alexandria VA home prices in 2019 and 2020.

Take a look at the interactive chart below to see how home prices have been trending in Alexandria VA for the past two years:

In January 2019 the median sold price was $452,500 and we ended December 2020 at $622,500.  So, even if you purchased a home in January 2019, not only would your property value have increased, but could have potentially refinanced your mortgage into a lower payment.  The monthly outflow of cash is important to every household, so keep in mind that if you wait for interest rates to fall and home prices rise, you could be costing yourself thousands.

What does this mean for buyers?

Right now, the inventory of houses for sale is also at a historic low, making it more challenging than normal to find a home to buy in many areas.

Take a look at the months supply of homes for Alexandria Va over the past 10 years:

 

 

As more buyers hit the market in the typically busy spring buying season, it may become even harder to find a home in the coming months. With this in mind, Len Keifer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Macrecommends taking advantage of both low mortgage rates and the opportunity to buy:

“If you’ve found a home that fits your needs at a price you can afford, it might be better to act now rather than wait for future rate declines that may never come and a future that likely holds very tight inventory.”

Bottom Line

While today’s low mortgage rates provide great opportunities for homebuyers, we may not see them stick around forever. If you’re ready to buy a home in Alexandria VA, let’s connect so you can take advantage of what today’s market has to offer.

                

Posted in Buyers
Jan. 12, 2021

Ready To Buy in Alexandria VA | 4 Reasons People Are Buying Homes in 2021

Ready To Buy in Alexandria VA | 4 Reasons People Are Buying Homes in 2021

4 Reasons People Are Buying Homes in 2021 | MyKCM

In 2020, the Alexandria VA real estate market took a pause in March and April, when the coronavirus pandemic hit and the lockdown was issued.  But people got resilient, and came back with force, paving the way for a stronger market than anyone had originally anticipated.  Take a look at the interactive chart below:

 

Once the Alexandria VA housing market bounced back, sales remained strong in comparison to 2019.  We wrapped up the fourth quarter with October sales up by 33.9%, November up by 53.7%, and December up by 39.2%.

According to many experts, the real estate market is expected to continue growing in 2021, and it’s largely driven by the lasting impact the pandemic is having on our lifestyles. As many of us spend extra time at home, we’re reevaluating what “home” means and what we may need in one going forward.

Here are 4 reasons people are reconsidering where they live and why they’re expecting to buy a home in Alexandria VA this year. 

1. Record-Low Mortgage Interest Rates

In 2020, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage hit a record low 16 times, continuing to fall further below 3%. According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed interest rate today is 2.65%. Many wonder how low these rates will go and how long they’ll last. Len Keifer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Macadvises:

“If you’ve found a home that fits your needs at a price you can afford, it might be better to act now rather than wait for future rate declines that may never come and a future that likely holds very tight inventory.”

This sense of urgency is driving many to buy this year.

2. Working from Home

Remote work is a new normal for many businesses, and it’s lasting longer than most expected. Many in the workforce today are discovering they don’t need to live close to the office anymore and they can get more for their money by moving a little further outside of the city limits. David Mele, President at Homes.comsays: 

“The surge in the work-from-home population has rewritten the playbook for many homebuying and rental decisions, from when and where to relocate, to what people are looking for in their next residence.”

The reality is, for some people, working remotely in their current home is challenging, especially when there may be other options available.

3. More Outdoor Space

Another new priority for Alexandria VA homeowners is having more usable outdoor space. Being at home is driving those in some areas to seek less densely populated neighborhoods so they have more room to stretch their legs. In addition, those living in apartments and townhomes are often looking for extra square footage, both inside and out.

According to the State of Home Spending report by HomeAdvisorof the households surveyed, almost half reported spending 27% more on outdoor living over the past year. This is a trend that’s expected to grow in 2021 and beyond.

4. Avoiding Renovations

It’s recently come to light that many Alexandria VA homeowners would also rather buy a new home than go through the process of fixing up the one they have. According to the 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 44% of homebuyers purchased a new home to “avoid renovations or problems with the plumbing or electricity.”

Depending on what needs to be addressed, today’s high buyer demand may make it possible to skip some renovations before selling. Many of these homeowners have prioritized buying over renovating for convenience and potential cost savings.

Bottom Line

It’s clear that homeownership needs are changing. As a result, Americans are expected to move in record numbers this year. If you’re trying to decide if now is the right time to buy a home, let’s connect today to discuss your options.

Posted in Buyers