Ever wondered why you need us? Here’s why…

How to hunt for the right real estate agent before hunting for a home

Michele Lerner | Washington Post | link

The first steps in your house-hunting journey are finding a lender, getting prequalified for a loan and determining your budget. If you’ve done that and know how much you can spend, you’re ready to begin your search for a real estate agent who will represent your interests and help you become a homeowner. Some buyers choose an agent before finding a lender — either way, it’s important to line up a team of professionals as soon as you’re ready to buy a home.

“A good Realtor can help guide you through the financing part of buying a home by recommending a good lender,” says Karen Brown, an agent with Long & Foster Real Estate in Reston. “In fact, a prequalification from a lender that your Realtor can vouch for can be an asset during the buying process, especially if you’re competing with other buyers for a home. I work with a lender who I know will answer calls on the weekends and evenings and make sure the transaction gets to closing, so that’s something I can share with the listing agent to make my buyers’ offer stronger.”Brown recommends lining up a lender and an agent at least six months  before you buy a home. She sometimes works with buyers for as long as a year .

Why you need an agent

“Some people think they can buy a home without a Realtor, but this is a challenging market with lots of moving parts,” says Suzanne Des Marais, an associate broker with the 10 Square Team at Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington. “You need a Realtor to help you manage it. You need someone who’s invested in educating you about how to buy a home and can help you interpret the local market while giving you some nitty-gritty advice like making sure you have some liquid cash available before you start looking at homes so you don’t have to wait to make an offer.”

Des Marais says that buying a home is a three-part process, including looking for property and arranging financing, negotiating a contract and then getting to settlement. She says an agent can provide advice and insight during each of those phases.

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It all starts with one bright idea…

Single Design Moves That Make All the Difference

One good turn deserves a whole ideabook — check out these exceptional lone moves that make the room

Becky Dietrich | Houzz.com | link
Like you, I really enjoy browsing the homes featured on Houzz. There’s always a fresh idea, an important old idea restated or a spectacular new design to revel in.  But one of my favorite things to do while I browse is to note the rooms where one thing —one imaginative stroke — makes all the difference.  It might be an accessory, a paint color or a piece of furniture.  But if it were not in that room, the look would be substantially diminished.
Let’s take a glimpse at some of these, with the hope that you’ll gain new vision for how to greatly enhance a space with simply one addition.
Think about this room without the bold wall color.  Wow. Can you picture it being blander and more conventional?
Paint is one thing that can make or break a room.  I seriously love paint!  It is relatively inexpensive, the color options are almost infinite, and it is not overwhelming to change if you tire of it or it doesn’t work.
The one addition that makes a room special does not have to be a permanent fixture.  It can change with your whim or with the season.  Imagine this office without that green foliage on the desk.  The combination of the lime-green color and the feathery texture adds an element that would be sorely missed.

2013 was the year of the VA loan…

VA Loans Have Record-Setting 2013

Chris Birk | Zillow Blog | January 23, 2014 | link

The Department of Veterans Affairs backed 630,000 mortgages in fiscal year 2013, an all-time high for the benefit program. That record volume punctuates an incredible recent run for VA loans, which have experienced tremendous growth in the wake of the financial collapse.

VA loan volume has soared 372 percent since fiscal year 2007, driven in large part by historically low interest rates and a more restrictive lending environment that made conventional and even FHA financing tough to secure.

In addition to the record volume, the VA made history in 2013 by guaranteeing its 20 millionth mortgage, which went to the surviving spouse of an Iraq War veteran.

VA lending boom

Here’s a snapshot of national VA loan volume over the past seven years:

Fiscal year 2013: 629,312 Fiscal year 2012: 539,884 Fiscal year 2011: 357,592 Fiscal year 2010: 314,011 Fiscal year 2009: 325,690 Fiscal year 2008: 179,670 Fiscal year 2007: 133,313

The need for higher credit scores and bigger down payments has reinvigorated this home loan program. VA loans have no required down payment and feature more flexible and forgiving requirements.

Uncle SamDespite that flexibility, they’ve had the lowest foreclosure rate of any mortgage on the market for nearly all of the past five years, according to statistics from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Most VA lenders are looking for a credit score of at least 620. Even that can be a difficult benchmark for some veterans, but it’s considerably lower than typical requirements for both FHA and conventional financing. In November 2013, the average credit score on a successful conventional loan was 756, according to Ellie Mae; for FHA loans, it was 690.

Conventional and FHA loans also require a minimum down payment, typically 5 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. About 9 in 10 VA borrowers purchase a home without putting down a single dollar.

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