A Sweet Longing For Sun

Spanish-style home in DC's Shepherd Park

You’d think that there should be palm trees around them when you see these homes. But no — this is DC, and there’s no such thing in our yards, at least not year-round. But we love to dream, and apparently we already did some 100 years ago. While the housing stock in DC is generally rather conservative, you can also find the traces of some quirky trends. The “Spanish” style, most popular in the 1910s and 1920s, is one of those. It was applied to homes of all sizes , from little 2-bedroom houses to mansions. Enjoy!


Fun Fix For The Floor

Floor fixes on a budget

It’s getting harder to surprise us. We’re getting to see a lot of houses each week, and much of what we see repeats itself. Design trends, fashionable features, architectural styles. We can date the kitchen cabinets after just a glance, and we can tell you in what decade those kinds of windows were used. It doesn’t help that the DC market and home owners have been incredibly traditional in their choices. (Yes, we do have some eccentric outliers, but let’s leave those out for now.)

So, it’s always fun to discover something that’s whimsical but not weird, that’s economical and not too hard to replicate. Painted floors as a design feature have not been widely used in the past hundred years, but they can be a really great idea. I took these pictures in a couple of houses that were recently for sale. It might not show too well in the photos, but in each of these cases, the paint made a huge difference in cleaning and cheering the place up.

In fact, we’re often asked by our sellers about their floors – brittle old linoleum in the laundry room, cracks and oil stains in the garage floor, stairs covered in un-revivable carpet, or even the bare floor in an attic playroom that was originally only intended for storage. The owners have long gotten used to overlooking the sore spot. When getting the house ready for the market and trying to look at it with the eyes of potential buyers, they suddenly find it embarrassing.

If you want to paint a floor, why not turning it into an opportunity? It’s certainly a way to make the house look pretty on a budget. whether time- or money-wise. Companies such as StencilEase.com or Cutting Edge Stencils

And you don’t even have to wait — you can reap the benefits of your beautification while you’re still in the house. If the fix was inexpensive enough, you can always repeat it later on. You might surprise yourself (and us!) with some great new ideas.

How ’bout those Rising Interest Rates…

doom and gloom

doom and gloomThe talk of the town these days is rising interest rates, and what it all means for home buyers and sellers.  In the last month or so interest rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage rose 3/4 – 1% within a 9 day period.  That’s a pretty astonishing hike, not to mention fast.

In the simplest terms, for those purchasing a $500,000 home with a 20% down payment, you will now pay @$4,000 more per year on your mortgage than you would had you settled on your home in May.  That’s $333 extra a month.

While a lot of folks are screaming doom and gloom, I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing.  Historically, rates haven’t dipped below 5% in the last 40 years until about 2008- the start of our latest recession.  The housing crisis along with low rates created opportunities for many buyers previously shut out of the market.  With the housing market (especially in our local market) decidedly in recovery mode, the feds are raising rates.  They can’t prop up the housing industry forever.

Freddie Mac Chart

Anyone familiar with the close-in DC marketplace knows that we’ve seen the return of “irrational exuberance”.  Those wishing to purchase property in the “under-$1-million” range are seeing an abundance of competition and multiple bids.  If the rising interest rates tamp down the degree to which homes are being overbid, then this is a good thing for buyers.

It may not happen all at once.  We continue to suffer from a lack of inventory, with absorption rates under a 2-months supply (a 5-6 month supply is considered healthy and balanced). But over time I would expect things to even out a bit more, making it a friendlier place for buyers.

Sellers, have fun while it lasts! Buyers, too!

Should You Get Your House Officially Appraised Before Putting It On The Market?

Cati Bannier Washington Post blogIn the hot market seven or eight years ago, pricing was rarely an issue. Multiple offers (and the escalation clauses that came with them) would take care of getting the price where it should be.

Not so now. Read my latest piece for the Washington Post real estate blog here.