Sunday, December 30, 2007

Foreclosure & Short Sale Listings

Savvy bargains

Below are the current listings that are either foreclosures or short sales as listed in the MRIS database. I have sorted the list into geographic areas, sort of. Please remember these are dynamic links, therefore it will be noted if the property has gotten a contract. These links are good for 30 days. If there is interest, I can certainly do other areas or update this list again mid-January.

If you'd like to see any of these properties, just let me know.

Arlington & Alexandria

Alexandria in Fairfax County

Falls Church

Springfield & Burke

Mclean, Vienna, and Oakton

Note: This list includes all listings from MRIS subscribers- not just Long & Foster. All information is believed to be accurate, but should not be relied upon without verification.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Critical Thinking v. Herd Mentality

Who are you listening to?

Robert Ashby's recent post
Who's Advice Do You Take When Getting a Mortgage,

Let’s face it, it is easy to give a 30-year fixed rate mortgage to anyone these days because that is what the borrowers have been told is the best thing for them right now (just read the news).

But is it really? Believe it or not, the Option ARM, yes those dreaded, "evil" loan programs that place homeowners in foreclosure while making mortgage brokers rich, are actually the best solution in a "perfect world". But alas, we are not in a perfect world. As Americans, we tend to do things we shouldn’t, such as use our house as an ATM machine.

How are we to find the best mortgage program for ourselves? Friends, family, Realtors, mortgage brokers? Not likely. We are really on our own if we want to find the best solution. We must do our own research and find the "advisor" that will help us determine the best solution.

Now, be careful as you decide though.
Asch’s Conformity Experiment can prove deadly in your decision making process. You see, that experiment proves that while you clearly know the correct answer, being surrounded by those answering incorrectly may lead you to answer incorrectly as well.

Do you seek out the opinions of skilled professionals who have a solid understanding of your specific situation? Option ARM's you say? Well I'd never... remember he said "in a perfect world." Critical listening & thought - it matters when you seek mortgage advice just as much as when you listen to the 11 o'clock news!

This herd mentality carries into other areas too, for example, "now's a bad time to buy" or "I'd never buy a condo". Both of these examples may be true for the 'Madding Crowd", but not everyone. As Ashe discovered, it only takes one dissenting view for critical reasoning to prevail. Everyones situation is unique, their needs, wants, & goals unique. Sadly the current thought is "don't buy, values are still plummeting" while savvy investors are grabbing this down market opportunity - the classic buy low, sell high still holds true.

Applying a critical thought processes to the mortgage & real estate market, just might lead you to an unexpected conclusion. As Ashley notes, "The best solution may be the complete opposite of what you are currently thinking."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Coming Soon, Fairfax Station, $749,900

This beautiful brick, former model home, with 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a large one car garage, and granite is coming on the market in early January.

This property features a huge - open kitchen / breakfast area / family room with fireplace that leads out to the deck, and a sunroom off the living room! The lower level is almost completely finished with rec room, game room, another room (currently used as sleeping quarters), and a full bath. There is an almost new (8 yr. old) cedar roof and a convertable fireplace (either gas or woodburning).

Call or e-mail me and I can give you all the particulars.

Technorati Link

Even I can follow plain simple English directions, first cut - then paste...
Technorati Profile

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ground Breaking - Alexandria City

The best laid plans often get waylaid, and so it was with the Alexandria City zoning commission etc. But all the road blocks have been cleared and the ground is broken - in fact the foundations are in. All dutifully hidden behind a green construction drape at 3107 Russell Road. Go here to see the listing.

Scheduled for delivery in Summer '08, this luxury brick home is located on Russell Road so close to St. Stephen & St. Agnes or Alexandria Country Day you could take the kids in your night clothes, if you ever needed to! E-mail me for floor plans & location plans.

Priced at $2,200,000 this Extraordinary Property will have 6 bedrooms, 5.5 baths, a fully finished lower level, a detached two car garage, and comes loaded with luxury like travertine marble, en-suite bathrooms, a true chef's kitchen, an optional media room, and more... And with 5,500 square feet, there will be plenty of breathing room too!

Monday, December 24, 2007

FHASecure to the Rescue?

I have finally come across a client who might really be able to use this new program. I have directed him here for all the details and contact info and will keep you all posted as to the outcome. Eventhough many are upside down in the equity situation, none, that I have met so far, are in danger because their mortgage is about to explode. Meaning their interest rate is about to reset to something they can't handle. They are not happy, but they're not in danger.

I know this is a short post, but it is Christmas eve. I'll also post this link on the right sidebar and will let you know how helpful the FHA and this program are.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yes, Virginia has Great Wine Too

Thinking of moving to DC but afraid to leave wine country - don't worry, this is wine country too! There are plenty of wine stores (carrying everything from Californian to Australian), wine tastings, and wine & cheese parties, as well as local vineyards that make great day trips.

One of my favorites is the Curious Grape - the staff is knowledgeable and the setting is very conducive to wine tastings & conversation. Just last month I had a really informative and fun evening sampling pairings of the wines and cheeses of Spain. They also offer full course dinners by renown chefs paired with wines from their collection at modest prices and offer free tastings weekly!

Last month I did a wine tasting / gallery hopping tour of the Dupont art scene. We hit four galleries and had different wines at each! Gold Star Events sponsored the evening and you should check them out - they do everything from gallery showings and singles wine tastings to discounted theatre tickets and over 35 mixers.

This Metro area won't leave you high and dry... or thirsty!

Monday, December 17, 2007

What are Fanny & Freddie Thinking? - Update 12/19

Now, or certainly before February 1st is the time to purchase, because mortgage money is going to get more expensive.

What are they thinking? Even as the Chief Executive and the Legislature are cobbling together a quasi-bailout/reform bill, Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae are doing everything in their power to make borrowing more difficult.

Fannie Mae has introduced what they call an Adverse Market Delivery Charge which is an additional fee of .25%. Freddie Mac has already followed suit. Another fee to be added to the buyers' closing costs. According to the Fannie Mae website,

"This charge will ensure that we remain a fully available secondary market partner to our lenders by providing long-term commitments they can rely upon to provide borrowers with steady and reliable access to mortgage financing."
They've also rolled out a declining market area! Fannie Mae has designated the entire area as such and if your appraisal comes in w/ the label 'declining market area' you will have a rough row to hoe. Seems there will be a 5% decrease on the LTV (loan to value) ratios, or your down payment. Simply put - to get the loan you could have gotten with a 5% down payment - you will now need 10%.

To make matters worse, borrowers with less than 680 FICO scores will be charged a premium ranging from .75% to 2% depending on their score.

One thing is certain - these costs will be passed onto the consumer. My lender network is continuing to process the implications of all this - but I can tell you one thing right off the bat... making it more difficult (read more expensive) to obtain mortgage money will certainly make the market recovery more difficult. Why should the borrowers of tomorrow pay for the mistakes of some shady lenders and real estate agents of yesterday? In my opinion - this is just the beginning of the true sub-prime fiasco "cost"! As one of my associates quite elegantly put it,

"our purchasers/borrowers are being punished for the sins of unscrupulous lenders and agents who talked past clients into purchases/loans that they could not afford."

Please stay tuned - I'll keep you all posted....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Closing Costs - Show Me the Numbers

I have noticed in reading some questions on Zillow and other Q&A sites that there is a lot of confusion about closing costs, down payments, and the difference between the two.
So I started a post about the closing costs associated with purchasing. I had intended a line-by-line breakdown exactly as it would appear on the HUD-1, but thought I should ask you.
Are you interested such a post? Let me know what you think - see poll at right.
Thanks for your input...

Monday, December 10, 2007

DC on a Skinny Wallet

We had a terrific time Saturday evening. We started out at the Hopper exhibit at the National Gallery.
Then we went to Belga Cafe for a snack and glass of wine. I love the Kazen Kroketten (cheese croquettes) and the Belgian french fries.
My friend Chad introduced me to his online table reservation service OpenTable and it's great. You earn credits and get discounts for booking through them, sweet!
Then it was off for a night time driving tour of the monuments and sights. In nicer weather I like to do a walking tour.
A great time in DC certainly doesn't have to break the bank.

Existing Home Sales Up - 16%

Existing Home Sales Up!
This confirms what we have been seeing! Amid all the National press to the contrary, the housing market (especially in large Metro regions) is showing signs of recovery. The number of "Under Contract" or pending sales is up 16%.

"The improvement in the Northeast reaffirms a trend apparent for some months now that shows signs of recovery, noteworthy because that was the first region to slump, and the gain in the West indicates some easing of interest rates for jumbo loans,”
Read entire article here

As Lawrence Yun points out, "Despite over-exaggerated negative coverage on the housing conditions, many local markets are actually seeing price increases..."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Open House, Sunday, Dec. 9th, 1-4PM

Alexandria - Overlook - 3br/3.5ba
Now $529,900
Gorgeous brick end unit, townhome that's wired for the 21st century and loaded w/ deluxe features. Three level bump-out! Crown and dentil moldings, tray ceilings, private decks, huge open spaces, loads of light, end unit w/ extra windows, a huge open flow kitchen/breakfast area/family room, and garage parking as well. Just minutes form 395, 95 & DC there is also an Express Metro Bus to the Pentagon (11 minutes). A beautiful Zen-like garden and owners "secret" garden w/ spa await the new owners.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Opportunity Awaits

Investors know this - buy low, sell high! Why are so many home buyers still sitting on the fence?

With all the gloom & doom news out there it's easy to lean toward one track thinking, but

the winners of tomorrow seize today's opportunities!

With the Mid-Atlantic bucking the current real estate trend and the DC Metro area especially insulated, find out why waiting could be more costly than you think.

Read entire post

Neighborhood Spotlight

I want to do neighborhood specific focus pages. I'm still learning how to finesse the computer/blog/web page thingie - but I'd really appreciate your input. There is a poll (at right) to help me. Please let me know what you'd like!

As I try to learn all this, I realize that it seems slow to you guys - but bear with me, I'm a neophyte. There is so much I want to post, say, and discuss but I can't figure out how to post things directly or pictures or charts, etc...

Also - please email me with requests for topics you'd like to see discussed or any questions you have, thanks.

Savvy at real estate - but so much at web design... YET!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Short Sales 101 - Updated 12/28/08

A short sale is a real estate transaction in which the sales proceeds are insufficient to cover the amount still owed the lender. The lender calls this difference a "deficiency".

Often terms get misused - not all foreclosures result in a short sale - and certainly not all short sales are foreclosures.

For all the skinny click below

UPDATE: In late December the Senate passed and the president signed into law the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act - basically ending the taxation of the amount of debt the mortgagee forgave for three years. For example, if you went into forclosure or had an agreement from the lender for a short sale with a $30,000 deficiency - the Fed saw this $30k as "income" and taxed you on it. See the Post article here.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Closing Costs Leap 500%

Starting January 1, 2008 seller closing costs are set to rise five fold. The policy affects the county transfer tax and the state tax on the recordation of the Deed to the buyer and the grantor's tax to the seller. That's right folks - a 500% increase!

For example, on a $500,000 property the grantor's tax is $500. After Jan. 1st - it will be $2,500.

At least one county (Loudoun) has challenged the increase and the Virginia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case in January '08. Until they hash it all out - the new higher tax will be collected. To make matters worse - the percentage collected will be based on the higher amount of either the sales price or the current tax assessors appraised value - which in the current market can be quite a bit higher.

Posted by Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS® (NVAR)
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Grantor’s Tax to Increase January 1, 2008
NVAR has just received notice that the Grantor’s Tax increase approved as part of the 2007 transportation funding package will take effect Jan. 1, 2008. The Virginia General Assembly and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) voted earlier this year to increase the rate to a total of $5.00 per $1,000. This increase, along with revenues from six additional taxes and fees, will be dedicated to transportation projects in the region.

The localities affected by the increase are:
the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, City of Falls Church, City of Fairfax, Fairfax County (including the Towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna), Loudoun County, City of Manassas, City of Manassas Park, and Prince William County.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority will release official guidelines on fee collection in early December.


Welcome to The Savvy Realtor's blog!

I have 13+ years experience in both residential & investment real estate.

Here I'll try to answer your questions about real estate in Northern Virginia in an effort to save you both time and money. I hope you find this site informative and return often.

Please contribute... Ask questions... Speak your mind, etc...

The Savvy Realtor