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Dear Doug – March 2012

March 7, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Dear Doug Be the first to comment
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Dear Doug,
I just wrote a contract on a condo that I really LOVE, but now I am wondering what I need to look out for between now and settlement, since I hear so many horror stories about buying condos? Thank you, Beverly B.

Dear Nervous Bev,
I get this question all the time, but usually before someone makes an offer. My pre-offer speech includes warning buyers about the condo complex as a whole, as well as the particular unit, itself. As for the unit- that is where the home inspection comes in. Have it inspected by a Certified Inspector.(American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI, is the only one I know that has a certification process). He won’t look at the condo through the rose-colored glasses that you are wearing. He will see the nuts and bolts. If the furnace is old and needs replacing, he will note it. If the windows are single pane and leaking, that will be noted, too. If he see what he thinks is asbestos around the furnace, he will also note that, and recommend further evaluation. He will not be blinded by the emotions that you are currently caught up in. Or, he may find that it is in perfect and impeccable shape, and needs nothing, although that is quite rare. … Continue Reading

Should I Start Flipping?

December 1, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Dear Doug Be the first to comment
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Dear Doug,

I see the shows on TV that show how easy it is to “flip this house” and make tons of money. Is that something I can do around here, and is it as easy as it looks on the cable shows? Those guys drive around, find a house, and turn it over in weeks. I can’t imagine that you can do it that fast. Do you have any experience with “flipping”?

Thanks,
Ben in Loudoun
… Continue Reading

Rules for Negligent Renters

November 1, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Dear Doug Be the first to comment
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Dear Doug;

I own a rental property in another town and have had a good tenant for the last two years who has always paid on time. He is currently on a month to month lease. This month, his rent has not arrived and is already one week late. I have tried calling and texting him, but an automated recording from his cell phone provider says “the subscriber is not available.”

I think my tenant has abandoned my property. Can I enter my property to see if he is still living there? If he is gone, can I change the locks and proceed to find a new tenant? Help! -Carol

Dear Carol,

Welcome to the unpredictable world of land-lording! It is not always fun. Personally, I have had to evict people, garnish wages, and place furniture on the street. I have been threatened, and I still own rental property. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that….The first step I recommend is to call the local landlord-tenant board and check the rules. Better yet–and if this is your first time–I recommend a real estate attorney who specializes in evictions. There are certain, specific rules you have to follow. In some counties you must first send the tenants a “Five Day Pay or Quit Notice” once the rent is “late,” according to the terms of your lease. Then, they have five days to pay what they owe or they must “quit” (leave) the premises. If they don’t, then you can file another form, and the legal journey begins. The length of time it takes from start to finish is unpredictable. It can depend on how savvy the tenants are about the whole process. I strongly (yes I said strongly) recommend an attorney who is well versed in these matters, since there are a number of steps along the way. … Continue Reading

Raising the Rent

August 30, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Dear Doug, Uncategorized Be the first to comment
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Dear Doug:
I own a townhouse which I have rented out to a nice family on a month to month basis for the last 2 years for a very reasonable price. In recent months, my mortgage payment increased after I locked in to a fixed rate. I would like to raise the rent to help re-coup my higher costs, but I don’t want to risk losing my tenants. I have done some research, and I know I am renting below the market. Are there any rules about how to go about raising the rent? I want to increase the rent from $700 to $800. Is this reasonable? How much notice do I need to give them?
… Continue Reading

What is a Quit Claim?

August 2, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Dear Doug, Uncategorized Be the first to comment
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Dear Doug:
I was looking at a house and the realtor said it was a quit claim? What the heck does that mean?

Dear Prospective Buyer:

Beware of the “quit claim” deed. It transfers the ownership interests of the person conveying the quit claim deed to the new buyer. However, that ownership interest could be nothing at all. The property could still have a title with many other people on it, or it could be encumbered by a number of liens and issues. One could buy a property using a quit claim deed, but you would need to make sure that the contract is contingent on the buyer getting a title search with “free, marketable, and unencumbered” title to the property, and having a title insurance company issue a full title policy on it. Only then can the new buyer be sure that the property conveys to them with a truly marketable title. Good luck!

Are More People Renting or Buying?

June 21, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Dear Doug Be the first to comment
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Dear Doug: Are you seeing a trend toward people renting rather than buying? – Leslie, Purcellville

Dear Leslie,

I am seeing a strong demand for rentals. Why? Well, you have to ask: Where are the people going who are facing foreclosure and short-selling their houses? They can’t buy, since they’ve either nicked their credit or completely destroyed it. No lender will touch them, so they have to rent. In addition, we see recent college grads looking for housing, and relocating buyers attracted to this area by a fairly strong employment base. … Continue Reading

What Are the Pros and Cons of an HOA

June 1, 2011 by Contributor Dear Doug Be the first to comment
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Dear Doug: What are the pros and cons (and hidden costs, if any) of buying a home in a subdivision or area that has architectural standards and homeowners dues (versus many older neighborhoods that do not have these)? KR

Dear KR,

I get comments on that question a lot. The “pros” of having an HOA- Home Owner Association- are that it helps keep the neighborhood consistent in appearance. The HOA’s have rules that vary considerably. They also vary in the way they are enforced or not enforced. Some have rules governing exterior paint colors, storm door styles, front fence rules, lawn height rules, flag rules, basketball hoops in driveway rules, no commercial vehicle parking rules, and on and on. This does help keep the neighborhood in good shape and consistent in appearance, which in turn can help the resale of the homes. On the other hand, some people can not stand being told what colors they can paint their doors, or the front of their houses. And, if their favorite team is playing, they want to fly that team’s flag. Can’t do that in a strict HOA. Can’t have the plumbing company truck you drive parked in your driveway, either. So, HOA’s do take away some personal choices,but chances are very good that your neighbor won’t be painting his home pink anytime soon, devaluing your property!

Overall, most people seem to like the HOA idea, when written and enforced in moderation. The rules tend to protect the good of the whole. Of course, when buying a home, you have to ask yourself if you can live by the rules of the HOA of any particular neighborhood that you are considering.

One final point; when you make an offer on a home in an HOA and it is accepted–you have certain rights. Your purchase is contingent on you getting a copy of the HOA rules and regs, and your acceptance, before you complete the purchase. You’lll be delivered the HOA package (same as with a condo doc package), prior to settlement. You then have three days to kill the deal and get your deposit back if you don’t like the rules. You don’t even have to explain why. Good luck!

Dear Doug:I’ve had a rental property for a number of years and have claimed depreciation for taxes. If I sell it, do I have to pay that back? EM

Dear EM,

That depends. The answer, in most cases, is yes.The IRS will “recapture” the depreciation that you took on the rental property when you sell it, and, that will be at a different rate than the capital gains tax which is currently 15 percent. I say “it depends,” because you could sell your rental property using a 1031 Starker Exchange, and take the proceeds, place them with a “qualified intermediary”, and then buy another rental property. You would not have to pay any taxes at that time. You would be basically trading a house for a “like kind” property, and delay paying taxes, and delay paying any recapture of the depreciation that you took. To take it one step further, after a year or more renting it out, you could move in it, convert it to your primary residence, and not pay any capital gains tax for up to a $250,000 gain–or a $500,000 gain, if married. However-the bottom line answer is: I know enough about tax strategies to be dangerous, so consult a tax adviser. Ask me about bricks and mortar, and values and “comps”. I know enough to know that I don’t know enough to advise you. So, please consult a tax adviser..then call me when you need to do that 1031 Tax-deferred exchange, and find a “like kind” replacement property!

Douglas Frank holds a BA degree in English from Rutgers University and is a licensed realtor with over 20 years experience. Doug works with Prudential Carruthers Realtors in Fairfax, Virginia. He also has his Home Improvement License and owns a number of investment properties including houses, townhomes, and condos . Doug and his wife and two sons live in Fairfax, Virginia. (Opinions expressed here are … only opinion!)

Can I back out on a foreclosure property?

April 26, 2011 by Contributor Columns, Dear Doug Be the first to comment
real_estate

Dear Doug;
If I purchase an “as is” foreclosure property and then get an inspector that says the place needs a ton of work, can I back out?-EP

Dear EP,

I get that question a LOT. Foreclosures scare people–it is the Great Unknown.

The answer is “maybe.” That is why you need to read the fine print, and only move forward if you’re able to back out if the property needs too much work. Usually, the bank/lender/owner will allow you to back out. Once they sign your offer, or “ratify” it, they usually give you 10 days (some seven, others 15), to inspect the property, on your dime. Many times, that also means you have to pay to “de-winterize”, or get the systems up and running, since they often have turned off all utilities.(They also require you to return it to a winterized condition if you don’t buy it, so there are expenses to this process!) But, how can you buy unless you really know what you are buying? … Continue Reading

How much house should I buy?

April 26, 2011 by Contributor Columns, Dear Doug Be the first to comment
real_estate

Dear Doug:
In these financial times, is it still good advice to buy “the most house you can afford” with the idea that through time you will have an easier time with payments (as income supposedly increases) and home value increases as well?–CS?

Dear CS:
No. To me, that is bad advice. I would never tell anyone to buy the “most house they could afford”. There are too many unknowns. Who knows what the market will do, or how stable your job is, or if your area is going to get hit with a recession? I always advocate buying what you like and need and can afford, but not pushing your price up, just because you CAN afford it. Sorry, I don’t like that way of thinking. It gets too many people in trouble down the road. Restraint is the word of the day. CS, Put the reigns on, and only buy what you like, what you need, and a home that fits your vision of what you would like in the future – not the most you can afford.

Should I finish my basement?

April 26, 2011 by Contributor Columns, Dear Doug Be the first to comment
real_estate

Dear Doug;
What is the ROI on finishing a basement? Thanks.–Barry B., Fairfax

Dear Barry,
ROI (Return on Investment) questions are complicated and difficult to measure. For example, when you go into a restaurant, and spend $15 on a meal, what is your ROI? Or after spending $10 on a movie? In real estate terms, you’ll find books telling you that finishing a basement is a good thing to do. It pays back 80-90 percent of what you invested when you go to sell, and helps a home sell faster and for more money than one without a finished basement. It also adds to your enjoyment of your house, which is tough to measure in terms of ROI–thus my movie and meal examples. But, would I ever recommend finishing the basement solely for resale purposes? No. Why spend the money on it, and only get 80-90 percent of it back, just so you can sell it faster? However, if you want the extra space, and know that the quality of you and/or your family’s life will improve, that may make it well worth the money spent to complete the job. I hope that helps!

Dear Doug

April 1, 2011 by Contributor Columns, Dear Doug Be the first to comment
real_estate

Dear Doug: What is the “hottest” month for sales? What improvements enhance a property, and which are a waste of time and money?-Kathleen, Hamilton

Dear Kathleen: Springtime is the hottest time to sell your house–when flowers are blooming, trees have greened up, and colorful potted plants greet potential home buyers Contrast that to a bleak, icy day when snow has been pushed aside a narrow path to the front door. See the difference? A home can have a welcoming aura, if presented in the best light. When you plan to meet someone for the first time, do you get dressed up and pay attention to detail, or just go as you are? You get the idea.

And, for the second part of your question:

Paint, Carpet, and Cleaning are the top three improvements that enhance property. If you do nothing else; clean, paint, replace old carpet, then clean again.

Following close behind, is De-cluttering. Get rid of Stuff to give your home a clutter-free appearance which will make your home seem lighter, brighter, and more pleasant.

Another cheap fix is Landscaping. Add colorful flowers to the front walkway or porch. Put a hanging basket of flowers to greet new home buyers. Add new mulch and edge the driveway, but don’t spend thousands on that exotic bush that no one will notice.

When it comes to major improvements, I’ll start with what I wouldn’t do if you’re goal is to sell your home right away:

–I would not redo the entire kitchen. It’s too subjective, and too expensive just to sell a house.You may want to replace appliances if they are too old, but it’s more cost effective to just clean well, then price the house accordingly.

–I wouldn’t add a garage if you lack one.

–No digging a swimming pool.

In short: I wouldn’t add any major projects just to sell a house-. My rule of thumb is to spruce up what you have, spending the least amount for the biggest impact. Occasionally, homeowners facing stiff competition may need to amend this advice a bit, to stay competitive. If you are considering adding granite countertops, for example, look at your neighbors. Do they all have it? Would you really stand out? If your answer is yes, you may want to take the plunge. Likewise, if you have a basement with the plumbing roughed-in for a bath, and the walls and sink are in, I would add the toilet. I would not add a complete bath!

So, good luck with the improvements, Kathleen, and send me any questions you run into as you get your house ready to go!


Dear Doug: Why is it so hard to get “free” information on foreclosed properties?-Glen, Fairfax

Dear Glen: You can call a Realtor like myself to provide free info on any foreclosure that you want to know about. Why? So I can educate you on that particular foreclosure, then sell you on why they can be a great deal to buy. Is that “free?” Yes! As a Realtor, if I know you’re working with another Realtor, I would keep it very brief. But, if you’re trying to learn about foreclosures, and I think I can begin a successful business relationship with you, I’ll give you all the “free” info that you desire–and I’ll invite you to bring any friends who want to learn, too. We would review the whole foreclosure process, depending on what you wanted to learn. If you’re just gathering info on foreclosures for a school paper, I would still give it out for free–but with the hopes of educating you and closing future deals with you and your friends. Why? Because people all need a place to live. I find that even if the free advice seeker is not ready to buy something now, he/she will will take notice of a Realtor who takes the time to answer questions. So, get in touch with a Realtor, and I’ll bet you’ll get all the “free” info that you’re looking for. Go ahead, make that call!


Dear Doug: Are you seeing a trend toward people renting rather than buying?-Leslie, Purcellville

Dear Leslie: I am seeing a strong demand for rentals. Why? Well, you have to ask: Where are the people going who are facing foreclosure and short-selling their houses ? They can’t buy, since they’ve either nicked their credit or completely destroyed it. No lender will touch them, so they have to rent. In addition, we see recent college grads looking for housing, and relocating buyers attracted to this area by a fairly strong employment base.

Also, it’s more difficult these days to get mortgages. Banks are being more stringent about qualifying people. Those who would prefer to buy are being forced into the rental market.

With this increased rental demand, landlords like myself are seeing a dramatic increase in rental prices, which I really can’t complain about!

So, who is buying, you may ask? Relocating buyers with relocation packages provided by their companies. Also, long-time renters with steady job who are seeing severe price drops over the past 3 years. Some of them can now buy for less than they can rent in some places. For example, a recent client of mine–a relocating government employee–chose an $1800 townhouse to rent. When I showed her that she could buy the townhouse and save a few hundred dollars per month, she was quite surprised! ( Incidentally, she rented anyway because she wasn’t sure she wanted to live there for the next 5 years.)

Douglas Frank holds a BA degree in English from Rutgers University and is a licensed realtor with over twenty years experience. Doug works with Prudential Carruthers Realtors in Fairfax, Virginia. He also has his Home Improvement License and owns a number of investment properties including houses, townhomes, and condos. Doug and his wife and two sons live in Fairfax, Virginia. Opinions expressed here are … only opinion!

Dear Doug Real Estate Q&A

March 10, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Dear Doug, Real Estate Be the first to comment
real_estate

(Douglas Frank holds a BA degree in English from Rutgers University and is a licensed realtor with over twenty years experience. Doug works with Prudential Carruthers Realtors in Fairfax, Virginia. He also has his Home Improvement License and owns a number of investment properties including houses, townhomes, and condos . Doug and his wife and two sons live in Fairfax, Virginia. (Opinions expressed here are … only opinion!)

Dear Doug: I just passed my real estate exam and I have no idea what my next step is. How do I find a Real Estate Company that will take me on? Is there some sort of training offered for newbies like me? … Continue Reading

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Sustainable Planet

Pungent Curry

9 Apr 2014

noerpel

The latest version of the IPCC report is published and once again it will go unread by the great masses of climate science deniers and unreported by the media. So it might be useful to revisit the fundamental physical realities …

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Ask Dr. Mike

Understanding Teen Suicide

1 Apr 2014

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By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. Northern Virginia has recently experienced several teen suicides. Last month, two Langley High School students took their own lives just a day apart from one another, and this month it appears two students at Woodson High …

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Virginia Gardening

Spring Is Coming

4 Mar 2014

springiscoming

By Donna Williamson March is an in-between month – some cold and the return of glorious warmth now and then. One way to bring some delight inside is forcing spring-blooming branches. You can cut branches of forsythia, cherry, crabapple, kerria, …

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Sushi's Corner

An Easter Swim

1 Apr 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.10.56 AM

I felt like a silly nim “cow” poop with these Easter bows in our hair. Okay Nelly, maybe you didn’t because you’re a girl. But me, a Mighty Cairn Terrier male? – PLEASE! Pleasing Mrs. B for Easter pictures was …

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Amy V. Smith's Money Talks

What Baseball Can Teach You About Financial Planning

1 Apr 2014

Amy Smith-BRL

Spring training is a tradition that baseball teams and baseball fans look forward to every year. No matter how they did last year, teams in spring training are full of hope that a new season will bring a fresh start. …

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Go Take a Hike

Blandy Experimental Farm

6 Jun 2012

Molly

By Molly Pinson Simoneau It’s no secret that I love a challenging hike. I’ve written here about hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail and Shenandoah National Park. I’ve taken vacations with my family to Colorado where I’ve attempted to conquer a “fourteener” (a summit that is higher than 14,000 feet), …

(2 comments)

Real Estate Ticker

A Buying Opportunity?

6 Nov 2013

Carl Fischer headshot

By Carl Fischer As a direct result of the uncertainty that has arisen from national and regional politics, with its unsettling effect on the Northern Virginia area, for the past two months there has been a market slowdown which has …

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From the Farm

From the Farm

5 Jul 2012

From the Farm

When the heat index reaches 110 degrees, as it has been doing recently, I try to keep in the shade, or stay indoors. But my lavender, about halfway from full bloom, seems to thrive in it. Hot and dry, I …

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Events

April 2014
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: Art Gallery Reception for Featured Artists -- Abstract painter Evelyn Lopez de Guzman and contemporary painter Sandra Iafrate

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April 12, 2014N/A

Meet Evelyn and Sandra and other gallery artists during a free, open to the public reception for this month's Featured Artists' exhibit "Living Color,” showcasing two accomplished painters Evelyn Lopez de Guzman and Sandra Iafrate, in a vivid and dynamic presentation of color, shape and our surroundings.

Evelyn Lopez de Guzman’s vibrant paintings awaken the viewer to connect with nature and the modern world through an interplay of shape, color, and textural materials.

Sandra Iafrate’s combination of realistic and surrealist interpretation of flowers, foliage and landscapes on spacious canvases convey a sense of movement and playfulness.

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Easter at "The Park"

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April 19, 2014

Celebrate Easter at historic Morven Park with crafts for kids, an egg hunt in the formal gardens plus a traditional egg roll on the Davis Mansion lawn. Have a family photo taken with the Easter Bunny. Children should bring a basket for the hunt and a large spoon for the egg roll. $10/participating child (ages 2-12), $3/adult. Register at www.MorvenPark.org.

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VAL's Pals Kids Club

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April 30, 2014

Join Inova Loudoun Hospital as the present their Beamer the Dog Program.

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SCOUTING FOR BRICKS

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May 4, 2014

Scouting for Bricks is an exhibit showing the Love for everything LEGO® . Come see amazing LEGO® creations by Fans of LEGO®, LEGO® trains, Mindstorms robots. We will also have live Star Wars Stormtroopers and an interactive play area with over 100,000 LEGO bricks. Scouting for Bricks is fun for the Whole Family! Visit us at www.ScoutingForBricks.com.

Recent Comments

View From the Ridge

Rural Loudoun Is Different, and We Say Dark Skies Do Matter

4 Mar 2014

viewfromridge

In February of this year a sell out crowd gathered at the county public seat in Leesburg to provide feedback to the Loudoun County Planning Commission on the idea of adding additional sports lights to the upper athletic fields at Franklin Park. Franklin Park includes a really wonderful performing arts …

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Editorial

Steady and Nobull

4 Mar 2014

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Park and Ride Lots for Western Loudoun

4 Mar 2014

Jim_Burton_cropped

In 2003, the county purchased 22 commuter buses to serve a growing demand for bus service to Washington D.C. The demand has grown exponentially ever since. The county now owns or leases 65 large commuter buses (with plush seats and on board restrooms) and more are being added every year. The buses are often filled to standing room only as …

(2 comments)

Lifestyle

Sadie’s Race 5K and Fun Run Scheduled for Sunday May 18

9 Apr 2014

sadiestart

Sadie Smile Foundation is putting on the third annual Sadie’s Race/Walk and Kids Fun Run to Benefit Smile Train in Purcellville Sunday, May 18th this year. The race starts at 8:00 a.m. at the train station at 200 N 21st Street in Purcellville. Sign up at Active.com. When Sara Ablard lost her five year-old daughter, Sadie, two years ago, she …

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Dr. Joseph Rogers Dies at Family Farm

1 Apr 2014

Dr. Joseph Megeath Rogers, 90, died on Saturday March 8, 2014 at his Hillbrook Farm near Hamilton following a stroke. Physician, farmer, businessman, rural land conservationist, philanthropist and expert horseman, Dr. Rogers was a tireless advocate and practitioner of country living whose contributions in a broad range of interests were made quietly and with little fanfare. His public persona was …

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Zoldos Presented Citizen of the Year Award

1 Apr 2014

Mayor_Zoldos_Citizen_of_Year_Award

At the biweekly March meeting of the Lovettsville Town Council, Mayor Bobby Zoldos was presented the 2013 Citizen of the Year from the Lovettsville Waterford Ruritans. Presenting the award was Rick Adams, current president along with Board Member Peter Mullally and  Vice President Jeff Boogaard. Adams said, “On behalf of the Lovettsville Waterford Ruritans, we would like to present the …

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Around Virginia

Wolf Won’t Seek Re-election

Frank_wolf

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) today announced that he would not seek election to an 18th term in 2014. He released the following statement announcing his decision: “I have decided not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress in 2014. It has been an honor to serve the people of northern …

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Virginia Can and Should Work Harder to Combat Hunger

Frank_wolf

By Congressman Frank Wolf Last year, the USDA reported a record number of Americans are struggling to put food on their tables. Across the nation, 49 million people – including 17 million children and six million seniors – are going hungry, a number that has grown substantially over the last …

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Kaine Statement on Navy Yard Shooting

Kaine

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement on today’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by today’s tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. As we learn more about the horrific events that unfolded this morning, my deepest sympathies go out …

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Sports

Nominate Your Hometown Hero

9 Apr 2014

ulll

Upper Loudoun Little League’s Hometown Heroes scholarship closes on April 21, 2014. The application is available online at ULLL.org. The scholarship is open to all graduating seniors who played baseball for ULLL at some point in their growing up years.

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Lady Vikings Give Back

10 Feb 2014

The Loudoun Valley Girls basketball team held an event on Friday, February 7 at LVHS. The Lady Vikings celebrated “Pink Night” by honoring those who are battling breast cancer or have been affected by breast cancer. The event was held in conjunction with an event held at Woodgrove earlier this …

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Letters

Medicaid Expansion Battle Heating Up

4 Mar 2014

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Did you know that there’s a very real possibility that a DC-style budget battle and government shutdown could come to Virginia? The Medicaid expansion battle …

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Endorsing for Profit Businesses?

4 Mar 2014

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I recently received an automated email message from the Town of Purcellville soliciting nominations for volunteer award recipients in cooperation with the Purcellville Business Association …

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Another Vote To Overrule Purcellville’s Board of Architectural Review

4 Mar 2014

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The Purcellville Town Council, foolishly, in the view of many and perhaps most, has overruled its Board of Architectural Review and approved Mark Nelis’s and …

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