Ask Eli: Condominium Common Space Updates — Benefits & Strategies

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: My condo building is doing a comprehensive common space redesign [of interior décor and landscaping]. Is there any precedent for an increase in value in units after the project is completed?

Answer: If the project is well-planned (the design makes sense) and budgeted for (doesn’t require a special assessment or fee increase) yes, but it’ll probably take 2-3 or more years.

The price of a condo is heavily influenced by the sale of similar units (comps) within the same building over the past six to twelve months. The first buyers to come along after the renovations are complete will be able to leverage sale prices from the comps to negotiate for a minimal, if any, increase in sale price.

However, a well-planned redesign should mean better curb appeal and more interested buyers, which will lead to faster sales (fewer days on market). As the speed of sales pick up in a building, buyers become more likely to pay full ask and during busy months, bidding wars may take place. At this stage, you’ll see property values increase at a faster pace than surrounding buildings in your local market (all else held constant).

In summary, the ideal redesign lifecycle is:

  1. Redesign
  2. Increased buyer activity/interest
  3. Faster sale cycle and more buyer competition
  4. Increased property value.

For readers living in a building that’s considering a redesign, strategy and planning is key. Here are some things to consider:

  • What types of buyer will your building attract over the next 5-10 years (Hint: over 27 percent are ages 25-34, according to WAPO) and what do they like?
  • Will the expenditure result in an increase in fees? Increased fees put downward pressure on sale price.
  • Maintenance cost and durability of new décor (don’t put wood floors in your foyer).
  • Encourage your board to take a field trip to newer buildings for ideas.
  • Bring in an expert! You’re going to spend a lot. Get a few proposals from interior designers and let somebody help you choose the colors, lighting, and furniture.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send me an email at Eli@RealtyDCMetro.com. To quickly read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, 202-518-8781.

Ask Eli: Top 5 Things Arlingtonians Can Be Thankful For

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: What are the five things Arlingtonians can be most thankful for?

Answer: Okay, I cheated. Nobody actually asked the question, but it’s the time of year to step away from our insanely busy lives (statistically, we’re THE BUSIEST), take inventory of all we’re thankful for, and appreciate our family, friends, and selves. I thought it’d be fun to come up with my own top five list of things Arlingtonians can be thankful for, and I would love to hear your top five. I’m dishing non-existent awards for 1) most creative, 2) most sarcastic, and 3) most comments generated.

#5: Walkability

Arlington is a model for urban planning with walkable communities all over, including Shirlington, Crystal City, Columbia Pike, Rosslyn-Ballston, Cherrydale, and North Arlington.

#4: (Reagan) National Airport

If you live in Arlington, you’re within a 15-minute drive and most are within 5-10 minutes. I’ve gone door-to-gate in under 25 minutes and give thanks every time they add a new Southwest route!

#3: Diverse (and Delicious) Food

With so many people from so many parts of the world, there are few cuisines you can’t find within a short drive. Our world-famous El Chilango taco truck ranks #58 in Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the entire country! If you haven’t fully enjoyed Arlington’s culinary diversity, spend some time over the holidays at Thai Square (Thai), Pho 75 (Vietnamese), Mele Bistro (Italian/Mediterranean), Bob & Edith’s (Diner), Rays the Steaks (Steak), and the brand new Secret Chopsticks (Chinese tasting menu) and let me know what you think.

#2: Access

The nation’s capital in a few minutes, vineyards and the Bay in under an hour, the Appalachian Mountains in 90 minutes, and numerous beaches in under 3 hours. Fun evenings, relaxing getaways, and great vacations are at our doorstep.

#1: Strong Housing Market (c’mon, it’s a Real Estate column, I had to)Ask Eli Nov. 24 Chart

Relative to most of the country, we fared well during the recession, bounced back quickly, and have seen strong growth since due to our reliable, well-paying employers anchored by the Pentagon and large public consultancies.

What are your top 5 things to be thankful for this year in Arlington?

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send me an email at Eli@RealtyDCMetro.com. To quickly read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, 202-518-8781.

ARL Profile: Adam Gallegos

Adam Gallegos, Realtor, Real Living | At Home

Phone: 703-627-1255
Email: adam@arbourrealty.com

Adam Gallegos was working for a tech startup when the real estate bug bit.

Gallegos was buying his first home and he decided to do it himself. Handling your own real estate transaction, however, turned out to be pretty complicated. After hitting snag after snag, Gallegos committed himself to putting in the hours of research he needed to get it right.

By the time the deal was done, Gallegos had fallen in love with real estate. He ditched the long office hours of his technology company, got a real estate license and was soon enjoying being out and about, helping people buy and sell homes.

That was ten years ago. Three years later, in 2008, Gallegos got another itch. Entrepreneurial by nature, he left a large real estate firm and founded Arbour Realty.

With Arbour, Gallegos invested less in recruiting other agents to join his firm and more in customer service. Many of his customers were younger, first-time homebuyers, so he focused on education — extensively explaining the home buying process to clients before viewing homes.

“We always start off with, let’s meet at the office, let’s talk about the whole process, let’s talk about anything you have questions about, all your goals,” Gallegos said. “We map out what we’re going to do for those clients, set their expectations correctly, and then do everything we can to exceed those expectations.”

Gallegos also made listening a cornerstone of his business. After each deal closed, he asked for candid feedback from his clients.

“That helped us to improve along the way,” Gallegos said.

Another avenue for client education was his blog. In 2012, Gallegos partnered with ARLnow.com to bring the blog to the entire Arlington community, in the form of his popular Ask Adam column.

“I’d get recognized on the street, it was kind of weird,” he said.

Gallegos still works with first-time homebuyers, but he’s also been working with many of those early clients, who are now second- and third-time homebuyers. The Orange Line condos purchased by those young professionals shortly after the recession have appreciated in value, allowing them to move up to townhouses and single-family homes.

Arbour, meanwhile, was recently acquired by D.C.-based Real Living | At Home. That has allowed Gallegos to focus less on management and get back to being a Realtor first and foremost. He still works out of his Ballston office but can spend more time outside the office, with clients. Plus, the deal has put Real Living | At Home’s resources — including an in-house photographer, videographer and marketing team — at his fingertips.

“When we put a listing on the market, it stands out every time,” Gallegos said.

(This year Gallegos was recognized for leading one of the top real estate teams in the D.C. area by Washingtonian Magazine.)

Gallegos said that while much of his business is north of Route 50, he is seeing interest in south Arlington as a less expensive, “nice alternative market.” That interest has, however, waned just a bit since the cancellation of the streetcar project.

“It’s an alternative for people who would prefer more space, who would prefer not to live in a condominium, but it still gives them a proximity to D.C. and all the places they would like to go,” Gallegos said. “I think that the idea of the streetcar just added… appeal, more value, more interest. I don’t think it has completely taken the air out of Columbia Pike, but there’s not quite the excitement level that there once was.”

Coming from a tech background has helped to give Gallegos what might be a unique perspective among Realtors about the future of technology in real estate.

Gallegos says that technology hasn’t disrupted the real estate industry yet. Buying and selling real estate is still a complex transaction, with or without current tech tools, and those who go it alone, without an agent, encounter numerous headaches and “don’t know who to trust.” But, he says, that will likely change.

“I think there could come a situation where maybe the transactions are handled completely online,” Gallegos said. “I could see a situation happening at some point, in at least some degree. I’m not against that, I think that’s an exciting innovation if we get to that point.”

“I’m sure there are other people in my business who that scares the pants off,” Gallegos continued. “I think with all change there are opportunities. If I were scared of technology, maybe if I was at a different place in my career, that would scare me too, but I invite that sort of change.”

Today, in the real world, however, Gallegos says that there’s no substitute for an experienced agent who will have your back in the biggest transaction of your life.

“If I’m averaging several transactions a month, in comparison to someone who has only bought and sold two or three homes in their lifetime, I’m going to have a huge advantage over that person when it comes to my knowledge of the situation, how to protect my client, how to protect their money, how to negotiate the right price,” he said. “Could [technology] be there in 5-10 years? Possibly, at least to some degree. All I’m saying is that it’s not there yet. ”

The preceding was a sponsored feature written by ARLnow.com. 

Ask Adam – Noisy Neighbors

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. I recently bought a property, and just discovered I live near renters who are there through the Section 8 program. It is a problem: loud music, late-night drinking and partying, open drug use. But they take good care of the property, so the absentee landlord doesn’t care. Is there any recourse for homeowners who are impacted by Section 8 tenants?

A. Dealing with noisy neighbors is not something that really requires my expertise as a real estate broker, but this is the third time I have gotten a question like this so I’ll do my best to answer it.

I don’t think that the tenants being Section 8 is an important detail. Noisy neighbors are noisy neighbors and should be dealt with in a similar manner regardless of whether they are renters or owners. Said differently, there isn’t an additional governing body that is going to be able to assist with this situation because they are Section 8 renters.

Whenever I have had a situation with any of my neighbors, I’ve found that reaching out to them directly was the best path. Most people are reasonable, and, as long as you approach them in a tactful and non-threatening manner, they are usually willing to work with you. Maybe you can get them to share a phone number with you that you can call or text when they start to get too loud.

If that doesn’t work then I would contact your condo association. They likely have rules in place to protect the residents against loud noise after a certain time of day. As a landlord myself, I have received complaints from the condo association before about my tenants. I brought it up to the tenants and it was never a problem again.

If all else fails, you can always report your issue to the police. Nobody likes to go this route, but if it is bad enough then you may have to.

I’m hoping some readers can share any additional advice they have in comments.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to adam@rlathome.com.This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

Ask Adam – Errors on Appraisal

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. We are buying a house and the appraisal just came back. The value they quoted is above the sales price we agreed to, but I noticed a couple errors on the appraisal report.  For one, it listed the basement level bathroom as a half bathroom, but it is actually a full bathroom. Should we report this to the lender and appraiser? 

A. I think that homebuyers get confused sometimes about the purpose of the appraisal. Unlike a home inspection that is in place for the protection of you the buyer, the appraisal is a requirement of the mortgage process to protect the lending institution. You’ll notice that they are the ones who chose the appraisal company.

They want to make sure that if they are going to lend hundreds of thousands of dollars towards the purchase of your new home, that it meets their basic criteria and the value is at least that of your contract sales price.

The appraiser is not performing a separate home inspection, but they are making sure that certain items are in place. They may even check that the appliances and vital systems within the home work properly. The condition of the home should be safe, livable and resellable.  They are comparing the home to similar sales within a defined radius and timeline to determine the value.

Not to get too sidetracked, but appraisals are subjective. You can have 10 appraisers come up with 10 different values. The fact that your particular appraiser determined that the value is above the contract sales price means that you can move forward with the purchase without having to bring extra money to closing or trying to re-negotiate the sales price with the sellers. To learn more about how appraisals and appraisal contingencies work, please see my past article.

If the appraisal had come in low and you had evidence to dispute the appraiser’s sloppy work and miss-evaluation, then I would fully encourage you to challenge the appraisal. In this case there really is not anything to gain by reporting errors to the lender or the appraiser.

If you would sleep better at night having this cleared up then please go ahead and report the discrepancies. Based on what you have shared with me I don’t see how it can do any harm.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to adam@rlathome.com.This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

 

Ask Adam – Earth Day Lighting Tips and Free LED Bulbs

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

I am taking a break from answering real estate questions this week. Instead, I am turning the column over to Adam Segel-Moss, the Green Building Outreach Coordinator for AIRE and the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, to talk about LED bulbs and an Earth Day event they are hosting. 

Tomorrow is Earth Day and it’s a good time to reflect on actions that can be taken at home to save money and leave a lighter footprint. There are many actions we can take in our lives to reduce our environmental impacts, but changing a light is one of the easiest (insert joke here about how many Arlingtonians it takes to change a light). This article provides some info from the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) program and includes details about how to get a FREE LED bulb.

Lights in your home accounts for ~10% of your overall energy bill, according to the Department of Energy. Lighting has come a long way. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) that were first released in the 1980s were $40 bucks each, had small amounts of mercury, did not work well with dimmer switches, and they didn’t always deliver on their promised lifespan.

Light emitting diode (LED) bulbs have followed a similar path of high costs; but the light quality, color, instant-on, and dimmer capabilities have leapfrogged incandescent and CFL technologies.  LED lights are still expensive, but the price has come down considerably over the last few years and the energy savings and life of the bulb make them worth the investment.

Here are a few tips to help you make sense of the many lighting options on the market today so you can choose the LED bulbs that are right for you.

LED 1Use Lumens, Not Watts

I am very familiar with lighting technology, but even I can get a bit overwhelmed when I walk into the lighting aisle at a big box builder store. We used to have a general sense of how bright a bulb was based on the bulb wattage.  The Federal Trade Commission recently mandated that all light bulb packages will be standardized with new labels which will make it much easier to buy light bulbs. The main indicator on the light bulb package will be “lumens”, which will replace the current “watts”. So no matter what kind of bulb you are interested in, using lumens as a guide will enable you to compare the brightness level each bulb will deliver.

LED 2Choose the bulb color temperature that you prefer

Over the years I’ve learned that people have very different opinions about light color.  Some like white light and others prefer a warmer yellow glow. The color is now noted on the package as temperature in Kelvin.  Use the graphic below to select the light color that you want.

LED lights come in an array of shapes and sizes

Up until now, LED bulbs have looked fairly wonky.  You can now finds LED bulbs in all shapes and sizes, including the ornamental filament style LED bulbs that are all the rage right now.  The LED bulb pictured here uses only ~6 watts, and it dims beautifully.

AIRE Filament LEDGet a FREE LED

You can test out a new LED bulb for FREE.  The Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy will be at the events below to exchange your old incandescent bulb for a new LED bulb.  One LED per household, while supplies last. We hope tosee you!

Wednesday, April 22: Crystal City Power Purge and Shred

7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m., 1900 Crystal Drive

Saturday, April 25: Arlington Courthouse Farmers Market

8:00 a.m.-noon, 14th Street N. and N. Courthouse Road

Ask Adam – Tear Down and Rebuild

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. I’m interested in understanding the basics around how a “tear down and rebuild” scenario works in Arlington. For example, how much does it generally cost, what makes up those costs, and how would the financing work? I’d be interested in exploring this option but am intimidated by what I’m assuming would be a very pricey endeavor. Can you give me a primer and refer me to an online resource for some basics?

A. Your question about cost is difficult to answer from a general perspective as they can vary wildly. The major costs you need to budget for are:

  • Land
  • Site costs
  • Architecture
  • Construction

There are not many lots sitting vacant in the Arlington area, so you are likely looking for a tear down. I recommend working with an agent who specializes in land acquisition. They should be able to help you navigate zoning and setback designations as you are exploring different options. For example, if the house you want to build requires a footprint that is 40 feet wide, you need to make sure the lot is wide enough to accommodate the width of the house and the setback requirements for that particular location.

Site costs usually include such expenses as demolition, utility connection and permitting fees.  These fees may not be included in the construction quotes provided by builders you are talking to. They can easily exceed $25,000 so be sure you are financially prepared.

Architectural costs are going to vary based on the amount of customization you are looking for. Builders usually have models that they can easily tweak for your lot with minimal architecture costs, but the sky’s the limit as far as the amount of customization you can explore. The more you customize, the more expensive these costs will be.

Construction is usually quoted on a cost-per-square-foot basis. I’ve seen these range from $75 to more than $300 per square foot. That number is going to vary by builder. It’s also going to vary based on the size of your home. Because there are a numerous fixed costs in building a home, the cost per square foot tends to be less for larger homes than smaller ones. Another major factor is the level of finishes. Wolf appliances, rare granite and exotic hardwood floors are going to come with an appropriate price tag.

Financing has become a lot friendlier for construction loans.  I’ve seen options that require as little as 10 percent down. They usually offer one loan that can be used for the acquisition of the land (or tear down) and construction costs. You usually start off with an interest only loan based on the amount of money you have drawn against for land acquisition and construction. Then you will convert to non-construction loan when the home is complete.

I’m not familiar with any online resource that would be helpful. In fact, I have often thought about creating a helpful website myself. Maybe one day. In the meantime, I’m happy to connect you with a lender who is knowledgeable about construction loans and some of the best builders in town.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to adam@rlathome.com. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

Ask Adam – Gas or Wood Fireplace?

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. I have an old wood burning fireplace that I use often during the colder months. I have it cleaned annually and it is well maintained. I’m thinking of converting to gas. From a resale point of view, which are more attractive to buyers… gas or wood fireplaces?

A. Based on sample of homebuyers I have worked with, they tend to be fairly evenly divided. Some love the charm of a wood burning fireplace while others want the convenience of a gas fireplace. I’ve asked other agents what their experience has been and they agree that it is about 50/50.

Our house came with a gas fireplace that we never use. On the few occasions that we want the ambiance of a fireplace, I wish it was wood burning. That said, if I were using the fireplace to actually heat my home, I would look for something more efficient than a standard wood fireplace.

It really comes down to personal preference and what you plan to use it for, rather than resale value. If you prefer a gas fireplace, I recommend converting it in a way that can be converted back if the future homeowner wants to go with wood. Other options to consider with a gas fireplace:

  • Self-start ignition so you don’t have worry about lighting the pilot and wasting gas when the fireplace is not in use.
  • Vented or ventless fireplace. One of the home inspectors I work with always harps on how he thinks ventless fireplaces pollute the inside of your home. It is worth researching.
  • Pick a style that fits with your home. For example, you probably don’t want to go ultra modern in an older rambler.
  • Compare the efficiency of different models. Some are really just for ambiance while others are relatively efficient at heating your home.

Please send questions to adam@rlathome.com.  This is also a good place to reach me for any of your home buying and selling needs.

Ask Adam – Assessed Value and Market Value

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. I was a little confused after reading your last article. I always thought that having a higher tax value indicated that my home is worth more money. Your article made it sound like having a lower value is of greater value.

A. Most professionals in the real estate industry realize that tax assessed value (TAV) is a generalization of what a home is worth.

For example, two Colonials built in 1952 may be located right next door to each other. They have the same square footage, number of bedrooms and number of bathrooms. House “A” has been beautifully updated inside and out. It is the picture perfect home.  House “B” has never been updated and has been poorly maintained for the last 63 years. Their TAV may be identical, but the market value is drastically different.

The above scenario is an example of why TAV is not used in determining market value, by real estate agents or appraisers. As mentioned in my last article, most homeowners and homebuyers would prefer to have a home with high market value and low TAV, because it lowers the amount of money they need to pay Arlington County in property taxes. That is why I make the argument that there is market value in having a low TAV.

The other clarification I will point out is that TAV is not the same as appraisal value. They sound similar and are therefore often confused with each other. Appraisal value is determined by professional appraiser, not by the county.

An appraiser typically performs an in-depth study of a home’s current market value. They take into consideration the home’s condition, size, lot, location and features compared to similar home sales. They also apply the current market conditions. In a perfect world, their analysis should provide a very close indication of market value.

Please keep the questions coming to adam@rlathome.com

We are real people

Real Living | At Home is a locally owned real estate brokerage serving the entire DC area. We have four real estate offices, located in Dupont Circle & H Street in Washington DC, Chevy Chase, MD, and Arlington, VA. We specialize in buyers and sellers interested in single family homes, row houses, townhouses, condos, co-ops, lofts, and any other kind of residential real estate in Washington DC, Maryland, or Virginia. Real Living | At Home is a locally owned and operated franchise. Real Living real estate is a network brand of HSF Affiliates LLC, which is majority owned by Home Services of America, inc. A Berkshire Hathaway Affiliate.