Home Loans

Home loans make the process of buying a new home more affordable than ever. As you may already know, these types of loans give you many opportunities that wouldn’t be possible without them. When you buy a home, you should understand as much as you can about the process, as well as the questions you will be answering. This way, you’ll be familiar with how things work and you’ll find the entire process to go much smoother.Continue reading

Why buy a condominium?

condo
For condo buying or condo selling in Northern VA call Nesbitt Realty

A condominium is usually a housing unit or apartment in a multi-unit building in which each unit is individually owned, while common areas and the property in general are jointly owned by the residents and the owner of the building, or all of the residents together. Some people choose to purchase and live in a condominium because some condos are less expensive than a traditional single-family house. Additionally, many condos have added amenities and facilities.

Most condominiums have amenities you won’t find on a similarly priced single family residence. A typical condo has a pool, a work-out room, and party room. Typically all or some of the exterior maintenance and lawn care is provided by the condo association. Many condos have utilities included in the price of the condo fee. These and many other luxuries are standard in a condominium community but are beyond the reach of those who reside in single family homes. In short, condo owners choose condo life because they love life and they don’t want to be bogged down with maintaining a lawn or cleaning gutters. They want to walk out the back door and enjoy a dip in the pool while the other guy is spending time writing checks to pay his utilities.

The best part about owning a condo is that your condominium sets you on the path to financial freedom. Buying a condo costs more monthly cash flow than renting an apartment. But, in most cases, all that money comes back to you at the end of the year in the form of tax refunds. Best of all, next year your mortgage will be the same amount and your debt will be reduced. With an apartment your money is gone and your rent will surely have a cost of living increase.

Before deciding to purchase a condominium, it is important to do your research into both the legal and practical aspects of owning a condominium. As with any home purchase, location, size and price are important. With a condominium you’ll also want to understand the ownership scheme. This type of information is found in the “condo docs” or condominium documents. Most states, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, require condo doc disclosure before any purchase contract is finalized. The condo docs will contain detailed information on the ownership and property rights of the condo and its owners. The rules of the homeowners association are generally explained in the condo docs in plain English (and not in legal jargon)? It’s important to read the condo documents to understand the annual maintenance and upkeep fees, as well as to obtain a full understanding of exactly how much control the association have over the regulation of the property?

Condominiums can be found all over the country, with more being developed each year. Condominiums are quite common in Northern Virginia and the National Capitol area. Some condos are new construction, and a few are apartment buildings that were rental apartments before making the switch.

In newly constructed condos, it’s common to find a sales office onsite at the condominium. And whether your buying from a condominium owner or a condo office, it’s a good idea to take a guided tour of facilities and the units that are available for purchase. Of course, many new condominium offices have staff that act as sales agents. Potential condominium owners can make an appointment to meet with a staff sales agent to discuss interest in condo ownership; hHowever, when you’re in the market for a condo, it’s a good idea to employ your own Condo Alexandria real estate agent rather than rely on the services of the condominium staff. Your real estate agent will have an understanding of the condominium ownership structure and the condominium documents and the real estate agent can explain what this means to you.

Although there are various types of condominiums, the most common legal arrangements involve individual ownership of each unit, with joint ownership of the communal or common areas by all of the residents in the building. You might be surprised to learn the variety of sizes found in condominiums. Condos range from studios and one bedroom apartment, to a four bedroom penthouse apartment. Even condominiums with the same number of bedrooms can have different floor plans and different numbers of bathrooms and half-baths.

serving condo owners, sellers and buyers in Northern VA
Nothern Virginia Condo Experts

While some condominiums are located in large multi-unit buildings, others may be detached form each other and be located in a gated or planned community. Some condominiums may be located in resort or vacation destinations. Besides total cost of the property, you should also inquire as to the annual homeowners association costs. These fees are usually charged in order to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the common areas. Owning a condominium can be one of the largest investments you make, so make sure that the one you choose can accommodate your specific needs. Purchasing a condominium can be a great way to buy a property in the location you really want with all the amenities you seek.

Recent Listings

For more information or to set up an appointment call Julie at (703)765-0300.

How to Appeal Your Property Tax Bill

cottage and fence
Add a fence for privacy and distinction

Owning a home is an expensive proposition. There’s maintenance, landscaping, utilities, renovations, and, of course, taxes. It’s your civic duty to pay the latter, but it’s also your right not to yield a penny more than your fair share.

It’s possible to trim your property tax bill by appealing the assessed value of your home. But making a case against your real estate assessment, the basis for your property tax bill, requires doing a bit of homework. Initial research can be done online or by phone over two or three days, but the process can stretch out for months if you’re forced to file a formal appeal.

There are a few things to keep in mind as you weigh an appeal. The board can only lower your real estate assessment, not the rate at which you’re taxed. There’s also a chance, albeit slight, that your assessment could be raised, thus increasing your property taxes. A reduction in your assessment right before you put your house on the market could hurt the sale price. An easier route to savings might lie in determining if you qualify for property tax exemptions based on age, disability, military service, or other factors.

Read your assessment letter

A real estate assessment is conducted periodically by the local government to assign a value to your home for taxation purposes. An assessment isn’t the same as a private appraisal, and the assessed value of your home isn’t necessarily how much you could sell it for today. Real estate assessment letters are mailed to homeowners annually, or perhaps every two to three years, depending where you live.

The letter will include some information about your property, such as lot size or a legal description, as well as the assessed value of your house and land. Additional details—number of bedrooms, for example, or date of construction—can often be found in the property listing on your local government’s website. Your property tax bill will usually be calculated by multiplying your home’s assessed value by the local tax rate, which can vary from town to town.

If you think your home’s assessment is higher than it should be, challenge it immediately. The clock starts ticking as soon as the letter goes out. You generally have less than 30 days to respond, though the time frame varies not just between states, but within each state. Procedures are often outlined on the back of the letter.

Gather evidence

Start by making sure the assessment letter doesn’t contain any mistakes. Is the number of bathrooms accurate? Number of fireplaces? How about the size of the lot? There’s a big difference between “0.3 acres” and “3.0 acres.” If any facts are wrong, then you may have a quick and easy challenge on your hands.

Next, research your home’s value. Ask a real estate agent to find three to five comparable properties—“comps” in real estate jargon—that have sold recently. Alternatively, check a website like Smarthomeprice.com to find approximate values of comparable properties. The key is identifying properties that are very similar to your own in terms of size, style, condition, and location. If you’re willing to shell out between $350 and $600, you can hire a private appraiser to do the heavy lifting.

Once you identify comps, check the assessments on those properties. Most local governments maintain public databases. If yours doesn’t, seek help from an agent or ask neighbors to share tax information. If the assessments on your comps are lower, you can argue yours is too high. Even if the assessments are similar, if you can show that the “comparable” properties aren’t truly comparable, you may have a case for relief based on equity. Maybe your neighbor added an addition while you were still struggling to clean up storm damage. In that case, the properties are no longer equitable.

Present your case

Once you’re armed with your research, call your local assessor’s office. Most assessors are willing to discuss your assessment informally by phone. If not, or if you aren’t satisfied with the explanation, request a formal review. Pay attention to deadlines and procedures. There’s probably a form to fill out and specific instructions for supporting evidence. A typical review, which usually doesn’t require you to appear in person, can take anywhere from one to three months. Expect to receive a decision in writing.

If the review is unsuccessful, you can usually appeal the decision to an independent board, with or without the help of a lawyer. You may have to pay a modest filing fee, perhaps $10 to $25. If you end up before an appeals board, your challenge could stretch as long as a year, especially in large jurisdictions that have a high number of appeals. But homeowners do triumph. According to Guy Griscom, Assistant Chief Appraiser of the Harris County (Texas) Central Appraisal District, of the 288,800 protests filed in his Houston-area district in 2008, about 58% received reduced assessments.

How much effort you decide to put into a challenge depends on the stakes. The annual U.S. median property tax paid in 2008 was $1,897, or 0.96% of the median home value of $197,600. Lowering that assessed value by 15% would net savings of about $285.

 

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but is not intended to be relied upon by readers as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Readers should consult a tax professional for such advice, and are reminded that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

 

How your ratios affect your home buying power.

Julie Nesbitt
Julie Nesbitt

Two ratios are calculated by mortgage lenders to determine a buyer’s maximum loan amount:1) the front ratio and, 2) the back ratio.

Front Ratio: The total mortgage payment including principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI) as well as any condominium or homeowner association fees divided by your total GROSS income. Traditionally, this ratio must be below 30% Example: With a gross income of $5000 per month, a total mortgage payment (PITI) of $1350, the front ratio would be 27%.

Back Ratio: The total mortgage payment PLUS any car payments, credit card and any other loan payments including student loans divided by your total GROSS income. Traditionally this must be below 40%. Example: With a gross income of $5000 per month, a total mortgage payment of $1350, a car payment of $325, 1 credit card payment of $60 and 1 student loan payment of $150 for a total of $1885 with a back ratio of 38%.

For more information or to set up an appointment call Julie at (703)765-0300.

If you need help calculating your ratios, please contact Julie Nesbitt at 703 765 0300.

Home buying in Northern Virginia?

Nora Yelland
Nora has more than a dozen years of experience selling real estate.

Buуіng a home іѕ an important task that is a realization of a dream for many people. As a home buyer will need to walk through a process and overcome hurdles іn оrdеr tо ensure thаt your goals are achieved. At tіmеѕ, hоmе buуіng саn еvеn bе ѕtrеѕѕful. However, іf buy with a Nesbitt Realty agent, we can take the stress out of the process. Our agents know where and how to find the best properties for your needs. Our agents are experienced with deep local connections. And we can save you thousands on your purchase.

[Learn more about buying with Nesbitt Realty]

first-time buyer
Nesbitt Realty helps first-time home-buyers realize their home-buying dreams.

Lender Checklist: What You Need for a Mortgage

  • W-2 forms — or business tax return forms if you’re self-employed — for the last two or three years for every person signing the loan. Check
  • Copies of at least one pay stub for each person signing the loan.
  • Account numbers of all your credit cards and the amounts for any outstanding balances.
  • Copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements for both checking and savings accounts.
  • Lender, loan number, and amount owed on other installment loans, such as student loans and car loans.
  • Addresses where you’ve lived for the last five to seven years, with names of landlords if appropriate.
  • Copies of brokerage account statements for two to four months, as well as a list of any other major assets of value, such as a boat, RV, or stocks or bonds not held in a brokerage account.
  • Copies of your most recent 401(k) or other retirement account statement.
  • Documentation to verify additional income, such as child support or a pension.
  • Copies of personal tax forms for the last two to three years.
For more information or to set up an appointment call Stuart at (703)765-0300.

What every purchaser should know about title insurance

Here are some of the basics about title insurance:

1. Every mortgage lender requires title insurance. Title insurance protects the lender and the secondary markets to which they sell the loans from defects in the title to your home and property. It ensures the validity and enforceability of the mortgage document. Title defects could include mistakes made in the local property office, forged documents and claims from unknown parties. The amount of the policy is equal to the amount of your mortgage at its inception. You pay a one-time fee as part of your closing costs. If you are purchasing a home, you should also purchase an owner’s policy which provides coverage up to the purchase price of the home you are buying. In some states it is customary for the seller to purchase the owner’s policy on your behalf.

2. You have the right to choose your title insurance provider! You can shop around for a lower insurance premium rate on line at sites, or you can also ask your lender or real estate professional for help in getting quotes.

3. Check the companies out before you select one. Make sure the title insurance company you choose has a favorable Financial Stability Rating® with Demotech, Inc., the leading title insurance rating company.

4. It’s easy to save money on title insurance. Request quotes from a few companies and then reach out and speak to them. Ask about hidden fees and charges which could make one quote seem more attractive than another. Ask about discounts. There are often discounts available if you are refinancing and sometimes even when you are purchasing if the current policy issued to the seller on the property isn’t too old.

5. Even new construction needs coverage. Even though the home is new, the land isn’t. There may be claims to the land or liens placed during the construction which could negatively impact your home.

For more information or to set up an appointment call Julie at (703)765-0300.

Home buying starter kit!

Where to start the home buying process?

For a first-time home buyer, one of the most difficult things to do is to just start the process? What does one actually do to buy a home? We’ve prepared this short list of links to help you begin your home buying quest.

Stuart Nesbitt
Stuart Nesbitt is a real estate agent serving Northern Virginia.
  • Affordability Calculator — How much home can you afford? The affordability will help you determine what your price range.
  • Buyers Tips — Simple and effective tips for shopping homes.
  • Closing Cost Estimator — What are closing costs? How much do you have to pay?
  • Guide to Northern Virginia — All about the neighborhoods and communities of Northern VA
  • Map Search — Our map-based search is one of the best in the business.
  • Mortgage Calculator — Once you’ve identified a property plug the price into the calculator to see how much the purchase will cost on a monthly basis.

Call us anytime with questions or to learn more.

 

Recent Listings

5 Common First Time Home Buyer Mistakes

A Single family house at 5428 Grist Mill Woods Way Alexandria VA 22309
Grist Mill Woods is in Alexandria 22309

1. Decide what you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.

2. Develop your home wish list. Then, prioritize the features on your list.

3. Select where you want to live. Compile a list of three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in, taking into account items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.

4. Start saving.Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20 percent of the purchase price saved as a down payment. Also, don’t forget to factor in closing costs. Closing costs — including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees — average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.

5. Get your credit in order.Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure it is accurate and to correct any errors immediately. A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late payments.

6. Determine your mortgage qualifications.How large of mortgage do you qualify for? Also, explore different loan options — such as 30-year or 15-year fixed mortgages or ARMs — and decide what’s best for you.

Condos at 2001 15th St N #615 Arlington VA 22201
Odyssey is in Arlington 22201

7. Get preapproved. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan. You might need W-2 forms, copies of at least one pay stub, account numbers, and copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements.

8. Weigh other sources of help with a down payment. Do you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance programs? Check with your state and local government on down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers. Or, if you have an IRA account, you can use the money you’ve saved to buy your fist home without paying a penalty for early withdrawal.

9. Calculate the costs of home ownership. This should include property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, and association fees, if applicable.

10. Contact a REALTOR®. Find an experienced REALTOR® who can help guide you through the process.

For more information or to set up an appointment call Julie at (703)765-0300.

8 Tips to Guide Your Home Search

1. Get your finances in order.

cashReview your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Then, talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage. This will save you the heartache later of falling in love with a house you can’t afford.
maps

2. Research before you look.

Decide what features you most want to have in a home, what neighborhoods you prefer, and how much you’d be willing to spend each month for housing. Is walkability important to you? How about proximity to the Metro? Perhaps you want your new home to be in find homes by school district? Whether you want a condo in Arlington or a single family home in Kingstowne, a townhouse in Cameron Station or a studio in Crystal City, Nesbitt Realty probably has a search tailored to your needs. If you have trouble finding the search that you need call us and we’ll be glad to help you out.

3. Be realistic.

A Single family house at 106 Quaker Ln Alexandria VA 22304
Seminary Hill is in Alexandria 22304

Once you’ve zeroed in on a list of homes that fit your budget and criteria, then it’s time to start viewing property. It’s OK to be picky, but don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. There’s no such thing as a perfect home. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property. We still have a buyers’ market, but that doesn’t mean people are giving real estate away. Although homes have dropped in price 10% to 20% from the high-water mark a few years back, prices in Northern Virginia have tightened up and I’m not seeing further erosion in prices.

4. Don’t ask too many people for opinions.

It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion, but be ready to make the final decision on your own. Your home is a personal choice. In the end you’re the one who will pay the mortgage and you’re the one who will live there, so make sure you’re pleasing yourself, not your advisers.

5. Decide your moving timeline.

When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area? All of these factors will help you determine when you should move.

6. Think long term.

Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in this home for a longer period? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit you.

home inspector
Bob Murphy is a home inspector

7. Consider a home inspection.

A home inspection is an option for every home buyer. A home inspector is a professional whose job it is to check the home out for defects. Whether you purchase a condo, townhouse or single family residence, a home inspection is an important option to consider.

8. Get help from a REALTOR®.

Hire a real estate professional who specializes in buyer representation. Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer’s representative is working only for you. Here’s the best part about employing a Realtor to represent you: buyer’s reps are usually paid out of the seller’s commission payment, so there is no expense to you the buyer.

For more information or to set up an appointment call Julie at (703)765-0300.