Millions of Homeowners Now Free From Negative Equity

March 25, 2014

We always try to focus on regional real estate news that is more relevant to DC homebuyers and homeowners, but here’s a Feel Good story at the national level.

Millions and millions of American homeowners’ equity holdings (the market value of their homes minus the amount of money still owed) soared by nearly $2.1 trillion nationwide to a total of $10 trillion.

“It can be hard to grasp large numbers like this that come from national statistics,” said Gerard DiRuggiero, Principal Broker at UrbanLand Company. “Housing prices in DC have risen substantially in the past year, and homeowners’ equity has also increased as they’ve made their monthly mortgage payments. In times of rising housing values, your level of equity can increase quite a bit.”

There was a time not too long ago where national news told a different story. Gone are reports of homeowners being ‘underwater’ on their homes and the words ‘negative equity’ do not show up in real estate news as often. A great deal of distressed properties, foreclosures and short sales have been cleaned out of the market as a whole.

“Negative equity simply sucks the life out of the real estate market, and out of people’s enthusiasm in general,” continued Gerard. “You’ve got people putting their life savings into their homes, and values dropped, and they are affected emotionally by it. You’re literally trapped in your home, can’t refinance without cash to pay down the mortgage, and buyers who are facing the same personal situation can’t buy your home, either.”

So, it’s big news and relevant to us here in DC when over 4 million American homeowners are estimated to now be out of negative equity and into positive territory with their homes again. “Real estate values, like everything else, follow a cycle. This last cycle took about 7 years, from when the markets first began to tumble, to today,” said DiRuggiero. “While there are still lots of homeowners facing financial problems, this type of announcement really does show some sunshine as Spring approaches.”

*shared from UrbanLand website*

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Home of the Week – Just Listed in Petworth $589,000

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Great openness and flow in this renovated Petworth home. Home features hardwood floors on main and upper levels. Awesome kitchen with natural light, granite counters, and stainless steel appliances. Half bath on main level. Large master suite w/ 4 big windows, walk in closet, and double sink bath. Get ready to entertain friends and family in basement. Short walk to metro. Ask me about closing assistance for Washington DC homebuyers. 301.887.3629.

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Caruso Homes Offers Tips to Save Your Home from Snow Melt Water Damage

February 13, 2014 — As the snow begins to melt, homeowners need to act quickly to protect their investments in their homes, according to Jeff Caruso, president of Caruso Homes.

“With amounts of just 6 inches or more of snow, homes need critical care that the owner can easily administer in just a matter of hours to avoid the problems associated with water damage,” says Caruso, a master builder with more than 30 years of experience building homes throughout the region. “Homes are designed to shed water and for it to flow away from the home, so the critical areas are windows and doors.”

Caruso says it is urgent that homeowners dig snow out of window wells and basement exterior stairwells, including drains in those spaces. Also critical: remove snow 1 to 2 feet away from outside doors, then dig a path for water to flow away. “This is especially necessary on rear decks,” says Caruso.

“Heat from the house melts the snow, creating a lower surface, and then an ice crust can form an ice dam,” he explained. “When snow melts from the roof, flooding occurs, and in a deep snow, even siding and brick can leak.”
Water infiltration will show up either as a flooded basement, wet carpets – usually near doors – or water stains on the ceilings, usually below the door areas, Caruso says. But the real damage can hide for months, with the possibility of the plywood subfloors swelling, or worse, the growth of harmful molds.

Another problem area is the roof. Like doors and windows, roof shingles are designed to shed water and an ice dam at the gutter can cause water to back up and get under the shingles. Roof leaks caused by ice dams first show up as water stains on the ceilings and walls of the rooms. If a homeowner sees water stains or wet areas, they should contact a roofing specialist who will climb a ladder and break up the blockage or ice dam, usually near the gutter areas, to minimize the leaking.

More winter home care tips from Caruso Homes
Keep your outside condenser unit ice-free so it can breathe and heat your home properly;
Shovel a place for gutters to drain to when they thaw out;
Dig drainage ditches in the snow for water to drain away from your home;
Avoid throwing salt-based ice melt on concrete driveways, walks and porches, as salt can damage the finish of the concrete.

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Maryland Association of Realtors Press Release – December 2013 Housing Statistics

Contact: Melissa Lutz
Maryland Association of REALTORS®


The trend of a recovering Maryland real estate market was reflected in December housing statistics, according the Maryland Association of REALTORS® (MAR). The number of homes sold statewide jumped by 10.4 percent, or more than 450 units,compared to December 2012. Pending home sales declined slightly, less than 1 percent, as inventory of homes for sale declined another month. Average price rose by 2.3 percent, from $299,759 to $306,686, while median price climbed 4.7 percent, to $255,183.

“This is an encouraging end to a year of recovery,” said MAR President Russ Boyce. “This level of increase in sales and prices are signs of a stable market,” he noted, “though the continued low level of inventory suggests growing demand that may push prices higher.” December’s inventory of 4.9 months’ supply continued below the six months considered necessary for a strong and balanced market.

Maryland monthly housing statistics are compiled by data as reported by MRIS and the Coastal Association of REALTORS®. For the purposes of this report, “units” are defined as the closed sales and “pending units” are properties under contract. Months of inventory are based on the current active inventory and monthly sales for the corresponding month.

*MAR publishes the Maryland Housing Statistics monthly; it is available through the Association’s website,

The Maryland Association of REALTORS® is the largest Maryland professional trade association, serving over 22,000 members, and is dedicated to preserving the vitality of the real estate market. REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark which may only be used by those real estate professionals who subscribe to the REALTOR® organization’s strict Code of Ethics, and who are members of the National, State and Local REALTOR® organizations.

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More and More DC Buyers Transitioning to Prince George’s County

January 21, 2014
With DC housing prices rising quickly and consistently, more and more buyers are asking us daily to help them find ‘value’ in downtown real estate.

“We’re getting more and more inquiries from traditional home buyers and condo buyers who are starting to think of their home as an investment rather than just a place to live,” said Gerard DiRuggiero. “Home buying can be such an emotional purchase, and informed buyers are starting to transition to a more hybrid set of expectations based on value today versus value tomorrow, how long they will stay in the home, and if the home or condo is a good investment from a numbers sense.”

UrbanLand Company constantly communicates the merits of buying in ‘emerging neighborhoods’ or areas that have not quite matured into ‘destinations’ for working professionals, both in the city and outside DC. “We coach our more flexible buyers on looking in to the future 3 years, 5 years, even 10 years when looking at potential homes to buyer,” said Gerard DiRuggiero, Principal Broker at UrbanLand Company. “There’s areas with real character and charm that are starting to become DC’s hot new destinations for buyers. It’s similar to what happened with U Street early on.”

For those seeking value right now, there’s plenty of options and areas to consider looking. If you absolutely must stay within Downtown, there’s great neighborhoods in Southeast, Northeast and even some parts of Northwest that are still attractively priced.

“We’ve been telling people all year to watch Deanwood, Brightwood, Trinidad and Anacostia very closely,” continued DiRuggiero. “Our involvement with the DC Open Doors program puts us in contact with a large number of 1st time homebuyers seeking the most value for their dollar, and we take them to these neighorhoods constantly.”

There’s lots of value priced single family options in Prince George’s County, just over the District line.

Those with more flexibility who don’t need to be right in the city should consider close-in Prince George’s County, and people are already making the short trip over the DC border in the County. “Prince George’s County had the best year outside of downtown of any area housing market. Median sales prices are shooting up with a 15.9% increase in sales price on average during 2013,” said DiRuggiero. “There’s still plenty of room for further increases in price, and you get more single family home options that you just don’t see in the city.”

UrbanLand Company is a downtown based DC real estate brokerage and new condominium sales specialist, operating in DC, Maryland and Virginia. More information is available at

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Open House TODAY 11a-1p, 409 Lonsdale Ct, Upper Marlboro, MD

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Just Listed!!! Over 4000 sq ft of space! $410,000

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STANDARD SALE. Semi-detached home with over 4,000sf of living space. Large master bedroom with his/her walk in closets, dual vanities in master bathroom, double sinks in guest bathroom. Spacious rooms, 4 bedrooms upstairs (potential for additional room in basement), full bath in basement, 2 story foyer and family room, with casual dining area, gas cooktop, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops. Hardwood floor throughout main level. Large open kitchen, mud room, 2 car garage, two fireplaces, upgrades throughout, low maintenance. Close to Beltway (495 and Rt. 50), metro, and Woodmore Shopping Center. MUST SEE!

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New Listing!!… Great Location and Great Price!

Just listed $450,000!!!

Just listed!!!

Double click the photo for more details and photos. Large Ryan Avalon model on cul-de-sac. Inviting deck and patio facing a tree conservation. First floor master bedroom with full bath. Master suite with his/her walk in closets and Jacuzzi tub. Spacious secondary rooms. Upgraded flooring on main level. Basement with surround sound, media room and full bathroom. Additional storage space. Close to 301 and Penn Ave. Dual stairs. TWO fireplaces – in family room and in basement. Immaculately maintained. Must See! Schedule your personal tour today!

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13 Tips for Selling Your Home in the Winter

What makes selling a home more stressful? Selling it in the middle of winter.

The lawn is brown, the weather is usually bad and, unlike the longer days of summer, you have less time to show it off during daylight hours.

But not everyone has the luxury of waiting until the traditional spring or summer home-buying season to plant that “for sale” sign. And while it’s true that in most areas you’ll probably have fewer buyers during the winter, you will have less competition from other sellers.

The season makes staging — the concept of showing your house at its best — even more important.

Be prepared to put a little effort into it. “It’s more difficult to make something look really appealing this time of year,” says Ron Phipps, broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I.

If you do it right, you can really make your house stand out.

1. Keep snow and ice at bay.

The top tip from agents: If the buyer can’t get in easily, the house won’t sell. That means keeping walkways and driveways free of the frozen stuff. Just like trimming the lawn in the summer, you want to make the home look like it’s been maintained. If you’re away frequently or live in an area that’s subject to bad weather, it can pay to hire a service to regularly salt or shovel the driveway and sidewalks.

2. Warm it up.
If you’re showing during the winter, think “warm, cozy and homey,” says Ken Libby, owner of Stowe Realty in Stowe, Vt., and a regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors.

Before a buyer comes through, adjust the thermostat to a warmer temperature to make it welcoming. “Sellers like to turn the temperature down because of heat costs,” says David Ledebuhr, president and owner of Musselman Realty in East Lansing, Mich., and a regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors. “But buyers who come in and aren’t comfortable won’t stay long.”

If you have a gas fireplace, turning it on right before the tour can give the house a little ambience, Libby says.

With a wood-burning fireplace, you’ve got to be a little more careful. If the house is vacant, don’t chance it. But if you’re still living there and will be there during the tour, it can be a nice touch.

Many times, sellers leave right before the agent and prospective buyers arrive. In that case, adjust the heat to a comfortable temperature and have the hearth set for a fire. Buyers feel the warmth and see the potential, and you don’t have to worry about safety concerns.

3. Take advantage of natural light.
“Encourage showing during the high-daylight hours,” Ledebuhr says. At this time of year, “if you show after work, you’re totally in the dark.”

Make the most of the light you do have. Have the curtains and blinds cleaned and open them as wide as possible during daytime showings. Clean all the lamps and built-in fixtures, and replace the bulbs with the highest wattage that they will safely accommodate. Before you show the house, turn on all the lights.

4. Get the windows washed.
“Buyers act on the first impression,” Ledebuhr says. Windows are one thing that many sellers don’t even consider. In winter, that strong southern light can reveal grime and make it look like the home hasn’t been well-maintained.

5. Play music softly in the background.
To create a little atmosphere, tune the radio to the local classical station. Turn it down so that you barely hear it in the background. “It’s soothing,” says Libby, who finds that soft classical music tends to have the most appeal to buyers. “I think people tend to stay around a little longer and look a little longer.”

6. Make it comfortable and cozy.
Set the scene and help the buyers see themselves living happily in this house. Consider things such as putting a warm throw on the sofa or folding back the thick comforter on the bed. Tap into “the simple things this time of year that make you feel like you’re home,” Phipps says.

7. Emphasize winter positives.
Is your home on a bus route or some other vital service that means it’s plowed or de-iced regularly in bad weather? Be sure to mention that to the buyers.

8. Set up timers.
You want your home to look warm and welcoming whenever prospective buyers drive past. But you’re not home all the time, so put indoor and outdoor lights on timers, Phipps says.

Look at the outside lighting around the door. Is there enough illumination to make it inviting? If not, either get the fixtures changed or have new ones added.

9. Make it festive.
Even if you’re not actually going to be present, greet your buyers as if they were going to be guests at a party, Phipps says. Set up the dinner table with the good china and silver. Have a plate of cookies for your guests, some warm cider or even chilled bottles of water.

“First impressions are so powerful,” Phipps says. “If it looks like you’re expecting me and greeting me as company, that’s a powerful impact.”

10. Give the home a nice aroma.
The No. 1 favorite? “Chocolate-chip cookies,” Libby says. “Just about everybody likes that smell.”

Other popular scents: cinnamon rolls, freshly baked bread, apple pie, apple cider or anything with vanilla, cinnamon or yeast.

“But don’t overdo it, either,” Ledebuhr says. Scented candles in every room or those plug-in air fresheners can leave buyers wondering what you’re trying to mask.

Watch the bad smells, too. Pet smells, smoke and musty odors can cling to curtains and carpets. Ask your real-estate agent or a friend to give it a sniff test. Then clean the house, air it out and replace drapes, carpets or rugs before you show it.

11. Protect your investment.
Some sellers (or their agents) will ask buyers to either remove shoes or slip on paper “booties” over their footwear before touring the house. Many buyers like that, Phipps says. It indicates a “pride of ownership and meticulousness that resonates with buyers,” he says.

12. Use the season to your advantage.
While the holidays are over (and the Christmas and Hanukkah stuff should come down), you can still use winter wreaths and dried arrangements around the door to spark interest. “Anything seasonally appropriate is fun,” Phipps says.

In the winter, with the leaves off the trees, you might also have a nice view that isn’t as apparent in the spring and summer months. It’s a great time to sell waterfront properties, Phipps says. “You can see the views better this time of year.”

13. Consider the area.
In some parts of the country, such as ski areas or warmer regions where the snowbirds flock, winter weather can actually be a selling point. “We’re right in the middle of our selling season,” says Libby, who is located in Vermont. “It’s not always spring and summer.”

By Dana Dratch,

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Happy Holidays From Your Realtor


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