Trends, Testimonials, War Stories & Other Real Estate Related Adventures

Archive for the ‘General Real Estate Information’ Category


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Effective August 18, 2014, Real Estate Licensees (Agents) who choose to recommend service providers in conjunction with a real estate transaction must “Verify that the recommended individuals are licensed to perform those services by checking their licensing status,” and they must “Give the customer or client an electronic link to the licensing information and the date on which the service provider’s licensing status was verified.”

Service providers are Title/Settlement Entities, Mortgage Brokers/Lenders, Appraisers, Home, Well, Septic, Termite Inspectors et al, Improvement & Repair Contractors, Heating/Air Service, Electricians, Plumbers….. Basically any entity or individual we refer the public to, we must verify they are licensed, and that their license is active/current.

Our reputations – not to mention our fiduciary duties to our clients – are already directly linked to our professional referrals, but apparently this isn’t strict enough. I am not sure if Maryland is cracking down on unlicensed practitioners and are giving us the job of choking them out, or if Maryland Realtors too often refer their customers & clients to unlicensed (therefore unscrupulous?) entities and have been sued because of it.

Whichever it is, it is yet another hoop agents must jump through – to ensure the public is protected AND to protect licensees from litigation. I know what we are protecting ourselves from [being sued,] but what are we protecting the public from? Agents are licensees – but we do not have to prove to a client our license is current. And just because we have a “current license,” can you trust this fact alone? Just because an Electrician is licensed, does that mean he/she is more reliable & honest than the one who is not?

The State of Maryland says this isn’t a big deal, that it is easy to do this – but it IS a big deal, and it is not easy – it is incredibly time consuming. There are several websites to go to to check licensing, not just one. And we don’t refer a new buyer to ONE lender – we will give them 3! That goes for all the service providers. It is up to the client to choose – and clients should certainly be offered more than one choice.

Team Bonnie & Maureen have already verified the license status of everyone we could think of. We’ve created a file. We have the links required to provide our clients & customers. But, I’m still not sure it is possible to comply with the new regulation. In every casual conversation we have in conjunction with real estate, which is our life, we talk about a “good title company,” a “great inspector,” an “electrican” that did a great job at a great price….

Bottom line – new rule or no rule – if we refer you to an Electrician, a Home Inspector, a Lender, a Settlement Company – anyone! – we know them personally, we’ve used their services, we would use their services in future, and if we do not know them or haven’t used their services, we have a reliable reference such as a client or family member who has “vouched” for them

Fixer Upper or Move-in Ready?

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In the real world (as opposed to HGTV) fixing it up takes time, money & skill. Price it out before you make an offer, and be conservative. I’m not just talking about dilapidated farmhouses circa 1890 – I’m talking about: Do you buy the house with the new kitchen & in-ground pool or the one that needs both (when both are on your Must-Have list.) 

 For example: Pools – the cost to build a pool might be $50,000. The cost to buy a house with a pool – about $10,000 more than a comparable without a pool. The cost of a new kitchen compared to buying a home with a new kitchen is comparable in itself – but what about the time it will take to complete the project and the work zone created which puts you out of a most-used room in the house?

 Do you need permits for the work? And are you qualified to do the work? There is far more policing of permits now – and I don’t believe it is just because the county wants to tax us on our upgrades. I truly think they want to keep us safe, too! The more liability-conscious a society we become, the more important it becomes to go through the appropriate processes.

 Nothing wrong with buying a fixer-upper – it can be an incredibly fulfilling project. But it does requires a bit more thought & homework before you proceed.

Working with Family and Friends

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I just read an article published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) which, surprising to me, put a negative spin on Realtors representing their friends and family members when buying & selling real estate. Friends and family account for a huge percentage of Team Bonnie & Maureen’s business! They are, in fact, our most important source of business. We value each and every one of our friends and family and all of the clients friends and family have referred to us over the years. Clients who, I might add, become like family, and many who become life-long friends.

 The article went on to state the obvious –  that real estate is a business where we absolutely must treat everyone the same, no matter the relationship – a client is a client, after all. And once a client, our fiduciary obligation is to our client. The bottom line, to us – we are professionals. Friends, family, referrals from friends and family, they are looking for a real estate professional to assist them with the sale or purchase of a home. We expect them to come to us for advice and assistance just as they expect us to be there for them, to answer their questions, give them advice, and ultimately find them a home or sell the one they have.

 If you’re reading this, and contemplating using a friend or family member to assist, but having qualms about it because of your relationship – don’t just ignore your friend or family member – get it out on the table and talk about it, get comfortable with each other and make sure expectations of all parties are addressed. We are professionals – we’re not going to twist arms or resort to blackmail – we are going to listen to and address your concerns. I think you’ll be satisfied with our answers, so satisfied you will forget we’re related or best friends and know we’re the best person for the job

Article Provided by Maureen Nichols, Team Leader and Associate Broker


Biggest Buyer Turn-offs

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It’s prime selling season right now and there is an incredible amount of competition in most price ranges. You want your house to shine when compared. What you don’t want, is to turn off the buyers.  The biggest turn-offs?

1) Over-pricing: We are all tempted to push the price as high as possible. But take it into dreamland, you will turn a buyer off. And no, to answer your question, they won’t make an offer on a house they feel is unrealistically priced.

2) Smells: We are used to the way our house smells, but if it smells “just a little” like animals, cooked food, burnt wood from a fireplace/woodstove, damp from being closed up, tennis shoes, or something even sort of offensive to the sensitive nose of others, the buyer will be off to the next house.

3) Clutter: Anyone even halfway paying attention has heard the word “de-clutter” more than once if they have contemplated selling their home. Why? Because it’s important. Very important. First of all, your house will appear bigger without it. Second, the buyer will actually look at your house instead of being overwhelmed by your clutter.

4) Deferred Maintenance: Of course there might be things a seller hasn’t been able to maintain, due to physical or financial limitations. Perhaps the roof needs to be replaced – and it is obvious – don’t try to hide this or think a buyer will overlook it – address it. Offer a credit if you can’t afford to take care of it prior to listing.

 5) Dark, dated Decor: Granted, every seller faces physical or financial  limitations. We can’t all whip out the paint brush and neutralize our walls and not everyone can afford a professional to come in. But do weigh your options. It might cost a few dollars to paint – but you’ll make that back when you sell. It is worth the investment. Listen to your agent – we have a wealth of inexpensive and free ideas based on our experience.

 Bottom line – don’t take offense as we go through your house and tell you what we see, smell & feel along with our ideas on how to overcome the turn-offs. Our job is to sell your home for as high a price as possible in the shortest amount of time! We work for you!


What’s the Big Deal About Flood Insurance?

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Below is Some Great Information in Regards to Flood Insurance

We do, after all, live in Mount Airy!  Seems like every few years the insurance industry has a major issue the realty industry has to deal with. As Realtors, we really must keep our eyes & ears open! Over the past year, all we’ve heard about is “flood” insurance – new flood zones, new (astronomical) rates – can we fight it, is it really true, and most importantly: Does it affect ME?

If you are not already aware, many factors are considered when a homeowner/purchaser requests a Home Owner’s Insurance Policy (also known as Hazard Insurance.) The insurance company not only researches the property for prior claims, age, safety red flags and location, it checks out the homeowner/purchaser, too. Obtaining a policy can be difficult or costly if the property and/or person have had issues in the past. 

Want peace of mind? Have hazard insurance questions? RE/MAX Realty Plus’ affiliate, Michael Herson of Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, is available to assist you, answer your questions, run a CLUE report, provide a cost analysis or estimate for your real estate insurance needs. All of this at no cost or obligation to you. Feel free to give him a call or send him an email:

240-271-0167  *


Now is a GREAT Time to Sell!

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Every industry article I’ve read lately has been adamant about our desire to be home owners: The American Dream is still alive and well! Survey after survey has shown first time home-buyers and renters are actively seeking to buy a home over the next 12 months, but there are a few things holding them back. There will always be worry over interest rates, loan programs and our own financial vulnerability, but mostly (and especially in our local market) the lack of affordable inventory and rising home prices are the largest obstacles.

On one hand, we want a shortage of inventory. When demand exceeds supply, prices increase – and increasing prices are a good indication of economic recovery. On the other hand, we want our sons and daughters to be able to buy a home in the same great place we call home! For the housing market to continue its recovery, it is critical that housing is available and affordable to meet the demands of buyers.

The trick is to keep a balance of buyers and sellers in the market – first time buyers ignite the market by buying, allowing the sellers to become buyers of another home – and so on.

Bottom line: Now is GREAT time to sell!! Price your home according to condition & location and you will be impressed by the demand!

Article Provided by:  Maureen Nichols, Associate Broker, Team Member

Should you Read Everything you Sign?

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Even if you read every single page of every document you sign during a real estate transaction, will you  understand it? retain it? Bottom line: Should you read everything? Haven’t we been advised – by parents, teachers, lawyers – to “always” read it before we sign it? There are so many documents you are now “required” to sign, it is almost impossible to take this well-meaning advice. 

Throughout a normal residential real estate transaction, a buyer and seller sign approximately 200 pages: +/- depending on the type of transaction and the location of the property. There is the listing contract, the buyer agency contract, the offer – all inclusive of terms, disclosures & the intent of all parties, the offer which becomes a contract plus the addendums throughout indicating additional negotiations & obligations. There is the loan application and lending disclosure process. Then there are all the documents which comprise the actual settlement – many of which are duplicates of documents already signed.

Maryland is such a consumer-protective state, they have buried you in disclosures which are often not-applicable to the property, at times contradictory and confusing, and more designed to protect the parties who prepared the documents than to assist you in making an informed decision.

 I will not be the one to tell you “Oh, you don’t have to read everything you sign!” But I will tell you – experience notwithstanding – a good Realtor, a good Loan Officer, a good Settlement/Title Agent will confidently and quickly paraphrase every paragraph of every page of every document you sign. Trust those that you have chosen to represent you and/or your transaction, as long as after you’ve met with your Realtor,  your Loan Officer, and completed Settlement, you  get up from the table with a concise & absolute understanding of your obligations.


Blog Provided by Maureen Nichols, Associate Broker

TEN Facts about Real Estate & Maryland’s Economy

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According to a study titled “The Role of Real Estate in Maryland’s Economy 2013” commissioned by the Maryland Association of REALTORS® (MAR), ten FACTS indicate the importance of real estate transactions to Maryland:

1)     Maryland’s real estate industry employed 234,500 in 2012, about 9% of the state total.

2)     Real estate contributed $45.2 billion of Maryland’s Gross State Product in 2011.

3)     Maryland ranks 11th in terms of Real Estate Tax Burden, about 44% above the national median.

4)     Maryland’s per capita Real Estate Tax Burden was $3,152 in 2011, 27% above US median of $2,311.

5)     Local real estate taxes generated $7.3 billion, 60% of local government revenue in FY2013, an increase from the 49% share in FY2010.

6)     Direct and secondary employment in real estate supports 464,000 jobs in Maryland.

7)     Real estate related jobs generates more than $15 billion in wages/salary, more than $66,000 per worker.

8)     With multiplier effects, Maryland’s real estate industry contributes over $71 billion to the economy.

9)     Real estate contributes $887 million to the state of Maryland in personal property taxes.

10)  Maryland ranks 10th among all states for its reliance on Property Taxes as a revenue source.

What is Buyer’s Remorse?

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The “holidays” are a magical time for many people – you probably won’t be surprised to know that many people make a resolution to move – to sell their current home and buy a bigger one, to buy their first home, to retire to a smaller home during the “Holiday Season” and the start of the new year. 

When the excitement of shopping for a house turns into the reality of committing to buy – well, that’s when you start second-guessing your decision and begin to have a fear of ‘What-if’..  It’s completely natural to do this, completely normal to have, what we term, a case of “Buyer’s Remorse.”

The buyer who suffers from remorse fears they may have made a bad financial decision. Even after they’ve analyzed the numbers, the 2nd-guessing begins, they now worry they may be paying too much or that they are being taken advantage of. They may worry that down the road something negative is going to happen: The What-If factor.

Buying real estate, especially the home where we plan to live, is not only a financial, business-like process, but an emotional one as well. A huge decision, so many factors to take into account – pricing, neighborhood, schools; so many speculative answers – no one can absolutely predict the future, right? Take schools for instance – you can buy a home in your preferred school district and 18 months later the county can re-district!

Fortunately, buying real estate is a step-by-step process. Many of your questions are answered before you submit an offer (you’ve checked out the area master plan, the schools, crime, commute, comparables.) The rest are answered as you go through the process – step 1, the offer & acceptance; step 2, the inspections, step 3, the appraisal, step 4, the title…. each satisfactorily completed step is designed to alleviate your stress and eliminate your remorse. By the time you reach the settlement table, excitement should be the emotion leading you into your future!

Provided by Maureen Nichols


10 Things Today’s Buyers Look for in a Home

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While David Letterman’s Top 10 lists generally culminate in a No. 1 ranking, the following list includes in no particular order 10 things that are important to buyers today, especially Millennials who represent a significant buyer niche in today’s market.

  1. Quality of the neighborhoodThe National Association of Realtor’s 2012 Profile of Buyers and Sellers revealed that neighborhoods are really important to buyers, but that neighborhood choice varies by household composition.  
  2. Convenience to job – Commuting is a necessary evil, but homes that are close to work enhance work-life balance, a growing priority for many Americans, especially Millennials. 
  3. Overall affordability of homes – With job markets tight and retirement funds depleted or eroded thanks to the great Recession, it has never been more important to keep housing related costs as low as possible, ideally no more than one third of your pre-tax income.
  4. Quality of schools – A recent survey by revealed that nearly 45 percent of today’s buyers are willing to pay a premium for quality schools
  5. Homes suited for the next 15 years – Just five years ago, buyers were looking to stay in their home about 10 years.  Today, buyers expect to stay closer to 15, so it’s important to find a home that can support lifestyles as they evolve through that time period.
  6. A mortgage – In today’s tight credit environment, getting a mortgage can be a challenge. Buyers should be willing to consider homes below what they may quality for in order to bump up the loan to value ratio.
  7. Energy efficiency – The National Association of Homebuilders surveyed buyers to see what was most important to them in new home construction and energy efficiency topped the list.  Four of the top most wanted features involve saving energy: 94 percent of home buyers want energy-star rated appliances, 91 percent want an energy-star rating for the whole home, 89 percent want energy-star rated windows, and 88 percent want ceiling fans.
  8. Open floor plans – Spaces that are great for entertaining mean quality time with friends and family, something especially important to Gen Y.
  9. High ceilings – Taller ceilings are not only aesthetically pleasing in that they impart a grandness to the home, they also promote greater air circulation and more natural light than lower ceilings.
  10. Technology – Can you run your home from a cell phone? Then market to a Millennial, who prizes a homes’ technological amenities prized over curb appeal.


by (August 2013)