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

Winter May Just be the Right Time to Buy a Home

Posted on:

Statistics show that Spring/Summer has traditionally been the high season for buying or selling real estate. But there is really great advantages for the buyer to purchase a new home during the winter months.

Less Competition – Since there will be less buyer traffic through a home, this should enable any potential buyers the opportunity to view the home in a more relaxed manner, knowing there are not other buyers interested in the same house, and there should be a be a reduced chance you’ll be involved in a bidding war for the property, which eliminates the opportunity to negotiate.

Cheaper Moving Prices – Prices for Moving Companies are typically higher in the summer due to supply and demand, which means if you buy in the winter months, you may be able to enjoy more flexible moving schedules and lower prices.

Title Companies/Lenders Less Busy – During the height of the summer months, lenders and title companies are swamped with buyers and sellers, and are scheduled weeks out for settlement dates. During the slower, winter months, you’ll be able to work out a quicker settlement date with plenty of settlement date options that should be able to meet your personal schedule.

Winter Home Interior Sales – You may just be able to make a deal on that new couch or washer/dryer for your new home in the winter months, as home furnishing companies/appliances stores have outstanding deals in the winter to attract buyers in from the cold.

You’ll Be All Moved in Before Spring/Summer – And who doesn’t love to sit back and enjoy the spring/summer months on the deck, in the yard or by the fire pit? So get moving this winter and get ready to sit back and enjoy the warm summer days and evenings in your new home.

Call Team Bonnie and Maureen today and get your home buying adventure started!!


Posted on:

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?

Posted on:

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

Posted on:

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

Posted on:

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?

Posted on:

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!

Posted on:

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


Posted on:

Yes, as a matter fact we do!!  Best Mobile App for the MRIS Multiple Listing service area is MRIS Homes powered by Smarter Agent Mobile. With this app, you will have the most up-to-date property information available – the same information available to Realtors.

If you must have this app right away, you can simply text to 87778 this message: MN4381 – or just go to our page titled “Just For Buyers” then click on “Best Local Mobile App,” and type in your number. It takes about 2 seconds to download.

If you want to know the service area MRIS covers – – it is approximately 25,000 Square Miles in Maryland, Virginia, DC, West Virginia, Pennsylvania & Delaware.

We believe this app is the reason brochure boxes on signs are becoming obsolete – why get out of your car and slosh through the snow when you can have all the same information plus color photos with one quick click on your phone or tablet?

Give it a try – we think you’ll like it!

Blog provided by Maureen Nichols, Associate Broker/Team Member

Should you Read Everything you Sign?

Posted on:

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

7 Steps to Take Before you Buy a Home

Posted on:
 7 Steps to Take Before You Buy a Home

By doing your homework before you buy, you’ll feel more content about your new home.

1. Decide how much home you can afford

Generally, you can afford a home priced 2 to 3 times your gross income. Remember to consider costs every homeowner must cover: property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care if you plan to have children.

2. Develop your home wish list

Be honest about which features you must have and which you’d like to have. Handicap accessibility for an aging parent or special needs child is a must. Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are in the bonus category. Come up with your top-five must-haves and top-five wants to help you focus your search and make a logical, rather than emotional, choice when home shopping.

3. Select where you want to live

Make a list of your top-five community priorities, such as commute time, schools, and recreational facilities. Ask your REALTOR® to help you identify three to four target neighborhoods based on your priorities.

4. Start saving

Have you saved enough money to qualify for a mortgage and cover your downpayment? Ideally, you should have 20% of the purchase price set aside for a downpayment, but some lenders allow as little as 5% down. A small downpayment preserves your savings for emergencies.

However, the lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for, and if you still qualify, the higher your monthly payment. Your downpayment size can also influence your interest rate and the type of loan you can get.

Finally, if your downpayment is less than 20%, you’ll be required to purchase private mortgage insurance. Depending on the size of your loan, PMI can add hundreds to your monthly payment. Check with your state and local government for mortgage and downpayment assistance programs for first-time buyers.

5. Ask about all the costs before you sign

A downpayment is just one homebuying cost. Your REALTOR® can tell you what other costs buyers commonly pay in your area—including home inspections, attorneys’ fees, and transfer fees of 2% to 7% of the home price. Tally up the extras you’ll also want to buy after you move-in, such as window coverings and patio furniture for your new yard.

6. Get your credit in order

A credit report details your borrowing history, including any late payments and bad debts, and typically includes a credit score. Lenders lean heavily on your credit report and credit score in determining whether, how much, and at what interest rate to lend for a home. Most require a minimum credit score of 620 for a home mortgage.

You’re entitled to free copies of your credit reports annually from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Order and then pore over them to ensure the information is accurate, and try to correct any errors before you buy. If your credit score isn’t up to snuff, the easiest ways to improve it are to pay every bill on time and pay down high credit card debt.

7. Get prequalified

Meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter that says how much house you’re qualified to buy. Start gathering the paperwork your lender says it needs. Most want to see W-2 forms verifying your employment and income, copies of pay stubs, and two to four months of banking statements.

If you’re self-employed, you’ll need your current profit and loss statement, a current balance sheet, and personal and business income tax returns for the previous two years.

Consider your financing options. The longer the loan, the smaller your monthly payment. Fixed-rate mortgages offer payment certainty; an adjustable-rate mortgage offers a lower monthly payment. However, an adjustable-rate mortgage may adjust dramatically. Be sure to calculate your affordability at both the lowest and highest possible ARM rate.


Blog Provided by: By: G. M. Filisko,