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Tips for Buying a Washington D.C. Home

September 12, 2011

in Home Buying Guide, Regional Real Estate Tips

It was touted as the nation’s strongest market last year. And even though recent reports suggest a slight dip in the Washington D.C. real estate market, it still seems to have held steady because of the high number of government jobs in the area. The National Association of Realtors® reported that prices in the market stabilized in the second quarter, rising 2.7 percent. Unlike other markets, the debt ceiling debate and the convalescing stock market had little effect on the D.C. market. So, deals may be tougher to come by if you are interested in buying a Washington D.C. home, especially in places like Montgomery County, Md. If you’re shopping around in this market, here are a few tips from D.C. real estate agent James Downing of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage to keep in mind when buying a Washington D.C. house.

Do your homework. Scan the range of neighborhoods and look at what homes you can afford. Washington D.C. probably is one of the few markets that still has areas where homes are selling for top dollars. Chevy Chase, American University Park and Capitol Hill are some of the most sought after and expensive neighborhoods where sellers get multiple offers. If you are looking for a bargain house, you may want to look elsewhere. Downing says the suburbs are a good option if you are looking for properties on short sales or foreclosures.

Hire a good home inspector. Washington D.C. is known for its older and historic homes, and while they are gorgeous with a lot of character, they come with a host of problems. “I had a rash of buyers who bought flip flops where renovations were done very poorly, masking bigger structural problems,” Downing said. Hire a home inspector who will get into the crawl spaces and attics and offer a microscopic scan of the house. You don’t want to be left with a slew of maintenance problems after buying a home. Be sure to get references from friends or your realtor® before hiring a home inspector.

Get a pre-approved loan from a local lender. Buyers who work with out-of-town lending professionals sometimes run into problems because not many understand local contractual laws. If you hit a hurdle, you would want your loan officer to be easily accessible.

Factor in commute time. If you are working downtown when buying a Washington D.C. home, you’ll probably want to choose a house that is closer to the city’s center or to a metro stop. D.C. has some of the worst traffic snarls in the country, and commuting from the suburbs each day can be a nightmare and impede on quality time with your family.

Pick a location that suits your lifestyle. The Washington D.C. area offers a range of neighborhoods that cater to families, retiring seniors and young professionals. If you have children, you may want to live in a closed suburban area with parks nearby. If you want the city life, you may want to find a place closer to ethnic eateries and bars.

The most important thing to consider when buying a Washington D.C. home is educating yourself on the market rates. “I have a lot of clients relocating here from other parts of the country thinking they can buy something for 80 percent of the price,” Downing said. “That’s not realistic.” Buyers should educate themselves on the average prices of homes in an area, and the percentage for which they are selling. The key is to remember that house prices are relatively stable in the Washington D.C. area, and unlike elsewhere, it is still a seller’s market.

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