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Downsizing into the Lap of Luxury: Part 1

Advice to downsize a life’s worth of possessions

As baby boomers begin to enjoy their empty nests and embrace the next phase of their lives, many are opting for a new walkable lifestyle close to the cultural and culinary amenities they love. Developers have caught onto the trend and are designing upscale condos in and the near our major cities to attract these new residents. While these properties may officially qualify as downsizing for their buyers, they offer luxuriously appointed spaces with upwards of 2,500 to 5,000 square feet.

But if you’ve lived in a large home for many years, moving into a new property with half the space often requires purging many of the belongings you’ve accumulated over the years. Sorting through your possessions, especially decades of paperwork and photos, can be physically and emotionally wearing, yet ultimately rewarding.

If you’re dreaming of living in that luxury condo with all the upscale amenities, here are some downsizing tips to get you started.

Give yourself plenty of time before moving. As soon as you start to think about moving, begin the process of purging, so you can have a sense of how much space you’ll want (and need) in your new home.
Take an inventory of your belongings. Regardless of where you are moving, knowing what you have and determining what to do with your possessions is one of the best first steps. It’s often easier to start with your storage spaces to see if you really need to keep things like your kid’s old report cards.
Hire a professional organizer or ask a friend to help. As you declutter, identify items to throw away, sell or donate. Hire a professional or ask a friend to help who will have less of an emotional attachment.
Take photos of special items. One way to maintain your memories while reducing your possessions is to take photos of the things you love that may not fit your new lifestyle, possibly even your art.

Next week, we’ll share with you a few additional tips for downsizing into the lap of luxury.

Eight Real Estate Trends to Watch in 2017


Price appreciation and low inventory dominated real estate news in 2016. Looking ahead, housing market experts foresee a moderating yet healthy real estate market in 2017. The two largest population groups—millennials and baby boomers—are anticipated to have the biggest impact on real estate, along with rising mortgage rates and increased access to credit.

Here are some of the top trends to watch this year.

Rising prices and rising net worth: While rising prices challenge first-time buyers, homeowners benefit from increased home equity and a higher net worth. According to CoreLogic, home values were up 7.1 percent year-over-year in November 2016, and home equity wealth accumulated by Americans has nearly doubled in the past five years as a result. Values have been rising for a few years and CoreLogic says the average homeowner gained $11,000 in home equity in the past year. A total of $1 trillion could be added this year if home prices continue to rise by the company’s projected 5.2 percent. Even if the gains come in lower—Moody’s predicts a 3.5 percent rise and Realtor.com, a 3.9 percent—the outcome is still positive for the year.

Higher mortgage rates: Mortgage rates jumped to just over 4 percent after the Presidential election in November. They are anticipated to stay between 4-5 percent in 2017, which is higher than recent rates but still comparatively low historically. Older borrowers may remember rates of 18 percent in the 1980s, so even 5 percent seems like a bargain to that. Homeowners who want to refinance and prospective buyers should consider locking in a loan as soon as possible since mortgage rates are not expected to drop this year.

Loosening of mortgage restrictions: According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Mortgage Credit Availability Index, mortgage approvals are easier to get, with the pendulum slowly swinging back from overly restrictive guidelines. In addition, low down payment loans are more readily available than in recent years. Jumbo loans also are easier to qualify for and have competitive interest rates with conforming loans. Higher mortgage rates mean lenders will get more competitive for purchase loans as their refinance business fades. Lenders also anticipate looser regulations from the new administration.

Inventory remains tight: The lack of homes for sale has been driving prices up for the past several years and frustrating buyers, and the issue shows no sign of easing this year. The National Association of Realtors says nationwide inventory was down 9.3 percent year-over-year in November and has continually fallen for the past 18 months. At the end of 2016, there was a four-month supply of homes for sale, far below the six months of supply that is considered a healthy market. In the Philadelphia metro area, for example, inventory was down 23 percent year-over-year in November, according to Long & Foster’s Market Conditions. Similarly, inventory was down in the Washington, D.C., area by 23 percent and in Richmond, Virginia, by 19 percent.

Repurposing of buildings for residential use: With urban areas and close-in suburbs lacking space for residential development, 2017 will bring more commercial properties being revamped into residential developments. Washington, D.C., has already seen a few office buildings converting into mixed-use developments with both office space and residential space. The Adele, a new residence in downtown D.C., is a great example of this type of transition. Churches in Baltimore and D.C. whose congregations have shrunk or moved to the suburbs are also being sold for redevelopment into unique condos.

Millennials in the market: The number of first-time buyers, most of whom are millennials, increased to 35 percent of all buyers, according to the National Association of Realtor’s 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, up from 32 percent in 2015. While that doesn’t quite reach the norm of 40 percent of the market, housing experts anticipate that more millennials and first-time buyers will purchase homes this year. Not only is job security increasing for this demographic group, but also more millennials are beginning to form households, marry and have children, all of which trigger a home purchase.

Baby boomers on the move: The second-largest demographic group—the baby boomers are reaching retirement age in record numbers, with 10,000 turning 65 each day. As their home equity increases, more of these boomers are anticipated to move, sometimes to new markets. Among the popular destinations for retirees, North Carolina and South Carolina offers numerous communities that appeal to residents of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast who are looking for warmer weather and, most importantly, tax advantages. North Carolina residents, for example, are exempt from paying state income taxes on federal and military retirement benefits thanks to a tax settlement known as the Bailey exclusion.

A return to the suburbs: Census data released in 2016 showed that more people moved to the suburbs than into cities in 2015, with urban counties growing by 0.8 percent to about 77 million people and suburban counties growing by nearly 1 percent to about 159 million residents. That trend is expected to continue in 2017, particularly as first-time buyers and downsizing baby boomers look for affordable homes. But the suburbs are changing, with the development of more mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods with urban-style amenities. The John Burns Consulting Group says 80 percent of new homes are being built in what they term “surban” areas, which offer the safety and good schools of suburbia along with the walkability and excitement of the city.

Overall, a strong market is expected in 2017, and professional Realtors at Long & Foster | Christie’s International are here to help you, whether you’re planning to buy your first home or retire to a new location. Contact us today at LongandFoster.com.

Five Tips to Make Your Offer Stand Out in a Competitive Market

Across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, homes are selling faster and for higher prices than they were the same time last year. Meanwhile, inventory remains tight. The National Association of Realtors reported there was 6.6 percent less inventory at the end of March than the year prior. With these conditions, homebuyers face stiff competition when making an offer on a property this spring.

But there are ways to get ahead. Here are tips from agents and leaders at Long & Foster | Christie’s to make your offer stand out in a competitive market.

Make sure you’ve done your financial homework. A preliminary approval from a lender carries more weight than a pre-qualification. That’s because your lender verifies all your financial information. It’s a more thorough process that positions you as a stronger, less risky buyer. “Money, timing and risk are what matters to the sellers, and whatever you can do that minimizes risk to the seller makes you more appealing,” said Kate Ryan, a Realtor in Long & Foster’s McLean, Virginia, office.

Ask your loan officer to call the seller’s agent as well, advises Cindy Ariosa, senior vice president and regional manager of Long & Foster in Baltimore, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore. That phone call further assures the sellers that you have the financial resources to close.

Accommodate the sellers’ preferred closing date. The easier you can make the process for the sellers, the better your offer will appear. Rae Nunnally, a real estate agent in Long & Foster’s Bellgrade office in Midlothian, Virginia, received an offer for a home she’s selling that allowed the sellers to choose the closing date and gave them the option to rent the property back after closing. “Those conditions made their offer stand out,” Nunnally said.

Even offering the sellers just a few days after closing to rent back their home—often at no cost—can make a buyers’ offer more attractive, Ryan added.

Get creative with the home inspection requirements. You might not want to waive the home inspection, but you could limit the amount of repairs the seller would need to cover. In Nunnally’s recent sale, the prospective buyers asked for up to $1,000 worth of repairs resulting from the home inspection. They also requested a home warranty to cover longer-term items.

Put down a little extra for your earnest money deposit. If $1,000 is the norm in your area for an earnest money deposit (also called a good faith deposit), consider bumping yours to $5,000. The added amount shows the sellers you’re serious about purchasing their home, says Bob Albanese, senior vice president and regional manager of Long & Foster in New Jersey.

Write a personal letter to the sellers. What do you love about the home? Why do you want to live in the neighborhood? Show the sellers who you are and why you want to make their home your home. In fact, when Ariosa’s son and daughter-in-law were shopping for homes last year, she encouraged them to write a letter to the sellers of the home they wanted. They won the home—even with an offer that wasn’t the highest.

While there are many tips to stand out in a competitive market, the most important is this: rely on your real estate agent throughout the process. They know the market, the conditions and exactly what it takes to find that place you can call home.
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Home Sales Rose in Much of the Greater Richmond Market in March 2017

Many parts of the greater Richmond real estate market experienced an increase in the number of homes sold during the month of March, according to The Long & Foster Market Minute reports. The greater Richmond region includes Chesterfield, Henrico, Goochland and Hanover counties and Richmond City. The Long & Foster Market Minute reports are based on data provided by Central Virginia Regional multiple listing service and its member associations of Realtors and includes residential real estate transactions within specific geographic regions, not just Long & Foster sales.

Market Minute Logo 2017

Richmond MM Chart March2017

The number of homes sold increased in much of the Richmond region in March compared to year-ago levels. Hanover County experienced a 35 percent increase, followed closely by Chesterfield County with a 34 percent increase. In Richmond City, the number of homes sold rose by 17 percent, and it increased by 16 percent in Henrico County. In Goochland County, the number of homes sold fell by 5 percent.

Median sale prices varied in the Richmond region in March when compared to the same month last year. In both Hanover and Henrico counties, the median sale price rose by 10 percent, followed by a 7 percent increase in Chesterfield County. In Richmond City, the median sale price decreased by 3 percent, while in Goochland County, it fell by 4 percent.

Active inventory decreased in the entire region last month, including by 24 percent in Richmond City and by 14 percent in Henrico County. In Chesterfield County, active inventory fell by 11 percent, and in both Goochland and Hanover counties, active inventory declined by 8 percent.

Houses sold at a steady pace in much of the Richmond area, with both Goochland and Henrico counties seeing a days on market (DOM) average of 39 days in March. The DOM average in Richmond City was 40 days, followed by Chesterfield County with a DOM average of 46 days. In Hanover County the DOM average was 63 days.

“March was a great month at Long & Foster and we saw numerous positive indicators of growth in the real estate market, including in the Richmond region where home sales increased in many areas,” said Jeffrey S. Detwiler, chief operating officer of The Long & Foster Companies. “With spring in full swing and mortgage rates remaining low, more people are looking to buy and sell homes. We anticipate the season will continue to bring robust activity to the housing market.”

The Long & Foster Market Minute is an overview of market statistics based on residential real estate transactions and presented at the county level. The easy-to-read and easy-to-share reports include information about each area’s units sold, active inventory, median sale prices, months of supply, new listings, new contracts, list to sold price ratio, and days on market. Featuring reports for more than 500 local areas and neighborhoods in addition to more than 100 counties in eight states, The Long & Foster Market Minute is offered to buyers and sellers as they aim to make well-informed real estate decisions.

The Long & Foster Market Minute reports are available at www.LongandFoster.com, and you can subscribe to free updates for the reports in which you’re interested. Information included in this report is based on data supplied by CVR, which is not responsible for its accuracy. The reports do not reflect all activity in the marketplace. Information contained in this report is deemed reliable but not guaranteed, should be independently verified, and does not constitute an opinion of CVR or Long & Foster Real Estate.

Hanover expanding wireless internet service to rural areas

Faster internet appears to be on its way to the Hanover County area.

Hanover has struck a deal to eventually expand internet service in the eastern and western parts of the county, and Ashland is gearing up for an upgrade to its internet service.

On April 12, Hanover’s Board of Supervisors finalized a deal with SCS Broadband Internet Service, a wireless internet service provider, intended to increase the internet availability in rural areas of the county.

In July, SCS Broadband will begin two initial five-year leases for the Ellyson’s emergency communications tower at 5834 Cold Harbor Road and the Old Church tower at 2343 Old Church Road. Service to customers is expected to be available within 120 days of July 1, or sometime in the fall.

There are three other towers SCS Broadband is expected to lease in Montpelier, Rockville and Beaverdam.

SCS Broadband CEO Lon Whelchel said the company was new to Hanover.

“Hanover was seeking somebody to come in to provide internet service in the underserved locations of the county,” Whelchel said.

Whelchel said SCS Broadband has been around for 12 years and is owned by AcelaNet.

Deputy County Administrator Frank W. Harksen Jr. gave a presentation on the deal with SCS Broadband at a Board of Supervisors meeting in April. Harksen said the county has been in talks with SCS Broadband since at least August.

“It’s a pretty broad coverage as a result of this,” Harksen said. “It gets Hanover, and it goes into the surrounding counties.”

Harksen said in an interview Thursday that of all the firms Hanover has been in talks with, SCS Broadband was the most interested and the most responsive.

After Harksen’s presentation, Cold Harbor Supervisor Scott A. Wyatt said he has been contacted by residents looking for broadband coverage in eastern Hanover.

“I think this is much needed,” Wyatt said. “We’re kind of limited on access.”

As Hanover looks to expand wireless internet to its residents, Ashland is looking at how better internet service can entice economic development.

Town Manager Josh Farrar said the town is exploring how it can tap into a line of dark fiber located near Interstate 95 exit 92 in Ashland. Farrar said the dark fiber in the area is part of a line that runs from Northern Virginia to Richmond and has the potential to give Ashland some of the best internet in the country.

“As an economic development tool, it’s really important,” Farrar said of having improved internet. “Having better service would make us a more attractive destination.”

Farrar said Ashland is looking into how to go about installing the infrastructure needed to connect Town Hall to the dark fiber.

A public meeting is planned for May or June to share more details with the community on the process.

Farrar said part of the town’s vision is to get high-speed internet service available to the Holland Tract, a more than 200-acre parcel in the northern part of town that Ashland hopes businesses will want to develop.

Additionally, improving wireless internet in Ashland could be a boon for potential residents and visitors to cafes and shops downtown, Farrar said.

 

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Contact Info

Pam Diemer

ABR®, CRS®, GRI®, e-PRO®
REALTOR®
& Certified Financial Planner™
Licensed in The
Commonwealth of Virginia

The Tuckahoe Office
Long and Foster Real Estate
8804 Patterson Avenue
Richmond, VA 23229
(804) 740-3000 Office
(804) 241-3347 Mobile
Pam@PamDiemer.com

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