Continuing to examine and hold a lively discussion of the Northern Virginia Real Estate market.
Please post your local house search updates, MLS finds, on-topic ideas, and links here.
Advice solicited.We need to move to shorten our commutes now, while continuing to rent and save up a full 20% down payment. Our lease in MD is up at the end of September, so ideally we'd like to move in to a new place on one of the last two weekends in September.Obviously we're looking at apartment complexes in the area, but that's easily done, and right now unless they run specials, their prices are a minimum of $1750 for 2 bedrooms (or 1 + loft), which would significantly cut into our ability to save (current rent $1440). (We already have enough furniture to fill out a 2 story townhouse, and it seems foolish to sell any of it off 1 year before we'll need it again, but are considering a storage space and a smaller apartment if it comes to that).So, the question is, if we want to rent from an individual (and not pay for a gym and a pool and landscaping and the ease of a management company etc.) is it better to just go through Craigslist or get a real estate agent? Or which of the trillions of apartment search sites actually works well down here? Our concerns our price, quality, space and not having the owner get foreclosed on while we're there. In the past, real estate agent lisitngs seemed to indicate a level of quality and commitment on the part of the landlord, since they pay the agent's fee. But with the increasing prevalence of craigslist, is this still true? We've been totally spoiled by our last two renting experiences, that were both simple, well-run, spacious and relatively cheap, so I'm dreading getting into this process again like the plague.
Cara,There's not much of a difference between a listing with an agent attached and Craigslist. After you sign a lease, you'll never see the real estate agent again, but you'll still have to deal with the landlord. Obviously, there are some crazies on Craigslist, but one can ascertain whether or not they own the property (and about how much they paid) with a quick peek at the tax record.We rent from a full-time management company (regular house). This has been our best experience so far, because the landlords we had before were "failed flips" and they weren't in any way professional. The management company pays the landlord and is the go-between for both parties.Of course, it's quite possible to find just what you're looking for on the MLS. (Management companies advertise there as well as individual agents). I like to use Fairfax Realty. After registering, one can save a search for just rentals, and you'll be notified in your e-mail as they are newly listed.
Thanks Harriet! Straight access to the MLS (through that realty), definitely the way to go, infinitely more and better listings than I had been turning up.
This one is my favorite in Arlington: http://www.mcenearney.com/search/listing.php?subloc=mce&listing_type=res&listing_key=10409812552&active=1&for_sale=1&county=ARLINGTON&results_per_page=20&order_by=days_on_market&count=27&page_type=mce&page=2This house is marketed as "close to Metro" and it is...compared to Baltimore! It's a mile and a half to EFC thorugh somewhat dicey areas along in Westover. The house has been on the market for at least 6 months so something is wrong. Priced to not sell at $750k.....
I am corrected....438 days for this one!
Cara - the one problem with dealing with individuals/Craigslist for you is that you are possibly looking too far ahead in terms of time-frame for some of them. I'll bet most of what you see advertised from individuals is "available now" or in August. There may be a small # of individual landlords whose tenants have given them a lot of notice - but probably not a lot of them.If I had a comparatively long time-frame to work with, I'd concentrate on the are that I'd like to live in - and visit complexes and real estate offices and coffee shops in that area and make contacts and see what's available on craigslist, etc. No need to "work" with realtor at this point - but nothing wrong with stopping in and asking what's available, and leaving info about what you're looking for.In other words - I'd concentrate on the area, and deal with every possible avenue into apartments. I found a great apartment years ago in Old Town by leaving a lot of little notes in basement apartments and small-unit buildings saying that I was looking for an apartment - I dropped off a hundred a little notes, and got one call from a person who wanted to get out of their lease early. It was a GREAT apartment and I lived there 11 happy years.Get creative, pound the streets, talk to everyone you can - even leave notes in duplex and fourplexes that look cool - and you may end up finding what 98% of folks who just look at classifieds and call off signs do.It might seem like a lot of work - but the payoff of finding a place you like at a decent price feels good every day you come home. Happy hunting.
http://www.franklymls.com/FX6810735498 Alabama Dr, HerndonListing Price: $484,000Previous Sale(10/19/2005) $850,000-43.5%
Shamrock, I doubt that house will last, even at that price. Is there something I'm missing?
Whoops - near the end of my essay above, I meant to say "and you may end up finding what 98% of folks who just look at classifieds and call off signs don't [in other words - something special]."
cara:be mindful of distressed properties. my last rental home (rented from an individual scammer) went under foreclosure and we didn't know about it until the bank's agent came knocking on our door. then followed by all kinds of legal notices.i read it somewhere (cnn?) that in CA more people who fell behind are scamming renters.
zeropoint,Thanks yeah I was trying to parse that. (mine has at least one typo too).I was considering something similar on a much smaller scale because we attended an open house earlier that we have no interest in buying for the long term, but would be absolutely perfect for the short term, and we were considering telling the agent, "hey if she wants to rent this place out while waiting for a buyer, let us know"...Finding something that really feels like home would definitely be the best place to start our buying search from as well. None of this year's pressure to move as soon as possible because of the commute. MM, yikes!! yeah that's one of my primary concerns about not sticking to the apartment complexes. But given their prices, I think the apartments know that too, because there is definitely a premium over the supposed average rental rate in the D.C. area (according to that rent verus own cities from a week ago ish). So, where does one look up the tax record, to get a guess (they could have HELOC'd) about their mortgage position?
Cara, I agree with zeropoint that you're probably a little too far away in time to be seeing the best deals yet. Though some people will be finishing a one year lease lots more will be on month to month, so the building managers won't know yet that they'll have an apartment available. I found my first apartment in the area in the newspaper, the second, after we sold our townhouse, through Craigslist and also by walking around the neighborhood we were interested in and copying the numbers off signs. I agree with Harriet that you ought to be able to get a sense of how solvent the owner is from the tax record. And you can just talk to them, see if they own other property, how long they've owned it, etc. If it's just their own house that they're renting after trying to sell, I'd be a little wary. Even if they're perfect financial citizens, new, inexperienced former owners aren't likely to make the best landlords.
Cara, you can find the sales information for most homes at the municipal websites. As you said, it won't show HELOCs, and I'm not sure it shows refis, but it's a starting place.
Not sure why I keep getting duplicate posts. Could be I'm just getting older. PBCAK?
Hmmm, so what you're saying is if I find a really pretty place with new granipergoteel, at $1550/month that was bought for $280k in 2004 I should be wary then, huh? (given that's a GRM of 180) (It's pretty enough that I'm still going to call her)Yeah, I've dealt with new landlords, and even ones where that's their intention, I don't really want to be the test case tenant again.
what do you guys think about this house? lower than it's 2004 purchasing price when it was brand new.http://www.redfin.com/VA/FAIRFAX/4917-SAMMY-JOE-Dr-22030/home/9840114is it a decent deal?
I saw this article on the increasing affordability of cities. I really dont like (what I think) is the gist of this article - DC is quickly becoming affordable. Problem as I see it, places I want to buy seem no closer to being affordable than where they were last year. Anyone else think this or am I just getting paranoid?http://promo.realestate.yahoo.com/increasingly-affordable-us-housing-markets.html
anonymous,patience grasshopper. Despite the use of an affordability index, that article reads like a real estate schill trying to get some sales out of this summer selling season before it fizzles completely. Using the whole metro area as a measure of affordability is inherently un-useful for us buyers who actually have preferences for where we buy.
i read it somewhere (cnn?) that in CA more people who fell behind are scamming renters. Its happened to THREE of my coworkers so far in 2008. Let me even narrow that; its happened to three of my direct reports in 2008!Its getting really bad here. I've pointed out that everyone in the nation would feel Indymac failing. Its happening. To put it into perspective, one of my relatives has CD's maturing at Indymac. Now that they're mature (un-luckily just post failure, all FDIC insured) that relative is unable to get at the money due to the lines. This relative has been given an appointment later in the week. The branch will accomodate 125 customers per business day. Note: Saturday's are no longer a business day for them.I agree with the patience. I also really hope that the FDIC can control the strong "banking concern" here in California. If it does not mitigate soon, its going to bring down three very large banks. That would make this recession worse than what I've been predicting. Got Popcorn?Neil
Cara -I'd second zeropointzero with his advice to ask around in coffee shops, etc. You may also want to check out a community group (or two) that interests you in the area and talk with the people there. We found our $1330 2br, utilities included, in Falls Church that way, and wouldn't have found it otherwise since the complex doesn't advertise.
wannabuyin the D.C. metro area or CA? I mean, I know it happens here too, the washington post ran a story on that happening to whole buildings earlier this year (or last year...)
Cara: Avoid "Meridians" owned by "Paragon" (large apt.complex) Ask if you want details. I have had good luck with Craig's list including shorter rental times and with a the company "Charles E. Smith" Craig's list takes time and a little trust on both ends. "Charles E. Smith" owns smaller complexes in the DC area and are a well run company IMHO.
charles e smith and it's new owner archstone are quite expensive if you ask me. much more expensive, than comparables.
Re: Charles E SMith...I rented before the archstone arrangement. In 2005 we rented a 1br w/den and balcony (Park Connecticut in DC) with parking for about 1600...Paragon: Ballston 2000K 2 cats, 1br/den and sunroom one parking spot 1990. CRAP. Now I must vent. The light from Ballston kept me up at night as did the road noise from the ballston busses. In the den I could hear the elevator noise and THAT kept me up. The lights in the bath were such that reading on the toilet or in the bath was impossible. They didn't give much notice of scheduled maintenance so I had my toilet line repaired as I was recovering for surgery! The lease was confusing for us and we have plenty of education and no, we didn't have a lawyer look at it...what else? Front desk staff rude, maintenance staff really great and responsive. It's also an extended-stay hotel and "Corporate apartments" which they didn't tell us so our neighbors were always moving in and out. Now I'm all pissed again...at least I've been sleeping better since we moved.
Amy, Konstantin,I've had a good deal here in MD with Lerner Management Corp.(Oxford Square at White Flint) 1 bed plus den for 1440 with cat rent (would go up to 1515 next year if we stayed). Maintenance is always prompt if its something important, the random unannounced "pest control" visits are annoying, but my cat is afraid of the maintanence guys boots on the stairs so no risk of her running away. They mostly own older properties though, so need to be evaluated indvidually.Archstone and The Edgemoore are what I'm trying to avoid price-wise. (or at least price per square foot wise). And I heard on calculated risk that Archstone itself was overextended in CRE's so may be just as much of a risk foreclosure-wise (or rent raising wise depending on how they cope).Thanks for everyone's advice, this is great!!!!
Cara,We have been looking for a rental (a bigger townhouse in the same area) for a few months now, and would like to share with you some of our experience, if you decide not to go with apartments. We started looking on our own at first (both homedatabase.com and Craig’s list), and then we met a realtor who was the listing agent for one of the rentals that we looked at. We liked her, and have been using her since. We started looking in late March, but didn’t have any luck. When the summer came, things got worse. There seemed to be fewer inventory, and anything decent would be snatched up quickly. Our realtor told us that people like to move in the summer, so the competition is pretty bad. At the end of June, I noticed that the inventory seemed to increase quite a bit and we just started seeing some decent deals out there. I would say it is not too early to start looking now. Some people I know who rented in the past couple of years have a lease that requires a 60-day notice instead of 30-day, this fact has been confirmed by our realtor. Also, I have seen owners asking too much for their houses on Craig’s list, and then reduce the price and then increase it and then reduce and increase again, quite ridiculous. By looking early, you would have an idea of which rentals are old and if they have been on the market for a while. This may give you some bargaining power should you decide to make an offer. Always keep a paper copy of the Craig’s list ad of the ones that interest you, because those ads will disappear after 7 days. Having a realtor has its pros and cons. The pros are that she/he will make appointments for you (saves you a little bit of effort), send you the detailed listing (which may have some important facts), act as the go-between for you and the owner’s agent, and if she/he is experienced in rentals, she/he would tell you which ones of the owner’s demands are common, which ones are not. The cons are that sometimes I have the feeling that she likes to steer us into higher priced properties. Of course, you can always say no. One thing on the detailed listing (from the realtor) that you should pay attention to is the repair deductible (can be $0 or $50-$100). Some listing agents will tell you that it’s pretty standard, but our realtor told us that it’s not true. Why should the renter pay $50 when the roof starts leaking or the refrigerator breaks down? Another thing to look for is the maximum lease term. If it’s only 12 months for example, you may want to find out why. Does the owner plan on moving back in a year? I agree with the others that it better to go with professionally managed properties, or the ones that the owner has been managing it for years. First time landlords don’t usually have a good understanding of what is involved, some of them even think the renters like to nickel and dime them to death. Good luck with your search.
CaraI would suggest the Washington Post classifieds over craiglist to get a deal. Post classified advertizers are often old school who don't know what craigslist is so they don't really know the market comparables. That's where the deal to good to be true is. Craigslist has such a large eye-share that everyone will see the ads there. Also, if you are gamblers, try to get get your lease extended one month, then try to pick up a lease that is "off-season" in your desired area. There is less competition after the summer - but you will need to be able to make a decision quick on the new place.Both strategies worked well for me and were accidents on my part.
Cara said...Hmmm, so what you're saying is if I find a really pretty place with new granipergoteel, at $1550/month that was bought for $280k in 2004 I should be wary then, huh?Not necessarily. The guy who bought our place in 2005 was taking a bath renting it out, even with a large down payment. Thing is, he has quite a few other properties that he is making a profit on-- and also a decent non-real estate business. He could sell one of the older properties for a profit if he got too worried. I can recommend our old property management company, Fitzgerald Properties. (fitzprop.com) They always had someone on call for repairs and they did a lot of regular maintenance and upgrading. They have listings of all their properties on their website. And I agree with Philip about using the WaPo classifieds. That's how we found our first apartment. The price was way below anything else I found and they had a wonderful couple as live-in managers.
Though I wasn't looking in the area you are when I moved here, I worked with a realtor to find a private rental. My standards were high and I knew what I was willing to pay. She found 6 properties in a 10-mile radius that met my needs and qualifications. I rent a 3- year old 1900 sq ft. condo for $1595 no condo fee. It is well made (brick), the utilities are low, has large storage connected to the single car garage, and it takes me 20 minutes to get to the Tysons office. Since I won't buy here, this is ideal for me.My significant other used a realtor early this year and got a good deal also. He didn't have as much furniture as me so there was no need anything quite as large.A couple in my office rented through Craigslist and fortunately they have had a great experience in their rented townhouse in Reston.There are nice places for rent. More than when I first moved here. Just be sure to vet the owner or management company.
long time lurker/reader here just thought i'd add my experience. i went with a realtor to rent and i'm still living the landlord from hell experience. the only communication with the realtor after the lease was signed was a general courtesy checkup and it wasn't really meant to solve any of my problems, more just trying to see if i was ready to buy instead of rent. like the others have stated here if you are going to rent a non-managed property do your research. my previous apartment prior to my realtor assisted rental was an archstone smith property. although it was overpriced to start with and had a 17% rent increase, the 1 day repair time and electronic rent payment were something i took for granted.
Cara said... “So, the question is, if we want to rent from an individual (and not pay for a gym and a pool and landscaping and the ease of a management company etc.) is it better to just go through Craigslist or get a real estate agent?”If the Realtor is listing the home and managing the property, that’s the way to go.If the Realtor is just listing the home, it’s just like going thru craigslist.My word of caution:We were looking for a rental and went through a Realtor. I was under the impression that the realtor was also managing the property. We filled out the credit check information and the realtor said “OK, let me Fax this to the owner”. I stopped the transaction right there. It’s my understanding that if the realtor is managing the property, they (the company) gets the credit information.If the realtor is only listing the property, who gets your credit info? The owner. What if that owner is a FB? The FB now has ALL your credit info. Hell, the FB can take out a loan on the house in your name and you’d be none the wiser.Are all landlords FB? Of course not. But if in Maryland, you can check them out online via the court system, tax records, and get a look at their loan paperwork (if any) on mdlandrec.net.
lcg said... One thing on the detailed listing (from the realtor) that you should pay attention to is the repair deductible (can be $0 or $50-$100). Some listing agents will tell you that it’s pretty standard, but our realtor told us that it’s not true. Why should the renter pay $50 when the roof starts leaking or the refrigerator breaks down?These are what I call “unprofessional Carlton Sheets” wannabe landlords. It is NOT standard. It clearly shows that the landlord does not want to be bothered with and/or can not afford these “problems”.I don’t know who’s more naive. The landlord who insist on this or the renter who agrees to it.
Yeah, I'm 34, been renting since I was 22 and never in my life have I heard of a repair deductible. That is indeed a bad, bad sign. A real landlord wants you to call them immediately about any problems because it's their property that's in jeopardy if the washing machine leaks generating water damage or if the furnace is on the fritz such that pipes might freeze or whatever. Yup, my experience too, real estate agents in general have nothing to do with the landlord tenant relationship thereafter, but I do have to say looking at the MLS the prices are much more consistent than with Craigslist which seem to be all over the place. Combining that search with the Fairfax tax records is great, I've already found 5 where our rent would barely cover their interest payment plus the HOA fee, so can just avoid those, but found 6 others that are very long term owners or a couple of years back inheritors of the property, i.e. probably long-term landlords. So, I am feeling infinitely better today about what we'll find sometime next month.But yeah, Archstone is the fall-back position if need be. The one at Franconia Springfield is so gigantic it's hard to believe they won't have openings.
Robert, you said, What if that owner is a FB? The FB now has ALL your credit info."What is a FB landlord? My imagination is running rampant.
edison,irvine housing blog-speak: FB foreclosed buyer. or other similar interpretations.and to robert:we have printed out copies of our credit report with the SSN missing and stuff to just hand them, so there's less of an issue.
Thaks Cara. I was thinking all kinds of non-family friendly words that fit.
My realtor was not a property manager. I lease from an individual who owns several rental properties and has for about 20 years. He and his wife checked out as responsible owners with a stable history. I would never rent from anybody that I didn't do a thorough check on. They did a thorough check on me and I am glad.I have never had a major problem yet. The place is so well constructed (contrary to most built in the last 7 years) and relatively new. The small things that have come up, the landlord has addressed within 48 hours.
kcwood said:"I would never rent from anybody that I didn't do a thorough check on."kcwood, how do you do a thorough check on the landlord? Any advice would be appreciated.
Edison said... “What is a FB landlord? My imagination is running rampant.”FB:F*@#ed BorrowerF*@#ed BuyerForeclosed BuyerEtc..etcSomeone facing financial difficulty (primarily mortgage related) due to the real estate downturn.http://www.housingbubblecasualty.com/
lcg said... “kcwood, how do you do a thorough check on the landlord? Any advice would be appreciated.”For the State of Maryland, Go to the MD tax site: http://sdatcert3.resiusa.org/rp_rewrite/Use this primarily to get the name of the current owner.Once you have the owner’s name:go to http://mdlandrec.netA password is needed, but it’s free. This site has .pdf’s of the borrowers loan paperwork. Then cross check the name with the MD court records and look for signs of foreclosure.http://www.courts.state.md.us/courtrecords.html
Thanks Robert. It is the same in VA. County tax sites. Land records. I was able to find out the number of properties he and/or his wife have owned and sold the last 20 years.I asked questions: How long they have lived here? Their careers? Where do they work? If you are still skeptical, then run a credit check to avoid getting a lousy landlord or someone who is likely to foreclose. The cost is minimal
kcwood said... “Thanks Robert. It is the same in VA. County tax sites. Land records. I was able to find out the number of properties he and/or his wife have owned and sold the last 20 years.”Does Virginia have actual loan documents online? If so, please post the link.I don’t think many folks realize that this information is out there. I’m talking about full on paperwork complete with ARM and down payment information and any other sundry details about the loan.
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