The Eric Stewart Group Blog

Trusted resource for local and national real estate news and trending topics, and everything you need to know about the buying and selling process.

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Real Estate | first time home buyer | Realtor | homebuying

8 Questions Every First-Time Homebuyer Needs to Ask

By: Rachel Harclerode
January 5th, 2021

Congrats! You’ve made the decision to buy your first home. Now what?   The homebuying process can be very overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. There’s a ton of jargon, decision-making, and steps in the process to figure out as you go. It can be scary to think of all the pieces that go into buying a home. I am currently going through the process of my first home purchase, so I am right there with you!    To help you get started, I am going to share eight questions I learned to ask throughout the process. You are more than likely going to have many more questions come up throughout your own experience, but use this list as a starting point.   Some of these questions have straightforward answers, such as what is an EMD (Earnest Money Deposit)? Others will have answers that vary based on your own situation and your own preferences. We’ll go into some of these answers in the coming weeks as our blog posts dive further into the homebuying process for first-time buyers.   Don’t forget to download our free checklist and note pages so you can track these questions and more as you buy your home! You can download this free resource here! 1. How much house can I afford? First, get pre-approved! This is a great first step that will save you time and stress later on. With this as your first step, you can go into the process knowing your affordability and setting realistic expectations for what type of house you can get.    The mortgage pre-approval process involves providing your lender with various documents that show your income, credit score, and more. Some documents you should have ready to go include your social security number, valid ID, proof of employment and proof of income, tax documents, and credit information.    You can get this process started as soon as you like. For example, I got pre-approved in October 2020 even though I didn’t plan to buy a house until 2021. Just know that your pre-approval letter typically expires within 60-90 days, so you will have to provide your lender with updated information if you go beyond that initial time period. Don’t feel stressed to make a decision within that 60-90 day period though; updating your pre-approval letter is quick and easy since your lender already has all your information!   Once you have your pre-approval and know your affordability, set your budget based on that. I suggest setting your budget below the amount you were approved for to account for additional costs such as closing costs, the home inspection, the appraisal, any home repairs, and insurance.    2. What am I looking for in a neighborhood/community? This will, of course, depend on your personal preferences and needs. Some important things to consider are HOA fees, amenities, lifestyle of the neighbors (do a lot of them have young children? Are they mostly older couples or younger couples?), school district, safety, and walkability.    Whatever your preferences are, you’ll want to make sure your new community aligns with what you’re looking for. You might find the perfect home in a neighborhood that's completely wrong for you. Will you be willing to sacrifice the location for the house itself? This is important to discuss beforehand!   3. How long do I plan to stay in this home? Will it fit my needs 3-5 years from now? This is a very important question to not overlook. You probably plan to stay in your first house for at least a few years, maybe more. You want your house to meet your needs until you’re financially ready to move up to a different house. Do you plan on growing your family within the next few years? If so, does your house have room to grow? Do you anticipate making a job change soon that will affect your commute needs? Is the house practical for a baby or toddler?   Your first house does not have to be perfect by any means! But make sure it will work for you and your family for at least a few years.   4. What’s included with the home purchase? The listing description usually states which appliances are included in the sale, but check with your Realtor® as well! You’ll want to make sure you know which appliances you’ll have and which ones you can expect to buy yourself.    Don’t be afraid to ask about things that may seem obvious. I had to ask my Realtor® if the ceiling fans were included (they were!). Built-in appliances are considered fixtures, so you can expect those to be included in the sale. Other appliances, however, are considered personal property of the seller, such as a free-standing refrigerator, washer, and dryer. While unlikely, the seller is entitled to bring these appliances with them to their new home, so make sure you’re aware of what’s staying and what’s going.  

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Real Estate | Realtor | christmas show 2020

What are the Real Stories Behind Our Most Beloved Christmas Carols?

By: Rachel Harclerode
December 23rd, 2020

  How did a 4-year-old girl inspire the creation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? How did a classic Christmas song, “Oh, Holy Night,” cause a stop in fighting during the Franco-Prussian War? Why was “White Christmas” so significant to American heroes fighting overseas? What in the world is the true meaning behind the Twelve Days of Christmas?! Find out the answers to these questions and much more when you hear Eric Stewart’s classic Christmas show. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or eggnog, wrap presents or sit back, and enjoy these stories filled with love, hope, and the true meaning of Christmas!  

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Real Estate | Realtor | discount broker

4 Things You Should Know About Discount Brokers

By: Rachel Harclerode
December 22nd, 2020

When buying and selling real estate, you can choose between traditional brokers and discount brokers. There are several key differences between these two options that you should consider before deciding which way to go.    Here are 4 main differences between traditional and discount brokers: 1. Discount brokers give you a discounted price on either the purchase side or the listing side. Discount brokers typically work off of a flat fee, while the traditional broker's commission is typically 6% of the sale (split between the listing agent and the buyer's agent). This may be a huge pro for you, but discount brokers usually make up what they lack in per-sale commission with volume. We'll discuss how that business model affects you in main difference #2. 2. Their tasks go from A to B: they get you under contract then hand you off to someone else. A discount broker's services typically don't extend past the contract stage. This is how discount brokers get more volume in sales. While there are full service discount brokers, many offer minimal services, meaning they get you from A to B during the home sale.   Traditional brokers, on the other hand, get you from A to Z. If you go with a traditional agent, you will be their client from the very start of the process to the very end. This means your agent will help you with not only listing your home on the MLS, but also with fielding buyer questions, scheduling showings, marketing your home, navigating the closing process, and more. 3. A discount broker's services do not typically include help with the contract, negotiations, closing, or any other aspect of the deal. As mentioned above, a discount broker's services don't typically extend into these other aspects of a real estate sale. A traditional agent will, however, consistently stay your point of contact throughout each step of the home sale process. 4. If you're not comfortable selling your house yourself, a discount broker is not the way to go. Selling a home consists of 119 different tasks, from scheduling showings to navigating home inspections to marketing the property, and much more. All of the tasks that a discount broker doesn't cover will then fall on you. If you aren't prepared or comfortable to take on all of that legwork, a traditional agent is most likely a better option for you.   Realtor® and Director of Operations Robert Garcia discusses the discount broker more in his video below. Check it out for his thoughts on the topic and for help on deciding which way you should go.  

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Real Estate | contingency | Realtor

What is a Contingency in Real Estate?

By: Rachel Harclerode
December 15th, 2020

If you've ever bought or sold a house, you may have experienced confusion over all of the terminology involved in the process. Real estate contracts are full of legal jargon that can be hard to understand, especially if it's your first time buying or selling.    One important term to know? Contingencies.   Robert Garcia, Realtor® and our Director of Operations, explains this term and why it's important when it comes to real estate transactions.   In general, the word contingent means "occurring or existing only if (certain circumstances) are the case" (Oxford). Investopedia explains it in regards to real estate: it's “a condition or action that must be met for a real estate contract to become binding." Essentially, contingencies are a sort of safeguard that protect you against unforeseen events.   Let's say you're in the process of buying a home. In the contract, you include a contingency for a home inspection. If the home inspection report comes back with undesirable results, the contingency allows you to have several options. Instead of being stuck in a binding agreement, you can now renegotiate some of the items found in the inspection report or back out of the contract altogether.   Contingencies essentially allow you an exit out of a binding legal agreement, so you can move on to a different home purchase that is better for you. Homebuyers should know how to use contingencies to their advantage.   However, with homes selling quickly in the current market, including contingencies in your contract may be a little more complicated than usual because some buyers may be willing to waive contingencies.   So then how do you write a competitive offer while incorporating contingencies? The agents of the Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster can help. Our agents will coach you through the process of writing the strongest offers in the midst of a very competitive market. If you’re ready to beat the competition with an incredible offer, head to our Listing Page to find available homes and get into contact with one of our experienced agents!  

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Realtor | realtor license

Congrats On Your Real Estate License! Now What?

By: Rachel Harclerode
December 8th, 2020

You just obtained your license in real estate; congrats! Now what? You may be asking yourself these questions: Should I go solo or join a team? Which brokerage should I partner with? What's my business plan? What's my marketing plan?   Robert Garcia, Realtor® for over 17 years and our Director of Operations, has words of advice he would like to share with you.    Some brokerages may advise you to start cold calling or door knocking to kickstart your real estate career. But these are old systems that no longer work, Robert says. So what do you do instead? Join a team.   The Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster has created systems that bypass those old-school methods that no longer work. If you are new to the real estate industry and are wondering where to go from here, take a look at these four benefits you'll get when you join the Eric Stewart Group team.   Benefit #1: We will help you craft a business plan. This plan will detail out all of the goals and activities you will need to know for your business for the upcoming years. We can create this plan to extend to 5 or 10 years if you so desire. This plan will set you up for success in your career.   Benefit #2: We will hold you accountable to your business plan. With over 100 years of combined real estate expertise, the Eric Stewart Group knows what works and what doesn't work. Our team will coach you as you begin your real estate career and will provide support every step of the way to ensure you are following your business plan and hitting your goals.   Benefit #3: We have an Internal Sales Associate (ISA) department. Our ISA department nurtures leads so that they are ready for a transaction by the time they get to you. This means that you no longer need to spend time cold calling and seeking out potential leads. Instead, you can spend more time on those who are ready to become your clients.   Benefit #4: We have an ESG-dedicated marketing department. Rather than creating your own marketing materials, you'll now have a dedicated marketing team helping you, from social posts that advertise a listing to reaching your own farm area where you would like to establish your name, and much more.   If you're ready to join an experienced and dedicated team, Robert invites you to give him a call directly on his cell phone. Call or text him at (240) 286-5526 to find out how you can kickstart your real estate career with us.    

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Selling | buying | CoronaVirus | real estate market

Is Now the Right Time to Buy or Sell?

By: Rachel Harclerode
October 23rd, 2020

Check out this interview Eric Stewart had with Rick Fowler from WMAL where he discussed what the market looks like right now, and whether it's the right time to sell or buy a home.  Eric Stewart's Interview with WMAL Rick (00:21): Thank you for joining us on this Saturday morning update. I'm Rick Fowler, we're joined by Eric Stewart. He pops in from time to time, to give us an update on the real estate market what's going on in town. And of course, Eric hosts Pointing You Home every Sunday morning, right here on WMAL. He is with the Eric Stewart Group and has decades of experience in real estate. Eric, good morning.   Eric (00:41): Hey, good morning, Rick. Thanks for having me on.   Rick (00:43): Well, you know, we've seen some interesting indicators in the economy, but what are we seeing in the real estate market in terms of how they're reacting to interest rates, COVID. What's going on out there?   Eric (00:56): Rick, what a great question. We have seen prices climb 10% this past year from August of ‘19 to August of ‘20. And even though we're now in September and going into October where we normally see prices kind of falter as we go into the fall, we're not seeing that. We're seeing a lack of inventory. We're seeing actually less homes on the market right now by 25% to 30% compared to just a year ago. And that was down from the year before, which was down from the year before, which was down from the year before. So we're in a very strong bull market.   We have not seen all of the legs of this market yet; I'm predicting. And I think if you're listening today and you've got a property, you're feeling like I just need to sell it now before the election, or I need to sell it, you know, before winter comes in. I would just tell you if you haven't gone to the market yet, sit back, give yourself five months. Don't sell your property yet. The market's going to be phenomenal next spring, I believe based upon the interest rates, which are going to stay where they are.   According to chairman Powell, he's saying we're going to keep things there for the next couple of years. This is going to keep this engine rolling. The cost of money is cheap, even though people's income–your income, my income–is not really jumping necessarily. The cost of money is cheap, which makes affordability increase, which is causing the buyers to be out looking. And we've got a lot of seniors who have decided, "I don't want to move into a retirement community. I'm going to stay where I am and live in place." Okay, good, fine. But that means a lot of the stock, the housing stock that would have been replenishing this market is not coming on the market. That's further exacerbating the demand over supply that's causing prices to climb.   And Rick, one more thing again, just do not under sell your homes. If you are thinking about selling, do not undersell your home. Please attend my webinars series coming up. Rick, if you don't mind, I'm just gonna mention this because it's great information on how to sell your home for top dollar and how to time the market, how to prepare your house, how to price your home, all of this. If you sign up at EricStewartGroup.com, right on the homepage. Just go to register and you'll see a place where you can save your seat.   We have had an excellent response to this, and a lot of our prospects that are coming in are still three or four or five years out. All good. You're 10 years away from selling, you want to get some insight into this market, come and be a part of this. It's an hour long, each one of these. And you come for any one you want; just sign up today at EricStewartGroup.com. And if you can't wait and you need some advice right now, call our toll-free number, which is 1-800-900-9104.   Rick (03:39): So you had advice in there for sellers. What do you advise a buyer right now?   Eric (03:44): Well, believe it or not, now is the time to buy. If you're a buyer, even though there's a lot of competition for buying and the market doesn't have a lot of inventory, you are risking pain more next year by not buying today. If you're buying, buy now. Look hard now. Recognize that there's going to be a little bit weaker market as we head deeper into the fall, even though it's going to be marginal this year compared to most fall markets, look for that opportunity.   And if you want, we have a guide called the Buyer Ready Guide that we've created, which we'll give out for free to any of your listeners. We'll ship it out. No postage, nothing. We'll send it out to you. Just to help you get an idea on how to approach that market. You can also download these resources EricStewartGroup.com.   We've got a webinar on selling your home for top dollar coming up this week. It's October the 6th, that's Tuesday at 1:30 in the afternoon. A week later, Tuesday the 13th at 1:30 on how to prepare the condition of your home. On the 20th, we're doing timing the market where I'll discuss how to enter the market for the best time, and I'm telling you don't sell now if you don't have to sell. Wait until February of next year, and I'll go over that on my October 20th, 1:30 Timing the Market webinar. And lastly, if you want to see pricing, well there's six factors of pricing your home. We'll discuss those. I'll answer all the questions that you have. Last time we had 50-60 questions, great questions, and I went back and forth with a group of prospects, just talking about how they can consider the whole market. That will be on the 27th. All of the webinars will have open-ended question time. You'll have a chance to request free information from us. We'll mail it out to you at no charge.   Rick (05:26): Eric Stewart, and you can find out more on the EricStewartGroup.com website. Thank you very much.   Please visit our Speaker Series page to see all of our upcoming webinar dates.  

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CoronaVirus | real estate market

2 Reasons Why the Market is Going Crazy

By: Rachel Harclerode
October 6th, 2020

Check out this interview Eric Stewart had with Barbara Britt from WMAL where he revealed two reasons why the housing market is going crazy right now. You can also find a transcription of the interview below!   Eric Stewart's Interview with WMAL   Even with folks out of work and businesses struggling, the housing market around here is going crazy. Eric Stewart, host of the Eric Stewart Real Estate Show here on WMAL, says there are two reasons for this.   One is there's this anticipation of appreciation that prices are going to continue to go higher. And people think, " I don't want to miss the opportunity."   And two, says Stewart, is historically low interest. Stewart says, "Interest rates have dropped to absolute all time lows that any of us have ever seen, including my 92 year old father. The rates are unbelievable at about two and a half percent."   The catch, says Stewart, no one knows how long it'll last.   

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CoronaVirus | DMV

Market Update from Realtor® Robert Garcia

By: Rachel Harclerode
September 15th, 2020

Hear from Realtor® and Director of Operations Robert Garcia on a few real estate market updates, including inventory levels and new standards for refinancing!     This is usually a time when Washingtonians take some time off and rest, including within the real estate market. But this year is different. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have decided to implement a new policy affecting new borrowers and refinanciers: starting September 1, if you are refinancing a house you will see an increase of 50 basis points. This means that lenders are going to start charging an additional fee. My understanding is that this is going to be a standard fee. I highly encourage you to look for different lenders and different opportunities that will cover these additional fees. We have a very tight inventory for homes not just in the DMV area but in the whole nation. The real estate market has not seen a typical ‘V’ recovery; they’re now saying it looks like a ‘K’ recovery. Be aware that if you’re looking to buy or sell a piece of real estate or become an investor, give us a call so we can help you with these market changes. Call us at 1-800-900-9104!  

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CoronaVirus | DMV

Things to Do in the DMV During the Ongoing Pandemic

By: Rachel Harclerode
September 3rd, 2020

If you’ve been able to keep track of the days, you know we’re going into the seventh month of the COVID-19 pandemic. While different states are in different phases of reopening, there’s plenty of places gradually opening back up while adhering to CDC guidelines.   We’ve found some great parks, museums, restaurants, and other places to visit in the DMV if you feel safe and comfortable returning to these activities.   Before planning your visit to any of these places, make sure you know what the current rules and restrictions are still in place for that area. DC is currently in Phase Two, while Maryland and Virginia are in Phase Three.    Visit Victura Park at the REACH. This outdoor pop-up wine garden and cafe is the perfect way to spend your Labor Day Weekend! You can enjoy wine, beer, and family-friendly snacks while maintaining a safe social distance.   Grab food from Union Market. This DC favorite is open again for pick-up and delivery, as well as some outdoor seating. You can order online for a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, and grocery stores. Check out their website to see which businesses are back open!   Visit the National Zoo. The ever-popular National Zoo is open once again for visitors. They are maintaining the highest standards for safety, including limited capacity, one-way traffic, enhanced cleaning, and social distancing.    Make sure you pass by the Cheetah Conservation Station to see the 4.5 month-old cheetah cubs! And if you aren’t quite ready to visit such a popular public space, you can keep up with the zoo’s newborn panda cub on their Giant Panda Cam!   Go for a hike at Rock Creek Park. There are over 32 miles of hiking trails open at Rock Creek Park, a beautiful oasis within DC. While there are still some closed areas within the park, all hiking trails, playgrounds, and some exercise facilities are open for your enjoyment!    See art and nature come together at the Glenstone Museum. You can enjoy the beautiful blend of art, architecture, and nature at this museum in Potomac. The Glenstone Museum has several guidelines in place–including limited capacity, group sizes of five, and staggered arrival times–so you can experience art and landscape with peace of mind.   Stroll through Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center. This center is excited to welcome back visitors to its Sculpture Path, Murray Arts Building, and Fairy Lolly Creative Play Space. Guests can feel safe while enjoying the art and nature while socially distancing.  

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CoronaVirus | buyers | real estate market

Eric Stewart's Radio Show Recap: Seniors Solutions

By: Rachel Harclerode
September 1st, 2020

Check out this brief recap of Eric Stewart's radio show that aired on August 16th on 105.9 FM WMAL! Eric discussed when it is appropriate for an agent to participate with their own commission to get a deal finished, and he speaks to Helen Flynn, Realtor® and SRES®, about the difference between staging and decluttering.   The Eric Stewart Show: Radio Recap Segment 2 On this segment, Eric answers the question: when should a real estate agent participate with their own commission in getting a contract finished? Although it is an uncommon situation, Eric describes a time he found it appropriate to use his commission to assist with a seller's contract. In this example, there were some things that had to happen during the inspection phase in order for Eric's client to move to their new home. "Sometimes people’s lives are more important than money," Eric says. He recognized his clients could go no further in this situation, and he deemed it appropriate to step in and make his clients' lives a little easier. Eric also describes an inappropriate time for an agent to participate with their own commission: when someone asks for a favor as a friend. Eric goes on to speak with Helen Flynn, a Realtor® and SRES®, about staging and decluttering. Helen suggests making decluttering a routine activity in order to make the process a little easier. We often don't realize how easily we've accumulated items over the years! We have a fantastic stager and our group provides that to you as our client. Don’t forget about our upcoming webinars, which you can find here! Eric will go more in-depth on staging, decluttering, and much more within these webinars.  

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