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Ask McEnearney: Can I Avoid Losing Thou$and$ of Dollar$?


This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Ann Duff of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Ann at 703.965.8700 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Can I avoid losing thou$and$ of dollar$?

Answer: Now, that I have your attention… it will not surprise you to know “the devil and the angels are in the details,” and you must keep your guard up during any transaction, especially in real estate.

Maybe my own experiences from just this past week can explain.

  • The lender forgot to add in buyers’ front foot MD tax fees, so the numbers were off by $1,000; we had to chase him down late on Friday night, so my sellers could remove their financing contingency for their out-of-state purchase today!
  • Digging deeply to find proof of the additional $500 security fee the tenant must cough up to a D.C. condo association and track down the mystery extra condo paperwork required meant lots of phone calls.
  • Ratified a contract with a long settlement date and had to specifically ask for my buyers’ sizable deposit to be placed in an interest-bearing account. It won’t total very much in the end, but maybe worth a celebratory night out on the town. (Remember those?)
  • Hit the books (or database) to find out when the property last sold and where, so my buyers can get a discount/reissue rate on title insurance. Sometimes this requires a trip to the city or county courthouse to check recordation dates and title company names, but it’s decidedly worth the 30% reduction. (The last sale must have been less than 10 years ago.)
  • “Moving” targets — seeded to hurry two different tenants along to get elevator and loading dock reservations nailed down to match their preferred packing/unpacking days. Stress reduction for both.
  • Accomplished two different remote settlements with far away sellers by arranging notary companies to appear, as if by magic, at their Paris hospital bedside (really!) and at their Colorado Springs retreat.

Specific suggestions:

A. Create a unique calendar for your purchase/sale/rental/tenancy and match it with a checklist. Watch those “exit ramps” and deadlines. Lean on your Realtor for guidance and keep track of your travel and commitments.

B. Get on “the list” now — whether you need a refrigerator, new carpet, painting or repairs, it’s hard to get work accomplished due to a broken supply chain or swamped resource people. COVID and those shutdowns have had layers of unexpected consequences. People are waiting months for A/C systems.

C. 1. Actually read the sales contract. Set aside a couple of hours, and pour a glass of wine, but do look at the terms, timelines and commitments involved. Written in English and scrubbed of ponderous legalese now, take time and a yellow highlighter to identify questions in your contracts and leases.

C. 2. Ask if any recent boilerplate language changes in the various jurisdictions will impact your timeline or protections — Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR), Greater Capital Association of Realtors (GCAAR), as well as Maryland Association of Realtors (MAR) and the county-specific affiliates, such as Montgomery County and Prince Georges County, all have different contract language, treatment of deadlines and enforcement! To know one contract is NOT to know all contracts, especially since the cancellation of the Regional Sales Contract which, at least, got things somewhat aligned. Get ready to really, really focus if you are selling, for instance, a Capitol Hill townhouse and buying in Arlington, or down-sizing from Potomac, Maryland, to Old Town Alexandria. Those boundaries take minutes to cross and make a world of difference!

C. 3. Actually read the mortgage paperwork and, yes, maybe get another glass of wine. Now, I cannot say that loan docs are easy to understand and often the most detailed forms appear at the settlement table — please ask questions in advance and, buyers, choose your closing company carefully. Opt for experienced staff with communication skills and strengths, plus an attorney at the closing, to walk you through the world of “escrows, default, amortization and any ‘first-time buyer’ benefits.”

D. Finally, don’t forget to ask about existing warranties, available operating manuals, hidden keys and tricks to the turning lights on. In the rush to get things accomplished, we can forget that every property has a personality and its own special funky operations, such as the upper hallway switch needs to be off to have the foyer chandelier work or the locks really should be changed since 27 people and the dog walker have keys, and, by the way, the deadbolt should never be locked because no key exists.

With settlements occurring separately more and more often these days, these details, asides and chatting go missing, plus you can miss learning about the neighborhood cat, which will appear nightly at your back door, the “interesting” neighborhood dynamics, or trash day dos and don’ts.

All said, why even get close to losing thousands of dollars (or your mind)? Promise yourself to become a temporary Detail Geek, so you can rest easily!

These thoughts and years of experience are brought to you by Ann Duff, Realtor, with McEnearney Associates. Based in Alexandria, Ann is busy day-in and day-out in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, listing, selling, and leasing distinctive properties with and for wonderful people – and all with a splash of fun! Let’s Get Busy… contact Ann at 703.965.8700 or visit her website AnnDuff.com

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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