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What's Up Magazine

Real Estate Perspectives

Aug 07, 2014 09:00AM ● By Cate Reynolds

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by James Houck

Whether you’re on the hunt to purchase a property, considering selling your own, or staying put for now, keeping your finger on the pulse of the local real estate market is both worthwhile and fun. But don’t just take our word for it; take cue from many local real estate professionals who took their time to answer our questions about memorable transactions, desirable home amenities, market variables, and much more. What you’ll read could be as much fun as house hunting itself, with many of our contributors offering varying perspectives based on what they are actually seeing occur in our hometowns. Their experiences are shared. The overall result is a well-rounded capsule of today’s market on both Western and Eastern Shores.

The Realtors who contributed their experiences and expertise include: Creig Northrop, David McCollough, Debra White, Amanda Marks, and Marilyn Rhodovi of The Creig Northrop Team of Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc.; Chuck Mangold, Jr., Janet Larson, Barbara Watkins, and Tom Crouse of Benson and Mangold Real Estate; Cornelia C. Heckenbach of LACAZE Meredith Real Estate; Dick Sells of The Champion Sells Team of Champion Realty, Inc.; Renee Reiser of Church Circle Title & Escrow, LLC; Jennifer Chaney of Chaney Homes, LLC; Diana Klein of Lawyers Realty, LLC; Joyce C. Wallace of Ashley Premier Properties; Helene Kelbaugh of Keller Williams Realty Baltimore; Brad Kappel of The “Mr. Waterfront” Team of Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.; Janice Hassell of PenFed Realty of Prudential; Michael Rosendale of Rosendale Realty; Gwen Eskridge, President of Mid Shore Board of Realtors, of Coldwell Banker; and Mary Ann Elliott of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

What is your opinion of today’s market?

Creig Northrop of The Creig Northrop Team of Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc.: Today’s market is fantastic. Every week I tell my team “this is the best week in Real Estate.” And, it always is. I would say it is the prime time to buy or sell. So take advantage of it.

Diana Klein of Lawyers Realty, LLC: Maryland foreclosure activity posted the nation’s second highest foreclosure rate for the month of May. One in every 621 housing units had a foreclosure filing. Based on the foregoing, the Maryland real estate market caters to investors, buyers, and renters with a wide variety of price points and property points. Once the foreclosures and defaults slow down, the market will even itself out.

Debra White of The Creig Northrop Team of Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc.: It’s fantastic! Now is the time to prepare your home for the market if you are considering selling! We have a strong market in the Mid-Atlantic region with a large influx of relocations that stays remarkably constant. The resale inventory is hot as well as new construction. In all counties, the market is proven to be exceptionally good.

Chuck Mangold, Jr. of Benson and Mangold Real Estate: Our local real estate market, like all others, has had a protracted, and substantial correction. We feel, based on activity levels, that we have seen the bottom. Most markets around us—i.e. D.C., Northern VA, Delaware Beaches—have already seen clear moves upward in pricing that we have not seen yet. We think this demonstrates that this is the time to buy waterfront or any other residential property here in Talbot County.

Jennifer Chaney of Chaney Homes, LLC: In 11 years in this business, I have never had a year so busy. Buyers are poised to leap upon the homes which formidably combine showing well and being priced right. First-time buyers and high-end markets seem to be on fire. Buyer confidence is restored, reflective in overall supply and demand.

Janice Hassell of PenFed Realty of Prudential: Now is a great time to buy and sell a home. For buyers, interest rates are still low and there are loan programs offering closing cost assistance, which makes homeownership more accessible for many first time homebuyers and move up buyers. There is a good selection of homes on the market and we are seeing more and more new construction every day. For Sellers, property values are increasing in some markets and many sellers are receiving multiple offers on their properties.

In our historic region, what’s the oldest home you have ever sold or purchased?

Chaney: Kidwell Avenue in Centreville. Built in the late 1800s, the home boasted character and charm, and had been lovingly maintained by generations. It was a fast sale to a very young buyer, who will love her for years.

Michael Rosendale of Rosendale Realty: “Scillen” at Love Point on Kent Island. Year built, 1800. The original tract of land was conveyed to a Thomas Bradox in 1650. It went through several prominent Kent Island families over the years. In the late 1990s, an executive from Microsoft contacted me. He stated his ancestors used to own a small farm I had listed on the Chester River and he would like to purchase it. This property had been part of a much larger farm that included extensive frontage on the Chesapeake Bay along with the Chester River frontage. The Chesapeake Bay part of the farm included some outbuildings and barns and a beautiful historic brick colonial home that carried the name “Scillen.” We arranged for him to fly in from Seattle to inspect the property and he proceeded to purchase it. It was during this time he stated he would be very interested in acquiring as much as of the original farm as possible, but it was mainly Scillen he wanted. Over the next few years as things changed, the owner told me he would entertain an offer on Scillen, but he really hated to leave because his family also had a rich history in the area. We ended up working it out so the farm property on the Chester River was exchanged for Scillen and 52 acres along with some cash. I found it interesting and satisfying that I was able to bring two families that had owned the same property so many years apart together in such a transaction that made everyone happy.

White: The house was located in Finksburg and it was built in 1844. The home was 171 years old. A fabulous stone farmhouse sited in a recent development and adorned by picturesque grounds. Fantastic history was obtained from the sellers and my all-time favorite; a restored and functioning Spring House.

Northrop: The oldest home I have ever sold is the Belmont Estate. It was built in 1732, is the oldest structure in Howard County, and is listed on the U.S. National Register of historic places. I was able to sell the property for 4.8 million dollars because of my strategy, which was to sell it to a college. Since the property had been previously used for hospitality, and was important to the county, I needed to find a buyer who would respect its history. Howard Community College bought the property and uses it for hospitality and culinary arts classes. This was a perfect case of finding just the right buyer for the property.

What’s special about selling/buying a historic property?

Amanda Marks of The Creig Northrop Team of Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc.: Buying a historic property is exciting because of the unique story that the property has to tell. For example, there may be a family graveyard with names to research, artifacts discovered during excavation, historic buildings, and a house that has been picked up and moved. Stories are discovered and passed down through generations and the memories that are born there become part of the property history.

Barbara Watkins of Benson and Mangold Real Estate: The charm, history, and architecture. The Eastern Shore is loaded with history and is the basis for many architectural designs, even used today.

Cornelia C. Heckenbach of LACAZE Meredith Real Estate: It takes a special person that appreciates the history and accepts the shortcomings of a historic property not being perfect…it’s a labor of love and one always has to maintain it, certainly more than with a new home.

Dick Sells of The Champion Sells Team of Champion Realty, Inc.: We have explored 40–50 historic properties with clients over the last 10 years. What we see as a major difference in working with historic properties is the gathering and communication of the special conditions, risks, and opportunities that buyers need to know about to make rational decisions. A buyer who has the interest, financial capacity, and patience, and is well informed about such properties, can make an important contribution to preserving our historic homes for themselves and for the future.

Real Estate in the Chesapeake Region

This chart represents real estate values based on a number of market variables for select communities (based on zip codes) within our six counties of coverage, including Anne Arundel, Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot.

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What is the most unique property you have negotiated?

Joyce C. Wallace of Ashley Premier Properties: “Shipyard Point” in Easton, on the Tred Avon River. This property was actually a shipyard at one time.

White: Honestly, every property is unique. But, I would have to say a newly constructed residence that was built on or near a battleground that was full of superb amenities along with the neighboring stories and tales of ghostly sightings.

Marilyn Rhodovi of The Creig Northrop Team of Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc.: The most unique property that I have sold was built before the Revolutionary War. It was added on to about the time of the Civil War, then was owned by a sea captain who built a wraparound porch so he could see the river. Today there is no river to see as growth has changed the landscape, but the wraparound porch is still there. Another addition was built in the 1950s. The original house, and each addition, retained the specific character of the time it was built.

Farms and chickens and goats. . . oh my. In this day and age of organic everything, are prospective buyers interested in finding properties which allow for the unusual?

David McCollough of The Creig Northrop Team of Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc.: Yes, however they find that local restrictions or HOAs limit their use. Private property rights are limited.

Marks: Some buyers are looking to “live off the farm” (at least partly) and are looking for a property that lends itself to that lifestyle. These buyers may be looking for an existing barnyard, silos, polytunnels, or orchards. As the reputation and popularity of Maryland wine increases, demand has exceeded the supply of native grapes. Buyers are looking for working vineyards and winery properties as well as land with potential for growing grapes.

White: Oh yes indeed. Green is here to stay. Organic gardens are of great importance to many searching for a place to call home. Many people are interested in finding a property that accommodates their passion to garden and live a more simplified lifestyle. I am definitely coming across more buyers who make this a top priority on their list of “must haves.”

Northrop: Yes, for example Burleigh Manor Mansion. I sold this property to a couple who wanted the convenience of being in a suburban area while also being able to have a farm. Burleigh Manor is a historic estate with pastures and acreage in the middle of a neighborhood. The buyer ended up creating the Burleigh Manor Animal Sanctuary and Eco Retreat with the property.

Sells: We work on the Eastern Shore. The unusual is usual. We have a “Right To Farm” Addendum in our contracts and many buyers start their Eastern Shore search by inquiring about rural setting with acreage for horses, large gardens, and open space. Many decide that such properties are more work than they are willing to take on, but the few who proceed usually find their peaceful rural dream come true.

What are some of the most desired/sought after amenities and characteristics your buyers are requesting?

Chaney: Home office space, community amenities with pools/playground/gym—proximity to work and play. Master suites with walk-in closets and spa-like en suite baths are in demand.

Wallace: Energy efficiency seems to be a top priority for all levels of buyers.

McCollough: Outdoor livability tops the list today. Hardscapes, landscapes, views, and privacy are coveted amenities.

Tom Crouse of Benson and Mangold Real Estate: The profile of clients has changed. Fifteen years ago, clients were in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. Eighty–ninety percent of buyers today are 30-, 40-, 50-years-old. They want: a waterfront home; use it as a second home, may retire to it later; four bedrooms; swimming pool or land for a pool; be near St. Michaels.

Helene Kelbaugh of Keller Williams Realty Baltimore: Master ensuites, finished basements, and gourmet kitchens.

Rhodovi: The most sought after internal amenities and characteristics being looked for today are open floor plans, updated kitchens and baths, open spaces that have multiple uses, and walk out finished basements. External amenities seem to be maintenance free building, stone facades, and back yard hardscapes.

Watkins: Most waterfront buyers today want big, expansive views, good water depth, and a house in good, updated condition.

Brad Kappel of The “Mr. Waterfront” Team of Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.: Expansive water views, waterfront pools, private beaches, deep water private piers, and waterfront in the historic district.

Janet Larson of Benson and Mangold Real Estate: In working with waterfront clients I would say the top two considerations are water depth and exposure/views, followed closely by improvements that fit their lifestyle. Water depth off a dock determines the type of boat a prospective owner can keep. With views some buyers, for example, prefer a southerly exposure; they may like broad vistas while others are attracted to more protected creek or river scenes.

How much control do home buyers and sellers have in determining what company handles a properties titling and settlement?

Renee Reiser of Church Circle Title & Escrow, LLC: A homebuyer has the right to choose the company that will handle settlement, which includes preparation of the deed conveying title.  It is important to have, on site, a real estate lawyer who can answer your questions and solve any legal or title issues that may arise. 

What is your advice to both buyers and sellers to ensure the swiftest and smoothest settlement day?

Reiser: Communication is the key to a smooth settlement. The best advice I can offer is for the buyers to communicate with the agents, loan officers, and title company. There are many moving parts in the purchase of a home. When everyone is informed and on the same page the result is a smooth and painless transaction.

Has the process of financing a home in today’s market become more accessible to more buyers? And what is your recommended means of financing?

Gwen Eskridge, President of Mid Shore Borad or Realtors, of Coldwell Banker: Today there is 100 percent financing available for first-time buyers and regular home buyers through USDA loans. Qualifications have loosened. Local banks and mortgage banks have funds available. With interest rates low this is the time to take action.

Northrop: The process of financing a home in today’s market has definitely become more accessible to more buyers. Due to a wide variety of loan products available, it is easy to find a product that works best for each individual financial situation. Conventional FHA, and VA mortgages tend to be most popular in our area.

Heckenbach: It is more difficult, but we are lucky to have good local mortgage brokers, as well as small local banks that will think outside the box.

Sells: Options are opening up. We have worked with many first-time homebuyers and folks recovering from foreclosure or bankruptcy in the past 4–5 years. With reasonable credit recovery/scores, first time and prior home owners are being assisted by lenders to get into homeownership. FHA 203K and Conventional Home Style loans are helpful with clients willing to take on renovation projects. USDA Rural Development Loans are critical resources to first time homebuyers or buyers who have reasonable credit records but lack cash for down payments.

Mary Ann Elliott of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage: Compared to the days immediately following the financial crisis, accessibly to financing is excellent. However, the process of financing or obtaining a mortgage has never been more difficult and intrusive. It is very important that a buyer work with a local, experienced representative and have their paperwork submitted prior to making an offer. Banks and mortgage companies have money and are eager to lend to those who qualify. 

What raises the value of a home more. . . a new master bathroom, a three-car garage, or an in-ground pool?

Wallace: Most likely, a new “master bath” but for another group it could be the garage.

McCollough: Living area size always trumps other features, which are specific to buyer needs.

Northrop: Definitely, a master bathroom raises the value more than the other mentioned items. The kitchen still seems to be the heart of the home. A great kitchen is always an added value. If you are selling a home, staging and de-cluttering will help you sell faster and at a higher price-point with no added cost.

Tell us about your very first sale or purchase as a Realtor.

Wallace: Actually, in 1987 I personally sat in the living room of a client’s home and read the entire contract word-for-word to them. Thank God, it was not the 35 pages it is today.

McCollough: My first sale was a little cottage nestled next to a babbling brook. It was my first “lifestyle sale.”

Kelbaugh: My first client was a lady who worked at my husband’s job. I didn’t have everything ready, but she trusted and wanted to work with me.

White: That’s going back awhile, although I cannot remember my first transaction, I do recall an early purchase where I represented a family member. Yikes, it was so exhausting! I distinctly remember it was the perfect home, perfect price, and with more features than ever expected. I was so thrilled for them. Afterwards I quickly realized how hard it can be to represent someone close to you. As of today, they still reside there.

Northrop: When I first started working as a realtor, I spent my days inside a trailer in a high-end neighborhood selling lots. It wasn’t quite as exciting as some of the properties I sell today but, I gained a lot of knowledge about land and new construction that is still valuable today.

Kappel: I work exclusively with waterfront buyers. My first year in real estate, I sold a $3 million home and realized this is a great place to sell real estate.

Heckenbach: My first sale in the U.S. was a property in St Michaels, I think in 1993. I had sold property overseas already many years prior, mostly investment properties in the town of Munich, Germany.

Larson: My first settlement as a Realtor was for buyer clients in Easton’s downtown historic district. They were looking for a property that would comfortably house themselves, their two children, and an aging mother. They settled on a small home on one of our favorite and most popular streets, South Hanson. It’s a wonderful location and they made a terrific investment. The amenities of Easton make homes in our historic district some of the easiest to sell—I’m a believer and live here myself.