Renting vs. Buying – What is My Best Option in the DC/Baltimore Area?

Do you live in the DC/Baltimore area and pay monthly rent? It might be time to start thinking about buying a home, depending on where you’d like to live. When weighing the option of renting vs. buying, economics is just part of the decision. If you are struggling with this choice, here is what you need to know.

Settling in the DC/Baltimore Area

If you are at all familiar with DC/Baltimore real estate, you probably know that it can be costly and competitive. It’s the same situation whether you are renting or buying. The area is popular with transplants who arrive for work and school opportunities and finding a place to live can be challenging.

Fortunately, there are tons of options. DC alone has a lot of trendy neighborhoods, such as Adams Morgan, DuPont Circle, and Georgetown. But families can find a lot of desirable choices in cities like Fairfax (VA), Bethesda (MD), Silver Spring (MD), and Hyattsville (MD), all with access to public transportation.

And let’s not forget about Baltimore. Nicknamed the “City of Neighborhoods,” Baltimore is home to hundreds of diverse districts like Hampden, Canton, Fells Point, and Federal Hill, as well as wonderful suburbs in Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel Counties (i.e. Towson, Owings Mills, Columbia, Ellicott City, Glen Burnie and Annapolis)

Renting vs. Buying – What’s the Best Choice?

Whether you want to live in a historic home, something brand new, or just get a roof over your head, choosing where and how you live is a big decision. Finances should certainly be part of the equation, but there are other considerations as well. When deciding between renting vs. buying in the DC/Baltimore area, here are some of the questions you may wish to ask yourself.

Where Do You Want to Live?

Location should be a primary factor in your rent vs. buy decision. In high-priced real estate markets like Washington D.C., renting might be the only affordable option. But, in an area like Baltimore, it’s considered a better financial choice to buy a home over renting one. In addition to comparing monthly mortgage payments vs. rents, don’t forget to consider other factors like good schools, safe neighborhoods, shopping, recreation, walkability, and proximity to public transportation.

What is Your Financial Situation?

For most people, purchasing a home involves obtaining a mortgage loan. While today’s mortgages no longer require a 20 percent down payment like those in recent years, you will need some financial resources to get to the finish line. Specifically, you’re going to have to come up with the money to cover a down payment, closing costs, and moving expenses.

Qualifying for a mortgage also requires that you have an established credit history and a steady income source. If you don’t have steady employment, you may need to stick to renting until your financial situation improves.  

How Long Do You Plan to Stay in Your Home?

As a general rule, if you plan to stay in your home for less than five years, renting is probably going to be the better option. In hot real estate markets with rapid price appreciation, that period might be a bit shorter.

But you’ll want to think of homeownership as an investment and commitment that returns value over the long term. Also, some homeownership assistance programs will require that you remain in your home for at least five years, or you will be charged a payback penalty.

What Are Your Preferences and Lifestyle?

Renting vs. buying are vastly different when it comes to responsibility and lifestyle preferences. For example, is your idea of a good time repairing a leaky faucet or replacing floors? For some people, it is. Or would you rather leave maintenance and upgrades to someone else? Do you travel frequently, where you won’t have time to lawn upkeep?

There are responsibilities with homeownership but also some benefits. As stated before, if you plan to own your home long-term, you can make upgrades that better suit your preferences and lifestyle. These might include adding a back deck or remodeling a kitchen.

But there is also a certain freedom that comes with renting. You can try out different neighborhoods until you find the one that feels like “home.” Many people find that their living preferences change over time.

Contact United Title For All of Your Title Services

If you decide that owning is the right choice for you, partnering with a title company you can trust is a vital part of the home buying process. United Title provides a wide range of residential real estate services, including purchase agreement services, escrow services, title services, and more.

To learn more about how we can smooth your home buying process in the DC/Baltimore area, reach out to our team by calling (410) 544-5441. You can also fill out the contact form on our website.

Five Marketing Ideas for 2022

The real estate market might be hot. But that doesn’t mean you still couldn’t use a tip or two that will give you an edge. After all, the availability of homes is still an issue. As a result, the competition is fierce for quality homes and clients in your area.

During these uncertain times, it’s more vital than ever that you have a winning strategy to generate strong real estate leads. If you want to maintain your competitive edge in the coming year, you might need to make a few adjustments.

Here are five real estate marketing ideas that can help your business attract new clients and produce the results you need in 2022:

  1. Focus on a Niche

You can try to be all things to all clients, but this can be a tough sell in real estate. As an agent, you’re likely to enjoy much more success if you focus on a particular niche. This helps you position yourself strategically as an expert in your chosen field, making you stand out in what is probably a crowded pool of other local agents.

Choose a niche that you are knowledgeable about as well as one you enjoy. If you love serving a particular group of clients, it will be much easier for you to create social media posts and video content that appeal to your target audience. And there are many different real estate niches to choose from:

  • First-time homebuyers
  • Relocations
  • Waterfront properties
  • Luxury real estate
  • Multi-family properties

You can also choose a niche based on a small geographical area or some other demographic of your target audience.

  1. Invest in a Solid SEO Strategy

While planning for how to remain visible online isn’t anything new, having a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy should remain one of your priorities in 2022 so that you can show up in the right places at the right time.

More and more consumers are relying on search engines for information before making major decisions, like hiring a real estate agent or buying a home. A well-thought-out SEO strategy will ensure you get the online exposure you need locally. This generally involves:

  • Having an SEO-optimized website
  • Posting helpful and engaging content
  • Getting positive online feedback
  • Being mobile-friendly
  1. Plan for Different Types of Interactions

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to be prepared. When it comes to marketing homes, who would have thought you’d be able to accomplish most of the process online?

Over the past year, many interactions have gone back to those in-person showings and closings that we’re all accustomed to. But there’s nothing saying we won’t have to pivot once again as infection rates rise or even as people’s availability changes.

The lesson is to remain flexible and ready to market your business and a client’s home in whatever way works best in the moment. That might be more social media and virtual tours over client meetings and open houses. The key is to emphasize the level of service that you offer to clients in your marketing materials and then do what is necessary under prevailing conditions to deliver that service.

  1. Offer Virtual Home Tours

Pandemic or not, more and more potential buyers do a majority of their real estate research online. The more attractive you can make your listings, the better. Of course, high-quality photos are a must. But you may also wish to consider a virtual home tour as another feature.

Virtual tours allow potential buyers to click through the home from the comfort of their digital device. They can tour the kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, and even the closets. This growing trend can help you get more in-person showings that will lead to offers and sales.

  1. Hire a Drone

People care about the neighborhood they’re thinking of buying into, so your real estate listing should give them a clear picture of the surrounding area. Instead of relying on the buyer to figure out Google Earth, a drone video of the property and its surroundings would be a dramatic add-on.

You can start with the exterior of the home and pan out to show the neighboring properties and roads. Your drone video can also show the community amenities, like a pool or clubhouse, and any nearby features, such as a school or shopping center.

Remain Flexible to Get the Best Results

While we aren’t sure exactly what the coming year will bring, it’s a given that the real estate market will continue to evolve and change. So, your real estate marketing strategy should be nimble as well.

One of the best ways to succeed in real estate is to have partners you can trust. At United Title Company, we provide clients with a wide range of residential real estate services, including purchase agreements, title, escrow services, and more. To learn more about how we can help your real estate business and its clients in the coming year, call us at (410) 544-5441 or contact us online today.

10 Time Saving Hacks for Real Estate Agents in 2022

The real estate market has been on fire for the past several years. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated. Sure, you’re probably busy and don’t have a lot of spare time on your hands. But there are always a few tricks that can help you carve some additional minutes out of an hour.

Here are ten time-saving hacks for real estate agents in 2022 that can help you maintain and grow your business:

  1. Invest in an Appointment Service

Working in real estate involves coordinating a lot of appointments. When you have to exchange emails or play phone tag to get something on your calendar, this isn’t the most efficient approach. Instead, you might want to invest in an appointment service like Showingtime that can do the work behind the scenes while you take care of business.

  1. Try Hands-Free Calling

At some point, you’ll need to make a few phone calls while you’re on the road. But did you know that distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes? If you need to look at your phone while driving, you aren’t being safe and are probably breaking the law. For convenience and safety, use hands-free calling solutions to connect with your clients and business partners.

  1. Use a Multi-Stop Route Planner

Showing homes is an integral part of your function as a realtor. On some days, you might have multiple homes on your list and need to plan out an efficient route. An excellent solution is an app called Road Warrior that allows you to enter multiple destinations in any order. You can also integrate your planned route with Waze, Google Maps, and other GPS applications.

  1. Create Facebook Lists

It’s all too easy to log onto Facebook for business purposes and then spend hours looking at cat videos, catching up with friends and family, and planning your next vacation. Facebook can be the ultimate time-waster, but there are some ways to make it less distracting.

Rather than going straight to your Facebook feed, you can create Facebook lists that include people you’d like to stay in close contact with. This can include current, potential, and past clients that you want to keep in touch with on social media.

  1. Send Audio Messages

You might have a lot of information you need to convey to a client. Maybe it’s too much to send through a text message, or the client just doesn’t “do texting.” Sure, you could call and leave a voicemail, but voicemail boxes are notoriously full. One solution that is becoming more popular is to send an audio file. You can quickly record your friendly message to the client and attach it to a text. This is simple to do with Android or iOS.

  1. Install the Discoverly Extension

Real estate agents spend a significant amount of time doing online research. Whether this is your strong suit and something you love or your nemesis, a good tool to add to your arsenal is the Discoverly extension for Google Chrome.

This extension, which is commonly used by salespeople and recruiters, allows you to uncover the social media profiles and contact information of people you’d like to learn more about or get in contact with. You can find out if you have any mutual social media friends with some, see their recent Tweets, and learn about their LinkedIn connections. If you’re trying to generate leads, this can be invaluable.

  1. Create Some Useful Content

Of course, homebuyers and sellers are going to have questions and concerns. But do you spend a portion of your time answering the same questions from new clients? You can save a lot of time by adding valuable and informative content to your website. Set up a blog and begin posting articles and videos that answer some of those common questions.

  1. Automate Social Media

Even though social media can drain your time, it’s still an excellent digital marketing channel for just about any business. You definitely want to have a professional presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. That said, you can automate some of your social media content using services like SproutSocial or HootSuite.

  1. Set Up Google Alerts

You probably do a lot of reading to keep us with the real estate industry and what is happening in your local market. Sure, you could pick up the local paper or log onto social media. But, again, those can be distractions and time-wasters.

Instead, set up some Google Alerts with targeted keywords, like “mortgage interest rates,” and choose whether you’d like those alerts instantly, daily, or weekly. You can then read the relevant news articles and blog posts to stay in the loop.

  1. Use a Time-Saving App

The internet can be a black hole. And some of us can just spend too much time chatting on the phone about stuff that isn’t going to produce results. But relationships are still important, right? So, everything in moderation.

When you can measure what you’re doing, you can optimize it. Maybe you waste too much time on Twitter or reading marketing emails. A time-saving app like Rescue Time can help you track the time you spend on various websites. It runs in the background and reports the details to you.

When you read your activity report, you can decide what is working for you and what you’d like to change.

Partner With an Experienced Title Company

While not one of the items on our list, you sure can save some time and frustration by choosing the right title company. Since 1983, United Title has been a trusted partner of realtors, lenders, buyers, sellers, and other parties to coordinate the flow of funds and documents and bring closings to a successful conclusion.

We understand the importance of honesty, integrity, and communication in the closing process. To learn more about our residential and commercial title services, call us today at (410) 544-5441 or contact us online.

Mistakes to Avoid if You Are a First-Time Home Buyer

First-time home buyers often feel overwhelmed. The following list of common first-time buyer errors can help you spot pitfalls before it’s too late. It will be beneficial to understand what you should do before purchasing a residential property to avoid common missteps.

Handling the Purchase Alone

Purchasing your first house is a big deal. It is a significant financial transaction and has deep emotional implications as well. This is the place that will protect and shelter your loved ones. Thus, it is important to protect yourself by working with a real estate lawyer, who will make sure that you steer clear of any potential missteps.

Under Maryland state law, it is not necessary for parties to hire an attorney to help them in their residential real estate deals, including with respect to the closing process. However, an experienced Maryland residential real estate attorney can be invaluable in helping to address your questions, concerns, issues, and problems, as well as identify any potential problems before or during the settlement or closing process.

Seasoned residential real estate lawyers handle countless closings and have the knowledge base that only a certain kind of volume, scope, and exposure can develop. Further, a skilled attorney will be ready and willing to undertake all legal services necessary to buy or refinance a private property, both for sellers and buyers alike. In addition, a lawyer would be aware of the competitive marketplace and the availability of alternative sources of legal help available.

Assuming You Need Minimum 20% Down Payment to Buy

A common mortgage myth is that you need to put a twenty percent down payment on a residential property to own one. In fact, most home buyers do not put down a down payment that large.

There are various mortgage programs for first-time buyers, and most of them do not necessitate a twenty percent down payment. The most common loan programs include USDA, VA, FHA, and conventional home mortgages. Notably, when you put less than twenty percent down in a conventional mortgage program, you will need to purchase private mortgage insurance, which will add to your monthly housing payment.

Failure to Undertake Due Diligence

It can be an enjoyable experience looking at homes. At times, buyers erroneously get distracted by the glitz of a specific property. The “shiny object” appears so tempting that other potentially vital elements are disregarded. Very often, these issues include external aspects that could contribute adversely towards the appeal of a property.

You are responsible for undertaking due diligence as the final purchasing decision falls on your shoulders. Due diligence includes performing adequate research about the property and the locality to make sure you do not miss any red flags. Making a list of the things to inspect is a good idea. You could review whether permits were taken out for improvements and check the sex offender registry, among other tasks before you hand over the money.

Not Accounting for the Total Cost of Purchasing a Property

Many other costs, besides the actual purchase price, are associated with buying a home. Most often, closing costs are the costs that take first-time buyers by surprise. The miscellaneous fees necessary to complete the transaction can add up to two to five percent of the total purchase price.

When purchasing a home, look into a summary of all associated costs. You do not want any surprises, particularly as a first-time homebuyer. Speak to all parties involved that may charge you fees to understand what you are facing, such as your lender, your agent, the insurance provider, and the title company.

Focusing Only on the Home

The locality where the home is situated in is arguably just as crucial as the actual property. Many first-time buyers fail to account for the area as they are so fixated on the home, which is not a good idea. There are various factors pertaining to the location that will significantly impact your experience living there, including the traffic, public transport options, crime rate, amenities, school systems, and more.

Work with Experienced Real Estate Attorneys for a Successful Home Purchase Transaction

A successful home buying transaction involves the right location, meticulous financial planning, a deep understanding of the market, and a committed support team. We at Evans Law have decades of experience and can help create a seamless process for you as a first-time buyer. Call (410) 626-6009 today to speak to an established real estate attorney.