The Scoop on DC Living
June 2016
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DC, Maryland, Virginia


Maximizing Return on Investment

I am asked by so many people "What improvements should I make to help my home sell at its highest possible price?" To this, there is no simple answer. However, measuring the sale of comparable properties is a good start. Knowing the condition and selling points of the competition will ensure that we don't make the mistake of over doing it - spending so much on improving the home that it becomes the most expensive home on the block (or neighborhood) in order for the seller to break even.

I always say, start with the most important stuff:
1) be sure all utilities are serviced, up-to-date and in great working order;
2) eliminate any condition items that will diminish the home's first impression - address all deferred maintenance.

Once the home is in terrific condition, focus a set budget on cosmetics that sell:
1) fresh new paint (medium gray is selling virtually every property on the market right now);
2) refinish floors - even 100 year old wood floors can gleam like new;
3) update the kitchen - stainless appliances and granite (or quartz, Silestone, etc.) are attention grabbers;
4) update bathrooms - re-porcelain tubs and tiles, replace old vanities with new; and
5) stage your home - for under $3,000, you can have your home professionally staged to look like a show piece. Swapping out old furniture makes an enormous difference.

Sometimes a wisely-spent $20,000 can improve the end sold price by $60,000 to $80,000.

CurbedDC published a recent success story featuring a home that was completely renovated between its initial offer for sale and a successful sale, which resulted in doubling the end sold price. read here

Not everyone can afford a complete renovation. In fact, most of us cannot. But some investment on key items will ensure the first impression of your home gets the job done to the satisfaction of seller and buyer.

If information is power, my mission is to help create the most powerful consumers of real estate on the market!

- Brett
News & Trends

The Importance of Renter's Insurance
- Bill Barker, Liberty Mutual Insurance


When buying a home, we all know that it's the unknown that can come back to bite you.  Whether an unforeseen defect in the home, or a title issue, there's all kinds of things to worry about.  This is especially true of buying an investment property.

Recently I had a claim that illustrates this point rather succinctly.  I have a client with a rental property, and their tenant thought it would be a good idea to run a fish farm (no lie, they had fifty large fish tanks to breed exotic fish) out of the basement of the home.  They used the standard rental contract, which, forbids fish tanks over a certain size, and includes a clause requiring renters insurance for the tenants.

The problem was as follows: we insured the home, but, unfortunately, mold is an excluded loss.  Mold is only covered in specific instances, where a covered cause of loss occurs first (like water from a fire hose, or a pipe bursting) and even then there are certain limitations.  And the coverage for mold varies widely by jurisdiction.  So I have a client looking at a $30,000 repair bill.

The contract required the tenant to have renters insurance, but the client never verified it.  If the tenant had renters insurance, my client would probably have been able to collect for the mold damage on the renter's policy, due to the tenant's negligence.  This is exactly why the real estate contract requires renter's insurance; so the landlord can collect from an insurance company in the instance of a tenant's negligence.  In this instance the client came to me with the rental contract in place, and I had mentioned that they should verify that the renter had insurance.

I've seen landlords collect from a tenant frying chicken (they forgot that the pot of oil was still on the stove and went back to the grocery store to buy french fries), tenants hanging pictures and putting a nail through a water pipe, tenants letting a bathtub overflow on the third floor of a townhome (gravity is not always a good thing), and many other wild one-off situations.

Here's what they could have done.  On a renter's policy, a landlord can required to be named as an "additional interest".  As an additional interest, the insurance company is then legally bound to give notice to the landlord if there is a lapse of coverage, which would immediately alert them of a serious breach of contract.  I typically advise landlords to require proof of insurance, with them named as an additional interest, before they turn over possession of the home.

A $100 renter's policy could have saved these people $30 grand.

When you buy a house, you pick the best negotiator to represent you as your realtor, the most experienced loan officer, and, if you're smart, as much title insurance as they'll sell you. 

Insurance is something that people often purchase over a 1-800 number, and select solely based upon price.  An experienced local agent is usually able to offer a comparable (if not better) price, and can provide a wealth of experience and knowledge to bring certainty to the unknown.

I'm Bill Barker, and I'm an insurance agent with Liberty Mutual.  My entire career has been with Liberty, and I spent years as an adjuster on Liberty's Large Loss Homeowner's Insurance team.  I've handled approximately 100 fire claims, testified in a murder trial as a result of my work in claims, and seen a lot of crazy things in my day.  This helps me provide real-world advice, and a working knowledge of the world of insurance.  I also hold the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter designation, the equivalent of a Masters Certificate in property and casualty insurance.

If you would like me to review your insurance, I can be reached at or by phone at 703-385-4444 ext. 50890.
#UrbanCastles on the Market

As of June 7, 2016, the Washington Metro Area boasts  27,929  housing units active on the market,  1,387 of which are located in DC, itself. This excludes FSBOs (For Sale By Owner) and  pocket listings . Here's a look at inventory by price range throughout the hot 20011 DC zip code, which includes 16th Street Heights, Brightwood, Crestwood, Petworth and the northern reaches of Columbia Heights, where there are currently 197 active listings:



$0 to $350k

(14 total units available)


$350k to $500k

(19 units available)


$500k to $800k

(64 units available)



(12 units available)


Not finding exactly what you're looking for in the selection of inventory in DC? Feel free to check out plenty of inventory throughout the DC Metro Area, or drop me a line to schedule a time to talk with you about your goals.

202.744.0576 mobile 


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