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Avery Hess, REALTORS© Home

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Buying a home can be difficult without doing some research first. Here are the tips to get you started.

The 2022 real estate market felt like a roller coaster ride with sharp turns, rising and falling home prices, and soaring interest rates. Many home buyers were forced to put their dreams of buying a new home on hold. If you're hoping to buy a home in 2023, our real estate agents have important tips that will put you on the road to successful home ownership.

Keep a Close Eye on Your Credit

If you're planning to buy a home, your credit rating will have a big impact on your loan approval. When you apply for a mortgage loan, lenders will pull your credit report to check your credit score, payment history, and debt-to-income ratio. Late payments, outstanding loans, credit card debt, and a high debt-to-income ratio can cause mortgage lenders to deny your loan.

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The inspection gives you crucial insights into the home you're buying. Here are the questions you should ask.

If you're buying a house, a home inspection will help you uncover problems before you close the deal. Although lenders don't always require them, our real estate agents know they can detect hidden problems in a home that can cost you a lot of money down the road. Take a look at nine important questions to ask your home inspector before, during, and after the inspection.

Before the Inspection

  1. What do you charge?
    Most home inspection rates range from $300 to $600, depending on the size of the house and the going rate in the real estate market where you live. Ask the inspector about the charge in advance because payment is usually required on the day of the inspection.

  1. What do you check?
    Most home inspectors check the roof, the basement, the foundation, and the visible structure of the house, but they don't cut into walls to check for hidden problems. If they suspect electrical or plumbing problems, they will note it on their report and refer you to an electrician or plumber for further inspections.

  1. Can I join the inspection?
    The answer should be yes! Good inspectors want homeowners to join the inspection and ask questions about important systems in the house. If an inspector doesn't want you tagging along, it's best to look for a different inspector.

During the Inspection

  1. What does this mean?
    During your home inspection, the inspector will point out potential problems that may require repairs. If the inspector notes missing roof shingles, rotten floorboards, or leaks in the basement, ask about possible repairs and how much those repairs may cost.

  2. Should I be worried about this?
    Don't be afraid to ask questions if you spot potential problems. If you notice water spots on the ceiling, uneven floors, mold under the sink, or musty odors, talk to the inspector about your concerns, especially if you're looking at D.C. homes for sale that are over 50 years old.

  3. How do I maintain this?
    If you're looking at older homes, they may have inadequate electrical panels to support your lighting, electronics, and new appliances. Instead of central air and heat, you may find a boiler system in the basement. Ask your inspector about necessary maintenance and the costs of upgrades.

  4. Where are the electrical box and water shut-off valves?
    Many homebuyers have no idea where the electrical box and water shut-off valves are located until they have an emergency and need to find them. Ask your home inspector to point them out, so you're prepared in advance for an unexpected electrical outage or broken pipe under the house.

After the Inspection

  1. What are your biggest concerns?
    At the end of the inspection, your inspector will give you a summary of his results and forward a written report within a few days. This is a good time to address your concerns and ask the inspector about his major concerns. Make a punch list of flagged problems, so you can follow up on the costs of potential repairs and talk to your real estate agent about contingencies.

  2. Should I call other professionals?
    If your home inspector is concerned about specific problems like a damaged roof, electrical wiring, poor insulation, water leaks, rotten flooring or siding, or termites, you should follow up with a roofer, an electrician, a plumber, and a termite company. The home inspector can only note the problems but can't tell you how extensive they are or how much repairs will cost.

If you're considering a move to D.C., contact us about neighborhoods, homes, and prices that fit your family's lifestyle.


Before you settle into your new home, make sure you don't put off these important projects.

So you've just finished shopping for D.C. homes for sale, congratulations! Now it's time to begin making that new home your own. There are some maintenance tasks that you'll want to take care of quickly in order to make the transition to your new home as smooth and stress-free as possible. Our real estate agents have all the details on common home maintenance tasks for first-time buyers and the tools that you'll need for the job.

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Homes come in all different ages, and that can affect which you might want to buy. Here's how to choose what's right for you.

While some people are drawn to the charm and character of older homes, others prefer newer homes with more upgrades and amenities. If you're shopping for a new home, our real estate agents recommend looking at both old and new houses before you make a decision to invest.

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Moving into a new home is exciting, but you don't want to move too quickly. Here's what you should do first.

For most home buyers, moving into a new home is an exciting venture, but it can also be stressful when you're not prepared. To make your move easier,  our real estate agents suggest making an action plan that will help you avoid stress and costly mistakes.

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If you're prepping to buy a house, you'll need to set aside some cash. Here's how you can determine how much you'll need.

Buying a house starts with smart financial planning, and when you're in the market for a home, it's never too early to start saving. How much should you save, and what costs exactly will that money be going toward? While the exact details depend on the type of home and market, there are plenty of general guidelines you can use to come up with a plan. Our real estate agents have the details on how much you'll need when saving up for a house.

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Buying your first house is a major stepping stone in your life. Here's what you need to make your home buying dream come true.

There's nothing like the feeling of walking into your own home for the first time after closing the deal, but there are many steps to take care of between now and the big day. If you're buying a home for the first time, it's important to be prepared before you start shopping for D.C. homes for sale and making offers. Our real estate agents have the key details on what you'll need to buy your first home.

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First Home TipsBuying a house can always be an intimidating process, but buying your first house is truly nerve-wracking. But it's also fun and exciting, and our REALTORS® are here to get you through the hard parts so you can enjoy becoming a homeowner for the first time. Here's how you can get ready to buy your first home. 

  1. Save for That Down Payment
    The more you are able to save up for a down payment, the more likely you are to secure a mortgage with a good interest rate. For most homebuyers, the magic number for a down payment is 20% of the home's cost, but there are other options. Programs are available for first-time homebuyers to put down as little as 5%, but it's still in your best interest to start saving early and save as much as you can to put down a significant down payment. 
  2. Keep an Eye on Your Credit
    A credit score is just one factor that lenders will look at while deciding whether to offer you a mortgage, but it's a significant one. Credit score can impact whether you're approved for a home loan, and will likely affect the terms and interest rate. Obtain a copy of your credit report, dispute any errors, and take any steps you can to improve your credit. These include:
  • Pay off your debts
  • Make monthly credit card payments on time
  • Pay more than the monthly minimum on credit card bills
  • Avoid opening new lines of credit
  • Don't close inactive accounts
  1. Figure Out How Much House You Can Afford
    Before you even start looking at houses, you need to know your price range. Take a hard look at your budget, and remember to make room for other things. As a general rule, your total monthly housing cost (including HOA fees, taxes, insurance, and so on) should be no more than 25% of your take-home pay. 
  2. Get Pre-Approved for a Loan
    Once you've saved for your down payment and figured out a ballpark idea of your budget, you can start shopping around for a mortgage. But it's important to get pre-approved first and to do so before you really start looking at homes. Your pre-approval letter will give you a more concrete idea of what a lender will be willing to offer, and also shows sellers that you're serious about buying. The pre-approval process involves having a lender verify your financial information; you will need to supply documentation as proof of income, taxes, etc. 
  3. Remember to Budget for Closing Costs
    Closing costs often fall to the buyer, and it's easy to forget about these in your financial planning. What makes up these costs varies from house to house, but they typically include an appraisal, home inspection, credit report, attorney fees, and homeowner's insurance. Closing costs usually add up to between 3% and 5% of the home's total cost.

Our team has years of experience connecting first-time homebuyers with D.C. homes for sale, and we're committed to helping you through the entire process. Contact us today to learn more about finding your dream home in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas. 


2020 VA Loan Guide

One of the top benefits for service members, certain military spouses, and honorably discharged veterans is the VA home loan program. A VA home loan makes it possible for eligible individuals to buy a home with no downpayment; the terms of VA loans are favorable and help keep homeownership affordable for service members and veterans.

However, some changes are coming to the VA loan program in 2020, thanks to the passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. Before you start browsing Alexandria homes for sale, take a few moments to understand the changes coming to the VA loan program and how they'll impact your ability to buy a home.

Loan Limits are Removed 

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act expands the availability of disability benefits to include more Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. While this part of the bill doesn't seem like it would impact homeowners, it's the driving force behind one of the most important changes to the VA loan program: the removal of VA loan limits.

As of December 2019, VA loans are capped at $484,350 in most areas. After January 1, 2020, this limit will be eliminated. This will make it easier for veterans and service members to purchase more expensive homes or purchase property in cities with a high cost of living. It's still possible for your lender to deny a large home loan, and you'll need to satisfy the lender's criteria, but loan denial for larger mortgages won't be due to VA loan limits. Our real estate agents can help you find a home that works for your family and adheres to your homebuying budget. 

Allowing veterans and service members to take out larger mortgages makes it possible for the VA to raise more money from fees related to VA home loans to pay for the expansion in disability benefits.

The Funding Fee for a VA Loan is Going Up

Currently, veterans and service members must pay a one-time funding fee for their mortgage that's equal to 2.15 percent of the loan amount for first-time loan users and 3.3 percent for individuals taking out a subsequent VA loan. These funding fees will be increasing in 2020. The funding fee for first-time VA loan users is increasing to 2.3 percent, and the funding fee for taking out subsequent VA loans will be 3.6 percent.

The VA loan program also permits borrowers to roll the cost of this fee into their mortgage.

Take a moment to understand how these increases will impact your loan fees. Assume you're a first-time borrower taking out a VA loan for $300,000. When paying a 2.15 percent loan fee, this results in a funding fee of $6,450. Once the fee increases to 2.3 percent, your funding fee will increase to $6,900. 

If you're on your subsequent VA loan, the funding fee currently results in a fee of $9,900. After the fee increases to 3.6 percent, your fee will be $10,800. As you can see, the increase in fee percentages raises the funding fees by less than $1,000 in both of these scenarios.

Ready to take advantage of the removal of VA loan limits? Contact us today to start searching for your new home. 


Home Inspection Next Steps

You are one step closer to owning a home once the home inspection report is in hand. This vital document is filled with a summary of details attesting to the condition of the property. Our REALTORS® can help you examine the report and determine what steps are required to make a deal come together.

Know When to Walk Away

As the Kenny Rogers song goes, sometimes you need to know when to walk away...and when to run. When a home inspection report indicates major problems with the foundation, pollution on the property, a severely damaged roof, it is advisable to walk away. These problems are expensive and difficult to remediate. It is often not to your advantage to try and tackle them. There are exceptions, but as a general rule, it is best to walk away from a property with extensive deficiencies. 

Negotiate Repairs

Almost every home inspection report will come back with at least a few minor deficiencies. When the report indicates minor problems, it is usually something that can be negotiated with the seller. Your first option is to request the seller fix these problems as part of the deal. You will want to start your list of things you want fixed beginning with the most important items. However, you should be aware that most sellers won't want to go through the hassle of hiring contractors to perform repairs.

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