All posts by Roland Low

Roland Low

Home Buyer, Meet REALTOR® – REALTOR®, Meet Home Buyer

Home Buyer, Meet REALTOR® – REALTOR®, Meet Home Buyer

 Buying real estate is a major financial decision.  Whether it’s’ your first home, or your tenth it is important that you are comfortable with the guidance you are receiving from your real estate agent.  A recent survey that was conducted of home buyers revealed five different areas that buyers wanted to know about, but quite often did not discuss with the agent.

Here are the five areas that  identified as something they wanted to know, but were afraid to ask.

The first issue was that of real estate agent fees. First-time homebuyers, may be unsure of how the buyer’s agent gets paid.  Often times they are reluctant to make the first step in buying a home for fear of having to pay the commission, and they are uncomfortable approaching the agent or setting up an initial meeting.

Let me comment about how commission is paid, and how it is split.  Lets’ assume that you are the buyer and you are looking at a house with a list price of $500,000.  And let us further assume that the commission is 6.0%, which results in a commission of $30,000.  That commission is paid by the seller at closing, not the buyer.

That may sound like a lot of money, and it is; but let me show you what happens to that $30,000.  Generally, the commission is split between the sellers’ broker and the buyers’ broker, often times 50/50.  So, $15,000 would go to each side of the transaction.  Of the $15,000 that goes to the buyers’ broker, a percentage goes to the actual brokerage company, and the remaining amout goes to the buyers’ agent.  For simplicity, let’s assume that the broker and the agent split it 50/50.  That means that the agent now gets $7,500 of the $30,000.

The buyers’ agent who gets the $7,500 has several expenses that comes out of that money.  Most brokerages charge an advertising fee of a certain percent – lets’ say 5.0%.  That amount is now down to $7,125.  At that point the agent has a lot of expenses: state license fees, REALTOR® fees, Errors and Omission insurance; continuing education fees, car expenses; advertising, office expenses and on and on which all gets paid by the agent from the commission.  The same goes for the sellers agent.  The percentages and fees will vary depending on the brokerage and many other factors, but I think you get the idea.

Clients should feel comfortable asking about the commission; however, it is important to understand that the commission is generally the responsibility of the sellers side.

The second issue, and one that I think is critically important, is that of communication.  The number one complaint that clients have with their agent, for both the selling and buying side, is that of communication.  Whether it is not enough, too much, phone calls when they wanted text messages, text messages when they wanted emails, emails when they wanted phone calls, and any other combination you can imagine.

The number one complaint the agents have with their clients, for both selling and buying side, is again communication.  Whether it is not enough, too much, phone calls when they wanted text messages, text messages when they wanted emails, emails when they wanted phone calls, and any other combination you can imagine.  You get the idea; communication is critically important.

And let us not forget that one client may want communication one way and the significant other may want it another.  It is very important to have the discussion up front so everyone is clear on the matter.

The first client I ever had was a lesson for me.  I would send them an email (which is what they both wanted) of homes that I thought they would be interested in.  My productive time is early morning hours.  The next morning I would receive a reply from them that they sent about 1:00 AM.  This went on for several days – I sent out emails early in the morning, and they responded in the wee hours of the following day – until we forged a list of homes they wanted to see.  They bought a house the next week.  Talk about communication -or should I say “Communicate about how you want to communicate.”


The third issue is one that goes hand-in-hand with communication and that is expectations. I recently had a client that was a sure-fired sale.  But they never seemed to react to anything I sent them.  They were actively searching on my website, but never wanted to see anything.  I was very discouraged until I learned that the husband was going to be reassigned in the area, and they were waiting until he found the area he would be covering before they committed to a house.  Clearly my expectations did not match theirs!

Whether you are a buyer or seller, the agent and you should discuss your expectations.  If you as the buyer or seller need to make a move by a specific date, tell the agent.  If you are in no hurry, tell the agent.  Otherwise, the agent may take your slow response and disinterested.

The fourth issue is that of experience.  This is one issue that I may disagree with many real estate agents.  The idea of experience often times equates to years of selling real estate.  Experience is a great asset, don’t get me wrong.  But if those years of experience have resulted in doing things the same way all those years, I doubt that you will be getting the best agent.  By the same token, I have seen new agents who are educated in real estate and have a firm commitment to working in the best interest of the clients.  If you are considering me as your REALTOR®, I will undoubtedly tout my “years of experience.”  But do not discount a new agent.  Remember, they have a wealth of expertise with the brokerage company from which they can rely.

The fifth issue is important and quite often goes unnoticed, and that is the relationship between clients and REALTORS®. I mentioned before, having an agent that represents you is critically important.  Home buyers, especially first-time homebuyers should feel comfortable with the guidance they receive from the REALTOR®.  For everything to a home inspector, deciding how much earnest money they should put down.  A good REALTOR® should emphasize that they will work with the buyers to closing and beyond.  I have always requested a copy of any home inspection that is done on behalf of my buyers.  More than once I have been contacted by the buyers six months later asking if I had a copy because they wanted to follow up on some minor repairs.

If you are thinking of buying or selling, talk to a real estate professional – talk to a REALTOR® – who can give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

As always, if I can help with any of your real estate needs, please feel free to text or call me at 301-712=8808 or email me at






Homework for Home Buyers’ and Sellers’

Homework for Home Buyers’ and Sellers’


Before starting the home buying or selling process, it is important that people take some time to develop a game plan on making it happen.  All too often, home buyers jump into the process and then let their emotions take over.  But this is a serious financial decision and it is important to take thoughtful steps to buy a home.  That being said, it is equally important to not suffer from “paralysis by analysis.”  That’s were a good REALTOR® can work with you.

If you ask any real estate agent their approach to a client will be “pick me, pick me”.  I am as guilty as the next agent, but it is important to understand how critically important it is to have the right agent.

First of all, understand that not all agents are the same.  If you talk to 100 agents, you will undoubtedly get agents who are all over the board in their experience, expertise, professionalism, communication, etc.  Here is where a couple of red flags come to light.  For example: Agents who pay a fee to Zillow will automatically be listed as a “premier agent” whether they have ever sold anything or not.  For $249 a licensed agent can be listed as one of the top ten real estate agents in any given state; again, whether they have sold anything or not.

Here is what I suggest when you are looking for an agent, whether it is selling your home, or buying a home; whether it is your first experience or your tenth in buying or selling.  The agent should be willing to spend some time with you on the front-end to discuss the particulars of what you are looking to accomplish.  A home seller who is looking to sell their home very quickly would be ill-advised to list at the high end.  It is also important to have a clear picture of what each client wants.  For a married couple, they are quite often on opposite ends of what they are looking for.  Communication between the clients and the agent is critical.  I have had clients who the wife wanted a phone call and the husband wanted a text message.  I can only find that out by asking.

The second area for buyers and sellers is to understand it really matters who represents your interests.  If you have a representative contract with an agent, that agent works for you and should, in all instances, look out for your best interest.  If you as a buyer are using the listing agent as an agent, you need to understand that the listing agent is working for the seller – not you.

Some agents stop working as soon as they get an offer and sit back and wait for the closing to collect their commission.  But the work does not stop there.  Agents who do that are working for their best interest and not yours.  This is a serious financial transaction and should be undertaken as such by your agent.

The third area is that as your agent, they should have an in-depth understanding of not only the homes in the area, but the entire process from beginning to end. When filling out the forms it may ask who you want to use as your closing company.  You may not know who to use – and you can use anyone – but if your agent cannot provide you with some recommendations, it would indicate to me that they have limited knowledge of the process.  My personal belief and practice is that the closer we get to the closing table, the more communications I have.  It will not  only be with the clients, but also with any lenders involved, the closing company, home inspectors etc.  I do not want any surprises at the closing table, and neither do my clients.

If you are thinking of buying or selling talk to a real estate professional – talk to a REALTOR® – who can give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

As always, if I can help with any of your real estate needs, please feel free to text or call me at 301-712-8808 or email me at


Home Buying Season is Upon Us!

Home Buying Season is Upon Us!
As a professional REALTOR® I see my job as not only to find you the right house or the right buyer, but to keep you appraised of the market conditions that may impact you now or in the foreseeable future. That is why I want to share with you what market conditions are expected to do in 2018.
For the last several years real estate has been struggling to rebound from the 2008 housing crash.  The rebound has been slow, but steady.  Experts are now predicting, and all evidence suggests, that the housing market is about to take off.
Housing prices are not expected to go out of control as they did prior to the housing bubble, but the steady rise in housing prices will be coupled with a rise in mortgage interest rates which will result in substantial increases in the cost of buying a home.
Home prices are expected to increase between 2%-6% during 2018.  Low inventories will continue to help drive the prices up.  Mortgage interest rates are projected to increase from 3.95% to 4.90% by December 2018.
For example: A $500,000 home that you purchased in December, 2017 with the going interest rate of 3.95% would have a P&I (principle and interest) amount of $2,373 a month.
That same home purchased in December, 2018 with only a 2% price increase is projected to have a price of $510,000 (and possibly a price of $530,000 at 6.0% increase) and a mortgage interest rate of 4.90% will result in a P&I amount of $2,707.  A monthly increase of $334. That increase over the length of the standard loan would cost you an additional $120,240!
For comparison purposes these figures only compare price and mortgage interest rates and does not include property taxes, home owners insurance, PMI insurance, etc.  These figures will vary widely by area.
If you think 2018 may be your time to buy or sell a home, please give me a call today so we can discuss your particular situation and how I may be able to help.

When it comes to Flipped Houses – Buyer Beware!

When it comes to Flipped Houses – Buyer Beware!

 If you are in the home buying market for more than 20 minutes you will have undoubtedly seen the flipped properties that look absolutely spectacular.  From granite counter tops to high-end appliances; it looks like the perfect house.

However, it’s important to remember the contractor is flipping the house to make a profit – and the more profit, the merrier – for the contractor.

As a result, some contractors will do a fantastic job making the home presentable, but skip doing things that need to be done if it won’t be obvious to a potential buyer.

A couple who recently bought a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom row house just outside Washington D.C. for $630,000 learned the hard way.  About six months after they had closed on what they thought was their ideal home, they were contacted by the D.C. housing inspector.  The inspector told them that his office was investigating the contractor who had flipped their home along with several other homes, and he needed to inspect their property.

The inspector visited their home and when he left he presented the home owners with pages of items that needed repair – to the total of well over $100,000!

Items that were identified (in-part) included:

  • The addition on the back of the unit that included two additional bedrooms and two bathrooms did not have permits to be done and would not have been approved had the contractor filed for a permit.
  • Electrical wiring was not up to code.
  • The beautiful wood flooring that was installed covered up termite damage that was not treated or repaired.
  • Parts of the property had serious mold issues that had not been treated, but simply covered up with dry wall.

Because the flipper had never lived in the property he is not required to submit a Residential Property Disclosure identifying all of the issues in the house,  The contractor, however, should have reported the issues to potential buyers as latent defects.

Latent defects are a “…fault in the property that could not have been discovered by a reasonable thorough inspection before the sale” but that the seller was aware of.

Unfortunately, if the current home owners decided to sell the property, they would have to disclose the issues now that they are aware of them.

Here are some tips to help ensure the property is what it appears to be before you sign on the dotted line.

  • Make sure the flipper provides a list of those who worked on the property, such as electricians, plumbers, etc. Make sure each of the contractors are licensed.
  • Request a list of work that was completed, including any warranty information.
  • Check with local officials to ensure permits were filed.
  • Have a professional termite and mold inspection along with a home inspection.
  • Make sure the housing authority has issued a certificate of occupancy.

In a hot market, a flipper may resist providing this information because he feels someone may buy the property without questioning anything.  That should be a red flag to you.

If you are thinking of buying or selling talk to a real estate professional – talk to a REALTOR® – who can give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

As always, if I can help with any of your real estate needs, please feel free to text or call me at  301-712-8808 or email me at





Steps to Take Before Putting Your Home on the Market

Steps to Take Before Putting Your Home on the Market

 Putting your home on the market can be a daunting task, especially if  you are in the mindset of buying your next home.  But here are a few items to help you get ready for listing your home.

  1. Consider a pre-sale home inspection. An inspector will be able to give you a good indication of the trouble areas that will stand out to potential buyers, and you’ll be able to make repairs before the listing hits the market.
  2. Organize, clean and declutter. This is one area that is a major drawback to potential buyers.  Reduce clutter as much as possible.  Renting an off-site storage unit is a good idea where you can store items that will not be needed, such as seasonal items.  If renting an off-site storage facility is not feasible, pack unneeded items in boxes and store them neatly in garage or basement.  Clean windows, carpets, walls, lighting fixtures and baseboards to make your house shine.  Contacting a cleaning service for a deep clean may be a good idea.  Never – and I mean never – use scented candles or plug-in air fresheners to make your house smell good.  Not only are there many individuals who have respiratory issues, but the message you may send potential buyers is that you are trying to cover up a bad smell.
  3. Get some replacement estimates. If you have a leak in your roof, you absolutely must get that repaired, but if your roof is in tack but may need to be replaced in a few years, get an estimate from a reputable, licensed roofing contractor.  Even if you do not intend to do the repair at the time, when potential buyers look at the roof they will generally try to negotiate down more than the actual repair will cost.
  4. Locate warranties. Gather any warranties and user manuals for the furnace, washer/dryer, dishwasher, garage door opener etc.  Any contact information you have for services that were provided for the home are also great to have on hand.  For example:  If you have the furnace and air conditioner service regularly, the information you can provide will make it easier for the buyers.  Although many people strive to have this available at the closing. I think it’s a good idea to have it available when you list the house.  Potential buyers can see that you are proactive and have taken good care of the property.
  5. Spruce up the curb appeal. Walk out to your street and look at the front yard.  Try to imagine what a potential buyer would see.  I suggest that you ask your REALTOR® to help you with that task.  Needless to say, the curb appeal is the first impression the potential buyer has of your property.  When potential buyers visit your home, they will walk away with only a few memories of your property.  If they walk away with a favorable impression of the property they will be more likely to eventually make an offer.  If they walk away with a negative impression, it is unlikely they will make an offer.  Having a memory of the property that was too cold or too hot, or cluttered or whatever, it is less likely an offer will come your way.

Of course, the first thing you should do is sign a seller’s representation contract with a REALTOR® who can walk with you every step of the way.

If you are looking to buy or sell, talk to a real estate professional – talk to a REALTOR® – who can give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

As always, if I can help with any of your real estate needs, please feel free to email me at or text or call me at 301-712-8808.





All That Glitters is Not Gold

All That Glitters is Not Gold

 Originally, the phrase written by William Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice was “All that glisters is not gold”, but the meaning is the same. Today the term glisters has evolved into glitters.  The Cambridge English Dictionary defines this phrase as “Something that looks good on the surface, but might not be when you look at it more closely.”

In real estate that phrase is very true.  When the real estate crash of 2008 came about real estate brokers scrambled to find ways to get clients.  The discount broker business started increasing in business, even though most of the full-service brokerages were often times matching the commission.

As the real estate market began rebounding the discount brokers were then scrambling to hold on to their sales.  To do so they began advertising their services as “discount real estate brokers with full service.”  Sounds good, right?  But be sure to read the small print.

Several years ago when the real estate market was at its lowest ebb, I had some clients who were looking to buy a house.  We met in the office and looked over some properties that I thought they would like and found one that really piqued their interest.  When I called the listing agent to set up a showing, he informed that they were a discount broker and that I should call the seller direct.

I called the seller and set up a showing.  My clients liked the house and wanted to submit an offer.  I called the agent again, and he informed that I needed to deal directly with the seller -weird.  I emailed the offer to the seller who promptly called me and asked if that was a good price!  I told him that I represented the buyers and he needed to call his agent to discuss with him.  The seller’s reply was that he did not want to call him because the discount broker charged him every time he called with a question! The offer sat on the table for a few days at which time my clients withdrew the offer and bought a different house.

In another example: I read an article recently where a broker claimed they were a full service brokerage while offering to list a property for a 1% commission sounds good.  Here’s the problem: That 1% does not include the commission that the listing broker will need to share with the buying broker.  In addition, that broker, although they advertised as “full service”, did not do any negotiating for price, setting up the closing date, negotiating findings of inspections, and on and on.  If you wanted your listing broker to do those functions, you will pay more – all that glitters is not gold!

If you are thinking of buying or selling talk to a real estate professional – talk to a REALTOR® – who can give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

As always, if I can help with any of your real estate needs, please feel free to text or call me at  301-712-8808 or email me at


Five Trends in Real Estate for 2018

Five Trends in Real Estate for 2018

 Here are five trends that building and design industry professionals predict will be upcoming trends for 2018.  It is important to note that a “trend” is something that will more than likely last ten years or more.  A fad is something that comes on the scene and can disappear as quickly as it emerged.

These five trends are predicted to stay for a while.

Smart Home Technology  Smart home technology is the number one trend that is predicted that home buyers will be looking for in 2018.  Adding smart home technology can make your home more attractive to young buyers who currently make up the largest population of home buyers.  Adding smart home technology can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $9,000 on average, but can increase the value of your home by 5%.  The most sought-after items include smart lights and thermostats and security features like locks and cameras.  One thing to keep in mind, any technology that is over five years old has little value to the home.

Open Floor Plans Open floor plans continue to be a sought-after option on homes, especially single floor homes.  Opening up the floor plan of a boxy home can make the home more appealing to a buyer.   However, this is a project for a professional to avoid weakening or trying to remove a load-bearing wall.  In any event, removing walls to open up the floor plan will most like only give a 60% return on investment.

Solar Energy  Solar energy is not a new but it is one that is making gains in today’s market.  The national average to install solar panels is between $20,000 and $25,000 and the ROI will vary depending on location and weather in your area.

Tiny Houses  Tiny houses have been around for a while, but there has been considerable interest in tiny houses the last few years.  Enough so that home builders are beginning to take it seriously.  Tiny houses can be built anywhere between $10,000 – $40,000 making these interesting to first time home buyers and minimalists.

Voice Control Systems  Artificial Intelligence and voice control systems round out the top trends for 2018.  Nearly all of the industry influencers agree that smart home systems that are controlled by AI or voice. Will be one of the biggest trends in 2018 and for years to come.

In addition to looking at the return-on-investment it is also important to remember that properties with current trends tend to sell quicker.

If you are thinking of buying or selling, talk to a real estate professional – talk to a REALTOR® who can give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

As always, if I can help with any of your real estate needs, please feel free to text or call me at 301-712-8808 or email me at