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Day 241: Secret Tuesday Open Houses in Bethesda

Open House at 6725 Hillandale Road

Did you know that real estate open houses are not just for the weekends?  When I first became an agent back in the early 1990’s I was surprised to find out that REALTORS® (pronounced REAL TOUR not REAL I TUR) host open houses for each other (almost secretly) on Tuesdays.  In our local area Tuesday is the day that most real estate offices have their weekly “Sales Meetings” and hence it’s also a great time to go out after the meeting and see the new inventory of available homes for sale.  Of course the internet has changed this wonderful custom.  What used to be a widely attended event, filled with great food (supplied by agents and “hungry” loan officers), conversation, and collegiate cordiality amongst our peers, has sadly grown less popular.  I suspect the internet is at work here because now with the incorporation of high quality photography into the MLS system, the real estate community can sit at home and quickly browse through the new listings without ever taking off their bunny slippers.  I guess I’m an old-timer now because I still feel their is great value in putting your “boots on the ground.”

Here’s how you can get in on this event both on Tuesdays and during the weekends.  Depending on how an agent has coded the open house in our system (“Broker” vs. “Public”) you can see which houses are open by going to homesdatabase.com.  Homesdatabase.com is our official MLS service available to the general public online.  That’s right!  The latest and greatest information the REALTOR community uses is NOW available to the average citizen.  Homesdatabase.com is superior in my opinion because the contract status of the property is more up-to-date then many of the other web sites.  I often get calls, weeks after a property is under contract, from people looking at outdated information from some other website online. Down in the bottom of the main screen is a Open House icon with balloons.  To the right (remember we still want to keep this stuff secret) is the link “+search all.”   This is a great tool if you want to plan your open house tours on the weekends as well or see if a particular home will be open so you can send mom and dad over to take a peek at something you like.  Other websites like Trulia have similar functions.  When you go to the open house (even if you just see an odd open sign on a Tuesday in front of a house you are driving by) tell the agent who you are, that you are not an agent, but “Brian Maury” suggested you stop by to see the house!  If you’re interested in the house this is no different than if you were a curious neighbor visiting on any other open house on a Sunday.

Renovated Kitchen

Speaking of open houses, this Sunday, from 1-4 p.m., Amy and I will be hosting an open house at our newest offering located at 6725 Hillandale Road in the Kenwood Forest community.  The totally renovated one bedroom condo is just steps from downtown Bethesda and would make a great home or investment property.  To see a virtual tour of the property visit our website at keystobethesda.com.  See you this weekend (or maybe even today) at the open house! ~ Brian

Day 159: Union Hardware – Fine Purveyors of After-Dinner Porcelain

One of MANY display walls

Brian and I went on a mission yesterday to help a client find a new door knocker for their front door.  The home is a beautiful Arts & Crafts style bungalow and we wanted to find the ideal piece of hardware to match the overall look of the home.  No plain old door knocker would do; we wanted to find something special.

Brian suggested Union Hardware located at 7800 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda.  I had never been there before but Brian told me of his many visits there when he was building homes in years past.

A nice selection of fine faucets

Hardware stores are not usually something I get excited about visiting but when we entered the showroom I was so surprised!  The fixtures and hardware were stunning.  Everything was so unique and like sculpted art – it made you just want to touch everything.  Thankfully, their showroom allows you to do just that!

Ahhh the perfect shape to relax!

I could get used to this!

As Brian worked with the very friendly associate on selecting a door knocker, I found myself wandering the store touching the various door knobs and handles on their display walls and looking in awe at their classy bathrooms while imagining my dream house.  I even had the opportunity to slip into a sleek soaking tub that I loved!  I believe it is called The Toulouse made by Victoria + Albert, a product from the UK.  The picture speaks for itself, right?

Cool sink!

The Goldberg Family started Union Hardware in Washington, D.C. in 1914 and they are now a third generation family owned business.  Considering all that they had to endure – two World Wars, The Great Depression and even our recent Great Recession, it is truly impressive that their business continued to survive and even flourish.

Their website tells their story.  They started out in the early 1900’s as a hardware supply store – hammers and nails and basic carpentry stuff.  Their name was inspired by the Unions in our country and their growing strength and Mr. Goldberg had a smart business strategy to serve them.  That plan was the key to helping his company forge through the tough times that our country would face.

In the mid-50’s they introduced a line of “decorative hardware” and the rest is history.  It became so popular that it is now their entire business line – high-end decorative plumbing, fixtures, hardware, lighting and more.  Charles Goldberg, the founder, is considered to be a pioneer in the decorative hardware business and, more casually in their business family, he is called a “great purveyor of after-dinner porcelain!”

Another cool sink and faucet!

In the 70’s Union Hardware took yet another leap and moved their business to the “burbs” of Bethesda where they have been ever since.  Their 6,800 square foot showroom is open 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM Monday through Saturday (a bit like bankers hours but I love that).  If you’re considering a new mailbox, knobs for a door or dresser, a door knocker, sink, toilet, faucet or TUB, you really must stop by and see the genuinely fine works of art available to you at Union Hardware.  Everyday, you touch those items in your home.  Why not create a memorable experience to enjoy?    ~Amy

Day 154: Living the American Dream in Bethesda

Brian Maury in Glen Mar Park at our most recent home sale

One of the great things I enjoy about Bethesda is the architecture of its homes – everything from cape cods to colonials, ramblers, old farm houses, new contemporaries, arts & crafts charmers and Victorian beauties.  We even have a couple of castles in Glen Echo Heights.  Many of our neighborhoods have fascinating histories weaved within them as well-known people moved from DC to the “burbs” of Chevy Chase and Bethesda.

Like whispers of eras gone by, you can drive through one of our local neighborhoods and see the hand of the architects from each decade at work.  Some of the oldest homes include a few Sears craftsman style catalog homes here and there.  And since there is little open land left in our area, brand new homes crop up in the form of “in-fill” as builders tear down older homes to build large (some say too large!) homes in their place.

But no matter the size or shape of the homes nor the decade of which we speak, the American Dream of homeownership remains the same and has long been the goal of immigrants and citizens alike.  Homeownership is the backbone of our communities and our economy.  Despite the gloomy U.S. financial news lately, according to the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), 8 of out of 10 people still feel that real estate is a solid investment.

With today’s record low interest rates coupled with the reduced home prices we have seen in the last few years, this really is a great time to buy a home, particularly in the Bethesda and DC area.  While mortgages are definitely tougher to get, lenders are still making loans and you can buy a home with as little as 3.5% down using the government-backed FHA mortgage program.

Somehow our Bethesda-Chevy Chase area has bucked the trend of the rest of the country and our home sales statistics have remained strong this spring.  We have seen year-over-year price improvements and strong sales volumes.

For example, in May 2011, in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, there were 110 sales (homes and condominiums) at an average sold price of $968,503.  The median sales price was $758,000.  Last year, in May 2010, there were 126 sales of homes and condos at an average sales price of $758,894 and a median sales price of $736,794.

So why do we have such a higher average this year?  Well it seems that our luxury home market has come back strong in 2011!  For example, in May 2010 there were only 15 homes sold between $1 million – $1.999 million.  And there were only 3 homes that sold that month at $2 million or more.  The top sale was $2,570,000.

Yet in May 2011, it’s an entirely different picture.  We have had 25 sales that were priced between $1 million to just under $2 million and 9 sales above $2 million!  The top sale was a $5,000,000 condo and the top single family home sale was just under $4.5 million.  We have seen similar trends in other months as well.  As a REALTOR, these statistics tell me that those folks who have a significant amount of money appear to be investing it in real estate.  Real estate has always been a great long-term investment.

If you have considered buying a home, this is a great weekend to do some window-shopping as June 4th and 5th is officially dubbed National Open House Weekend.  I just ran a count for open houses posted for tomorrow (June 5th) and it showed that there are 141 scheduled open houses in Bethesda and Chevy Chase alone.  There may never be another day when so many homes are open for viewing!  So why not shop around?  A great website to check for a complete list of local homes for sale and associated open houses is www.homesdatabase.com.  This website is the most accurate, up-to-the-minute site available since it is operated by our multiple listing service, MRIS.

Over 300 Realtor® associations are participating in the National Open House Weekend event, along with NAR global partners in Canada, Denmark, France, Israel, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Sweden, and the United Kingdom!  Yours truly will also be participating in Bethesda, of course!

5449 Alta Vista Rd - a charming Cape Cod - open Sunday!

Since Brian and I specialize in the Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Northwest DC area real estate, we must take this opportunity for a shameless plug and invite you to our open house at 5449 Alta Vista Rd in Bethesda.  It’s an adorable 4-bedroom Cape Cod complete with a family room addition, finished basement and a nice large backyard.  Plus, it’s close to the NIH Metro stop, YMCA, parks, downtown Bethesda and shopping.  It embodies the “average home” in Bethesda but offers above-average charm and all that Bethesda has to offer at a great price.  We would love to meet some of our readers, so please stop by and say hello.

And if you’re interested in learning more about your neighborhood sales statistics – or statistics for a home you might want to buy – e-mail us for a free report or a no obligation consultation.  We know Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Northwest D.C. and are here to help you anytime!    ~Amy

www.KeystoBethesda.com

Day 57: The Borg Lands in Bethesda.

Edgemoor Contemporary

The year is 2365 and The Federation Starfleet has just encountered the first Borg spaceship. But wait,  I believe there was an earlier encounter here in Bethesda in 2007.  I affectionately call the home built in Edgemoor”The Borg” house after the cubed fictional alien spacecraft first encountered in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Love it or hate it you have to admire the guts to build it in Edgemoor, one of Bethesda’s most affluent and exclusive neighborhoods.  Quite simply there is nothing like it in the classic, predominately colonial style, luxury home subdivision.

Here’s the back-story to this really cool, ultra-modern, contemporary style home.  The owner wanted to build a house free of the constraints of the past, modern and forward-looking.  He hired renowned local architect and award-winning contemporary home genius, Robert Gurney, FAIA to design his new home.  The home is the antithesis of the McMansion.  In stark contrast to the über super-sized homes being built today, that strive to maximize the size of the house by stretching the zoning limits, this home was built with a minimal 1,100 sq. ft. footprint on the flat lot (occupying less space than the previous mid-century dwelling that was previously there).  The home also incorporates many “green” homebuilding strategies and concepts as well.  I’ve been reading a fascinating book recently called The Oral History of Modern Architecture by John Peter (the father of Molly Peter, an accomplished fellow real estate agent and friend of mine) and it reminded me about this home.  The book is about the birth and impact of modern architecture and the nexus of technology, society and art on our buildings in the words of the men who pioneered the movement. So much of our housing in Bethesda is rooted in very old traditional ideas about architecture.  The colonial, the cape-cod, and much of our new construction is just a further extrapolation of these old principles.  This house represents a stark departure from all that came before it.  Housing as we know it is undergoing a major transformation today as we begin to strive to build homes that are in harmony with our environment, efficient in terms of energy and water usage, and represent good stewardship of our natural resources.  The “Green” movement is a revolution in building as influential, in my opinion, as the modern architecture movement.

The Borg

New ideas are often vehemently rejected at first and change can be difficult to accept.  The contractor who built “The Borg” house told me that they had to replace the large plate-glass windows on several occasions during construction because of vandalism from area residents upset with the radical design.  This house is less than one block from the urban landscape of Bethesda.  How radical is a cube when there are cube-like offices so close by?  Like the crew of the Starship Enterprise we are encountering new housing ideas and housing “life forms.”  Just because the designs are unfamiliar we need not reject them.  We need to be open to new ideas and concepts.  The Borg race “assimilated” technology from the races they encountered.  We need to assimilate new technologies and concepts into our homes.  The future of our species will depend on how well we apply new technology, adapt and preserve our limited natural resources and live in harmony with, not only each other, but our fragile planet as well.  Pile the kids in the car and drive them by this futuristic home.

~ Brian

Day 33: Heavenly Rights

Air Rights Center

Thank god for all the lawyers!  As a real estate agent I know all too well that this town would not be the thriving economic powerhouse it is today without the high paying lawyers who help fuel the local economy.  There are no lawyer jokes allowed at our house.  Bethesda is also known in legal circles for a unique piece of real estate that utilizes the concept of “air rights.”  The legal rights to the air above a property go back to an ancient Latin saying Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad caelum et ad inferos. Translated it means “To whoever owns the land, shall belong the earth to its center and up to the heavens.” (My Latin teacher Mr. Lester at Winston Churchill, H.S. would be so impressed I’m quoting Latin!) Only big cities like New York had ever heard of the concept of development above the land someone else actually owned.  In 1954, Roger Eisinger purchased the air rights on a parcel of land that sat above the B&O Railroad tracks that ran through downtown Bethesda.  He waited 12 more years to develop the property that today holds the three towers of the Air Rights Center.

Air Rights Center (formerly Air Rights Building)

The popular Capital Crescent Trail (the former B&O railroad) runs through a tunnel underneath Wisconsin Avenue that Roger Eisinger built in order to build the Air Rights Center above.  In 1966 this was really the first major office building to be built in Bethesda.  At that time all businesses were in downtown D.C. and convincing businesses that they could have an office in the suburbs of Maryland was no easy task.  Roger Eisinger was a personal friend of my mother and step-father.  His firm fell on rough times during the recession of the late 80’s and early 90’s and he passed away in 2002.  Bethesda residents owe a debt of gratitude to this visionary who saw the future of Bethesda as the striving metropolis that it is today and played a major role in developing it.  ~Brian