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Happy New Year 2017!

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Happy New Year!

It is with gratitude that we wish our clients, Bethesda neighbors and friends a very Happy 2017 and offer our sincere thanks for your referrals and friendship!

May this new year bring wonderful surprises and much joy, peace and prosperity!

Cheers!

Brian & Amy Maury and the Maury Real Estate Team

 

 

 

2015 Real Estate Year in Review

It was a solid year of price performance for homes in our Bethesda area in 2015. The average price of detached home in Bethesda (zip codes 20814, 20816 and 20817) climbed to $1,117,073, an increase of 2% over 2014. The median price of a detached home was $945,000, an increase of 2.6% over 2014. That may not seem like much but by way of comparison, the S&P 500 index finished a choppy year just under where it started.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 6.10.42 PMIt took a little longer to sell a detached home in Bethesda last year. The average days to secure a contract climbed from 36 days to 40 days.

The big story this past year was the increase in the number of homes sold in our area. There were 813 detached homes sold in Bethesda this past year, an increase of 12% over 2014.  By way of comparison, the high-water mark of detached home sales in Bethesda occurred in 2003 (four years before the financial crisis began) with 1,030 homes being sold that year.

Low interest rates, combined with a steadily growing economy, have helped consumers feel more confident in their jobs and financial future. Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, summed it up this way,

“As 2015 draws to a close, consumers’ assessment of the current state of the economy remains positive, particularly their assessment of the job market. Expectations regarding their financial outlook are mixed, but the optimists continue to outweigh the pessimists.”

There has been much hype recently about the Federal Reserve’s hike in the discount rate (the first rate-hike in nearly a decade) and the impact on interest rates. The 0.25% Fed rate hike won’t have an immediate effect on mortgage rates. However, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates have risen over the past year, from 3.75% at the beginning of the year to 4.0% at the end of December, and will likely go higher.  The Office of the Chief Economist at Freddie Mac recently gave these insights, “We don’t expect tighter monetary policy to generate a spike in longer-term interest rates in the foreseeable future…While mortgage rates will rise modestly, they will remain at historically low levels.”

InterestRateMost economist are predicting that mortgage interest rates will gradually rise into the 4.25% to 4.5% range over the coming year. This is bad news for first-time and trade-up buyers but overall still very attractive and considered “affordable” interest rates. In contrast, interest rates were hovering around 6.5% just before the financial crisis began in 2007.

Looking ahead….
We predict 2016 will be another solid year for real estate in Bethesda with price appreciation expected again to be around 2%. Our area receives a multiplier effect locally as the national economy continues to improve and bring more people to the area for employment. As you can see by the number of cranes hovering over the downtown Bethesda skyline, our area is experiencing significant growth and development. It’s a bittersweet experience as we transition from a small town to a small city.

If you are considering the sale of your home in the future please call us! We’re here to help. We live in Bethesda and are never too busy to answer any question you may have.

~Brian & Amy

Top 3 Impacts to Home Ownership in 2015

The Year 2015 brought with it some important changes for homeowners and would-be home buyers in Montgomery County and nationwide. Here are the top 3 changes this past year:

  1. Federal Reserve Rate Hike

    Fed Implements 0.25% Rate Hike in 2015

    Fed Implements 0.25% Rate Hike in 2015

On December 16th, 2015, the Fed raised interest rates by 0.25% for the first time since June 2006. While mortgage rates will not drastically increase quite yet, you can certainly expect to a see a gradual and continuous rise in mortgage interest rates in the year ahead. If you’re thinking about buying, act sooner rather than later.

In addition, if you have an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) or home equity line of credit (HELOC), it will likely adjust upward upon your next anniversary date especially if the Fed continues to raise rates incrementally in 2016.  Most economist are predicting that mortgage interest rates will remain at historically low levels but gradually rise into the 4.25% to 4.5% range over the coming year. 

2.  Mandatory Radon Testing Required to Sell Your Home

In November 2015, the County Council approved a new regulation requiring home sellers in Montgomery County to perform radon testing before the sale of any single-family home – the first such regulation in the entire country. There are a few exceptions to this testing rule – estate sales and tear-down properties are among them. The new regulation goes into effect in October 2016.  While there is no requirement for the installation of a remediation system based on testing results, a buyer will be permitted to cancel a home sale contract if the seller should refuse to do so. The cost of installing a radon remediation system is usually around $1,000.

Radon testing required as of Oct. 2016

Radon testing required as of Oct. 2016

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding this new legislation. While proponents assert that buyers need to be informed about radon and the impacts of this odorless, colorless carcinogenic gas that may be present in homes, opponents challenge that the testing requirement is ridiculous for a number of reasons including flawed test results (home kits can be purchased from stores for around $40 for a 2-day test; however, the World Health Organization and the EPA state that 90-day testing is much more accurate). Opponents have also suggested that buyer educational requirements should suffice versus mandatory testing.

  1. Massive Overhaul in Home Sale Closing Process Nationwide

    Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now in charge

    Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now in charge

Thinking of buying or selling a home in 2016? As of October 2015, MASSIVE changes occurred in mortgage lending laws across the country. Thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has taken over the administration of RESPA (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) from HUD (Housing and Urban Development). With this new government agency comes sweeping changes including new forms, new rules and new time frames for a typical home sale. These changes are nationwide affecting home sellers, home buyers, settlement attorneys, mortgage lenders and real estate agents alike.

The goal of this reform was to simplify the information provided to buyers and make mortgages more transparent and easier for the consumer to understand. As with most any government agency created to “simplify” things, complaints run rampant that these new changes are more confusing, more time consuming and more expensive for everyone.

If you are planning to buy or sell a home in 2016, expect longer settlement times (45-60 days versus 30 days), new procedures and new forms you have never seen before. Contact Brian and Amy Maury or your mortgage lending professional to discuss these changes in more detail.

The Westbard Vision

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Concept Rendering of the New Westbard Ave in Bethesda from Equity One

Equity One, a publicly-traded real estate investment trust specializing in neighborhood retail shopping centers, acquired Westbard Shopping Center, Westwood Center II, Westwood Towers, Springhouse by Manor Care, Bowlmor Lanes and two Citgo gas stations on Westbard Avenue in Bethesda.  The properties stretch over 22 acres.

The company states that their mission is to create a “modern, comfortable gathering space offering convenient shopping and dining integrated with community spaces, green places and a walkable streetscape.”  While their “vision” for Westbard/Westwood is still a conceptual one, plans are moving forward rapidly towards approval of a Final Master Plan from Montgomery County slated for the Spring 2016.

The vision includes a complete renovation of the area including redesigning traffic flow from adjacent River Road and Massachusetts Avenue, including pedestrian walk-ways, street redesigns and more.  There is a plan to add about 600 residential units which has created elevated concern from area residents about the already overcrowded schools and local streets.

Through a series of community meetings in the Summer and Fall 2014, Equity One gathered comments and feedback from area residents.  In addition, on March 4th, 2015, they completed a traffic analysis using Wells + Associates, their traffic engineer.

Their analysis determined that “even with all of these changes, the identified intersections will still allow traffic to flow at a satisfactory level measured against the nationally recognized standards employed by the county.”  Montgomery County will also conduct a traffic analysis in the near future.  Incidentally, residents may like to hear that the plan includes a shuttle to the Metro Red Line.

In February of 2015, Equity One shared its initial concept plans for the redevelopment of the area and provided a power point presentation on their website including renderings of the proposed changes.  Click here to view the presentation.

Upcoming important dates include a public hearing of the draft plan currently scheduled for May 14, 2015.  In the Fall of 2015, the County Council will hold a Public Hearing.  The Final Master Plan is slated for approval in the Spring 2016.

For a full list of dates and activities see the Montgomery County website at: www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/westbard.

Facebook.com/PlanWestbard

Information hotline at 301-495-4567

To track Equity One progress including their presentations, proposed plans, blog posts and Frequently Asked Questions page, visit: WestbardVision.com

As for us, we will be closely tracking the progress of these activities.  Feel free to Contact Us to discuss opinions and thoughts on the big changes ahead for our community, including impacts to residential home values.

Fine Fun at Bethesda Fine Arts Festival 2014

Bethesda Fine Arts Fest 2014

Bethesda Fine Arts Fest 2014

Calling all art enthusiasts!  Don’t miss the last day of the 11th Annual Bethesda Fine Arts Festival.  With over 120 booths featuring jewelry, fine art, hand-crafted furniture and more, this annual tradition is one of my personal favorites in our town.

This year the festival is located at Auburn & Norfolk Avenues at Woodmont Triangle.  It’s open Saturday, May 10th from 10 AM – 6 PM and Sunday, May 11th from 10 AM to 5 PM.  FREE parking everywhere – all meters and public garages on Sunday.  Live bands are featured throughout the day including one of our favorites, The 19th Street Band who is playing today from 12:30 – 2:30 PM.  The Fine Arts Festival is produced by Bethesda Urban Partnership and the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District.  

P.S. A little tip we can give you from our visit yesterday – the chili dog at the Hard Times Cafe booth is absolutely irresistible!  If you do not intend to eat a chili dog, don’t even go near there!  Even though we had just had lunch, we caved and HAD to indulge in a chili dog.  Frankly, I can’t say I regret it!

So take Mom out today and enjoy the art, the music and perhaps some mouth-watering fun at the Bethesda Fine Arts Festival!

The Rich History of Our Town Bethesda

This 15 minute video on the history of our town, Bethesda, is worth a watch!  You’ll learn about some famous people behind the street names you recognize in the area such as Lilly Stone, Tuckerman, Leland and more.  You find out about the New Deal and how Bethesda benefited from it and see the old and new photos of significant historic buildings and icons of our town, including the oldest office building still standing, the oldest road in Montgomery County and the Madonna of the Trail.  Narrated by a Bethesda native, Mr. Offutt offers a charming yet informative overview of the rich history of our town.  Enjoy!

Capital BikeShare Rolls into Bethesda

Capital Bikeshare Bethesda

Capital Bikeshare Bethesda

It’s a new year and like many, you may have resolved to “get fit.”  Thankfully, in Bethesda it has now become just a litter easier to meet that goal with Capital Bikeshare.  Recently the company installed stations in many convenient locations around town.  Also, there are bike stations situated all over DC, Montgomery County and Virginia.  If you’re so inclined, you can virtually get around “car-free” almost anywhere in the greater DMV region.  Here is the station map of current Capital Bikeshare locations where you can grab a bike and go.

The price is pretty good too.  You have four payment options: rent for one day (or by the hour), for a 3-day period, for a month or even for a year.  The first thirty minutes of any rental is free.  As of  January, 2014, the 24-hour daily rate is $7, the 3-day rate is $15, monthly is $25 and the annual rental rate is $75 (or you can pay $7 per month with an annual agreement).  Here are the current Pricing Options.

For safety, I guess a little planning ahead is advisable though because they do not rent helmets.  However, there are many convenient shops around Bethesda where you can pick one up including Griffin Cycle Bethesda (4949 Bethesda Ave), Big Wheel Bikes (6917 Arlington Rd), Freshbikes Cycling (7626 Old Georgetown Rd), City Sports (7121 Arlington Rd), Modell’s Sporting Goods (7201 Wisconsin Ave) and RnJ Sports (4945 Elm St).  Also advisable, while planning ahead, consider skinny jeans vs. bell-bottoms – always a better bet while biking!  Happy Cycling Bethesda!

Bikeshare kiosk

Bikeshare kiosk

Deck Your Pet and Visit Santa at Bethesda Lane

This weekend pack up your pets, head to Bethesda Lane and grab an adorable photo with Santa for only $10.  No reservation needed.  The event is going on from 12 PM – 2 PM on Saturday, December 7th and Sunday, December Spotty8th, 2013.  All of the proceeds from this event go to the Montgomery County Humane Society.  Costumes are encouraged! For details, visit BethesdaRow.com

They will be accepting supply donations as well so be sure to grab any gently used bedding or towels as well as unopened food, treats of toys to help out pets in need.  They will also have a few furry friends on site that are looking for warm homes this holiday season.  Grab the whole family and head down to Bethesda Lane to create a fun memory this holiday season.  Ho Ho Ho…Yip Yip Yip!

 

 

Top 5 Things to do in Bethesda in October

Capital Crescent Trail

Capital Crescent Trail

October is, in my opinion, the most wonderful time of the year.  It started at a young age for me…my birthday is in October.  At my current age however, that is no longer a good thing.  Yet the month remains my favorite of the year!  Football season is in full swing, the weather is wonderful, the leaves are changing color, Oktoberfests abound, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie and all things pumpkin are aplenty.  What’s not to love?!

Bethesda has some great October fun to offer as well.  Here is our TOP 5 things to do in Bethesda in October:

1.  Taste of Bethesda is usually the first Saturday of the month; this year it’s Saturday, October 5th from 11 AM – 4 PM.  Ticket sales end at 3:30 PM.  Over 60 restaurants will offer samples of some of their best treats while music lovers can enjoy live performances on five stages.  Kids have face painting and art & crafts to look forward to as well.  The event is held across several streets at the Woodmont Triangle area.

2. The Bethesda Row Arts Festival is being held this year from October 19-20th, 2013.  With over 190 artists from around the world featuring works ranging from the sublime to the surprising, you can’t beat a stroll through the streets of Bethesda for this amazing show.  Of course, no event in Bethesda is complete without food, music and fun, and this Festival is no exception!  Admission is free; however, bring your checkbook or credit card.  It’s awfully tough to leave empty handed when you can find some fantastic art to fill your hallowed halls.

3.  A walk on the Capital Crescent Trail in the month of October is different every week as the leaves change color and alight upon your path.  Walk, run, bike or stroll and enjoy the fresh, fall air as you appreciate one of the great features our town has to offer!  One of our personal favorite spots ranges from Little Falls Parkway (mile marker 4.0) down through the Dalecarlia Tunnel at Mile marker 6.5 just before the DC line.

4.  Bethesda abounds with cuisines from around the world!  One of our favorite activities in October is eating lunch or dinner outdoors at one of the 180+ restaurants in downtown Bethesda.  Bethesda Row offers an array of outdoor eating establishments including Mon Ami Gabi, The Mussel Bar, Assagi, Redwood, American Tap Room, Raku and many others!  And if you don’t want to eat outdoors, you can always just enjoy a nice drink at happy hour!

5. Halloween in Bethesda is an event!  From school festivals to neighborhood parties to late-night parties for the big kids, there is something spooky around every corner!  If you want to dress up and let off some steam, try a bar crawl to Union Jack’s, The Barking Dog, Tommy Joe’s or any of the other dozens of sports bars and pubs who are sure to be offering some freaky fun. Hitch a FREE ride around town on the Bethesda Circulator!

October in Bethesda is definitely the most wonderful time of the year!  What do you enjoy most?

~Amy

 

Top 5 Reasons to BowlMor Bethesda!

Bowlmor Bethesda is a great place to enjoy some family time or a ladies night out!  We recently brought our son (a kindergartener at the time) for his first bowling experience!   When he heard that we were going bowling, you would have thought he won the lottery!  He was so excited he nearly cried.

Bowlmor Bethesda

Bowlmor Bethesda

We rolled into the parking lot at 5353 Westbard Ave and embarked upon on an evening of lights and sounds like he could never have imagined.  And of course it didn’t hurt that Bowlmor offers tasty treats too – sliders, nachos, mozzarella sticks and more.  For the grown ups, they have some nice drinks options as well!  Bowlmor Bethesda was named “Best Place to Hold a Kid’s Birthday Party” by Bethesda Magazine.  With it’s glow-in-dark bowling and 12-foot flat screen TV’s you can see why the kiddos are enthralled!  We will be sure to return soon with our new little bowling fan.

Here are our TOP 5 reasons to Bowlmor Bethesda!

1. You can’t help but smile just putting those silly bowling shoes on and watching your friends and family act like a kid!

2. You can drink and eat to your hearts delight! Leave your calorie-counting friends at home!  (Just kidding of course – Bowlmor offers water too.)

3.  Parking is FREE!  Now that is refreshing in Bethesda!

4.  You can bowl (of course) but there are lots of other games to play too like air hockey and arcade games.

5.  It’s a great way to beat the heat in the summer!

Insiders Tip:

Thursday nights from 9 – Close get unlimited bowling and shoe rentals for $16, plus drink and appetizer specials.  Get your Bowl on Bethesda!

Bowlmor Bethesda can be reached at 301-652-0955.

New UPS Store on River Rd

For those living in the 20816 area of Bethesda, in Kenwood (Chevy Chase) and around Somerset, it’s good to know that there is a new UPS Store that just opened recently next to Whole Foods located at 5237 River Rd.  You no longer have to pay to park on Hampden Lane in Bethesda or drive out to Democracy Rd.   The new shop doesn’t even show up on Google yet, but it’s there and open every day except Sunday.  Hours are posted as 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM Mon- Fri and 9:00 AM – 5:00 on Saturdays.  While you’re there you can stop by one of our favorite places, Georgetown Bagelry, and grab a bite too!  Enjoy!

UPS Store on River Rd Bethesda

UPS Store on River Rd Bethesda

Certifikid! Bethesda’s Groupon Just for Kids

Summer will be here before you know it!  Have you signed your kids up for camp?  If not, where do you begin when so many Bethesda summer camps are already full?  What about entertainment for those hours outside of camp time?  Have you wanted to try something new with the kids this summer but you’re not sure what to do?  Your AFFORDABLE answer to all these questions lies at www.Certifikid.com, a sort of local Groupon deal just for kids.

Certifikid Logo

Certifikid Logo

Certifikid  founder and CEO Jamie Ratner, a local area resident and Mom, was recently featured in the May/June 2013 issue of Bethesda Magazine as an “Up and Comer.”  She began the Certifikid website just a few years ago and it has really caught on!  Certifikid is essentially a website offering discounts like Groupon yet it is focused solely on family-oriented activities, services and interests in the local area.  The daily deals include all kinds of things to do see and experience with your little folk in the Greater DMV area, including summer camps.  Incidentally, Certifikid also operates in several other metropolitan areas including Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Brian and I met Jamie and her family last year when they sold their home in Green Acres with us.  We drove up to their house and my interest was piqued right away by her eye-catching van parked outside with the Certifikid logo on its side.  When Jamie humbly shared with me her scope of business and how it works, I was truly impressed.  The word “genius” is actually what came to mind!

You don’t have to have kids to take advantage of Certifikid (although it helps).  All you need is to be a kid at heart.  You’ll find great gift ideas there as well!  I know that the future for Jamie and Certifikid is not only bright but the sky’s the limit!

See for yourself.   Sign up to receive your daily Certifikid e-mail or check it out on Facebook or Twitter .  Perhaps all hope is not yet lost and you will find cool things for the kids to do this summer after all!

Day 365: A New Year of Bethesda 365?

Bethesda365

Amy:   Hey Brian, when we started Bethesda365 on January 1st of 2011, we never knew how much we would enjoy getting to know some of the interesting people, places and things about our town, huh?  What stood out most for you?

Brian:  I’ve lived in the Bethesda area practically all my life and what stands out the most for me are the posts we did regarding the history of our town.  For example, the Madonna of the Trail post and the Farm Women’s Market are two that really made an impression.  Our town today is a product of that history.  What stands out for you?

Amy: I really enjoyed the “history lesson” too but for me, the most surprising part of the experience was the entrepreneurial spirit of the people in this town.  The Farm Women had it and it is evident in the enterprising minds of today’s business owners like Seth’s Honest Tea, Robert’s Mussel Bar and Francis’ Cork57 and Food and Wine Co., among many others.  The everyday people of Bethesda are pretty amazing too – take for example the average Housewives of Bethesda!  Remember that?

Brian: My favorite blog posts developed organically from the things we were doing, seeing and enjoying.  One of our most popular blogs was the one on Montgomery Mall – Mall Monkey Business and the Finger Lickin’ Good Ribs about the rib joint on Old Georgetown Road.  I also found Bethesda365 taking me out of my comfort zone and the well-worn paths I have travelled over the years to discover new things right in my own backyard like Maryland’s first solar power pole.  So now that the year has ended Amy what’s next for Bethesda365?

Amy: Let’s be candid here.  We INTENDED to blog every day for 365 days (Get it? Bethesda 365!) but we didn’t quite meet that goal.  However, we did complete over 225 blog entries and had over 21,000 visitors to our site in our first year. Plus, we had a damn good time doing it!  So what do you say Brian, shall we keep going for another 365 days?

Brian:  Absolutely!  One of our objectives with the blog was to create a body of information about our town that residents and newcomers could tap into to explore all the great things about Bethesda that we enjoy.  To that end we were successful but there is still more to discover and share.

Amy: So true!  I have some ideas!  (Wink!) So partner, I propose a toast!  To a new year of Bethesda365 and the good eats, great people and interesting experiences that are surely in store! 

Brian:  Could we call it Bethesda100? 🙂

Amy:     😛

Day 359: Merry Christmas Bethesda

Merry Christmas Bethesda.  Enjoy the sights and sounds of this holiday season.

Bethesda Row Christmas Tree

Holiday Cheer Bethesda Row

Holiday Decorations at Barnes & Noble

Day 184: Happy 4th of July Bethesda!

The Fireworks Display over the National Mall 2011...from our living room

This 235th celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence was experienced in our town like every other across the nation today.  There were neighborhood parades, countless numbers of backyard barbeques and gatherings of family and friends dressed in red, white and blue.  Of course, there were fireworks displays too but in Bethesda where the pyrotechnics are not legal, many people journey a few miles down the road to the Capital and enjoy the annual fireworks display on the National Mall.  This year a record number of attendees showed up for the annual celebration of our nation’s independence.

A beautiful view with the Capital in the foreground

As for Brian and me, well, we opted to enjoy the National Independence Day celebration on the Mall from the comforts of our living room – as did many Bethesda residents, I’m sure.  Here are some of our favorite shots, regrettably blurry as they were taken of our TV from our cell phone!  LOL!  Oh well, you get the idea.  Happy 4th of July Friends!  We hope it was wonderful for you and your families.

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