Bethesda Condos That Vanished or Frightened

Bethesda Condos That Vanished

The Trillium, Bethesda – yes, still technically new rental apartments but not the same :-).Spooky Photo of Edgemoor

If you had been to the Condominium grand opening – this fully catered, sample model extravaganza with spotlights illuminated the close-in Bethesda skyline, simulated 3D simulations of the finished product — you would’ve thought you were at a Hollywood movie premier.  Soon after we realized we had seen the premier of “Water World”. 

Land purchased at “exuberant price” + Too Big To Fail = scary 🙂 

And though I’m never one to declare that I “knew it” – I wanted to share in past Halloween themed posts.  One of my 2009 pieces titled Haunted Houses of Maryland & The Trillium Bethesda  may have included my skepticism below.

I’ve seen advertisements in The Post, The Washingtonian, The Bethesda Magazine to name just a few — I’ve witnessed the bulldozers level the Old Clarion hotel to prepare for this 173 unit edifice of opulence.  I’ve even seen a model unit set fabricated in The Old Clarion for an electric opening night.  But as time has passes, I start to wonder whether the ghosts of “Economy’s crash” created these illusions in my mind.

In all seriousness, I kindly ask construction to commence because in my humble opinion, The Trillium should be an extraordinary addition to close-in Bethesda development…

The Scariest Proposed Bethesda Condo development Plan?

Any guesses?…one hint for you.  Location, Location, The absolute Worst Possible location for this “Brand”…

In the spirit of Halloween, I’ll leave this one a mystery, though I invite you to guess.  I’ll follow up in the next week.

Until then, more than anything, I wish you and yours a safe Halloween…

Telluride Film Festival Favorites

An Aside – Courtesy of Gretchen Koitz, Downtown Bethesda Resident who chose Slumdog Millionaire as her Top Pick in 2008…so pay attention 🙂 There’s nothing like a summer week in Telluride, Colorado (which, over Labor Day weekend, includes 3 fulls days of The Telluride Film Festival) to let one know that life is truly good!! Located in a box canyon, literally surrounded by majestic peaks, this little town has found a place in my heart. I believe that this is the 6th time that I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the film festival, and I wanted to share my thoughts with other movie buffs. Enjoy!! After seeing a dozen films, here are some of my favorites:

1. A Separation – This Iranian gem may or may not make its way to local theatres, but you should hope that it does. We were lucky enough to not only see this film, but also to hear a Q & A with the director — who is a wonderful human being. The “separation” is manifested on many levels. On surface, this is the story of a woman who is seeking a divorce from her husband because she has an opportunity to take their daughter out of the country for a better education…and the husband refuses to go. So, it is a separation of two people. As the story unfolds, we also see a class separation, religious separation and gender separation. The Iranian justice system comes off as very primative — although the “judge” in this particular case seems to be kind and caring. The acting is superb and I believe that both the lead actor and actress were award winners at the Berlin Film Festival.

2. The Descendants – This one you will have no trouble seeing at a local theatre, thanks in great part to the fact that the lead role is played by George Clooney (who was at Telluride!!!). In this film, which will have you laughing and crying practically at the same time, George (we’re on a first name basis since I was in the same theatre as him 🙂 plays a flawed dad (he works all the time and is pretty distant from his two daughters) who has to step up to the plate after his wife has a tragic accident. Again, our experience was heightened by a Q & A with Clooney and a young actress, Shailene Woodley, who plays his older daugher. Definitely a “must see.”

3. The Artist — Ok…this is one of those films that I was sure wasn’t going to interest me when I read the synopsis. Among other things, it is silent!! Yes, this 2011 production about a silent movie matinee idol is shot in black and white and is without spoken dialogue. It does, however, have a wonderful score and you soon “forget” that the spoken word is missing. My husband likened it to watching a good foreign film that has subtitles. The more you get into the move, the more the subtitles “disappear” — and the same thing happens with the lack of sound. The acting is so wonderful that you are able to get all the emotions and it is great fun!! The lead female role is played by an Argentinian actress, Berenice Bejo, and she is absolutely gorgeous!!

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin — This is a tough movie. If you haven’t read the book, I’d highly recommend that you do so. It is a beautifully written piece about a hauntingly horrible story. The movie, starring Tilda Swinton (who was also at Telluride), follows the book as closely as it can in the time allotted…but you’ll get more questions answered if you read the book first. In a nutshell, it’s about a woman who is ambivalent about becoming a mother and her son, who turns against her almost from the moment he is born. You don’t exactly come away singing (!), but it is extremely well done and opened the doors for hours of conversation.

5. In Darkness — As the name implies, this one is also not a real upper…but, again, beautifully done and worth seeing. It is based on a true story of a small group of Polish Jews who hide in the sewers of the city of Lvov during World War II. This extremely suspenseful movie was, at times, hard to watch — and I was anxious for the survivors to be able to see the light!!

6. The Kid With a Bike — This hopeful film centers on an 11 year old boy who has been abandoned by his father (we never see of hear of his mother) and placed in a children’s home. He “escapes” from the home and, during futile attempts to reunite with his deadbeat Dad, he meets a young woman who agrees to become his weekend guardian. But even his beloved bike and his new guardian can’t keep him out of trouble as he continues his journey. In the end, we definitely see the kid with a bike headed in the right direction. This one is endearing.

7. Albert Nobbs — In this period piece (1890s Dublin), Glenn Close plays the role of Albert, a woman who has lived for many years as a man in order to be gainfully employed as a butler/server in a hotel. Painfully shy and totally removed from any sense of identity, Albert is a timid character who does his/her job and hides his/her earnings with the hope of eventually being able to buy a tobacco shop. We watch Albert as s/he tries to find companionship and a better life. Totally recommend!!

8. A Dangerous Method — I’m putting this one in because I saw it…and you will have an opportunity to see it, too. The great thing about movies is that, like wine, there’s something that pleases everyone …and we don’t all have to like the same thing. Having said that, we walked out of this one. It’s based on a true story about a young woman (played by Keira Knightley) who is diagnosed with acute hysteria and her doctor, Carl Jung. Jung consults with Sigmund Freud and the two end up at odds over the care of the patient — at least in part because of Jung’s growing passion for this young woman. To me, Knightley overplays the character so much that it was distracting and this psychological drama lost me completely!!

9: Recommended by others, but not seen by me:

a. The Island President — a documentary about the Maldives, a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, that are threatened by climate change. Everyone loved this!!

b. Footnote – Described as “painfully funny”, this is a story about father and son Talmudic scholars, their relationship (flawed) and their attempts at reconciliation. Again, highly recommended by most everyone who saw it.




Why Your Realtor Should Have an Internet Presence

Contributing Author – Richard Soto, a Houston real estate expert and a member of the Extraordinary Agents Network…

Real Estate Marketing In addition to interviewing your Realtor about his or her experience and qualifications, you may also want to ask your Realtor about his or her Internet presence in the Washington DC real estate market. The truth is that today’s buyers are surfing the Internet to buy a home, so it is up to your Realtor to make sure your property is front and center when they start their search.
Here’s why you and your Realtor should never underestimate the power of the Internet presence:

  • Buyers understand that using the Internet saves them time – People enjoy searching for properties at any time of the day or night, in the privacy of their home. They enjoy narrowing down potential properties so they don’t waste their time viewing homes that simply don’t meet their wants or needs. Buyers who use the Internet use this tool because they can gather information and educate themselves before they begin actively searching for a home. So, it is up to your realtor to make sure they –along with your property – have a strong Internet presence.
  • Buyers enjoy the Internet’s many conveniences – In addition to viewing properties for sale from the comfort of their home, Internet buyers also appreciate the many features online searches provide. From virtual tours and online calculators to neighborhood and school information, the Internet provides potential buyers with a wealth of information that educates and informs them. If a buyer is equipped with the information necessary to make a solid decision, they will likely move forward.
  • Buyers enjoy searching without commitment – From serious buyers to those simply testing the waters in the market, the Internet allows buyers to preview properties without fear of making a commitment. However, many buyers soon discover a fantastic property and go from being a casual buyer to a serious buyer.

Because of this continually growing paradigm shift to real estate online information gathering, it’s paramount for your Listing Agent to have be an “Internet Authority” — with a team to support him or her.  Using knowledge of search engines, social media optimization — and the help from networks of like-minded professionals across the country, I’m able to ensure immediate online “visibility” of my listings.   It’s sometimes difficult to communicate this change in real estate “buying culture”, thus the importance of a robust and diverse online marketing program.   But it has become exceedingly clear that without “Authority”, an agent can’t possibly ensure that a property will get it in front of the most potential buyers.  This marketing “gap” can translate into how long your home is on the market  — or, as we’ve seen in some areas of the country, if your home sells at all.

Richard is the CEO & Broker of VIP Realty, The Premier Firm in Real Estate. Our offices focus on the Fort Worth real estate & Dallas real estate markets. To keep up-to-date with the North Texas condo market visit our Dallas condos page.

Greater Bethesda Is Real Estate Rebound town USA?

Bethesda Real Estate Rebound Town USA?

This will come to no surprise to those of us who live in or around Bethesda, but in cased you missed it, Forbes published the results from a recent “Local Market Monitor (aka LMM), (just another real estate research firm who Forbes put to the task). Some of the other notables included San Diego, Washington DC, San Jose, Austin.

Bethesda Is A County & Another Town?…

Edgemoor, Bethesda Home
A Bethesda home in The Prestigious Edgemoor Neighborhood

…According to LMM, yes we are…I’ll explain, but at its core:  “number crunchers + “talking heads” – “knowledge of area”  =  gross inaccuracies.

I’m just not a fan of news pretending to be news.  Is there value (and some accuracy) with some areas on this list?  I think so.  I know many Austin agents who are seeing uptick and the current median price seems on track.  But the Greater Bethesda area and Washington DC is more difficult to “define”.

As I started reviewing metrics used to determine Bethesda a “real estate rebound capitols” (I thought we were already doing okay by the way!), I noticed some “issues” off the bat.

Let’s review…

“500,000 residents or more”:

Ermmm, Bethesda may be inching towards 60,000, but I live here and I’d be pretty sure if we had another 400,000+ residents.

“…unemployment and job growth rates, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

…And That’s Where Bethesda Became GREATER…Way Too GREATER

I found aforementioned Bureau of Labor Statistics data and think I found where Forbes/LMM Started to fail Bethesda…Miserably

Per Bureau of Labor Statistics January 4th 2011 release…

“The largest over-the-year percentage increases in employment among the metropolitan divisions were posted in Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md. (+2.1 percent)”

And this is where it appears “Bethesda was also another City/Town (Rockville) and another County (Frederick)!” This would explain our “population influx” and a reported “Bethesda Median Home Price” of $384,775.

I’m going to save the research for market reports — but for those of you who live out of the area, approximate median home values in Bethesda is  over $700,000.

Combining two “towns” and one County to define Bethesda..Really? 🙂 — I’m truly smiling as I write this…especially at the thought of exactly how much Forbes paid “The” Local Market Monitor.

Just a kind reminder that even The Forbes’ of the world can be ohhh so far off — (I’d actually call it irresponsibly inaccurate). — so trust the Micro-Markets and local analysis. The rest is just fluff.

Even in NW DC & Bethesda, Appraisal Regulations Puts A Wrench in Real Estate Recovery

Note To Appraisers Serving NW DC / Bethesda Area

I can’t help but start this post with a kind reminder to some of the “professional” Appraisers out there

If you “serve” Northwest DC and think “Cleveland Parkis actually a Park in Cleveland, maybe it’s best to ask for help.

And no since I know many of you are wodering, “Georgetown, DC” was not named after our previous president and “The Adagio” in Downtown Bethesda is a condo, not a day spa…

Now That We’re Clear….

It is no secret that there were many different factors that contributed to our real estate economic condition, with questionable loans being awarded to potential homebuyers being at the top of the list. This, of course, leaves one to wonder how these loans were ever approved in the first place. While there were many contributing factors that helped make this possible, one is the fact that appraisers had a tendency to “error” on the high side of appraising a property’s value. The era of exuberance almost “promised” increases in home values…this put many appraisers under pressure from some lenders wanting nothing but “the deal to go to settlement”.

In an effort to prevent what many consider to be the unscrupulous practice of inflating home values, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have established the Home Valuation Code of Conduct, or HVCC. While the HVCC is not a law, anyone who anticipates doing business with Freddie or Fannie needs be certain to follow these guidelines, which require properties to be appraised by an “independent” appraiser.

This may seem like a good idea on the surface, but many are concerned about the timing of the recently enacted regulations. Why? Quite simply because the HVCC guidelines have added one more hurdle to the process of selling a home, which is already difficult enough in today’s economic climate. Not only does obtaining an independent appraiser make the entire home buying process take a week or two longer to complete, it also increases the costs to the buyer. This is because many lenders must go through an independent appraisal company in order to get the appraisal completed in a timely manner. And hiring an independent appraiser through an agency costs more than contacting one directly. Appraisers say that they are actually making less money, as the third party intermediaries are claiming more of their fees.

It probably also comes as no surprise that the HVCC guidelines seem to have resulted in a downward trend in appraised values. It’s yet another example of how the pendulum continues to swing too far. Rather than erring on the high side (or, as many would argue, a “conservative” side) of the value spectrum, appraisers are well aware of why the system has changed and are downgrading the values of the properties they assess. Exacerbating this problem…appraisers used by these third party companies who are unfamiliar with the markets in where they are making their appraisals. Location, location, location? Only if those evaluating a property understand the nuances of specific markets where they practice.  The result? “Underinflated” appraisals and fewer deals going to settlement.

The bottom line is clear: in a time when our country needs to get its housing market moving again, putting more roadblocks on the path toward economic recovery seems to be a bad idea.