What Is the Cost of a Home Appraisal and What Should You Know?


What Is the Cost of a Home Appraisal and What Should You Know?

The home appraisal is a critical issue -- for home buyers, sellers and mortgage lenders – and here's why. According to U.S. real estate industry figures, the average cost for a home appraisal is $331, with the low end of that rage at $250 and the high end at $450. However, in the DC area, it’s common to see appraisals cost as much as $600. Home appraisal costs depend on a variety of factors, including the size of the home, the state where the residence is located, and problematic issues in doing a home appraisal that might keep the appraiser on the property longer than expected. 

What is a Home Appraisal?

A home appraisal is an objective estimate of a home's market value, based on a thorough examination of the home and property. Aside from using a home appraisal to weigh the value of a residence, mortgage lenders also use an appraisal to make sure they aren't lending the buyer more money than the home is worth. A home appraisal prioritizes the current condition, size and the location of the property. A home appraiser should be aware of the condition of the inside of the home and upgrades done, as well as know the price of comparable homes sold in the neighborhood recently (typically over the past six months).

Who Handles the Home Appraisal?

Home appraisals are conducted by licensed professionals who are experts at home and property assessments. Professional home appraisal licensing is handled by the state the property is located, and applicants need to complete 75 hours of coursework focusing on basic home appraisal principles and processes. When on the job, licensed home appraisers must maintain complete objectivity on the home they're appraising. 

Who Pays for a Home Appraisal?

Typically, the buyer pays for a home appraisal. The buyer can pay up front at the time of the appraisal or the appraiser's fee can be included in closing costs.

What's the Difference Between a Home Appraisal and a Home Inspection?

The biggest difference is who the process seeks to protect. In a home appraisal, the process protects the mortgage lender financing the purchase of the home. In a home inspection, the objective is to protect the buyer, who usually pays the few hundred dollars it takes to conduct a home inspection. In addition, a home inspection is much more focused on the condition of the property, while the home appraisal prioritizes the value of the home.

What if Your Home Appraisal is lower than the Sales Price?

It's actually not uncommon for a home appraisal to come in with a figure that's lower than the sales price. There's no guarantee that the appraisal has to match the purchase price, so if you're buying a home, and the appraisal comes in low, there are several tactics buyers usually take to keep the deal alive.

Asking the seller to match the appraisal price

Assuming the buyer is still interested in buying the home and is contractually able to back out if the appraisal is low, the buyer can ask the seller if he or she will lower the sales price to match the appraised value. The lender would also need to be involved in any price cut due to a low home appraisal.

Offering to increase home purchase down payment

To keep the deal active, a buyer might offer to increase his down payment in a low home appraisal scenario. The lower appraisal may well jeopardize the buyer's home loan, so if the buyer can jack up his down payment in order to reduce the amount he will borrow from the lender, she/he can still be approved for the mortgage. 

Dispute the appraisal outcome

Home appraisals are subjective and various factors - which may be calculated incorrectly or omitted entirely - can result in a low appraisal. Working with a real estate agent, a buyer could contact the lender and provide their own data that may correct the low appraisal figure. If the lender approves a disputed appraisal application, it's turned over to the lender's own mortgage appraisal unit for further review -- and hopefully a decision that supports the sale price is the new outcome.


Is Airbnb Doomed in DC?


Is Airbnb Doomed in DC?

The DC Council passed a preliminary bill to limit Airbnb rentals in the District. But just as the Council was preparing to move forward with a final vote on the bill, a report from the DC Chief Financial Officer (CFO) uncovered language in the bill that no one on the Council was aware of (smh) – the bill would actually outlaw 80-90% of all short-term rentals in the city!

What was the bill supposed to do?

After learning about some egregious abuses and the belief that Airbnb is a threat to the city’s housing stock, the Council decided to imposes restrictions on who could actually rent their properties using the popular hosting site. Specifically, people who don’t actually live in a property would no longer be able to legally rent a property. However, for those who actually live in their house and want to rent out a room or parts of their house, would be free to continue doing so. Or the bill will let them rent the whole place while out of town, but only for 90 days a year. While the impact of these restrictions were heavily debated amongst stakeholders, the Council’s intent was to protect the housing stock for DC tenants.

What did the bill actually do?

Well, as it turns out, the bill actually went much further than anyone intended. After initial passage to move forward with a final vote on the bill by the Council, a report (the Fiscal Impact Statement) from the DC CFO determined the bill would outlaw 80-90% of all short-term rentals, even for people who are renting a room in their house when home or for only a small percentage of time when away. You see, there was a provision in the bill that hadn’t gotten much attention. That provision says that, in addition to the bills restrictions outlined above, someone could only get a short-term rental license — a requirement to rent through a service like Airbnb under this bill — in areas where the zoning allows "transient rentals.” This would include areas where hotels are allowed, but residential zones do not allow this…and most Airbnb rentals are in residential zones.

So how did we get here?

Proponents of this bill have pointed to some egregious abuses, like a landlord with a building under rent control who just rented all the units out through Airbnb…which we all agree is not cool. More generally, they argue, Airbnb and related services squeeze the supply of regular rental housing. Let's say someone bought a row house or condo in a mixed-use neighborhood, lived there for a while, and moved away. They could rent the place to a new permanent tenant. Or, they could list it full-time on Airbnb. The latter often makes more money. Using Airbnb also helps the homeowner avoid being subject to tenant protection laws.

On the other side, you have the opponents (i.e. the Airbnb lobbyists) of the legislation who argue that these rentals cover at most 0.25% of DC's housing, so the claim that it's restricting housing supply isn't justified. Airbnb argues that rentals in less tourist-heavy neighborhoods, like east of the Anacostia River, bring visitors to areas they wouldn't otherwise see to support neighborhood restaurants and shops…and also have very few hotel options anyways.

But wait, there are more issues!

The CFO’s report said the bill would reduce the city’s revenue by “at least $20 million in fiscal year 2019 and $96 million over the four-year financial plan" in lost tax revenue. Not good at all, especially considering the fact that the shortfall must be made up to fill the hole. And it’s not easy to find an additional $20-25 million per year in lost revenue. The other option for the council would be to eliminate the fiscal impact, which means the bill would need to be amended to avoid the revenue loss.

So what’s the latest?

As of late October, Chairman Phil Mendelson sent a letter to the Zoning Commission asking to amend the zoning code to permit short-term rentals in residential zones. On October 29th, at a brief special public meeting, the Commission voted to request recommendations on how to proceed from the Office of Planning. A final vote on the bill was delayed so the councilmembers could comb through how payment for the bill's implementation would be accounted for, and some are a bit pessimistic in their belief that zoning rules will be amended before the bill passes.


D.C. Wrote 86,000 Street Sweeping Tickets Last Year. Is It A Money-Making Scheme?


D.C. Wrote 86,000 Street Sweeping Tickets Last Year. Is It A Money-Making Scheme?

D.C. issued 86,000 street sweeping tickets in 2017 — a total of $3.8 million — plus late fees and additional charges when cars were towed. So WAMU took a deeper dive into the issue by asking: does street sweeping really do anything? Is it really just for the ticket revenue?

Not Just Aesthetics

A map from 1880 shows many downtown streets were swept weekly, while Pennsylvania Avenue was swept every day. Back then, the streets were filled with horse manure, but these days, it’s about getting trash off the streets. It’s working, according to the District Department of Public Works, which swept up 4,361 tons of waste last year - enough to fill 159 tractor trailers. After the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, people started thinking about how street sweeping could help clean up waterways. The Anacostia River has so much trash, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared it in violation of the Clean Water Act. Jurisdictions in the watershed are on a “pollution diet,” and must show the EPA they’re making progress towards reducing trash. Starting at the top of the waste chain, “We can think about using compostable products, or even reusable products, or choosing not to use a product, “says Laura Cattel Noll from the Alice Ferguson Foundation

Tire Wear, Oil Leaks and Exhaust

Trash isn’t the only pollutant on the road. The D.C. Department of Environment estimates street sweeping keeps almost nine tons of sediment out of waterways each year — enough to fill a large dumpster. Sediment is one of the main pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed ,which Neely Law, with the Center for Watershed Protection, says isn’t just harmless dirt. “We’re finding not just dirt in street, but a lot of other contaminants, including toxins. In addition, Much of the bad stuff on roadways comes from cars, such asTire wear leaky oil spills, nitrogen, and other chemicals from car exhaust settling on the pavement.

Why Don’t The Suburbs Sweep?

They do! Just not as aggressively as the District. “In urban jurisdictions, street sweeping is rewarded as a very efficient and effective way,” says Adam Ortiz, director of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment,. In D.C., though, officials say ticketing is necessary. There are about 15 street sweepers roaming city streets day and night, with about 30 city workers assigned to the task. William Houston, a sweeper operator for the past 16 years, says the hardest part of the job maneuvering around cars parked in the way of his sweeper. “We have a lot of people who just say they don’t want to move their cars.“ Christopher Shorter, director of the D.C. Department of Public Works, says what works in Arlington wouldn’t work in the city, since “D.C. is a much more densely populated area, so we face different challenges when it comes to parking and curbside management. We would not be able to have a successful program if cars were still parked on the street. It would be very difficult for us to get around a whole block full of vehicles.”

But Isn’t It Really About the Ticket Revenue?

To answer the question about revenue: last year, although the city wrote a lot of tickets ($3.8 million worth) the sweeping program cost much more ($4.8 million). So not exactly a great way to make money.


12 Things You Should Declutter Before a Move


12 Things You Should Declutter Before a Move


Moving is stressful, especially if you need to do it on a short notice. Part of the overwhelming logistics of moving is figuring out what to pack, or how to fit everything onto the moving truck at a reasonable price.

The solution to this is to focus on decluttering. According to Ann Zanon, a professional organizer, the average home could free up 20% of its space by tossing unused stuff. For moving, this makes packing easier, lightens the load on the truck, and saves you money. And like decluttering during any other moment in life, you’ll be glad you did it once it’s done.

When to Start

Since the items you will be throwing out will not be packed, decluttering should be one of the first steps in a move.

According to Georgetown Moving and Storage Company in Arlington, VA, you should start cleaning and decluttering 6 to 8 weeks before moving. This way you have a couple weeks of breathing room before you start packing 1 month before the moving date.

3 Tips You Should Know Before Starting


You can declutter efficiently and effectively if you remember these steps:

  1. Tackle one room at a time.

    1. Breaking the entire task of decluttering down to smaller ones makes it a realistic goal. Also, decluttering may involve multiple family members. Organizing room by room allows you to set a time that works for everyone.

  2. Start with large items first.

    1. The average cost of a move across states is $4,300. Moving within the same state is around $2,300. That’s a significant amount of money on top of the closing costs and down payment you already have. A large part of that moving cost depends on the weight added to the truck. If you get rid of heavy items you no longer think you’ll need in the new home, you can save hundreds on shipping. 

  3. Create piles for items to sell and donate. Throw away the rest. 

    1. Put items for selling and donating in a designated area, like the basement or garage. That way when you’re ready to take photos of items for selling or take items to donate to The Salvation Army, it’s all ready to go in one trip.

What to Declutter


Assessing what to throw away is dependent on your needs and situation. However, there are some common household items that tend to become excess junk. The simple rule is to toss anything that is unused, you don’t like or won’t fit in the new home.

In roughly this order, identify if your home has the following items you might not want to spend the money moving:

Old Furniture

When moving furniture, you must be familiar with your new home’s floor plan and have a tentative plan of where the large pieces are going to fit. This includes beds, couches, and chairs. If any of those won’t fit or are not a good match with the design of the home, then it isn’t worth your money to move them.

If you have a lot of furniture to get rid of, a used furniture dealer can take it off your hands quickly, albeit at a lower price than trying to sell it directly to locals.

Don’t forget any outdoor furniture as well. If you have a deck in your current home and don’t have one in the new home, your outside furniture will become clutter after moving.


Any appliances not included with the property can be sold. You may also want to throw out small appliances like toasters and microwaves that are old and buy new ones once you move into your new home.

Disposal Method: Sell on Craigslist or call a commercial junk hauler.

Old TVs and Computers

It only takes a few years for computers and TVs to fall behind current technology trends or see noticeable drops in performance.

Disposal Method: Some PC computers can have parts individually sold via eBay and TV’s are an easy item to sell on Facebook Marketplace.

Outdoor Equipment You Can’t Use Near the New Home

There might not be any point in keeping your surfboard if you plan on moving away from the ocean to somewhere inland. The same goes for other outdoor gear like skis, snowboards, surfboards, or camping gear that you are sure you can’t use anymore.

Disposal method: Sell online or give them away to a friend.

Decorative Pieces

You’ll want to treat these the same as your furniture. If you plan on a different interior design in your new home, then don’t pack artwork, curtains, baskets, ornaments, or anything else that would look out of place.

Disposal Method: Sell at a yard sale or toss them.

Seasonal Décor

Inspect your holiday decorations and evaluate if they are truly worth putting in the moving truck. Some families like to keep decorations fresh each year. Moving may just be the perfect excuse to buy it all new.

Disposal Method: If there are any decorations you haven’t used in the past year, throw them away.

Kids Toys

If your kids are older teenagers or you are an empty nester, you probably don’t need the Legos, kids’ bikes, and arts and crafts anymore.

Disposal Method: If you know anyone with kids or if you have grandkids, give them the toys. Otherwise, they can be donated to a local shelter or daycare.

Oil and Chemicals

Throw out oil and chemicals. Period. This includes paint, gasoline, pest killers, propane tanks, and anything that is highly flammable. You may want to consider keeping your cleaning solutions for the new home, especially on move-in day.

Disposal Method: Waste Management has several facilities in the DC metro area and offers services for disposing the above items properly.

Clothing That’s Never Worn

Many of us wear only 20% of what’s in our closet regularly. So, chances are your closet can use some decluttering. A guideline that some professional organizers follow that I like to observe is the One Year Rule – if you haven’t used it in over a year, throw it out.

Go through dressers and closets and find any clothes, hats, and footwear that doesn’t fit or you haven’t worn in over a year.

Disposal Method: Goodwill, The Salvation Army, a local thrift store, or clothing drop-off bins are perfect places for giving away clothes.

Newspapers and Magazines

Recycle old newspapers and magazines. You may also have a lot of books you longer need or want to keep. Just be careful before donating too many books as they tend to make great decorative pieces in living rooms and offices.

Disposal Method: Donate books to a local library and throw out newspapers and magazines.

Unimportant Paperwork and Documents

Shred any old paperwork that isn’t needed anymore. This could include copies of an old lease, old medical records, or any document that is out of date. If you think you may need any paperwork for future reference, you can scan it and save it to a hard drive or the cloud via Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive so long as it doesn’t contain confidential information.

Disposal Method: Shred or Scan and save to the cloud.

Food and Medicine

Throw away perishable items like food and medicine. This should be your last step in decluttering since you’ll need food in the house until the day of the move.

Disposal Method: Trash. Make sure to throw away medicine properly. The FDA has all the info you need on that.

Final Thoughts


Moving has a variety of options with different advantages and costs for each one. For far away moves across states, your large or heavy belongings, like furniture, can always be sold now and purchased again once you are moved in. You’ll just need to weigh that cost (and factor in the income you’ll earn from selling items) with moving it.

A good clean out should make packing less stressful for you in the weeks ahead. Though the above list isn’t exhaustive, hopefully, it provides a helpful starting point for when you get ready for your next move.

Michael Nokes works for Garage Design Source, a garage storage and organization dealer that serves the DC metro area. He enjoys sharing home organizing tips and helping others with decluttering. When he’s not working, he spends time with friends and family.


Broccoli City and &pizza Are Opening a Bar in Shaw Where Happy Hour Goes Until 10 PM


Broccoli City and &pizza Are Opening a Bar in Shaw Where Happy Hour Goes Until 10 PM

Earlier this year, Brandon McEachern, Marcus Allen, and Darryl Perkins—founders of Broccoli City, the hip-hop, rap, and R&B music festival that’s featured headliners like Solange, Cardi B, and Future—headed down to South by Southwest in Austin, TX, where they met &pizza CEO Michael Lastoria over a few adult beverages. On October 24, just seven months after that boozy chat, the guys will open a cocktail-and-pizza bar called Broccoli Bar. Inspired by art pop-ups like the Future of Sports, Allen, McEachern, and Perkinsthe trio hopes to expand the community outreach and health programming that they celebrate each spring during their music festival.

One thing the Broccoli team wants to do to differentiate its bar from others in the buzzy neighborhood is hold an extended happy hour they’re calling “The Vibe,” which will run from 6 to 10 PM with discounted drinks and DJs. For those who actually make it to late night, the bar will be open till 2 AM Thursday through Saturday. The bar will serve up &pizza staples, plus an exclusive pie topped with broccoli and cheddar beer cheese. The inaugural talk planned for 6 PM on opening day (October 24th ), features Ajit Varghese and Harry Alford, founders of the venture capital firm Ventures. Another event, planned for November 14th, will feature Christopher Bradshaw, the founder and director of Dreaming Out Loud. Another thing major happening kicking off on November 3rd - weekend brunch with three breakfast pizzas.