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REAL ESTATE BLOG
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Mortgage Rates Fall to Lowest Level Since Early June

2015-07-29 09:13:00

Filed under: Buying, Financing, Refinancing
ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.


By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.83 percent, down 8 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate moved lower throughout the week before settling at that rate Tuesday.

"Mortgage rates fell last week to their lowest level since early June," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "There is potential for increased rate volatility this week as markets look to Wednesday's Federal Open Market Committee statement and Thursday's GDP report. Rates could move back up if the data are stronger than expected."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.97 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.84 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.



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Does Downsizing Add Up?

2015-07-28 13:20:00

Filed under: Buying, Lifestyle, Selling
Alamy


By Susan Johnston

It's a common bit of retirement advice: Downsize your housing after the kids leave the nest to cut costs. Interestingly, though, many baby boomers have no intentions of downsizing. Nearly two-thirds of boomers surveyed in 2013 by The Demand Institute -- a nonprofit owned by Nielsen -- plan to "age in place" rather than move. Of those who do plan to move, nearly half said they plan to increase the size of their home or pay more for a comparably sized home.

Many people assume that downsizing housing saves money. But does it really?

It can, especially if you're able to cash in on the equity you've built up. But there are a lot of factors that can actually result in higher housing costs once you downsize.

"What we always recommend is to consult with a financial planner to see what your monthly expenses are now and what the expenses may be where you're thinking of moving," says Jeff Stone, a seniors real estate specialist in a Port Washington, New York.

Stone points out that the term downsizing can be, well, a bit of downer.

"Rightsizing, to me, is a better word," he says.



Here's a look at several areas to consider before moving later in life.

Moving Costs

When you move for a job, you might get a relocation package from your employer or load the moving truck with help from a couple of able-bodied friends. But when you move during retirement, you bear those costs, which can be considerable if you're moving a long distance and need to hire professional movers.

"Sometimes with the cost of moving furniture, especially if you're going a longer distance, it can be more feasible to buy new furniture," says Mario Minotti, a partner at Minotti Group Wealth Advisors in Chicago. (Minotti's clients are mainly retirees and pre-retirees, so he has talked through the pros and cons of downsizing with several of them.)

Beyond the cost of physically transporting your belongings, you'll also pay transaction costs on selling an existing home and buying a new one.

"If [a home is] listed with a broker, you pay their commission and will also be paying your attorney fees, closing costs and so forth," Stone says. Many boomers also choose to rent, which comes with a different set of costs.

Storage Costs

Many boomers have amassed -- and grown attached to -- large collections of antiques and other mementos over the course of their lives.

"There's china sets, a lot of antiques and family things that they want to preserve," Minotti says. "A lot of male clients have accumulated a couple of cars, and they're excited that they're going to be able to enjoy them [in retirement], but parking spots can be expensive."

Or, in some cases, "their kids had a bunch of their childhood stuff that they want to preserve for their grandkids," he adds.

One option, if you don't have space for these items, is renting a storage unit. But it doesn't come cheap, especially if you want secure, climate-controlled storage for antiques. The average asking rent for a 10-by-10-foot, climate-controlled storage unit in the U.S. was $151 per month during the fourth quarter last year, according to the Self Storage Association.

Another option is to sell, donate or give to relatives. Unless you have items that are in demand, don't count on making big bucks or getting younger relatives excited about decades-old furniture (a notable exception being college-bound or recently graduated grandchildren furnishing a place on a budget).

An item may provide "a memory but doesn't provide value to someone else," says Chris Abts, president and founder of Cornerstone Retirement Group in Reno, Nevada. "We find many times those just don't have much in the way of value."

Many boomers also lack the energy or discipline for a serious declutter, which has spawned an entire of industry of senior move managers and organizers for hire. "The key would be to downsize the things you've accumulated while you have energy, while you're healthy," Abts says.

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Home Security Doesn't Have to Be Expensive

2015-07-20 08:45:00

Filed under: Home Improvement
anekoho/Shutterstock A simple video camera often can be installed by the homeowner. Its presence alone is a deterrent to thieves.


By Teresa Mears

You want to keep your home safe from thieves, but you don't want to spend a fortune doing so because, frankly, you don't have a fortune worth stealing.

Technology has significantly brought down the cost of home security systems and home surveillance cameras, many of which you can install yourself. But there are also many low-tech solutions that cost little or nothing that will keep your home safer from intruders.

"Most burglars are just opportunists," says Martin Holloway, owner of Hollotec.com. A security expert who teaches lock-picking and specialized entry techniques to law enforcement and the military, Holloway says burglars are going to "find the easy house."

A professionally installed security system can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, plus $30 or so a month for monitoring. But in the last decade, dozens of do-it-yourself alarm systems have come on the market, some with monitoring options and others that send alerts to you via email or text so you can decide whether to call police. Even a rudimentary system is likely to make a loud noise when an intruder enters the house, and sometimes that's all it takes to scare away a burglar.



"Some of them are almost plug and play," says Holloway, who has a $60 security camera that he installed himself at his home. "I can control it with an app on my phone, and it's great." For a simple DIY security system, you can install cameras inside or outside your house, with a hard drive or cloud storage that collects the video footage so there is something you can review after a break-in.

Neal Scott, an Internet marketing consultant for security companies, cautions homeowners who go the DIY route to make sure they know what they're doing and install the system properly. He says homeowners should also ensure the system includes sensors for doors and windows.

One factor to consider is your insurance company may not grant a discount on your homeowners insurance if the system is not professionally installed, and some municipalities may require installers to be licensed. Good tech support is important, too.

"A technology problem with your smartphone is not a big deal, but a technology program with your security system is," Scott says. And the newest technology may not yet be tested, he warns.

"There an awful lot of time and experience that's gone into professional home security devices," says Scott, who has been working in the security system field since he started at his father's company at age 15. "I'm a proponent of going professional."

Security system or not, cameras or not, there are also free or cheap low-tech solutions that can be surprisingly effective against thieves. Here are seven free or low-cost ways to protect your home:

Use your deadbolt lock. The basic lock on your doorknob isn't really very good, Holloway says. "Many knob locks can be defeated by simply grabbing the knob with, at most, a pipe wrench or with, at the least, two hands and twisting hard," he says. "The internal locking mechanism shears and the door can be opened, and this can all happen in a matter of seconds. This is an old burglar trick." Deadbolts are harder to defeat, and a cheap deadbolt is as good as an expensive one. "The lock isn't going to break, but it's the doorjamb and the wood around the door that's going to break," Holloway says.

Protect your garage door. Garage doors have a pull cord that can be used to open them if the power is out. A burglar can stick a coat hanger down the top of a garage door, latch onto the cord and "unlock" the door. To keep that from happening, Holloway advises placing a zip tie through the piece from which the cord is hanging, which will make it almost impossible for a thief to open it from the outside with a coat hanger.

Secure sliding glass doors. Many older doors are easy to open from the outside. Use a broom handle lying on its side on the track to prevent the door from being opened.

Make sure your home is well-lighted outside. Motion detector lights are inexpensive and an easy way to illuminate anyone who approaches the house. "In all the years I was a cop, I don't think I worked a single case where a burglar kicked in a front door," says Alex Bracke, a police officer turned real estate agent in Northern Virginia. "The reason for that is because the front door is commonly the most visible part of the house, and if there's anything would-be burglars don't want, it's to be visible."

Make it look as if you're home. Lights, radio and TVs on timers create the illusion that someone is home when you're gone on vacation. Get a neighbor to pick up mail and newspapers when you're away.

Make it painful for thieves to climb in your ground-floor windows. "A window is the most vulnerable part of your house," Holloway says, reminding homeowners that keeping windows locked also is important. A thief who has to climb into a bed of thorns may be deterred. He suggests planting these three plants that grow in most parts of the U.S.: Pyracantha, also known as "firethorn," European holly, which has very sharp leaves, and voodoo rose. Homeowners who live in tropical areas can plant Bougainvillea.

Make it easy for people to see potential entry points. You want to have easily "inspectable space," says Joshua Godknecht, a sensitive compartmented information facility design specialist for AdamoSecurity.com, which designs and builds secure rooms for the government. "Most people have lots of overgrown plants or hedges to provide privacy, but trimming hedges and arranging your landscape so that it creates a single, very visible path to your front door, and only your front door, is practically free and ensures that no one could take advantage of the hidden places near your home." Permalink | Email this | Comments

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'Breakfast at Tiffany's' Brownstone Fetches $7.4 Million

2015-07-18 06:33:00

Filed under: News, Celebrity Homes


Getty ImagesAudrey Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Holly Golightly in the 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's."







Courtesy of Peter*Ashe Real Estate via StreeEasyThe brownstone at 169 E. 71st St. on the Upper East Side.

By Catherine Sherman

You may remember Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard standing on these front steps. The brownstone featured prominently in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" has sold for $7.4 million after most recently being listed for $8 million.

"Any time they had a street scene, the house was featured," said Asher Alcobi of Peter*Ashe Real Estate, the Manhattan home's exclusive broker. "The signature olive green doors are still the same."



The 1961 romantic comedy was filmed in a studio for the interior shots, including the famous party scene with Mickey Rooney's character, Mr. Yunioshi. But 169 E. 71st St. continues to garner interest as the place Miss Holly Golightly made her debut in The Big City.

"The house is on the tourist tour of the Upper East Side," Alcobi said.

The 3,800-square-foot brownstone boasts four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a sweeping staircase and an enclosed greenhouse.

It's split into an upper and lower duplex. Upstairs, two bedroom suites have their own renovated baths. There's also a sunny living room with a wood-burning fireplace, a renovated kitchen and laundry room. Downstairs, a garden apartment with a separate entrance has a front library, powder room and a large bedroom and full bath.

The house was renovated in the mid 1980s and again in the late '90s. It was last listed in 2011 before finding a buyer for $5.975 million in April 2012.

An earlier version of this story was published on Oct. 29, 2014.


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Where to Spend $10,000 if You're Remodeling

2015-07-17 08:17:00

Filed under: Home Improvement, Selling
Getty ImagesA bathroom remodel can improve your enjoyment of your home but might not pay off if you're planning to sell soon.


By Michael Corbett



Whether you're looking to sell or stay put, you'll save money on these home improvement projects.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to remodeling and upgrading your house, and deciding where to put your precious dollars can be tough. Many of these remodeling decisions can be made based on whether or not you're planning to stay in your home long term.

Let's take a look at the places where a $10,000 investment in your home can go the furthest.

If You're Planning to Sell Within 2 Years

It's important to remember that there's not always a direct relationship between exactly how much you put into a specific renovation project and exactly how much you get out of it.

If you consider home improvements item by item, you'll likely conclude that undertaking almost any individual home improvement prior to the sale of your home is a losing proposition. However, when you add small improvements together with vision and creativity, you create an overall house improvement and a big return on your investment. The whole package is far more valuable than the sum of its parts!

Top 6 Target Projects

1. Kitchen.
A $10,000 investment is not going to get you a full kitchen makeover and leave enough extra cash to make many other upgrades. Instead, think about upgrading tired old appliances. Cabinet resurfacing and upgrading the countertops can be very affordable and give a big splash. One word of caution: Make sure you don't overspend for your neighborhood. Know your market.

2. Master bath.
Again, here in the master bath, $10,000 will not go very far, but you can create a wow effect. Consider upgrading the shower to a frameless glass shower enclosure, adding new fixtures, and maybe a new vanity and countertops.

3. Paint.
Repaint the interior of your home and keep it neutral with soft earth tones. Then make sure you pick up some fantastic pillows and accessories to add punches of color.

4. New carpet.
No homebuyer wants to walk barefoot across your tired, old, stained, dirty, worn-out carpet. When you replace the existing carpet, go with a neutral shade.

5. Curb appeal.
This is a low-cost no-brainer. Trim up the hedges, give the grass some TLC, plant some flowers, and give the front door a fresh coat of paint in a wonderful accent color. Create a strong first impression by adding shiny new house numbers and maybe even a new mailbox. Finally, add in some wonderful outdoor lighting, and presto!

6. Push the inside out.
f there's an existing room that looks out to the backyard, push it out! Replace existing windows with French doors and build a small deck. You've just increased the "size" of that room -- and added value to the house for very little money.

If You're Planning to Stay in Your House

If selling isn't in the cards for you and your family, you can still consider all of the tips above. You'll enjoy living in an upgraded house, especially if you're staying put. Additionally, think about these projects for long-term payback.

1. Heating and air system upgrades.
New heating and air systems will actually reduce your monthly utility bills over time and are a great investment.

2. Going solar.
In sunny climates, investing in solar technology can increase the value of your home and reduce your monthly and yearly utility costs.

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Jeff Bridges' Old World Montecito Estate Listed at $29.5M

2015-07-16 08:03:00

Filed under: Celebrity Homes, Selling

Jim Bartsch via ZillowActor Jeff Bridges and his wife bought the 19-acre estate from musician Kenny Loggins in 1994.


By Melissa Allison

Sometimes, there's a house. Well, it's the house for its time and place. It fits right in there. And that's this house, in the California coastal retreat of Montecito.

Actor Jeff Bridges -- beloved as The Dude in "The Big Lebowski" and an Oscar winner for his role in "Crazy Heart" -- and his wife, Susan, are ready to pass the five-bedroom, 5.5-bath house to a new owner after raising their daughters there and finding a smaller place nearby.

The couple bought the 19-acre spread in 1994 from musician Kenny Loggins, and they're handling its sale (asking price: $29.5 million) like true Hollywood royalty: Right up front.


Jordan Strauss/Invision/APJeff Bridges


Listing photos include a shot of personal pictures and memorabilia, and Susan gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which she shared her husband's love of the property's aloe trees and his "fort," "a quiet spot with a hammock, swings and benches, where he occasionally makes pottery."

The 9,593-square-foot home, listed by Suzanne Perkins of Sotheby's International Realty, resembles a hilltop estate in Tuscany, but with views of the Pacific Ocean.

An antique stone fireplace anchors the sunken living room, which features oak floors, an exposed-beam ceiling and a grand terrace. It adjoins a dining room with antique terra-cotta pavers, beyond which is a fireplace with banquette seating.

The kitchen opens onto a dining terrace and abuts a spacious family room with a cathedral ceiling. The library was built with rough-sawn beams from centuries-old East Coast bridges. It's surrounded by an open-air walkway, and beyond that is a secret hedged garden.

Next to the master suite, which includes a Juliet balcony and a sitting area with a limestone fireplace, is a stairwell that leads to a tower room with a fireplace, deck and views in all directions.

Outside, a stream cascades into a pond-shaped pool next to an elevated deck and fireplace -- an outdoor living area serviced by its own kitchen, bath and changing rooms.

The estate also boasts walking trails to a nearby hot spring, two guest houses, plus a narrow footbridge that crosses a stream to reach a home theater and recording studio. Below it is a playhouse Bridges built for his children.

Photos by Jim Bartsch via Zillow




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Mortgage Rates Rise But Remain Under 4% Again

2015-07-15 06:00:00

Filed under: Buying, Financing, Refinancing
ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.


By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed home loans rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.95 percent, up 7 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose late in the week, then hovered around 3.98 percent before dipping to the current rate.

"Mortgage rates increased late last week as fears of a Greek euro exit and a Chinese stock market collapse eased," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "We expect less volatility this week with markets focusing more on domestic news, especially Fed Chair Janet Yellen's Congressional testimony."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.04 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.91 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.



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10 Gated Homes You Could Buy for Less Than $600,000

2015-07-14 13:24:00

Filed under: Buying, Lifestyle, Selling

ZillowThe home behind these gates in Roseville, about 20 miles from the California capital of Sacramento, has fairway views.


By Melissa Allison

Whether the fences, walls and gates are for a single home or a whole community, they bring privacy -- and a certain degree of glamour -- to what's behind them.

Celebrities have long favored gated living, and retirees are known to roam there as well. Here are a batch of listings to keep the magic in and the paparazzi out:

Roseville, California
319 Diamond Oaks Road
For sale: $575,000




Zillow

The same owner has lived in this home with a gated driveway and golf-course views for more than 25 years. The landscaped backyard boasts an expansive deck, plus a pergola. View more homes for sale in Roseville.




Manitou Springs, Colorado
6120 Aspen Way
For sale: $358,000

Zillow

Privacy abounds in this gated community outside Colorado Springs. It borders a national forest, and from this home's private deck, you can take in the aspen grove and listen to the burbling of a nearby creek. See what else is on the market in Manitou Springs.


Louisville, Kentucky
8500 Pine Valley Trail
For sale: $549,000



Zillow




Here's a home on 18 acres with a pond -- all inside a gated community. The home's great room and master bedroom feature fireplaces and vaulted ceilings.

Check out more listings in Louisville.


Enon, Ohio
5481 Hunter
For sale: $449,900



Zillow








This gated estate includes hiking trails, a stream and a pond with a fountain and a gazebo. That's before you even walk inside, where you'll find 3,335 square feet of skylit luxury, including a wet bar in excellent proximity to the sauna and a hot tub with sylvan views. Visitors stay in the two-bedroom guesthouse.

View more homes for sale in Enon.

Boone, North Carolina
206 Leatherflower Lane
For sale: $515,000



Zillow




The mountains of North Carolina are home to this gated community that feels like a national park. The home features a wide deck for taking in the natural beauty.

See more homes on the market in Boone area.


Mason City, Iowa
1545 N. Carolina Avenue
For sale: $397,545







Zillow


A gated entry and a white picket fence set apart this Midwestern home, which measures 4,910 square feet and includes a landscaped yard with a gazebo.

Check out more listings in Mason City.
Laughlin, Nevada
1280 Country Club Drive
For sale: $375,000


Zillow






Perched on a desert oasis between Las Vegas and Lake Havasu City, this home offers panoramic mountain views. It also boasts 2 master suites, each with a closet the size of a bedroom, plus a Jacuzzi tub with more views.

See what else is on the market in Laughlin.

West Palm Beach, Florida
985 Bear Island Drive
For sale: $375,000



Zillow






This home has a heated pool and spa, and it backs up to a golf course -- all within a gated community that's surrounded by green space.

Check out more listings in West Palm Beach.

Harvey, Louisiana
1816 Squirewood Drive
For sale: $369,000



Zillow






This home in a gated community just outside New Orleans features an open floor plan spread across 2,950 square feet, a large den with a fireplace and a covered patio overlooking the landscaped yard.

View more homes on the market in Harvey.

Pawleys Island, South Carolina
195 Doral Drive
For sale: $547,500



Zillow






Coastal South Carolina offers lots of opportunities for golfing, including homes in gated communities like this one that boast their own golf courses. The 4,200-square-foot home includes a screened-in porch and a skylit "Carolina room."

See more listings in Pawleys Island.


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7 Ways to Save Water in Your Yard

2015-07-10 10:48:00

Filed under: Home Improvement
Associated PressReplacing some of your grass with drought-tolerant landscaping and native plants is one way to save water.


By Jennifer Gravely

Brown grass, dead shrubs, puny gardens -- they're an eyesore for sure. But keeping your yard in pristine shape can be quite a burden, especially in the summer heat, when drought conditions are rampant.

Here are seven tips to keep your yard looking its best, without wasting water.

1. Be sprinkler savvy.

Your automatic sprinkler can be a huge help when it comes to keeping your yard looking its best, but it can also be a huge water -- and money -- waster.

First, make sure your sprinklers are watering your lawn, not the driveway or road, and frequently check the system for leaks. Consider installing rain and/or moisture sensors that will turn sprinklers off if it's raining or if the ground is already saturated.

2. Water when it matters.

Water your lawn only in the morning. In the heat of the day, that water will touch the surface and then quickly evaporate -- leaving you with less than ideal results.

A rain gauge can help you track how much water your yard is getting - about an inch of water per week is all it really needs. During especially dry times, it's best to just leave the yard alone. Yes, it will brown, but it will be dormant and bounce back once it gets cooler, saving loads and loads of water.

3. Use a drip system.

For the ease of a sprinkler system but with far less waste, opt for a drip-irrigation system. With this type of system, a hose riddled with tiny holes is placed throughout your yard, allowing small amounts of water to seep directly into the ground over long periods -- exactly what your yard needs to thrive.

4. Collect rainwater.

Stock up on water when you can to use around your yard and garden. Turn gutters into your own personal watering system by directing them into much-needed areas in your yard. Or, install a rain barrel to collect the runoff from your gutters.

Check local laws first, as there may be restrictions on water collection.

5. Adjust your lawn mower.

No matter how unruly your yard looks, don't mow it down as low as it will go. Set your lawn mower blade a bit higher than usual, or at least 3 inches. Longer blades of grass shade each other, reducing some evaporation. Longer blades also mean longer roots, so the grass can reach water deeper than it normally would.

6. Use mulch.

A fresh layer of mulch around shrubs and trees will hold nutrients and moisture much longer than plain old dirt. Go green and make a compost of food and lawn waste to add to the mix. You'll see that your trees and plants will need less water than before.

7. Opt for natural beauty.

Cut out the need for watering outdoors altogether by removing your grass. You can replace most of it with porous paving stones, which allow water to soak through to the ground.

You will want some plants in your yard to help absorb the rain and prevent runoff, however. The best plants to choose, as well as the easiest to care for, are those native to the region. If you live in a dry, drought-prone area, a xeriscaped yard might include desert shrubs and cactuses, but there are many colorful drought-tolerant plants. You'll find that these plants will thrive without excessive watering.

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Scott Disick Bought Bachelor Pad Before Kardashian Breakup

2015-07-09 13:54:00

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes

ZillowThe 4,095-square-foot home has five bedrooms and six baths, providing enough space for his three children to visit.


By Melissa Allison



Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick split over the Fourth of July weekend, and he already has a bachelor pad to call his own.


APDisick and Kardashian


Disick paid $3.699 million for a spread in Beverly Hills nine days after Kourtney gave birth to their third child in December.

"He plans to redo [the house] and flip it," an anonymous source told US Weekly at the time.

It's a curious flip prospect: Records show he paid almost twice what the previous owner bought it for -- $1.965 million -- in early 2014.

Disick might have bought the 4,095-square-foot home as insurance against a possible breakup. Last fall, he struggled to maintain his sobriety in "Kourtney and Khloé Take the Hamptons."

Now he'll have plenty of room -- five bedrooms and six bathrooms -- in which to ruminate while taking in ocean and canyon views. Or he could soak in the saltwater pool and spa.

The listing agent was Bill Thon of Lamerica Real Estate.





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  • If you need more than just an agent to work with, someone that listens to you and totally committed to your needs. If you are looking for the best home for your family; give Juanita a call. I assure you that she will take good care of you as she did my wife and I. We wouldn’t have done it without her. Thank you Juanita!

    Josue Leon - Buyer Laurel, Maryland
  • Juanita was sure to learn my preferences and meet my expectations. With each showing , the options were more and more appealing. I was impressed with her knowledge and whatever she wasn't certain of, she made sure to find the answer. If you are a first time home buyer or seasoned veteran, I strongly recommend Juanita.

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  • Juanita Brown was excellent! She was there with me every step of the way and I will recommend her for future friends and family!

    K. Gerald - Buyer Laurel, MD
  • I had a phenomenal experience with Juanita. There was nothing she wouldn't do to ensure that I had an optimal home buying experience. Her knowledge is impeccable and her service is amazing! I would refer her to anyone who is interesting in purchasing a home. Should I ever decide to purchase another property, I will have Juanita on speed dial!

    Abby - Buyer Germantown, MD