Close It!™ House of the Week: A darling Bethesda bungalow

For this week's pick, we're venturing down Western Avenue into one of Bethesda's nicest neighborhoods to check out a darling bungalow. Located about a mile from the Friendship Heights Metro, this home is within walking distance of plenty of shops, restaurants, trails and transportation options. It's listed at $650,000.

There's two bedrooms plus a finished attic that can be used for an additional bedroom or office space. It has a large deck in the back yard and a wooden picket fence in the front yard, increasing the amount of space for kids and pets to safely roam. 

Assuming a homebuyer puts down 20 percent on a conventional loan, her cash to close number will be approximately $149,121.72. Monthly payments will then be around $2,859.85 per month. For a complete picture of the cash to close, or for a run-down of the seller's side of the deal, plug the numbers into the Web version of Close It™ or download the free iOS app.

Headlines: Despite cold weather, DC area housing market heating up

Here's a look at what's happening in real estate in and around the District of Columbia. 

DC-area housing market is on a roll

Typically, January is one of the slowest months of the year. But last month, according to analytics firm RealEstate Business Intelligence (RBI), a subsidiary of Rockville-based multiple-listing service MRIS, the market showed across-the-board progress. -Washington Post

Washington home prices reach highest January level in 7 years

The median price of a house or a condo that sold in the Washington metro region last month was $385,000, the highest January median price since 2007 and up 4.1 percent from a year earlier. Condo prices led the gain, up 4.7 percent. -Washington Business Journal

Where zoning commissioners stand on DC's proposed pop-up rule

The Zoning Commission is strongly divided on a proposed rule aimed at stopping residential pop-ups in DC. But if commissioners’ opinions hold steady, the rule is likely to be implemented on a divided vote. -DC Urban Turf

Bowser Administration scraps downtown museum plans

Last month, administration officials said that five projects that had been awarded under Mayor Vince Gray were under review and could be opened to new bids. Among them was the Institute for Contemporary Expression, the highly anticipated museum from art collector Dani Levinas. -Washington City Paper

Your transit map could look like this if Maryland builds the purple and red lines

Within ten years, you could be able to take trains from West Baltimore to Tysons Corner in Virginia, or go from Bethesda to Fells Point along the Baltimore waterfront without detouring through downtown DC. If, that is, Maryland still builds the planned Purple and Baltimore Red light rail lines. -Greater Greater Washington 

Demand for government-backed FHA loans spikes

Mortgage activity took a slight breather last week, but applications for government-backed loans went on a tear after the government insurer of home loans lowered annual insurance premiums by half a percentage point. -CNBC

Close It!™ House of the Week: Modern amenities, historic charm

This week we're taking a look at a gorgeous semi-detached federal style home located about a block away from the action on H Street NE that features modern amenities and historical charm. It's listed at $849,000.

A vestibule and foray entry open into a living room with fireplace and soaring 10-foot ceilings. The upstairs portion of the house features 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. A third bathroom is located in the renovated lower level. 

Assuming a homebuyer puts down 20 percent on a conventional loan, her cash to close number will be approximately $194,588.07. Monthly payments will then be around $3,687.51 per month. For a complete picture of the cash to close, or for a run-down of the seller's side of the deal, plug the numbers into the Web version of Close It™ or download the free iOS app.

Headlines: New condos on Capitol Hill; across town a development battle looms

Here's a look at what's happening in real estate around the District of Columbia. 

What homebuyers need to know about seller disclosures

Although all states require some form of property disclosure statement, the extent of what must be revealed can vary from state to state, county to county and even city to city. -Washington Post

Greater Washington home prices rising much slower than national average

In December, home prices in the Washington metro were up just 1 percent from a year ago, compared with a nationwide annual gain of 5 percent. -Washington Business Journal

The residential plans for Capitol Hill's new historic Union Garage

Now the building is slated to become three large condos, according to OPaL’s Sean Ruppert. The single-level, three-bedroom homes will measure out at 2,100 to 2,600 square feet and have elevator access and two parking spots per unit. -Urban Turf

Mixed signals for spring housing season

Overall economic conditions, everything from job growth to cheap gas, could help home sales. But still=high home prices, tight credit conditions and low supply all stand in the way. -CNBC

DC's Top 15 developments with crazy, pet-friendly amenities

Some of the amenities in these developments include a rooftop dog park, dog washing boutique, and pet spa. From City Market at O Street to The Jefferson, this is our list of the top 15 developments with the craziest, pet-friendliest amenities. -Curbed DC

Get ready for the next big development battle

The Armed Forces Retirement Home, also known as the Old Soldiers' Home, has long discussed turning over a portion of its 272 acres, just east of Petworth, for development in order to fund its continued operations. The federally-owned site is home to retired veterans—but it also sits on one of the last expansive pieces of prime real estate in the District. -Washington City Paper

Choosing your own title company - yet another reason

Two of the largest financial institutions in the country are having their feet held to the fire over blatant violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedure Act, according to a complaint filed in federal court last week by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Maryland Attorney General.

The complaint involves employees of Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase who participated in a kickback scheme with a now-defunct Maryland title company Genuine Title in which loan officers received cash, marketing materials and customer information in exchange for referrals. 

"This type of quid pro quo arrangement is illegal, and it’s unfair to other businesses that play by the rules," said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

More than 100 loan officers from at least 18 Wells Fargo branches allegedly participated in the scheme as did at least six loan officers from three Chase bank branches, according to the complaint. Consequently, Wells Fargo is facing $24 million in civil penalties and $10.8 million in redress while JPMorgan Chase faces $600,000 in civil penalties and $300,000 in redress. 

The details of the complaint reveal blatant RESPA violations going back to 2009 and involving thousands of home loans and tens of thousands of dollars. Genuine Title went so far as to foot the bill for direct-mail campaigns and branded marketing materials. They even paid some loan officers cold, hard cash. 

One former Wells Fargo loan officer was singled out by name in the complaint for accepting cash payments. His then-girl friend, now-wife was also identified in the complaint for taking the payments on behalf of the loan officer to disguise the arrangement. They will pay a $30,000 penalty. 

The huge dollar figures and overt rule-breaking are not what makes this case special, though. What makes it special is the offenders got caught and will face their day in court. For those of us in the trenches – the so-called "rule abiders" of the title industry, fighting the good fight independently – we are aware that this kind of thing occurs all too frequently and we can only shake our heads. 

The truth is most consumers still don't know they can select their own settlement service provider. Nine times out of ten, the homebuyers we encounter say they just went along with whatever their agent or lender recommended because it was convenient. They have no idea about the potential for a conflict of interest and how they could be saving hundreds of dollars by choosing their own independent title company. 

The only way to combat this sad fact of the home buying experience, is to get the message out to consumers as well as the businesses who seek to take advantage of them. We fully support the CFPB and other government regulators who shine a light on these anti-consumer and, often, illegal business pursuits. 

Our blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. Rate tables and figures that appear on our blog are deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For current rates & policies, refer to our Quick Quote and Consumer Guide. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on our blog.