Did you know? Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act in Takoma Park, Maryland

If you have been involved in real estate in the DC metro area you have likely come across the DC Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act. But did you know that Takoma Park, Maryland also has a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act ("TOPA")?

The intent of TOPA is to promote the conversion of rentals to owner-occupied housing. Not complying with TOPA does leave the possibility that a court of competent jurisdiction may declare the transfer of the property void.  

As with DC, there are exceptions to the tenant opportunity to purchase. Some transfers that are exempt include transfers to a family member, transfers under a court order, transfers to the State or a local government and transfers of a minority title interest.  For a complete list of exempt transfers, please visit Section 6.32.020 of the City of Takoma Park Municipal Code.   

As the title company, Federal Title will require proof that the seller delivered a written offer of sale at the same price and terms as the third party contract of sale to each tenant, any registered  tenant association, and the City of Takoma Park by first class mail or personal delivery and, except for single family homes, that the offer was posted in a common area.  

For single family homes, the tenant has seven days from the date of receipt of the written offer of sale to provide a written statement of interest, and the City of Takoma Park has 14 days. For properties with two to six units, a group of tenants acting jointly have 14 days, then seven additional days for any individual tenant, then seven more days for the City.  

For properties with seven or more units, a registered tenant association representing at least one-third of the occupied rental units in the rental facility and the City of Takoma Park each have 45 days. (Please note that properties involving four or more units in Takoma Park will also need to comply with Montgomery County’s Right of First Refusal laws).

Similar to DC’s TOPA laws, a tenant does have the right to waive the rights but only if supported by consideration. Also, the closing must take place within 6 months of the offer of sale being mailed or personally delivered. Federal Title will additionally require that both the purchaser and the seller sign a TOPA affidavit. 

This is just a summary of the City of Takoma Park TOPA laws, but the full text can be found at Chapter 6.32 Tenant Opportunity to Purchase.

5 safety tips for real estate agents

A female real estate agent who was preparing to show a vacant property in New Carrollton, MD was robbed on Monday, according to news reports. It appears the attacker took her purse and some personal items, but the woman will be O.K.

While rare, attacks on real estate agents do happen from time to time and (sadly) women in particular are vulnerable. In light of this recent event, I thought it'd be good to explore the topic and offer some safety tips for real estate agents.

Stranger danger! Verify customer information

In addition to getting your new client's full name and phone number, find out what where he works. Ask for an email address. Ask for multiple telephone numbers. Google is your best friend. While some might consider it creepy to Google an individual before a first date, it's totally acceptable to Google a potential client in the name of personal safety. What's more, you might learn a thing or two about your new client that you can use to help him find the perfect property.

Use the buddy system. Tell someone in your office where you're going

If you're out in the field, let people know. Ideally you shouldn't host public open houses or show vacant property alone. Bring a friend. But since that isn't always practical, at minimum it's a good idea to tell a co-worker and perhaps a personal contact, too, where you're going to be and when you expect to return.

Have new clients meet you in your office or another public place whenever possible. In those situations where you must meet a new client one-on-one, remember Google is your friend. (See the first tip.)

Carry your cell phone and keep it in your hands

Since you've already told your buddy that you will be showing houses or meeting a new client, why not pre-program that contact into your phone in case you need to make a quick call? Bonus points for downloading one of those personal safety apps. Some basic personal safety apps are free while fancier ones cost money. Of course, your phone will be useless in a pocket or purse, so keep it in your hands as much as you can. In the event you have to send a distress call, you can make it quickly and then throw your phone at the perp's face (just kidding).

Familiarize yourself with your surroundings

Take a drive around the neighborhood and keep an eye out for safety concerns. Do a quick Internet search before you go to look up crime reports and other information about the neighborhood. At the property, survey the exits and make sure you're able to get out easily in the event you have to make a quick escape.

Likewise, if you're in a property with your client, make sure you know where he is. Keep your client in sight, ideally in front of you and at a safe distance. Let him enter a room first while you linger by the doorway. You don't have to be weird or obvious about it, but keep your guard up. One of the best ways to avoid a compromising situation is to not allow yourself to get into a vulnerable position where a would-be attacker can take advantage.

Trust your gut

If something doesn't feel right, get out of there. Or don't meet the client one-on-one. It's that simple. Don't discount the lessons taught to us in kindergarten about stranger danger and the buddy system. Take extra steps to ensure your personal safety.

While it's unfortunate to hear about what happened with the female agent at the vacant house in New Carrollton, hopefully her experience will remind others of the inherent dangers of working with the public as a real estate agent. Stay safe out there!

New Maryland bill to limit cost of condo resale package

Maryland law requires the seller to provide specific information pertaining to the resale of property within a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) or a property designated under a condominium regime.

Typically, this information is produced by the management for the HOA or condominium, and the HOA or condominium charges the seller a fee for the production and delivery of the information.

It is the belief of some Maryland legislators that the fees being charged are excessive and, as such, these legislators are seeking to limit the amount that may be charged.

Before the Maryland legislature are bills S229/HB412, which would limit the fee a condominium council of unit owners or HOA may charge an owner (seller) for providing this legally required information to a prospective homebuyer.

The current law calls for a "reasonable fee," but it is left undefined so many organizations have simply been using the requirement as a way to profit – charging upwards of $400 to $500.

There's currently a proposal to limit the fee to $50. Hearings on the legislation continue and we will keep you apprised of the final bill.

UPDATE: The Senate passed SB 229.  They amended HOA’s out of the bill, thus making it applicable only to Condo Associations; and they upped the fee that could be charged from $50 to $100.  The House Committee then amended the bill further, but the Senate committee refused to concur with those amendments and so the bill died when the clock ran out at midnight.

Maximum VA loan county limits for 2014 released

The Department of Veterans Affairs Loan Guaranty Program recently published county "limits" to be used for VA Loans effective January 1, 2014.

Please note, these limits do not reflect a maximum amount that an eligible veteran is permitted to borrow, but rather, reflects the VA’s maximum guaranty amount for a particular county.

The maximum VA guaranty amount for loans over $144,000 is twenty-five (25%) percent of the 2014 VA limit. For example, an eligible veteran may borrow up to $692,500 to purchase a property in Washington, DC (2014 VA limit), with the VA guaranteeing twenty-five percent (25%) of the loan amount, or approximately $173,125.00. These amounts have decreased dramatically in most area of the DC Metro Area compared to the 2013 VA limits.

The limits listed below are for some counties in Maryland and Virginia, as well as for the District of Columbia. To get a complete list of the county limits for 2014, please click here. [Please note, if your county is not listed on the county limits chart on the VA website, the 2014 limit is $417,000.]

State County 2014 VA Limit
DC District of Columbia $692,500
MD Anne Arundel $500,000
MD Frederick $692,500
MD Howard $500,000
MD Montgomery $692,500
MD Prince George's $692,500
VA Alexandria $692,500
VA Arlington $692,500
VA Fairfax $692,500
VA Falls Church $692,500
VA Fauquier $692,500
VA Loudoun $692,500
VA Manassas $692,500
VA Prince William $692,500

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac conforming loan limits for 2014 released

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) published today the maximum conforming loan limits, which is the ceiling on loans eligible for backing by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The limits listed below are for some counties in Maryland and Virginia, as well as for the District of Columbia. To get a complete list of the county limits for 2014, please click here.

State County 2014 Conforming Loan Limit
DC District of Columbia $625,500
MD Anne Arundel $494,500
MD Frederick $625,500
MD Howard $494,500
MD Montgomery $625,500
MD Prince George's $625,500
VA Alexandria $625,500
VA Arlington $625,500
VA Fairfax $625,500
VA Falls Church $625,500
VA Fauquier $625,500
VA Loudoun $625,500
VA Manassas $625,500
VA Prince William $625,500
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