Coldwell Banker Innovations, the #1 Independently Owned Coldwell Banker Franchise in Maryland and the leading residential brokerage team for the Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania regions. With offices in Frederick County and Washington County, we look forward to assisting you as you navigate the wide palette of stunning properties that make these areas such exceptional places to call home.

July 18, 2017

Best Investments For Home Improvement


Generally there are two ways to go about improving your home. Sure, you can invest in all those amenities you’ve always wanted—granite counter tops, marble bathroom floors and an in-wall surround sound speaker system. If, however, you plan on selling your home in the near future, we would suggest a more pragmatic approach.


Invest in some of the more “unglamorous” improvements that will increase the market value of your home; tasks like fixing that leaky roof, installing energy efficient appliances, or replacing that ancient furnace.  In this week’s article we’re going to address the best ways to increase your home’s market value, and give you some facts and figures you can use to make the best decisions that suit your needs and budget.  


“What A Beautiful Kitchen!”


Even a few basic improvements to your kitchen can pay handsome dividends. For most homebuyers, this one room is considered the heart of the home. A fresh coat of paint, new wallpaper, and even an upgraded hardwood floor can go a long way to bumping the asking price of your home up to the next level. Consider sanding, staining or painting tired cabinets, and don’t forget to replace old cabinet hardware! It’s amazing how such a small investment can make a dated kitchen look brand new.


 “Honey, Look At How Much Space There Is!”


Another good way of increasing the value of your home is to add more livable space.  This can be done by converting a basement to a “Man Cave”, an attic to a hobby room or an extra bedroom into an office. Some sellers claim to have recouped nearly all of their investment using this strategy to help sell their home quickly.


“The Bathrooms Are So Immaculate…”


Bathrooms are another common upgrade option for sellers seeking to sell their home quickly. With the right contractor, a well done bathroom remodel can be completed quickly and affordably.  If your home has only a limited number of bathrooms, adding an additional bathroom with all the trimmings — marble vanity top, molded sink, bathtub with shower and ceramic tile — can almost pay for itself.


“Imagine The Parties We Can Have!”


A deck is by far the most cost effective addition you can make, usually recouping 85% of its investment value. Many sellers find the idea of having an extra entertaining space outside of their home very appealing.


It’s important to remember, if you do invest in remodeling any area of your home, if you plan on selling, it’s best to list your home shortly after the project is completed. The longer you wait to sell your home the chance of recouping your investment begins to decrease.


Are you ready to list your home? Call the talented, dedicated, caring agents of Coldwell Banker Innovations! We are committed to helping you sell your home quickly, easily and at the right price. Call 301.745.1500 today!

July 12, 2017

Open Houses—Do They Work And Are They Worth It?

 Yes, this week we’re going there! The question that has plagued sellers and agents for decades will finally be addressed, right here, right now. There are so many differing opinions on this topic, polarizing nearly everyone who has taken time to ponder the question. Do Open Houses sell homes? Are they really worth the time and effort involved? Let’s open the proverbial Pandora’s Box and tackle this burning subject head on!

 Ok, So What’s The Deal? Do Open Houses Sell Properties?

Well, it depends on who you ask! Speak to a seller who received an offer from a buyer that attended an Open House and you’ll get a very positive answer. Question a homeowner who has opened their doors for several Sundays in a row and experienced no traffic and you’ll most likely get a totally different response.

 The real answer is, yes, Open Houses can be an amazing technique to sell your home…but the key word in this statement is can. There is no guarantee hosting multiple events will move your property, but there are things that can be done to increase your odds significantly!

 What Goes Into A Successful Open House?

Remember that mysterious voice in Field of Dreams that whispered cryptically to Kevin Costner “If you build it they will come”? That, Dear Readers, was just a movie!

 It takes a lot more than a few balloons and road signs to get buyers to attend your Open House. You need an agent that understands how to drive traffic to your property. Hosting these weekend events are just part of the equation to selling your home. It’s imperative to partner with an agent that is able to utilize all the tools in their arsenal including:

  • Marketing Your Home Online
  • Showcasing Your Property Via Social Media
  • Networking Your Listing With Buyer’s Agents

Ok, back to actual Open Houses.

 Talk at length with your agent about the potential of successfully selling your specific home via an Open House. It’s quite possible they may have a positive track record in this area. Many agents feel Open Houses are the perfect environment to show all the benefits of your home to buyers. After all, no one knows more about all the selling points of your property than you and the agent you selected—certainly they will know more of the intricacies than the buyer’s agent!

 No one can accurately predict how well an Open House will perform, but one thing is certain—you can only sell your home to one buyer! Some sellers may feel that if 100 couples show up to view the property the odds of selling their home have increased. Not so! It’s possible only two, even one, buyer shows up, falls in love with your home and you’re on the way to closing.

Any agent will tell you Open Houses are just another marketing tool utilized to sell your home but are no substitute for the diligent use of every other technique to source a buyer. What’s more important than an Open House, marketing, pricing and great location when it comes to selling your home? The answer to this question is very easy—partnering with the right agent!

 To learn more about how Coldwell Banker Innovations can help you sell your property feel free to contact us today! Call 301.745.1500 and we will be happy to pair you up with a dedicated sales agent to get the process started!

July 3, 2017

What Is A Reverse Mortgage?


Here at Coldwell Banker Innovations we receive a variety of questions regarding everything imaginable pertaining to selling and buying homes. Whether it’s a questions from someone attempting to sell their home on their own or first-time homebuyers seeking advice on saving for that crucial down payment—and everything in between! One of the most frequent questions to show up in our mailbox, however, involves the mysterious practice of reverse mortgages. In this week’s entry, we will explain the basics of a reverse mortgage in order to help you make a decision as to whether you think they are worth investigating further.


So What Exactly Is A Reverse Mortgage?

In broad terms, a reverse mortgage is just what it sounds like: rather than paying principal and interest to your mortgage lender each month, instead, they pay you in the form of a monthly disbursement, or, in some instances, one lump sum. We can hear the sound of your chin hitting your chest right now, followed by something like “Wow! That sounds like a great deal! Where do I sign up?”


Not so fast—there’s more things to consider before the money starts rolling in.


Who Is Eligible For A Reverse Mortgage?

Since the inception of this unique program in 1989, reverse mortgages were intended to help seniors over the age of 62 gain access to the equity in their home. If you’re reading this and you’ve just celebrated your 30th birthday, we’re sorry if we burst your bubble.


In addition to your age, lenders will also consider the value of your home, an accurate interest rate and, in some areas, if there is a lending limit in place. It’s important to know that you must own your home or have a very low balance that can be paid off at closing with the proceeds from the reverse mortgage funding.

Any eligible homeowner who is interested in a reverse mortgage must also understand they must continue to live in their house, making it their primary residence.


How Does This Reverse Mortgage Work?

If you have met all of the criteria, and decide to move forward with a reverse mortgage, you will receive payments from the lender, as mentioned before, usually on a monthly basis. The money you received will need to be repaid upon your death, the sale of your home or if you decide to move out of the property.


Upon your passing, your heirs must give up ownership of the home to the lender or purchase the title from the reverse mortgage company.


What Can I Use The Money From The Reverse Mortgage For?

Really, for pretty much anything! Senior Citizens can help supplement their income, pay for medical expenses or to pay off other debt. Keep in mind, property taxes, and, in most cases, home insurance, will still need to be paid. If you let any of those payments lapse you could be in default!


So, is a reverse mortgage the perfect solution for you? Only you can answer that question! We, however, can help if you decide to sell your home or purchase a new one! Give us a call at 301.745.1500 and keep those questions coming!

Posted in Home Buying Tips
June 26, 2017

Follow These Five Steps Before Selling Your Home


Psst…Hey, you, over there. Yes, you, the one speaking with their spouse about possibly listing your home. Hi. We didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but we couldn’t stand by letting you go down the rabbit hole of home selling all alone. There are tons to learn when it comes to selling a home, but we’ve got you covered. Our agents have sold their share of houses—wouldn’t it make sense to gather their all their advice, boil it down into easy to follow steps and present in one convenient location?  That’s just we’ve done, so before you break out in a cold sweat mulling over everything involved with selling a home, take a few minutes to review these five simple steps you absolutely need to consider before selling your home.


Get Yourself A Seasoned Real Estate Agent

Wait! Before you start telling us how it can’t be that difficult to sell a home on your own, and how you don’t want to share any of the proceeds from the sale with anyone other than your family members, ask yourself this question.  Do you want to sell your house quickly, easily and at the right price? Without the guidance of real estate professional, you may be able to achieve one of those three requirements, but only in the rarest instances all of them. Do you know how to properly price your home? How much time do have each day to properly market your house? And did we mention all the education you’ll need in order to ensure you’re accepting the best offer while avoiding all the land mines that could possibly rear their ugly heads prior to closing? Trust us on this one—even if you don’t choose one of CBI’s award winning agents to help you sell your home—find yourself a qualified REALTOR®.


Heed Your Agent’s Advice, Especially Concerning Pricing

Now that you’ve selected an agent, it’s time to pepper them with questions and actually pay close attention to their advice. Perhaps the biggest mistake sellers make is overvaluing the price of their property.  It’s a misconception that agents want to list your home as low as possible in order for it to sell quickly. Every real estate professional will tell you when they agree to help you sell your home they have a fiduciary commitment to look out for your best interests—always. They know what comparable homes have sold for in your neighborhood, as well as being equipped with a true understanding of your house’s actual worth. It’s common for sellers to have unrealistic expectations regarding the value of their home, and, sometimes, totally underestimating it’s worth. Your agent is there to guide you to a realistic pricing structure. You don’t have to agree with their recommendations, but it’s important to be open minded regarding their rationale. Remember, your agent works for you. Every Coldwell Banker Innovations team member is dedicated to ensuring you're satisfied through the entire sales process.


Get Your Home Ready For Eager Buyers

You’ve likely heard this several times before, and for good reason, The time to get your home prepared for viewings is before the listing actually goes public. The last thing you want is to put off decluttering the closets, changing those burned-out chandelier light bulbs and cleaning the carpets only to be surprised that three buyers just saw your home come on the market—and they want to see it today! Discuss with your agent the date you would like to see your listing appear online, in the paper or on social media. Make that your drop dead to have your home looking it’s best!


Invest In Selling Your Home, But Don’t Over-Invest

Definitely, create a “honey do” list and make sure it gets done! Spackle those drywall dings, fix that leaky faucet in the powder room and apply a fresh coat of paint.  Your agent will be able to advise what repairs should be made, investments you will easily be able to recoup in the sale. If you’re worried that your kitchen is outdated and may limit your audience, ask your REALTOR® if it makes financial sense to finally get it done. In some instances, certain remodeling work may be the right call. Remember, your agent can provide you with valuable guidance, ensuring you don’t spend money that you don’t really need to.


Like A Boy Scout, Always Be Prepared

It’s important to understand when you’re house is listed you must always be prepared to get out of Dodge! Create a plan in advance enabling you to easily and quickly vacate the home as soon as your agent tells you a showing is scheduled. The majority of the time visits will be scheduled well in advance, but ask anyone who has sold a house and they will tell you to expect the unexpected. Have a location where you take the pets, the kids and, if necessary, the laundry all at the drop of a hat! Yes, no one wants to live with the pressure of hearing the phone ring and wondering if it’s a buyer who wants to stop by in five minutes, but the last thing you want to do is deny a viewing—it could be the client that wants to make a full price offer!


Considering listing your home? Contact us! We’re ready to help!

Posted in Home Selling Tips
June 19, 2017

Tips For Pet Owners Selling A Home


Puppies, kittens, birds, even your daughter’s pet turtle: they’ve all become part of your family.  Who doesn’t love snuggling with a purring cat or scratching an eager dogs belly?  Well, surprisingly, the number isn’t as high as you might expect. According to recent statistics provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association, only 36.5% of households have a pet dog and 30.4% of households currently have a cat slinking around the house.


When selling your home you need to make certain that your property will appeal to pet owners as well as those not so fond of furry critters.  Below is a list of tips to help you prepare your home, casting a wider net when it comes to attracting interested buyers.


Relocate Temporarily With Your Pet

Yes, this may sound like an extreme decision, but if you can temporarily downsize to a location in which Fido is welcome, it will make your home show much better.  Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have family close by that has a home large enough to house your family and pets until your property goes under contract.  If this just simply isn’t practical, maybe you can find a friend who wouldn’t mind boarding the family pet until the home is sold.  Trust us, this may seem like a very drastic measure to take, but the goal is to sell your property quickly and a pet-free home has a better chance of being sold than a dwelling where even the friendliest animal currently resides.


Professionally Clean Your Carpets

Even the best-trained pets can have the occasional accident.  You may be very diligent about cleaning all of these messes, but a faint odor can certainly linger.  Additionally, your sense of smell is most likely accustomed to the scent of your dog or cat.  For visitors who are entering your home for the first time, whether you are aware of it or not, they will be able to tell you’re a pet owner based simply on how your carpets smell.


Move The Food Bowls

So you moved your pet in with a friend and even had a professional service come in and steam clean all carpets—but you’re not done yet! Make certain your dog’s food and water bowl or cat’s litter box (especially the litter box!) is placed somewhere out of site.  Hiding these items in a closet or pantry isn’t the best idea either, as potential homebuyers will likely open all doors on their tour.  Keep these items either at the pet’s new location or even in the trunk of your car; anywhere that is well out of sight.


Clean The Yard

So far so good? It’s important to pick up any droppings throughout your yard.  The last thing you could possibly want is an agent and buyer walking through your yard and stepping in your pet’s “business”. Well, it could be worse….they could unknowingly track the mess onto your newly cleaned carpets, defeating the purpose and forcing another call to the steam cleaning company.  Take the extra time to perform a thorough examination of your yard.


Yes, it can be a stress-inducing experience selling your home, especially if you are a pet owner.  A seasoned realtor will be able to help eliminate your anxiety by providing proper advice and guidance regarding selling your home as quickly as possible.  If you have any questions regarding selling your home, feel free to post them below or contact Coldwell Banker Innovations at 301.745.1500.

Posted in Home Selling Tips
June 15, 2017

How To Get Your Credit Score In Order Before Pre-Approval



We have seen it happen more times than we care to admit—a buyer finds their dream house and asks one of our talented CBI agents to represent them in the transaction. That’s great, as we specialize in helping both buyers and sellers, however, the plot thickens when a buyer’s credit history is bit murky.  Mortgage pre-approval is an important part of the home buying process, yet so many starry-eyed potential homeowners fail to realize their past credit history plays a crucial role in turning a dream into reality.  In this week’s article, we will provide some helpful guidance to help you get your credit report in shape before venturing into the home buying market.

The Credit Reporting Companies That Hold The Key To Your New Home

There are three major credit reporting bureaus that act as the gatekeepers between major lenders and your ability to get a decent interest rate: EquifaxExperian & TransUnion Each of these companies receives documentation periodically from a wide variety of creditors; everything from basic utility companies, student loan lenders and credit card organizations. Any business that requires you to send payments is fair game to be included in your credit report—even private landlords that collect rent.

Each of the above credit reporting companies will provide one free credit report every year to help you gauge your personal credit’s health. Many homebuyers will request one report from one company every four months. For those who are interested in more frequent information regarding their credit, additional reports can be purchased.

The Range Of Your Credit Score

Below is a sample list of credit scores as well as what one can typically expect to experience from mortgage lenders:

  • 751 And Higher: You can expect to get the most competitive, lowest interest rates available.
  • 750-711: Very good: You’ll still be eligible for competitive interest rates.
  • 710-651: You will be granted credit from most lenders but at a higher interest rate.
  • 650-581: In this range, the quantity of lenders is fewer with the interest rate becoming considerably higher
  • 580-300: You’ll likely have a very difficult time finding a lender, and if you do you can expect to pay extremely high-interest rates.

How Can I Improve My Credit Score?

If you’ve found yourself with a credit score of anywhere from 710 down to 300, there are several ways you can improve your situation:

  • First, you must make certain you’re paying all of your bills on time. Late payments, just like on time payments, are recorded by the credit reporting companies. Even a brief history of late payments can negatively affect your score, just as several months of diligent on time payments will bode well.
  • Pay down your credit card balances, keeping them low—but not necessarily paid off! You will want to select one or two credit cards and use them frequently for everyday purchases. Try to keep your credit card to debt ratio at around 30%. The best strategy is to use your card, then make multiple payments per month; this way you’re paying down your card, not carrying a balance, but still having some of your credit used at any given time. No one knows when creditors send their data to the credit reporting agencies; they love seeing that you’re using your credit line wisely, not just letting your account collect dust.
  • Go over your credit report thoroughly! It’s not uncommon to find reporting errors that are lowering your credit score. With documentation (proof) in hand, call the credit reporting companies and ask them to make the required corrections.
  • When reviewing your report, you may find that some older loans which you’ve paid off still appear on the list. That’s a good thing! Resist the urge to have the reporting companies take these off your report, as this information actually bodes well for your credit score; it shows you had loans (student loans, auto loans, etc.) that you paid off, proving you are a reliable borrower.
  • When applying for a mortgage loan, do your homework first! Every time you visit a lender and they run a credit report it will be documented by the credit bureaus. A sudden increase in credit checks will be noted and can result in lowering your score.

Our advice to potential new homebuyers? Make sure your credit is in decent shape before looking for your dream home. If you find room for improvement, take steps to increase your credit score before seeking mortgage pre-approval.  You may be pleasantly surprised by how little time it takes to really get your credit score in shape, resulting in a better interest rate which can save you a great deal of money over the life of your loan!

If you have any more questions regarding purchasing or selling a home, don’t hesitate to call us  301.745.1500, we’re here to help!

Posted in Home Buying Tips
June 7, 2017

Credit, Capacity, and Collateral

When you are applying for a home loan there are a lot of things that banks will look at when evaluating your creditworthiness.  Today we’ll look at three of those, credit capacity and collateral.

Your Credit score, or FICO score, is determined by three credit rating agencies, Transunion, Equifax, and Experian.  Your credit score can range from 350-850 and is determined to utilize several different factors including:

  1. How much debt you have outstanding as a percentage of open credit accounts
  2. How much debt you have outstanding
  3. How much total debt you have accrued
  4. How well you’ve paid  your bills over the years

In general, to get a loan, you will need a credit score of around 640.  The Optimal credit range is around 740-760 or higher.  The lower you credit score is the higher your interest rate is, and the more points you may have to pay on your mortgage loan.

Depending on your FICO score, the next thing a lender will look at is your capacity to pay off a loan.  The current numbers are approximately 36-38% of your monthly income towards a mortgage payment.

Finally, your lender will look at the collateral.  The collateral is the property you will be purchasing.  The bank will order an appraisal, and determine the LTV, or loan to value ratio.  The lender will loan you a portion of the value of your collateral, depending on the loan this may be as low as 80%, or as high as 96.5%. 

Posted in Home Buying Tips
June 2, 2017

The Slippery Slope Of Purchasing Foreclosure Properties

Foreclosures have been around for many years but certainly not in the numbers the real estate industry is experiencing today. They are not likely to go away in the near future, either. Foreclosed homes are not necessarily damaged or priced on the lower end. There are many mid or high-end homes available in good condition and at very reasonable prices. If you are in the market for a home, there are many things to consider in the foreclosure market, but you need a qualified Coldwell Banker Innovations REALTOR to guide you through the system to make the most of these opportunities.


First, decide your type of financing and your price limitations. Some foreclosure properties are sold through an online auction process and some by an individual real estate broker. Read all the fine print concerning the buyers’ obligations when purchasing a property through an auction process because frequently there are no contingency options concerning home inspections, financing contingencies, etc. Make sure you know what’s expected of you before submitting a bid.


Second, make note that all the properties are sold “As-Is.” Foreclosure properties listed with a real estate broker provide the option of having a home inspected to determine any repairs or maintenance items and the approximate cost associated with these items. The results of the inspection will allow you to make an educated decision regarding whether you want to proceed with the purchase of the property, in case additional financial concerns may incur after ownership. As foreclosure specialists, we will leave enough time after the contract is signed for the listing agent to have all utilities turned on for the inspection. Note that some banks (sellers) will charge you for the de-winterization and re-winterization of the home. This cost should be considered with other upfront out-of-pocket expenses so you have enough funds for closing (settlement).


Third, if you are purchasing your home with a government loan (FHA, VA, USDA), there may be repairs that appraiser/lender require to be completed prior to settlement. We can help ensure the appropriate allowance is stipulated in your contract to cover any repairs.


Fourth, many banks request you use their title company or settlement firm to perform the settlement or closing and are willing to cover some of the standard buyer fees as an added inducement. In Maryland, the buyer has the right to choose the settlement firm. This “right” can vary from state to state. You can choose to use the seller’s title company and also hire a second objective title company to alert you of potential title issues at an additional cost. There are many options concerning the title search. The main objective is to ensure the property is conveyed to you “free and clear” of any title issues. We will guide you through this process so there are no “surprises” after settlement.


These are some of the many challenges to consider when purchasing a foreclosure. Coldwell Banker Innovations specializes in foreclosure properties and we are here to help you through the process of settling on your future home. Contact us today to learn more! 

Posted in Home Buying Tips
June 1, 2017

5 Easy Ways to Increase Your Homes Curb Appeal

Are you looking to sell your home and increase its value? Curb appeal matters! A few quick DIY curb appeal fixes can go a long way. Plus, they don't have to be expensive. Adding just a few these extra special touches to your home's exterior will help sell your home faster and have it looking better than ever before. 

#1 Paint The Front Door

There’s even an app for this! Download the App Front Door Paint and see what colors work best in your home before making a decision. Follow the easy step-by-step process in Step 2 below when painting your door to make is easy! This is such a simple and trendy way to upgrade your home's exterior! 

 #2 Give your house numbers a font upgrade.

 The font is very important. This includes font on your home as well. Adding a different look to the address of your home will add a modern flare to your exterior helping your home stand out to potential buyers. Get these sans-serif ones on the left here.  For the decals on the right, go here.


#3 Don't just repaint - redecorate!

Bring your outside stairs to life with paint and patterns.  Click here for the step-by-step tutorial

 #4 Add Plants!

Plants make any area come alive. Placed in attractive pots, and layered on your stairs plants add a sculptural element to your porch. Plants make everyone feel a little more welcome! 


#5 Give your mailbox a makeover!

Is your mailbox noticed, or is it an eyesore? Don’t underestimate the power of a good-looking mailbox! This one even coordinates with the porch railing.


Want more tips and tricks on how to up your curb appeal? Contact one of our talented agents at Coldwell Banker Innovations today – they will tell you what you need to know to get all eyes on your homes listing when you are ready to sell! 


Posted in Home Selling Tips
May 25, 2017

Oh, you thought that was it?

The 2016 Year End Awards Continued

Coldwell Banker is full of amazing realtors but the agents at Coldwell Banker Innovations rank supreme – if our first list of award winners wasn’t enough we are happy to announce that there are more amazing people to celebrate! 

Congratulations to Coldwell Banker Innovations Jeanne Pino for winning the 2016 International Presidents Elite Award for being in the top two percent of all Coldwell Banker sales associates and representatives worldwide. Congratulations for winning such a distinguished award – we are proud to have you on our team, Jeanne!  

Congrats to the Horn-Test Realtor Team at Coldwell Banker Innovations! Tom Test, Chris Horn, and Donna Reichart received The Coldwell Banker 2016 International Sterling Society Award! This prestigious membership was awarded to the top 45 percent of all sales associates/representative teams in North America. Congrats Team Horn-Test! We are so very proud of you!   


(The Horn-Test Team, Pictured from left to right: Tom Test, Donna Reichart, and Chris Horn)


Thank you again for providing Coldwell Banker with such a great infrastructure of agents – we are beyond proud of our accomplished realtors and our Coldwell Banker family.  


Posted in About Our Realtors