Thursday, May 31, 2012

What's in the Closing Cost?

Differing from state to state, closing costs are best explained and dealt with by expert real estate agents.  Sellers and buyer should familiarize themselves with a real estate agent's knowledge base regarding closing costs to properly educate themselves as consumers.  An expert agent should be able to discuss with any consumer or client the entire process of listing or purchasing a home--especially the end--before the process gets underway.

Closing costs are "fees and expenses, over and above the price of the property, incurred by the buyer and/or the seller in the property ownership transfer."  Closing costs incur on the buyer, the seller, or both, since closing costs are negotiable.

Generally speaking, in strong markets the seller has the upper hand when negotiating closing costs.  Since there is demand for homes, and the seller expects to have multiple contracts, the seller can push their demands forward.

In slow, stifling, or recovering markets, the buyer has the upper hand, since inventory is high and the sellers are less confident that their property will sell quickly--or sell at all.

Below is a list of the most common types of closing costs:

1.  Attorney/Lawyer Fees
  • When clients and/or lenders request help from attorneys helping to secure the preparation of recording official documents.  Paid by either or both buyer and seller.
 2.  Title Service Cost
  • Sometimes combined with Attorney Fees if the attorney does the title search.  The title search and title insurance indicate and protect against liens on properties.  It is imperative that clients understand and are aware what liens exist on a property, if any.  Usually paid for by seller.   
 3.  Recording Fees
  • When the deed is recorded the government requires a service cost.  Paid by either party.
 4.  Document or Transaction Stamps or Taxes
  • Tax levied on documents.  Usually paid for by both parties.
5.  Survey Fee
  • To ensure the lot of land's boundaries are accurate, the lost must checked by a professional. 
6.  Brokerage Commission
  • Usually the largest closing cost.  Usually paid for by the seller.  This payment compensates the listing-agent and buyer-agent.
7.  Mortgage Application Fee
  • Buyers always need to pay lenders for processing their loan application.  Sometimes this cost is paid to the lender directly, before closing costs, and other times it is inserted into closing costs.  
8.  Points
  • Points are paid by the buyer to the lender.  If the buyer chooses to prepay interest charged by the lender the buyer may save money since prepaid interest is cheaper (usually) than a higher rate of interest on a loan.
9.  Appraisal Fees
  • Usually paid by the buyer, most lenders will require an appraisal of a property conducted by a Professional Appraiser.  This is important since buyers always want the sale price of the property to be equal to or less than the fair market value of the property.  
10.  Inspection Fees
  • Usually paid by the buyer, home inspections, pest inspections, termite inspections, etc. are intelligent ways to safeguard any unwanted and costly surprises before a house is bought.
11.  Home Warranties
  • Warranties insure major household systems against repair or replacement for a certain length of time after initial ownership.  Paid for by either the seller or the buyer. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shaw Interview Series: Seasonal Pantry with Dan O'Brien

This week I had the privilege of catching Dan O'Brien for an interview at Seasonal Pantry.  I say "privileged" since he works over 120 hours a week, and I was appreciative that he made time for the interview.  Right after I arrived at 11AM, it seemed Dan had already made 12 jars of green tomato and lemon jam and 80 jars of Strawberry jam.  One of the first things I noticed was that the man has a work ethic.

Dan (along with business partner Ali Bagheri) are the owners and head chefs of two new restaurants in Shaw:  Seasonal Pantry and SUNdeVICH, both of which were awarded Best New Business in 2011.  Seasonal Pantry took first place, and SUNdeVICH followed.  Below is the interview.

Kevin:  Alright, let's start with a little bit about yourself and a summation of the business.

Dan:  Let's see.  I'm originally from upstate New York (Rochester) and heard that DC was a great place to be for the restaurant industry, especially if you want to open up a new place.  So I moved and thought I would try it out.  I've got 15 years background in cooking.  Those years are the foundation of what Seasonal Pantry is.  Everything I have learned over my career and education with cooking goes into my hands and my products.  Seasonal Pantry should express that and this place should be everything I have learned. 

K:  So cooking is a passion if not more than a passion?

D:  Definitely.  For me being behind a stove is kind of my life.  It has made me a better person and it makes it my life more enjoyable and more easy going--though I work a lot (laughs).  I would never trade this for anything.  Moreover I feel cooking is so important for people's lifestyles.  I've always believed cooking is very connected to the health of people living together in a home.  A lot happens around a stove top and you want to take advantage of these moments.  And that is what Seasonal Pantry is; it's for people who love coming together to cook and eat.

K:  Let's talk about the concept of Seasonal Pantry.

D:  Yep.  Well, the space of the building drove the concept.  What is that phrase, "necessity is the mother of invention?"  Well, that's Seasonal Pantry.  This space was suppose to house a 22 seat restaurant.  But we had other plans.  We wanted to do a pantry instead.  Jam and jars to stock the shelves with baked goods, pastas, ice creams:  all the initial things that we knew how to make.  Ali and I knew this would be a revenue channel but we needed something more than just this.

K:  So what else did necessity invent?

D:  The Supper Club.  Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night.  10 seats.  Possibly 12.  And you are sitting around one big wooden table.  Four course pre-fix and two courses unannounced, so altogether a six course menu.  $97 with tax and gratuity included.  In my opinion it's a bargain.  Supper Club is great.  I think we do a great, great job.  There is always room for improvement.  We want to be the best we can be at everything.  Handwritten menus, home-made everything.  It is suppose to feel like you are at your friend's house, or a relative's house.  It's suppose to feel like another world when you eat here.  The service is non-fuss.  We don't want a pretentious atmosphere.  We want a low key environment.

K:  On that note, can you talk more about the food?

D:  Well, I think it's easy to fall into a rut when you don't own your own place and instead you are cooking for someone else.  When you cook what the cook wants your creativity is thwarted.  I found myself in this position before I opened Seasonal Pantry.  Now the creativity is in my seat.  It's a whole different ball game.  I love tweaking things just the way I want.  It's rejuvenating and inspiring.  It is so nice to cook the way I want to cook.

K:  And the menu?

D:  The menu?  Well, for the first 10 months we changed the dinner menu for the Supper Club every week.  Never repeated for one week.  Now, after having listened and observed the customers and their feedback, we are getting a sense that a menu change every two weeks might be better because customers could talk it up more and we wouldn't be changing so much so fast.  It's fun and creative to change the menu, so we love doing that and we are going to keep doing that.

K:  What about your philosophy on supporting local?

D:  Easy.  Get the money to the farmer and cut out the middle man.  90% of Seasonal Pantry is usually local.  And my word is to be held to that stat.  Local for me is as close as Marion Street for our herbs and as far away as Boston MA  if I can get the money to the farmer.  My father still ships rhubarb from Rochester.  I like keeping my farmers on the East Coast.  Definitely Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, DC.  But not everything can be local.  Do I buy canned tomatoes sometimes? Yeah.  I'm not going to lie and say everything here is 100% local.  But when I say 90% is local, I mean it.  Come and ask me and I'll tell you what is local and what isn't.  I'm serious about supporting local.  Everything at Supper Club and everything on the shelves is 90% local.

K:  What about your recent award for "Best New Business in Shaw for 2011?"

D:  Yeah!  Thank you to Shaw for voting Seasonal Pantry as best new business of the year.  And we were grateful enough to have Shaw choose SUNdeVICH second.  So, for Ali and I, it is back to back. 

K:  It seems Shaw has spoken.

D:  Enough said!  Just get ready for an even year during 2012.

K:  So you are a resident of Shaw.  Why is Shaw so likable?

D:  There is something different about these pockets of neighborhoods that are just awesome.  Where you can ride down 10th street and its so beautiful and then you can find yourself in a little bodega and all of a sudden you are finding some cool little restaurants and some cool bars.  The people are great.

K:  Where do you see Shaw going?

D:  Deeper into its community roots while expanding.  Shaw is on the cuff of breaking out.  I am looking forward to the growth of Shaw though sometimes the growths seems daunting.  Ali and I are serious about really figuring out  how we want Seasonal Pantry and SUNdeVICH to fit in to the upcoming developments in Shaw. 

K:  Based on Seasonal Pantry and SUNdeVICH's popularity, I'm sure you will have a significant role as Shaw expands.

D:  Let's hope so! 

(Thanks again to Dan O'Brien for his time.  SUNdeVICH is soon to come!)

April 2012 RBI Market Watch

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shaw Interview Series: U Street Cafe

U Street Cafe (right beyond the border of Shaw Proper located on U Street between 13th and 14th) is a business contributing to the "Small Town in a Big City" personality of Shaw and its neighboring streets.

John Richardson, Operations Manager for the cafe, and Patrick Coyle, the cafe's Director of Marketing, sat down with me in their shop to give some information about why we should pay attention to U Street Cafe.

And we should pay attention to U Street Cafe.  Why?  Consider U Street Cafe's emphasis on supporting local food:  local bakers supply the bread; the produce found within the Cafe is local; even the coffee is local.

As Patrick puts it:  "This is not your cookie-cutter large cafe chain.  This is an authentic, independent business supporting local produce.  This is a breakfast and lunch joint where you find good food at reasonable prices.  There is that comfortable, at-home feel here."

And the food is not only local, it is taken care of once it's delivered to the cafe.  As John states:  "The food here doesn't sit around.  Unlike larger chains, we make our food fresh and order only what we need.  Everything here is home cooked in the kitchen.  None of our food is packaged.  We want to keep the personality of home cooking in our business."

U Street Cafe's coffee is, as John claims, "a higher trade of coffee."  Locally brewed in Columbia, MD, Orinoco supplies U Street Cafe with the amount of coffee they need to ensure the coffee is fresh, never losing its aromatic quality.  "We are not interested in wasting large quantities of food.  We're representing the community, and the community is intelligent, so U Street Cafe has to live up to the personalities of the community," John and Patrick explain.

"We love being close to Howard University," says Patrick.  We try to offer students an environment where they can come and escape from the dorms.  U Street Cafe has supported students in the past, previously offering "student discount days" where students could purchase everything at 10% off.  

When I asked John and Patrick about the future of Shaw, and the streets right around the borders of Shaw, they said this:  "Shaw is great.  It is the next rising, evolving, residential urban center.  It is accessible and smart since it feels residential but you have everything commercial right outside your doorstep.  It's well balanced with both commercial and residential districts coordinating together in a friendly, cooperative, seamless state."

I asked John and Patrick if they thought it was a "small town in a big city," which is the term Ralph Brabham, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Shaw Main Streets, used when describing Shaw.

"Definitely," John and Patrick said in unison.  "That's a great way to describe it."

If you would like more information regarding U Street Cafe, visit their website at

Thank you again to John Richardson and Patrick Coyle for their time with this interview.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Shaw Interview Series: Ralph Brabham

During the second week of March, 2012, I conducted an interview with one of Shaw’s community members, Ralph Brabham.  Ralph is very involved with Shaw.  He is the owner of Beau Thai, Chair of the Board of Directors of Shaw Main Streets, and creator and editor of an informative blog about Shaw, entitled:  “Renew Shaw.”  The interview is posted below. 

Kevin:  Ralph, it is obvious you are a very active member within Shaw.  You have been a blogger since 2006, Chairman of the Board of Shaw Main Streets since last Spring (and a volunteer and board member for Shaw Main Streets for years prior to that role), and a business owner of Beau Thai since 2010.  I would like to save Beau Thai for another conversation and just stick to Shaw Main Streets and your blog "Renew Shaw" for today in order to keep our focus about my root question, being “What is Shaw?”  Let me start with your blog:  why did you start "Renew Shaw"?

Ralph:  I started Renew Shaw right after we purchased our house in  Shaw in 2006.  I thought it would be a good way to force myself to explore and learn about the neighborhood and to help promote Shaw as a great place.  We bought in Shaw because it was a centrally located, unique neighborhood, rich with diversity and history and with enormous potential to be even more vibrant.  And yet despite what we saw and knew, there was a lot of negativity out there about the area.  I wanted to provide a positive online voice about Shaw and to share with others what I learned and thought.  

Kevin:  Okay.  So you started "Renew Shaw."  What does the "Renew" part of the title signify?

Ralph:   The name is both a proactive call to action, "renew Shaw!" and a statement about the subject matter of the blog, the Shaw of today, "re: new shaw."  Speaking to renewal specifically, I saw a rich fabric of historic properties, many of which had seen years of neglect, that I dreamed of being restored.

Kevin:  So did your blog lead you to Shaw Main Streets?

Ralph:  Yes, it totally did.  Shaw Main Streets is a commercial revitalization and historic preservation nonprofit that was established in 2003.  I think many of the things I was trying to accomplish through my blog -- business promotion, advocating for restoration, planning cleanup events, and so forth -- were the kinds of activities that Shaw Main Streets did and sought to do.  Shaw Main Streets gave me the opportunity to work with talented community leaders on a comprehensive and intentional strategy for revitalizing Shaw's business corridors. We help existing businesses thrive, evolve businesses to meet consumer tastes, and help businesses develop a successful business plan.  We are in the business of helping everyone stay in business.

Kevin:  What about vacant storefronts  and buildings -- is Shaw Main Streets working to reduce the number of vacancies in the area?

Ralph:  Totally.  Empty storefronts are missed opportunities and hurt nearby businesses and residents.  We work with property owners and prospective tenants all of the time with the intent of filling vacancies.  I can cite several success stories in this regard, such as Long View Gallery, which we helped remain in the neighborhood by identifying the long-vacant building at 1234 9th Street, owned by Douglas Development, and helping with lease negotiations.  

Kevin:  So you are serious and committed to the business community thriving in Shaw.  This takes me back to my root question:  Why Shaw?  Why is Shaw unique, and why should we appreciate Shaw?

Ralph:  I love Shaw and think it's a desirable neighborhood for a multitude of reasons.  It has a really diverse population in terms of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, roots, and educational background.  It has a really interesting and rich history.  It is like a small town in a big city -- it's easy to get involved and make a difference.  It's convenient,  as it's just steps from downtown and has several metro stops along its core on a metro line.  It's beautiful - with gorgeous historic structures, striking modern architecture, lush trees, and public art.  And it's got some pretty amazing amenities, like the brand new Watha T. Daniel/Shaw NeighborhoodLibrary, the Kennedy Recreation Center, the Howard Theatre, Westminster Park, and so on and so forth.  

Kevin:  Right.  Sometimes in communities one tries to make change or get involved but it sometimes feels like the dynamics are too large and overwhelming so we lose momentum.

Ralph:  Totally, but in Shaw you really can get involved easily.  I have had the humble opportunity to work with others to make change, and it feels good, and I'm happy to still be doing it. 

Kevin:  What about the future of Shaw?

Ralph:  Well one clear near-term dynamic shift will be from the completion of the near-term catalytic developments underway.  You have Progression Place at 7th and T delivering later this year, CityMarket at O in the heart of Shaw delivering next year, the Marriott Marquis at 9th and Massachusetts Avenue delivering in 2014, and JBG's project in the 700 and 800 blocks of Florida Avenue in the pipeline too.  I imagine that existing empty storefronts will fill up quickly once all these new, grand developments open.  The recently delivered Howard Theatre is also going to be a game changer for the area -- it's amazing that we have such an entertainment destination in Shaw, not to mention the fact that it's just a few blocks from the  9:30 club.  Shaw is going through a development frenzy, and the future shows much promise.

Kevin:  Okay, great.  So last question.  How can people help out, or get in contact with Shaw Main Streets if they would like more information?

Ralph:  We are always looking for volunteers, both for long-term, ongoing service on one of our four committees (the Design Committee (executes projects improving the corridors' aesthetics, like the annual tulip planting), the Economic Restructuring Committee (works with business owners to help them be more efficient and reach more customers), the Promotions Committee (plans events, like the Shaw Art Walk), and the Organization Committee (does stuff to help the organization as a whole, like fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and drafting the newsletter)) and for specific projects.  If anyone wants to get to know about Shaw Main Streets, or help by volunteering, go to our website or contact our executive director Alex Padro at 202-265-SHAW.

Kevin:  And with that, I want to thank you for your time, and I look forward to speaking to you about your business, Beau Thai, for the next interview.

Ralph:  You are very welcome.  It is my pleasure.  I always enjoy talking about Shaw.  It's a great community.

Friday, May 4, 2012


In order for you to get a simple sense of who I am, here is a bio that is also contained within the Evers & Co. website:

Kevin is a Graduate of the REALTOR® Institute (GRI), a designation extending his dedication into the world of real estate.  Licensed in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, Kevin services all three states, specializing in the District of Columbia.  

Being born and raised in the suburbs of Maryland, Kevin graduated cum laud from Towson University with a Major in Philosophy and International Studies.  His studies sent him for 6 months to South Africa where he studied at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in the city of Durban.  

His studies also sent him to India, where he resided for two years in the ancient city of Varanasi and the bustling city of Bangalore.  Here he spent two years teaching grade eleven students Literature, Theater, and Fitness.  Immersed with little Western influence for an extended period, Kevin learned to appreciate the delicate conditions necessary in living amongst a culture foreign from his own. 

Listening, observation, and integrity during his travels were principles with which he governed himself:  all principles which have transferred into his approach for real estate.  An admirer of balance, Kevin shares simplicity, clarity, and knowledge with his clients.

Writing, reading, and most recently rock-climbing are some of the hobbies Kevin enjoys.


Welcome, and thank you for visiting "Shaw Living," a blog dedicated to exploring both the voices and the real estate market of Shaw.

The first question you may have is:  "How do the voices of Shaw and real estate fuse together?"  Well, the answer to that is simple:  "It is the way that I, as a real estate agent, see the community."  In the need to explore the wonderful voices of Shaw, I have started this blog in order to accomplish three things:

1) Introduce myself to the community of Shaw.
2) Supply the community of Shaw with real estate market analysis.
3) Provide interviews from the merchants and organizations of Shaw, and provide an understanding of the people who stand behind their business.

I feel Evers and Company Real Estate, the brokerage with whom I am associated, can only bring further excellence in service to the community of Shaw.  With over 80% of our business from referrals, Evers & Co. (founded in 1985), has sustained an immaculate reputation since its beginning.

It is my pleasure to be an Evers & Co. agent specializing within the community of Shaw.

I look forward to meeting with you, the residents and businesses of Shaw, as I deliver the Evers & Co. excellent service to meet your desires, and your needs.