The success of your real estate transaction can seem like a foreign statement, especially for buyers reading this that have lost offer-after-offer. The bidding wars and this seller’s market are sticking around but there is still a silver-lining. Many buyers are still finding themselves successful leveraging down-payment assistance programs.

But the risk many buyers are being asked to take on, in this market, seem to be growing with every transaction. When it comes to selling a home, everyone in the situation benefits monetarily except for the buyer, today. Buyers find themselves diving in with no or limited contractual protections and no opportunity to even think about seller concessions – money provided by the seller to assist a buyer with their closing costs. In the Washington, DC region, I find that individuals are no longer buying homes, they’re winning them.

The days of it being a “buyer’s market” has become harder to remember. And for many first-time home buyers, all the stories that they’ve heard from their friends and loved ones about their home buying experience no longer fully apply to today’s buyer. Today’s buyers are in unfamiliar waters and it’s a new day, for now, in the real estate market. Translation: all those articles you read to prepare to buy a home don’t seem to make sense or every agent is telling you to spend more and toss out your contingencies.  However, there are many people that are finding success navigating the real estate transaction. How is that? What secrets do they hold? Today, I’ll spend a little time talking through what buyers need to help them achieve success in their real estate search.

At the center of every buyer’s success, in a sellers’ market and beyond, is the team they’ve built. As a buyer in uncharted territory, you’re nearly 100 percent dependent on a professional Realtor® to guide you through the natural ebbs and flows of the real estate transaction. When there is inventory, finding a house is the easy part, rather it’s everything in between that can make or break the transaction. So, curating a seamless experience commences with the real estate agent you select.

Let’s Set the Stage.

Planning. I won’t spend much time on this subject because if you’ve been following me or any of my other material you know that I am a proponent of ensuring that there is a plan in place prior to purchasing a home. The process is one of the most significant and the power of having a plan is that you understand what market stratification you will fall into and the impact that has on your bottom-line dollar. More importantly, you’ll truly learn what market-stratification means.

My client underwent this very essential step – Planning. After attending one of my DC Open Doors Seminars, she stewed on the information, planning, savings, following my blogs and YouTube content, and importantly putting me up against other agents. And, when the time was right, she reached out and two weeks later the couple was under contract.  The time spend planning paid off dividends and we’ll talk more about that.

With a proper assessment you’ll be able to determine the scope of assistance that’s available to you, while minimizing your out-of-pocket expenses. And so far, one of the best programs for DC buyers is DC Open Doors. The program is administered by DC Department of Financing and Housing Administration – @DCHFA on Instagram.

Here are a few things to help with planning your home purchase:

  1. Interviewed Realtors®
  2. Participated in first time home buyer seminar
  3. Performed your own financial assessment – Income vs. Expenses
  4. Developed and Understand good credit habits, and
  5. You Know (cost, process, tools) before you Own

Purchasing with DC Open Doors

DC Open Doors is an amazing program that provides the down payment assistance for the purchase of a home up to $510,400 and an income cap of $151,200 for the borrower. Plus, the program is available to those individuals that are repeat home buyers. Yes! You read that correctly, DC Open Doors allows an individual to obtain down payment assistance even if they are not a first-time homebuyer. Not to mention, there are a host of other opportunities for individuals that are DC employees. With all of that, the underlying message is that homeownership is accessible with the knowledge and team members to guide you through the process. Here, I interviewed the title company and my clients, the buyers, to get a better picture of the transaction and the role of DC Open Doors in accessing homeownership.

Title Company

Mid-Atlantic Settlement, a Realogy company, helps champion ethical and responsible title processing for everyone involved in the transaction. During this sale, I had the pleasure of working with Shaun Marble – Settlement Officer with Mid-Atlantic. Here’s what he had to say:

BScott: How was it working with the agent?

Shaun – It was great working with the agent, Brandon was on the ball and kept communication with all parties involved throughout the transaction and made sure the buyer was able to take advantage of all the programs out there to benefit the buyers.

BScott: What surprised you most about the transaction in this market?

Shaun – I was surprised to see a credit from seller to buyer, as this market has been a strong seller’s market with sellers calling the shots and not giving any concessions.

BScott – What kind of additional savings did the buyers receive and why?

Shaun – The buyer was able to get the grant as well as the First Time Homebuyer reduced recordation tax which saved the buyer over $3,600.

BScott: What key words for success would you give buyers?

Shaun – Key words I would say are, patience, research, and don’t get too emotional when making such a large home purchase, may not get the first home you make an offer on, but that is ok.

Buyers Review
Remember that the team you build will be what ushers you into success. My buyers were more than excited to begin the process of purchasing their first home. Equipped with a plan and specific questions, the race was on. Although short lived, we were soon under contract and here’s what they had to say about the transaction and DC Open Doors.

BScott – What was your initial impression of the home buying process and how did it actually turn out?

Buyers – We were very overwhelmed and intimidated by the process. There’s so much out there about needing to have at least 20% for a down payment and thousands upon thousands for closing costs, and that you need to have a perfect credit score and will need to provide 6 months of credit and banking statements. And then there’s all these horror stories out there about the market right now and how horrible buying a house is right now. We were very surprised to actually find that most of that was just myths. Between DC Open Doors and other first time homeowner programs, buying a house was very affordable – without having to deplete all of our savings! And because we were looking for a condo, the process itself was easy and we didn’t have to get into a bidding war like the horror stories forewarned us. We were able to buy in our neighborhood at the quality we wanted without any issues at all!

BScott – When did you start preparing to buy and why?

Buyers – We started researching and attending virtual webinars about a year out. Because the process was so intimidating, we wanted to be completely prepared for the process!

BScott – What was your thought process for selecting a realtor to represent you?

Buyers – Our realtor, Brandon, was providing a first-time homeowner’s class that we attended, and he did such a great job breaking an overwhelming process down into something more tangible. And we were also looking for someone with great relationships with lenders and could navigate the different first-time home buyer programs. After attending different webinars with realtors and taking phone calls with different realtors, it was clear that Brandon’s experience and knowledge with the lending process and DC programs matched exactly what we needed!

BScott – Did the process go as expected, why or why not?

Buyers – The process went much better than expected. From touring to ratified contract to closing, it was simple, transparent, and pretty nice the whole way!

BScott – About how much did it cost you at closing and why?

Buyers – We put $6,000 down for the earnest money and then it cost us $1,600 cash to close. We utilized DC Open Doors for down payment assistance, a DC first time homeowners’ program to cut our deed recordation fee in half, and then we also were able to negotiate having the sellers contribute 1% of the sales price towards our closing costs.

BScott – What role did DC Open Doors play in getting you into your home?

Buyers – DC Open Doors was critical in allowing us to buy right now. Without the down payment assistance, we would have had to wait much longer to buy.

BScott – How was the process of getting approved, working with the lender and DC Open Doors Office?

Buyers – The process was extremely smooth. First Home Mortgage’s online portal for the pre-approval process was easy to navigate and great! And then once we moved toward the approval process, we simply needed to upload a few more documents. And the lender found the recordation fee reduction program, which was amazing, and they also handled the DC Open Doors application for us. It really is about finding the right team!

BScott – Did you receive any additional cost savings that helped with the purchase of you home? Please describe it.

Buyers – Having DC’s program to cut the DC recordation fee in half was a huge help, along with having the sellers also contribute to closing costs!

There is an age old saying that teamwork makes the dream work, and at the DMV’s Trusted Realtor, you interests are always my priority. Of course, client-agent confidentiality is a real thing, so you’ll never know who the buyers are but, rest assured that this is just the beginning of their trajectory to creating wealth. Thank you to Shaun Marble at Mid-Atlantic Settlements and to Ryan Paquin of the Paquin Team with First Home



Brandon Scott is a licensed real estate agent in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. His license hangs with Coldwell Banker Dupont-Logan, DC. He’s been involved in the mortgage finance industry for the last 20 years in various fields. You can reach him by email at [email protected]. Subscribe to his YouTube Channel at RealTea DMV