Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mortgage Loans: Pre-qualified Vs Pre-Approved

Most people begin the home-buying process with weeks or a few months of online searches and going to open houses before speaking to a lender or a real estate agent. On the surface, this make sense since, with today’s internet, information is readily available for us all. Many sites like Zillow,com and are updated with most of the listings currently on the market. Gone are the days when agents had exclusive access to a goldmine of data.  Mortgage rates are also posted online daily. Sign up on a site like and sit back and see all the lender offers start pouring in to your inbox.  

That’s just how it is in today’s world.  It’s convenient, there’s little or no pressure to commit to anyone or anything, and frankly, it’s something you can easily do on your own. But what happens when you find the house you’ve been looking for? More than likely, nothing will happen because, if you fit the above description of folks and are searching in a highly active housing market such as the DC Metro area, you’re too late.  

If you haven’t hired a Realtor or spoken to a lender, then you’ve got some work to do before you can make an offer on a house:

Find a Realtor (sooner rather than later):

This should be first on your list. Yes, I say this because I myself am a Realtor, but also because it’s true. Even if you are months away from making a home purchase, a good agent can give you critical insight and help prepare you in advance, making process a whole lot easier later. For example, a Realtor can provide you with information that can only come from first hand experience and knowledge of communities, something websites cannot do. I for one, make it a point to provide my clients with information about commuting. Sure, you can find bus routes and metro locations online, but I like to share info about “slug-lines” (organized carpooling to DC).

A good Realtor will be able to give you several good recommendations for lenders to speak to. Go ahead and search online but an agent can recommend a few mortgage lenders based on experience and how they well they work with clients.

An agent has access the network of local Realtors who may know of homes coming to market before they are listed anywhere. Just as you may not be ready to buy, there are homeowners that aren’t quite ready to sell yet but plan to in the near future. It would be nice to know who they are, right?

Depending on your time-frame, one of the first things a licensed Realtor would have you do is get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a specified mortgage loan amount by a broker or lender, which leads me to the next important item on the list.

Find a Mortgage Lender:

Do your research on this one but don’t forget to ask a trusted Realtor to recommend a few reputable mortgage loan lenders. Your social security number, W-2s or recent pay stubs, and a short discussion over the phone with a mortgage loan originator can get you pre-qualified within as little as an hour after a credit score check.

But wait - Pre-qualification and pre-approval are not the same:

Eddie Jackson, Producing Manager at Flagstar Bank in Washington, D.C., says that “most buyers and agents at this point know to ask for a pre-approval .  However, they are typically more focused on the wording than the actual meaning behind the term.  Any responsible loan officer is going to review income and assets to some degree.  Most loan officers are not formally trained at doing this properly.  As a result, the accuracy of their conclusions may vary.”  

Home loan pre-qualification and pre-approval involve two different processes and it’s important to understand the differences.Mortgage loan officers typically issue loan pre-qualification letters which shows your agent, the seller, and seller’s agent that you are creditworthy and are serious about buying a home. Note, however, that these letters are not approvals. “Despite this,” says Eddie Jackson, “some loan officers can issue "pre-approval" letters.  The most reliable pre-approval letter is one which is issued by an underwriter.  While it isn't necessary to have one in every transaction, it's particularly important if someone receives over 25% of income from commission, is self employed, has credit concerns or is pushing the envelope regarding debt to income. Any time you can, get a lender to have an underwriter to review situations similar to those.  A failure to do so, can always result in a loan that doesn't go well.”

Mortgage loan originators and processors cannot issue pre-approval letters - only a mortgage underwriter can pre-approve you for a home loan.  And it’s a good idea to have a valid pre-approval; it is the best tool you can have when looking for a new home.  While a pre-qualification may come much faster, normally within a few hours,  a valid pre-approval takes much longer time, 30-45 days depending on the type of loan and size of your down-payment, tand is underwritten by an authorized underwriter who is final person that says your loan is approved. Whether you do get it done before or after you find a home, it must be done. But getting upfront pre-approval has great advantages.  With a valid pre-approval by an underwriter in hand, all that’s left for you to do is find the home you’re approved to buy, have it appraised, and in most cases, close in just a few days. Had you only been provided with a pre-qualification letter, the stated amount of your loan qualification may change after it has gone through the underwriting process, after a more detailed look into your finances takes place. An underwriter will ask for W2’s, Bank Statements, tax returns, letters of explanation to items on your credit report, etc.

Imagine this scenario:

You’ve been quickly issued a pre-qualification letter for a $500,000 mortgage, you’ve successfully negotiated to buy a home for $480,000 and close the deal in 30 days. The underwriting process begins.  You’ve been asked to submit your most recent W2’s, pay stubs, tax returns, statements, letter from your employer, and more. Your tax returns match the W2’s you originally submitted for the pre-qualification letter, however it now comes to light that you have taken unreimbursed expense deductions that effectively lower the amount of your disposable income. The underwriters see this and, with 2 weeks into the process, determine that you actually cannot afford to buy the home and tell you that you are now approved up to just $450,000 and a certain property value. Perhaps, if you still want the house, you’ll need to increase your down payment. Many deals crash this way. Sure, you may also find yourself in the good position of being approved for much more after the underwriting process, but you would have wished to know that upfront.

The other advantage of first going through underwriting is leverage. Even if you find yourself in a bidding war over a home, you’ll have the advantage of telling the seller that you can go to settlement within a maximum of a few days because your underwriting is out of the way and your deal is a sure You’re subsequent negotiations over who pays for closing costs, inspections, and repairs will have a better chance of going your way - Leverage. In essence, the ability to close quickly is a way to get a great deal.


Ask your Realtor for a list of lenders with great reputations and insist that your mortgage broker/lender issues a  pre-approval that has been reviewed by an authorized underwriter.

Nader Abed is Realtor helping buyers and sellers in Northern Virginia and Washington DC. To get in touch with Nader, send an email to or call 571-296-1794.
Be sure to visit

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fairfax & Loudoun Counties, Happiest Neighbors in America

I knew that I loved Northern Virginia for a reason. I wasn't just imagining things.  For the second year in a row, Loudoun County is rated as the #1 happiest place in America with Fairfax County moving up to #2 from last year's #3 spot according to an annual study conducted by SmartAsset . The study measures unemployment and poverty rates in counties with populations of 50,000 or more.

Here's what the SmartAsset study says about the two happy counties:

#1 Loudoun County

"Loudoun County is #1 in our study for the second year in a row. What makes this such a happy place? For one thing, the unemployment rate and poverty rate are both under 4%. In fact, Loudoun's poverty rate is the lowest of any county in our study.  Of the nearly 1,000 counties in our study, Loudoun County had the fourth-highest income ratio. Loudoun's income ratio is over 2.5, which means the median income is more than twice the cost of living."

#2 Fairfax County

Next door to Loudoun County is the runner-up in our study, Fairfax County, Virginia. It's one of just three counties in our study to have a life expectancy over 83 years.
The median income in Fairfax County is high, at $100,584. That's a little under twice the national median income. The wealthy county also boasts a population that's greater than that of eight states and the District of Columbia.
Other factors such as physical activity were also included in the study, which should encourage me to contribute a little more in that area and start exercising!

For more info on neighborhoods and homes in Northern Virginia and Washington DC, contact me, Nader Abed - United Real Estate Realtor®, at 571-296-1794 or send an email to You can also follow me on Twitter @beltwayland, Facebook at, or visit my website,

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Looking to Spring in Dulles

(Courtesy of Capital Remodel + Garden Show)
Winter in BeltwayLand - we're always looking forward to Spring. Actually, any other season except for Winter will do, especially after January's monstrous snowstorm or yesterday's freezing rain.  Sometimes I'll close my eyes and imagine that it's warmer and that I'm camping or hiking in the Shenandoah,  or showing a house to a client.   It's a good exercise that you should try. Think about what you would be doing once we hit consistently warmer temperatures. Just do me a favor and don't close your eyes until you're finished reading this blog post!
(Courtesy of Capital Remodel + Garden Show)

If you find yourself imagining things such as landscaping or remodeling, you can add planning to your Winter activities. From February 26th until the 28th, the 21st "Capital Remodel and Garden Show" will take place at the Dulles Expo Center.
(Courtesy of Capital Remodel + Garden Show)
Everything related to your home, appliances, gardening, landscaping , flooring, interior decor, and more, will be there. In fact, if you're into those "fixer-upper" and home-buying reality TV shows on HGTV, you will be in good company.  Jonathan and Drew Scott, from "Property Brothers" will be making an appearance on February 27th at 1PM. They will have a presentation followed by a Q&A session.
The event was originally scheduled for January, however Mother Nature took over and gave us a blizzard. Tickets for the show are $10 at the door or save a few bucks and get them in advance for $7 here where you'll also find much more info.
By the way, a show like this often encourages one to shop for a new home, so if you catch that bug, call the handsome guy below!

For more info on neighborhoods and homes in Northern Virginia and Washington DC, contact me, Nader Abed - United Real Estate Realtor®, at 571-296-1794 or send an email to You can also follow me on Twitter @beltwayland, Facebook at, or visit my website,
Nader Abed, Realtor®

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Opower of Arlington

There are many reasons, besides its proximity to DC, that Arlington, Va. is a real estate success story. Here's the latest example. The city beat Washington DC in a bid to keep Opower, a leading energy enterprise software company that is a leader in cloud-based software for the utility industry. It's a big deal since the company will invest $10.45 million in its new office and adding about 70 new jobs over the coming three years. Currently, Opower has its headquarters in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood and will move to a new building at 2311 Wilson Boulevard that will be constructed by Carr Properties over the next two years.

On Tuesday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe showed up on his own birthday to celebrate, bringing with him a Commonwealth flag for the new office and announce a $1 million Commonwealth Opportunity Fund grant for the project. The Opower team did bring a cake to celebrate the Governor's birthday.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey gave Opower's founder Alex Laskey a Key to the County saying, “Arlington has watched Opower grow from a startup venture to a thriving leader not only in the region, but in the entire clean technology industry. Arlington’s highly-educated workforce and easy transportation access were things Opower was looking for as the company continues to grow, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them for a long time to come.”
Here's some trivia for you - Arlington is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States.

For more info on neighborhoods and homes in Northern Virginia and Washington DC, contact me, Nader Abed - United Real Estate Realtor®, at 571-296-1794 or send an email to You can also follow me on Twitter @beltwayland, Facebook at, or visit my website,

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Visiting Lincoln

Insomnia isn't always bad. In fact, had I not gotten out of bed at 1 AM the other night and turned on the TV, I wouldn't have remembered to make this visit to the Ford's Theater Campus, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. It's a shame that it has actually taken me this long to once again walk the four blocks from my office building to see this historic and pretty eerie place.
From the movie "The Conspirator"

From the movie "The Conspirator"

That late night at my home in Burke, I watched "The Conspirator", a Hollywood movie about the trial of  Mary Surratt, who was convicted to hang for being allegedly being a conspirator in the assassination of the President. I rarely learn much from movies, but this time was different. I actually never knew that there were more people involved in the killing of Abraham Lincoln. I thought it was only John Wilkes Booth.

Having lived overseas for a few years as kid, they didn't concentrate on American history in school. Living in Northern Virginia and working in Washington DC has allowed me to make up for that.

Besides being a great movie, the makers of "The Conspirator" did a great job at recreating the DC scene of that time. That's what made me want to see the actual location for myself. So I took a lunch break, skipped the eating part, and walked a few blocks away to the Ford's Theater on 10th Street NW. Entrance to the theater and the attached museum is free to the public, however you can pay $5 for an audio device that will describe what you're looking during your visit. 

What gave my visit an eerie feeling was the fact that I was in the building alone with no other visitors. A combination of seeing the movie the night before, being in the fully restored building, and imagining people taking their seats to watch the play "Our American Cousin", had an effect on me that is difficult to describe. When I reached the balcony where Lincoln was actually shot by John Wilkes Booth I stood there for a while and felt as if the assassination hadn't happened that long ago. 

Immediately after that fateful night, the theater was immediately closed and wouldn't reopen until 1968 as a national historic site and working theater. Prior to the reopening it was completely gutted and restored, so everything that's there now wasn't there in Lincoln's time, but from what the curator tells me, you could never tell the difference. Across the street from the theater is the Peterson House where Abraham Lincoln was taken after being shot. This is where he actually died. You can visit the house using the same free ticket you received for the theater.
Ford's Theater

At the Peterson House, there really only three original rooms that you can see for yourself. The sitting room is where Mary Todd Lincoln, the First Lady, waited to hear news of her dying husband. Members of the President's cabinet sat in the dining room closest to the bedroom where Lincoln was taken until he died. These rooms have also been restored and the actual bed that Lincoln died on is on display in a museum in Chicago.

While most tourists want to see the White House, Capitol Building, and the Smithsonian museums they tend to forget the Ford's Theater. I know I did. But I discovered that the best way to see Washington DC is to see the way it was 200 and 100 years ago, then look at it now. You will learn a great deal and your experience will have more meaning.

For more info on neighborhoods and homes in Northern Virginia and Washington DC, contact me, Nader Abed - United Real Estate Realtor®, at 571-296-1794 or send an email to You can also follow me on Twitter @beltwayland, Facebook at, or visit my website,

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Where Main Street Still Exists

If you’re attracted to older neighborhoods with architectural diversity and a sense of community, then you should visit Alexandria, Virginia. Close to the waterfront and rich with history, Alexandria is known for tall trees and short commuting distance. Generally speaking, the families that come here stay here. The biggest reason why so many people are attracted to the Del Ray and Rosemont is its “Main Street” on Mt Vernon Ave.  

Del Ray
Del Ray was originally developed in 1894 by Charles Wood and included the communities of Del Ray, St Elmo, Mt Ida and Hume. In 1908 these communities were incorporated into the Town of Potomac but in 1930 Del Ray itself was annexed into the city of Alexandria. The borders of Del Ray are generally considered to be Russell Road on the West, Glebe Road on the North, Route 1 on the east and Braddock Road on the South.  
Del Ray’s Main Street will take you back to simpler times where neighbors can walk to the neighborhood coffee shop, restaurants, and hardware store.  It draws tens of thousands of people from around the Washington, D.C. area during its annual “Art on the Avenue” main street festival on the first day of October.

About a mile northwest of Old Town, the town of Rosemont is an unusually intact example of an early 20th century, middle-class trolley-car suburb.   The oldest planned residential expansion in Alexandria, the borders of Rosemont are mainly regarded as Russell Road to the west, Braddock Road to the north, the metro tracks to the east and King Street to the south. It extends from the foot of Shuter’s Hill, crowned by the George Washington National Masonic Memorial away to the north for a dozen blocks to the edge of Del Ray. Television weatherman Willard Scott grew up in Rosemont.

The town’s initial development took place between 1900 and 1920 and was named by its creators in honor of a neighborhood called Rosemont in Philadelphia, PA. It was closely linked to the growth of the electrical rail system in the Washington, D.C. area with its desirability enhanced by its close proximity to Alexandria’s Union Station. 

Largely a residential neighborhood, it’s difficult to find any two homes that look alike in Rosemont.  Here, where the majority of homes were constructed between 1908 and 1930, you will find designs and sizes ranging from small Craftsman bungalows, Tudor Cape Cods and Colonial Revivals.  Several well-known architects, such as D. Knickerbacker Boyd of Philadelphia, Waddy Butler Wood and William I. Deming of Washington, D.C., have made designs for some of the buildings in town.
Location is one of Rosemont’s biggest attractions. You can walk down the street, and within a few blocks there’s antiques and plenty of restaurants. Each year, neighbors gather for an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration at Maury Elementary School.

Both the Rosemont and Del Ray districts of Alexandria, VA are historic districts that were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The price of homes in these areas generally range between $500,000 and $900,000. 

For more info on neighborhoods and homes in Northern Virginia and Washington DC, contact me, Nader Abed - United Real Estate Realtor®, at 571-296-1794 or send an email to You can also follow me on Twitter @beltwayland, Facebook at, or visit my website,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Feeling Sluggish?

For many that live in Northern Virginia and work in Washington DC, the rush hour commute can be an annoying sacrifice for living in the burbs. Whether it's being stuck in traffic that can take up to an hour and a half or more, or getting on a crowded metro train after paying $5 for parking (if you're early enough to find a spot), we're talking at least 45 minutes of unnecessary stress twice a day.

The HOV -

In 1975, the US created a number of measures to curb our dependency on foreign oil.  One of these measures was the creation of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. These lanes were for cars with three or more occupants and run alongside the regular lanes and have much less traffic and little or no congestion (unless there's an accident, of course). But arranging carpools with friends and coworkers can be difficult to coordinate.

"Slugging" -

Slugging is a unique form of commuting found in the Washington, DC area.  Basically, it's carpooling with complete strangers. It's unique because people commuting into the city, driving their own vehicles, pickup other passengers going their way although they are complete strangers.  But this isn't your traditional hitchhiking.  It is a very organized system of hitchhiking with rules, proper etiquette, and specific pickup and drop-off locations.   

In essence, commuters have thousands of cars at their disposal, the system works faster than the bus, metro, or train and in most of the time; it takes you within a block or two of your place of work. Oh, and it's completely FREE and it has its own website at  There you'll learn much more about the system and its locations.

Yes, if you haven't slugged before, you'll think it is strange at first. But once you get to work in 20 minutes during rush hour, consider yourself to be an official slug.

And this is another reason why I love Northern Virginia.

For more info on neighborhoods and homes in Northern Virginia and Washington DC, contact me, Nader Abed - United Real Estate Realtor®, at 571-296-1794 or send an email to You can also follow me on Twitter @beltwayland, Facebook at, or visit my website,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Burke Lake Park - Fairfax County's best kept secret

It seems like when I do anything, good or bad, I always go to extremes. I haven't really exercised in a very long time (a couple years) and when I decided to do it yesterday, I pushed myself a little too hard. But I pushed myself at a very beautiful place, Burke Lake Park.

 I consider Burke, Virginia itself to be a best kept secret but that's for another blog entry. The park contains Burke Lake which is a 218 acre freshwater reservoir. To walk around the entire lake is to go for a 4.6 mile trek, which I did two and a half times today.
 The park is open year round and can be quite busy during the summer months although the trails were being well used yesterday, a day after Christmas.

In the summer, the park authority offers both motor and paddle boat rentals at pretty good rates. This is the best way to see the blue heron. Many call this place home.

The park is home to a golf course, a train that kids can actually ride on, many playgrounds, areas for soccer and volleyball, boat docks, and a fitness trail.

Located on Ox Road in Burke, right before Fairfax Station, you'll always find peace at the lake.

For more info on neighborhoods and homes in Northern Virginia and Washington DC, contact me, Nader Abed - United Real Estate Realtor®, at 571-296-1794 or send an email to You can also follow me on Twitter @beltwayland, Facebook at, or visit my website,

Friday, December 23, 2011

1st post!

I don't know if writing the first post is the most difficult but it has taken me a while to figure out where to begin. I've decided that since this blog isn't about me, I'll go ahead and begin with something I really love about Northern Virginia (NOVA), and that is food!  In fact, many of my posts may be about food or the neighborhoods where great restaurants exist.  Hmm, come to think of it, I guess that says a lot about me after-all.

With that, let's dive in. Yesterday, I took one of my 5 kids (yes, FIVE), Omar and my nephew Malik for a drive to old-town Fairfax to randomly look for a locally owned restaurant that we have never tried. There were some interesting choices and we'll hopefully try them all, but the one that attracted our attention was a place called "HAVEABITE Eatery" and thankfully, it was a great experience for the three of us.

Located at 10416 Main Street in Fairfax, this small Greek and Italian restaurant a great menu with entrees averaging $7-$10 and appetizers averaging $6.  I found their menu online tonight at

After taking a few moments to decide, Malik got his wish and chose the house's homemade gyro meat on a hoagie bun instead of the traditional pita.  It wasn't on the menu but the great staff made it happen.

Omar ordered the fettuccine  with homemade Alfredo sauce while I requested the gyro platter.  At first I wasn't leaning towards gyro since most restaurants serve the same gyro meat sold by the same manufacturers and distributors, but once I discovered that they make their own at HAVEABITE, I was curious and had to try it.  And it's good that I did as it was excellent!

If there was any complaint that I'd have to mention, it would be the fact that Omar's fettuccine alfredo took considerably longer to be served.  But we didn't complain since it was homemade on the spot at that time.

We shared a hummus appetizer with fresh pita, a favorite of ours (that we're pretty picky about).

The restrooms are tiny and there is no designated parking other than street parking however it is old town and there is ample parking a couple of blocks away near the public library.

I checked in on Foursquare and noticed that all the posts were positive just like the one I wrote, therefor I highly recommend that you visit HAVEABITE and have a few bites yourself.  Afterwards, walk across the street and visit the vintage t-shirt and clothing store and the coin shop (they have Roman coins from 300AD!

Let's support these local gems!

For more info on neighborhoods and homes in Northern Virginia, contact me, Nader Abed - Partners Real Estate Realtor®, at 571-296-1794 or send an email to You can also follow me on Twitter @fairfax_realtor, Facebook at, or visit my website,

Mortgage Loans: Pre-qualified Vs Pre-Approved

Most people begin the home-buying process with weeks or a few months of online searches and going to open houses before speaking to a...