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When my fiancée and I decided to buy a house in DC, we just couldn't deal with the incredibly hot real estate market. Every open house we went to had a couple dozen interested people milling about, and from what we'd heard the owners would get several bids by the end of the day, the lowest of which would usually offer the list price. Our real estate agent wasn't helping much, either, and mostly just called to tell us about houses we'd already seen advertised in the newspaper.

Luckily, we learned of a house we liked that the owners wanted to sell without the bother of fixing it up and listing it with a real estate agent, who would get a six percent commission. We spoke with these house owners several times, looked it over and had it appraised, and then negotiated a price that everyone was happy with.

That was the easy part-then came the paperwork. We'd never bought a house before, and as we didn't have a real estate agent, we felt totally overwhelmed. We had no idea what to do. We managed to get a standard real estate purchase contract by scrounging around, and the contract said we had to choose a title company. Pretty much at random, we picked Avenue Settlement, mostly because of their excellent website.

David Jenks took a lot of time to explain the settlement process, and Stephen Ballard looked at the standard contract we faxed offer to offer some suggestions of things we should add. After we got the sellers to sign it, Avenue Settlement took over and we pretty much didn't have to do anything for about a month as they worked behind the scenes. Then, a week before the scheduled closing, the sellers surprised us by saying that they wanted to rent-back for awhile. We called Avenue Settlement, and Saritta Veronesi explained what we needed to stipulate in a rent-back agreement to protect ourselves. She said they could work up the rental contract at the seller's expense, which was a relief.

When we went to the settlement, Stephen explained all the forms and we signed them. Then they offered us champagne. It couldn't have been more pleasant. We didn't get to see their mascot, though.

We feel extremely lucky. As first-time home buyers working without a real estate agent, we needed guidance and we found it at Avenue Settlement. The staff really went out of their way to help us and we would highly recommend them.

Happy house-hunting,
David Greenfield

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