Northern Virginia Real Estate and Community News

July 13, 2020

The more things change....

The more they stay the same.

 

 

This year has really been a doozy so far and looks to stay the same for a while yet.  The restrictions put in place to help minimize the effects of the coronavirus pandemic forced many people to deal with various challenges, both personal and professional.  For many, the biggest challenge was essentially putting life on hold which led to a lot of uncertainty across the economy.  Of course, not all of life’s changes can be put on hold, sometimes life just happens anyway.  

 

Many predicted that the real estate market would come to a standstill.  And while that didn’t happen there was a shift in how business was being done.  A while back I posted a blog about how the Real Estate business is meeting the needs of people who can’t put their life on hold.  http://www.robinbutler.org/blog/selling-and-buying-homes-during-pandemic/ 

 

Now as we begin to settle into the “new normal”, a phrase I’m sure we’re all tiring of, many of these business changes are becoming a new permanent way of life.  

 

Stay-at-home orders forced much of the home shopping, and even the closing paperwork, to be done virtually/remotely.   It seems many things are moving virtual as technology becomes more ingrained into one's life, so some are predicting that this may be more common even after the need for the change is gone.

 

Another shift, at least for the foreseeable future, may be a move away from city centers.  Younger people had been moving toward the city to avoid long commutes, for access to public transit, and to be where the action is.  However, some may now want to avoid large congregations of people and may find the space of the suburbs more appealing.  Added to that as more companies consider making telecommuting a permanent option there isn’t the need to live close to work.

 

The economic downturn may also have people more concerned about another so the higher costs often associated with city living may be a deterrent.  And, while they move into the suburbs they may keep their tastes a bit more modest out of an abundance of caution.

 

Those who do still prefer the city life have also made some changes in what amenities they are looking for.  For example, more condo shoppers are looking for in-unit laundry facilities so they don’t have to go to a shared laundry room.  

 

How long term these shifts are is hard to predict.  The current pandemic will eventually fade, but will the experience influence future decisions in anticipation of another?  

 

One change that could be an anticipation of another is the Pandemic Rider that has been added to housing contracts.  Standard Force Majeure clauses protect both buyer and seller in case of natural disasters, but a new COVID rider has been added to many contracts and some believe it’s here to stay.   These riders give the buyer more time to secure financing or schedule inspections.  And protect both parties in case of another shutdown which could slow down required paperwork filings.    


This is a stressful and confusing time for many, as always I’m here to help in any way I can.


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

June 23, 2020

Getting The Most Value From Your AC

 

 

The summer heat is in full swing here in Northern Virginia. Interestingly enough a big AC may not be your ideal answer to cooling off. It might, in fact, provide you less cooling than a smaller unit, since smaller units run longer than bigger ones which tend to click on and off. 

 

Running longer permits smaller units to maintain a regular room temperature, remove moisture from the room (thereby getting rid of humidity) and ultimately gives you greater comfort. 

 

There are some things you can do that not only help circulate the cooler air in your home this summer but they may even save on that electric bill. 

 

Following are a few cooling tips which can save your air conditioning systems from breaking out in a sweat:

 

  1. Use whole house fans. This helps maintain a cool temperature by dragging cool air through the whole house and throwing out the hot air through the attic. Whole house fans work best during night time when the outdoors is cooler than the indoors.
  2. In the summer months, your thermostat should ideally be set as high as possible. The closer the temperatures outside and inside are the less your cooling bill will be! If your thermostat is set at a colder setting your cooling rate will slow down, the temperature will fall to an uncomfortable level AND your cooling expenses will mount.
  3. Let your fan’s speed be high unless of course, the weather is particularly humid in which case you will be better off setting it at a lower speed.
  4. Use an interior fan to complement your window AC. This will give your AC a helping hand and distribute the cool air better without unnecessarily increasing your electricity bills.
  5. Putting your lamps, TV sets, etc. near your thermostat is a big no-no. Heat from these appliances can be detected by the thermostat making the AC run unnecessarily long.
  6. Consider shade near your exterior windows. It’s ok to put trees or shrubs near your air conditioning unit to help shade it but make sure they don't get in the way of the airflow. An AC unit functioning under shade is known to use almost 10% less electricity than one functioning directly under the sun.
  7. Lucky number 7 is, of course, to be sure and perform regular maintenance checks on your HVAC unit. By keeping an eye on your unit, you can catch small problems before they become larger, more expensive ones. And, by keeping your unit running at its most efficient, you will also save on that electricity bill.

 

If you have more questions on your system or are looking for a great local HVAC company, let me know. I’m happy to hook you up.

 

Robin Butler,

 

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

 

Remax Gateway

 

703-932-9299

Posted in Real Estate News
June 16, 2020

Donate! Recycle! Don’t Simply Dispose!

 

It’s that time of year, out with the old and in with the new.  Or, maybe just out with the old.

 

If you were like many people during the COVID lockdown you spent at least some of your time cleaning and organizing.  It was a mandated, extended spring cleaning session.  

 

Or perhaps you are getting ready for a downsizing move and want to eliminate rather than move unnecessary items.  Unfortunately, due to COVID safety protocols, you may not have been able to properly dispose of your unwanted items.  

 

As restrictions begin to lift many places are once again opening their drop-off sites or scheduling pick-up services.  Not all places are resuming this service, however, or may have made significant changes to what they offer.  So, if you have a favorite recycling/donation site it’s best to call ahead rather than load up the car unnecessarily.

 

Household items

 

If you have clothing, working electronics, toys, and household items area Goodwill stores are beginning a phased reopening.  They will only be taking donations at the open stores so check their website.  They also offer pick-ups for a fee.

 

https://www.dcgoodwill.org/

 

If you have larger items such as furniture, working appliances (less than 10 years old), and home improvement supplies then Habitat for Humanity has Restore locations.  Currently, only the Alexandria and Chantilly stores are accepting drop-offs.  They may be able to schedule a pick-up but that is staffing dependent. 

 

https://www.habitatnova.org/restore/donate-to-the-restore/

 

The Salvation Army is also a great option and is currently offering their pick-up service.

 

https://satruck.org/

 

Electronics and Hazardous Materials

Best Buy has temporarily halted its recycling program for health precautions, but if you buy a new large item and have it delivered they will still haul away the old appliance.

 

Local recycling centers are still open and accepting electronics and hazardous waste, such as paint and cleaners that can not (or should not) go into your weekly garbage.

 

https://alexandriava.gov/tes/solidwaste/info/default-19206.html?id=19206

 

https://recycling.arlingtonva.us/residential/electronics-metal/#ecenter

 

https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/publicworks/recycling-trash/electronics



Miscellaneous

If you are downsizing your bookshelves you can stop into a ½ Priced Books and make a little money for your effort, or many local libraries are always looking for donations.

An interesting option for your stuffed animals is Gleaning for the World of Concord VA. They have a program called The Teddy Bear Brigade, they collect stuffed animals to give emotional support to children here and around the world.  You can contact them to inquire about making an animal or monetary donation.

 

https://gftw.org/children/

 

It is always best to attempt to recycle or donate your items rather than just simply throwing them away in the trash, but there are times when that is your only option.  In that case, you can contact your local trash hauler for their bulk services or try Bagster for easy pick-up.

As always I am here to help,

Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway

 

703-932-9299

 

May 19, 2020

It's Home Improvement Season

 

Many people are hard at work right now looking at what sort of home improvements they want to do over the summer. Whether your plans are to do improvements inside or out, there are some improvements that will increase the value of your home. 
At the link below, you can download and print our FREE workbook on planning your tasks. 
Click HERE to download the workbook.
I am here to answer any questions you may have.
Robin Butler,
“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”
Remax Gateway
703-932-9299
Posted in Selling Your Home
May 4, 2020

Selling and Buying Homes During a Pandemic

 

 

“Stay Home”, is the advice of the day.  But, what if you want or need to buy a new home.  Can you?  

 

It’s recognized that your life changes can’t be put on hold just because so much life is changing around you.   So, luckily, the real estate industry has been classified as an essential business. Although, home shopping may look slightly different for a while.  

 

All aspects of the industry are considered essential, so you’ll still be able to work with agents, title agencies, and inspectors toward a completed transaction.   However, the process may take a little longer as everyone needs to coordinate schedules.  And, everyone will have to adapt to more of the process moving online, such as virtual home showings and more digital signings/closings.  

 

These changes affect both the buyer and the seller.

 

BUYERS

 

With interest rates dropping now may be a good time to buy, but that may make the market more competitive.   And, inventory could be lower if sellers have the option to wait before selling. Make sure you have all your financial questions in line so that when you find a property you want you are ready to proceed quickly.  

 

More of your home looking will need to be done virtually, so look at as many homes as you can and widdle down your preferences before you make the effort of an in-person viewing.  

 

That same reasoning will apply to researching neighborhoods.  No sense looking at a home you may love if you have no intention of moving there.  

 

Rely on the expertise of your agent when looking between potential properties.

 

And, be respectful when finally going to see a home in person by wearing masks/gloves. 

 

The best thing buyers can do is prepare.  Good advice anytime you are making a large, life-changing purchase, of course, but the days of casually hitting up a dozen open houses over a weekend are simply not feasible in today’s climate.  

 

SELLERS

 

Buyers will have to rely more on your videos and pictures so make sure they are the highest quality.  Putting your best foot forward can help you stand out against the rest.

 

Have as many disclosure documents available as you can.  The entire process may be slowed down as schedules are worked out so you want to do as much as you can to help it along.

 

When having an in-person showing make sure to leave lights on and interior doors open.  Allowing the buyers to not have to touch many surfaces.  

 

Lower interest rates may put more people into a buying mood, but buyers can’t simply walk through any home that interests them.  Sellers may need to put in a little more effort to make their home one that buyers want to take that extra step for.  

 

Effects from this pandemic aren’t just going to go away, even as the COVID cases drop, they will be felt for some time as people worry about another possible wave.  We in the industry want to make sure everyone is, and feels, protected by the new procedures that we are putting into place.  We will take extra care when showing your home and helping you through some of the changing processes.  We can and will work through this together and come out stronger on the other side.

 

As always, I am here to answer any questions you may have.

Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

April 21, 2020

Setting Up a Work-at-Home Office

More and more people are working from home either full time or part of the time. If you want to boost your productivity levels when working from home, it helps to set up an office. Having an area purely dedicated to working will help you [and your family] to separate work from leisure.

The question becomes “how can you set up an effective home office environment?” Here, you’ll discover some of the best ways to set up a work at home office and the key things to consider when planning. 

Consider how long you’ll be working from home

The first thing you need to think about is how long you’ll be working from home. If it’s only a very short period of time, it would be pointless investing in an entire home office set up. In this situation, it would be better to invest in just the essentials. 

However, if you have the budget it could be worth setting up a permanent home office. That way, you’ll always have somewhere set up to work at home if needed. 

Make sure you have the right equipment

You’re going to need some level of equipment to work from home. At the very least, you’re going to need a laptop or desktop computer and a desk. If you aren’t all that comfortable with long-term typing on a  laptop, you can consider adding a mouse or a keyboard. You can also even add a larger monitor, depending on the laptop you have. Comfort is key.

If you aren’t setting up a permanent home office, you can use things such as the dining room table or a makeshift bedroom office. Some people are even getting creative and using an ironing board as a stand-up desk option. Whatever works for you is what you need to do.

Other things you’re going to need include a good internet connection and online security. If you are at home and sharing the internet with others in the household, you’ll want to make sure you have enough bandwidth to handle everyone’s needs.

Ensure the space has plenty of natural sunlight

When you’re stuck indoors, you won’t be getting as much natural sunlight as you usually would. This can have an impact on how productive and motivated you are. Numerous studies have revealed the damaging impact limited natural daylight can have on workers in an office setting and the same applies at home.

So, make sure you’re going to be working in a part of the home which benefits from a lot of daylight. If there isn’t a space available, you might want to consider investing in a daylight bulb. These are designed to replicate natural daylight. And, of course, you want to take plenty of breaks from working and maybe even step outside a few times a day or take a walk.

Ensure Privacy if needed

Are you going to need to be making phone calls or participating in online conferences? If so, you will want to be sure the space you choose has the privacy needed to make that happen. You obviously don’t want to have your kids blaring Star Wars on the big screen in the same room you are trying to make a sales call. And, you will want to beware of video calls that could have someone walking by or in the background doing something you wouldn’t want the world to see. Zoom Bombs are are a real thing, people! Obviously a room with a door would make the best choice but if that’s not an option in your home, make sure to have “boundary” discussions with your family. 

Focus on comfort

Your home office should be a comfortable place where you can work. This means, providing plenty of support for your back if you’re working at a desk for example. 

If you aren’t comfortable, you’re not going to get much work completed. You’ll also find it beneficial to surround yourself with things that make you happiest, such as photos of the family and plants or flowers. If this is a permanent home office, make the space yours. It will make working much more enjoyable.

These are just some of the basics you should consider when setting up a home office. Whether you’re setting up a permanent or temporary office space, you need to ensure it has everything you need and it’s quiet and comfortable to work in.

Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

 

Posted in Community News
March 20, 2020

Staying Healthy

Every year we hear the same advice--wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, stay home when you are sick--this year the advice seems to have more meaning.  As the information, and misinformation, about COVID-19 swirls around we can all take extra precautions and a little more care as we wash our hands.  

 

If you are taking care of someone who is sick

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after coming into contact with something they have touched.  
  • Wear a face mask, or have the sick person wear a face mask, when interacting with each other in close proximity
  • Wipe down all shared surfaces.  Especially the kitchen and bathroom countertops, cabinet handles, faucet handles, and shower and toilet surfaces.  
  • Wipe down shared items, such as phones, computer keyboards, remote controls, and doorknobs.
  • Launder shared blankets.  And launder the sick person's sheets/blankets more often.  If the sick person is a child, wash their toys, even the stuffed animals.
  • Make sure the sick person has their own hand towel to use in the bathroom and launder it often.
  • Once they are healthy do a deep clean of the house.

Trying to keep germs out: 

  • Take off your shoes when you enter your house.  Dirty shoes can spread germs through the house, though your risk of getting sick from them is low.  They can also spread dirt, dust, and other allergens.
  • Change your clothes once you get home.  It’s possible you came into contact with an infected person while you were out, though germs only stay on porous materials for a few hours, it’s better safe than sorry.
  • Change your sheets at least every 2 weeks.
  • Vacuum carpets and mop floors weekly.
  • Wipe down counters and hard surfaces daily

Extra notes:

  • When washing your hands- soap and water are all you need.  Hand sanitizer is good to use in a pinch but isn’t a better alternative.  
  • When cleaning with a solvent or bleach you’ll want to use a clean rag or sponge, or better yet paper towels.  Oftentimes using the same rag/sponge for cleaning just moves the germs around rather than eliminating them.
  • Also, bleach-based cleaning wipes are good because after wiping down a surface you generally let it air dry which gives the germ-killing agents more time to work.  
  • When it’s warm enough open windows for air circulation.
  • Run an air purifier to help cut down on allergens.
  • A humidifier can help add humidity to the air and help prevent sinus infections and bronchitis.

When you are Out and about:

  • Don’t shake hands or hug.
  • When using the public restroom use a paper towel to open the doors after washing your hands.
  • At work wipe down your phone and computer a few times a day but especially right when you come in and after you have left it. You never know who may have had to use it while you were away.

Hopefully by practicing good general hygiene, taking extra cleaning precautions and following the suggested practices regarding social distancing, pretty soon the COVID-19 scare will be a thing of history books.

 

Stay safe AND healthy friends.

Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

 

 

March 12, 2020

What's Up with The Refinancing Frenzy?

You may have heard that interest rates have taken a nosedive. While this can be a good time for refinancing your loan, there are a few cautions I'd like to share with you. Watch this and let me know what you think.

 

As always, if you need any additional guidance I am here to help.

 

Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

My Movie 5 from Robin Butler on Vimeo.

March 11, 2020

Home is Where Your Pet Is

Back in early 2019, the National Association of Landscape Professionals conducted a survey among the millennial generation (those born between 1981-1996) in which 82% of the respondents said a nice sized yard was their number one priority when buying a home.  This is mostly due to the large percentage of young people who own pets, but also their desire to be somewhat self-sufficient with gardens and solar panels. And, of course, entering the family stage of life and wanting a place for the kids to run around.

You may think, “of course landscapers are going to say a yard is important”, but similar numbers were also found in a 2018 realtor.com survey.   That survey found that 80% of home buyers owned a pet and found that 75% of pet owners would actually pass on a house if it wasn’t a

good fit for their pets.   Interestingly it wasn’t just dog and cat owners, even those who own birds, fish, rodents, and reptiles would pass on a home if it didn’t suit their pets’ needs.

 

I posted a blog a few years ago on some improvements you can add to your home to make your furry family members happy.  You can find that here.  

 

Now I want to give you a few tips to consider when getting your home ready for sale in a pet-friendly market.

 

Mulch:  New mulch can help with the curb appeal of your home, but not all are good for pets.  Avoid cocoa bean and pine needle mulch. Pine, cedar, and hemlock mulches are generally safe.  Also, make sure to check if it has been treated with chemicals and go for the natural mulch.

 

Plants:  Much like the mulch there are plants that can be harmful to pets.  If you are planning to do some landscaping to improve your curb appeal here is a list of plants to avoid.    And here is a safe list.

 

Fence:  Of course you don’t want to put up a fence on the off chance a buyer may want one, but make sure if you have a fence it is in a good and sturdy condition.  You may also want to mark off your boundary so buyers can clearly see the lines should they want to put up a fence of their own.  

 

Pest Control:  You may need to put out some pest poisons to get your yard into tip-top sale shape if you must then make sure you put them where pets can’t reach them.  Other options would be to go with pet-friendly but pest not-friendly plants. Lavender, mint, and rosemary are good for deterring snails and slugs.

 

Hardscaping:  If you need to redo a walkway or patio try to stick with materials that are more friendly to sensitive paws.  And are nicer to human bare feet too. Brick, flagstone, and pebbles/smooth rocks are less likely to heat up in the hot sun.  

 

As always, if you need any additional guidance I am here to help.

Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

 

 

Posted in Selling Your Home
Feb. 24, 2020

Your Door is Locked...

 

...But Are You Secure? 


You can lock your door with your phone.  You can order groceries through your refrigerator.  You can ask Alexa to turn on your lights or arm your security system. You no longer have to leave your seat to see who is knocking at the front door.   An increase in technology can help make our lives easier and give us an increased sense of security. But, are we more secure? That depends on how we are securing the technology to make sure it is keeping out those who try to hack their way in.  

There are many things that we can do to make sure our technology is secure from hackers, starting with the easy ones--don’t open suspicious links you receive through email or unknown texts.  Don’t plug a USB you found on the street into your computer. Don’t leave your devices unattended when you are out of the house. And, install virus checking software on your devices.

 

And then there are a few others regarding the equipment you bring into the house.  Namely the router you receive from your internet provider. The router shares the internet throughout the house and can be easy targets for hackers.  Most internet providers use a few different router models from a handful of manufacturers so if a hacker can figure out which model you have they can have an easier time hacking it.   The first thing to do after hooking up the router is to change the Service Set Identifier (SSID), which is the name of your Wi-Fi network and it is visible to all who look for it. Many default names include the router brand so hiding that is at least one step in shielding it from outsiders.

 

And, while you’re in there fixing the SSID you may as well set up a guest network.  Having a separate network for your guests to use can keep sensitive information more secure.  Also, with an increase of smart devices in your home (your refrigerator ordering your groceries) you may want to consider setting up a third network.  It’s a lot to keep track of but may save you from more headaches in the end.  

 

Routers also come with a default username and password that you will also want to change. Making life even easier for hackers there are websites where you can find many of these default settings, so if they know what router you have they can work their way through your defaults.  You’ll want to make your passwords long strings of letters and numbers, something you can remember but not something easily deciphered. And, you may want to consider changing it every six months or so.  

 

These default usernames don’t just apply to routers, changing these should be done on any internet device you bring into your home, such as Ring devices.   You may also want to avoid putting up those security company signs. Yes, they look like a good deterrent but they are letting everyone know what systems you are using.  

 

These suggestions are only the most basic of security measures that you can do to keep your home secure.  There are many other more advanced measures you can take, from using a service to check for vulnerabilities to installing a firewall to setting up a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

 

An open window or dark obscured doorway used to be the thing criminals would look for as easy ways into your home.  Now, that low hanging fruit is lack of ample security inside the home.  


Robin Butler,

“Your Friend In The Real Estate Business.”

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

Posted in Community News