Northern Virginia Real Estate and Community News

Dec. 8, 2017

4 Tips for Holiday Home Staging

If you are selling your Northern Virginia home, you probably know the importance of staging.  The goal of staging is to create a clean, neutral look for a prospective buyer to envision their family in your property and feel like “they are home”. Not “You are home”… You want the property to feel like their space now.

 

For suggestions and rules for room by room, check out this blog on houselogic. General rules include:

  • De-cluttering

  • Lighter, brighter, bigger, better- lights on and shades open

  • All paths outside through a manicured/cared for/swept garden

  • No artificial flowers or candles- this one is more lenient during the holidays

 

Staging can be more difficult during the holiday season as people vary in their religions, belief and holiday decorating style. The key here is to keep things simple, elegant and more seasonal as opposed to religious. One important thing to keep in mind is that buyers looking at homes during the busy holiday season are typically very serious buyers and are ready to buy today.

 

In addition to the usual staging tips, there are some extra considerations for the holidays:

Curb appeal is still important. When a buyer pulls up, they don’t need to see a manger scene or blow up Santa. Some simple greenery, white lights and a beautiful wreath on the door are simple and welcoming.

 

Inside décor needs to be seasonal and simple. I’m not saying don’t put up a tree if you have children. But, try to keep it scaled down with more of the ornaments you’d find on a commercial tree. Or, consider putting your tree in the basement this year so it’s not the first thing a buyer sees. Keep tchotchkes to a minimum. Keep religion out of your décor as much as possible. Greenery, snowmen, reindeer, ornaments, candles, cardinals – these things are very winter themed without touting religion. Think Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma and LL Bean.

 

A fireplace can be very welcoming. If it’s gas, let’s turn it on and have a couple books on a table nearby. The mantle is a good place to have a little greenery or some pretty candles. Keep it simple and ornate.

 

Keep your current color scheme in mind. If your home is the maritime blues and whites, PLEASE don’t hang up big red and green bows all around that clash with the usual décor. Step back and see what the buyer sees. Does your home look like a photo from a magazine? Does it look like someplace you’d like to snuggle up and spend a day? If not, re-think and re-arrange some things.

 

The holidays are a time of fun and a flurry of activity. I know having your home on the market during the season is tough but getting a buyer in your home that is ready to buy now will be worth the extra effort. As always, if I can be of any help, please contact me.

 

ROBIN BUTLER
"Your Friend In The Real Estate Business"

 

 

 

 



Posted in Selling Your Home
Nov. 30, 2017

Mortgage Interest Rates Are Going Up… Should I Wait to Buy?

 

Mortgage interest rates, as reported by Freddie Mac, have increased over the last several weeksFreddie Mac, along with Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors, is calling for mortgage rates to continue to rise over the next four quarters.

This has caused some purchasers to lament the fact that they may no longer be able to get a rate below 3.5%. However, we must realize that current rates are still at historic lows.

Here is a chart showing the average mortgage interest rate over the last several decades:

Mortgage Interest Rates Are Going Up… Should I Wait to Buy? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

Though you may have missed getting the lowest mortgage rate ever offered, you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago, a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago, and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

 

If you're looking to buy or sell a home in Northern Virginia, give me a call.

 

ROBIN BUTLER
"Your Friend In The Real Estate Business"

 

 

 

Nov. 16, 2017

Top Ten Ways to Prep Your House for Winter!

 

 

Just like the holidays, winter is on its way. While you may be busy storing away your shorts and flip-flops before stacking your sweaters and lining up your boots, don't forget to prepare your Northern Virginia home as well. There are many actions you can take now to prepare for winter's arrival.

 

Let's start outside:

 

1. Take care of summer equipment - service lawn mowers, blowers, etc. so they are ready for spring; cover outdoor air conditioning units to safeguard them from winter's elements

2. Protect the items that deal with water - drain and store hoses; winterize water features, ponds, exterior faucets, and sprinkler systems

3. Gather winter equipment - move snow blowers, snow shovels, rock salt (and sleds and toboggans!!) to a convenient location so they are ready

4. Prepare winter machinery - test snow blowers, generators, etc. to ensure everything runs smoothly; stock enough gas to operate equipment

5. Secure the house - check and maintain gutters and downspouts; fix any exterior cracks on your home to prevent heat loss; inspect the roof for any damaged or missing shingles and seek help from a professional if needed

6. Clean out the landscaping - remove dead plants; prune shrubs or plants as needed; clean out and store pots so they are ready for your spring planting

 

And now let's move indoors:

 

7. Service heat sources - if you have a fireplace, an annual chimney inspection is recommended to check for cracks, buildup, or other problems so cleanings or repairs can be scheduled prior to using your fireplace this season; service your heater so any leaks or problems may be addressed, ensuring your heater runs efficiently when the cold air and snowflakes are blowing around outside; change filters on a regular schedule

8. Replace things as needed - swap out screens with storm windows if that's something you typically do; check the weather stripping around doors and replace if needed; change batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors

 

Taking care of the "maintenance" items of your winterizing checklist is extremely important for your safety and your home's protection. But, it's also important to attack some "fall cleaning" aspects as well, so that you can face winter's chill with a fresh feeling...at least inside your home!

 

Fall cleaning:

9. Maybe think about working "from the ground up" - steam clean carpets and clean under the appliances (don't worry, we all find the occasional misplaced Cheerio under the stove!); and have those air ducts, vents, and the dryer vent cleaned out as well

10. And, finally, wash, wash, wash - it's probably time to wash the windows, sills, and maybe even the screens; clean those blankets, quilts, and comforters so they are fresh and welcoming when you want to relax and cuddle in with a hot drink on a cold, snowy night; clean kitchen appliances so they are ready for upcoming turkeys, pumpkin pies, and holiday cookies

 

Have fun preparing your home for the winter and the holidays! And after you put your tools and cleaning bottles away, be sure to relax and enjoy your beautiful home with cherished family and friends as you make new memories together!

ROBIN BUTLER
"Your Friend In The Real Estate Business"

 

 

Posted in Real Estate News
Nov. 9, 2017

Renting or Buying…Either Way, You're Paying Someone's Mortgage

Renting or Buying…Either Way, You're Paying Someone's Mortgage | MyKCM

There are some people who have not purchased homes yet because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As Entrepreneur Magazine, a premier source for small business, explained in their article, “12 Practical Steps to Getting Rich,”

“While renting on a temporary basis isn’t terrible, you should most certainly own the roof over your head if you’re serious about your finances. It won’t make you rich overnight, but by renting, you’re paying someone else’s mortgage. In effect, you’re making someone else rich.”

Christina Boyle, Senior Vice President and head of the Single-Family Sales & Relationship Management organization at Freddie Mac, explains another benefit of securing a mortgage vs. paying rent:

“With a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you’ll have the certainty & stability of knowing what your mortgage payment will be for the next 30 years – unlike rents which will continue to rise over the next three decades.”

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ which allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person with that equity.

Interest rates are still at historic lows, making it one of the best times to secure a mortgage and make a move into your dream home. Freddie Mac’s latest report shows that rates across the country were at 3.94% last week.

Bottom Line

Whether you are looking for a Northern Virginia primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home on the shore, now may be the time to buy. Give me a call and we can talk about it. 

 

ROBIN BUTLER
"Your Friend In The Real Estate Business"
Posted in Buying a Home
Nov. 2, 2017

Don't Let Fear Stop You from Applying for a Mortgage

Don't Let Fear Stop You from Applying for a Mortgage | MyKCM

A considerable number of potential Northern Virginia home buyers shy away from jumping into the real estate market due to their uncertainty about the buying process. A specific cause for concern tends to be mortgage qualification.

For many, the mortgage process can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be!

In order to qualify in today’s market, you’ll need to have saved for a down payment (73% of all buyers made a down payment of less than 20%, with many buyers putting down 3% or less), a stable income and good credit history.

Throughout the entire home buying process, you will interact with many different professionals, all of whom perform necessary roles. These professionals are also valuable resources for you.

Once you’re ready to apply, here are 5 easy steps that Freddie Mac suggests you follow:

  1. Find out your current credit history & score – even if you don’t have perfect credit, you may already qualify for a loan. The average FICO® Score of all closed loans in September was 724, according to Ellie Mae.
  2. Start gathering all your documentation – income verification (such as W-2 forms or tax returns), credit history, and assets (such as bank statements to verify your savings).
  3. Contact a professional – your real estate agent will be able to recommend a loan officer that can help you develop a spending plan, as well as determine how much home you can afford.
  4. Consult with your lender – he or she will review your income, expenses, and financial goals to determine the type and amount of mortgage you qualify for.
  5. Talk to your lender about pre-approval – a pre-approval letter provides an estimate of what you might be able to borrow (provided your financial status doesn’t change), and demonstrates to home sellers that you are serious about buying!

Bottom Line

Do your research, reach out to professionals, stick to your budget, and be sure that you are ready to take on the financial responsibilities of becoming a homeowner. If you have any questions or are ready to get started, give me a call. 

 

ROBIN BUTLER
"Your Friend In The Real Estate Business"
Posted in Buying a Home
Oct. 19, 2017

Is it Time To Downsize?

Are you looking to downsize your Northern Virginia home?  Downsizing can occur for a whole host of reasons such as: retiring, children going off to college, divorcing, needing to save money or desiring less maintenance.  Whatever the reason, here are some ideas to keep in mind when you are considering a smaller place.

 

ü  Less is more

Remember the old adage less is more?  It definitely rings true here.  You will have to go through every item you own and decide if you want to keep it.  If not, you can: donate it, give it to a friend, or pitch it.  Maybe set aside a certain amount of crates you will take to your new home and only allow those to be filled.  Have the crates ready when you decide to start decluttering your home and when they are full; do not add anything to them.  Remind yourself you are downsizing and consider if you absolutely have to have what you are holding on to. 

 

ü  Location, location, location

Decide where you want to move to and check out your desired location ahead of time.  Even visit the location at different times of the day to see the neighborhood, traffic flow and noise pollution. Make sure it is close to everything you will need with regard to work, shopping, dining, public transit, etc.  This will give you a better idea of how much space you will have and that dictates how much you can take with you (see above). 

 

ü  Contemplate the costs

Make sure you look into all the costs involved in your new dwelling.  If it is a condominium or a townhome the size may be smaller but make sure to consider the fees involved such as: association fees and maintenance fees.  The taxes in a particular area will also be something you will need to consider.  Not to mention any repairs, start- up fees for TV and utilities, and of course decorating!

 

ü  An ounce of measure

Consider measuring all your larger furniture items you plan on keeping like: sofas, beds, table and chairs, dressers, TVs, filing cabinets, etc.  When you have access to your new place measure the space you are moving into just to make sure everything you have will fit properly.  This will save you time and possibly a headache later if the item you are moving into your new home doesn’t fit.    

 

 Try to keep everything in perspective when downsizing your home.  Remember less is more and try not to purchase anything new unless it is to replace something else.  Location is key in finding the right home in the right neighborhood.  Before you move everything, measure your furniture first to make sure it fits, this can save a lot of hassle and the need to purchase new, unnecessary items.  Finally, remember the finances involved, including fees, taxes, set-up and decorating your new home. 

Enjoy this new phase of life and happy house hunting!  And remember, if you decide to look for a new place, I can help you with buying and selling.

               Robin Butler, Certified Senior Real Estate Specialist

 

 

 

Oct. 12, 2017

The Importance of Home Equity in Retirement Planning

The Importance of Home Equity in Retirement Planning | MyKCM

We often discuss the difference in family wealth between homeowner households and renter households. Much of that difference is the result of the equity buildup that Northern Virginia homeowners experience over the time that they own their home. In a report recently released by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), they reveal how valuable equity can be in retirement planning.

Craig Copeland, Senior Research Associate at EBRI, recently authored a report, Importance of Individual Account Retirement Plans and Home Equity in Family Total Wealth, in which he reveals:

“Individual account retirement plan assets, plus home equity, represent almost all of what families have to use for retirement expenses outside of Social Security and traditional pensions. Those families without individual account assets typically have very low overall assets, so they have almost nothing to draw from for retirement expenses.”

The report echoed the findings of a working paper, Home Equity Patterns among Older American Households, authored by Barbara Butrica and Stipica Mudrazija of Urban Institute. Fannie Mae highlighted these findings for their blog The Home Story this past winter, quoting Butrica and Mudrazija:

 “For most adults near traditional retirement age, a home is their most valuable asset — dwarfing retirement accounts, other financial assets, and other nonfinancial assets. Although relatively few retirees tap into their home equity, having it provides financial security… In fact, many retirement security experts argue that the conventional three-legged stool of retirement resources — Social Security, pensions, and savings — is incomplete because it ignores the home.”

USAToday interviewed two area experts to comment on the EBRI report. Randy Bruns, a private wealth adviser with HighPoint Planning Partners, agreed with the findings:

“Social Security and home equity are major pieces of the retirement puzzle.”

Wade Pfau, Professor of Retirement Income at The American College of Financial Services and author of Reverse Mortgages: How to use Reverse Mortgages to Secure Your Retirement, said having the equity without a plan to use it won’t help:

“Home equity is a very important asset for American retirees, and so it is important to think about how to make best use of home equity in retirement planning.”

Bottom Line

Whether you use the equity in your home through a reverse mortgage or by selling and downsizing to a less expensive home, it should be a crucial piece of your retirement planning. Not sure what this means for you and your family? Give me a call and we can hash it out. 

Posted in Real Estate News
Oct. 5, 2017

Empty Nesters: Best to Remodel or Time to Sell?

 

Empty Nesters: Best to Remodel or Time to Sell? | MyKCM

Your children have finally moved out and you and your spouse now live alone in a four-bedroom colonial (or a similar type of house). You have two choices to make:

  1. Remodel your house to fit your current lifestyle and needs
  2. Sell your house and purchase the perfect home

Based on the record of dollars spent on remodeling and renovations, it appears that many homeowners are deciding on number one. But, is that the best long-term solution?

If you currently live in a 3-4-bedroom Northern Virginia home, you probably bought it at a time when your children were the major consideration in determining family housing needs. Along with a large home, you more than likely also considered school district, the size of the property and the makeup of other families living in the neighborhood (example: you wanted a block with other kids your children could play with and a backyard large enough to accommodate that).

Remodeling your home to meet your current needs might mean combining two bedrooms to make one beautiful master suite and changing another bedroom into the massive walk-in closet you always wanted. However, if you live in a neighborhood that historically attracts young families, you may be dramatically undermining the value of your house by cutting down the number of bedrooms and making it less desirable to the typical family moving onto your block.

And, according to a recent study, you will recoup only 64.4% of a remodeling project’s investment dollars if you sell in the future.

Your home is probably at its highest value as it stands right now. Instead of remodeling your house, it may make better financial sense to sell your current home and purchase a home that was built specifically to meet your current lifestyle and desires.

In many cases, this well-designed home will give you exactly what you want in less square footage (read less real estate taxes!) than your current home.

Bottom Line

If you are living in a house that no longer fits your needs, at least consider checking out other homes in your area that would meet your lifestyle needs before taking on the cost and hassle of remodeling your current house.

 

If you're having a tough time deciding, or if you already know you want to move, give me a call and we'll talk it through. As a certified senior real estate specialist, I am specially trained to help with your needs.

Posted in Selling Your Home
Sept. 28, 2017

It’s Not Personal!


My job as a realtor is to help you to present your house in the best possible light in order to sell it quickly and at the highest possible price. In doing that, sometimes, I have to give you a “to-do” list that might have the tendency to hurt your feelings. Don’t let it! Please don’t take your realtor’s advice as any sort of personal insult. I promise we only have your best interests at heart. Here are some of the things we might tell you that have the ability to give you the wrong impression:

 

De-clutter as much as possible. Remove as many photos and personal effects as you can.

It’s not that we think your family is ugly or that Grandma Edna’s photo over the mantle is going to be offensive to anyone. Research has proven that people looking at your home are trying to picture themselves and THEIR family living there. If your family photos and tchotchkes are all on display, that makes it tougher for the home buyer to picture your home as their own.

 

Light some candles (if someone is going to be present, of course) bake a pie, or plug in an air freshener.

Every home has a certain smell that is just a product of your living style. Whether it’s got a hint of coffee, recent baking or…. Gah…. cat pee, the aroma of your home is giving off a vibe. Most people enjoy the smell of candles or baking or, the best yet, fresh air. By presenting a welcoming aroma, you can start the home tour off on a good note.

 

Consider painting in neutral colors.

We’re not trying to hinder your creativity or personal style. We ARE trying to sell your home and that’s much easier to do if a buyer is able to look at your house and think they can move in and not have to instantly do all sorts of painting and redecorating to get closer to their own style. Neutral colors help give them that feeling.

 

We need to get rid of all the kid (or dog) toys everywhere.

No, we don’t hate children or dogs. We have them too. But, the buyer may not have children or may have dog allergies or an aversion to animals. By having their things strewn around the house, you are not only creating a possible trip hazard, but you are making it tougher for a buyer to picture your home as their own as we discussed in the beginning.

 

Remember, the goal of the home showing is to enable the buyer to see all the wonderful features of your home and to be able to visualize themselves living there. We want them to see it so clearly in their mind’s eye that they will make you a fabulous offer.  If we give you advice and you are feeling a little hurt by it, please ask us to explain. We certainly don’t want to hurt your feelings. It’s not personal, it’s just good business.

 

If I can ever be of assistance in your home purchase or sale, feel free to give me a ring.



Posted in Selling Your Home
Sept. 14, 2017

How Your Home’s Value Grows Your Family’s Wealth

How Your Home’s Value Grows Your Family’s Wealth | MyKCM

Over the next five years, home prices are expected to appreciate 3.64% per year on average and to grow by 18.4% cumulatively, according to Pulsenomics’ most recent Home Price Expectation Survey.

So, what does this mean for Northern Virginia homeowners and their equity position?

As an example, let’s assume a young couple purchased and closed on a $250,000 home in January. If we look at only the projected increase in the price of that home, how much equity will they earn over the next 5 years?

How Your Home’s Value Grows Your Family’s Wealth | MyKCM

Since the experts predict that home prices will increase by 5.0% this year alone, the young homeowners will have gained $12,500 in equity in just one year.

Over a five-year period, their equity will increase by nearly $49,000! This figure does not even take into account their monthly principal mortgage payments. In many cases, home equity is one of the largest portions of a family’s overall net worth.

Bottom Line

Not only is homeownership something to be proud of, but it also offers you and your family the ability to build equity you can borrow against in the future. If you are ready and willing to buy, find out if you are able to today!