Northern Virginia Real Estate and Community News

March 29, 2018

Boost Your Home’s Resale Value

Boost Your Home’s Resale Value with These Renovations

By guest blogger Seth Murphy,



Image via Pexels


When it comes to being a homeowner, you do everything you can to save money. You shop around for the best price on insurance. You preserve energy by turning your lights off and keeping your water heater maximum temperature at 120 degrees F. As a responsible homeowner, you understand the value of doing every little thing you can around the house to cut down costs. So when it comes to home renovations, don’t you want to invest in the things that add to its resale value?

Fortunately, there are lots of projects out there that do just this. Many of them even recoup the costs of undertaking the enterprise once your house is on the market. Below are some of the best renovations homeowners can do to add to the resale value of the house.




While what’s on the inside counts, that doesn’t mean you should neglect your home’s curb appeal. Doing everything you can to make the outside appealing attracts buyers and eventually gets you those high bids you are after. Landscaping is a great way to improve the curb appeal of your home. A landscape architect can work with you and help you plan a design that is both beautiful and functional. Having a plan is essential for a successful landscaping project. It will help keep you on track and within your budget. 

There are a lot of landscaping trends to consider, but we really love the idea of working with local flora and natural landscaping. Landscaping with native wildflowers and grasses is environmentally beneficial as you don’t have to work with fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or irrigation. Local plants also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies as well as a variety of birds and other animals. Native landscaping requires less daily maintenance and helps your house stand out in the market. Talk with your landscaping architect about using local grasses and flowers to find out what native garden options work best for your particular region.


Replace Your Roof


A new roof is both beautiful and functional, but it’s not always necessary. When deciding whether or not your roof needs repair, it’s best to get a second, third, and even fourth opinion on the topic. Bring in two to three different roofing contractors to evaluate the wear and tear of your roof and provide estimates on what it will cost to repair. If the evaluations show your home could really use a roof update, don’t fret. The money you spend on a new roof can be redeemed when your house is on the market. The return on investment for a roof replacement averages 53.4% for a full replacement and 61.7% for a minor rehab.


Add an Outdoor Living Area


An outdoor living area in the backyard is the kind of extra feature that helps your home stand out for potential buyers. Plus, homeowners can recoup more than eighty percent of the cost of installing a deck at sale time. Just like with landscaping, you want to create a plan before you start executing your new outdoor recreational space. Consider adding cool features like benches with built-in storage or a fire pit for added functionality. Before you begin building, always check your city’s codes regarding these kinds of additions. Also be sure to use high grade materials when building your deck to ensure it lasts a long time and can withstand the elements.


When it comes to renovations around the house, the smart homeowner knows to invest in the ones that will add to the resale value. Landscaping adds to the home’s curb appeal, which is essential for creating market interest. A new roof isn’t an exciting project, but it has a good return on investment. Finally, fun features like an outdoor living area can help your house stand out in the market.

 Seth Murphy

Seth Murphy first got into doing DIY projects to save money, but over time he has developed a real passion for this hands-on, intensive work. He knows DIY can be intimidating so he created to share tips and help others with their own endeavors.



If you need more information on renovating for resale or are looking to buy or sell a home, keep me in mind. I'm happy to help!

Robin Butler, Your friend in the real estate business


Posted in Selling Your Home
March 22, 2018

Got Junk?


As time goes on, most of us tend to find ourselves with plenty of extra “stuff” and not enough room to have everything stored away and not feel chaotic. If you feel like you are about to be featured on “Hoarders,” it’s time to look around and see what you can start getting rid of. And, if you are feeling just too overwhelmed to do it alone, there are several options available for help.


  • Nova Junk Removal- I love that Nova Junk Removal will both recycle and donate what they can.
  • Junk King- will rent you a dumpster to do your own pitching or they will come haul stuff away for you.
  • Git Rid Of It- These guys appear to do the typical junk removal but on their website, it says they will also do shed and hot tub dismantling. I’ve seen some pretty nasty looking sheds out there so this is a great way to help the curb appeal of your backyard.
  • 1-800 Got Junk- I think everyone’s heard of 1-800 Got Junk, but did you know they also do leaf removal? I didn’t and think this is a great way to shape up your front yard in the fall.
  • 123 Junk- I really like that not only do these guys recycle and work with area charities but they are a local company and I try to work with locals as often as I can. And, not only that, but they appear to be well liked by Angie’s List.


If you’re like me (and most people) you probably want to know a little bit about who you’re looking at doing business with. Here are two good reviews of local junk removers:

Home Advisor Local Reviews

Yelp Local Reviews


And, if you just need a little extra space while you try to organize it yourself, you can look at having a portable unit at your home for a bit.

  • Smartbox is nice because they can offer various sizes, including a relatively small one, to meet your needs. It’s great if you only need a little space so as not to pay for a larger box.
  • PODS is one of the original on-demand storage companies. They too offer various sizes and sell boxes and other moving items too. PODS are great for storing and moving.
  • Zippy Shell is similar to the others and claims to be more affordable than traditional storage.


Whether you need someone to come and just “take it all” without you having to go through it or you want a little on-demand storage while you work, there are many options available to help you purge it all. Check out the options, compare their offerings and be sure to read the reviews. I’m sure you’ll find something to help you out.


After the big purge, if you’re ready to sell (or buy) a home, give me a call. I’m happy to help.


Robin Butler, Your friend in the real estate business




Posted in Selling Your Home
Feb. 26, 2018

Hiring a Contractor in Northern VA?

If you're going to be doing some work on your home this year, you might want to have a professional on the job. There are some important things to remember in hiring someone to come into your home. Here are my best tips. 


Insurance tip If Using Contractors from Robin Butler on Vimeo.


If you need more information or are looking to buy or sell a home, keep me in mind. I'm happy to help!

Robin Butler, Your friend in the real estate business


Posted in Real Estate News
Feb. 22, 2018

Mortgage Rates on FIRE! Home Prices Up in Smoke?

Mortgage interest rates have already risen by over a quarter of a percentage point in 2018. Many are projecting that rates could increase to 5% by the end of the year.

What impact will rising rates have on house values?

Many quickly jump to the conclusion that an increase in mortgage rates will have a detrimental impact on real estate prices as fewer buyers will be able to qualify for a loan. This seems logical; if there is less demand for housing then prices will drop.

However, in a good economy, rising mortgage rates increase demand as many prospective purchasers immediately jump off the fence to guarantee they get the lower rate.

Let’s look at home prices the last four times mortgage rates increased dramatically.

Mortgage Rates on FIRE! Home Prices Up in Smoke? | MyKCM

In each case, home prices APPRECIATED and did not depreciate. No one is projecting as dramatic an increase in rates as the examples above. Most are projecting an increase of approximately 1% by the end of the year.

The last time mortgage rates increased by 1% over a twelve-month period was January 2013 (3.41%) to January 2014 (4.43%). What happened to house prices during that span? They appreciated by 9.8%.

Just two weeks ago, Rick Palacios Jr., Director of Research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting explained:

“Mortgage rates have risen 1% or more ten times in the last 43 years, with little impact on home sales and prices when the economy was also strong…Historically, rising confidence, solid job growth, and higher wages have more than offset reduced demand for housing resulting from higher mortgage rates.”

Bottom Line

When mortgage rates increase, history has shown that prices appreciate (and do not depreciate) during that same time span.

Robin Butler, Your friend in the real estate business


Feb. 15, 2018

Which Comes First… Marriage or Mortgage?

Which Comes First… Marriage or Mortgage? | MyKCM

According to the National Association of REALTORS most recent Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, married couples once again dominated the first-time homebuyer statistics in 2017 at 57% of all buyers. It is no surprise that having two incomes to save for down payments and contribute to monthly housing costs makes buying a Northern Virginia home more attainable.

But, many couples are also deciding to buy a home before spending what would be a down payment on a wedding, as unmarried couples made up 16% of all first-time buyers last year.

If you’re single, don’t fret! Single women made up 18% of first-time buyers in 2017, while single men accounted for 7% of buyers. A recent report pointed to a sense of responsibility and commitment that drives many single women to want to own their own homes rather than rent someone else’s.

Here is the breakdown of all first-time homebuyers in 2017 by percentage of all buyers, income, and age:

Which Comes First… Marriage or Mortgage? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

You may not be that much different than those who have already purchased their first homes. Let’s get together to determine if your Northern Virginia dream home is already within your grasp!


Robin Butler, Your friend in the real estate business




Posted in Buying a Home
Feb. 8, 2018

How to Get a Free Credit Report


We should talk about credit reports. These reports are critical to the Northern Virginia homeownership process, but many people don’t really understand them. Let’s break them down some.

What is a credit report?

Credit reports contain your basic information, as well as your credit activity, past credit information and current credit status. It highlights your credit situation and shows your loan payment history and current credit accounts. Credit reporting companies, or credit bureaus, collect your financial data from creditors, such as lenders and credit card companies. Creditors do not have to report to every credit reporting company, so people can have multiple credit reports.

What else is included?

Credit reports include credit accounts and credit limits. They also show your account balance and payment history. Reports include public records, like foreclosures, bankruptcies and civil suits, as well.

Why should I care?

These reports are important to lenders. They look at these reports to help determine if they will loan you money and, if so, at what interest rate. They also use credit reports to determine if you still meet the terms of a current lending agreement. Credit reports are also used by other companies to determine whether to provide you insurance or cell phone service.

Where can I see my credit reports?

The first place to get a copy of your credit report is from the government (the Federal Trade Commission, in this case). Everyone is entitled to one free copy of their credit report from all three of the national credit reporting companies each year. To order, visit or call 1-877-322-8228.

Another option is to visit Credit Karma. Credit Karma offers free reports from two major credit reporting companies: TransUnion and Equifax. Visit to begin the process.

There’s another website that offers your Experian credit report. Visit to see your account history, hard inquiries from lenders or landlords and potentially negative information.

Another option is to check with your credit card company or bank. Many credit cards and banks will also have free credit report opportunities.

How can I make sure my credit report is good?

There are many steps you can take to help make your credit report better.

  • First of all, remember what goes into your credit score and report: payment history, debt level, credit age, credit mix and recent credit.
  • Secondly, pay all of your bills on time and in full - from utilities to credit cards, any unpaid bills could show up on your credit report.
  • Third, keep your credit card balances low and pay off as much as you can.
  • Next, manage your debt and pay off loans as quickly as possible.
  • Finally, check your credit report.

 As mentioned earlier, you’re entitled to one free report from the government every year. Even if you only use that outlet, check your report and make sure it is error-free. This can help save you money and save your score.

Have you gotten a credit report before? Do you have any other tips on how to keep up a good credit score and report? Do you monitor your credit? I’d love to hear about your experiences, especially if they relate to home ownership here in Northern Virginia!


Robin Butler, Your friend in the real estate business


Posted in Buying a Home
Feb. 1, 2018

Why Northern Virginia Millennials Choose To Buy

5 Reasons Millennials Choose to Buy [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

  • “The majority of millennials said they consider owning a home more sensible than renting for both financial and lifestyle reasons — including control of living space, flexibility in future decisions, privacy and security, and living in a nice home.”

  • The top reason millennials choose to buy is to have control over their living space, at 93%.

  • Many millennials who rent a home or apartment prior to buying their own homes dream of the day when they will be able to paint the walls whatever color they’d like, or renovate an outdated part of their living space.

Does this sound like you? If you're interested in learning more about buying a home, let's talk about it. 

Robin Butler, Your friend in the real estate business


Posted in Buying a Home
Jan. 25, 2018

Top 5 Reasons Home Ownership is Good for You


Everyone knows that owning a home is a good financial decision. If you’re looking to stay here in Northern Virginia and maybe do some DIY projects, a home can be a good investment. There are other reasons that make owning a home a good decision, as well. Here are the top five.


1. Owning a home has a positive impact on educational achievement

Have kids in school? Looking to go back to school yourself? Homeownership might help you be more successful. Findings from the National Association of Realtors have consistently shown that owning a home is significantly correlated with educational achievement. Researchers do not know, however, if it is the act of owning a home, consistent, stable housing or simply a good neighborhood that specifically creates this achievement. No matter what it is, though, owning a home could help you or your children be more successful.


2. The pride of ownership and having a “family home”

This is a personal decision more than anything, but 6% of respondents in a Gallup poll said that pride in ownership was their primary reason for purchasing a home. Furthermore, 7% of respondents said they were motivated to become homeowners because of the idea of having a “family home.” If the quintessential American Dream idea is pulling you to invest in a home, it might not be a bad idea.


3. Save the environment

With your own home, you can control the energy efficiency. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to invest in and install solar panels? Do you think you could cut down on your heating and air conditioning by adding some more insulation? If your landlord isn’t on the environmental wagon, it might be difficult to convince him to do the costly renovations. In your own home, however, you can add whatever energy-saving upgrades you can imagine.


4. Similarly, you’re done with landlords

Some landlords can be wonderful people who care about their renters, and I hope you’ve had those experiences. Chances are, though, there’s been some landlord that either you’ve worked with or you’ve heard someone talk about who delayed non-essential repairs. You might even know someone who has been evicted because the landlord decided to sell. If you own your home, you have protection from landlords. Sure, you have to be available when the air vent company can come to your house, but you can schedule when that happens and ensure that it does.


5. Security and community

 As I mentioned, owning your home puts you in a position of security as a landlord cannot evict you because their family member wants to move to town. Moving from rental to rental can be stressful, even subconsciously, and having a secure place to call home can often cause children (and adults) to thrive. When you’re settled in one place, you oftentimes become more involved in the community. Whether that means a local association, spending time at the neighborhood park or participating in block parties, forming a community is beneficial to everyone. We have lots of communities here in Northern Virginia just waiting for you to find your home.


So what do you think? Homeowners: what did I miss? Why did you buy a home, other than financial reasons? Renters: is there a particular reason you don’t want a home? Give me a call soon - I’d love to discuss your situation and help you find your perfect home.


Robin Butler

Your friend in the real estate business



Posted in Buying a Home
Jan. 18, 2018

The Impact Staging Your Northern Virginia Home Has on Sales Price

I could wax poetic all day long on reasons for staging your Northern Virgina home for sale but I think this infographic sums it up nicely.




The Impact Staging Your Home Has on Sales Price [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Some Highlights:

  • The National Association of Realtors surveyed their members & released the findings of their Annual Profile of Home Staging.
  • 50% of staged homes saw a 1-10% increase in dollar value offers from buyers.
  • 77% of buyer’s agents said staging made it easier for buyers to visualize the home as their own.
  • The top rooms to stage in order to attract more buyers are the living room, master bedroom, kitchen, and dining room.

In the end, people want to see a home that at least feels like a home and staging creates that. If you have questions about this or anything else regarding real estate in Northern Virginia, feel free to reach out. I'd be happy to help.


Robin Butler

Your friend in the real estate business



Jan. 11, 2018

Tax Reform & Housing: A Reference Guide


Disclaimer: This guide is not meant to be a resource for tax advice but instead a resource for basic information concerning only certain aspects of the new tax code and how they may impact the real estate market. You should get tax advice from your accountant or tax preparer who will explain how the entire tax code will affect your personal return.


This information comes immediately after the new tax code became law. Some of the information may be revised as the analysis of the new law evolves.

When the tax code was originally being overhauled by the House and the Senate, there were three major proposals being considered that would have substantially impacted the residential real estate market, including Northern Virginia:

  • Changing the requirements for the exclusion of gain on the sale of a principal residence
  • The reduction on the limit of the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID)
  • The elimination of the State and Local Tax deduction (SALT) which includes property taxes

Let’s look how the tax code has evolved from the original proposal, and decipher what impact experts believe it may have on the housing market.

1. Exclusion of gain on sale of a principal residence

Original Proposal: Owners would need to live in their house for at least 5 out of the last 8 years to claim this exemption. Under the former tax framework, a typical owner, who has lived in their house for at least 2 years out of the last 5 years, would pay nothing in capital gain taxes if they sell the house.

The New Tax Code: No change. The “at least 2 years out of the last 5 years” requirement is unchanged.

Impact on the Market: None.

2. Mortgage Interest Deduction

Original Proposal: Reduce the limit on the mortgage interest deduction (MID) amount from $1,000,000 to $500,000.

The New Tax Code: Reduces limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for new loans taken out after 12/14/17. Current loans up to $1 million are grandfathered.

Impact on the Market: Assuming a 20% down payment, this reduction in the MID will impact buyers that are purchasing a home between the prices of $938,000 and $1,250,000. Any home under the lower price is still covered and any home over the higher price was not covered under the former tax code either.

What does that mean to the market? Experts disagree. Calculated Risk’s Bill McBride:

“I think the impact of reducing the MID from a maximum of $1 million in mortgage debt to $750 thousand in mortgage debt will have very little impact on the housing market.”

On the other hand, Capital Economics claims:

“The impact on expensive homes could be detrimental, with a limit on the mortgage interest deduction raising taxes for those that itemize.”

3. State and Local Taxes (SALT)

Original Proposal: The elimination of the state and local tax deduction (which includes property taxes).

The New Tax Code: Allows an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 for the total of state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes.

Impact on the Market: Most experts agree that higher taxed regions will be impacted as homeowners in those communities now have a cap on these deductions.

Calculated Risk’s Bill McBride stated:

“SALT will have an impact on housing in some areas. Some people might choose to live in one state over another (if they have a choice), based on taxation. This could impact demand in certain states – especially for the middle and upper-middle class homeowners.”

Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics said:

“The impact on house prices is much greater for higher-priced homes, especially in parts of the country where incomes are higher and there are thus a disproportionate number of itemizers, and where homeowners have big mortgages and property tax bills.”

What will be the overall impact on the housing market?

For most of the country, the new tax code will not have a negative impact on the market. As Capital Economics reports:

“Given most households will see an overall tax cut, and potential buyers are likely to put that saving towards their home, we doubt it will have a significant detrimental impact on the housing market.”

There is also no doubt that some higher priced, higher taxed regions will be affected more than others. However, most experts agree that other portions of the tax code will favor the high-end buyer and seller, and this might mitigate many concerns. McBride explains:

“The corporate tax cuts (and other tax cuts) will mostly benefit the wealthy, and this will be a positive for high end real estate.”

What does this all mean to you?

To know for sure, you should sit with your accountant or financial planner and explore how all the aspects of the new code will impact your family.

Most families consider homeownership an essential part of the American Dream, and don’t purchase a home based solely on the tax advantages. The main reasons they buy a home are personal (they just got married, they are looking for a good place to raise children, they want to be near friends and family, they want to better enjoy their retirement, etc.). This will never change.

Looking at the new tax code, Mr. McBride’s opinion makes the most sense:

“There will be some negative impact based on SALT, but overall the impact of these policy changes on housing will be minimal.”

In the end, people will still want and need to buy homes. If you are looking at a real estate transaction in Northern Virginia, give me a call. I'd be happy to help.


Robin Butler

"Your friend in the real estate business."


Posted in Real Estate News