Northern Virginia Real Estate and Community News

Oct. 18, 2021

Top 5 Reasons To Take Photos Now if Selling Next Year

Now more than ever, great photography plays a key role in the sale of your Northern Virginia home. Check out these stats regarding home buying online:

 

According to a study by Google and the National Association of Realtors,“ Nine in 10 home buyers today rely on the internet as one of their primary research sources, and 52 percent turn to the web as their first step.” 

 

Not only that, but Realtor.com reports that 63 percent of buyers made an offer on a house they hadn’t seen in person in November and December of 2020. WHAT? They never saw the home in person before making an offer! (Read that again slowly.)

 

This is strong proof that your photos need to be top-notch and professionally done.  In today’s world, it’s possible to purchase a home from start to finish all online. Here’s why we want to start now and work ahead to get your photos done.

  1. There’s 100% proof that your photos will be viewed before your home is considered in the buyer’s list.
  2. Doing photos now puts you steps ahead of everyone else wanting to sell in the spring.
  3. The season is right. We don’t want to be stuck taking photos of ugly trees and bare landscaping for a spring sale. While the leaves are turning and you haven’t decorated for the holidays yet is the perfect time to get beautiful photos of your home.
  4. While taking the photos, I can also help you with a to-do list of things that may need updated or fixed before listing your home for sale.
  5. And, maybe the best reason, I will personally pay for a professional photographer to do the photos for you.

 

If you’re thinking of listing your home next year, don’t wait. Let’s start talking about it now and get those gorgeous photos ready. Give me a call, text me or email me and we’ll set up a time to talk.

 

Robin Butler

“Your Friend in the Real Estate Business”

RE/MAX Gateway

703-932-9299

 

RobinButlerRealtor@gmail.com

 

Posted in Selling Your Home
Sept. 20, 2021

Workhouse Arts Center

As part of my ongoing effort to explore Fairfax County and bring you the best places to visit I recently stopped by the Workhouse Arts Center.

The Workhouse Arts Center is a regionally and nationally recognized innovative collaboration of visual and performing arts, education, community engagement, historical perspective, and personal enrichment.

The Workhouse currently consists of six (6) artist studio buildings, the main galleries, dance studios, music rooms, outdoor performance and event space, and the W-3 Theatre. They support more than 100 professional and emerging artists by providing them affordable studios and galleries in which to exhibit their work. Instead of only viewing the art, visitors are encouraged to interact with the artists when they visit. In addition to visual arts, the Workhouse Arts Center is home to performing arts, including theater; musical theater; film; music; and dance performances. The Workhouse also offers over 800 arts education classes and workshops in a broad spectrum of art disciplines. Each year the Workhouse Arts Center provides more than 100 exhibitions, 300 performances, and multiple large-scale community events for the region.

The Workhouse Arts Center is operated by the Workhouse Arts Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The organization survives on income in the form of tuition and ticket sales, generous donations from the surrounding community and DC Metropolitan Region, and generous in-kind support from Fairfax County.

 

 

I love visiting different spots around our wonderful area and I hope you enjoy exploring with me.

Robin Butler

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

 

Sept. 13, 2021

Create a More Energy Efficient Home When Remodeling

 

According to Home Advisor, Americans spent upwards of $4 billion remodeling their homes in 2020. So if you’re planning to renovate, you may want to remember one point: It can pay to make your Northern Virginia home more energy efficient while you remodel.

 

“Homeowners are putting extra emphasis on energy cost savings when remodeling their homes,” explains Danny Lipford, homebuilding expert and host of the television show “Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford.” “Projects that provide more energy efficiency have proven to help reduce heating and cooling costs, in some cases by up to 15 percent.”

 

Lipford says that homeowners would be wise to seek every possible way to keep their homes energy efficient and resistant to moisture. He recommends that early in the remodeling process you should ask the contractor plenty of questions. Find out where he thinks you can maximize energy savings, where energy can be lost during a renovation, how to protect against potential weather damage and if he plans to use innovative products such as DuPont Tyvek Weatherization Systems Products that can help save energy while protecting your home.

 

The three key zones Lipford identifies as those to focus on to cut energy costs are:

 

ZONE #1: The Attic

 

Attic insulation can result in significant energy savings, reducing heating and cooling costs by using innovative building materials like DuPont Tyvek AtticWrap. “Some of the most effective solutions that help make homes more efficient are the ones you can’t see and are important to focus on early in the remodeling process,” says Lipford.

 

ZONE #2: The Walls

 

During construction, contractors can use a house wrap-such as DuPont Tyvek HomeWrap, which meets ENERGY STAR standards-under the siding. The wrap protects the house like a windbreaker, forming a protective skin around the walls, doors and windows. Installing house wrap can help lower heating and cooling costs by keeping outside air and water out while allowing moisture to escape. Without a quality house wrap, homes are more vulnerable to exterior deterioration, air and water infiltration and possibly mold.

 

ZONE #3: The Windows

 

Vinyl windows have become one of the most popular choices for superior energy efficiency and moisture management, especially when flashed correctly and installed with insulated glass panels.

ZONE #3b: The HVAC

 

While Danny Lipford suggests the above 3 spaces to look at for energy efficiency, it should also be pointed out that you can save a lot of money by choosing the proper HVAC equipment. Click HERE to see what systems Energy Star suggests looking at. Not only will an energy efficient system save you money on your heating and cooling bills but more efficient homes also have a higher resale value when selling compared to their less efficient counterparts.

 

Many different supply lines have been disrupted by the coronavirus, and building materials is one of them. If you have any questions or need referrals on how to make YOUR home more efficient, let's talk about it!

 

Robin Butler

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299



 

Aug. 10, 2021

Hot Enough For You?

 

How many times have you heard that this year?

 

Given the extreme heat we’ve been having you’re likely to hear it quite a bit more this season.  Though you are in luck, Northern Virginia has quite a few great waterparks for you to jump in and cool off.  But, time is limited before the end of the season so plan your trip soon.

 

Each park has a unique theme with food and various other activities for you to enjoy the day out.  Just make sure you double-check the hours of operation as some are starting to begin their Weekends-Only availability.

 

Atlantis Waterpark at Bull Run in Centreville.

Ancient Greece themed park with plenty of pools, slides, water cannons, a dumping bucket, and a 25-foot high play structure.  You’re sure to find some fun for everyone.

 

Pirate’s Cove Waterpark at Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton.

Ahoy me mateys.  Who doesn’t love a pirate?  You’ll love this park with its slides, splash pad, large sand play area, and play structures.  

 

The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole in Reston.

Located next to Lake Fairfax park this waterpark offers you a great way to relax as you float along the 2.5-mile lazy river.

 

Volcano Island Waterpark in Sterling.

Can’t get to a deserted island?  This tropical paradise-themed park will almost make you feel as though you have.  Featuring a large pool and slides for all ages.  And if you feel like having a little dry fun there’s a mini-golf right next door. 

 

Ocean Dunes Waterpark in Arlington.

This park is a great day out for the whole family.  They have a mini-golf course, a 90 element climbing adventure, and then you can cool off at the waterpark.   

 

Great Waves Waterpark in Alexandria.

Five waterslides, a wave pool, Kids Zone, and a giant splash pad.  What better way to beat the heat.

 

 

Can’t make it before Labor Day?  That’s okay, we’ve got a few indoor options to help take away the winter blues with some summer vibes.

 

Cub Run Rec Center Aquatics and Swimming in Chantilly

If you need to get the kiddos ready to hit the grown-up parks next year then Cub Run is a great place to get swimming lessons.

 

Super Awesome & Amazing Interactive Entertainment Center in Springfield

This place is amazing with not only an indoor waterpark but also climbing structures and obstacle courses, gaming bays for Virtual Reality, and eSports stations where you can play solo or bring some friends.  

 

NOVA Parks has annual memberships that are good at most of these parks so you can switch it up and visit a new location each time.  Tuck this information away so next summer you are ready when the time comes to beat the heat.

 

Robin Butler

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

Posted in Community News
July 20, 2021

10 Tips to Help You Save

 

It can be a struggle to save money to put a deposit down on a house. It can take years of saving to come up with enough for a deposit for a home. Shorten the time it takes you to save up by using these tips each day.  If you need some help with making you save here are plenty of mobile apps that can make it easier.

 

Here are the 3 best Money-Saving Apps according to NerdWallet.

 

Keep in mind not all of these apps are free so you need to make sure you aren’t wasting the money on an app and getting further away from your goal.  

 

Turn these tips into daily habits and see your savings grow more quickly:

 

Set up a standing order. Rather than relying on your own good intentions to save money each month, set up a standing order at your bank or with your employer to ensure money is put into an account every month without you even having to think about it.

**Chime is a mobile banking app that makes it easy to put aside savings.

**Qapital is another mobile banking option. 

 

Try to cut back on buying frivolous things. Do you really need that Netflix subscription? What about the number of meals you eat out each month - could they be cut back?

**If you absolutely must buy something then Honey is a great coupon/discount hunting app.

  • Once you take control of your finances by sitting down and looking at your bank statements, you will see how much money you spend on purchases that you don’t even get much enjoyment from. 

Find a new savings account. If you’ve had the same savings account for several years, you may find that you’re not getting as much interest on your savings as you would in a different account. It’s worth shopping around to see what accounts are available.

 

Set goals for your savings. To save a large amount of money, it helps to break it down into more manageable amounts. This will help keep you motivated as the savings are realistic and tangible. These small goals will add up to something much more substantial over time.

**Mint is a great tool for keeping track of your finances and budgets.

 

Sell your unwanted items. Your rubbish may be someone else’s treasure, so it is worth setting aside some time to sort out your current home and to sell any unwanted items. Start off with one room at a time. When you’re done, add the money that you get from selling the items to your savings account.

**Here’s an article from NerdWallet on Where to Sell Stuff Online.

 

Save money by buying in bulk. Consider buying certain items in bulk. If you have storage space, you can save a lot of money. Consider using generic items as well, as these are often less expensive than more popular brands.

 

Rent somewhere cheaper. Saving money for a deposit may require drastic action, such as moving into a less expensive rental property.

 

Lower your expectations. Perhaps you can begin home ownership with a smaller property, rather than your dream home. Once you are on the property ladder, it’s often easier to save for a larger property.

 

Stick to a budget. When you plan your expenses for the month, you’ll know how much you are able to save. It will show how much money you need to pay those bills, plus how much disposable income you have. You can set your disposable money aside for the deposit.

 

Consider a lodger. Do you have a spare room on your property? If you do, then you could ask your landlord if they would allow you to rent this room to a new tenant. This will help subsidize the cost of your own rent and allow you to save money.

 

Using these tips will help you to save money for a house deposit. It may take quite a few months or even years but taking measures to save more quickly will be worth it if your dream is to own your own home.

 

Robin Butler

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

Posted in Buying a Home
June 24, 2021

Shopping in a Tight Market


 

Last year forced people to put their plans on hold, and that included many real estate decisions.  While the market stayed strong in 2020 there were many homeowners who delayed either buying or selling due to health or economic concerns.   That is just one of the reasons that this year’s housing market is starting out quite competitive.

 

Experts point to other factors as well--

  • In order to help the economy recover interest rates have been kept low, but experts keep hinting that it may soon start to rise, so now is a good time to take out a new mortgage.  
  • Millennials are starting to enter the time in their lives when they are ready to start buying their first homes.  And for some 2020 was a year when they were able to save up for a down payment.
  • With the rise of working remotely, more urban dwellers are able to move out into the suburbs and into a larger home with room for a home office.
  • Even before 2020, the years spent in a home were trending longer.

If you’re a seller you welcome people competing for your home.  Chances are good that you will sell quickly, over your asking price, and without worrying about inspections sinking your sale.  Because you can find a buyer willing to forgo demanding contingencies.

 

Though, if you are trying to buy,  you don’t much care about the reasons.  You want to know how you can improve your odds, beyond just paying more and risking no inspections.  

 

Before I give you some tips for navigating the tight market I want to warn you about Buyer Fatigue.  Many home shoppers are simply giving up without even making an offer on a home.  An open house may have 20 or 30 people go through and only receive 1 or 2 offers because many shoppers just don’t expect success. They are reading so many articles about the market being tight they assume it is everywhere.   So...

 

 Don’t Give Up!

 

Not all markets are the same.  There are many where the old rules still apply.  So if you can’t afford to go over the asking price, make your best offer anyway.   If you are nervous about skipping the inspection, make an offer with contingencies.  Rejection does get frustrating, but don’t let it stop you from trying because you don’t really know if you’ll be successful or not.  

 

If you do find yourself in a tight market I’ve got a few ideas to help:

 

Use a realtor

 

Especially one familiar with the local area/market.  Make sure you contact your realtor early so they can keep an eye and ear out for new listings to help you get a jump on the competition.  A realtor can also be your advocate in case there is a bidding war.

 

Get pre-approved/Have a downpayment ready

 

When you find something you like you need to be ready to move.  In a tight market a seller doesn’t have to wait for you to get your stuff together, they can simply move on to the next buyer.  

 

Also, be aware that in a competitive market savvy investors will use cash to buy properties in order to beat out those who are taking out a mortgage.  

 

Know your wants vs needs

 

You may need to temper your expectations a little and be willing to compromise.  It’s very difficult to find everything you want in one perfect house, but in a tight market you really don’t have the time to debate one home’s perfect kitchen over another’s perfect bathroom.  

 

You might even want to consider buying a fixer-upper.   Though this one will require consultation with your realtor on which improvements are worth it and which are risky.  Potentially with a contractor, on how much improvements may run you.  And, with your lender on getting approval for home improvement loans.

 

Consider expanding your geographical area

 

Are you going to be working from home more often?  Maybe a short commute doesn’t have to be number one on your list if you aren’t going to be making it every day.  

 

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of living in “neighborhood A” but “neighborhood B” has homes just as nice closer to your price range.  

 

One way to help you with this is to do some virtual shopping of your interest areas. Seeing the different homes for sale will give you an idea of what the market has to offer.  

 

Tell all your friends and family to keep their ears open

 

The more options you have the better your chances of snagging a winner.

 

It’s easy to get frustrated when your offers are being rejected or homes sell before you’ve even had a chance to see it in person.  The best way to avoid that frustration is to prepare prepare prepare.  Yes, you want to be able to make your decision quickly but you want that decision to be made smartly, with all available information.  

 

Check out my recent video with some other tips:

 

 

I am here to help you plan, and then when you are ready, help you get that new home!

 

Robin Butler

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299





June 8, 2021

Robin Shops Discovery Toys

While shopping the Fairfax Farmer's Market I made a stop at Discovery Toys to see all they had to offer for the children in your life. It was a lot of fun, check out my video below.

About Discovery Toys

Welcome to Discovery Toys, your trusted source for premium learning-through-play products in Fairfax VA.

Discovery Toys is the premier learning toy company dedicated to helping early childhood development through play. A trusted brand for over 40 years, they specialize in premium quality, kid-powered learning products for children ranging from newborns to school-aged children. They also prioritize a play experience that provides children with the fundamental skills, curiosity, and passion that leads to learning success in their school years and beyond.

Their educational toys, books, CDs, and games are recommended by childhood development and health care professionals to develop the fundamental building blocks necessary for creative thinking and learning success. Every item in their line is BPA-free and meets or exceeds all required safety regulations for the USA and Canada. For your assurance, they back every product with an unconditional satisfaction guarantee (with 30 days for books and CDs).

 

If you want to learn more about Fairfax and all we have to offer, give me a call.

Robin Butler

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

Posted in Community Events
May 20, 2021

Home Organization Tips for the Unorganized

Being unorganized can make life tough in a number of ways. Disorganization in your home can cause an unending, overall sense of stress because you're lacking a certain amount of order in your life. It also causes unsightly clutter and makes it hard to find things. 

The good news is that with some easy home organization tips, you can have your home whipped into shape in no time. It may seem like an impossible task right now, but when broken down into smaller projects, organization is inevitable. 

Try these simple organization tips: 

Get rid of your clutter. There's no use in organizing items that you're not going to keep, so getting rid of them first is a good initial step. It's best to live by the rule that if you haven't used an item in over a year and it doesn't hold sentimental value, you should probably consider letting go of it. 

  • Make piles for trash, donations, and things to sell. You can use websites like eBay or Craigslist to sell unwanted items for extra cash.  

Start small. It's important to set small goals for yourself, room by room, throughout your house. When you focus on everything as a whole it can get so crazy that it might just seem like a lost cause. 

  • Try starting in your bathroom, or better yet, just start by going through the cabinet underneath your bathroom sink. Throw out old items and organize the rest. Afterward, you can call it a day and then work on another small project another time.  
  • As you move to new rooms, maintain the organization of the rooms you've already done. You don't want to complete a few rooms only to find out that your bathroom cabinets are disorganized again.  

Learn how to store things. Just because you've gotten your things out of sight, it doesn't mean that you've got an organizational method. Plan a strategy to store similar things together in marked storage bins.  

  • Once you follow through on your storage strategy, then you'll know where things are. You can also benefit from learning how to store things in sight. Make good use of shelves, baskets, or furniture with built-in storage space to keep things neat and where you're likely to need them. 

Create a cleaning schedule. Once you have your home in order, it's all about maintenance. You'll need to find a way to keep things in order. Make a schedule to keep track of what chores are done and when. You can even schedule in a time to deal with clutter to get everything back into its proper place. 

  • Dividing up the cleaning tasks throughout the week will make it easier to maintain the order you worked so hard to attain. This limits "chore time" to short increments of time. Instead of spending an entire Saturday cleaning, clean a room each day, and then you can have fun on the weekend while your home is still neat and tidy. 
  • Establish the habit of picking up as you go. When you take something out of its place to use it, put it back when you're done.  

If you really want to change your life, you can make it so. Even if you've been unorganized forever, use these tips to help you turn things around and enjoy the lovely home you've created. 

This is a topic that I have covered before, here on my blog. If you'd like more helpful cleaning/organizing tips check them out.

http://www.robinbutler.org/blog/got-junk/

http://www.robinbutler.org/blog/donate-recycle-dont-simply-dispose/

 

Robin Butler,

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

 

Posted in Community News
May 12, 2021

Robin Visits Green Spring Gardens

As a part of my series to help introduce you to the beautiful parks of Fairfax County, I recently spent the day out at Green Spring Gardens. I love to get out in the community to see all there is to offer and hope you enjoy learning more and eventually getting out and exploring for yourself.

Green Spring Gardens is a public park located at 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, Virginia. It is operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority, and open daily without charge. The park includes Green Spring, a national historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Learn more here: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/green-spring

And check out my video...

Robin Butler,

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299

 

 

Posted in Community Events
April 20, 2021

Pay a Little More Now, or Pay a Lot More Later


It’ll save us money.

They say they can do it.  What’s the difference?

Who’s going to know?

 

Have those words ever come back to haunt you?  They most likely will one day, especially if you’re talking about a home improvement project.

 

When planning for home maintenance or improvement, most homeowners focus on the immediate outlay of money, with an eye on potential future recoupment.  The most common place homeowners try to save is by hiring a local handyman instead of a licensed and insured contractor.  They may not work out of an office or have employees, and their lack of “overhead” means they can promise you the job for less.  But, cutting this corner could end up costing you more in the end.

 

In Virginia, any job over $1000 requires the contractor to have a license.  And it is a misdemeanor to operate without a license.  Here is a helpful link to learn more about this:  https://generalcontractorlicenseguide.com/virginia-contractors-license/

 

When hiring someone to work on your home it’s important to ask a few questions:

 

Are they licensed for the job at hand?

 

Acquiring a license means acquiring the knowledge.  A licensed contractor is going to know how to fix your problem.  And if by chance, something is done incorrectly they will come back to fix it.

 

You have no guarantee that the unlicensed handyman actually knows the correct way to do the job.  And, good luck getting him on the phone if you need something corrected.  You may end up needing to hire someone else to come to fix their damage.

 

Another thing to watch for--Is the person you hire the one with the license?  

 

If your home improvement is a larger job then your General Contractor may hire a Subcontractor to do certain jobs.  Depending on the jobs they are doing the subcontractors may be required to have Trade Certifications (plumbing, electrical, etc) but they don’t have to hold a General Contractors license.  

 

The contractor that you enter into the contract with must be the one with the license.  And, it is illegal for someone to use another contractor’s license.   It may seem like a good idea to cut out the “middleman” of the general contractor and go right to a subcontractor, but it most likely is not.

 

Are they insured?

 

Licensed contractors are required to carry liability insurance and workers' compensation.  If something goes wrong and they are injured or damage your property you can rest assured that their insurance company will take care of that cost.

 

But, if a handyman puts their ladder through your window, or falls off your roof, you are most likely going to be on the hook for fixing it, or him, yourself.  

 

Do they know the building code requirements/Will they file for permits?

 

Many people shrug off getting the appropriate permits.  “It’s inside my home, it’s no one’s business what I do”.    That attitude can definitely bite you when you go to sell your home.  If jobs aren’t up to code you will have to fix them in order to pass your home inspection.  Or take a hit on your sale price.

 

You may be reading and thinking to yourself, “Sure, Robin, but is this really such a big deal?”

 

And to that, I say an emphatic YES!  I once represented a buyer where the home inspection turned up an attic full of mold because when the seller added a second kitchen they simply vented the stove into the attic.  

 

And, I’ve seen decks removed prior to sale because they were not done to code. 

 

These things DO matter.

 

So, to go back to those first questions:

  • Yes, it could save you a little now, but it could cost you a lot more soon.
  • They say they can do it, but can they?  
  • The difference can be huge.  And costly.
  • One day, a home inspector may know.


Your home is most likely your most valuable asset.  You want to make sure you do everything you can to maintain its value.

If you have any questions feel free to give me a call.

 

Robin Butler,

"Your Friend in the Real Estate Business"

Remax Gateway

703-932-9299