National Association of Realtors 1st Quarter Home Survey 2017

National Association of Realtor Home Survey Highlights:

Things are looking brighter in the first quarter of 2017!

“In the first quarter of 2017, 72% of people believe that now is a good time to buy a home. 47% believe that strongly, up from 45% in Q4 2016 and 44% one year ago in Q1 2016.

69% of people believe that now is a good time to sell a home, up from 62% in Q4 2016 and 56% from one year ago in Q1 2016.

60% of people believe that within their communities prices have gone up in the last 12 months, which increased from 55% in Q4 2016 and 50% one year ago in Q1 2016.

This HOME survey is released on a quarterly basis.”

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Tips for Spring HomeBuyers

Spring Home Buyers Getty images

  • Have your finances and paperwork in order – You wouldn’t go to the grocery store without knowing what you wanted to buy and you certainly wouldn’t write a check without knowing how much you had in your checking account.  This is essentially the same reasoning and planning required when considering a home purchase.  While the investment is vastly larger, you need to know how much you can afford to buy before you do anything else.  Talk to various lenders with the understanding that they can only give you estimates based on today’s rates.  Until you ratify a contract, you will not be able to lock in a rate so the numbers you are given are to be used loosely.  While the rates are increasing (and the Federal Reserve is expected to increase rates throughout the selling season if the economy continues to improve), keep a close eye on your budget and any consequences a rate increase could have on your bottom line.
  • Seek a local agent you trust or who has been referred to you – This is especially true if you are moving to an area you are not familiar with.   But even if you are familiar with the area, if you have not been paying attention to the market, there are many factors that you need to consider. A professional is well equipped to help keep you on track without making you feel overwhelmed, make recommendations that you may not have considered important, provide resources that will help you make a more informed decision, and educate you on any changes in the real estate market.
  • Start your research online early – Once you know how much you can spend (and again, this is a relative number contingent not only on list price but also taxes, homeowner association fees, actual market value and probably sales price), you should start your search in earnest online.  With help from your agent, you can receive automated updates that include specific criteria based on your unique home search.  In this time, you can visit some homes that are open or set appointments with your agent to get an idea of what is actually available.  Oftentimes, buyers start the process here and that is fine.  However, before you make any serious considerations for a home purchase, you should contact your lender and Realtor® so you are well prepared should you want to proceed quickly.
  • Visit neighborhoods early in the process – Once you have an idea of how much you want to spend and what type of home you want, narrowing down the neighborhood is important.  Visit communities that have homes within your budget and that you are attracted to.  Drive through at various times of the day and night.  Are kids out playing? Are there sufficient amenities? Is there significant traffic? Are people loitering? Are the neighbors out doing yard work? If so, walk through the neighborhood and talk to the neighbors.
  • Know your limitations – Price, schools, location, commute, neighborhood, contingencies, needs/wants – these are all important considerations when you are looking for a home but you and your family are the only ones who can prioritize these items.  For some, having a short commute to home is much more important than the size or age of the home. For others, the size of the lot and the privacy it provides is paramount.  Determine the things you cannot compromise on and know that with that comes a price (financial, time, amenities, size of home, etc.).
  • Be competitive – Be prepared to be aggressive and move quickly and decisively – especially if your search is within the Greater DC Metropolitan area. Remember, you are searching with a lot of other buyers and while prices are still more depressed than they likely will be in July, there is a limited inventory supply and with that, inflated prices.  Don’t be surprised to see homes sell within a weekend and with multiple offers and above list price.  Springtime is not the time to cut a “deal” if you are looking for a home in good condition and in an area within a reasonable commute to DC or a metro stop.
  • Concentrate on pros and weigh cons that can be changed – Don’t bother looking for perfection. Instead, make a list of all the items that will make this “home”.  List the items that will need to be changed immediately that the seller might not address (trees too close to home) and items that can be changed in time (updating kitchen appliances).  If the home sits on a cliff or backs to a very busy street, not much is going to change that, if anything at all.  If you can’t change something easily, consider that carefully because it will be glaringly obvious down the road.
  • Put your best foot forward – A Realtor ® is well equipped to help present your offer to the seller in the best light possible.  There are various strategies: a personal letter to the seller; strong financing using a local lender with a solid reputation; shorter contingency periods.
  • Stick to your budget – While some homes may come on the market that might tempt you to stretch your budget, it’s important to stay within your comfort zone.  Researching a variety of loan programs and products with various lenders will give you more options to expand your price range.
  • Buy a home that “feels” like home – This I cannot stress enough.  I always say you should “feel” like you’re home when you have come to the point of making a decision on a home purchase.  That doesn’t mean you won’t have any concerns or anxiety.  But you should feel like you can picture yourself in it with your family, in the yard, playing with the neighborhood kids or entertaining your family and friends in your kitchen.  See yourself in the space and when it feels right, it probably is!
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A Special Kind of Stupid!

When your friends have convinced you that you can tackle that DIY job instead of calling a professional…..#DIY


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Brighten up your yard with Japanese Maples

I love a well manicured lawn.What intrigues me more, however, are splashes of bold color contrasted against a sea of green foliage. I love walking down a residential street and smell freshly cut grass and admire the creative landscaping ideas of homeowners. But landscaping in Virginia is not always an easy task.

Virginia soil is every gardener’s cross to bare.  Heavy, non-draining, clay soil  makes even the simplest job seem doomed from the start.  Just trying to get a spade through the hard, thick ground is enough to turn most rookie gardeners into nonbelievers!

Japanese Maple

I found a little secret this past month when looking online for potential Mother’s Day gifts. With five children, I had plenty of options to give them but of course, I didn’t want them spending their hard earned money on frivolous or expensive items.  When I came across an advertisement in Aldi’s weekly ad, of all places, I started doing some research.  Unbeknownst to me, Japanese maples (Reds and Bloodgoods) do amazingly well in partial shade and even clay soils with some simple tips!  BINGO!

But what really got my interest was the price!  For only $12.99, I got two adorable 2′ saplings.  The picture above is of a grown specimen.  They grow about 12″ to 24″ a year and reach a maximum height and width of about 15′ to 20′, according to my research. I can’t wait to see this little sapling reach its full potential and enhance my lawn this fall with brilliant crimson red foliage.

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7012 S. Shade Tree Ln, Spotsylvania, VA 22551 For Sale

Amazing custom built home on acre w/ fully fenced rear yard! Open floorplan w/ new carpeting LL, cathedral ceilings, new hardwoods, fresh paint, newer appl & granite, LL BR used as home office – could be BR/guest rm w/ full bath. Tons of storage w/ oversized garage, extra deep for shelving & workbench, sep storage rm, walkout LL to patio, playset, gardens, lots of seclusion! 3 BR perc.

  • Large custom built 4 bedroom home w/ enormous entry foyer on 1 acre (3 bedroom perc)
  • 3 large bedrooms upstairs
  • Hardwoods upper level foyer, stairs/hallway, great room & dining room
  • Updated sunny kitchen w/ gas range, granite, breakfast bar and eat-in table space
  • Large dining room
  • Cathedral ceilings in Great Room w/ gas fireplace
  • Master bedroom w/ walk-in closet
  • Luxury bath, walk-in shower, soak tub, separate vanities & water closet
  • Finished walkout lower level w/ rec room, full bath & office/guest room (BR4)
  • Lower level new carpeting & Fresh paint throughout
  • Water softener
  • Alarm system
  • New garage doors
  • Custom patio
  • Premium landscaping on luscious, fenced, private backyard
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Country living – love it or leave it

I’ve been living the rural life for over 20 years in Southeast Stafford.  After a busy day maneuvering through Northern Virginia’s new traffic patterns and consequential standstill nightmares, I consider my drive home my respite – replete with deer, heron, turtles, bunnies, turkeys, foxes, bald eagles and much more!

I wasn’t exactly a city girl.  I grew up in what was originally a very rural area of Long Island in Suffolk County.  From the early 60’s to the early 70’s it had become a sprawling, commuter wasteland with little “country” life around.  I longed for that simple life as an adult and the tranquility and stability I remembered as a child – picking apples from my neighbor’s apple tree (and hiding there until my mother found me), gardening, chasing lightning bugs, walking barefoot, and wondering off in the woods to explore.


Moving to South Stafford in Virginia gave me that same sense of peace and quiet.  While still very close to the busy suburban shopping that is Central Park and Downtown Fredericksburg, after 20 years it continues to bring me great joy.  I can sit out on clear evenings and see countless stars and hear nothing but the sounds of chirping tree frogs and crickets along with the Canada geese and ducks settling in at night in our creek.  Or I can sit out on a bright morning and hear the morning doves, see the regal bald eagles, or watch the majestic heron as they sail overhead. Aside from the occasional eastern coyote, snake, opossum, raccoon, and/or skunk, life here is simply sublime! I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Point at Sunset

Potomac Creek Estates – The Point

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You only have once chance to make a good first impression!

You’ve heard this a million times – probably in the context of how you present yourself to others – people that matter and hold the power to make decisions that could conceivably make or break you.  But what is equally important, is to remember that this most definitely applies to the condition of your home when marketing it for sale.

I was showing homes yesterday to my client.  We had a short list of possibilities but both had exceptional photos taken by professionals highlighting the best features in the home.  We entered both with very high expectations.

The first did not disappoint….although, there was a distinct odor of food that permeated in the air that hit me in the face as I walked in the door.  Fortunately, my client was not at all caught off guard by this and went through the tour unfazed.  The home was essentially in the exact same condition as in the photos.  Beds were made, drawers were closed, classical music swept through the surround sound system, and all in all, it was exquisite.

The second was the polar opposite.  As a mother of five grown children, I am possibly the most empathetic tour guide when I enter a home inhabited by young children.  I turn the other way and make excuses to my clients when there are toys stuffed under a bed, or a child’s artwork is proudly displayed on the refrigerator, or even when there are age specific accessories decorating a room – think Disney’s Frozen or Big Bird’s life sized stuffed animal in a corner.  What I can’t ignore, and more importantly, what my clients can’t ignore are dirty floors, towels left on the floor, cluttered closets, dirty dishes from breakfast (and it’s dinner time) or your dirty laundry piled high in the corner of the laundry room with your undergarments displayed for all the world to see!

Dirty Kitchen

Dirty Kitchen

While it’s difficult, if not impossible, to keep things in pristine condition while you are showing your home for sale, making the extra effort to keep the home in as organized and clean condition goes a LONG way.

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3 Level Colonial on 3 Acres in Stafford for Under $375k


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Beautiful Colonial Completely Updated Stafford, VA



This gorgeous updated home in Vista Woods (Mountain View HS District) is in pristine condition with a killer lot to boot!  See the virtual tour and contact me with any questions!  It’s an amazing home.



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Are You Properly Insured?

Flood insuranceAs I sit here preaching the merits of being properly insured, I am as guilty as most in neglecting to create an up-to-date inventory of my home possessions.  On many occasions, I had thought to myself “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if I videotaped everything in the house so I could have an accounting of my possessions?”  I have YET to do this!  So, this blog entry is as much for me as it is for every homeowner out there.  Most of us are fortunate never to have to file a homeowner’s insurance claim for a loss incurred.  Yet none of us truly knows when that next tornado, hurricane or fire might come our way.  No one wants to think they’ll be burglarized but obviously, that’s a possibility, as well.

“According to a 2012 survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, over 75% of consumers don’t have a home inventory. ”  That’s a pretty staggering statistic! Here are some very basic tips to make sure you and your possessions are protected against theft or in the event of a catastrophe.

  1. Review your policy.
  2. Take photos of the exterior.
  3. Photograph each room from 4 angles (or videotape).
  4. Open every closet, cupboard, and drawer.
  5. Update after any improvements or major purchases.
  6. Take photos of serial and model numbers of electronics.
  7. China, crystal and silver need special attention.
  8. Don’t forget the garage and/or sheds.
  9. Make digital copies of things that can’t be replaced – photos, family videos, etc.
  10. Store home inventory off premises (or in The Cloud!).

Read more here!

Irene Morales Ward, Realtor

Because Choosing the Right Realtor DOES Matter!

Because Choosing the Right Realtor DOES Matter!

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