2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry BlossomsI remember my very first trip to Washington DC.  I was about 10 years old and my sister and I came down from New York with my aunt and uncle for a little road trip.  It was the first time I had ventured beyond Pennsylvania or New Jersey (other than to fly to Puerto Rico to visit family) and it was quite an excursion.

I was so impressed by the monuments, the endless array of museums, the souvenirs, the city lights at night, and of course, the White House.  But nothing could have prepared me for the beauty and magnificence of the Cherry Blossoms.  Unbeknownst to me, those gorgeous trees were in full bloom.  It was like being in a spring wonderland!  Surreal is probably a good word for it.

I don’t know that you can duplicate the feeling a child has when they interpret something as magical but if there is anything that could do it – other than Disney World – then it’s perhaps the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.

See the schedule of events and plan a day with your family for an amazing treat!

Cherry Blossom EarthCam

 

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Are You Installing That Smoke Detector Correctly?

Smoke detector
Many homeowners take that little smoke detector for granted. It’s there keeping us safe and unless your batteries are low, you’ll probably forget it’s even there. Thankfully, most of us will never hear that annoying, beeping sound that is intended to wake us from a sound sleep to warn of us smoke or fire. It’s a lifesaver but often times, we simply ignore it. When it comes time to replace or upgrade this gem of a device, make sure you are doing so correctly.

Read on!

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Are Northern Virginia Luxury Homes Seeing Upward Trend in Foreclosures?

Foreclosure

According to results from the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc (r), of homes that sold for over $1,000,000,  58 sold transactions were recorded in the MRIS (r) (homes listed through the MLS provider for the Greater DC area) between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2010 (36 months) in the following counties combined:

Arlington County (3), Alexandria City (0), Falls Church City (0), Fairfax County (41), Fairfax City (0), Loudoun County (13), Prince William County (1), Manassas City (0) and Manassas Park (0), Stafford County (0), and Spotsylvania County (0).

The results from the period from January 1, 2011 to present (50 months) show that there is an equal number of foreclosures (58) that had sold in a wider time span.  Results were as follows:

Arlington County (5), Alexandria City (3), Falls Church City (0), Fairfax County (36), Fairfax City (0), Loudoun County (12), Prince William County (1), Manassas City (0) and Manassas Park (0), Stafford County (0), and Spotsylvania County (1).

This recent article from the Wall Street Journal, Bigger Mortgages Likelier to Go Into Foreclosure,  seems to indicate an increase in foreclosures for luxury homes is imminent but the data doesn’t support that YET here in Northern Virginia.  The three states that seem to have the highest high-end foreclosure rates for 2014 are New Jersey (5.2%), New York (4%) and Florida (3.7%).  We can consider ourselves lucky for the time being!

Irene Morales Ward, Realtor (r)

Because Choosing the Right Realtor DOES Matter!

Because Choosing the Right Realtor DOES Matter!

 

Posted in Distressed Properties, Foreclosures, market trends, Mortgages | Tagged | Leave a comment

Can You Afford to Buy a Home in Your Area?

Check out this map and see if you are earning what you need to buy a home in your area.

 

 

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Having Problems with Your Neighbors? Read Some Hilarious Text Messages

Weird NeighborsLove thy neighbor.  That’s the moral of the story.  I have had the distinct pleasure of living most of my adult life surrounded by kind, thoughtful and considerate neighbors.  For the last 20 years, I’ve been blessed to live in a rural community consisting of only 40 homeowners on over 500 acres of land.  To say we are spread out is an understatement.  We would have to have a HUGE party with a fairly sophisticated sound system to generate enough noise to really bother our immediate neighbors.

With cluster communities all the rage (very large homes on very small lots) and more people finding home in urban areas, rude neighbors are par for the course.  Frankly, it’s something many have to handle more often than not and it’s not often a comfortable situation to be in.

Neighbor notesTrying to find a little humor in the reality that is the “Neighbor From Hell”, this article sheds light on some hilarious text messages between neighbors who are not exactly friends – or even friendly!

Enjoy!

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High Tech Dog House with a $30,000 Price Tag

I love dogs!  I absolutely love them.  I have a preference for big dogs but in the end, they all show unconditional love and are truly man’s best friend. I cannot imagine my life without them.

According to the statistics from the Humane Society, “Pet ownership in the U.S. has more than tripled from the 1970s, when approximately 67 million households had pets, to 2012, when there were 164 million owned pets.

In other words, in 2012, 62 percent of American households included at least one pet.

That same year, according to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent more than $50 billion on their beloved cats, dogs, and other animal companions.”

samsung-dog-house-590x330

So with this in mind, it’s no surprise that the market has found a niche for those pet parents looking for a more, shall we say, “special” dog house for their pup.  Is this going too far?  You decide!  Read more….

 

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Even Small Spaces Can Have Gardens

plant ladder

With so many homeowners living in urban areas, space becomes a very rare commodity.  But it’s also true that even the smallest spaces can accommodate a little garden for herbs, spices, and flowers.  Spring is right around the corner so plan your spring garden now and make it happen!

See how here!

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Why That Fixer-Upper Might Not Be the Right Purchase for You

Old HouseIt’s natural to want a deal and what better deals are out there than fixer-uppers? But does this home purchase make sense for you? Here are some things to consider ahead of time.

Portrait of Commercial Painter
I’m handy but not a professional. If you are good with a paint brush and a hammer but don’t know the difference between a GFCI outlet and a voltage meter, you probably should carefully evaluate the skills needed to make that fixer-upper habitable. If it’s just cosmetic, then it should be as easy as inviting some friends over for a paint party and perhaps installing new carpeting or cleaning. But if the repairs required are significant and involve drywall, electrical, plumbing, roofing, or the like, you should be prepared to shell out some big bucks for a professional to complete the project. Know your limitations or you are liable to get stuck with an eye sore that no one wants to visit.

Typing with Pencil on Calculator

• Is it in such disrepair that you won’t be able to get mortgage financing? These days, your options for rehab properties are all cash or perhaps a 203K FHA loan. A 203K loan allows you to get bids for repairs required and submit them to the lender for approval. The obvious advantage is that you can borrow the money for the purchase and the repairs in one loan at competitive rates. However, these types of loans aren’t usually attractive to the seller of a distressed property as the loans normally take longer to close and there will be requirements associated with the underwriting of the loan that make it less desirable.

Pandora's Box
• Unless you know specifics about the property, you may be opening Pandora’s Box. Many foreclosure or distress properties that are being sold as a “deal” are also being sold “as-is”. What does this mean? Normally, it means that any information you find from a home inspection is for informational purposes only and the seller will make NO repairs whatsoever. Those auction homes that are sold to the highest bidder usually allow for a short period of time prior to the auction where the property can be inspected and reviewed thoroughly before making an offer. But no matter how thorough the inspection, you just don’t normally know who lived in the home or how it was maintained previously – if at all. A termite inspection is just the starting point. Finding out as much about the property as possible will help you in determining how extensive the repairs are likely to be.

neighborhood
• Know the neighborhood before you buy! It’s all well and good to get a great price on a home but if the distressed home is also in a distressed or high crime area, are you really making an investment in something you can either enjoy or make a profit on down the road? This is completely subjective and depends on your needs and wants but do your homework about the area because making that home a showplace when no one else in the community is doing the same, will likely cut the return on your investment substantially and no amount of “fixing up” will really make it a profitable investment.

If you think you can tackle a fixer upper on your own, then remember to know how you’re going to finance it, know the condition of the home, and know the neighborhood before you jump in!

Irene Morales Ward, Realtor

Because Choosing the Right Realtor DOES Matter!

Because Choosing the Right Realtor DOES Matter!

Posted in Auctions, Distressed Properties, Fixer Upper, Foreclosures, Home Buyers, Home Repairs, Mortgage Lending, Mortgages, Short Sale | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why Use a Realtor® with New Home Construction?

What is the need if the sales representative in the builder’s sales office can write up the offer for me? That’s a legitimate question and an easy one to answer. There are obvious reasons and then not-so-obvious ones.

Leeland Station Richmond American

1. The sales representative works for the seller and is not required to be licensed Realtor®. If this is not reason enough to seek the help of a true professional, then I don’t know what is! Sales representatives are employed by the builder and, as such, are required to protect the interest of the seller. While most representatives I have met are honest, they are also not bound by the Realtor® Code of Ethics. They don’t need to disclose their fiduciary responsibility to the builder nor do they have to disclose that you are free to get representation. What is the benefit to the builder if you go unrepresented? PLENTY! You don’t know what you don’t know!

2. Negotiating for a better sales price. Most buyers think they are good negotiators and many are. But it’s much more than just negotiating price that matters. Understanding the intricacies of a sales contract is infinitely more important because nothing can be overlooked. Terms of the sale are equally important to protect you and your earnest money deposit. Knowledge of the market to include new homes sales and resale homes is key. A Realtor® can help protect you every step of the way. From appraisal and inspection contingencies, to financing terms, and everything in between, a Realtor® will see you through.

3. Scheduling inspections. Yes, the county or city must inspect the property throughout various stages of construction – excavation, foundation, pre-drywall, final, etc. However, it’s important to know you have the right to a private inspection done by a private home inspector who represents your best interests.

4. Settlement and Lender Selection. Most builders have a business affiliation with a particular lender and title company. This is standard industry practice. The builder will offer you incentives to use them, too. Have you noticed the following language in a lot of advertising? “Builder will contribute up to $5,000 towards closing with the use of preferred lender and settlement company.” I’m sure you have! Or sometimes the builder will offer you a choice of closing cost credits and/or perhaps options upgrades – your choice! What you don’t realize is that while the rate may be competitive, there is almost always a cost to get this loan (POINTS) that isn’t necessarily competitive. Also, they probably won’t be able to guarantee the rate for you outside of 90 days of closing (to be determined by the builder). Of course, you would want to shop the rate and know that you could get a better rate and terms if given the option.

5. It costs the buyer NOTHING to engage a Buyer Agent representative in most cases! Buyer/Agent agreements are required by law in Virginia as of 2012. These agreements, if written properly, will tell you (the buyer) exactly what you can expect from the agent – how long they will work for you, what they will do for you, how and how much they will be compensated, and where and in what circumstances they will represent you. You may negotiate the terms of any buyer agent agreement but it’s imperative that you understand buyer agents are almost always compensated by the listing broker – NOT the buyer! There are some instances where a buyer may compensate the agent (for sale by owner, for example), but the most common form of compensation is with a co-broker compensation agreement stipulated in each corresponding MLS.

Active Adult Comm 3
6. Remember to have a buyer agent representing you BEFORE you enter that sales office. Most builders require the agent to make contact with the builder prior to buyers entering their sales office. When you are out and about on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and see the giant OPEN HOUSE signs pointing to the model home, give your agent a call and let them know you are contemplating dropping in at the sales office so your agent can contact the representative first. Disclose to the sales representative that you are represented by an agent and sign in with that agent’s contact information. You are not obligated to give your name or phone number but you are obligated (ethically, anyway) to let them know you have someone watching your back!

Because Choosing the Right Realtor DOES Matter!

Because Choosing the Right Realtor DOES Matter!

Irene Morales Ward, Realtor®
New Homes Construction in Stafford, VA

Posted in Home Buyers, Home Inspectors, Lending Institutions, Mortgages, New Homes Construction, Stafford County Homes, Stafford County Real Estate Market | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Millennial Home Buyers – Downsizing but Detail Oriented

millennials_in_new_home

According to a published report by Millennial Marketing, “Millennials are people born between 1977 and 2000. Although, there is not a universal agreement on this definition; There are more than 80 million of them. This makes their generation larger than Baby Boomers and 20 percent bigger than Generation X; Millennials make up 25 percent of the U.S. population; Currently, Millennials make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases, which is estimated over a trillion dollars in direct buying power and a huge influence on older generations; Their influence in some categories on other generations is far greater and cannot be ignored; Millennials are not a homogenous cohort; Millennials often seek peer affirmation before making decisions — even small ones.”

See if you find yourself in this category of home buyer…

http://rismedia.com/2015-01-28/millennials-seek-smaller-houses-but-wont-sacrifice-details/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eNews

Posted in First Time Home Buyers, Home Buyers, Millennials | Tagged , , | Leave a comment