Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].

Hi all! Laura here. This week’s column is a bit of a departure from the norm, but I want to ask: What topics would you like to see covered here?

Let me know! Then next week, we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Have a great week!

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When many of us were growing up, going to the movies meant standing in multiple lines. First, we had to buy tickets, then we had to wait to enter the theater. Next, the concession line always took forever. Finally, we’d get into the auditorium and make a beeline for our favorite seats, just hoping no one had already snagged them.

Cut to today. The ShowPlace ICON at The Boro is completely changing how we see and experience movies.

Before you even leave the house, you can reserve your seats and order food and drinks online — then have it waiting for you when you arrive. There’s also the option to order at one of the many kiosks in the lobby.

In the auditorium, you’ll find plush, heated recliners, wall-to-wall screens and digital projection. The larger auditoriums are equipped with Dolby Atmos immersive sound and 4K Laser projection.

This 14-screen theatre shows everything from blockbuster hits to specialty films. It even plays big events that are even better when you watch them on the big screen, like UFC fights, concerts and the WWE Summer Slam. For instance, this fall you can watch The MET Opera live.

And be sure to keep an eye out for the anticipated theatre bar and ICON Bistro, scheduled to open in the coming weeks. They’ll feature an entirely new menu, but until then guests can still enjoy select beer, wine and cocktails from the expanded concession menu.

Best yet: For the next several weeks, ShowPlace ICON has a special offer for anyone signing up for Extras, its free membership club. When you sign up as a Tysons member by August 15, you’ll get two free movie tickets.

Enjoy the experience!

Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].

My goal is to make this an educational post for those interested in investing in real estate — some basic facts to help you evaluate if this might be right for you. If you have specific questions or want to bounce an idea off of me, please feel free to reach out any time.

Investing in real estate is one of the best ways to build your long-term wealth. I’m not talking about buying and flipping homes — as easy as Instagram DIYers make it look. I’m talking about buying individual properties, renting them out and holding them in your investment portfolio. There are many models that work — long-term leases or Airbnb — so you’ll have to look through what each requires to see what fits for you.

Here are some pointers:

  1. In general, townhomes appreciate faster than condos, and single-family homes appreciate faster than townhomes.
  2. Condos are by far the easiest investment to manage because there are fewer things to maintain.
  3. Anything with an HOA may have restrictions on the length of a lease (for instance, they may not allow Airbnb rentals), so carefully read any HOA resale package for rules and regulations.
  4. If you’re financing your investment, lenders require at least 25% down. Of course, you can do a HELOC instead and pay cash for something, but a traditional mortgage will require 25% down.
  5. I personally believe a property should be at least break-even for it to be worth it. Some others have different advice — your CPA might give you different advice — but for me, if it’s not going to make me money, I’m not buying it. And I’m talking out-of-pocket expenses vs. incoming rent. I’m not accounting for later deductions on taxes and end-of-year net. I want to know each month when I’m paying the mortgage and any HOA fee, the rent is covering it — and hopefully leaving me with extra income.
  6. Consider liability protection whether in the form of an LLC or an umbrella insurance policy. Talk to your insurance agent to see what they think is best for your personal situation.
  7. You’ll need a business license to rent out a property. This is a minimal cost (less than $100), but it’s an annual expense and requirement nonetheless.
  8. Should you hire a property manager? This is a VERY personal question. Management companies on average take 8-10% of the monthly rent as payment for their fee. That obviously cuts into your profit; however, in exchange, they handle all tenant requests and repairs. If you’re local, maybe you want to try a year before you hire someone to maintain the property. I will share that I don’t use a property manager for my rental property. However, it’s local, and if anything breaks, I just call a trade person to go fix whatever the issue is. Feel free to download my trusted resources vendor guide.
  9. There are many ways to find a potential tenant, including free websites you can use to advertise the property. Or you can hire a realtor to list it. Contact me for specifics on the cost of that. If you hire a realtor, they will also write the lease and do the background check for your approval.
  10. Be very diligent in tracking expenses for your taxes. I have a great Excel file I use for my CPA. It tracks my expenses for the year — condo dues, interest, taxes, business license fee, repairs, maintenance costs, etc. That way, at the end of the year, he can see what to use for deductions or depreciation, and we can see just how profitable the property is. It just helps to guide future decisions on whether to increase rent, not increase rent or potentially when to sell.

Again, feel free to ask me questions any time. Or, if you’re ready to get your feet wet, let me know!

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The Providence is a brand-new assisted living and memory care community now open at 9490 Sprague Avenue in Fairfax in the MetroWest area of Fairfax.

As the old adage goes, “Laughter is the best form of medicine.” At The Providence, we agree that laughter is key to good health and longevity.

Join us on Wednesday, July 28, at 5:30 p.m. at The Providence for a FREE comedy show featuring Tom Holaday.

A retired teacher and coach, Tom Holaday has been performing comedy since 1992. Drawing on his experiences as a father, teacher, coach and sports lover, Tom’s brand of clean comedy is family friendly and a whole lot of fun!

After the show, all are welcome to experience an exclusive tour of our community that opened in March. Discover how we’re redefining assisted living with upscale residences, resort-style amenities, chef-driven restaurants, innovative programming and personalized care.

Interested? Learn more and RSVP with Amanda Max at 571-396-0500 at [email protected]. And, of course, the more, the merrier! Feel free to share the invite through Facebook.

Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].

I saw a guy wearing a “I miss live music” T-shirt last week, and I realized how many things we all took for granted before COVID.

Well, I’m happy to reintroduce you to some “normal” ways of life. There are multiple in-person events around town this summer, so if you’re looking for something new to do, try one of these.

Some tips: Bring lawn chairs or blankets for comfortable seating, check the hosts’ social media for updates on the weather, and pack snacks in case lines are long for food.

Nottoway Nights

  • Thursday evenings, 7:30 p.m. through August
  • Live, free concert series at Nottoway Park (9537 Courthouse Road, Vienna)
  • Download the performance schedule online.

Summer on the Green Concert Series

  • Fridays, 6:30 p.m. through mid-August
  • Live, free concert series on the Town Green in Vienna (144 Maple Avenue E.)
  • See the performance schedule online.

Films in the Park

  • Thursday evening through Sept. 2
  • Free movies in Strawberry Park (the green in front the of Mosaic Target)
  • Find the movie schedule online.

Sunday Concerts in the Park

  • Sundays at 5 p.m. through July 25
  • Live, free concert series held at the Gazebo at McLean Central Park
  • The remaining concerts include The Sensational Soul Cruisers (a tribute to Motown) on July 18 and the Nashville Girls Night Out (country) on July 25.

Prefer to stay inside?

Every Wednesday through Aug. 4, Cinemark in Fairfax has a Summer Movie Clubhouse where kids’ movies are only $1.50 each. The remaining movies in the line-up include “Angry Birds 2,” “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” “Minions” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”

Bonus: This theater has reclining seats, and they’re spaced out.

Learn more about this program online.

Films in the Park (via Mosaic District/Facebook)
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Hello, D.C. summer, nice to sweat you again. We are halfway through the year, and the real estate market continues to be on fire this summer, right…? Well, sort of.

In the last two months, we have reached an inflection point where there are now more new listings than new contracts. Buyers are seeing more choices than they had during the spring. While there continues to be multiple offer situations, we are beginning to see a bit less competition.

Remember, markets seek balance. And changes are gradual.

As we dream of a cooler market (and cooler days), let’s take a look at some active local listings that will give you some much deserved shade (the good kind):

Grow your shade

9324 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls, VA 22066, listed for $3,500,000

Beginning with a gated entrance flanked by magnolia trees, this breath-taking estate has meticulously maintained gardens viewable from almost every room. It’s professionally landscaped with boxwoods (a shade-tolerant shrub), fountains and a cypress tree enclosed tennis court.

1010 Prince Street #4, Alexandria, VA 22314, listed for $430,000

How perfect is this crepe myrtle-shaded patio in the heart of Old Town?

5529 Winford Court, Fairfax, VA 22032, listed for $499,900

Not only is Lake Royal only 250 steps from your townhome, but the beautifully shaded private patio and welcoming front steps are green-thumb approved.

11706 Leesburg Pike, Great Falls, VA 22066, listed for $800,000

Imagine growing your own garden (or farm) in Great Falls. This 1856 farmhouse sits on nearly 4 acres and is ready for your gardening gloves.

Build Your Shade

Read More

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Whether you’re tight on time or dread doing that much-needed deep-cleaning around the house, it may be worth calling in reinforcements.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a cleaning company you truly feel good about hiring, but Well-Paid Maids wants to change that.

They are the region’s only living-wage cleaning company. What that means: Well-Paid Maids actually pays its employees a wage they can live off of — $20+/hour.

And their cleaners are employees, not just contractors, which means they receive a full benefits package, including health, dental and vision insurance; 22 paid days off a year; and 100% employer-paid commuting costs — just to name a few perks.

“Not only are our labor practices the right thing to do, but they also lead to better results for our customers,” explains Aaron Seyedian, the founder of Well-Paid Maids.

The company has been around since 2017 and has grown to a team of 15 employees and counting.

You can learn more about Well-Paid Maids’ mission, meet the employees and book a cleaning online.

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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].

Next Sunday is the Fourth of July — hard to believe half of the year has already passed! Some celebrations are returning and some new ones are being created to mark the special holiday.

Whether you choose to celebrate by watching fireworks or praying they don’t wake your sleeping kids, I hope the day is spent with friends and is full of fun! Happy Fourth of July!

Here are a few places in the area you can celebrate July Fourth.

Vienna

Check out the annual fireworks at Yeonas Park (1319 Ross Drive SW). The park opens at 7 p.m., and the Big Bad JuJu band starts at 7:30 p.m. Fireworks begin at dark (around 9:30 p.m.). Parking is always hard, so sometimes people park at the top of the Vienna Metro garage to watch if it’s not a cloudy night.

Fairfax

The City of Fairfax Independence Day Parade was something we did with my kids when they were smaller. The parade starts at 10 a.m. on July 3 at 4100 Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax. See tons of high school marching bands, parade balloons, float, clowns, dancing groups, music and more. For me, this parade was always fun to attend.

McLean

McLean used to do fireworks at Langley High School, but I can’t find any information on it for 2021. Instead, McLean is doing a July 4th Ice Cream Drive-Thru Celebration from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the McLean Community Center. The event includes music, free ice cream and patriotic giveaways. The event is free but requires registration.

Falls Church City

This year, Falls Church is doing a Declaration Celebration Scavenger Hunt from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. instead of fireworks. There’s a PDF to download you can use to find 13 land and historical markers. Once completed, you can turn in the form for a free T-shirt.

Downtown D.C.

Of course, I can’t forget the National Mall fireworks show, which starts at 9:09 p.m. My husband and I use to park in Arlington and watch from across the water. You can see them in Rosslyn.

If you want to try your own hand at fireworks, you can get some at the Giant in Vienna or the large fireworks sale in the parking lot of the Oakton Giant and Nutley Street Safeway.

(via Timothy Wolff/Unsplash)
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Today’s artificial-intelligence and machine-learning technologies touch all aspects of the computing environment, from front-end systems to back-office workflows. Many IT and business leaders are realizing significant business value from their investments.

For some, this means the ability to process information, such as financial data and customer interactions, at a higher speed than humans and with fewer errors due to sophisticated algorithms. For others, AI/ML lets IT leaders quickly understand pressing problems and execute a plan of action. AI-powered cybersecurity tools, which can detect threats before they have a chance to wreak havoc on IT infrastructure, are a perfect example.

“AI and ML are such powerful technologies,” says Kendall Giles, a faculty member in Virginia Tech’s online Master of Information Technology (VT-MIT) degree program. “The more you can spread an understanding of these technologies throughout your organization, the better off everyone will be.”

As reliance on AI and ML grows, so too does the need for talent with the knowledge and skills to use these tools in a robust business and IT environment.

That’s why Virginia Tech’s fully online Master of Information Technology program recently launched a new Innovation and Entrepreneurship in AI/ML specialization area.

“With all the challenges of deploying AI systems, IT and business leaders need a wide variety of expertise, from operational to strategic skills, to identify problems that can be solved with AI,” Giles says. “While most AI and ML programs focus only on algorithms, the MIT program offers both a technical foundation as well as leadership skills.”

Another key differentiator of the online MIT program: Students hail from a wide variety of industries and disciplines. This comes in handy when it’s time to divide them into groups to develop a problem involving an interesting data set, either public or proprietary. In most cases, the goal is to tackle a predictive application, algorithm or task that makes sense for a particular domain.

“Students come from all of these different backgrounds and have a wide variety of skills, which leads to some interesting discussions and perspectives,” Giles says. “By contributing these unique insights, they improve the learning experience for everyone.”

Visit vtmit.vt.edu to learn more about Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology program.

Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].

Happy summer! If you find yourself with a lighter work schedule and still working from home, this post is for you.

After a really, really long time of no date nights thanks to COVID, I hope to make time for day dates this summer. I am sharing my ideas for some R&R and quality vitamin D.

  • Grab-and-go sandwich and a hike at Great Falls. Pro tip: If you go to the Virginia side and go left, there are some quiet, shady spaces to sit down on the rocks and eat and enjoy the view. Scott’s Run is also a nice walk/hike and a place to bring lunch.
  • If you belong to a pool — or get a day pass to any of the local pools — go! If you’re a parent, you often feel guilty going without a kid. Don’t. Time spent in the sun with a book or headphones really does a lot for stress relief if you’re a sun/water person.
  • Revisit my post from last year on day trip beach locations.
  • For something totally different than the average day, check out Go Ape adventure course (locations in Springfield or Williamsburg). Find a 320-foot zip line, ropes course, monkey drop and more. (Groups of 4 or more can use 4PLUS10 for 10% off weekdays.)
  • Treat yourself to ice cream at Jeni’s at The Boro. There are plenty of seats nearby. Open noon to 10 p.m. daily.
  • Movies! Yes, movies! I love Angelika because it’s close, but I also love the Fairfax Cinemark because they have reclining seats. They’ve also been really great about cleaning between showings, and when you reserve your seats, they block off one on either side of you. If you want a day date idea with a kid, they have an awesome summer promo where, every Wednesday, tickets are $1.50 per movie through Aug. 4. Check out movies like “The Lego Movie 2,” “Angry Birds 2,” “Minions” and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

Hope you have an amazing summer!

(via Joe Pizzio/Unsplash)
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