Tysons, VA

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].

Based on my predictions for 2021, you now know that we’re in a fast-moving real estate market that’s very seller friendly. With low inventory, our marketplace is fast and furious with new properties that hit the market.

What you don’t see is the months of work that go into getting a seller ready to sell or a buyer ready to buy. In this market, if you’re not prepared, you’re immediately at a disadvantage. So to help you prepare if buying or selling a house is on your 2021 goals list, here are my top five things to do now:

1. Speak to a lender.

This is critical. Rates are really low — below 3% — but knowing how much you can afford is critical. Even more important: If you have a house to sell, you MUST know if you need to sell that house first before you can buy, or if you can buy without selling. Knowing the order those must happen in will drive your entire process. A good real estate agent will lay out options for both scenarios, based on your risk aversion, and come up with a plan on how to move forward.

2. Ask colleagues, friends, and neighbors for referrals for a real estate agent.

Talk to a real estate agent earlier than you think you need to. Some of my clients have been shocked by how little they really need to do to get a house ready to sell or what small items will make a bigger impact than they expect. Going room by room with a plan and prepping early will have big returns. Maybe you want to explore staging your home — find out how much that is. Information is power — power for you to make decisions that are right for you. Remember when picking a Realtor® you’ll be working closely with that person for months, so make sure you trust them!

3. Prep your home to sell using trusted contractors.

Changing lighting fixtures, painting some walls, deep cleaning, etc. Whatever your agent suggests (and you’re comfortable doing!) to prep your home, make sure you have trusted contractors to help get the projects done. You can always download my vendor guide for free.

4. Write a must-have versus nice-to-have list.

This is for the buyers, especially when there’s more than one buyer. Make sure you’re on the same page with what you’re looking for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people argue over a house. It’s TOTALLY NORMAL. It happens all the time. But that doesn’t make it better. House hunting is stressful, so anything you can do to minimize the additional stress is key!

5. Scout the areas.

Figuring out where you want to live is hard when you’re not familiar with the neighborhoods. Do you want Metro access? Do you want an HOA with a pool? Do you want land and no neighbors for miles? This goes hand-in-hand with the must-have list. Drive around. Ask your real estate agent for suggestions on where to start. If you have specific needs (e.g. one-mile radius of a Metro), those are very easy searches for us to run online for you. It gives you a place to start. Realtors are bound by fair housing rules, so we can’t always tell you if the neighborhood is family friendly etc. I recommend stopping to chat with neighbors out walking. They’ll be the best able to answer questions on the neighborhood.

BONUS: If you’re thinking of building, this is a bonus for you.

You MUST talk to a construction lender to understand the process, and you MUST start interviewing builders. Are you going with a design/build company, which is a one-stop shop? Are you going to hire an architect and then a builder? Do you know what lot size you need and elevation? All of that is SO critical in looking for lots. Often times lots don’t always hit the open market, so knowing which way you plan to go with a builder must be in place.

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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].

I heard it snowed in Texas this weekend but not here!

While it’s cold, we’re having a pretty mild winter for the Northern Virginia area. I remember the one two-hour snow we had in December and how much fun my kids had playing in it.

So with that in mind, if you’re thinking of a day or weekend trip to go skiing, snowboarding, tubing or just to be a snow lodger, here are some suggestions for local ski resorts to visit from Northern Virginia:

  • Massanutten (Massanutten, Virginia) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, waterpark, golf and more. About a two-hour drive.
  • Wisp Resort (McHenry, Maryland) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, mountain coaster, ropes courses, golf (and P.S. in the summer they have whitewater rafting, kayaking, pontoon boat tours and more). About three hours away.
  • Liberty Mountain Resort (Fairfield, Pennsylvania) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing and golf. About 90 minutes away, great for a day trip.
  • Whitetail Resort (Mercersburg, Pennsylvania) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing and golf. About an hour and a half to two hours away, also great for a day trip.
  • Bryce Resort (Basye, Virginia) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing and ice skating. About two hours away.
  • Timberline Mountain (Davis, West Virginia) — Skiing and snowboarding. About three hours away.
  • Blackwater Falls State Park (Davis, West Virginia) — Sled run, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing — a little different than some of these resorts. Sled run requires appointment. About three hours away.

Don’t forget to check COVID-19 instructions. Pennsylvania requires a negative covid test 72 hours before entering the state. You can also check out ski schools but most require advance reservation — same with ski tickets.

You can also explore rentals at Sun & Ski Sports in Falls Church, which may be cheaper than renting at the mountain.

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Are you working from home? Or is it really living at work?

Fasten your seatbelts… or, should I say tighten those drawstring pants… we are in this for the long-haul, D.C. According to a recent study of more than 400 local employers, 45% of D.C. metro-area employers with 20-plus employees plan to shift some of their workforce to a permanent telework schedule.

The implications of such a major demographic shift will be felt well after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. How will the dramatic acceleration of telecommuting impact the way you live and work at home?

Here are six key questions we must ask about our current spaces:

1. Do you need more space?

The office you used to go to likely had conference space, break rooms and dedicated workstations. Does your home have that now, too?

Your current space may not have been designed for working and living. With home prices continuing to post gains (Northern Virginia’s average sales price in November 2020 was $675,290, up 7.7% from the November 2019 average price of $627,088), it might be the right time to sell and seek out more space.

7820 Frances Drive Alexandria, VA 22306 — $675,000 charming and expanded 5-bedroom Cape Cod sits on a generous 0.77-acre lot

2. Is open concept working for you?

Having dedicated office space does not mean perching up on the kitchen table and angling your Zoom camera to hide the family room behind you. While open concept has enhanced sight lines and brought families together, a post-COVID world ushers back the ‘closed-concept’ and single-use rooms.

1411 Key Blvd #311 Arlington, VA 22209 — $1,065,000 sun-filled 2-bedroom plus den in the heart of Rosslyn

3. Would the suburbs or a small town make sense now that you don’t have to go into an office?

Compared to last year, we have seen a 105% increase in demand for small towns (defined as populations ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 people). If going into the office is only required by your employer one to two days per month, what would be your tolerance for a one-hour commute?

38085 Homestead Farm Lane Middleburg, VA 20117 — $689,000 3-bedroom farmhouse buffered by woods and a creek

4. Is your internet up to speed?

Did you know your realtor can help you find a house with certain internet capabilities? The Bright MLS, only accessible by licensed agents, now has a new feature allowing us to search properties with broadband or fiber optics, ensuring the necessary work-from-home connectivity.

5. How is your outdoor space serving you?

Whether it is a pool, patio, deck or chaise lounge, these spaces can be key for stepping away from work or enhancing your Zoom backgrounds. Sometimes these views speak for themselves, pulling us to our next home…

612 Rivercrest Drive, Mclean, VA 22101 — $12.8 million 5-bedroom, 9-bathroom is a castle on the river and boasts 85 feet of water’s edge on the Potomac

6. Is it time to purchase a second home?

The third quarter of 2020 brought a 42% surge in luxury home sales. While some are looking for a larger home in the DMV, others may want to seek out a vacation home that provides a separate oasis. Whether it’s the Eastern Shore, Outer Banks, the Jersey Shore or Cape Cod, we can help you find your second home sanctuary.

4 Ministers Lane, Chatham, MA, 02650 — $5.95 million shingle-style waterfront with breathtaking Chatham Harbor and Atlantic Ocean views

Need a home office? Better view? Or perhaps a second home? Contact me today and let’s explore your options together.

Mackenzie Horne, MBA is a licensed REALTOR® in the Commonwealth of Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Send Mackenzie a message at 571-594-9136, [email protected] or @MackHorneRealtor.

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The ever-evolving “security threat landscape” and changes in user behavior and IT infrastructure require IT professionals to keep their knowledge up to date and stay on top of the latest trends and developments.

Earning a 100% online Master of Information Technology or graduate certificate with cybersecurity specialization from Virginia Tech can help individuals meet these heightened demands in a number of ways.

Ranked one of the top online master’s degree for cybersecurity by Cyberdegrees.org and one of the top four online graduate IT programs nationwide by U.S. News and World Report, Virginia Tech’s VT-MIT program takes a unique approach to specialized education.

Core courses in areas such as information systems design, electronic commerce, software engineering and computer programming help students master technical expertise in a business context. After completing these core courses, degree students can choose to specialize in cybersecurity technologies, cybersecurity management or cybersecurity policy. Virginia Tech also offers these topic areas as standalone graduate certificates for those not pursuing the full degree.

Whether interested in running an in-house cybersecurity practice or exploring the legal and ethical concerns triggered by data breaches, students have the opportunity to tailor their education around their career ambitions.

Part of Virginia Tech’s core strength is its world-class cybersecurity research, supported by $15 million in research grants and contracts. Students can access six cybersecurity research centers, including the Ballston-based Hume Center for National Security and Technology.

The VT-MIT program’s 100% online format allows students to pursue higher education at their own by deciding their own course load each semester. Further enriching the student environment is the program’s openness to students with diverse backgrounds and interests, including business line leaders looking to improve their technology capabilities while leveraging their domain expertise.

Combating today’s cyber threats has never been more difficult — or more critical to business continuity. A Master of Information Technology degree with cybersecurity specialization or standalone graduate certificate from Virginia Tech can help leaders better understand the systemic nature of these threats and teach them strategies for dealing with an increasingly complex security landscape.

Learn more about Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology with cybersecurity specializations at vtmit.vt.edu.

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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].

Happy New Year!

Those of us with Q1 birthdays are the last to experience a pandemic birthday. I’m trying to remember what we did for my husband’s April birthday, and when I couldn’t remember anything (oops), I decided it was time to give some options to make sure next year I remember.

Everyone still has different levels of comfort, so some of these ideas are really simple and others are more extravagant. Some are great whether you’re an adult or for kids. Remember: Birthdays are also calorie free — so don’t forget about splurging on food!

1. Card My Yard

2. Private Rental

  • Angelika — You can watch a current movie or bring your own Blu-Ray or game to watch on the big screen.
  • Cinemark (Fairfax) — It has reclining seats. Enough said. Sit back, relax and watch a current movie.
  • Reston Ice Skating — You can rent the entire rink for 1 or 2 hours.
  • Rent out a restaurant — like Bazin’s Next Door for your “bubble.”

3. Private Class

4. Visit from the Vienna Singing Princesses

5. Visit from the Vienna Police or Vienna Fire Department

6. Paint your own pottery at Kiln and Co. or All Fired Up

7. Outings

  • Head to Top Golf.
  • Play Oak Marr Mini Golf, or hit the driving range.
  • Take a hike.
  • Explore a new restaurant.
  • Go for a drive.

8. Petting Zoo

Regardless of how you celebrate your birthday or those of your loved ones, wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year with countless birthdays ahead!

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New Christmas Tradition Ideas

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].

This week marks a week of favorite traditions for some and a sad week for others. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, everyone seems to have their own idea what makes this week unique and memorable. I’m sharing some ideas for those who want to change or add what they do this week.

Let’s start with giving back.

The restaurant Medium Rare is making 3,000 meals that’ll be delivered this week to those in need. They have locations in Cleveland Park, Bethesda and Arlington. They are looking for people to help deliver 10 meals at a time. You pick a location and a time, and upon your arrival are given 10 drop locations and the food. I’m signed up to deliver today and tomorrow, and I’m bringing my kids with me. Delivery is contactless. Sign up online.

“Winter Mitzvah Day” at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church: Christmas Day is always a day of giving back at the temple but will be scaled back this year, obviously due to COVID-19. Some ideas of ways they’re giving, and you can join: Winter coat drive in front of the school entrance, food drive collection box at the temple, buy a “McLean Cares” meal for $10 plus a $1.50 tip from a McLean restaurant to help feed low income families. Learn more about each option.

Now let’s talk food.

Whether you’re looking for a take out meal for brunch on Christmas morning, or a full dinner to feed your family, many local restaurants are doing take out.

Oh, and if you want Chinese food? There’s plenty of that, too.

Some restaurants to check out for take out:

Finally, what about entertainment?

If your tradition usually includes going to see a movie on Christmas Day and you’re not comfortable going into a theater of random people, did you know you can buy out a theater? For around $100 you can rent out a private screening for up to 20 people.

Regardless of how you spend the week — wishing you and yours a safe and healthy holiday.

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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]e.com.

As we wrap up the 2020 calendar year and a very strong real estate market, I want to share with you my predictions for how 2021 will go.

What makes me qualified to speak on the market? I’ve been selling real estate full-time since 2008, I have a master’s in applied economics from Hopkins, and I’m one of the top agents in the D.C. metro area according to every poll out there (Washingtonian, Northern Virginia Magazine, The Wall Street Journal America’s Top 100).

Here’s what I know to be true today:

The real estate market for detached homes has literally exploded all over the Northern Virginia area as people try to get more space. Fueled by low inventory and high demand, we naturally enter into a seller’s market, which favors competition, great contract terms and higher prices. In fact, in Fairfax County through Q3, the average house was only on the market for 23 days, which is down 16.5% from last year. The average sales price is up 10.9% from last year. Summary: higher prices, faster sales.

The same can’t be said about the condo market. The condo market is oversaturated with inventory, which is slowing sales and dropping prices. It’s a great time to buy a condo as an investor — except the rental market is also oversaturated and slow. My personal theory is that Covid is ever-present in a condo — wear a mask in the elevator, wear a mask in the hallway, wear a mask just to throw out your trash, etc. There’s nowhere to go and no way to escape it. Would-be buyers and/or renters moved home to mom and dad and took the opportunity to save money. I have no statistical proof of that — just my own theory.

Now how does that position us for a new presidential term, potential post-vaccine world as adults return to the workforce in person?

I expect the real estate market to continue to be strong. I expect sales to continue and inventory to still be low, but I’m hopeful the spring market will be very strong as maybe potential lost sales from 2020 who postponed, actually do sell their homes. I also expect prices to continue to climb.

Interest rates will remain low throughout the year. I had a client lock in a 2.5% interest rate last week. 2.5%! If you have a mortgage with anything over 3.25% right now, you should look into refinancing if you plan to stay for at least a year. With rates remaining low, buyer demand will continue to be strong. Don’t know who to call? Email me for lender referrals.

I expect condos to be slow for Q1 to Q2 in 2021, but I’m hopeful that once the virus is contained more, you’ll see sales start to pick up again.

I do think the demand for detached homes will continue to be the greatest, as it has been for years. But I also see there’s a potential for more work-from-home routines to be established as Covid changes behavior patterns, which changes a buyer’s needs, like the need for a dedicated home office space.

Do I think there will be foreclosures and short sales as a result of all the job loss? Not really. Perhaps in the price ranges under $400K, but even that market is strong, and those who are having trouble affording their homes can still sell at a profit and avoid the financial hit.

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Still can’t find paper towels at your local Target? Me neither. The pandemic has caused many everyday items that we take for granted to literally fly off the shelves.

We saw it this summer with playsets and trampolines, but the craze for outdoor enjoyment extended beyond kids’ play equipment to the outdoor assets a residential property boasted, including pools and patios. What could possibly be the next must-have to make your stay-at-home experience more tolerable this winter?

Fire Pits

Those looking to continue using their outdoor spaces will need to seek out warmth in some form. As long as it is coming from the soothing crackle of a wood-burning fire pit or a gas-powered flame — not body heat less than 6 feet away — you will be in good company. These houses are ready for outdoor entertaining on any starry quarantine night:

2205 Windsor Road, Alexandria, VA 22307


1139 Crest Lane McLean, VA 22101

Spectacular Sunrooms

While it might be hard to find electric heaters or faux fireplaces this winter, now is the time to outfit your three-seasons sunroom in order to maximize its use. Take a look at these spectacular sunrooms that will bring some more light to your quarantine days:

929 Leigh Mill Road, Great Falls, VA 22066

1001 N. Vermont Street #904, Arlington, VA 22201

Access to Trails

Hiking in the winter is one of the DMV’s best kept secrets. The quiet and solitude is good any time of year, whether you are walking your dog or trying to tire out your kids in between virtual learning sessions. Check out this local home with easy access to local trails:

637 River Bend Road, Great Falls, VA 22066

Whether your must-haves include fire pits and sunrooms, or you would like a bigger kitchen and a home office, contact me today to explore your options.

Mackenzie Horne, MBA is a licensed REALTOR® in the Commonwealth of Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Send Mackenzie a message at 571-594-9136, [email protected] or @MackHorneRealtor.

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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].

Each year I put together a list of the “must-see” holiday light displays around Vienna.

These vary in offerings from lots of inflatables to light shows choreographed to music. The list changes from year to year as some houses go dark, new ones are added and others scale back.

I took my kids on nightly drives around town to find some of these, but the majority came from the Vienna community when I asked on multiple forums for people to suggest homes. If you are part of the Vienna Virtual Community Page, Vienna Moms or Vienna VA Foodies, I’m sure you saw my post asking for nominations. In return, I promised to put together a map of the houses/streets I thought were ones you should definitely drive by.

My favorites on the map include:

  • A Very Grinchy Christmas is located at Walker Street SW/Drake Street SW.
  • Oakton Park Court is a small cul-de-sac that’s about 85% decorated with two special homes that went very Clark Griswold! They are also collecting donations to help feed the food insecure through the Vienna VA Foodies group.
  • Who doesn’t love ice skating penguins?! Head over to Antioch Circle.
  • The “peppermint house” located at Talahi Road SE/Glyndon Street SE has beautiful decorations.
  • On Hillington Court, you’ll find two homes with tons of blow-ups and decorations — plus it’s a two for one visit.
  • And of course… the Ni Family Lights.

Please make sure you check some of the notes on the points on the map for more details. Some destinations will take longer to visit, like the Ni Family Lights and The Vine Church, so plan accordingly!

If I missed any, please email me at [email protected], and I will add it to the map for others to enjoy. If you’re looking for larger scale light events, don’t forget these:

You can also find more lights to visit at FairfaxChristmasLights.com. Enjoy!

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Type “Why are bathroom renovations” into Google and the first result suggested is “…so expensive.” After saving for a new home, home improvement projects are the most common reason Americans save money.

Most people believe having a bathroom that makes them happy is a worthwhile investment, yet are surprised by how much it costs.

Why is renovating a 40-square-foot space so costly? Pricey fixtures and the specialized skills required are partly to blame. However, some costs are embedded within the industry:

  • “Free” quotes are expensive: On average, contractors spend 25 percent of their time building quotes for jobs they will not win. Those costs need to be recouped.
  • Expense overestimation: Whether purposeful, unintentional or a little bit of both, contractors often significantly overestimate the cost of materials and effort on a project.
  • Professional design: Having a professional design your bathroom is considered a luxury service and carries a luxury price tag.
  • Limited visualization opportunity: Consumer Reports identifies a primary cause of price overruns as homeowners who change their mind regarding finishes or colors after they’ve been applied.

In 2016, remodeling industry veteran Chad Hall believed these inefficiencies could be eliminated by taking advantage of emerging technologies — so he founded remodelmate.

Eliminating the time-consuming process of in-home quotes, remodelmate gives homeowners free access to an app that uses advanced smartphone camera technology to generate a near-perfect 3D model of their existing bathroom. The scan is then applied to a quote-building system, generating a final labor price for the customer as well as a precise materials list for the contractor, eliminating overestimation.

To address the professional design and visualization issues, remodelmate employs CGI (computer-generated imagery) to apply homeowner color and finish selections to a model of their new bathroom. The results are photo-quality images showing the customer exactly what their new bathroom will look like before construction begins.

For more information, visit the all-new remodelmate website.

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