Tysons, VA

Just Listed Properties: September 24

Three Stones Residential agents pride ourselves on our consultative service approach, local expertise and real estate market knowledge. With over 26 years of business experience in the DMV, we have consistently performed in the top 2% of local Realtors and are currently the #1 group at Keller Williams Metro Center. 

The following properties were recently listed in the Tysons, McLean, Vienna and Falls Church areas.

Our role is to offer sound advice and guidance to our clients in order for them to achieve their goals in either buying, selling, leasing or managing real estate. We are truly “Your Home… for Everything Real Estate.” To schedule a private showing of these or any other properties of interest please do not hesitate to contact us here or email us at [email protected].

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Ask Val: Cash vs Mortgage

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Val Sotillo, Northern Virginia-based Realtor and Falls Church resident. Please submit your questions to her via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I just lost a competitive offer to an all-cash buyer. How common are cash buyers in Fairfax County? How much of a disadvantage am I at?

Answer: I have personally experienced this last weekend when I helped buyers write a great offer that lost to an all-cash offer. When I ran the numbers I expected to find a significant increase in the number of cash deals over the last 12-18 months, but I learned that the percentage of homes purchased by all-cash buyers has actually decreased a few percent in the last couple of years. I believe this drop is partly due to the current record low interest rates.

The rate of all-cash purchases seems to be spread pretty evenly across all price-points and housing types. In the past five years, condo sales have steadily been only 30% of all-cash deals, and 80% of those were sub-$400k condos.

The chart below shows the number of homes sold in Fairfax County that were bought by all-cash buyers since 2015.

Cash vs Financing a Mortgage — What’s the Difference?

The idea of getting a cash offer sounds exciting, but what exactly does it mean? After all, a dollar from a lender is worth the same as a dollar from a savings account.

  • Contingencies: Cash buyers don’t need the contractual protection of a financing or appraisal contingency because they don’t need a lender to approve/review anything. This is appealing for sellers because it decreases the possibility of something going wrong that disrupts the sale.
  • Speed: Cash deals can close faster, often in one week or less, than financed deals which usually take at least 3-4 weeks due to the time it takes to process the loan.
  • Security: Cash deals are considered more secure because the purchase funds are already available.
  • Cost: Cash deals have lower buyer closing costs because there are no lender fees or lender’s title insurance. Lenders also require a substantial about (usually 1-1.5% of purchase price) of money be pre-paid into an escrow account for future property tax payments and homeowner’s insurance.

Given how competitive the current housing market is, many buyers using a mortgage take steps to make their offers as cash-like as possible by removing the appraisal and financing contingencies and/or working with lenders who can close quickly. For buyers that have taken these steps, there’s very little difference to sellers between their offer and a cash offer.

If you are a seller considering a cash offer, make sure you verify the existence of the cash funds the same way you would verify a buyer’s mortgage qualification with a pre-approval letter. The most common method of verification is to request bank statements, but a letter from the buyer’s bank should also suffice.

If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

Val Sotillo is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite #10C Arlington, VA 22203, 703-390-9460.

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Where to Pick Apples In Virginia

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 favorite season is upon us! Sunshine, crisp air, football and fall traditions.

One of the things I love doing with my kids in the fall is to go apple picking, which inevitably also turns into baking. As September marches on, we’re well into apple picking season and I wanted to highlight some local places to go pick your own.

There are also closer in options like DePauls, the Farmer’s Market, or Reston Farm (check out their weekend Fall Fest… more on those options coming soon!) If you are up for a drive, check out one of these options. Make sure you check ahead to see if they require timed appointments.

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Where and How to Decrease Stress

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 week 2 all your home schooling parents!

I say that with the enthusiasm of someone who’s had two cups of coffee today (and it’s not even noon yet). Regardless of your child care situation right now, everyone I know is under more stress lately than ever, myself included, and I wanted to help offer up some opportunities to combat that cortisol!

Exercise

  • I did a post a few months ago about the best hidden walking trails. Still an option, especially on Monday afternoons like today where the work at home is light.
  • Outdoor fitness classes: Orange Theory, Pure Barre and Yoga just to name a few, are all doing an outdoor fitness class if you have an interest and comfort level with being outdoor.

Food

  • I read online, reducing caffeine intake helps with reducing stress. This might be one of those do as I say, not as a I do… you could try a Viva Sol smoothie, South Block smoothie or SweetLeaf smoothie (fruit, kale or sweet mix-in).
  • The total opposite of that is a decadent treat — Crumbl, Pie Gourmet, Kiln and Co, etc.

Hang Out With Friends

  • Lots of socially distanced options right now — outdoor tables at many of the eateries, wineries/breweries, apple picking, pumpkin picking — so many options.
  • Organize an outdoor “playdate” on the grass at a school or the blacktop

As the weather begins to finally (thankfully) turn to the fall, I look forward to getting back outside when my own kids are off the screens. Happy fall!

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is an appeals forum for federal employees and former federal employees to challenge various types of federal agency actions, such as serious disciplinary actions (adverse actions), retirement appeals, whistleblower matters and other types of cases. The most usual type of appeal for federal employees involves filing an appeal over a serious disciplinary action, such as removal from the federal service.

During an appeal a federal employee can choose to be represented by an attorney or not be. In almost all cases, however, the federal agency will be represented in the appeal by an attorney. This article discusses some of the reasons for retaining an attorney familiar with the MSPB process to assist you in an appeal. In other words, the reasons why it is important for a federal employee to retain an MSPB attorney. Here are some reasons why it is important for a federal employee to retain an MSPB lawyer for their appeal.

Federal Agencies Treat MSPB Cases Differently When an Employee Has an Attorney

One of the reasons why it is important to have an MSPB experienced attorney representing a federal employee is that it will very likely make a difference in how the federal agency treats the MSPB appeal at issue. Federal agencies allocate their attorney resources first to cases where an individual has their own attorney. Those cases tend to get the most attention because there are attorneys on both sides of the appeal.

In other words, where an appellant has their own attorney, the federal agency involved will focus more on that individual’s appeal merely because they have an attorney. This focus can help to settle MSPB appeals.

The MSPB Process is Much Like a Regular Court Case

One of the most important reasons why it is important to have an MSPB attorney represent a federal employee in the appeals process is the fact that it is a very serious type of appeal, functioning much like a court case. There is a general misperception that the process is designed for an employee to effectively represent themselves. An MSPB appeal functions much like a civil court case where there is discovery, the taking of depositions and the filing of briefs.

It is critical that an appellant have counsel to assist them in these difficult and sometimes complex processes. It is often the case where federal employees discovery this fact late and we are contacted after discovery deadlines have passed which can make appeals much more difficult to prevail in and/or settle. It is important to have an MSPB attorney early in the process.

Having an Attorney Can Increase the Chances of Settlement

Federal employees who retain attorneys in the MSPB process, in our experience, are more likely to resolve their MSPB appeals. Part of the calculation by federal agencies, in determining whether or not to settle MSPB cases has to do with risk. Federal agency attorneys evaluate the risk of losing an appeal (a risk which increases when an employee has an attorney), but also other types of risks including the risk of adverse information being disclosed through discovery.

Individuals without counsel can run across difficulties such as how to format discovery requests or take depositions which can limit the amount of critical information uncovered in an appeal. This can decrease the chances of settling an MSPB appeal. MSPB lawyers are also able to understand and work out the legal terms of a settlement agreement with federal agency counsel to minimize risk and to attempt to ensure compliance with settlement agreements.

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Just Listed Properties: September 10

Three Stones Residential agents pride ourselves on our consultative service approach, local expertise and real estate market knowledge. With over 26 years of business experience in the DMV, we have consistently performed in the top 2% of local Realtors and are currently the #1 group at Keller Williams Metro Center. 

The following properties were recently listed in the Tysons, McLean, Vienna and Falls Church areas.

Our role is to offer sound advice and guidance to our clients in order for them to achieve their goals in either buying, selling, leasing or managing real estate. We are truly “Your Home… for Everything Real Estate.” To schedule a private showing of these or any other properties of interest please do not hesitate to contact us here or email us at [email protected].

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Join the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University for an upcoming virtual open house for prospective students! Learn more about our top-ranked degrees as our sessions will explore master’s, certificate and PhD programs.

Master’s and Certificate Virtual Open House
Tuesday, September 15
6:30-8 p.m. (EDT)

PhD Virtual Open House
Wednesday, September 23
7-8:30 p.m. (EDT)

Master’s and Certificate Virtual Open House
Thursday, October 22
6:30-8 p.m. (EDT)

Master’s and Certificate Virtual Open House
Thursday, November 12
6:30-8 p.m. (EDT)

George Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 2 best school in the U.S. for security studies programs relating to intelligence, counterterrorism, and emergency management. With dedicated career services advisors, 16,000+ passionate alumni around the globe, and a faculty of leaders and experts in their fields, you will benefit from a world-class education.

Graduate Certificate Programs (5 Courses Each)

Part-time and full-time options available

Master’s Degree Programs

Part-time and full-time options available

PHD Degree Programs

Part-time and full-time options available

To learn more about graduate programs at the Schar School, fill out the inquiry form to indicate your interest to the Admissions team or register for a virtual open house.

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Ask Val: Definition of a Bedroom

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Val Sotillo, Northern Virginia-based Realtor and Falls Church resident. Please submit your questions to her via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Is it legal to list a room as a bedroom if it doesn’t have a closet?

Answer:  That’s a common debate! Of all the misconceptions about bedroom requirements, closets may be the most common. There are no requirements in Northern Virginia that a bedroom must include a closet. You’ll be surprised at what else is missing from the requirements for a legal bedroom in Virginia.

Who Makes The Rules?

Fairfax County doesn’t have any local requirements for bedrooms and defaults to the current version of the Virginia Residential Code and Virginia Maintenance Code. In these codes, bedrooms are classified as “habitable rooms” and mostly found in Chapter 3: Building Planning of the Residential Code.

Here are some requirements for bedrooms that apply state-wide:

  • Dimensions: Must be a minimum of 70 sq. ft., with no horizontal dimension under 7 ft. For example, in a rectangular room, if one side measures 7 ft, the other side must be at least 10 ft.
  • Ceiling Height: Ceilings must be at least 7 ft tall. In rooms with sloping ceilings (i.e. upper level of Cape Cods), any area of the room underneath a ceiling less than 5 ft high cannot be counted towards the minimum dimensions.
  • Emergency Escape: A bedroom must have two ways to exit: one that leads to the rest of the home and one that leads directly to the outside. In most cases, the outside egress will be a window with minimum requirements that include not being more than 44 inches off the floor, minimum 24 in height, minimum 20 in width, minimum 5.7 sq. ft. total opening, and if in a basement, a minimum window well of 9 sq. ft. and ability for window to open fully. It is illegal to have locking bars or grates covering an egress window.
  • Heating and Ventilation: All rooms must have a window that can open to the outdoors and the open area must be at least 4% of the total floor area. Must be capable of maintaining a minimum room temperature of at least 68 degrees and have access to a heat source. Portable heaters do not count as an adequate heat source.
  • Windows: Referred to as “glazed area” and must equal at least 8% of the floor area, meaning you can’t have a huge bedroom with one window.
  • Ventilation: Outlets: Per the Virginia Maintenance Code, bedrooms must have at least two separate electrical outlets.

 What The Code Doesn’t Include

According to the Building Code office of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, the following common assumptions of bedrooms are not actually included in the code:

  • Doors: The code makes no mention of having an actual door or second point of egress (Fairfax County has a local requirement for two points of egress). Presumably, this allows for an English Basement with one point of egress, not connected to the rest of the home, to be considered a legal bedroom.
  • Lights
  • Closets

What else do you think should be added to the minimum requirements for a bedroom in Virginia?

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. I hope to hear from you soon!

Val Sotillo is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite #10C Arlington, VA 22203, 703-390-9460.

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According to the Consumer Federation of America’s annual Consumer Complaints Report, the Home Improvement/Construction industry had the second highest number of complaints of all consumer industries in 2017-2019.

The most common complaints cited: “Shoddy work, failure to start or complete the job, failure to have required licensing or registration.” Additionally, the industry also ranked first for the “worst” complaints according to the surveys, meaning “…the dollar amount involved, the impact on vulnerable consumers, or the sheer outrageousness of the situation.”

These are some of the reasons that local startup, Remodelmate, was founded in 2018 with a different goal in mind: To build a home renovation company that put consumer interests first.

According to CEO and founder, Chad Hall, “When you’re making an investment in something as personal as your bathroom, you should have complete confidence that your contractor is an expert, that he’s going to do what he’s supposed to do, when he says he’s going to do it, and at the quoted price. Unfortunately, that is not most people’s experience.”

To address homeowner concerns, Remodelmate starts by fully vetting the background, reputation and licensure of all their contractors. Further, they address several other concerns directly, including a no down payment policy (just a $100 booking fee), no charges until after each phase of work is completed and no markup on materials.

Perhaps the most interesting difference is a project manager assigned to every job whose role is to keep the project on time and on budget so the homeowner has complete peace of mind. The PM is assigned when a project is booked and oversees material orders, contractor booking, permit requirements, construction progress and any issues that arise along the way.

For more information, visit remodelmate.com or schedule a free phone consultation.

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

We see many types of security clearance cases involving alcohol usage. The pandemic has not helped matters as many people have engaged in more alcohol usage while at home.

One of the most common issues that has arisen over the past few years in the context of security clearance holders or applicants involves alcohol abuse or over-consumption.

Alcohol Consumption/Abuse by Cleared Employees or Applicants

Under the security clearance guidelines, alcohol over-consumption and abuse can be a major factor in determining whether a person obtains or keeps their security clearance.

Security concerns regarding this issue fall under Adjudicative Guideline G, Alcohol Consumption of Security Executive Agency Directive (SEAD) 4. These are the guidelines that apply across the Government for security clearance holders.

Alcohol security concerns can come into play when an individual has a major alcohol-related incident. The most common issue that begins a security clearance review is a recent alcohol-related traffic incident, such as being arrested for driving under the influence. A recent event gives security clearance officials pause and makes them ask the question of whether or not it is an isolated incident or something more serious.

Security Concerns Raised by Alcohol Abuse or Consumption

When security clearance issues arise involving alcohol abuse or over-consumption, it is very important to take them seriously.

The major security concern for federal agencies that evaluate security clearances is that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the use of questionable judgment or the failure to control impulses, both of which are not considered acceptable for purposes of access to classified information. As a result, the Government has listed alcohol-related concerns that could cause one to lose (or not get) a security clearance. Quoting from SEAD 4, these include:

“(a) alcohol-related incidents away from work, such as driving while under the influence, fighting, child or spouse abuse, disturbing the peace, or other incidents of concern, regardless of the frequency of the individual’s alcohol use or whether the individual has been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder

(b) alcohol-related incidents at work, such as reporting for work or duty in an intoxicated or impaired condition, drinking on the job, or jeopardizing the welfare and safety of others, regardless of whether the individual is diagnosed with alcohol use disorder

(c) habitual or binge consumption of alcohol to the point of impaired judgment, regardless of whether the individual is diagnosed with alcohol use disorder

(d) diagnosis by a duly qualified medical or mental health professional (e.g., physician, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed clinical social worker) of alcohol use disorder

(e) the failure to follow treatment advice once diagnosed

(f) alcohol consumption, which is not in accordance with treatment recommendations, after a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder

(g) failure to follow any court order regarding alcohol education, evaluation, treatment, or abstinence.”

How to Mitigate Alcohol-Related Security Concerns

The Government has established a number of ways in which a security clearance holder or applicant can mitigate alcohol-related security concerns. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. A significant amount of time has passed since the alcohol-related incident.
  2. The alcohol usage or related incident was unusual and/or is unlikely to happen again.
  3. The individual acknowledges their alcohol issue and provides evidence to show that they have overcome it or are seriously working on the alcohol issues through treatment.
  4. The individual has completed a treatment program and established a pattern of modified consumption or abstinence.

Alcohol consumption security clearance issues can involve many different variables so seeking experienced counsel is critical; every case is different. The key for successfully handling alcohol-related security clearance issues is to focus on them as early as possible.

Contact Us

If you are in need of security clearance law representation or advice, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook or Twitter.

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