Tysons, VA

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: Do you foresee the real estate market going back to normal in the summer?

Answer: We made it to June! Can you believe it?! Spring has been full of uncertainty and we’ve all been adjusting to a whole “new normal”. Honestly, it’s impossible to predict the future but I’m very optimistic that we’re going in a positive direction now that coronavirus-related restrictions are easing and the economy is reopening.

Here’s why:

  • While the number of transactions in the Tysons area is lower compared with last spring, they did not drop as much as many industry experts predicted. May has been more favorable, with increasing numbers of properties under contract and new listings, according to MLS data.
  • Normally we see sales really ramp up in March and April, but amid the pandemic and widespread job losses, many buyers wanted to wait not only until they felt more secure in their jobs but also until they could physically step into the homes they were considering. As COVID-19 cases (hopefully) drop significantly and states are loosening restrictions, buyers are becoming more comfortable with the home buying process as they’ve gotten used to taking precautions such as wearing masks and keeping social distance.
  • During these past months at home, homeowners had lots of time to figure what type of space is more valuable to them. Many people have found that they need a home with more space, while others have decided to downsize. What I’m seeing more often on my buyer clients must-have list, is a true home office and not just a desk area in the kitchen. The demand to work from home will remain strong motivating buyers to look for a separate space for that home office.
  • Although home sales have declined due to social distancing and economic unpredictability, home prices are still strong in the Northern Virginia market. In the past couple of months, most of the buyers I represented were competing for properties with multiple offers and they either offered full asking price or above.
  • Active sellers are key to a healthy market. We are seeing sellers getting their properties on the market as they are more confident with pricing than the last couple of months and they’re more comfortable as buyers and agents are taking health precautions when showing a property for sale.
  • Another driver for a stronger third quarter is Millennials with families want to settle in new homes before the school year begins. Don’t expect an increase in sales to last into the fourth quarter though.
  • The low mortgage rates, without a doubt, is helping to entice buyers back into the market.

While all these are signs of a market kicking into more of a recovery mode, there are still some challenges we’re still to overcome:

  • Sellers haven’t come back as quickly to the market as buyers.
  • Even if buyers can find a home, they may not be able to secure a loan. Mortgage rates are historic lows. But today’s reality is lenders are increasingly getting tougher on qualifying criteria.

Tysons Market Update

Here are some numbers for April and May’s real estate transactions within 5 miles from Tysons:

April

  • 235 Properties sold
  • 192 Properties went under contract
  • 26 Average days on the market

May

  • 219 Properties sold
  • 272 Properties went under contract (considering they close within 30 days, we should expect higher numbers in June)
  • 21 Average days on the market

Fairfax County in May

In the chart below you can see our current inventory is about half of what it was in June 2019. However, the number of properties under contract is pretty close which means buyers are very active in this market.

Final Thoughts

We’ve seen a quick bounce back due to record-low mortgage rates and virtual home shopping options and I’m positive that our market will remain strong throughout this year. I will keep you posted!

If you’d like more information, or would like a question answered in my column, please reach out 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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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Reach the office at 703-790-9090.

Since quarantine hit, Facebook stalking has been my new (okay, fine, continued) source of entertainment research.

Anything “new” to make the day more exciting and something to look forward to. Recently I stumbled upon a feature where you can request these 2 dessert trucks to come to your neighborhood and deliver treats to you and your neighbors.

Scoops2U: Ice Cream

Follow their Facebook page for details on where the truck will be. You can visit their website for updates as well and see the flavors. There you can request a visit to your part of town.

Kona Ice: Shaved Ice

Follow this Facebook page (there are many as there are trucks all over NoVA). You can see where they’ll be and at what time. We placed an order online, paid online, and then my kids got to pick their flavor when the truck rolled up in front of my house. A great way to chat on our lawn with our neighbors.

It was a small treat that was affordable as well as exciting!

If you want other options, don’t forget that these places are all doing contact-less pick up:

Ben & Jerry’s Vienna

Kiln & Co Custard

Rita’s Window

Lazy Mike’s

Bruster’s in Dunn Loring

Lil City Creamery

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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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For professionals on the rise, an MBA is a key credential. But while an MBA may help launch the next stage of a career, few are willing to put everything on hold to obtain one. Staying on top of course work while holding down a job and meeting personal obligations is challenging at best.

“Students nowadays aren’t willing to go to school to earn an MBA on a full-time basis and forego the economic benefits of a full-time job,” says Dr. Parviz Ghandforoush, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business.

That’s one of the reasons why business schools like Pamplin have developed an alternative: hybrid MBA program options that combine the flexibility of online courses with the in-person interaction of a traditional MBA.

Online collaboration and discussion modules give students flexibility to access coursework whenever and wherever they are located. In-person class lectures offer hands-on learning, face-to-face discussions and substantive interaction with instructors and classmates.

According to Dana Hansson, Director of MBA Programs at Virginia Tech, the hybrid nature of the programs deliver flexibility and “a personal touch” that encourages students from various industries, work settings and management layers to pool their experiential knowledge.

Both hybrid pathways to an MBA — the Ballston-based Executive MBA and multi-city Professional MBA — offer advantages that promise to resonate long after a program’s completion.

An in-person element and cohort format create lasting relationships that can deliver significantly more value and meaning than any LinkedIn connection. Membership in an elite institution also promotes close professional relationships among peers throughout Virginia and the greater Washington, D.C., metro area.

With more than 100,000 alumni in the mid-Atlantic region alone, an MBA from Virginia Tech provides students with access to industry professionals and mentors, many of whom can connect graduates with opportunities for career advancement.

A part-time format means applicants can maintain a steady income while also furthering their career aspirations. As a public university, Virginia Tech also offers a high-value tuition rate.

The part-time Professional MBA and Executive MBA programs can each be completed in the same amount of time as a traditional full-time program, and less than a traditional part-time program.

Learn more at mba.vt.edu.

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This is a sponsored column by 3Summit Investment Management, LLC based in Vienna, VA. 3Summit designs custom, modern investment portfolios and has unique expertise in managing investment risk.

By Dan Irvine | Principal, 3Summit Investment Management

Most likely you have heard of ETF’s, also known as Exchange Traded Funds.

I am frequently asked what ETF’s are and how they differ from better-known mutual funds. In short, ETF’s are vastly different securities than mutual funds, and have many advantages over mutual funds.

ETF’s, like mutual funds are pooled investment vehicles, meaning investors can buy shares of a fund with each share representing an undivided interest in the underlying portfolio of assets that the fund holds.

Also, like mutual funds, the majority of ETF’s are regulated under the Investment Company Act of 1940, which provides important protections to investors including oversight by an independent board of directors, a requirement that fund assets be held separately from advisor assets and comprehensive oversight by government regulatory bodies namely the SEC.

This is where the similarities between ETF’s and mutual funds end. ETF’s have many advantages over mutual funds including greater tax efficiency, superior trading liquidity, better transparency and finally ETF’s almost always charge lower fees than mutual funds. While there are exceptions, a major distinction between a mutual fund and an ETF is the approach that the respective fund structures use in investing the fund’s assets.

Mutual funds take an active investment approach by seeking to earn greater returns than a specified index by picking individual securities that analysts and portfolio managers believe will outperform the index. ETF’s take a passive investment approach by investing in the underlying securities of a specific index with the goal of achieving similar returns to the index.

Let’s quickly examine the most important advantages ETF’s provide investors compared to mutual funds.

Greater Tax Efficiency

ETF’s are almost always preferable to mutual funds for taxable investment accounts because they generate less tax liabilities in the form of capital gains distributions compared to a similarly structured mutual fund. ETF’s generate fewer taxable events because of how they are structured to handle shareholder redemptions.

Paying capital gains tax on an unprofitable position is not simply unappealing it is a very inefficient way to grow wealth, yet a common scenario with mutual funds.

Better Liquidity

The primary reason ETF’s are more liquid than mutual funds is that they trade on an exchange intra-day. This means ETF shareholders may buy or sell their shares at the net asset value of the fund anytime throughout the trading day. Mutual fund shares can only be traded after markets close and the trades are executed directly with the fund provider instead of over an exchange.

Greater Transparency

ETF’s are generally more transparent than mutual funds because in most cases ETF’s provide transparency into underlying holdings daily versus a mutual fund that generally reports holdings quarterly. The daily transparency ETF’s provide makes it easier to evaluate and monitor the management of individual ETF’s. Additionally, ETF’s generally provide full transparency into the security selection and trading process and the security selection is systematic, meaning manager discretion does not really play a role in how an ETF is managed.

Lower Fees

The most important fee difference between ETF’s and mutual funds is that ETF’s do not carry sales loads. Most actively managed mutual funds charge a sales load when shares are purchased, charging anything from 1% to more than 5% for simply having the pleasure of buying the mutual fund. Furthermore, mutual funds carry a management fee that is charged as a percentage of assets invested per year, according to Morningstar as of 2018 mutual fund management fees averaged .67% for actively managed mutual funds compared to .15% for ETF’s.

Learn More

Replacing any mutual funds you hold with ETF’s is one of the easiest ways to improve your investment portfolio and dramatically reduce investment expenses.

To learn more about why ETF’s are one of the most important financial innovations in decades and how 3Summit uses them in the management of investment portfolios, read our article here or listen to our podcast episode on the subject.

If you would like professional assistance in evaluating your investment portfolio and strategy, we happily provide free consultations and analysis. Also, consider gaining more unique investing insights by listening to our popular podcast or viewing our investing video series.

3Summit Investment Management is a fiduciary, fee only investment advisor providing clients with an alternative to outdated, conventional investment portfolios. We design custom, modern portfolios capable of delivering greater wealth accumulation with much lower levels of risk. To learn more about how we can help you improve your long-term investing results call (571) 565-2161, email ([email protected]) or visit 3Summit.com.

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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: Can you explain mortgage forbearance? Is it a good idea to get it and will it negatively affect my credit in the future?

Answer:  Many homeowners who are dealing with a financial hardship during this pandemic are considering mortgage forbearance or asking for clarification about the process. We don’t have all of the answers yet, but enough information is available to help people make more educated decisions about forbearance.

I asked one of the top mortgage lenders in the D.C. area, Jake Ryon of First Home Mortgage, to join as a guest columnist and provide a rundown of how mortgage forbearance works, and what are some of the unintended consequences.

Take it away Jake!

What is Mortgage Forbearance?

Congress passed the CARES Act, allowing those facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 to request a mortgage forbearance (pause in mortgage payments) for 180 days, with the option to extend for an additional 180 days.

The bill does not require you to provide proof that you’re suffering a hardship, but the CFPB makes it clear that if you can pay your mortgage, you should. However, not everyone is following that guidance and some borrowers who are able to pay are choosing not to and may suffer unintended consequences.

Mortgage forbearance is a temporary pause in payment; it is NOT forgiveness. All missed payments by the borrower must be paid back.

Repayment

Unfortunately, the repayment terms for a forbearance are vague. Statements from Fannie and Freddie indicate that you do not have to repay the missed payments all at once, but that it is for the borrower to work out with the servicer. If the payments are not paid back in a lump sum or over a designated period, but instead added to the end of the loan, the borrower is agreeing to a loan modification.

During a forbearance the servicer (the company you pay) is still advancing the monthly mortgage payments to the end investor. This has led to major issues for lenders, and as a response, tightened credit standards and made it more difficult to obtain a mortgage.

Unintended Consequences

While taking a forbearance is not supposed to negatively affect your credit, there are some unintended consequences I’d like to explain.

*Please note this is based on the most up to date information I could find and is subject to change as this is a fluid situation. Please reach out to your loan servicer directly for your options.*

Refinancing: This may vary by lender, but as I understand it, to be eligible to refinance, borrowers must be out of forbearance and current on their mortgage. This is a big concern if rates continue to fall throughout the year.

Repayment Terms: As mentioned earlier, there are options to repay the missed payments via a lump sum, over a repayment period, or modifying the term of the loan. Keep in mind the servicer must agree to the repayment plan.

I’m hearing that modifications are only being offered if there is documentation to show you’ve been adversely affected by COVID-19. This is going to be problematic for borrowers who didn’t lose their job and assumed their skipped payments would be tacked onto the end of their mortgage or forgiven.

Buying Your Next Home: Since this is so new, we haven’t seen any credit reports reflecting modifications as a result of COVID-19. It’s unclear how lenders and investors will treat these modifications when evaluating new loans.

For example, most investors want to see borrowers pay their mortgage on time for a minimum of 12 months after their modification begins. If someone takes the full 12 months of forbearance, they could be looking at a minimum waiting period of 2 years before obtaining a new loan.

Residual Effects to Your Credit: While the CARES Act says mortgage lenders won’t report you as delinquent during a forbearance, they can’t control how other lenders will view it. For example, if you’re a credit card company and you see a borrower is in forbearance, are you inclined to increase their credit limit or issue a new card? If your credit card debt is increasing and your available line of credit is staying the same or decreasing, it will most likely lower your score.

Weekly Tysons Market Snapshot

Thank you very much for all this helpful information Jake!

If you’d like to talk with Jake about a loan, refinance, or any other mortgage related question you can contact him at [email protected].

Here’s a quick look at how the market performed over the past week within 5 miles from Tysons. I will provide a Market Report for the month of May in my next column. Through these tough times, our market has remained busy and hopefully things will only get better moving forward.

Past Seven Days in Tysons

If you’d like more information, or would like a question answered in my column, please reach out 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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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Reach the office at 703-790-9090.

This past week was one of the hardest for me during this pandemic.

It seems no matter how many times we took my kids outside to play, or activities we tried, the walls just seemed to cave in on me. I decided it was time to venture out of our home for a safe adventure. While not everyone will feel safe leaving their homes, for my family, my kids wore masks and we stayed far apart from everyone else we saw on our recent adventure to pick strawberries.

It was a really small piece of normalcy for my kids (who yelled “this is the best day ever!” when we told them the deal — masks for berry picking), and a nice change of scenery for the adults. There’s a great website that lists all of the farms in the area that allow for a “pick your own” experience, but I wanted to highlight a few favorites that are an easy drive from Northern Virginia.

Messick’s Farm in Bealton, Virginia. Check their Facebook page for updates on the availability of u-pick. There are so many rows of strawberries, we were far away from other people. While Messick’s has their own custard and availability of treats, we drove about 3 miles down the road to the famous Moo Thru — an ice cream drive through which was so good (coffee ice cream was delicious).

Wegmeyer Farms has 3 locations in Hamilton, Aldie and Leesburg, Virginia. They have strawberry picking by appointment, which opens up the night before and fills up fast. Make sure you follow them on Facebook as well for the most up to date information. Don’t miss their donuts!

Leesburg Animal Park has reopened as a drive thru experience where you get to stay in your car to maintain social distancing — Friday through Sunday. Tickets must be purchased online ahead of time.

Roer’s Zoofari in Reston also has opened as a safari drive thru and they are open daily.

Remember things might have a line, but really, where else do you need to be right now?

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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Reach the office at 703-790-9090.

Many know the brewery and restaurant located on the W&OD trail, Caboose Brewing, which is a Vienna favorite for beer.

Like most businesses during COVID-19, they’ve also had to pivot their business model during this time. There are many restaurants doing grocery packs right now, but the ability to also buy a meal for your neighbors is a reason to celebrate this local company.

Grocery and Beer Pickup or Delivery:

  • They have many staples including steak, beef, poultry, seafood, fruits, veggies, dairy, meal kits and toilet paper (!), along with cocktails and beer. You can customize the delivery you want.

Donations:

  • You can pay $35 for a food pack they’ll deliver to community members in need of food, through InovaCares Clinics for Women and Children, FCPS and Food for Others.
  • You can pay $8 for a meal for INOVA staff.

If you want food take out or coffee, the Caboose Commons in Mosaic is also offering curbside pick up.

To follow more ways to give back to the community through food donations, or learn about new restaurants and the ways they’re conducting business right now, make sure you join the Vienna Foodies group on Facebook.

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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.

Many Virginians have recently found themselves laid off or otherwise out of work due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, unemployment compensation benefits are needed like never before. This is a short article on the unemployment claims process in Virginia and benefits in light of new legislation.

Benefits for affected employees can be sought through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). Employees who have been laid off, terminated or otherwise had their hours reduced can qualify. Here is a link to the VEC directions for initiating a claim.

Changes to Unemployment Claims Related to COVID-19

On March 12, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) also provided additional guidance to state unemployment agencies interpreting unemployment benefits related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The DOL offered states guidance in being flexible in awarding unemployment compensation to those affected.

As of March 15, the Commonwealth of Virginia waived the one-week waiting period for the unemployed to receive unemployment benefits. The effect of this change is that out of work Virginians can receive unemployment compensation benefits sooner.

Another change is that a claimant in Virginia has usually had to show that they were actively seeking new work, but Virginia changed this requirement in light of COVID-19 for obvious reasons.

Lastly, Virginia is in the process of making unemployment compensation benefits available to the self-employed (1099 and Gig Economy workers) pursuant to an order from Governor Northam.

To file for unemployment compensation in Virginia, please apply at www.vec.virginia.gov. It is also recommended to file as soon as possible so that benefits can start as soon as possible.

Contact Us

If you are in need of employment 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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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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