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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!

I woke up to an email this morning from the WSJ beating the drum that a recession is coming. Do you know what a recession is good for? Lowering interest rates.

Historically, a recession has resulted in falling interest rates to help spur economic growth. I have a Masters in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins, so I love following the market trends over time to help me form an opinion on what is coming.

As a 15 year real estate veteran, I started during the 2008 recession and I have seen the market come full circle after the insanity of the last 2.5 years. I posted a prediction on the 2022 market and all of it came true, albeit I didn’t see the rates hitting 7% that fast, but I knew rates would go up.

So here are my predictions for 2023:

Interest Rates Will Decline

We’ve already seen rates hit 7% and come back down in the past few months. I think the rates will continue to decline, hopefully hitting 5% by the middle of Q3 of 2023. But remember this — as rates get lower, homes become more affordable for more people and that will spur more action in the market

Activity Will be Strong, Especially Towards the End of the Year

Activity began to pick up towards the end of 2022 as interest rates got better, and I think activity will continue to be good during the first half of the year. That said, I think the second half of the year will be even stronger than the first, mostly dictated by what rates are doing

Inventory will continue to be a problem. While the fear of covid is likely no longer keeping sellers from entering the market, I think you have some remorse from sellers who “missed” the craze of the pandemic, and a lot of people won’t want to give up their 3% mortgage rate, even if they hate their house.

Prices Will be Stable

Prices will continue to be stable, but pricing your home is #1 and #2 and #3 of how you will sell your home. Buyers are smart, they’re educated, and they’re tired. If a home is overpriced, it will NOT sell. If it’s overpriced and has any other strike against it, it will not sell. You *must* be strategic on your pricing. 

If a house is “pretty,” which means updated and staged AND priced correctly, I still think we’ll see multiple offers potentially. Inventory is still low, so if it’s a desirable home, it’ll still sell.

Rent Will Rise

There have been so many news articles about rising rents. I think we’ll continue to see that in 2023 until big buildings start to see a slow down. If rates come down, and buyers can buy, why would they spend an extra $500 per month on rent? 

If you are a first time buyer AND you make less than $129,600 (for 2 people or less), you can qualify for down payment assistance programs from the state to buy your first home (must be a principal residence). If you are renting and think you may qualify, read here for more information. There are all sorts of credits available if you do some research!

If you’re thinking of moving this year, it’s never too early to have a conversation to put a plan in place. 

Photo via Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash

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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].

It’s only Tuesday and my own kids are already bored this week and so am I.

Here are some ideas to help keep kids busy for the rest of winter break. They all involve getting out of the house and spending money. There are always museums, walks and playdates if you’re looking for something free! 

You’ll want to get tickets ahead of time for both of these!

  • Indoor play places: Scramble, Jolly Yolly, Launch, Flight, Hyper Kidz, and Sky Zone
  • For older kids: Top Golf (half price today, Dec. 27), Dave and Buster’s (half priced on Wednesdays), Zava Zone, Summit Ropes, SkateQuest, Fairfax Ice (or plenty of outdoor ice rinks too), movie theaters (Icon at the Boro is half price today, Dec. 27), Bowlero (the Falls Church location is less glitz and glam but you can also show up and try to get a lane without a reservation for the old school bowling feel)

If you’re looking for a long adventure, what about the Baltimore Aquarium or a drive through Shenandoah?

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

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 have spent hours driving around our town hunting for the best holiday lights to share with you.

There are so many really pretty homes. But while I enjoyed seeing those homes, what I’m looking for are the homes that make you pull a u-turn because you just had to see it again. The ones where you know their breakers keep popping. The ones where you know Clark Griswold would be proud.

So for those of you not on this list, please don’t be mad! It just means next year you’ll have to make your home a little extra to take it up a notch. 

This Google Map has some notes on the destinations points so if you’re hoping for blow ups or lights, or music light shows you should be able to narrow down your driving list.

Tips:

  • Stay off lawns! There are countless cords and wires running through these lawns to keep these decorations up. Stay off them!
  • Remember these are all residential streets. Don’t block driveways.
  • Many of these displays were up by 5 p.m. if you want to hit the earlier side.
  • If it’s rainy or windy many displays will be down.

Newcomers and Noteworthy:

  • 602 Birch Street SW — Great for Elsa or Minions fans
  • 613 Yeonas Street SW — Cute lighted archway over the sidewalk, great photo opportunity for toddlers or those young at heart
  • 524 Walker Street SW — Great for Grinch fans
  • 317 Patrick Street SW — Just won the Town of Vienna voting contest, impressive light display
  • Hillington Court — Best use of your time, 2 for one on a cul-de-sac! Both homes are over the top beautiful 
  • Ni Family Lights — Make sure you follow them on Facebook for announcements. They have 2 different playlists running right now and will change it again for Christmas.

Please let me know if I missed anything! Seems like the Tyson’s area needs someone to step up and be Clark!

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

Whether you are ready to move-in now or would prefer to personalize a new home from the ground up, Brookfield Residential is here to help make owning a brand new home that fits the needs of your family a reality.

At Snowden Bridge located near Winchester, you can find beautiful single-family and townhome designs and take advantage of Brookfield Residential’s Mix and Match Savings opportunity, which provides flexible financing options that make owning a new home even more affordable.

A New Home on Your Terms

You will save big on spacious single-family homes and low-maintenance townhomes at Snowden Bridge with thousands in free* options and upgrades. Brookfield Residential’s Mix and Match Savings also lets you select an additional financing incentive that fits your unique financial needs.

The first option provides buydown financing with below-market mortgage rates. Rates start from 4.99%* in year one of your mortgage, 5.99%* in year two and 6.99%* with the ability refinance for free* in year three.

The second option lets you keep more cash on hand with paid closing cost assistance.* This reduces out-of-pocket costs at the purchase of the home, plus this option allows for free refinancing* at any time within the first three years of the loan.

No matter what you choose, you’ll save thousands when you purchase at Snowden Bridge!
*Terms and conditions apply and are subject to change without notice.

Why Buy at Snowden Bridge?

The Shenandoah Valley is one of the most beautiful areas to live in Virginia. With stunning geography framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, the Potomac River and the James River, you’ll enjoy a stunning backdrop year round. Plus with outstanding dining, drinking and shopping options, the Shenandoah truly has something for everyone.

Life at Snowden Bridge is built on beauty, style, and endless days filled with fun. Frederick County’s premier master-planned community features traditional and main-level living single-family homes from the $400’s and 3-level garage townhomes from the $300’s. Quick move-in opportunities are available. Snowden Bridge also offers exceptional amenities, including:

  • A neighborhood elementary school and daycare center
  • A swimming pool, dog park and picnic pavilion
  • Playgrounds and scenic walking trails
  • Easy access to major commuter routes
  • An ideal location with downtown Winchester and the retail center Rutherford Crossing in close proximity

To learn more about Snowden Bridge and the incredible Brookfield Residential Mix and Match Savings opportunity, visit BrookfieldOffers.com.

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

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].

We hear all the time about shopping local, shopping small, but do you know the real impact you have when you put your spending power behind a local store?

You’re helping someone live out their dream, sponsor a local team, feed their family, and create jobs. Sure, sometimes it might be $5 more than Amazon, but that money goes a long way to supporting your neighbors. I want to share some gift ideas if you’re looking for someone hard to shop for:

  • Bards Alley: Books, journals, stuffed animals, candles, other small home goods
  • Fern and Folly: Custom gift boxes (curated however you want — perfect for someone new to the area or leaving the area as a keepsake of their time here) or custom flower arrangements, or a flower arrangement class
  • Caffe Amouri: Coffee machines and accessories, coffee or tea
  • Cocoa Vienna: Chocolate or custom chocolate selection, also sugar free chocolate is available
  • Holly + Clove: Custom anything! PJ’s, shirts, cups, sunglasses, koozies, onesies, ornaments, and more. If you need it by Christmas, you want to check in with her on availability though.
  • The Sweet Life: Custom sugar cookie decorating kits or other custom orders
  • The Freeman Store: Used books, but also a lot of Vienna centric items
  • Child’s Play: Toy store, books, legos, stuffed animals, some small outdoor toys — NEW McLean location
  • Mesmeralda’s Gifts: Great for mother in laws or a coworker (they don’t have a website, but you’ll just have to go in and poke around)
  • Trace: So many options to encourage earth friendly or self-care items
  • Terra Christa: If you’re like me, you’ve driven by this store on Church Street countless times but have never gone in. If so, here’s what they have: jewelry, stones, religious items, essential oils, and sage for the near year.
  • Trousseau: Just going to leave this one here. Better than a new vacuum. 
  • McLean Hardware: Tools, yard decor, grills, yard signs

Okay… next week is the big week. My annual map and list of the best light displays around Vienna. PLEASE send me your neighbors or your own home!

Photo via Kira auf der Heide/Unsplash

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

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].

Since you’re getting your ladder out anyway for holiday decorations, let’s take a look at the reminder list for general home maintenance for the winter months.

Some easy tasks to help save you from major damage and expenses!

  • Clean your gutters!
  • Check downspouts to make sure none are clogged and all are extended away from your foundation. Flexible extensions are 20% off today for Cyber Monday!
  • Winterize your hose bibs: Turn them OFF from the inside of your home — meaning turn the water off (if you have a flat handle, it should be a 90* angle to the off position, or a quick youtube video search can help you with this). Turn them ON from the outside — it’ll drain the line of any existing water. You can also buy hose bib covers.
  • Clean your fireplace (or get the whole thing inspected) if you’re planning on burning wood this winter. Depending on how frequently you use it will determine how often it needs to be cleaned.
  • Check all of your batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (if you have gas in your home).
  • Now might be a good time to check out any trees hanging over your property. Remember limbs get heavy when they’re covered with snow and ice and can break and fall and damage your home. They can also be used by animals to crawl into your attic or chimney if you don’t have a chimney cap.
  • Get your HVAC serviced. You should be doing this twice a year for regular maintenance. If you use a whole house humidifier, make sure you’re changing the filters to avoid mold growth.

As always, if you need a recommendation for a vendor, download my free vendor guide anytime.

Photo via Callum Hill/Unsplash

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

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 am wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Whether you’re spending it with friends, family or otherwise, I hope the day is full of reflection, gratitude and kids who eat more than a bread roll. As I usually do, I’d like to remind you of some local organizations with opportunities to volunteer your time and/or resources this holiday season.

Please check out some of the organizations and their needs at this time of year:

SHARE of McLean 

Share has a Holiday Celebration which is their biggest event of the year. They need volunteers, as well as donations. You can also sign up to host a food drive to help stock their pantry which they use to give food and gift cards to families in need. They have in person volunteer hours which may include moving furniture, sorting clothing, or restocking the shelves. If you want a more hands-on interaction, you can also greet and register the clients.

Women Giving Back (Sterling, Virginia)

WGB is an organization that supports women and children with the basics to get back on their feet. They are collecting new, unwrapped toys for their children to be donated by December 13. You can drop them off locally at First Excel Title just outside of Oakton at 3201 Jermantown Road Suite 350, Fairfax, VA 22030. The store throughout the rest of the year needs clothing, accessories, shoes and kids clothes. Learn more.

Capital Area Food Bank

Volunteers as young as 12 (with an adult) can volunteer at their D.C. location to pack and sort donations or help deliver groceries. Sign up for a shift here.

Food for Others

You can host a food drive, pack Power Packs, transport food, or volunteer at the warehouse for kids ages 12 and over. Sign up here.

You can also search more volunteer opportunities throughout Fairfax at Volunteer Fairfax.

Photo via Aaron Doucett/Unsplash)

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

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].

There are lots of traditions around Vienna that you should know about if you’re new to town or maybe just looking to branch out after the last few years. Many of these events are really cute with little kids and I remember them fondly when my boys were smaller. They age out quickly of the little kid stuff, so buy tickets early! 

Photo via Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

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’ve been getting so much positive feedback lately from people who read this column and I just want to extend a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who reads this!

It’s nice to know I’m not talking to myself, but also, please please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or ideas for content. I’m always open to suggestions!

If you’ve been around a while, maybe you’re looking for something new to do that’s not the usual jumping place, bowling alley, or movie theater. I went on the hunt for something new to me, that might be new to you too. Here’s what I found:

  • George Mason University Center for the Arts: Discounted tickets to family friendly performances and a family series of shows. If you’ve got sports crazed kids like I do, the acrobats in high heels with football pads seems right up my alley! They also have a “Harold and the Purple Crayon” performance!
  • Go to a Mason Athletics event for cheap! Both mens and women’s basketball starts this week. FYI for all the Cub/Girl Scout leaders, they have a “Scout Day” with discounted tickets.
  • All Fairfax County libraries have “take and make” activity kits. They’re all different too.
  • Join the Winter Reading Challenge and get a guest pass for several rec centers including Oak Marr and Spring Hill, or a free bucket of golf balls at Oak Marr (and several others).
  • Check out the Partakes Calendar for events and classes to sign up for. They have so many options to explore your hobbies!
  • Explore a show at the Kennedy Center. They do a family series if you want to make it a family affair. I hear Bluey is making his way to the stage around Thanksgiving this year.

Again, if you have other events to share, please leave a note in the comments or email me [email protected] and I’ll be happy to add it!

Photo via Dragos Gontariu/Unsplash

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

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 Halloween!

My kids were up before the sun in anticipation of their inevitable sugar rush tonight so cheers to that. I was reminded last night just how small town Vienna really feels when we took my kids to do the Halloween things our community creates. I want to make sure everyone who wants to see or know about these things, gets the opportunity.

So here are my final tips for Halloween:

  • The kind souls who own 305 Patrick Street SW, Vienna have created a Haunted House in their driveway. Basically they built a hallway you walk through. If you want to be scared, you’ll get it. If you don’t, just tell the kind woman and she’ll leave the lights on so you don’t get scared. Super kid friendly. Open from 6-9 p.m.
  • The Ni Family Lights (the famous house for the holiday music light show) also create one for Halloween but don’t advertise it. That runs until 9:30 p.m. tonight. Tune your radio to 90.3 to hear the music.

Now, not to be a downer, but I just recently threw away the remains of my kids candy stash from last year. Thank goodness we didn’t get ants! If you’re looking to get some of the candy out of your house this week, consider one of these options:

  • Dr Ghaffari (Ghaffari Orthodontics on Church Street) has a candy buy back program. They’ll pay you $1 for each pound of candy and mail it to the troops.
  • Drop off your treats for the troops to a donation center: Valo Park, 7950 Jones Branch Drive from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. until Wednesday, November 2.
  • Operation Shoebox: mail your candy donations to this organization and they’ll create care packages for troops overseas. (8360 East Highway 25, Belleview, FL 34420)
Neighborhood Expert: All the Halloween Things

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