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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: Are there certain considerations to be aware of when re-listing your home in the spring/summer market if you listed and then pulled it during the fall/winter market? Are there things that you would need to fix up in a slow winter market that you could let slide in a hotter market?

Answer: You’ve been on the market for months, had a few interested buyers, but nothing has stuck. Your house is still for sale during the coldest and darkest days of the year so you’re asking if you should pull your listing and wait for the market to heat back up in the spring.

There are three scenarios that I’ll consider advising sellers to take their home off the market during the winter:

  • You are living in the home, are under no pressure to sell, have been on the market for more than 60 days without an acceptable offer and have exhausted conversations with any buyers who have shown interest.
  • You have received feedback from agents and potential buyers that the home needs work and you will take time over the winter to make the necessary improvements, providing that the cost of those improvements will net you better terms than an immediate price reduction and avoiding additional carry cost.
  • A key selling point of your home is landscaping and/or a view that is difficult to recognize during the winter.

Pros & Cons Of Re-Listing

Pro: More Buyers. The number of homes that go under contract drops substantially from November-January and picks up quickly in February. On average, the number of new purchase contracts more than doubles by March compared to December and January.

Pro: Faster Sales. The increase is buyer activity (demand) results in homes selling a lot faster in the spring/summer.

Con: Not Necessarily Higher Prices. The increased buyer activity impacts days on market a lot more than it does pricing. The amount somebody is willing to pay or qualified to pay for a home often does not change based on the season, rather larger economic factors.

Con: If you decide to re-list in the spring, you are probably planning to do so at a higher price. Be careful with this decision because agents and buyers have easy access to previous asking prices and if you have not made any substantial capital investments to your home to justify the increase, most buyers will base their negotiations on your previous asking price, not the new one.

Pro: If you’re off-market for 60 days or more, your days on market count officially resets to zero when you re-list. This is a system rule for BRIGHT (the database of record for agents), although most buyers use sites that show the full listing history and can easily see that something was withdrawn and re-listed.

The Spring Isn’t Easier

Don’t ease up on the marketing of your home in the spring just because there are more active buyers than the winter. You will be competing against 2-3 times more homes for sale so you could make a case that you need to do even more to stand out in the spring, not less.

However, if you’re on a budget, you may want to allocate your repair, improvement and staging funds differently based on the season such as the warmth of the family room in the winter vs outdoor dining in the spring.

If You Decide To Keep It On The Market

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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: What are the differences between buying a new house versus an existing home? Should you still have a realtor if you’ve already picked out the new construction? Do you need to be pre-approved for a loan if you are using the home builder’s partnered lender? Are there still closing costs?

Answer: The decision to buy a newly built or resale home is ultimately best made by each home buyer. There are a number of key differences you should be aware of when buying new construction that may help you decide what’s best. Here’s what to expect:

Builder Contracts

Most builders use their own contracts, not the normal Northern VA Association of Realtors (NVAR) contracts. As such, the language tends to favor the developer and it’s very important to read their contract a few times, understand what you’re agreeing to and don’t be afraid to ask questions or contest specific language you’re not comfortable with.

Higher Earnest Money Deposit (EMD)

2-3% EMD is appropriate, but most developers usually require additional security of 5-10% EMD which makes sense when they’re doing a custom build because they want you to be more invested in the finishes you’re choosing.

Negotiations

In a normal re-sale negotiation, each counter is delivered in writing with the signature(s) of the seller. Most developers will only make verbal/email counters, but the buyer is expected to put their (counter) offers in writing with signature(s). Once all terms are agreed to, the developer will finally sign.

Custom Design

Being able to select your own finishes and design a custom home is one of the most appealing reasons to buy new construction (note: not all projects allow for customization), but it’s a blessing and curse.

For some, going to a showroom to select appliances, flooring, cabinets and countertops is thrilling. However, builders are on a tight schedule and require selections to be made on time, so indecisive buyers can get overwhelmed by these choices and end up disliking the process. This is particularly true if there isn’t a model unit or it’s not modeled after your tastes.

Determining Value

In many cases, developers deliver a community that’s the first of its kind in the neighborhood. Without true comps, it’s much more difficult to gauge value and the chances of the developer significantly over or under pricing a project increases.

Given that uncertainty, some of the best deals can be had in new construction, especially at the beginning of the sales period. When there are fewer comps, you should negotiate more aggressively.

Brand New

Of course, buying new construction means you’re buying brand-new everything, with fully intact warranties. In addition to the manufacturer warranties on the systems (water heater, stove, etc.), most developers also guarantee their work for years to come. You also have the benefit of the latest codes to maximize your home’s energy efficiency.

Do You Need A Realtor? Read More

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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: I am saving to buy a house in 2019. How can I be best prepared to qualify for a mortgage loan?

Answer: If home buying is on your to-do list in 2019, you need to be pre-approved for a loan before you can start viewing houses.  A home is likely the biggest investment you’ll make in your lifetime, so you need to get a handle of your finances and take some steps to make sure you are in the best state financially to make the purchase.

The biggest and hardest part of the home buying process is saving for a down payment and other expenses such as closing costs, inspections, insurance and any immediate repairs you are responsible for. A common misconception keeping people from pursuing their dream of homeownership is the myth that you need to put down the traditional 20%.

Options may vary starting at just 3% depending on what type of loan you are planning to use. Additionally, closing costs can run anywhere between 2.5-5% of the total cost of the home.

Also, your credit score plays an important role in qualifying for a mortgage. Change your spending habits and boost your score.

If you check your credit report early, you’ll have ample time to correct any issues. You don’t want to have to address a bunch of mistakes on your credit report while actively looking for a home and trying to get approved for a mortgage loan. You can dispute an error by contacting the credit bureau directly

LET’S ASK A LENDER

For better guidance, I asked Chuck MacAnanny with Embrace Home Loans to give buyers some tips to be prepared and help secure the best mortgage options.  Here’s his advice:

1. Avoid opening new accounts and making major purchases. Opening new credit cards, buying a car or increasing credit card balances can have a significant impact on your credit score and affect your qualifying debt ratios. So hold off on that new car and keep your debts as low as possible.

2. Know your credit score. The credit score mortgage companies use to make a credit decision determines which loan programs and what interest rate you will qualify for. Understanding what your score is and how you can possibly improve your score can help to save you a significant amount of money.

Avoid using free credit score services offered from credit card companies and other vendors like Credit Karma. These will not be the same scores that a mortgage company will use as they are derived using a different risk module.

Also good to know is the difference between a “soft” and “hard” credit pull. A few mortgage lenders now have technology that can do a “soft” pull with no impact on your score by using just the last 4 of your social security number. This is a great benefit in the early house hunting stages, so ask your lender if this is something they offer. A “hard” pull can negatively affect your score, so you will want to avoid giving your full social security number out to limit the amount of hard credit pulls you have done to protect your credit score.

3. Gather necessary financial documents. Add strength to your pre-approval by making sure you are prepared to provide your financial documents if requested. Sellers and their agents often ask if income and asset documents were verified as part of the pre-approval process.

Having your tax returns, bank statements, most recent pay stubs and other pertinent income and assent documents readily available to share is helpful.

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Ask Val: Happy Holidays!

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!

On this Christmas Eve, I want to take just a quick moment to wish you a happy, safe and memorable holiday season.

I hope this season ends on a joyful note and continues into a positive and prosperous New Year for you and your family. Thank you for visiting this column and for submitting your questions. I am excited to be back in the New Year, bringing you more creative, informative and exciting posts!

Above are some of my favorite Christmas light displays. How did your neighborhood do?

I would love to see what other homes around Tysons did so feel free to send me photos of the best lights in your neighborhood to [email protected].

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all from the team at Eli Residential! Cheers to a cold season as you cozy up in the comfort of your warm home.

If you would like to discuss your Real Estate plans for 2019, or 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, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, 703-390-9460.

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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: We just bought our first home a couple of weeks ago. How can we tough out our first winter as homeowners and avoid weather related problems?

Answer: Winter is coming and you’re not too late to get your home ready for it. Hopefully you had a home inspection before buying your house and all the systems are working properly or you’re aware of any issues that need attention.

Whether you’re a new homeowner or have been one for a while, there’s always something you can do to avoid home maintenance issues and save some money.

Exterior

  • Clean up the remnants of fall and check for any signs of wear to the exterior of your home.
  • Check your rain gutter downspouts. When gutters backup, they overflow and water runs down your home. Keep the gutters clean and make sure water is getting moved away from the home. Add downspout extenders if necessary.
  • Make sure the soil around your foundation hasn’t settled, creating areas for water to pool at your foundation. If you find a low spot, simply fill it in with some soil. Saturated soil around a foundation can create a problem when it freezes and thaws throughout the winter months.
  • Always disconnect garden hoses before winter arrives. Drain garden hoses or freezing water will split them open and you’ll have to replace them every year.
  • Keeping your home’s pipes warm and insulated is key to avoiding the expensive mess of a frozen and burst pipe. Treat any existing water leaks and cover any exposed pipes with insulation. Winterize your outdoor faucets to prevent them from freezing, which can lead to a burst pipe and spray hundreds of gallons inside the house.

Interior

  • A high-tech thermostat (Nest is ideal and it makes a great gift for homeowners!) can do wonders for managing your energy bills, but even a regular programmable thermostat can lower your bills significantly. While you might prefer your home to be a toasty 72 degrees, it costs money to keep the temperature that high throughout the day. So while you’re at work, set it to something like 65 degrees and push it back up when you get home. While the savings might not seem like much in one bill, you’ll definitely notice at the end of the season.
  • Change your filters and have the system inspected by a reputable HVAC contractor.
  • If you have a few rooms you rarely use, just close those vents and shut the doors so that you’re only heating the rooms you do use.
  • Did you know if you replace your old water heater with a new Energy Star-qualified heater, you could save up to 50% on your heating bills? That huge savings can help your new water heater pay for itself. Hot water heaters typically are set at 140 degrees. Lower the temperature on yours to 120 for fuel savings. You’ll reduce the chance of accidental burns and the water still will be plenty hot for bathing, washing clothes and doing dishes.
  • Set fan blades to move clockwise in winter, and run fans slowly. This will lift cool air to the ceiling and push heated air down where you can enjoy it. Now set the thermostat a bit lower and enjoy the warmth.
  • By properly insulating your home and sealing up your basement and attic, you can save up to 10% on your annual energy bills.
  • Look for air leaks. Things like winter-weather stripping and draft stoppers are easy to install and even easier to remove when warmer weather rolls around. Only use your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans when you absolutely have to — they pull hot air out of your home and can represent a small increase in your heating bill.

Don’t Forget The Attic Read More

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Ask Val: Afraid of a Bad Flip?

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’m looking to buy a remodeled home but I’m afraid of buying a bad flip and wondering if you have any tips for spotting them during showings.

Answer: Whether or not a home has been recently renovated for sale by an investor or homeowner, it’s important for you to do as much digging and inspecting as possible to verify the quality of the work and materials.

Never assume that because a home has been professionally remodeled and looks new that you do not need to perform an inspection. A home inspection is most valuable when buying a flipped property because you’re paying a premium for it being/appearing new.

However, inspections take place after entering into a purchase agreement and cost money, so I’ll highlight some things you can look for before making an offer that will give you an idea of the quality of the work.

Exterior

  • Driveway — Repaving a driveway is expensive and often ignored in cheap flips. Look for cracks or other damage in the driveway. If the driveway has been redone, that’s a good sign.
  • Roof — You don’t need to be a roofing expert to know whether a roof looks to be old and damaged or in new or good condition.
  • Downspouts — You want to see water runoff extending away from the home by 8-10 ft. Not being dropped right next to it, which is often overlooked by inexperienced or cheap investors.
  • Lawn — Grass takes time and money to look good so if the lawn is in good condition, that’s a great sign.
  • Windows — Windows are very expensive and you can tell a lot about an investor by the windows they install. Are they good quality? Did they replace none, some or all of them? Do they have a warranty?

Interior

  • Floor Plan — Did the investor make decisions that leave you scratching your head like a shortage of kitchen cabinets, awkward toilet placement or tiny clothes closets? It’s not easy to redesign a floor plan and novice remodelers almost always make mistakes.
  • Plumbing — Turning on faucets will also signal if there are issues with the water pressure, or in some cases, if the hardware hasn’t been hooked up to a water source at all.
  • Look Under the Cabinets — House flippers often focus on the cosmetic appeal of the home rather than the functionality. Look under the kitchen sink. If you see that the drain lines, disposal and wiring have been spray painted, it’s a sign the flipper or contractor is covering up a dated disposal.
  • Electrical — Look at the inside of the panel door to see if it’s been labeled and if there is a signed/finalized permit sticker.
  • Furnace — Does the exhaust pipe have a constant positive pitch leaving the unit until it reaches the exterior (note: this should also be the case on a gas water heater)?
  • Door Frames/Shoe Molding — Are the frames around the doors and shoe molding along the floor new or painted over? New frames/molding looks clean and smooth while originals with paint over top look clumpy and damaged. If it’s original frames/molding, you might be looking at a quick, cheap flip.

Other

  • In Virginia, sellers are not obligated to provide detailed property disclosures, but you can still ask the current owners for a written, detailed report of all the changes they’ve made to the property.
  • Receipts — Try to confirm who did the work. Are they licensed, bonded and insured? Don’t be afraid to talk to the contractors who did the work and see how much they’re willing to share about the materials and crew they used.
  • Days Since Last Sale — Look up how much time has lapsed between the investor’s purchase of the property and the completion of the remodel. The timing of the work should align with what the seller is claiming to have done and the time it takes to get the permits.

Check this link for a list of renovations and additions that need a permit in Fairfax County.

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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: Is there any new development within walking distance from the Vienna Metro?

Answer: Metro Row at Vienna station is a great option, located just south of the Vienna/Fairfax GMU Metro station.

Built by NVR Inc., it’s a 16-acre community with 141 luxury townhomes. They started Phase One in 2016, and they currently are on Phase Two, with expected delivery date for May/June 2019. There are only 18 home sites still available.

The Homes

Metro Row has been a favorite community for our clients because they deliver a spacious, luxury new townhouse at a great value. Now that they’re well into construction on the second (and last) phase, I thought it would be a good time to check in on what’s left and tour their latest models. Here’s what I like:

  • Sizes vary from 2,283 to 2,695 sq. ft. and they accommodate up to 4 bedrooms and 3 and a half bathrooms. The first level can either be an in-law suit or a family room. Very practical use of space.
  • My favorite units have access from the main level to a covered back porch with gas fireplace and private backyard. They are great for entertaining!
  • The powder room in the model home had a glass tile accent wall and I think that’s an awesome idea you can also apply to the other bathrooms. See video below!

Location, Location, Location

Metro Row is located in a rapidly growing part of Fairfax. Consider these facts:

  • Located 0.6 miles from the Vienna Metro (Orange Line makes downtown D.C. just 20 minutes away).
  • Easy access to I-66 and 495.
  • Walking distance from Pan Am Shopping Center, where you have everything you could possibly need: get groceries at Safeway, watch sports at Glory Days, your daily coffee at Starbucks, pet supplies at Pet Valu, many international restaurants (California Shabu Shabu offers a fun dining experience!) and many other services such as gas station, banks, UPS Store and fast food.
  • About a mile from the upcoming mixed use development Scout on the Circle, which will have small shop retail, and a 54,000 sq. ft. Giant Food.
  • A 5 minute drive to the thriving Mosaic District, offering many options for dining (True Food and B Side are some my favorites!), shopping, fitness and entertainment.
  • 21 miles from both Reagan National Airport and Dulles Airport.

Price

The townhomes at Metro Row start at $759,990, and go up to the mid $900’s, depending on the finishes selected. The HOA fee is $111 (will decrease to $89 a month by community completion) and it includes common ground maintenance, snow removal, trash removal, recycling, grass cutting and landscaping.

As for incentives, they offer up to $20,000 off quick move-ins and a special gift in the model home valued up to $2,500.

If you would like more details about Metro Row, schedule a tour, explore more neighborhoods, or 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, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, 703-390-9460.

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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: We are planning to buy a home in the D.C. area in the next 12 months. What should we know before buying a house that we can get started with now?

Answer: Whether you’re a first-time buyer, experienced buyer relocating from out-of-state, or moving locally here’s a list of things I review and plan out with clients before getting into the full swing of house hunting.

Requirements, Timelines, and Contracts

The most important thing you can do as a buyer is take time to become educated on the process, timelines and key contractual terms/obligations in the area you plan to search. This is also a good way to meet and vet different real estate agents early on to get a feel for who is willing to spend time with you up-front on education and planning vs pushing immediately for a sale.

Get Pre-Approved

It’s important to identify a lender who provides high quality service and also has loan products that fit your profile (down payment, credit score, job industry, etc).

Getting a pre-approval from a lender who reviews and verifies your financial documents, income, and employment will decrease the chances of you being rejected from a loan, increase your leverage in contract negotiations and reduce the amount of work required of you once you’re under contract.

Set A Monthly Budget

Most people qualify for more than they actually want to spend, especially dual-income buyers, so budgeting is important. Set a monthly budget for total housing expenses including mortgage, taxes, insurance and applicable Association fees or mortgage insurance.

Do You Want Representation?

Determine if you want to be represented by a Realtor (breaking news… I highly recommend it). In most cases, the seller pays commission to the buyer’s broker, so representation often comes at little or no cost to buyers.

Cash Needs + Savings

You need cash savings for your down payment + closing costs of 2.5-3% of the sales price. When your offer gets accepted, you need to deposit 1-5% of the sale price into an escrow account to secure the sale.

You’ll spend about $1,000 before closing on inspections and appraisal. Don’t forget moving expenses, furniture, painting, etc. You should have 3-6 months of emergency savings tucked away after everything is paid for.

How Long Will You Live There?

This is the most underrated conversation for buyers to have when setting a budget and determining criteria. Your home-buying strategy should look very different if you’re planning to own for 3-5 years vs 10-12 years so give it serious thought and be realistic.

Sometimes the best investment is buying a house that allows you to live there longer and eliminates one or more real estate transactions in your lifetime. The value you get out of being in a home for 10 years vs 3 years far surpasses a small increase in your budget.

Deadlines and Lease Terms

Figure out if you have any strict deadlines for the move and if there are costs of buying before or after that deadline. If you’re renting, make sure you find out the cost of early termination or if month-to-month leasing is an option.

I hope this list is helpful not just for local D.C. metro readers, but for anybody getting started with their home search and wondering what you should know before buying a house.

These are the conversations and steps I take with my clients every day to make sure they’re prepared and have the right strategy in place before we even look at homes together. I’m sure I left a few things off this list, but this should get you 95% of the way there.

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, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, 703-390-9460.

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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: I’m the Treasurer at [redacted Condo Association] and we’re working on the 2019 budget. What’s a good way for us to save money in the budget without compromising the health and maintenance of the building?

Answer: Review your Master Insurance Policy. I know, it’s not the most exciting answer, but your insurance policy is likely a top three expense on your balance sheet every year and if you haven’t reviewed it lately, there’s a good chance you can cut the cost by 5% or more and probably improve your coverage at the same time.

I’m not an expert in insurance so I asked Andrew Schlaffer, Vice President at USI Insurance Service’s Community Association Practice to provide some details on what Board’s should look for when they do a review of their Master Policy. Take it away Andrew…

Pillars Of Insurance Reviews

Condo insurance reviews require a holistic approach, so it’s important to break the cost into a few distinct categories: insurance premium, deductible expense and out-of-pocket costs. To effectively accomplish long-term savings, all three of these categories need to be considered and addressed with a qualified insurance professional.

Adjust Coverage Responsibly To Save On Premium

Premium is certainly a factor to consider during the insurance selection process; however, available insurance products differ significantly.

Coverages and services should be very carefully analyzed and compared. While omitting various coverages will save premium dollars, it might also result in substantially increased costs to the Association for out-of-pocket expenses related to uncovered claims.

It is critical to work with a professional who understands local insurance needs and can adjust your insurance program in a way that maximizes premium savings while maintaining adequate insurance coverage. Some coverages may be required by statute and/or Association documents, so cutting required coverage exposes the board to unwanted risk.

Deductibles Based On Loss History

Associations with strong financials often choose to increase their property deductibles which can provide immediate savings of 2-5%. Deductibles range from $2,500 to $25,000+.

When considering deductibles, it is important for the Association to review their loss history and the loss history of comparable buildings in an effort to obtain an accurate estimate for deductible expenses. Read More

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Ask Val: Dog Parks in Tysons

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: We are moving to Tysons and would like to get a dog. Is there a dog friendly neighborhood near Tysons?

Answer: Yes and yes! It’s no secret that homebuyers love dogs and now they are starting to influence the decisions they make about housing.

A recent survey by SunTrust Mortgage found that a third of millennials who purchased their first home said they were influenced by the need to have space for a dog. For those with dogs, renting can be more expensive and a hassle; home ownership takes some of the stress off by providing a better living situation.

I mean, who can resist dogs? They love you unconditionally, they can cheer up your worst days and they’re the number 3 reason young people are buying their first homes — ahead of marriage or having a baby.

If you have dogs you know that they need daily exercise, which is more than just a walk, no matter what the weather is like. I’ve personally discovered that having a dog park nearby can help you exercise and socialize your dog.

I took my volunteers Ringo, Pepper and Parker on a field trip to test some dog parks and even when it was a rainy day, they took their jobs very serious!

Fairfax County has many great dog parks. Here are the parks closest to Tysons that we visited during our research:

The Mile Dog Park

Located off of Westbranch Drive and Westpark Drive. I could not find a specific address but that’s the closest intersection. It’s a round fenced park with gravel, which makes it mud free on rainy days. There is plenty of street parking and according to a regular visitor, the park never gets too busy.

There is no separation for small and big dogs. It has benches for owners and the park is clean with many trash cans and free bags for cleanup. I noticed there are no trees around so it must be very sunny during summer.

There were no toys available for dogs so bring your own tennis balls to play fetch!

My awesome volunteers ran a few laps around the park and seemed to love it. Just make sure you bring water with you because there are no fountains available.

A great feature for families: there is a playground right next to the park, so you can take your human child and your furry child out for some fun at the same time.

Vienna Dog Park

The Vienna Dog Park is located at 700 Courthouse Road, SW. The parking lot is off of Old Courthouse Road. If the lot is full, patrons can park up the hill at Nottoway Park basketball courts.

The Vienna Dog Park offers a doggie and human water fountain, fully shaded wood chip surface, many trees, a fully fenced area that’s 5 feet high with double gates and agility equipment.

The park can get very busy on evenings and weekends, but that means that your pup will have many friends to play with!

Life Is Easier When You Know The Rules

Here’s a few tips to help you and your dog enjoy the awesome dog parks Fairfax County has to share:

  • Safety first: do not unleash your dog until it’s safe in a gated area.
  • Always lock your car and don’t leave valuables on sight.
  • Dog parks usually have double gates for safety. Make sure one is always locked before opening the other.
  • Keep your dogs up to date with their rabies shots.
  • Always clean up after your dog.
  • Make sure dogs have clean, drinking water.
  • Be responsible for your dog’s behavior. If he plays too rough, acts aggressive, or he seems threatened by another dog, just remove him from the situation. Dogs get over it quickly!
  • If you bring children to the dog park, expect them to be approached and kissed by the dogs. They think they’re puppies too! If your kids are scared of dogs, it’s better not to bring them inside the park.

I Want A Dog

I’ll be more than happy to help you with that! Dogs bring you joy and happiness, and they can also make you more active and healthy. So think for a minute, if they can save your life, maybe you should consider a rescue!

I’m a strong believer in adopting over buying a dog. Did you know that when you adopt a pet, you make space in the shelter for another homeless animal? So you’re technically rescuing two!

Check out your local humane society. You can adopt, donate or volunteer.

Ringo the foxhound was adopted from Fairfax County Animal Shelter, a rescue with 90% adoption success. All pets are neutered and adoption fees are low. They host children’s birthday parties at the shelter and they include games, shelter tours, pet visits and optional crafts. What a great idea!

Pepper is a rescue from Fairfax Humane Society.

You can also look at Friends of Homeless Animals, a no kill shelter and Wolf Trap Animal Rescue.

If you are considering buying a home with enough space for a pet, I’ll be thrilled to help you. Please contact me at [email protected] to schedule a consultation and we can discuss neighborhoods and options for you. I’ll be happy to visit an animal shelter with you too!

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, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, 703-390-9460.

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