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: How has COVID-19 affected our real estate market so far?

Answer: I hope this column finds all of you healthy and safe. Many people who had planned to or needed to buy or sell their home this year are struggling with that decision during the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While I would like to give a straightforward answer, no one knows what is going to happen next because we’ve never been here before. All I can do is offer my perspective on what is happening right now.

What Is Happening In Our Market

As of today, real estate is included as an essential business, so realtors can continue to practice and assist in transactions. However, this is not “business as usual,” including the requirements that social distancing and preventive measures are essentially mandated.

Other service providers like lenders and title companies, are continuing their business operations. Many banks are going to remote and drive-through only operations. Title companies are likely taking precautionary measures as well and they might attempt to employ alternate procedures using mail, electronic means and/or a combination of these to meet their legal requirements.

Combining the reactions of my clients and clients of other local agents I’ve spoken with over the last few days, it seems that most buyers are staying the course with their purchase. This is a period of uncertainty, so financial situations are changing by the minute. While some might elect to sit it out, others will be looking for opportunities to take advantage of low interest rates.

I’ve been closely monitoring the Tysons market, and the number of new listings in the past weeks has not yet changed that much. Within 5 miles from Tysons, there were 113 new listings in the first week of March, 127 on the second week, and 100 new listings on the week of March 16 to the 22.

However, the graphic below provided by ShowingTime indicates the number of showings in Virginia has significantly dropped in the past week.

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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: Do you have an update on The Boro? How is it as a neighborhood and what housing options are available?

Answer: The Boro is the largest mixed use project in the heart of Tysons with many dining and entertaining options. I spent some time there this past weekend enjoying the spring like weather and checking the new businesses that have already opened. It’s really coming along at a fast pace and there’s a lot coming soon (this year for sure).

With the construction of the Boro, Tysons will be transformed into a walkable, sustainable, urban center that will be home to up to 100,000 residents and 200,000 jobs. Tysons is envisioned to become a 24-hour urban center where people live, work and play; where people are engaged with their surroundings; and, where people want to be.

Here are the top reasons that make The Boro an awesome neighborhood:

1. Location

D.C. is a 30 minute drive away; Fairfax, Arlington and Dulles Airport are roughly 20 minutes each. There are 3 Metro stations nearby (Tysons Corner, Greensboro, and Spring Hill) with the Orange and the new and expanding Silver line. Tysons is located off of 495, just a few minutes away from I-66, Route 7 and Dulles Toll Road. 

2. Things To Do

With the construction of The Boro, Tysons will become a more walkable neighborhood. Their signature park, Boro Park, will be over an acre of green space and will host different events, such as outdoor concerts, movies on the green, markets and festivals. Surrounded by retail, office, restaurants and a movie theater, the park is activated day and night.

Some of the businesses that are now open at the Boro are Flower Child (healthy food offering amazing bowls!), Fish Taco, North Italia (great pizza and wine selection), Icon Theatre, F45 Functional Training, Ethan Allen furniture, My Eye Dr and my favorite, Whole Foods.

The Whole Foods has a trendy food court that includes Rappahanock Oyster Bar, Sushi, Donuts, Officina (Italian Food) and the High Point Club. It also has self-serve wine and draft beer so you can sip and shop. Also, they have an outdoor sports bar with great views. Here’s a link to all their eateries.

A few businesses opening soon are: Bluestone Lane Coffee, Caliburger, El Bebe Tacos, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Poki DC, Boro Cleaners and Colour Bar.

There are many dog park options, and if you’re outdoorsy you are just minutes away from Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Great Falls Park for hiking and amazing views and a 45 minute drive to the mountains.

They also host outdoor events open to the general public.

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Ask Val: Back Up Offers

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’re on the market to buy a home and the house we love is under contract with another buyer. Does it make sense to submit a backup offer if the seller is taking them? Can we get out of it if we find another home that we love?

Answer: It happens so often in this market. You finally find your dream home, only to learn that the seller has accepted another offer. While many home buyers would feel disappointed and give up on such dream home, a backup offer is another strategy you can use to get the house you love.

How Does a Backup Offer Work?

A backup offer is an offer made on a home that already has an active contract, to be acted upon if the first contract falls through. It allows the interested buyer to make a financial agreement with the seller that becomes the official buying contract if something happens to impact the existing contract. A backup offer stops the seller from entertaining offers from other buyers or putting the home back on the market.

A backup offers may seem like a long shot, but can be a buyer’s ticket to their dream home given that contracts sometimes fall through.

A Backup Offer Is Good When

  • You have your heart set on a particular home, a backup offer can help you get a foot in the door before the sellers relist.
  • You have time to wait and you may be able to sweep in on the home at the last minute. If you’re currently renting, and you have a few months before your lease expire, you can go month-to-month, or you have alternate housing options while you wait for the right home.

Here Are a Few Potential Reasons Why Contracts Can Fall Through

  • Home Inspection — (most common) if issues are uncovered a buyer may decide to walk away or ask for too many repairs or concessions that are not agreed to by the seller
  • Contract is contingent on the buyer selling their home before closing
  • Appraisals — If there’s an appraisal contingency in place, and the appraisal report does not support the contract price
  • Financing — Buyer is no longer qualified to obtain financing for the purchase
  • Condo/Home Owner Association (HOA) documents — The buyer has three days to cancel the contract upon receipt of the condo’s disclosure documents
  • Buyer changed its mind. It happens…

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Ask Val: Dirty House

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: How clean do I have to leave my home before closing?

Answer: There’s a moral and a legal answer. Sellers have a responsibility to clean the home after they move. The question is, how clean is clean enough? The golden rule is to leave the home in the condition you would hope to find it in if you were moving in. Unfortunately for the buyers, this rule isn’t a contractual obligation so let’s take a look at what the contract states.

Contract Language on Property Condition

The Northern Virginia contract states that the “Seller will deliver Property free and clear of trash and debris, broom clean and in substantially the same physical condition to be determined as of [Select One] Date of Offer, Date of Home Inspection, or Other [as defined in contract].”

If the buyers are doing a home inspection, they can use the home inspection as the date of determination because there’s a documented property condition report.

All systems, finishes and fixtures convey in as-is condition as of the time period selected in the previous statement, unless otherwise noted in the contract. Electronic components/devices don’t convey, but all related mounts and hardware do (e.g. TV goes, the wall mount does not).

The Final Walk-Through

The final walk-thru is for the buyers to inspect any property condition issues before they become their problem. While the contract allows buyers to do a walk-thru as early as seven days before settlement, agents usually recommend doing it just before they sign the paperwork to reduce risk.

Most buyers will clean the home to their own standards before moving in. There are a few things a seller can do to leave the house reasonably clean and to create goodwill.

Here’s a to-do list for sellers before the buyer’s final walk through:

Remove all personal property, even patio furniture (unless previously agreed with buyers)
Vacuum the carpets & floors
Clean kitchen appliances, inside the refrigerator and oven, and wipe down all surfaces – Wipe down interior cabinets and shelves
Throw away trash
Stack items pertaining to the home such as paint cans, roofing materials or extra flooring and leave them for the new buyer, if they want them

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Ask Val: 2020 Design Trends

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 planning to do some remodeling this year and before I get started, I’m wondering what colors and design trends you’re expecting in 2020.

Answer: It’s is a new decade and we’re seeing lots of color and textures. In 2020 we will see a return to strong geometric forms as well as surprising interpretations of neutral colors.

If you’re remodeling with plans to sell in a few years, you’ll want to put more weight into current buyer trends. So visit some open houses for new construction homes to see what finishes builders are using and balance these with your personal preferences.

If you don’t plan to sell in the near or midterm, design your home to reflect your personality and tell your story. What makes you truly happy is more important than what you see in magazines or on social media. There’s a good chance design trends will change anyway by the time you’re ready to sell so don’t compromise your style just because it’s not currently in demand with buyers.

Let’s take a look at what the experts are projecting for design and color trends in 2020:

Color

My favorite no-fail primary wall paint colors is this light pewter from Benjamin Moore. I love this neutral because of its ability to work with many other colors and you can change up the rest of the room as often as you wish with a new color accent wall or accessories. It is a great transitioning color and that allows for flexibility with color elsewhere in your décor.

Every year paint companies introduce their “color of the year” recommendations and 2020 is definitely a year for the bold. I was not a fan of Pantone’s 2019 selection of Coral but love their 2020 choice, Classic Blue. The Sherwin William’s color of the year is Naval, and Behr’s is Back to Nature. All 3 colors are pictured below.

Design Trends

Every year Houzz publishes their design trends and it’s always an interesting read. Here is a list of the most popular design trends for this year:

  • Quartz — This stone is quickly becoming an affordable and low maintenance alternative to beloved marble due to its exceptional strength and durability. Now comes in many colors and finishes. It is bacteria resistant and 51% of renovating homeowners choose the material.
  • Slab Backsplash — A solid piece of material behind your sink and cooking areas makes your kitchen look sophisticated and cool, not to mention much easier to clean than a backsplash with grout and tiles.
  • Three Toned Kitchens — Ideally, one color is selected as the focus, a second is used to support it and a third is applied as an accent. This creates layers and helps define zones or functions.
  • Black is Back — Black on larger design elements such as doors, accent walls, sofas, cabinets and sinks
  • Brass — Not your shiny yellow 90’s brass! Brass is a surprisingly warm and subtle alternative to the expected steel accents. The best way to work brass into your decor is by combining it with other metals.
  • Dark Painted Doors — Easy and cost effective to add some personality into your space. The painted door look (especially when it’s paired with lighter surrounding trim and wall paint) is striking and dramatic. Plus, painting a single door, instead of a whole wall or room, can add up to some serious interior house painting savings.
  • Sustainability — People are more ecologically conscious and knowledgeable than ever before. Antiques, hand-me-downs, and upcycling furniture are a wonderful trend in 2020!

A Few Trends That Stayed In 2019:

  • All white kitchens
  • Many hues of gray — Overdone in the 2010’s
  • Farmhouse style — Sorry, Chip and Joanna
  • Fast furniture — No sustainability
  • Open shelving — Impractical
  • Open floor plans — Millennials want more space definition and a little more privacy

Are there any design trends you wish would return to popularity? Which current trends or colors would you like done away with?

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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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: How did the real estate markets near Tysons do in 2019?

Answer: Northern Virginia continues to dominate economic growth in the Washington region (see this excellent presentation from the Stephen Fuller Institute) and Tysons is and will continue to be an engine for Northern Virginia’s job growth.

Residential real estate prices have been mostly flat over the last 5-6 years, but buyer confidence has increased sharply over the last 12+ months with the announcement of Amazon HQ2 and rapid commercial investment in Tyson. This led to a strong year in the residential real estate markets surrounding Tysons.

For our annual review of the 2019 real estate market, we looked at the following Tysons-area markets:

  • Falls Church: 22046 & 22043
  • McLean: 22101
  • Vienna: 22180 & 22181

With the exception of three outliers in Mclean ($12M, $20M and $43M sales) that skewed the findings and a few bad data entries that we removed, this represents all sales that closed in 2018 and 2019. We’ve prepared a bulleted list of key/interesting findings and then shared a summary table for those who want to review the data themselves.

Summary of Findings

  • The average sold price across all three markets increased 5.4% in 2019 and buyer negotiation leverage dropped to an average of just 1.3% being negotiated off the original asking price
  • Falls Church and Vienna led the growth in home prices, while McLean’s values remained mostly unchanged from 2018 (ignore the huge negative change in McLean condo prices, that’s a result of too few data points)
  • The sub-market that performed the best was the Falls Church townhouse/duplex market, with a 6.6% YoY increase in average price
  • The Vienna townhouse/duplex market provided buyers with the least room to negotiate, with the average purchase price equaling the seller’s original asking price
  • While the 2019 condo market gained a modest 3.4% (not bad for condos), there seems to be significant upward pressure on prices coming into 2020 with a 40%+ drop in average days on market and buyer’s negotiating significantly less off the original asking price in 2019
  • The number of new homes sold in 2019 increased nearly 30% from 152 to 195 and were pretty evenly distributed between all three markets

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Ask Val: Happy New Year!

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!

It’s that time again; to kiss away the old year and embrace a new one.

I can’t believe 2019 is over already. Every New Year brings a time of reflection — of what we’ve accomplished, what our new goals will be and for what we are grateful. For me, I extend my thanks to you, and I hope that you have gained something from my many posts.

I have enjoyed writing this column for the past year and I’m excited by what lies ahead. It has been a very rewarding experience writing this column and I’m looking forward to a new year of answering your real estate questions.

If you have real estate goals that you want to accomplish in 2020, this is the time to talk to a professional and make a plan to make those goals a reality. I’ll be happy to help you with that. If you don’t know where to begin, this past column will be helpful.

My first column in 2020 will be a real estate review for 2019. Stay tuned!

For now, here are the 5 Highest Priced Homes and the 5 Lowest Priced Homes that sold in 2019 within a 6 mile radius from Tysons.

Please keep submitting your questions to [email protected]. I look forward to answering all of them.

Happy New Year!

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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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!

Happy Holidays!

As another holiday season approaches, I want to take just a quick moment to wish you happy, safe and memorable holidays. One of the real joys this holiday season is the opportunity to say thank you for reading this column. May the holiday season end this year on a cheerful note and make way for a fresh and bright New Year.

Here are some tips for keeping your home safe during the holidays:

Keep Your Tree Well Hydrated and Away From Heat Sources

The U.S. sees about 200 Christmas tree fires per year and they tend to be more life-threatening than other home fires when they do occur. Prevention centers around two factors: keeping your tree well-hydrated and away from heat sources. Make sure your tree has fresh, green needles when you buy it, cut off about 2 inches before putting it in the stand and water it daily. Place your tree at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources, making certain not to block doorways

Lights

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, December is the deadliest month for electrical fires. Make sure both the lights and any electrical cords you’re using are marked for outdoor use, be sure to inspect the strands to make sure there aren’t any frayed cords or cracked lamps. Always buy lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab, such as UL, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.

Mixing and matching lights can create a fire hazard, so keep outside lights outdoors and inside lights indoors. Don’t overload indoor outlets and use power strips sparingly before you string lights on the house or the tree. Turn everything off before you go or use light timers on indoor and outside decorations.

This tip saves you steps and helps hold down the electricity bill. And it’s a good idea to review how to use a fire extinguisher and make sure yours is accessible and unexpired.

Test the Alarm

Test your smoke alarms monthly to make sure they work, and be sure to install smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms on every level of your home, especially near sleeping areas.

Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned before the season. Stockings and other combustible decorations, such as pine garlands, can present a serious fire hazard, so be sure to remove them before starting a fire in the fireplace.

Frying a Turkey?

Turkey fryers can easily tip over spilling hot oil across a large area. Use your turkey fryer only outdoors on a sturdy, level surface well away from things that can burn. Make sure to have a “3-foot kid- and pet-free zone” around your turkey fryer to protect against burn injuries. Make sure to follow all U.S. Fire Administration turkey fryer guidelines.

Seasonal Plants and Decorations

Keep potentially poisonous plants — mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis — away from children.

Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to kids or pets.

Avoid Mistletoe & Holly. Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems.

If You’re Going Away

Notify a trusted neighbor and ask them to keep an eye on your house and report any suspicious activity. You’ll also want this neighbor or a house sitter to keep your walks cleared of snow and to pick up your mail. Make sure your house looks like somebody is home to deter a burglar. Motion sensors, smart lightbulbs and other home automation devices are great ways to do this.

The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year, as long as you stay safe during them. Be sure to take the precautions you need in order to fully enjoy the season.

Here’s wishing you Happy Holidays!

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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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 under contract for a single family house near Tysons and we are trying to decide if we need to purchase a home warranty. How do home warranties work and what do they cover?

Answer: Getting a home warranty is always a great idea, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer with no experience in maintaining a home. The last thing you want after purchasing a home is an emergency repair that you did not budget for.

A home warranty is an annual service contract that provides repairs for your home, and pays for the replacement or repair of major appliances and home systems (like an HVAC system).

Don’t mistake a warranty for homeowners insurance, which covers your home’s structure and belongings in the event of a fire, flood, or other accidents.

How Does It Work and How Much Does It Cost?                                 

Home warranty companies have agreements with licensed service providers. When something that is covered by a home warranty needs repair, the homeowner calls the home warranty company, which sends a service provider to check the problem. If the provider determines that the needed repair or replacement is covered by the warranty, they complete the work. The homeowner only pays a co-pay, which usually is a flat rate of $75-$125.

The exact price of a home warranty depends on the coverage level you choose. Many companies offer basic plans and add-ons depending on your needs. A typical annual cost might be $200 for major appliances and $600 for a policy covering HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems.

I had the opportunity to talk to Jonathan Asfour with Super Home Warranty, and he answered some of the most frequent questions people have when it comes to home warranties:

What’s Covered?

Always check with your home warranty provider to confirm what’s included in your plan. Coverage usually includes:

  • Built-in Microwave
  • Clothes Dryer
  • Clothes Washer
  • Dishwasher
  • Range, oven and cooktop
  • Refrigerator/Freezer
  • Range Exhaust Fan
  • Trash Compactor
  • Garbage Disposal
  • Air Conditioning
  • Heat System/Heat Pump
  • Ductwork
  • Water Heater
  • Interior Electrical
  • Interior Plumbing
  • Sprinkler System

Super also offers a concierge program where we can get almost anything that you’d typically ask a superintendent to do for you (painting, pest control, yard work, handyman fixes, etc.). We also have included maintenance as well — this includes a pre-season HVAC tune up, carpet cleaning and re-key service, all for the price of our co-pay of $75.

The biggest issues that people typically are worried about are any HVAC or water heater claims, as these can be fairly pricey. Home warranties mitigate that risk and cover most (if not all) of costs of repairs to those items.

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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 can you tell me about living in Oakton?

Answer: Oakton is a great place to live. According to a new set of rankings released by Niche, Oakton is the 8th best place to live in the state. The ranking looked at several factors, such as public schools, housing, diversity and family environment. Oakton received an A+ for its public schools, A for diversity, A+ for family environment and B for housing.

So What’s So Great About Oakton?

Location — The Vienna Metro is the last stop on the Orange Line. The station is located in Oakton, in the median of Interstate 66 at Nutley Street, which provides quick access to 495 and can take you to D.C. in 25 minutes. You can get to Dulles Airport in 20 minutes. It’s also less than 3 miles from the Town of Vienna and all its amenities. (Check my past column about Town of Vienna).

Shopping and Dining — The Oakton Farmer’s Market operates year round. Hunter Mill Plaza and Oakton Shopping Center have a great selection of eateries, including Chipotle, Luciano’s Italian, Old Peking, Yoko Japanese, Starbucks and other services include Giant, CVS, Wells Fargo Bank and a wide variety of medical offices.

It’s only a 5 minute drive to the thriving Mosaic District, offering many options for dining, shopping, fitness and entertainment.

Active Community — Oakton has plenty of parks for different activities: Oakton Community Park has a nice playground, Tattersall Park has quiet jogging and hiking trails, and Waples Mill Meadow Park is great for birding (who knew!).

The Oak Marr Golf Complex includes not only the challenging 1,456 yard, 9-hole par three golf course, with holes from 95-200 yards, but also a lighted 78 station driving range with target greens and covered, heated tees. And the Oak Marr Rec Center offers a gym with state-of-the-art equipment, group exercise classes, swimming pools, racquetball, spa, and many activities. Check the full calendar here.

If you have a dog, you can walk to Moorefield Park. The play area is shaded by mature trees and completely fenced in, providing a cool and safe retreat for dogs and their families. Water is available on site as well. All dogs must be licensed by the Town of Vienna or Fairfax County.

Housing

There are many different options for detached homes, townhomes and condos. There are 48 properties for sale, ranging from a one bedroom condo for $249,900, to a brand new 8,000 sq. ft., 7 bedroom single family home for $4,895,950. You can see the active listings here.

Twenty-nine properties are under contract, ranging from a 1 bedroom condo at $260,000, to an 8 bedroom single family house at $1,699,900.

In the past 6 months, 46 condos were sold for a median price of $290,900; 34 townhouses were sold for a median price of $523,450; and 88 single family homes sold for a median price of $900,000.

If you’d like more information, or would like a question answered in my bi-weekly 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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