Tysons, VA

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].

The Washington Post did an article back in October about safety tips when visiting a playground. They also talked about how important getting outside is for kids during the pandemic. Move their body, get creative, maybe even see other human beings — even if from afar.

I have two boys who need to be moving constantly or they start trying to get stimulation by annoying each other, so I’m a big fan of sending them outside to move. Maybe you’re new to the area, maybe you’re just looking for an escape, but here are some great resources on playgrounds around Northern Virginia:

If you find a hidden gem we should all know about, please share it in the comments below!

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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].

Based on my predictions for 2021, you now know that we’re in a fast-moving real estate market that’s very seller friendly. With low inventory, our marketplace is fast and furious with new properties that hit the market.

What you don’t see is the months of work that go into getting a seller ready to sell or a buyer ready to buy. In this market, if you’re not prepared, you’re immediately at a disadvantage. So to help you prepare if buying or selling a house is on your 2021 goals list, here are my top five things to do now:

1. Speak to a lender.

This is critical. Rates are really low — below 3% — but knowing how much you can afford is critical. Even more important: If you have a house to sell, you MUST know if you need to sell that house first before you can buy, or if you can buy without selling. Knowing the order those must happen in will drive your entire process. A good real estate agent will lay out options for both scenarios, based on your risk aversion, and come up with a plan on how to move forward.

2. Ask colleagues, friends, and neighbors for referrals for a real estate agent.

Talk to a real estate agent earlier than you think you need to. Some of my clients have been shocked by how little they really need to do to get a house ready to sell or what small items will make a bigger impact than they expect. Going room by room with a plan and prepping early will have big returns. Maybe you want to explore staging your home — find out how much that is. Information is power — power for you to make decisions that are right for you. Remember when picking a Realtor® you’ll be working closely with that person for months, so make sure you trust them!

3. Prep your home to sell using trusted contractors.

Changing lighting fixtures, painting some walls, deep cleaning, etc. Whatever your agent suggests (and you’re comfortable doing!) to prep your home, make sure you have trusted contractors to help get the projects done. You can always download my vendor guide for free.

4. Write a must-have versus nice-to-have list.

This is for the buyers, especially when there’s more than one buyer. Make sure you’re on the same page with what you’re looking for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people argue over a house. It’s TOTALLY NORMAL. It happens all the time. But that doesn’t make it better. House hunting is stressful, so anything you can do to minimize the additional stress is key!

5. Scout the areas.

Figuring out where you want to live is hard when you’re not familiar with the neighborhoods. Do you want Metro access? Do you want an HOA with a pool? Do you want land and no neighbors for miles? This goes hand-in-hand with the must-have list. Drive around. Ask your real estate agent for suggestions on where to start. If you have specific needs (e.g. one-mile radius of a Metro), those are very easy searches for us to run online for you. It gives you a place to start. Realtors are bound by fair housing rules, so we can’t always tell you if the neighborhood is family friendly etc. I recommend stopping to chat with neighbors out walking. They’ll be the best able to answer questions on the neighborhood.

BONUS: If you’re thinking of building, this is a bonus for you.

You MUST talk to a construction lender to understand the process, and you MUST start interviewing builders. Are you going with a design/build company, which is a one-stop shop? Are you going to hire an architect and then a builder? Do you know what lot size you need and elevation? All of that is SO critical in looking for lots. Often times lots don’t always hit the open market, so knowing which way you plan to go with a builder must be in place.

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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].

I heard it snowed in Texas this weekend but not here!

While it’s cold, we’re having a pretty mild winter for the Northern Virginia area. I remember the one two-hour snow we had in December and how much fun my kids had playing in it.

So with that in mind, if you’re thinking of a day or weekend trip to go skiing, snowboarding, tubing or just to be a snow lodger, here are some suggestions for local ski resorts to visit from Northern Virginia:

  • Massanutten (Massanutten, Virginia) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, waterpark, golf and more. About a two-hour drive.
  • Wisp Resort (McHenry, Maryland) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, mountain coaster, ropes courses, golf (and P.S. in the summer they have whitewater rafting, kayaking, pontoon boat tours and more). About three hours away.
  • Liberty Mountain Resort (Fairfield, Pennsylvania) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing and golf. About 90 minutes away, great for a day trip.
  • Whitetail Resort (Mercersburg, Pennsylvania) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing and golf. About an hour and a half to two hours away, also great for a day trip.
  • Bryce Resort (Basye, Virginia) — Skiing, snowboarding, tubing and ice skating. About two hours away.
  • Timberline Mountain (Davis, West Virginia) — Skiing and snowboarding. About three hours away.
  • Blackwater Falls State Park (Davis, West Virginia) — Sled run, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing — a little different than some of these resorts. Sled run requires appointment. About three hours away.

Don’t forget to check COVID-19 instructions. Pennsylvania requires a negative covid test 72 hours before entering the state. You can also check out ski schools but most require advance reservation — same with ski tickets.

You can also explore rentals at Sun & Ski Sports in Falls Church, which may be cheaper than renting at the mountain.

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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!

Those of us with Q1 birthdays are the last to experience a pandemic birthday. I’m trying to remember what we did for my husband’s April birthday, and when I couldn’t remember anything (oops), I decided it was time to give some options to make sure next year I remember.

Everyone still has different levels of comfort, so some of these ideas are really simple and others are more extravagant. Some are great whether you’re an adult or for kids. Remember: Birthdays are also calorie free — so don’t forget about splurging on food!

1. Card My Yard

2. Private Rental

  • Angelika — You can watch a current movie or bring your own Blu-Ray or game to watch on the big screen.
  • Cinemark (Fairfax) — It has reclining seats. Enough said. Sit back, relax and watch a current movie.
  • Reston Ice Skating — You can rent the entire rink for 1 or 2 hours.
  • Rent out a restaurant — like Bazin’s Next Door for your “bubble.”

3. Private Class

4. Visit from the Vienna Singing Princesses

5. Visit from the Vienna Police or Vienna Fire Department

6. Paint your own pottery at Kiln and Co. or All Fired Up

7. Outings

  • Head to Top Golf.
  • Play Oak Marr Mini Golf, or hit the driving range.
  • Take a hike.
  • Explore a new restaurant.
  • Go for a drive.

8. Petting Zoo

Regardless of how you celebrate your birthday or those of your loved ones, wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year with countless birthdays ahead!

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New Christmas Tradition Ideas

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].

This week marks a week of favorite traditions for some and a sad week for others. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, everyone seems to have their own idea what makes this week unique and memorable. I’m sharing some ideas for those who want to change or add what they do this week.

Let’s start with giving back.

The restaurant Medium Rare is making 3,000 meals that’ll be delivered this week to those in need. They have locations in Cleveland Park, Bethesda and Arlington. They are looking for people to help deliver 10 meals at a time. You pick a location and a time, and upon your arrival are given 10 drop locations and the food. I’m signed up to deliver today and tomorrow, and I’m bringing my kids with me. Delivery is contactless. Sign up online.

“Winter Mitzvah Day” at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church: Christmas Day is always a day of giving back at the temple but will be scaled back this year, obviously due to COVID-19. Some ideas of ways they’re giving, and you can join: Winter coat drive in front of the school entrance, food drive collection box at the temple, buy a “McLean Cares” meal for $10 plus a $1.50 tip from a McLean restaurant to help feed low income families. Learn more about each option.

Now let’s talk food.

Whether you’re looking for a take out meal for brunch on Christmas morning, or a full dinner to feed your family, many local restaurants are doing take out.

Oh, and if you want Chinese food? There’s plenty of that, too.

Some restaurants to check out for take out:

Finally, what about entertainment?

If your tradition usually includes going to see a movie on Christmas Day and you’re not comfortable going into a theater of random people, did you know you can buy out a theater? For around $100 you can rent out a private screening for up to 20 people.

Regardless of how you spend the week — wishing you and yours a safe and healthy holiday.

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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].

As we wrap up the 2020 calendar year and a very strong real estate market, I want to share with you my predictions for how 2021 will go.

What makes me qualified to speak on the market? I’ve been selling real estate full-time since 2008, I have a master’s in applied economics from Hopkins, and I’m one of the top agents in the D.C. metro area according to every poll out there (Washingtonian, Northern Virginia Magazine, The Wall Street Journal America’s Top 100).

Here’s what I know to be true today:

The real estate market for detached homes has literally exploded all over the Northern Virginia area as people try to get more space. Fueled by low inventory and high demand, we naturally enter into a seller’s market, which favors competition, great contract terms and higher prices. In fact, in Fairfax County through Q3, the average house was only on the market for 23 days, which is down 16.5% from last year. The average sales price is up 10.9% from last year. Summary: higher prices, faster sales.

The same can’t be said about the condo market. The condo market is oversaturated with inventory, which is slowing sales and dropping prices. It’s a great time to buy a condo as an investor — except the rental market is also oversaturated and slow. My personal theory is that Covid is ever-present in a condo — wear a mask in the elevator, wear a mask in the hallway, wear a mask just to throw out your trash, etc. There’s nowhere to go and no way to escape it. Would-be buyers and/or renters moved home to mom and dad and took the opportunity to save money. I have no statistical proof of that — just my own theory.

Now how does that position us for a new presidential term, potential post-vaccine world as adults return to the workforce in person?

I expect the real estate market to continue to be strong. I expect sales to continue and inventory to still be low, but I’m hopeful the spring market will be very strong as maybe potential lost sales from 2020 who postponed, actually do sell their homes. I also expect prices to continue to climb.

Interest rates will remain low throughout the year. I had a client lock in a 2.5% interest rate last week. 2.5%! If you have a mortgage with anything over 3.25% right now, you should look into refinancing if you plan to stay for at least a year. With rates remaining low, buyer demand will continue to be strong. Don’t know who to call? Email me for lender referrals.

I expect condos to be slow for Q1 to Q2 in 2021, but I’m hopeful that once the virus is contained more, you’ll see sales start to pick up again.

I do think the demand for detached homes will continue to be the greatest, as it has been for years. But I also see there’s a potential for more work-from-home routines to be established as Covid changes behavior patterns, which changes a buyer’s needs, like the need for a dedicated home office space.

Do I think there will be foreclosures and short sales as a result of all the job loss? Not really. Perhaps in the price ranges under $400K, but even that market is strong, and those who are having trouble affording their homes can still sell at a profit and avoid the financial hit.

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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].

Each year I put together a list of the “must-see” holiday light displays around Vienna.

These vary in offerings from lots of inflatables to light shows choreographed to music. The list changes from year to year as some houses go dark, new ones are added and others scale back.

I took my kids on nightly drives around town to find some of these, but the majority came from the Vienna community when I asked on multiple forums for people to suggest homes. If you are part of the Vienna Virtual Community Page, Vienna Moms or Vienna VA Foodies, I’m sure you saw my post asking for nominations. In return, I promised to put together a map of the houses/streets I thought were ones you should definitely drive by.

My favorites on the map include:

  • A Very Grinchy Christmas is located at Walker Street SW/Drake Street SW.
  • Oakton Park Court is a small cul-de-sac that’s about 85% decorated with two special homes that went very Clark Griswold! They are also collecting donations to help feed the food insecure through the Vienna VA Foodies group.
  • Who doesn’t love ice skating penguins?! Head over to Antioch Circle.
  • The “peppermint house” located at Talahi Road SE/Glyndon Street SE has beautiful decorations.
  • On Hillington Court, you’ll find two homes with tons of blow-ups and decorations — plus it’s a two for one visit.
  • And of course… the Ni Family Lights.

Please make sure you check some of the notes on the points on the map for more details. Some destinations will take longer to visit, like the Ni Family Lights and The Vine Church, so plan accordingly!

If I missed any, please email me at [email protected], and I will add it to the map for others to enjoy. If you’re looking for larger scale light events, don’t forget these:

You can also find more lights to visit at FairfaxChristmasLights.com. Enjoy!

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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].

This past holiday weekend kicks off some of the most treasured traditions around McLean and Vienna as we enter the holiday season. Even with the pandemic, the towns are finding ways to keep old traditions alive and create fun new ones.

I’m including some highlights around town, dates and places, but also pages to follow on social media to stay up to date if new ones pop up. Also, stay tuned next week for my list of must-see holiday light displays!

#WhereIsSanta Scavenger Hunt

Each Tuesday at 12 p.m., the town will announce a new clue to find Santa through December 22. Each location will qualify for an entry for a $50 Amazon gift card. Tag @TownofViennaVA and use #WhereIsSanta on social media to be entered. The clue can be found on the town website or the Facebook page.

Vienna Tinsel and Tacky Holiday Attire Contest

Categories for entry include Best Duo/Group, Best Adult, Best Kid and Best Pet! You can enter online. You must submit your application and photos by Friday, December 18, and the winners will be announced on Monday, December 21.

Zoom with Santa

This FREE event requires tickets, so you must register on the Vienna webtrac system. Many slots are already full, so sign up soon for December 9.

Light Up Vienna

This is a town-organized porch parade for decorated homes AND businesses! You must enter by December 7 and vote by December 16. Find more information on Vienna’s website.

McLean Volunteer Fire Department Santa Tracker

Santa and his elves begin their journey to visit residents TOMORROW! Follow the Facebook page for neighborhood schedules, and the website has the tracker.

McLean Gingerbread House Decorating

Order a pre-built gingerbread house with a variety of candy decorations. Share your work of art on social media with #MCCGingerbreadHouse.

Photos with Santa at MCC

Families with children ages 2 to 8 can get contactless, outdoor photos with Santa. This is also an opportunity to donate new and unwrapped toys to their Toys for Tots Campaign.

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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and M.D. 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].

“Throughout Vienna’s history, the Freeman Store has been a store, home, train depot, hotel, hospital, officers’ quarters, fire department and historic site — the building is on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.” — The Historic Vienna, Inc. website

The Freeman Store is an iconic stop on downtown Church Street, next to the Vienna Town Green (which is the host of many events throughout the year), next to the W&OD, the gathering spot of the annual “Church Street Stroll” and tree lighting/menorah lighting at the holidays.

You’ll find the store has some of the cutest Vienna-centric gifts like blankets, water bottles, tea towels, pillows, ornaments, notecards and more. Mostly made by local artists, these are sold by the Freeman Store to support efforts by the Historic Vienna activities and programs. In the basement, you’ll also find a used book store.

Normal Business Hours (non-pandemic) March through December: Wednesday to Sunday, 12-4 p.m.; January and February are by appointment only.

**Starting Thursday, November 26 through December 20, the store will be open Saturday and Sunday 12-3 p.m.

They have random online pop-up sales with contactless pickup, but you’ll need to check the website for those date announcements, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

This is a great place to find house-warming gifts or gifts for people leaving the area, holiday gifts, ornaments, or keepsakes.

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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].

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

I find it incomprehensible we’ve been battling COVID-19 for nine months! I am also coming to grips with our own personal reality that my family will be (lucky enough) to spend Thanksgiving as a foursome instead of with our usual extended family.

Looking at the silver linings, that also means that I’m trying to take advantage of that and do things unconventionally. I tried to persuade my boys to do a seafood main, but that didn’t go over like I had expected, so we’re doing a small-scale turkey dinner. We’ve also contributed dinners to two families who needed help, so don’t forget about the different options to help others this year.

But let’s talk dessert. Maybe you’re a pumpkin or pecan pie kind of person, or maybe you go for an apple crisp like me. Or maybe this year you want to go crazy and get an ice cream cake. Whatever you’re looking forward to indulging in, I’ve got some ideas for you below.

Lots of local restaurants are also doing Thanksgiving dinners to go, so check with them if you’re looking for the whole shebang.

  • My favorite apple crisp is from The Fresh Market. Hands down.
  • Pie Gourmet — Try their chocolate cream pie, but they want orders by tomorrow, November 17. They also do savory pies if sweet isn’t your thing!
  • S’mores Pie from Amphora Bakery
  • Custard from Kiln and Co
  • Chocolates from Cocoa Vienna
  • Flourless chocolate cake (gluten free!) from Bazins
  • Hot Chocolate Bombs by Whisked by Mukta. These are so fun for kids, and my husband declared this the best hot chocolate.
  • Pastries from Sweetbites in McLean
  • Anything from Best Buns! They have a few specials for Thanksgiving that require 48-hour notice, including white chocolate cheesecake, pumpkin pie and chocolate bourbon pecan pie.
  • Chocolate Chip Espresso Cookie Dough Pie from Northside Social. (Pro tip: Try their quiche or pastries for breakfast as well)
  • Vienna Farmer’s Market local Savagely Good — they have gluten-free chocolate torte and key lime pie, but my kids love their cinnamon rolls.
  • A little treat just for the kids? Try a cake pop from Vienna local Delicioso Decor.
  • Another unexpected treat: 100 percent vegan, gluten- and soy-free custom cakes from plant-based Viva Sol.

One more thing — if you know anyone over the age of 70 spending the holiday alone, Medium Rare is delivering free meals to them.

No matter how you choose to spend your Thanksgiving, from my family to yours, wishing you a healthy and happy holiday.

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