Newsletter

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].

Oh the dreaded 2-hour early release followed by 2 full days off. I’m here to share some ideas for you to make the most of your days with the kids at home.

First, if you’re looking to outsource child care for a few hours, try one of these camps:

Brian Lonardo, Nothing But Net Sports Camp at Sport and Health:

Hammerzone, Baseball Camp:

Photo via Wendy Scofield/Unsplash

Educational and Fun Trips:

  • Watch National Treasure (the movie from 2004)
  • Take a trip the National Archives in D.C. to see the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence, but…
    They also have the Super Bowl Trophy on loan from the Kansas City Chiefs, they have a whole exhibit on Title IX, learn why Presidents pitch Opening Day baseballs and other traditions, and more!

Pro Tip: while the museum is free, there can be long wait times to get through security to get in. You can reserve up to 6 tickets to timed-entry and use a different entrance to cut down on your wait time. 

Do you have another ideas you’d like to share? Have a business who is offering camps at the (many) breaks coming up? Please email me!

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].

A couple of times a year I put together a client appreciation event to thank past and current clients, as well as friends that refer new clients to me. For the first time, I’m holding a Junk Haul and Shredding event. So please consider yourself invited!

When: Saturday, February 11 from 9-11 a.m.
Where: The Parking Lot at George Yeonas Park (otherwise known as Vienna Little League)
What: If it fits in your car, bring it!

The event is being co-sponsored by Jon Okun at Prosperity Mortgage.

Junk Haul and Shredding is provided by It’s Haul Good. Here are the guidelines for what’s accepted:

Junk & Donations

  • Junk or donations accepted include any household items or very small furniture/appliances. Quantity accepted per individual can not exceed one car’s trunk space worth of items.
  • Cannot accept large furniture items, household chemicals or paints, or building materials.
  • Attendees of this event can schedule a crew to come pick up larger items or volume at a later date for 10% off our normal rates!

What about clothes?

Absolutely, we can take clothes since we will be heading to a donation center anyways!

Can you take electronics and old TV’s?

Yes, we can take old electronics, old televisions, and other electronics. However, we will not be offering data destruction for this event, so any hard drives or stored data (tablets, desktop cpu’s, cell phones) will not be wiped and therefore could be compromised. We recommend that folks drop these off at e-cycling centers like Potomac E-Cycle for larger items, or for smaller devices, the convenient locations of ecoATM.

Shredding Guidelines

  • Secure Containers, Shredded Off-Site
  • No hard drives or CD’s accepted
  • No Certificate of Destruction provided on-site
  • Additional list of items that are NOT accepted — Butane/Propane Tanks, Chemicals, Cleaning Products, Electronics, Fertilizers, Motor Oil, Pesticides, Pharmaceuticals, Roofing Material, Wet Paint

NOTE: If you have shelf stable food that is NOT expired, please bring it! We’ll collect it all and drop a donation to Food for Others after the event.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected] or by phone at 703-283-6120.

Also, please pray it doesn’t snow! If there is snow or ice, please check my Instagram or Facebook page for information on cancellation!

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].

My post last week was about predictions for the real estate market this year.

I mentioned at the end that there are multiple down payment assistance programs available in Virginia. I want to highlight some of them here. With the new calendar year, new funds are available for these programs and first-time buyers should be aware these are available.

However, before I get to those programs I want to highlight two programs that are readily available at all times:

FHA Loan, which is available to potential buyers who don’t currently own a home with only a 3.5% down payment with a minimum credit score of 580 (if the score is 500-579 they require 10% down). This is only available on your primary residence, not a rental.

Conventional loan with 3% down. A common mis-conception is that you need 20% down to buy a home. But you can put down anything from 3% and over on a conventional loan. The big deal with the 20% down is that anything less requires mortgage insurance, which is an additional payment each month on your mortgage until you get to that magical 80% loan to value number (which can come through payments or appreciation).

Again, each loan program has nuances and requirements, so you’ll want to speak to an experienced loan officer to determine which one is best for you.

Now, down to payment assistance programs. Let’s talk basic requirements:

  • First time buyer
  • Buying your primary home
  • Meet eligibility requirements (income limits and credit verification)
  • Only specific loan officers can do many of these loans as they must be approved

Virginia DHCD: Down Payment Assistance Program DPA

  • Offers gap financing in the form of a grant/forgivable loan for first-time buyers at or below 80% of the area median income
  • Can receive up to 10% or 15% of the sales price plus up to $2,500 towards closing costs
  • 2022 Adjust Home Income Limits for DC Metro: $63,000 for 1 person, $72,000 for 2 people

Closing Cost Assistance Grant

  • Helps to eliminate funds needed for closing

Mortgage Credit Certificate

  • Could lower federal income taxes owed, tax credit can be taken for the life of loan

USDA (Rural Housing)

  • 100% Financing option
  • Low mortgage insurance

Virginia Housing Plus Second Mortgage

  • Combines 2 mortgage together to cover the cost of your down payment

Many of these programs can be combined to maximize your benefits.

To read more about these programs, Virginia Housing has a great website with information. If you want to talk about how we can work together to make your dream of home ownership a reality, please reach out.

Photo via Tierra Mallorca/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 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

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].

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

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

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