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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 week is Banned Books Week, where we get to celebrate our freedom to read.

Fairfax County residents are lucky — we have a strong library system to enjoy. We have libraries in Oakton, Vienna, McLean and the Pimmit Hills/Tysons branch. You can visit any of them for internet use, books browsing, returning books to any branch and, of course, getting book suggestions from a librarian. But did you know there are so many more opportunities at the library than just borrowing books?

Take a look:

  • Download the Libby app, and you can borrow e-books to your Kindle or Kindle App for free. Just log in to your Fairfax County library account.
  • Download audio books for yourself or your kids. We use this on road trips — my kids love audiobooks. (The “Dairy of a Wimpy Kid” series is a favorite in my house).
  • Many events are held at the library, including author events, book sales, knitting groups, book clubs and toddler reading time.
  • You can reserve the meeting room space at the library for nonprofit events.
  • Stream kids’ videos on animals, math, science, history and more!
  • STEAM Opportunities for the youth — camps (some virtual during COVID), activities and resources.
  • AP/ACT/SAT test prep materials, plus other homework assistance resources.
  • Tuesday morning classes with a master gardener on native plants and best practices for your garden.
  • Various workshops throughout the year.

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, each library has a “friends of” group that helps the library with various tasks like book sales to raise money for the library. Find your local library here.

Additionally, over the summer, the library generally does a reading challenge for school-aged kids and motivates them to complete a reading task in exchange for a reward that’s usually coupons for free items around town (ice cream, mini golf, etc.).

Happy reading!

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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 am part of a group of women who came together out of the Vienna Moms umbrella to form a weekly group of female entrepreneurs who meet to talk about all things business and motherhood.

I have become friends with many of the women, and I love supporting what they’re doing. This week, I’d like to take the opportunity to highlight two of them for you:

Tangible Designs, Emily Yahn

Emily Yahn is one of the most talented marketing brains I have had the honor of working with.

Full disclosure: Emily did all of my branding — my logo, my slogan, my website, my buyer and seller guides and my brand book so I know what colors and fonts to use when creating marketing materials.

She is amazing. I am wholly left-brained, so I gave her a concept I had in mind, and she ran with it. She’s worked with brands like DirecTV, the Gates Foundation, Bards Alley and DC College Counseling…

DC College Counseling — Colleen Paparella

I’m a few years away from having a kid apply to college, but I will be using Colleen to help when the time comes. She’s commonly featured on USA Today, CNN, The Washington Post and other publications on college admissions topics.

Her skill is combining strategy and execution to help get kids through the college application process. She has different packages depending on your level of need — whether you need a one-time consult, college essay assistance or the full monty of handing over the entire management process.

Follow DC College Counseling on Instagram at @DCCollegeAdvice for weekly college admissions updates, tips and tricks!

Both of these businesses are Vienna based, and both are led by fantastic humans. I hope you’ll consider them for your needs!

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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].

There’s an organization in our community called Food For Neighbors®.

As you can imagine, they help collect food donations for those in need of our community, but what you might not know, is that they specifically support 24 middle and high schools in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. They help provide food for kids.

I’m often looking for ways to teach my kids ways to help out in our community and this is definitely a kid-friendly, family-friendly way to do that. They have a program called the “Red Bag” where they provide you with a tote bag, you to fill it up, leave it out on your front steps, and they’ll come pick it up. They provide a grocery list for you to shop from. All you have to do is remember to put it outside by 8:30 a.m.

Their recent pick up day was this past Saturday, so you have plenty of time to request a bag, fill it up, and put it up. The last pickup for the year is November 6, 2021. They’ve already posted dates for 2022 if you want to plan ahead.

Request a bag here.

*Food for Neighbors® is a 501(c)(3) and provides a donation letter for you to use.

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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].

Hello, September!

Following up to last week’s post about nearby apple-picking spots, I had to spotlight some of the fun fall festivals we’re lucky to have in the area. Please make sure you check individual websites for ticket information as many are closed during the week and require advance ticket purchase.

My favorites are the hayride and slides at Cox Farms, but there are so many to check out, including…

  • Cox Farms Fall Festival: Sept. 18 to Nov. 7
    Admission includes slides, a hayride, farm animals, a cornfield adventure, rope swings, a goat village, live entertainment, apples, cider, amazing donuts and a pumpkin patch.
  • Great Country Farms Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival: Oct. 1-31
    The Fall Pumpkin Harvest Festival features pick-your-own pumpkins (also apples), wagon rides, marshmallow roasting, cider pressing, live music, a 5-acre play area, donuts and a market.
  • Fall For Fairfax — KidsFest: Oct. 9 and 10
    This kids fall festival is for elementary and pre-school aged children and includes scarecrow making, pumpkin painting, pony rides, a petting zoo, model trains, rides, and 75 exhibits and food vendors.
  • City of Fairfax Fall Festival: Oct. 9
    The event includes over 400 vendors, children’s activities, three stages of music and entertainment, and carnival rides.
  • Reston Farm Fall Fest: Sept. 24 to Oct. 31 (on Saturdays and Sundays)
    The weekends feature moon bounces, a learning maze, games, train rides around the market, a petting zoo and food trucks.
  • Town of Vienna Halloween Parade: Oct. 27 at 7 p.m.
    This is a fabulous tradition that runs along Maple Avenue from Branch to Center Street. Read my tips on attending the parade from a past year.
  • Whitehall Farms: Oct. 2-31
    Find nature trails, lawn games, a field of pumpkins, animals, picnic tables, a corn maze, a moon bounce, wagon rides and more.
  • Butler’s Orchard Pumpkin Festival: Sept. 25 to Oct. 31
    This festival includes pick-your-own pumpkins, hayrides, jump pads, a tractor pull, animals, a corn maze, music, a playground, a spiderweb, a straw maze, giant slides, corn hole games and more.
  • Pumpkin Village at Leesburg Animal Park: Sept. 18 to Oct. 31
    The festival activities include wagon rides, giant slides, a zip line, a corn bin, a hay maze, pony rides, animals, a moon bounce pillow and more.
  • McLean Harvest Happenings: Sept. 25
    This is an indoor-outdoor festival with live entertainment, a petting zoo, crafts and games.
Photo via Gerda/Unsplash
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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].

You might think I’m crazy… If the floor really was lava, the air temp would be similar to what it is today. BUT September is just a few days away, and September brings all the fall things — football, apparently pumpkin spice lattes and apple season.

So, with a nod to the coming change in weather and hopefully cooler temps, I bring you a list of places to go apple picking.

Keep in mind COVID protocols might vary by farm and some may require advance purchase of tickets. Check websites for details.

There are also closer in options like DePaul’s Urban Farm, the Vienna Farmers Market or Reston Farm Garden Market. (Check out their weekend Fall Fest… discounted tickets end on Tuesday!)

More details on local fall festivals is coming soon… stay tuned!

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash
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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or [email protected].

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, FAIRFAX! Yes, I intentionally used all caps because I’m that excited to be working from a quiet home today. ALONE.

I hope everyone who has a child returning or starting school today has a wonderful first day of school!

I walked in my front door at 8:45 a.m. and, naturally, began cleaning up the mess that was left from the tornado of the first day of school chaos. I also looked at all the stuff that was never touched, even in 18 months of days at home.

If you’re like me and can’t wait to purge all the things from your home when the kids aren’t looking, please keep these organizations in mind as you’re looking to donate gently used goods.

  • Women Giving Back — Sterling, Virginia
    They’re accepting women and children’s casual, professional and formal attire, shoes (like new), maternity apparel, and winter gear. They don’t accept books, toys or car seats. You can drop off items this Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. (In-season attire only.)
  • Second Story — Vienna, Virginia
    They have a page they’re updating for donation needs, so please check it again, but as of right now, they need hair products, headphones, baby-proofing items, sweatpants, gender neutral shirts, and they’re always looking for food donations.
  • Hope of Northern Virginia — Falls Church, Virginia
    They accept like-new clothing and may accept other baby necessities.
  • A Wider Circle — Silver Spring, Maryland
    They accept furniture, baby items, kitchen items, bedding, professional clothing and accessories. If you have lots of items — or large ones — you can call them for a pick up, or you can drop off at their location in Silver Spring.
  • Children’s Hospital — Washington, D.C.
    Don’t forget about Dr. Bear’s Closet. It’s looking for brand new, in-original packing, non-toxic and no latex items with tags.

I hope everyone has a great first week of school!

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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 often see people asking for outdoor dining options for various reasons. The rain we’ve been getting lately can sometimes kill that option, but there are some with covered options as well.

Please remember that restaurants are still short-staffed, so be kind, tip well and visit often!

Outdoor covered options:

  • Mama Tigre
  • Open Road, Mosaic (permanent covered patio)
  • Danor Plaza, Vienna: Chi Mc Korean Fried Chicken, Pazzo Pomodoro, Zenola (tent), Crepe Amour (the others each have a few tables covered under the walkway)
  • Patsy’s American (permanent covered patio)
  • Simply Social Coffee
  • Tony’s NY Pizza
  • True Food Kitchen, Mosaic (permanent covered patio)
  • Bartaco, Mosaic (permanent covered patio, partially)
  • Vienna Inn (tent)
  • PizzaRoni (tent)
  • Hawk & Griffin
  • Trio Grill
  • Bear Branch Tavern
  • Café Renaissance
  • Bazin’s on Church
  • Blend 111
  • Chipotle/Crumbl have a few tables in front
  • Nostos Restaurant
  • CLARITY Restaurant
  • Santini’s
  • The Sandwich Shop
  • Fosters Grille
  • Sweet Leaf Cafe
  • Anita’s (tent)
  • Sushi Yoshi
  • Silver Diner (tents)
  • Mosaic: Urbano, Sisters Thai, Our Mom Eugenia (entire back half of the complex has outdoor seating that’s uncovered
  • Caboose Brewing Co (Vienna and Fairfax locations)

Honorable mentions:

  • Mookie’s BBQ (Great Falls)
  • Liberty BBQ (Falls Church)
  • Pizzeria Orso (Falls Church)
  • Dominion Beer and Wine (tent, Falls Church)
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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].

The countdown is on to the start of school! Just two weeks to go — and a strong prayer that they open and safely stay open five days a week. That leaves just a few more summer days to try and squeeze in as much summer fun as we can.

Looking for inspiration of what to do to fill your final days of summer? Here’s my Tysons summer bucket list:

  • Go swimming: Try out one of the local pools for something new. (Watermine is a top hit, and Great Waves is built for the daring. You can find a full list of options here.)
  • Attend an outdoor concert like Chillin’ on Church, set for Friday, Aug. 20, at 6:30 p.m.
  • Attend a Nationals baseball game. There are two day games coming up, one on Aug. 15 at 1:05 p.m. with a kids lunch box giveaway and Aug. 18 at 4:05 p.m. against the Blue Jays. Pro tip: If you want to eat before or after the game, try All-Purpose Pizzeria or The Salt Line.
  • Make the kids tired! Take them for an outing to the Go Ape ropes course, spend the afternoon at a trampoline park like Flight or SkyZone, or head to Kings Dominion.
  • Try a new restaurant during Restaurant Week — it starts today! You can also check out the Chesapeake Crab, Wine and Beer Festival at National Harbor on Aug. 14.
  • See something new, like the Circus Vazquez at Tysons. (Get discounted tickets here.)

Let me know what’s on your summer bucket list!

Chillin’ on Church (courtesy of Town of Vienna)
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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].

Hi all! Laura here. This week’s column is a bit of a departure from the norm, but I want to ask: What topics would you like to see covered here?

Let me know! Then next week, we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Have a great week!

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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].

My goal is to make this an educational post for those interested in investing in real estate — some basic facts to help you evaluate if this might be right for you. If you have specific questions or want to bounce an idea off of me, please feel free to reach out any time.

Investing in real estate is one of the best ways to build your long-term wealth. I’m not talking about buying and flipping homes — as easy as Instagram DIYers make it look. I’m talking about buying individual properties, renting them out and holding them in your investment portfolio. There are many models that work — long-term leases or Airbnb — so you’ll have to look through what each requires to see what fits for you.

Here are some pointers:

  1. In general, townhomes appreciate faster than condos, and single-family homes appreciate faster than townhomes.
  2. Condos are by far the easiest investment to manage because there are fewer things to maintain.
  3. Anything with an HOA may have restrictions on the length of a lease (for instance, they may not allow Airbnb rentals), so carefully read any HOA resale package for rules and regulations.
  4. If you’re financing your investment, lenders require at least 25% down. Of course, you can do a HELOC instead and pay cash for something, but a traditional mortgage will require 25% down.
  5. I personally believe a property should be at least break-even for it to be worth it. Some others have different advice — your CPA might give you different advice — but for me, if it’s not going to make me money, I’m not buying it. And I’m talking out-of-pocket expenses vs. incoming rent. I’m not accounting for later deductions on taxes and end-of-year net. I want to know each month when I’m paying the mortgage and any HOA fee, the rent is covering it — and hopefully leaving me with extra income.
  6. Consider liability protection whether in the form of an LLC or an umbrella insurance policy. Talk to your insurance agent to see what they think is best for your personal situation.
  7. You’ll need a business license to rent out a property. This is a minimal cost (less than $100), but it’s an annual expense and requirement nonetheless.
  8. Should you hire a property manager? This is a VERY personal question. Management companies on average take 8-10% of the monthly rent as payment for their fee. That obviously cuts into your profit; however, in exchange, they handle all tenant requests and repairs. If you’re local, maybe you want to try a year before you hire someone to maintain the property. I will share that I don’t use a property manager for my rental property. However, it’s local, and if anything breaks, I just call a trade person to go fix whatever the issue is. Feel free to download my trusted resources vendor guide.
  9. There are many ways to find a potential tenant, including free websites you can use to advertise the property. Or you can hire a realtor to list it. Contact me for specifics on the cost of that. If you hire a realtor, they will also write the lease and do the background check for your approval.
  10. Be very diligent in tracking expenses for your taxes. I have a great Excel file I use for my CPA. It tracks my expenses for the year — condo dues, interest, taxes, business license fee, repairs, maintenance costs, etc. That way, at the end of the year, he can see what to use for deductions or depreciation, and we can see just how profitable the property is. It just helps to guide future decisions on whether to increase rent, not increase rent or potentially when to sell.

Again, feel free to ask me questions any time. Or, if you’re ready to get your feet wet, let me know!

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