Newsletter

Can’t find your perfect home? Then it might be time to build it. Purposefully building your next home might be the remedy to today’s low inventory. Whether it is new construction, renovations or additions, you have options to consider. But there are pitfalls that require caution as well as fantastic benefits to keep in mind.

Want to explore some of the options available in Northern Virginia? Here are some active listings to check out with your hard hat on…

New Construction

Arden — New Toll Brothers development off Route 7, 1.3 miles from Tysons Corner and in the Langley Triangle. Priced from $2.207 million, new single-family homes on ¾- to 1+-acre home sites.

Walker Bend Estates — 950 Walker Road, Great Falls is a completed move-in ready $2.79 million GE Custom Home with 6 bedrooms, 8700+ square feet, and open Sundays 1-3 p.m. An adjoining homesite accessible by a private paved road is a 5 acre lot listed for $1.15 million — 954 Walker Road, Great Falls is ready to build with an approved well and 6-bedroom perc.

2000 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington — 82 new construction condos located in the heart of Court House, 10-foot ceilings and views of D.C. Two units remain, including a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom unit for $679,900.

The Townhomes at Reston Station — EYA’s newest neighborhood with easy access to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station boasts new construction townhomes that start in the upper $700k and elevator townhomes like 1831 Wiehle Ave #THE BAKER MODEL, Reston that start in the upper $900k.

Renovations

425 N. Alfred Street, Alexandria is currently listed as Coming Soon for $1.095 million. This could be the perfect solution for buyers looking to choose the finishes but not direct the work themselves. You can help determine some details in the renovation of this 1880 detached Old Town rowhome with close to 2000 square feet, two parking spots, a spacious backyard and only a few blocks from King Street.

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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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Friday Morning Notes

Vienna Police Move into New Temporary Home — With construction on a new station set to begin soon, the Vienna Police Department relocated to the former Faith Baptist Church at 301 Center Street on Jan. 7. Operations and responses haven’t been affected by the move, but the department is taking non-emergency calls at 703-255-6366. [Vienna Happenings]

Mosaic District to Add Dutch Snack Outlet — Poffy will serve traditional Dutch mini pancakes called poffertjes that are often prepared by street vendors. Owner Lilian Wanandy-Perez hopes to open the store in May or June, depending on the permitting process. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Golf Training Center Opens in Tysons — “GOLFTEC Tysons Corner, a golf instruction and club fitting center, has opened in Tysons. Located at 1430 Spring Hill Road, Suite 102, McLean, the 2,500 -square-foot facility offers golf lessons for a variety of individual needs.” [Patch]

Tysons IT Company Receives Acquisition ProposalDXC Technology confirmed on Jan. 7 that it received an unsolicited, preliminary and non-binding proposal from Atos SE to acquire all DXC shares. The company’s board of directors will be evaluating the proposal. [Business Wire]

Home Sales in McLean Were Up in 2020 — “Year over year, there has been marginal improvement in the number of home sales with a total count of 1,249 in 2020 compared to 1,219 in 2019. Compared to one decade ago in 2010, there is significantly better news as sales are up 39 percent over that time frame.” [Connection Newspapers]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Are you working from home? Or is it really living at work?

Fasten your seatbelts… or, should I say tighten those drawstring pants… we are in this for the long-haul, D.C. According to a recent study of more than 400 local employers, 45% of D.C. metro-area employers with 20-plus employees plan to shift some of their workforce to a permanent telework schedule.

The implications of such a major demographic shift will be felt well after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. How will the dramatic acceleration of telecommuting impact the way you live and work at home?

Here are six key questions we must ask about our current spaces:

1. Do you need more space?

The office you used to go to likely had conference space, break rooms and dedicated workstations. Does your home have that now, too?

Your current space may not have been designed for working and living. With home prices continuing to post gains (Northern Virginia’s average sales price in November 2020 was $675,290, up 7.7% from the November 2019 average price of $627,088), it might be the right time to sell and seek out more space.

7820 Frances Drive Alexandria, VA 22306 — $675,000 charming and expanded 5-bedroom Cape Cod sits on a generous 0.77-acre lot

2. Is open concept working for you?

Having dedicated office space does not mean perching up on the kitchen table and angling your Zoom camera to hide the family room behind you. While open concept has enhanced sight lines and brought families together, a post-COVID world ushers back the ‘closed-concept’ and single-use rooms.

1411 Key Blvd #311 Arlington, VA 22209 — $1,065,000 sun-filled 2-bedroom plus den in the heart of Rosslyn

3. Would the suburbs or a small town make sense now that you don’t have to go into an office?

Compared to last year, we have seen a 105% increase in demand for small towns (defined as populations ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 people). If going into the office is only required by your employer one to two days per month, what would be your tolerance for a one-hour commute?

38085 Homestead Farm Lane Middleburg, VA 20117 — $689,000 3-bedroom farmhouse buffered by woods and a creek

4. Is your internet up to speed?

Did you know your realtor can help you find a house with certain internet capabilities? The Bright MLS, only accessible by licensed agents, now has a new feature allowing us to search properties with broadband or fiber optics, ensuring the necessary work-from-home connectivity.

5. How is your outdoor space serving you?

Whether it is a pool, patio, deck or chaise lounge, these spaces can be key for stepping away from work or enhancing your Zoom backgrounds. Sometimes these views speak for themselves, pulling us to our next home…

612 Rivercrest Drive, Mclean, VA 22101 — $12.8 million 5-bedroom, 9-bathroom is a castle on the river and boasts 85 feet of water’s edge on the Potomac

6. Is it time to purchase a second home?

The third quarter of 2020 brought a 42% surge in luxury home sales. While some are looking for a larger home in the DMV, others may want to seek out a vacation home that provides a separate oasis. Whether it’s the Eastern Shore, Outer Banks, the Jersey Shore or Cape Cod, we can help you find your second home sanctuary.

4 Ministers Lane, Chatham, MA, 02650 — $5.95 million shingle-style waterfront with breathtaking Chatham Harbor and Atlantic Ocean views

Need a home office? Better view? Or perhaps a second home? Contact me today and let’s explore your options together.

Mackenzie Horne, MBA is a licensed REALTOR® in the Commonwealth of Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Send Mackenzie a message at 571-594-9136, [email protected] or @MackHorneRealtor.

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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Still can’t find paper towels at your local Target? Me neither. The pandemic has caused many everyday items that we take for granted to literally fly off the shelves.

We saw it this summer with playsets and trampolines, but the craze for outdoor enjoyment extended beyond kids’ play equipment to the outdoor assets a residential property boasted, including pools and patios. What could possibly be the next must-have to make your stay-at-home experience more tolerable this winter?

Fire Pits

Those looking to continue using their outdoor spaces will need to seek out warmth in some form. As long as it is coming from the soothing crackle of a wood-burning fire pit or a gas-powered flame — not body heat less than 6 feet away — you will be in good company. These houses are ready for outdoor entertaining on any starry quarantine night:

2205 Windsor Road, Alexandria, VA 22307


1139 Crest Lane McLean, VA 22101

Spectacular Sunrooms

While it might be hard to find electric heaters or faux fireplaces this winter, now is the time to outfit your three-seasons sunroom in order to maximize its use. Take a look at these spectacular sunrooms that will bring some more light to your quarantine days:

929 Leigh Mill Road, Great Falls, VA 22066

1001 N. Vermont Street #904, Arlington, VA 22201

Access to Trails

Hiking in the winter is one of the DMV’s best kept secrets. The quiet and solitude is good any time of year, whether you are walking your dog or trying to tire out your kids in between virtual learning sessions. Check out this local home with easy access to local trails:

637 River Bend Road, Great Falls, VA 22066

Whether your must-haves include fire pits and sunrooms, or you would like a bigger kitchen and a home office, contact me today to explore your options.

Mackenzie Horne, MBA is a licensed REALTOR® in the Commonwealth of Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Send Mackenzie a message at 571-594-9136, [email protected] or @MackHorneRealtor.

Updated on 12/4/2020 — Five new luxury homes are about to hit the market in McLean.

Scheduled to go up for sale in mid-December, the houses belong to a new luxury neighborhood called Park Grove that is located along Inverness Park Lane near the intersection of Chain Bridge and Davidson Roads.

Park Grove occupies land that was previously owned by former U.S. National Park Service Director George Hartzog, who lived on the property for decades, according to Gulick Group, the Reston-based luxury home builder that constructed the new community.

The new neighborhood consists of eight custom houses and a centrally located private park space inspired by Hartzog’s efforts to expand the National Park System during the nine years when he served as director.

The park, which will be exclusively open to residents, will contain a sculpture designed by Washington, D.C., native artist Chris Tousimis.

“The history of the site inspired the theme for Park Grove,” Gulick Group Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jamie Gulick said. “The community is walkable, backs to a park, offers indoor-outdoor spaces, and we hope will encourage lifestyles connected to nature and broader McLean.”

Gulick Group held a soft opening for Park Grove this past spring, and three of the eight houses have already been purchased.

With price tags in the $2.2 million range, the houses feature open floor plans with tall windows that allow for natural light, up to five bedrooms with en-suite baths, high ceilings, and up to two offices. They can be custom-fitted with elevators and large sliding doors in the family rooms or upper-level terraces.

There are two different available floor plans.

The Parkline 60 model ranges from 5,640-6,400 square feet and costs approximately $2.26 million. It has a studio-style layout with a waterfall island that bridges the kitchen and living room as well as a sunlit breakfast room in the back.

The Parkline 80 model ranges from 5,600-7,270 square feet and costs around $2.33 million. It features a formal dining room and an optional three-car garage or second owner’s suite on the main level.

A furnished Parkline 80 model will be available to view by appointment in January 2021, Gulick Group says.

“We designed Park Grove to be distinctive and inviting,” Gulick said. “…Flatter rooflines with broad, downlit soffits create an urban streetscape, and the colors on the stone and siding evoke nature. Park Grove is exceptional in McLean.”

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Three Stones Residential agents pride ourselves on our consultative service approach, local expertise and real estate market knowledge. With over 26 years of business experience in the DMV, we have consistently performed in the top 2% of local Realtors and are currently the #1 group at Keller Williams Metro Center. 

The following properties were recently listed in the Tysons, McLean, Vienna and Falls Church areas.

Our role is to offer sound advice and guidance to our clients in order for them to achieve their goals in either buying, selling, leasing or managing real estate. We are truly “Your Home… for Everything Real Estate.” To schedule a private showing of these or any other properties of interest please do not hesitate to contact us here, call 571-429-7670, or email at [email protected].

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Ask Val: ROI on Home Improvements

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 preparing to put our house on the market this spring and wondering if you have any advice on what improvements we should make before listing.

Answer: The decisions you make on what money you do or do not spend improving your home prior to a sale often influence your bottom line more than any other decision you make during the sale process. They’re also the decisions you’re most in control of, so take your time and take them seriously.

Remodeling.com publishes an annual report showing the resale return of specific remodeling jobs, based on region of the country. Unfortunately, I can’t share the D.C. area report here because of copyright issues, but it’s worth going to the link (you have to provide them some basic info) to take a look yourself. The findings of their report show that the majority of projects, done individually, return just 50-80% of the cost.

Note that I said when “done individually” most projects return well below 100% of the money spent, but when you combine the right improvements you can create value/profit that can add to your bottom line.

Tier Your Improvements

After you prepare a full list of potential improvements, it’s important to put them into categories and analyze each category for cost, project timeline and impact on the expected resale value to determine which improvements make the most sense. Here are three categories:

  • Clean-out, Clean-up: This focuses on the low cost, high return items to make a home more presentable such painting, deep cleaning, repairs, light landscaping, etc.
  • Bring up to par: Investing in more expensive projects to bring them up to par with the rest of the home. For example, improving a dated kitchen if the rest of the home is updated so that the kitchen doesn’t drag down the value of the other improvements or replacing damaged hardwood floors.
  • Remodel: Similar to what an investor might do to a dated home in an expensive neighborhood, a homeowner might choose to make a major investment into updates and benefit from a significant profit.

Consider All Costs

The cost of doing improvements goes beyond the cost of the labor and materials. Don’t forget to consider things like:

  • Your time managing the work
  • Inconvenience of having work done while you’re living in the home
  • Carrying cost while work is being done, if the home is vacant
  • Risk of something going wrong during the work (applies more to larger projects)

100%+ ROI

There’s no doubt that remodeling your bathroom will generate a higher sale price, but it’s rarely advisable to invest money into improvements if you won’t return more than 100% on the investment. Herein lies the challenge and strategy in planning your improvements. Understanding the profile of your likely buyers and what they value is crucial to making investments that generate profit, not just a higher price.

If you’d like to discuss buying or selling strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]. If you’d like a question answered in my column or to set-up a meeting to discuss local real estate, please send an email to [email protected].

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’re closing on our new home in 2 weeks and we’re very excited! The one thing we’re not looking forward to is the stress of the actual moving process. Do you have any tips to make it easier?

Answer: You just went through the house shopping experience in this crazy market, and now you have to pack and move! Moving is never exactly fun but it usually leads to a positive outcome. Almost everyone does end up moving at some point, (and I have yet to meet someone who actually enjoys it!) so I gathered some moving tips and tricks from clients, friends and colleagues to make the whole process a bit easier.

Before Moving Day

  • Schedule your utilities as soon as you know when you’re closing on your new home so they’re on by moving day. Sellers usually discontinue utilities on settlement date and if they haven’t been transferred by then, you may get charged for a reconnection fee. Also, some companies may take a few days to set up utilities and you don’t want to move into a house with no electricity or water.
  • Purge items to sell or donate. If you’re selling them, you can use OfferUp, Mercari, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or check for local Virtual Yard Sale groups on Facebook. If you’re donating, check the local COVID-19 safety protocols for the place you choose to give your donation to.
  • Take a picture of the back of your TV before you unplug the cable box, game consoles, surround speakers, HDMI cables, and amazon fire stick so you remember where everything goes.

Packing

  • Go green. U Haul has the Take a Box, Leave a Box program where you get free boxes. After your move is concluded you can drop your boxes off for someone else to reuse. Lend a Box delivers 100% recyclable plastic boxes to your door and picks them up after your move.
  • Free boxes from liquor stores or big box retailers are a great way to save some cash. Just make sure you only get sturdy, good quality boxes. Avoid grocery store boxes as they may contain pests.
  • Avoid mixing items from different rooms in the same box. It will make your packing quicker and your unpacking a lot easier, too.
  • Go for small or medium sized boxes instead of big ones. It’s best to pack heavier items in small/medium boxes, and use the large boxes for lighter items such as pillows and linens so one person should be able to carry it. If two people need to carry the box, especially upstairs, you will lose time.
  • Moving Labels are color coordinated and can easily be seen. Assign a color to each room and mark the boxes accordingly. Go the extra mile and label each box with its contents.
  • Use a dry clean bag or plastic garbage bag to hold hanging clothes together. Then, simply carry the bundle from your old closet to your new closet!
  • As you pack up your kitchen, put the sharp end of knives into an oven mitt or wrap them in a dish towel. Use some packing tape to secure them to prevent injuries when you unpack.
  • If you take apart any furniture, keep all of the little pieces in a Ziplock bag. Then, tape the bag to the furniture so you know where it belongs when you need to put it back together.

If You’re Hiring Movers

  • Hire movers as soon as you know your closing date. Good movers get booked months in advance.
  • If possible, try to schedule it during the week day. Weekends tend to be the busiest. Moving during the week will not only save you time and money, but has more services open in the event you run into unforeseen circumstances.
  • If the movers have to “squeeze you in”, find another company. If their schedule is too busy and they agree to “squeeze you in”, they may show up late, or exhausted from other moves before yours.
  • Book the earliest morning time slot available. The moving crew will be fresh so they’ll get the job done faster and typically do a better job.
  • Have plenty of hand sanitizer on hand for your movers and yourself and make sure to have soap in the bathroom of the house you’re moving from.

I hope you find at least some of these tips helpful! Moving takes a lot of work and I hope you use the excitement for your new home as a motivator to get everything done. If I missed any tips, please share them with me so I can add them to my list.

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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