Update Your White Kitchen

Is that white kitchen too white?

All-white kitchens complement any decor, but they’re hard to keep pristine and can come across as dated. An older white kitchen shows signs of discoloration and wear. What can you do to make your white kitchen more 2021 than 2010?

Make it artsy

Art galleries have white walls because they’re a blank canvas where artwork can be attractively displayed. Add a colorful abstract painting in a key location. Have fun with artistic-themed dishtowels, placemats, and dishes. Try a washable rug or runner with a colorful modern pattern.

Fold in some color

Cookware, serving pieces, utensils and small appliances in analogous colors (those next to each other on the color wheel such as yellow, green and blue) can give you a pleasing new color palette. 

Add texture

Add interest with textures in complementary tones of white, grey or mushroom to walls, backsplashes, curtains or blinds. Natural wood accents like bowls can also warm up a white kitchen. If you have a place for barstools at the island, woven fabric, cane or hemp seats work well to add texture.   

Repaint

White reflects light, making your kitchen brighter, but one reason why people tire of white kitchens is that there’s no focal point. For a soft contrast, introduce watery colors like sea glass. For more drama and sophistication, go for high contrast with deep blue, black or grey. Paint the island a different color from the rest of the kitchen, or paint lower cabinets a different color from the top cabinets. 

Responding to Today: How to Avoid – and Fix – Costly Mistakes

Hot market or not, the agent you have representing you truly makes all of the difference in how your transaction will play out. The latest installment in our Responding To Today series addresses how to fix, or better yet avoid, mistakes that can have a serious impact on your checkbook!

Real Estate in 2021: How to Avoid – and Fix – Costly Mistakes

For those buying or selling a home in today’s ultra-competitive real estate market, time is not a luxury afforded to most. Decisions are made quickly, with many buyers in particular left to worry that they’re setting themselves up to make a costly mistake. And while homeowners seemingly have the upper hand in this universally hot sellers’ market, the myriad of factors that play a role in a frenzied sales and negotiation scenario leaves much room for error. 

So what’s a buyer or seller to do in this unprecedented market? We sat down with two leaders in the industry-Christy Budnick, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Allan Dalton, SVP of Research and Development for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices-to hear their recommendations for avoiding, or fixing, many common and current real estate missteps. 

Q: A recent Wall Street Journal article chronicles the regrets and mistakes of recent buyers who rushed into a purchase-but in this market, many buyers feel that’s the only option. How can would-be buyers feel confident that they’re buying the right house at the right price? 

Christy Budnick: Ifs normal for buyers to feel this type of stress in such a strong sellers’ market. But I would encourage them to look at the big picture and the benefits of a real estate purchase in the long term. With interest rates at historic lows, if a buyer plans on staying in a home for 10 years, the average appreciation of that home, plus the tax advantages of home ownership, will typically make the higher-than-normal sales price more than worth it. 

Allan Dalton: In a highly competitive, multioffer environment, you want to be able to buy on the best terms, but you don”! want to lose it. So as you’re figuring out what your top offer number will be, ask yourself this question: “Am I willing to deprive myself or my family of this lifestyle because of $100 a week, $50 a day, $50 a week?” I never want to be cavalier with money, but the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve never bought a home I wouldn’t have paid more for. If you’re investing in your lifestyle and you break the numbers down in that manner, it’s much easier to answer that question and understand if you actually feel like you’d be paying too much. 

Aside from the money side of things, don’t use a competitive market as an excuse not to do your due diligence. I would never buy a home without going back five or six times, parking in front of the home in the morning and also in the evening to see what traffic is like. Make sure you walk around the neighborhood and talk to the neighbors, especially the next-door neighbors if possible. If you’re buying from out of town, have your realtor do that work for you. I once bought a home from across the country and had my realtor take videos at 5:00 in the morning, 6:00 in the morning, 7:00 in the morning. That drove the realtor crazy, but the safety of my family is worth it to me. Before you make that offer, ensure there·s nothing that you could know that you don’t know-about the town, the schools, the home, the neighborhood, values, zoning restrictions. Because these are the things that end up making people think they made a mistake in buying a home. 

Q: Many sellers have been waiting to list their homes, potentially hoping to capture the apex of the market. What steps can these sellers take to avoid missing the right moment to list? 

Christy Budnick: This is such a debatable topic. The critical consideration in this decision is the relationship between supply and demand, and what can we anticipate about what might happen to supply and demand? Right now, supply and demand is completely in the favor of sellers. But what might happen to the frothy market as economic conditions change? By every indication, the strength of the economy and !he anticipation of inflation probably means that interest rates will continue to go up. Well, as rates continue to go up, fewer and fewer buyers will have the ability to afford the homes that they want to buy. As fewer buyers are in the marketplace, the relationship between supply and demand starts to level out, which will result in a cooling of home price appreciation. The summer is also a traditional time of the year where homes come on the market for sale. So you·ve got this combination of fewer buyers in the market moving forward and more homes for sale as we move forward. Those two things will most likely and I think undoubtedly create a cooling of home price appreciation. 

Allan Dalton: When the market is moving and changing so fast, it’s more valuable than ever to have a real estate agent-particularly if you are a seller in a competitive bidding war scenario. Let me give you an analogy: If you were a great football player and about to become a free agent, would you do that without the help of an agent? Of course not! When you have an asset that has great appeal and great demand, that’s when a realtor has the greatest value in maximizing that demand. It’s always better to rely on somebody who can navigate and manage and negotiate on your behalf-and create even more demand. 

Q: Some homeowners are waiting to list because they’re worried they’ll pay too much for their next home. Do you think this is a mistake or a good strategy? 

Christy Budnick: I just feel like now, 2021, is really the time to consider a sale and purchase, especially because of where I see interest rates going. Consider this: A buyer might be paying 

$30,000, $40,000 or even $50,000 more for a house today than they potentially could by waiting until next year. But wait. what are they getting for the home that they’re selling? Assuming the home you are selling is less expensive than the one you are buying, are you going to get $15,000. $20,000 or $25,000 more today than you might next year? So now I’m paying $50,000 more for the home I’m buying, but I’m earning $25,000 more for the home I’m selling, so my net differential is $25,000 negative to me. What”s the monthly payment differential? 

And if that seller takes a short-term hit to their equity-let’s say they buy at $50,000 right at the top of the market and it corrects-well, if they’re buying a home that they’re going to be in for eight, 10, 13 years, what does that appreciation annually need to look like, even if there’s a short-term blip in the value for the first one, two or three years that they own? It is so critical for people to think about these scenarios of value, payment and equity in a holistic way to make the right decision. Using a real estate professional with extensive knowledge of the local market is critical here in understanding the entire equation and its impact on your finances in the long term. 

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Bitcoin to Pay for a Home?!

If you are anything like me, you missed out on the Bitcoin market early on. I mean really, crypto-currency? Can that even be a thing? Well, apparently it is and the value is only going up! Read on for the latest from our newsletter…

In April 2021, Bitcoin hit an all-time high in the price of its coins, virtual trader Coinbase went public with a valuation of $86 billion, and Venmo, owned by PayPal, announced it’s adding support for cryptocurrencies. All of these give access to customers who can now easily buy, sell and pay for items with cryptocurrencies for lower fees, more privacy and more security than they currently get through traditional banking.

Coinbase.com explains that cryptocurrencies are simply decentralized monies to be used over the Internet. No governments, banks, companies or other entities are in charge of it, allowing anyone who wants to participate to be able to. Transactions are safer as they don’t include personal information to merchants, lenders, payment processors, advertisers, or credit reporting agencies.

While the coins are volatile, you can even turn your virtual coins into dollars, as one homebuyer did in Texas in 2017 using Bitpay at the seller’s request. According to CNBC.com, all you need is for the buyer and seller “to agree on exchanging bitcoin for the property.” Or another cryptocurrency if you prefer. All transactions are public and transparent through an open book technology called the blockchain.

If you don’t have enough bitcoin cash to buy a home, no worries. You can start saving for your down payment by using USD Coin, which is tracks 1:1 with the U.S. dollar. Customers who hold USDS coins can earn rewards, an alternative to a traditional savings account, says Coinbase, so start saving for your down payment now.

The Best Breeds for First-Time Homeowners

You finally have your own home and the “no pets” policy is out the door! But what kind of dog is best?

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, which one is right for you?
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, which one is right for you?

If you’re a first-time homeowner, the odds are good you will soon be ready for the fun and responsibility of owning your first dog.

If you’re looking for a pet that suits you and your lifestyle, the pooch experts at Petbreeds.com suggest breeds that are low maintenance, shed minimally, are easily trainable, and get along well with kids and other dogs:

  • Labrador retriever. There’s a reason these dogs are among the most popular breeds in the country. Known to be loyal, intelligent, obedient, and easy to train, they are deservedly a top choice, especially if you have, or plan to have children. Their energy make them an excellent choice for larger homes with big yards.
  • German short-haired pointer. These favorites are also low maintenance dogs that are easy to train. However, they’re also very active and require a lot of exercise to stay healthy, so they’re a good choice for active owners. Intelligent and playful companions who like their exercise and don’t require a lot of grooming.
  • Brittany spaniel. These loyal, intelligent pups are popular favorites among first-time pet owners because they’re loving, obedient, and great around children.
  • Vizla. Originally a Hungarian sporting dog, Vizslas are great exercise companions who are affectionate, friendly, and easy to train—and they don’t shed much. They are loyal, low-maintenance, easy-to-train breed, but they tend to be shy around children and other dogs.
  • Boston terrier. If you’re a couch potato, a Boston terrier may suit you well. These pups are friendly and loyal. They don’t require a lot of exercise, and they won’t shed much on your couch.
  • Australian cattle dog. If you’re into cuddling, this breed will greet you with open arms at the end of a long day. They’re a wonderful first dog, easy to train, although they do enjoy regular exercise and require regular grooming.
  • German Pinscher. These dogs are active but very obedient, and are especially adorable as puppies. They rarely shed and training them is usually easy and fun.
  • Papillion. These fluffy, adorable little dogs are super smart and are one of the most loving and sociable breeds. Their ability to learn makes them a favorite in for service dog trainers. Their cheerful demeanor will turn first-time pet owners into dog owners for life.

Are you interested in learning more about real estate? Feel free to contact me directly.

Top Home Decor Trends for 2021

With most people spending more time at home than ever, it is not surprising that home design trends in 2021 will focus on comfort and functionality. From clean lines to homey touches that remind you of Grandma’s house,  some of these popular styles may surprise you.

Grandmillenial Style 
Inspired by the comforts of Grandma’s home (cue the velvet sofa, needlepoint and floral curtains), millennials are decorating with a nostalgic sense of style. Expect to see vintage touches and old-school patterns mixed with bold, modern colors.

Japandi Design 
In a tumultuous year, the trend moves to a soothing neutral color palette. Enter Japandi style: a combination of Japanese design and Scandinavian minimalism that’s all about sleek lines and neutral color palettes. Check it out on Pinterest, which has seen the search for Japandi increase 100 percent in the past year. 

Earth Tones 
They’re back, replacing recent trends toward gray and bright white. Warm taupes, beiges, sands—basically any earth tone is surging in popularity, both for walls and furnishings.

Oversized Tiles 
Out with teeny-tiny bathroom tiles with impossible-to-clean grout lines, and in with larger scale tiles that provide less visual clutter while helping to visually expand a small space.

Clever Room Dividers 
Because homes are now serving multiple functions—home office, gym, schools and creative space—the need for privacy and separate zones has increased, and dividers are back. Etsy reports a 134-percent increase in searches for room dividers, while Pinterest saw the search for ‘cloffice’ ideas (as in closet converted into an office) more than double.

Outdoor Living 
Taken from the Danish concept of “friluftsliv,” or “free air life,” the age of coronavirus ushers in more options for making small outdoor gatherings comfortable. Fire pits, weatherproof upholstery, comfy patio furniture and even drink ledges for balcony railings are being sought after for backyards, patios and balconies.

Neon Lights 
Brighten up 2021 with fluorescent light fixtures—neon lighting is back with a modern look. Customized neon word art and neon-hued LED lights are trending. On Pinterest, searches for “neon room” and “LED light signs” have already more than tripled.

10 Easy Ways to Refresh a Tired Living Space

Has being cooped up made your home just feel tired? Try a few of these tips to refresh your space…

A new rug or even cleaning an old one can make a big difference in an otherwise stale space.

If you’re like many Americans who’ve been working from home for many months, you may be tired of the living space you once enjoyed and find it is now totally uninspiring. Decorators suggest 10 simple refresher solutions to perk up your living and work space.

  • Repaint one wall. Add a new splash of color by repainting one wall of your kitchen, bedroom or living room. Choose a color you find relaxing or pleasing and add new interest to your day.
  • Bring in a few plants. A little greenery can do wonders to brighten up a space and lift your spirits as well. Try an easy-care philodendron, a low-light friendly Devil’s Ivy or Chinese evergreen, or mini-sago palm or weeping fig.
  • Hang a mirror. It will get a little more light bouncing around, which can make a room look more spacious.
  • Try some new wall art. Add interest and create something fun to look at while you work by hanging one larger piece surrounded in an interesting way by several smaller pieces. You can even use framed photos or a variety of smaller watercolors to make a pleasing gallery wall. 
  • Change up the lighting. Overhead light can be pretty boring. Bring in a table or floor lamp or two to get light coming from different heights and angles around the room.  
  • Bring in a rug. In addition to adding warmth and texture to the floor, an area rug helps ground a room and the furniture in it. Even a small rug in the kitchen or in your entryway can make a big difference. 
  • Do some rearranging. Speaking of furniture, you can completely change the look of a room just by moving it around. 
  • Toss some pillows around. Make a tired room more inviting by tossing some comfy, bright-colored pillows on the sofa,  a chair or a bed.
  • Change out the knick-knacks. Accessorize a bookcase, shelving or a mantelpiece with some new decorative pieces, such as a couple of framed pictures, a small vase or sculpture, a pretty clock or whatever pleases you. 
  • Try adding scent. If you find the scent of pine or hyacinths relaxing, bring in some scented candles. Bringing scent into a room can liven it without breaking the bank.

Have questions about real estate? Please reach out!

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Easy Kitchen Hacks to Help Save on Groceries

Tired of wasting on groceries? Try some of these simple hacks…

Store leftovers in clear, airtight containers

There is little that home cooks can do about rising prices at the local market, but there are plenty of ways to make your grocery fund go further. Check out a few of these simple kitchen hacks to save pennies that add up to dollars.

Grate your own cheese. You pay big time for the convenience of pre-grated cheese. Buy an economical chunk of cheddar, or whatever type of cheese you like, and grate it yourself. Freeze what you don’t need right away so you’ll always have some on hand.

Chop and freeze herbs. Most recipes call for just a tablespoon or two of fresh herbs, but they come in bunches and unused portions often go to waste. Chop what you don’t use and pack it in ice cube trays with a little water. Throw the cubes into your soups or stews, or mix them with butter in your veggies.

Stop tossing brick-hard brown sugar. Store it with a marshmallow to keep it from hardening. If it’s too late for that, put the box or jar of hardened sugar into the microwave for 20 seconds to soften.

Roll your lemons. Don’t use two when one will do. You’ll get a lot more juice out of a lemon when you roll it on the counter before you cut it. 

Keep homemade cookies fresh. Lay a slice of fresh bread over them in your storage container. If they’re still around after a few days, change the bread to keep them fresh a little longer.

Skip the cooking spray. It’s more expensive and less nutritious than the tablespoon of olive oil, butter or coconut oil you need in your skillet.

Make leftovers more appealing. People turn up their noses at microwaved leftovers because they often wind up dry and tasteless. You can save on lunch by adding a bit of moisture to make them taste like they’re fresh-cooked. Wrap bread in a damp paper towel before nuking. Put a glass of water in the microwave when heating pastas, meats or stews.  

HOW AN APPRAISAL COULD AFFECT YOUR MORTGAGE REFINANCE RATE AND COSTS

Refinancing your mortgage may help you lower your interest rate and monthly payments, or cash out some of your home equity. Your lender may require an appraisal as part of the refinancing process. The result can affect the new interest rate you will qualify for, along with other costs.

What is an Appraisal?

An appraisal is an inspection conducted by an independent professional to assess the current market value of a house based on its size, amenities and condition. An appraiser compares the home in question to similar properties in the same area that have been sold recently.

Each lender decides whether to require an appraisal to refinance. Some government mortgage programs offer streamlined programs without an appraisal. If your lender requires an appraisal, you will have to pay for it. The fee is typically several hundred dollars.cc

How Can Your Home’s Appraised Value Affect Your Refinancing Options?

The current market value of your home can affect your loan-to-value ratio, which is a percentage calculated by dividing your mortgage balance by your home’s appraised value. A lender will consider the LTV ratio, in addition to your credit score and debt-to-income ratio, to set your interest rate.

If your home’s value has increased since you bought it, you may qualify for a lower interest rate. If your home’s value has fallen, however, you may not be able to qualify for a competitive interest rate because lenders consider borrowers with low amounts of equity riskier than borrowers with more equity. If the appraised value of your house is less than your mortgage balance, you may not be able to refinance the loan at all.

How Can the Appraisal Affect Private Mortgage Insurance?

If the LTV ratio is 80 percent or higher, you may need to pay for private mortgage insurance, which can cost hundreds of dollars per month. If you have been paying for PMI, your home’s value has increased since you bought it and you have more than 20 percent equity, you may be able to eliminate PMI and save money each month.

If you have less than 20 percent equity and don’t want to pay for PMI, you might be able to avoid it by choosing a cash-in refinance. You could pay down your mortgage balance to reduce your loan-to-value ratio, eliminate PMI and get a lower interest rate.

How to Prepare for an Appraisal

Given the importance of your home’s appraised value, you want to present your house in a positive light. You should make sure your home is clean and free of clutter so the appraiser can easily see all the important features. You don’t need to make major improvements before an appraisal, but you might want to apply a fresh coat of paint and make some inexpensive repairs.

Source: RIS Media

Helpful Tips for Moving with Pets

People move for all sorts of reasons, and while some moves can boast exciting opportunities, even a move under the best circumstances can be unbearably stressful. Transitioning to a new home can be hard on the furry members of your household, as well. Thankfully, there are measures you can put in place to make your next move as smooth as possible for your pets.

Board Your Pet on Moving Day

Ideally, you will not keep your pet around on moving day. The chaos can be stressful for your pet and you likely won’t give your pet the attention it will want or need. Movers can also let out your pet unintentionally. Avoid this by boarding your pet or asking a trusted friend or family member to pet sit.

Keep an Essentials Box

Just as you should keep essentials with you during a move so that you have vital items, if your moving truck is lost or delayed, it can be helpful to create the same essentials box for your pet. Include any prescriptions, favorite toys, familiar items and their bed.

Make it Familiar

You may not be able to explain to Fido why you left your old house, but you can make their new home feel familiar right away. Set up a small area with your pet’s toys, food and bed. Keep daily rituals as similar as possible. Particularly for outdoor cats, allow them to get acclimated to a bedroom or smaller space before letting them rule the roost.

Fill Out the Paperwork

Moving comes with a lot of paperwork, but don’t forget to add your pet’s files to the mix. Update their tags or microchip information to the new address and phone number and request that your previous vet transfer records to a local clinic.

Source: RIS Media

Local Real Estate Update

Historically, the summer time has been a good time to be a home buyer but not such a great time to be a home seller.  We have had many people ask if our opinion has changed in the season of COVID-19 and record low interest rates in place to stimulate the real estate market.  The answer is yes and no.  Like everything else in real estate, it is location dependent.

Today we are taking a look at two of our favorite zip codes:  22314 which covers Old Town Alexandria and 22301 which includes Rosemont, DelRay, and the surrounding area.

In DelRay we are seeing some good news and some not so good news.  The average sales price is up 29% from last year but the average days on market is also up by 120%.

In nearby Old Town we see not only a 54% increase in the average days on the market year over year, but a 14% decrease in the average sales price as well.  It is interesting to note that in 22314 we also saw a 113 increase in new listings compared to June of last year.

Who knows what the future holds but compared to previous years, I would say that at least in Alexandria, when the temperatures go up, the number of home buyers tend to go down.