Category Archives: Home Owners

HOME IMPROVEMENT TIPS: The 60/30/10 Color Rule

To paint and decorate your home without worrying whether you’re going overboard with color, try the classic interior design rule known as the 60/30/10 rule. It’s a foolproof way to divide your color scheme into primary, secondary and accent colors by assigning them percentage values.

The primary color is the largest block of color and will act as your neutral. You can use a true neutral like beige, grey, or white, or try a soft tint of your favorite color. The secondary color is the anchor and works well on upholstery and bedspreads. The accent color should have the most color intensity and is used sparingly in pillows, chair seats or oil paintings. Outside, the primary color is the brick, stucco or siding, the trim is the secondary color and the front door, porch chairs, or planter pots are the accent.

If you choose a deep shade for walls, give the paint a satin finish for sophistication. A dark color can easily look chalky. And the opposite is true—a light color can become blinding in a shiny finish. If you have lots of fine wood trim, paint baseboards, crown moldings and door and window trims in a complementary hue like white or cream.

To test a paint chip for accuracy, hold it parallel to the wall under natural light. Buy sample jars and test the colors on large poster boards you can tape to the walls. Watch how the colors change throughout the day and evening under artificial light.

Remember, interior colors always tend to go darker, while exterior colors appear lighter.

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Five Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips

If you are anything like me, you look a the lawn mower and just hope it magically starts… when it does not respond to mind control, I close my eyes and pull the cord as hard as a can and home the drat thing does not take off without me!  This article is perfect for all levels of lawn mower users… and even if you cannot change the oil yourself, you will at least know when to find someone to change it for you!

The lawn mower is the workhorse when it comes to outdoor maintenance. To keep your machine in working order all season long, continued care is essential. One of the most important maintenance tasks is changing the mower’s oil, say the experts at Briggs & Stratton, an outdoor power equipment provider. Oil from the previous season may be mixed with grass and other debris, inhibiting its use and the machine’s overall performance. Generally, oil should be changed at least once a year, or after 50 hours of operation for a push mower and after 100 hours of operation for a ride mower.

Most homeowners can conduct an oil change for a push mower in less than 15 minutes—a significant savings compared to having it serviced by a professional. The steps:

  1. To allow oil to drain more easily, run the engine for a short time to warm it up.
  2. Shut the engine off and disconnect the spark plug. Remove the oil fill cap or dipstick, and place a pan (or other container) under the oil fill. Tip the mower on its side, with the air filter side facing up and the oil fill facing down, to drain the oil.
  3. Once oil has been collected, fill the mower with new oil. Pour in an amount (and specific type) recommended by the manufacturer; this information can be found in the operator’s manual. Screw the oil fill cap back into place, and wipe up any drips with a rag or towel.
  4. The oil may also be changed using the oil drain, which is located on the underside of the mower deck. Consult the operator’s manual for instructions specific to the mower.
  5. For a ride mower, unscrew the plug from the drain funnel located at the bottom of the engine, and let the old oil flow through the hose into a pan or bucket.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

First Look: Home-Buying Season Is Already Booming

The 2016 home-buying season is in full swing, with homes in April moving 7 percent faster than one year ago, even as asking prices continue to break records. This, according to new data released this week by Realtor.com.

Median age of inventory is now 68 days, moving five days faster in April than a year earlier and 6 days faster than last month – pointing to solid momentum this spring. The median-priced home was listed at $245,500, 9 percent higher than one year ago and 2 percent higher than March. For-sale housing inventory is increasing on a monthly basis, but remains lower than one year ago.

“A robust buying season has already fully bloomed this spring, clearly demonstrated by our preliminary read on April inventory and activity on realtor.com,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of realtor.com. “Pent-up demand, lower mortgage rates and strong employment continue to power the strongest and healthiest real estate market we have seen in a decade. Close to 550,000 new listings came onto the market in April, which helped total inventory grow 2 percent over March. However, we know that sales are picking up faster than inventory since the median age of inventory fell again by six days after falling a whopping 22 days in March. As a result we have 4 percent fewer homes available for sale compared to last year and homes stay on the market five fewer days.”

The median age of inventory for April is expected to be 68 days, down 7 percent year over year and down 8 percent from March.

The median listing price for April will likely reach a record high of $245,500, a 9 percent increase year over year and a two percent increase month over month.

Listing inventory in April showed a 2 percent increase over March. However, inventory decreased 4 percent year over year.

Realtor.com’s Hottest Markets receive two to three times the number of views per listing compared to the national average. In terms of supply, these markets are seeing inventory move 17-45 days more quickly than the rest of the U.S. They have also seen days on market drop by an average of four days from March.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

Love Your Home Sweepstakes

Have you heard the news?  Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’s $50,000 sweepstakes last year was such a huge success they decided to give away even more money this year!  That’s right, in addition to giving away a $50,000 grand prize, they will also be giving away $2,500 a week to one lucky winner in the Love Your Home Sweepstakes.

love your home sweepstakes

Now through 5:00 p.m. ET on June 17, 2016, enter for a chance to win $50,000 to update your home so you can Love It or List It. Plus, one person will win $2,500 every week.  For more details or to enter the contest, visit http://www.loveyourhomesweeps.com or read the fine print and complete rules.

Shock of the New Chic

Complex Consumers: Why Your Old Marketing Won’t Work In Today’s Luxury Market

In decades past, luxury consumers were a primarily homogenous group with ostentatious style and a taste for status-setting items with luxury labels. Today, however, these values are all but obsolete. Luxury consumers are more varied, diverse, numerous, and complex than ever before, and thus less receptive to old marketing and branding tactics such as regionally- and demographically-targeted messaging. Market research shows that the “new” luxury consumer—in all of her instantiations—demands a fresh approach from luxury brands and service providers.

Out With The “Old” Luxury Consumer & In With The New

Although the new luxury consumer does not fit into one box, there are a few sentiments and traits that are growing across the board.

  • Global. The luxury consumer exists everywhere, and the Internet makes most products and services available to people from all corners of the world.
  • Sophisticated. Compared to past generations, today’s luxury consumer has more refined tastes and thinks more about the impact of their consumerism. These sophisticated shoppers are more educated about their options when making a buying decision.
  • Demanding. They expect their high-end vendors and service providers to be ever-accessible, as well as near-superhuman in their ability to predict the consumer’s needs and concerns.
  • Concerned with sustainability. The luxury market is not immune to eco-conscious consumers and business practices.
  • Shopping across all channels. Although today’s luxury consumer tends to communicate online, don’t assume that they’re doing all of their buying on the Internet. The in-person, in-office experience still matters.
  • Diverse. In age, race, socioeconomic background, taste, and expectations.

Luxury Experiences

One of the most important changes in the luxury consumer is the shift in interest from luxury “things” to luxury experiences. “Shock of the New Chic,” a recent research article by BCG Perspectives, reports that “newly affluent buyers tend to amass tangible goods that show off their wealth. Those who have acquired the ‘things’ they want tend to move on to one-of-a-kind experiences that they can share with others.”

Across all levels of affluence, the interest in luxury experiences is growing, from free-diving with hammerhead sharks to attending art auctions with other community members. American Millennials, for example, generally place much more stock in shared experiences than the elder and wealthier Baby Boomers. BCG’s 2013 Global Consumer Sentiment Survey showed that 29% of Chinese consumers prefer enriching experiences to products, while 51% of American consumers said the same. Today, experiential luxury constitutes 55% of luxury spending worldwide, and sales of luxury experiences now outstrip sales of high-end products.

How to Adapt & Improve

Here are 3 ways that luxury service providers can change their “business as usual” to embrace the changing trends and demographics within their market.

  • Offer luxury experiences. Real estate professionals should expand their services and offer luxury experiences to clients and prospects. This might mean organizing exclusive events, hosting community meet-ups for high-net-worth individuals, or throwing soirées featuring local luxury brands and products. Think of creative, on-brand ways to enhance your clients’ experience and enable them to “live” luxury, rather than just live in it.
  • Enrich your sales process. Research shows that, to excel with today’s consumer, all aspects and stages of your service should be top-tier. “Turning sales activities into deluxe experiences in their own right is nothing new,” according to BCG’s research. “But the practice is reaching new levels of excellence across a widening range of luxury segments . . . and across all channels.” Ask yourself how you can enhance your sales experience in the office, online, and everywhere in between. One digital option in real estate is to provide an easy method for clients to track the selling or buying process via a sleek smartphone app with push notifications. With a customer service interface that is branded and personalized, clients feel cared for and informed.
  • Test out new “experiential” business models. Over the past decade, the luxury market has seen a proliferation of businesses based on “sampling” luxury items or experiences, sometimes through rental or subscription models like those of Bag Borrow Or Steal and Birchbox. BCG noted that, “Although some see such businesses as democratizing luxury—perhaps even diluting the participating brands—the new model clearly resonates with consumers, especially Millennials.” In other words, it’s time to second guess the old assumption that exclusivity begets luxury.

Market research and statistics shed light on the luxury consumer’s ongoing transformation, and there is mounting evidence that it’s time for big changes in the luxury industry. BCG Perspectives stressed that, although luxury brands historically put less stock into research than their mainstream counterparts, “the formulas for success have become much more complicated.”

– from the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing 

Save the Barcroft Community Shopping Center

Recently our esteemed friends at the DMV decided to move its Four Mile Run customer service center from Arlington County to Barcroft Plaza, a shopping center in Falls Church, Fairfax County.  While on the surface this might not seem like a big deal, after all, it is only 5-6 miles from the old location so not a big deal for Arlington Residents to drive and one shopping center is as good as another, right?

Wrong.

The Four Mile Run facility is one of the five busiest in the state, handling an average of more than 540 customers a day and more than 150,000 in a year. It is currently located in a standalone 12,000 sq. ft. building in a light-industrial district and is served by a dedicated parking area with 102 spaces.

The proposed space in Barcroft Plaza is in no way prepared to handle that kind of traffic.  Bank of America, Zips Dry Cleaners, Starbucks, and a large Harris Teeter food market. The shopping center is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and an elementary school. It is busy, evidence of its value to families living in the area.

To name only a few if the key problems with this idea:

  1. Safety of Drivers: Access is from Columbia Pike and Lincolnia Roads – neither side has a stop light. Forcing patrons into a situation where they must cross the extremely busy Columbia Pike without the benefit of a stop light is negligent at best. Someone will get killed here.
  2. Safety for community: Unlike the current DMV location, this one is surrounded by a school and residential neighborhoods that are simply not prepared to handle the impact of the additional traffic and student drivers. Children live and play in this community and this will have a negative impact on their quality of life and will put them at risk.
  3. Parking: There is just enough parking to support the businesses already there, adding another 550+ visitors will choke the existing businesses.
  4. Economic: By adding a mass service center to a community shopping center you will drive away the existing customer base and thereby put the existing businesses in jeopardy.
  5. Cultural/Community Impact: As mentioned before, this is a community shopping center serving the residents of Barcroft, Parklawn, Lincolnia, Sleepy Hollow, and other similar neighborhoods. To put a mass service center in the middle of the neighborhood is not only unwise, it would destroy the flavor of the community.

The DMV did not bother to consult the community or residents it purports to serve or many of our elected officials regarding its plan to relocate to Barcroft Plaza. The community only happened to learned of the plan from an October 30 post on the Annandale Blog.

On December 3rd, Delegate Kory and the Mason District Council of Community Associations convened a meeting of residents with state and county representatives to hear and discuss DMV’s plan for the relocation. More than 100 residents attended; more than 30 spoke out in opposition and no resident supported the plan. Surprisingly, it was apparent from the DMV representatives that no consideration whatsoever had been given to the compatibility of their proposed service center with the Barcroft Plaza community. The justification for their plan was simply that DMV would save money on rent, and they had no requirement to notify the public.

If you agree that this is not a good use of Virginia residents’ tax payer dollars and that moving a mass service center to a small community shopping center is a bad idea, please review this comment and sign the petition at Change.org to save our community shopping center.

Seller’s Advice: Your Checklist for An Impressive Showing

House for saleLooking for ways to get a house ready to go on the market? Even if a home sale is not in your future, follow these tips from Realty Times writer Blanche Evans and you will notice how much more warm and welcoming your home can be.

Once your home goes on the market, real estate agents may call to show your home anytime, day or evening. Keeping your home “showtime” ready can be challenging, especially if you have children and pets.

What you need to stay organized is a handy checklist so you can be ready to show at any time. When you get the call that buyers are on their way, give everyone in the household a basket and assign them each to a room to pick up clutter quickly. Set a timer and tell everyone to grab up any toys on the floor, clear tabletops and countertops of junk, and quickly Swiffer-sweep the floors. Check for hazards like dog chews on the floor.

Turn on all the lights, and get ready to skedaddle. You have to let buyers have privacy so they can assess your home honestly. Take the kids for an outing. Put pets in daycare, sleep cages or take them with you:

Keep your home show-ready with these nine tips:

Eliminate clutter: Not only is clutter unattractive, it’s time-consuming to sort through and expensive for you to move. If you have a lot of stuff, collections, and family mementoes, you would be better off renting a small storage unit for a few months.

Keep, donate, throw away: Go through your belongings and put them into one of these three baskets. You’ll receive more in tax benefits for your donations that pennies on the dollar at a garage sale. It’s faster, more efficient and you’ll help more people.

Remove temptations: Take valuable jewelry and collectibles to a safety deposit box, a safe, or store them in a secure location.

Remove breakables: Figurines, china, crystal and other breakables should be packed and put away in the garage or storage.

Be hospitable: You want your home to look like a home. Stage it to show the possibilities, perhaps set the table, or put a throw on the chair by the fireplace with a bookmarked book on the table.

Have a family plan of action: Sometimes showings aren’t convenient. You can always refuse a showing, but do you really want to? If you have a showing with little notice, get the family engaged. Everyone has a basket and picks up glasses, plates, newspapers, or anything left lying about.

Remove prescription medicines: Despite qualifying by the buyer’s agent, some buyers have other intentions than buying your home. It’s also a good idea to lock your personal papers such as checkbooks away. Do not leave mail out on your desk.

Get in the habit: Wash dishes immediately after meals. Clean off countertops. Make beds in the morning. Keep pet toys and beds washed and smelling fresh.

Clean out the garage and attic: Buyers want to see what kind of storage there is.