Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Lovettsville OktoberFest Is Just Around The Corner

Oktoberfest Logo.jpg 
Lovettsville OktoberFest is held annually the last full weekend of September. Usually a 3-day event, the festival celebrates Lovettsville's German heritage with music, dancing, food & beer, plus more! This year, it will be on September 27-28, 2019. Currently, the town is now bursting with new developments — homes, streetscapes, sidewalks, retail, and a grocery co-op, which has long been desired by the community. The Lovettsville Co-op Market will be the only grocery co-op in Northern Virginia. It hopes to attract customers from the DC metro area and to build upon Lovettsville's reputation as a small town destination for agri-tourism.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Selling A Home Near Amazon’s HQ2 in Virginia? Be Prepared for Some Stiff Buyers' Competition

When Amazon announced it was planning to build a second headquarters in North America, tons of cities put on their Sunday best and tried to woo the mega corporation.
But, why?
As Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat put it, Amazon would undoubtedly be detonating a “prosperity bomb” in the winning city. He saw it happen firsthand in Seattle, home to Amazon’s original HQ.
“For those of us lucky to be born early enough to buy a house back in Seattle WA (Before Amazon) this explosion has transformed us into assessed-value millionaires,” wrote Westneat.
In November 2018, it was revealed that Amazon HQ2 would break ground in Crystal City, which is a neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia. And as of July 2019, it seems like that “prosperity bomb” has already gone off.
The latest ranking of cities by Redfin Compete Score shows that the two most competitive US housing markets are the ones closest to Crystal City: Arlington and Alexandria. Redfin creates the list based on how quickly homes are going under contract, how many homes sell above list price, and how hard it is for buyers to place a winning bid on a home.
When it comes to how quickly homes are going under contract, here are what the numbers looked like in July 2019, according to Redfin:
  • National median: 38 days
  • D.C. metro area median: 27 days
  • Alexandria median: 14 days
  • Arlington median: 11 days
And how many of those homes are selling above list price?
  • 46% of homes in Arlington (vs. 27% last year)
  • 36% in Alexandria (vs. 24% last year)
  • 32% of homes in the D.C. metro area
  • 24% of homes nationwide
One primary reason these homes are selling above list price is simple supply and demand. The number of homes for sale in Arlington and Alexandria fell by approximately 50% year-over-year in July. Less homes means more competition in a hot housing market.
If you feel that you are ready to sell your home, partner with a pro whom you can trust to provide honest advice so you can do what's best for you and your budget.  A good agent puts service before sales - but knows how to get things done when it's time to sell.
If you don't have an agent yet, give me a call.

article source: By | https://www.embracehomeloans.com

Friday, July 12, 2019

Fixing A Clogged Drain

When it comes to being handy around the house, there are two areas where many of us tend to shy away — electrical work and plumbing. While anyone who’s ever received an electric shock understands the risks of doing that type of work, basic plumbing is something just about anyone should be willing to take on.
Whether it’s a clogged sink, shower, bathtub, or toilet, before you pick up the phone to call a plumber, here are a few things you should try first.


Taking the Plunge

A good old-fashioned plunger is great way to loosen clogged drain pipes. Plungers come in multiple sizes — use a small one for sinks, showers, and bathtubs and a large one for a clogged toilet. Plungers work best submerged in water because this allows for greater suction. Plunge steadily, keeping in mind it may take a several attempts to successfully eliminate a blockage.
If you’re trying to unclog a double kitchen sink with a plunger, begin by closing off one sink with a stopper. This will prevent any liquid from splashing back once you begin plunging. Then fill the other side of the sink with enough water to cover the bell of the plunger and create a tight seal.


Plumber’s Snake and More

Another solution that doesn’t require using potentially harmful chemicals is a plumber’s snake. This long flexible wire with teeth along its outer edges can be used to dislodge hair, soap, grease, or anything else clogging the drain. If you don’t have snake on hand, a coat hanger may do the trick. You can also try using a wet and dry vacuum to suck out the clog. To do this, insert the nozzle directly into the drain.


Drain Cleaners

  • The natural mix: A mixture of vinegar and baking soda can be a convenient and effective non-chemical solution for unclogging drains. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the blocked drain and then pour in 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Plug your drain and let it stand for at least 15 – 20 minutes, then flush with boiling water. Repeat if necessary.
  • The chemical solution: You’ll find a number of drain cleaning products available at your local hardware or grocery store. These come in a variety of strengths, so be sure to look for one that’s right for the type of drain you’re trying to unclog. These products specify a period of time for the chemical to “stand’ and then flush using hot water. Again, repeat if necessary. These cleaners are made of extremely strong and even corrosive chemicals. Be sure to follow directions closely and take the necessary precaution of using heavy rubber gloves and goggles.


Different Drains Require Different Approaches

If you’re unable to unclog a kitchen or bathroom sink with any of these methods, try removing the “P-trap,” which is located at the bottom of the drain pipe where it curves. Loosen the slip nuts at both ends of the pipe with a plumber’s wrench. Use the snake on the remainder of the drain pipe, then clean out any debris in the trap before reattaching it.
Turn off the electricity when attempting to unclog a kitchen sink that has an electric garbage disposal. Try using the vinegar and baking soda mix first to remove grease and trapped food. If that doesn’t work, you’ll want to try to one of the chemical solutions.
You may use any of these methods on a clogged shower or tub drain. However, you may need to disconnect or remove the internal stopper mechanism before you begin.
Using chemicals can be harmful to your toilet. First, try pouring 1/4 cup of dish detergent into the toilet bowl. Dish soap acts as a lubricant to help break up any residue. Then add boiling water and use a plunger to finish dislodging the clog.


The Bottom Line

Unless a foreign object has become lodged in a drain pipe, clogs tend to develop slowly over time. The accumulation of soap, grease, hair, and other detritus results in slow draining and even standing water. Regular cleaning and proper drain strainers can save you time and money.
Next time, before you call a plumber about a clogged drain, try these simple techniques. You’ll be surprised by how easy DIY plumbing can be.

article source:  By |May 29th, 2019

Friday, June 28, 2019

Scams In Real Estate To Watch Out For

The real estate industry is rife with scam artists, and millions of homebuyers, sellers, and owners fall victim every year.
The truth is, the more that real estate and its processes go digital, the more at risk our data, information and, most importantly, finances are as we go about these massive financial transactions in our lives.
It requires extra diligence on our part, as well as from the agents, lenders, title companies, and everyone else we do business with.
Are you considering buying, selling, or renting a home? Here are the scams you should watch out for — and how to spot them.

1. Wire Fraud

This is the big one, accounting for millions (potentially billions) in financial losses every year. It typically occurs with a single email hack. The scam artist gains access to just one email account involved in the transaction — a real estate agent, someone at the mortgage lender or broker’s office, an escrow officer, a title agent, or even a buyer or seller, and then monitors communications from there.
Once the closing date nears, the scammer sends a fake email — usually using spoofed email addresses very similar to those actually involved in the sale — asking the party to wire their funds (down payment, closing costs, mortgage payoff) using certain instructions. Little does the victim know, those instructions aren’t from a legitimate source, and their money is wired right into an offshore bank account never to be seen again.

2. Bait & Switch

This is the scam that sellers need to worry about. A buyer comes in with an above-market offer. The home is then switched to pending and no other offers are accepted. Weeks pass, and as closing nears, the buyer asks for an extension and the seller grants, knowing the high offer they’ll be getting in return. In the meantime, the seller is stuck paying the mortgage payment, taxes, utilities, etc., while the buyer keeps spinning their wheels.
After a few rounds of this, they come back with an excuse for why their original offer will no longer work, instead offering a low-ball bid. Frustrated by the extra costs and hesitant to re-list the home and start from scratch, the seller accepts, losing out on thousands of dollars and months of time and hassle.

3. The Phantom Listing

This one typically involves a property in which the owner is out on vacation, away for business, or only a temporary resident. A scam artist gets wind of the home’s temporary vacancy, markets the home to on-the-market renters. They might even bill it as a steal — “Just XX price for this pre-furnished and fully decorated property!”
They then close the deal, often asking for several months of rent in advance (plus deposits, fees, etc.). By the time the money has exchanged hands and you’ve moved in, the real owner comes back to find their home occupied by an unwanted (and illegal) tenant.
This can also happen with out-of-town homebuyers. Their “agent” sends them photos or video of a home — one that’s not actually available — and asks them to wire earnest money and option fees in order to nab the property. Thinking this is the norm when buying from out of town, the buyer complies, only to lose thousands of dollars in the process.

4. Duplicate Listings

In addition to fake and phantom listings, there’s also a scam involving duplicate listings. Here’s how it works: Scammers copy a legitimate rental listing, post it on other sites (Craigslist is a big one), and drop the price for a few hundred dollars to get some attention. They then ask the renter to wire their security deposit, first month’s rent, and other fees in order to hold the property. Once the money is sent, they (and that money) disappear into the night, never to be seen or heard from again.

5. Fake Agents & Real Estate Lawyers

Fraudsters are also known to impersonate real estate attorneys and agents, too. They might choose a legitimate professional and then mock up a website or profile using their identity, or they may create an entirely new persona out of thin air. Once they’ve got a potential buyer on the hook, they show them properties, help them find the right one, and then steal their deposits, escrow money, or closing costs with faux wiring instructions.

Red Flags to Watch for

Avoiding these and other scams is all about being diligent, reading your emails carefully, and vetting who you work with.
Specifically, you should:
  • Look carefully at each individual email address on a message, especially if it contains a request for money or financial data
  • Voice verify any wiring instructions or requests for money
  • Verify the license and credentials of your agent and real estate attorney
  • Be wary of any too-low-priced or pre-furnished/decorated homes
  • Research the property you’re considering using local appraisal district and property records
  • Use double-layer identification on your emails and make sure your vendors do, too
  • Don’t send financial documents over email; use a secure portal or folder instead
Most importantly, don’t send money to anyone unless you’ve verified who they are and what you are getting in return.
article source: By |June 13th, 2019

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Use Less, Save More: Energy-Efficient Tips for Lowering Your Utility Bills

Save more moola for summer fun — try these savvy energy-saving tips, and ditch the exorbitant energy bills once and for all.
We all enjoy being warm and cozy in the winter, and cool as a cucumber in the summer — but the energy bills that keep us there can get out of hand quickly.  Luckily, home updates, inexpensive projects, and even minor changes in routine can create notable savings.


Hunt for an energy-efficient home

When my husband and I started our home search, we knew energy efficiency was a priority. Before we found a real estate agent, we carefully considered how many square feet we’d need to be comfortable as a family — and it wasn’t as much space as we’d thought.
House hunting was absolutely about finding a place that looked and felt like home, but we also kept in mind practical considerations. Updated windows, modern appliances, and a sufficiently insulated attic can have big impacts on home energy use.
We also found that some home features, such as cathedral ceilings and sun rooms, can increase energy costs. And if you’re home shopping in hot climates, keep an eye out for homes with cool-roof features to prevent the air-conditioning from working overtime.
Once we found a home we loved, we lined up a home inspector with a great reputation. Walking through the home alongside the inspector taught us a lot about our home’s energy efficiency. We learned how our insulation levels compared to standards in our region, and the age of major appliances and equipment in the home.
If your dream home doesn’t come with an energy-efficient water heater or updated windows, there’s no need to despair. Issues that show up during a home inspection give you grounds to negotiate with the seller.
In the end, our family of three chose a modern cottage (just under 800 square feet) in a great neighborhood with a large garage for hobbies and storage space. We get a lot of use out of our generous outdoor entertaining space and garage, while the modest size of our home keeps our monthly utility bills low. It’s a choice we don’t regret!


Assess major appliances and equipment

Shopping for efficient new appliances and equipment is easy, thanks to independent certification from Energy Star. Most modern appliances feature an Energy Star label that gives you a yearly estimated operating cost:

Image from the Federal Trade Commission.
Older appliances may not be as easy to assess, but you can use the U.S. Department of Energy’s appliance energy calculator to estimate how much energy they use.
With roughly half of all energy expenses going to heating and cooling, high-performing heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment should be a priority for every homeowner. Overall efficiency, however, isn’t the only factor to consider when evaluating your heating and cooling system.
When we initially bought our home, the previous owners installed an oversized furnace. It might’ve been a great choice for a larger home, but not ours. The furnace would inefficiently short cycle during winter, ratcheting up our energy costs while causing excessive wear and tear on the furnace itself. When we replaced it with a model half the size, we saved a bundle on our monthly utility bill.


Try quick, energy-efficient fixes

Not a lot of dollars to put down on a new HVAC system? No problem. Not every move toward energy efficiency requires an expensive home upgrade.
There are all kinds of quick fixes that owners and renters can make to cut back on energy costs. Energy Star has simple money saving tips that anyone can put in place today.
Easy tasks, such as replacing weather stripping on a drafty front door, washing laundry in cold water, changing your ceiling fan’s direction, and using energy-efficient light bulbs, can all make an impact on your budget’s bottom line.


Seek expert guidance

Expert help doesn’t have to be expensive. Many local utility companies provide an energy audit, and they often offer them for no charge.
We recently scheduled this kind of assessment, and when they come out, they’ll give us free advice on how to lower our energy bill even further. As a part of their visit, they’ll update up to 20 light bulbs at no cost, increasing our home’s efficiency on the spot. They offer high-performance shower heads and other free perks, too.


Lower your utility bill — then save a little more

Energy-efficient upgrades provide a whole lot of bang for your buck. In addition to lowering your monthly utility bill or making your home more comfortable in extreme weather, you might also be eligible for tax credits, rebates, and additional savings. We updated our windows and replaced our furnace by using tax credits.
The number of programs offering additional savings can be overwhelming. Luckily, you can conduct some quick research online to ensure you’re not missing out. The U.S. Department of Energy’s tax credits, rebates, and savings database is a great place to start.

By Melanie Harding


Monday, May 20, 2019

Stop Cleaning Your House Wrong

It's that special time again. Time to throw open the windows, bust out a mountain of cleaning supplies, blast some BeyoncĂ©, get into a zone, and start working on making your home spick-and-span.
But hold on, hasty home cleaner: Before you get started, we need to tell you how to clean. Yes, we really do. You probably think you know all there is to know—after all, you've been doing this all your adult life, right? But it turns out that creating a gorgeous, dust- and grime-free space is a lot trickier than it looks, especially if you're not hip to professional cleaners' sneakiest tactics.
So we did the dirty work for you. Here, we've rounded up eight ways you've been tackling spring-cleaning all wrong, according to the pros—and how to do it right.

1. Dry mopping

What's the best way to get all the dirt and crumbs out of the way before you wash down the kitchen or bathroom floor? Dry mopping (aka “dust mopping”) might seem to make sense, but you're better off busting out the Hoover. Trust the pros on this one.
Vacuuming removes two times more debris, says cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper. And you want as much debris as possible out of the way—otherwise it will just get spread all over your kitchen when you wet mop. And that will make getting rid of it the next time even harder.

2. Not emptying the vacuum receptacle

Before you dig out the vacuum for your spring-cleaning escapades, get rid of the evidence from the last time you cleaned. All of it. If your dust buster's canister or bag is more than half-full, empty it before you start sucking.
A too-full vacuum makes a much less efficient cleaner, meaning you might have to go over your living room two or three times just to remove your dog's latest layer of hair. Emptying the bag at the start (or if it gets too full midcleaning) means much less work for you.

3. Going rogue

Cleaning might not seem like a science, but it's certainly simpler if you treat it like one. If your lemon floor cleaner says you need only 1 tablespoon per gallon, follow that instruction. You'd be amazed (or perhaps not) how many people think more is always better.
“If more worked better, they would recommend more,” Smallin Kuper says. After all, it's in their interest to sell more product. So why would they tell you to save when they could tell you to splurge? Because their stuff is made to work a certain way.
Pay attention when you read (not skim) the manufacturer's instructions, and follow them closely to save yourself time, sanity, and money.

4. Using paper towels and rags

Ditch the paper towels—and don't use rags in their place.
Microfiber cloths are far more effective at removing dirt and grime than cotton cloths, and you can pick up these miracle workers in every shape and form—including gloves that fit over your hand for easy general-purpose dusting to varieties specifically designed for cleaning electronics or wood floors.
As a bonus, microfiber clothes catch dirt and dust (and even bacteria!) between their superthin threads, letting you clean most surfaces without the need for chemical cleaners. Of course, heavy-duty stains may require some additional work, but as a general rule you'll be cutting costs in your cleaning cabinet.

5. Not wiping down your light bulbs

Cleaning your old bulbs isn't just an aesthetic- or allergen-related requirement. It actually helps you keep your home cheery and bright—and your electricity bill under control.
Dirty light bulbs emit 20% less light than clean bulbs, Smallin Kuper says. And that's not just wasted light—it's wasted energy.
Before cleaning, make sure the lights are turned off (no shocking surprises here). Use a dry microfiber cloth to clean off your bulbs—water or cleaning sprays can affect the electronics—and enjoy the sudden rush of brighter light when you flip the switch.

6. Storing things in cardboard boxes

Boxing up your seasonal odds and ends? While it might be tempting to use the pile of leftover moving boxes accumulating in your garage, you need to a trip to the store.
One cleaning mistake Smallin Kuper frequently sees is “storing things in cardboard boxes in the basement, attic, or garage instead of waterproof, insect-proof plastic bins.” Mold, termites, or just dampness after a rainy spring can damage your precious belongings. Pick up some heavy-duty plastic boxes instead.

7. Not decluttering first

We see you eyeing that dust rag. Wait! If there's still a layer of clutter around your home, don't even think about cleaning.
If you don't pick up things first, you'll be making multiple passes through a room, putting toys on the couch to clean the floor, pushing them in the corner to clean the couch, then realizing the dirty toys left another layer of dust, which requires another quick cycle.
Make sure there's nothing out that shouldn't be visible. Only then do you have our permission to start cleaning.

8. Spraying the glass

Cleaning glass-framed artwork or mirrors? Here's a less-than-obvious tip: Make sure you're spraying your cleaner onto the cloth, not the glass itself.
“The cleaner can drip or spread into the frame and damage the artwork,” Smallin Kuper says.
We're sure you're quick with your hands, but it's better to be safe than sorry—especially when it comes to high-value artwork.
You're forgiven if nothing makes you like cleaning. But with some help from the pros to smooth out the onerous process, hopefully you can start having a little bit of fun while you're ditching the dust.