Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Moving: Should You Hire Movers or DIY?

Depending on where you're moving, how many items you're moving and a slew of other factors, you need to decide whether to hire a moving company or tackle the job yourself. Before making your final decision, read through these pros and cons, plus a bonus option for the less-traditional move.

Moving yourself pros
  • More cost-effective: A DIY move can save you money on paying movers an hourly or flat rate. Depending on the company you go with, hiring movers can cost thousands of dollars! 
  • No scheduling conflicts: Rather than being beholden to the moving company's schedule, moving yourself gives you much more freedom. 
  • Ensure precious items are protected: If you move on your own, you can be sure that anything valuable or precious remains safe under your care.
  • Save money for furnishing your new digs: Many people move themselves because they would rather save money for furnishing their new place or start an in-case-of-emergency fund for home repairs. 
  • Time-consuming: If you don't have a lot of time on your hands, you should consider hiring movers. 
  • Stressful: Moving yourself requires a lot of physical and mental strength. That's why people turn to professional movers. 
  • Moving truck fees, gas and tolls: Make sure that a DIY move is actually more cost-effective than hiring movers. Factor in the cost of a moving truck, gas and tolls before making a decision.
Hiring movers pros
  • No heavy lifting: If you hire a moving company, you can rest assured that you will not pull a muscle or break anything while trying to maneuver heavy furniture out of your current home and into a new one.
  • Insurance to protect valuables: If anything gets damaged during the move, moving companies come with insurance that will cover the cost of anything that doesn't make it out alive. 
  • Huge time-saver: If you're short on time, a moving company can swoop in to save the day. It can even offer packing and unpacking services to make your life simpler! 
  • Very efficient: Moving companies offer professional services, meaning that the men and women you hire can get your items in and out in a timely fashion. If you decide to go it alone, that might not be the case. 
  • Extremely expensive depending on the packages: Before you get too excited about someone else packing and unpacking your home for you, be aware that adding on this service will increase your bill astronomically. 
  • Insurance doesn't mean your items won't get damaged: If your goal is to not have anything broken, then the insurance a moving company offers won't be worth it to you. No amount of money can replace a family heirloom or other priceless item. 
  • Less control over scheduling: If you hire movers, know that they may not be available on the date you need. 
Consider a portable storage unit
If neither of these options impresses you, try looking into portable storage units. Typically, the storage company will bring the container to your home so that you can pack it with your belongings and then bring the container back to its storage facility.
Some people go this route if they are in the process of selling a home and want to move some of their belongings out of the home to stage it for buyers. Or if you're doing a home renovation, a portable storage unit is a good option.
What does it boil down to? 
Take note of all the pros and cons mentioned above before you decide on movers or a DIY move. Your unique situation will impact the best option for you. Make sure you do the numbers and that you're getting the right deal for your situation.
Feel free to contact us at any time for questions on how to make your next move as seamless as possible.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Amazon ‘HQ2’ coming to Northern Virginia

Amazon today announced that a Northern Virginia site would be part of its second headquarters (HQ2) location. The decision will create tens of thousands jobs and billions of dollars in investment in the Washington, D.C., region, lure many companies that want to work with Amazon, and spur development of new industry strengths for the area.

The announcement ends a high-profile, 14-month competitive search process that received bids from 238 locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Northern Virginia and New York City, which also will be part of HQ2, were among 20 finalists that Amazon toured.

The Northern Virginia site chosen by Amazon is in Crystal City, part of Arlington County. Fairfax and Loudoun counties had submitted a site called Innovation Station straddling the county borders and adjacent to Metro and Washington Dulles International Airport. Innovation Station is close to an Amazon Web Services east coast campus and company data centers.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

6 Things People Later Regret Decluttering From Their Homes

We normally don't rue chucking unused kitchen gadgets or an old pair of shoes. But in the big push to do some high-impact decluttering, many people get rid of things they later wish they'd kept. For instance, I got rid of my grandparent's Pendleton blanket (a nice memory from childhood sleepovers) when I moved across the country; I'd give most anything to have it back now. And a friend misses old letters from high school that went into the trash; but really, how much space do a few pieces of paper really take up?
So before you purge past the point of good reason, lean on some 20/20 hindsight and peruse this list of things that other people regret decluttering out of their homes. Who knows? Later on, you might wish you had hung onto them for dear life.


1. Personal paperwork

"For over 30 years, I was a freelance producer in film, mostly commercials," says Ben Bryant of Los Angeles. "When I moved on to run my own video company, my wife and I did a cleanup and I tossed my work record books containing details of jobs, colleagues. and fees."
The problem? "Who knew that 20 years later I’d write a memoir?" says Bryant. "That toss-out was a huge mistake."
Maybe old papers and calendars in a home office don't spark joy, but when going through documents, pause for a moment so you can be sure you’re making the right decision for the present and the future. When dealing with stuff, you have to be able to purge the junk and save what's important.


2. Photos where you look less than perfect

Maybe you want to be ruthless about chucking those physical photos where you have red-eye. But look for who else is in the picture before you head to the trash bin.
"I've had clients that regretted getting rid of photos that they didn't like of themselves but that also featured family members," says Susan Santoro, a professional organizer at Organized31.com. "Later, they wished they had photos of those relatives that passed away."
Simply declutter the photos that are duplicates or don't have anyone meaningful to you in them. The remaining photos likely don't take much room to keep.


3. Iconic clothing

Santoro recalls a client who regretted getting rid of his 1980s Guess jacket.
"He wishes he still had it for '80s-themed parties, which, due to his age, are more frequent than he would have guessed back when he purged his wardrobe," she says.
With clothing, the key is to get rid of anything that no longer fits, is torn, or you never liked in the first place. But hang onto those pieces that really capture an era of your life.


4. Items you like that just don't fit in your current space

When Christie's (no last name given) grandmother passed away in 2013, each grandchild received a framed photograph she had taken of a nature scene.
"But at the time, I had no extra wall space to hang it," says the BoiseID, resident. The picture was put in her closet. Then in the midst of decluttering for a move, she decided to get rid of it. And it wasn't until Christie saw similar photos in her sisters' homes that she felt a loss.
"While I have items I received after my grandma passed away, I deeply regret not having this piece of art that she captured," says Christie.
If you're in the middle of a major life transition such as moving, hold off on decluttering anything with deep sentimental value. Even if it doesn't fit in the house you have at the time, you may have space in your future digs.


5. Items you're too young to appreciate

Jacquie Denny was a 23-year-old just getting started on her career when her mother decluttered the family home. Anything she wanted to keep needed to go or it would be tossed, her mom told her.
"I wasn't thinking that I would want that goofy scrapbook I kept during my teen years," says Denny, who later co-founded the estate sale service Everything But the House. "But now, it’s gone for good, and that black-and-white photograph signed by all four Beatles would be nice to have!"
Decluttering can be dangerous when you're still young and the full value of memories haven't yet sunk in. If relatives won't hold onto items for you until you've grown up past cringing at anything having to do with high school, consider renting a small storage space to keep these sentimental items.


6. Real jewelry along with fake

Gilat Tunit, owner and founder of the Project Neat, had a client who accidentally threw away her mother's heirloom (and very expensive!) necklace. Um, why?
"Somehow while decluttering her old costume jewelry, she threw out her mother's very real necklace," says Tunit. By the time the woman realized what she had done, the necklace was long gone.
Many times, we get overwhelmed by all of the things they have and the purging process becomes excessive. You don't have to go full Marie Kondo! Take your time or you may regret what you get rid of, advises Tunit.
"Sometimes people get so declutter-happy that they make mistakes," Tunit adds. You may want to consider hiring a professional who can manage the process, and help curate what stays and what goes.

article source:  Home Improvement on Realtor.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

ASHBURN VA: Top 2 of The Best Places to Live in America, 2018

Revenge of the Burbs!

  Home is where the heart is, home is where you make it—but given the option, wouldn't you want to make your home and store your heart in a place with a great sense of community, excellent schools to set your kids up for success, and affordable homes so you can set yourself up for financial stability?
Of course you would. And we're here to help!

For the second year in a row, realtor.com® teamed up with Money magazine to come up with its annual Best Places to Live list. Having focused on small towns last year, we set our sights this time around on places with populations of 50,000 or more.

To figure out the best of the best, we took into account more than 135,000 data points, covering economic health, public school performance, local amenities, housing, and cost of living. We disqualified places with high crime rates (more than double the national rate), depressed income (less than 85% of the state median), and a lack of racial diversity.

The resulting list doesn't feature any of the nation's best-known big cities (could it be due to their higher crime rates and skyrocketing home prices?), but many suburban towns that are within a decent commute of one. That means you get those classic suburban amenities (a big house, a backyard for barbecues, great public schools) without totally giving up on the big-bucks jobs and fun factor of the big city.

"For someone who’s starting from scratch, this is a list of areas with great quality of life, healthy housing markets where affordability is important, and great overall community," says Danielle Hale, realtor.com's chief economist.
Ready? Let's take a cross-country tour of America's top-drawer places, 2018. (See the list of all 50 here.)

Best Places to Live

1. Frisco, TX

Median home price: $449,900
Median household income : $117,642
Population: 177,286

A three-bedroom home in Frisco for less than $500,000.
A three-bedroom home in Frisco for less than $500,000.
For the first time in at least five years, Frisco topped the U.S. Census list of America's fastest-growing big cities. From 2016 to 2017, the city added an average of 37 new residents every day. Over a year, that added up to a population jump of 8.2%.

The city about 30 miles north of Dallas is home to the splashy new headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys, The Star, a megacomplex that includes offices, a hotel, and swanky bars and restaurants. North Texas is on fire economically, and as Mayor Jeff Cheney pointed out in his (apparently unsuccessful) sales video aimed at snagging Amazon's new headquarters, Frisco still has plenty of room to grow.

With its 177,000 people, Frisco is already a good-sized city—but one that still has a sense of community, says Julie Howell Stutts, who's been a homeowner there for seven years.

"You still kind of feel like you know everybody here," she says.
Schools here are top-notch and a prime draw for families. But while in the past the area's housing consisted of mostly single-family homes, the recent spate of building has included apartment complexes more appealing to single professionals.

2. Ashburn, VA

Median home price: $519,990
Median household income: $120,862
Population: 49,692* 

A large home in Ashburn
A large home in AshburnTim Kitchen/Getty Images
A couple of decades ago, Ashburn was a country town with just one grocery store. That's when Kim Rabinowitch and her husband bought a townhouse, just after their marriage.

"We liked it because we could get a lot for our money back then," she says. But they fell in love with the schools and their neighbors, and when they decided to trade up to a house, they bought one just down the street.

"People want to move into our school district," Rabinowitch says. "Houses go on the market, and they’re on there for less than a day."

With great schools and convenient transportation—it's 10 minutes by car to Washington Dulles Airport and 40 minutes to the District of Columbia, plus there's a new metro station to DC under construction—it's no wonder that Ashburn has become popular with commuting federal employees. And other nearby suburban towns such as Tysons Corner and Fairfax offer more job opportunities closer to home.

Single-family homes, many with four to five bedrooms, dominate the housing stock, along with some townhomes. An impressive 83.4% of those homes are owner-occupied.

3. Carmel, IN

Median home price: $374,000
Median household income: $106,546
Population: 92,198

Coxhall Public Garden in Carmel, IN
Coxhall Public Garden in Carmel, INPurdue9394/iStock
Just 26 miles north of Indianapolis, Carmel has become a sought-after suburban destination for its excellent schools and amenities.

"It’s mostly young families that are moving in," says Kelly Lavengood, a real estate agent with the Lavengood Team in Indianapolis. "I frequently receive calls from people looking to relocate to Carmel from out of state."

But it's not just a magnet for parents—Carmel's walkable downtown and plentiful parks also make it appealing to empty nesters.

"A lot of times, people think that suburbs are just an extension of the city," Lavengood says. "But Carmel has really become an entity of its own."

There's a variety of homes for Carmel buyers to choose from, from entry-level abodes all the way up to mansions. Architectural styles vary, too—there's even a pocket of midcentury modern homes designed by Avriel Shull.

4. Ellicott City, MD

Median home price: $558,950
Median household income: $121,019
Population: 70,780*

Shops in Ellicott City, MD
Shops in Ellicott City, MDWalter Bibikow/Getty Images
Founded in 1772, Ellicott City has plenty of charm, particularly in its historic downtown district. Here, you can dip into boutiques and antiques stores in buildings that are pretty much antiques themselves.

But that doesn't mean this place is stuck in the past. Its top-rated schools attract young families, and its affordable housing and access to two major metropolises appeal to professionals as well.

"The cost of living is high in Maryland; Ellicott City just happens to be located between Baltimore and Washington [DC], and it offers affordable housing," says Jon Sandler, a real estate attorney who has been practicing in Ellicott City for 21 years. "Half the people are [Washington] Redskins fans, and the other are [Baltimore] Ravens fans."

It's the kind of place, he says, where locals stick around, or eventually come back to their roots. Many of the older buildings downtown have rental apartments upstairs, and there are also historic single-family homes, typically built with granite blocks, just outside downtown. There are also quite a few newer developments aimed at young professionals, Sandler notes.

But if you buy here, you'd best get flood insurance—the city has been subject to disastrous inundations in the past, and is weighing whether to invest tens of millions of dollars to redirect water from downtown.


5. Cary, NC

Median home price: $389,000
Median household income: $94,617
Population: 165,904

Four-bedroom home in Cary, NC
Four-bedroom home in Cary, NC
Cary sits within North Carolina's Research Triangle—an area of scientific innovation marked off by the cities of Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham, which is home to more than 200 companies.

The area is rife with highly educated professionals who want the best schools for their kids—and Cary can offer that, says Merry Ann Cutler, a real estate agent and relocation expert with Re/Max United in Cary.

"Some of the people moving here are coming all the way from the West Coast," she says.

Plus, it's relatively affordable—you can buy a nice, single-family home here for $400,000.

"There’s a huge influx of people moving in right now, and construction can’t keep up with it," Cutler says. "Homes sell very, very fast."

Despite the development, there's still plenty of green, crisscrossed by the largest number of walking and biking trails in the Triangle.

for more on the list, go to: Best Places To Live In America, 2018

| Sep 17, 2018

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Should I Buy a Home That Needs Repairs?

If you’ve found your dream home − in the area you want, with a big kitchen, three bedrooms and more − is it worth it to buy if the home needs a little TLC? The answer differs depending on the type of repairs, the neighborhood and more. Keep reading to find out if putting an offer on a home that needs repairs is the right move for you.

Are the repairs just cosmetic?

Don’t get confused between a fixer-upper and a house that just needs some minor, mainly cosmetic, repairs. A fixer-upper usually has a very cheap purchase price because the new owners will have to put in so much elbow grease to get it to livable condition. However, cosmetic repairs are another ball game. These are small tasks like painting, changing the carpeting or installing new cabinetry. If the home you’re interested in only needs cosmetic repairs, it may be worth the money because you’ll get to customize the home a little bit, and the seller might be offering a discount because the house needs a little TLC.

Check the inspection report

Get an inspection report before you buy. Maybe the seller told you that all the house needs is a fresh coat of paint and a little landscaping; but the inspection report could alert you to bigger problems that the seller either doesn’t know about or hasn’t disclosed. If the inspection report mentions foundation issues or that a new HVAC system is needed, this is not the kind of project you want to get into if you’re not prepared.

Will you get good RIO after the repairs are complete?

What kind of neighborhood is the home in? If it’s in a decent neighborhood, close to schools and parks, or if the neighborhood is up and coming, it might be worth buying a home in the area because the value will increase over time. It’s worth it to take on some minor home repair projects for a house in a desirable neighborhood.

Do you have the time to devote to this project?

If you weren’t previously planning on purchasing a home that needs minor repairs, make sure you have the time and patience to put up with the items that need updating. If you have a busy job or kids with demanding schedules, moving into a home that isn’t move-in ready could be stressful. Also, be prepared for loud noises and a little debris if you hire workers or plan to do repairs yourself.

Are you getting a deal on the home?

One of the most important factors is the type of deal you’re getting on the home. If it’s not move-in ready, what’s the incentive to do the repairs and updates yourself? If the seller isn’t offering an allowance for you to do the repairs or isn’t selling slightly below market to incentivize buyers, what’s the point?

Look into a 203 (k) loan

If you find a home that you’re serious about but that requires minor or major repairs, look into financing through HUD’s 203 (k) loan. This type of financing allows you to finance the purchase of the home and the necessary improvements without having to seek multiple loans. Visit HUD.gov to learn more.

If you’re on the fence about making an offer on a house, call me today and I’ll help you decide if a home that needs repairs is the right option for you. Or if you have other questions about the home-buying process, I'm here to guide you!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Moving? Top 5 Tips for Packing

Follow these tips to make packing less daunting and to ensure your move goes off without a hitch.

Moving to a new home can be exciting, the sign of new beginnings. It can also be an exceptionally stressful time.

Getting all your furniture, clothes, kitchenware, electronics and valuables from one place to another is no simple task – whether you’ve hired professionals or are managing the move yourself.

The specifics of each move are different. Moving down the block, from one studio apartment to another, is less complicated than moving from a 3,000-square-foot home in New York to a similarly sized house in California. No matter how or where you’re moving, preparation and careful planning will make the process smoother.


 1. Sort, sell, donate or toss

Why move what you don’t need or use? During the days and weeks leading up to your move, mercilessly sort through every closet and drawer. Organize a moving sale, donate items to a charity like Goodwill, The Arc or The Salvation Army, or list them via an online reuse/recycle-type website. Throwing things away is OK, too; some items will simply be outdated or too worn to be of much use to others.


2. Make lists, check them twice

Organization is the key to any good move. Make lists of all the people and institutions you need to contact before moving: schools, utility companies, government offices, subscriptions you need to change, etc. You’ll need another list that includes the names of everyone who needs to know your new address, from family members to co-workers. Perhaps most important of all: make a list of things that will be moved, room by room. If you’ve hired a moving company, the movers will work with you to put together an inventory. If you’re moving your own stuff, consider getting an app like Moving Day for the iPhone, which allows you to build a complete inventory and create barcodes for your boxes that you can scan with your phone and document damaged items.


3. Over-prepare

If there’s one thing you don’t want to run out of on moving day, it’s boxes. If you’re packing yourself, ask nearby stores, friends and neighbors for boxes. If you buy special moving boxes, ask if you can return any you end up not using. Also make sure you have plenty of tape, furniture padding and bubble wrap to ensure your stuff arrives undamaged. Borrow or rent a dolly for moving heavier items. If you’re relying on friends and family to move you, make it as easy as possible for them. Have all the boxes packed and labeled before they arrive, so all they have to do is pick up a box and carry it to the moving van. If you’ve got professional movers handling the packing, they should come armed with all the supplies you’ll need.


4. Label absolutely everything

Mark your boxes with clear descriptions so you can remember which boxes are fragile and which can wait to be unpacked. Even better: In addition to listing contents, label with a destination such as “master bath” or “basement.” Avoid mish-mash boxes and “misc.” labels – those boxes will cause frustration on moving day and beyond.


5. Pack an ‘open me first’ box

When you get to your new place, the last thing you want to do is sort through a half-dozen different boxes to find the toiletries and clothes you need. Your ‘Open Me First’ box should include a change of clothing for each family member, towels, soap, shampoo, medicines and favorite toys for the kids. If your morning isn’t complete without a cup of tea, include a tea kettle, tea and mug; granola bars or a box of crackers might also be a nice pick-me-up on unpacking day.

By Mary Boone

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

5 Things to Look for in a Rental Listing

Lackluster listings abound — learn to cut through the clutter and spot the keepers.
Whether you’re looking for an apartment, single-family house or townhome — and whether you’re in a city, the suburbs or a small town — be prepared to spend a lot of time online and even more time driving around to tour the most promising places in person.
If you want to save time and avoid headaches, make sure that every rental listing you consider has all the information you need. High-quality listings help you weed out the places that don’t fit your criteria (wait, Fido’s not welcome?), but they also indicate an organized, communicative and professional landlord — something every renter wants.
As you begin your search, consider these five important things every good rental listing should contain:

1. Detailed details

Front and center should be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, storage space and a floor plan to help you visualize the layout.
Avoid listings with vague terms like “junior one bedroom” or “open one bedroom.” According to Zillow research, 88 percent of shoppers search online listings based on how many bedrooms and bathrooms they need. Landlords know this, so they get creative with descriptions to attract more tenants.
Another need-to-know detail is how safe the property is. Zillow research reports that 67 percent of renters said that a safe neighborhood is a must-have, and 46 percent said the same about a secure building.
Most landlords will say that the neighborhood is safe, so do your own research, especially if you’re new to the area.
Speaking of being new — if you’re moving to a new part of town or an entirely new city, look for listings with important facts about the neighborhood, including proximity to transit or major freeways, convenient shopping centers, and nearby recreation and entertainment options.

2. Amenities — all of them

Beyond basics like heating and kitchen appliances, every renter has different amenities that they consider must-haves.
The most popular amenities renters look for include air conditioning, in-unit laundry, ample storage and private outdoor space. Watch for other nice-to-have in-unit amenities, like recent renovations, hardwood floors, plenty of windows and upgraded kitchens.
Shared amenities should be included in the listing too — things like parking, rooftop decks, fitness areas, outdoor space, swimming pools and bike storage.

3. Major (and potentially problematic) policies

The listing should disclose any policies that could be a deal breaker for you. Examples include rules around pets (including specific breeds), the maximum number of people who can live in the unit, smoking, parking, noise and — most importantly — lease terms and length.
Additionally, see if you can tell if the landlord lives on-site or if a local property management company manages things. If the landlord is nearby, they’ll likely handle repair requests quickly, along with general building upkeep and maintenance.

4. Clearly described costs

Make sure the landlord is exceptionally clear about the dollars and cents:
  • What is the monthly rent?
  • How much of a deposit is required, and is any of it refundable?
  • Are there any one-time fees?
  • Is there a pet fee or monthly charge?
  • Does parking cost extra?
  • Who pays for utilities?
These additional charges can quickly move a listing from feasible to fruitless, so make sure you have all the info you need to do the math ahead of time.

5. High-quality photos

Focus on listings that have not only good photos but also recent photos — and lots of them.
Look for listings that include both interior and exterior shots, plus photos of all shared amenities. But renter beware: If the landlord says the photos are of a similar unit — not the one that’s actually for rent — you may find yourself in a bait-and-switch situation.
Once you find a few listings that include these details, you’re off to a great start. You can more easily compare properties side by side, identify deal breakers and find areas where a landlord might be open to compromising.

article source: