Latest Posts

By Andrea Justus

As the weather improves a good number of us are looking at our gardens and landscaping and thinking, where do I start?  Here are some easy tips for preparing your garden.

Remove all dead garden debris as it may harbor pests or disease from last year.   After the debris is removed it is time to weed.

Remove all growing weeds by the root using a hand weeder – tilling can break apart and spread roots resulting in more weeds down the road.  It is tempting to use technology to get things done faster.  I prefer not to use weed spray in my vegetable garden and find that pulling by the roots lasts longer. My favorite hand weeder is the type that telescopes with a claw on one side and a hoe on the other.  A weed hoe is also helpful in soft soil to loosen the plants so you can pull them by the roots.

Prepare the soil – Incorporate compost by digging in with a garden fork. Refresh soil in raised beds, talk with your local gardening supply store or Master Gardener for soil amendment recommendations.   Incorporate appropriately labeled dry vegetable fertilizer before planting vegetables.   Time release fertilizer is best as the plant can absorb it over time.

Know the appropriate planting dates for summer vegetables. There are many resources available including the library, plant labels, local plant nurseries, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners.  See  http://loudouncountymastergardeners.org/ for the Master Gardeners events calendar for planting information and to learn where in the county they are holding lectures or Garden Clinics in season.

pexels-photo-95215.jpeg

Have stakes, trellises, twine, hoses and other garden tools ready for when the vegetables are ready to be planted.  Pay attention to planting depth, for tomatoes plant them up to the first set of leaves to establish strong roots and plants. After planting it is helpful to sprinkle some Preen between the rows  to minimize summer weeding, (do not use Preen in beds if you are going to plant seeds for a second harvest).

Water in all plantings.  Consider covering the rows and walkways in straw to keep weeds down and help plants retain moisture. Hand watering works well for many people, remember that what you water grows whether it is weeds or vegetables.  You can avoid watering weeds by using a garden watering system of hoses with water holes every 12 inches. These systems are relatively inexpensive, convenient, and last a long time especially when covered in straw.

Get started! Rediscover the fun of growing things and share the hobby.

To talk to Andrea about gardening, or finding the farm of your dreams, click here!

pexels-photo-255501.jpeg

 

 

 

Most art is delicate and potentially fragile. How you handle your art during and after a move can determine your future enjoyment of the piece(s) and their value.

For the past 20 years, we had hung a beautiful limited edition print on a wall in the basement. This was mostly because the wall was large enough for the piece and because we had tired of it in our every day living space. Several says ago, during a discussion about art and artists, I took a close look at the piece. I discovered some tiny black dots on the Japon paper.

The print, framed by conservation standards, was installed on an exterior below-grade wall. Regardless of the finish level of the wall, the structural cinder block must get moisture that was trapped by the art. SO now, mildew in the  paper of a pretty valuable piece of art.

Naturally, my first thought was to contact an art conservator and organize its restoration. This is where a whole new world of art services came alive. Art conservators do not conserve paper. They restore/clean paintings – oils, linen, canvas, and the like. Paper restorers handle prints on paper. Yes, the same experts that restore books, restore art prints.

You know that some art will appreciate over time. We just never know what piece(s) might become valuable in the future. Most people buy art for its aesthetic value and not so much for investment. However, sometimes artists gain in notoriety and if their work survives long enough in good condition, the value could increase.

If you want to both enjoy and preserve your art, handle it carefully and install it with consideration of potential moisture (even condensation that forms inside a sealed frame).

Should you need a conservator of antiques, paintings or paper, we have now amassed a list of conservators who can help and/or direct you to solving your. Some have performed work for us personally, others have been recommended and have significant credentials. Give us a call and we will gladly share our list.

 

(read this to the end – see for your self)

The news about the Federal Reserve and the Fed Funds Rate is often touted as a reason to anticipate increased mortgage interest rates. As with much of the media, “news” can be manipulated to stimulate emotional reactions from joy to fear. The fear in this case would be of increasing interest rates.

What actually happens when the “Fed” raises the ‘Fed Funds Rate’? Well, those rates apply to funds that banks borrow from the Federal Reserve for periods less than 90 days, but longer than one day. Raising the rate by .25% on banks does not necessarily affect mortgage rates at all.

The Federal Reserve serves an important function in the United States – insuring deposits from bank default (within established limits) and monitoring and controlling monetary policy in hopes of maintain a stable economy with limited fluctuation. Monetary policy is complex and very carefully monitored by financial institutions and corporations.

Borrowing money to purchase a home typically falls under the term, mortgage. Mortgages consist of two components – principal and interest. While we all know about principal, the interest component often seems like hocus pocus in a black box. Interest is the amount that lenders charge for the privilege of lending money.

Because mortgages are typically a long-term commitment on the part of the lender, economic projections are used to set prevailing interest rates. Lenders look at the risk of inflation and the potential opportunity cost of leaving their money at a set rate for a prolonged period of time.

Mortgage interest rates are typically affected by long term bond yields and the 10-year Treasury bills. Obviously, every aspect of the monetary markets trickle down to affect interest rates, however, mortgage rates are not as sensitive to the “Fed Rate” as they are to the Treasuries or Bond Yields.

Why does this information matter to you? You are barraged by offers, threats, and disinformation to act “quickly” to refinance or to buy now. Yet, the reality is that mortgage markets are more insulated than reflected in the news.

However . . . depending on your sensitivity to rate fluctuations, a small move in mortgage interest can affect mortgage qualification. The best solution is to work with a knowledgeable lender who can guide you with correct information with which you can make good decisions.

If you are thinking of buying or refinancing, we have an excellent list of lenders who have worked for our clients who produce loans on time and on budget. Call us today.

If you look hard enough, you can find almost anything on the internet. When it comes to buying, selling, or renting, there are plenty of websites where you can connect directly with buyers, tenants, landlords, and homes for sale.

Why should you bother finding a real estate agent when you have Google?

pexels-photo-356079.jpeg

Trust

Real estate scams are a thing, particularly for rentals. The FTC provides information on their site for how to recognize a scam, and one way you can spare yourself the trouble is to find an agent you trust who will sift through the market for you. That agent will be sifting through properties listed with agents.

Properties listed with an agent, both to buy or rent, will have a number of things going for them. First, it is in the best interest of the listing agent to make sure that the landlord actually owns the property he or she is listing. Second, the listing agent also wants to get the property rented or sold, so they will do their best to make the property attractive, accessible, and well priced. Third, they will make sure the money and paperwork goes to the right people in a timely fashion.

For sellers and landlords, working with a realtor also provides the safety and comfort that someone prescreened the folk who will be trooping through your home. Your realtor will know which realtors have shown your house, and will have talked personally to any buyers or tenants without agents who want to see the place.

Besides the practical reasons to do good work, realtors have a fiduciary duty to look after the interests of their clients. accountant-accounting-adviser-advisor-159804.jpeg

Wisdom

The internet provides knowledge and very general information. But how do you apply the information, or even determine if it is reliable?

According to Zillow, “Nationwide, Zestimates are currently within 5% of the final sale price 52.9% of the time,” and “Nationally, Zestimates are currently within 20% of the final sale price 85.8% of the time.”

These percentages turn into pretty significant numbers when you’re dealing with houses. It’s easy to set a price too high, or too low, and lose a great deal of money. You could even lose the sale entirely because the price is far higher than the actual appraisal by the lender.

pexels-photo-206673.jpeg

Why does Zestimate have such a huge margin of error?

Zillow can’t walk into a house and get the feel for it’s actual condition and layout. What about how the light moves through the house? Or, how the light moves through the other houses in the neighborhood, or the other houses in the region that have the particular features this particular buyer is looking for?

A good realtor can help you take into account the unquantifiable factors of a home.

pexels-photo-601170.jpeg

Connections

Price is only one part of buying or selling a house.  Home inspectors, contractors, title companies and the like, all provide services essential to a transaction. Services that absolutely must be done well because they have far reaching ramifications. A good realtor will have good people to recommend to you.

When working with a realtor to sell a house, you’re not just relying on their knowledge to set the price and make the best repairs, you’re tapping into their network of human beings who might want to buy or know someone who might want to buy your property. And nobody networks like a realtor.

When working with a realtor to buy a house, you’re tapping into their resources and knowledge of the area, the market, and the professionals. They also have direct access to the most up to date information about the market, and are happy to spend time tracking down the best options for you. You should still do your homework on schools and crime rates, because a realtor can’t make those choices for you–but a good realtor is absolutely invaluable.

At Properties on the Potomac, we pride ourselves in our commitment to our clients. We share our knowledge and our connections with our clients. If you are thinking of buying or selling and want to find out more about how we can help you, contact us here.

 

pexels-photo-384523.jpeg

We invest in our agents and in our community

Whether performing in a production, providing gifts at Christmas, helping with therapeutic horseback riding, supporting alumni affairs or school sports, serving on boards, creating art for fundraising efforts, or writing for the local paper, our agents invest their time and hearts in helping to make our community a better place for everyone. Our community is great in size and scope; our involvement makes a difference.

Our recent newsletter spotlighted some of these remarkable efforts. Click to see the article –      Serving our community

We are passionate about the arts, sports, achievement, opportunities, and excellence. we lead by example.

If any of our passions match yours, please contact us and we will help you get involved.

“But how will that affect the future resale value of my home?” is a common refrain from many clients when they are considering decorating and / or improving their home. This is an interesting question and my answer is usually not expected.

 

Typically, I encourage my clients to pursue their passion and improve their home for their enjoyment. We have all seen formulas for returns on certain improvements. To those formulas, I san “So what?”

 

You take vacations, attend theater, shop for unnecessary, but desirable things, go to the spa,  and  purchase a host of other “pleasure” related things without concern of  future return. All of a sudden, when it comes to changing a wall color or adding a distinctive fabric, the breaks screech to a halt and the fretting begins. So the question is, how long do you plan to stay in your home? This answer will help you determine the wisdom of painting a wall chartreuse or building the outdoor kitchen.

 

Over the last 30 years, trends have shifted. Perfectly operating appliances have been discarded and many people have spent thousands of dollars keeping up with their neighbors’ improvements. However, what really makes you happy? Is the color du jour really your taste? Will you cook more at home with stainless steel appliances over the ones you have, and will you bathe/shower  longer or better in  the huge tub and/or shower? Will you be happier if your bank account has an extra zero?

 

Celebrating my 30th anniversary since my career change to real estate, this year, I have become pragmatic about improving, enhancing, or diminishing home values. Over this period I have learned valuable lessons.  I share 5 of those lessons with you below:

 

1.      Happy homes sell.

2.      Well-decorated homes with personality (regardless of color scheme) sell.

3.      Clean, well maintained homes, and tidy landscaping sell.

4.      Location sells.

5.      The right price will sell any time.

 

It is easy to get caught up with TV trends and neighbors’ improvements. I always recommend careful examination of the motivation of a proposed “improvement.” Unless, you will wake up and be deliriously happy  to see and/or use the improvement, bank the cost. If, on the other hand, you will enjoy the improvement, without concern about future return, then treat it as if it were a vacation and get it done. 

 

Be happy in your home and pay attention to its maintenance – both indoor and out. The worst that can happen is you’ll eventually have to repaint a few walls or you have paid to enjoy a particular feature that was important to you.

 

Have some fun and enjoy your home.

No matter how much you want to move, parting with a home can be an emotionally difficult experience. Especially when buyers come in and start criticizing everything.

To a buyer, your living room is not the place where your baby took her first steps, it’s the room they can’t see through the carpet stains.

Every deal has give and take, but as a seller you get to set the starting point: Condition of the House. Think of your house as a car, how would you prepare your car to sell if you couldn’t just take it to a dealer and trade it in? Get your house clean and in at least reasonably good repair (unless, of course, it’s totaled).

If you want your house to sell quickly and for near (or above!) your asking price, then you might want to put a bit of extra work in before the house goes on the market.

DECLUTTER. DECLUTTER. DECLUTTER.

If we can’t see the house through the possessions, it’s going to take longer to sell or sell for a much lower price.

If you can’t bring yourself to actually get rid of things, just put them in storage. The main thing is to get them out of the house.

Stuffing everything in the closets or garage is only an okay solution, not a good one. People love closet space and big garages, those actually aren’t parts of your house that you want to hide behind a wall of boxes or junk.

Also, if you put your possessions in storage, you can feel easier about having people come look at your house. Obviously, we want to assume the best about people, but it’s still wise to be proactive about protecting your home and family.

REPAIR THINGS

If you are hoping that they won’t notice that thing over there, then they probably will. Especially if it’s water damage, mold, or something missing that really shouldn’t be missing. Faucets. Broken towel bars. Door knobs. Burners. Linoleum peeling off the floor. Screens.

UPDATES OPTIONAL

Everyone wants to know if they should upgrade their appliances, their floors, or their cabinets, in order to sell their house. Well, that depends. How old are your appliances? How nasty is the carpet? How chewed up is the hardwood? If these things are in terrible condition, you should probably consider that a repair. If they are in good condition…you might not need to make changes.

My question is: Why don’t you upgrade when you can enjoy the upgrades for a little while first?

This process can be very difficult, but your realtor should be able to help you prioritize and get your home ready for buyer’s critical eyes.