Find Love Where You Live

Just in time for Valentine's Day, here are four rules for finding romance in a condo.
Happy Valentine's Day
Don't forget your sweetheart!
1. Attend business meetings and don't skip mixers. Stay until the last cookie and glass of punch is served. Building issues make great topics of conversation. 2. The two best places to meet are the laundry room and pool. Two things to remember: Don't fold your undies while chatting and always bring some sunscreen to share. 3. An informal invite to dinner at the restaurant around the corner is convenient and no matter how things turn out, you're close to home. 4. Look ready to meet someone. Don't even go to the mailbox looking lousy. Source: Apartments.com (02/09/2010)

Belle View blanketed.

Alexandria and Northern Virginia have been buried in snow this year. On the way to work this morning I saw cars spinning wheels as my Subaru found a way. The Washington Metro Transit Authority closed today and we're expecting another 10 inches of snow tomorrow.  I've not seen a plow on the streets all day ... perhaps they are readying for the next big blitz?

Record Snow at the Worldgate

Digging out at the Worldgate
Digging out at the Worldgate
Northern Virginia was buried in snow this weekend and we expect more snow tomorrow!  As you can see in this picture, parts of Reston VA got more than TWO FEET of snow!  At my office in Alexandria we got about 18 inches of snow. I had to cancel all of my weekend appointments, but fortunately we had power almost all weekend. The lights were out for a few hours on Saturday night, but 200,000 people were without power for significant times on Sunday.

Increase Home Appeal by Adding a Little Green

Eco-friendly homes are hot these days, and one way to make a property more saleable is to add a little green. Real estate Web site HomeGain asked about 1,000 real estate practitioners to recommend low-cost green improvements. Here are some of their suggestions:
  • Plant native trees and plants
  • Replace air filters
  • Weather-strip and caulk doors and windows
  • Install programmable thermostats
  • Install low-flow showerheads
  • Install CFL or LED lights
  • Repaint with low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint
Source: USA Today (10/14/2010)

Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden

The Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden is located at the corner of North Lexington and Wilson Boulevard, at 850 North Lexington Street in Arlington, Virginia. This scenic and serene rose and botanical garden occupies approximately one acre of land and features over 135 different rose varieties and houses 2,500 plant species as well. Featured roses include Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, Floribunda, and miniature roses. The garden also hosts the latest All-American roses annually, showcasing the newest variety of roses at least one year before they become commercially available. Bon Air Memorial Park also features an azalea garden, a shade garden, a sun garden, and an ornamental garden. Other amenities include picnic tables, charcoal grills, a babbling spring stream, a paved walking trail, tennis and basketball courts, an additional children's playground. Cultural advice and guidance for the rose garden is provided by the Arlington Rose Foundation. Call (703) 358-4747 for more information. This beautiful and fascinating garden is a brilliant and colorful local resource that truly proves Virginia is for lovers! Whether you are a botanical aficionado or an individual who simply wants to stop and smell the roses, the Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden is a must see this spring in Northern Virginia. Park hours are from Sunrise until half an hour after Sunset throughout the year.

A Financial Plan for Your Home

You probably already have a financial plan for yourself in place. Most likely you sat down with an advisor at some point to set up a budget and diversify your investments. Or maybe you did it yourself online or at the dining room table. Either way, smart move. But what about your home specifically, probably the biggest investment you'll ever make in your life? Did you really take everything into account: repairs and upgrades, the mortgage, insurance, and taxes? Probably not. Your house requires a financial plan of its own. Spend a weekend creating one. Once you have a handle on your home's expenses you can devise a long-term strategy that'll let you live there for years with maximum enjoyment and minimum anxiety. These are the four central elements you need to address.

The mortgage: Paying it---and then some

Yes, you already shell out a lot for your mortgage, but can you pay more? Even a little extra each month can add up. Let's say you have $200,000 outstanding principal and a 20-year fixed-rate mortgage at 5%. Your monthly payment is $1,319.91. But if you can manage to pay another $100 a month, you'll save $14,887 in interest. Run the numbers for yourself. Alan D. Kahn, a financial planner in Syosset, N.Y., likes the idea of early payoff because lowering debt leaves you free to spend money elsewhere later on. There's an emotional benefit as well. It can feel awfully good to own your house outright as soon as possible. And don't fret too much about losing the mortgage interest deduction come tax time. Toward the tail end of the life of a loan most of your payment is going to the principal, not the interest. Nevertheless, the same extra $100 might also go into a retirement plan every month, or be put aside for the inevitable home repairs (more on those later). Michael Kay, a financial planner in Livingston, N.J., says while a debt-free life may be enormously important to your peace of mind, an extra $1,200 toward your child's college fund every year may feel even better. It's about what's ultimately important to you, both emotionally and financially.

Insurance: Protecting your property

You'll want homeowners insurance with full replacement coverage in case your house is burned to the ground. This sounds simple, but be careful on the calculation. Remember that you own a house as well as the land on which it sits. So even though you bought your home for $300,000, it may cost only $100,000 to rebuild it. Your policy limits should reflect this. The differences are regional. Where land is at a premium, like much of Southern California, a higher percentage of the purchase cost is for the property rather than the structure. Where land is cheap, like much of North Dakota, most of the value of a new house is the house itself. Don't be deceived by shifts in market values. You may have bought a $1.2 million townhouse in Florida during the boom that now may only sell for $600,000. But the replacement cost of the townhouse hasn't changed much, so you can't cut insurance costs that way. Do, however, try to cut costs by asking your insurance agent about discounts. Making structural improvements, such as adding storm shutters, can lead to lower rates. Membership is certain groups, such as AARP or veterans' organizations, entitles some policyholders to breaks on premiums as well.

Repairs and renovations: By choice or necessity

Throughout the life of your house, you'll be making two kinds of changes. The first is the fun kind, like a marble floor for the living room. The second is the essential, behind-the-scenes change: a new water heater. You don't have a choice about when you'll do the latter, but you can prepare for it financially. It's a good idea to have a rainy-day fund. Start with the inspection report you received when you bought the house. Did the inspector indicate that you would need a new roof in five years? A new furnace in 10? Get estimates on what these repairs will cost and start saving. Consider ongoing non-emergency maintenance too. Do you live in New England? Price a snow blower and get bids from plow services. Resist the temptation to take care of everything with home equity loans, which defeat efforts to pay off the mortgage early. As for the discretionary upgrades, act prudently. Matthew P. Havens, a financial planner in Hingham, Mass., has seen too many people rationalizing lavish upgrades as an investment when they really were lifestyle decisions. According to Remodeling magazine, an upscale major kitchen upgrade, for example, could cost nearly $112,000, but only about 63% of that will be recouped in the home's resale value. This isn't to say you shouldn't upgrade. If you can afford to redo your bathrooms, go ahead. Just don't confuse your necessary repairs (new oil furnace---about $4,000) with your discretionary upgrades (Viking range---$6,000 and up).

Taxes: (Almost) no way around them

Taxes are an essential part of your home's financial plan. The bank that holds your mortgage may already handle your real estate taxes with an escrow account. If so the expense is built into your monthly mortgage payment. Check your statements or call the lender. Otherwise create a dedicated fund for property taxes, which can run into the thousands of dollars annually. You may be able to reduce your tax burden by getting a reassessment. Do your homework first. Are comparable houses taxed less than yours? Ask the local assessor what formula is used to set tax rates. Kay, the New Jersey financial planner, researched and then challenged the assessed value of his own home and got a 15% rollback. If you're in a special group, you might get some help from state or local programs. Check around to see what's available in your area. New York State, for example, has its Star Program for giving senior citizens some relief from school-related property taxes. Richard J. Koreto is a freelance writer. He has been editor of several professional financial magazines and is the author of "Run It Like a Business," a practice management book for financial planners. He and his wife own a pre-Civil War house in Rockland County, N.Y.

Major League Sports Venues for Locals in the Northern Virginia Area

Are you thinking of moving to Northern Virginia? You might be wondering what you do after you move into your new home.  Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County are part of the Washington DC area, and this area provides a whole host of Major League Sports Venues for all types of sports fans in the area. Check out what this great area has to offer below! The Washington Redskins Established in 1937, the Washington Redskins are a professional American football team based in Washington D.C. that plays for the National Football League (NFL). The Washington Redskins play at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. The team's headquarters and training facility are at the Redskin Park in Ashburn, a community in Loudoun County, Virginia, near the Dulles International Airport. The Redskins have won five professional American football championships including two NFL Championships and three Super Bowls.   The Washington Wizards Established in 1961, the Washington Wizards are a professional basketball team based in Washington, D.C. and were previously known as Washington Bullets until 1995. The Washington Wizards play for the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the team plays at the Verizon Center located on 7th Street in downtown Washington D.C.   The Washington Capitals Established in 1974, the Washington Capitals are a professional ice hockey team based in Washington, D.C. and are members of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Washington Capitals play at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood on 7th Street. Since their founding in 1974, the Caps have won their division title five times and the conference championship once.   D.C. United Established in 1995, D.C. United is an American professional soccer club located in Washington, D.C. that plays for Major League Soccer (MLS). The team's home field is at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (RFK), owned by the District of Columbia and located near the Anacostia River.   The Washington Nationals Based in Washington D.C. since 2005 as a replacement for earlier teams which had moved to Minnesota and Texas, the Washington Nationals are a professional baseball team based in Washington, D.C. and are a member of the Eastern Division of the National League of Major League Baseball (MLB). The team moved into the newly built Nationals Park in 2008, after playing their first three seasons in RFK Stadium, also occupied by D.C. United. The new park is located in Southeast D.C. near the Anacostia River. No matter where you buy a home in Northern Virginia or D.C., the area has plenty to see and do for any and all sports fans alike! If you want to learn more about buying real estate in Northern Virginia contact us at 703 765 0300.

Year in Review Market Analysis for Northern Virginia Real Estate

Here are a few interesting year end facts about Northern Virginia real estate
  • November's average sales price is UP 1.3% from 2008 to $428,481
  • In January 2009, the average sales price was down 22.51% to $376,669
MRIS data indicates that the Total Sold Dollar Volume is up 44.3% over November 2008. Similarly the Total Units Sold is up 43.45% over November 2008. According the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and MLS data from the MRIS, "The market is shifting and slowly recovering; we're coming back. average sales prices for real estate in Northern Virginia The average sales prices for Northern Virginia real estate is up from 2008. listings sold in Northern Virginia The number of listings sold in Northern Virginia is up to levels not seen since 2006!

Holiday Adventures around Northern VA

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Northern VA I was born in Northern Virginia and have lived here most of my life, but I still find that there is no end of new things to do. When Christmas approaches in Northern Virginia, the Holiday Season is a great time to get out and see some of what the area has to offer. Julie and I have already started to enjoy some of the many sites of the season and I thought I'd share a bit with friends and soon to be friends who are considering moving to this area. ICE Just across the Potomac River from Alexandria VA is the National Convention Center at National Harbor. This recently developed area is home to many high-end shops and restaurants and makes a nice day-trip anytime. Julie and I visited ICE! a holiday display of ice sculptures. The attraction was billed as "a world unlike any other ... a winter wonderland made entirely of ice. We explored ten different holiday scenes made from two million pounds of ice, including a life-sized Santa's Workshop, a penguin village... and even ice slides that stood more than two stories tall! ICE! was created by a team of 40 artisans and sculptors. ice tunnel The tunnel had white branches that were covered in ice. Inside the exhibit the air was a chilly 9 degrees Fahrenheit. All visitors wore special blue parkas over their coats that kept us nice and warm. penguin goofballs My son Stuart and I goofed around at the penguins near the glass-like ice igloo. National Harbor can be seen from Alexandria, but a few nights ago we took a short drive around the Beltway to the Washington, DC Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints, also known as the Mormon Temple. Mormon Temple The grounds of the Mormon Temple are open to all visitors during the Christmas season. This impressive church and its surrounding grounds shine brightly with nearly a half-million sparkling Christmas lights. Each night, a different local musical group performs a live concert in a state-of-the-art theater. Best of all: all events are free! It's hard for my little picture to really catch the brilliance of the winter night, but in both of these pictures you can see a representative of the Star of David shining in the distance over a Nativity Scene near the visitors' center. lights at Mormon Temple We grabbed some photos outside and walked the grounds. There were plenty of people there, but the crowds were very polite and nice. The Mormon ushers and parking attendants were very welcoming to all who approached. It was a chilly night, so we came in the visitor's center to warm up. There were Christmas Trees from around the area, and I took Julie's picture near the Mount Vernon tree. I really liked the trees with contributions from nations around the world. Those trees were themed by continents so there was a tree themed with decorations from Africa, from South American, from Europe and from Asia. Another great spot to check out is the National Christmas Tree near the lawn of the Whitehouse near the Ellipse in Washington DC. Washington Monument We parked in front of the Washington Monument and then headed across the lawn toward the National Christmas Tree and National Menorah. On the way we passed an enormous Yule Log burning brightly to warm visitors. There is a parade of free entertainment and there are trees representing all the states and territories of the USA. The National Christmas Tree is between the Washington Monument and the White House, but very close to the White House. Whitehouse and me
About the Author --- Will Nesbitt is the principal broker of Condo Alexandria and Nesbitt Realty. Will specializes in condos, townhouses and single family residences in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County, Crystal City, and Kingstowne. Will resides in Belle Haven Estates just outside Alexandria VA in Fairfax County.