Alexandria, VA

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Philip G. Matyas, Associate Broker of The Shannon Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Philip at 703-507-8655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Which Old Town real estate office sold the most houses in 2019?

Answer: As anyone who was looking to buy or sell a home last year knows, 2019 was a fast-paced, high-demand home market that required in-depth local knowledge and dynamic, steadfast action from their buyer or seller agent to achieve success. For those looking to purchase or sell a home in 2020 the signs point to an even greater need for experienced agents to help advise, navigate and negotiate through an anticipated frothy market.

For 2019, McEnearney Associates, Inc., Old Town office hit the trifecta. With a total sales volume in the City of Alexandria of over $433,500,000* for all of last year, McEnearney topped the nine other local offices. McEnearney’s influence and experienced sales groups far outpaced the second and third closest competitors who, when combined, still had a total sales volume significantly less than McEnearney’s. (*Compiled from the Bright™ multiple listing service)

Breaking down McEnearney’s total sales volume into categories of listing and selling of homes, the Old Town office listed 300 homes/units and had a total sales volume for listings of over $244,500,000. Again, the combined second and third closest competitors’ listing sales volume and number of homes/units listed was less.

To finish the trifecta, McEnearney helped clients buy 214 homes/units with a sales volume of over $188,900,000, once again outpacing their two closest competitors combined numbers and sales volume.

So, what’s new at the start of 2020?

I can answer that question with a question. Did you see my article last month (ALXnow December 18, 2019) on the effect a mild winter could have on our local market? It’s worth reading again as in the last 30 days people walked around in shorts and interest in homes and sales heated up from Old Town to McLean to Mount Vernon. Along with the change in weather came some change to buyer strategies.

One of The Shannon Group’s agents listed a home in the Historic Old Town District on December 27 and already closed on it on January 13 — two days ago. In a separate transaction also in Historic Old Town, a mid-December buyer client of ours will be closing on a home, as this article goes to print. (It has been a mild winter, hasn’t it?)

In this hectic, extremely competitive environment, a significant number of deals are made before a property ever publicly reaches the market. There is a trend beginning with owners who do not want to conduct open houses, have other personal concerns for the sale of their home or desire a different timeframe to buy or sell into rather than the current market. They, also, are looking for the buyer who wants to “get in ahead of the crowd.”

Some of these owners with their special criteria may contact me to strategize and coordinate their special needs and timing. Linking a buyer with such an owner is one way deals are occurring more often, but they only happen because of the inside, local knowledge and coordination of the agent.

For example, if you know of any properties as noted below, we have buyers for a:

  • 3 Bed, 2+ Bath Townhouse within 1/2 mile of King Street Metro
  • 2 Bed, 2+ Bath Condo in the Heart of Old Town
  • 4 Bed, 3+ Bath Single Family Home between Potomac River GW & Parkway
  • 2 Bed, 1 Bath Condo in Park Fairfax or Fairlington

And if you know any buyers looking this spring, we have a home in the SE Quadrant of Old Town and a home in Villamay.

Bring your home buying or selling needs to the Old Town experts, Joan Shannon and Philip G. Matyas. Contact us by email or call 703-507-8655 to set up an appointment to discuss your real estate needs and view homes from Historic Old Town to Mt. Vernon and beyond on our website Shannon-Group.com.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Lisa Groover of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Lisa at 703-919-4426 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: As a dog owner, would you share some suggestions for things to consider when purchasing (or renting) a home?

Answer: Everyone has a personal set of deal breakers when it comes to “must haves” for their dog. My first suggestion would be to think about what those would be for you and your pet.

  • Do you need a fenced yard? Or are you OK with walking your dog on a leash? Or taking them to the dog park?
  • Is an entrance from the ground floor required? Or is your dog OK with an elevator or stairs?
  • Does your dog bark when neighbors walk by the front door, or cry when you are not at home? If that is the case, a condo may not work for you, but a single family home or end-unit townhouse might be fine.
  • How does your dog get along with other canines? Keep this in mind when selecting a home that has other dogs in close proximity.
  • Similarly, does your dog like children? Being next to a playground or school would be difficult if children are not their favorite friends.
  • How about floors? Some dogs are afraid of hardwoods, and others have a tendency to have accidents, so think about those things too.

Secondly, keep in mind that some condo or townhouse developments have pet restrictions. Find out what they are before falling in love with a home.

  • Check to see if there are breed restrictions
  • There also may be maximum size/weight rules
  • The number of pets also may come into play
  • Registering your pet with the development or the city may be required
  • Most planned developments have specified dog walking areas, or places in the community where your pet is not allowed
  • Some even take your dog’s DNA to fine you if your dog relieves him/herself and you do not clean up

Working with a pet friendly real estate professional who understands that your dog is a member of your family and their needs are an important part of your house hunt can make all the difference in an already stressful situation. Finding the home that works for both you and your pets makes the transition so much easier for everyone. For tips on moving with your dog, check out the Dog Friendly Real Estate section of my website.

Lisa Groover is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria, VA. Having had seven golden retrievers since moving to Alexandria in 1989, she is dedicated to helping other dog owners through the challenges of renting, buying and selling their home. Stay tuned from her next article about selling your home when you own a dog.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Jillian Keck Hogan of Jillian Keck Hogan Real Estate Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Jillian at 703-951-7655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: It’s a New Year and a new decade — what does that mean for the market in Alexandria?

With each new year we all start taking stock of what the new year will have in store for us. For a good number of you, that list includes moving to a new home. That new home might be just down the street or across the world. If you are a homeowner, one of the first questions you may have is how will the market in 2020 impact the sale value of my home in Alexandria?

Here are a few insights on the market to assist you in making the most of your sale in 2020. If interested in learning more, join us at the new ALX Community on Union Street in Alexandria on February 6 for our group round table and wine pairing where we discuss expectations and answer questions on buying/selling in our area. To RSVP Email [email protected].

  • Inventory is lower in the month of January and February compared to March-June. The commonly referred to “spring market” actually kicks off the end of February and does not begin to calm down until the end of June. Though sellers tend to think that is the most ideal time to sell, remember that the less the inventory — the more of a seller’s market. For example, The Jillian Keck Hogan Group had a listing go on the market on February 12 of 2019 and sell within the first weekend online with over five offers, one all cash.
  • The biggest “no, go” in our area is weather. This could be as large as the snowstorm we had in 2016 or as small as a dusting that closes schools and work for a day. The impact is that buyers stay indoors and do not go out on tour with their agent or get out to visit Open Houses. Our advice, prep your home, take your photos, but wait to click active on your listing until you can confirm that there will be no snow in the forecast for your first week on the market.
  • After the “Amazon Effect”, buyers are out there and interested in finding a new home, no matter the season. If the home is priced in line with the last 6 months of comparable home sales, is in good condition, and staged well, you should have no issues in finding a well-qualified buyer quickly. Need some assistance in getting your home in “good condition”, ask your agent for referrals to trusted licensed professionals and also provide suggestions on what projects to prioritize.
  • Outside of Amazon, we have a number of other great new developments breaking ground and coming to our neighborhoods. These include Potomac Yard Metro, Wegmans and plans for new Landmark Mall. These large-scale additions to our community assist in home values increasing. To see all that is happening, check out the city’s website https://www.alexandriava.gov/Projects.
  • As for the fall market, this can be just a strong as some spring months for sellers. Over the last few years, sellers have continued to see multiple offers on their homes with contingencies that lean more in the seller’s favor.
  • This fall does bring a Presidential election in 2020. McEnearney Associates, Inc. has been collecting data on the market impact of big election years. We would be happy to break that down for you at your price point and trends prior to and after elections. If President Trump does not win the election, we can predict an influx of buyers coming to the area and also owners selling to move back to a hometown.

Overall, 2020 is shaping up to be another stand up year for sellers. With the right preparation, marketing plans and at market pricing, home owners can plan to see quick sales with terms in their favor.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Hope Peele of The Peele Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Hope at 703-244-6115 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How can I accomplish my goal of becoming a homeowner in 2020?

Answer: The New Year’s Resolution. Such hope. Such optimism. Such unrealistic goals.

“This year I will lose 100 pounds by Valentine’s Day and work out 8 days a week!”

“This year I will read one book every day!”

“This year I will save $200,000 for a down payment and never pay a landlord again!”

While I can’t add another day to the week, or force you to read “The Iliad”, I can tell you that purchasing your first home may be a more realistic goal than you would think.

The truth is that there are many options for loans. Some loans require that the buyer come up with just 3%, while other loans require 5% or 10% down. In 2019, the median down payment for first-time home buyers who financed a purchase was just 6%, according to the National Association of Realtors. The same report showed that the median down payment for repeat buyers was just 16%.

Often times, while new buyers are working hard to save a hefty 20% down payment, the type of home they wanted ends up costing significantly more a year or two later; all the while, they are spending thousands on rent, and not earning the benefits of appreciation that come with a home investment.

It’s true that in a competitive market, faced with multiple offers, a seller may choose one with a higher down payment. However, there are many ways to structure a great offer in a way that remains highly competitive. Having an experienced realtor and a great lender on your team is key in getting your offer accepted.

Another concern for buyers is “how fast will I need to transfer the cash for my down payment?” Many buyers have their funds in interest bearing accounts and it takes a few days to access, so this is a great question. When we write up your offer, we can specify how many days it will take to deliver the earnest money deposit (EMD). The EMD is just a portion of your down payment, usually just 2-3% of the sale price. It will be used towards your down payment at settlement and the remaining balance of your down payment is not due until settlement day, allowing plenty of time for you to transfer the funds.

While the offer process can be fast paced, your Realtor and lender will guide you through the process, each step of the way. They work on many home purchases each year. Trust their advice and your path to home ownership will be much less stressful, and a lot easier, than doing crunches and eating kale!

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Philip G. Matyas, Associate Broker of The Shannon Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Philip at 703-507-8655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What will the local Alexandria housing market look like at the beginning of 2020?

Answer: It has been but a few occasions during my past 25 years of local Old Town, Alexandria residential real estate practice that I expect an opening like the one coming for 2020. I believe that 2020 will begin with a housing market worthy of all the Old Town fireworks you will see explode over the Potomac River at the foot of King Street on First Night.

Along with the New Year’s Eve revelers, sellers will be happy to see the values of their homes moderately increasing and buyers can celebrate continuing availability of low mortgage interest rates to purchase their new homes. However, this is one of those years the weather could put an odd twist to seasonal home deals.

Could there be an early spring housing market?

Be one of the first 10 readers to email [email protected] to receive local artist Todd Healy’s Old Town Alexandria 2020 Calendar — photo above.

It is quite possible spring-like sales could occur in early 2020. Below are some personal residential decisions to consider at the beginning of the New Year that could prove beneficial in the sale or purchase of a home in the first quarter.

  • During warmer than usual winters, the spring housing market can appear within weeks of New Year festivities. This coming year, if warmer weather combines with our low housing inventory and pent-up buyer demand, it could be the perfect storm for an early “January/February” spring market.
  • Seller’s should prep their homes and make listing decisions sooner. For those homeowners who find the prospect of prepping a home quite daunting and difficult to manage an experienced, dedicated and dependable full-service real estate agent can transform a mind-bending challenge into a pleasant, successful conclusion. From decluttering, finding temporary storage and making home repairs to professional staging, photography and cutting-edge marketing, members of the Shannon Group provide concierge services and negotiation strategies as part of their local portfolio of experience, dedication and dependable full-service client coordination.
  • Yes, Amazon transfers begin in earnest next year. However, if Seattle is any history, the vast majority of employees will be renters. So, sellers in the area may want to list homes earlier in the year to benefit from “selling into limited inventory.” As a side note, sellers should consider the insight that Amazon’s and Virginia Tech’s eventual impact on the area could be to keep our higher-priced local residential market stable during a down real estate market nationwide.
  • Buyers should start looking now rather than waiting for the “historical” spring market listing inventory build-up which could be lessened by warmer winter weather. Sellers are often more flexible and motivated to make a deal at the holidays and the beginning of the new year than they are in March or April. Contact Joan Shannon at [email protected] to learn about her recent strategies and successes to help buyers purchase a home during the holidays.
  • Through the first three quarters of 2019, McEnearney Associates Realtors has been the residential leader in Old Town & Alexandria sales volume and number of listed homes/sold listings (according to EVP & CIO, David Howell). I expect McEnearney Associates Realtors to finish 2019 as the leader in these areas by as much as two to three times more than the nearest Alexandria/Old Town competing office. In this highly competitive and high-demand market, sellers want higher prices and buyers want new or like-new homes. Success depends of those agents who bring experience and winning strategies to the table.
  • What makes Historic Old Town, Alexandria such a wonderful place to live and such a highly publicized destination by a variety of national publications are what I call the local unsung heroes. With little recognition the work of such individuals adds to the character, culture, color, vibrancy and ambiance of Historic Old Town — and that helps add value to the local real estate market. One such owner is Todd Healy, owner of Gallery Lafayette. Through four decades, his creative paintings, streetscapes, Old Town calendars, framing of historic maps, historic letters and meticulous work on early Alexandria cartography have set him apart from any other local artist. His shop has always been one of the most inviting, and warm places to experience. He is part of the fabric that makes Old Town shine.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the 2020 spring market please connect with us at Shannon_Group.com; [email protected] or call 703-507-8655.

Bring your home buying or selling needs and questions to The Shannon Group Old Town experts, Joan Shannon and Philip G. Matyas. Contact us to set up an appointment to view homes from Old Town to Mt. Vernon and beyond and to see how 40+ years of experience, local knowledge, integrity, dedication and care means success for you.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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This week’s Q&A column, sponsored and written by McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria, is a bit of a departure from our usual format. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact us at 703-549-9292. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

When McEnearney Associates was formed in 1980, John McEnearney knew that he wanted to create a firm that went above and beyond just selling and buying homes for clients… He wanted to give back to the communities that helped grow the firm to more than 350 associates today.

Every associate that joins our firm stands behind a brand that invests in the communities that we live and work in. They are responsible for our enviable reputation. They are McEnearney Associates.

With sincere gratitude, thank you to these organizations and non-profits that we have worked with to strengthen our communities in the past 40 years.

Our 2019 Community Partners

ACT for Alexandria, Alexandria Little League, Alexandria Rotary Foundation, Alexandria Sportsman Club, Boys & Girls Club, Carpenter’s Shelter, Community Lodgings, George Washington Parkway Classic, Historic Alexandria Foundation, Hopkins House, Inova Blood Donor Services, Mt Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, National Breast Cancer Foundation, Rebuilding Together Alexandria, SCAN of Northern Virginia, Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, Senior Services of Alexandria, Special Olympics of VA, Symphony Orchestra League of Alexandria, Tall Ship Providence Foundation, The Campagna Center, The Fund for Alexandria’s Child, and The Twig.

Our current partnership with One Warm Coat aims to provide warm clothing items to those in need in Alexandria. No one should be cold this winter! Drop your warm clothing items (coats, hats, gloves, scarves) at our office thru January 10! All items are distributed back into our community to those in need by One Warm Coat!

#WeAreAlexandria

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. 

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Jillian Keck Hogan Real Estate Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Jillian at 703-951-7655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Is now a good time to buy a home or rent?

Answer: Alexandria brings about thousands of new jobs year over year. We also are home to the Military, Government, contractors, self-employed people from all over the world, and soon to be home to Amazon HQ2 and Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. The question to buy or rent comes from these diverse individuals, but the answer is more complex than a simple yes or no.

The best way to begin navigating this very important question in your life is to separate your unique needs/desires by asking yourself these questions:

  • Goals: What is most important to me? Location of home/proximity to work, quality of life, lowest costs?
  • Timeline: How long am I going to be in this area?
  • Cost: How much is this going to cost me? Relocating costs? Cost of breaking a lease? Closing costs/taxes for a new home purchase
  • Benefit: Which is more beneficial, from a practical and financial standpoint?

Goals

“Resolutions” is a word thrown around quite a bit as we rapidly approach the new year. The definition is a firm decision to do or not to do something. Year over year we see a flood of new buyers enter the market at this time. Many have made a decision to look for a new home, but many have not asked themselves what exactly am I aiming for? Determining your underlying needs that are non-negotiable and deciding what is more of a “want” than a true “need” can be extremely helpful when making a hard decision on housing.

With low inventory in our marketplace, buyers and renters alike need to know what they can do without (washer/dryer, garage, backyard) and what is an absolute need (3+ bedrooms, attic space, basement). When the right property becomes available, you will then be confident in your decision to move forward.

Timeline

In addition to your goals, timeline is another huge factor influencing one’s decision to rent or to buy. How long will you be physically living in the area? Does your work potentially plan to move you out of the area? Also, five years goes much faster than you think. Think in 5-10 year increments for both renting and buying. What are the short-term and long-term effects of the decision you are making at this moment?

Cost

If you are considering renting an apartment, condo, or detached home for the next 1-2 years you will need to look at the costs involved. Standard in Northern Virginia is a one-month security deposit along with paying your first month’s rent. If you have pets you will be paying a pet deposit and possibly pet rent of $50-$100 per month. If you are relocating to the area and decide to rent then buy, PLEASE look at the lease agreement you are signing to know what it will cost you to break the lease.

Most require a 2-month cancellation fee, but some require tenants to pay out the entire rest of the lease term. If you are considering buying and will need to finance, speak with a lender now to find out what you would pay to settle on the home and what your monthly payment would look like. You would be surprised to see that often times these numbers are not far off, or even that the rental rates are much, much higher.

Benefits

Renting and buying each have their own benefits, whether it’s financially beneficial or based on practicality. If you are new to the area, renting can allow time to familiarize yourself with neighborhoods before buying. Renting is also a good opportunity to work on saving up for buying a home, reducing debt and working on improving credit.

As for purchasing a home, investing in your own home as opposed to paying rent to someone else is always liberating. The tax benefits are not too shabby either.

Whether renting or buying, always consult with your local real estate agent for advice. We’d love to help you with the process! Contact one of our team members today — Jillian Keck Hogan, Kristina Eells and Adrianna Vallario.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Brian Bonnet, Senior Loan Officer (NMLS ID# 224811) of Atlantic Coast Mortgage, LLC (NMLS ID# 643114). To learn more about current mortgage rates and the home loan process, contact Brian at 703-766-6702 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Where do you think interest rates are going? Should I lock my interest rate now or float it?

Answer: Two very common questions asked by prospective borrowers who are either purchasing a home or considering refinancing their existing home mortgage. The hard truth is that even the most experienced mortgage banker cannot know for sure. The real questions being asked by the consumer of the mortgage professional are, “do you have a crystal ball” and “are you able to time the market?” Consumers should be wary of any mortgage professional who suggests he or she has that kind of clarity or ability.

The decision to lock your rate or float the rate is a question about gambling. You lock your interest rate to be protected against rates going the wrong direction between the lock date and your settlement date. You float your interest rate because you are betting interest rates will improve before your settlement date.

In a market environment where bond prices are steadily increasing and interest rates are steadily falling, it might not be a bad bet to float the rate. We do not, however, generally have that type of bond market. Instead, we usually have a bond market which experiences daily up and down prices resulting in the up and down movement of interest rates.

In our local real estate market, most residential real estate transactions go from contract ratification to settlement in under forty-five days which means there is generally not enough time for a true downward trend of interest rates. So, getting back to the question of whether to lock or float, I usually provide the numbers to the consumer and remind them that no one can guarantee rates will improve between that point and settlement. Most consumers understand and most choose to lock their rate.

Refinance transactions tend to be a little different. There is often no time frame for the consumer during which the transaction must be completed, so many consumers choose to hold out for lower rates. Sometimes it works in their favor, but often it does not. Consumers are usually in communication with mortgage professionals because rates have dropped below their current mortgage rate.

In many cases, the lower rates will allow the consumer to save hundreds of dollars per month. But often the consumer wants to hold out for even lower rates and more savings. Rates move the wrong direction faster than they improve and if that happens while a consumer is holding out for lower rates for a refinance, they may lose their opportunity to save at all.

I often advise consumers that once they choose to lock the rate, they should put that issue behind them. They can drive themselves crazy second guessing whether they made the correct decision to lock. The focus at that point should be on all the other aspects associated with purchasing the home and moving into that home, or how the savings associated with their refinance will impact their monthly budget.

If you would like more information to help plan your next move, please contact Brian Bonnet at [email protected] or call 703-766-6702.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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 This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Joan Shannon, Lifetime Top Producer, Diamond Award, of The Shannon Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Joan at 703-507-8655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Should you decorate your home while it is on the market during the holiday season?

Answer: You may have a dilemma in trying to decide what to do — should you or shouldn’t you decorate? How much or how little can you decorate? Will you offend a prospective buyer if you decorate? The intersection at which the holidays and real estate meet can be a particularly stressful one. And while there are many factors that go into your decision such as cost, time and personal preference, I recommend first taking into account your family’s wishes and expectations.

For more than seventeen years, I’ve shown and listed hundreds of homes in Alexandria and neighboring areas during the holiday season and I’ve developed a list of suggestions for homeowners.

Unless you are traveling away from home for the holidays, you may be pining for your ole’ favorites and wishing to decorate up a storm, as usual. Almost everyone loves the added charm and magic we bring into our homes in the month of December and there are ways to use this brief time as an opportunity to showcase your home in its most spectacular light.

Very often, a home is its most beautiful during the holiday season and your efforts can bring a buyer to the table if you keep these helpful hints in mind:

  • Minimize your decorations. A little holiday decorating goes a long way, especially when your home is on the market. Remember, you aren’t decorating for a magazine shoot and buyers want to see the bones of the house without having to move your decorations.
  • Focus your efforts. Even if you skip a tree but want to have that holiday “feel” choose a special focal point such as the mantel(s) or a stairway and decorate that area. For instance, you may choose to decorate the mantels with fresh greens, pinecones, white candles, holly and red berries and suddenly you’ve brought your home into the holiday spirit without even opening the door to the attic. A visit to your neighborhood florist or garden center for a few items can give your home the sights and scents of the season.
  • Perhaps, the front door, entry or porch is where you’d like to focus your holiday decorations. Choose a fresh green wreath with new holiday ribbons and use fresh garland trim around the front door. Check out the Heather and Greens Sale (December 6-7) at The Campagna Center for some fresh boxwood, pine and heather.
  • “Sprinkle” some of the other rooms with a few hints of the special holiday season but don’t go full bore with them. A holiday pillow or candle is usually enough to keep the theme going.

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Lisa Groover of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Lisa at 703-919-4426 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How much work do I need to do to prepare my home for sale?

Answer: We all love our home exactly as it is…

In my case, I would have a ton of work to do before putting my house on the market. You see… I have a lime green kitchen, purple sofa, hot pink master bath and artwork everywhere you look. As happy as it makes me, my decor would distract buyers from picturing their belongings in my house.

As tough as it might seem, taking the advice of a professional about how to create a market ready home, is a key element to a successful sale. Starting at the curb and continuing throughout the house — review their suggestions for repairs, updates and modifications. Then remembering that you only have one chance for a first impression — decide what works for you.

Start with the three ‘Cs’ then stage your home to show at its best.

Clutter 

Most people are overwhelmed when they think of going through their closets, cabinets, bookshelves, attic and garage. Luckily, with the help of a team of experts, this step can be simplified and almost painless. By identifying “things” that you want to keep, donate, give to family and throw away in a systematic way, you will be surprised and relieved at how quickly your home seems larger and more organized.

Color 

Neutral is better when it comes to wall color, and paint makes a huge difference when setting the stage for photographs and visitors. One of my clients actually cried when we painted her red kitchen, dining room and master bathroom. She hated it! But… when she moved to her new home… she used the same neutral color on the walls!

Clean 

Deep cleaning is essential and sends the message that your home has been well maintained. Don’t forget your kitchen appliances, laundry room, garage and basement.

Staging 

Staging strategies vary from house to house and can range from bringing in furniture and accessories to a vacant home, to adding or subtracting from a seller’s personal possessions.

Some people do not have the ability to visualize how each room could be set up. When they start thinking about purchasing a home, they also tend to watch home makeover and real estate shows and expect a house to be move-in ready.

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Jillian Keck Hogan of Jillian Keck Hogan Real Estate Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Jillian at 703-951-7655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What are your recommendations for updating our home with styles that will last?

Answer: I get this question a good bit from clients who are updating homes they are living in and also from those who have purchased investment properties. It is important to personally enjoy what you choose, but it is a great idea to keep in mind your plans for selling/renting down the line.

Your Personal Home

You either just bought a new home or are ready to refresh the space you currently call home — both are so exciting! Making updates to your kitchen and bathroom tend to always improve the value of your home. I would truly look at each space and see if little adjustments could be made versus a complete gut renovation.

In a bathroom you can change out a countertop, vanity, mirror and light fixtures and immediately see the entire space transform. Same could be said for a kitchen with new countertops, cabinet knobs, light fixtures, backsplash or faucets. After a great conversation with our friend Caroline Goree with Madigan Schuler, a Boutique Interior Design firm in Alexandria, she shared that fun wallpaper is a great way to enhance a space and can give it a personal touch.

For future changes you can reverse back to paint for a reasonable price. Caroline also suggests selecting “trend” items in areas that are easier to change out. For example, changing kitchen knobs, lighting and plumbing fixtures are typically less expensive than painting or refinishing the entire kitchen cabinetry. If this is a concern of yours, consider keeping those larger selections simple.

A geometric wallpaper adds a touch whimsy to the powder room of a historic Cameron Street home.

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Susan Hume of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Susan at 202-280-5735 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What should I consider when looking for an investment property to be used as a short-term rental, like an Airbnb?

Answer: With Amazon moving in down the road, the economics of short-term investment properties versus long-term rentals are looking very attractive. In addition to the influx of business travelers, Old Town is already experiencing an upswing in tourists thanks to its proximity to the area’s major attractions, and to being named the #1 best value travel destination by Money magazine.

All this makes Old Town an ideal location for a short-term rental business. For instance, an investment property in Old Town may rent for $3,000 per month, while you can generate more than double that by renting it out on Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway or another online travel agent. While the math is enticing there’s a lot to consider in order to be successful.

Establishing a short-term rental is much more complicated than renting a property for a year or more. In identifying an investment property for a short-term rental, its location needs to offer what business travelers or tourists want. Because these guests frequently don’t have a car, they will prioritize a rental that has walking access to restaurants and shops as well as public transport options.

Homes that are not in a city center are unlikely to attract many guests. Guests also place a premium on having a patio or balcony to relax outdoors. Hosts don’t have to spend a fortune on furnishings, but they should be practical, tasteful and comfortable (especially the beds) and the home must have good wi-fi.

Guests are attracted to updated kitchens and baths, but also to Old Town’s historic charm. For this reason, Old Town’s traditional townhomes have special appeal to out-of-town visitors.

Although there’s a short-term market for all types of housing, rentals that are geared towards the business traveler, couples and small families — one or two bedrooms — are likely to rent more easily than larger homes that accommodate parties of five or more. While smaller properties will command a smaller nightly rent, you are likely to have a higher occupancy rate and earn more income to cover any mortgage and carrying costs (insurance, property taxes, maintenance).

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